No Mere Mortal Can Resist the Evil of… The Thriller

Ask any horror fan what their first “monster” memory is and you will get a response based on two parameters: both the person’s age and their nostalgic selective memory. You would get responses ranging from people cowering behind the couch as their local TV station replayed one of the monster greats of yore (perhaps Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster or the mighty King Kong). From a younger fan you may get Jason, Chucky or Freddy. But if you were to ask me, in all honesty, you would get “Michael Jackson” as my answer.

The news of Jackson’s sudden passing made me realize this today. It would be hyperbolic to say that I would not have my current taste for the horror genre if it were not for Jon Landis’ 15 minute “mini-movie” Thriller, I probably still would. It is no exaggeration to say that it was this film above any other that I fondly remember as my first good scare.

Landis isn’t the only horror royalty associated with the film.* Rick Baker, who pioneered the special effects makeup field in Landis’ An American Werewolf In London, created Jackson’s “cat monster” and zombie makeups. The famous spoken word portion of the film is read by the legendary Vincent Price (keen-eyed viewers will also spot poster’s for Price’s House of Wax and Landis’ Schlock in the scene where Ola Ray and Jackson are leaving the movie theater).

The VHS of Thriller also came with a half-hour featurette on the making of the film. The existence of this documentary may only have been to pad the run-time and add “value” to the tape, but to a 5 or 6 year old this material was as fascinating and, I am not ashamed to admit, frightening as the movie itself. The images of Jackson donning the phosphorescent and painful cat contact-lenses still sticks in my mind as one of those formative moments of “oh boy, that’s scary” movie magic.

Jackson’s music was a big part of my early childhood, but it is Thriller that will continue to be most important to me, and I hope one day in the future, to my own little monsters. Oh, and don’t even mention the Ben theme song to me…I’d probably start bawling.

* It is also worth pointing out that Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J Ackerman also makes a brief appearance (he is siting behind Ray and Jackson at the movie). Ackerman also sadly passed away recently.


Warning: No Horror Here. Just praise for the MIGHTY E-STREET BAND!

Bruce Springsteen is one of the few certifiable geniuses left working. It’s not opinion, it’s fact.
Add to him Max Weinberg, “Little” Steven Van Zandt, Clarence “The Big Man” Clemens, and the rest of the E Street band and you have yourself a supergroup.

As part of 2009’s “Working On a Dream Tour” The Boss was recently in town at the Boston Garden for two nights of hard rocking.

Starting the show with two tracks off of Darkness On The Edge of Town, one of my Favorite albums ever, “Badlands”, “Candy’s Room”. The band then moved to what for me was the moment of the night when they played a song off the new CD, “Outlaw Pete.” The song allowed Springsteen to flaunt his love for classic westerns as he sung, played guitar , and pantomimed the entire story(complete with cowboy hat) of bloodshed and failed redemption.

The show ran about 3 hours in what could only be described as a feat of superhuman endurance by all band members.

Among the night’s surprise highlights were an impromptu rendition of The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” and a visit from Boston’s own The Dropkick Murphys.

If all you know is his earlier work you really owe it to yourself to check out some of his newer stuff. I recommend either Devils & Dust or Working On a Dream, but they’re all great.

Well…that’s that. No real substance here, just had to say my piece.

The Black Label Society and My Heavy Metal Awakening

Ah, the Power of Metal.

The me of a few years ago would probably never say anything like that. But over the past half a decade or so I have plunged headlong into a wayward romance with Rock & Roll’s most rambunctious daughter: Heavy Metal.

I started by just dipping my toe in the pool: a little early Black Sabbath, then a bit of some solo Ozzy, then a dash of Rob Zombie (based mostly on my love of his second film The Devil’s Rejects, one of the finest horror films in years), and before I knew it I was practicing my imaginary stage dives while blasting Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” and crooning some Dio-age Sabbath in the shower (IF YOU LISTEN TO FOOLS:THE MOB RULES!).

When the new House of Blues opened in Boston I was dieing to see a show. The only thing on the schedule that looked good was Tom Jones (don’t laugh, I’ve seen him twice: the man rocks) and I wasn’t going to be able to go. Something else on the schedule caught my eye though: The Black Label Bash featuring The Black Label Society. I was intrigued, I went down to Nuggets (my local used record store) and bought some albums (1919 Eternal and Shot To Hell) and the rest as they say is history.

The show was fantastic. There were multiple warm up acts but I sadly only caught Sevendust (who I liked enough to take another trip down to Nuggets).

Zakk Wylde’s onstage presence is (to use a well-worn cliche) electric. The man beats his chest, drinks, swears, unleashes 10 minute long guitar solos and then plays the piano (!). I’ve seen Wylde onstage once before (playing guitar for Ozzy) but never got a sense of his all around ability until this night.

There came a point in the show where me and a friend (two pasty skinny white kids sticking out like sore thumbs) saw a grown man tackled to the ground unexpectedly, probably ensuring hefty chiropractor bills for the rest of his life. I’m sure we both felt bad on the inside, but there was nothing to be done. We just looked at each other, threw up the horns, and started banging our heads.

The moral of the story: try new things and look out for flying metal heads.

So what do you think, faithful readers (all three of you)? Want to see more articles on music (I got a killer idea for a Drive-By Truckers album by album analysis and review). Want to see more movie stuff? Drop a comment, I’d appreciate it as it helps me see if (to quote “The Boss”) there’s anybody alive out there.