March 21st-23rd 2014 marked another year that Baron Von Porkchop, Susie The DJ and I were guests at HorrorHound Weekend, a convention that we all look at as home and the place that the Horror Host Hall Of Fame takes place at. This year was a little different from the years past as we didn’t even know if we had a table due to some issues brought on by the convention center cutting space, and a rumor was going around that the Horror Hosts were all going to be thrown in a room at the hotel across the street! This was bad news for us as Baron and Fritz The Nite Owl have become hosting buddies and this would have us across the street from them who would be in the convention center because they were having a screening of their hosted version of Trick R’ Treat. Not to mention, we had the very talented artist Rachel Lare with us and her art would not get to be seen by the mass convention goers if she was placed in the hotel. While we wanted to be at the convention center, we also didn’t want to be so far away from the rest of out host family like Halloween Jack, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, Dr. Dark, Victor Von Scary, Janet Decay and many others! We meet up in the morning as Susie The Dj drove Baron, Rachel our friend Mike McGraner (who is the main man behind the rebirth of Nite Owl Theater) and myself, and we all packed into the car and were off for another amazing HorrorHound Weekend adventure. The sad part is the fact that Fritz The Nite Owl got sick and was not able to make it, and that’s a shame as it’s always a treat for us to chat with Fritz. When we arrived at the convention we found out that Mike had a table for Nite Owl, but sadly Baron did not…lucky for us, Mike is a great person and friend and he allowed us to share his table! The weekend was filled with good sales, great friends and a great time! The table was in a great spot as we were right next to The Vortexx, the online TV station that is all about Horror Hosts and next to them was The Horror Host Hall Of Fame Table where our pals Halloween Jack and Dale Kay were and on the other side was the lovely Sharni Vinson of the films You’re Next and Step Up 3-D, who I must say was one of the sweetest celebrities that I have ever had the pleasure of being next to at a convention. The way she treated her fans was top notch, and she truly is a class act. It was really cool getting to spend some time with Susie The DJ and Baron and catch up with them on what’s being going on in New Burlington as well it was nice to get to talk to Rachel about art and life in general. Plus hanging with Mike is always great as he is also a very creative person like myself and also directs a horror host so we both know the hard work that goes into making a quality show for the fans. Plus Mike is one of those guys thats just so much fun to shoot the bull stuff with. Also at the event were great friends like Jesy and Jermie Anderson, Amber and Bryan Brady, Fred and Shelby Vogel, David J. Getz and so many more friendly faces. Over all once, more the event was a fun one that always makes me look forward to the next one. Oh, I guess I should say that the year’s big Guest was Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame.
The Horror Host Hall Of Fame 2014 took place at that Horror Hound the Saturday at Noon and was done in front of a packed house, as the auditorium filled up fast with fans of hosts as well as fans of the Evil Dead who had a Q & A panel after our ceremony. This years event was the best yet as everything came off more smooth and organized. This year Jason Hignite placed the event into the hands of Halloween Jack who took the ball and not only got the touchdown but also spiked the ball and did a shuffle much like Bengals player Icky Woods would have. Baron Von Porkchop got the honor of inducting Grandpa Munster into the Hall Of Fame for his work on the TBS show Super Scary Saturday. Baron and Myself were very happy to find out that we doing this as Baron is a fan of The Munsters and I myself grew up watching Super Scary Saturday and it was really a great experience for me to watch the Host I dug up induct a host that meant a lot to me in my youth. Baron researched and wrote a very good induction speech and delivered it well in front of the crowd who also seemed to enjoy it. I was really proud of Baron Von Porkchop and I hope someday that he gets into the Hall Of Fame and a host who inducts him is just as happy and honored to do so as Baron is for those he has inducted. Baron and I really love The Horror Host Hall Of Fame event and this makes the second icon of hosting he has inducted as last year he had the honor of ushering Shock Armstrong into the hallowed halls. If your a Horror Host fan and go to HorrorHound Weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio make sure you attend the ceremony as the 2015 Class is being discussed and some major players could get the honor as well as some news on a physical Hall of Fame might just get announced! So as Grandpa Munster would say “Be There Or Be Scared”!
At HorrorHound I bought some cool stuff like Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula t-shirts, Return To Nukem High on DVD and lots of CD soundtracks to be played on WYSO’s Sunday night show, Alpha Rhythms. I spent a lot of money at composer Richard Band’s table and got his score work for such films as Troll, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Prison, Bride of Re-Animator and more. I also got the soundtrack CD for People Under The Stairs from the composer Don Peake, who is one cool guy, and I really enjoyed chatting with him about how he made some of the score music for the original Hills Have Eyes and even the history of the tapes they were recorded on. Peake was a class act whose music you should check out. One of the things I bought from HorrorHound was a comic book that I had never seen before, a comic that was being sold by two hot blondes sitting behind a table, a comic that was marked $50.00 though they gave it to me for $40.00, and this comic is one based on a film made by horror icon Fulci. Of course I am talking about the only issue made based on the film The Gates of Hell aka City Of The Living Dead. I was drawn to the comic that was placed on a pegboard behind their table that had a sticker on it that said rare. At first I walked away from it when they told me the price was $50. I thought to myself, that seems really high for an independent comic book, but as Baron and I walked around, the idea of reading it and reviewing it for you my readers kept popping into my mind and that’s when I decided to bite the bullet and buy it. The comic was made by a small company called Xmachina who only made a very small handful of comics and all were based on popular horror films like Halloween and Phantasm. After buying it, I went over to my pal Pete Bell who owns the amazing comic store Bell, Book And Comic, who was vending, and he had also never seen it before and said he thought I paid a good price for it. When returning back to the table Baron Von Porkchop wanted to give the comic a quick look through and seemed to enjoy what he saw. So I am really hyped to read this comic for the first time and discuss it with all of you. But before we start, I would like to give you all a little crash course on the director of the film the comic is based on as well as talk about the film and its terrible sequel. Ao let’s get ready to open the gates of hell and see what’s on the other side.
When any horror fan thinks of Italian horror cinema directors names like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Joe D’Amato, Lamberto Bava all come to mind as does the master of splatter, the godfather of gore Lucio Fulci who would have to be at the top of anyone’s list of great horror icons to come out of Italy. Fulci was born in Italy in 1927 and grew up to studying medicine in college as well as worked as an art critic. In the early 1960’s he turned his attentions to making films, and his genre of choice was comedy where he made a total of 18 films before moving on to making thrillers like “A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin” and “The Psychic” before also making some Westerns like “Four For The Apocalypse” and “Massacre Time.” At this time Fulci was also called into court over what viewers thought were real animal deaths in the film A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin, and he had to prove that no animals were harmed in making his film. Also around this time he was accused of being anti-Catholic even though he was brought up in that religion, but out of these shockwaves came the boom of Fulci’s horror work that included “Don’t Torture A Duckling” and “Beatrice Cenci”. His main horror hit film came in 1979 when he made Zombi 2, a sequel in Italy to George Romero’s film “Dawn Of The Dead” that was simply called Zombi there. The film was a hit not only in his native land but also in the USA and England. The film was packed with eye popping gore and to this day is considered a cult classic among horror fans. After the success of Zombi 2, Fulci filled the 1980’s with many other splatter horror classics like “Gates Of Hell”, “The Beyond”, “House By The Cemetery”, “The Black Cat”, “The New York Ripper”, “Manhattan Baby”, “Murder Rock”, “Zombi 3” and “Touch Of Death.” But even while making splatter films, he also directed a few made for TV films as well as a barbarian flick called “Conquest” and wrote many others. During the 1990’s he also made a few films that made impacts on Horror fans like “Demonia”, “A Door To Silence” and “A Cat In The Brain”, but the 90’s was also the time we lost the man as Fulci sadly passed away in 1996 at the age of 68. His last work was a film called “Wax Mask,” a team up film that would have had Dario Argento helping him. Fulci wrote the script outline for a kind of remake of the Vincent Price classic “House Of Wax,” but he passed away before he could truly be involved with the film that was later made and mostly re-written. Fulci was an amazing director and really knew how to chill the blood of movie goers. I grew up watching many of his films on rented VHS tapes and always found them very entertaining so much so I would always end up tracking them down to buy! Later in his life Fulci found out just how popular he was in other countries and this took him by surprise and I am sure truly made him feel special. This tiny write up doesn’t do this man’s legacy justice. Make sure to watch his films and read books like “Beyond Terror: The Films Of Lucio Fulci” for complete information about the man’s life and work. While he might be gone, like the old bumper sticker in honor of the man said “FULCI LIVES” on in our hearts and TV screens. My favorite films by him are Zombi 2 and House By The Cemetery for those of you readers wondering.
The Gates of Hell is the film we are going to break down here as it’s the main focus of the comic book I am going to review. So here goes nothing. Gates of Hell was made in 1980 and is about Father William Thomas, a man who hangs himself in the cemetery. By doing so he opens the gates of Hell, letting out evil zombies who all have weird and strong powers and are going around killing people in strange and brutal ways. The only hope we as humans have of closing the gates is a reporter named Peter Bell and a psychic named Mary Woodhouse. She herself died only to come back after being buried alive…or was that dead? The pair of unlikely heroes must find a way to close the gates in Dunwich, New England, the hot spot of the evil before All Saints Day…can they do it? I first saw this film on a terrible VHS copy I bought new off the racks of Suncoast in the Dayton Mall and was hyped to see more bloody good horror from Fulci. I was not let down! When I first watched the film, I had my pal Jason Gilmore over and we both sat in wonder and watched the mayhem unfold before our eyes. One scene that stuck with both of us was when one young lady has her eyes start bleeding and proceeds to puke up her own guts. We both so wanted to figure out how they did the effect so that we could do it in one of our low budget flicks. When the film later came out on DVD via Anchor Bay, it was one the first films I upgraded next to the Halloween and Hellraiser films. It’s a great film with a spooky plot, great gore, likable heroes and evil baddies. If you have not seen it and are a fan of Italian cinema, then shame on you because you should watch it.
In 1988, a cheap film that’s real title was “Through The Fire” was made and later called “The Gates Of Hell Part II: Dead Awakening” that was about a woman looking for her missing sister who finds one cop who is willing to help when the plot of a cult that worships a demon comes into play. The film is very poorly made and is not worth watching or really talking about. I also got this film from Suncoast and only watched it once and warned all my other friends about how bad it was. The acting was blah, and the gore effects were super cheap and to boot it has ZERO to do with the original film and is a sequel in namesake only. I feel like we wasted enough time on this film so I think it’s best we just move on…nothing more to read or see here…okay, maybe some stuff to see.
The Gates Of Hell was not a main stream horror film like A Nightmare On Elm Street so it didn’t spawn a mountain of merchandise like toys and Nintendo games but over the ages it did have some cool stuff besides this comic I am about to read. There were Halloween masks, soundtrack CD’s, t-shirts and hoodies, not to mention many articles in magazines like Fangoria. I for one would love to see a video game based on this film because I think it could really give Silent Hill a run for its money in the creepy department. I also would like to see a full comic book series based around the film and the legends it created, not to mention Father Thomas would make a perfect comic bad guy! If you’re a fan and a collector, try and enjoy what little goods the film has spawned for us.
Before we fling open the Gates of Hell, I would like to take a moment and talk about a story that has been on the internet for a while now, the Sounds Of Hell legend or myth depending on who you are talking to. It’s said in 1989 a group of Russian scientist lead by a Mr. Azzacov were drilling in a unknown location in Siberia. At some point in the drilling they got to 9 miles and broke into a cavity where they decided to lower a heat tolerant microphone into the hole that was letting out a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They were shocked at what they heard as they picked up sounds of fire, peoples screams of pain as well as random evil laughter…they had found Hell and were listening to the screams of those who were damned. They stopped the drilling and were scared of what they heard as now the world had proof of Hell. The recording was saved and later played on Trinity Broadcast Network, a religious station, to prove the evils and tortures of Hell. Later accounts also reported that a bat like creature flew from the hole as well showing the release of a demon into our world. In 1997 the story was an internet topic and flooded message and chat boards with questions and theories to if it was real or simply a hoax. Even Art Bell of Coast To Coast AM played the sounds live on the air causing more panic and speculation about whether the sounds were real. Over the years, as with most things that walk the line of the unknown, people try and debunk it as a hoax and The Sounds Of Hell as well has come under attack as many people believe that the sounds are really just a mash up of different sounds even one coming from the 1972 Mario Bava film Baron Blood. Others say that it was made by the folks of Trinity Broadcast in order to go along with a made up story to make their viewers worry and think about the horrors of Hell. So is the Sounds Of Hell real or fake…I for one am not sure but what is fact is that drilling was going on in and around Siberia in 89 as well as there is proof that Mr. Azzacov NEVER excised so this story is one that you will have to make up your own mind about…And if the sounds are real, I sure do feel sorry for Baron Blood because it seems like he might just be in Hell.
So there you have, it we took a look at HorrorHound Weekend 2014, the Horror Host Hall Of Fame 2014, the true Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci (Sorry Hershel Gordon Lewis that crown’s Fulci’s), the film Gates Of Hell as well as we talked about the creepy Sounds of Hell. So now it’s time for us to open the gates and take a stroll around and see what Xmachina has to offer the world of horror comics. So as always I want to remind everyone once again I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. So let’s go on in and see what we have!
Gates Of Hell # 1 **1/2
Released In 2002 Cover Price $4.95 Xmachina Comics #1 of 3
Mary Woodhouse is a special woman with special powers. During a séance she dies a sudden death, but not before she warns her friends that evil is coming back! While this is going on, she is seeing the evil undead priest named Father William Thomas as he has done some real horrific stuff that all lead to terrible murders and even his own suicide that has caused him to be this undead monster! It’s the shock of seeing the suicide and knowing that the Gates of Hell have been opened that kills the young woman. The cops are called to Mary’s house where she is now dead and don’t believe her friends as they talk of the evils that are coming, but when one officer is killer by an unknown force on the steps their eyes start to open! Peter Bell is a down and out reporter who is looking for a big story to make his comeback to. He had lost his respect in the news world when he became an alcoholic, and he thinks that the sudden death of Mary might just be his key to get back on top! Peter goes to the graveyard to visit the newly dug grave for Mary and hears from inside her coffin screams for help and rushes to save her from being buried alive! After he saves her, he finds that the two of them are now tangled in a higher plan that has chosen them to close the gates of hell for good. All the while, Father Thomas is killing people and sending the souls to hell to make the opening to Hell stronger. We end learning that if Peter and Mary don’t stop it, Father Thomas will unleash an army of Phantom Undead killers onto Earth killing all life as we know it.
I want to say that this comic captures the raw and gloom dark brooding mood of the film, but also adds its own pinch of dread and terror making for a good read for a fan of the film like myself. The downside of the issue is that it’s only part one of three, so this first issue is really more of a set up to the true horrors and terror that were to await us in issues two and three! In the first issue we have the set up for Peter and Mary to be the world’s heroes, and we set up that Father Thomas is one mean S.O.B. who will stop at nothing to open those gates to Hell. Mary Woodhouse is pretty likable even though in this issue she has very little stuff to say as she is dead during most of it, but her first appearance in the comic as well as her “rebirth” into it, you know she is a major player in the story. Peter Bell is okay. He comes off a little shady, but I truly think that was the plan to make a guy you’re not so sure about a hero (I feel the same way about the film). Father Thomas is one evil priest who loves to kill and brutalize his poor victims. While most of the people he kills have committed sins, his style of murder is just extreme and includes disemboweling and eyeball removal to name a few. The comic is filled with lots of gore, demons, death, naked women, murder and all other things we horror comic fans are looking for making it a really fun and good read, not to mention the fact it’s tied into a Fulci film! The art is done by Derek Rook, a talented artist who has done other horror comics like “Halloween Returns To Hadenfield”, “Zombi 2” and “Voices From Deadworld,” and his style is very raw and brings out the scary nature of the characters he is drawing. He makes the scary scarier! The cover as well is very eye catching and well done and drew me in even at a Horror Convention with so much other stuff to see. It’s worth a read, and I wish there were more issues.
When I bought this comic off the two hotties from HorrorHound, I thought that it was a single comic that was the full film adaptation of the 1980 film. When I found out it was only issue 1 of 3, I was only slightly letdown because it would have been a challenge to find the others in the set, but when I found out that the other two issues in the series never seen the light of day, I can 100% say I was disappointed as I would have loved to have read them and shared my thoughts of them with you. I am going to place Xmachina with such companies as Fangoria Comics, Northstar Comics, Topps Comics and Dead Dog Comics that went away far too fast and could have given readers many more great issues of things of a spooky nature. I would have loved to see Xmachina do comics based on such films as Demons, Cannibal Holocaust, Baron Blood, Tombs Of The Blind Dead and so many other great European horror films that would have made great comic series. So while I am in the Euro Horror mood, I think that for my next update I will be taking a look at a comic based on a Jess Franco Frankenstein film. So make sure to come back for my look at that one! So until then, support your local comic Store and Horror Host, read a comic or three and check out HorrorHound Magazine if you want to read a magazine that covers all types of horror.