Thursday, July 17, 2014


Leslie Rice, aka the Fear Fan, is the writer/director and star of the web series Terror Obscura, a review show that tackles the horror genre. Mr. Rice takes a more analytical approach than most reviewers, and he opts to review entire franchises, giving each installment in a series its own episode. Also, he offers shorter, truncated reviews on a show called Fright Bites, to appease fans in between episodes of Terror Obscura. The following is an interview I conducted with Mr. Rice, wherein we discuss the philosophy of horror, what's up next for both shows, and which horror icon would survive in a fight to the death. 
Thee Satanophile: What do you think makes horror unique? What separates it from genres that include similar themes of murder or crime (i.e. drama, sci-fi)?
Leslie Rice: Well, that's a very interesting question, and I think it can best be answered by defining the term 'Horror'. If you were to go through each of the other genres and evaluate them, you would eventually be able to boil them down to a single term or phrase that describes what feelings or thoughts they were meant to inspire. For example, you might get something along the lines of 'speculation' when you talk about Sci-fi, or 'excitement' when discussing Fantasy. When discussing Horror though, the primary goal is to inspire 'Fear'. Think about it - you can have any of those other genres, but whenever that element of Fear creeps in, they become a hyphenate. "Sci-fi horror." "Horror Comedy."
Thee Satanophile: Would you say, then, that other genres, like comedy for example, essentially contain elements of horror? Furthermore, if we can equate horror with conflict, then horror is the jumpoff for narrative storytelling in all genres. Hell, when Mr. Hooper died on Sesame Street, was that not a form of horror narrative?
Leslie Rice: Ha ha! While I admit that's an interesting idea, I think that saying all genres contain elements of horror is like saying that you and I contain elements of an elephant seal - we're made of the same stuff, but what really matters is how it's put together. All narrative storytelling requires conflict, but what makes horror... well... 'Horror'... is the consistency of that conflict - man vs. fear. When you look at every single horror movie, what you'll find lying under the surface is a particular fear, or combination thereof. What if my kid turns out to be a terrible person (The Good Son, The Bad Seed, Children of the Damned)? What if everyone really IS out to get me (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Faculty, Invaders from Mars)? What if the Boogeyman actually IS real (Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.)? While everything contains the POTENTIAL for horror, it's only when they begin to focus on one of those questions that you get a true horror story. Like you said though, most things do contain some trace elements of fear, and I think that's why so many other genres mesh so well with horror- because it's already got the seeds there. It's not really TOO surprising given that fear is one of the oldest human emotions.
Thee Satanophile: What was the first horror film you watched as a kid? Also, what's the last movie you saw that authentically scared you?
Leslie Rice: Looking back, it's difficult for me to say what the FIRST was, but I DO recall the ones that first managed to scare the crap out of me. While I always liked the classic Universal Monster movies as a kid, the first thing I remember actually scaring me is the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow. There was just something about that insane cackle and how damn RELENTLESS he was. No matter what poor Ichabod Crane did to get away, that sword was always just a few seconds away from taking a little too much off the top. If I had to give you a runner up, it was Forbidden Planet, although that's not technically a horror movie. There was something about the Id Monster that messed with me.There, it wasn't just the fact that it was invisible, or that it was invincible, it was that godawful ROARING sound it made. Awesome stuff. As for things that've scared me recently, I've got to admit that it's been slim pickings as far as stuff that's actually FRIGHTENED me to the point where I was legitimately scared. There have been plenty of films that startled me or made me a little uneasy, but I'd say the best bang for my buck in the last few years were the Insidious movies. THOSE are films that know how to use atmosphere, creative setups, and yes, the occasional jump scare to great effect. There have also been some pretty good smaller, independent films, but since I generally watch those on the small screen, I'm afraid their impact is lessened considerably...
Thee Satanophile: Let's play death match! Round one is The Tall Man vs. Pinhead.
Leslie Rice: That's an interesting one... Since Pinhead is primarily concerned with the souls and flesh of the living while the other is a collector of the bodies of the dead, it's kind of hard to think of a reason they would come into conflict, but if they did, I guess we'd have to look at what they have to work with.
All right - let's start with the Tall Man! He's an extra dimensional being who can be killed, but no matter how gruesome the death, he can simply send another one of his multiversal doubles through to take his place, provided there's a gate nearby. Then there's his arsenal- A finite number of 'turned' replicants and human collaborators as well as a theoretically unlimited supply of dwarf minions and HK spheres as well as the occasional master sphere. On top of that, there's his own prodigious size, strength and transformative abilities to consider.
Then, there's the cenobites! Acolytes of a dark god, shapers of flesh and bringers of both pleasure and pain. Capable of appearing at any point after being summoned and arguably invulnerable to anything other than losing the favor of Leviathan or having the Lament Configuration's alignment altered. They bring with the blades, stabbing weapons, and the hooks that their leader can summon from the shadows.
So, who would win? Well, the Tall Man has the advantage of numbers and not having a soul, as well as some experience with interdimensional travel. The Cenobites on the other hand... Well, I tend to disregard pretty much anything from the second movie on, so really the only way I can see them coming out on top is by recruiting and converting enough new cenobites to send them out and close all the gates at once. So yeah, I'm giving this one to good ol' Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man.
Thee Satanophile: Round two! Peter (Dawn of the Dead 1978) vs. Daryl Dixon.
Leslie Rice: Sweet picks! As for Peter vs. Daryl... Peter. Because Ken Foree, motherfuckers.
Thee Satanophile: Can't argue with that. Round three! Count Jackula vs the Horror Guru.
Leslie Rice: Shit... Another tough one, lol! Well, if they both do one another in, there'd have to be SOMEONE to step in and fill the gap... (Conspicuously adjusts collar with a wink.)
Thee Satanophile: Who are your favorite producers in the "reviewsphere"?
Leslie Rice: Well, I refuse to play favorites with my friends on the Booth, and I can honestly say that I love all their work equally. Of the larger, better known critics, I'd probably say my top 3 are Doug, Phelan, and Brad. I'm always looking at others who are just starting out, or who have managed to carve out their own fanbases, and I'm always amazed by the amount of effort and love people put out for their work.
Thee Satanophile: In your Friday the 13th Part 3 review, you tackle the Jason-as-a-rapist controversy, but I noticed you didn't mention Tracie Savage's character Debbie's alleged pregnancy.
Leslie Rice: Yeah... Video was already 35 min... Didn't want to push it too far and besides, I didn't have much to say on it since it didn't affect things too much.
Thee Satanophile: I had always taken that character's comments about being pregnant as sarcasm; her and her boyfriend were constantly ribbing each other. If her character was intended to be pregnant, though, I think that would make her death more savage.
Leslie Rice: Yeah, she says it a couple of times, but he doesn't ever ACT like she's pregnant, so who knows?
Thee Satanophile: If I'm not mistaken, A Nightmare on Elm Street is your favorite franchise, am I right?
Leslie Rice: Hmn... Let's just say favorite 'straight' horror franchise.
Thee Satanophile: OK... which do you prefer... Freddy as a child molester/killer, or Freddy as just a killer?
Leslie Rice: Well, while it was never explicitly stated in the original series, it WAS heavily implied that he was a kiddie fiddler. Also, that WAS Craven's original intention, so I don't think there's ever been much of a separation for me.
Thee Satanophile: In your opinion, what was the first slasher film? Some people say Halloween, but there was Black Christmas and Psycho before it. Before Psycho, there was Peeping Tom and going back even earlier, Fritz Lang's M and The Phantom of the Opera... whose canoe attack scenes were aped later (many times) by the Friday the 13th series.
Leslie Rice: Well, everything draws it's inspiration from everything else, so it IS really difficult to tell where things start or end. Hell, arguably Cain and Abel were the first slasher villains. Still, if you define the modern 'Slasher Movie' as a deranged killer stalking multiple victims and doing away with them in creative fashion on screen- I'd say Halloween is the first true modern slasher film in that it established so many conventions of the Genre. Still, honorable mention to all the others.
Thee Satanophile: Where can my readers can find your show?
Leslie Rice: Thanks again for the promotion, and I really appreciate your featuring me on your blog!
Thee Satanophile: No problem! I love the show, looking forward to more Friday the 13th reviews. What's next on your agenda?
Leslie Rice: Thanks! I'm doing an editorial on why Masks are so important in horror and a Fright Bites on Gremlins 2, then I'll be tackling (Friday the 13th) Part IV.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


MALICE IN WONDERLAND (1982) (UR) Dir. Vince Collins
4 mins.
This short animation juxtaposes the themes and characters of the Lewis Carroll classic with psychedelia and sexuality. Alice enters into her own labial gates and transforms into various yonic and phallic creatures. Using simple, crude and yet hypnotizing animation loops, Vince Collins essentially encapsulates the Gnostic angst towards the human body.
Certain Gnostic groups, such as the Skoptsi and the Cathars, believed the body to be the prison of the soul. Enlightenment was therefore to transcend the mortal shell, and this goal was obtained through various extremes, be it sexual abstinence, castration, flagellation, or even, in the case of some Gnostic sects, promiscuity.
Alice is shown physically morphing much like the alien in John Carpenter's The Thing. The different illustrations highlight the fluidity of gender, the frailty of flesh, and the implicit sexual innuendos in commonplace phenomena, be it drinking from a bottle, smoking a hookah, or opening a door.
Sometimes the images are surreal and beautiful, other times they are jarring, nightmarish and unrelenting. They reflect the full and complicated spectrum of human sexual relation, both internal and external. It can be gorgeous, sensual, fun, indifferent, gross, violent, or traumatic.
Many Gnostics believed that the creator-god, or Demiurge, was evil and had created an imperfect world; hence the proclivity of suffering and disorder within it. Alice herself seems to question the intentions of the Demiurge itself when, at the end of the animation, she asks, "Who has had such a curious dream?"


Saturday, July 5, 2014


Dir. Jake West
72 mins.

In the 1980's a wave an inquisition concerning graphic films erupted in British politics. The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) compiled a list of 72 films, labeled the "Video Nasties," and attempted to pass legislation banning the distribution, rental, ownership or sale of any of the entries on the list. Because of this, there was mass seizings of videos from collections and warehouses, as well as the legal prosecution of multiple distributors and store owners. The DPP constructed not only a mainline Nasty list, but a supplementary watchlist known as "Section 3", which included 80 more films, as well.


The concern was that Nasties, a relatively new phenomena at the time, would irrevocably corrupt the nation's youth and, over time, cause massive spikes in violent crime. Many violent crime and murder cases in this era were blamed on these movies, regardless if the perpetrators had seen them or not. The most famous example of this being the murder of two-year old James Bulger by two ten-year old boys. The press insinuated the Bulger's murderers had been inspired by the film Child's Play 3. This, of course, amounted to little more than propaganda, as there was no evidence to suggest the youths had even seen the offending movie.

Would you fuck me? I'd fuck me.
This documentary follows the nativity of the Nasties controversy three decades ago, up until the modern era, in which many of these celluloid pariahs are still censored or completely unavailable to British consumers. Director Jake West has compiled interviews hailing from both sides of the fence; he speaks with journalists and industry insiders who oppose the legislation, and with the politicians who were the architects of the public scare. Though it is clear that West sympathizes with the former camp, he grants the latter the opportunity to explain their views. This is a thoroughly entertaining and informative documentary begging to be seen by horror fan and sociologist alike. 8/10
View the trailer here:

THE NEST (2014)

THE NEST (2014) (UR) Dir. David Cronenberg
9 mins.
The Nest is a short mini-film that David Cronenberg made exclusively for the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam, which is hosting a gallery and retrospective of the director's works. It was filmed using a GoPro camera, in a single continuous take, and is from Cronenberg's own first person perspective. The director plays an alleged surgeon, most likely of the illegal variety, as he interrogates a visibly distraught topless woman who desires to remove her left breast.

It is not clear if the woman is insane, or if Cronenberg's character is truly a surgeon, a psychiatrist, or a charlatan. Nor is it clear if the ailment she complains of is an authentic condition or a product of her unstable imagination. See, the woman is convinced that her left breast is infested with insects. From a psychological standpoint, it is interesting to note that it is the LEFT breast; mirroring, yet updating the antiquated belief that the left hand, or sinistra, is an instrument of evil.

This nine minute, low budget experiment hints at a return of the director to the subgenre that made him a household name in the underground (and briefly, the mainstream with 1986's The Fly), and that is body horror. Fans have been clamoring for him to revisit his roots, as most of his output of late has been more dramatic in tone (i.e. A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, M. Butterfly, and A Dangerous Method). Not that these movies aren't good--they are--but because no director can make us feel like fleshly and vulnerable humanoid slugs quite like the maestro himself.

Unfortunately, The Nest is not a return to form, but is, hopefully, a hint of things that may come. The short is a little boring at worst (even with a quick running time), and suffers from dodgy acting, mostly on the part of Cronenberg himself. However the concept, in and of itself, and the back-of-the-garage appearance of the "surgery" room works to the film's advantage. As the conversation between the woman and the doctor escalates (through the use of a stethoscope he confirms he can hear a buzzing, like that of a wasp), there is a tangible sense of dread that builds... but this crescendo is abandoned in an abrupt and anticlimactic ending that provides no real explanation or closure to the premise.

In a perfect world (at least for me), at the nine minute mark the film would have cut to a scalpel as it effortlessly breaks through the fatty tissue of the contentious tit, and to the horror of a doubtful (and likely confused) audience, a gaggle of slimy, insectoid vermin crawl out. That would have been too good for us. Perhaps in the future, the perverse king will reclaim his throne, but not now.

Though doubtful that Cronenberg will pursue this story any further, it would be nice to see this concept fleshed out into a full length feature, with a decent budget and better production values. Sow doubt into the audience; have them believe the woman is a hallucinating psychotic, to the extent that when the nest is proven to be a very real and life-threatening phenomenon, it shocks the viewer in a wonderfully graphic manner. After all, internal insect infestation is a horrifying concept, and quintessentially Cronenbergian.

I would recommend this movie to die-hard Cronenberg fans only. Others will likely be left scratching their heads. It's on YouTube, but supposedly for a limited time (somehow I doubt it, though). 4/10