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The Ugly Truth Behind the UK’s Hateful Spate of Horror Artwork

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The Sacrament

Back in 2013, one of the biggest supermarket chains in the UK issued a public apology for stocking the family-unfriendly The Hospital (Dir. Tommy Golden and Daniel Emery Taylor) before it was swiftly pulled from shelves.

The film in question had been brought to the management’s attention when an unhappy shopper complained of false marketing as there had been no warning on the cover alerting to its ‘extreme violence and pornography.’ In spite of being an avid horror fan himself, the customer went on to suggest that The Hospital was perfectly acceptable for an online audience but was not the kind of product someone should expect to encounter on a weekly shop with the kids.

He certainly puts forward a fair point and it makes sense that actions needed to be (and were) taken to ensure horror could still be sold in supermarkets but what is happening in the UK right now is anything but reasonable.

To a certain extent, the recent news of Walmart tampering with releases like Deathgasm (AKA Heavy Metal Apocalypse) to protect their loyal customers does make sense, but when it comes to supermarkets having the final say on artwork, not only available at their own establishments, but on sale at every other physical and online outlet up and down the UK, there’s something clearly amiss.

Essentially, filmmakers are being told that no one in the UK buys DVDs anymore and that supermarkets, having so many outlets across the land, are the biggest bricks-and-mortar sellers when it comes to that niche of the market. Accordingly, you can do the math and figure out exactly who gets the final word and why.

The biggest problem therein is that the most important quality in a supermarket’s eyes isn’t whether a film is good or not but rather whether or not they’ll be able to sell it to their habitual customers. Add to this the fact that the average supermarket frequenter has a very nasty habit of picking up DVD boxes that look like the bastard son of Insidious and Saw (no offence intended for those films), or whatever is popular at the time, and the powers-that-be mash together a bunch of stock images, even if they have nothing to do with the film they are trying to sell.

This might work in terms of sales, but whichever way you look at it, it’s not doing the film the justice it really deserves by marketing it in such a deceitful manner: It’s downright discriminatory to filmmakers as they aren’t allowed at least some say and also to audiences, who end up buying something based on an image that represents anything but what’s inside the box.

Filmmakers and supermarkets are both on the same mission: to sell as many copies as possible, so there should maybe be at least be a little more trust or collaboration on the part of the sellers. So many good horror films are coming out now and, unfortunately, all look like cheap knock-offs. It’s such a shame.

And this is without even mentioning having to cough up those dreaded co-op fees to get films stocked in the supermarkets, after already having sold the film at a significant discount.

But back to the case in point; if you haven’t seen some of the amazingly misleading home release artwork distributors/supermarkets have opted for, then the list below is a guaranteed eye-opener. Have a gander at the sterling examples below (US version on the left, UK alter ego on the right), and we’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions in the comments below…

Housebound Final

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Horror just reinvented itself!

Starry Eyes

Was there a scene involving levitation? If there was, it flew right over my head…

Harbinger Down

It’s a sorry state of affairs when Starship Troopers and Alien vs. Predator are given preference over a mention of Terminator and Aliens.

We Are Still Here

Kind of on the fence about this one. The UK version was some original sales art, but why the decision to go backwards when the new design used for the US version was perfectly perfect?

The Diabolical

Scared little girl? Check. Creepy broken mirror? Check. Shattered glass and a knife on the floor? Check. Anything actually related to the film? The title is the same I suppose…

The Sacrament

Don’t even get me started with this one!!! We can all pray for salvation if anything like this is ever churned out again in the UK…

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Dario Argento Is Coming To HorrorCon UK 2018

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Hold your machetes, wipe your tears and pick your jaw up from the floor because the one and only Italian master of the horror film, Dario Argento will be making a rare visit to the UK to take part in HorrorCon UK. The greatest Horror convention in England is now in its 4th year and getting Argento to appear is a real coup. Argento who is perhaps one of the greatest ever horror director’s to get behind a lens will be appearing over the weekend of May 19th-20th to meet with fans and join in a Q and A session and there will even be a chance to get a photo with him.

HorrorCon UK will be pulling out all of the stops as the guests don’t stop there. Also scheduled to appear will be the legendary David Warner who has starred in everything from The Omen to Waxwork. Warner was supposed to make an appearance last year but sadly had to pull out at the 11th hour due to filming commitments.

The one and only Jeff Combs who is most famous amongst horror fans as playing Herbert West in the 1985 classic Re-Animator will be making an appearance and it is always an honor to share his company. In fact it will be a somewhat Re-Animator reunion as Barbara Crampton will also be at HorrorCon UK, marking her first ever European convention appearance!

The legendary Dee Wallace who is a bona fide scream queen with a resume that includes The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes, Cujo and The Lords of Salem and let’s not forget she survived the Critters so no messin’ with this gal is also here and she will be warmly welcomed that’s for sure.  Other guests include Claudio Simonetti the legendary performer, basically if you have a giallo movie in your collection- which we know you do- then you have heard Simonetti’s incredible work. He has worked closely with Argento and other Italian masters such as Lucio Fulci and Umberto Lenzi. The icing on the cake is that Simonetti will also perform some of his original movie scores on the day.

Billy Wirth who played Dwayne as part of the gang of vampires in one of the greatest 80s horror movies ever in The Lost Boys will also be here, just make sure you don’t get bitten by him! Rounding up the guests will be Graham Humphrey’s a man who needs no introduction but will get one anyway. Humphrey’ s artistic talent knows no boundaries and he has been behind the iconic UK VHS artwork from The Evil Dead to A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Apart from the guests will be the various traders selling everything from replica props, t-shirts, rare memorabilia, movies, magazines and model kits. Hosts will include Ben Wilkinson, Tony Earnshaw, Darrell Buxton and the majestic Bunny Galore! Simply put if you’re a horror fan and can get to the UK for this May you cannot miss the event of the year!

HorrorCon UK takes place the weekend of May 19th-2oth at Magna Science Adventure Center in Sheffield, England

You can purchase tickets and photo ops right here.

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Here’s Why We Suspect Jason Voorhees is a Pot Farmer

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I’m not a Rastafarian or a Dead Head, but I still consider April 20th (4/20) a bona fide counter-cultural holiday worthy of celebration. The date has become synonymous with marijuana and coincides with concerts, “smoke-outs”, and even academic retrospectives worldwide. Indeed, societal mores have softened since the paranoid days of Reefer Madness, making “The Devil’s Herb” an appropriate topic for exploration.

In the spirit of 4/20, I’m highlighting a theory I’ve been considering over the past few years, one that connects the scourge of Camp Crystal Lake to a large-scale guerilla grow operation. It’s my assertion that Jason Voorhees is a pot farmer.

Jason’s relationship with marijuana (and those who partake) seems contrary to this theory, as stoners in Friday the 13th movies almost inevitably meet with the business end of a machete. There seems to be a moralistic agenda at play, one that punishes those who participate in illegal consumption of drugs—especially when they should be watching young campers who might be drowning in the lake.

This seems to be the case in the 2009 reboot, as well. Directed by Marcus Nispel from a script penned by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, Jason makes short work of several eager weed tokers (among others). This specific chapter of the Friday franchise, however, breaks with tradition in several ways; one could be Jason’s relationship with marijuana.

I invite all Friday fans and 4/20 enthusiasts to take this challenge: Re-watch 2009’s Friday the 13th accepting the premise that Jason is a weed farmer. As outlandish as it may sound at first, everything falls into place with surprising validity. Let’s review:

The opening act of Friday the 13th sees a group of hikers looking for a rumored field of marijuana, somewhere in the vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake. They tromp noisily through the woods, making them easy for Jason to notice. But he doesn’t make his first kill until a camper stumbles into the weed patch. If we accept that this is Jason’s crop, we see he only resorts to murder when someone’s caught in the act of theft. Jason’s decision to kill the rest of the campers (except for Whitney) may certainly have been an over-reaction, but he could have been acting under the assumption that they were all a potential threat to his business. The world of drugs can be ruthless after all.

The Carnage Begins

Related Article: 4/20 Massacre Review – Puff, Puff, Slash!

The next obvious question involves how the following group of victims ran afoul of Jason; while the film’s main batch of horny teen definitely includes stoners, none of them invaded the Voorhees “farm”. If Jason’s only motivation is protecting his crop from interlopers, why hack and slash the rich kids at the cabin? It all comes back to weed.

After the First Act, Jason’s next victim is the redneck working on a machine in the dilapidated barn. Immediately preceding his dispatch, he offers to sell Jenna and Clay some weed, some really good stuff that he claims he “found”. He’s obviously another thief (at least in Jason’s mind) which is why he was slaughtered. The fact that Clay and Jenna were seen with the marijuana burglar, unfortunately, made them guilty by association.

Jason’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but still, we can understand how he assumed these new arrivals were all after his crop (which was obviously just about ready to harvest). The kids wakeboarding on the lake: They had to go. Everyone else associated with Jenna: Assumed intruders who needed to be dealt with accordingly. Again, I agree Jason’s actions are extreme, but those operating guerilla grow operations aren’t your stereotypical happy hippies; even in real life, those attempting to infiltrate secret fields are likely to face physical danger.

So who are Jason’s clients? They obviously aren’t the tourists who briefly come and go. I propose they’re the elderly residents of Crystal Lake County: The woman who warned Clay “He just wants to be left alone,” for example. And the old man with the oxygen mask who almost rescued one of the teens: As soon as he saw Jason was on his trail, he sped off. This wasn’t because he was scared, necessarily; rather, he realized it was “business related”. Jason clearly supplied this fellow with marijuana to alleviate the pain of his lung cancer. The unseen, bedridden owner of the farm where Jason killed the redneck is also a client.

“Stay away from my crops.”

When you look at the life Jason lives in 2009’s Friday the 13th, you realize a source of income is necessary. Since he probably doesn’t deal with money, Jason most-likely barters with his customers. That’s how he has gasoline in his generator, light bulbs in his lair, food on his table, and how he landed that wicked machete sharpener.

Furthermore, Jason’s entire underground labyrinth wasn’t revealed and he certainly has enough room for an entire grow operation. The tunnels and rooms were surprisingly dry, making them the perfect place to dry and cure freshly-cultivated crops. Once dried and sealed, he could store stashes in a variety of locations. He could make clones, hybrids, and cultivate seeds in the offseason.

And while Jason would probably benefit from the calming, medicinal qualities of marijuana, he abides by the rules laid out by N.W.A in 1986: A dope man never gets high off his own supply.

I hope Shannon and Swift will be brave enough to one day reveal the truth. In the meantime, raise a bong to Mrs. Voorhees’ Baby Boy! And remember if you stumble across a wild marijuana field while hiking, leave that shit alone!

Happy 4/20!

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Brennan Went To Film School

Brennan Went to Film School: The Surprisingly Inspiring Message in Nightmare on Elm Street 4

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“Brennan Went to Film School” is a column that proves that horror has just as much to say about the world as your average Oscar nominee. Probably more, if we’re being honest.

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

The Elm Street franchise has a reputation for going downhill after Freddy gets funny, with most people fearing to venture past the high-water mark of the third film, Dream Warriors. But if there’s one Freddy film that sticks in my craw and makes me think about it more than any other, it’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

Yes, the movie with the karate dude. The movie with the soul pizza. The movie that has multiple Dramarama needle drops. Let me explain.

If you’re not familiar, The Dream Master tells the story of Alice Johnson, as played by Lisa Wilcox, who is part of a new group of friends (there’s always a new group of friends) that surround the three survivors of the previous installment. She’s a sweet, shy girl who has a tendency for daydreaming in order to escape the mundane, awful realities of life with her abusive, alcoholic father.

When Freddy Krueger returns to continue his reign of terror (this involves a fire-pissing dog named Jason, don’t ask), Alice discovers that not only do people possess special powers in the dream world, but her particular power is to absorb the skills and abilities of her friends once they are killed. After they’re all dead, she becomes the Dream Master, the only person who has a chance of conquering Freddy once and for all. Or at least until they made three more sequels and a spin-off.

It might not seem like it at first, but Alice Johnson’s character arc is probably the most powerful in the franchise. In between the cockroach weight lifting and the time loops and the movie theater vortex is a genuinely powerful story of a young woman’s self-actualization in the face of trauma.

Alice starts the movie as a beaten-down, mousy wallflower who lets her more outgoing friends lead her thoughts and actions. In fact, she’s so bland and boring that you might even start to wonder why the movie even decided to have her as the protagonist. Her whole life seems to entail going to school, going to work at the local diner, and doing her best not to stand out.

But there’s one thing that already implies her potential to be a worthy adversary to the unstoppable dream demon: she already lives in a world of daydreams, so she and Freddy share the same domain. She’s only truly at home in the dream world, as it is the place that gives her the power to carry on with her day.

As the story progresses, we see Alice literally draw strength from her friends and eventually learn to cope with the hand she’s been dealt, until she is accomplished and powerful in her own right. Not only does she defeat Freddy, but she gains her own agency, fights back against her dad, and wins the heart of the hunky guy she’s been crushing on. It’s a radical, inspiring change worthy of any high school movie, even one where a man with a charred face drowns a kid in his own waterbed.

Now that’s all well and good, but there’s a visual metaphor at the center of this that drives everything home so powerfully that it’ll never detach its vise grip on my mind. In Alice’s room, she has a mirror that’s so covered with photos of her friends there’s hardly space to check the bags under her eyes. She has literally hidden herself behind the faces and personalities of those she loves.

But as they start to die off one by one, Alice removes their pictures from her mirror. Friend by friend, power by power, Freddy’s murder spree chips away the photo collage until all she’s left with is her own reflection. Once she has become complete and ready to face her demons on her own, she is finally able to look herself full in the face and find her own identity.

It’s a powerful image, and maybe the most subtle in director Renny Harlin’s entire career. And that’s why The Dream Master never strikes me as one of the worse entries of the franchise. Not only is it a fun, cheesy supernatural slasher, it’s an uplifting tale of a girl who deserves more finally learning to respect herself and using that very respect to change the world around her for the better. I think that’s a message we could all use, even if you have to dig a little bit to get it.


Brennan Klein is a writer and podcaster who talks horror movies every chance he gets. And when you’re talking to him about something else, he’s probably thinking about horror movies. On his blog, Popcorn Culture, he is running through reviews of every slasher film of the 1980’s, and on his podcast, Scream 101, he and a non-horror nerd co-host tackle horror reviews with a new sub-genre every month!


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