EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on December 21, 2017.

December 5, 1492. Former bishop Niklas and his gang have gotten away with too much. The villagers have had it up to here with their antics, like looting and killing, so they kill them off. Yet for every year after that coincides with a full moon, they return as ghosts with murderous intent.

The film then inverts all the holiday traditions of the Netherlands: Sinterklass is not a jolly fat man, he’s a killer with a sharp staff that he won’t hesitate to use. His elves, the Zwarte Pieten, don’t have faces blackened from the soot of chimneys, but instead they have been burned alive.

The last time the real Sinterklass came back was in 1968 and hundreds of people were killed, including the family of Goert, who is now a policeman. That traumatic event has been covered up by the authorities and the Catholic Church, who want Saint Nick to remain pure.

With another full moon coming, Goert tries to ban all Sinterklaas events and increasing police manpower, but he’s laughed off and sent on leave. But of course, Sinterklass arrives and brings horror with him.

Directed by Dick Maas (The LiftAmsterdamned), the film looks gorgeous, with a crushed black color palette and really intriguing angles. If a gore movie can be lush, then by all means, this is it. The scene where Sinterklass reveals himself to the children in the hospital, as well as a chase across the rooftops with Sinterklass on a horse, are just plain gorgeous. As we watch the evil saint fall through floor after floor of a building, then onto a police car, then stalk the hero, it really gets across just how frightening the villain is.

Even watching the film in its native language, I was easily able to define the storytelling and stayed interested throughout. It was interesting to learn of another Christmas myth and then see the more malevolent side of it.

Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010)

In the opening of this film, Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander) stopping a vampire Senator from killing a Congressman. That said, Alan is forced to drink vampire blood, which makes him a half-vampire. Then, we move forward five years and learn that Edgar is down on his luck and trying to sell all his comics to the store where Zoe (Casey B. Dolan) works.

He’s been turning down vampire fighting, even the stack of money that Gwen Lieber (Tanit Phoenix) offers to find her missing brother Peter and learn about the drug called The Thirst that a vampire known as DJ X is using to make thralls. Allan’s life might be worse, as he drinks animals and then turns them into taxidermy. And as for Sam? Well, he did become a vampire and Edgar had to kill him.

Why do some sequels just make things so bad for heroes that you love?

I do like that Congressman Blake (Matthew Dylan Roberts), who the brothers saved, has gone nuts and stolen all sorts of weapons from Area 51 to battle vampires. It’s that kind of madness — as well as rave vampires — that I want from direct to video sequels, as well as the hint at the end that vampires exist in this world.

Directed by Dario Piana, who made Too Beautiful to Die WAIT WHAT? No one told me this was directed by an 80s giallo dude! Oh man, now I love this even more. This was written by Evan Charnov and Hans Rodionoff, who also made Deep Blue Sea 2 and The Skulls II.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the page on December 24, 2017.

After two well-received web entries, 2003’s Rare Exports Inc. and 2005’s Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions, writer and director Jalmari Helander created this ode to the darker side of Santa Claus.

A British company called Subzero is doing arctic deep drilling when it discovers that a burial mound contains something hidden. Two boys, Juuso and Pietari listen in, then argue the existence of Santa before Pietari goes home to read how Santa is really a horned being who whips bad kids and boils them alive.

The day before Christmas Eve, Pietari’s dad, Rauno, digs a trap to protect his reindeer herd from wolves, who have been driven mad by the explosions and digging. They discover hundreds of dead reindeer, all gnawed to death, but both Pietari and his father are unsure if the wolves are really to blame.

Rauno blames his misfortune on the Subzero company and heads out for retribution. However, he finds no one there, just a deep pit into what looks like Hell. Then, they learn that potatoes, heaters and even a hairdryer have gone missing. Even worse, Jusso jas disappeared, a fact that Pietari discovers has happened to kids all over the village.

Another villager, Piiparinen, finds an old man who is near death, who goes from deceased to able to attack to strong enough to break metal bars. They dress the old man as Santa and inform Subzero’s American boss, Riley. He informs them that they only have an elf and must not behave rudely. One swear word later and the lights, Riley and his pilot have all been killed.

Everyone runs to Hangar 24, where they discover a horned beast trapped in a block of ice being warmed by the stolen heaters. They also see sacks of kidnapped children before they are attacked by the elves.

What follows is a daring rescue and escape, with Santa being blown up real good and Raulo ending up working with Subzero to send the elves to American malls, where they will be seasonal Santas.

Rare Exports could have been a silly parody of a film, but it is shot with dark charm and plenty of verve. It’s a really unique piece of cinema that surprised me at several turns.

PITTSBURGH MADE: She’s Out of My League (2010)

Produced by Jimmy Miller of Mosaic Media Group, a native of Castle Shannon, PA and the brother of comedian Dennis Miller, She’s Out of My League was shot all over the city, mostly at the airport as lead character Kirk Kettner (Jay Baruchel) is a TSA agent. It also has scenes filmed at The Warhol, on Mount Washington and in Pluma’s in Irwin, PNC Park, Market Square and the now closed Century III Mall.

Kirk is lost without Marnie (Lindsay Sloane), his unfaithful ex-girlfriend, and is barely making it through life. He’s also the only TSA agent that doesn’t creep out party planner Molly McCleish (Alice Eve) when she goes through his security check-point. She leaves her phone, he finds it and that’s how they meet cute.

Everyone is against the relationship, as Kirk’s friend Wendell (T.J. Miller) states that she’s a ten and he’s a five, while her friend Patty (Krysten Ritter) thinks that she’s afraid of getting her heart broken again so she’s picked a safe man. The relationship seems doomed and the typical teen sex comedy hijinks nearly derail things, but of course it all works out.

As for that restaurant that Kirk and Molly eat at in Market Square, it’s a fake set.

PITTSBURGH MADE: The Chief (2010)

Tom Atkins is loved everywhere but in Pittsburgh, we’ve been so lucky to not only have him as a native son, but to have him appear in a one-man show about the life of Pittsburgh Steelers’ founder and owner Art Rooney. The first president of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1933 to 1974 and the first chairman of the team from 1933 to 1988, Rooney led the kind of life people wrote hard scrabble novels about, rising from the North Side streets, the father of a saloon owner and the second of nine children.

A multi-sport athlete, Rooney was a success in boxing, winning the AAU welterweight belt and trying out for the 1920 Olympic Team, as well as playing minor league baseball and semi-pro football, finally buying the “Hope Harvey” and “Majestic Radio” teams and renaming them the J.P. Rooneys when he bought them as an NFL franchise in 1933. As this story will tell you, a smart racetrack bet won him the money he needed to keep the team.

The Steelers weren’t a success until many years after Rooney bought the team. In those years, he was better known for his skill as an owner and also helping the city of Pittsburgh, helping to start the Penguins, financially supporting the Homestead Grays and owning several tracks.

Tom Foerster, a famous Pittsburgh politician, said of Rooney: “Everyone knew Mr. Rooney was our number one citizen…he did more for this city than R.K. Mellon did for the business community and David Lawrence and any of the mayors who followed him, including Richard Caliguiri, did politically.”

After decades of wanting to be a winning team, Rooney was able to do what some saw as impossible: making the Steelers into a winning team. It was finding the right players. It was hiring coach Chuck Noll. While the Steelers are rebuilding now — this happens, it always does — in my childhood I was blessed to see the team win the 1975, 1978 and 1979 Super Bowls. But most importantly, while “The Chief” was alive, the Steelers franchise felt a little different. A little classier.

Maybe you can guess from this week that despite its foibles, I love where I’m from. Ask my wife — nothing chokes me up more than having to discuss how important Pittsburgh is to me. I’m so honored to be from here because there’s nowhere else I’d want to be from. A place where hard work and being tough have always been prized and yet you still get the door for someone. Hearing Rooney’s Golden Rule — Treat everybody the way you’d like to be treated. Give them the benefit of the doubt. But never let anyone mistake kindness for weakness.” — sums up my belief and why this story is so important to me.

Written by Gene Collier and Rob Zellers, The Chief first played the Pittsburgh Public Theater in 2003, always starring Atkins. It’s an incredible performance, just him on stage, talking to each member of the audience as if they are the only person there.

Directed by Steve Parys and with credits that feature so many of the talented crew members that I’ve been honored to work with in my life in advertising, The Chief is required viewing for all Pittsburgh residents, but if you love football, hearing some interesting stories or just love Tom Atkins, you need to watch it too.

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Through the Decades: 2010s Collection: MacGruber (2010)

Directed by The Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone, MacGruber does what all SNL films do: stretch a short segment into a full movie. However, because this movie has a rich history of spy films and MacGyver to make fun of, it does much better than most.

Star Will Forte would tell The A.V. Club, “What you see with this movie is exactly what we wanted to do. It’s the three of us having a bunch of fun writing it, then having fun making it with a bunch of our friends—old friends and new friends. I think that fun comes across when you watch it. It’s rare that you get that kind of creative freedom.”

Basically, MacGruber is the greatest secret agent of all time, but he’s been retired ever since his archnemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) killed his wife (Maya Rudolph) on his wedding day. Of course, he comes back. And oh yes, as I always say, hijinks ensue.

WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane, MVP and The Great Khali appeared in this movie as past agents that have worked with MacGruber, which led to Forte, Ryan Phillippe and Kristen Wiig hosting Monday Night Raw. And one of the henchmen is remake Jason, Derek Mears.

I’m for any movie that has Powers Boothe as an authority figure and Kilmer as a villain who ends up getting his hand chopped off, machine gunned, blown up real good and then, as MacGruber prepares to marry the love of his life, pissed on.

There’s going to be a series of this on the NBC Peacock streaming service. I can’t wait. Hopefully it’s as much fun as this movie.

Strangely enough — and this feels like complete BS because there’s no attribution on IMDB — Kilmer and Forte almost ended up being on Amazing Race as a team, as Kilmer later stayed at Forte’s house for a few months after this movie and they became such friends that they watched the show all the time together.

The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 2010s Collection has ten movies for a great price, including The AmericanThe DilemmaThe Adjustment Bureau, Your Highness, The Thing, Contraband, Safe House, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Black Sea. You can order it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK DVD RELEASE: Through the Decades: 2010s Collection: The American (2010)

Anton Corbijn is probably best known for his music videos for bands such as Depeche Mode (“Never Let Me Down Again,” “Behind the Wheel,” “Policy of Truth”), U2 (“Pride (In the Name of Love,” “One”), Nirvana (“Heart-Shaped Box”) and so many more. He made the Ian Curtis biography Control in 2007 and has made several movies while still being involved in music, making two films about Depeche Mode, the concert movie Depeche Mode Live in Berlin and the documentary Spirits in the Forest.

Based on the 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth, The American finds George Clooney playing Jack, a gunsmith and contract killer, who is also known as Edward when he gets spotted, a fact that he finds him killing his lover Ingrid (Irina Björklund) to keep from being found out.

He leaves for Castelvecchio, a small town in the mountains of Abruzzo, where he begins a relationship with two women: a prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido) and Mathilde (Thekla Reuten), who asks him to build a special rifle. Yet at every turn, others are hunting him.

Jack/Edward regrets his life and killing Ingrid, so he confesses to Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and tries to imagine a world where he can be with Clara, all while Mathilde readies to use the gun he made to kill him.

With allusions to the films of Leone and Don’t Look Now, director Anton Corbijn and writer Rowan Joffé have created an intriguing film with no real heroes.

The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 2010s Collection has ten movies for a great price, including Macgruber, The DilemmaThe Adjustment Bureau, Your Highness, The Thing, Contraband, Safe House, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Black Sea. You can order it from Deep Discount.

SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010)

This isn’t a sequel but an entirely new reality for the puppets, with Danny Coogan (Levi Fiehler) as the new Puppet Master after the death of André Toulon (William Hickey in footage from other films in the series). Directed by David DeCoteau and written by Charles Band and August White, this movie has Danny and his girlfriend Beth (Jenna Gallaher) battling Nazi saboteurs in America with the help of Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, Tunneler, Six-Shooter, Shredder Khan, Gengie and a new puppet named Ninja.

Their main enemy is a Japanese spy named Ozu (Ada Chao) and this leads into an entire trilogy of World War II movies. She was originally intended to be Fu Manchu, but DeCoteau wanted her to be a dragon lady. This was shot in China, along with Killjoy 3, in one of those deals where Full Moon must have gotten some kind of kickback.

I’ve had the same problem since I was a kid watching Japanese monster movies. I don’t care about the humans. For these movies, I come to watch puppets kill people. There’s no part of me that wants to watch people being people. I want to watch Blade cut their throats. I am a very simple man and come to Puppet Master movies for puppet on human violence.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 10: The Dead Can’t Dance (2010)

10. THE FIRST WAVE: One made by an indigenous filmmaker or has indigenous cast members.

Directed and written by Rodrick Pocowatchit, who also plays Dax Wildhorse, The Dead Can’t Dance is a zombie movie about three Native Americans — Guy Ray Pocowatchit is Ray Wildhorse and T.J. Williams is his son Eddie — who run out of gas and walk into there being no room in hell, as the line is read.

Eddie has really been raised by Dax, his uncle, while his father Ray drinks away his days. On their way to Eddie’s college, everything falls apart. Now, this is a horror movie, but not a great one. But the fact that the Native American leads are so convincingly being themselves while also not being the finest of actors give this a lot of charm. Their identity doesn’t feel forced. It feels authentic.

It looks like the lowest of low budgets.

Yet I love the concept: an airborne disease turns everyone into zombies except for those with Native American blood, which makes them immune. I wish Pocowatchit had the money and crew to make this a high end production but maybe it would lose the charm that it has now. He’s also made a time travel film called Red Hand, a drama called Sleepdancer and Dancing On the Moon, which has three Native Americans also getting stranged yet in this story we’re more concerned with characters learning who they are and not at all about zombie end of the world horror.

You can watch this on Tubi.


With the release of Prey, it’s time to break down all of the Predator movies in one place and try and figure out why I love this franchise so much when I outright hate at least one of these movies.

The inspiration for the film came from a joke that after Rocky IV, Stallone had run out of opponents on Earth. If they made another film, he’d have to fight an alien. Jim and John Thomas were inspired by that and wrote Hunter, which became Predator. One could argue that they had seen Without Warning, which is nearly the same idea, with an alien — armed with futuristic weaponry and also played by Kevin Peter Hall — on Earth to hunt humans.

Predator (1987): As Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” blares, helicopters carrying Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Sonny Landham), Mac (Bill Duke), Hawkins (Shane Black), Blain (Jesse Ventura) and Dillon (Carl Weathers) lands in Central America to free a foreign cabinet minister and his aide.

On their way to the target, Dutch discovers a destroyed helicopter and three skinned bodies of a failed rescue attempt. After Dutch’s team decimates the enemy, including some Soviet officers, they learn that it was all a set-up by Dillon to get information from the enemy. Only one is left alive — Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) — so the team takes her to the extraction zone.

And this is where Predator flips the script.

Written by Jim and John Thomas (Mission to MarsExecutive Decision) and directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Last Action Hero), this film starts as a testosterone-laced ode to American firepower and then becomes a slasher, as the team is followed by an invisible, nearly-unstoppable alien hunter (Kevin Peter Hall) who has come from space just for the sport of hunting these soldiers.

There are so many stories about how JCVD was once the Predator. Why that ended is up for debate. Maybe it’s because Van Damme was only 5’9″. Or it could have been because all Jean Claude did was complain about the suit being so hot that he kept passing out. Or maybe the original design just didn’t work. The Stan Winston redesign? It’s as iconic as the xenomorphs of Alien, which the Predator would get to battling soon enough.

Predator 2 (1989): The beauty of Predator is that it starts as a war movie and suddenly becomes a slasher before you even realize it. It subverts the macho tropes of Arnold movies by inserting a killing machine that is tougher, better armed and just plain unstoppable. And that killer? He’s just here for sport.

So why do I love Predator 2 so much? Because it’s literally a grindhouse or Italian exploitation version of Predator. Instead of the jungle, we get a literal concrete jungle. Instead of Arnold, Jesse and Carl Weathers, we get character actors galore, like Danny Glover, Robert Davi, Gary Busey and Bill Paxton. It has the feel of RoboCop with a non-stop media barrage led by real-life junk TV icon Morton Downey, Jr. (“Zip it, pinhead!”), and a populace that is constantly armed and always looking for a chance to use it. It’s one of the few slices of the future where it feels like today — the technology is only nominally better and everything pretty much sucks for everyone. And holy shit, is it fucking hot.

The 1997 of this movie is really 2018, to be honest. Except LA is in the midst of a war between the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. It’s a perfect place for a Predator to hunt — and once that alien sees Lt. Harrigan (Glover) in action, it seems like it’s playing a game to capture the lawman as his ultimate prize. That’s when we meet Special Agent Peter Keyes (Busey), who is posing as a DEA agent, and new team member Detective Jerry Lambert (Paxton at his most manic).

There’s a scene where the Predator interrupts a voodoo ritual (the girlfriend screaming for her life is former Playboy Playmate turned porn star (that was a rare thing in the 1990s) Teri Weigel) and wipes out everyone, skinning them alive and taking pieces of them as trophies. One of the team, Danny (singer Rubén Blades) comes back to the crime scene, only to be killed by the camouflaged alien.

Harrigan starts tracking the killer, thinking he’s dealing with a human. He even consults King Willie (Calvin Lockhart, The Beast Must Die), the voodoo loving gang leader. That’s when we get that immortal line that Ice Cube sampled, “There’s no stopping what can’t be stopped. No killing what can’t be killed.” A short battle follows with an awesome two cut (literally) of Willie screaming and his severed head being carried away, continuing the scream.

Two massive action scenes follow: Lambert and team member Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) battling a gang and the Predator on a train, then Keyes and his team battling the Predator in what they think is the perfect situation.

It comes down to Harrigan and the Predator battling one on one, from rooftop to buildings to a spacecraft. Harrigan overcomes the alien with its own weapons, then an army of other Predators appear (this made me stand up and cheer when I saw this 27 years ago in the theater) and one of them hands the cop an ancient gun as a trophy before they leave him behind. That gun is engraved “Raphael Adolini 1715,” a reference to the Dark Horse comic book story Predator: 1718, which was published in  A Decade of Dark Horse #1.

To be honest — a TON of this film is taken from Dark Horse’s Predator: Concrete Jungle. The first few issues feature  Detective Schaefer, the brother of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, as he and his partner, Detective Rasche, fight a Predator in New York City. And the inclusion of the Alien skull was inspired by Dark Horse’s Aliens vs. Predator series.

I love that Lilyan Chauvin is in this as Dr. Irene Richards, the chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist of Los Angeles. How woke is Predator 2? The main cop is African American leading an ethnically diverse team when that diversity isn’t an issue at all? Then you have a woman in charge of all pathology? How ahead of its time is this movie?

Adam Baldwin from TV’s Firefly has a brief role as a member of Keyes’ team. Plus, Robert Davi plays a police captain, Kent McCord from TV’s Adam-12 is a cop, Steve Kahan (who played Glover’s boss in four Lethal Weapon films) plays a police sergeant and Elpidia Carrillo reprises her role as Anna Gonsalves from the original in a cameo.

If you read the book version, you learn even more: Keyes recalls memories of speaking with Dutch in a hospital, as he suffered from radiation sickness. However, the soldier escaped, never to be seen again. Arnold himself escaped, refusing to do this movie because of the script, and he was nearly replaced by Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze!

Director Stephen Hopkins went on to direct The ReapingLost in SpaceThe Ghost and the Darkness and Judgement Night (he also directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child before this). He had to recut the film twenty times to get an R rating! I’d love to see the uncut version of this. Shout Factory, how about it?

One of my favorite things about the film is this outtake. Stick through it to see Danny Glover dance along with some Predators!

Also: Holy shit, Gary Busey. He is in character the entire time, discussing how they’re hunting the Predator while also talking about it as a film. If this doesn’t make you love him, nothing will.