Posts Tagged ‘Jersey Devil’

Part Nine: Yours Truly, Robert Bloch 

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con New York City

Browsing a book vendor while waiting for the auditorium to open, a blue cover caught George’s eye. The Frankenstein Monster lurked on the front of the book, as did Lon Chaney’s Wolfman. Flipping through its pages, George remembered reading this book as a kid; titled Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby. His sister got him that book for his birthday when they first moved out east. Back then his sister introduced him to a few scary books. He tried returning the favor, offering her some Spiderman comics, but she didn’t care for them.

Placing the old book back on the table, he noticed a few movie novelizations and spin-off books. A Halloween novel caught his eye. It wasn’t an adaptation of any of the movies though. The title read, “Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.” by Nicholas Grabowsky. This book brought back memories of film school, where he borrowed this book from Dan. George recalled those early days in the student dormitory arguing about the novel, which was an original story where both Michael Myers and Dr. Gavin survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II. In the novel, Myers awakens from a ten-year coma to wreak havoc on Haddonfield, and Dr. Gavin returns to again save Laurie Strode, who now has a daughter. George thought this would have been a much better movie than what the fourth Halloween movie turned out to be, especially with that incredible twist ending. Myers is legitimately blown up in the climax, but the novel ends with Laurie Strode getting killed by her now psychotic eight-year-old daughter, who has inherited her uncle’s madness. Dan wasn’t as sold on the book, being a fan of Carpenter’s vision for the franchise which involved moving past Michael Meyers. That disagreement didn’t matter anymore now. Looking down at the book, he realized today was the first time in a while that he’d thought about his film school days.

Then George spotted a novel he’d recognized. He’d read American Gothic as a teenager. It was about this guy named H. H. Holmes who had a literal torture chamber in his house. Even cooler to George, was it was based on real incidents. Dr. Holmes Murder Castle was a factual account of the real-life case by the same author of American Gothic, the same author he was going to meet tonight. He hadn’t read the factual account and decided to buy both books. After paying and putting both books in his bag, he went into the now open auditorium. 

The topic of tonight’s special presentation was the history of the horror film, presented by the man George sought to meet, Robert Bloch. George was growing to like this author’s work, but initially wondered why Bloch was presenting on this topic, since he had little if anything to do with horror movies. As the author was introduced, George now realized, per the MC’s introduction, that Bloch wrote television episodes for scary shows George liked, such as Monsters, Tales of the Unexpected, and Darkroom. Not only that, but he also wrote episodes of the original Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. The MC joked that Robert Bloch had the heart of a young boy, which he keeps in a jar on his desk. This elicited laughter from the audience and Robert Bloch took the stage.

After receiving a warm reception, the author graciously thanked the convention for having him, then jested “You were too cheap to ask Stephen King and you knew I needed lunch money.” The audience laughed some more. George was not expecting to find the master of psycho tales to be cracking jokes, but there he was.

Naturally, Bloch began his lecture with the golden age of horror of the 1930’s and 40’s. He pointed out how the classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were all foreigners, and/or characters from European folklore. Then in the 50’s you had the nuclear monsters in the wake of the atomic bomb. George remembered watching those movies. His dad and his sister used to like them too. George remembered the time he covered himself with a blanket trying to scare his sister while they watched The Blob. He rolled over to her in his disguise and Helen just laughed hysterically.

There wasn’t as much to cover in the 1960s, but Bloch noted that the 1970s brought a pronounced change. George cheered ferociously at the mention of 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Hearing such an exuberant response, Bloch pointed to George and said, “I bet you loved the sequel, The Tennessee Slumber Party.” to which George and everyone else howled in laughter. Bloch went on to explain how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was about a group of hillbillies in rural Texas. The lead villain, a deformed character named Saw-man, dispatched random motorists with his trusty chainsaw. George wished with all his heart that that movie could have turned into a series. In his mind it could have stood up there with the modern franchises like Nightmare on Elm Street, and his beloved Friday the 13th. Unfortunately, in the real world, a sequel never came.

Bloch’s point about Chainsaw was, while it was not a big hit, it marked a new trend of homegrown American horror, scary stories not of a foreign or alien menace, but of your neighbor, the guy next door. Other movies mentioned included Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, which Bloch joked was followed by the sequel the Woods have Noses. Bloch theorized that in the wake of the Manson murders and the social unrest of the 1960s, audiences were developing a taste for real life and brutality in their horror. George was never academic about his fandom, but he was unsure of Bloch’s theory. After all, as the author himself had said, the aforementioned films were not big hits.

Halloween was mentioned, which brought about a big cheer. “If you remember, the first two Halloween movies were not about ghosts and werewolves,” Bloch reminded the audience. “It was about a boy, Michael Myers, who was a psychotic killer. Michael Myers wasn’t from another country or from outer space, he was from any-town USA. Now, hearing the cheers in this crowd, assuming you’re not cheering for me,” to which the audience laughed again, “these movies obviously found an audience.” Another cheer erupted as Bloch continued, “but the truth was these weren’t very successful movies when you look at the box office. Now if you look in the last decade, we seemed to have taken the idea of the home-grown threat and brought it back to the monster. If you look at Halloween, it did inspire a sub-genre known as the slasher, with movies like the Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but they weren’t huge hits like 1980’s Friday the 13th with its Jersey Devil, or films like CHUD, Critters, or the Thing remake. You did have Nightmare on Elm Street, with Freddy Kreuger being slasher-esque, but he’s also like a ghost, more supernatural. Halloween itself got away from the slasher genre it helped create in its later installments, bringing in witches and ghosts and werewolves. Reportedly the next entry of that series is going to involve vampires. I have an idea for the following one though.” He then suggested, pointing his finger up in the air, “It should be about Jack the Ripper!” Again, the audience laughed, especially from those familiar with Bloch’s frequent works involving the infamous London serial killer.

“What will the 90s bring to horror cinema,” Bloch asked as he reached the end of his speech, “who knows? Sequels for all the big franchises are still in the works, but undoubtedly a new generation will come along with new characters that will make us Scream.“

After dinner Dan and Victoria sat in on a presentation on entertainment law. The presenter was a lawyer who specialized in the entertainment business. Dan wouldn’t say it out loud, but she looked like she could be a movie star herself. She was quite attractive, with a special poise and intelligence about her, similar to what Dan saw in Victoria.

When the presentation ended the woman stayed to take questions from the audience. As Dan and Victoria approached, the woman greeted Dan with a smile, saying, “Nice shirt.”

Dan looked down at his Halloween shirt that he totally forgot he was wearing. “Thanks.” he said. Then looking back up at her he asked. “Are you a Halloween fan?”

“Yeah, I got a soft spot for the original.” The lawyer revealed. “Actually, I auditioned for a role in it.”

“Wait what!?!” Dan and Victoria were both surprised as Dan asked. “You were an actress?”

“Well, my mother was.” The woman said. “You probably never heard of her. Janet Leigh?” 

Dan drew a blank, but Victoria recognized that name. “Oh, I know her, she was in the Manchurian Candidate and Angels in the Outfield!”

“That’s right!” The woman said, pleasantly surprised.

“And she was in Touch of Fear!” Victoria added enthusiastically.

“The Orson Wells classic.” The woman said, then pointing at Victoria, she said to Dan. “That’s a smart girl you have there.” 

“Thanks,” Dan said, “she’s the best.” 

“Aww that’s so sweet.” The woman said, admiring the young couple’s affection for each other.

“So, you tried to be an actress?” Victoria asked.

“Well, when I was young the acting bug got me, so I dropped out of law school to give it a shot. My big break never came through.” she explained, revealing no remorse over her path in life. “Eventually I went back to school, became an entertainment lawyer, and here I am!”

“That’s really cool.” Victoria said. “Do you ever regret it, not getting to act?”

“Sometimes I think about it, but I like what I’m doing.” she answered.  “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take another stab at it!” she said laughing while thrusting her hand in a stabbing motion. “In the meantime, if you ever need representation here is my card.”

Both Dan and Victoria took her business card. Dan looked down to read it aloud. “Jamie Curtis.” Looking up he said, “Well it was nice to meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too!” Jamie Curtis said. She smiled as the young couple walked away. The lawyer then turned to chat with the last few people remaining in the room.

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Part Seven: The Master of Horror

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

Later that day at the convention, the line began to form to meet special effects master Tom Savini. Dan was super excited, as his wonderful fiancé purchased tickets to meet Tom as a birthday gift. Dan always wanted to meet Savini, who did effects work for such classics as Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, The Burning, Creepshow, not to mention his friend George’s favorite, Friday the 13th. Dan hoped to follow in his footsteps, attending school to be a special effects artist.

Of course, his long-lost friend George accompanied them in the long line running past the Friday the 13th. While George boasted of all the times he’d already met Savini, he wondered what happened to his friend. He intended to ask why he just up and disappeared from campus, but, as usual, he couldn’t get a word in. Dan noticed is fiancé rolling her eyes as he prattled on stating his opinions on the Friday the 13th franchise, what he’d do with the series if he had the chance, and the overall state of modern horror.

Inching through the row of fans the trio passed the booth for the current Friday the 13th TV series. Victoria appeared slightly relieved as George’s never-ending monologue was interrupted by the opportunity to meet actors Chris Wiggins, Eliaz Zarou, and Steve Monarque. Talking to the cast of the series, the trio of fans got to look at a few props from the show, which was about cursed items from a pawn shop and had nothing to do with the films. Dan took Victoria’s picture while she tried on the cursed apron, which was worn in an episode by a distraught camp cook whose son drowned in a lake. George picked up a hockey mask laying among the props, reminding Dan of another episode where that mask turned a man into an unkillable psychopath. Victoria and Dan both agreed that would have made a good movie.

Victoria and her fiancé were both glowing as they finally reached the end of the line. “Hey big guy!” Tom seemed to recognize George from past conventions and happily shook his hand. Dan wondered if George would yap with him forever, but fortunately he did not, and he and Victoria were next.

“It’s so awesome to meet you!” Dan said as he finally met his hero. Tom graciously shook Dan’s hand while Dan flashed back to all those times as a young teenager, watching horror movies on his dirty couch, never even daring to dream that someday she would be here before him. To Dan and his wonderful fiancé, this moment was like what meeting Michael Jordan or Joe Montana would be to people outside these convention walls. The couple were absolutely thrilled to talk with Tom, who could not have been more friendly.

To George, meeting Savini may have become old hat, but he was still excited due to what was standing right next to the horror effects master. There it was, decked out in full costume straight out of the movies, what was considered to be Tom’s greatest creation. It was massive, lumbering, evil. While his fiancé made small talk with Tom, Dan noticed George looking over the creature the way a frat boy would look over a hot chic. George’s eyes went up and down the monstrous body, appreciating every little detail, from the fangs and claws down to the last little bloody scar. There before him, stood the Jersey Devil of the Friday the 13th series. 

Naturally, Dan and Victoria admired the beast as well. “I always wanted to ask you this.” Dan said nervously.  “Is it true there was a different story in mind for the first Friday the 13th film?”

“Well, I didn’t write the script, but most of the people on the crew were big fans of Halloween.” The master explained while pointing to Dan’s Halloween shirt. “From what I remember, the original story was going to have a human killer.” Looking at Victoria he added “If I recall they were even thinking of a female villain. Thing was, Halloween wasn’t a huge hit, so the financiers were a little gun shy.” 

“Really!” Dan wondered aloud. “I thought Halloween was awesome!”

“Sure, I mean the people that come to shows like this love it,” Tom said, “but remember it wasn’t really a successful movie. Some of it was great, but they needed a better lead actress.”

“I loved that red head!” George interjected, referring to the actress from the first Halloween. Victoria’s eyes rolled as he motioned with his hands. “She had that nice big rack!”

“Uh, yeah,” Tom nervously laughed. “She couldn’t act though, they needed someone to play Laurie Strode with some vulnerability. Michael Myers was such a great villain, and Donald Pleasence was pitch perfect as Dr. Gavin. If they’d just cast a good lead that could have put the movie over the top.” George continued admiring the creature while Victoria and Dan nodded in understanding.

“Anyway, Sean Cunningham got a new group of investors for the film,” Tom went on to explain, “and these new investors pushed for a monster. There hadn’t been a good monster movie in a while, and we thought, hell since we’re filming in New Jersey anyway, why not make it the Jersey Devil?”

“Too bad about not having a female killer.” Victoria thought out loud. “We don’t get too many of those, aside from Carrie I guess.”

“And Mary Lou from the Prom Night Sequels.” Dan added.

“That’s why I love you dear.” Victoria’s eyes twinkled at her fellow horror nerd.

“It’s probably all for the best though.” George again interjected. Pointing to the Devil, he said “That thing is awesome. Who’s under the mask? Is it C. J. Graham or Dan Bradley?”

“That’s the one and only Tim Mirkovich.” Savini revealed.”

“Oh sweet, straight from Part Eight.” George said excitedly. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to be here!”

The young couple then got their pictures taken with both Tom and the Devil. George also got his Friday the 13th Part 8: The Devil Takes Manhattan poster autographed. “This is the best Friday ever!” George said. “I loved that chase scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, and that scene where the Devil dives off the Statue of Liberty was so cool!”

“Thank you.” Tom said. “Those were really hard scenes to shoot; we’re sure glad you appreciate them.”

“So, what’s the next movie going to be about?” Victoria asked.

“Well, we don’t know where else to take him.” Tom started thinking on his feet. “We did Jersey, we did New York,” Tom laughed while speculating, “Maybe next the Devil should go back to hell!”

“That would rule!” George said, his eyes still on the beast. More fans were gathered around to meet Savini, so the trio and Tom made their final greetings. Walking away with the autographs and pictures, Dan could have gone home right then and there and would have been happy.

October 26th, 1990. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

The Second Street Tavern was filled with music as Henry watched her daughter take a shot. He’d long dispatched Phil from the pool table, who was now on stage jamming with Steve. Henry was growing to like the local music scene. He liked it more when an attractive red head walked in with a guitar slung around her back. He gave her a quick smile as he heard her daughter say “Shit!” after the sound of the cue ball hitting the side of the pool table for a scratch. “Your shot dad.” 

He remembered his daughter being a better player than this as he looked over the table. She’d missed an easy corner shot that set him up to knock one of his own in the side pocket.  Looking at her while he set up his shot, she seemed annoyed.

“What’s wrong hon?” He asked while easily making the shot.

“I don’t know, I’m still upset George didn’t come out.”

“You’re here, that’s what counts.” he said while eyeing up his next shot.

“But it’s our family. I guess I just expected him to be here, because, well you know.”

“Well, he probably doesn’t remember Aunt Sally too much.” Henry reasoned as he sank another ball. “Do you remember her?”

“Yeah, a little. I remember going to see her in the hospital, and I remember when she stayed with us for a while. She would let me and George watch cartoons when you wanted us to do homework.”

“Yeah,” Henry laughed while looking over his next shot, “she was a free spirit. Our parents were really tough on both of us, and she just had it in her so much to rebel.” He went on to reveal, “Sometimes mom and I knew she was letting you watch movies or sneaking you treats. We let her go, figured she should have some fun with you while she could.”

“Were things really that bad for her?”

Sinking another solid Henry said, “She was in and out of trouble as long as I could remember.” He looked over at the bar’s Age of Purchase calendar, remembering this date. “Once she was gone, I mean it was devastating, but nobody was really surprised.” He then looked at the table to set up his final shot. “None of this is on George though, he’s got to go his own way.”

“When’s the last time you even talked to him?” Helen asked.

“I don’t know.” Eyeing up his final shot, about to win another game he added, “It’s been a while.”