Archives from the Abyss #2: Midnight Meat Train Article

Welcome to another installment of Archives from the abyss! Since the horror community has celebrated the anniversary of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood released 35 years ago, it’s only fitted I publish an older article I wrote when the movie came out. I shamefully have to admit I never read the short story until the movie came out. The theme was the same, but I was amazed on how different the story was from the movie, more so than usual when such is adapted into film. Anyway, read on and hope you enjoy!

Originally published in issue #11 of SCARS magazine:

BOOK VS. MOVIES: THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN

By J.C. Walsh

From the legendary Books Of Blood, Clive Barker’s The Midnight Meat Train is a dark and twisted ride that glimpse not only into the horrors that lives deep within the catacombs inside of us, but of the unimaginable existence of what could live underneath the places we call home.  

The story focuses around two characters.  An accountant named Leon Kaufman and Mahogany, the Subway butcher.  For years Kaufman has been yearning to live in his dream city New York.  He finally gets his wish, but after living there for a few months began to loathe the things it was built upon, death and violence.  The headlines of the newspapers don’t help.  Disgusted, he reads about the “Subway Slayings,” where the victims are brutally murdered, stripped of their clothes and hung from meat hooks, the grisly findings discovered inside of a train.   

The story switches over to Mahogany’s point of view.  A man that feels his job is sacred, serving “The Father’s” is a privilege compared to the mundane routines that humanity follows day by day.  But age is catching up with him, he’s constantly exhausted and he continues to make mistakes, ones that cost him dearly, exposure constantly a threat as his kills are discovered and all over the news.  

The way that Clive Baker switches back and forth between the characters give a unique sense of what they are about, so that when their worlds collide it becomes a battle of primal instinct and survival.  The dark side of Kaufman is revealed and welcomes a knife fight against a man like Mahogany for all the murderous deceptions he stands for, while Mahogany wants to kill Kaufman because he was not worthy of the sacrament that The Butcher’s work was. The fight ends in intense blood shed. What follows is Clive Barker’s ability to impose in such frightening imagery of the things that lurk in the darkness, eternally starving for human flesh.  

The Film adaptation of Barker’s horrifying story is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, and produced by Clive Barker.  Staying true to the short story’s theme, The Film also adds depth and creates a new approach to the classic work of fiction.  The movie version of Leon Kaufman (Bradly Cooper) is a photographer, and much like the character in the short story has a love for the city and wants to capture it’s divine moments through his work.  But when a girl Kaufman has seen disappears and her picture is in the paper, he begins to obsess with the man he believes not only killed her, is also responsible for the subway slayings that have been happening for years and could be the infamous Butcher. 

Instead of keeping the change in Kaufman subtle like in the story, the movie shows how he endures the further his obsessing grows, illusions of slaughter and death haunt him and the police are no help for fear that there is a dark conspiracy in the grand scheme of all of it.  What really adds to the dread and worry for the character is that his girlfriend and friend are worried and get involved by investigating The Butcher so they can uncover whatever trouble Kaufman in order to help him.     

When there are scenes of the Butcher, played by the bad ass Vinnie Jones, The Film portrays his inhuman strength as he rips into his victims with a meat hook, pounds their flesh into pulp with a metallic meat hammer, or severs limbs with a cleaver.  There was some enhancement to the gory effects by using CGI, giving some kills a strange surreal look but by all means keeping them brutal.  But just like the story we see how vulnerable the Butcher has become of old age, and by mysterious tumor growths on his chest that cause him to cough up blood.  

In the end, Kaufman fights to not only overcome his fear, but to save his sanity, and those of the people he loves.  The final fight scene between Kaufman and the Butcher was relentless, nasty, and one of the best caught on film.  Anyone who hasn’t read the short story will find the revelations of “The Fathers” a curve ball in the movie, turning a Slasher flick into something much more that’ll leave audiences either stumped or begging for more.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much about “The Fathers” in the movie like the haunting visionary in the story.  Rumor has it, because of Film Company Lions Gates mishandling of the theatrical release of the film it might have prolonged any hope of future sequels as intended to go further into the history of the flesh- devouring inhabitants. 

Whether you read the short story, see the movie or both, Clive Barker gives us a taste of what true horror is all about. It was full of originality, suspense, and ruthless gore that’ll make hardcore fans shudder with delight or stand up and applause. 

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Death Highway now Available!

My Debut novella Death Highway is now available in E-book and Print!

It’s been a long road (pun intended) to finally getting my debut novella completed and out there in the world.  I am proud of the insane ride of a story it has become, it’s a fast pace tale influenced by films like Phantasm combined with Mad Max topped off with some cosmic horror madness!

Here is the description:

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ARCHIVES FROM THE ABYSS #1: Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 Article

At a time when I was struggling with my fiction writing, I turned my attention to writing articles about the Horror Genre. The topic ranged from Books vs Movies, to Originals vs Remakes, and I also had the pleasure of doing some interviews as well. If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, you know that I will share these articles and interviews on my page for your reading pleasure!

When I lived in Rhode Island I wrote for a local magazine called Scars for about a year and a half. The articles will not be posted in chronological order, what you are reading below was the last article I had written for the magazine. Having a love for the genre, I loved to debate with fellow fans about what worked and what didn’t for a film. With this article, I couldn’t help but dive into a little controversy.

Enjoy!

Originally published in issue #16 of SCARS magazine:

HALLOWEEN CONTROVERSY: DID ROB ZOMBIE’S REMAKE DESTROY THE WELL RESPECTED FRANCHISE?

By J.C. Walsh

Whatever the reason may be for remakes – inspiration, money, a chance to bring something new to an old idea, or just plain unoriginality – it’s inevitable that a director takes a harrowing gamble on their own envisioning of a horror classic. Some remakes that have succeeded not only brought a fresh look to an older film, but created a new fan base within people who hadn’t even heard of the original. But when does a remake go too far? Already over-saturated fans are lately not only rejecting the remakes themselves, but the very concept of a remake, and see it as blasphemous to the original filmmaker’s direction. The controversy surrounding this season’s “H2” makes Rob Zombie no exception.

In 1978, John Carpenter gave us his cult classic, “Halloween.” What was filmed with little budget, and in the course of only a few weeks, became a huge success. It was one-of-a-kind. A scary flick that didn’t concentrate on the concept of gore, but used a steady build of suspense, and featured one of the creepiest scores in movie history. After a slew of sequels, however, the power of the original story was lost track of, leaving fans pondering if there would be a ninth film to the franchise, and if it would be more agony than horror. The Weinstein Company didn’t know where to take the series from there, so then came, once again, the inevitable: a remake.

Rob Zombie’s re-imaging of John Carpenter’s classic showed a much darker, more violent world of Michael Myers. The “House of 1000 Corpses” director dove into the killer’s childhood and his time spent in the mental institution, creating a whole new experience with Michael Myers in the first half of the movie. The last hour of the film mirrors the original, but coated with Rob’s dark and gritty style. Some memorable moments from John Carpenter’s version have been brought back, but only to deceive the fans so that Rob can throw in his own twist and turns until the remake delivers its shocker of an ending. An ending making it seem like Michael Myers was finally dead.

Not in this life time.

Fans and detractors instantly wondered, or worried, if Zombie would come back for a sequel. Zombie initially declined the offer of directing the sequel, stating he didn’t want to do another “Halloween” because working on the first film had completely wiped him out, and he wanted to focus on his projected next film, “Tyrannosaurus Rex.” However, rumors still buzzed, and a comment by Zombie only worsened the tension, saying that the film industry doesn’t want to spend the time or money on original ideas these days, that their main focus is only remakes, leaving the director no choice but to make “H2.” Internet and fan controversy promptly ensued, from fans who already considered Zombie a sell-out as well as new ones, slamming him for re-making “H2” for financial gain only.

Zombie began numerous postings on his blog, showing the progress of the “H2” as soon as pre-production started. While some Zombie die-hards continued to follow and support the anticipated wait of the second “Halloween,” the disgust of other fans continued to grow, and worsened when it was announced that Sherri Moon Zombie was to return as a ghostly illusion of Michael’s mother, to lead him through his killing spree. The plot of the story was considered an insult, created only as a vehicle to cast his wife into the movie. One fan went so far to create a petition that wanted Rob Zombie to re-shoot most of the film. Others complained that Zombie rushed the film, filming in a matter of weeks, a perceived sign of disrespect to the “Halloween” franchise.

Despite the negative responses and how poorly it did in the theaters, Rob Zombie’s “H2” did exactly the opposite of a remake. Instead of a remake to John Carpenter’s “Halloween 2,” “H2” stood as a sequel to Rob Zombie’s “Halloween.” The dark and gritty ultra-violence, perceived in the first film, has been amplified, with a total flip-up to the “Halloween” universe as we knew it.

“H2” picks up right after Zombie’s original. Michael Myers is presumed dead and taken away in an ambulance, while Laurie Strode and Dr. Sam Loomis are rushed to the hospital. When Michael escapes from the ambulance, he appears at the hospital housing Laurie, and viscously murders everyone in hunt of Laurie. The snag is that this isn’t reality. It’s a nightmare of Laurie’s, and we flash forward to one year later, with a traumatized Laurie Strode awaking in bed. Zombie immediately takes charge from here on to show the audience the drastic change in the characters that have survived, as they try to move on with their lives. He also sets the motif for the dream-like, surreal state which follows “H2.”

Laurie’s nightmares continue with the overwhelming fear that Michael Myers isn’t dead, and he’s simply biding his time til Halloween night. Returning to the movie as her protector is Brad Douriff as Sheriff Bracket, who takes Laurie in to raise along with his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris). Another survivor from “Halloween,” Annie puts on this kind of motherly type figure, her own way of dealing with her ordeal with Michael. While trying to take care of the two girls, Sheriff Brackett has come to fear that the secret he’s been working hard at concealing for so long, that Laurie is Michael’s sister Angel Myers, is about to be threatened with Dr. Sam Loomis’s new book coming out. This new version of Dr. Loomis along with the other characters is a very strong point in the movie. Instead of seeing the usual hero that Donald Presence always portrayed, Rob Zombie’s Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) has become a sell out and only cares about the marketing of his book.

While these characters deal with their desolation, Michael Myers has been hiding in the woods, solely thriving on survival instinct and the beyond-the-grave guidance of his mother (Sherri Moon). Michael has progressed to a much deadlier killing machine with his time in the wild, and once the visions of his mother get stronger, she tells him it’s time to go home. On his way back to Haddonfield, Michael leaves a blood-splattered trail in his wake. The kill scenes not only show a nastier Michael Myers than what we’ve seen in the remake, but also in any “Halloween” film. Once Michael has found his sister, it becomes a showdown not just for Laurie’s life, but also for her sanity.

Rob Zombie stuck with his own vision for the sequel to his remake, but even though it was a completely different film all together, he still found ways to sneak memorable moments from other “Halloween” films. The hospital dream sequence was much like the hospital scene in the original “Halloween 2.” Also, Michael and Laurie share a psychic link that grows stronger as we near the end of the film, much like the one Michael and his niece Jamie shared in “Halloween 5.” Even though the visions are strange and almost out of place at times, it still works, showing how strong the bond between Michael and Laurie is.

The primary point of attack against Zombie is this blanket statement: that “H2” ruined the franchise. I can’t disagree more. If anything, the franchise breakdown started with “Halloween 3: The Season of the Witch,” when it had nothing to do with Michael Myers and Haddonfield. Even though 4 through 6 stayed consistent with the story and the idea of The Mark of Thorn was a creative concept, it felt as though the idea was thrown in there to try and “explain” what was behind Michael’s motives. Why can’t Michael just be a force on its own? What about how offbeat “H20” was? Although it was a great way to pay memoire to Donald Presence after his passing, and Jamie Lee Curtis goes head to head one last time, the seventh installment of the “Halloween” franchise briefly lost track of what the previous films were trying to accomplish. “Halloween Resurrection” was just a random slasher film, losing track of the story completely.

My point is we as fans of the horror genre these days have too many rules with what a remake is expected to be. Of course expectations are understandable. Like any fan base, we want quality. But expectations sometimes lead to close minded opinions, energy wasted on pointless anger, or petitions that make no sense. Fans end up missing out on what the director is really trying to accomplish. We end up missing the movie.

What Zombie accomplished were characters that popped, rather than flatly stalked, with full stories of their own. Instead of “the Shape,” we have the new horror of Michael Myers, as a force that brings this group of characters together, in one blood-drenched circle. Family is forever. Rob Zombie’s tagline says it all, something so simple that explains the true meaning behind the madness of Michael Myers.