Tag Archives: Jeremy Kasten


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FEATURING: Sarah Rose Harper, Brandon Thane Wilson, Katie Foster, Torey Garza

PLOT: Four seniors are locked inside their high school at night as punishment for vandalism; characters dressed as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stalk them.

Still from The Dead Ones (2019)

COMMENTS: I’m not the first one to describe The Dead Ones as some variation of “The Breakfast Club goes to Hell,” and I won’t be the last. It’s hard to ignore the high concept premise: high schoolers alone, sentenced to detention, but done as a horror movie. But The Dead Ones is a good bit more than that belittling description suggests, digging into the issue of teen bullying and its too-frequent apocalyptic consequences, while satisfying the bloodlust of its horror demographic with gore, shocks, and—yes—weirdness.

To continue the Breakfast Club metaphor for a moment… it should be no surprise that this one won’t end with a Don’t-You-Forget-About-Me-fist-pump. (Instead, we get an ironic recitation of the title, which is as close to redemption as The Dead Ones can come.) Rather than collection of brains, athletes, princesses, etc., what we have here are two basket cases and two criminals. Three out of the four are fleshed out with decent, if sad, backstories of abuse, humiliation, and mental illness. Emily, for example, is a cutter, and the bizarrely calligraphed scarring patterns on her arms and back are the first hints of true weirdness in the film (not counting some high school chatter about the ancient Egyptian god Ammit). What begins as a haunted high school spook show is interrupted by scenes of a far more realistic horror: four masked figures (the same ones who have locked the teens inside for the night) go on a daytime shooting rampage. The Dead Ones starts alternating between these two stories, and it’s not clear whether scenes are flashbacks, flash-forwards, or alternate realities altogether. Meanwhile, really weird stuff continues to happen at Midnight Breakfast Club: warping floor tiles, rag-eating ghouls, a precariously perched column made of classroom furniture. The teens’ reactions are rarely commensurate with the horrors they experience: one delinquent responds to being pushed around by a classroom of zombies with a defiant middle finger, rather than by wetting himself in terror.

The acting is not bad, with Sarah Rose Harper holding down the main duties (and delivering one fairly chilling monologue). The sound mix is thick and oppressive; I vacillated over whether it was too intrusive or not. Effects are done on the cheap. Kasten throws a lot of different styles into the film, from horror movie standard like flickering lights, various CGI and post-production tricks, homemade masks, crude stop-motion monsters, and scenes that play out on security cameras or YouTube videos, or on TV monitors that talk back to the characters. The welter of techniques keeps you off balance, but it probably would have been a stronger film had they stuck to a couple of key stylistic motifs. Still, it’s hard to complain about a horror movie that has the courage to go full weird.

Surprisingly divisive, The Dead Ones garnered positive reviews from critics while earning a shockingly low 3.1 rating on IMDB. Based on the few reader reviews available, it seems that most of the detractors missed a couple of relatively obvious clues that left them confused (or perhaps they didn’t watch all the way until the end, by which time everything should be crystal clear). Zach Chassler’s script is full of classical allusions that may fly over heads of those seeking a slash-’em-up teen thriller, so maybe it’s just a case of the film not finding its way to the proper audience yet. (Our readers are the proper audience.)

The Dead Ones was shot way back in 2009; some have speculated that the sad plague of school shootings in the following years scared off investors and distributors who thought the subject matter was too raw for the moment. Once finally completed, it only played a couple of stops on the festival circuit, but Artsploitation rescued it and put it out on the Internet and Blu-ray. The disc comes with two short behind-the-scenes featurettes and two commentaries, which are worth listening to in order to catch all the tiny, almost subliminal details that will probably escape you on a first viewing.


“From within this structure, though, a weirdly intriguing picture flows… The Dead Ones is quite the madhouse and you have to admire Kasten’s journey into teen darkness.”–Elias Savada, Film International (Blu-ray)


DIRECTED BY: Douglas Buck, Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Karim Hussain, , ,

FEATURING: , André Hennicke, Peg Poett, Virginia Newcomb, Enola Penny, Amanda Marquardt, Jeremy Gladen, Liberty Larson, Christopher Sachs, Nicole Fabbri

PLOT: In a dilapidated old theater, a macabre human puppet hosts six Grand Guignol-style tales of terror.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: The Theater Bizarre is similar to other portmanteau horror anthologies, but speeds past them into the realm of the weird with colorful eccentric characters and bizarre story situations.

Still from The Theater Bizarre (2011)
COMMENTS: First-rate makeup, eerie sets and props, and racy, gory stories with unpredictable endings make The Theatre Bizarre a real standout in the genre of horror anthologies. When an emboldened patron of the dramatic arts (Virginia Newcomb) spots an open door to a decrepit told theater down a questionable back street, her curiosity gets the better of her. She enters, takes a seat, and is treated to a series of six sinister stories of sexual obsession and madness, hosted by an uncanny animated human puppet (Udo Kier). Attempting to cultivate his patron’s fear, the puppet presents each demented segment like a circus ringmaster exhibiting a freak show of abominations, with each tale more horribly harrowing and outrageous than the last.

When they meet “The Mother of Toads,” an unwary student of anthropology and his fiancee touring the French countryside are lured into the lair of changeling witch with an offer to peruse rare books. Suffering from an unusual condition, she has an ulterior motive and a strange design in store for both of them. The inquisitive pair are in for the cultural shock of a lifetime.

The psychological tension of unrequited love goes through the roof in “I Love You,” and reality bends and warps when a smothering but inadequate lover plunges beyond the bounds of reason when confronted by the prospect of a breakup.

In “Wet Dreams,” George Romero’s zombie movie makeup artist Tom Savini (who also directs) plays a Freudian psychologist and marriage counselor who turns the tables on a philandering client when he helps a couple step to the other side of the mirror to realize their darkest fantasies.

“The Accident” relates the story of a little girl learning the harsh realities of death after witnessing the aftermath of fatal traffic accident. This serious effort is neither macabre nor racy, and stands out from the other stories in The Theatre Bizarre for its dreamlike filming style and quiet contemplative atmosphere.

“Vision Stains” introduces a psychotic “experience junkie” who kills other women, drains the vitreous fluid from their eyes and injects it into her own to steal their memories. But when she chooses an “exceptional” victim, she takes a ride straight to hell.

Their addiction to elaborate confections cements an uneasy alliance between an oddball beatnik couple in “Sweets”. The glutenous duo’s precarious hold on their shaky union is challenged to the extreme when they join an exclusive club for twisted food perverts whose appetites are esoteric in the extreme.

As a whole, The Theatre Bizarre is a bit uneven. Its segments are diverse and feature unique directorial and writing styles, but each terror tale is memorable, colorful and over-the-top without being campy or silly. The Theatre Bizarre is a portmanteau-style anthology in the tradition of Creepshow or Tales From The Crypt; but with its adult themes and abundant nudity, it’s definitely not a children’s movie. Lurid, salacious, chilling, and bloody as hell, The Theatre Bizarre is the most memorable horror anthology I have seen to date.

All of the directors have done prior work in horror cinema: Richard Stanley (Dust Devil, Hardware), Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock, Life is Hot in Cracktown), Tom Savini (the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead), Douglas Buck (Cutting Moments), David Gregory (Plague Town), Karim Hussain (Subconscious Cruelty), and Jeremy Kasten (The Attic Expeditions, Wizard of Gore).


“These elements may be shocking and even bizarre. But, like a lot of midnight-movie provocations, they soon turn predictable.”–Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post (contemporaneous)


This post was originally lost in the Great Server Crash of 2010; the article was partially recovered from Google cache, and the rest of the text was recreated. Sorry, original comments were irretrievably lost in cyberspace.

DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Kasten

FEATURING: Andras Jones, Seth Green, Jeffrey Combs, Beth Bates, Ted Raimi

PLOT: Awakening from a dream to find himself on an operating table, an amnesiac is informed that he is a schizophrenic murderer who has been committed to a private institution and is now being sent to a halfway home—nicknamed “the House of Love”—to be rehabilitated.

Scene from The Attic Expeditions (2001)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: The Attic Expeditions sounds echoes of some (better) weird movies: Jacob’s Ladder (in the way that the script offers different possible explanations for the protagonist’s hallucinations, and jerks the viewer back and forth between those theories) and Donnie Darko (in that it seems the director intended to tell a fantastical story that “made sense” on a literal level, but lost control of the story when he took it one paradox too far). An interesting, confusing, out-of-control picture, it’s as fascinating for its misses as for its hits. It falls just short of a general recommendation, but it is recommended to anyone interested in psychological, mindbending horror seasoned with heaping doses of confusion and who isn’t a stickler for great acting. This is the kind of curious, singular picture that could wind up filling one of the final slots in the List.

COMMENTS: Trevor Blackburn may be a schizophrenic murderer, or he may be an amnesiac sorcerer, or he may be the victim of an unethical psychological experiment; or he may be all three. It’s impossible to tell, especially since The Attic Expeditions is full of contradictions and contains segments where the timeline suddenly resets and the action repeats itself with slight variations. The mystery promiscuously throws out clues, but every possible explanation for Trevor’s woes seems chained to its own refutation. Trevor is an unreliable narrator in triplicate: he’s a definite amnesiac, a possible schizophrenic, and, to top it all off, his state-appointed guardian appears to be deliberately playing with his loose grip on reality. Psychiatrist Dr. Ek (played by Jefferey Combs as a variation on Herbert West as a pot-smoking, skin-popping headshrinker) uses Trevor as a case study for an experiment in Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2001)