02 July 2011

Horror Blog Of The Month: COOL ASS CINEMA

Kickin' off July with a really cool blog:

"COOL ASS CINEMA", the remarkable and uber-fabulous blog from Brian, a nice guy from North Carolina who's addicted to all kinds of strange and entertaining exploitation-stuff, 
from horror to spaghetti-western, 
from sci-fi to swords-and-sandals.

This is not your average review-blog (like mine) - this is something for people who
a) like to read a lot, and
b) people who love/loved to read film magazines.

Nearly every single blog entry here looks (and feels) like some article from Fangoria or Moviestar to me 
(2 mags I was addicted to in my youth),
as it's all very well written, highly detailed and full of cool photos and screenshots. 
If you wanna know anything about Godzilla or Hercules flicks, then this is your blog!

Hi Brian! Who are you and why do you blog?

My name is Brian Bankston and I blog for the fun of it, mostly. I enjoy writing and since there's so few people around me to share these wild, wacky and often tasteless films with, I figured I'd post my thoughts about them online in the hopes that somebody else liked them, too. 
Actually, a good friend of mine suggested I do a blog where I could jot down all these things and ideas I had instead of spending time on forums. So if not for my friend, I likely never would have created a blog of my own.

Also, it gives me something else to do with all the DVD's I've wasted my money on over the years and to document things I remember from my childhood which might jostle a similar memory or two from somebody else. I think it's important that people that share a particular hobby maintain what drew them to it in the first place and never forget it. Sometimes sharing a good time from when you were a kid can help another person recall a similar instance. Scary Monsters magazine is the ultimate example of this. They're very much the Famous Monsters of today, more so than the actual Famous Monsters of Filmland that restarted some years ago.

I've always wanted to be involved in movies in some capacity, but could never stop buying tapes, magazines and memorabilia long enough to make it a reality. I have written a few scripts, though, which is as far as I've gotten in that respect.

Which movie made you a horror fan? And why?

Hmmmm, let's see.
The Universal horrors struck a nerve with me, especially THE WOLF MAN. But what got that nerve twitching I'd say was a toss up between BLACK SUNDAY and SHOCK WAVES since both movies scared the hell out of me as a kid. I have vivid memories of seeing those two on Shock Theater back in the late 70s-early 80s. Well, seeing them the best you could with the covers pulled up over your face. Most specially the Bava movie. I remember being in bed that night playing with this watch case. Suddenly a hairy arm reaches up from under the bed and took it away from me. I raised up quickly and their was Dracula's severed head sitting in my doorway cackling at me. I screamed like a girl, of course, till my mom came rushing in.

So naturally, I was hooked on horror and monsters from that point on. I even had a Universal Monsters lunch box (which I wish I still had) and I was the only kid in the classroom who was the 'monster kid'. There was one other girl in the class who shared the same interest, but she eventually moved away.

My mom would buy me Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine when we'd go to the grocery store and whatever horror comics looked cool on the racks at this little convenience store in town called 'The Hop In'. Back then, there were a great many outlets for horror and it wasn't unusual to find a horror or monster movie on TV any day of the week and especially on the weekends.

Who is your favorite horror director? And why?

I don't have a particular favorite but there are things about certain directors I think are unique--

Romero's propensity to instill topical issues in his films as well as capturing a genuinely scary atmosphere of paranoia.
While I don't think Carpenter was necessarily an innovator of anything outside of steadicam-as-POV, he had a signature style and redefined the "stalk" in 'stalk and kill' with his shots of a stationary, faceless man watching from a distance, or being seen from afar.
Mario Bava made these gorgeous, macabre "paintings" that moved.
Tobe Hooper did wonders with the flip side of the "working class family".

In the current remake saturated climate, it's going to be difficult for a director to find his own identity, I think. Greg Mclean was a breath of fresh air, but he seems to have fallen off the radar after the failure of his excellent killer crocodile movie which deserved far better than it received. A simple story, good performances and a wonderfully creative finale. It was an overdone formula, but he made it fresh, at least to me. A shame he's out of the game as far as directing is concerned.

I think we've seen about all the innovative ideas and now it's just amalgamations of things. Far too many directors are content with the 'MTV Syndrome'--the quick cuts, rapid editing and flash. I guess a lot of people like this approach, but there's yet to be a new Romero, Carpenter, or Hooper on the horizon, or anyone similar with any staying power.
Aside from McLean, there's Aja, who does amazing things with previously covered material. HIGH TENSION was fantastic and I was one of the people who loved the Hitchcockian ending.

What are your alltime horror favorites?

My favorites range from classics to classless; at random these I've seen many times and just a sample--

THE OMEN (1976)

What's the worst horror movie you've seen so far?

I will usually find something of interest in an awful, or uninteresting movie. To be fair, we as the viewer have no idea what went on to get that movie made. What we deem as bad or awful may have been unavoidable for a variety of reasons. Like a work of art, many of us will see something different in what's up on screen.
But there are exceptions. Ed Wood, for instance made a career out of creating these enduringly awful movies that have stood the test of time.

There's been a number of 'Do It Yourself' filmmakers since then, but "passion" like that is a dying art now, I think. I've seen a bunch of newer horror movies that were horrible, or just a soulless experience in one way or another, but the last flick that seriously irritated me was Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN. Regardless of the fact it was a remake of a genre classic, this was just a sincerely stupid picture with ridiculous, gutter trash dialog and a script that was pointless from the start. I do want to like Zombie's movies, even though up to this point he's the modern day Ed Wood to me only with more money to throw around. He's obviously a huge fan, but as long as there are trailer parks and he's writing his own scripts, no one is safe, apparently. Even with its last minute re-shoots, HALLOWEEN was still sloppy and reeks of dialog spoken by a cast of characters from a seemingly alternate universe.
It's also the first time I've ever heard of a movie choosing its director instead of the other way around. I am curious, though, about his upcoming LORDS OF SALEM--which sounds like an unacknowledged remake of CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)--to see how a trailer park and foul mouthed witches are weaved into this one.

Most of my friends don't like horror films. How about your friends?

My friends like horror movies, but they don't obsess over them the way I do in relation to background information, or marveling at a particular shot/landscape, what have you. I did have one "friend" who was as into them as I was. If I made a comment, or inside joke about some rare, or obscure title, he'd know what I was talking about. Unfortunately, we lost touch since he made off with about 70 VHS tapes I still had that he was going to transfer to disc for me.
My girlfriend loves horror movies, but predominantly newer ones. It's rare she will look at something more than a few years old.

My mom hasn't liked them since walking out of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE back in 1974. She said she tried to go back and finish it, but it upset her far too much so she left my dad in their while she stayed in the lobby. He ended up going back to see it again. I wasn't born till 1975, so I didn't see the movie till '84 or '85, whenever it first hit videotape on Media Home Entertainment. I remember my dad questioning why I wanted to see that despite having seen both BLOOD FEAST and PIECES on the same day a short time before. He liked Italian horror, but drew the line at stuff like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. I had a bootleg tape from Venezuela I got from Mondo Video which he took away from me after he shut it off right after the 'Adultery Punishment' sequence, calling it evil and all that, lol. Also, EVIL DEAD 2 had just come out and disappeared almost as quick and horror was on the news all the time claiming to turn kids into killers.

I remember my grandparents were considering having me see a shrink because of my interest in these movies. Plus, my walls were covered in posters, so many in fact, that they were on the ceiling, too! Also, I used to be heavily into drawing and apart from doing superheroes and monsters, I drew gruesome pictures, too, which didn't sit well with them. There's a funny story I detailed in a monster memories article at my site where I watched MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY in front of my grandparents, lol. I didn't know any better. It was just a movie to me.

The video store days were a great time if you were a horror fan.
It was like discovering "buried treasure" every time you went to one.

Jason? Freddy? Michael? The Tall Man? Other?

Michael Myers. He doesn't have to do anything to instill fear. HALLOWEEN and its sequel (the originals, of course) are two movies that still give me the creeps and make me look over my shoulder from time to time.

Euro horror? US horror? Asian Horror? Other?

This is a tough one for me. I have no preference. Each brings a different ingredient to the mix.
American horror was amazingly implacable in the 70s in terms of breaking barriers and exploring new avenues and not just in horror mind you. Many other genres had horror elements in them during this time experimenting with brutality onscreen.
Euro horror has a unique look about it that's distinct and instantly recognizable. The same goes for Asian horror--the slow build of the Japanese horrors (especially the elder films with their own take on Gothic conventions) or the more outlandishly ill mannered HK terror tales. The 70s was a ferociously original time for both Japan and Hong Kong sleaze.

Do you prefer watching horror at home or at the theater?

I much prefer watching them in the theater. It's a totally different experience. You can still get the willies at home, but the theatrical package is definitely the way to go--the screen is big, the sound is big and if you're there with a date, or someone special, it's even better.

What music do you like?

Anything but rap. My iPod is full of music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s ranging from soft rock, hard rock, metal, disco, country, orchestral, etc. For whatever reason, when I was a kid I loved 50s-60s music and Doo Wop. Not sure where I got the interest in it, but I just did.

Music of the 70s is what I listen to the most. I absolutely adore the 70s! CCR and Three Dog Night are two major favorite bands for me. Everything I am drawn to is old, antiquated stuff. I like new stuff, but nothing beats the oldies for me. I can't explain it, but that's what I like.
I'm a huge Manowar fan, by the way. If CONAN THE BARBARIAN ever had a heavy metal soundtrack, those guys would be the perfect band to do it.
They're both the most loved and hated metal band on the planet, too. Their legion of fans are the most dedicated bunch I've ever seen in my life. The band does a great deal for their fans, too. I saw them in concert once and the energy was indescribable. Elvis is still King, though.

What do you read?

I read mostly reference books on movies, television, music, that sort of thing. I still have a handful of books sitting on my shelf I haven't read yet, at least not front to back. I have literally hundreds of magazines, too. I used to buy so many of them, but have since stopped buying them. Once in a while I will pick up a Rue Morgue, Phantom of the VideoScope or Horrorhound issue.
I forget when the last time I bought a Fangoria issue. The frequently rising cost of their magazine put me off to buying anymore of them. Last one I bought was $10 or $11 and that's too much for a magazine. I remember buying them back in the mid 80s when they were still under $3.00 and still have a few of those in good condition. As a kid I used to take the gatefold posters off of them which meant removing the cover. Later on I tried to "repair" those issues by stapling the cover back on!

Tell me the first 3 things that come to your mind when you think about Austria:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian and the former Governor of California.

Anything else you wanna tell us?

I'd like to thank Maynard Morrissey for asking me to participate in his column. He's a helluva person and writer to devote blog space for others to spill their (blood and) guts about what made them who they are and their love for genre cinema. While horror and kung fu movies were my first passion, I like other genres equally and Cool Ass Cinema represents that. It's an outlet for me to be creative and try new things and I'm honored and touched for anyone who happens to stop by and read anything that I've posted. Mostly I do it for fun. That others read a bit of a review/article, all of it, or comment is a bonus. Sharing these experiences and learning from others is a great joy and whenever I have free time, I often check the blog roll to see what everyone else is talking about. I've met some wonderful people because of it and hope to meet many more!

Thank you, Brian!



  1. Thanks for the awesome, and very kind remarks, Maynard and for adding CAC as a Blog of the Month!

  2. Great interview as always! Cool Ass Cinema is on my blogroll since forever and I love this blog so much. Thanks for introducing Brian to us, Harry.

  3. @venom: thank you!!

    @Neb: always a pleasure to introduce amazing blogs to y'all :)

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Nebular! It's much appreciated!


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