Archive for the ‘Horror movies’ Category

Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D: Three Dimensions of Dumb   Leave a comment

Legendary horror maestro Dario Argento tries to recapture the feel of classic Hammer Studios flicks.

Legendary horror maestro Dario Argento tries to recapture the feel of classic Hammer Studios flicks.

By C. Michael Forsyth

When I saw a poster for Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D, which had the look of an old Hammer Studio’s movie, I was skeptical. There have been so many versions of the original novel, including Francis Ford Coppola’s big-budget Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was there any point in trying another lavish costume epic? Hasn’t the story been drained dry? But Italian director Argento is a legend in the horror genre, the creator of such masterpieces as the atmospheric and suspenseful Susperia. How bad could it be?

Pretty darned bad, it turns out. I should have taken that “3-D” in the title as a warning.

This stinker received a well-deserved 11 % rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One reviewer put it so succinctly I’ll just quote him: “Argento’s Dracula 3-D is an absolute travesty of a film completely devoid of creativity or imagination. It’s like taking your favorite folklore, stripping it of everything you love, making it as dull as possible, and then lighting it on fire,” wrote Chris Swann of Examiner.com

plays a rather unenergetic Dracula.

Thomas Kretschmann plays a rather unenergetic Dracula.

The best that can be said is that Argento does not simply retell the tale we all know so well. He revamps it with the main elements intact, but details changed in unexpected ways. The problem is that in almost every case, the changes are for the worse. Jonathan Harker does not escape from the castle; instead he’s killed almost immediately — robbing the movie of its logical hero. Instead of Dracula crossing the ocean and menacing Mina in England, all the action takes place in Transylvania. Instead of three brides, Dracula only has one. But three was better, right? Dracula turns into unexpected animals in addition to the usual bat and wolf. Unfortunately, the critters are absurd, especially a giant praying mantis rendered in unconvincing CGI!

AMPLY endowed vampire Tania bares more than fangs.

AMPLY endowed vampire Tania bares more than fangs.

Among the movie’s other glaring flaws: The budget did not seem to allow for set decoration. In scene after scene, whether it be a tavern or a room of a mansion, there is literally nothing on the walls.

German actor Thomas Kretschmann is a lackluster Dracula, injecting the same amount of passion into the role as if he were standing in line at Starbucks waiting to order a latte. Initially, his staid and dignified manner works, when he plays the “old” Dracula Jonathan Harker first meets in the castle. The trouble is that low-energy approach continues throughout the entire film.

The actress playing Lucy is so homely you wonder how she got the part. Oh wait, she’s Asia Argento, the director’s daughter. Which makes the gratuitous nude scene where she’s bathed by Mina a little creepy.

There are a few good things about the movie. Rutger Hauer plays Dr. Van Helsing, though he appears late in the film, has little to do and is not nearly as good as you’d hope he’d be. And Miriam Gionvanelli does an admirable job as the buxom beauty Tania who becomes Dracula’s sole bride, petulant and jealous with the impressive cleavage that brings back fond memories of the great Hammer films. Making one of Dracula’s brides a speaking role was one of the few interesting choices.

THE DOCTOR is in. Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing.

THE DOCTOR is in. Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing.

I did like the twist that the villagers are actually Dracula’s protectors. In exchange for their not heading up the hill to the castle with pitchforks and torches he’s made them wealthy – and even built a school for the kids. The scene in which the town fathers plot against the aristocratic vampire and Drac takes bloody vengeance is just about the only good one in the movie. But sadly, overall I can only give the movie a one out five stake rating.

IN A RELATED STORY…

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.


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I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

Speaking of horror, if you want a good scare check out my horror novel Hour of the Beast.

In Hour of the Beast, a young bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. When her sons grow up and head to college, things REALLY get out of hand.

In Hour of the Beast, a young bride is raped by a werewolf on her wedding night. When her sons grow up and head to college, things REALLY get out of hand.

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No More Mr. Nice Guy! “AXE GIANT: THE WRATH OF PAUL BUNYAN” Takes a Whack at Tall Tale.   Leave a comment

Beloved figure from America's tall tales has a mean streak in horror flick.

Beloved figure from America’s tall tales has a mean streak in horror flick.

By C. Michael Forsyth

The title of Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan is so spit-out-your-drink funny that when I heard about it, I couldn’t wait to watch what sounded like a horror movie so bad it’s good. Sure enough, the opening scene, set in a logging camp in 1846, is one of the worst ever committed to celluloid. The costumes wouldn’t pass muster in a porn film. Bunyan, attacking the loggers, shows up in what looks like a Halloween mask from a Wal-Mart discount bin and he’s conspicuously smaller than Dan Haggerty as the foreman. Haggerty doesn’t exactly add gravitas to the film. You’re only surprised that he’s still alive and that the dough he raked in from the 1972-74 TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams took so long to run out, he wasn’t forced to resort to a grade Z flick like this before.

But hang on–this is no hatchet job. Despite the 2-star rating it roundly received, the movie turns out to have some good thrills, a dose of humor and enough gore to please any horror fan. I’d categorize it as a guilty pleasure rather than the heap of amateurish garbage the first scene suggests.

UNLUCKY hiker finds out the hard way that Paul Bunyan really exists.

UNLUCKY hiker finds out the hard way that Paul Bunyan really exists.

More than a century and a half after Bunyan’s bloody rampage, a group of young first-time criminal offenders are escorted into the woods as part of a boot camp. When they make the mistake of messing with the bones of Bunyan’s beloved Babe the Blue Ox, the 20-foot lumberjack takes his revenge. He’s not, as it turns out, the cheerful, gentle giant of America’s tall tales, but a dimwitted, deformed, troll-like monster. If you’ve seen your share of horror flicks, you won’t have trouble sorting out which of the youths will die and in what order. You’ve got your slut, your athletic guy, the black nerd, the virgin, etc. But the parts are quite well played and Thomas Downey is hilarious as the over-the-top-tough Sgt. Hokes, the corrections officer in charge of the ill-fated party.

"WHAT, ME WORRY?" Slutty Trish (Jill Evyn) has her next date with the business end of Bunyan's axe.

“WHAT, ME WORRY?” Slutty Trish (Jill Evyn) has her next date with the business end of Bunyan’s axe.

The monster effects, though hardly state of the art, are effective, whisking me back to those delightfully scary, unreal-yet-real Ray Harryhausen stop-motion creatures I saw as a kid.

The goofy premise of the movie got me wondering about what other American folklore heroes could be rebooted as horror movie villains. John Henry swung a mean sledgehammer and his spirit has plenty of cause to be angry at greedy railroad magnates. I can see him as a Candyman-type, vengeful wraith wreaking havoc on passengers trapped on a runaway train. “BEWARE OF JOHN HENRY: He doesn’t like trains. He doesn’t like trains at all.” Or Johnny Appleseed protecting his groves by any means necessary. The tagline: “Don’t Mess with His Apples.”

ALSO FROM THE AUTHOR OF THIS REVIEW:

Houdini and Conan Doyle investigate a bizarre disappearance  in new book.

Houdini and Conan Doyle investigate a bizarre disappearance in new book.

Check out the novel HERE.

Going Old School: “The Call of Cthulhu” Makes One Creepy Film.   Leave a comment

EERIENESS pervades the movie The Call of Cthulhu.

EERIENESS pervades the movie The Call of Cthulhu.

OLD SCHOOL: 2005 Film version of H.P. Lovecraft's masterpiece was produced as a silent film.

OLD SCHOOL: 2005 Film version of H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpiece was produced as a silent film.

*****

By. C. Michael Forsyth

Lately I’ve been re-reading H.P. Lovecraft’s stories for the first time in since high school and joyfully rediscovering his unique vision.

During his lifetime, Lovecraft’s work was ignored by critics and relegated to pulp fiction magazines like Weird Tales that paid him a pittance. Now, of course, he’s regarded as a giant of the horror genre. Some readers still find his florid style over the top. But what might be dismissed as overwrought prose is more correctly read as poetry. His phrases like “a blasphemous monstrosity,” are like Milton’s description of Hell as “darkness visible.” They make no literal sense but are powerfully evocative.

H.P. Lovecraft's genius went unrecognized during his lifetime.

H.P. Lovecraft’s genius went unrecognized during his lifetime.

Such language fits the theme that permeates his work: An otherworldly horror that defies reason. Almost all of Lovecraft’s stories are rooted in the same cosmology, grasping at it from different angles: Before the dawn of history, Earth was ruled by the Old Ones, monstrous god-like beings that have been banished from our world, but ever wait on its edge, seeking to gain entry.

When I stumbled across a 2005 film adaptation of Lovecraft’s masterpiece The Call of Cthulhu on Netflix, I eagerly added it to my queue, wondering how could one possibly translate that story to the screen.

The tale is about a sinister worldwide cult devoted to an Old One named Cthulhu. The main character Francis Thurston recounts his discovery of notes left behind by his great-uncle, a college professor who investigated the cult, piecing together a puzzle whose pieces are spread across oceans and decades, including the bizarre dreams of a young artist, wild rituals in the swamps outside New Orleans, Eskimo idol-worshippers and an ill-fated sea voyage.

The structure of the story is mind-bendingly complex: A frame story within a frame story within a frame story; told through a series of vignettes visited in flashback, which, as each layer is added, builds collectively to a monumental horror.

Director Andrew Leman, a founding member of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, recognized that a traditional approach was doomed to failure, and so took a bold gamble: His 47-minute short feature is silent and black and white, scored and acted exactly as if it had been produced in 1926 when the story was written.The director perfectly replicates the look of German expressionistic films of that time, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, giving the movie a creepy and otherworldly feel. The dream sequences in particular are clearly a loving tribute to those films.

DREAM sequence in movie was inspired by silent-era German expressionist films

DREAM sequence in movie was inspired by silent-era German expressionist films

It’s ambitious and in the sense that the filmmaker achieved exactly what he intended, a remarkable tour de force. But because the movie is a slavishly literal translation of the written work — including that clunky non-lineal story structure — it doesn’t completely succeed as a film. It’s certainly not scary at all. I’m not sure that viewers who are unfamiliar with Lovecraft or silent movies would appreciate the film. Indeed, they might interpret the minimalist sets and stylized acting (particularly the fight scenes) as signs of ineptitude and, quite unfairly, put it in the same category as Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Is there any way you could adapt the story into a traditional Hollywood film without completely bastardizing it? One would have to get rid of the frame story and make the great-uncle the main character. The vignettes might perhaps be simultaneous storylines that converge. And Johansen, the seaman who ultimately takes on Cthulhu face to face, would have to be a central, heroic character rather than a minor one.

GIBBERING cult member named Castro gleefully tells all about his evil sect.

GIBBERING cult member named Castro gleefully tells all about his evil sect.


The big rate-limiting factor is that when Cthulhu finally rears his ugly head, it’s hard for him to look like anything but a B-movie monster. For it to work, you’d have to create a special effect like none we’ve ever seen before, something that makes us feel that we are looking into the face of a truly unearthly and incomprehensible horror.

While we’re waiting for someone to figure out exactly how to do that, do check out this highly creative and unorthodox film.

BTW, I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun at Mr. Lovecraft’s expense in this bizarre story.

MORE from the author of this article…

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel "Hour of the Beast."

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast.

PRIESTS FROM HELL: The 13 Scariest Movie Preachers   2 comments

By C. Michael Forsyth

Clergymen provide us with spiritual guidance and emotional support, but when they go bad, they go very bad. Take a look at this roundup of 13 men of the cloth who went over to the dark side. Then vote on who’s the scariest movie preacher of all time.

BROTHER JUSTIN CROWE, played by Clancy Brown in “Carnivale” (HBO, 2003-5): Powerfully built Brown has portrayed some frightening villains, most memorably The Kurgan in “Highlander.” Here he’s a fiendish, supernatural version of Father Coughlin, the hate-mongering Depression-era radio preacher. Brother Justin has the power to bring people's sins and darkest desires to life in horrifying visions. He uses his radio show to brainwash the masses to do his bidding. But the Dust Bowl devil is not above resorting to physical means, mowing down uncooperative folks with a scythe.

BROTHER JUSTIN CROWE played by Clancy Brown in “Carnivale” (HBO, 2003-5). Powerfully built Brown has portrayed some frightening villains, most memorably The Kurgan in “Highlander.” Here he’s a fiendish, supernatural version of Father Coughlin, the hate-mongering Depression-era radio preacher. Brother Justin has the power to bring people’s sins and darkest desires to life in horrifying visions. He uses his radio show to brainwash the masses to do his bidding. But the Dust Bowl devil is not above resorting to physical means, mowing down uncooperative folks with a scythe.


CALEB, played by Nathan Fillion in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Season 7, 2003).  Before handsome Nathan made female viewers hearts flutter as Capt. Mal in “Firefly,” he terrified them as this sadistic sociopath with a pathological hatred of women. A defrocked priest, Caleb was chosen by the non-corporeal First Evil to lead its campaign to destroy humanity. Able to channel its power, he possesses immense physical strength and is seemingly indestructible; making him one of Buffy’s the most dangerous adversaries. The folksy, scripture-quoting madman has a real mean streak, gratuitously gouging out the eye of funny-guy Zander. Here he cuts short the career of a wannabe Slayer.

CALEB, played by Nathan Fillion in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Season 7, 2003). Before handsome Nathan made female viewers’ hearts flutter as Capt. Mal in “Firefly,” he terrified them as this sadistic sociopath with a pathological hatred of women. A defrocked priest, Caleb was chosen by the First Evil to lead its campaign to wipe out humanity. Able to channel its power, he possesses immense physical strength and is seemingly indestructible, making him one of Buffy’s most dangerous adversaries. The folksy, scripture-quoting madman has a real mean streak, gratuitously gouging out the eye of funny-guy Zander. Here he cuts short the career of a wannabe Slayer.


FATHER LUCAS, played by Anthony Hopkins in “The Rite” (2011).  Welsh Jesuit Father Lucas is the Vatican’s top exorcist until he’s possessed by a demon himself. Incredibly, the supernatural thriller is based on real events as recounted by then exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas. Yeah, sure. More believable is Hopkins acting. He resists the temptation to chew the scenery in favor of an understated, chilling performance. In this scene, the trainee (Colin O’Donoghue.) is horrified to learn that his mentor his now batting for the other team.

FATHER LUCAS, played by Anthony Hopkins in “The Rite” (2011). Welsh Jesuit Father Lucas is the Vatican’s top exorcist until he’s possessed by a demon himself. Incredibly, the supernatural thriller is based on real events as recounted by then exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas. Yeah, sure. More believable is Hopkins’ acting. He resists the temptation to chew the scenery in favor of an understated, chilling performance. In this scene, the trainee (Colin O’Donoghue) is horrified to learn that his mentor is now batting for the other team.


REVEREND HENRY KANE, played by Julian Beck in “Poltergeist 2” (1992). Kane was the leader of 19th century doomsday cult who snuffed out the lives of his followers and became a ghostly Beast who keeps their spirits imprisoned. The character’s shockingly gaunt, skeletal appearance isn’t just good makeup. Actor Beck was dying of cancer during the shoot. Kane tries every trick in the book to gain entry into the Freeling family’s haunted house. In one grotesque scene, he transforms himself into a worm that the dad Steven (Craig T. Nelson) swallows with his tequila. The parasitic entity possesses the guy and tries to rape his wife before being vomited out as a hideous, scuttling monster. Watch these two memorable sequences: A Stranger and Let Me In.

REVEREND HENRY KANE, played by Julian Beck in “Poltergeist 2” (1992). Kane was the leader of 19th century doomsday cult who snuffed out the lives of his followers and became a ghostly Beast who keeps their spirits imprisoned. The character’s shockingly gaunt, skeletal appearance isn’t just good makeup. Actor Beck was dying of cancer during the shoot. Kane tries every trick in the book to gain entry into the Freeling family’s haunted house. In one grotesque scene, he transforms himself into a worm that the dad Steven (Craig T. Nelson) swallows with his tequila. The parasitic entity possesses the guy and tries to rape his wife before being vomited out as a hideous, scuttling monster. Watch these two memorable sequences: A Stranger and Let Me In.

REVEREND LESTER LOWE, played by Everett McGill in “Silver Bullet” (1985). With the fierce features that made him a perfect caveman in “Quest for Fire,” McGill is a scary-looking dude under the best of circumstances. As the werewolf in this tale from Stephen King, he’s even more terrifying. And the odds are against his target: a wheelchair-bound boy whose dopey uncle (Gary Busey) arms himself with only ONE silver bullet.

REVEREND LESTER LOWE, played by Everett McGill in “Silver Bullet” (1985). With the over-hanging brow that made him a perfect caveman in “Quest for Fire,” McGill is a scary-looking dude under the best of circumstances. As the werewolf in this tale from Stephen King, he’s even more terrifying. And the odds are against his target: a wheelchair-bound boy whose dopey uncle (Gary Busey) arms himself with only ONE silver bullet.

ANTHONY TIPET played by Keith Szarabajka in “The X-Files” (Season 8, Episode 7). Tipet is the leader of a religious cult who preaches that the Via Negativa or "path of darkness" is the true way to reach Nirvana. With the aid of a super-amphetamine, he’s able to open his third eye—literally a disgusting eyeball on his forehead—and  enter people’s dreams to murder them, ala Freddy Krueger. Tipet racks up 20 kills this way in addition to his wife, whom he simply bludgeons to death.

ANTHONY TIPET played by Keith Szarabajka in “The X-Files” (Season 8, Episode 7). Tipet is the leader of a religious cult who preaches that the Via Negativa or “path of darkness” is the true way to reach Nirvana. With the aid of a super-amphetamine, he’s able to open his third eye—literally a disgusting eyeball on his forehead—and
enter people’s dreams to murder them, ala Freddy Krueger. Tipet racks up 20 kills this way in addition to his wife, whom he simply bludgeons to death.

REVEREND HARRY POWELL, played by Robert Mitchum in “ Night of the Hunter” (1955).As this bogus preacher and serial killer who sports the two words "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed across the knuckles of each hand, Mitchum is even menacing here than he was as a rapist stalker in Cape Fear. The charismatic Rev. Powell woos the unsuspecting widow of his former cellmate to get his hands on hidden loot from a robbery. After marrying and murdering her, he relentlessly tracks her two children. The atmospheric film was inspired by the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia.  Here are two memorable scenes: Sleepless preacher  and Not My Pa. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PyNL2ahKwc

REVEREND HARRY POWELL, played by Robert Mitchum in “ Night of the Hunter” (1955). As this bogus preacher and serial killer who sports the words “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed across the knuckles of each hand, Mitchum is even more menacing here than he was as a rapist stalker in “Cape Fear.” The charismatic Rev. Powell woos the unsuspecting widow of his former cellmate to get his hands on hidden loot from a robbery. After marrying and murdering her, he relentlessly tracks her two children. The atmospheric film was inspired by the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
Here are two memorable scenes we’ll call Not My Dad
and Sleepless Preacher


ZOMBIE PRIEST played by Tony Sedgwick in “28 Days Later” (2002). Mild-mannered bicycle messenger Jim awakens from a coma to find London is besieged by zombies—worse still, fast ones—and he takes in a church. An ominous sign is that the words "The End is Extremely F---ing Nigh" are scrawled on the wall. Jim is relieved when a priest emerges—until the infected clergymen tries to eat him alive.

ZOMBIE PRIEST played by Tony Sedgwick in “28 Days Later” (2002). Mild-mannered bicycle messenger Jim awakens from a coma to find London is besieged by zombies (worse still, fast ones) and he takes refuge in a church. An ominous sign is that the words “The End is Extremely F—ing Nigh” are scrawled on the wall. Jim is relieved when a priest emerges—until the infected clergymen tries to eat him alive.

FATHER ZACHARY MALIUS, played by Charles Cragin in “Happy Hell Night” (1992). Friendly neighborhood priest Father Malius goes crazy and slaughters seven frat boys at Winfield College, then is committed to an asylum. Twenty five years later, fun-loving students from the fraternity stage a prank at the booby hatch, and Father Malius is inadvertently freed. It appears that he has not been entirely cured, because the psycho priest promptly launches a bloody spree of murder and mayhem.

FATHER ZACHARY MALIUS, played by Charles Cragin in “Happy Hell Night” (1992). Friendly neighborhood priest Father Malius goes crazy and slaughters seven frat boys at Winfield College, then is committed to an asylum. Twenty five years later, fun-loving students from the fraternity stage a prank at the booby hatch, and Father Malius is inadvertently freed. It appears that he has not been entirely cured, because the psycho priest promptly launches a bloody spree of murder and mayhem.

CZAKYR, played by David Sawyer in “Children of the Night” (1991).Townsfolk in peaceful Alburg were delighted when a European clergyman came to minister to them – until he began to “interfere with” children and feed on their blood. Cornered, the false priest Czakyr commits suicide, taking his young victims with him. The locals bury him in a crypt beneath the church and flood it. But when a pair of teenage girls take a late-night dip in the water, Czakyr is awakened and attacks them, unleashing a vampire plague. Before long, the town has become a bloodsucker haven like Salem’s Lot.

CZAKYR, played by David Sawyer in “Children of the Night” (1991).Townsfolk in peaceful Alburg were delighted when a European clergyman came to minister to them – until he began to “interfere with” children and feed on their blood. Cornered, the false priest Czakyr commits suicide, taking his young victims with him. The locals bury him in a crypt beneath the church and flood it. But when a pair of teenage girls take a late-night dip in the water, Czakyr is awakened and attacks them, unleashing a vampire plague. Before long, the town has become a bloodsucker haven like Salem’s Lot.


CARDINAL PATRICK ROARK, played by Rutger Hauer in “Sin City” (2005). Shielding pedophile priests just isn’t good enough for this corrupt and sinister church official. He protects his nephew Kevin (Elijah Wood), a cannibal serial killer who murders women, eats their bodies and mount their heads on his wall. Cardinal Roark joins in the grisly meals and frames Mickey Rourke’s tough-guy hero for one of the murders -- sins he answers for in this scene.

CARDINAL PATRICK ROARK, played by Rutger Hauer in “Sin City” (2005). Shielding pedophile priests just isn’t good enough for this corrupt and sinister church official. He protects his nephew Kevin (Elijah Wood), a cannibal serial killer who murders women, eats their bodies and mounts their heads on his wall. Cardinal Roark joins in the grisly meals and frames Mickey Rourke’s tough-guy hero for one of the murders — sins he answers for in this scene.


BISHOP ANTHONY LILLIMAN, played by John Standing in “V for Vendetta” (2006). Bishop Lilliman is a twisted pedophile as well as a high-ranking official in a fascist party that has taken over Great Britain. Despite his penchant for young girls, the bishop doesn't mind trying to rape twenty-something Natalie Portman when she comes to warn him of his impending assassination, as we see here.

BISHOP ANTHONY LILLIMAN, played by John Standing in “V for Vendetta” (2006). Bishop Lilliman is a twisted pedophile as well as a high-ranking official in a fascist party that has taken over Great Britain. Despite his penchant for young girls, the bishop doesn’t mind trying to rape twenty-something Natalie Portman when she comes to warn him of his impending assassination, as we see here.

FATHER ANTONIN, played by Jack Palance as in “Deadly Sanctuary” (1969). In this version of the Marquis De Sade’s “Justine,” Father Antonin livens up monastery life by subjecting the title character to torture and sexual abuse. Palance is no stranger to over-acting, but this performance is over-the top even for him, one critic calling it “one of the most bizarre ever seen on film.” Perhaps he was trying to balance out the wooden star Romina Power, daughter of screen legend Tyrone Power. “She was a like a piece of furniture,” director Jesus Franco later grumbled. “It was as if I was making Bambi 2.” Well, Bambi 2 with sex and sadism.

FATHER ANTONIN, played by Jack Palance in “Deadly Sanctuary” (1969). In this version of the Marquis De Sade’s “Justine,” Father Antonin livens up monastery life by subjecting the title character to torture and sexual abuse. Palance is no stranger to over-acting, but this performance is over-the top even for him, one critic calling it “one of the most bizarre ever seen on film.” Perhaps he was trying to balance out the wooden star Romina Power, daughter of screen legend Tyrone Power. “She was a like a piece of furniture,” director Jesus Franco later grumbled. “It was as if I was making Bambi 2.” Well, Bambi 2 with nudity and sadism.


If you enjoyed this article by C. Michael Forsyth, check out his collection of bizarre news, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

Bizarre News Cover 5.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel "Hour of the Beast."

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast.

13 Horror Movies Hollywood SHOULD remake.   1 comment

By C. Michael Forsyth

I find the unending stream of movie remakes depressing. It’s a kind of self-cannibalization that generally signals a culture is entering its death throes.

Typically, Hollywood remakes movies that were perfectly executed the first time, like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and the remakes tend to be inferior. The most unnecessary was the shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” with Vince Vaughan standing in for Anthony Perkins (who was far better suited for the role).

A remake of “Carrie” is due out this spring – despite the movie already having been remade in 2002. And although director Sam Raimi remade “The Evil Dead” with a better script and higher budget as “The Evil Dead 2,” a remake will be released in April.

The trend will continue as long as producers feel the public doesn’t care much about originality and that they can cash in on name recognition. But what if remakes were chosen for artistic reasons? Why not pick movies that perhaps had a good premise but didn’t turn out as well as they might have due to low-budgets, poor scripting or primitive special effects?

Here are 13 horror movies that SHOULD be remade:

Attack of the Killer Shrews

Big horror comes in small packages in “The Killer Shrews.”

“The Killer Shrews” (1959) — Yes, this movie is ranked among the silliest ever made, but the premise is pretty good. A scientist experimenting on shrews on a remote island causes the voracious creatures – which consume three times their body weight each day – to become huge. That plunges a band of humans stranded on the island into a desperate fight for survival. There’s plenty of conflict between the besieged protagonists and the way they finally escape their predicament is nifty. The movie’s main flaw is that due to budget constraints the shrews were portrayed by collies in masks! Good CGI could make these rodents of unusual size truly terrifying.

Due to budget limitations, collies in masks portrayed the giant shrews.

Due to budget limitations, collies in masks portrayed the giant shrews.

Giant ants threatened mankind in "Them."

Giant ants threaten mankind in “Them.”

“Them” (1954) — In this flick, radiation spawns ants bigger than elephants in the New Mexico desert, courtesy of A-bomb testing. A strong performance by James Whitmore as a small town cop pitted against the enormous insects helps make this one of the best giant monster movies ever made. The special effects were impressive at the time, but imagine what could be done today.

A

Giant monster wreaks havoc in London in “Gorgo.”

“Gorgo” (1961) – A Nessie-type monster is captured off the coast of Ireland and put on display by circus owners in London. The surprise ending, as well as the relationship between Gorgo and a young Irish lad, are quite touching. However, as in “Godzilla,” a man in a lizard suit portrays the monster – the best that could be done at the time.

Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula

GIT OUT OF TOWN BY SUNRISE: “Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula”


“Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” (1966) – One of the most laughable movie titles of all time. But the premise has potential. We’ve seen how well the cowboy and sci-fi genres blended in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Why NOT have this iconic outlaw, who still fascinates historians – go mano-a-mano against the king of the vampires? (A better title might be in order, though).

Temptation in "Gargoyles."

Winged menace hits on Jennifer Salt in in “Gargoyles.”

“Gargoyles” (1972) – In this made-for-TV movie, it turns out that those statues that adorn cathedrals depict creatures that really exist — mankind’s most ancient enemy. An anthropologist and his daughter must defeat the winged humanoids before their brood of eggs hatch and they plague the world again. Cornel Wilde as the aging but still virile professor makes a splendid hero. And a young, hunky Scott Glenn as a long-haired biker made my big sister’s heart flutter when the TV movie aired. Although the makeup that transformed Bernie Casey into a gargoyle was convincing, the flight sequences were not. Now 21st century special effects could create a terrifying squadron of the gargoyles.

BAD VERSUS WORSE: Gabriel Byrne as a Nazi soldier battles an ancient entity.

BAD VERSUS WORSE: Gabriel Byrne as a Nazi soldier battles an ancient entity in “The Keep.”

“The Keep” (1983) – When I read the book by F. Paul Wilson long ago, I found the premise mind-blowing. During World War II a troop of Nazi soldiers takes refuge in a crumbling fortress – unaware that imprisoned in its bowels is an ancient being far more dangerous than they are. Despite a stellar cast including Ian McKellen and Gabriel Byrne, the movie was a critical flop. Hollywood ought to take another crack at the evil vs. eviler story.

Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

Swashbuckling hero takes a break from vampire-slaying in “Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter.”


“Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter” (1974) – The title character is a master swordsman and former soldier who travels the countryside slaying bloodsuckers with the aide of his sidekick, a hunchbacked professor. I love the premise that there are different species of vampires, each with its own powers and vulnerabilities. The vampire Captain Kronos encounters this time can’t be killed with wooden stakes. There is an element of mystery in addition to horror and action, since Kronos and the professor must figure out both who the vampire is and how to destroy him. My only complaint is that Horst Janson as Kronos is a bit wooden. A better actor could make for a rousing remake.

Van Helsing bore little resemblence to the old doctor in "Dracula."

“Van Helsing” hero bore little resemblence to the old doctor in Dracula.

“Van Helsing” (2004) – Normally, I hate remakes of recent movies, as in the case of the 2008 remake of the 2003 “The Incredible Hulk.” And I enjoyed this supernatural adventure, especially the scene where vampire harpies buzz terrified villagers. But the Clint Eastwood-type hero played by Hugh Jackman bears virtually no resemblance to the cerebral Dutch professor Abraham Van Helsing as we know him from Dracula. The steampunk, gadget-using cowboy actually is more like the hero of “The Wild, Wild West.” In fact, if you changed the name of the protagonist, you could just as easily have titled the movie “James West.” Why not a version featuring a young medical student Dr. Van Helsing based on Bram Stoker’s character, encountering the supernatural for the first time?

Too close for comfort. Rosey Grier and Ray Milland reluctantly share a body in the Thing with Two Heads.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Rosey Grier and Ray Milland reluctantly share a body in the “Thing with Two Heads.”

“The Thing with Two Heads” (1972) – A dying racist millionaire arranges for his head to be surgically implanted on the body of a black man, in this misbegotten attempt to cross the blaxploitation and mad scientist genres. Oscar-winning screen legend Ray Milland humiliates himself spectacularly as the old bigot hitching a ride on Rosey Greer’s bulky body. But what if you remade this turkey as an all-out comedy? I’d love to see Kelsey Grammer as a snooty one-percenter forced to share shoulders with wisecracking Chris Rock.

Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers haunt New York Sewers in "C.H.U.D."

Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers haunt New York sewers in “C.H.U.D.”

“C.H.U.D.” (1984) — Beneath the streets of New York City lurk Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers — homeless people living in the sewers who’ve been mutated by toxic waste into hideous, flesh-eating creatures. Having exhausted the supply of sewer workers, they’re now surfacing through manholes to feed on ordinary New Yorkers. The movie suffers because more screen time is spent on authorities covering up the crisis than on the monsters themselves. And when the C.H.U.D. do show up the makeup is cheesy. But it’s a great idea, given all the urban legends involving the labyrinthine tunnels, and with good monsters, a remake could be really frightening.

The Brain that Wouldn't Die

Heroine finds herself in over her head in “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.”

“The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (1962) — A scientist develops a means of keeping body parts alive. He finds a practical application for the breakthrough when his fiancée is decapitated in a car wreck. The lovesick scientist rushes her head to his laboratory, where he manages to keep it alive — and quite talkative — in a liquid-filled tray. Now all he needs is an attractive new body to attach to his sweetheart’s head. As the unhinged doc cruises bars for a suitable specimen, his fiancée goes a bit batty herself, communicating telepathically with a hideous experiment-gone-wrong locked in the laboratory cell. It’s all pretty crazy. So crazy it just might work, as a gory black comedy along the lines of “Re-animator.” (Imagine acid-tongued comedian Sarah Silverman as the nagging head).

"The Vulture"

Terror swoops from above in “The Vulture.”

“The Vulture” (1967) — I remember being scared out of my wits by this film about a half-man, half-vulture creature terrorizing people in a Cornish village. The townsfolk fear it is the vengeful incarnation of a sailor their ancestors buried alive with his pet vulture. However, I was 8 years old at the time. In retrospect, the special effects were awful and the “scientific” explanation revealed at the end is absurd. Still, vulture claws are among God’s scariest creations and, with a decent script and effects, you could scare the bejesus out of an audience.

MATHILDA MAY is a psychic vampire from outerspace in "Lifeforce."

MATHILDA MAY is a psychic vampire from outerspace in “Lifeforce.”

“LIFEFORCE” (1985) — While scouting Haley’s Comet, astronauts find a spaceship that contains the bodies of three human-like aliens in suspended animation. They bring the specimens aboard their ship for scientific study, but the specimens turn out to be vampires that drain psychic energy rather than blood from their victims. They overcome the spacemen and escape to Earth, where they unleash a vampire plague in London. Unfortunately, the movie is slow-paced and unexciting. And Steve Railsback — straight off a riveting performance as Charles Manson in “Helter Skelter” — is surprisingly bland as the surviving astronaut racing to stop the epidemic. I’d like to see a version of the space-vampire flick that doesn’t suck.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

Check out HOUR OF THE BEAST by clicking HERE.

What Lies Beneath “Cabin in the Woods” ?   Leave a comment

RULE No. 1: Never visit a remote cabin with no cell phone reception. Rule No. 2: Never go in the basement. Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and his pals commit horror no-nos.

By C. Michael Forsyth

Ever wonder why characters in horror movies choose the worst possible time and place to have sex? Why they descend into the pitch-black basement of a house that’s obviously haunted? Split up so they can be picked off one by one? All these questions and just about every other you’ve asked yourself while munching popcorn are answered in The Cabin in the Woods.

Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Cabin in the Woods is a tour de force that works as a horror film, workplace comedy and genre-demolishing satire. It’s Westworld meets Wrong Turn meets Evil Dead, to mention just three of the innumerable movies to which it plays loving homage and/or gleefully skewers.

In the movie, five young college students fitting neatly into recognizable types vacation in an isolated cabin where horrific events begin to unfold. Unbeknownst to them, everything is being orchestrated by a cadre of puppet masters in a vast underground complex. The staff includes managers, technicians, accountants, maintenance workers and even geeky interns. (I don’t consider all this a spoiler since it’s revealed within the first three minutes — if you didn’t already figure it out from the trailer).

MONSTERS, INC. Horror is all in a day's work for company guys and gal Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker & Bradley Whitford.

The film derives much of its humor from the high jinks of these Dilbert-type drones. At one point, the bored-out-of-their-skulls staffers organize a betting pool on what horror the hapless vacationers will face first. En route to the cabin, the students ignore the cryptic warnings of a creepy old gas station attendant. When the guy later calls in to report, the staff puts him on speaker phone and giggle as he continues to drone on ominously.

WHO watches the watchers? Holden (Jesse Williams) happens upon a one-way mirror as Dana AKA The Virgin (Kristen Connolly) strips.

The concept is thought-provoking. What we generally think of as stereotypes – the Virgin, the Whore, the Jock, the Brain, the Comic Relief — are elevated to archetypes. It’s the best deconstruction of the horror genre since Scream, on a level that would impress Bruno Bettleheim, the celebrated analyst of fairytales.

RULE No. 3: Never allow yourself to be trapped in a siege situation.

Some critics describe the movie as an allegory for the process of filmmaking itself. How can you argue? The staffers even call their mysterious boss “The Director.” Beneath that layer of meaning, there’s also a wry commentary about our surveillance society. Marty, the wisecracking pothead paranoiac and “The Fool” of the group, points out that “Society isn’t falling apart, it’s coming together.” As he puts it, the “cracks are filling in” as technology devours privacy and living off the grid becomes increasingly impossible.

DUMBED DOWN: Jules (Anna Hutchinson) shows poor judgement after going blonde.

Tropes of the horror genre are simultaneously observed and lampooned. Sexy pre-med student Jules (Anna Hutchison) has just dyed her hair blonde when the story begins and it’s later revealed that a chemical secretly placed in the dye makes Jules, AKA “The Whore” act stupid.

While not likely to make you quiver in fear, the movie meets the basic requirements of a horror film: Suspense, characters you root for, formidable dangers and enough gore to satisfy fans of traditional horror flicks.

POTHEAD Marty (Fran Kranz) wields an unlikely weapon.

Brawny Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) delivers a winning performance as Curt, the brave Jock. Fran Kranz earns plenty of chuckles as Marty, the Fool. He fills the position Shaggy did in Scooby Doo and looks the part as well. But the real stars here are Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins as the world-weary managers of the operation. Whitford, best known for his role as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on TV’s The West Wing sends up his in-control, seen-it-all image with obvious relish. And Jenkins, looking like a worn-out NASA engineer, is even more droll and cynical than he was as the disembodied dad in HBO’s Six Feet Under.

The climax of the film is in keeping with its blend of humor and horror — way, way over the top, in a good way.

SPEAKING OF JOSS WHEDON…

HORROR and comedy were perfectly blended in Joss Whedon's TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

No one mixes comedy and horror better than Joss Whedon, as I’m learning right now as I watch TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time on Netflix. Somehow I managed to miss the series when it debuted in the late ’90s. I’m blown away by how good it is – one of the handful of TV series, along with Highlander, that is far superior to the film that inspired it.

The playfulness is pure joy. In the episode I saw last night, Xander believes Willow has turned into a vampire and thrusts a crucifix in her face. When she fails to recoil, he shakes it like a flashlight that might need its batteries jiggled.

WHEN Angel was good he was good and when he was bad, he was very, very bad.


But drama is equally well handled. The brilliant storytelling is displayed when Buffy loses her virginity to good-guy vampire Angel. Following convention, love might cure him of vampirism. Instead, in an inversion of Beauty and the Beast, he becomes evil, his soul ejected from his body. In the hands of a less talented writer, the next scene would be Angel bursting into Buffy’s room, fangs bared. Instead he simply acts like a jerk, humiliating her by showing her the night of passion meant nothing to him. Far more sadistic. And, since this is an experience many a young woman will recognize, it helps to ground the series in reality, keeping it a coming of age story as well as a butt-kicking action/adventure show. The more you watch Buffy, the worse Twilight looks by comparison.

The intensely dramatic and horrific is always leavened by wit. In the episode in which fellow vampire slayer Kendra dies tragically she first gives Buffy her “lucky stake” — which she has nicknamed “Mr. Pointy.” In the same episode Buffy’s watcher Giles sheepishly admits that he’s been using the crystal orb that can restore Angel’s soul as a paperweight.

BOYFRIEND PROBLEMS weren't the only things Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) had to worry about.

I’m only midway through Season 3 and have already met so many wonderful characters, most memorably Spike, the cockney vampire with the Billy Idol hair and penchant for puppy love. By turns terrifying and laughable, James Marsters is absolutely magnetic in the role. (He won the poll of Sexiest Male Screen Vampire on this site by a landslide). Speaking recently to a publisher who uses Marsters for a lot of audio books, I was surprised to learn the star isn’t even English!

Spike (James Marsters) is the bloodsucking blond British punk you love to hate in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I love how characters are allowed to evolve. A pitfall of many series is that characters remain exactly as originally written and are unaffected by the events that befall them. Most infamously Dana Scully in X Files, who is skeptical of werewolves even after battling vampires.

DROPPING his English reserve, Giles became a father figure to Buffy.


Buffy’s mentor Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) could have been a thankless role: a character like Bosley in Charlie’s Angels who does little more than provide exposition then step out of the way to let the girls swing into action. Instead, he develops a tender father-daughter relationship with Buffy that is the backbone of the series. He’s allowed to have romances. And the shy British librarian is not above opening a jar of good old English whup ass to save Buffy’s bum from time to time.

ANY role in which you get to wear an eye patch ain't all bad. Nicholas Brendon as Xander.

In fact there are no thankless roles in Whedon’s world. Xander, initially merely a goofball, becomes an increasingly heroic figure, always willing to charge into battle though lacking any special powers. This “geek” eventually gets to kiss almost every girl on the show. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), who briefly assumes the role of Buffy’s watcher and is even stuffier than Giles, is insufferable. And rich-bitch Cordelia is intractably airheaded. Yet even they get a chance to evolve into heroes themselves in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

ANNOYING Wesley and Cordelia developed into interesting characters in the spin-off series Angel.

Though the show premiered nearly 15 years ago, it doesn’t seem dated – you barely notice that the teens don’t text. Some aspects of high school are universal. You will always have good girls, snobs, class clowns and nerds. As in Cabin in the Woods, there are some archetypes that just don’t die. Or sometimes die violently.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

C. Michael Forsyth, the author of this article, has written a critically acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast. Plans for a major motion picture are now in the works!

To check out Hour of the Beast visit Amazon.com or save $4 by clicking HERE. The Kindle version is just $7 and the eBook is a mere $5.

Big Game Hunter Stalks Strippers in “Naked Fear.”   Leave a comment

STALKED: Sunburn isn’t all that Diana (Danielle De Luca) has to worry about when she’s hunted by a lunatic.

By C. Michael Forsyth

When I first read The Most Dangerous Game back in 7th grade, I was captivated by the classic 1922 short story about an rich maniac who hunts humans for sport on his private island. Many variations of the tale have surfaced over the years. These include the 1932 screen adaptation starring Joel McCrea (filmed on the Skull Island set of “King Kong”), “The Naked Prey,” in which African warriors strip and pursue a safari guide, “Surviving the Game,” in which Gary Busey and pals hunt homeless dudes, and “Predator,” in which a space alien sets his sights on mercenaries. In the pilot of “Fantasy Island,” a more-sinister-than-usual Mr. Roarke obliges a guest whose secret dream is to be hunted like an animal. There was even a “Get Smart” episode entitled “Island of the Darned,” in which Maxwell Smart is chased by a KAOS hunting aficionado.

“Naked Fear” is The Most Dangerous Game with strippers. A big game hunter kidnaps exotic dancers and hookers, flies them by private plane to the remote woods and releases them, stark naked. Then, giving them a sportsmanlike 15-minute head start, he tracks and kills them. When I stumbled upon this DVD release on Netflix at 2 a.m., I said “Jackpot.” One of my favorite action-adventure themes, with full frontal nudity!

To be fair, the film is not as exploitative as the premise suggests. You realize this right off the bat in the opening sequence, when we see a hapless victim being chased through the New Mexico wilds. You expect a 38DD-24-36 Playboy playmate type, bouncing along as she shrieks “Eek, eek!” Instead the victim is haggard, with what women like to call a “real woman’s” body. In fact, none of the strippers in the flick are Scores material. They’re more like the tragic trailer trash you’d see lethargically shuffling from foot to foot in a dive bar. Which is exactly where the main character Diana works.

Even the film’s star Danielle De Luca is no bombshell. I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers, but with her mousy brown hair and modest endowments, she clearly was not cast for her looks. Initially, it doesn’t seem like she was chosen for her thespian skills either.

Her character was flown to a backwater New Mexico town by a strip club owner promising big pay and a glamorous lifestyle. But the club turns out to be a pit. The owner’s henchman sticks her in a hotel room with a heroin addict, confiscates her driver’s license and charges her for his expenses, saying she won’t be free until she pays the club back with interest. There’s nothing compelling about either the character or the performance — it’s all too reminiscent of Elizabeth Berkley as a similarly naïve airhead in the excruciating “Showgirls.”

But when Diana is kidnapped by hunting buff Colin Mandel (J.D. Garfield), the owner of a local greasy spoon and pal of the sheriff (Joe Montegna), the movie takes off. Diana wakes up in a field, bruised, bloody, naked, and disoriented. She soon finds herself being hunted by Mandel, who totes first a crossbow then a high-powered rifle.

Diana proves to be surprisingly plucky and resourceful as she fights to survive. De Luca’s acting in the chase is actually quite good. She effectively communicates the terror and physical pain the character endures in the nightmarish scenario.

In the prolonged chase that is the heart of the film, the action is suspenseful and believable. (Actually somewhat more believable than in the acclaimed “Naked Prey,” in which middle-aged Caucasian Cornell Wilde is able to beat a bunch of Africans in long distance running!)

A surprisingly poignant segment of the film occurs when Diana stumbles into the campsite of a father and his two young sons. The dad prays with his sons before leaving her under their protection while he hikes for help. The killer, watching all this from his hiding place, must now deal with a very unexpected turn of events.

Bottom line, while the movie’s setup leaves something desired, it delivers where it counts: an exciting chase through the great outdoors with plenty of narrow escapes and reversals.

REAL LIFE killer Robert Hansen hunted more than just elk.

As unbelievable as it may sound, the 2008 movie is inspired by a true story. Robert Hansen was a big game hunter who decided to liven up the sport by kidnapping, releasing and then hunting strippers in the wilds of Alaska. From 1971 to 1983, Hansen killed about two dozen women, before finally being snared and sentenced to 461 years in prison.

I find it odd that Hansen isn’t a household name, like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy. You’d think anyone who did something that spectacularly crazy would join our pantheon of sickest, most evil mother-humpers ever.

Hansen, whose story was told in the book Fair Game, may soon finally enjoy the infamy he deserves. Actor John Cusack will play the cowardly sicko in the upcoming big-budget film “The Frozen Ground,” opposite Nicolas Cage as an Alaska state trooper who hunts the hunter.

HUNTING the hunter: Nicolas Cage pursues serial killer Hansen in “On Frozen Ground.”

If you enjoyed this article by C. Michael Forsyth, check out his collection of bizarre news, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

Bizarre News Cover 5.

The author of this article has written a critically acclaimed horror novel. The Horror Fiction Review gives Hour of the Beast “two thumbs up and a lusty howl at the moon.”

You can check out Hour of the Beast by visiting Amazon.com or save $4 by clicking HERE.

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