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Jonathan Stryker

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Feb 16, 2013, 2:0 AM

Second, updated edition of PROFONDO ARGENTO, published in 2012

When I saw my very first Dario Argento film in the summer of 1985, I knew that he was a director to be reckoned with. The cinematic style of CREEPERS, the significantly edited  American version of the much longer international cut of PHENOMENA, made me eager to seek out his previous work up to that point. I simply had to see his other movies. I also had a very strong desire to read about him and his films, although I was hard-pressed to find anything in writing as there was a dearth of material available to me. With the exception of several back issues of Fangoria magazine, I could find literally nothing on the Italian maestro.  At that time, the Internet was not available to the public, so there was no such thing as typing his name into a search engine to locate articles or criticism on his work. I would have given anything for a hardcover copy of Alan Jones's DARIO ARGENTO: THE MAN, THE MYTHS AND THE MOVIES in my hand.  Nearly three decades after I stumbled out of the multiplex filled with excitement after having seen CREEPERS, unfairly labeled by critics and even die-hard fans as one of his worst films, Mr. Jones's book, published near the end of last year, is quite simply the definitive book on Mr. Argento, and a true valentine to his favorite film director. 

PROFONDO ARGENTO, published in 2004

For those of you who purchased PROFONDO ARGENTO in 2004, this is essentially the same book, however it has been updated to include Mr. Argento's work since then.  The original manuscript has been left completely intact along with all of the beautiful photographs that illustrate the now 400-page second edition. 

While other brilliant works have been written about Dario Argento by writers as diverse as Maitland McDonagh, Chris Gallant and James Gracey, Mr. Jones goes the extra step of including lots of in-depth interviews with not only Mr. Argento himself, but those closest to him who worked with him over the past 40 years.  Mr. Jones is not just an interviewer. He has visited the set of just about every project that Mr. Argento has worked on since OPERA was filmed in the early summer of 1987. 

Mr. Argento began his career in the industry as a film critic for a local Italian newspaper in the 1960's.  It helped enormously that his father Salvatore was already in the film business and he managed to get his son a contract to make his very first film, the highly cinematic THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE.  It's amazing to me that this is the very first film that Mr. Argento has directed. Most people make short films or mess around with their closest friends and a camera prior to making even a short film.  BIRD solidified the director's signature style which is evident from the very first frame. Architecture and off-kilter camera moves are just some of his trademarks that would find their way into his successive films.

If you are a fan of Mr. Argento's films, you owe it to yourself to have this new edition in your collection. 

Click here to order the hardcover book from


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Jan 14, 2013, 6:11 AM

Fox has long been a beacon of hope for horror fans when it comes to genre friendly shows, The X Files, Fringe, you get the picture.

This month they take another stab at it (pun intended) with a way better than average serial killer tale called THE FOLLOWING.  At it's core it is very much like the Hannibal Lector films as we have Kevin Bacon starring as the retired FBI agent drug out of retirement when a psychopathic killer he put behind bars escapes leaving a trail of blood and carnage in his wake.  Reminded me a whole lot of Red Dragon.

I've seen the first four episodes of THE FOLLOWING and I can tell you that I was riveted to the screen.  Writer Kevin Williamson, yeah the guy behind SCREAM and I Know What You Did Last Summer, he's back and he's got a few tricks up his sleeve.  While the premise of the show may be tried and true, Williamson has managed to craft a multi-layered story that offers twists and turns that will have your head spinning and keep you guessing.

The works of Edgar Allen Poe figure prominently in the storyline and Williamson is a master of giving you just enough info to make you peak around the corner and then he hits you in the head with a hammer when you do.

Throughout the first several episodes we meet the rather large cast of characters and view their back stories via flashbacks that highlight their involvement and brings the story full circle. 

Highly imaginative and completely engrossing, THE FOLLOWING pretty much has it all and maybe, just maybe might be the vehicle that propels Kevin Bacon into super stardom.  His stellar career has been peppered with fantastic supporting roles but never the big hit.  This could be that hit.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this show but to divulge any of the plot line would be to ruin it for you, and I would never do that to you.  I will tell you this though, in the second episode there is a scene that actually made me jump.  I haven't jumped during a viewing of anything in a long, long time, let alone a TV show but this one did it, it gets my respect for that point alone.

THE FOLLOWING is much more than just a creepy, spooky, crime tale, it is a sharp, twisted story of revenge, madness, hope, redemption and ultimately the fact that rarely is anyone who or what you believe them to be and that we all wear masks and sometimes when we take those masks off, we don't even recognize ourselves.

THE FOLLOWING premieres Monday Jan. 21st at 9 PM on FOX.  Don't miss the pilot episode as it is one of the best "first hours" of TV I've seen in a while.  It's pretty gutsy stuff for a "broadcast" channel to put out there and is definitely on track with anything airing on HBO, Showtime or FX.

I'm hoping fans embrace the show and we all get to spend a couple years watching Kevin Bacon chase a madman around.


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DVD Review: MIB 3


Jan 2, 2013, 6:20 PM

No matter how hard you try when you see the number three at the end of the movie you're about to watch you automatically expect less from it, or is that just me?


Trilogies in the horror genre have a notorious reputation of (lets say it out loud) sucking.  I can pretty much count the kick ass horror films that end with the number three on two fingers.  Actually very few genre films even deserve a third visit and I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't sure the MIB franchise made the cut.  I don't know about you but I could have lived without hooking up again with J and K.


But of course in this day and age if even one more dollar can be squeezed from a story idea it is all but guaranteed that said project will be greenlit and at your local theater sooner than later.


The good news is that MIB3 beats the odds and actually ends up being a fun, exciting, worth-while endeavor that actually kind of reinvents the franchise while at the same time paying homage to the very staple they created.


At its core MIB3 is a time travel tale, as J must travel back to 1969 to stop an event that will change history and end the world, as we know it.  Will Smith returns as does Tommy Lee Jones although Tommy Lee is actually in the film very little.  Instead Josh Brolin comes on board to play the younger version of K whom J hooks up with once he travels back to 1969.  Brolin does a magnificent job of keeping the character of K in tact while not copying or imitating Lee???s version.  It really is a joy to behold.


Equally impressive is the main baddie this time around, a particularly nasty fellow by the name of Boris the Animal.  Played wonderfully over the top by Jemaine Clement and unrecognizable in brilliant make up by Rick Baker.  He's as awkward to look at as he fun to watch explode on the screen.  While no real new ground is broken in the first two thirds of the film, it's all very well constructed and quite fun to watch.  The magic however lays in the last third of the film where a major plot twist is revealed that is amazingly touching and shines a whole new light on the entire franchise.


I have to admit, I really liked MIB3 and it serves as a nice ending point for what has now become a classic.  But will this be the end of the road for J and K?  Who knows for sure, they've certainly opened the door to going back in time and having younger actors hold the mantle, as I stated above Brolin is actually quite amazing as young K and I'm sure an equally impressive substitute could be found for Smith???s J. 


We'll have to wait and see if a fourth chapter in the MIB saga is meant to be but what I know for sure is that MIB3 is more than worthy of your time and money.


Go pick it up for some sci-fi/horror fun.


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Blu-ray Review: SILENT NIGHT


Dec 2, 2012, 8:4 AM

Ah, tis the season.  Home made cookies and candies, the tree in the corner, a light snow falling out side and Santa with his wood chipper.


Yeah, brings a tear to my eye.


The mashing up of horror and the Holiday season has never really been a big hit.  Sure, you've got the original Black Christmas but really, what else is a genre fan to do when they want a little blood on the tinsel?


This season there is an answer to that age-old question.  SILENT NIGHT hits home video this coming week and not a day to soon.  A loose and let me stress, loose remake of the original (dare I say it) classic SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT this one has found the sweet spot of being the gore hounds perfect Christmas gift. 


Following the slasher formula from the good old days SILENT NIGHT weaves the tale of a psycho Santa that has taken things into his own hands and is handing out more than just a hunk of coal to those he has deemed naughty.  From its brutal opening scene to the last frame SILENT NIGHT is a non-stop, blood filled assault on the viewer.  No punches are pulled, nothing left to the imagination.  This is a balls out slasher flick.  The killer just happens to be dressed like Santa. 


Malcolm McDowell stars as the sheriff of a small town preparing for the big Christmas parade.  Problem is, wacko Santa is on the loose and dead bodies are showing up everywhere.  Since it's a Christmas parade there are more than a few Santa's running around and McDowell and his crew of deputies are having a hard time nailing down exactly which jolly old elf is the axe wielding one.


While they figure it out the body count skyrockets and horror fans are treated to a barrage of some of the more vile and violent kills in recent genre fare.  Director Steven C. Miller shows a deft hand in dishing out the creepy and throws in just the right amount of black comedy to keep you riveted to the screen.  The blood flows freely with the wood chipper scene being one that this reviewer will have a hard tome forgetting.


Crazy stuff and a film I find myself happy to recommend you pick up at your earliest convenience.  Anchor Bay is releasing it as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack while the special features are a bit on the weak side there is a nice little behind the scenes feature that I found to be quite enjoyable.  Would have love to have seen and heard a little more for those involved but what is offered is still pretty damn fine.


Settle in horror fans it's going to be a long winter and now at least we all have something to put in the Blu-ray player to make the season bright, bright red that is!


SILENT NIGHT hits store shelves on Tuesday Dec. 4th.  Ask Santa for a copy when you see him at the mall.


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Dec 1, 2012, 6:18 PM

This has been a complicated review for me to write as I have found THE CABIN IN THE WOODS to be a film that has really challenged me as a writer and as a fan.


I actually watched this project several times.  The first time I'd had a very long day and actually dozed off about two thirds of the way through, actually I think I dozed of a couple times before that if I'm honest with you.  Needless to say I came away from the viewing with a less than favorable impression.


Thinking I hadn't given the film a fair shake, I watched it again, this time on a day off, nothing to blame a bad viewing on. 


Although I managed to stay awake for the entire film this time I still found myself a bit muddled and conflicted.


While I found the story arc truly original and a bit daring I also found it awkward and dare I say a bit annoying.


The film opens with a couple of dudes in office attire shooting the shit around a lunchroom.  Seems to be a pretty average work environment.  We then find ourselves following a group of horny college kids heading out on a weekend excursion of drink and fornication.  What the two environments have to do with one another is at this point still unknown but it's clear that we will soon all find out.


So the group heads on out to the titled CABIN IN THE WOODS and through a series of events a horror unfolds that is both awesome and mind-boggling.  Problem for me was the fact that all unfolds in a rather silly cavalcade of genre pratfalls that actually ends up kind of making fun of the genre we all love so dearly.


In the end it all works out pretty well actually with a nice little unexpected cameo by the always-amazing Sigourney Weaver showing up to add just the right amount of dramatic flair to a rather silly romp up till that point.


The horror is real, it's just played for laughs and jump scares instead of tension and unease.  Nothing wrong with that I guess but it makes this film seem rather disjointed and therefore ineffective.  Although project helmer Joss Whedon has concocted a truly original premise it all just gets kind of jumbled around to the point of not really having much of a point when all is said and done.


After all this rather negative sounding blathering you might be led to believe that I would warn you to stay as far away from this one as you could but actually quite the contrary.  There is some pretty cool, original shit going on here and most of it very much worth checking out.  It didn???t work for me but it might just be the cup of tea you???ve been looking for.


Some really great FX work, cool ass monsters and fantastic concept stuff, again it all seems like much ado about nothing. 

Of course, the Blu-ray looks fantastic, they all do if they are done correctly and this one is most certainly done correctly.  An impressive slate of bonus materials and all the bells and whistles that one has come to expect from a modern day, main stream release.


Go ahead and give this one a whirl.  It certainly tries hard and it really attempts to reinvent the wheel, problem is it just goes round and round to ultimately end up going nowhere.


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