Friday, April 30, 2010

Stranger than fiction: Little known facts about great genre authors

So, after my recent rant about the state of fiction, I got to thinking about some of the authors of the great classics, and remembered that a few of them had some strange habits and weird lives of their own... and after a bit of internet research, I found out most of them had eccentricities and bizarre little tidbits in their background.

Starting out with one that most people (well, at least literary fans) already know, I give you a list of odd curiosities and perhaps little known facts about some of the horror genre's greatest writers.
In most cases, I have put their best known works in parenthesis, but many have more than just one entry in the genre.

Mary Shelley (at left) wrote Frankenstein at age 19 after a vivid dream.

Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) was an outstanding artist as well as a writer, but kept his work hidden, not wanting it to perhaps outshine his literary works.

Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray) was a homosexual who was imprisoned two years for "gross indecency" with other men. (hey, it was 1895!)

Robert Bloch (Psycho) married the first time for convenience only, to keep himself out of the army. Coincidentally, his wife's name was Marion.

Gaston Leroux (The Phantom of the Opera) inherited millions and lived wildly until he nearly reached bankruptcy.

Ray Bradbury (Something Wicked This Way Comes) was so impressed by a carnival magic virtuoso that if he hadn't discovered writing, his biggest ambition was to become a magician.

Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White) was severely addicted to opium in the form of laudanum, supposedly for his rheumatic arthritis. He was delusional quite often and claimed to have a doppelganger that followed him.

Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights) caught a cold at her father's funeral, refused treatment, and died shortly afterward at the age of 30.

Stephen King (The Shining, Salem's Lot) allegedly witnessed a friend get struck and killed by a train, though he has no memory of the event. He came home one day after playing with the child, apparently in shock and unable to speak. It was only later that the family found out what had happened to the dead boy and realized King no doubt saw what happened.

H.G. Wells (War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man) married his cousin but then left her for one of his students (he was a teacher).

V.C. Andrews (Flowers in the Attic) died in 1986, but her novels were so popular that her estate hired a ghost writer to carry on writing under her name.

Edgar Allan Poe (The Raven) was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, unkempt, dressed in clothes that were not his, and with an apparent vacant look in his eyes. He was never coherent enough to explain how he came to be in that condition, and died four days later.

William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) was on the game show You Bet Your Life - and he won ten thousand dollars, which allowed him to quit his job and write full time.

H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu Mythos) was a complete and utter racist, and admitted to it openly. He also suffered from night terrors, which no doubt inspired his horrific works of fiction.

Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) officially died from tuberculosis, but it is believed that the true cause was dehydration and malnutrition due to excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness. Her unborn child died with her.

Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol) was one of the first members of The Ghost Club, a paranormal investigation club founded in London in 1862. The Club is still currently active.

Nathanial Hawthorne (The House of Seven Gables) added a "w" in his last name because he was trying to distance himself from less than reputable relatives, including one who was a judge during the Salem Witch Trials.

Whitley Strieber (Wolfen, The Hunger) claims to have been abducted by "non-human" beings from his cabin in upstate New York. He calls these beings "the visitors" and the experience led to his famous novel Communion.

Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca) was a secret bisexual, wished she had been born a boy, and quite possibly had a less than appropriate relationship with her father.

Bram Stoker's original title for Dracula was 'The Un-Dead" and was changed at the last minute. The original manuscript -thought to be lost- resurfaced in a barn in Pennsylvania in the early 1980's.

Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express), after finding out about an affair her husband was carrying on, disappeared from her home and was missing for eleven days. She was then found registered under another name at a hotel, giving no account for being missing. She was initially thought to have had a nervous breakdown or simply amnesia, but many believed she concocted the scheme to make it seem like her husband had killed her.

Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) was born in Scotland but traveled extensively, eventually dying in Samoa after straining to open a bottle of wine which apparently caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

Peter Straub (Ghost Story) was only seven when he was struck by a car and critically injured, remaining in a hospital for several months. Strangely enough, his long-time friend and frequent collaborator Stephen King was nearly killed in the same manner in 1999.

Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House) had a husband who purported that she delved into witchcraft because he thought it would help sell her books.

Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles), an atheist for many years, returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 and currently devotes her writings exclusively to religious themes of Christianity.

Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Hell House) states that the story 'Duel' -later made into a Spielberg film- came from an actual incident in which a large truck dangerously tailgated him and a friend, bizarrely enough on the same day JFK was assassinated.

Washington Irving (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Seriously.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Apparently, Dracula is losing to Twilight: Ranting on the current state of youth and genre fiction...

When I was oh, I don't know...eleven, I read The Shining for the first time.

What are kids reading today when they are eleven? Twilight.

Now I'm not above saying that I'm certainly glad kids are reading, but I've never really bought the whole idea that Twilight got kids to read again. I still think kids that are inclined to read, read. If anything got kids to read voraciously again, it was the Harry Potter series, not Twilight. Wise up, people.

A few days ago I saw a frightening little conversation taking place on Facebook (I think) somewhere regarding the Twilight movies and of course there was gushing and eternal love going on (by adults, no less) about the movies. A few of the commentors hadn't even read the Twilight books, but had only seen the films, and therefore made mention that "gee, they hoped the books were as good as Harry Potter!" - or something similar. I almost choked on my own spit.
That, my friends, scared the shit out of me.

Now I'm not saying J.K. Rowling is Jane Austen, but she's a far cry from Stephenie Meyer. Rowling's wonderful world of wizards, friendship and good overcoming evil is goddamned literary brilliance in comparison to the angsty story of handicapped vegan vampires and dependent, lusty teenagers.
And yes, I have read all four Twilight books, so YES, I have the right to my opinionated views.
Why did I read them, you ask? Hype and curiosity. Oh, and I like vampires. But the sparkly, depressing, non-fanged ones? Not so much.

I'm also not saying Stephen King is Dostoevsky, either. But he's certainly a better writer than Meyer, and I'm positive a whole load of other writers out there are as well.
Obviously though, it doesn't take talent to sell books. (Or honesty either - see James Frey if you don't believe me).
But if I were a parent in this day & age, I'd be so much more inclined to break my kids in on Rowling and then later move on to King - or perhaps Dan Simmons or Peter Straub if my offspring had my same horror-loving genes.

Leading a child towards the Young Adult section of any Borders or Barnes & Noble these days takes courage. Take a look and you'll see. 75% of all the books prominently displayed are vampire books. Now I'm not stupid - vamps sell. And I'm also not going to lie - I read almost exclusively vampire fiction in one form or another- some of it quite trashy in fact. But even trash can be well-written! So why do I complain? Because the books for teens seem to be so dumbed down. Intensely inquisitive, I've read more YA (young adult fiction) than just Twilight, and I've really not found one series yet that doesn't take an adolescent and force their reading skills down a few levels than where they ought to be at.

And many of you know I already have issues with Twilight's downer themes. At least with all the vamp books I read, no one wants to kill themselves because their vampire left them. One need only look as far as Sookie Stackhouse for an example of that. And so many books have strong female leads - not some depressed teenager who sits for three months staring out a window waiting for her true love to return. The more I think about it the madder I am.

Like I said, I was ten or eleven when I read The Shining, which for all intents and purposes is definitely well above a eleven year old's reading level. And I'm not trying to brag - I realize not everyone can read so easily. I completely suck at math. Everyone has their strengths and comfort zones. Mine was reading.
King is my favorite author, even more so when I was young and his career was just amping up - and he's a good writer. A great writer even. So is J.K. Rowling. The worlds they create are so vivid and lifelike you feel you are stepping into them, if only for a little while. But while I was pouring through Carrie, Pet Sematary and Salem's Lot in high school, I also found myself picking up my mother's gothic romantic suspense novels by Victoria Holt and the likes, and I read (by choice) Austen, Poe, Bronte, Shakespeare, Dickens, and the aforementioned Dostoevsky, among others. I'd love to find a sixteen year old that's read Crime and Punishment and shake his or her hand. I assume they're out there somewhere, but I can tell you they are no doubt sitting in the library and not texting the living hell out of their iPhone.
I've always read constantly, even now. And I still had plenty of time for activites and social events (read: partying) in high school. But there was nothing more sublime for me than reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub while jamming Pink Floyd in my headphones. And it's still my favorite book.

And what happened to books like Goosebumps? My brother read those religiously. Whereas those were before my time, I can proudly say I read every Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew book out there. At the same time I was honing my British mystery-solving skills by reading both Agatha Christie and Dick Francis (yes, I loved horse racing way back then, too!) after picking loads of them up at random garage sales back in the 70's.

It scares me, the dumbing down of our youth. And I don't even have kids. I shouldn't have to worry, right? Hell yes I have to worry! These kids will be running our country someday -yikes!!
And yes, I realize reading is essentially entertainment. I get that. But can we not forget reading is the most important life-skill you'll ever learn. Illiteracy is a huge shame, and a topic that is not addressed strongly enough, even here in the USA. In poorer parts of America, there are programs like RIF and Save the Children that provide books for kids - and you know what? It makes them HAPPY! They want to learn. And they don't need a cell phone or a computer to do it. Just someone willing to help. Now before I digress any further into the depths of the reading crisis, I'll just move on.

The fact that there are some kids actually reading just for the enjoyment of it and not sitting in front of their computers or big screen televisions playing violent video games 24/7 is a big plus. But while books like Twilight continue to dominate the shelves, the classics are slipping away. Classics we horror fans gravitate to like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the fabulous works of Lovecraft and Poe. I shudder to think of the response I'd get by asking a fifteen year old what 'The Tell Tale Heart' is. Oh, I'm sure there's a Cliff's Notes version out there, right? More's the pity. And don't get me started on the person I knew that thought Dracula was a movie first(!).

So why the bitch-fest? Because it's something that really grinds my gears and I just wanted to get it off my chest. I'm a huge fan of the (well) written word, and feel it is being extinguished slowly amidst a sea of crappy fiction being made into even crappier movies. And I know there are others out there who are equally as irritated - but some of which have kids that are sitting down right now to enjoy Gaston Leroux's (BOOK, not stage play or movie) The Phantom of the Opera as we speak. Thank God.

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Mindless Movie Monday: The Stepfather (2009)

Right off the bat I have to say comparisons to the 1987 version of this film are inevitable. The original was a slice of horror history that, while dated at this point, still doesn't fail to pack a punch for, if no other reason, the exemplary performance of class act Terry O' Quinn.

And while satisfactory, there's no doubt in my mind that Dylan Walsh's stepfather will always hold second candle to O'Quinn. The 1987 Stepfather is a cult classic, bragging one of the best one-liners in horror history: "Wait a minute....who am I here?" - and honestly, nobody is going to do that line with as much terror-inducing bravado as O'Quinn.

But putting the original aside for a moment, I'm going to try to imagine I've never seen the original and this whole idea is completely fresh and new to me.
Like I said....I'll try.

Oh...and again, please note: Spoilers ahead.

David Harris (aka about ten other aliases) is packing his bags for a little trip. Or maybe a long one, in fact. After a quick shower & shave, he's meandering around his home on a lovely Christmas morning, carols playing, coffee brewing, wife and children lying lifeless on the floor... Seems he's fresh off an episode of Snapped, and has made his family's holidays less than merry. With blood pooling on the floor around his wife's head, he finishes his breakfast, grabs his bags and out the door he goes.

Soon after, we see a freshly-shaven, newly-blue-eyed David (Dylan Walsh of Nip/Tuck fame, by the way) perusing the grocery aisles - and not for strawberry jam. He meets up with Susan Harding, and after making some truly lame conversation that she so should have been suspicious of, they are off to get some ice cream...or coffee...or drinks - I honestly don't recall. In other words, they totally hit it off.

Six months later, Michael Harding (Penn Badgley, a chip off the old 9021Oh,please! block) has just returned home from a stint in reform military school - and though they never really explain just what he did to get there, no matter what it could be he just can't throw off any bad-ass vibes for me. Welcomed home by his girlfriend Kelly (Amber Heard, All the boys love Mandy Lane), she drags him out to the back yard where there is a surprise party awaiting him, including introductions to his mom's new fiancé. Sela Ward plays mom Susan Harding, and is redundantly cast as the perpetual nighttime television mom-type. She's a one trick pony, and she's no different here.

When Michael meets David, he is immediately wary of him. After all, his mother has only known him six months and already plans to marry him. David makes a big scene about how much family means to him and how he wants Michael and him to be close, like father and son. Michael balks, even when David slips him some tequila from his secret stash in the basement.
Also new in the basement is a wall of locked wooden cabinets. When Michael questions what is inside and the need for them in general, David explains that every man needs to have a few secrets.
Um, yeah. What happens in the basement stays in the basement, right?

From the get-go, David wigs Michael out. He just can't shake the feeling that something isn't right. When he confesses his concerns to Kelly, she tries to ease his fears by reminding him that his mother is happy and that David wants to help ensure Michael doesn't have to go back to military school.

When the audience is privy to the first glimpse of violence, it is not against Michael but little brother Sean. While playing video games, his mother asks him to turn down the volume. When he doesn't, David comes into his room and grabs him by the scruff of the neck and squeezes.

Susan's ex Jay takes the two younger kids (yes, there is a daughter as well, but damn if we don't really see or hear much of her) for the weekend, they return with a steaming mad Jay who flies off the handle and grabs Michael, warning him to never touch his children again.
So now David sees things might not be as easy as he thought. He apologizes to Susan, and to Sean, but Michael starts poking around into David's past, particularly after an elderly neighbor across the street tells Susan she saw someone that resembles her new beau on America's Most Wanted. Wow, I think that would give me serious pause.

Unsurprisingly, old Mrs. Cutters is pushed down her basement steps to her death dies in a mysterious accident in her home.

Susan's sister Jackie gets David a job in real estate, but when she can't get him to turn in necessary paperwork for payroll and insurance, she voices her concerns first to Susan who brushes her off, then to Jay - who succumbs to David's murderous ways now can't seem to be located. When Jackie seeks to confront Susan and is heading over to her house to do so, she is met by a less-than-happy David who proceeds to hold her head under the pool water till she dies make her see the error of her ways.
Obviously things are taking a downturn.

When Michael and Kelly take it upon themselves to snoop around the house a bit to try to gather evidence that something isn't gelling, they very nearly get caught. Soon after, David realizes Michael may be on to him and begins making his plans to find another family.
The clincher here is when Michael finds his father's body in the basement, and more damning evidence in David's "secret" cabinets.

From there we have your standard, formulaic chase scenes and hero-like behavior. Hmpf.
I wasn't all that impressed. None of the acting really whet my whistle to be honest, though Walsh would have been satisfactory had I not seen the original. But he still doesn't have that "turn on a dime" mood change that O'Quinn boasts.

Being a PG-13 movie really doesn't help any here. Sure, it says Not Rated on the DVD, but nothing I saw warranted any higher rating, as if there really wasn't an unrated version.
It's not that I wanted a gore-fest, but a bit more gratuitous blood or actual follow-throughs on the death scenes rather than all the cutaways might have helped me enjoy the film more. But I don't know. Amber Heard is in a bikini or her underwear in 98% of her scenes, so some of you guys (or girls) may get some satisfaction from that. I was actually pretty insulted by Sela Ward being played as such a fool. Most women would see this asshole coming a mile away. But her? Buy her some ice cream and she's in it for the long haul. Listen lady, I realize no one wants to think the dude they just picked up at the grocery store is a serial killer, but in this day and age you have to be aware of this shit. Get a grip.

So there's just not enough of a reason to hold the attention of most horror fans, and so here's where I break out the comparisons. This is just another one of those films that really didn't need to be screwed around with.
Let me just say this, if you were standing in a video store (which for all intents and purposes shouldn't even be called that anymore, and I haven't been in one for over 7 years thanks to Netflix) trying to decide between the old and the new versions, I do hope that common sense hits you over the head and you choose the completely dated, totally over the top, campy-good entertainment that is the original. It was just a whole lot of fun if for nothing other than Terry O'Quinn - because why mess with perfection?
It's like having someone other than Robert Englund play Freddy Krueger.

Whoops.... Did I say that?

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Bloody Sunday


The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento's Pelts

Zombie (a.k.a. Zombi 2)

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Zoning out: "The Masks"

More wholesome, macabre goodness from the vaults of the Twilight Zone....
And, as always, these moments of monochrome memories will be spoiler-ridden.

~The Masks~

Season 5, Episode 145
Original air date: 3/20/64

Jason Foster (Robert Keith) is waiting to die.
However, he has some things to resolve with his family before he does so.

When this episode starts, the mega-rich, dying old man is discussing his mortality time-line with his long-time family physician, who tells him it could quite literally be "any time now".

Jason, in turn, invites his egocentric, greedy family to his New Orleans estate on Mardi Gras eve to bid him a perfunctory fond farewell.
But he's not naive enough to think his family is feeling the pain of his imminent demise. Quite the contrary. Jason knows damn well they are only there to claim their part of an inheritance.

When the foursome arrives, he addresses each individually according to their ghastly and appalling attributes. His daughter Emily is a ridiculous hypochondriac, whining about her own (non-existent) ailments when she should be considering the fact that her father is dying. Emily's husband Wilfred is obsessed with money. Wilfred Jr. (who coincidentally looks only slightly younger than the actor playing his father!) is a lazy yet brutish asshole. And Emily & Wilfred's daughter Paula is utterly obsessed with her appearance, constantly looking at her reflection in the mirror and complaining about her boredom.
Even though Jason basically insults each of them, they are all too stupid to realize it.

Jason then tells them he has arranged a special Mardi Gras party for them, right there at the house. He treats them to a fabulous dinner and then gathers them together for the main event. Before he joins them, his butler is wheeling him into the parlor and Jason overhears the family discussing how they can't wait for him to just die so they can get their money.

It is then that Jason reveals a box of masks made by an "old Cajun" which he wants the family to wear until midnight. When the group initially balks at the mere suggestion, he pretty much lays it on the line by demanding that they wear them or they won't get one cent.
Naturally they change their minds, eagerly donning the grotesque masks one by one.
The final mask is for Jason himself, and is a skull - a creepy reminder that soon enough, he will no longer draw breath.

The few hours until midnight go by and though the complaints are never ending, the clock strikes twelve and almost on cue, Jason gives his final words to his family, telling them what greedy, horrible people they actually are, and that even without the masks, they are caricatures of themselves. He then does the dramatic head nod and dies. The family is overjoyed at their incredible fortune and luck... until they begin to take the masks off...

Each mask has changed the wearer's face into near-exact copies of the macabre masks.
When Jason's mask is removed however, his face remains completely normal...

The morality play is complete, and this remains one of the finest Twilight Zone stories by far.

This episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Ida Lupino, who carries the distinction of being the only woman to ever direct a Twilight Zone episode.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Haven't I seen you somewhere?: The Horror Cameo

There is such a profusion of cameos in horror movies it would be next to impossible to list every one here. I've hit a lot the highlights here, but some of the ones I thought of I couldn't find photos of - like Roger Corman as an executive in Scream, Eli Roth as Justin (with "Dr. Mambo") in Cabin Fever, and Sam Raimi - who had a cameo in each of the Evil Dead movies.

On that Evil Dead note - did you realize that in Spiderman, Peter's Uncle Ben is driving the Evil Dead car?

And that in An American Werewolf in London, director John Landis is a pedestrian who is hurled through a window after he gets hit with a car? Yeah, I couldn't find a still of that one either. I think I need screen grabber extraordinaire Andre Dumas to help me!

I could have thrown in several Scorsese films that the esteemed director appeared in, but most of them are not considered horror.

And some of what could almost be considered a cameo were actually minor roles, in particular Samuel Jackson in Deep Blue Sea.

And I suppose I could have added Stephenie Meyer's cameo in Twilight...but ahh... how about no.

Without further adieu....a random inventory of horror cameos.

Wes Craven: Scream
A truly inspired and near-perfect cameo was Wes Craven in his own Scream.
Donning a Freddy sweater and hat, he has only one short line but wow was this one a scene-stealer. Particularly when Henry Winkler literally calls him Fred.

John Carpenter: The Fog
Practically a blink and you'll miss it cameo of the director in which he plays a church worker.
He's done a few more cameos in some of his other films as well.
Oh, and nice hair.

Gregory Peck: Cape Fear (1991)
Peck and Robert Mitchum, who also cameos, played the leads in the 1962 version of the film by the same name. Another star of the first one, Martin Balsam, was also seen in the remake as well. Consider it Scorsese's creative homage to the original.

Drew Barrymore: Scream
A bit longer than your average cameo, it was still quite the shock to quickly find Drew hanging by a rope with her insides on the outside.

David Lynch: Fire Walk With Me
As FBI chief Gordon Cole, Lynch entertains as a stone-deaf agent who talks extremely loud and has more than just a few strange ways of conducting an investigation. The role originated in the television series, created by Lynch - and if you didn't know that one you were born under a rock.

Traci Lords: Blade
Honestly, I have to admit to not being a very big Blade fan. And I've only seen the movie maybe twice - and let's face it, Lords' "leading role"was pretty much not that at all, but simply a very minor role.
I have, however, always thought Traci would be perfectly cast as Rebecca De Mornay's sister, in anything.

Gene Barry & Anne Robinson: War of the Worlds
To the left, the Steven Spielberg version from 2005, to the right the original 1953 film.
In the remake, Barry & Robinson provided cameos by portraying Tom Cruise's in-laws.

Vincent Price: Edward Scissorhands
Price's last acting role was a dandy. It was such a thrill to see him in this role as the inventor who died before finishing Edward's hands. The part was written specifically for him.

Christopher Walken: Sleepy Hollow
Always one to take on strange roles, Walken is uncredited as The Headless Horseman in Burton's 1999 film. I don't know about anyone else, but his teeth really scared the crap out of me!

Ken Foree: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
It was great to see Foree in this cameo, in particular his role as a televangelist. Two other actors from the original DotD also make appearances in the remake: Tom Savini as the Sheriff and Scott Reiniger as an army general.

Charlaine Harris: True Blood
I know, most of these are from films...but I couldn't resist. The writer of the Sookie Stackhouse books finally gets a little bit of screen time in this scene from the last episode of Season 2.

John Waters: Seed of Chucky
Leave it to John Waters to be in a trashy remake - he's such a bizarre individual that it seems just about appropriate... He fits right in this fun crap-fest.

Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek (2009)
Live long and prosper, dude. Enough said.

Dario Argento: Innocent Blood
In John Landis' strange mafia/vampire flick from 1992, Argento has a bizarre cameo as a creepy paramedic. This film was made in nearby-to-me Pittsburgh, and by God if I'd have known the master of Italian horror was there in the 'burgh you can bet your sweet ass I'd have been stalking that set.
But seriously, how completely random.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Halloween: Resurrection
With her long and storied history in the Halloween franchise, it's weird to think of this as just a cameo, but for all intents and purposes, it is. I was actually kind of pissed when the series finally killed her off. I was NOT. IN. FAVOR. of it.

Janet Leigh: Halloween H20: 20 years later
To me, one of the best cameos! Not only do we get Janet playing Jamie's mom, but we get the freakin' car from Psycho as well! Score!

Nancy Stephens: Halloween H20
Another H20 cameo was Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers. If you really strain your memory, you'll recognize her as the nurse from the original (1978) Halloween who drove with Dr. Loomis to the asylum to pick up Michael, who escaped that night.

Ruggero Deodato: Hostel 2
Appropriately, Deodato plays a cannibal enjoying a meal when the Elite Hunting powers that be knock on his door and ask if he'd like a little something extra. Who better than the director of Cannibal Holocaust to pull this one off?

John Larroquette, narrator, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974): reprising his voice-over in the re-imagining of '03
I think they were trying to add a bit of authenticity or perhaps just nostalgia to the remake of the horror classic. Nice touch.

Bubo: Clash of the Titans ('10)
Not exactly horror, but worth a mention. According to many sources, Sam Worthington (who plays Perseus in the remake) thought the owl was a completely ridiculous addition to the film, and adamantly implored Bubo not be in the new edition. He almost got his wish, but Bubo makes a quick appearance anyway, and those of us who have fond memories of the original CotT were pacified.
But seriously, there were already giant scorpions, an insanely huge sea monster, flying horses, and a slithering Medusa with a head full of snakes. Yeah, that owl would have been outrageous!

Peter Jackson (as knife-wielding Santa): Hot Fuzz
While this film is not horror, we still get a maniacal Father Christmas played by none other than the director of Dead Alive. Oh, and a few random flicks about a ring or something- ??

Bill Murray: Zombieland
Thankfully, I didn't hear of this cameo before I saw the movie, so it worked all the better for me. As usual, Bill was hilarious.

M. Night Shyamalan: Signs
Like Hitchcock, Shyamalan seems to enjoy random cameos in almost all his films. But this one, as a guilt-ridden veterinarian, was my favorite.

Peter Benchley: JAWS
Another source-author cameo, Benchley played a reporter giving his audience the down-low on Amity's killer shark. Since writing Jaws, he became a major advocate for the preservation and conservation of sharks - in particular the Great White - until his death from pulmonary fibrosis in 2006.

Gene Hackman: Young Frankenstein
As the blind hermit (which was actually from Bride of Frankenstein), Hackman gives a comical humdinger of a performance in a movie with nothing but superb, near-riotous humor. Great stuff!

Stephen King: Pet Sematary
And yet another author who enjoys cameos. King has appeared in several of his films, but his minister role in this one is such a hoot.

Takashi Miike: Hostel
Eli Roth does seem to enjoy 'insider' horror cameos. With Deodato and Miike, he grabs two of the most notorious horror directors for a couple classic one-liners. Miike is creepy, just standing there in his shades and trench coat, warning that "you could spend all your money in there..."

Robert Duvall: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
According to IMDB, the DVD extras state that the director paid Duvall for the cameo by giving him an Eddie Bauer jacket. If only it still worked that way these days.
And I love Eddie Bauer's durable clothing line, and would be willing to bet he still owns that jacket;)

Alfred Hitchcock: The Birds
And finally, the most prolific cameo-king of them all, Alfred Hitchcock. This man has done an insane amount of popping up in so many of his films. Rather than wax poetic about it I'll just leave you with a couple links.
First is one to The Vault of Horror, where Brian has several of the highlighted (with the help of Andre from The Horror Digest.) Go here.
And lastly, from Wikipedia - a list of all Hitch's cameos. Go here and be amazed.

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