Alternative Cinema Goes Bye-Bye: A Final Farewell to Tempe Video

By Bob Freville

Tempe Entertainment was founded in 1991, but I didn’t hear about them until the mid-90s when I happened upon an enthralling profile of Tempe founder J.R. Bookwalter in Fangoria magazine. The article in question painted a picture of DIY innovation before DIY was part of the pop culture lexicon.

Upon reading about Bookwalter’s debut film, The Dead Next Door, and the bloody shoestring production of his next movie, Ozone, it became clear that this Akron, OH resident was at the vanguard of a new microbudget horror movement, one that was making movies for peanuts and pubic hair.

After making a dynamic debut with The Dead Next Door, a unique take on the zombie genre that was partially funded by Sam Raimi, Bookwalter churned out a series of passionless no-budget quickies for producer David DeCoteau before turning his frustration with this thankless work into a goal – create a company that can do more with less.

Founded in 1991 during post-production on ‘Dead Next Door,’  Tempe Video’s ethos was simple; as Bookwalter told Michael Scrutchin of Flipside Movie Emporium, “Whatever some guy in his backyard comes up with will be infinitely more passionate and honest than the crap Hollywood churns out on a weekly basis! I say get out there and do it! Now there is no excuse.”

Tempe Entertainment wasn’t waiting for some hotshot honcho to stick millions of dollars in escrow and assign executives to lob a flurry of notes at Bookwalter’s scripts. Instead, the Tempe team were turning their backs on the silver screen machine and building the direct-to-video market into a prosperous new avenue for indie talent.

Over the ensuing three plus decades, that talent has brought us fabulous cheapy features like the batshit psychological drama Eddie Presley and the fiendishly funny Filthy McNasty quadrilogy, to say nothing of Bookwalter’s own brilliant drug scourge thriller Ozone. Their catalog reflects the full width and breadth of no-budget horror, warts and all.

A lot of their titles are excruciatingly bad, but their egregiousness is part of their charm. Like other indie houses, such as Troma Team Releasing and Full Moon, the videos of Tempe Video are either shockingly well-crafted or so poorly crafted that the fun is in imagining the filmmakers’ state of mind during production.

Recently J.R. Bookwalter took to social media to announce that the company would no longer be producing motion pictures. In a Facebook post, Bookwalter writes, “All good things must come to an end, which is why we’re announcing today that Tempe Entertainment will be packing our bags and heading to that great indie retirement home in the sky on January 1, 2019.”

The news was a blow to those of us who place importance on indie film distribution. With streaming platforms fast replacing traditional distribution paradigms, it is unnerving to see a legendary studio like Tempe turning out the lights.

Like Crystal Pepsi, Tempe Video may be back one day, but it will never be the same again.

It would be all too easy to say that this spells the end for indie horror, but Tempe Video has served as a guidepost for innumerable indie houses to sprout up all across the country and today horror production companies number in the hundreds.

Outfits like Blumhouse, Brain Damage, Breaking Glass Pictures, Darclight, Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix and Unearthed Films are rolling out a king’s ransom of cool titles that stretch the boundaries of what is possible with the kitchen sink approach.

The last ten years have given us modern macabre classics like Chad Ferrin’s mindfuck slasher Someone’s Knocking at the Door (2009), Adam Wingard’s genre-bending DXM trip/ghost story Pop Skull (2008), the Trent Haaga-penned cumming-of-age flick Deadgirl (2008), Ti West’s old school Satanic panic film The House of the Devil (2009) and the slippery sci-fi cringer Honeymoon (2014).

We’ve also seen genre exercises like You’re Next propel directors like Wingard into the mainstream where they were given the opportunity to make exceptional genre films (The Guest, Blair Witch) with a slightly grander scope.

These videos and films owe much to the Tempe Video model of frugal, makeshift innovation. It’s hard to imagine directors like Kevin Smith (Red State, Tusk) being able to successfully stage movie road shows or directors like Rob Zombie (31) being able to raise post-production monies using crowdsourcing had it not been for companies like Tempe Video paving the way.

Many great filmmakers are shooting feature-length flicks in 30 days or less and finding creative solutions to problems that present themselves on the day. And there are a lot of little production houses out there who are able to write, produce, direct and release their own pictures on little more than a prayer.

But Tempe did it first and they did it the best. Indie horror—Esto Perpetua.

The Weirdest Vintage Video Games You’ve Never Played: Part One

Everyone loves video games. Well, almost everyone. A smaller portion of game lovers may even appreciate certain games that have been left behind by the leaps-and-bounds pace at which graphic and interface developments have occurred since the late eighties. As someone who began school in the age of floppy disks, I can confidently affirm that the gaming world has come a long way in a dazzlingly short amount of time.

Still…

Something magical still surrounds the golden classics of the click and point PC gaming era–at least for this writer. I remember the sensation caused by 1999’s Silent Hill with reverent fondness, due in part to the thrall that Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark: Tale of Orpheo’s Curse from 1994 held me in as a little kid. Call it nostalgia, but the simple eeriness of these games and the creepy thrill of delving into their worlds is probably one of the main reasons I write horror(ish) fiction today (second to Goosebumps, of course).

What you may not know is that some of the old PC games were downright bizarre. Many of the games on this multi-part list didn’t receive the mainstream fanfare that would’ve brought them into the radar of the casual gamer, so it’s no surprise that they remain hidden gems even in this age of limitless information.

Note that I just cited Silent Hill as a stand-in for “normal,” mainstream gaming experiences. That means you should probably prepare yourself. Things are about to get really weird.

Sad Satan, 2015(?)

Don’t try to download this game. This warning may seem like a cute but cliché hook strategy on my part, but I’m in dead earnest. Seriously, don’t search for download links to Sad Satan. The problem is that most (if not all) versions of Sad Satan software are merely clickbait vehicles for some serious malware, and you would be better off avoiding them if you value your hardware and privacy in the slightest. Even worse, “later” versions reportedly contained child pornography. Don’t be surprised when you don’t find any download links here. It’s for your own good.

So what is Sad Satan? Fabled to arise from some obscure corner of the Dark Web, Sad Satan is, as far as I can determine, part truth, part creepypasta, and part breeding ground for “deep” investigations by view-thirsty YouTubers. Acting on hints from a subscriber, according to an article on The Kernel, the YouTube channel Obscure Horror Corner supposedly embarked on a search for Sad Satan. In 2015, Obscure Horror Corner uploaded the game’s first walkthrough (to the whopping response of over 3 million views at the time of writing).

While the date technically negates the “vintage” qualification of this list, it’s an early nineties-style dungeon maze complete with graphics totally suitable to the era. More importantly, the firmly vintage aesthetic works to achieve some serious weirdness, which is what this series is all about. I’m including Sad Satan due to its strong atmospheric affinity to other games I plan to cover–besides, “atmospherics” is pretty much all there is to this game.

Wait, what? I hate to bust your bubble, but it’s true: Obscure Horror Corner included a dead “link” to the YouTube walkthroughs, depriving Sad Satan of much of its “Dark Web” street cred. Later, the channel said the link was deliberately dead link due to original file’s contamination with “child pornography.” While a Sad Satan “clone” (?) did later surface with a penchant for surprising unsuspecting players with guerilla child porn images, I find it improbable that Obscure Horror Corner deliberately posted a dead link while presenting it as genuine for such a reason (why not be up front about blatantly illegal content? I think viewers would’ve been completely understanding, which is way better than making them feel duped). What’s more, nothing really happens in Sad Satan, leaving the totality of its value to atmosphere.

So why are we discussing this, then? Because the “game,” as you can see for yourself in Obscure Horror Corner’s walkthrough linked above, is weird, dense, and disturbing as all fucking hell. Given the game’s simplicity (you just wander around in a series of mazes, occasionally happening across bizarre but largely static characters), watching the walkthrough is probably just as good as playing it. One thing is certain: you’re bound to get some serious chills.

Sad Satan has a inarguable power to capture viewers. All the efforts of “unveiling” it as a fraud and trying to decipher its horrifyingly potent imagery are testimonies to its success as a bizarre gaming classic. Who can resist the starkly hallucinatory black and white ambient texturing, the suffocating soundtrack (complete with sonically-manipulated soundbites including an insanity-inducing loop of Charles Manson saying “if I started killing people, there’d be none of you left”), and conspiracy theory references? Each highly evocative detail of this “game” posits the possibility a larger, darker message for the player to decipher. Whether the “message” truly exists or not has no bearing on Sad Satan’s ability to make viewers wiggle in their seats, be it from fear, disgust, or mere discomfort. And that, to this writer, is one hell of an effective slice of “interactive” weirdness.

Garage: Bad Dream Adventure (1999)

Now that the obligatory Sad Satan nod has been fulfilled, let’s move on to slightly more tangible games. Unfortunately, Garage: Bad Dream Adventure really is only slightly more accessible than Sad Satan in terms of playability. Released in Japan by way of a mere 3,000 copies for PC/Macintosh, Kinotrope’s Garage has become a serious collector’s item. Needless to say, you ain’t gonna find this one on Steam, although an apparent download link exists that I haven’t been quite brave enough to try (I only have one computer, folks, and I can’t have it crashing on me). What’s more, the game is entirely in untranslated Japanese. Unless you’re fluent in Japanese, there might not be much point in snagging the game anyway. Like Sad Satan, however, a full walkthrough exists (posted above) on YouTube, featuring full English subtitles.

You begin at the sound of someone asking you to sit. “You may feel vertigo, but please be patient,” the voice says. An obscured image fills the screen of what appears to be a naked human half-submerged in a large, iron machine. Darkness. You find yourself inexplicably wonder where your sneakers are, then… light. You wake up in a dim complex of dilapidated wooden structures connected by platforms, along which you navigate by way of a track.

Oh, also, you’re a large-headed, small-bodied robot doll thing.

Garage is a surreal immersion into an aesthetic that feels truly Lynchian, perhaps with a little steampunk thrown in for good measure and filtered through a thick, introspective… well… nightmare, as the title suggests. Judging from the YouTube walkthrough, this point-and-click adventure ranges from weirdly disorienting to highly unsettling. I’ve certainly never seen another game like it.

Be sure and set aside some time if you’re ready to embark on this bizarre little acid trip, because the tension doesn’t let up. Between the mind-bending imagery and the minimalist synth soundtrack, the sense that something is seriously wrong hangs thick in the air. The in-game objective is, of course, to escape, and it’s a testimony to Garage’s effectiveness that the player wants out too. Things are just overwhelmingly… suffocating in this bleak little world. Here’s to hoping for a rerelease (with English subtitles).

Harvester (1996)

Unlike the previous games featured here, Gilbert P. Austin’s Harvester is (joyfully) featured on Steam! What’s more, it’s going for less than six bucks at the time of writing. That means that Harvester is unique, engrossing, and friendly to a content writer’s budget (bonus points unlocked).

In all seriousness, I’ve been playing Harvester for a few days now, and it’s one of the most unsettling, compelling, and off-color games I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing. It isn’t difficult to see what inspired this gruesome quasi-nightmare’s cult following. If any of these games spark a semblance of curiosity you have a gnawing urge to satisfy, start with Harvester (unless you just want to shell out 7,000 yen for Garage, for some reason).

Now that my fanboy enthusiasm is out of the way, let’s get down to it.

You wake up in your room, which is in your parent’s house on the edge of a town called Harvest. The only problem is that you have no memory of your own name, nor do you recall having met your parents, baby sister, or asshole of a little brother. When you voice these concerns, no one seems to take you seriously. What’s even worse, there’s something clearly wrong in the little town of Harvest. For instance, why is “dad” locked in his room? Why does “mom” keep baking cookies (day after day after day, you soon discover) only to throw them in the garbage the moment they cool? And, just a warning: if you upset the newspaper boy, you better run for your fucking life.

Harvester is a point-and-click adventure, occurring within the confines of a dozen or so locations over the span of about a week. As you explore, you become pretty familiar with the zany citizens of Harvest, even to the point of uncovering some of their darkest secrets. Your goal is to gain access to the Harvest Order, a strange, esoteric cult operating in the middle of town with members who communicate with you telepathically, so that you and your “fiancé” (also unremembered) can somehow “escape.” Along the way, you wind up tangled various of crazy subplots, such as satiating a sheriff deputy’s needs by hustling girlie mags, or running reconnaissance for the emotionally unstable WWII vet in charge of Harvester’s nuclear arsenal.

If there’s a solid predecessor to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, this is it. Although Harvester is pretty gory, the game has a strong sense of humor, giving it that half-joyful, half-horrifying flavor that Night Vale fanatics are sure to find delicious. A “trigger” warning might be necessary, however, since some of the game’s humor ranges from off-color to flat out racist. But here’s the thing: Harvester is set in and clearly parodies the values of the 1950’s. Such views are accurate for the time period, and the player’s character does not seem sympathetic to these values. Besides, Harvester’s whole shtick is to jab at the hypocritical, bourgeois American golden age, using it as a push off point for what ultimately turns out to be a commentary on video game violence. No spoilers here, however. You’ll have to find out the rest yourself.

I hope you enjoyed part one of this series. What weird, bizarre, or unsettling vintage games should we cover next? Let us know in the comments below.

-Justin A. Burnett

NSFW You Can’t Make This Shit Up: Red Dead Redemption Gets a Porn Parody

The hit video game Red Dead Redemption 2 just got its on X-rated parody courtesy of Woodrocket and Pornhub. The feature-length fuck flick, subtly entitled Red Dead Erection, premieres on Pornhub today and it’s absolutely FREE to watch.

Check out the trailer over on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hokA0ACcCU

Red Dead Erection is written and directed by Vuko and Lee Roy Myers. It stars April O’Neil, Codey Steele, Lance Hart, Leya Falcon, Daisy Ducati and Cassandra Cain.

The plot is delightfully schlocky:

When Arthur Organ and the rest of his cowboy outlaw gang get chased out of Blackwater, they learn that once you go Blackwater, you can never go backwater. So, they hit the unpaved road and go on an epic Western sex-venture filled with sperm bank robberies, saloon shootouts, leading to the law chasing them down, two in the Pinkerton and one in the stinkerton. Also, there will be Cowgirl and reverse Cowgirl. Obviously.

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Mr. Sucky by Duncan P. Bradshaw – Book Review

Review by Bob Freville

Duncan P. Bradshaw’s Mr. Sucky is very funny and very British. From its first paragraphs, we are graced with a scenario straight out of a Monty Python episode. By that, I mean that Bradshaw takes familiar imagery and subverts expectations with hilariously matter-of-fact horror that’s at once bust-a-gut funny and uber-cringey.

Few writers could manage to wring laughs out of child abuse. Bradshaw not only succeeds on the very first page but keeps us hoping he’ll up the ante. Like hearing a comedian riff on The Aristocrats gag, the reader latches on to this devilishly irreverent read and waits in jubilant anticipation for the next groty detail to emerge.

Bradshaw doesn’t disappoint, skillfully one-upping himself in each successive sequence. The design of the book is itself a masterfully-executed joke; Mr. Sucky doesn’t have the outward appearance of a novel or novella. It is over-sized, oddly thin and specifically designed to resemble a poorly photocopied user manual.

It is so convincing in this regard that my better half actually stuck it in the box with a shitty vacuum cleaner we had recently purchased at Target, mistaking it for the actual manual that came with the piece of shit. Had it not been for me catching her in time, Mr. Sucky would have been going back to the store before I’d even had a chance to read it…and that would have sucked.

This kind of Andy Kaufman-esque gag might draw an exasperated yawn from some jaded millennial reader, but for those of us who were alive during the years of National Lampoon and the Theater of the Absurd, it’s a warm and welcome return to interactive and impish humor.

That’s right, get off my fucking lawn!

Mr. Sucky concerns the playful and putrid mishaps of a serial killer, his latest would-be “victim” and the killer’s dim-witted “acolyte”. But then that is like saying Mel Brooks’ The Producers is about two desperate men trying to stage a play; the description is far too simple and doesn’t do it any justice.

Without spoiling all of the surprises that this “manual” has in store for you, I can safely say that Mr. Sucky is meant for people who relish clever twists, colorful colloquialisms and dastardly denouements that don’t exactly go the way you’d expect them to.

While reading this charming book, one gets the nagging sense that they are talking to a familiar voice, perhaps the demented id or superego of their own private brain nugget. Bradshaw handles dialogue in much the same way that maverick crime writer George V. Higgins or controversial playwright-cum-filmmaker Martin McDonagh employs it; the conversations are the action and fucked if they’re not a full-on assault of the imagination.

I should confess to being a hardcore Anglophile who was weaned on the comical wonders of Benny Hill, The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers and The Dangerous Brothers. As such, I may be predisposed to Mr. Bradshaw’s particular brand of comedy. But I trust that anyone who reads this will agree that it’s an absurdly awesome tome that offers all the wit, cringe and reward of the best ripping yarn.

Mr. Sucky is billed as a Gore Com publication and I have to say that “gorecom” pretty well describes the book’s blend of the macabre and the mundane. A perfect example of the ghoulish comedy that Bradshaw has in store for you can be found on page 22 when our befuddled villain, Clive Beauchamp, reminds himself of his personal mantra.

Instead of WWJD or YOLO, Beauchamp’s acronym is the hilariously and arbitrarily long PFAETCHWUTTKS, or Prepare For Any Eventuality That Could Happen When You Try To Kill Someone. Remember, it works better with a Welsh lilt. ; )

The best thing that I can say about Mr. Sucky is that it has few peers in literature or, really, any other artistic medium. The closest you’ll probably get is Quentin Dupieux’s 2011 film Rubber, but even that highly meta exercise in deconstructured horror-comedy pales in comparison to what Bradshaw has attempted and achieved with this one.

If you’re anything like me, this waggish novella will leave an idiot grin on your face akin to the adorable smiley face illustration on its back jacket. As the author’s official website declares, Mr. Sucky is ready to come out of the cleaning closet. Snatch him up today.

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9 Ways to Skin a Cat

Design by Justin A. Burnett

By Bob Freville

Yes, you’ve heard it your whole life; there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Probably you didn’t think it was true. Well, it certainly is and today we’ll tell you all about how you, too, can achieve domestic nirvana. Not the grunge rock band, the state of mind, that is.

There will be no more mewling, no more torn up couch cushions or soiled welcome mats. These methods are surefire ways to eliminate the scourge that is the household feline.

1. Get High Tech on Her Pussy Ass

Go for the ultimate in irony with the Skinzit Electric Fish Skinner! Just when the braying little ball of fur thinks it’s getting a fresh treat from the ocean, you sneak up behind her with your Skinzit FS1000A and remove her rib bones in two simple steps.

Tell your wife to put the kibosh on that Chinese food delivery ‘cause you just got yourself a feline fillet!

2. The Claw

Too long has her tyrannical reign gone unchecked, but now you can get her back. If she’s given you the paw, you give her the claw. The ForEverlast Claw Skinning Tool’s toothed gripping ends enable you to skin your growling game as easily as you’d carve your Thanksgiving turkey.

3. Hang ‘er Out to Dry

How many times have you cringed at the sight of your pet peeve pushing tiny animals around like she’s Queen Shit? Watching her bat a mouse around, gleefully tormenting it with her razor sharp duclaws, damn near made you vomit on your own feet.

Fuck it, now it’s your turn! Get your hands on a portable tripod game hanger from Guide Gear and slap her around a little. Let her get good and dizzy before you dig in with your new tools.

4. Get Tactical

With Outdoor Edge’s 12-piece game processing kit, you’ll feel like you belong to the Elite Hunting Club. And what better way to pay her back for fucking up your Air Jordans with her fat hairballs than to tie her to a chair and make her watch as you carefully select a gut hook from your dynamite satchel of pain.

5. The John Rambo Special

If you’re not into the torture porn of the gut hook, which carefully avoids the beast’s stomach, then you can take a cue from ole Sly Stallone and go in for a quick kill with a heat-treated, shaving-sharp serrated blade (also included in your Outdoor Edge game processing kit).

We all know cats fancy themselves some kind of gods, just like those Burmese pigs that Rambo slaughtered back in 2008. Put yours in her place and show her that pain is her only god.

6. Throw Her a Bone

A Wild-Bone will not only skin your lil purring princess, it will also debone her in seconds flat! The rubberized non-slip grip will ensure that you get a clean cut of your ball of fluff even as her blood pours down your forearm. You can’t beat good ergonomics.

7. The John Kramer Route

If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can always go the John “Jigsaw” Kramer route. The tool’s in the name; snatch up a sawzall from DEWALT and slice that sucker clean in half. She’s always got her nose in her asshole anyway, why not introduce them to each other proper?

8. Skinner-Caper Combo

Life is a circus, so treat it as such. Use your zip ties to pin your precious friend to a wheel and then practice your knife throwing skills. If you miss it won’t matter because these babies have superior edge retention for breaking down creatures as big as your BBW mother-in-law.

9. The Steve Buscemi

If there’s one thing that veteran character actor Steve Buscemi is known for, it’s his big blue eyes. If there are two things that veteran character actor Steve Buscemi is known for, it’s his jacked up teeth. If there are three things veteran character actor Steve Buscemi is known for, it’s his star turn in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

But if there are four things that Buscemi is known for, it’s the time that he was heaved face first into a wood chipper at the ass end of the Coen Brothers’ seminal movie Fargo. If you love your little Tiger so much, give it the movie star sendoff it deserves by ushering it into an Earthwise 15- amp garden chipper. The handy collection bin will save you from having to clean up the red carpet.

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