HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2020 from MONSTERZERO NJ!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2020 from MONSTERZERO NJ!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! OK, so there aren’t a lot of horror films set on Turkey Day, but here’s a few, even if they aren’t all classics. Grindhouse for the obvious reason of enjoying Eli Roth’s legendary faux trailer and Galaxy of Terror is a personal addition, because I saw it on Thanksgiving night, 11/26/1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Have a happy and be safe! Gobble, gobble!

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-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2018 from MONSTERZERO NJ!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2018 from MONSTERZERO NJ!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! OK, so there aren’t a lot of horror films set on Turkey Day, but here’s a few, even if they aren’t all classics. Grindhouse for the obvious reason of enjoying Eli Roth’s legendary faux trailer and Galaxy of Terror is a personal addition because I saw it on Thanksgiving night, 11/26/1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Gobble, gobble!

 

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING from MONSTERZERO NJ!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from MONSTERZERO NJ!

MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! OK, so there aren’t a lot of horror films set on Turkey Day, but here’s a few, even if they aren’t all classics. Grindhouse for the obvious reason of enjoying Eli Roth’s legendary faux trailer and Galaxy of Terror is a personal addition because I saw it on Thanksgiving night, 11/26/1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Gobble, gobble!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 FAVORITE CLASSICS AND CULT CLASSICS I SAW AT THE LEGENDARY ORITANI THEATER!

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The Oritani Theater

Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

If you’ve been visiting this site for a while you’ve probably heard me mention more than once, The Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. The Oritani was a grind house, that presented badly dubbed martial arts movies, horror flicks, and raunchy low budget comedies during the late seventies and early 80s. I lived only a town away, so this was a go-to theater on a Friday and Saturday night for my friends and I, who shared a love of B-Movie horror and sci-fi. I decided to compose a list of 12 favorite flicks that I saw there, which are now regarded as classics, cult classics, or fan favorites. Some of these were seen when first released and a few of the older titles were at revivals or midnight shows there!

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. Escape From New York
  2. Galaxy of Terror
  3. Humanoids from the Deep
  4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  5. Night of the Living Dead
  6. Scanners
  7. Mad Max
  8. The Boogens
  9. Shogun Assassin
  10. The Incredible Melting Man
  11. Laserblast
  12. Without Warning

 

-MonsterZero NJbars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 FLICKS INSPIRED BY RIDLEY SCOTT’S “ALIEN”!

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Ridley Scott’s classic! Imitated but never equaled!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 FLICKS INSPIRED BY RIDLEY SCOTT’S “ALIEN”!

Ridley Scott’s Alien arrived in 1979 and terrified a generation. It was an almost instant classic and changed the face of horror/sci-fi forever. While not novel in plot, it was one of the most uniquely and thoroughly designed films ever made…including it’s iconic creature…and pretty darn scary, too! Almost forty years later, the franchise is still producing films (review for the latest, Alien: Covenant HERE). It also inspired a bunch of imitators and rip-offs and below is a list of fifteen such pretenders to the H.R. Giger designed throne. Some of these are actually good flicks and stand on their own…others…not so much…

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

1. Galaxy Of Terror

2. Forbidden World

3. Creature

4. Horror Planet

5. Xtro

6. Alien Contamination

7. Split Second

8. Star Crystal

9. Saturn 3

10. Leviathan

11. Pitch Black

12. Sector 7

13. The Intruder Within

14. The Terror Within

15. Alien 2: On Earth

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Forbidden World’s Alien-esque critter photo-bombs the selfie of an ill-fated crew member

-MonsterZero NJbars

FAREWELL AND R.I.P. ERIN MORAN!

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ERIN MORAN 1960-2017

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While most folks remember actress Erin Moran as Richie Cunningham’s spunky little sister, Joanie on Happy Days and it’s brief running spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, MonsterZero NJ will always fondly recall the actress for her role in the cult classic Corman flick Galaxy Of Terror as psychic, and very claustrophobic, Quest crew member Alluma. Sadly, the actress was found unresponsive in her Indiana home and the cause of death has yet to be determined. She was only 56.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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From Frights To Fun: The Evolution Of 80s Horror

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From Frights To Fun: The Evolution Of 80s Horror

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to my full reviews of the films referenced here!)

To me, the 80s is one of the best decades ever for horror flicks…with the 70s following right behind it. Sure, every decade since films started being made has it’s classics from 1922’s Nosfeatu to 2007’s Trick ‘r’ Treat, but in terms of sheer proliferation and the number of classics that came out of it, the 80s was an amazing time to be a horror movie fan and I am glad I was in my theater seat for it all the way. And as I have said before, it was a time where low-budget B horrors could still be seen in a theater, where they belong and a time I will always cherish. I will also admit there was a lot of garbage to sift through to get to the gold, but even those had their entertainment value, especially when you and your friends were sitting in your seats giving those lesser efforts the old MST3K treatment, years before that show even existed…and that classic show is also a product of the 80s, might I add. But the one thing I also find striking about 80s horror is a distinct tonal shift in the style of horror flicks as the decade wore on that can only be appreciated now as we look back in nostalgia. Darker and more somber slashers became flicks that were lighter in tone, more colorful and with far more of a sense of fun about themselves. Let’s take a look…

John Carpenter’s Halloween may not have been the first slasher, but it is the film whose success started the early 80s slasher trend as studios and indie filmmakers realized you could make a lot of money on a shoestring budget. The early 80s cinemas became filled with films that followed the slasher formula with the stories being set on or around a special event or time, such as the prom in Prom Night, or college hazing as in Hell Night, or a fateful day like Friday The 13th. And then, within that setting, having a group of young high school or college co-eds being stalked and cut down by a killer with a grudge, till one feisty young girl…or sometimes a couple…is left to fend off our killer. For the most part these films took themselves very seriously and had a somber mood and moderate pace with the violence level being anywhere from fairly tame, like in thrillers like Terror Train or over-the-top gory as in Willaim Lustig’s Maniac or Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day…though, let’s not forget that some of the gorier entries where a result of the success of George Romero’s ultra-violent Dawn Of The Dead which started it’s own trend of extremely violent horrors that predominately came out of Italy and was spearheaded by filmmakers like Lucio Fulci. There were some rare instances where a director had a more humorous approach like Joe Dante’s The Howling or An American Werewolf in London, but horror/comedy is nothing new and the early 80s horror films predominately followed a more serious direction at this point in time.

Monster movies like The Boogens or Without Warning or supernatural horrors like The Fog and  The Boogeyman also followed the slasher format with victims being isolated and killed off one by one, leaving a frightened heroine to fend for herself with the occasional surviving love interest to help her survive. And for the first two or three years of the decade, theaters where inundated with such horrors to the delight of screaming fans. And we got many a classic horror flick out of it. But like any trend, such as the 70s possession flick trend inspired by The Exorcist, these things run their course. But not only did 80s horror start to open up with more supernatural themed flicks like the A Nightmare On Elm Street films, that cleverly added an incorporeal villain and surreal elements to the slasher formula, but the films started to reflect the overall buoyant mood of the 80s with brighter cinematography, more humorous tones and even began to reference and acknowledge past films and filmmakers. The first ‘inside’ reference I can remember was Sam Raimi’s subtle shout-out to Wes Craven by having a The Hills Have Eyes poster displayed in the basement of the old cabin in 1981’s The Evil Dead…to which Craven responded by having Heather Langenkamp watching Evil Dead on TV in the first Elm St movie. In terms of the lighter tone, the first time I noticed it was back in 1982 with Friday The 13th Part 3. When I saw it at my beloved Oritani Theater, I was kind of taken back by it all. The film had a very colorful production design, had a lot more humor than the first two installments…including characters that seemed to be there just for comic relief…and seemed to almost be having fun with the fact that we’ve been through this twice before. Jason went from a creepy, deformed backwoodsman to a hulking comic-bookish monster complete with iconic hockey mask. The film’s trademark kills were a bit more elaborate and far-fetched, as if the filmmakers were getting a bit playful with Jason’s M.O. The tone shift seemed to be starting, but without knowing what was to come in following years, I was simply disappointed with the flick and had no idea the trend would continue.

And the shift did continue with the advent of Freddy Krueger who was creepy at first, but quickly became a wisecracking, demonic gremlin that pulled people into his dream world for elaborate and outrageously gimmick-laden fates. The movies were far more fun than scary, but these films at least were more creative and imaginative than the simple stalk and kill films that came before them, though I missed the intensity and the serious tone of films like The Prowler. Flicks also started to jokingly reference their inspirations, like 1986’s Night Of The Creeps which names every character after a horror film director of that era like “Chris Romero”, “Cynthia Cronenberg” and James Carpenter-Hooper”. We also got MTV inspired films like the music filled and music video styled Return Of The Living Dead, the classic The Lost Boys, as well as, the neon-lit Vamp. Those films were far more entertaining than they were frightening as The Lost Boys even has a touch of Spielberg in it’s over-all tone…reminding us of the stark example of what happened when Carpenter’s grim and gory extraterrestrial The Thing went up against Spielberg’s bug eyed visitor from E.T. in 1982No better an example of the start of audience change of taste in the 80s than was the beating Carpenter’s now classic sci-fi/horror got from critics and at the box office…though, I saw it at least three times in a theater!

The trend continued with even lighter and more humor-laced films as we headed toward the 90s with flicks such as Waxwork, Chopping Mall and Night Of The Demons which were loaded with as many laughs as they were scares and gore. The MTV generation was being fed films that were faster paced, brightly colored and took themselves far less seriously as the arrival of music video and the end of the Cold War had created an era that was a bit more overindulgent and the films of the day reflected this. Even somewhat more serious horror like 1988s Intruder and the 1985 classic The Re-Animator still openly had a good time with their premises and occasionally winked at the audience, which films now acknowledged were sitting there and were familiar with the type of flick they are seeing. Earlier 80s films rarely acknowledged that they were a movie and that there was a horror savvy audience watching, but the second half of the decade was filled with movies that referenced those earlier films and were quite aware of themselves and who their audience was. They played to that audience instead of simply telling their scary story. And at this point Freddy Krueger was turning girls into giant cockroaches and Jason was a zombie battling telekinetic teenagers. Even the old school boogiemen had traded in their scares for more outrageous and silly story lines with each installment, as almost every horror hit became a franchise. Michael Myers also returned in 1988 to now stalk his young niece…why not his second cousin too? Needless to say by the time 1990 rolled around, horror had become burnt out and silly until horror master Wes Craven would revive it as pop-culture-reference filled heavy nostalgia with a bite in Scream… but that is another story.

Another aspect of the shift that may not have been as noticeable to the average audience, but was very noticeable to film buffs was in how these films were now being made and how they looked. By 1985 the home video market was in full swing. I should know, I worked at a Palmer Video back then. Direct to VHS films were starting to appear due to the cost effectiveness of not having to produce film prints for theater showings. And a lot of the horror films of the later decade were being made with the home video market in mind. Even some of the ones that got theatrical releases lacked that theatrical look. Gone were the cinematic visuals and widescreen presentations. Flicks like Witchboard and Waxwork had the look and feel of a TV movie and were filmed in the more TV screen friendly 1:85 format. Only some of the big studio releases and films by veterans like Carpenter and Craven maintained that theatrical look in their visual styles and still looked like a movie made for theaters. A disappointment to those who find the film’s visuals as important as their story and content. And another example of how drastically movies changed from 1980 to 1990.

Whatever the course the horror films of the 80s took, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for these movies, good or bad. Whether it be the more serious chillers of the early years, or the reference heavy, lighter toned flicks that came later on, it was a decade when I came of age and was most influenced by movies and was still a time where a low budget flick like Galaxy Of Terror or Final Exam could see the inside of an audience filled theater. And not only was I proudly there to see it, but will never forget it. And now, decades later, many a night when my social calendar is empty, I can be found in a darkened living room, on the couch, with some of my favorite brews, reliving those days long gone, but never…ever…forgotten!

… and one of the reasons I now share my passion for those movies with all of you!

-MonsterZero NJ

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The Oritani Theater: 300 Main St. Hackensack N.J Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

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25 CULT CLASSIC HORROR FLICKS TO SPICE UP YOUR HALLOWEEN MOVIE LIST!

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Need some spooky diversions for your Halloween movie watching this year? Something a little off-beat? These are 25 cult classic horrors that add some ghoulishly refreshing spice to your movie playlist for the upcoming Halloween season!

(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. THE BOOGENS
  2. THE PROWLER
  3. BLACULA
  4. THE EVIL
  5. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
  6. PROM NIGHT
  7. CHRISTNE
  8. SUPERSTITION
  9. THE CAR
  10. FIEND WITHOUT A FACE
  11. RE-ANIMATOR
  12. GALAXY OF TERROR
  13. PRINCE OF DARKNESS
  14. GARGOYLES
  15. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK
  16. THE BURNING
  17. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP
  18. THE MONSTER SQUAD
  19. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS
  20. JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES
  21. MY BLOODY VALENTINE
  22. BUG
  23. DEADLY BLESSING
  24. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
  25. EATEN ALIVE

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: GALAXY OF TERROR AND FORBIDDEN WORLD

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GALAXY OF TERROR (1981)

This sci-fi horror from Roger Corman has it’s problems, but for the most part, is a well made and effective film that actually stands on it’s own despite being inspired by the success of Alien. There is some clunky dialog and choppy editing, but there is also spooky and tense atmosphere throughout and some good creature effects and gore. The film has garnered a reputation over the years based on the ‘giant worm rape scene’, but it really is a good little sci-fi/horror that has plenty to offer aside from that quintessential Corman moment. The flick follows a rescue mission to the dark and mysterious planet Morganthus, a planet of horrors that holds a dark secret. The eclectic crew of the Quest must try and survive the mission and each other, as unknown forces seem intent on their demise. The cast is effective and includes Edward Albert, future Freddy Krueger Robert England, Happy Days’ Erin Moran and genre favorite Sid Haig. James Cameron of Titanic and Avatar fame was the production designer on the film, as well as, the second unit director and the set decorator was future actor, Bill Paxton. As usual, another Corman production featuring talent who would go on to fame and recognition. His films were the start of countless careers. A personal B-movie favorite. You can just see the similarities in production design with Cameron’s classic Aliens.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 and 1/2 giant space worms!

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FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982)

You have to be a fan of low budget B movies to appreciate this sci-fi/ horror from Roger Corman’s New World pictures. If you are, sit back and enjoy all the cheezy SPFX, nudity, sex and gore this fun and strangely stylish Alien inspired horror has to offer. Let’s not forget the slimy, nasty space monster that’s the cause of all the bloodletting. And if that’s not enough, the nubile Playboy bunny scientists that are responsible for all the nudity. Forbidden World is filmed by director Allan Holzman with an almost psychedelic music video style as it tells the story of a soldier, Mike Colby (Jesse Vint) sent to an isolated research station on the remote planet Xarbia to deal with a genetic experiment that has gotten out of control. Colby not only has to battle a growing and hungry genetic mutant, but handle not one, but two hot and very horny female scientists (Dawn Dunlap and June Chadwick). The type of B movie they just don’t make anymore. One of the last of it’s kind. Crack a few beers and enjoy!
MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Yes, you’re not imagining things, those are fast food containers lining the walls of the space station. Corman thriftiness strikes again…
…and this may be the only film in movie history where a cancerous tumor is used as a weapon. Only in a Roger Corman production, folks!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 “Dingwoppers”!

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A SPECIAL PLACE: THE ORITANI THEATER IN HACKENSACK, N.J.

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The Oritani Theater: 300 Main St. Hackensack N.J Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

A SPECIAL PLACE: THE ORITANI THEATER IN HACKENSACK, N.J. by MonsterZero N.J.

Everyone has a special time and place in their lives that they will always remember. For me it was the Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. during the late 70s and early 80s. A place which was an important part of my youth and played a large role in developing my tastes in movies and my love of movies in general. Since I will probably mention this special theater quite often on this site, I might as well tell you a little bit about it and why it is special to me…

Grind-house is a term used to describe a movie theater that showed low budget exploitation films as opposed to more mainstream movies. The Oritani triplex in Hackensack N.J. could definitely be described as a grind-house, presenting badly dubbed martial arts, horror, and raunchy low budget comedies. I was fortunate enough to have experienced seeing a lot of great exploitation films on it’s screens before the video age killed the grind-house and these movies went direct to videotape and now DVD.

My first visit to the Oritani Theater was in 1976. It was still a single auditorium theater at that point and my parents took me there to see the cheesy rubber monster-fest, “At The Earth’s Core” which was on a double feature with the sci-fi/horror “Bug”. It was an odd double feature and a herald of things to come. I would venture there a few more times to see delightfully cheesy fair like “The Incredible Melting Man”, but it wasn’t till a few years later when visiting the Oritani would become an almost weekly occurrence.

I started high school in 1979 as a new kid in Ridgefield Park N.J., a small town where everyone grew up together. My parents had divorced and my mother remarried and we relocated there to live with my new stepfather. I was an outcast at first and it was the other outcasts that I bonded with as friends. My pals Roger, Ray and Dorian all held similar interests and movies was one of them. Ray especially was a big horror and gore movie fan and I wonder if he still is. We weren’t old enough to drive and Hackensack was in walking distance, so Friday and Saturday nights were spent walking along the railroad tracks that paralleled the Hackensack River into town and onto Main St, where the Oritani theater was located. The Oritani was now split into a triplex, so there was at least three movies to choose from each week, more with the occasional double feature. If the weather was bad, Ray’s grandfather drove us, so we were there almost every weekend, sometimes twice. There was always something playing there to catch our interest. Worse came to worse, there was the Fox theater across the street, which showed it’s share of exploitation flicks, too.

Obviously what we saw there was a mixed bag. I remember seeing the classic “Shogun Assassin”, as well as, one of my all time favorites, “Escape from New York”. But for every future classic, there was a “Final Exam” or a “Revenge of the Shogun Women in 3D” which evoked more laughs and mockery then chills and thrills. I discovered the films of David Cronenberg watching “Scanners” there. My first exposure to Cronenberg’s work and he has become one of my favorite filmmakers. Got to see some early Charles Band productions there like “Laserblast” and “The Day Time Ended” before he embraced DTV and started making films specifically for the home video market. I also saw “Mad Max” there starring a then unknown Mel Gibson, which was on an odd double feature with “Humanoids from the Deep”, another great B movie from Roger Corman, whose movie productions I love. I saw Corman’s answer to “Star Wars” and “Alien” respectively, “Battle Beyond the Stars” and “Galaxy of Terror” at this special theater, too. Both had production design by a then unknown James Cameron who went on to direct “Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Titanic”. Future memories formed watching future stars. You’d be surprised how many acclaimed actors and filmmakers had their start in these movies…whether they acknowledge it or not.

The audience at the Oritani was as diverse as the selection of flicks and these movies brought everybody together to laugh and shout comments at the screen as one audience. Whether it was to challenge a master’s skill in “Kill and Kill Again” or question the threat factor of one of “The Boogens”, the audience became part of the film. Some of the comments heard were better than the film viewed and I will never forget them. When the film broke before an epic battle in “Shogun Assassin” and restarted after the fight ended… well, you had to be there. I’m glad I was. Even when I revisit that B-movie classic today, it doesn’t seem quite the same with that jarring bit of missing footage now intact.

Unfortunately, video tape came along and exploitation film studios realized it was cheaper to release things directly on tape than to spend money on prints and advertising. The grind-house died and the Oritani died with it. There are now a couple of stores standing where the Oritani used to be and I can’t name one of them. Don’t care to. I wish I could name the last thing I saw there*, but in it’s final run, the Oritani tried to save itself by becoming more of a mainstream movie house, so we stopped going. By then we were old enough to drive and could see these mainstream movies on a newer, bigger screen with better sound. I remember one night coming out of the Fox theater, we might have gone there to see John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, and I gazed across the street to see the Oritani marquee and feeling sad that “E.T”. was playing there and not some cool exploitation flick or low budget horror. Maybe in my heart I knew at that moment that those days were now gone and to an extent, so was the Oritani I knew and loved. And sadly, it was. The Oritani closed in 1983, the year I graduated high school. Perhaps a bit symbolic of the end of my youth, or at the very least, the end of an era. I will never forget this special theater nor the impact it had on me as a movie lover. I cherish the memories of all the great B-Movies I discovered there, seeing them on the big screen where they belong. The spirit of the Oritani Theater still lives within this movie geek, though and on many a quiet Saturday night I get a six pack of my favorite brew and pull some of the great B-movies first seen there from out of the collection and relive some of the memories of that very special place.

The Oritani Theater  1922-1983.

*UPDATE 2/8/2015: After a lot of deliberation and checking of release dates, I have come to believe that “Friday The 13th part 3 in 3D” may very well have been the last film I saw at the Oritani Theater. If correct, Friday 8/13/1982 is the last time I was at this great theater and special place…and the 3rd “Friday The 13th”, the final film. -MZNJ
-MonsterZeroNJ
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