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Tip of the Scalpel

Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Derek Mears

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“Derek Mears is the nicest man in horror.” The above quote was said directly to me by Nick Principe (Laid to Rest, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2) at Rock and Shock about his fellow twin tower, Derek Mears … but we’ll get back to that.

Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel tribute has gone to some iconic figures in horror: Robert Englund, Bill Moseley, and Kane Hodder to name some of the initial recipients. However, the Tip of the Scalpel was not meant to be a simple rehashing of all our favorite horror icons. I certainly wanted to keep the door open for the newer faces of the genre to be recognized, especially when working on a new project or doing something outstanding. Enter Derek Mears.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Derek Mears

Mears is by no means a greenhorn in the horror industry. He is, of course, best known to fans of the genre as the newest portrayer of Jason Voorhees, featured in the re-launch of the Friday the 13th series in 2009 and as the Classic Predator in the 2010 film Predators. To touch upon some of his past projects, he’s been in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Dead Man’s Chest, The Hills Have Eyes and The Hills Have Eyes 2, “Death Valley,” “Community” and has the unique sounding project Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters in post-production. Mears is indeed a busy man. But it’s not his workload or filmography (although both are impressive) that lands him this recognition today. It’s what I saw from Derek Mears, the man, that really impressed me.

Walking into the Rock and Shock celebrity area this past October, the first face that stood out (and perhaps because it stood at around 6’6″ tall) was Derek Mears. I had recently watched the first episode of “Death Valley” and thought I had noticed him on it, but I couldn’t find a credit for him. So I ventured over into the valley of the giant to introduce myself and see if that was indeed him on the show.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Derek Mears

His table had hit a lull and he didn’t initially notice that I was there. Suddenly, like Jason Voorhees himself, he sensed my arrival and turned toward me. A hulking bald figure, a body that looked chiseled out of granite and … the biggest smile you could imagine. Derek Mears could not be a nicer, more accommodating guest for his fans. And I thought, “Well, maybe it’s the Dread Central thing that impressed him and he was extra nice to me.” No sir. Doing some research on Derek for this article, I checked out his Facebook page, and right down the line one fan after another thanks the man for his kindness and attention at one festival or another. Well done, sir.

Over the course of the three days, I was able to get to know Derek a bit better, as well as the other giant in the room, Nick Principe. One day I mentioned to Nick what an incredibly gracious guy Derek seemed to be, despite the fact that in every picture he posed for with the fans he brings out the most blood-chilling mean face you could imagine. And that’s when he dropped it on me … “Derek Mears is the nicest man in horror.”

And the more I watched him, the more I saw how true the statement was. This giant among men simply could not be more accommodating to everyone around him. His personality and demeanor could not be more inviting. Then I started to think about some of the franchises he’s been a part of. Friday the 13th, Predator, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hills Have Eyes. These are some big name movie properties, and there’s Mears right in the middle of them. Add to this the fact that he’ll be featured in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which is sure to have some buzz around it come next year, and I thought, “Here’s a guy who deserves a Tip of the Scalpel.”

And I’m sure he would scoff at the thought of any praise being heaped upon him. But I certainly feel like this is warranted. Great resume, great guy and intriguing upcoming projects — yeah, Mears is the man. And he’s a guy who goes out of his way for the fans that love him. He’s a physical beast of a man with an attitude and good nature you’ve got to love. And for that we give a Tip of the Scalpel to Derek Mears, the nicest man in horror.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Derek Mears

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Tip of the Scalpel

Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel to The Walking Dead

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Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to The Walking DeadIf a Tip of the Scalpel to “The Walking Dead” came out a couple months ago, just after the mid-season finale, you guys would have certainly been like, “Atta boy, Gash; you nailed again!” and “Another Scalpel right on the money, Gash.

But right now, maybe you don’t necessarily agree so much. Read on, my friends.

Believe me, Dreadies, I was right there with you on Sunday night, watching Season 4, Episode 3 thinking, “What the fuck is going on tonight?!” We have Daryl and Beth lost in the woods, Tyreese with Carol and a gaggle of children blindly following a train track toward a potential sanctuary, Glenn and Maggie blindly searching for each other, and some intriguing new characters just introduced to the television audience a week earlier; and what are we watching? Rick trapped under a bed and Carl and a new smiley Michonne digging what seems to be needlessly deeper into her back story. And here we all sat thinking, “WTF! Please… advance the story!”

And, like you, I went to work the next day and gathered with my “TWD” watching brethren and bitched about the episode. Amongst the comments tossed into the conversation were, “I cannot fucking stand Carl!” and “Where’s Daryl?” and “What’s up with the guy with the mullet?” I feel your pain, guys, but that’s also the reason that the only possible subject of this Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel could be “The Walking Dead.”

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Yes, right now, in this 11th episode of Season 4, things seem to have derailed a bit. But we’ve been here before. Haven’t we all heard, and maybe even said, all these complaints before? Do things like this sound familiar: “They’ve been at the farmhouse for too long”; “They’ve been at the prison for too long”; and “Where are all the zombies?” But regardless of the complaints throughout the entire series, “The Walking Dead” is still one of the few shows on television that can absolutely floor you with an episode at any time. It doesn’t have to be a finale; “TWD” is so good that it can, and does, consistently, floor viewers with an episode without a hint that a powerfully emotional one is coming.

As the highest drawing show on cable television, “The Walking Dead” was instrumental in helping the zombie to usurp the vampire as the monster du jour. From the moment Rick fired a single shot into the head of actress Addy Miller in the first scene of the first episode, viewers were enamored by “The Walking Dead.” And even when we have issues with the show, it’s not because we’re falling out love with it. It’s because we are so much in love with it. “The Walking Dead” has taken us from that walker-infested hospital in Atlanta to a welcoming campground to an initially standoffish farmhouse to a stronghold of a prison to now… To what? The only problem with “The Walking Dead” right now is we don’t see the endgame of the season. It looks scattered. It looks disjointed. But fear not, good citizens of Gotham; I’ve got a damn good feeling that the people that have brought us so many absolutely incredible episodes have everything under control and know exactly what they are doing.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Think back. We needed a quality ending between Rick and Shane, and we got it. We needed something intense to happen when a baby was born amongst all this insanity, and we got it. And we needed The Governor to die in just the right way, and we got it… eventually “The Walking Dead” has consistently withstood criticism during the middle of its seasons, almost without fail. And “The Walking Dead” has delivered absolute haymakers, episodes that simply blow viewers out of the water, over and over again. There is a certain pacing to the show that the creators accept that seems to jostle fans a bit, but when each season draws to a close, fans are normally so stoked with the action and the suspense for that which lies ahead that the conversations examining what has happened and what is coming in the future for our weary survivors rage on for long after the seasons’ final episodes have aired.

So where are we now? We’re in another small lull for “The Walking Dead”. The creators are building up to some new crazy, intense action. But first the bills have to be paid. Foundations must be laid, which means we aren’t going to get explosiveness every week. We’ve got to take the action with the foundation. We’ve got to take the episodes that blow your head off with the episodes that seem to go nowhere. All we can do is trust that the geniuses behind “The Walking Dead” who have given us so much insanely powerful entertainment over these past few years know exactly what they’re doing, even as so many of their fans are screeching and turning to social media to voice their displeasure as to where the show is headed. All we have to do is sit back. Sit back and let the season play itself out. There’s no reason to jump the gun and say the show is broken. Wait five weeks and see what you think after the Season 4 finale.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Let me finish with this. Please feel free to take to the comments section below and tell me I’m wrong. Tell me “The Walking Dead” has jumped the shark or lost direction or just doesn’t interest you anymore. I welcome anyone to do that. Is it a soap opera with zombies? Hell yes. Is pro wrestling a soap opera with scantily clad mega-men in short-shorts. Absolutely. Serial television is all soap operas. The viewership just depends on what flavor you like your soap. If you are disenchanted with “The Walking Dead” right now, do yourself a favor; keep tuning in on Sunday nights, and by the time Season 4 is said and done, you’ll be happy you did. There are old conflicts to be worked out and new ones to discover. Our weary travelers all seem to perhaps be funneling back toward one another. What could possibly lie ahead?

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Please, go out and enjoy all the horror-themed television programming you can find. It’s great to see that there is so much out there right now. But please do not forget to be there on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC. An absolutely fantastic television show is there, and you don’t want to miss what’s coming next.

To stay up-to-the-minute on all things walker related, follow @WalkingDead_AMC on Twitter and visit “The Walking Dead” on Facebook. For more be sure to hit up the official “The Walking Dead” page on AMC.com.

The Walking Dead Season 4 on AMC TV

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Tip of the Scalpel

Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel to Evil Clowns

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Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Evil ClownsCoulrophobia. Fear of clowns. Yeah, folks, it’s real. We’re not sure if it’s a generational thing or a nature versus nurture thing, but the time of the clown as a happy-go-lucky bringer of good cheer has gone by the wayside.

These days you’re more likely to see them blood-soaked and maniacal in your local Halloween store than making children laugh with their goofy antics. However, in our ongoing quest to understand human fear, we’ve researched and discovered that society (of course) is most likely to blame for giving these once beloved jesters a bad name.

And being a card-carrying coulrophobiac myself, it’s with great pleasure (and trepidation) that I give you a look into the vilification of these poor souls in this Tip of the Scalpel to Evil Clowns.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

We can hypothesize as to why so many people are now disturbed by clowns. However, let’s look at what we do know for a fact. They’re perennially smiling but can’t be happy having to work children’s parties every friggin’ weekend and being forced to wear ridiculously oversized shoes that have to make walking a pain in the ass. And they hide behind face paint. How many good-intentioned people have you ever known that continuously hide their faces? Except perhaps for The Ultimate Warrior and Ace Frehley. Other than that, face paint usually means bad things are about to happen. Am I right, Juggalos?

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Let’s look at the theory that coulrophobia is an inborn fear. This is possible, I suppose. In fact, research by the University of Sheffield showed that children are generally frightened of clown-themed decor in hospitals. We researched deeper and found that Dr. Ronald Doctor (Okay, that sounds like a fake name. Thanks, Wikipedia!), a psychology professor at Cal State Northridge, states that young children are “very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face.” Hey Bozo! They’re talking to you, you grease-painted menace.

But I’m really not buying into the inborn fear side of this argument. It’s quite obvious that society has been doing its best to drive a wedge between children and clowns for years. And it seems that it’s finally succeeded.

We can’t blame the whole problem on John Wayne Gacy, but he did nothing to advance relations between regular people and the clown population. It certainly takes a bit of time to heal the wounds left by a balloon-toting lunatic on a 33-person killing spree with bodies crammed into his cellar. That’s just not something the general populace tends to overlook quickly. Strike one, clowns!

The entertainment world has certainly been just as guilty in the downfall of the clown. They’ve absolutely peppered us with images and tales of clowns doing all kinds of despicable things. First and foremost, how about The Joker? The Clown Prince of Crime has been terrorizing the good citizens of Gotham City for over 70 years! Do you think a little thing like that goes unnoticed?! Or how about Ronald McDonald? Does he really think that we don’t know he’s been single-handedly clogging arteries, promoting heart-disease, obesity and general bad heath for decades. Do you think slapping his face on the side of a Happy Meal box is going to make up for that? I don’t think so. He’s gotta go. And he can take The Hamburglar and Fry Guys with him. They all creep me out.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

How about the music industry? The Insane Clown Posse don’t exactly evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling in people. And Slipknot has a member who embraced the evil clown persona in Shawn “Clown” Crahan (also known as #6 for those of you keeping score at home). Crahan really understands the idea of the traditional values clowns represent. Nothing says good clean family fun like a big red nose and an inverted pentagram carved into your face. Now that’s what I call fun. Send in the clowns? My ass.

The list of evil clowns in film and television has expanded exponentially through the years. Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses comes to mind immediately, as does that freaky clown puppet that Jigsaw always works into his Saw traps. I think it’s more the voice in that case though. He’s only three feet tall and riding a tricycle, so physical intimidation kind of goes out the window on that one. And although campy, Killer Klowns from Outer Space represents still another example of these evil bastards among us. It just doesn’t stop. Who could ever forget Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s It, one of the ultimate evil jokesters?

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

But certainly, the single most horrific example of a clown that scarred more children than any other came in 1982 with the release of the legendary horror film Poltergeist. And I could stop writing right here because every single person who grew up around that time knows the exact scene I’m going to talk about. Aside from Carol Anne, there was a young boy, her brother Robbie, in Poltergeist. He had a large clown doll that was kept in a chair at the foot of his bed. He hated this doll and was completely freaked out by it (which leads one to ask why the hell his parents kept the thing by the foot of his bed if it made him nearly crap his pants every time he saw it). Now it wasn’t bad enough that he already got yanked out of his bed by an evil tree branch that busted in his window one night, but as the haunting gets worse, the clown disappears from its chair. It reappears suddenly with a new, demonic looking face and pulls the boy under the bed of all places and tries to strangle the life out of him. At that point I was damaged. To throw gas on the fire, shortly after this Craig T. Nelson hallucinates, tearing all the skin off his face after eating a chicken leg full of maggots. But that didn’t matter; nothing that followed the attack by that face-painted freak could have compared. The damage was done.

As clown horror rolls on, we can now eagerly anticipate an Eli Roth-produced film entitled Clown (basically an evil clown version of Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause). Apparently, a group of filmmakers produced a fake trailer for a movie called Clown. They jokingly attached Roth’s name to it. When Eli caught wind of the film idea and trailer, he loved it. And now, much like Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun (fake trailers from Grindhouse), Clown will become a real-life movie. Great. Coulrophobics worldwide, rejoice!

You’ve tortured us for years, clowns… and it seems like it just keeps getting worse. We’ve got to hand it to you with a Tip of the Scalpel to Evil Clowns.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

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Tip of the Scalpel

Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 2: Monopoly and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 2: Monopoly and The Texas Chain Saw MassacreHello Dreadies! It’s been awhile since I’ve sent a Scalpel your way, but I’ve got just the little nightmare to tickle your funny bone…

This story involves The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; a young Doctor Gash; my eight-year-old, impressionable and unsuspecting brother; and a game of Monopoly that ended in the most horrific of ways.

As a child of the 80’s, I grew up during the golden age of slasher horror. And the advent of the video rental store gave us all a chance to see the movies that had heretofore been only available at the theaters. Now you could simply go to a store and… rent a movie?! Who would have ever thought of such a thing? This was the trailblazing, groundbreaking time that was the glorious ’80s!

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

However, at first, the system was far from perfect. As I mentioned in a past article, the Rite Aid drug store in our cozy town of Catskill, NY, circa 1985, had the first video rental we’d ever seen. To illustrate the setup, it wasn’t your traditional display with VHS boxes on the wall; rather the images from the front and back of the movie boxes were printed out and slid into a panel, four films per panel. Then you flipped through the panels like checking out posters in a store. Each film had a corresponding number that you wrote down or remembered and brought to the clerk. As this was the only video store in town, most of the films were usually out, so you would bring a few choices up with you, which would undoubtedly lead to a conversation like this:

You: “Can I get number 335?”
Clerk: “Sorry, that’s out.”
You: “How about number 118?”
Clerk: “Sorry.”
You: “Number 211?”
Clerk: “Yup, we got it…Oh no, sorry, that’s out too.”

They eventually got the brilliant idea to put little tags on all the movie panels which signified if the film was available or not, thus drastically cutting down on your interaction time with the movie distribution specialist, or as he was more commonly known, the Rite Aid Video Desk Clerk.

As you flipped through the panels, you saw all the usual suspects for the time: Return of the Jedi (this was before you had to refer to it as Episode 6: Return of the Jedi), Ghostbusters, Vacation, Beverly Hills Cop and Gremlins just to name a few. It also had some of the great horror films of the time: Friday the 13th was represented up through The Final Chapter and, although Freddy Krueger was the new guy on the block, A Nightmare on Elm Street was there as well. But nothing called to us the way the final panel did. On that panel was initially just one film, and that panel terrified and intrigued us relentlessly. It was partially the cover art of the film, partially the title and partially the quote from Rex Reed on the box which said, “The most horrifying motion picture I have ever seen.” That panel contained The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

I don’t remember exactly how my friend Steve and I convinced my mother to rent The Texas Chain Saw Massacre for us at the tender age of 11, but she did. It wasn’t the most shining example of exemplary parenting, but in her defense, she obviously wasn’t up on her 1970′s cult horror films. And honestly, if you can keep kids quiet, you do what you have to do. So there we sat that afternoon, surrounded by GI Joe figures, watching one of the most disturbing films ever created.

If this wasn’t bad enough, about three quarters of the way through the film my brother Ryan comes home. My little brother. My eight-year-old little brother. And what does he do? Seeing how there’s a pile of GI Joes on the floor and a movie on TV, he plopped right down next to us and watched the end of the film. You know, the entire dinner scene with Marilyn Burns tied to the chair screaming bloody murder, Grandpa and the hammer and the tub to catch the blood, the rotten meat on the table, Jim Siedow freaking out and Leatherface chasing her through the woods, dropping the saw on his leg and going ape shit when she escapes, now completely insane. There I sat, we all sat, in stunned silence (probably clutching a Snake Eyes figure to my chest) knowing nothing would ever be the same again.

In an even more unfortunate turn of events, my parents had a regular volleyball game they played on Thursday evenings. So they took Steve home and left me to watch my brother for a couple hours. Another five-star parenting moment. But even with the film still fresh in our minds, we felt we could handle this situation. Alone in the house shortly after a pre-teen viewing of Texas Chain Saw? We could do this. Heck, we were 8 and nearly 12 years old. Practically grown-ass men.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 2: Monopoly and The Texas Chain Saw MassacreI should add we lived a secluded area, and many of the neighbors heated their homes with a wood stove. And you probably can see where this is going. Although we couldn’t see our closest neighbor, we could hear him. He was, of course, cutting wood with a chainsaw. How ironically terrible. And although both of us heard the saw, neither of us would acknowledge it. I think we figured as long as we didn’t mention it, it wasn’t there and things would be okay. We decided to play Monopoly to take our minds off our inevitable impending doom.

Now for the final scene… there we sat, alone in the house, playing a Monopoly game that no one gave a crap about or was even paying attention to, listening to the neighbor (please God let it be the neighbor) cut wood with a chainsaw. The saw eventually stopped (but believe me, the damage had been done) and it began to get dark. As I said, we lived in a wooded area, on top of a big hill. Living on the hill allowed you to see headlights coming up the driveway when someone arrived. If you didn’t see headlights, you certainly didn’t expect the front door to open.

We didn’t see the headlights. I don’t know why we didn’t see the headlights of my parents’ car as they returned home, but we didn’t. All we heard was the front door open unexpectedly and everything after that was just a blur. Absolutely sure it was Leatherface that had just opened the front door, I bolted. I don’t know where I was running, I just ran… leaving the eight-year-old to fend for himself. However, he didn’t harbor the same delusions of escape I did. His now freshly-warped young mind told him the best thing to do would be to simply get this over with. He turned around and just lay down on his back in the middle of the Monopoly board (houses, hotel and all jabbing him in the back). Basically saying, “I’m not going to make this difficult for you. Just afford me a similar courtesy and make it quick.” Well, he didn’t actually say that word for word (what impressive linguistics it would have been for an eight-year-old) as much as his body language communicated it.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

My parents walked in on this scene… one child cowering behind a hutch in another room and a ghost-white eight-year-old lying spread eagle in the middle of a Monopoly board with fake money and real estate deeds strewn around room and the thimble stuck to the side of his face and an orange $500 bill clutched in his sweaty hand. It was perhaps then that they realized they needed to be a bit more diligent in policing their children’s movie and television content. Thankfully that policing never happened and it is because of that lapse in parenting common sense that I am here with you on Dread Central today!

If you dug this story, be sure to check out the original volume, Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel: Childhood Horrors Part 1: Cuatros Cuertas.

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