Cthulhu Plastic Figure

NOTE: Originally published under the name “Poe Ghostal” on the now-defunct toy review website The Toy Pirate.

cute packagingToy Vault made its first impression on the action figure industry back in 1998, when it released a number of action figures based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. They got the license through the Tolkien Estate, as opposed to ToyBiz, who had the rights only to the movie figures. Unfortunately, Toy Vault’s figures were soon overshadowed by the movie trilogy and the merchandising juggernaut behind it.

So Toy Vault moved to other literary niche markets—specifically, the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Instead of action figures, Toy Vault chose the ironic route, producing lovable stuffed animals of Lovecraft’s evil deity and his brethren—everything from your standard Cthulhu to Secret Agent Cthulhu and Dracthulhu, and even plush Shoggoths and Gugs.

The Evil Dead

I can’t remember exactly how I first encountered the Evil Dead films. I think a high school friend of mine introduced me to more than ten years ago, in 1994. I became fairly obsessed with all three movies, but The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987) hadn’t been released on videocassette in years.

Seclusion in a root cellar: not good for the skin. Take note, geeks!

But my parents, who had frequently proven their willingness to go the extra mile to get me a hard-to-find Christmas present, obtained copies of both movies from a Canadian video store that year. I quickly came to prefer Evil Dead II, followed by Army of Darkness (1992). Languishing at the rear of the pack was The Evil Dead, which, prior to my recent viewing, I may only have watched two or three times.

Deepstar Six

Deepstar Six beat Leviathan to theaters by about two months. For all that your average moviegoer would notice, they’re more or less the same film: a team of underwater scientists are attacked by a sea monster. What are the odds of the same high concept showing up twice in the same year? At least as good as Deep Impact and Armageddon, apparently.

Feed me, Seymour!

I reviewed Leviathan a few days back, and I’ll complete the Sea Monster Trilogy with Deep Rising in a few days. Leviathan was a mixed bag; decent actors, a decent monster and okay screenwriting made for a middling cinematic experience. I didn’t regret my time or money (see my upcoming Deep Rising review), but I definitely wasn’t getting it on DVD.

The Zombie Survival Guide

Since the millennial fever leading up to the year 2000, there have been many catastrophic scenarios played out in the media, from movies about alien invasions and meteorite impacts to novels that sensationalize the Rapture and documentaries about global warming. There’s a lot of talk about a clash of civilizations, avian flu, dwindling natural resources, and the fact that there are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons floating around Russia secured with no more than a padlock and a piece of scrap paper that says “Do not touch—spasiba!” in felt-tip marker.

But the real threat isn’t the hole in the ozone layer, or the irrational politicians, or even the terrorists. It’s zombies.

I’ve been trying to warn people about the zombie menace for years. Many people dismiss zombies as the featured villains in a few disproportionately popular low-budget horror flicks, but I’m here to tell you there is a clear and present danger from the living dead. I’ve never seen a zombie personally, but if you do the right searches on Google News and read between the lines, it’s easy to see just how real and imminent the threat of a zombie armageddon is. With the current ease and speed of international travel and the tendency of major governments to dismiss and ignore zombie outbreaks, the world is no more than a week away from a near-total conversion to a planet of the living dead.


NOTE: I forgot to take screencaps of Leviathan before returning it to Netflix. You’ll just have to do without. My bad.

One of my greatest pleasures growing up was catching a stupid monster movie on a lazy weekend afternoon. As a wee tyke, Boston’s WLVI 56 filled that need with the famous Creature Double Feature block. But that was long gone by the time I was in high school; and besides, contrary to popular belief, I did have a social life in high school and had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than watch old Godzilla flicks. Sundays, however, were a different story; and I spent many a Sunday in my room, watching a monster flick on TV while drawing (or, on more than one occasion, working on homework).

When I say monster movie, I don’t mean slasher flicks like the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. I was never into those; psycho-murderers are kind of boring and I don’t like gratuitous gore (though I did enjoy Jason vs. Freddy, by which point both characters had more or less become hammy supernatural monsters). In general, though, give me something with tentacles or gross bug eyes or claws. Give me a bug monster or a sea monster or an alien hellbeast. I always considered C.H.U.D. to be the archetypal Lazy Sunday Monster Flick (partly because it’s the only one I specifically remember watching).

Return of the Living Dead

In 1968, a relatively unknown filmmaker named George Romero made a little film called Night of the Living Dead. Though relatively low-budget, it became one of the earliest cult films and spawned an entire sub-genre of horror movies that continue to this day.

Casting calls for Thriller.

Romero wrote the screenplay with Night of the Living Dead with a fellow named John Russo. According to the film’s Wikipedia entry (which, in a refreshing change, cites most of its sources), the story grew from a horror comedy involving aliens into a straight, gruesome horror film that drew inspiration from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend.


Ah, C.H.U.D.. C.H.U.D. (1984) is the archetypal Lazy Sunday Movie. I vaguely remember watching it (probably on WLVI 56, maybe Fox 25) in my room in Carver during early high school.

I rewatched C.H.U.D. for the purposes of this review. I was mildly surprised to find that I remembered virtually nothing about it except: 1.) “C.H.U.D.” stands for “Cannibalistic Human Underground Dweller,” and 2.) chuds have glowing yellow eyes.

That’s not Leonardo. Or Michaelango. Or Donatello. Or even Jackson Pollock. Trust me.

I certainly didn’t remember that the cast included Daniel Stern (of Home Alone, The Wonder Years and Leviathan fame) and a very young-looking John Goodman, not to mention Kim Greist, who I saw a few weeks ago for the first time in Brazil, her second film—right after C.H.U.D.!

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London is one of those cult movies I always meant to see but never did (much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I’ll review later in the month). I knew it by reputation as a darkly comic horror film, perhaps similar to Evil Dead II or Dead Alive.

Not a werewolf

Not a werewolf

One of the reasons it took me a while to see it was that it was a werewolf movie. I’m not a big fan of werewolves. I understand the appeal of vampires; Frankenstein’s monster is cool; demons, sea monsters, zombies I like. But werewolves seem boring to me. They’re big dogs, essentially. And their gimmick strains even the most flexible imagination: the victim only turns into a werewolf at each full moon? Why? Are werewolves affected by gravitational forces, like the tides? And then there’s the problem of mass conversion. Whether the victim turns into a giant wolf-man or a pure wolf, the weight ratios are going to be different, and that just bugs me; where does the extra mass come from (or go to)?

He-Man (2002) action figure

NOTE: Originally published under the name “Poe Ghostal” on OAFE on 8/5/02.

buy the power of Grayskull!He-Man and the Heroic Masters of the Universe must save Eternia from the clutches of the sinister Skeletor and his Evil Horde…

A headstrong teenager with a nose for trouble stumbles upon an ancient stone castle deep in the Eternia Forest. There he meets a beautiful sorceress who gives him a magical weapon, the Power Sword, and tells him that only he can save Eternia from the Evil Skeletor. By raising the sword above his head, he transforms into He-Man, the Most Powerful Man in the Universe! Together with his heroic companions, the Masters of the Universe, He-Man takes on Skeletor and the Evil Horde in the battle for all Eternia!

Wolverine (brown costume)

NOTE: Originally published under the name “Poe Ghostal” on OAFE on 10/5/04.

I can trace my awareness of the X-Men comics—and by extension, the mutant superhero called Wolverine—to its original source: an advertisement in the back of a comic book. The ad featured a “cool” kid—you knew he was cool because he was wearing a denim jacket and sunglasses—holding some X-Men trading cards, I believe. Far more effective than the kid himself was the tagline above him: “It’s a good bet the kid’s favorite MUTANTS ain’t TURTLES.”

bring it on

Now, at the time, I was a hardcore acolyte of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fad. However, I was also dimly aware that the Turtles—with their cartoony, anthropomorphic toy line and surfer-lite catchphrases—were perhaps targeted toward an audience that was a bit younger than I was at the time.

Thus, this sunglasses-wearing kid threatened me. The ad tapped the core of my adolescent insecurity—dear God, was I worshipping the wrong mutants? While I would say advertisements have never worked particularly well on me (the only thing ads have ever done for me is made me aware of when things I might want, such as new action figures or films, will be available), this one, I have to admit, succeeded in spectacular fashion.

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