Rick Patterson's "Film Fury"

Anyone who reads my column knows that I shift hard into two gears, writing about how the horror film has touched my life and formed my persona and creative being, or looking at the genre respectively. For this outing of Film Fury I want to ride in both lanes a bit. It may seem like a Jacob’s Ladder time jump of a journey. But by the time we get to the end of this trip, I hope, in my own humble way, to inspire some of you.

1981

I am a 9 year old observing one of the greatest years in genre film history: Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Superman II, Time Bandits and Escape From New York. (Specifically, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York) This John Carpenter guy had his name above the title of this and Halloween. This, coupled with the making of the George Lucas space opera, planted the seed in me that all this fantastic entertainment was made by people... it was their job. And I wanted to do that. I had been drawing since the age of five and creating stories, inspired mostly by the comic books I read. But movies captured me in an exhilarating way that Spider-Man & Batman couldn’t touch.

1987

I am a 15 year old still invested in the idea of making films. But reality is what it is. No matter how many books I read on the likes of Spielberg and his contemporaries, who made films on super 8, it didn’t change the fact that my Mom did the best she could financially. And it couldn’t provide the equipment needed for me to make my own movies. My estranged Father made it clear that making films, or anything creatively, was something he didn’t plan on supporting. So, I wrote short stories. But they all felt like movies I watched on HBO or Cinemax. For example: Escape From Deathcamp 13. This was my attempt at a dystopian tale. The Government has deemed wickedness and evil to be hereditary. The offspring of these men and women are placed into camp for “re-programming”. There were also many horror stories of monsters and madmen. And so it went, until the day came that I finally made a movie.

1988

The island city of Alameda, California. I am 16 years old in my bedroom. I have hustled my little brother Michael into being the lead in my first flick. I am on my back with my Radio Shack brand video camera. It takes a full-size VHS tape and is a Christmas gift. I am framing Michael as he sits at the edge of a bed, muttering to himself about a masked person who keeps following him. The Mask was the tale of a young man released from a mental hospital and stalked by a figure in a skull mask. It ends in a non-sensical finale where the figure pulls the mask away to reveal... Michael himself. Our character is killed by his mirror self who then occupies his identity. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But hey, it was a movie. My first movie.

The 1990s

Many films would follow in my teenage years on that island. Everything from action to my first love - horror. Here’s a sampling of my Reel World Entertainment productions. Danner’s Fortress; the story of a professional thief who is hired to steal a computer disc from a Mafia Boss’ walled in apartment complex. It was sort of like The Raid. Wake The Dead; a horror comedy about two guys who sneeze loud enough to, well you get it. Trailside Terror; a slasher film shot in the Oakland Hills. Xenomorph; an Alien rip-off in the wasteland of WWIII. Vanguard Cowboy; a fully scripted, but only partially shot crime film about an undercover cop who begins to enjoy his double life. And finally, my first feature length film, Hard Edge; an homage to John Woo & HK cinema that was reviewed in an issue of Alternative Cinema. It was my film family’s calling card and we felt that it was enough to waltz inside Roger Corman’s office. The plan was simple; Come with our flick in our hands, walk out with a three picture deal and work with the likes of Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Andrew Stevens on karate flicks and monster movies. But, life happened. Mom passed away and I had what could be only described as a mental breakdown.

The 2000s and Now

I am writer. A creative. I used to not be. I was a laborer crawling through attics to make unappreciative assholes’ dwellings the perfect 72 degrees. Life has happened. Lots of pain. Lots of joy. Loved ones lost. Battles for my oldest son in court. Meeting the love of my life. Having another son and a beautiful little girl. Stuck in many dead-end jobs to do the “safe” or “smart” move. Then I nearly died. Movies were still always a part of my life. Like my kids, I can’t imagine a world without them. I always kept the candle burning to make that world a possibility. There were many false starts in my creative heart. Many screenplays and short stories. I made a short film with my daughter, a toddler at the time, called Ni VS Ghostface, shot on an iPhone 3. The title says it all really. A mock trailer for The Deadtime Tales, a zombie anthology that I envisioned helming with myself and William Lustig and the late Jeff Burr. The screenplay is pretty solid and I hope to make it someday. Reel World Entertainment has been replaced by Film Fury Entertainment. I am in pre-production on two projects. Cut Down The Middle, a love letter to both Giallo and found footage films. And A Sunday Drive, a short film about a father teaching his daughter how to drive… in the apocalypse. It will star my daughter and possibly myself, and will act as a primer for directing before Cut Down The Middle.

And here we are. You’re thinking, "What does this have to do with the title?" Stick with me. I saw Clive Barker once at a convention Q&A. He claimed that he is always expecting someone to tap him on the shoulder and say that none of this (his career) was meant for him. That it was meant for someone else. That he’s so blessed to make up these things for a living. He was also pissed about, funny enough, the Twilight films. “Is this where our genre is going?”. He then gave us a call to arms. If you love horror and you have tales to tell. Do it. Write. Direct. Act. Paint. Bring the monsters to light. As I laid in a recovery room I thought about that. I never told my tales the way I wanted to. Now I am.

Don’t wait. Answer the call to arms to make horror. Make it an eight-arm beast unleashed in your own movies, stories or art. Stop waiting for that tap on the shoulder.

See you in Pittsburgh!

A Call To Arms...

Eight Of 'Em!

by Rick Patterson

Febuary 2024

I watched Dawn Of The Dead the first time with eyes agape in awestruck horror and astonishment. My Mom had brought the VHS rental home from the local Mom & Pop video store. The HBO video case, like many video rentals of the time, utilized both a hard plastic case and its original sleeve art. It’s box art (of a zombie rising in a series of three images) called out to Mom. I immediately connected with Fran, Stephen, Peter and Roger. Roger! The fucker was as cool as a summer breeze. When his leg was torn into, my heart literally sank. It became one of my favorite films and remains in my constant rotation to this day.

My young sons fell for Dawn as hard as their Father. Derek, my oldest, was enamored with Roger. But my youngest, Caleb, found himself pulled in by Stephen. Maybe it was the Flyboy nickname. Maybe he felt bad when Peter gave him an attitude adjustment on the airfield. Years later I would have the pleasure of watching Romero and my boys at Chiller Theater. “Why did Flyboy have to die?”, Caleb asked. George, being his usual jovial self, gave the short and accurate answer of: “You have to blame the writer”. I got it. The boys didn’t. Then Romero belted out with deep, bellowing laughter. Then followed up with: “And I’m the writer”.

We were a Dawn Of The Dead/George Romero - lovin’ family and a pilgrimage to Monroeville, PA, specifically The Mall, was a necessity. Returning from another horror convention, we made it happen. My wife and I timed it perfectly. We woke the boys from their slumber as we turned off Route-22, with Goblin on the CD player. We asked the boys to guess where we were. And with a perfect music queue, their eyes met with the sign reading: Monroeville Mall. They freaked. Circa 2005, the Mall had gone through many changes, but not so much that it didn’t resemble the coolest movie location of all time. We walked through the lower level entrance nearest Macy’s, where semi-trucks were parked as barricades, into the world of Dawn Of The Dead. As the sliding doors closed I pointed to a large window. The boys voiced a “Wow!” as they learned this is the same area where the biker gang drove thru in the mall attack. We walked the remaining footbridge where zombies were removed during the cleanup. We found the hallways traversed by our heroes throughout the flick. We didn’t slide down the JC Penney’s escalator, but we took the trip down, allowing our hands to slide against its midsection. Caleb, being the little booger he was, brought us to tears of laughter when he proclaimed our hands touched the area where Roger’s butt had been. The boys played in the Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood play area. (Fitting, because one of Romero's first directing gigs was filming a few short segments for Fred Rogers' popular children's series.) Photos of my boys doing their best zombie impersonations were taken. We stood outside Penney’s on the second floor, at the end of our pilgrimage and all imitated Peter. “When there’s no more room in hell”. And life was good. We returned to Monroeville many times over the years. Usually for conventions like Pittsburgh Comic Con & Steel City Con. And with each visit more of the Romero-era mall started to fade away. The famous escalator was dismantled after 2009. In 2015, the footbridge was removed and given to the Heinz History Center. The Living Dead Museum had relocated, but did eventually return to the mall with its artifacts intact.

2018 brought us back to Monroeville for a few days of rest. Our oldest son, Derek, left for college. A huge moment of change for us and it would be difficult to get used to. Some go to Disney World. We went to the mall. It also seemed to make sense, since it would be our own remembrance of George, who had passed a year earlier. My daughter Niobi hadn’t seen Dawn yet. She was still a Disney chick. It was so different walking the Dead’s steps this time. So much had changed. And with Derek gone, more so. Couldn’t even take Ni to the same Mister Rogers’ playland.

Then life and COVID.

December of 2023 we retuned to the “Burg” as a family - boys and all. It was Ni’s birthday weekend. She had now seen Dawn, was officially a Steelers fan and was ready for Steel City Con, where the cast of Scream would be guests. The plan was to see a game and get autographs on her Ghostface art. And a visit to the mall! The rest of the family had been discouraged by its changes, so it was going to be a Daddy/Daughter day mostly. We hit the con on Saturday and got ‘em all. Neve, Matthew and David complete. Now…to one of those big indoor malls.

I gave her the tour. Less than the boys. But I saw the magic in her eyes. She was dazzled by it all. She reminded me of myself. Standing in certain areas and recounting the epic. We went to take a pic with the Romero bust, but the seating area was filled with people having lunch. Smiling Romero was waiting. We didn’t get him.

I bought her a Monroeville Zombies hoodie. And as we stood at the edge of Penney’s, before I could quote our flick, Ni asked a deep question for a newly 13 year old. “Do you think anyone down there knows? All the cool stuff? All that was made here?”. I looked down at the Romero bust, still occupied by lunch patrons. “I guess not, baby. People forget”. She rested her head against my arm. I then paraphrased, “Grand Dad was a priest in Trinidad. He said…”. And Ni quickly joined in, “When there’s no more room in hell…the dead will walk the earth”. It was a lovely moment. Still didn’t get George. Maybe next time.

As we left the mall I wish we could have driven to airfield from Dawn, but that too is gone. And I found myself terribly melancholy. How much more will change by the time we return? How long until the last few vestiges of this important film fade? Did the owners of the mall never realize the sheer opportunity of money to be made by embracing its history? The airfield building? Torn down due to vandalism instead of saving it as a historical landmark. It all seems so wasted. The works of George during his time in what he considered his home are of great importance. Not just to horror fans, but to film history. Pittsburgh was once a place of immense innovation in business, technology and the arts. Romero and crew were a part of this. And Monroeville played a key part with the production of Dawn Of The Dead. And seemingly, they have all forgotten. The walkers of the mall. The patrons eating before smiling George. Many who live there. And all those memories, to quote an earlier entry, have scattered through the air like bugs.

See you in Pittsburgh!

January 2024

When We Pretend That They're Dead:

The Fading Of George A. Romero's Monroeville

by Rick Patterson

Mom adored Michael Ironside. I mean on an obsessed teenage crush level... an Elvis Presley fan level. Like she would have probably passed the fuck out if she met him in person level. Most are likely aware of this Canadian badass. The ill-informed may do a side Google on him to question how on earth this man could warrant said obsession. My Mom was not the one to go for “pretty boys”. Robert Forster. Wings Hauser. Stephen Macht. They were her poison. Some ladies would watch Tremors and fawn over Kevin Bacon. Mom was all about Fred Ward.

The first time she saw this “good looking man” named Michael Ironside, was in Visiting Hours. One would think he portrayed a heroic character. That would be a logical spark for this flame. Nope. Ironside is a serial killer... a pretty scary one, too. But in that maniacal, nuanced performance; she found a dreamboat.

Science Fiction introduced me to Ironside in 1983. In V: The Final Battle he was the anti-hero. A gunslinger. A thinning haired chaotic good to Mike Donovan’s perfectly styled cut of lawful good. Ham Tyler was an ex-CIA operative and mercenary. A force to be reckoned with. Where Marc Singer would have ballet-like fisticuffs with the enemy, Ham would just annihilate them. And so, one of my cinematic Fathers came to be. He kept me glued to the screen, like Steve McQueen or Charles Bronson for the previous generation. You just want to emulate that charisma.

Mom and I watched many an Ironside flick over the years. Usually he was the heavy, as in Watchers or Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice. Like in V, these characters were also tough hombres. He took a slight turn as the intergalactic baddie Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone. He was Darth Vader meets Don Corleone.

Major Payne was my mom’s last Ironside. Her health had worsened and she didn’t get to watch as many flicks. In 1997 she passed. She never had her own Ironside and it saddens me. I mean obviously she wasn’t going to marry the man. Though that would have kicked serious ass! Having Tyler as a stepdad? Yes, please. What I mean is that it saddened me that she never had someone on his level. Someone with that look and vibe. Most importantly, someone who gave her that feeling she had when she saw Ironside on the screen.

January 6, 2015

I am at my HVAC job, passing the time with podcasts as usual. Chris Hardwick’s new episode featured the Ironside! It was an emotional hour of laughs and tears. Learned about his close ties to family. His love for his children. The fact that he just looks at his kids and finds himself in awe. Then his battles with cancer. It was hard to not admire him on a new level.

Monster Mania 57

I had a few goals for Monster Mania, PA: 1. Spend time with my wife and daughter. 2. Professional contacts for further progress on a film I am making. 3. Get my daughter to meet additional cast members of Scream. It was a mere two days before the event when I discovered

that the Ironside was going to be making a rare appearance there. Little Ricky surfaced with excitement. I may be able to meet Ham Tyler!

I gave the Hardwick show a re-listen. It hit me much harder this time. His ideas of family values aligned with mine. His words on mortality hit home. The extra innings of life after his cancer with the severe depression that came with it. I knew what he meant. The same feelings came with my being a heart attack survivor. I wept through most of the show. Meeting the man was added to the list of goals for the con.

Monster Mania and I are in a toxic relationship. I say "never again" but keep going back for more. I told myself this time it would be different. I’m not here as a vendor. I’m here for my kid. Cale, Niobi and I are in line. Since open. Approaching three o’clock now. The lines for the cast of Scream are huge. Ni has decided that her only signature obtained will be Matthew Lillard. I would say her ability to delineate her needs and wants is from me. But that’s all her mama. Cale had mentioned finding the Ironside a few times and I finally relented. No bones about it. I was nervous. Cale held our place in Lillard’s line, while Ni and I went looking.

His line isn’t far from Scream central. Ni lasted ten minutes and went back to team Lillard. I could see Ironside clearly. Grayer. But it was him. Fifteen down and a group of middle-aged visitors later, I’m at a table with Ironside photos. I’m a few feet away from him. I select a cool shot of Ham. “Who do I want it made to?” I’m asked by his assistant. Not much thought needed. “Ricky and Dottie”, I say. The assistant jots it down. Shit! My turn. The script in my head’s stuck in translation. Michael Ironside extends his (I mean this kindly) monstrous hand. Mine is swallowed by it. Imagine shaking hands with Ben Grimm. “You know who I am”, he chuckles. I introduce myself as he reads the post-it. “Well, you know I have to put Dottie before you. Ladies first”. I explain why that’s perfect. How Mom adored him. How Visiting Hours started it all. He laughs again, “Come on”. I begin to recount how I swore to myself if I ever got to meet him, I would tell the tale of Dottie’s love of him. I’m crying by this time. He see this, stands up, comes around the table and motions me towards him. He gives the bear hug to end them all. He smells like calm, if I could find a way to describe the scent. He pulls back and gently slaps my shoulder. “You know she’s up there getting a kick out of all this?”. I nod. And I know she is. Time is fleeting, so I refer to the podcast and how the things he said mean more than ever... and of my heart attack. Shakes my hand again. Still feels awesome. “Congratulations”, he says. “You’re part of the club now. What are you gonna do with your extra innings?”. I tell him of my writing and projects, one that involved him. He gives me his info and one final handshake. Then I walk away with my signed photo. Stunned.

I’ve had some time to process the event. Even a few words with Mom. It was a life altering moment to trump some of the horrible ones from the last couple of years. It reminds of why I want to create. It reminds me of how I need to get up and brush myself off and set forth again. Ham Tyler got up again after cancer, four times! If he can do that - my movie surrogate Father - then surely, I can.

I can be like Mike… Ironside.

December 2023

by Rick Patterson

I Want To Be Like Mike... Ironside

On October 10th, 2023, filmmaker Jeff Burr left us. And the movie world is the worse for it.

The average filmgoer probably doesn’t recognize the name. But if you were a horror fan in the late '80s and early '90s, then you knew him well. Jeff was born in Aurora, Ohio in 1963, but was moved to Dalton, Georgia at an early age. It became his home during his formative years, the shooting location for his first feature and ultimately his final resting place. Following in the footsteps of creatives like George Lucas and John Milius, he attended USC film school. He dropped out in his third year to collaborate with a schoolmate on an ambitious civil war era short. Pairing with his USC classmate Darin Scott, he directed From A Whisper To A Scream in 1987 - where I first encountered his work.

I had moved with my family from Long Beach, California, north, to the island city of Alameda. A city I only knew from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Chekov’s search for “Nuclear wessels”. After being plucked away from my friends, I didn’t adapt well to the area. It eventually became an integral part of my life. I met my film family there, had my first crush on Lori, a cheerleader, made many a short film and a shot-on-video action flick. Overall, some of the best times of my young life. But in July of ’87 it was a tidal wave of depression where I self-medicated, as always, with movies. The Video House was the place to be on the island for your VHS rental needs. This was pre-Blockbuster in our neck of the woods and House had literally thousands of movies including Jeff’s first film - found in the new release section that I, and many others, discovered it under. The Offspring had an amazing cover. It featured the image of an idyllic suburban neighborhood at night. But the calm is being cut down the middle by a demonic creature ripping through the curtain of reality, into our world. Really quite good. LIVE entertainment produced a winning campaign for the release, pairing it with another low budget effort, The Outing, and coupled them on a single poster that was displayed in the front window of the store. My Mom would eventually commandeer that same poster for me. I threw the tape in the VCR without realizing the ride I was in for. Clu Gulager in a necro-love story. Civil war macabre. Carnival folk horror. All spun together by the always outstanding Vincent Price. It became one of my favorite anthologies after Creepshow.

Two years later Jeff resurfaces with The Stepfather II. And for a film where he had to endure his first clashes with money men, he did not disappoint. The film is a worthy follow up to the original with many intense, suspenseful moments. You could also see him establish his visual style and technique... as well as his ability to pull amazing performances from his cast. A skill that he would prove time and again… even on low budgets. With word of mouth on Stepfather II being positive, he was offered Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. Much like Stepfafher, Jeff wouldn’t air out his issues with TCM III publicly for a couple of years. So when I sat down in a theater for the film, I was oblivious to his grievances. For me, the third film in the series is a blast! In hindsight you can feel the studio interferences. But to Jeff’s credit, the film is damned entertaining and far from unwatchable. For me as a horror fan and fledgling director, he became as important to me as John Carpenter. He was like a Romero. And I eagerly waited to see what was next. And the 1992 Eddie Presley was that next. A project that Jeff turned down Hellraiser III to do, it was a project close to his heart. This was the first time since Whisper that he was directing original material. I read about it in Film Threat magazine, but didn’t see it until many years later due to lack of wide release. Eddie is the quirky tale of an Elvis Presley impersonator trying to get his big break. It is a heartfelt fucking flick, with its pain and desperation in front. For my money, it takes La La Land to the races as the story of Los Angeles dreamers reaching for a shot at success. And success eluded Eddie Presley; in 1993 Jeff helmed Puppet Master 4 / 5 and Pumpkinhead II. He attempted to make fun flicks and elevate them from low budget fare. Directors direct. And so he did.

In 2004 he came back with another passion project. Returning to the theme of horrors of wartime, Straight Into Darkness, is a true low budget epic. Utilizing knowledge from shooting Full Moon flicks in Romania, Jeff and crew pulled off studio level, awe encompassing moments. It was a film that gave him hope for a new chapter in his career. Sadly, another Eddie & Straight never happened. He went on to more Full Moon and low budget television movies like Tornado Warning & Devil’s Den.

In 2009 I got a chance to meet and hang out with Mr. Burr at Darkwoods Convention in Kentucky. He was a guest touring the vendor’s room. He stalked my table for grey market DVDs, finding Rolling Thunder. I expressed that I knew who he was and gave him the copy. I ignored potential customers and talked to him for hours about films, directors. I had the pleasure of being asked by him to come along for dinner with the con crew after the show. It was wild to be hanging out with a creative I had always respected. I was gifted many Hollywood stories, advice on my own films I wanted to make, and a care package of mini posters and copies of storyboards from Stepfather II. We passed info and we spoke via email and text a few times. There were plans to have him with us at a HorrorHound Convention before he eventually got repped. And I allowed life to get the better of me and never followed through on meeting up again. I was long planning a zombie anthology with Jeff, William Lustig and little ole me helming segments.

It hurt to read the news of Jeff Burr's passing. A '90s horror director who really should have been given that chance at the big time. Not much difference between Jeff and Renny Harlin. Both have talent. But one goes from a horror sequel to Die Hard 2. Not that he would have wanted it. Eddie Presley made today would become an A24 production. Jeff was a giant talent with a love for all of cinema, as well as fellow filmmakers. A genuine, kind person. The Friday after his death was a planned event for him at a Tennessee based film community mixer. Many would have met a mentor and friend for life that day.

See you on the other side, Mr Burr. Have some more stories.

November 2023

Jeff Burr: The Cinematic Gentleman

by Rick Patterson

Think of your favorite horror film. Take a second. I will even include non-horror films, here. Halloween? Night Of The Living Dead? Meatballs? (We all know part II is the superior film there. I’ll take an alien over pre-Venkman Bill Murray any day of the week.) Whatever genre, how did you feel after your first viewing? Terrified? Thrilled? Hellbent to turn around, buy another ticket and jump on that happy wagon again? Or was it another reaction? “Fuck that movie!” maybe? Or was it the opposite end of the spectrum. “That rocked! Better than the original!” (if a sequel). The fickle, ambivalent genre fan dates back many a moon. But the last few years it has become this Berenstain Bears-level enigma. “I loved it! Oh, wait. It kinda sucked”.

To say that Dawn Of The Dead is literally a horror masterpiece goes without saying. George Carlin would say “Then why say it?”, but I did. Now, here we are. Vulnerable. How could anyone then watch Day Of The Dead, and not be filled with the same excitement and awe as Dawn? I wasn’t lucky enough to see “Day” in the theater. My first viewing was a new release on VHS. From its opening moments I was all in. The characters! The setting! The gorgeous John Harrison score! I begged my Mom for a used copy at our local Mom & Pop and it went into regular rotation. Which for my Mom was a hard sell. She wasn’t a prude when it came to foul language, but with Day having a record number of F bombs she was weary. I still think it beats Goodfellas on that front. I eventually wore out the tape. Then owned the laserdisc. The DVD. And ultimately the Blu-ray. Over this time, as slow as a Hinzman, I started coming across Day Of The Dead opponents. At conventions. While hanging with fellow horror fans. Reading reviews on micofiche. Yes, this was pre-internet people! And though I personally knew geeks who enjoyed the film, the majority were calling this a Romero failure. Years never waivered my love of the film. Then I saw a fellow Romero fan and horror staple, that I will not name, publicly admit that they didn’t care for the film on initial viewings - with the justification that it was so different than Dawn. Fine I guess. Candyass. But fine. Then it was followed by others proclaiming the film to be the epic that it was. I pondered why the change of course from the naysayers.

“The third channel, it’s still running. Stop it, please, for God’s sake, please stop it. There’s no more time”. The final haunting momenta of Halloween III: Season Of The Witch were wrong. There was plenty of time…. for those who turned against the Myers-less sequel to have a change of heart. Much like Day, I adored it from the first time out. And again I pondered. What was happening here? How is it that two perfectly well-made films were tossed aside by the fanbase, only to be picked up again like a forgotten toy. It didn’t click with me. These films didn’t change. It wasn’t a Halloween 6, where a new coat of paint with its Producer’s Cut made a train wreck turn into a minor fender bender. It wasn’t The Stepfather III, where just the lack of Terry O’ Quinn instantly dooms the film. These were two of the best sequels of the 80’s, spearheaded by the genre’s best filmmakers. What makes someone not “get” the film the first time. The second. Then a decade later.

Over the years this enigma has changed teams. Messes like Smile or Skinamarink will go out and hit huge, while Doctor Sleep crashes. Now, we have horror fans clambering around films, only to re-evaluate them a year later. David Gordon Green’s trilogy of Halloween. I need to verge on this. Whose idea was it to call the new film in a series, or a reboot for that matter, the title of the original film? Rob Zombie’s Halloween IS a remake. The first in Green’s trilogy, which are sequels to Carpenter’s, is titled Halloween. Scream (2022) suffered the same. So we have Halloween (2018), Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. Now, I saw each of these in the theater. It’s Michael freaking Myers, of course I did. And if I had to pick the most enjoyable of them? I’d say Halloween (2018). But that doesn’t mean it stands with the likes of the original. Yet, fans of the film deemed it the “true” sequel to Carpenter’s. Right around the time of the Blu-ray release, the tide started to turn. Many in the conversation finally admitted the film’s flaws, which are many. Flash forward to 2020 and the release of Halloween Kills in the midst of Covid-19. The same-day and date sequel continued to violate the rules that Green and co-writer Danny McBride wanted to follow. Comments about their desire to keep Myers a “real person” went out the window once more. Halloween Ends became barely a Myers entry as he’s replaced by a troubled young man named Cory. Fucking Cory! Lovers of this one want to pull the Halloween III card to prove that a Myers-Lite flick works. Forgetting that Halloween III is its own thing and not a direct sequel. Pretty certain that even Stacey Nelkin’s curves would have failed to keep my interest in a Myers-absent sequel. And we are a few weeks from Green’s The Exorcist Trilogy. The trailer is not promising.

We have gone through many horror films, as of late, that fans treat as the second coming of Romero/Carpenter/Craven/Hooper. In addition to Skinamarink we have The Outwaters, Hellraiser (ugh), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) and so on. All you hear are the praises from the horror fanbase. Then time sets in. People think about it. They sort of realize it. I was in my 20’s when George Lucas gave us The Phantom Menace. Three times for this guy. I enjoyed it. But I also knew, with each viewing, it wasn’t a good movie. Knew it within 29 minutes and I never inflated it to be any more than what it was. I do get it. When you love the things we do, you want it to be good. You want it to stand with the old ones. I would argue that our genre is the most supportive. So attending the newest A24 (yeah, sure, it’s a horror film) or the newest flick with the trailer quote of “The scariest film since The Exorcist” is the price we pay for horror.

So, if you see my handsome mug in line at the newest film that's "scarier than The Blair Witch Project", let’s chat. Tell me how the new Hulu horror flick is easily the best thing you’ve seen in years.

I’ll ask you what you thought of Day Of The Dead the first time around.

by Rick Patterson

October 2023

I Love It! I Hated It! Oh, Wait.

II wrote Underworld... the story of Vampires and Werewolves locked in combat over centuries, where the vamps have taken over the drug trade in modern day Los Angeles. Two hard boiled police detectives find themselves teaming up with a mysterious DEA Agent who is, in actuality, a Werewolf - a Werewolf with an agenda: for his kind to wipe out their blood sucking enemies once and for all! Ok, I didn’t write the Underworld you’re thinking of. No Kate Beckinsale in tight leather outfits sporting two guns in John Woo fashion. My co-writers and I crafted our Vampire/Werewolf war along the lines of 80s flicks like The Hidden and Dead Heat. High concept was the industry term. We just thought it would be badass to see a Howling style Lycan riding a stolen crotch rocket.

It’s December 1990. We are a few weeks away from the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part III. My film family was giddy with excitement. The storyline seemed questionable, but Andy Garcia as Sonny’s love child? Hell yeah! And for the record, Garcia to this day is an underrated talent. So, there we are, eating geek fuel (pizza and soda) and disposing theories of the fates before the Corleone Family. Which led to the conversation of The Godfather as a horror film. Could our favorite mafia film weave into the world of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Could Michael Corleone run the mob as well as turn his enemies into fine Italian cuisine? What about a King Kong VS Godzilla motif? Corleone VS Zombies? A few jokes came from it. And then, a spark. The Godfather in a world of Vampires! Laughs led to realization… That could work! Vamps vs law enforcement? Who would be the greatest enemy to vampires beside vampire hunters? Werewolves. Dollars to donuts, Werewolves! It would have to be werewolves. Creatures of the night duking it out! Within a few weeks we had seen The Godfather Part III and had been heartbroken. Coppola was on the decline. Though he recovered like a beast with Bram Stoker’s Dracula by ’92. During this time, one of my film family, Kevin DeAntonio, and I had started to put pen to paper for Underworld. During meetings with the group, we all threw out ideas that Kevin and I structured into a six-page treatment that paid many an homage to the films we grew up with.

Richard Cross and Edwin Cain, two Los Angeles detectives, are our leads. Yes, the name Cross is a little on the nose. But ever looking at the future, we thought a t.v. series called Cross & Cain, with our guys uncovering the supernatural in LA, could be a thing. I pictured Wings Hauser & Bruce Abbott as the duo. The opening scene finds them attempting to bust a semi-truck of drugs. During a firefight, they can’t help but notice that, no matter how many direct hits the scumbags they are engaged with take, they don’t seem to go down. Said scumbags escape into the night. Cross & Cain find not drugs but thousands of stolen blood bags (a nod to The Night Stalker pilot.) Enter Jean Paul DeCoteu, a New Orleans based DEA agent who comes to LA after hearing of the blood bag incident. I was totally inspired by Miguel Ferrer and his performance on the short-lived Stephen J. Cannell series Broken Badges, where he sported the Cajun accent. He rubs wrong with Cross & Cain by taking over the investigation and later, during another criminal altercation, reveals himself to be a werewolf. He’s part of a clan of wolves who have been warring with a vampire family led by Roland Cornielus, a 400-year-old vampire running his operation underneath a nightclub called The Coven. I was thinking Tom Savini for him. Roland’s sexy companion Amanda (Tracy Scoggins of Demonic Toys) and his right-hand Carter Stroud (Jeffrey Combs) are plotting to kill him and overtake the underworld. A subplot with Cross’ teenage daughter falling in love with Roland’s son Murdock collides with DeCoteau’s mission to bring his wolf clan to the city for a final battle. Think the finale of Return Of The King with vamps, wolves, SWAT teams and motorcycles.

Kevin and I registered the treatment with the writer’s guild and saved funds to take a trip to Los Angeles to pitch it! We centered on a target within a world we could navigate, a convention, and took a Greyhound bus to the southern California edition of the Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors. We figured this would be the way to network with the industry people we admired and read about in genre magazines. Bad call, Ripley. We should have hit the American Film Market or just knocked on random studio doors. But I was 19 years old and Kevin and I had a dream. To be fair, folks were nice to us. Tom Savini (amazing how many run-ins I have had with this man, but he won’t remember me) and Eric Red took our treatments. Tom gave a nod and a “Good luck”. I put more weight on meeting Red, who was a cinema God to me. His writing on The Hitcher and Near Dark was groundbreaking. And his directorial debut of Cohen & Tate still doesn’t get the credit it deserves. He gave us words of encouragement and explained that usually these things have to come from an agent. Agent? What’s an agent? We closed out the weekend with a 16mm showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

And then... nothing. We had absolutely no idea how to sell it or move on to the next step.

Flash forward to 2003. I am flipping through an issue of Fangoria and there, in The Terror Teletype, I find "Underworld. The Story Of A War Between Vampires And Werewolves." Now, let me continue by saying that I don’t feel our idea was necessarily ripped off. Sometimes ideas just eke out into the creative universe. Look at 1989 and the cascade of underwater horror/sci-fi films. And in the years between our Underworld and the one we all know, there were many similar ideas born. Innocent Blood (vamps vs the mob) and The Howling VI: The Freaks (vampire enslaves a werewolf) to name two. And quite a few people sued over the blockbuster Underworld… And won undisclosed amounts. I contacted horror lawyer Larry Zerner for help. We are registered! Didn’t matter, sadly. Turns out registration needs to be renewed.

Yeah, I wrote a different Underworld. No leather clad Kate. But I present to you from ours:

The credits have rolled and inspired by Young Sherlock Holmes & Masters Of The Universe (before Marvel) we have a post credit sequence. A metro Biker who we see earlier in the film having his Ninja stolen by a gun toting DeCoteau-Lycan, is on a pay phone with 9-1-1.

Operator: “I am sorry, sir. Can you repeat that. What stole your motorcycle?”

Biker: A fucking rabid dog stole my bike!”

CUT TO BLACK.

Now, that’s a quote for a t-shirt right there.

September 2023

I Wrote An Underworld

by Rick Patterson

Being a geek, nerd or fanatic has changed dramatically over the years. And when I refer to “years” I mean the early 1980s until the mid 2000s. Your average lover of the glorious drug known as science fiction and horror had very few avenues to acquire their supply. One of those avenues was television; broadcast, cable and syndicated TV offered many a fantastical tale. And for a nerd, it became the place to be on a Friday night. Why run the streets or get into trouble when you could start the weekend with an episode of Misfits of Science, Wizards And Warriors, V, Starman, Probe or, well, there were a lot reasons for folks like me to stay home. And on Friday, September 10th, 1993, a new reason to grab a soda, pizza and a comfy spot hit the airwaves: The X-Files.

I had seen the trailers for weeks leading up to the premiere. And as good as it looked, I kept my expectations low. Not so much that the quality wouldn’t be present, but other elements had to be factored in. This was a darker time for dorks like us. Not everyone and their second cousin were willing to watch science fiction on television. Shows like Hard Time On Planet Earth or Something is Out There had the lifespan of a Red Shirt. You may get a full season... or cancelled by Christmas. So, that Friday, with slice of pie in hand, I watched as the world of Fox Mulder & Dana Scully revealed itself. And it was all I had hoped for and more! I had already seen David Duchovny as the sad sack narrator of Red Shoe Diaries. A wonderful, intense series that I loved for its dramatic… breasts. Each episode had celebrity breasts. But, I digress. Duchovny’s Mulder was witty and charming. Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully was smart, kinetic and, needless to say, sexy like no tomorrow. With its creepy score and unique visuals, you'd think success would be a solid bet. But much like nerd shows of the past, there was little fire produced from its initial spark.

The X- Files would have to fight its way through its first season in the ratings. Not every episode was gold. For every pilot and Squeeze, there was a Jersey Devil or Space. The standouts of the second half of the season were easily my personal favorites: Ice, a Thing-like story with Mulder and Scully trapped in an Alaskan outpost with an alien parasite and Darkness Falls, where the duo encounter man-eating, prehistoric insects. At the close of Season One, all was left uncertain. Very reminiscent of the TV movies The Night Stalker & The Night Strangler; with Carl Kolchak nowhere closer to proving the monsters he encountered are real. The truth was surely out there with The X-Files. And if the series had failed to be renewed, it would have still worked. Leaving the audience with many what ifs. The show’s future was questionable and was on the chopping block. Fox Network execs and their leader Rupert Murdoch were not fans of the genre. Werewolf & Alien Nation were their previous victims of cancellation. But thank The Maker, a bean counter brought some intriguing numbers to the execs. Though the show wasn’t breaking records, it had its hold on a specific demographic no other series had. The age of those watching ranged from 18-60 and scored well with both men and women. And that saved the series. Season Two was given the go ahead.

And with its second season, The X-Files began its dominance of science fiction and pop culture of the time. For those not around to experience this, you have to understand the enormity of the show’s success. Not since Miami Vice and Twin Peaks had a series been able to engrave itself into the public consciousness with such speed. It became the archetypal water cooler show. People who never watched sci-fi were tuning in. Late night shows, The Simpsons and SNL wasted no time with skits and episodes paying homage. Duchovny and Anderson were on magazine covers from T.V. Guide to Rolling Stone. The first of many guides to the series were published breaking down each episode. The iconic main theme was released to cd and cassette.

The series would grow more every season. Always bouncing from stand alone Monster Of The Week episodes to the self described Mythology storyline centering on Mulder and Scully uncovering an alien plot to colonize the Earth. And just when you thought the show couldn’t get any bigger, it did. In 1996, a film version of the series, bridging Seasons Five and Six, was released. The film has some amazing moments, but overall it's really just a $66 million dollar episode. But it was a profitable venture and the series rolled on for another six years until ending. Or at least it should have ended. I truly believe that in my heart of hearts. I have an unpopular opinion. A hot take if you will. What made The X-Files work so well were elements brought by other creators. There is no doubt that Chris Carter created a wonderful concept. But writers like Glen Morgan and James Wong were integral to growing the show. And without them, the series eventually faltered. The 2008 film follow up X-Files: I Want To Believe, with Mulder and Scully tracking a serial killer, seemed tired and pointless. And riding the coattails of nostalgia-based reboots, we were given Seasons Ten and Eleven of the series... which had some moments. Those two seasons failed to hit me like I wanted them to. I wanted to have that feeling of watching it on a Friday night. And for whatever reason, it didn’t. One could blame that on me and changing as a viewer. But I think it was something that just had its time. The original series was a moment in time that just can’t be replicated. The X-Files and its success was ferocious. Toys, comic books, CDs, novels. You couldn’t get away from it. And you didn’t want to. It was something to be a part of. It was the best of what genre can do. As cliched as it sounds, it brought people together. It showed normies that this sci-fi stuff ain’t so bad. And since then we have had similar fandom for shows like The Walking Dead & Stranger Things. And for those who have appreciated those modern series, you know where I am coming from.

There will never be another The X-Files. Just that simple. It won’t be the same. And that’s okay.

Because it’s never the same as when you first see the lightsaber.

First hear the Shark’s theme.

First watch a man fly.

Or on the night when X marked the spot.

August 2023

When "X" Marked The Spot

by Rick Patterson

July 2023

by Rick Patterson

Horror In The Wild

How often do you bump into fellow Monster Kids? Now, conventions don’t count. Neither does the movie theater. The odds of a normie showing up to Evil Dead Rise is highly unlikely. Of course, it’s going to be filled with your fellow Dead Heads. Speaking of that new flick; Is it really an Evil Dead movie? And better than the original? But, I digress. The point at hand is that in all of my adult years of life, aside from the obvious places, I have never just bumped into lovers of horror. I would say it’s because of where I live. Virginia ain’t a horror ground zero by any means. Every attempt at a creep-centric con goes south or never catches on like a Monster-Mania or Chiller Theater. And as far as encountering Monster Kids at work, that is a virtual dead zone. There isn’t much chance of anyone revealing their love for Robert Englund when their air conditioning is shot. Or before that when I was an international / hazardous materials agent for Airborne Express. Most are pre-occupied with failed deliveries and such. And so it goes. Going through my average workday, keeping my daily horror interaction to podcasts and my Facebook army. But then my occupation changed.

As readers know, I encountered a life-altering situation; a massive heart attack. Along with the additional emotional baggage that came with it, was the realization that I could not continue my line of work in heating and air. I fell back into a side hustle of reselling collectibles. Just branching out from horror and geek items to the occasional stereo receiver and antique book. Part of a reselling occupation is to “source” your products. This can be done many ways. Online. Yard sales. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. The goal is the same. Buy low and sell high.

One month into my reselling journey found me at the Goodwill bins. For those unfamiliar, the bins is a location where Goodwill has a two-point goal of selling large quantiles that fall into two categories; One: Items that have been donated at the bin location and have not been sorted and moved to the general store locations. Two: Items that have sat on the shelves for too long and are moved out of the store. In each case the items are sold in the bins by heavy discount or weight. This offers a huge opportunity to average citizens who needs wares, as well as small business like me. And you will be surprised how much geek/horror artifacts you will find there.

On this day, I was sifting through one of two large bins filled with donated books... which is always an adventure. Digging through the many copies of Tom Clancy and James Patterson thrillers with hopes of finding a rare first edition Stephen King. I was on that search when I happened to glance up to see the person across from me. I have actually met quite a few fellow resellers this way and they are genuinely nice people. All with a story. But never a horror peep. Until this particular day. I took a quick glance at the guy who was on his own archeological dig and then went back to my own work. Then it hit me. “Suspiria!” I thought. I wasn’t thinking that because it just happens to be one of the greatest films ever committed to cinema. Our entire social matrix knows that it’s a slice of fried gold. But the book finder before me was sporting what appeared to be a black t-shirt with original artwork of Jessica Harper in one of her landmark poses from the Argento epic. I looked back up and sure enough it was. I wasn’t going to let a chance to talk horror in the wild go by the wayside. Of course, this was chancy. To meet someone who dons a shirt for its “look” with no connection to the material is not out of the norm. A “poser” as the kids like to say. He may also be hiding from the mob. Yes, I said that. “Nice shirt!”, I exclaimed. The guy before me seemed to be taken off guard for a moment. Even gave a quick glance to his left and right to see if I was throwing props at someone else. He then looked back at me and laughed. “Thanks, yours is cool too”. Your columnist was wearing his Halloween tee. It’s a badass one if I do say so myself. It is an anamorphic image of Annie (in only a shirt) being stalked by Michael. It is the only tee I have ever seen with Annie, who was one of my crushes as a kid. It’s a flex. Another word the kids throw around. Much like conversations with my editor, I verge. I just did three times there. Back to our regular scheduled program. The admiration for our attire led to a good hour or so of conversation. Ian (Suspiria garb guy) and I hit it off and threw our love for our genre back and forth in banter on future sourcing days... to the point where we are writing a script together. The plot? A young mother returns to her hometown and falls in love with the one who got away and… come on, now! It’s a horror script, of course. An homage to the Giallo. But the trifecta of horror in the wild came weeks later.

It’s a Tuesday. I have twenty or so eBay packages going out. The Post Office is swamped with a line outside the door. It’s 4:42 and I need to be at the Goodwill auction at 5:00. I try to pass the time on my phone. Until I hear a voice call to me. I look up and its “bin Ian” walking out. Apparently he had orders to go as well. We make a plan to meet at the auction and he’s on his way. The line moves like a Trancers long second. Once inside, the line segments into three smaller ones. I put my phone away. And stopped for a second. I hear the theme from Tales From The Crypt ever so faintly. Shit, did I hit a website screen before I put the Galaxy back in my pocket? Quick check and that’s a no. Theme still rolling. Then it stops. Followed by a deep, monotone voice. “Next on three”. I see a smiling fellow ushering me over, I carry my basket of envelopes and boxes to his station. The nametagged gent is Robert. He starts to take my parcels to scan them. Then the theme once more. I realize it’s him! He’s whistling the Danny Elfman classic friggin’ theme! I call him on it immediately. “Tales From The Crypt”. He laughs. “Yeah, man, I love that show. They should bring it back”. Robert than proceeded to tell me how he shares his love of horror films with his son, who is obsessed with killer shark films. Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and, yes, Santa Jaws. I’ve seen Robert a few times since then. We always take a moment to discuss horror flicks if the line isn’t too long. Though I sense he wouldn’t care if we kept the line going a bit. LOL.

I leave the Post Office and haul ass to the auction at Goodwill. Ian is waiting for me already. As we walk the warehouse ramp to sign in for the auction, we are met by one of the Goodwill employees. I feel bad about this. But I still don’t know his name. No name tag. I just refer to him as The Beard, for his amazingly well groomed facial hair that echoes that of Stephen King in his author pic from the back of Cujo. Instead of the usual “Welcome back to the auction” he hits me with “Hello, fellow Lovecraft fan”. Ian and I come to a stop. I realize that this evening my wear is quite possibly the coolest shirt ever produced by the most schizophrenic retailer in the world, Hot Topic. Quick verge. Who does that company really sell to? Does a 14 year old today even know who Leatherface is? And if so, do they need a 2x shirt of the guy? My tee tonight is a drawing of H. P. Lovecraft surrounded by tentacles of his creations. It’s pretty great. Anyway, Beard starts to pull his Goodwill shirt, revealing another one underneath. Ian and I see the image of Cthulu on his black t-shirt. It leads to a twenty minute conversation about the best of Lovecraftian film adaptations. Great minds prevail and we agree that From Beyond may actually beat out Re-Animator for the honors. And it has nothing to do with a certain Barbara Crampton and her leather outfit, For all you know it’s one Ken Foree in his skivvies!

And off Ian and I go the auction. We found not a single treasure that day. But what a day! In the span of an hour I encountered three fellow admirers of the dark! Lovers of what, could be argued, is the greatest genre in film or literature. So, I say to you, dear reader... keep an eye out in your neck of the woods! There may be a Monster Kid hiding in the guise of regular, boring citizen!

In A Bathroom Stall

On November 23, 2022 I nearly died. Left my coil. Departed our realm of existence. Pulled the plug on The Matrix... in a bathroom stall at Walmart. Best I can figure, this was the third time Tony Todd made a play for me.

Attempt One - Long Beach, California 1984

I’m twelve years old at the beach. The same beach where you can see the beloved (and allegedly haunted if you watch paranormal television) Queen Mary and the hangar containing Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose from the shore. I am swept below the ocean while playing with my cousins. My Mom had let me go with my extended family, with the agreement that they keep an eye on me. They failed and heard about it later. The World According To Garp introduced me to the term undertow, (or, more precisely, "undertoad"). Tony Todd decided to show it to me firsthand. I remember laughing, playing and then a wave hitting me full force. And the ocean jostling me around. Then nothing. I opened my eyes to find my cousin Sheryl performing CPR. And at least she was the cute cousin laying lips on me. (Relax! She wasn’t a blood cousin.)

Attempt Two - The Revenge Of Tony Todd: Virginia Beach, Virginia 2017

I’m a grown man on the set of my newest Giallo-inspired thriller. Argento and I are talking about the nuances of the cloaked killer… I wish! Actually, I’m climbing into an attic when my ladder kicks away. I find myself supporting my then ample weight from eight feet above the floor in a deserted house. The ladder is literally falling away from me. I know if I drop, I will more than likely either bounce off a railing and fall to the first floor below or fall onto my back; cracking the back of my head on the hard wood floor. Neither are good options. This is the life of a self-employed HVAC installer and tech. So, just when it appears to be the end of yours truly, the ladder came back. Like it stopped its decline and came right back to me. My feet touched a rung and I was able to stabilize. Can’t lie. I cried. Niagara Falls level tears.

Attempt Three - Bathroom Stall: Virginia Beach, Virginia 2022

I felt like hell all morning. I woke with this pain in my shoulder. It was as if my arm was being pulled behind my back by an unseen force. The pain worsened each time I took a deep breath. I chalked it up to beasting it in an attic, the day before, and went about my work to prepare for Thanksgiving, the next day. I was looking forward to it. We had just gotten home from MonsterMania in Oaks, PA the weekend before and it had been a downer. My wife, Cale, daughter Niobi and I had returned to the world of horror conventions to supplement my HVAC income. And it had been going wonderfully until Oaks, where poor placement put us in the no man’s land of the vendor room. Lots of lost money on that one. I was hoping the holiday would cheer me up. My buddy Jody and I had entered the fray at Walmart to get last minute items. The pain in my arm, which had then spread to my chest, was insane by this time; I kept feeling like if I could just burp, then this “gas” would subside. I went to the restroom and journeyed down the line of urinals to the toilet stall where you could shut the door for privacy. I forced a burp. Another. And another. It wasn’t working. I attempted a forced vomit, but only dry-heaved. It was hurting worse now. I kept thinking about a good friend, Rey Cruz, who had died in 2017, at his work, in a bathroom stall. Heart attack. I kind of figured that this was the chapter of my life I was in. The Rick Patterson Story - Chapter 50: You’re having a heart attack. I couldn’t do that. I left the stall and went to find my buddy, Jody.

“I think you need to take me to the hospital” I said.

Jody’s eyes bulged. I think he knew something was amiss from the time he showed up at my place. And he later told me that I had my shit on lockdown. While Jody drove, I called Cale to let her know which ER we were going to. She helped me navigate and kept my breathing steady. Next thing I know I am in an emergency room with a doctor and his James Spader hair (think Tuff Turf which, if you haven’t seen, stop reading and come back to me later, after you've watched it) calmly revealing that I was experiencing a heart attack and that I was being moved to the larger hospital and its cardiac division.

And there I am having surgery. Awake through the whole thing. I should have been scared. I wasn’t. I kept thinking about my family - all the good things with them. But then there were the other thoughts; The movies I hadn’t made. The stories I hadn’t written. The moments I faltered. The things I hadn’t done in my life creatively. The roads never taken. But mostly it was all the good memories. The birth of the kids. The moment I legally adopted my son Caleb. The moment I held baby Niobi when she was born. The night I met Cale and how, when we parted ways, thinking I would never see her again, let alone marry her. I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital watching the 24 hour Godfather marathon on television and eating staff-made turkey.

It was the best heart attack a person could have. Cliched, I know. But true. I am writing again for the first time in years. And it feels good! I am back on a path. I have new ideas for films. I have done podcasts with full sight of my own in the future. A friend became an even stronger colleague and brought me aboard the very website on which you’re reading this piece. (Though he will probably tire of me calling him “Chief” and “Vincenzo”.) My wife and I have taken the skills for sourcing product for conventions and moved into reselling items on a larger level. But with a concentration on genre items - which is much better and safer than crawling under houses and in attics. I dream again. This was not an intended column. I just knew I wanted to write something today. Many ideas came at me. My Giallo screenplay. A short story about a man bitten by one of the creatures that have overtaken his very world. And then this. Just out of the blue. I thought it would align with horror. Guess it did somewhat.

Tony Todd, take a number. You’re going to have to wait.

I entered that bathroom that day, scared-as-shit that my life was going to end, but it didn’t. I was given another shot. A reboot if you will. A chance to do better. Be better. A new part of my life started in the most inopportune place; In a bathroom stall.

June 2023

by Rick Patterson

Bruce And I

May 10, 1996. - Alameda, California 9:19 p.m.

I’m where I usually am on a Friday night! A club with thumping tech noir screaming from speakers. Strobe lights spinning. Women dancing atop eight-foot risers. The dance floor is a wave of sex and sweat out of a Michael Bay production and…… no. I am where any self-respecting, overweight nerd is on a Friday night. I am home on my bed, butt firmly planted as The X-Files plays out on the 24 inch before me. Season three, episode twenty-three is Wetwired. Not the best, but not the worst. Were there ever any bad episiodes of The X-Files, really? But I digress. The door to my room opens and my Mom enters. (Yes, I still lived at home during this time. Don’t judge!) She enters with a stupefied expression.

“There’s someone on the phone for you” she said.

Who would do that? Any fellow geek or nerd I know are at their respective homes, obsessing over Gillian Anderson’s hemline as well.

“Is it Peter?” (One of my closest friends.)

“He says he’s Bruce Campbell.”

Full stop! Yes, you heard right. It was Bruce, THE fucking man, Campbell. He was on the phone. And yes, for me. For a brief moment, I nearly peed a little… Maybe a lot. Bruce Campbell! - Ash Williams - was on the phone for yours truly. Now, I know what you are thinking and probably asking the computer, phone or tablet in front you, as you read this;

“Why on earth would Bruce Campbell be calling you?”

Well, dear reader, because I tracked him down and simply left a message.

May 7th, 1996. Three days earlier, 9:13 a.m.

I need to be at work in an hour at the school where I am employed as a Teacher’s Assistant. I’m throwing my shoes on as the live morning news plays out. It is a Fox affiliate across the bay in San Francisco. Our manly Newscaster is rambling on about the traffic, upcoming weather and such. I am about to leave the room - a Jansport over my shoulders - when a name stops me in my tracks.

“Bruce Campbell will be here to talk about his new film Tornado, airing tonight on Fox,” the most mid-90s, straight-out-of-central-casting, Anchor says.

Bruce was promoting the Fox Network’s attempt to pull an Asylum before there was an Asylum. WB had Twister. Fox gave us Tornado. This was perfect. It was my chance to make contact with the greatest Michigan-based badass, next to Sam Raimi and Axel Foley! (Yes, I know. Only two of the three of them are real people. A better third doesn’t come to mind and it’s my column, people.) The reason Campbell’s arrival in the Bay Area - my area - was so important was quite simple; I had been hard at work on a screenplay entitled Mister Sin. This was my homage to the world of Hong Kong, John Woo cinema. The story centered on a hired hitman who lost his family in a pre-credits sequence. He is hired to kill what turns out to be a young woman and her son. Our anti-hero becomes their protector and they all become targets of the Irish Mafia! I wrote this to direct as my first “real” feature. Like, with a budget, for a change. And Bruce hadn’t really done anything outside of horror yet. The closest to drama was an episode of Homicide: Life On The Streets. This would be a game-changer for him. Let people see him in a new light. And I had an “in” with him. Well, sort of.

Mid-June, 1990. San Jose, California. The one and only Fangoria Weekend Of Horrors to take place in the northern part of the state.

Yes, I know I just jumped the shark by flashbacking a flashback but stick with me. I am in my senior year of high school. I am one of the shining stars of our television media course. Trusted enough to use the DXC-3000, a three chip - studio quality camera, on the weekends. And this weekend we have used my gift of gab and our camera to get access to the convention for free (which still amazes me)! Three pimple faced kids showed up and Fango editor Tony Timpone let us in without issue, God bless him! Not only did we meet and record Angus Scrimm on stage performing poetry, but we were able to sit down and interview Mr. Campbell. He was actually there doing recon on what fans would want to see in the third Evil Dead film, then called The Medieval Dead. All the footage we shot, including the interview, can be seen in my mini documentary and on YouTube... and that’s why this was perfect!

Present day. Shit! I mean May 7th, 1996.

I call 411 and get the number to the studio in San Francisco. I go through a few different departments, and they rotate me in what seems like an eternity. In between I look over at the television as the countdown to Bruce’s interview is coming ever closer. I hustle and flow like the best of them and get the news studio liaison. I go into a story that I am colleague who met Mr. Campbell years ago and if she would be kind enough to give him a message. In hindsight it was a odd, cryptic message: “Rick Patterson. San Jose. Mr. Sin.” and my number. I hang up the phone literally as Bruce comes on (dazzling the universe as he always does). I call in late to work and hang out at home for a call that never comes. Then…

May 10th. Where this all began.

I took the phone in my hand and answered, shaking like a madman. I don’t even remember saying anything. It was like the man knew I was there.

“Rick? Rick Patterson?” in that voice we all know so well.

“Yes, sir.” I said.

“This is Bruce Campbell. How the hell are ya?"

I was talking to Ash. The man called me at home… During The X-Files! I wondered if he was watching it as well.

“What’s this thing about us meeting?” he said.

So, I went into the whole story about the interview in San Jose, the script I had been writing, that I wrote it for him. I pitched the whole concept for him as a hardened killer turned bloodshed hero. And to my surprise, he didn’t shoot me down. I know Bruce went through that moment. If you are a geek, then you know the moment - When a hero of yours decides that maybe being covered in blood and thrown down a flight of stairs isn’t the legacy they were hoping for. Then comes the convention walk of shame that results in an independent film where “Bruce” pokes fun at the smells of convention goers. And, let’s face it... more of us should bathe before meeting a favorite icon. But that wasn’t the Bruce who called me. He was supportive, even encouraging! He told me to take his name with a tentative green light and, if the money came through, then we could cross that bridge. The rest of the conversation was him dazzling me with stories of working with John Carpenter on Escape From L.A., which had just finished shooting. He gave me a contact address to send the script to. Even reminded me to have it copyrighted before sending it out. By the time we hung up, The X-Files had ended. I then had the honest pleasure of telling my Mom and brother how it all unfolded.

Our true present. April, 2023.

Sadly, I never wrote the rest of Mister Sin. Still have it in a box somewhere. My Mom died a short time later. Then, life took me in directions. Years later, at the Spooky Empire horror convention, I met Bruce again when I was a vendor. He was leaving at the end of the show, and I gave him a copy of the San Jose Weekend Of Horrors doc on DVD-R with a cover and all. I started to recount the events as relayed here. He didn’t seem interested. Didn’t seem to care. I even gave him a card I made on Vista print. No phone call back this time. One of these days I will get to do one of two things with Bruce; either work with him (with me as a director) or interview him once more.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll throw an X-Files on.

May 2023

by Rick Patterson

     Dorothy Patterson had, what could only be described as, a hard life. One with a vindictive Mother who drove their father away when she and the rest of her siblings needed him the most. She had her first child at the age of 14, then, was forced to place the child up for adoption. Dorothy was the caretaker for her brother and sister until they were of age and married to a man who never got her sensibilities or loves. She had two boys who she adored and showered them with love, attention and the cultures of film and music. Normally, when writing about someone with these endured struggles, a reader would hope for an uplifting ending; One in which Dorothy achieves, despite multiple odds, everything she dreamt of… That she became a disk jockey for a rock station, became a private detective or maybe a writer of fiction. These were all things she wanted to do. She didn’t. She died of heart failure in an Alameda hospital after her drug induced husband gave her an incorrect dose of medication. Dorothy Patterson was my mom. I loved her dearly. And she was my gateway into the world of horror films.

     The long, drawn-out tone of eight cellos. Methodical. Ramping up, from its walk, to a run. Again and again. Followed by four, blaring trombones and a single tuba. I was three years old when I first heard the work of John Williams – more specifically, the theme from JAWS - screaming from the speakers of my mom’s stereo system. The gateway into horror had opened. I can clearly remember hauling ass to my room, ultimately jumping onto my bed and taking cover under a pillow. Now, this iconic film score is terrifying already. But when you hear it blaring, like this! My Mom loved music. From her youth of Elvis Presley and the rock n’ roll, that her parents wanted banned, throughout disco in the 70s, pop of the 80’s. She even listened to my Nirvana in the 90’s, music needed to be heard. There was no fucking around with the sound. Her system was a beast from Montgomery Ward. Silver and mock chrome. Three tiers of high fidelity. Receiver, 8 track player, (look it up, kids) tape deck and the icing on the audiophile cake; a turntable. A turntable that played the likes of Motown, Buddy Holly and, yes, the soundtrack to JAWS. I didn’t even know what a shark was at this age. Even though we lived in the Ocean View area of Norfolk, Virginia, we didn’t spend much time at the beach, which was literally across the street. But that theme… that fucking theme… sent waves of unadulterated fear through me.

And, bless her heart, she knew it.

     The gateway into horror stayed mostly ajar. Not with film but with the pop music of her time. Monster Mash and Donovan’s Season Of The Witch. The night my little brother was born, was also the same night The Incredible Hulk pilot aired on television. Left with a sitter, I witnessed the frightening transformation of Dr. David Banner into the titular character. My cartoons of the time clued me into what a Witch and Devil were. And of course, with the most blessed holiday for a child: Halloween. One year I was a little Devil myself; apparently not afraid of much. One of our neighbors had set up the haunt of all haunts, by 70s standards. No kid was trying to be the victim of the Creepy homeowner sitting in a lawn chair, made up like a Wolfman. Little Ricky walked up and took his candy from the bowl. No fear. No apprehension. After throwing the treats into my bag, I went to walk away. The Creep, shocked by the lack of terror in me, stepped on my Devil-tail, which snapped off of my costume. I turned, looked at my tail, then at the Creep and uttered the line, “You broke me!”.

In 1978 my mother hit a breaking point with my father. Too many excuses of work. Too much messing around when he should have been home. The threat of her leaving never seemed to work. So, Dorothy packed up her little Ricky and my brother Michael and decided to trek from her comfort zone. And as Elvis sang, left her home of Norfolk, Virginia with California on her mind. The plan was pretty sound. How do you convince the dope you’re in love with that losing his family is a real possibility? You go the other side of the fucking country! Then your dope will show up like a Knight on a steed., admit that he’s a dumb shit and that his wife and kids are all that matter. Which is what she wanted. And hoped for.

It didn’t happen.

     We ended up in Long Beach, California. My Aunt Candy, who wasn’t blood, just a good friend of my mom's, took us in. We then moved in with Candy’s son, Ronnie. Ronnie and my mom got along swimmingly. They both loved music and movies. Long Beach, with all of its faults, became a second childhood for her. The move to the state where film began, gave her chance to interact with it. My Mom was 35 but acted like a teenager for the most part. She and Ronnie would spin records, play cards, and watch movies on late night television. Ronnie’s is where I first saw a movie poster and, by extension, had my first connection with John Carpenter. The bathroom in Ronnie’s house was at the end of what seemed like the longest hallway imaginable to a child, on the left-hand side. And at the end of that hallway was a poster. He had a lot of posters; Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Superman and different rock bands’ promotional posters. But this one poster, the one at the end of that fucking hallway, was The Eyes Of Laura Mars. Yes, the Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones (before he was a thing), and Brad Dourif flick that was directed by the future helmer of The Empire Strikes Back and written by one John Carpenter. It’s a chick’s face. Big deal, right? No, not just a chick’s face. A black as night background with the faint outline of the face of this woman, Laura Mars; with her large, white eyes. Eyes, that in middle of the night when I needed to use the bathroom, ever so slightly illuminated by the outside streetlamp, scared the shit out of me.

     By 1980 my mom got her first apartment for us. Funny enough, right across the street from Ronnie. As with all the places we lived in Long Beach, were always on the same street, and always in the same neighborhood. My father was refusing to pay child support for his kids, apparently as an attempt to get her to come home to Virginia. Mom went to the one job, that Tarantino would later bring up as a point in Reservoir Dogs, that any woman could do regardless of education: Waitressing. The tips paid well. And as she told me when I was older, she was even give an indecent proposal one night. A Texan type who came into the diner always asked for my mom’s service area. After multiple trips into the diner, one night he laid out ten, crisp $100 bills. Offered it all for a night with her, in the most polite - not trying to be pervy way. He literally wanted to take her for a fine meal and just generally hang out. My Mom wasn’t insulted. She was flattered, but turned him down. He did an aw shucks, “I had to take the shot” response but didn’t respond badly. In fact, he left her $500 as tip. He even brought in a puppy for us a few weeks later, but the landlord didn’t allow animals. He asked her out multiple times. Each time she turned him down. I asked why she never took him up on any of his advances or attempts to take her for that fine meal. It was because of my dad. She still loved him.

     The apartment of our own was a place of music, cartoons and movies. We even had cable! Yes, in this day of streaming anything, at any moment, cable may not seem like a big deal. But in 1980, it was major. Especially for her. And though HBO was infamous for showing the same movies over and over, she would watch them as much as she could. (Or at least have them on in the background while caring for my brother and me. We didn’t get a VCR for a few years, yet, so cable and syndicated television is where I saw all of my movies, outside of going to the theater. Mom would usually get back from work around 9:30 at night. She’d get us down for bed, then watch something until she called it a night. I was never asleep right away. I would lay in bed, listening to the switching of the black box atop our television. No remote for that bad boy. One night I heard the sounds of a grown man getting chewed out by his boss questioning how he had come to a conclusion. The response: “A little research. A little imagination”. I went into the living room, pulling a blanket behind me, doing my best rubbing-my-eyes-in-a-sleepy-state impression. Mom did what she would do time and time again - ushered me onto the couch with her, laying my head on her lap and covering my head with the blanket. She allowed me to “sleep” near her until she turned in. But I didn’t sleep that night. Instead, I clandestinely (or so I thought) watched Kolchak: The Night Stalker for the first time. A child my age should not have cared about the misadventures of a middle-aged Darren McGavin and his failures in journalism. But then the monsters came. And, boy, did they come. Vampires, zombies, reptilian humanoids and more. She was usually watching horror. And with each movie or show I “slept” through, my Mom realized she had the best person to watch them with; Her Little Ricky.

1980 was also the year she saw a film; a film about the night he came home.

     My Mom went to see John Carpenter’s Halloween at a theater in the Lakewood section of Long Beach, California. The Lakewood would become a mainstay for us throughout the years. It’s really amazing to think that a film released in ‘78 was still running in theaters, up to two years after its release. But that’s the world we were in. Cable was still finding its legs. Videodisc (before laserdisc) and home video were still for the select few. She went to see it with Ronnie. She was enthralled. Terrified. And when she and Ronnie came out, they were scared to the point where multiple checks of the backseat had to be done before getting into the vehicle. I know this story because she loved recounting it. In fact, she loved to tell stories. Especially to me. It wasn’t uncommon for her to talk about any movies she had seen; most of all, the ghost stories. So many ghost stories. To this day, I’m not sure if she made up most of them or not. After her recounting the story of “The Shape," I knew for certain that Halloween was a film I had to see. In 1981, I was given the chance - Not “sleeping” under the blanket but during a sleepover at our place, with my cousins, as it aired for the first time on NBC television. October 30, 1981, I was introduced to Michael Myers and his rampage in the little town of Haddonfield. And I loved it! Movies like Star Wars, Superman and Raiders Of The Lost Ark opened me to the world of fantasy. But Halloween was another beast all together. And I loved Donald Pleasance. Like Darren McGavin, there was something about an older cat chasing evil that clicked with me. Halloween opened the flood gates to Children Of The Corn, Fade To Black, The Burning, Frankenstein, SSSSSSS, The Exorcist, Duel, Friday The 13th and more. As much as I sat transfixed by the work of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, the world of a horror film grabbed me more. A school project and my mom took my hand and showed me yet another path;

Writing.

     It was October of 1984. Mrs. Lange, my 7th grade Teacher, a tall older woman with an accent that chewed on her Ws like a starving animal, assigned us a Halloween holiday project; write a short story to be read during class. I had never written a story. Just reports for school. How do I write a story? I went to Mom and she offered to outline with me. We started with a plate of fresh, out of the oven chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. Don’t judge - You write your way, we write ours. She started asking me about all the films we watched. Which one jazzed me the most? Which one I would like to see a story told about? We determined Halloween was my favorite by far. That and anything with a werewolf. And so we began outlining what became my first short story. Looking back at it now, it was most definitely inspired by the things I loved as a kid… and filled with kid logic. All credit to my mom for the title. I think mine was something like Monster On The Loose. I guess it has it’s own catchy feel. My Mom came up with: The Night The Beast Came Home, my six page horror story. Closer to four pages based on my penmanship of the time. The tale of a child, wrongly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit (ala The Incredible Hulk), who escapes twenty-one years later (Halloween) to get revenge on the town that allowed him to be imprisoned. He dons a werewolf mask from a hardware store and terror ensues. It’s basically a slasher flick, until my complete-lack-of-logic ending. SPOILER ALERT; My wolfman killer is chasing his intended victim on the roof of his old house, when the survivor girl stabs him and sends him falling to his death. Or so we think. He stands up, looking up at survivor girl as the moon is revealed to be full. He pulls the knife from his chest, starts to shake and hunch forward. He rips the mask off in two halves, looks up again at this intended victim and (Wait for it) promptly turns into a werewolf! Why? I have no idea. But my mom wasn’t going to turn into a critic on her first born. She figured I would get better.

She hoped.

     And so the years went on. We enjoyed the world of horror films together. And though she loved my brother and me and thoroughly enjoyed this time with us, during these years she was never able to do what she wanted in life. She attempted to write her own stories, but never sent them out, with hopes of being published. She never pursued the prospect of becoming a private investigator or a radio disc jockey, due the cost of courses. It was her working too hard in dead end jobs - one after the other. A failed attempt to rekindle with my father over a two-year period went nowhere. It’s so odd. Because in our present day and time, she would have society falling all over themselves to help a single mother doing her best to improve herself. In the 80’s and 90’s the solution was always to encourage the downtrodden to apply and stay on public assistance, which only gives someone enough to scrape by.

     In 1987, she fell in love with Tommy Locklear, her only serious relationship other than my father. And although it is the usual cliche, I felt he truly did not deserve her. He never went out of his way to take care for her or my brother and me. He moved us from Long Beach to Alameda, California; a place that became a bigger conduit for my creativity than I ever imagined. I went to Alameda High School; the same school that Jim Morrison attended for a short time. With a Radio Shack VHS camera given to me for our first Christmas on the island, I started making short films with the kids I’d met. They were all movie geeks. We made mostly comedies, inspired by Amazon Women On The Moon and The Kentucky Fried Movie. But it didn’t take much time for me to start making horror shorts. The first, The Skull, was the story of a young man released from an asylum and haunted by a Skull-masked entity. At the end he is killed by the mysterious being, which removes its mask to reveal… himself. It was easily the most arty and pretentious I ever became. Guess I was determined to have a mask reveal somewhere in a flick. I got my first job at “The Video House”, the store we rented our flicks from. It became my film school! I volunteered to put away the movies that came in, and straighten shelves. Though others thought it was a shit job, I loved it. I started reading the credits on the back of every film I had and hadn’t seen. I started to memorize directors and came to the realization that many were made by the same filmmakers. I didn’t just watch horror films I had only read about, I watched everything! As a sophomore I was able to enter the TV media program. I started learning video editing and directing live cable broadcasts. The eventual marriage to Tom affected Mom and my relationship though. We still watched movies together, but not as much as back in Long Beach. There were still a few good times. My first viewing of Goodfellas was when I brought a screener copy home after a late-night shift. Mom made steak and fries. It was simultaneously one of the best first viewings of a film, coupled with the best meal I have ever had. I didn’t hate Tom, who made a living by selling marijuana and using it a great deal. We just didn’t click at all. What I felt to be mistreatment of Mom, didn’t help. He would take her out on late nights of selling and acquiring his stock. I felt the relationship between Tom and me echoed the film First Born, with Peter Weller as a piece of shit boyfriend to Terri Garr. Yeah, he didn’t chase me around with his Bronco. But the one time he chose to yell at me, Mom made it clear that if it were to happen again, he would be kicked to the curb. One time, she even asked me if I wanted her to leave him. Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to get rid of him. But I couldn’t do it. She deserved to have love in her life and I felt that I didn’t have right to make that choice of her being with or without him.

     I graduated high school prepared to go to film school at Loyola Marymount, but Mom’s health had become a point of contention. Many a bad habit. As much as she loved her sons, she loved her food; her sodas, her sweets and her cigarettes. It all came to a crash rather quickly. Even after developing type II diabetes, she never could fight off cravings for everything destroying her. Insulin became a way for her to still think it was fine to indulge, like she would. Tom only made things worse. He was using more of his stock than selling it. And with little funds and having to help with family bills, I had to settle on film courses at San Francisco State College; which, in and of itself, became problematic when my professor made the decree that there would be no discussion of films made after 1981. They had no value to his course. I left after six months.

     In December of 1996 I went to see Wes Craven’s Scream. The roles, by then, had reversed. I was now telling Mom about the films I had seen. She hadn’t gone out to a theater in ages. She was in too much pain. I was still living at home with the family and working to help out. I had taken a job as a teaching assistant in the very TV media course I took as a student. Scream was right up Mom’s alley. She loved her slasher movies. Yeah, the supernatural was fine and aliens were cool. But movies that included being chased by an unfriendly masked psycho were her preverbal jam… No matter how bad they were. (Happy Birthday To Me was a classic for her.) And Scream had all the elements she loved. I held back on the ending. But I set her up just enough for it. It hit VHS on June 24, 1997. As I suspected, she thoroughly enjoyed it. The red herrings, humor and, most of all, the two killers, called out to her. Sydney, Dewey and Randy were her faves. She even had a cute theory that Dewey and Sydney should hook up once she was in college. And Ghostface, she saw as the next big slasher. She hoped for a sequel. For her, it never came. Scream was the final horror movie I would see with my mom. I was at my fiancé’s work, helping her to close the shop. My stepfather called the store and told me an ambulance was on the way to take her to the hospital; that Mom had a heart attack and collapsed to the floor. I arrived home in a cab as quickly as I could, thinking that I would somehow be able to ride in the ambulance with her. The house was empty. A pool of vomit on the carpet was all that remained. The phone rang. When I answered, it was Tom.

“She’s gone.” is all he said.

I remember screaming.

     There are so many movies since her passing that remind me of her; Every single Scream sequel, I Know What You Did Last Summer… The Final Girls hits me every time. (Not only due to the mother and child element but Bettie Davis Eyes playing on the soundtrack - One of Mom’s favorite songs, endlessly spun on her turntable.) If she lived, she would have seen three grandchildren. All three, through their father, have come to love the horror genre. The youngest of the three, Niobi has a Killer Klowns From Outer Space poster signed by the cast and crew; the very movie she rented for me to watch as teen. I miss you, Mom. You gave me an appreciation of film, music and television, along with all the love a kid could ask for.

     Dorothy Patterson died of heart failure in an Alameda hospital after her drug induced husband gave her an incorrect dose of medication. Dorothy Patterson was my mom. I loved her dearly.

      And she was my gateway into the world of horror films.

April 2023

My Mother Was My Gateway

by Rick Patterson