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Horror 30/20/10 – Pods, Bods and Vamp-Killin’ Hot Rods

Novelist Scott Sigler’s horror column appears every Thursday.

Professor Sigler is back again, ready to dish out another lesson in horror movie history. Keep those hands on top of the desk — I don’t dress like a nun, but I can whack knuckles with a ruler just as good as Sister Mary Dontscrewwithme (and if Sister Mary were alive today, she’d cuff the back of my head and say “just as well, Mr. Sigler,” but she isn’t… so grammar Nazis begone).

Thirty Years Ago
As I said in the last 30/20/10 column, 1978 was a banner year for horror. Halloween, Damien: The Omen II — and one of the all-time gems of Hollywood, Invasion of the Body Snatchers all hit theaters back in ’78. Donald Sutherland rocked the house in the remake of the 1956 classic, which itself was an adaptation of a Jack Finney novel (which is flat-out frickin’ amazing and still feels 50 years ahead of its time). Who else did Snatcher‘s have? How about a so-young-it’s-frightening Jeff Goldblum and Mr. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy? Shot for $3.5 million, Snatchers grossed $25 million at the theaters and has since added another $11 million in rental revenue. That’s a lot of scratch for United Artists, and put them on a hunt for horror flicks that ten years later resulted in another plant-related tale…

Twenty Years Ago
In what could be the most underrated
horror flick of all time, special effects legend Stan Winston released
a kick-ass monster with 1988’s Pumpkinhead . Winston was rolling in Hollywood street cred for his makeup work and his Oscar-winning creatures in 1986’s Aliens. Pumpkinhead was his directorial debut, and to help him create a cult classic he enlisted another Aliens
alum, actor Lance Henrickson as Ed Harley. Watch for my favorite line:
“It’s what you wanted, Ed Harley… It’s what you wanted.” If you like
creatures, you’ll like Pumpkinhead. Shot for $3.5 million, the
flick grossed $4.3, making it moderately profitable. Unfortunately,
that’s all you need these days to crank out sequels — Pumpkinhead spawned three seqels (most recently, the direct-to-video Pumpkinead Blood Feud),
each rather abysmal. Avoid them at all costs. Still, for a small-budget
film, that’s a 22 percent profit margin, a success by anyone’s
standards, and higher than another “profitable” horror flick that hit
ten years later…

Ten Years Ago
combined a couple of big names in lead actor James Woods and horror
maestro director John Carpenter. Many people, including me, were
waiting for this bad boy to tear up the screen… We’re still waiting.
Shot for $20 million, the horror community was expecting a big-budget
FX extravaganza. I’m still wondering where that $20 million went (let’s
just say Mr. Woods’ trailer was probably pimped out by Xzibit and the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition crews). The effects kind of sucked, but the one element that makes it
cool enough to rent is a sweet vamp-execution method: Go into the deep
dark nest, nail a vampire with a crossbow bolt that has a cable
connected to a Jeep, and haul that undead outside to catch some rays. Watch
flames, screams, and black mush ensue. Vampires turned a profit — just barely — grossing $20,268,825. For those of you scoring against Pumpkinhead, that’s a profit margin of 1 percent. Not exactly blockbuster status, if you can smell what I’m cooking.

pop quiz this time (for which Sister Mary Dontscrewwithme would call me
an “innefectual educator”). However, if you have not seen any of the
above flicks, get thee to the video store or the download queue. Start
with Snatchers, make sure you get your creature fix with Pumpkinhead, and if you’re really bored, go ahead and check out Vampires. Extra credit? Go buy Jack Finney’s novel, The Body Snatchers, read it and then nominate Professor Sigler for “Teacher of the Year.”

scott75.jpgScott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks at His hardcover debut, Infected, is available in stores now. If
you don’t agree with what Scott says in this blog, please email him Please include all relevant personal
information, such as your address and what times you are not home, in
case Scott wishes to send someone to “discuss” your opinions.

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