HALLOWEEN HAUNTS:  Classic Movie Double Features for Halloween Night


Michael Arruda


 Curse Frankenstein Horror Dracula



I love watching horror movies, that’s a given.  And what better time to watch them than on Halloween night?  Even folks who don’t generally watch horror movies indulge on Halloween. 


Some watch just one.  Others do marathons long into the night.  Still others hearken back to the days of the Creature Double Feature and settle in for a twin bill.  Yep, everybody loves a good double feature. 


So, for Halloween 2013, here’s a look at some awesome double features for you to enjoy after all the Trick-or-Treaters have come and gone.


Granted, I lean heavily on classic horror, but no worries, I’ve got some new ones here as well.  The bottom line is there are simply so many horror films worthy of your time, especially on Halloween night.  You really can’t go wrong.


Here we go:


Into the Universal classics?  Excellent!  They make great viewing on Halloween night, as they’re real mood setters.


Look no further than the best of the best:  FRANKENSTEIN (1931) followed by its sequel THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935).  FRANKENSTEIN is my personal favorite of the Universal monster movies.  Boris Karloff’s Monster is the perfect mix of uncontrollable brutality and infant innocence.  He’s as sympathetic as he is terrifying.  Its sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is considered by many to be the best horror film of all time.


Not into Frankenstein?  Rather watch vampires?  Then check out DRACULA (1931) and allow Bela Lugosi to mesmerize you as the king of the undead.  Follow it up with its effective sequel, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936).


More into werewolves?  Then watch THE WOLF MAN (1941) followed by its exciting sequel, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1942).


Simply want more monsters?  Then indulge in these Universal monster parties, which include Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein monster, HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) starring Boris Karloff as an evil mad scientist, rather than as the monster, and its companion piece HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945). 


Not into monsters but want a classic flavor?  Then check out this Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi double bill:  THE BLACK CAT (1934) and THE RAVEN (1935).   Other than their signature roles as the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi probably turn in their best performances in these two movies.  They complement each other so well.  Karloff and Lugosi made several movies together.  These are two of their best.


In the mood to mix frights with laughter?  Then settle in and watch ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) and Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), two of the funniest horror movies ever made.


Moving onto to Hammer Films, while there are so many to choose from, it’s Halloween, so go with the best:  THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) followed by HORROR OF DRACULA (1958).  Watch Peter Cushing give the performance of his life as the relentless Baron Victor Frankenstein, creating one of the most hideous monsters ever to grace the big screen, Christopher Lee’s Creature, in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Then, watch HORROR OF DRACULA and witness Christopher Lee’s insanely frightening and sexy performance as Dracula, matching wits against Peter Cushing’s energetic and dynamic Van Helsing. 


Into Vincent Price?  Check out this early double bill, HOUSE OF WAX (1953) followed by this other “house” classic, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959).


Want later Price?  Then check out these campy classics, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971) followed by THEATER OF BLOOD (1973).  Murder has never been so much fun!


Into giant monsters?  Invite these behemoths into your home:  KING KONG (1933), the classic monster movie that remains one of the best movies of all time period!  It’s truly the Eighth Wonder of the movie world.  And follow it up with the campy Japanese classic bout, KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962).  It’s silly, it’s goofy, and King Kong looks like a stuffed gorilla toy accidentally run through the wash, but it’s oh so fun.


Speaking of Godzilla, if you want to be scared by a giant monster, then kick off this frightening double bill with GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! (1956).  Godzilla’s first foray into the movies is his most frightening ever, a very intense film, nothing at all like the lightweight Godzilla movies from the 1960s and 70s.  Follow this with one of the best horror movies of the 21st century, J.J. Abram’s CLOVERFIELD (2008).  If you don’t think giant monsters can be scary, you haven’t seen these two movies.


You prefer your giant monsters silly and campy?  Then look no further than these wild rides from Japan’s Toho Studios:  FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965), featuring a giant Frankenstein Monster who battles a colossal reptile, followed by THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966) which in Japan was the sequel to FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD.  But here in the United States, all references to Frankenstein were removed from GARGANTUAS.  Still, it’s one of my favorite Toho movies, and once you’ve seen the good gargantua and the bad gargantua, you won’t forget them.


Looking for some 1950s science fiction to get you in the Halloween spirit?  Then kick things off with George Pal’s colorful and explosive THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953).  You’ll forever marvel at those Martian machines.  Follow this with a different kind of space invasion, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) one of the scariest science fiction movies ever made.


Jumping ahead to the 1970s, how about these devilishly good haunts to scare you this Halloween, THE EXORCIST (1973) followed by THE OMEN (1976).  Heads will spin, beds will rise, and 666 will be flashing on your speed dial.


Okay, let’s get modern and look at some more recent haunts.


Want brutal and intense?  Then go with 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), a story about vampires loose in an Alaskan town just before the sun sets for a month.  Follow this with THE CRAZIES (2010) an excellent remake of George Romero’s original about a small town overrun by a disease that turns people into crazy murderous beasts.


Speaking of remakes, watch the better than average remake THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009) about parents getting the chance to avenge a brutal rape of their daughter.  If you like family tales of a different nature, follow this up with ORPHAN (2009) a story that will make you think twice about adopting.


Feel like spying on people in their own homes and watching them terrified by spooks and demons?  Then watch PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007) followed by PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010).    


In the mood for a modern take on classic monsters, in colorful productions that honor the Universal and Hammer styles?  Then go with ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012) and follow that up with the remake of THE WOLFMAN (2010).  Both these movies have some serious bite.


For me, the most fun horror film I’ve seen in the past few years has been INSIDIOUS (2010).  When I saw this in the theater, people were screaming left and right.  It was one of the most fun times I’ve had at a horror movie in years.  So, start off with INSIDIOUS, guaranteed to freak you out, and follow it up with another fun horror movie, this one very new, MAMA (2013).


What will I be watching this Halloween? 


Well, for me, it varies from year to year.  This year I’m going with a classic, an oldie-but-a-goodie double bill:  John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) followed by its sequel, HALLOWEEN II (1981).  HALLOWEEN is a classic of horror cinema, one of John Carpenter’s best movies.  Its sequel, HALLOWEEN II, is not, but it’s still an entertaining follow-up.  You’ll also have fun with John Carpenter’s memorable music score stuck in your head for the rest of the night.


You can’t go wrong with any of these double bills.  And of course, there are many, many more horror movies not mentioned in this column.  Feel free to come up with your own double feature.


This Halloween, after the Trick-or-Treaters have come and gone, sit back and relax and enjoy one of these Halloween double features.


Happy Halloween, everybody!









PSYCHO By Robert Bloch – A Frightening Read, Perfect for Halloween


Psycho coverWhat I’m Reading – Psycho  By Robert Bloch



Looking for a good read this Halloween?


Look no further than Psycho by Robert Bloch, the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie is based.   Hitchcock’s film is such an icon of horror cinema, it’s easy to forget that a novel called Psycho existed first.


And whether you’re reading it for the first time, or re-reading it for the umpteenth, it’s still a powerful read.


For me, I enjoy comparing the book to the movie, seeing things that Hitchcock and screenwriter Joseph Stefano kept in, things they left out, and things they changed.  I also enjoy reading the original ideas by Bloch.  With very few exceptions, the story of Psycho as we know it today was entirely created by Bloch.  Hitchcock and Stefano added very little in the way of ideas original to the movie.


The story of Psycho is so well known at this point, and for those folks unfamiliar with the movie or the book, the less they know about the plot the better, so I won’t go into much detail here about the story. It’s best for you to discover it on your own.


Basically, Psycho is the story of a peculiar young man named Norman Bates who lives with his domineering old mother and runs a small motel located on a back road off the main highway.  A young woman, Mary Crane, has stolen a large sum of money from her employer, which she plans to use to help pay her boyfriend Sam Loomis’ debts so they can get married.


On her way to visit Sam, she stops at the Bates Motel to spend the night.  She ends up having a conversation with Norman Bates over dinner, and later that night returns to her room where she takes a shower—. 


Sometime later, Mary’s sister Lila and a private investigator name Arbogast arrive in Sam’s town looking for Mary, and when Sam tells them he has no idea where Mary is, that she never came to see him, the search continues.  Arbogast finds evidence that Mary had stayed at the Bates Motel, and he tells Lila and Sam this news, but when Arbogast himself disappears, Sam and Lila finally decide to go to the local sheriff, who tells them he believes Arbogast has pulled a fast one on them, because if he told them he was returning to the Bates Motel to question Norman Bates’ mother, he was lying, because Norman Bates’ mother is dead.


And thus the mystery deepens, leading to one of the most memorable conclusions ever in a horror movie, and a pretty good one for a novel as well.


The first and most obvious difference between the book and the movie is the physical appearance of Norman Bates.  In the movie, as played by Anthony Perkins, Norman is tall and thin, whereas in the novel, Norman is heavy, out of shape, and wears glasses.  In fact, when Mary first sees him in the novel his weak appearance puts her at ease:


Mary made up her mind very quickly, once she saw the fat, bespectacled face and heard the soft, hesitant voice.  There wouldn’t be any trouble.


Think again, Mary!


The novel also introduces Norman Bates right away, in Chapter 1, unlike in the movie where the first third of the movie is all about Marion Crane (she’s Marion in the movie, Mary in the book.)  It’s a great way to open the novel, as the first chapter probably does a better job defining Norman Bates’ character than the entire Hitchcock movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Hitchcock film nails Norman Bates, mostly because of Anthony Perkins’ phenomenal performance, but here in the novel, especially in the opening chapter, we get inside Norman’s head and immediately are privy to interactions with his mother that define him with the kind of depth  you can only find in a novel, as it’s nearly impossible to accomplish in a movie.


As in this exchange:


“—-You never listen to me, do you?  It’s always what you want and what you think.  You make me sick!”


“Do I boy?” Mother’s voice was deceptively gentle, but that didn’t fool Norman.  Not when she called him “boy.”  Forty years old, and she called him “boy.”




“That’s the real reason you’re still sitting over here on this side road, isn’t it, Norman?  Because the truth is that you haven’t any gumption.  Never had any gumption, did you boy?


“Never had the gumption to leave home.  Never had the gumption to go out and get yourself a job, or join the army, or even find yourself a girl—.”


“You wouldn’t let me!”


And this thought from Norman:


She’d always laid down the law to him, but that didn’t mean he always had to obey.  Mothers sometimes are overly possessive, but not all children allow themselves to be possessed.


This is all from Chapter 1, which really sets the tone for the rest of the novel, as right off the bat we get a full understanding of the dynamic between Norman and his mother.  We see and understand what his mother has done to him, and what he has become in the process.  I think it’s better defined here in this opening chapter than anywhere in the Hitchcock movie.


Of course, the defining moment of the movie PSYCHO (1960) is the shower scene, one of the most memorable and most studied scenes in film history.  Now, whereas the book obviously isn’t going to capture the cinematic craftsmanship of Hitchcock, the bottom line is Bloch doesn’t have to because his version is even more brutal than the film version.  His shower scene ends with a beheading.  Nuff said.


Granted, I enjoy the first half of the novel better than the second.  I find the chapters about Lila and Sam’s investigation much less captivating and interesting than the ones about Norman Bates and his mother.  During these later chapters, Norman is in them less, and the novel just isn’t as creepy when he’s not present.


The same goes for his mother, whose presence is felt much more in the book than in the movie.  When she’s in the novel, she’s a monstrous character, and Bloch does a masterful job with her.  She’s much less of a force in the movie, where for obvious reasons, we don’t see her much.


There’s a great scene after Norman has spent hours cleaning up after his mother’s crime and meticulously disposing of the body.  He returns to his house, exhausted.  He collapses in his bed and soon hears his mother enter the room.


“It’s all right son.  I’m here.  Everything’s all right.”  He could feel her hand on his forehead, and it was cool, like the drying sweat.  He wanted to open his eyes, but she said, “Don’t you worry, son.  Just go back to sleep.”


“But I have to tell you—.”


“I know.  I was watching.  You didn’t think I’d go away and leave you, did you?  You did right, Norman.  And everything’s all right now.”


Yes.  That was the way it should be.  She was there to protect him.  He was there to protect her.  Just before he drifted off to sleep again, Norman made up his mind.   They wouldn’t talk about what happened tonight- not now, or ever.  And he wouldn’t think about sending her away.  No matter what she did, she belonged here, with him.  Maybe she was crazy, and a murderess, but she was all he had.  All he wanted.  All he needed.  Just knowing she was here, beside him, as he went to sleep.


Aaargh!!!  How creepy!!!!


Great stuff!


Psycho is an excellent read, especially around Halloween. If you want to curl up with a frightening book this Halloween, grab a copy of Robert Bloch’s Psycho and invite Norman Bates and his mother into your home.  It’ll get under your skin in ways the Hitchcock film doesn’t.


Bloch brings you in so deeply into the mindset of Norman Bates and his mother, it’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable and dirty, in need of a shower.  Then again— maybe you better opt for a bath.





Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man doesn't have much to say, but his supporting cast does.  Check it out.

Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man doesn’t have much to say, but his supporting cast does. Check it out.



Michael Arruda


Even a man who is pure in heart

And says his prayers by night

May become a wolf when the wolfs bane blooms

And the autumn moon is bright



We’ve all heard this little ditty.  It’s from THE WOLF MAN (1941) Universal’s classic werewolf movie starring Lon Chaney Jr. as everybody’s favorite werewolf, Larry Talbot.  THE WOLF MAN also boasts a fantastic supporting cast, one of the best ever assembled for a Universal monster movie, led by Claude Rains as Larry’s father Sir John Talbot, and also featuring Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva the Gypsy woman, and Ralph Bellamy, Evelyn Ankers, Patric Knowles, and Bela Lugosi.


Welcome to another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at neat quotes from even neater movies.  Today’s subject is THE WOLF MAN, one of my favorite Universal monster movies. 


Now, unlike Bela Lugosi as Dracula, or even Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster, both of whom uttered now famous lines in their roles, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man is not really known for the classic lines he said, unless you include his incessant whining about wanting to die and being cursed eternally.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t memorable lines in THE WOLF MAN.  There are.  Plenty of them.


Let’s get started.  Here’s a look at some memorable quotes from THE WOLF MAN, screenplay by Curt Siodmark.


We’ll start with the poem above, spoken several times during the movie.  It’s one of the first times Larry hears about werewolves.  He hears this poem, not once, but several times, and the legend of lycanthropy begins to creep into his being.


This ditty became so prevalent and accepted that it was actually credited later as being “an ancient gypsy rhyme” when in reality it was simply made up by screenwriter Curt Siodmark.  Now, that’s good writing!


One of the most memorable characters in THE WOLF MAN is Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), the old gypsy woman whose son Bela (Bela Lugosi) is the werewolf who bites Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) and turns him into a werewolf.  Maleva becomes a central character in the story because she helps Larry deal with his new condition.


In a key scene, Larry watches from the shadows as Maleva speaks to her deceased son inside a crypt, who’s dead because Larry killed him, thinking he had killed a wolf.  Larry listens from the shadows as Maleva delivers a final blessing to her dead son.  Let’s listen:


MALEVA:  The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Your suffering is over, Bela my son. Now you will find peace.

Later, when Maleva and Larry Talbot first meet, she tries to warn him, telling him that he has been bitten by a werewolf, but Larry doesn’t want to believe it.


MALEVA:  You killed the wolf.

LARRY TALBOT: Well, there’s no crime in that is there?

MALEVA: The wolf was Bela.

LARRY: You think I don’t know the difference between a wolf and a man?

MALEVA: Bela became a wolf and you killed him. A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife or a stick with a silver handle.

LARRY TALBOT: You’re insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A plain, ordinary wolf!

MALEVA: Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives, becomes a werewolf himself.

When the police question Larry after Jenny Williams is killed by a wolf, and Bela the Gypsy is found dead next to her with his skull crushed by Larry Talbot’s cane, they want to know from Larry what happened.  He tells them he killed a wolf, not a man, but as they insist the cane killed a man, not a wolf, Larry’s frustration grows, until the questioning is stopped by family friend and doctor, Doctor Lloyd, who is quite patronizing of Larry in this scene.

LARRY TALBOT:  Don’t try to make me believe that I killed a man when I know that I killed a wolf!

DOCTOR LLOYD: [patronizing Larry] Yes, yes. We’re all a bit confused.

And in keeping with the theme of the original shooting script called DESTINY, in which Larry Talbot would have transformed into a werewolf only in his mind, Doctor Lloyd answers Larry’s question about whether or not he believes in werewolves with this answer:

LARRY TALBOT:  Do you believe in werewolves, doctor?

DOCTOR LLOYD:  I believe a man lost in the mazes of his own mind may imagine that he’s anything.

Claude Rains has some great lines as Larry Talbot’s father, Sir John Talbot, like this classic one when he chastises Inspector Montford for being too impatient regarding his investigation of Bela the gypsy’s death:

SIR JOHN TALBOT:  You policemen are always in such a hurry. As if dead men hadn’t all eternity.

And this line when he comments to Larry about his religious beliefs:

SIR JOHN TALBOT: All astronomers are amateurs. When it comes to the heavens, there’s only one professional.

Sir John is probably my favorite character in the movie, not because he’s likable, but because he’s the main reason why his son Larry Talbot is disturbed in the first place.  It’s a great performance by Claude Rains, and other than his role as Captain Louis Renault in CASABLANCA (1942), it’s probably my favorite Claude Rains role.

Sir John isn’t intentionally mean to his son. He inflicts his damage inadvertently.  Nearly everything he says somehow hurts Larry, even though he means well.  Like this example towards the end of the movie when he berates his son for believing in werewolves:

SIR JOHN TALBOT:  You can’t run away.

LARRY TALBOT: That’s it! That’s what she said.


LARRY: The gypsy woman.

SIR JOHN: Gypsy woman? Now we’re getting down to it. She’s been filling your mind with this gibberish. This talk of werewolves and pentagrams. You’re not a child Larry, you’re a grown man and you believe in the superstitions of a Gypsy woman!

And in of the movie’s best scenes, when Sir John decides to prove to Larry that he’s not a werewolf, he ties his son to a chair inside Talbot castle, and you can see Larry appreciating his father’s efforts, but then Sir John is called to leave his son and join the villagers in their hunt for the werewolf.

LARRY: But you’re going to stay with me, aren’t you?

SIR JOHN:  Oh no, I’ve got to go, Larry.  These people have a problem.  You must make your own fight.

You can just see the light go out of Larry’s face. The fact is his father is just never there for him.  There’s a lot going on in THE WOLF MAN, more than what you usually find in a horror movie.  The story works on multiple levels.  It’s a great movie.

I hope you enjoyed these quotes from THE WOLF MAN, and that you will join me again next time when I examine great quotes from another classic movie.

Thanks for reading!



Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to Also available at

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.


 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to Also available at

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to Also available at  








Here’s a picture of the artwork from the 1943 premiere of everybody’s favorite movie monster battle, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943).


According to the source, this comes from a theater in St. Louis.  I found this image on The Blog of Frankenstein, located at



I love the artwork.  It would be a hoot to return to this time, when movies like FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN were scary, when people screamed when they saw Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolf Man, and I’m sure that they did scream.


I wonder what that guy in the doorway was thinking when this picture was taken.  Why are you taking a picture of me?  Is that my ride? Do you have a license to be carrying that camera?


He looks kind of official.  Kinda reminds me of Marvel’s Agent Coulson.  Perhaps he was on the lookout for some future Agents of SHIELD.  Speaking of which, the Wolf Man would have made a nice addition to the team, and it would have given Larry Talbot a purpose in life.  He might even have finally stopped whining about his sad fate.


I also like the reflection in the glass doorway of the vintage automobile, which back then, was probably brand new.


It’s almost Halloween, time to appreciate and enjoy the classics of horror, and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN is definitely a movie that deserves both recognition and a look during this horror movie season.


So, should you check out the movie this Halloween, start out with a look at this photo, and imagine if you will a time when FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was still scary, when it was showing on the big screen, and imagine that you’re inside that theater surrounded by friends, eating candy and popcorn, and the Wolf Man appears on screen, and the theater erupts in a massive scream of terror.


Ah, the good old days!






The Uncut HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) – The “Mina” Sequence


The newly restored "Mina" sequence from HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

The newly restored “Mina” sequence from HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)Long lost version finally restored!

The “Mina” Sequence


This is a follow-up piece to my post last month where I reported the good news that earlier this year Hammer Films finally released its restored version of HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), recovered from the long lost Japanese print. 


This fun event happened on March 13, 2013, when Hammer released its restored version on Blu-Ray to British audiences.  This print has not yet made its way to the United States. 


However, clips from this version have been posted on YouTube, and the most notable change involved the restoration of the film’s famous ending.  At long last, western audiences could finally see the uncut ending.  I posted these YouTube clips with a detailed explanation of the story behind the Japanese print on this blog back on September 30.  If you’re interested in learning about— and seeing— the uncut ending, simply check out my September 30 post.

The subject of today’s post is another scene that has been restored, and it’s from the “Mina” sequence.  Towards the end of the movie, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and Arthur Holmwood (Michael Gough) stand guard outside the house to protect Mina (Melissa Stribling) from Dracula (Christopher Lee).  Their efforts fail because unbeknownst to the two men, Dracula is already inside the house, his coffin hidden in the basement.  So, while they stand guard outside, Dracula easily makes his way to Mina’s bedroom. 


It’s this scene that now has an extra shot restored of Dracula biting Mina, captured from a different angle. It actually shows Dracula spending some extra time kissing Mina first, and this scene was cut by British sensors because it was considered too sensuous. 


How times change!


For your viewing pleasure, here is the link to the lost “Mina” sequence.   This is actually from the original Japanese reels, which is in poor condition, and you’ll have to fast forward a bit— about 10 minutes into the clip— to get to the uncut Mina sequence.


Enjoy!  And if it’s too sensuous for you, feel free to cover your eyes!



ROCK AND SHOCK Weekend – A Shocking Good Time in Worcester, MA


Rock and Shock

Rock & Shock Preview

By Michael Arruda


This weekend, Friday October 18, 2013 through Sunday, October, 20, 2013 is the Rock & Shock convention in Worcester, Massachusetts.


Rock & Shock is a neat convention held every year at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.  They feature a nice line- up of horror movie and television celebrities, and there’s usually a huge selection of horror merchandise, including T-shirts, collectibles, toys, costumes, posters, movie stills, what have you. 


This year’s guests, to name a few,  include Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, THE WALKING DEAD cast members Scott Wilson, Michael Rooker, and Irone Singleton, Robert Patrick from TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991), and many others, including horror author Jack Ketchum.


And across the way at the Worcester Palladium which is just down the road from the DCU Center, the con features performances by various rock bands from across the country.


While Rock and Shock tends to attract more film enthusiasts than readers, the New England Horror Writers still has a table there every year.  We’ve been going to Rock and Shock for quite a while now, since I first set up communications with Rock and Shock when I co-chaired the New England Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, the precursor to the New England Horror Writers, back in the early 2000s.


I will be at Rock and Shock this year on Saturday October 19, and I’ll have copies of my books, In The Spooklight, my collection of 115 “In the Spooklight” horror movie columns, and For The Love of Horror, my horror short story collection.  I’ll be at the New England Horror table sharing space with my fellow NE Horror Writers.


If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you might consider heading out to Worcester for a little rock and shock.


For more information visit their website at


Hope to see you there!



Ben Affleck Has the Winning Hand in RUNNER RUNNER (2013)


Runner RunnerMovie Review:  RUNNER RUNNER (2013)


Michael Arruda



Ben Affleck might not be at the point in his acting career where he can carry a bad movie, but he’s getting close.  Not that RUNNER RUNNER is a bad movie, but it’s safe to say it isn’t a very good one.


Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) is struggling to pay his graduate school tuition, and so he turns to online gambling, hooking players up with online gambling sites and getting paid for his efforts.  But when the college shuts Richie down, he gets desperate and goes all in with a bet on an online site only to lose.  Richie realizes he’s been cheated, and knowing that casinos frown upon cheating because it’s bad for business, he deduces that whoever cheated him was an underling, and the head of the online casino would not be pleased.


Richie travels to Costa Rica where he finds and informs the man who owns the site, Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) that someone cheated him, and he shows Block evidence which proves it.  Richie’s instincts prove correct, as Block is dismayed to learn that someone working for him has swindled a customer.  Block is grateful and rewards Richie with a job.


Soon, Richie is making all kinds of money, and life is good.  When Block involves him in some shady dealings, Richie naively assumes it’s all legal.  But when he’s confronted by FBI agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) who tells Richie that Block is a bad egg, it gives him pause.  Of course, Block tells him to ignore the FBI, that they’re just jealous of his success, and for him not to worry because the FBI has no jurisdiction in Costa Rica. 


Should have listened to Agent Shavers, Richie!


RUNNER RUNNER is actually a pretty entertaining movie for what it is:  fluff trying to pass itself off as serious thriller, and I probably enjoyed it more than I should have because Ben Affleck gives a spirited performance that dominates the film.  Yep, Affleck owns this movie.


Ever since his performance as George Reeves in HOLLYWOODLAND (2006) I’ve been on the Ben Affleck bandwagon.  I really enjoyed him in THE TOWN (2010) and of course he hit the ball out of the park with ARGO (2012).  All of these recent roles have led me to forget Affleck’s earlier duds, films like THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002) and DAREDEVIL (2003).


How good is Affleck as Ivan Block?  Good enough to easily be the best part of this movie.  In fact, if not for Affleck, I don’t think I would have enjoyed RUNNER RUNNER at all.  He brings Ivan Block to life and makes him quite the villain.  He pours his heart and soul into the role.   


Justin Timberlake is okay in the lead as Richie Furst, but Richie really isn’t the most interesting character, and Timberlake doesn’t do much to make him memorable.  Granted, I’m not the biggest Timberlake fan.  My favorite Timberlake roles have been when he’s been in a supporting role, in films like TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012) and BAD TEACHER (2011).  Plus for a character who’s supposed to be so smart, Richie takes forever to realize that maybe Ivan Block might not be the best guy to work for. 


Gemma Arterton looks good as Rebecca Shafran, the woman who has a relationship with both Ivan and Richie, but it’s a juicer sounding role than it actually is.  We know very little about her relationship with Ivan, and her involvement with Richie never becomes all that believable, nor do Arterton and Timberlake share much chemisty.  Arterton fared slightly better as Gretel alongside Jeremy Renner’s Hansel in HANSEL AND GRETEL:  WITCH HUNTERS (2013).  However, I’ve liked her best so far in the Daniel Craig the James Bond flick QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008).


Anthony Mackie who plays FBI Agent Shavers has been in a lot of movies lately, in films like PAIN AND GAIN (2013), GANGSTER SQUAD (2013), and ABRAHAM LINCOLN:  VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012).  He’s fine here, but it’s a blah role.  Agent Shavers is like just about every other frustrated law enforcement official we see in the movies.


A grizzled, tired looking John Heard plays Richie’s dad Harry.  He’s okay in this small role.  I remember when Heard used to be a lead actor.  He’s too good to be playing bit roles like this.


The screenplay by Brian Koppelman and David Levien presents a fairly entertaining premise, but most of the drama and thrills here are watered down, and in spite of the film’s R rating, the story never goes for the throat.  For example, in a key scene where Affleck’s Ivan threatens to throw his enemies into the water to be eaten by crocodiles, he doesn’t follow through.  Heck, even James Bond villains do as much.


And with the exception of Affleck’s Ivan Block, most of the characters in this one are superficial.  They aren’t fleshed out, and Block only stands out because of Affleck’s performance, not because of the writing.


RUNNER RUNNER also suffers from “trailer exposure.”  If you’ve seen the trailer to this one— and I had, multiple times— you’ve pretty much seen the entire movie.  There really isn’t much left in the film to surprise you.  I really wish trailers would become more creative at selling their movie without giving away the entire plot.  Some trailers do this already, like the ones for GRAVITY (2013) but so many just give away the entire story, some even revealing the film’s final scene!


I expected RUNNER RUNNER to tackle the subject of online gambling with some depth, but it really doesn’t.  The goings-on here aren’t any deeper than what you would find in a superficial soap opera plot.


Nor does the movie have much to say about greed.  Timberlake’s Richie’s driving force in entering the online gambling world is to pay for graduate school.  Granted, he sticks around and accepts Block’s job offer ostensibly to get rich, but we don’t really know that.  We’re never invited inside Richie’s mind and soul to find out what makes him tick, nor do we see him tainted by all of Block’s money and power.  He’s pretty much the same guy at the end of the movie as he was at the beginning.


And as much as I liked Ben Affleck as Ivan Block, we never really get inside his head either.  I don’t really know why he does what he does.  Obviously, it’s for the money, but we learn little about Block’s background, where he came from, or what he wants to do with his future.  Ivan Block is a dynamic character only because Affleck’s performance brings the guy to life.


Directed by Brad Furman, RUNNER RUNNER is an entertaining piece of fluff that has as its centerpiece a riveting performance by Ben Affleck as an unscrupulous villain of the online gambling world, Ivan Block, but other than Affleck, there’s not a whole lot here to be excited about.


Consider folding and placing your bets elsewhere.







BROKEN CITY (2013) Needs Some Fixing


Broken City posterBlu-Ray Review:  BROKEN CITY (2013)


Michael Arruda



There’s more that needs fixing here than just a city.


BROKEN CITY (2013), now available on Blu-Ray, is a thriller about an ex-cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) who gets tangled up with an unscrupulous big city mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe), and as a result finds himself embroiled in political intrigue and murder. 


The movie opens as Taggart shoots and kills a suspected murderer and rapist, and then is found innocent of the crime because both the mayor and the Commissioner of Police Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) suppress video evidence which would have proven Taggart’s guilt. In order to cover his political butt, Mayor Hostetler tells Taggart that the price he has to pay for his “innocence” is that he must leave the police force.


Seven years later, Taggart is working as a private detective.  Business is not very good, and his secretary Katy (Alona Tal) spends most her time trying to track down former clients who still owe them money.


Out of the blue, Mayor Hostetler contacts Taggart and offers him a job.  He tells Taggart that he suspects his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair, and he wants Taggart to prove it.  Taggart desperately needs the money, and so he takes the case.


Of course, being the unsavory character that he is, Mayor Hostetler has ulterior motives, and Taggart soon finds himself in way over his head.


BROKEN CITY is almost saved by the strong performances of its two leads, Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, but is ultimately done in by a weak script that just can’t seem to hold its story of political intrigue and murder together.  The bottom line is it’s just not very believable.


I enjoyed Mark Wahlberg a lot as Billy Taggart.  It’s a typical role for Wahlberg, as he’s a blue collar law enforcement officer, a recovering alcoholic, and a genuine nice guy, as long as you look the other way when he takes the law into his own hands.  While I liked his performance in 2 GUNS (2013) a bit more than this one, he’s reached the point where he’s almost always enjoyable.


I was also impressed with Russell Crowe as Mayor Hostetler. After back to back subpar performances in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012) and LES MISERABLES (2012), Crowe has immediately turned things around with impressive performances in MAN OF STEEL (2013) as Superman’s father Jor-El, and in this movie.  Crowe is credible as the cut-throat mayor who’s not above committing crimes to save his political skin.  He makes a nice nasty villain in this one, and he’s deliciously icy in the role. 


The rest of the cast runs hot and cold. 


Catherine Zeta-Jones is okay as Hostetler’s wife Cathleen, in what turns out to be a thankless role.  Jeffrey Wright seems to be stuck with a permanent scowl on his face as the police commissioner Carl Fairbanks.  Wright was much more impressive and memorable as Felix Leiter in the Daniel Craig James Bond flicks CASINO ROYALE (2006) and QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008).


Barry Pepper is oddly cast as Jack Valliant, the man who’s running against Hostetler in a fierce mayoral campaign.  Pepper looks more like a drug pusher than a politician.  Kyle Chandler plays Valliant’s campaign manager Paul Andrews, and Griffin Dunne is wasted in a nothing role as Sam Lancaster, a man with deep pockets who contributes to Hostetler’s campaign.


Only Alona Tal stands out as Taggart’s secretary Katy.  It’s a nice performance by Tal, and other than Wahlberg and Crowe, she gives the best performance in the movie.  Her Katy is a vibrant character, and I had a hard time taking my eyes off her when she was onscreen.


Natalie Martinez is acceptable as Taggart’s actress girlfriend Natalie Barrow, whose 16 year-old sister happened to be the victim of the rapist/murderer that Taggart killed in the film’s opening.


But in spite of the decent acting, BROKEN CITY gets bogged down in a story that never convinced me that it was real.  The screenplay by Brian Tucker fails to include a credible threat.  We know that Crowe’s Mayor Hostetler is a dirty politician, capable of criminal activities, but the shady deal he’s involved with, the political hot potato that he must break the law for in order to get re-elected, is hardly intriguing.  It involves some shady real estate deals that frankly not even Lex Luthor would get that excited about.


And then there’s the plot with Hostetler’s wife and her extramarital affair.  The mayor hires Taggart to prove that she’s sleeping with another man, and you can tell from the outset that Hostetler is not a man to be trusted, and so you suspect that he’s up to something else.  When this proves to be true, you’re hardly surprised.


When Taggart finally catches onto the game Hostetler is playing at his expense, he fights back and attempts to coerce the mayor into backing off, at which time Hostetler reveals his hand and shows Taggart the evidence he has against him in the murder charge from seven years earlier, in effect thwarting Taggart’s efforts.  Taggart seems genuinely surprised by this revelation.  Considering that Hostetler told Taggart at the beginning of the movie that he had this evidence in his possession, I found it difficult to believe that a street wise former cop like Taggart would have forgotten this vital piece of information.


BROKEN CITY was directed by Allen Hughes, who along with his brother Albert, also directed THE BOOK OF ELI (2010) starring Denzel Washington, and the Johnny Depp horror movie FROM  HELL (2001).  Both those films had a bit more bite than this one, but in terms of style, I liked BROKEN CITY more than THE BOOK OF ELI.    BROKEN CITY is a polished looking thriller, with enough dark scenes of its broken metropolis to satisfy the film noir viewer.


While BROKEN CITY isn’t bad, and if you like Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, you could do a lot worse, at the end of the day, it’s not much more than a standard by the numbers thriller because quite simply it never goes for broke.











Here’s my latest IN THE SPOOKLIGHT column on the Peter Cushing movie THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968), now appearing in the latest edition of the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER.

And remember, if you like this column, you’ll also like the book, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, available now as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.comand also as a print edition at



 The Blood Beast Terror poster





Peter Cushing considered THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (1968) to be his worst movie.

It’s difficult to disagree with him.

The film suffers from a ludicrous plot, weak direction, and a blah script.  How ridiculous is its plot, you ask?  Well, it’s about a woman who can transform herself into a giant moth creature—- yes, you heard right.  A moth creature.

Could they have picked a more benign threat?  A moth?  Seriously?  Why not a mosquito?  Or a cockroach?  But no, they chose a moth.    It reminds me of a Monty Python sketch:  A giant moth?  What’s it going to do?  Flap its wings at you?

So, there’s this giant moth creature that needs to drink human blood to survive.  Specifically, it’s a Death’s Head moth, and for sure, this is the most ominous thing about it, its name.

With this creature on the loose, people are dropping like flies— heh heh.  It’s up to Inspector Quennell (Peter Cushing) to solve the case.  There are very few clues, but one of the victims was a student of a local professor, Professor Mallinger (Robert Flemying) who is an expert on insects, and so Quennell begins his investigation by questioning the professor. 

More victims are discovered— oh, the terror of it all!— and curiously, all of the victims are male.  The clues keep bringing Quennell back to Professor Mallinger.  It turns out that the professor has created a moth monster who can transform back and forth between human form and moth form.  In human form, it’s a beautiful woman, Clare (Wanda Ventham), who the professor passes off as his daughter. 

Clare prefers to seduce her victims before killing them, which is why all of the victims are male. 

Eventually, Quennell discovers the professor’s secret, but not before his own daughter Meg (Vanessa Howard) finds herself in harm’s way from the murderous moth beast!  Can you stand the suspense?

The better question is can you stand this movie?

The number one problem with THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR is its plot.  Besides the fact that it’s about a woman who turns into a bloodthirsty moth, it’s never explained to any degree of satisfaction why the good professor created the monstrosity in the first place.  Did he love moths so much he just had to have his own, and in human size to boot?  Was he that lonely that he just needed a friend?  It’s as if the screenwriter decided to write a story about a monster but forgot to include the reason why such a monster would exist.

It’s also not scary.  Not a good thing for a horror movie.

Peter Bryan wrote the screenplay, and he also wrote the screenplay for two of Hammer’s better movies, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959) and THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), both starring Peter Cushing.  Those films, the scripts in particular, were great.  That’s not the case here.  Not only is the story weak, but the dialogue is also substandard.

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR was directed by Vernon Sewell, which brings us to the second problem with this movie:  poor direction.  Many of the scenes are awkwardly constructed, with quick cutaways at key points in the story, such as the murder scenes and action sequences.  All of the murders occur off-camera.

Part of this, I’m sure, is because the moth monster looked ridiculous.  One reviewer wrote that it looked like a Halloween costume in a school parade, and I would have to agree with that assessment.

Sewell also does a poor job with his actors here.  When even Peter Cushing looks lost and without focus in scenes, you know things are bad. 

It’s one of the more uneven performances I’ve seen Peter Cushing deliver.  His Inspector Quennell is difficult to read.  At times, he’s cocky, suave, and relaxed, as if he’s completely comfortable with himself, but at other times he appears irritable and restless, as if he’s not so confident.  The worst part is we never learn just what makes him a great police inspector, or if he even is a great police inspector.  We don’t get to see him do much, other than ask people lots of questions.  Cushing shined as Sherlock Holmes, so it’s not like he would struggle playing a detective.  The fault here lies with Sewell’s direction.

The rest of the cast is average at best. I did enjoy Glynn Edwards as Sgt. Allan, the Inspector’s right hand man, and he gives the best performance in the movie.  Robert Flemying overacts as Professor Mallinger and is painful to watch, and Wanda Ventham is about as wooden as you can get as the moth creature Clare.


THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR was a Tigon production, a company that tried to build itself as the new Hammer and Amicus, but it ultimately failed in its efforts.  With a movie like THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, it’s easy to understand why the studio wasn’t successful.


Not even Peter Cushing can save THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, and that about says it all.


But hey, if giant moths are your thing, and you’ve seen every single MOTHRA movie ever made and still crave more tales of moths, then maybe you’ll really enjoy THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR


For the rest of us, though, watching THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR is about as enjoyable as finding a closet full of mothballs. 






Online Book Reviews: Great Way To Promote Books


IN THE SPOOKLIGHT cover by Matt Bechtel.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT cover by Matt Bechtel.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR cover by Kelli Jones.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR cover by Kelli Jones.



These days, one of the ways to generate some buzz about your books is to have people review them online.  Online reviews are a great way to get more people to read your books.


The question, though, is how does one get people to review your books? 


For starters, you have to read them.  So, on that note, I have two books available at present.  The first, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, is my collection of horror movie columns, now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.comand also as a print edition at


The second is my short story collection, FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at and as a print edition at


But why read them?  Even at just $5.00 a pop for an EBook, why read one of my books instead of the hundreds of other books available?  My immediate answer is that you should read both.  Read a lot and read often, and then you can get through all those books you want to enjoy.


But a more detailed thoughtful answer gives me pause.  It’s easier with IN THE SPOOKLIGHT.  That collection of 115 horror movie reviews, of both classic horror movies and present-day ones, makes for both excellent resource material and also fun reading for film buffs.  If you love horror movies, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy IN THE SPOOKLIGHT.


FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR is a more difficult sell.  While I stand by my short stories and believe they are at the very least dark and entertaining, why read a short story collection by Michael Arruda when there is so much other fine horror fiction available?  Again, I say read both.  If you enjoy horror fiction, especially short stories, chances are you’ll enjoy FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, a collection of horror short stories with a wraparound story that ties them all together. 


So, you‘ve bought the book, read it, and you liked it.  Why post a review?  I’m glad you asked.  By posting a brief online review, you’ll let other readers know what you thought about the book.  That way, when someone is looking for things to read, they’ll have a positive reason to check the book out for themselves.  Of course, there’s always the chance a negative review will steer them away.  But in this business, that’s the chance you take.


So, what are you waiting for? 


Check out IN THE SPOOKLIGHT and/or FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR and post your review online today!


And remember, I’m always available to the return the favor, and I’m more than happy to read and review your work and promote it here on this blog.