scop (noun):

Old English – bard, minstrel, storyteller

Tales from the Hood 2
Horror, History, Humor & Politics

September 22nd, 2018

“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS. What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political!” – Toni Morrison

Morrison’s words are particularly relevant to the horror genre. After all, horror literature is all about powers beyond comprehension. It’s true in the genre’s seminal works (think Dante’s Inferno), and it’s certainly true with horror stories today.

Case in point is Tales from the Hood 2, the new anthology film from Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott, which serves up a mix of timely jokes, jolts, and meditations on contemporary politics.

I caught the film at the Fantasia International Film Festival, where it screened along with the world premiere of Nightmare Cinema. Here’s what I had to say about it in a brief blog post the following day:

Tales from the Hood 2, from filmmakers Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott, is a topical mix of dark comedy and thought-provoking horror. I can’t recommend it enough, but I will try my damnedest in tomorrow’s post.

Although I may have tried my damnedest, that post didn’t appear the next day. But now – with Hood 2 scheduled for release in two weeks – I’m at last making good on my promise.

Coming more than 20 years after the original Tales from the Hood, the sequel opens with a wrap-around segment titled “Robo Hell,” in which Keith David plays Portifoy Simms, a 21st-century scop hired to help program Robo Patriot — a sentient robot that operates on a kind of next-generation AI software known as RI (Real Intelligence).  As one of the developers tells Simms, RI enables Robo Patriot to “learn from second-hand experience — stories, fables, tales. And that’s where you come in.”

The conceit: Simms will help the Robo Patriot develop a sense of justice by telling it stories, the first of which is titled “Good Golly.”

“Good Golly” opens with two friends, Audrey (Alexandria DeBerry) and Zoe (Jasmine Akako), visiting the Museum of Negrosity in search of golliwogs, rag dolls fashioned as racists caricatures. Audrey had a golliwog as a child. She thinks they’re cute, and though the museum’s curator explains that the dolls were an attempt to perpetuate racial stereotypes and are not for sale, she refuses to be turned away.

Presented with equal doses of history, horror, and humor, “Good Golly” accelerates into what appears at times to recall the “Amelia” segment of Richard Matheson’s Trilogy of Terror. But where Matheson went for thrills, “Good Golly” has another agenda — a lesson that doesn’t become clear to the golliwog shoppers until it’s too late.

The next segment, “Medium,” centers on TV psychic John Lloyd (Bryan Batt from Mad Men). Dealing with a band of gangsters who put their trust in Lloyd’s pseudo skills, this episode is perhaps the most straightforwardly entertaining of the four, offering a humorous riff on the blurred line between reality TV and the realities of life. It benefits from energetic performances and twists reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

Perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, “Date Night” centers on a pair of pick-up artists who pass themselves off as casting directors. Their plans go south when they meet Carmen and Liz — aspiring actresses who are not what they seem. It’s a story of predators becoming prey that plays like an allegory for our times.

As Hood 2 draws to a close, storyteller Simms presents his grand finale, a poignant ghost story about a politician haunted by past civil-rights leaders and victims of racial injustice. Depicting such historical figures in film is challenging, yet Cundeiff and Scott pull this one off beautifully. In all, it’s a timely meditation on race in America.

The final act returns us to the film’s wrap-around device. Here, the RI robot has listened to the stories and is ready to apply what it has learned. As you might imagine, things do not go quite the way the robot’s designers had planned.

Speaking with Rusty Cundeiff and Darrin Scott following their Fantasia premier, I discovered we share a fondness for the old Twilight Zone series and the way writers like Rod Serling and Richard Matheson used horror as an allegory to comment on timely issues and social injustice.

With Tales of the Hood 2, the Cundeiff-Scott team is carrying that tradition into the 21st century.

Tales from the Hood 2 comes out on home video on October 2.


  • Promotional images from Tales from the Hood 2, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018
  • A view from the stage during Rusy Cundeiff and Darrin Scott’s Q&A session at The Fantasia International Film Festival. Photo by Vincent Fréchette, 13 July 2018.

Nightmare Cinema: Fall Festivals & Events

September 16th, 2018

These are busy times for the Nightmare Cinema team.

This weekend, Mick Garris (the film’s producer and writer/director of “Dead”) and Sandra Becerril (writer of the Ryûhei Kitamura directed “Mashit”) are in Strasbourg for the film’s French premiere at FEFFS — Le Festival européen du film fantastique. The premiere will take place at a special midnight screening on Monday, September 17, with additional screenings scheduled for September 18 and 23.

Since its launch in 2008, FEFFS has become one of Europe’s most comprehensive genre events, with a focus on international fantastic films as well as thrillers, film noir, black comedies, and even video games and virtual-reality cinema.

This year, the FEFFS Guest of Honor will be John Landis, director of Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, and Into the Night (the film that made stars of Jeff Goldblum and Michele Feiffer).

While Mick Garris and Sandra Becerril are hosting the EU premiere at FEFFS, David Slade (“This  Way to Egress”) and  Ryûhei Kitamura (“Mashit”) will be in London and Japan respectively, with David working on the upcoming season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Ryûhei hosting the Japanese premiere of his thriller Downrange, which has been receiving strong notice since its L.A. premiere last spring. And there’s more, as some of the film’s actors and producers will be hosting a panel at Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank.

Next month brings more premieres, with Nightmare Cinema screening in Spain and England before returning to Canada (where it had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in July).

First up will be a UK premiere at Grimmfest in Manchester (October 4-7), where I’ve been invited to take part in a question-and-answer session following the film’s screening at the Odeon Theatre on October 6. There’s a chance that an additional guest could be joining me on stage to help celebrate the connection that “This Way to Egress” has to the Manchester-Sheffield area. More information coming soon, as I plan to blog about that connection soon and speak about it at the screening.  Please stand by!

Beginning the same week as Grimmfest, the Stiges Film Festival (October 5-14) — regarded by many as the world’s foremost film festival specializing in fantasy, horror and science fiction — will host Nightmare Cinema‘s Spanish premiere on Thursday, October 13.

Other Stiges highlights will include the Festival’s Grand Honorary Award (going to M. Night Shyamalan) and a special screening of the new 4k restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Running concurrently with Stiges, the 13th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival (October 11-19) will mark Nightmare Cinema’s return to Canada, where the film had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 12.

It’s busy line-up indeed, and one that will enable more viewers to discover what capacity crowds in Montreal and Mexico City have already seen firsthand.

The Nightmare Cinema project has come a long way since producers, writers, and directors gathered at Xiomara on Melrose in December 2016 to celebrate the green-lighting of the film. And the excitement’s still just beginning.

Stop back soon for more updates … and for a special Grimmfest preview in which we’ll consider how the UK screening will be a homecoming of sorts for “This Way to Egress.”

Until then … scop on!


  • Above: Promotional graphics from Festival européen du film fantastique, the Japanese premiere of Ryûhei Kitamura’s Downrange, Grimmfest Film Festival, The Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
  • At right: Nightmare Cinema directors and writers gather at Xiomara on Melrose Avenue, L.A, on December 8, 2016. Pictured from left to right, front to back, are Alejandro Brugués, Ryûhei Kitamura, R.C. Matheson’s hands. Sandra Becerril, Lawrence Connolly, Mick Garris, Joe Dante.

These Writers Rock:
PG Sturges, RC Matheson, Craig Spector

August 26th, 2018

There’s an undeniable connection between horror and rock-n-roll, one that no doubt began long before the devil went down to Georgia or Robert Johnson stopped at the crossroads to barter his soul.

I was reminded of this connection earlier in the month when I came across some album tracks that fellow Nightmare Cinema writer RC Matheson had posted to his Facebook page. The tracks were from a CD titled Fade-In, released nearly ten years ago by a band called Smash-Cut. On that album, RC joins Craig Spector and PG Sturges to serve up a collection of tunes that run the gamut from rock, jazz, blues, and ballad. A terrific mix.

But what makes the band relevant to a discussion of horror and rock-n-roll is that all three Smash-Cut musicians are also successful writers of dark fiction. Coincidence? You decide.

RC Matheson’s early horror stories first appeared in some of the genre’s top anthologies and magazines, among them Shadows and Nightmares (both edited by Charles L. Grant), Whispers, and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine. It was in Twilight Zone – where we appeared together for the first time in the June 1982 issue – that I first discovered RC’s work and found it taut, spare, and infused with the kind of dynamic rhythms that anticipated his contributions to Smash-Cut.

For the screen, RC has adapted Dean Koontz’s dark horror classic Sole Survivor (as a miniseries) and wrote, co-wrote or produced the horror films: Full Eclipse, Big Driver, It Waits, Cub and the nightmarish Three O’Clock High.

Also, for Stephen King’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes, he adapted Battleground, which stars William Hurt and is directed by Jim Henson’s son Brian. It won two Emmys.

In print, RC’s recent works include the collections Dystopia, Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks, Zoopraxis,  and his Hollywood horror novella The Ritual of Illusion.

In addition to composing all the songs on Fade-In, writer PG Sturges is the creator of the Shortcut Man novels — a series that chronicles the exploits of vigilante-for-hire Dick Henry. The Associated Press sums up the series as being “filled with enough dark humor and shady characters to satisfy the most rabid noir fan.” Mystery writer Michael Connelly calls PG “a worthy successor to Raymond Chandler.”

Also a screenwriter, PG wrote the screenplays for Mick Garris’s Virtual Obsessions (1998), a science-fiction/horror hybrid about a man who tries transferring a dying woman’s consciousness to a supercomputer; and The Darkling (2000), a horror film starring Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham.

Rounding out the band, the prolific Craig Spector has been published by Tor/St. Martins Press, Bragelonne, Bantam Books, Harper Collins, Pocket Books, Arbor House, and others. His most recent novel Turnaround (Cemetery Dance Publications) centers on a down-on-his-luck screenwriter trying to make a comeback while working for an unstable studio executive.

Also a successful screenwriter, Craig has written for film and television. His notable works include the scrips for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Animals (2008), and The Nye Incidents (2016). He has also edited (along with writer John Skipp) the classic Book of the Dead series, which features some of the best zombie fiction ever written by the likes of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Ramsey Campbell, David Schow, and others.

Clearly, these guys are successful horror writers. But what about the band?

I was treated to the entire Smash-Cut experience when RC sent me a copy of Fade-In earlier this month. It arrived on a day I was scheduled to drive to an out-of-town gig, and the two-hour-plus round trip provided a great opportunity to spin the disk, which I did — repeatedly. It’s that good.

No doubt part of the band’s success can be attributed to the fact that both Craig and PG attended Berklee School of Music (PG on the recommendation of legendary saxophonist Art Pepper) and RC studied one-on-one with Cream drummer Ginger Baker and played in Stephen King’s band The Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members of King’s band included Dave Barry, Ridley Pierson and Kinky Friedman — writers all. As RC recalls, the Remainders “played a gig together at a Cuban dance hall for the Miami Book Fair.” He also reports “playing a bit with Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens.”

But no doubt an even bigger part of the band’s success comes from chemistry. You can hear that from the CD’s opening cut, with the darkly surreal “Julia Julii,” in which PG and Craig deliver a haunting vocal refrain supported by RC’s pulse-pounding tom-tom rolls. It’s pure earworm larvae. And the lyrics are just what you’d expect from a writer of dark fiction: “Policemen dropped their weapons, / and they sank into the stone. / Good girls started killing, / and the law’s boys wandered home.”

In all, the songs run the gamut from the jazzy “Texas Will Do” to the hard rockin “Water Over Fire” to the soulful “Dharma Rain.”

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a comment about the band’s generational roots. PG (Preston) Sturges is the son of the great screenwriter Preston Sturges, who gave us such classics as Sullivan’s Travels (#61 on AFI’s top 100 Greatest American Films of All Time) and The Lady Eve. And RC (Richard) Matheson is the son of Richard Matheson, who wrote scripts for the original Twilight Zone as well as songs for Perry Como and Tricia Yearwood. As RC puts it, “what always added a unique twist to the band was that […] PG and I had such well-known writer fathers, which was a wonderful link we shared.”

No doubt about it, these writers rock. Check out the link below. You’ll see what I mean.

Want more information? The CD’s back cover provides the email address smashcutmusic at

That’s it for now. Until next time … scop on! … and I’ll see you at the crossroads.


  • Smash-Cut CD art by Harry O. Morris.
  • Bandmember photos from the 2009 CD Fade-In, produced by Jason D. McKean and Smash-Cut.
  • The Rock Bottom Remainders at the El Rey, June 22, 2012,
  • Richard and RC Matheson on the June 1986 cover of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine

Full Circle: Nightmare Cinema in Mexico

August 7th, 2018

Three years ago at the Morbido Film Festival in Mexico, Mick Garris announced his plans for a project entitled Nightmare Cinema. This year – following the film’s strong premiere at Fantasia Fest in Montreal —  Mick returns to Mexico to present a special screening at Macabro XVII in Mexico City. He will be joined by Mexico’s own Sandra Becerril, the writer and director who wrote the Nightmare Cinema episode “Mashit,” directed by Ryûhei Kitamura.

Identifying a starting point for a project with as many moving parts as Nightmare Cinema is a matter of judgment. We could say it all began at the start of principal photography in April 2017, or when Mick first proposed the project to the film’s directors in the summer of 2015, or when Mick first envisioned the project as an international version of the television series Master of Horror in 2007.

Any good story can have a variety of starting points, but for the moment it’s interesting to consider the past three years of Nightmare Cinema‘s journey as it returns to Mexico as a finished film.

The links below cover some of the key developments over the past three years. Some of the post focus directly on the production. Others are more free-ranging. Taken together, they present a personal account of a story that is still ongoing. After the August screening, we will be looking forward to the film’s US premiere and its official commercial release – all of which should come about by the end of the year.

So … the story continues. Please stand by!

Links to the story so far:


  • Mick Garris (center) at Morbido Film Festival in 2015 with Joe Dante (left) and Pablo Guisa Koestinger (right).
  • Promotional art for Macabro XVII.
  • The Nightmare Cinema team on the red carpet at Fantasia Fest. From left to right: Ryûhei Kitamura (director), Jamie Concepcion (actor), Lawrence C. Connolly (writer), Mick Garris (producer/director/writer), Sandra Becerril (writer), R. C. Matheson (writer), Joe Russo (producer), Stephanie Caleb (producer).