Sunday, February 2, 2020

Some Other Stuff I've Written

In addition to keeping this place up, with is basically a full-time job in addition to my other full-time job (why can't I just win the lotto already?), I often get asked to do a number of other things because of this blog. These include attending film premieres in California that I don't have the time to go to, reviewing screener copies of recent independent horror films that I (sadly) often don't have time to review and working on films in various capacities that I can't work on because I can't be away from that pesky other full-time job to fly to wherever to work on said film. Even though I'm grateful for any and all offers and opportunities I've been given, for the time being I can't really leave where I am for too long a period of time. 

However, one thing I always make time for is writing because I can do that right here at home in between that regular, keeping-my-life-going stuff. When I'm not writing here, I may be writing for someone or something else. I always enjoy collaborating with other genre aficionados / writers on various projects and have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to contribute to numerous magazines, websites and books over the years, which is something I love to do and hope to continue to do. Below are just some of the books I've contributed to, as well as links to the pages where they can be purchased. There are at least half a dozen others pending release as I write this. I'll keep this updated when /if those in the pending section are released.


Horror 101: 
The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies

Product Description: "I Like Horror Movies." If you've ever uttered the above four words (which you undoubtedly have, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this) to another person, then you are well acquainted with "the look" that follows. The look comes in three varieties: Look #1: Shock, dismay, confusion, usually accompanied by the word, "Why?" Look #2: Mild interest. "Really? What's your favorite one?" Look #3: Euphoria, followed by "Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, one of us, one of us..." Herein, you will find nothing but #3's, right down the line. Welcome home, fellow fiend. The A-List of Horror Films and Monster Movies. 320 pages with 122 photos from 110 films covered in 101 essays by 78 horror fans from 12 different countries.

Critical Consensus: "Bringing a refreshingly egalitarian approach to the subject, Horror 101 collects musings on our favorite chillers not by the expected assortment of critics and filmmakers, but the audience... the fans themselves. Young and old, male and female, located all over the globe. From Alien through The Wicker Man, each entry brings a breath of fresh air to the consideration of seminal movies many of us thought had been analyzed to death. As editor Aaron Christensen puts it, "Keep America strong! Watch more monster movies!" - JOE DANTE, director of The Howling, Piranha, Gremlins

"These are not just fanboys that like their gore and monsters; rather they are passionate folks who give great insight to all things horror and the macabre." - TIFFANY SHEPIS, star of Tromeo & Juliet, The Hazing, Nightmare Man

"I LOVE this book!!" - ELAINE LAMKIN

Publisher: Midnight Marquee Press (2009). Foreward written by: Tom Savini.


Hidden Horror: 
A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks

Product Description: Dr. AC is back, with a brand new compendium of essays from the brightest and bloodiest aficionados around the globe. 101 informed enthusiasts pay homage to their favorite overlooked creature features, moldy oldies and trashy treats, showcasing silent classics (The Man Who Laughs, The Hands of Orlac) and trippy mind-benders (Possession, The Tenant), schlocky shockers (The Gore Gore Girls, The Horror of Party Beach) and foreign freakouts (Ichi the Killer, Santa Sangre). You’ll be combing your queue and video shelves to track down every last one! Discover the Horror…HIDDEN HORROR.

Critical Consensus: "Pay no attention to that Dr. AC behind the curtain! Actually, do pay attention, as he and his creepy cohorts pull it back to reveal gem after hidden horror gem.  This is definitely a case where, once you read about it, you'll be DYING to see it!" - SVENGOOLIE

"A long overdue addition to the horror pantheon" - ROBERT ENGLUND

"A wild, insightful and esoteric mélange of macabre movie musings, penned by some of genre journalism's most interesting individuals." - FANGORIA

"Hidden Horror is precisely the sort of book that passionate and informed horror geeks should be reading...and writing!" - FEARNET

"An indispensable resource for inquisitive chill seekers, those new to the genre as well as jaded veterans..." - DREAD CENTRAL

Publisher: Kitley's Krypt (2013). Foreward written by: William Lustig.

Winner: "Book of the Year" at the The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (2013).


When Animals Attack: 
The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals

Product Description: The definitive horror movie guide for fans of killer animals and “revenge of nature” films. When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals provides a fascinating and entertaining insight into the cinematographic world of animals on the rampage. From well-known predators such as sharks and lions to unusual killing machines like turkeys, elephants, frogs, cats, and rabbits, there is no shortage of the species on display in this book. Leading horror writers and filmmakers present their favorite “animals attack” films through in-depth essays. Some of the films are touching, some are repulsive, and some are just plain silly. Not all of these horror movies line up with the critical consensus, yet they have one thing in common: they have made the heart of the writer beat faster with excitement.

Critical Consensus: "A whole lot of fun!" - CLASSIC HORRORS

"When Animals Attack is a huge win for me, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys creature-features involving animals. Whether you are new to the genre or an existing fan, this book offers something for everybody." - SHATTERED RAVINGS

"Everything from the cover to the list of movies covered in this book is solid." - THE OVERLOOK THEATER

"The essays are written in different styles and take various approaches that reflect the individual authors. It makes for both informative and entertaining reading and will be a useful reference volume for those seeking something new to watch in this sub-genre -- or for those who value being reminded of a piece of animalistic cinema they'd forgotten. You may even learn something new about your favorite animal-attack epic." - ROBERT HOOD, author of Fragments of a Broken Land and Peripheral Visions

Publisher: Moonlight Creek Publishing (2016).


Pending release:

- Terror Trivia (2014) - I contributed some horror movie trivia to this book; the brainchild of Chicago-based Aaron "Dr. AC" Christensen.

- Untitled Horror Guide (2015) - This is a very big project / undertaking here that may take awhile to actually complete and release. It's an all-around guide meant to rival the exhaustive Overlook Encyclopedia in coverage. I contributed quite a few capsule reviews to this project back in 2015. This was started by Italian filmmaker / writer Massimo Lavagnini (Fatal Frames; Sick-o-pathics), who sadly passed away, and continued by his colleague Antonio Gragnianello.

- Untitled Evil Kids book (2020) - Just recently finished up a bunch of reviews for this upcoming book from writer / editor Vanessa Howard. This will again be released by Moonlight Creek Publishing out of Belgium like When Animals Attack.

- Ultimate 80s Horror Movie Guide, Volumes 1-4 (2021-22 targeted release date) - Another huge project going on here covering the genre through the entire decade of the 80s. I'm the main writer and editor of this one (my first time out here so wish me luck!). Tentative release date is late 2021 or early 2020. Seeing how so many films are being covered here, the series will be broken up into four volumes.

Sundelbolong (1981)

... aka: Ghost with Hole
... aka: Ketibaan Sial (Arrival of the Damned)
... aka: Sundel Bolong
... aka: Sundelbolong: Kisah Ini Diangkat Dari Legende Rakyat

Directed by:
Sisworo Gautama Putra

Though most outside of Asia probably have no clue what a sundel bolong even is, it's a specific type of ghost in Indonesian mythology. The spirit wears a white gown, has very long hair and a huge hole in its back and is a former prostitute who died while either pregnant or during childbirth. The hole signifies where the unborn fetus was "born in the grave" and exited through the back, while the hair is there to conceal the hole so the ghost can move about us mere mortals undetected. Because the term sundel bolong has no meaning to most non-Indonesians, the common English translated title is "Ghost with Hole." While that's not entirely accurate, seeing how "sundel" means "prostitute" or "whore" and "bolong" means "hole" and that would result in a title like "Whore with Hole" and thus probably rope in the wrong kind of audience, you can see why they went with that. Similar ghosts matching the physical description of the sundel bolong are present in the folklore of several other Asian countries, such as the pontianak in Malaysia, though these aren't necessarily former prostitutes. In Indonesia they even even have a second term for a female ghost matching the exact same physical description of the sundel bolong that died while pregnant but isn't a former lady of the night called a kuntilanak. Numerous movies have been made about all of these ghosts, though this appears to be the very first film made about this particular one.

One of my favorite discoveries researching this title was learning that all of these different ghosts are so popular that they've inspired their own series of action figures from the company Setan Lokal. The same company seems to be responsible for the "Indo Psychos" line of real-life Indonesian serial killer action figures (!!!), which takes tasteless to a whole 'nother level, but we'll just ignore that and concentrate on these cool supernatural ones...

The newlywed bliss of just-married Alisa (Suzzanna) and boat captain Hendarto ("Berry" / Barry Prima) doesn't last long after he receives a letter - during his wedding reception! - telling him he'll have to go away for a spell. After he sails off into the sunset toward some unknown destination, Alisa tries to adapt to life alone in their home, knitting and anxiously waiting by the phone for a call. She does receive a call, but not from her husband. This one asks her to come to the Rudy Boutique clothing store because they're considering employing her as a model. When she arrives, she bumps into an old acquaintance, except this is someone from her past she'd rather not associate with now. You see, before she married into an upper class suburban existence, she was an afro-wig-sporting prostitute. And the two people she happens to bump into are Mami (Ruth Pelupessi), her former madam, and Rudy (Rudy Salam), the sleazy boutique owner. Rudy coerces her into the backroom of his shop, where he threatens to expose her past if she doesn't have sex with him. She refuses, slaps him in the face and promptly takes off.

As Alisa is driving home that night, she's forced to stop because of a station wagon parked in the middle of the road. The driver appears to have passed out. When she attempts to help, a bunch of men jump her, chloroform her and throw her in the car. She's taken to an abandoned warehouse where she discovers Mami and Rudy were both in on the plot to kidnap her. She's tied up and raped by Rudy and then all four of the thugs. Alisa attempts to seek justice later on, but the court throws out her case, lets her assailants go free and rubs salt in the wound by humiliating her. Returning home a defeated and depressed woman, Alisa soon finds herself vomiting and bleeding. Fearing she's pregnant from the rape, she goes to a doctor who is unable to help her (and she later envisions is chastising her; likely due to the fact she's considering abortion) and then starts losing her mind. Unable to cheer her up all this time, her motherly servant Bi Ijah (Marlia Hardi) finds Alisa dead in the bathroom. Lying in the pool of blood is a small fetus; presumably from Alisa's attempt to terminate the pregnancy herself.

Hendarto returns to find his new bride dead. Bi Ijah fills him in on what she knows, the two take flowers to the grave and, when they return home, the same flowers are on the bed. While out driving late at night, Hendarto runs into an innocent, cat-loving young woman named Shinta, who's a dead ringer for his former wife (and is also played by Suzzanna). He takes her home for tea but she promptly disappears into the night after a brief conversation. Soon after, there are a bunch of ghost sightings around town and people associated with Mami and Rudy start dropping like flies. Of course, Alisa has returned as a vengeance-seeking sundel bolong, who sometimes now goes by the new "Shinta" persona or other forms to lure victims.

The sundel bolong is depicted here pretty closely to how it's described in Javanese mythology, though this one can take on the appearance of any woman it wants, shows up as a pocong (shrouded) ghost in one scene and even decides to transform into a skull-faced leyak / krasue (detached flying head with entrails) at one point. Hey, I guess, why not? Alisa / Shinta drowns a guy in the bathtub, causes a guy to wreck his car after lifting it up by the bumper, bends steel bars with her hands and visits a food stand where she devours a plate full of meat and drinks soto ayam soup from a steaming pot, which all leaks out of her back hole!

The ghost uses various methods to kill, including busting her arms right through a wall to strangle a guy, trapping a guy inside a white brick building and impaling him with her own tombstone, tossing someone off a balcony right onto electrical wires and detaching her arms, multiplying them and then sending them after some goons who get their throats clawed out and impaled! Sensing how his number's coming up soon, Rudy enlists the aid of a black magician to try to exorcise the ghost but he ends up getting crushed under a tree and set on fire instead. While all that's going on, Hendarto survives an attack by Rudy's thugs and teams up with the police to put a stop to things.

Expecting straight up horror schlock, I was surprised by how serious the first half of this plays out. While it moves slowly, it does a decent job establishing the lead character and her plight going into the more fast-paced supernatural revenge spree of the second half. Touching on topics like abortion and depression was unexpected, as was the use of surrealism during Alisa's baby nightmare scene, which also memorably employs a few babies with actual birth defects. However, the tone is all over the place once Alisa is dead and back to avenge her death. While the kills themselves are frequently imaginative, a lot of these bits are silly and clearly played for laughs. This tonal shift results in less than compelling viewing. Further hampering the horror and potency of the ghost's revenge are comic scenes featuring pedicab driver Amin (Dorman Borisman) and the brothel bartender (Bokir) having run-in's with the ghost. Some of these bits are comically sped up like on The Benny Hill Show.

On the plus side, Suzzanna is great and you can see why she was able to build a career in horror by examining her work here. Her role gives her the opportunity to flex her acting muscles during the dramatic first half, be scary as the ghost and even amuse with her dry dialogue delivery dealing with some blathering idiots when she's forced into the some of the more comedic scenes. There's a reason her films continue to frequently run on Indonesian TV to this day. The cast also includes Indo horror regulars H.I.M. Damsyik as thug Jeffrey, Eddy Hansudi as (the pigtailed) thug Dadung, Rukman Herman as thug Tom and El Koesno as thug Bram, plus Jafar Freeyork (from Putra's PRIMITIVES, along with Prima and Herman) and S. Parya (THE WARRIOR).

This was a hit in its home country and the third highest grossing domestic film of its year. It was remade as Suzzanna: Bernapas dalam Kubur (Suzzanna: Buried Alive) in 2018 with Luna Mora taking over the lead role, which has been renamed Suzzanna in honor of the late star who originated the part. Suzzanna got to play a similar role in Telaga Angker ("Lake Eerie"), though this time a murdered pregnant author who returns as a ghost. This sundel bolong also was the basis of numerous other Indonesian horror films including The Legend of Sundel Bolong (2007) and Kafan Sundel Bolong (2012).

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