Total Pageviews

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Underground Springs

Check out my new blog at as soon as you can!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Your Tourist of Terror was pleasantly surprised by the post today!  Nothing better than finding new releases in your mailbox the same day they come out for public consumption.  What a treat it was:  Robert Rodriguez's Machete, starring my favorite B-movie Actor Danny Trejo and a few other faces you may know.

The character Machete was first introduced to audiences in 2001's Spy Kids and it's sequels.  No it wasn't in the faux no longer trailer included in 2007's Grindhouse double feature, but a series of children's movies from the same director.  Given the contents of the film itself and aforementioned trailer, its hard to believe.  However, given Rodriguez's sense of humor it fits.  If you still don't believe, watch the kiddie movies... if you dare.

Machete tells the story of the self-titled ex- Mexican Federale portrayed Mr. Trejo, as he gets hired on as a day laborer... to execute a senator.  In true old school grindhouse fashion this all goes horrible awry, as he gets betrayed, abused and then seeks retribution on an epic scale.  As the tagline says- if hire Machete to kill the bad guys, you better pray the bad guy isn't you.  Indeed, they just fucked with the wrong Mexican.

Certainly worth the 2 bits, the only sad thing is your old Tourist regrets not seeing this during it's theatrical release.  The sticky floors of the cinema and the smuggled in liquor would've only added to the old school grindhouse ambiance... and if only I would've been able to catch it at a drive-in as a double bill (maybe w/ Predators to add to Rodriguez flair).  Alas, but a dream.

The Tourist's verdict-  Go out of your way to check it out.  Worth the price of admission and then some.  Rife with action, violence, sex and some star studded cameos.  Just don't forget to bring your own stale popcorn and booze.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Tourist of Terror: Horror is My Life

"Howdy Folks! You like blood? Violence? Freaks of nature? Well then, come on down!"- Rob Zombie, House of 1000 Corpses.

I love blood, violence, freaks of nature... and I always have.  Most children at an early age are busy rocking out to Sesame Street.  Me?  I was content watching what new nightmare the lovely Elvira had in store for me that evening.  Always living near a drive-in or theater I could easily sneak in to get an eyeful of all the devilish delights the silver screen could offer only exacerbated the situation.  What can I say?  A little nudity, a lot of explosions, more than a legion of cinematic monsters and I was hooked.  There's a lot worse a child a child could be addicted to, a lot.

As the Fresh Prince, or Will Smith as you know him now, once said- "Parents just don't understand."  Mind didn't.  They couldn't grasp why their growing boy found joy sitting the dark confines of the cinema, in the library reading many a frightening tome and highlight the TV Guide on Sunday mornings to find any horror themed late shows.  I was a Monster-Kid born 30 years too late but what a time to be a live then with the introduction of cable and the home video boom to bolster my appetite for all things scary.

In the late 80's, I could be found browsing the aisles of my local video store searching for Big Box VHS Terrors.  Often my little brother would be in tow, wanting to tag along for the 2 for 1 Hot Pockets Specials and hoping to see raccoons catching catching craw-fish from the stream that ran through our shortcut home.  Hanging out with my youthful sibling, scaring ourselves with all nite marathons of fear and enjoying Jiffy Pop with real butter with cola chaser- those were the best times of my young life.

Not much has changed, I'm still a Terror Fiend.  Always, I can be found somewhere near the local cinema waiting in line to catch the next horrific release.  Maybe you'll catch me at your local library thumbing through Frankenstein with a dog-earred horror mag or novel at my side.  Most times, you can catch me at home with a brew in hand reading or watching anything that be found in my massive cinema and literature archive of fear.  Wherever I may be found lurking in shadows... Always know, I'm the Tourist of Terror and horror is my life. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Home Video Survival Guide

The possible end of an era is before us, with the recent close of our local Movie Gallery and Blockbuster filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Many cinephiles are wondering where they’ll get there next home video fix. However, fear not, your Tourist of Terror has some solutions to help fulfill your daily needs for frightful films.

For starters, don’t be afraid of the “through the mail” online rental services. Based on my own experiences, they’re quite good and have a wide variety of titles available. Many also offer the ability to stream movies instantly to your computer, television or video game console. Currently, there are only to online services on the market: Blockbuster & Netflix. Personally, I lean towards Netflix’s services since it carries a number of out of print films and it offers its streaming video content with no additional charge within its membership. Blockbuster does carry more of the new releases, the ability to buy new or used films online, mailed films can be returned at your local rental outlet and now are offering game rentals bundled with some of their services. However, I’m a member of both companies’ services since one may offer certain titles that its foil does not and vice versa. For the budget minded consumer, I’d recommend Netflix because of the streaming services, many out of print titles and concerns of what may become of Blockbuster due to its bankruptcy proceedings.

As you may or may not know, Blockbuster also offers an electronic kiosk service as well. However, it is not tied to its already existing services or memberships. It’s another rental venue altogether that simply shares the company’s trademarked logos and brandings. Personally, it’s a missed opportunity on Blockbuster’s part. If their memberships included online, kiosk and store rental access they would definitely beat Netflix and Redbox in the industry.

Speaking of Redbox, I’ve never been a fan of any rental kiosk service. One dollar nightly rentals sounds appealing, but where’s the variety or availability of titles and actual service? What if you really need to watch Ghostbusters at two in the morning? Good luck, you’d better hope it’s on cable. Kiosks carry tons of new releases, but there are few older films within their archives. Not to mention, you’re dealing with a vending machine. Your Tourist of Terror has lost many candy bars to such devices, I’m not about to pay for a movie that didn’t dispense or something I clearly returned. My opinion, steer clear of kiosks… as well as digital downloads.

The internet has many places you can download your favorite movies to your computer, mobile device and gaming system. The problem with downloadable content primarily is storage space. Granted you can upgrade your memory and most new computers can hold terabytes or more of data, but is it enough to amass a library? Not for this horror fan, not by a long shot. Another situation exists with digital media rights protection software and features. Though many studios use them to prevent illegal downloads, these security measures can prevent you from copying your content from one type of device or media to another. Though many believe that this is the media of the future, I’d rather have something with physical substance that I can touch rather than the electronic smoke and shadows of the internet age.

In closing, how should one go about getting their fill of chilling cinematic thrills? Aside from the fore mentioned methods, don’t forget you have a few local options. There’s the locally operated Tri-Star Video Biz rental in Hancock, just under the 522 bridge. They have great prices and a wide selection of available titles, as well as terrific staff. Finally, there’s always the joy of watching a film on the big screen. You can do just that in downtown Berkeley Springs at our own Star Theater. There’s not always a fright flick playing, but the price is right for a pleasant family outing. Of course, you can come for the film but you’ll stay for a tasty bucket of their real butter saturated popcorn. It’s to die for, horror fans, and another great substitute to fill our video voids!

Blu-ray Vs. DVD: It’s Your Choice, FOR NOW!

The Blu-ray vs. DVD debate brings to mind something one of my dear friends once said about digital downloads when they entered the music industry:  It looks like they found a way to make us buy the White Album again.  That’s how I feel about the Blu-ray industry, it looks like they found away to make me buy the Star Wars Trilogy again...  And I don’t like it.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I know a Blu-ray disc can hold approximately ten times the amount of data that a DVD can.  That alone is astounding for the computing and gaming industries, and it also benefits film as well.   You can offer more special features on one Blu-ray as opposed to a multiple DVD disc release.  I can also understand the advantage of a true High Definition format for better sound and picture quality, and Blu-ray may be better quality than DVD… But I don’t see too much of a noticeable difference.
Since Blu-ray can support the new 3D technologies and the former media is unable to offer a true 3D experience without using anaglyph images (the old Red and Blue), Blu-ray is a step-up from DVD.  Especially when genre vets such as James Cameron are touting that digital 3D will be the new dominate format in movies going forward. Which I doubt since reports are starting to trickle in about 3D technology’s damaging side effects to vision for prolonged viewers.  Also, when 3D technology first came out in the early 50’s it was heralded as the new way of cinema.  Despite a brief revival in the 80’s and recently, you can already attest that those statements were far from true.  But I digress, with more films and theatres going into the age of digital and 3D eventually Blu-ray will win the war.   For now, there is a choice.  Take advantage of it while you can.

There are many opinions and articles out there on the topic of Blu-ray versus DVD, most of which favoring the Blu-ray side.  Many attempt to compare a previous DVD release to its newer format counterpart.   A comparison is always ideal to reveal many faults and benefits of one media versus another…. But many of these commentaries forget to mention a few variables.  For example, when was the reviewed DVD released versus the Blu-ray?  Was it before, after or was it simultaneously?  If, for example the DVD was released many years before the Blu-ray and the studio never felt the need to update the prior format, of course the Blu Ray will be better by comparison.  This is just one of many factors missing in these critiques.
Another item not explored is how the DVD was released in comparison to the Blu-ray edition.  Was the DVD released with the film and all its special features crammed into one little disc or was the film and special features in their own individual discs?  This matters a great deal when comparing a DVD to a Blu-ray release.  Blu-ray has about 50 gigabytes of storage space and a single dual layered DVD only has 7.  If you try to cram everything into one DVD, there is going to be a variation in the quality of sound and picture when compared to the new format.  However, if it’s the film alone on one DVD with some minor menus and options, the quality should be almost on par with its foil.  

While on the subject of Special Features, except for cinephiles like me, the populace at large could care less about them.  Maybe a few individuals would enjoy an alternate version or ending to the film as well as a few deleted scenes, but many don’t want to interrupt their illusion with making-of and what-could-have-been features.  Most people are just satisfied with two hours of cinematic escapism with no extras.  Even I do not find myself drawn into purchasing a Blu-ray or a DVD based on its extra contents alone, and I’m sure much of the general public thinks the same.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with the following copies of Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness and watch them back to back:

1.)    Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition Blu-ray (2009)
2.)    Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition DVD (2009)
3.)    Bruce Campbell Vs. The Army of Darkness: Directors Cut, Official Bootleg Edition DVD (2001)
4.)    Army of Darkness DVD (2000)

Here’s what I found out by watching different versions of the same film on different formats:

1.)    The Screwhead Editions (both DVD and Blu-ray) had better picture and sound quality than previous releases of Army of Darkness; however they were skimpy in comparison to prior versions in Special Features & content.  The alternate version as shown in the Official Bootleg would have been a welcomed addition in the Screwheads.

2.)    When the Screwhead Editions were compared to one another, the Blu-ray does have better resolution in picture and sound quality but it is not much of a noticeable difference to this viewer.  The very slight pixelization of the DVD variant is the result of the Studio trying to compress all the content onto one disc, instead of multiple.  It looks better on Blu-ray because the film and features have more room without any unnecessary compression.  However, it’s only a slight variation in quality between the two and hardly noticeable to a casual viewer.

What have I learned from my little experiment of watching Army of Darkness back to back?  I’m still going to stick with the DVD version while I can as long as it’s a multiple disc edition as opposed to a single.  Why?  Well for starters, I’m cheap and Blu-ray discs cost anywhere between $10.00 and $15.00 more than the prior format.  Also, most Blu-ray players are backwards compatible and they upscale the picture and sound quality of a DVD.  Of course there’s only so much they can do to improve on a DVD.  Even if said release is on Blu-ray, it may not be much better than the former format because the studio may not have had the best source materials (like the original negative) to work with.

For me, I’m sticking with DVD until the studios completely drop the format in light of all their concerns over illegal reproduction.  Besides, Blu-ray may have won the Format Battle with HD DVD… But it’s still struggling for dominance against digital downloads and the burden of new home 3D technologies.  Eventually it will win the war and DVD will go the way of the VHS dinosaur.  Until then you have a choice, my friends.  I say stick with the DVD… and forgo re-buying The White Album or Star Wars for now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Exterminator

"Another day, another dollar," Miles Branson sighs while taking another slug of his cup of coffee from within his black Pest-Con van.

Gliding into the client's driveway, the large new home looms over him as he reviews his work order. Miles almost laughs when he remembers what he told them was the probable cause of their current woes: raccoons or possums in their root cellar. He shrugs, since it's easier for people to accept the lie when the truth is impossible to swallow.

The work order and initial consultation with the client, to the trained eye, tell a different story. Raccoons or possums don't leave 2-foot wide waste trails that light up neon blue under a luma-wand. Neither species could be responsible for the disappearance of large household pets, livestock or children. Of course, the old abandoned graveyard less than a mile away didn't help matters.
Hence the need for the lie. It was easy for the client to blame raccoons and possums since the majority of the loud noises reported occuredat night. Also, easy to have the client leave their new home for several days under the guise of a rabies scare. It might take awhile for Miles to eliminate the true pest if they had set up a nest in the residence, but it could also get real ugly.

Unlike their portrayal in modern entertainment, the real animal in question wasn't handsome or beautiful. They weren't hopeless romantics who sparkle in the sunlight or misguided souls worthy of redemption. The true beast reeks of earth and centuries-old decay from the life essence stolen from many over the decades. Under his breath, Miles curses both Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer for humanizing these demons made flesh.
Retrieving from the back of his van a flamethrower, crossbow with silver bolts and an axe; Miles hopes this doesn't sour his new client's taste for the town.

Berkeley Springs is a nice place to live If it weren't for all the vampires.