12 Riffs of Christmas BING CROSBY & DAVID BOWIE – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

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David Bowie (L) and Bing Crosby (R)

Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (from Bowie’s B-side single Fantastic Voyage, 1982 RCA) What happens when you take an entertainment legend, an amazing pop vocalist and let them sing a carol together? You get this beauty of a Christmas song. Bowie is my favorite male performer and Little Drummer Boy is at the top of my Holiday song list. This is a beautiful rendition, recorded by two gentlemen who could sing anything and make it sound lovely. It was a great touch to put together an actor/singer with Bing Crosby’s influence and a current artist the caliber of the Thin White Duke (Bowie). As far as contemporary Christmas songs go, this may be the best.

As a bonus, here is a Funny or Die tribute with John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell.

//www.funnyordie.com/embed/6f62088f27

T.

Riff of the Day (Nov 10) Guns N’ Roses – Night Train

Guns N’ Roses – Night Train (from the album Appetite For Destruction, Geffen 1987) If you were a teen in the Eighties, you possessed a cassette of Appetite For Destruction,or had a friend that owned it. Everything about this record screamed rebellion. The attitude, the fashion, the notorious behavior; Guns N’ Roses was rock n’ roll. No album in the history of earth had a bigger impact on my life than this polarizing masterpiece. From top to bottom, the finest debut album, and arguably best pure rock record ever. These guys all came to Los Angeles, dirt poor and full of spite, and rendered an album that will always be timeless. Whatever has transpired between Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy, and Steven over the years can never tarnish the impact of Appetite for Destruction.

31 Days of Halloween Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 31

“Black cats and goblins and broomsticks and ghosts,
Covens of witches with all of their hosts
You may think they scare me, you’re probably right
Black cats and goblins On Halloween night”

Halloween (directed by John Carpenter, 1978) Typically, October 31st is the day we reserve on the calendar jack-o-lanterns, candy and costumes, and fun. Little ghosts and goblins roam the streets, going door-to-door for sweets. But in Haddonfield, Halloween took on a whole new meaning. Instead of tricks-or-treats, terror and fear fill people’s hearts. You see, October 31st is the night he came home. On Halloween night, 1963, a young boy named Michael Myers was left under the care of his older sister, Judith. Dressed as a clown, Michael climbed the stairs up to his sister’s room, pulled his mask over his face, and stabbed his sister to death. Fast forward fifteen years to Smiths Grove mental institute, where Michael has been a patient since the murder of his sister. Myers manages to escape, and returns to Haddonfield. Dr. Sam Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, heads to the town to try and intercept the now-adult psychopath. Loomis knows that what lies behind Michael’s dead eyes is pure evil, and realizes that the residents of Haddonfield could be in danger. After stealing an expressionless mask from the local five-and-dime store, Michael is now at large and disguised. Laurie Strode is a typical teenager, and along with her friends Annie and Lynda, become the targets of The Shape (the name given to Michael by the writers). Laurie heads out to her babysitting job, unaware that she, or the other girls are being stalked by the faceless killer. She soon discovers that her life is in danger, and must fight to survive her attacker. Dr. Loomis pieces together Michael’s intentions, but will it be too late? Can he save Laurie and stop The Shape from claiming one more victim on Halloween? This film is a study on how to get more from less. From the shoestring budget, to the minimal use of gore, to the simple story, John Carpenter’s Halloween is a home-run. The suspense and atmosphere are second to none, aided by a soundtrack that is as much part of the film as any other character. The violence is subtle, but realistic and believable. The Shape is the perfect villain. He does not stand out, he is emotionless, and becomes part of the shadows. He speaks no dialogue, remains masked, and does not command any sympathy from the audience what so ever. This makes us more sympathetic to Laurie, as she flees from the monster. It is not until Halloween II that we learn the whole back story of Michael’s family tie to Myers. The story of Halloween leaves a lot open for interpretation. We are unsure of Michael’s motives, or why he targeted these particular babysitters. The character of Dr. Loomis is important because his dialogue paints a picture of Myers as a calculated killer, and helps make Michael loom even larger. Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as the girl-next door, all-American teenager. Halloween was her big screen debut, and she nails it as Laurie. The accomplished Donald Pleasence made great use of limited screen time, but became a horror icon as Dr, Sam Loomis. John Carpenter has brought to life numerous classic horror and sci-fi films, and Halloween fits right into that category. Numerous sequels have been made, but the only one that matters is Halloween II, which continues the story immediately after Halloween ends. If you are going to watch one film on Halloween, don’t you think it should a movie named after the occasion? There are scarier films, but there is something special about this one. To me, it encompasses everything a horror movie should be. I love Halloween because of Halloween, and vice versa.

I have really had a fun time over the last month writing about the films I consider must see Halloween viewing. I made it my mission to watch every film, whether I have watched it a couple times, or twenty five times. There were things I noticed about each film I never noticed before, and realized that there are moments that still make me cringe or give me a shiver down my spine. This is why I love these movies. I hope you can cherish them as much as I do. Thank you for reading. It has been a pleasure.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat
  • Day 28 – An American Werewolf in London
  • Day 29 – The Changeling
  • Day 30 – The Exorcist
  • Day 31 – Halloween (1978)

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 30 – The Exorcist

31 Days of Halloween – Day 30

The Exorcist (directed by William Friedkin, 1973) It seems improbable that a film with this subject matter could gain the critical and commercial success that The Exorcist has over the past forty years. Film goers in the early seventies were not quite as desensitized as we are in current times. Mainstream cinema had its fair share of chilly movies; Psycho, of the Dawn of the Dead, Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead had seen wide distribution, and were all fairly successful. These movies, while considered scary for the time, could not prepare audiences for what was released on December 26, 1973. Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a young spirited girl, and her actress mother Chris (Ellen Burstyn) are taking residence in Washington D.C. while Chris is there for work. During their stay, Regan begins to exhibit strange behavior; anxiety, aggression, physical abnormalities. These symptoms are accompanied by strange noises and physical disturbances in the house. After a battery of tests is performed on Regan, it is determined that there are no physical sighs to indicate a cause. Regan’s condition becomes dire, and Chris becomes desperate to find help for her daughter. At the suggestion of a doctor, Chris turns to the church for help. She seeks out Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller). Karras himself has been questioning his faith because of his mother’s death. After an initial visit with the afflicted young girl, Karras decides to help the family. Whatever is inside Regan is making claims to be the devil, and knows things that the twelve year old would not know? Father Karras enlists the help of Father Lancaster Merrin (Max Von Sydow), who has experience in the field of exorcism. The ensuing battle between good and evil is shocking and intense, and has dire consequences. The Exorcist is one of those films that have a lasting impact on the viewer, whether positive or negative. The film is polarizing, but undeniably brilliant. It is the type of movie that you think twice about watching alone. The are some first class shocking moments in this film, all delivered by an amazing performance by a young Linda Blair. These scenes would not be half as messed up if an adult was doing the blasphemous things that are taking place. The actors are all great. Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller are convincing servants of god, fearless in the face of the subject matter. Director William Friedkin (French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.) took something that would seem almost laughable in a story of demonic possession, and created a film that shocked and terrified, but most importantly, changed horror cinema forever. Not only did audiences take notice, but critics also saluted the film. Multiple Academy Award nominations and two Oscar wins were well earned. Possession films are a dime a dozen now, and none of them are really that good. The Exorcist set the bar so high that it will never been duplicated. There will come a time when Hollywood will try to remake this beauty, but they will fail miserably. How do you improve on perfect? This Halloween, watch The Exorcist. The power of Christ compels you.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)
  • Day 25 – The Blair Witch Project
  • Day 26 – The Shining
  • Day 27 – Trick r Treat
  • Day 28 – An American Werewolf in London
  • Day 29 – The Changeling
  • Day 30 – The Exorcist

T.

Riff of the Day 10/29/15 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

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Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (from the album Black Sabbath 1970, Vertigo) You can pretty much pinpoint the start of doom metal to the opening riff of Sabbath’s title song on their self-titled album. Tony Iommi dropped his guitar tuning down one and a half steps out of necessity, but what came out of it was a sound that still defines heavy music today. Ozzy Osborne,  Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward changed music with one album. One of the darkest sounding songs of it’s era still conjures evil to this day.

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 24

The Evil Dead (directed by Sam Raimi, 1981) It is amazing what you can accomplish with a movie camera, a small budget, and a group of close friends when you put your mind to it. This is essentially how The Evil Dead was made. Director Sam Raimi (Drag Me To Hell), producer Rob Tapert and star Bruce Campbell (Army of Darkness), with some friends, made one of the most memorable horror movies on a budget of just under $400,000 (some films have a budget of over $150,000,000, and they suck). Creativity can go a lot further than money, and this film proves it. Five friends travel to a remote cabin for a little rest and relaxation. While they are there, they discover an ancient book and an old reel player. As they listen to the reel player, they discover that the book is called the Necronomicon, the Sumerian Book of the Dead. The voice on the reel recites some of the text as they listen, and the incantations awaken a sleeping evil in the woods. One by one, the characters are possessed. Can Ash (Bruce Campbell) survive the demons long enough to see the daylight, or will the evil swallow another soul? One thing I really enjoy about Evil Dead is the physical acting that takes place. The action, along with the campy nature of the film almost makes it seem like you are watching a demented episode of the Three Stooges. The last half of the film is basically one long, bloody action sequence. The make-up effects, while walking the fine line of being cheesy, are charming,and have a distinct look, and continue to do so through out the series. There is plenty of gore, dismemberment, sexual assaults by trees, screeching and laughing Deadites (possessed people), and most importantly, Bruce Campbell, to keep you entertained for the duration of the film. It is easy to see why the Evil Dead films, and Army of Darkness, have such an amazing fan base. If you manage to acquire a Blu ray copy, the transfer is very good, and makes the experience better. I loved my VHS copy, but it was shoddy at best.I have always been torn over which Evil Dead, 1 or 2, I like better. Evil Dead 2 is essentially the same movie with better effects, brilliant one-liners, and jacked-up insanity. While it is also a classic, I think I am more impressed with first film. It has a distinct “home-made” element to it that reminds me of being a kid, running around with my friends and a camcorder, making our own horror movies. I had not watched Evil Dead in sometime until this writing. I won’t make that mistake again. Please give the Deadites some love this Halloween. Just don’t read the paperback version out loud, unless you want to fight demons all night.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Day 21 – The Cabin In The Woods
  • Day 22 – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
  • Day 23 – The Exorcist III
  • Day 24 – The Evil Dead (1981)

T.

31 Days of Halloween Day 20 – TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (’74)

31 Days of Halloween – Day 20

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (directed by Tobe Hooper, 1974) If I could be part of any horror film in the history of cinema, I would choose Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I feel that TCM is the pinnacle of terror cinema. The film is non-stop, nerve-grinding screaming, yelling, and brutality. You can have all of the torture porn like Saw and Hostel you want. I will take the dirty, stinking Texas summer heat of this Tobe Hooper classic. Leatherface is a man who wears other people’s faces after he hangs them on a hook and butchers them. What is more terrifying than that? Five young adults are traveling through Texas to return to a childhood home. Along the way, they run into an assortment of characters that should have set off one hundred warning bells to get the hell out of there, but they carry on for lack of better judgement. They arrive at the destination, and splinter off into a couple groups. At various points, everyone one of them stumbles upon the Sawyer residence, a creepy farm house. It is here that they meet their premature demise. It turns out that the Sawyers are cannibalistic psychopaths. There are scenes in this film that still wear on my psyche, even though I know what is coming. Every time a victim is hung from a meat hook, I get a sick feeling. Marilyn Burns (Sally Hardesty) does an inspiring job as the terrified lone survivor. After reading trivia about TCM, it seems like the actual production of the movie was far more horrifying than the film itself. The filming was done over twenty some odd days during one of the hottest Texas summers in history. Sounds like guerrilla style film making at it’s finest. Edwin Neil, who starred as Hitchhiker, claimed that filming the movie was worse than his service in Vietnam. That sounds intense, but whatever happened during production aside, these actors were part of something special. Gunnar Hansen was menacing as Leatherface. The moment that metal door slides open, and he emerges, horror movie villains changed forever. Since that point, most mute killers are big and menacing, but no where near the presence of the original Leatherface. Also, you know he meat business, as evident by the tie that he wears under his butcher’s apron. At the risk of sounding like a fan boy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre almost perfect. The only thing I don’t like about the film is the character of Franklin. He is the most annoying asshole of a human being ever. I’m glad he was sawed in half. I feel good inside every time I see it. That aside, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is first class example of how fear should be transposed to the big screen. So, this Halloween, slow cook a roast, put on your favorite lady face, and enjoy a good dose of Leatherface.

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Recap

  • Day 1 – The Conjuring
  • Day 2 – You’re Next
  • Day 3 – Rob Zombie’s Halloween
  • Day 4 – Dog Soldiers
  • Day 5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
  • Day 6 – Psycho (1960)
  • Day 7 – John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Day 8 – The Prowler
  • Day 9 – Pet Sematary
  • Day 10 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Day 11 – Near Dark
  • Day 12 – The Lost Boys
  • Day 13 – Child’s Play
  • Day 14 – Sleepy Hollow
  • Day 15 – House of 1,000 Corpses
  • Day 16 – The Devil’s Rejects
  • Day 17 – Night of the Living Dead
  • Day 18 – Dawn of the Dead (’78)
  • Day 19 – Friday the 13th: A New Beginning
  • Day 20 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

T.