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Coby in New American Horror Stories Has a Fan Favorite Twist

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It looks like American Horror Stories Season Two wants fans to start their world-building theories early. The first episode has gained widespread popularity because of a cliffhanger that ties this offshoot series into American Horror Story proper.

If you haven’t seen the premiere episode of season two of American Horror Stories, go watch it on Hulu, and return here.

There are spoilers below.

It looks like the makers of American Horror Stories have borrowed a little bit of their inspiration from the 1975 horror film Tourist Trap this season. They also sprinkled in a little bit of House of Wax with a smattering of Bratz! dolls.

Coby in American Horror Stories Season 2

What’s the difference between American Horror Stories and American Horror Story?

The main difference is stand-alone storytelling. American Horror Stories is an anthology that occasionally refers back to its mother show. Think of it as a Twilight Zone but told inside its own macrocosm. Each episode is unique but takes place in the American Horror Story universe.

In this premiere episode of the second season, the call back doesn’t come until the end, but it’s one that the third season fans of American Horror Story are going to enjoy.

Who is Coby in American Horror Stories?

In American Horror Stories season 2, Coby is played by actress Kristine Froseth. Her character becomes one of the dolls.

The episode begins in the 1960s. We meet Coby. But that introduction is short and sweet because soon she is locked inside the house of a psychopath toymaker named Mr. Van Wirth (Denis O’Hare).

Coby discovers Van Wirth’s mansion — a life-sized “dollhouse — is home to other kidnapped women. They are there to be surrogates for Van Wirth’s son who is motherless after Van Wirth throws her down a well.

American Horror Stories – Dollhouse

The victims are all dressed in adult doll costumes complete with individual masks. They are conscious, but have to act like subservient living dolls when they are around him, and like in Toy Story, they talk and act normally when he’s gone.

During these discussions, Coby learns that they are all candidates to replace Van Wirth’s wife. Coby becomes a favorite with the evil toymaker after she impresses him with magic tricks.

Orchestrating an escape among the women, each is killed but Coby survives earning her the position of mother and wife. To seal the deal, Van Wirth covers her in hard but pliable plastic and makes her do motherly duties.

The AHS Twist

Just as Coby seems resigned to embracing her new role a teacup flies into the ceiling smashing it to bits. In walk two strange women in black who incapacitate Van Wirth and his henchmen with magic. They shatter Coby’s plastic outer layer without harming her while reassuring her that they are not to be feared. They are going to take her to a safe place.

Before the credits, Coby and the toymaker’s son, who willingly came with her, stand in front of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. Fans will remember that this particular school was in Coven; season three of AHS proper, and later Apocalypse.

Coby asks her new charge what his middle name is so they can use it as an alias inside the school. He says Spaulding which also ties back to Coven. A redhead then emerges from the building to introduce herself. Her name is Myrtle Snow and she, “plans to run this place someday.” Roll credits because fans know what happens next.

Myrtle Snow In AHS Coven

Was Coven the Best?

Coven was arguably the best season of American Horror Story. Lots of fans agree that it introduced the most interesting characters. From Jessica Lange’s insipid biting shade to the uncomfortable sex scenes, Coven pushed boundaries to eleven. So it makes sense that the franchise would callback to that season.

The ingenuity of the writers to also make it a micro origin story is brilliant. In fact, let’s make that series happen.

If American Horror Stories continues to make episodes as good as this one this season the series might get an upward trajectory in the ratings. The first season got tepid ratings from critics and fans were less than loyal. However, season two is starting off strong and like Coby, we might be in for a pleasant surprise.

American Horror Stories Season 2 Trailer

Comedy Horror

Great Performances in Horror: Carol Kane in Office Killer

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Spotlight: Carol Kane in Office Killer

Office Killer seemed like the type of film that should have been heralded as a cult classic the moment it was released back in 1997. It certainly has all the ingredients. There’s a starry cast featuring the likes of Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn, the film’s director was artist Cindy Sherman making her directorial debut, and the story appeared to be a biting satire about office politics under the clever guise of a slasher film (which were thriving at the time due to the success of films such as Scream). 

Unfortunately, while Office Killer might have many quality ingredients, it wasn’t baked quite long enough to satisfy most audiences at the time and people either didn’t care for it or didn’t even bother giving it a chance. Was it too many cooks in the kitchen? Studio interference by the notoriously pesky producers over at Dimension Films? The barely-there theatrical release that left most people encountering it for the first time on the new release wall at their local video store? No one knows for sure since everyone involved in the production seems to have taken an oath of silence after making it as if they were all involved in some sort of I Know What You Did Last Summer-style cover-up.

While the satire and slasher elements sometimes butt heads, Office Killer does offer more than enough intriguing elements to please both horror and dark comedy fans alike. The one element of the film that holds up throughout the tonal whiplash is Carol Kane who plays the film’s protagonist and main villain, Dorine Douglas. Only Kane is able to impress from scene to scene as the film carousels through slasher film, corporate satire, and melodrama. 

Kane’s Dorine is, at first, a sort of pathetic Carrie White-esque character you either want to shake some sense into, hug, or both. She’s a pushover who follows orders and seems to shrink with every passing minute she’s forced to interact with another human being. She’s also in desperate need of a makeover with her penciled-in eyebrows, frumpy sweaters, and bizarre hairdos (truly, what this film is missing most is a makeover montage). She’s the person who’s been working at the company the longest and the one people go to when they have a proofreading issue. She’s incredibly competent at what she does and this job appears to be all she has in her life besides a domineering wheelchair-bound mother back home who she has a strained but dependent relationship with. 

It’s no surprise that Dorine loses it a bit when she discovers she’s become a victim of corporate downsizing and will now have to work from home. To Dorine, being stuck at home all day with her mother hurling insults at her is truly a fate worse than death. 

When she accidentally electrocutes an annoying co-worker while working late at the office, she decides not to call the police. Instead, she transports his body back to her basement and keeps him there as a new friend. Before long, she’s knocking off anyone else who annoys her or threatens to spill her secrets and she begins creating a gruesome array of corpses in her basement.

Through flashbacks and some of Dorine’s own recollections to Nora, a guilt-ridden co-worker played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, we discover that Dorine’s childhood was far from perfect. Her mother never believed her stories about abuse from her father and Dorine herself caused the car accident that killed her father and crippled her mother for life. That’s pretty heavy stuff and you can’t help but feel for Dorine a little bit even as she’s chopping through co-workers left and right.

While some of the co-workers might have had it coming, many of the victims after the film’s midpoint don’t seem to be motivated by anything other than bloodlust and a need to satisfy the demands of a horror film. An innocent pair of Girl Scouts and a lowly mail boy at work end up on the receiving end of Dorine’s blade and, while Kane does what she can and does look imposing as a sort of gender-flipped Michael Myers, it dulls our compassion for the character and makes her more of a one-note boogeywoman. To Kane’s credit,  she even makes this section of the film work. No one can play crazy like Carol Kane

Kane’s finest and most haunting scene as Dorine occurs towards the film’s grisly climax where she goes upstairs to check on her mother and finds her dead from natural causes. The guttural screams Kane unleashes are primal and uncomfortable to listen to and what you’d expect from a grieving daughter. As horrible of a mother as she was, you can see that Dorine does love her and it’s like a piece of her has died. As she starts to panic, Kane becomes manic and immediately goes into denial chanting “I don’t care” over and over again and, at one point, even whispering it in a creepy way. Before long, the scene takes a sharp turn and she’s telling her mother she hopes she’s burning in hell with her father. It sure makes for a memorable scene. 

After her mother’s corpse is taken away by the paramedics, Dorine is unshackled and free to live her life and decides to take care of all the loose ends by setting fire to the house and destroying all the evidence of the many people she’s killed.

The film ends with Dorine driving off with a snazzy new disguise (hey, she finally got that makeover!), as her voice-over tells us that she’s moving to a new town and might be popping up at your office soon. It’s a campy “good for her” ending that doesn’t quite match the rest of the film, but as always, Kane sells it and leaves you wanting more. Personally, I wouldn’t mind an Office Killer franchise where Dorine goes from office to office, knocking off annoying co-workers in increasingly odd and creative ways.

At times, you get the feeling that there were three different drafts of the Office Killer script going around and everyone got one with a different tone or genre, but only Kane was given all three and is able to bounce from tone to tone with impressive dexterity. She can do anything the film demands of her – be scary, pathetic, flirty, shy, funny, and campy. It’s clear that she would have thrived had the film leaned more towards the horror or satire, because she understands who this woman is so completely. Kane is more than worth seeing the film for, but the film itself, tonally bizarre as it is, is long overdue for a reappraisal by horror and dark comedy fans alike.

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Comedy Horror

Great Performances in Horror: Tim Curry in Tales From the Crypt: Death of Some Salesmen

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These days, all the great writers, directors, and actors are gravitating towards TV and streaming due to better, more challenging material.  But not so long ago, television wasn’t taken as seriously as theatrical films. It was really HBO that started allowing TV to be seen with more respect by both the general public and critics.

A show like Tales From the Crypt doesn’t seem like something that would have attracted top-tier talent in the late 80s and early 90s, but it did. Each week, some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars, both in front of and behind the camera, would be allowed some much-needed creative freedom to play in the gory sandbox. 

One of the most well-regarded episodes is Death of Some Salesmen from the show’s 5th season. It stars Ed Begley, Jr. as Judd Campbell, a ruthless traveling cemetery plot salesman, who goes around scamming the elderly and vulnerable (including Yvonne De Carlo) until he knocks on the door of the decrepit Brackett home and, in true Tales From the Crypt fashion, he’s served a big plate of just desserts. 

You see, the Brackett family has a long history with traveling salesman and they don’t believe Judd’s pitch one bit. After Judd discovers that they’ve killed other salesmen, he’s knocked out by Pa on his way out the door and wakes up to Ma and Pa plotting about what to do with him.

They want to wait until their daughter, Winona, gets a look at him and, if Judd has any hope of ever leaving this house of horrors alive, he’d better convince Winona that he loves her.

Tim Curry plays this entire carnival sideshow of grotesques with skill and attention to tiny details. His Pa is especially different from what we’re used to seeing him play from both a speaking voice to the way he moves.

He turns Pa into a no-nonsense, toxically masculine redneck with horrific stained yellow teeth and a tendency to tell his wife to shut up a bit too much. Even with all this, he does show that he truly loves his family and will do anything to protect them. He’s a murderer, but he’s also an ordained minister. Of course. 

His Ma is a sweet and chronically exasperated housewife who’s fed up with her husband’s behavior.  She’s quick to talk back when Pa belittles her and she’s a hopeless romantic, praying that, maybe this time, her daughter can find love with someone. She wants her daughter to be happy just like any non-homicidal mother does and that’s sweet in its own twisted way.

Winona is the true showstopper with her Halloween mask face, stringy hair, hunchback, and an intriguing odor due to the fact that she “ain’t washed in a couple of weeks.” Even with all these things that should repel us, Curry supplies her with a lot of heart and dignity.

She’s self-aware enough to know she’s no beauty, but she doesn’t dwell in misery about it and still believes she deserves love and happiness. She’s a sex-loving good-time gal, too, and is quick to take Judd for a test ride once she gets her paws on him.  This is so he can prove that he really loves her in a disturbing and outrageous sequence that, once seen, isn’t easily forgotten. 

Curry seems to be having the time of his life playing all these characters and he creates a family unit that is terrifying, darkly humorous, and full of love for one another. That’s hard enough to do in a feature film with a lot more time for exposition and character development, but in a 30 minute TV episode, it might as well be impossible.

Curry pulls it off and makes it look effortless just like the best actors do. For all his hard work, he was rewarded with a well-deserved Emmy nomination in 1994 – a rarity for a horror performance.

Unfortunately, the entire Tales From the Crypt series is absent from streaming services and has yet to receive a Blu-Ray release, but every season has been released on DVD and it’s well worth your time to purchase them all to marvel at the amount of talent and skill on display in this series.

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Editorial

12 Interesting Horror Films Not Yet on Blu-Ray

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It’s hard to tell why some films are so quick to get a Blu-Ray release when some films haven’t had an official stateside release since the VHS days or since snapper case DVDs and badly panned and scanned transfers were still a thing.  Here’s a list of a few films that, for whatever reason, are taking an insanely long time to make it to Blu-Ray (or, in some cases, DVD). 

Paperhouse

 Before Bernard Rose was summoning Clive Barker’s Candyman, he was making this understated English thriller about a sickly girl whose only means of escape is dreaming of the things she draws during her waking hours.

In these dreams, she meets another sick child and they strike up a friendship. It’s a good thing, too, because they’ll need each other’s help when those dreams turn into nightmares. Rose creates a moving and frightening story that’s high in mood and well-worth seeking out.

There was an out of print international Blu-Ray release and there’s an HD master that floats around on TV and streaming, so there’s definitely material to work with. This would make a great fit for the Vestron Collector’s Series since that’s the company that released this on VHS back in the late 80s.

The Ugly

After discovering this one on a complication DVD called Boogeymen in the early aughts, I went out of my way to check this indie New Zealand-lensed shocker out and I was blown away by it.

It’s about a psychiatrist trying to figure out why a serial killer murdered so many people. Was it his abusive childhood? Is he really hearing voices? Or is he just playing the sympathy card and manipulating the shrink?

Despite slight similarities to The Silence of the Lambs and Seven, it has a style all its own, great performances, and a few moments you’ll never be able to forget.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Let’s just admit it. Prom Night II is the true MVP of the franchise. It throws just about every 80’s horror cliche and trope into a blender and adds a generous helping of Michael Ironside and “what the hell did I just see/hear” moments.

A mousy high school girl is possessed by the spirit of a sexy 1950’s prom queen who was accidentally burnt to a crisp by her jealous boyfriend and she’s been looking for a way to reclaim her prom queen crown ever since.

If that doesn’t sound fun enough, throw in some horny rocking horses, incest, big hair, a little sacrilege, murderous capes, and a full-frontal lesbianic locker room stalking scene.

It has everything! Except for a Blu-Ray release. Apparently, rights issues are holding this one up, so we can only hope they get everything sorted out ASAP because this one would be a big seller. 

May

Lucky McKee’s May is one of the true cult classics of the past 20 years. Angela Bettis plays a vet’s assistant who has a problem connecting with anyone who isn’t 100% perfect.

After she realizes no one is truly perfect except her creepy porcelain doll, she decides to create the perfect human doll using all the best parts of her problematic companions.

With its quirky and macabre sense of humor, surprising humanity, and eerie lead performance by Angela Bettis, this is one that should be talked about a lot more than it is. It probably doesn’t help that it’s not available on Blu-Ray. Who do we need to call? Lion’s Gate? 

 

Mother of Tears

Ok, so it’s not Suspiria or Inferno, but just to leave the 3rd and final chapter of Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy in Blu-Ray limbo seems cruel.

In Rome, an ancient urn is unearthed and opened by a historian, and the blood-thirsty spirit of Mater Lachrymarum is released to throw the world into violent chaos. The visuals aren’t as eye-popping as the previous films (did they shoot this movie during the great Italian colored lighting gel shortage of 2007 or what?), but it has a few creative moments, an enjoyably angry performance from Asia Argento, and some nasty gore effects. And doesn’t the world deserve to see Daria Nicolodi flying out of a magical powder puff in stunning HD?

 

Cheerleader Camp

This one isn’t high art. I’ll admit it, but there have been far worse slashers that have gotten the deluxe treatment on Blu-Ray.

It takes place at a camp for 30-year-old cheerleaders where someone is killing off the competition. Is it our leading lady who might be coming apart at the seams?

Awkward rap battles and raunchy sex comedy spice things up in between scenes of cheerleaders being terrorized with garden shears and meat cleavers.

This seems like a great fit for Arrow or Vinegar Syndrome who have done such great work with cleaning up other neglected slasher films from the 80s. 

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night IV: Initiation

While all of the Silent Night, Deadly Night entries deserve one big box set, this one is my favorite.

In this “sequel”, a reporter tries to get to the bottom of a case of spontaneous combustion and its link to a weird cult. It’s so loosely connected to the franchise or the Christmas holiday (you can spot one or two Christmas trees in the background and that’s as festive as it gets) that they might as well have called it something else, but there’s a lot of gooey body horror, witchcraft, spontaneous combustion, and Clint Howard as a deranged homeless man.

If that doesn’t spell Christmas cheer, I don’t know what does. 

https://youtu.be/akf-m7LmPjU

 

Summer Camp Nightmare

This one’s cover art enticed me to give it a rental in middle school and, while I was a little disappointed that it didn’t give me the slasher flick I was promised (it was rated PG-13! What was my dumb ass expecting?), it ended up being an entertaining “kids run amok and take over a summer camp” movie.

It’s like Lord of the Flies with bigger hair and Chuck Connors. I think. Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I’d like a Blu-Ray release just to remind me what all it had going for it again.

Maybe this one will do better with a fresh transfer and artwork that matches the contents of the film a little closer. 

 

The Attic

Man, this one is a downer. I mean that in the best way.

A spinster librarian takes care of her evil invalid father all night and day and dreams of running away and finding the man who was supposed to marry her many years ago. It’s a psychological drama with some gothic horror elements thrown in, but Carrie Snodgress and Ray Milland both give killer performances and it’s filled with deep dark family secrets, patricide daydreams, and a monkey for good measure.

It’s only been available on dark, dreary VHS tapes and a long out-of-print MGM double feature DVD with the Klaus Kinski creeper Crawlspace (which has already gotten its own Blu-Ray release).

Time to let this one out of the attic and let it see the sun.

 

The Stepford Wives

Somehow, this film’s remake has made it onto Blu-Ray, but no one’s been kind enough to offer the original classic a warm, digital home. Truly, what would the women of Stepford think about such rudeness? It’s a shame, too, because this is one of the creepiest and most unsettling 70’s horror films out there.

Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss play two independent women who settle in the town of Stepford with their families and try to figure out exactly why the men in the town meet in secret at a creepy mansion and why the women look so perfect and have no interests outside of housework.

This is another one where rights issues have kept it from getting the release it deserves and that needs to change. 

We’ll just die if we don’t get this on Blu-Ray.

 

Office Killer

Artist Cindy Sherman might be the last person you’d expect to make a horror film, let alone a slasher film, but she did (even if it’s rumored that she’d like you to forget) and it’s very entertaining.

It stars Carol Kane as an awkward office worker who accidentally kills a sleazy co-worker and then decides that her life might be better if she took out some of the other biggest offenders in her life.

It’s too ghoulish for the comedy crowd and too arty and satirical for most traditional slasher fans, which made it hard to find its audience. The fact that it went direct to video might not have helped either, but it’s gathered a decent cult fanbase over the past 20+ years since its release, and a retrospective with stars Kane, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Molly Ringwald wouldn’t suck either. 

 

The Haunting of Julia

Mia Farrow’s other major horror film besides Rosemary’s Baby (besides a fun supporting role in the remake of The Omen) is a thoughtful and quietly unsettling ghost story involving a grieving mother who gets a little too close to the ghost of a dead child haunting her new home.

It’s only ever been available in a crummy pan and scan VHS releases and the few widescreen prints out there are muddy and lacking definition. Time for an upgrade so that a new generation or two can become acquainted with this under-seen film. 

I’m not sure who’ll be reading this, but if, by chance, a distributor gets ahold of this list, maybe they can make some magic happen and give some of these unfairly neglected horror films a little love on home video. 

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