December 14, 2013


CLICK HERE to visit Sandy Hook Promise.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the victims from each of their families.

CLICK HERE to visit Moms Demand Action.

CLICK HERE to visit Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

CLICK HERE to visit Americans for Responsible Solutions.

December 1, 2013


CLICK HERE for more information from

CLICK HERE for an excellent post on the JOE MY GOD blog about AIDS activism history.

CLICK HERE for a direct link to the image gallery mentioned in the post above.

CLICK HERE for an archive of topical articles from The Advocate.

CLICK HERE for a list of Massachusetts state resources.

CLICK HERE for information specific to health insurance coverage under MASSCare.

November 24, 2013


Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone in GRAVITY.

GRAVITY has grown into a monster hit and, as I noted in my review, is easily one of the best movies of the year. One of the many memorable sequences in the film has been given new life thanks to a seven minute short that is currently making waves on the festival circuit.

Fans of GRAVITY will surely remember the profoundly tragic scene that sees Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) trapped in a Russian space capsule. She comes face to face with her own mortality while listening to a disembodied voice on the other end of a garbled radio signal. Think back to the barking dog and crying baby and you’ll know the exact moment I’m referring to.

Putting a unique spin on things is Jonas Cuarón. His short film ANINGAAQ offers an alternate take on the proceedings by showing us the Earth-bound side of the harrowing sequence. Cuarón is the son of GRAVITY director Alfonso Cuarón.

As The Hollywood Reporter recently noted, Warner Bros. has decided to submit ANINGAAQ for Oscar consideration in the live-action short category. See what all the buzz is about right here:

October 24, 2013


It’s time to put the third and final nail in our Halloween horror coffin. For our freak finale, we’re veering off the well-lit road and venturing onto the moors to take you places you’ve probably never been before. It’s a look at the most terrifying scenes from midnight movies, cult favorites and creepy imports. Be afraid…be very afraid!

NOTE: This post contains plot details and, in some cases, spoilers. In each installment of this three part series, films are listed alphabetically. Rather than cluttering the post with tons of video players, a link to a clip of each scariest movie moment is included. Some of these clips are particularly graphic. You have been warned.



NOTE: This film was released theatrically in the US as THE GATES OF HELL (1983).

No tour of the annals of “Gore Obscure” would be complete without including films from Italian horror masters Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. Let’s put a proverbial pin in Argento for a bit while we tackle CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, a “what the hell did I just see” freak show from Fulci. While THE BEYOND gets all the fanboy love, this little darling made for a far more unsettling experience.

The plot is really just a means to an end but, in a nutshell, the gates of hell have been opened and zombies with super powers (yes, super powers) start killing people in some very horrible ways. A reporter (played by Christopher George) rescues a psychic who has been buried alive (don’t ask) and the two must close the portal to Hades or the dead will be in charge for good.

I rented this movie back in the days of VHS and the one scene that still flips me out involves a date gone horribly wrong. What starts as an innocent bit of kissy kissy between a young couple in a parked car ends up going way south thanks to one of the amped up undead. Using zombified psychic powers, he causes the female half of the duo to toss ALL of her cookies. Intestines, stomach…you name it, it comes up. Just when you think it can’t get worse, she uses her boyfriend’s head as a stress ball. I kid you not.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



Had I not been the manager of a video store in the late 1980’s, I probably would never have heard of this film. Made on a shoestring budget and seen by very few people outside of the director’s circle of friends and family, LADY IN WHITE is a darn good little ghost story. It is well worth your time if you can get your hands on a copy.

Told as one long flashback, the action starts on Halloween, 1962 in the small town of Willowpoint Falls. Little Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is the victim of a prank and ends up locked in a school cloak room overnight. Before the sun rises, he will see the ghostly re-enactment of a little girl being murdered and survive an attempt on his own life by the same killer. The rest of the film follows a dual track: piecing together a puzzle from the past (the ghost story) and figuring out the identity of a notorious child murderer.

I love when a film or TV show can take an iconic song and make it really creepy. THE X-FILES did it with the Johnny Mathis classic “Wonderful, Wonderful” in the terrifying “Home” episode. In LADY IN WHITE, it’s the Bing Crosby standard “Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?” The song is a key element in the storyline and the moment it is used to reveal the identity of the killer is easily the scariest scene in the film.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

MIMIC (1997)


Let’s begin back-to-back bug-fests with the dark, dank and violent 1997 horror/sci-fi opus MIMIC from director Guillermo del Toro. Though it came and went pretty quickly at the local multiplex, this is one of those films that got a well-deserved second chance on home video. I liked the theatrical cut but, in 2011, del Toro released a slightly longer and even better realized “director’s cut” on Blu-ray.

The excellent cast includes Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Charles S, Dutton and F. Murray Abraham. Sorvino plays an entomologist who genetically engineers a super insect designed specifically to eradicate cockroaches that are carrying a deadly disease. The “Judas Breed” isn’t supposed to be able to reproduce but, of course, we know how that turns out. Not only can these buggies have babies, they soon develop an uncanny ability to mimic (and chomp on) humans.

There’s a ton of good scares in this atmospheric thriller but the most shocking sequence sees two young boys become dinner for a very hungry mansect. The unwritten rule that kids usually survive in these films is tossed out the window by del Toro. The result is effective, brutal and truly disturbing

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie from Amazon.

THE MIST (2007)


You might have noticed a lack of Stephen King adaptations in this series of posts. Aside from the fact that most of them kinda suck, THE SHINING has never given me a cine-gasm and I look at CARRIE as more of a classic tragedy than a horror film. In fact, we would be King-free had someone not recently given me a heads-up regarding THE MIST, a box-office dud directed by Frank Darabont.

Darabont, the guy responsible for the stellar first season of THE WALKING DEAD, took a so-so King novella and turned it into a gripping combo of a “big, scary monsters running amok” thriller and a doozy of a parable about the fragile nature of civil society. It’s one of those movies where humans can be just as horrifying as the things that are trying to eat them. Be warned: if bugs freak you out, there are some very large and very deadly insects front and center throughout the second half of the film.

The bulk of the action takes place in a supermarket where a cross section of townsfolk are holed up while fighting to survive an onslaught of progressively larger (and meaner) beasties. There’s a ton of character development (rare for the genre) and Marcia Gay Harden plays a religious zealot who you can’t wait to see die a horrible death. She’s creepy, but the scariest moment, by far, is a trip to the pharmacy next door. What starts as a mission of mercy to get some much needed medication quickly becomes a living nightmare when the creepy crawlies turn the place into a Hometown Buffet.

It is worth noting that THE MIST has one of the most cruelly ironic and profoundly sad endings I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not predictable but it will hit you like a gut punch.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



EL ORFANATO (THE ORPHANAGE) was easily one of the best films of 2007. Yes, it’s subtitled but get over your issues because this is a gothic horror masterpiece that Hitchcock himself would love. There’s a reason it shows up on just about every “best of” list right before Halloween. It’s that good…and scary to boot.

Brilliantly directed by Guillermo del Toro protégé Juan Antonio Bayona (who also helmed the excellent 2012 Indian Ocean Tsunami epic THE IMPOSSIBLE), EL ORFANATO is a movie that creeps under your skin and keeps you squirming throughout. It’s not gory or violent but it is exceptionally well crafted. Bayona does masterful things with lighting, sound effects and editing. When he wants you to jump, you jump.

Ostensibly the story of a woman who buys the orphanage she grew up in (along with the ghosts that may or may not inhabit it), this dark and tragic tale also manages to touch upon topics as diverse and profound as love, loss, marriage and HIV. The film belongs to lead Belén Rueda. Her journey on the razor edge between sanity and insanity is a marvel to behold. It also makes the harrowing ending of the film even more deeply resonant. EL ORFANATO is a movie that sticks in your craw long after you leave the theater.

There’s more than a few jolts to get through and a little imp named Tomas (pictured above) will become the stuff of your nightmares, but the most memorable scene by far is known as "the regression." It’s a dazzling bit of editing trickery and spot-on sound cues. Bayona does amazing things with very little dialogue and some well placed monitor cameras that track a visiting medium and her contact with the other side. Chilling stuff.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie on Amazon.



Let me preface this entry by noting that PHANTASM is not a great film. It’s ultra-low budget and the cast runs the gamut from South Florida dinner theater quality to something only slightly better than the acting in a corporate safety video. With all that said, it is a midnight movie freak fest unlike anything you’ll ever see. More importantly, it has the “Tall Man” (Angus Scrimm), one of the most creep-tastic horror movie bad guys ever.

There is a plot, but going into detail is pointless because once I start talking about dwarf zombies, portals to other planets and a trio of heroes that includes an ice cream man, you might begin to question my taste and my sanity. Heck, I’m doing both as I write this.

If you know anything about PHANTASM, it probably involves the aforementioned “Tall Man” and a flying metal sphere equipped with sharp blades and a handy drill bit. All of that and more can be seen in my choice for the scariest moment in the film: a hoot of a chase through a mausoleum. Dead guy…party of one.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase this movie from Amazon.

REC (2007)


2007 was a good year for groundbreaking Spanish horror films. On the high end, we’ve already taken a peek at EL ORFANATO. At the other end of the spectrum, the place where things get really dark and visceral, we have REC. It takes the “found footage” genre, flips it on it’s head and then beats the bloody pulp out of it. Unlike the wildly overrated (and crappy) PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, this little monster is a damn good movie. It isn’t “just because” mindless gore. Speaking of, REC got an American make-over in 2008. That film, QUARANTINE, was a piece of poo.

REC is largely confined to one claustrophobic setting: an apartment building where an infection seems to be taking over the residents one by one. All of the action is seen through the camera of a fictional documentary TV series. It’s a wrong place/wrong time nightmare that gets progressively more unnerving as it builds to a shattering climax.

Just when you think you have this thing pegged, the story veers in an unexpected direction. The reveal of exactly what is causing people to turn into violent maniacs is unexpected and it leads to what I think is the single most “holy shit” final act of any horror film I’ve seen in years. It’s just over three minutes of pure terror. I get the willies every time I watch the scene.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



The first time I saw SUSPIRIA was in 2011 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Yes, among many “only in LA” things is seeing movies projected on the side of a building in a grave yard. Oddly enough, the setting was the least bizarre thing about this twisty mind-bender from Dario Argento.

You should know up front that SUSPIRIA is one of those movies you will either love or send me a nasty note for recommending to you. It’s a glorious and gorgeous celebration of gratuitous gore and astounding production design. The score, courtesy of Italian rock band Goblin, adds an additional layer of creepy. Never has a film been so repellant and so beautiful, often in the same maggot or manic filled moment.

Set in a fancy German ballet school (yes, you read that correctly), the all-over-the-map plot swirls around an American student named Suzy (played by doe-eyed Jessica Harper) and a coven of pissy witches who never met a nubile ballerina (or teacher) they didn’t want to kill. As the two grandes dames in charge, the full-tilt scenery chewing of vets Alida Valli and Joan Bennett (her final big-screen film) is itself worth the price of admission.

Argento is known for orchestrating on-screen deaths of near operatic proportions and none fits that bill better than the terrifying demise of Suzy’s friend Sarah (Stefania Casini). After being chased by an unseen baddie, the poor girl doesn’t look before she leaps. What she thinks is an escape route is actually a one-way trip into a room full of razor wire. You’ll wish that was the end of the scene…it isn’t. Be happy the clip I link to isn’t in HD.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



WHEN A STRANGER CALLS was re-made in 2006 and, like most re-makes, it sucked. Skip it and jump in your wayback machine. The 1979 original has one of the scariest opening 20 minutes of any film on this list but, it’s the scream-inducing finale that I’m going to celebrate.

What starts as a classic “baby-sitter in peril” story, morphs into a hunter/hunted chase film and ends with a kick ass bang. Carol Kane plays the sitter, terrorized by a manic who taunts her with phone calls and the refrain “have you checked the children?” The police eventually trace the calls: they’re coming from inside the house! The children have been dead for hours The cops show up in time to save Kane and nab the killer (a strong turn by actor Tony Beckley, who died shortly after completing his work on the film).

The middle section of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS takes place after the psychopath escapes from an asylum. Unbeknownst to him, he is being pursued by John Clifford (Charles Durning), a retired police officer turned private investigator. The killer eventually figures things out. He gives Clifford the slip and disappears...temporarily.

Re-enter Kane, now grown with a family of her own. The murderous nutter resurfaces so he can finally finish her off. The finale, in Kane’s bedroom, is a shocker. You think her husband is in the bed next to her…surprise! Unbeknownst to Kane, he’s knocked out in the closet and she’s getting cozy with a madman. The moment he turns over and reveals himself is one of the few times I remember an entire audience screaming in unison.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

That, dear readers, brings the curtain down on our three part look at some of the scariest movie moments. Before you retire to your bedroom (or crypt), enjoy one final dose of terror. It’s the full trailer for my favorite movie on this list: EL ORFANATO. Tomas is waiting for you...

October 19, 2013


Invading aliens, angry monsters, vengeful spirits and nature gone berserk. A chance encounter with any one of these terrors is probably going to ruin an otherwise lovely day. Keep watching the skies as we dive into part two of “Scariest Movie Moments.”

NOTE: This post contains plot details and, in some cases, spoilers. In each installment of this three part series, films are listed alphabetically. Rather than cluttering the post with tons of video players, a link to a clip of each scariest movie moment is included. Some of these clips are particularly graphic. You have been warned.

ALIEN (1979)


When I saw ALIEN back in 1979, I was just shy of my 13th birthday. With my dad in tow (again), we strolled into the movie theatre blithely unaware of what we were about to experience. R-rating aside, there was no internet or social media spoilers in those days. I hadn’t yet read any coverage of the film in Starlog and the now classic trailer deliberately left just about everything to the imagination. That first screening of the Ridley Scott classic scared the bejeezus out of me.

Everything about ALIEN was new and it took audiences completely by surprise. Suddenly, the “lived in look” of outer space (pioneered in STAR WARS) had become a nightmare world. It was gritty, ugly and every character on screen was in a state of constant danger. Scott took all of the trappings of a classic gothic horror movie, dropped them into a far flung corner of the universe and created one of the best science fiction films ever made.

Picking the scariest scene in ALIEN is a tough one. I flirted with that doozy of an ending in the escape shuttle and the intense sequence that ends with the death of Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) but settled on the iconic “chest burster” demise of Kane (John Hurt). Out of nowhere, a perfectly mundane crew dinner turns into a blood bath. The scene is brightly lit and there is no music. Didn’t matter. When that metal mouthed nasty tears through Kane’s midsection, I jumped and  lost half a bag of peanut M&Ms. It’s the moment in the film when you know the stakes are real and there is no turning back.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

THE BIRDS (1963)


Alfred Hitchcock followed the box-office sensation PSYCHO with THE BIRDS, his last truly great film. It’s as much a traditional horror movie as it as another attempt by Hitchcock to upend a tired genre. He pulls the whole thing off in grand style. THE BIRDS has no traditional musical score and ends on a downbeat, wholly ambiguous note. The entire plot turns on nature run amok but never offers a clear explanation for the full-tilt flip out by anything with feathers and wings.

Even more delicious, just about every one of Hitchcock’s female-focused hang ups is on prominent display. Mommy issues? There’s Lydia (Jessica Tandy), the brittle and clingy mother. Bizarre bias against brunettes? Husky-voiced Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) has you covered. Fascination with unattainable, icy blondes? Watch a flock freak out poor Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren).

For me, the scariest moment in THE BIRDS is the one that always pops into my head first: the discovery of Dan Fawcett’s body by Lydia. Those brief, jump cut shots of his pecked out eyes stay with you for life. The lack of any musical cues and Tandy’s spot-on reaction of silent shock makes the entire scene viscerally terrifying. It seems almost real…which is exactly as Hitch wanted it.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



I love CLOVERFIELD. From the brilliant pre=release marketing to the spectacularly shot production itself, it’s a wild and scary ride that packs a punch. The film breathed much needed creative life into the “found footage” genre; which had been beaten close to death in the years since THE BLAIR WITH PROJECT.

From a production perspective, there are more than a few similarities with THE BIRDS. Because everything we are seeing is supposedly video from a camcorder, there is no traditional musical score. CLOVERFIELD doesn’t have a particularly upbeat ending (one of the final deaths almost took “scariest moment” here) and we are never given a definitive reason for the monster arriving on the scene.. These atypical, non-Hollywood flourishes made the entire film much more effective and frightening.

The scariest moment happens after the huge monster has made its presence known. Four of the main characters are on the run and make the mistake of ducking into a subway station. What follows is a claustrophobic and chaotic trek through darkened tunnels that ends with a terrifying attack by a nasty horde of “parasite” beasties. They are vicious and relentless. When scores of fleeing rats aren’t the problem, you know things are pretty bad. This is also about the time you realize you probably shouldn’t get too attached to anyone on screen.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

THE FOG (1980)


My sister and I first saw THE FOG at a drive-in. It was on a double bill with PHANTASM (which will be featured in the final installment of this series). To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite B-horror films. I also like to pretend the dreadful 2005 re-make was just a bad dream.

High on atmospherics and very low on budget, director John Carpenter still managed to craft a tight little ghost story and stock it full of chills and “bump in the night” jolts. The top-shelf cast includes the first on-screen pairing of mother/daughter Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis, along with Hal Holbrook, John Houseman, Tom Atkins and (my favorite) Adrienne Barbeau.

THE FOG is set in the quaint seaside hamlet of Antonio Bay on the eve of the town’s centennial celebration. The basic plot involves a group of ticked off ghosts on a mission to avenge their deaths at the hands of six duplicitous town founders. Our first sighting of these spectral sailors happens on board The Seagrass, a small fishing trawler. The three man crew never makes it back to port. They are skewered and gutted in a spooky scene that sets the stage for the action that follows. There’s very little gore in this particular sequence but effective use of sound and lighting make it a scary standout nonetheless.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



NO, Steven Spielberg did not direct POLTERGEIST. That urban legend has been laid to rest by Tobe Hooper, the guy who did helm the modern horror classic. You can decide for yourself if you believe there is any truth to the “Poltergeist Curse.” (which I think is a bunch of hooey). None of that matters because this is a damn good fright film and it holds up remarkably well.

Sure, there are scares a plenty and the “…it is The Beast” line (courtesy of Tangina, played to perfection by Zelda Rubenstein) still sends chills down my spine but you can’t talk about POLTERGEIST and not have someone confess to still being creeped out by the infamous clown scene. It plucks just about every childhood nightmare nerve in your body (and any fear of clowns you carry with you into adulthood). The minute you see that evil looking stuffed doll, you know the thing is going to cause problems…you just don’t know when.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

THE THING (1982)


John Carpenter directed this superb remake of an equally fine classic. Both THE THING and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, the 1951 black and white original directed by Christian Nyby (or Howard Hawks, depending on who you talk to), are based on the novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr. Though initially a critical and box office dud, thanks in large part to a bleak ending and the massive attention being heaped on ET: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (which had opened two weeks prior), Carpenter’s film became a cult favorite. and has since received a positive reassessment by critics.

While the Nyby/Hawks version is a straightforward “creature on the loose” tale, Carpenter ratchets up the terror (and paranoia) by hewing more closely to the central conceit of the source material: the alien “thing” can assimilate and duplicate any life form it comes in contact with. One by one, the crew of an Arctic expedition becomes monster meat…literally. The groundbreaking, pre-CGI make-up effects were created by a then 23-year-old Rob Bottin. Kids, everything you see on screen was created by hand without the aid of digital pixels.

There’s a ton of over-the-top gore in THE THING but the scene that always gets me is the blood test. Leading the battle for survival is helicopter pilot RJ MacReady (Kurt Russell). After witnessing several spectacular deaths, he reasons correctly that any part of this alien life form will fight back when threatened…even a small blood sample. The scene oozes with  mounting tension, classic misdirection and “holy shit” brutality. For the love of god, MacReady, light that damn flamethrower!

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

The third and final chapter in this trio of terror is coming soon. While you’re waiting, step into my parlor and allow Mr. Hitchcock to sell you some of his most precious birds.

October 16, 2013


Welcome to your (highly subjective) nightmares! This is the first of a three-part look at some of the scariest moments in movie history. You won’t find many of the usual suspects here nor will there be any of that crappy torture porn (sorry, SAW and HOSTEL fans). These are films that run the gamut from iconic classics to cult favorites, along with a few titles that might be new to you.

The only hard and fast rule here is that, in order to be considered, the film must have been released theatrically. That means no made for television movies or direct to video cheapies. These are the scenes that will shock you, make you scream or hold your hands in front of your eyes while reminding yourself “it’s only a movie.”

NOTE: This post contains plot details and, in some cases, spoilers. In each installment of this three part series, films are listed alphabetically. Rather than cluttering the post with tons of video players, a link to a clip of each scariest movie moment is included. Some of these clips are particularly graphic. You have been warned.



Made for less than $25,000, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT grossed almost $250,000,000 at the North American box office. Not only is it one of the most successful independent films of all time, it also started the “found footage” genre and remains one of the most intensely debated modern horror films. I’m in the camp that loved the movie. It does a terrific job of building terror and suspense over the course of a tight 81 minutes with no gore and no fancy special effects.

The mock documentary focuses on Mike, Josh and Heather, three young filmmakers who venture into the Maryland woods in search of the legendary Blair Witch. They are never heard from again. Only the videos of their shoot survive. Using little more than sound effects and psychological suggestion, the film builds to a climax in a old, abandoned house. The final shot of Mike facing the corner, a chilling visual reference to a child killer that is part of the film’s mythology, still gives me the heebie jeebies.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



It’s really hard to pick just one scary scene from a horror movie like HALLOWEEN. It’s a genre classic that has survived multiple bad sequels and numerous pale imitators. Even after 35 years, it still packs a punch. HALLOWEEN may have launched a thousand awful slasher films but it is the original and still the best.

The first time I saw HALLOWEEN, the scene that gave me the biggest scare was Bob’s murder. You know something bad is going to happen because the lights are out and our poor victim just bonked his girlfriend Lynda (sex typically led to a gory death in the first wave of modern “maniac on the loose” films). What works so well here is director John Carpenter’s use of classic misdirection and that final moment, when Michael Myers pauses to look at his deadly handiwork as Bob hangs on the wall like a 3D painting (physics be damned).

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.



Philip Kaufman’s take on the 1956 classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is that rare re-make that can stand alongside the original. Both are among my all time favorite sci-fi horror movies.

Shot using desaturated color, in a cold, almost cinéma vérité style, Kaufman sets the film in then present day San Francisco. The gray and drizzly environs make a perfect setting for a tale of creeping alien terror. Unlike Don Siegel, director of the original, Kaufman was not forced to tack on a happy ending. That final moment, when we realize our hero Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) is no longer human, has become an iconic cinematic coda.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

JAWS (1975)


Apparently, my dad liked to scare the crap out of me because he took me to see JAWS in 1975, ten days before my ninth birthday. I still have vivid memories of what would become one of my favorite movie going experiences.

While the opening attack on poor Chrissie and Quint’s (Robert Shaw) bloody death get all the attention, the one moment in JAWS that still makes me jump is Ben Gardner’s corpse pulling off a shocking peek-a-boo. Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Brodie (Roy Scheider) go on a nighttime hunt for our finny killer after discovering the stomach contents of one shark contained zero human nuggets. They come across Gardner’s half submerged boat. Hooper takes a dive, discovers a big tooth embedded in the hull and then, without warning, old Ben pops out of a hole, sans eyeball. The scene never fails to get me.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

THE OMEN (1976)


It’s the film that made the name “Damien” synonymous with the devil. THE OMEN is a satanic tour-de-force. A first-rate cast, an uncompromisingly serious script and a series of now iconic set-pieces are just a few of the reasons this film has become an enduring horror classic. Watch it today and it still works magnificently.

While a casual observer might pick the scene when nanny takes a neck swing at Damien’s birthday party or the horrifying decapitation of Jennings (David Warner) by a wayward sheet of plate glass, for my money, any time Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw) is on screen, my skin crawls.

Whitelaw inhabits the role of Damien’s protector like nobody else could. Of all her creep-tastic moments, the one that really stands out is Baylock’s visit to the hospital where she kills Katherine (Lee Remick). What makes the scene work so well (aside from Whitelaw’s nightmarishly scary face) is how helpless poor Katherine is. Plus, she already survived Damien’s attempt to off her earlier in the film. In a lesser movie, living through a near-death experience would mean you’d make it to closing credits. Here, it sends you out a window head first into the roof of an ambulance. It’s a spectacular sequence made even more memorable because Mrs. Baylock came a-calling.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

PSYCHO (1960)


Just about everyone remembers the first time they saw PSYCHO. If you don’t, it’s probably because you haven’t seen it. Alfred Hitchcock directed his follow-up to NORTH BY NORTHWEST on a comparatively tiny budget using a TV crew and shooting in black and white. Not only is PSYCHO a genre classic, it’s considered one of the best movies of all time. It's a well-deserved distinction.

Everyone knows about the shower scene where Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is julienned. It’s probably the single most dissected three minutes in movie history. Yes, it’s a stunner but I’ve always thought the scariest moment comes later in the film. That’s when Arbogast (Martin Balsam), a detective looking for the missing Crane, has the misfortune of meeting “Mother.”

The sequence is exquisitely shot. There’s the gorgeous deep focus background as Arbogast climbs the stairs and that disorienting overhead view just before “Mother” makes “her” murderous entrance. Unlike the shower scene, here there is no warning of the bloodletting to come. Before you know what’s happening, the detective is slashed across the face and “Mother” has claimed another victim. Classic.

CLICK HERE to watch this scariest moment.

CLICK HERE to purchase the movie from Amazon.

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy a peek at the original promotional teaser for PSYCHO featuring Hitchcock at his macabre best!

October 15, 2013


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I’ve been a loyal MSNBC viewer since the days when Keith Olbermann was on the schedule and Rachel Maddow was his fill-in. The network has come a long way since its awkward launch in 1996 as a Microsoft/NBC News hybrid. The “MS” hasn’t stood for Microsoft since the company pulled out of the TV portion of the venture in 2005 and what started as a laughing stock has steadily grown to become the number two cable news network.

Over the past few years, MSNBC has staked out a center/left position as a strategic counter to Fox News. In the process,  the walls between the cable network and broadcast baby daddy NBC News have largely been torn down. This has given MSNBC access to a stable of seasoned NBC News vets but it has also created some awkward clashes between the cultures of partisan commentary and old school impartiality.

When you release the Kraken, a few nogoodniks are bound to exploit the beast for selfish reasons. It’s made some of the talking heads at MSNBC think they’re paragons of new journalism and, at the same time, caused a few NBC News staffers to occupy a soap box no one asked them to stand on. While most of the on-air personalities at MSNBC are doing a fine job in their respective roles, here are three worms that should be plucked from the apple.


Chris Matthews is starting to feel like Olbermann reincarnated (with a light dusting of Bill O’Reilly that tempers his lefty political tendencies). I used to be a fan of Matthews, even looking past that ball of spit in the corner of his mouth and his tendency to chew more of his words than he speaks. However, since the last election, he’s mutated into an erratic curmudgeon with an annoying habit of cutting off any guest whenever he feels the need to blurt out whatever pops into his head.

Matthews has also become one of those commentators who really believes he’s god’s gift. When your mind begins to think like a press release you wrote for yourself, all pretense of humility goes out the window. If Matthews isn’t lavishing ridiculous praise on guests (mostly just for showing up) he’s making grandiose proclamations and predictions that run the gamut from odd to downright loony.

THE ED SHOW coming back to weeknights and knocking Matthews down to a single hour at 7PM was a welcome change. Of anyone currently filling an evening slot on MSNBC, Chris Matthews is the one weak link in the chain. I’m definitely not playing HARDBALL anymore.


Remember the old saying “who died and made you boss?” Well, Chuck Todd has fast become the living, breathing embodiment of that very question. He’s loud, loutish and arrogant; a massive ass hat you can’t help but want to smack square across his doughy face. Of course, Todd is so in love with himself, he’d probably mistake the gesture for a sign of passionate adoration.

Unlike class acts Pete Williams and Richard Engel, Chuckie never met a news item he didn’t have an opinion about. He can’t just report a story because, in Chuckletown, he IS the story. Todd has gone from journalist to commentator to center of the known universe, often in the span of a single appearance on MORNING JOE. He pontificates, bloviates and just plain grates, all while managing to never lose the smug smirk of dickishness that is his calling card. When Todd makes a mistake or misspeaks he does what any classic twit would do: more of the same.

If you want to see what large swaths of the hoi polloi think of Lord Chuckalot, just do a Twitter search of his name. He has the distinction of doing something no elected official can these days: uniting people left, right and center. Too bad that unity is based on showering Todd with comments that make mine here look kind by comparison.


Luke Russert is the Jaden Smith of the news world. He’s proof that a famous papa is often all you need to score a plum gig you have absolutely zero talent for. If I ran Google and you Googled “nepotism bad,” Luke Russert would occupy at least the first half dozen pages of search results. Plain and simple, he’s an affront to journalism (and kind of a jerk, to boot).

Let’s see..what bugs me most about Li’l Lukie? I’m not sure if it’s the blank stare of his squinty rat eyes, the ever-present look of constipation on his face or the nagging feeling that every time I see him on camera it still seems like I’m watching his audition tape. Russert has a talent for stating the obvious (but acting as though he's showering us with pearls of wisdom) and I suspect that every time he mentions one of his “sources” what he’s really talking about is the search engine on his office computer.

Truth be told, I never bought into the myth that Tim Russert, Luke’s daddy, was all that. He seemed like a pleasant enough guy who was, at best, a competent journalist. There is no doubt in my mind that Li’l Lukie would not be stinking up TV news if his famous father hadn’t died suddenly. I have no problem with someone using an “in” to get a leg up on the competition but, when you have no business being a journalist and your head is so inflated that you’re incapable of seeing how badly your shit does indeed stink, that’s where I draw the line.

October 12, 2013



It’s rare that I watch an interview several times back to back and am moved to tears every time. That’s the effect the incandescent Malala Yousafzai has on people. Jon Stewart’s is rendered speechless several times during his conversation with her. His reaction is genuine and profound.

There’s really no need to blast the Taliban assassins who tried to murder Malala Yousafzai because, in all honesty, that single cowardly act has become one of the biggest epic fails in the history of failed terrorist crimes. Plus, we all know there’s a special place in hell for them.

Included here is the original in-episode interview with Yousafzai from THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART as well as the extended after-show discussion. Please note that these embeds are streaming directly from the Comedy Central site. Some mobile browsers may not support the required plugins necessary to view the videos on you phone or tablet.






CLICK HERE for more information on the Malala Fund.

CLICK on the image below to buy the book I AM MALALA from Amazon.

CLICK to buy I AM MALALA from Amazon.



Remember when air travel used to be fun? You know, back in the days before you were poked, prodded and wanded prior to boarding. When airline staff gave a damn and, even though the food in coach sucked, the rubber chicken was free. Sadly, that trip is now limited to those flying nostalgia class.

But wait! There are some beacons of hope out there in the unfriendly skies. Airlines that go the extra mile and at least try to make something tolerable out of flying in a big toothpaste tube with wings. In most cases, a passport will be required because we all know US domestic carriers aren’t exactly tearing it up when it comes to excellence in customer service.

Personally, I’m all about travel foreplay. You know, the tender caress of the airport lounge. The warm snuggle of a genuine smile when you board. That happy feeling you get when you watch a really good in-flight safety video. Yes, I said safety video. I bet you think they’re all that dull background noise you ignore while you pray the big bird doesn’t go down. Think again!

Here are three examples of airlines that turned the functional into fabulous. Remain seated and enjoy!

Portugal is a lovely country full of beautiful scenery and wonderful people…and I’m not just saying that because I'm half Portuguese. What I love about this video from TAP (aside from the wacky Austin Powers-esque music bed) is that everyone featured is an actual passenger. This is the first time any airline has used real people in a safety video. Plus, if the guy who points out the emergency exits was sitting next to me, I’d be one happy flier.

Air New Zealand has a reputation for creating irreverent and elaborate in-flight safety videos. Last week they launched their most buzzed about production to date. Why all the fuss? Betty White is the star! Not only is the video funny, it’s further proof that White pretty much rules the world. The two flight attendants featured (and credited, nice touch) are easy on the eyes and, yes, that’s Gavin McLeod doing a clever cameo. Why? Who cares! It all adds up to yet another reason to hop on a plane and visit the country everyone loves.

I’ve saved the craziest for last. Thailand is very special to me. It’s a country I’ve had the pleasure of visiting twice and both trips were transformational experiences. It's a magical place. That’s why I love this over-the-top production from regional carrier Bangkok Airways (a lovely airline I have flown). You really have to see it to believe it and then watch it again just to make sure you really saw what you think you saw. It opens and closes with an all singing, all dancing, all badly lip synced musical extravaganza that defies logic and basic principles of choreography. Of course, that’s what makes it so wonderful.

October 10, 2013



Full disclosure: my dad has Parkinson’s so it’s a subject matter that hits pretty close to home. He also has a killer sense of humor and would be the first person to tell you to leave your pity and platitudes at the door. It’s a mindset I find both refreshing and inspirational. That’s why it’s especially nice to see a major television network give a vote of confidence to a series that could help destigmatize the disease.

If you’re avoiding THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW (Thursdays at 9:30PM E/P on NBC with next day streaming on Hulu) because you think it’s going to be a Parkinson’s pity party, you can rest easy. It’s anything but. If, however, you have yet to tune in solely because you’re worried about being uncomfortable watching Fox, that’s a real shame. This charming series is one of the few new sit-coms that generates any real laughs.
Michael J. Fox and Betsy Brandt from THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW.
Fox plays Mike Henry, a popular New York news anchor who retired after his condition became too much of a distraction on air. He wasn’t forced into mothballs. It was a decision he made following an embarrassing “rolling chair” incident during a live broadcast.

Now a stay-at-home dad, Fox is driving his family up a wall. What he sees as innocent attempts to encourage his wife and kids to eat a meal together or enjoy some quality bonding time, end up going over like lead balloons. They love him but prefer a “less is more” approach to familial togetherness.

After some backdoor maneuvering by his wife Annie (Betsy Brandt) and Harris Green, his hilarious lothario of a former boss (Wendell Pierce), Mike reluctantly heads back to his old TV stomping ground. Brandt and Pierce do uniformly excellent work here. Neither overplays it and both create endearing characters. It’s especially fun to watch Pierce cut loose in a major departure from his signature roles in THE WIRE and TREME.
The Henry clan from THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW.
It’s also a nice touch that the key players look and dress like real people. Sure, they’re a well off family living in New York City but their environs feel authentic and appropriately lived in. For a show with three younger actors in lead roles (the Henry children), there is admirable restraint in the "precocious kid" department. This isn’t FULL HOUSE with Parkinson’s. Thank goodness for small screen favors.
Jack Gore and Michael J. Fox from THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW.
The “talking to camera” structure will feel familiar to MODERN FAMILY viewers but things are much more grounded here and less self-conscious. The creators aren’t taking a screwball approach to the proceedings. Production values are exceptional for a single camera comedy with nice use of outdoor city locations and real NBC studio space.

THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW feels like a warm down comforter with some added loft via a front and center depiction of day to day life with Parkinson’s. This is a show that earns its frequent laughs and feels like it has long term potential if it can find an audience. It definitely deserves one.


MJF found


Kerry Washington in SCANDAL.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is dedicated to four very special women I’m lucky to have as friends: Tammy, Desiree, Shawn and Adrienne, much love. See, sometimes persistence pays off.

SCANDAL (Thursdays at 10PM E/P on ABC with next day streaming on Hulu) has the distinction of being one of the few shows I’ve given myself multiple opportunities to get into. Each time, I never made it past the silly pilot. Still, I adore Kerry Washington and have several close friends who go ga ga for the series. “I must be missing something,” I thought. So, with a tumbler of pinot in hand, last weekend I embarked on a 30 episode binge-a-thon and finally cracked the code! I can now say, officially, I’ve been SCANDAL-ized.
Darby Stanchfield, Kerry Washington and Columbus Short in SCANDAL.
The best way to enjoy SCANDAL is to accept a set of givens and surrender yourself to them. Here’s what you have to suck up if you want to get on board:
  • It’s Shonda’s world (as in series creator Shonda Rhimes) and we’re just visiting. I run hot and cold with Rhimes. Personally, I respect the hell out of what she’s achieved but I don’t think she’s the flawless genius her die-hards make her out to be. For every GREY’S ANATOMY there’s an OFF THE MAP or a failed pilot like GILDED LILYS. Plus, based on often spectacular flame outs of cast members from all of her shows (Merrin Dungey, TR Knight, Henry Ian Cusick and Brooke Smith, to name a few), she’s one of those mercurial types I would never want to work for. Still, when she’s firing on all cylinders, she’s one of the most fearless producers in Hollywood.

  • The writing runs the gamut from just shy of amazing to just shy of cloying. It’s one of those shows where you can often “feel” the scripting process and picture a room full of writers slapping each other on the back for being so gosh-darn clever. This is more of a problem in the awkward first season when speechifying was a frequent crutch. Get past those episodes and things get much more delicious.

  • In Shondaland, there will always be at least one major character you’ll want to throttle. In SCANDAL, that distinction goes to Abby Whelan (played by Darby Stanchfield). When Whelan isn’t being a royal bitch (often for no apparent reason), she’s chirping like a magpie who refuses to shut up. Stanchfield is the weakest link in the core cast and has a voice that makes my ears bleed.

  • If you’re looking for logic or plots without holes, you will hate SCANDAL (seriously, if Huck is so good at what he does, why would he not know to alter the schedule of bug sweeps to Olivia’s apartment). What I appreciate, though, is that this is a show that loves its fans just as much as they love it. SCANDAL is proof that you can be asinine without being careless and silly without being stupid.
The infamous waterboarding of Huck (Guillermo Diaz) in SCANDAL.
In reality, SCANDAL is one massive conspiracy theory wrapped up in a hot-mess burrito of adultery, megalomania, paranoia, double crosses and full-tilt insanity. For all of it’s salaciousness, however, there is surprisingly little on-screen sex and what we do see is often wholly unsexy.

This is also the least “girly” series Rhimes has ever created. There are very few warm and fuzzies and it can get unflinchingly violent. It’s one of the few series I’ve seen on a broadcast network that had the balls to wipe out an entire family and show the bullet riddled corpses (dog included). The episode featuring the brutal torture of fan favorite Huck (Guillermo Diaz) made any hour of THE BRIDGE feel like a cake walk by comparison.
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in SCANDAL.
Kerry Washington is “fixer” Olivia Pope. It’s a role very few actors could play as pitch perfect as Washington always is. Make no mistake, Pope is beyond flawed. She is deeply and wholly screwed up. It’s a testimony to how gifted Washington is that she pulls it off so amazingly without benefit of much backstory. That missing link is finally being address this season. Daddy issues, anyone?

Aside from running a fancy crisis management business (with a few too many picture windows in the room where secrets are often discussed and displayed), Pope is bonking the President, takes on clients regardless of sleaze factor and was complicit in fixing a national election. Her adulterous relationship with the Commander In Chief forms the darkly twisted emotional core of SCANDAL. It’s a bold creative choice that takes romance in a decidedly disturbing direction.
Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington hug it out in SCANDAL.
While Washington has gotten the lion’s share of praise (deservingly so), SCANDAL is overflowing with great actors doing some of the best work of their careers. Rhimes has an uncanny knack for fitting the right actor in the right part, down to the smallest roles. She also refuses to abide by the traditional tropes of TV casting. That means you’ll see actors with wrinkles and imperfect bodies right along side the hotsy hotties. It’s refreshing.

Tony Goldwyn plays President Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant (written as a Liberal’s fantasy version of a Republican) with equal parts ferocity and pathos. He is excellent throughout. Pope is the love of his life but he is firmly in thrall to the 24/7 power struggles swirling around him. Grant wants her but can’t resist his innate need to possess that which is not delivered to him by virtue of his position. To makes matters more uncomfortable, his wife is well aware of the affair. Oh yeah, in his spare time, Fitz offed an ailing Supreme Court Justice. Bless his little heart.
Bellamy Young and Tony Goldwyn in SCANDAL.
Speaking of the First Lady, all hail the miracle that is Bellamy Young and her bravura performance as Mellie Grant. Young takes what should be a thankless role and turns it into something that you have to marvel at. Hell hath no fury like a Mellie scorned.

Young plays the FLOTUS as Lady Macbeth, Nancy Regan, Hillary Clinton and Darth Vader all rolled up into one very pretty, very dangerous and very tragic character. You love to hate her, you hate to love her but you never lose that twinge of sympathy for her lot in life (even though it’s as much her doing as it is the result of circumstances beyond her control).
Kate Burton in SCANDAL.
Even hootier is GREY’S ANATOMY alum Kate Burton. She plays the Bible-thumping, morality spouting Vice President, Sally Langston. Burton is clearly having the time of her life in the role but, every time her character flirts with going cartoon, Burton’s acting chops and some sharp dialogue pull Langston back from the brink. Not only does it humanize her, it gives us some of the best “private moment” scenes in the series, like the Veep’s conversation over scotch (neat) with the President in the season opener.
Quinn (Katie Lowes) really gets into her work in SCANDAL.
Supporting players are also uniformly strong. With the exception of that Darby chick, Pope’s squad is a blast to watch. This includes Diaz as well as Columbus Short (playing attorney Harrison Wright) and Katie Lowes (Quinn/Lindsay). It’s as funny as it is disturbing to watch Quinn turning into Huck’s little protégé. She’s the last person you’d expect to see using a drill to extract information from someone but, lo and behold, there it is. Guys will not enjoy that scene. Ouch.
Dan Bucatinsky and Jeff Perry in SCANDAL.
SCANDAL also has the distinction of taking us behind the scenes of the single most wackadoo gay marriage you will ever see in primetime. One half of the couple is White House Chief of Staff Cyrus Beene (played to venom spewing perfection by Jeff Perry). Power is his aphrodisiac and his twisted devotion to President Grant borders on the sadistically fetishistic. That he’s also a sociopath with a penchant for permanently eliminating any human obstacle in his way, well that’s just icing on the cake.

His hubby, James Novak (played by Dan Bucatinsky), is an ambitious but unremarkable journalist who is easily distracted by shiny objects like exclusives with the First Lady or an adopted baby. Unbeknownst to him, Novak was also almost one of Beene’s expendables. Bucatinsky manages to do quite a bit with a poorly written recurring role. His Emmy win was well deserved.
Brenda Song and Joshua Malina in SCANDAL.
Rounding out the regular cast is the always reliable Joshua Malina. A vet of THE WEST WING and SPORTS NIGHT, here he plays AUSA David Rosen, the whipping boy for almost the entire run of the series. My one wish is that the wretched DADS gets cancelled and Brenda Song returns as Alissa, his legal secretary and welcome comic relief.

For a show created by a woman, SCANDAL has no major female characters who fill the “role model” slot. What I do like, however, is that Malina is playing the kind of role that would typically be played by a woman if a man was calling the shots on the show.
The cast of SCANDAL.
SCANDAL isn’t a show that yanks your chain. They pack more into a single episode than most series cover over a partial season. As is the norm for an ABC drama, production values are first rate. There's a rich, almost cinematic quality to the lighting, wardrobe and set design.

Still, the “camera shutter” scene transitions are lame and frequent montages using awkward freeze frames and rapid cutting are better left to second tier film school productions. None of that gets in the way of enjoying what is easily the most riotous, rambunctious and ribald serial to hit network television since a UFO abducted Fallon in the sign-off of the ill-fated DYNASTY spin-off THE COLBYS.

Fortunately, SCANDAL is no one-hit wonder. It puts the “opera” back in soap opera.

CLICK HERE for a great “catch-up” post from The Hollywood Reporter.