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Scott Sigler – Horror 30/20/10 – Herman Munster, Animatronic Cats, and Other Giants of Cinema


Ahhh, the rich, musty smell of history. Or maybe that’s yesterday’s shrimp burrito? It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that the odor of terror gone by is in the air once again, because it’s time for our quarterly dose of Horror 30/20/10. That’s right, it’s your favorite horror-movie history lesson, where we look at key moments in horror from decades past. To get things rolling, let’s fire up our way-back machine and set it for…

30 Years Ago Phantasm (March 1979)
It’s hard to even mention the words “cult classic” and not think of this acid-trip of a movie. And I’m not talking about the good kind of acid trip either. Phantasm introduced a pair of iconic horror images that have stood the test of time: the killer balls (yeah, I know) and the Tall Man. If you have not seen Phantasm, you owe it not only to yourself, not only to the legacy of horror flicks in general, but to the institution of Western Culture itself to go check it out. Yeah, it’s just that important. Is it good? Naw. Not by today’s standards. But the film is an absolute trip.

Angus Scrimm played “The Tall Man” in the original, as he would in the three Phantasm sequels. How tall is “tall?” Scrimm is 6-foot-4 and a half. By non-NBA standards, that’s incredibly tall, but if you want to contemplate someone with an even more towering presence, flash foward ten years to …

20 Years Ago – Pet Sematary (April, 1989)
So you think the star of this movie was little Gage Creed? Well, sure, the adorable little undead psychopath rocked the house, as did the animatronic undead kitty. Yet despite top-notch performances by toddler and feline alike, I say neither Cage nor cat was the star — the true box office mojo came from none other than Fred Gwynne, Mr. Herman Munster himself. At 6-foot-5-and-a-half, the commanding actor hardly needed the platform Doc Martens he sported to make a career-defining impression as the head of Clan Munster, and his performance in Pet Sematary has taken on cult-classic status all its own. His New England accented tagline (“Sometahms, dehd is bettah”) was even sent up in the phenomenal South Park episode 909, “Marjorine.”

The movie is, of course, based on a 1983 Stephen King novel of the same name, and it debuted at No. 1 at the box office, pulling in $12 million on its opening weekend. With an estimated budget of $11.5 million, that means it was profitable right out of the gate. It went on to rake in $57 million in the United States alone.

Is it a great movie? No. Is it kick-ass fun? Yes. So fun that even Joey Ramone had to rock out about it. Gwynne steals the show, to be sure, right up until hottie Denise Crosby does her own “dehd is bettah” turn on the screen. As for that scene? Totally messed up. But it’s not the most messed up Hottie Does Bad Things to a Man scene I can think of. For that high-water mark, you’ll need to bump up a decade and check out…

10 Years Ago – Audition (March, 1999)
I really don’t know what to say about this Takashi Miike-directed, Japanese-language flick other than you absolutely should not watch if you’re opposed to girl power. Seriously though, what’s wrong with not only the director, but everyone else who was a part of this film? What demented things happened to them as children? And don’t give me that “cultural difference” hippie garbage, either; in any culture, some things are just plain wrong. 

Now, maybe you haven’t heard of Audition. That’s OK. Just rent it. ASAP. The last fifteen minutes are legendary, and I’m not giving any clues. The rest of the movie? It’s just okay, but it pays off in spades. To be honest, I’m not much for subtitles and yet I still urge you to watch this one. As a bonus, if you happen to have a penchant for willowy, vinyl-wearing Japanese girls of questionable legal age, you may find yourself cured of your affliction.

Lessons Learned
Close your history books (or Wikipedia, you lazy bastards), and let’s reflect on the knowledge we’ve gained: Silver balls are dangerous. Tall men are to be avoided. And if you haven’t gathered that willowy Japanese girls with long, heavy black hair are bad news, well, then there’s not much hope for you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this time I’m pretty sure it is that shrimp burrito. Gotta go.

New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks at www.scottsigler.com. His latest hardcover, CONTAGIOUS, is in stores now. If you don’t agree with what Scott says in this blog, post a note in the comments section below. Please include all relevant personal information, such as your address and what times you are not home, so Scott can come visit and show you his world famous “Chicken Scissors.”

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