Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up (DVD) - Dread Central
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Masters of Horror: Pick Me Up (DVD)



Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up (Click to see it bigger!)Starring Fairuza Balk, Michael Moriarty, Warren Kole

Directed by Larry Cohen

Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment

Damn I’ve always loved Larry Cohen. Not in the way a man loves his wife, or a boy loves his first stuffed animal; no, this love is more like an almost unquestioning devotion to whatever project he chooses to do next.

Notice I said almost. Though I love the cool and original films he’s responsible for in his early career like Q: The Winged Serpent and God Told Me To, I do have some issues with his later strictly screenwriting gigs like Phone Booth. Though, to be fair, a writer is only responsible for so much of what gets on screen, so who knows how bizarre Booth was before it hit cinemas.

So needless to say I was very happy when Cohen became part of the lineup for Season One of Masters, and doubly so when it was announced that his long time acting partner Michael Moriarty would be back in a lead role again, as well. Oddly enough, though Moriarty does chew the scenery at every opportunity, the stand-out performance in “Pick Me Up” is relative newcomer Warren Kole, who does a great job portraying a quite, menacing psychopath who can turn on a dime and possess the most trusting face one can imagine with barely the bat of an eyelid.

Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up (Click to see it bigger!)The film, adapted by David Schow from his own short story (the first directing gig in his career in which Cohen didn’t serve writing duties, as well), tells of two wandering serial killers with very different means of choosing new victims; Wheeler (Moriarty) drives a massive big rig from town to town, picking up hitchhikers or wanderers and doing exceedingly nasty things to them. Walker (Kole) goes at it by foot, killing any motorist foolish enough to stop for him.

The two of them meet quite by accident; a bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, stranding its driver and passengers with no help in site. When Wheeler arrives and offers them a ride to town, two of the passengers are more than willing to go along. Meanwhile the troubled Stacia (Balk) decides to hoof it on foot to the closest town, so those left behind with the bus are along to deal with Walker when he arrives about an hour after Wheeler leaves. Through a series of odd coincidences and circumstances that only really make sense in a Cohen movie, the two killers end up at the same hotel with only the unaware Stacia in between their rooms.

They figure one another out, indeed one of the best scenes is a three-way conversation between the killers and Stacia outside the hotel, full of endless innuendos and assumptions; it’s a scene that really goes a long way to show how good both actors are and it’s fascinating to watch.

Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up (Click to see it bigger!)Eventually Stacia becomes both of the psychos’ next victim of choice, and pretty soon she’s literally caught between the dueling dementias, both of which have strong arguments for why their method of killing is more “pure” and strong personal philosophies that make more sense to each. To point out that things don’t end well for anyone involved (though the twist is a bit over the top) is almost unnecessary, since it’s a Cohen film we’re talking about and very rarely does it all work out well in the end in his universe.

Anchor Bay’s release of this episode comes stacked with the usual amount of goodies that us fans have almost begun to take for granted from this series. There’s just so many thick and juicy extras it’s hard to get through them all without feeling a bit overwhelmed, so allow me to lead you.

The first thing you should check out is “Death on the Highway: An Interview with Larry Cohen”. It’s a 25-minute piece that details both Cohen’s unique rise to the top through years of strange films and anti-Hollywood work ethics, and how he came to be involved in the Masters series (indeed, he takes credit for bringing up the idea of a bunch of horror directors getting together for dinner to Garris). Cohen’s had a fascinating life and his no-bullshit Brooklyn-born approach to making movies is what has made his one of the most unique voices out there, so to hear him give the dirt on himself was, for me, a geek dream come true.

Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up (Click to see it bigger!)Much of the information in the interviews is repeated on the disc’s commentary, but it’s still worth a listen if you desire even more. Cohen talks with nary a breath for most of it, to the point you begin to wonder if they actually edited the pauses in between sentences the way they do for radio. But he’s always got something interesting to say about the script, the cast, or the characters (especially Moriarty), so it’s never dull.

My favorite segment of any Masters disc is next on the must-see list, “Working With a Master: Larry Cohen”. David Carradine, Fred Williamson, Karen Black, and Tony Lo Bianco are just a few of the celebrities who have worked with the man over the years and are more than happy to recount their experiences. Carradine is one of the coolest, as he’s just a cool guy all around, while Williamson still seems very full of himself and almost takes responsibility for Cohen being so successful. It’s all good-natured, though, so we can let it slide. And they’ve all got some great stories to tell about the man!

Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up (Click to see it bigger!)The next thing you have to see is “Fantasy Film Festival: Mick Garris Interviews Larry Cohen”. Why? Because it’s an old cable-access looking show that Mick used to host way back before he became the writer/producer/director/novelist he is now, and it’s cool to see them both so very young. Once you get past the “wow” factor, it’s actually a damn fine interview and you can tell that Garris is completely at ease with the man. Good stuff.

There’s also the usual on-set interviews with Moriarty, Balk, and Cole (the latter of which comes off as very ignorant to our genre), and a strange “Script to Screen” segment in which you follow along with dialogue from the movie while the shooting script goes by on the screen. A “Behind the Scenes” making-of, set to mood music again, Cohen bio, and still gallery round out the feature-laden disc.

Not that you need to be told to do so, since if you’re already a Cohen fan you’re already sold, but I recommend you get out there and get this latest addition to the man’s impressive library, stat. It’s not the best of his films, indeed some of he performances by secondary characters are downright cringe-inducing, but it’s got an overall 1940’s pulpy feel that is unmistakably Larry. Recommended!

Special Features:
Commentary by director Larry Cohen
“Working With a Master: Larry Cohen ” featurette on the director and his work
“Death on the Highway: An Interview with Larry Cohen”
“Behind The Scenes: The Making of Pick Me Up” featurette
“Fantasy Film Festival: Mick Garris Interviews Larry Cohen”
“On Set: An Interview with Michael Moriarty”
“On Set: An Interview with Fairuza Balk”
“On Set: An Interview with Warren Cole”
Script To Screen: “Pick Me Up”
Larry Cohen Bio
Still Gallery
DVD-ROM: Original Screenplay and screen saver

4 out of 5

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters



Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)


The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

User Rating 4.33 (6 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror




Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods

The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.


  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom


In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!



Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher

The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film


Ultimately chilling in nature!

User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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