Houston Horror Film Festival 2022!

July 22-24, Houston, TX

I ventured a few hours into the Lone Star State on Saturday, July 23rd, to attend the Houston Horror Film Festival for the first time. Thankfully it took place at the Westchase Marriott, a hotel that I attended another event in a few years ago. That came in handy, as I was already familiar with the layout of the property. Once I arrived I headed to the back of a very long (but swiftly moving) line to pick up my wristband.

The event was well attended despite a number of late and popular cancellations. Rachel True (The Craft), Tiffany Shepis (Abominable), and William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects) were just a few of the celebrities that cancelled their appearances. Thankfully the festival managed to snag some amazing replacements including William Ragsdale (Fright Night, Herman’s Head) and Amanda Bearse (Fright Night, Married….With Children) that helped soften the blow of missing out on those that cancelled.

There were two vendor areas, both of which also included celebrity guest areas. Vendor Room One featured a number of great guests, artists, and vendors. It was also the hottest room in the building. The second vendor room was much nicer. It was larger, well cooled, more open for walking, and divided into two areas. One part of the area featured greenish lighting that gave a pretty cool effect to photos. It was in this area where I got to meet both William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse. Both of them were amazing but Amanda Bearse went above and beyond with her kindness. “Marcy loves you, too!” was the last thing she said to me as I left her table, autograph and selfie in tow. She was so lively and fun. If you get the opportunity to meet her I highly recommend it. William Ragsdale was laid back and very nice as well. I also recommend meeting him if you have the chance.

The vendor area was loaded with items featuring all of the major properties including Friday The 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Scream, Halloween, and Saw. There were also quite a few vendors selling KISS related items. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a lot of Universal Monsters items with the exception of just a few vendors. One vendor in particular had a lot of Universal Monsters items and I managed to snag two beautiful ornaments that i mistook for busts. I am now the proud owner of an Invisible Man ornament and a Wolf Man ornament.

Due to the limited amount of time that I had I was unable to meet some of the other guests but I did get to enjoy Purgatory Park’s Stranger Things display and I also saw a ton of cool cosplays. The entire event was set up well and ran smoothly. I plan on attending again next year with the intention of staying at the host hotel for the entire event.

I really did have a great time at this festival. They’ve already started teasing upcoming pop up markets and next year’s event. Thanks for checking out my review. Hopefully I’ll see some of you at the Houston Horror Film Festival next year!

The Year Of KISS: Paul Stanley (1978)

“You keep your love in chains….”

Of the four KISS solo albums released in 1978, Paul Stanley is, at least in my opinion, the one that sounds the most like a KISS album. Loaded with power pop and rock, a few Ace-like hooks, and Paul’s voice exploring its range, this album sounds like KISS both past and present. I can hear bits and pieces of KISS, Dressed To Kill, Love Gun, and Rock And Roll Over and the soon-to-come pop sounds of Dynasty and Unmasked. I can even hear hints of KISS’ mid-1980’s sound.

The Starchild relied on more musicians than Ace Frehley but used about half as many as Gene Simmons and Peter Criss. He handled most of the guitars on the album, utilizing Bob Kulick on a few tracks on lead guitar and split the bass duties between two bassists, Steve Buslowe and Eric Nelson. The most recognizable name on the album outside of Stanley and Kulick is most likely drummer Carmine Appice, who added his drums to Take Me Away (Together As One).

The album shows the strength of Stanley as not only a singer and guitarist, but as a songwriter and producer as well. It is the only album of the four solos to feature completely original material. Stanley wrote all of the songs except for Move On, Ain’t Quite Right, and Take Me Away (Together As One). Mikel Japp co-wrote those tracks with Stanley. Jeff Glixman produced four of the album’s tracks with Stanley handling the rest. Stanley and Mike D. Stone mixed the album. This foreshadows Stanley’s producer credits on future KISS releases such as Hot In The Shade, Sonic Boom, and Monster.

Stanley knows how to write excellent power pop and rock tracks, and this can be heard throughout the album, especially on tracks like Love In Chains and Move On. He also shines on power ballads like the slightly sappy Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) and the punchier, rock-tinged Tonight You Belong To Me. There are some very Ace Frehley-like sounds heard on the solos for Move On, Goodbye, and Ain’t Quite Right which makes me wonder just how much of an influence Stanley had on Ace’s style of play and vice versa.

The album featured nine original tracks. Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) was the lone single. It managed to reach the 46th spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 edging out Gene Simmons’ Radioactive as the second most successful single from the four solo albums. The album itself peaked at #40 on the US Billboard 200 chart, making it the third most successful album of the four solo releases.

Track Listing:

  1. Tonight You Belong To Me
  2. Move On
  3. Ain’t Quite Right
  4. Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me
  5. Take Me Away (Together As One)
  6. It’s Alright
  7. Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart) (Single)
  8. Love In Chains
  9. Goodbye

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead, rhythm, and acoustic guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals, EBow), Bob Kulick (lead and acoustic guitar), Steve Buslowe (bass), Eric Nelson (bass), Richie Fontana (drums), Carmine Appice (drums), Craig Krampf (drums), Diana Grasselli, Miriam Naomi Valle, Maria Vidal, and Peppy Castro (backing vocals), Doug Katsaros (piano, strings, backing vocals), and Steve Lacey (guitars).

Stanley spends a lot of the album talking about love, broken hearts, and emotions. The single, Hold Me, Touch Me (Think Of Me When We’re Apart), is my least favorite track on the album and, in my opinion, the sappiest. The title is also long and awkward. This one tracks slows the album down considerably and almost derails the whole record. Thankfully it is book-ended by two of my favorite tracks on the album, It’s Alright and Love In Chains. The rest of the tracks are amazing as well and the album is wrapped up nicely by the guitar-driven Goodbye.

While Ace’s album is my favorite, Paul’s album is a very close second. Both albums deserve to be in any KISS fan’s collection. Paul’s solo album proves that he was and still is the heart and soul of KISS and its driving force.

Thanks for reading my post. Next month I’ll be returning to the band’s regular studio albums beginning with the first album of the No Makeup era, Lick It Up. Let me know what you think of the Year Of KISS so far in the comments and tell me what you’d like to have me cover in later installments in this series.

The Year Of KISS: Gene Simmons (1978)

“I’m burning up with fever….”

Of the four solo albums released in 1978 by the members of KISS, Gene Simmons is arguably the most anomalous of the bunch. Sure, Peter Criss’ solo effort strayed the farthest from KISS’ traditional sound, but it was also consistent. Gene’s album was a mishmash of different styles of music. A few tracks sounded similar to KISS, but others mixed in gospel harmonies, funk, and R&B. One track in particular, See You Tonite, could have easily been recorded by The Beatles.

The fact that the album is all over the place with its sound actually proves to be a strong point. Simmons fully embraced the opportunity to play with different genres. He also brought in a number of big names to bolster his album. Cher, Donna Summer, Joe Perry, and Bob Seger are just a few of the artists that contributed to this album, and if taken as individual songs, you can definitely tell that the album’s production was a step above the rest of the solo albums.

Simmons primarily tackled lead, acoustic, and rhythm guitars on this album. Session player Neil Jason handled bass. Jason had only been active as a session player for a couple of years at the time but his career has included collaborations with artists such as Gladys Knight, John Lennon, Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, and many, many more legendary artists. Elliot Randall handled many of the other guitars and Allan Schwartzberg tackled drums (and also played on Criss’ album). Both of these artists have recorded and/or toured for numerous popular acts such as Steely Dan, Peter Frampton, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Simmons wrote all of the songs on the album with the exception of When You Wish Upon A Star (Ned Washington, Leigh Harline) and Living In Sin (Simmons, Sean Delaney, Howard Marks). He also covered See You In Your Dreams (which he wrote) from KISS’ Rock And Roll Over Album. At least four other tracks on the album were written for Destroyer but ultimately not used on the album. This made many believe that Simmons put in very little effort to come up with new and original material for the album. Tacking on When You Wish Upon A Star at the end of the album also came across as a joke for many fans of the band, but Simmons has insisted over the years that the song has a deep meaning to him and I personally believe him.

The album featured eleven tracks, the most of any of the solo albums. The lone single was Radioactive. It topped out at #47 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The album peaked at #22 on the US Billboard 200 which makes it the highest charting of the four solo albums at the time. Over the decades it has been overtaken by Ace Frehley’s solo album as far as sales are concerned.

Track Listing:

  1. Radioactive (Single)
  2. Burning Up With Fever
  3. See You Tonite
  4. Tunnel Of Love
  5. True Confessions
  6. Living In Sin
  7. Always Near You/Nowhere To Hide
  8. Man Of 1,000 Faces
  9. Mr. Make Believe
  10. See You In Your Dreams (cover)
  11. When You Wish Upon A Star (cover)

Personnel: Gene Simmons (lead vocals, lead, acoustic, and rhythm guitars), Neil Jason (bass), Elliot Randall (guitars), Allan Schwartzberg (drums), Sean Delaney (percussion, backing vocals). Numerous other artists were used on the album. Refer to the album’s liner notes for a complete list.

Simmons utilized twenty-seven different artists on the album. Of special note are those mentioned earlier in this post along with Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Janis Ian, Eric Troyer of ELO Part II, Helen Reddy, and Kate Sagal (of Married….With Children and Sons of Anarchy).

As already mentioned, Simmons was a bit all over the place with the sound on this album. That being said, you can clearly hear the influence of bands such as The Beatles. You also get a glimpse into Simmons’ world with songs like Man of 1,000 Faces (a blatant Lon Chaney reference) and When You Wish Upon A Star (referencing both Disney and being a dreamer/immigrant kid). As always, Simmons also talks about the subject he seems to love the most: sex. Tunnel Of Love, Burning Up With Fever, and Radioactive make no attempts at hiding their subject matter.

Although I do like this album overall, it’s my least favorite of the four solo releases. I really like Man Of 1,000 Faces, Radioactive, and See You Tonite. I also enjoy listening to When You Wish Upon A Star. Other than those tracks, however, there’s not much on this album that I find myself listening to with any regularity. I like the fact that the album is all over the place but I also find myself expecting more from it as well. It would have been great to hear at least one snarling, evil Demon-themed track, but that’s nowhere to be found on this album.

The Demon will always be the most recognizable face in KISS. He’ll always draw the most attention on the stage as well. He won’t, however, find a spot at the top of my list for the solo albums. While it’s a pretty good effort, it ultimately does nothing to make itself rise to the top of the list.

Thanks for checking out my review. I have one solo album left to cover before diving into the “No Makeup” era of KISS!

Bandai Stranger Things “The Void” Series: Eddie

“I didn’t run away this time, right?”

Don’t worry, kids. I won’t be spoiling the latest season of Stranger Things in this post. Well, maybe if you’ve been living under a rock and didn’t know that Eddie Munson was a new character added this season, I just spoiled that with the above photo, but I promise that I won’t spoil anything else besides giving this brief description of the character: Eddie Munson is a metal head, a dungeon master in Dungeons & Dragons, and leader of the Hellfire Club, his own D&D group, at Hawkins High School. He’s become fast friends with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas and will soon find himself being hunted down for a crime that he didn’t commit. He also found himself in action figure form thanks to Bandai.

I was lucky enough to find Eddie’s Stranger Things “The Void” Series 7″ Action Figure from Bandai on clearance at one of my favorite Walmart locations. He was (most likely strategically) placed all of the way at the back of a row of about five Eleven figures. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The figure is available online but this was the first and only time that I’ve seen the figure in an actual store. Top it off with the fact that I snagged him for half of the original retail price (suck on that, scalpers), and I was a very happy fellow.

Now, getting down to my actual review of the figure, the likeness of it to Joseph Quinn is pretty good. The figure is wearing a jacket, a Hellfire Club tee, and Eddie’s iconic denim vest. As far as details go, the vest itself features a number of blank pins and patches and on the back of the jacket we get a Hellfire Club patch instead of the Dio The Last In Line patch featured in the series. I actually don’t mind this as I can imagine that it would have been expensive for Bandai to come up with licensing fees for Dio, W.A.S.P., and any other bands featured on the vest. It doesn’t ruin the figure at all.

I also like the fact that Bandai included the rag hanging from the left back pocket and the wallet chain on the right of Eddie’s pants. They also included slight rips in the jeans at the knees, rings on Eddie’s fingers (all of which are flesh toned) and a few other neat touches. Sure, some of them could have looked better but I’m okay with them overall.

The only things that really disappointed me about this figure were the fact that there were zero accessories and the tongues of his shoes were molded and painted into the bottoms of his jeans instead of on the shoes. It would have been cool to have Eddie’s guitar, maybe a D&D handbook, some twenty-sided dice, or perhaps an extra head with different facial features or another set of hands. The tongues make it difficult to pose Eddie in any fashion where his foot is pointed at an angle since the tongue is permanently in a forward position.

The figure comes with eighteen points of articulation. At least that’s how many I counted. He lacks peg holes in the bottoms of his feet, so you can’t use a standard NECA-style peg stand for this figure. He does stand just fine on his own. The box looks pretty cool. I’m especially fond of the backdrop used inside of the packaging.

Overall this isn’t a bad figure, especially considering that I have seen very little Eddie Munson-specific merchandise in the wild. I haven’t looked online for any Eddie stuff, but now I might have to see if there’s a better figure out there. Let me know what you think of the figure in the comments section and, as always, thanks for checking out my post.

Eddie and the gang!

Upcoming Events!!!

Will I See You There?????

I have two full weekends coming up beginning on July 23rd! I’ll be attending the Houston Horror Film Fest at the Houston Marriott Westchase in Houston, TX, and will then be attending Calcasieu Serial Fest on July 30th at the Henning House (Brimstone Museum) in Sulphur, LA. The HHFF looks like it is going to be amazing and I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful guests and check out some sweet independent horror films as well. The official Facebook event for the festival can be found here. Be sure to let them know if you’re attending or are interested in going to the event. More information about the festival guests, films, panels, cancellations, and more can be found on the festival webpage.

Due to a few late cancellations, a few new guests have been added to the festival’s lineup. If you’re a fan of Fright Night, Herman’s Head, Justified, or Mannequin 2, you’re in for a surprise. William Ragsdale has been added to the lineup THIS WEEK. Another amazing guest added this week is Fright Night and Married….With Children star, Amanda Bearse! I cannot wait to meet her! She’s always been one of my favorite actresses and a great director as well.

The festival will take place July 22nd through July 24th, but I am only able to attend on Saturday, the 23rd. If you happen to be attending that day, be sure to visit the Ken’s Alternate Universe Facebook page on Friday to find out the secret word that I’ll be revealing in a special live update at 9PM that evening. Find me at the festival on Saturday and mention the secret word and I’ll give you a free KAU sticker AND an additional special horror-themed sticker. I’ll have a limited number of KAU stickers, so find me early!

I’ll have one week to rest up for a second weekend of fun. I’ll be attending Calcasieu Serial Fest on the 30th. It will take place from 10AM to 5PM. It’s a free event that will feature chapters from classic serials from the 1930’s and 40’s. Popcorn and drinks will be served as well. An official list of serial chapters to be shown has not been published yet, but expect plenty of jungle-themed adventures as this year’s event is dubbed “Welcome To The Jungle.” I’ll be assisting with the festivities but feel free to talk with me about the event or anything else that interests you. This is expected to be the festival’s biggest year yet, and hopefully it will continue to grow.

I hope to see some of you at both of these events. If you plan on attending, comment below, DM me on the KAU Facebook page, the KAU Instagram page or hit me up on Twitter. Don’t forget to check for the secret word next Friday!

As always, thanks for checking out my post. See you soon!

Throwback Thursday: Riding The Bullet (2004)

“The Bullet is constant.”

Released in 2004, Stephen King’s Riding The Bullet is a generic thriller that tries desperately to be more than it is. The film has flashes of brilliance that are spread too far apart by long sequences of awkward interactions, failed attempts at art house-styled scenes, and mundane moments. It was directed and adapted by Mick Garris and starred Jonathan Jackson, David Arquette, Barbara Hershey, Matt Frewer, Erika Christensen, and Nicky Katt.

In the film, Jackson portays Alan Parker, an art student who gets into an argument with his girlfriend, tries to commit suicide, and then ends up hitchhiking home to see his dying mother. While hitchhiking, Alan meets a number of unique characters, may or may not have a few hallucinations, gets chased by murderous rednecks, and eventually rides shotgun with a phantom who gives him a choice: your life or your mother’s life.

Garris was already familiar with adapting and directing King’s work for both the big and small screen. He directed the 1992 film adaptation of King’s Sleepwalkers and also directed and/or wrote/produced a number of television shows and mini-series based on King’s work including The Stand (1994), Quicksilver Highway (1997) and The Shining (1997). He also worked on shows like Amazing Stories (1985) and She-Wolf Of London (1990), so his bizarre direction of Bullet has me a bit perplexed.

The film just can’t seem to find its rhythm. It throws in bizarre sequences where Alan has a conversation with his conscious, a literal second Alan that pops up throughout the film, that become increasingly more annoying with each interaction. It has a lot of misplaced or just plain dumb jump scares as well.

The film’s acting is pretty bad as well. Jackson isn’t a bad actor. He just cannot carry this film for some reason. Matt Frewer’s brief appearance feels forced and is poorly executed. Erika Christensen never really gets to show off her acting chops. Cliff Robertson’s role as an extremely creepy, elderly fellow that picks up Alan is awkward. Perhaps confusing everyone with bizarre characters was Garris’ intention. If so, he nailed it. If he was doing anything else, he failed miserably.

Not all of the performances were bad. Nicky Katt shines as a draft dodger who picks up Alan on his way to see his mother. Barbara Hershey is also quite excellent as Alan’s mother. The real star here is David Arquette, who plays against type as George Staub, a fifties-styled greaser who gives Alan the last ride to the hospital. The kicker? Staub is dead and is in town to take a soul with him to the afterlife. He uses fear, humor, and rage to manipulate Alan and he does a fine job of it in this film.

It’s a shame that this film is such a dud. It has a solid cast, an experienced director, and source material from one of horror’s living legends. It ultimately doesn’t translate well to the screen, however, and makes this one of my least favorite Stephen King adaptations.

Did you enjoy Riding The Bullet? let me know in the comments section. As always, thanks for reading.

Filmsquatch Podcast Debuts Today!

Bigfoot is out there…..you better watch your back!

Well, it’s time to make a pretty big announcement! Yours truly and Pop Ninja Podcast host, Patrick Bennett, have set out to watch ALL of the Bigfoot films that are out there in the wild. As we watch them, we’ll review them and share our thoughts on the films on the Filmsquatch Podcast! We will be watching the good Bigfoot films, the bad Bigfoot films, and a few films that we’d probably love to forget as well. Our first episode debuts today and you can find a link to the episode here.

The first film that we are taking a look at is a personal favorite of mine. We’ll be talking about Abominable starring Matt McCoy and Haley Joel! I’ve actually blogged about this film way back in 2017 during that year’s Thirty-One Days O’Horror and you can check that out here. This film also co-stars Tiffany Shepis, who was supposed to be in attendance at the Houston Horror Film Festival later this month but recently cancelled. I hope to get to talk with her one day and mention the podcast to her. Hopefully she’ll check it out! We have plenty of other films waiting in the wings, but be sure to us know if there are any Bigfoot related flicks that you want us to check out and we’ll get them on the pod!

I hope that all of you will take a look at this new and exciting podcast that Patrick and I have started. Don’t worry, I’ll still be very active on this blog and will still be providing reviews of films, books, movies, and more right here!

Thanks for checking out my post. See you soon!