Stoned Jesus – Electric Mistress (from the album Seven Thunders Roar 2012) – Now here’s something you can boogie to! This meaty riff is brought to you by the fine folks of Stoned Jesus, via Kiev, Ukraine. Now I know three things about the Ukraine; great food, beautiful ladies, and kick-ass Stoner Rock! Their latest album The Harvest released this past February. They really ought to come to North America for a little touring. If you don’t find your head bobbing along to this song, have your ears and brain checked.
“These souls, who for whatever reason are not at rest, are also not aware that they have passed on. They’re not part of consciousness as we know it. They linger in a perpetual dream state, a nightmare from which they can not awake.”
-Tangina (Dialogue from Poltergeist, 1982)
What really scares us? Besides death, bills and other regular day-to-day horrors. When I think about what gets my heart pumping, it is fear of the unknown. What you cannot see can AND will hurt you. Think about it for a second; walking alone down a dark alley after dark, hearing a noise in the middle of the night that you cannot immediately identify. When I want to watch a movie that might get my guard up and give me a little scare, I always go for one type; a good old ghost story. Slasher movies are great for some jump scares, gross-outs, and humor. Unfortunately, ninety-five percent of them fail to serve up the chills. The thought of an invisible force is a lot creepier than a dude wearing a mask that you can see coming a mile away. Besides demonic possession, supernatural films (when done right) make my skin crawl the most. I would like to share with you my five favorite ghost films. There are plenty of these types of films I have not seen, mostly because I have heard terrible things about them, or I have not gotten around to watching them yet. I am fairly confident that I have seen enough to make these five films my most revered supernatural viewings.
The Shining (Directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson 1980) From top to bottom, a brilliant film on so many levels. Jack Torrance is tormented. Not only by the spirits that haunt the halls of the Overlook Hotel, but also the ghosts of his past. There are so many theories and dissections of this film, trying to look for the real meaning behind Kubrick’s madness, but on the surface it is a gritty and lingering story about a haunted hotel that truly wants to make it’s residents feel unwelcome. From subliminal flashes of butchered families to the terror behind the door of room 237, there are many things to love about The Shining. Jack Nicholson is perfect.
The Blair Witch Project(Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) Love it or hate it, BWP is a polarizing film. This was the first of a rash of “found footage” films to break into the mainstream. Three students get lost in the Maryland woods and find out that the legend they are documenting is indeed true. I will admit that the camera work is nauseating in some spots, but lends to the authentic feel. The viewer never sees the entity that terrorizes the characters, but is presented in other ways that are effective and creepy regardless. Freaky scenes include children’s hands pressing on the outside of the tent while the sound of children can be heard, and Josh disappearing during the night, with only his tongue remaining wrapped up in a piece of his shirt. The final scene is also tense and well done. Any film that made my brother (self admittedly) stay up all night pacing the house will always make my top five.
Poltergeist (Directed by Tobe Hooper, starring Craig T. Nelson 1982) This is the proof that you don’t need an old house to have a haunting. All you need is a house built on a Native American cemetery. Although Poltergeist is not as scary as it once was, it sure scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. At first, the spirits seem harmless enough; moving objects and furniture around. The spirits then become malevolent, becoming violent and then kidnapping the young daughter, Carol Anne. Stylish and well produced, Poltergeist is a charming ghost story well worth the watch. On a side note, the 2015 remake starring Sam Rockwell is not very good at all, and no where near as charming as the original. But that is just my opinion.
Sixth Sense (Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Bruce Willis 1999) A young boy with the ability to see ghosts who don’t know they are dead needs the help of Dr. Malcolm Crowe to cope with his “ability”. This film is not scary in the traditional sense, but has some very strong imagery that will get inside your head. Sixth Sense is a movie that will make you think, and take you on a few twists. I include this one in my list of favorites because it is well written and very well orchestrated in delivery. There is one scene in school involving bodies hanging from the rafters that still gives me the creeps. Also, who doesn’t love Bruce Willis?
The Fog(Directed by John Carpenter, starring Jamie Lee Curtis 1980) The small seaside town of Antonio Bay has a dark past, and the spirits of the done wrong want their revenge. What is freakier than ghosts you ask? What about ghosts that arrive and hide inside a thick fog that has rolled into town? John Carpenter is a master of simple suspense. The Fog is no exception. In typical Carpenter fashion, the soundtrack is brilliant and makes the atmosphere that much better. A pretty fun movie with some good spooky ambiance. If you like John Carpenter, and or ghosts, you’ll like this one.
Honorable mention – Amityville Horror, The Changeling, The Conjuring
Note – Although two films, Ghostbusters ,The Frighteners, and Beetlejuice are “ghost” movies, I felt they are too comedy oriented to be part of the list. However, all three films are personal favorites of mine.
Them Crooked Vultures – Dead End Friends (From their self-titled debut album, 2009 Interscope) If ever there was a “rock super-group” that covered a few generations of music, it would be these guys. Comprised of Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on guitar/vocals, the legendary John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) on bass guitar, and some guy named Dave Grohl (he’s been in a few bands here and there) on drums, you get a fully charged rock ‘n roll band that knows their business. Jones was part of one of the most influential bands of ever with Led Zeppelin. Their mark on music is undeniable. Dave Grohl is an amazing front-man with the Foo Fighters, one hell of a drummer, and during the early nineties his old band Nirvana (you may know them) was the voice of a musical revolution. Joshua Homme is the catalyst and leader of QOTSA, in my honest opinion, the most important band in modern rock. Throw that in a pot and mix it up. Tastes good. Hopefully in the future we will get a second helping of Them Crooked Vultures. Dead End Friends is my favorite song on the album, very catchy, and great for listening to while going for a highway drive.
Cool fact – This band is too cool for facts. That’s a fact.
Soundgarden – Rusty Cage (from the album Badmotorfinger, 1991 A&M) Defined as “grunge”, these four guys predated the genre, forming in Seattle in 1984. This is a heavy song, featuring some great guitar sound from Kim Thayil. I read that he dropped the top E string on his guitar all the way down to B. That is three steps lower than standard. For those of you who are not guitar nerds, it basically means he was playing lose rubber band. Thankfully, whatever he did sounds amazing and this record still kicks ass a quarter-century later. This was one of two of the first CD’s I ever got, the other being The Tragically Hip‘s Road Apples.
Cool trivia – Rusty Cage was covered by the Legendary Johnny Cash on his 1996 album Unchained. The album won the Grammy award for Country album of the year. Cash’s version is stripped down, but very upbeat and has a mean swagger.
“See, I got this problem. Cops don’t like me, so I don’t like cops”
– Clarence Boddicker (Robocop)
Dead or Alive…The “Death of Sgt. Murphy (Robocop 1987) – There are some scenes from films that just stick with you throughout time. This scene is a good example of that. My folks bought a VHS machine in 1987, and the following weekend they promised me I could rent two movies and have some friends sleep over. My friends and I went to the drugstore across the street (not a great selection, but it was close) to pick out the movies. So being eleven year old boys, naturally we chose Predator (Arnold’s sci-fi action gem), and Robocop. Two ‘R’ rated films! Fast forward to later that night, and we were two minutes into the film, and the scene in question comes on. At this point in my life, I’d watched my fair share of horror, but I knew it was not real. This scene left a mark on me because it looked and felt so real (reminder; I was eleven). A gang of thugs, including their leader Clarence Boddicker (masterfully played by Eric Forman‘s T.V. dad, KurtwoodSmith) trap Sgt. Murphy in an abandoned warehouse. After a witty verbal exchange, the criminals open fire on Murphy and use him as a human target. Murphy then goes on to become Robocop, and the gang of thugs goes on to be dead. The word violent can sum this scene up nicely. I still love this film and feel it has stoop the test of time quite well. The 2014 remake was flashy but sorely lacked the acting and heart of the Paul Verhoeven directed original.
Cool fact – Robocop re-cut and submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) 12 times before it could achieve an ‘R’ rating. It was deemed to violent without the changes being made.
Casey Becker (talking to Ghostface on phone): “What do you want?”
Ghostface: “To see what your insides look like.”
– Opening scene of Scream, 1996
Do You Like Scary Movies?…The death of Casey Becker (Wes Craven’s Scream, 1996) This is a great example of how to set the tone for a horror movie. The opening scene of Scream has atmosphere, suspense, action, and a little brutality. Drew Barrymore is amazing as Ghostface‘s first victim. At first, she is a flirt and plays coy with the stranger on the other end of the “wrong number” call. As the tension builds and she realizes this is not a random call, she is wonderfully terrified. After a little cat and mouse chase, Casey finally makes it outside to see the headlights of her parents car pulling down the driveway. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late, as Ghostface catches up to her (in a nicely timed slow-motion shot) and stabs her in the heart. Her parents hearing their daughter’s last breath over the phone is a nice touch. In my opinion, this film rejuvenated the slasher genre. It’s too bad that none of the Scream sequels lived up to the original.
Cool Trivia – Drew Barrymore was cast in Scream before a director was hired (Wes Craven was eventually chosen to direct).
Iron Maiden – The Wicker Man (from the album A Brave New World, 2000 EMI) Inspired by the 1973 British horror film of the same name, The Wicker Man was the first single from A Brave New World. This also marked the return of Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith to the band after leaving for a period of time. Great guitar work and a huge, catchy chorus (Your Time Will Come!) make this a Maiden classic. This song could have easily been from Number of the Beast era Iron Maiden.
Cool fact – Iron Maiden was nominated for the “best metal performance” Grammy in 2001, but lost out to the Deftones song “Elite”.
Let me take this opportunity to welcome you all to my newest segment here on How Heavy This Axe, aptly titled KILL OF THE DAY. (Hopefully) each day I will bring you one of my favorite death scenes from film or television. Be it one of the most bloody, violent, clever, or funny deaths (or a combination), I will do my best to satisfy your lust for murder and mayhem. I may do weekly themes, or it may be completely random, but it will be fun regardless. Let’s kick it off…here is the first Kill of the Day!
“Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”
– Quint, Captain of The Orca
Quint Goes Down With The Ship (Jaws, 1975) – Quint (played by Robert Shaw, was the salty old veteran of the sea that entertained Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) with drunken song and tales of nautical adventure, while leading them on a hunt for the shark that had been terrorizing their Amity Island beaches. Is it ironic then, that Quint is eaten alive on his own boat, while hunting his greatest foe, while two men who barely have their sea legs watch in horror? I suspect it is more of a case of man dying while doing what he loved to do. Also, you may notice that while Quint is being bitten in half, he is still bad ass enough to be driving a hunting knife into the side of the sharks face. Jaws is great because instead of relying on ghosts and masked killers, it uses the real life fear of what unknown terror lurks beneath the ocean’s surface. Quint came face to face with the unknown, and unfortunately it was the greatest of the Great Whites. May his headband rest in peace.
Cool fact: Quint’s boat, The Orca, is named after the sharks only natural predator, the Killer Whale.
Electric Wizard – Devil’s Bride (from the album Electric Wizard1995 Rise Above Records) These British lads (and lady) are big fans of Black Sabbath, and are just as heavy. Their lyrics are occult inspired, with a little bit of herb to help out the process. Electric Wizard is still going strong today. Enjoy a little U.K. doom.
My apologies for not posting much in the last week. I’ve been doing some writing for another project I am working on. I do have many posts planned for How Heavy This Axe, I just have to get around to posting them. I will return.
In the mean time, please enjoy this photo I took at the Calgary Zoo today…a Tiger eating meat!