Wednesday, March 22, 2017


 The legendary Berni Wrightson lost his battle with brain cancer on March 18th.  As one of my favourite artists of all-time, Berni Wrightson not only co-created Swamp Thing but also was the heir apparent to classic (and equally legendary) E.C. Comics horror-meister "Ghastly" Graham Ingels.  For pretty much my entire life, Wrightson has represented the best in comix horror from his first comic book HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 to his latest illustrative work (epitomized by his justly-celebrated illustrations for Mary Shelley's novel FRANKENSTEIN).  

Born in Baltimore on the 27th of October (obviously infusing him with the spirit of Halloween), "Bernie" Wrightson showed his work to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano who hired him to do freelance work for the company.  At the tender age of 19, Wrightson got his first story published in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 in 1968; he dropped the "e" from "Bernie" to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver with the same name and became Berni Wrightson professionally (he would restore the "e" to his name years later).  In DC's HOUSE OF SECRETS, he would co-create the character Swamp Thing with Len Wein; the short story was so popular DC would spin it into it's own critically-acclaimed series.
 Leaving DC in 1974 for Warren Publications, Berni would illustrate many horror stories for their B&W mags CREEPY, EERIE and COMIX INTERNATIONAL including many adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  Wrightson took seven years to craft the incredibly detailed line drawings to illustrate the novel FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley which remains a benchmark of his career and his most personal work.  Collaborations with another horror guy by the name of Stephen King resulted in CREEPSHOW and CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF among others and his "Captain Sternn" segment of the cult film HEAVY METAL is also a fan favourite.  In more recent years, Berni's classic horror story "JENIFER" was adapted into a superb episode of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR series directed by Dario Argento.  

Berni Wrightson represents to me, at least, the very essence of comic book horror for the last half century.  His loss is a great one to me and to all his fans.  My condolences go out to Liz, John, Jeffrey and Thomas.  As my woefully inadequate tribute, I thought I'd provide just a taste of some favourites from the Master of the Macabre.  

Masters of the Comic Book Art 4/6

Saturday, March 18, 2017

HAYRIDE (2012)

The movie was made for under $60,000 and the low budget really doesn't show at all.  That's no small accomplishment!  Mr. Parsons wrote a pretty good script and directed it credibly if not outstandingly.  The plot concerns college boy Steven (Jeremy Ivy) returning to his boyhood Alabama home in the country with his girlfriend Amanda (Sherri Eakin) in tow.  He was raised by his Uncle Morgan (Richard Tyson) who goes all-out for Halloween by staging his own "Haunted Hayride" and haunted house attraction for the locals.  The star attraction of the haunted hayride is local legend "Pitchfork" who was based on a true story of an overprotective father who went bananas after his daughter ran away with a boy; so "Pitchfork" went on a killing spree and was never caught.  The character of Pitchfork (guess what he kills with) is re-enacted each year for the hayride by somebody dressing up with a burlap sack over his head.  This is all fine until a real-life serial killer  named Guffin (Shannon Box) is captured one town over and escapes during transfer.  His first priority is to get out of his "prison orange" and the first person he encounters and kills just happens to be the guy who will be playing "Pitchfork" in the hayride.  Guffin steals the "Pitchfork" costume, acquires some farm equipment for himself, and the movie is underway.

Now this is a fun (if maybe a little convenient) premise for a horror movie and I'm prepared to cut the film a lot of slack; not only because of the "DIY" independent nature of the production but also because of my fondness for Halloween Hayrides.  For several years in a row over a decade ago, it became a tradition between my best friend and I (and our significant others at the time) to seek out and go to all the Haunted Hayrides we could find every October.  And boy, did we have a blast!  The best time had to be when I swear we saw the "Miner 49er" from the Scooby-Doo cartoon driving the tractor!  So with all this said, I was really rooting for this movie to be fantastic.  While it does feature a great premise, a great horror villain, a great script and a pretty good cast, I felt it was a little let down by the direction.  Parsons directs the film with perfect competence but there is just something missing; there just isn't a feeling of suspense or peril conjured up in the viewer for a horror film.  This being said, the film is STILL a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone intrigued by the above synopsis.  And the film even manages a really nice twist at the end.  "Pitchfork" is a really good killer who I wouldn't mind seeing again (and I hear there is a HAYRIDE 2" out there I haven't yet seen).  Other than his eponymous pitchfork, "Pitchfork" wields a machete, a sledgehammer, an axe and (unfortunately) a chainsaw (which makes resemble too much another crazed horror movie killer you may have heard of); I do wish Parsons had foregone the use of the chainsaw but it doesn't harm the movie.  HAYRIDE is like the little movie that could and, hey, it's a WHOLE LOT BETTER than most of the Hollywood blockbusters coming out in the last several years.  So if you're at all intrigued, give HAYRIDE a look.