Film Review: Five Nights at Freddy’s (Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Truthfully, I knew very little about Five Nights at Freddy’s prior to going into the new film other than it’s a game I’ve surely pumped plenty of money into over the years already thanks to my kid, and it bore a striking resemblance (at least on the surface) to the 2021 Nicholas Cage vehicle Willy’s Wonderland.

But perhaps my ignorance of the franchise was actually advantageous in this case; having little to no knowledge of the source material, and in turn no real expectations of the film itself, I went in with more or less a blank slate. That said, I really enjoyed what was on display on the big screen.

John Hutcherson plays Mike Schmidt, a down-on-his luck, unemployed security guard raising his little sister Abby (Piper Rubio) solo while also dealing with the guilt and trauma of losing their little brother to a kidnapper when he was twelve years old. After accepting an ill-advised overnight position from his career counselor (Matthew Lillard) at a defunct ’80s family entertainment center called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, things take a turn for the worse for him.

It’s quickly apparent after starting the job and meeting local beat cop Vanessa Shelly (Elizabeth Lail) that there’s more going on behind the scenes at Freddy’s, discovering the animatronic figures in the pizzeria are not only possessed, but also share a certain connection to his long lost brother (and a creepy reaction whenever The Romantics track “Talking in Your Sleep” comes on).

Aside from a fairly uninteresting subplot involving a custody battle with a vicious aunt (Mary Stuart Masterson), the film actually moves along quite nicely (albeit a bit slow at times). And while others have criticized its focus on the kidnapping backstory, it never goes the route that so many similar films have before it with unnecessary sex and violence (and/or gore).

Is Five Nights at Freddy’s a flawless movie? Of course not. But is it harmless enough, PG-13 level campy fun that you can take the family to without cringing the whole time? Absolutely.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Retrospective: 45 Years Since The Night He Came Home on ‘Halloween’ By Jesse Striewski

In the late ’70s, the face of horror and overall cultural landscape of American films as we knew it was changed forever when co-screenwriters John Carpenter and Debra Hill unleashed Michael Myers upon an unsuspecting world via the original Halloween, effectively launching a seemingly never-ending franchise and media machine.

Directed by Carpenter and released on October 25, 1978, the film centers around the aforementioned Myers (played primarily by Nick Castle in this entry), who stalked and killed his older sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) on Halloween night 1963. Fast forward to 1978, when after serving fifteen years in a mental facility under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), he suddenly makes a break for it, just in time to return to his home town of Haddonfield, IL on (you guessed it), Halloween.

It’s there he encounters three unsuspecting babysitters whose fates will all be drastically changed; Annie (Nancy Loomis), Linda (P.J. Soles), and of course, the lone survivor (and epitome of heroines), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Meanwhile Loomis enlists the help of local sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers) to track down and prevent Myers from seeing through his devious acts.

Rewind It’s (l to r) Jacob, Jesse, and Brooke Striewski with actress P.J. Soles – who portrayed Lynda Van Der Klok in the original Halloweenat Fantasm in Orlando, FL on 10-3-21.

With a budget of larger than $325,000, the film quickly became one of the most successful independent films of all time after earning over $70 million at the box office, and is considered groundbreaking horror, and the go-to example to the slasher genre. Every last detail from its isolated, dark suburban setting, to the simplistic yet eerie music score by Carpenter, struck a lifelong nerve with audiences and non-horror fans alike.

Of course one can no longer talk about Halloween without mentioning its various sequels, remakes, and overall retreads. While 1981’s Halloween II directly followed the first film (and admirably at that), few that came after were able to re-capture that same “feel” as the original. 1982’s stand alone Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which I’ve mentioned before in previous articles was my introduction to the Halloween films, and still my personal favorite of them all to this day) saw filmmakers attempting to try something different, yet audiences were not ready for such drastic changes at the time.

After 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the series began declining considerably, with many of the entries released since being nearly unwatchable (most notably the latest “requels” that began in 2018 and concluded with last year’s notorious Halloween Ends). Yet whatever rehashes that have come and gone since, nothing can ever take away from the original “night he came home.”

Album Review: Air Drawn Dagger – Songs To Fight the Gods To (Silent Cult Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s becoming less and less common for me to come across a completely original new band that I really dig. and although I realize such statements may sound like nothing more than the ramblings of some bitter old dude, there’s a certain truth that many bands that come along nowadays just don’t pack the same punch as many of those who have come before them.

Such is not the case with Air Drawn Dagger, a young three-piece outfit hailing from the U.K. who I was pleasantly surprised by when deciding to give their new EP, Songs To Fight The Gods To, a legitimate try.

At first glance of their music video for “You Should Have Known Better,” I initially got some Billie Eilish vibes from singer Maisie (whose commanding yet elegant presence is impossible to take your eyes off of while performing). But once things started truly going into full effect, I could tell these newcomers had something different going for them, and was reminded more of late ’90s/early ’00s rockers Tsunami Bomb instead.

Other tracks like “Stigmata” “Title Fight,” and “GhostsGhostsGhosts (Phantoms),” keeps this five song EP floating along nicely. One minute any one of these given tracks might be barreling at full force, only to reach an unexpected piano-driven breakdown, keeping things diverse and interesting.

I’m sure there’s a number of things I would probably disagree with the young members of Air Drawn Dagger if you were to put us all in a room together to talk politics. But one thing is for sure, we would certainly see eye-to-eye on how to rock out appropriately if we ever did.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Depeche Mode at Amway Center in Orlando, FL on 10/10/23 By Jesse Striewski

Last week, ’80s stalwarts and new wave innovators Depeche Mode brought their signature synth pop to Orlando for the first time since 1998 (the closest they’ve come has been Tampa a couple of times since then) for what many have labeled a “comeback” tour (original keyboardist and founding member Andy Fletcher past away last year, leaving just singer Dave Gahan and multi-instrumentalist Martin Gore as the two lone original members).

Admittedly, I was not quite prepared for the laborious, twenty-five song set list that lay ahead at the Amway Center last Tuesday, October 10; as only a casual fan of the band, I was more or less there out of my wife’s insistence. To make matters worse, photo passes for media were limited for the event (and Rewind It were one of many not to be issued one), and rather than bringing a contemporary with them to open the show, that duty was given to a bland New York-based outfit called DIIV (pronounced “Dive”), who maybe I might’ve shown some interest in had I first heard them ten years ago.

Earlier this year I had actually given Depches’ latest album, Memento Mori, a favorable review for Rewind It. But after hearing far more tracks from it than expected live (six out of a total of twelve of the album’s tracks were actually performed), I was slightly over it. “Speak to Me,” “My Cosmos is Mine,” “Wagging Tongue,” “Walking in My Shoes,” “It’s No Good,” “Sister of Night,” and “In Your Room” were not exactly the strongest songs from the band’s extensive catalogue to kick the night off with.

“Everything Counts” finally started bringing things in the right direction, before “Precious,” “My Favourite Stranger,” “A Question of Lust,” “Soul With Me,” “Ghosts Again” (one of the more favorable tracks from Memento…), “I Feel You,” “A Pain That I’m Used To,” “World in My Eyes,” “Wrong,” and “Stripped” all followed.

But the band truly saved the best for last, with “John the Revelator,” “Enjoy the Silence,” “Condemnation,” (with a brief rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” thrown in for good measure, dedicated to a 16-year-old member of the audience), “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” and lastly, the grand finale of “Personal Jesus” closing out the already exhausting evening.

Although they might have ended on a high note, there were still far too many of the band’s classics missing from the set, including “People are People,” “Policy of Truth,” and one of my personal favorites, “Blasphemous Rumors” (I’d take any one of those tracks over “Just Can’t Get Enough” any day). But I digress; regardless of what songs they included in their set, there’s no denying the everlasting imprint Depeche Mode have left on modern music, so to hear them live at least once in this lifetime was fully worth the investment.

Interview with Actor/Musician Courtney Gains By Jesse Striewski

Many moons ago, long before Facebook had taken over as the social media giants they would soon become, there was this little site people connected on called Myspace. At the time, I was new to navigating it, and just starting to feel my way around the world of journalism. Looking to score my first interview piece for the magazine I was writing for at the same time, one of the first celebrities I ever followed and reached out to was one I had always been a fan of growing up; Courtney Gains of The ‘Burbs and Children of the Corn fame.

I cannot recall if I ever did hear back regarding my interview inquiry back then or not, but for whatever reason, the moment was simply not meant to be. Fast forward to 2023, where after a solid fifteen years of writing about entertainment for various media outlets has lead to a number of interview opportunities actually presenting themselves to my desktop on nearly a daily basis. One of those recently being none other than Gains, who admittedly I did not realize until fairly recently was also an accomplished musician with a new studio release on the way at the time (in addition to still being a talented actor).

So I jumped at the chance to finally speak with Gains one-on-one, and after finally settling on a mutual day and time, sat down for a phone conversation with him. With a body of work in film that stretches all the way back to the early ’80s, I decided to start off with his music endeavors first, and asked just how long he had been playing for, and what instrument he originally started off with. He told me; “I started taking (guitar) lessons when I was thirteen years old. I’ve been in bands in LA for a number of years, probably from about the time I was eighteen. So it’s always been my side hustle/hobby; it wasn’t how I was making a living (back then), but I was always pursuing it. But this time around I’m really doing my own project as opposed to being in ‘a band.’ The last project that I had before this current one was a band called Ripple Street, and the last album we put out was just a straight break-up record. I played guitar and sang with them, but in this band I really wanted a better guitar player, so I actually play bass and sing, which has been an interesting process for me.”

I decided to dive right into his new EP, Safe Haven, which he had just started officially promoting the week prior to our conversation. Regarding it he informed me; “It’s a six-song EP, all rock ‘n roll and blues, and all things I want to talk about that I think are a little whacked out. For example, I have a song called “The Healer” that’s the point of view of an egotistical plastic surgeon (Laughs). Then there’s songs like “Bills in Space” about the billionaire space race, stuff like that.”

He continued his point regarding the latter song; “I think it’s funny some of the ‘greater minds’ spend all this money so they can go out into space…how about solve some of the problems right here first? (Laughs). What I’ve learned though is you just never know the impact something’s going to have on someone. By talking about/promoting this and getting it out there, there might be at least one person that it effects. If you just put yourself out there, you just never know the impact it’s going to make.”

I wanted to know if he had a personal favorite track from the record, to which he said; “Someone else recently asked me a similar question, and I had to go with “Good Times;” I’ve been playing that song for over twenty years. Three of the songs on the record are songs I’ve had around for awhile, and they all appeared in a movie called Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness from 2009 that I produced and starred in that had an anti-technology message, so there’s definitely a theme there of things that I’m not too keen on (Laughs). But that song has been around forever and is the type of song that just gets people up on their feet, so it’s good to finally get that one out there.”

Gains informed me; “We’ve been really gigging for the last eight or nine months, and it’s all been gearing up for hitting the road next year to really promote the record, that’s what this has all been really heading towards. It also ties in with Children of the Corn’s 40th anniversary next year, so it will definitely be a big convention year for me in 2024. I’ve been doing horror conventions for fifteen years or so now, and it’s been a good run. But I’m getting kind of tired of the traveling and jumping on plans and all that, so I think I’m going to call it and go out on a big note.”

Gains continued; “But it’s good timing-wise, because I can also promote the music during this same run. We’re even talking about doing some 35mm print screenings of the film with some Q&A’s and the band playing.” And as far as if this might make it to Florida, he told me; “We’re going to start coordinating all that soon. I don’t know for sure if there’s any art houses or places in Florida that want to screen it yet, but if they do, we’ll show up!”

As far as landing the role of Malachai in Children… all those years ago, Gains enlightened me of the process; “I had to audition, which I still often do. There was this casting director named Linda Francis who had seen me in a showcase, which were just starting to happen in LA. They would invite agents and casting directors down and you’d present a scene, and if they liked you they might take your picture or whatever. And she took a liking to me and was really the first person to become a ‘fan.’ She cast me in this one film that ended up not happening, but she was the one that kept pushing for me, and really made a big difference in my life.”

He continued further; “But the famous story goes that in the first reading for Children…, I pulled a fake knife on the reader, who didn’t know that it was fake and about wet himself! He’s since gone on to be a huge casting director, and to this day will use that moment as an example at his lectures and tell people to never do that…which I agree, but at the time I was just young and hungry, although that’s a good way to never get called back again (Laughs)! Then the second audition was with John Franklin who played Issac, and I was grabbing/lifting him up by his lapels, and he said I was by far the scariest one in the room, and the rest is history! That was both his and mine’s first film, and we’re still tight and do conventions together to this day.”

I was also curious if Gains had been a Stephen King fan prior to appearing in a film based off of the writer’s work. He told me; “I didn’t really realize how big he was (or was going to be) at the time, but thank God for that, we’ve been riding Stephen King’s coat tails for almost forty years now (Laughs).” And as far as the numerous entries in the franchise that have come since? Gains told me; I saw the sixth one which John (Franklin) returned for, and I did see the Sy Fy reboot that the producer of the original one, Don Borchers, also returned for – and that was alright. I was supposed to actually do a cameo for that, but I wasn’t able to do it because I was actually at a con in Florida at the time, and the weather didn’t permit, so it didn’t end up happening.”

I asked about his follow up to Children…, the 1984 sex comedy Hardbodies, and what that was like filming, and Gains joked; “It was terrible! I got to hang out on the beach all day with hot girls, so it was just absolutely brutal! (Laughs). But I got that part because I would go to this class that the director (Mark Griffiths) would have on Sunday nights, and he took a real liking to me. So when he got greenlit to do that film, he more or less tailored made that role for me, which was basically mine to not blow.”

As far as that sweet checkered hat he wore in the film and hanging out with the all-female rock group Vixen at the time, he informed me; “I put that whole outfit together, and remember actually getting in a fight with the wardrobe lady (Laughs). She was living closer to the south beach areas and what was going on with the kids down there, but I was going for more of a skateboarder vibe. I’d say a good seventy percent of that wardrobe was all stuff of mine, and I had that checkered hat for a number of years afterwards, but I’m not sure whatever happened to it. I do remember the first day driving in Malibu like that though and people were just laughing. But hey, it was already getting a reaction, so I must’ve been on to something! (Laughs).”

And when it came to seeing a pre-famous Vixen on the set; “I was walking from a trailer down this alleyway in Venice Beach, and I heard them as they were actually in the garage rehearsing (just like the scene they appear in the movie), and I thought they’re pretty cool! Then I remember a few years later seeing their poster up somewhere and being blown away by how huge they had become. I thought they were just a band they had put together for the movie (Laughs).”

The following year Gains appeared in the film that would kick off one of the biggest trilogies of all time, 1985’s Back to the Future. Although his role was brief, I asked how it felt to be a part of such a blockbuster series. He explained; “To be associated with that franchise in anyway is a pretty mind-blowing, amazing thing. My character had already been dropped one time, and if you’re doing a movie they can only drop you one time, and if they bring you back they can’t drop you again. So they had already dropped me once in the middle of all the chaos of re-shooting everything after dropping Eric Stoltz in the lead role and replacing him with Michael J. Fox. Still to this day, one of the top residual checks I get is from Back to the Future, so it’s been a financial blessing in my life.”

Ironically Gains would go on to co-star with Stoltz after all in the somewhat forgotten classic, 1990’s Memphis Belle. I asked his thoughts on the film today; “The timing was bad because it came out right when the first Iraqi war broke out, and no one wanted to go see a war movie at the time. But still a very good film with some top-notch people involved with it.”

Of course one cannot forget his role as the nerdy best friend to Patrick Dempsey in 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love. Regarding the film he stated; “Well, it’s definitely had an impact. It was a just the second film for this little indie company called Apollo Pictures which I had already done another movie for. It was originally this low budget film called Boy Meets Girl, and then Disney picked it up with their new division called Touchstone Pictures, and they dumped some more money into it to do some re-shoots and take all of the bad jokes out of it (Laughs). And then they bought the rights to (The Beatles song) “Can’t Buy Me Love” – which was not cheap – and then they made that the title, which really took it to the next level. But that movie was like the the number three movie that summer, and really launched Patrick Dempsey’s career.”

But perhaps the most memorable role of Gains’ career to this day (aside from Malachai) will always be Hans Klopek, creepy neighbor to Tom Hanks in 1989’s The ‘Burbs. Gains stated; “That’s the one that I think is really the most underrated. While we were shooting it, Big had just come out, which was just a huge hit for Tom Hanks. Comparatively they were disappointed, but thanks to home video and all that it really kept getting out there, and it wasn’t until I started doing conventions years later that I realized that there was a whole like dedicated, underground, ‘Burbs community out there (Laughs). There’s people that tell me stories that this was the movie they used to watch with their parents, and now watch with their own kids. It seems to be the movie the whole family agrees on, and I even had a guy tell me it’s the movie his mom watches when she gets depressed! You can never underestimate the impact that a movie can have on people. It’s pretty cool.”

He continued his thoughts on the film; “I had a good time working on it, though. Joe Dante was a nice guy to work for, and Tom Hanks was the most down-to-Earth A-lister you’re ever going to meet. I was (and still am) a huge Bruce Dern fan, so for him to recognize my work at all meant the world to me (and still does). And ironically there was a writer’s strike going on at the time (which we have one going on right now), and it was just us and Fletch Lives shooting on the entire Universal lot, and we got those movies in right before the strike.”

Bruce Dern puts Gains in a chokehold in a still shot from The ‘Burbs (1989).

He then briefly stayed on the topic of the current writer’s strike; “I’ve been seeing the writing on the wall for this coming for a long time now. I was very aware that the residual checks had been becoming less and less and the industry was getting worse for awhile. That’s why I moved out to the southeast, it’s more live-able and also opened me up to the whole east market including, New York. Last year I did a movie in New Jersey called The Wrath of Becky, and that was a great role, and I’m pretty happy with it.”

With Halloween just around the corner, I also wanted to know Gains’ thoughts on his cameo appearance in Rob Zombie’s 2007 version of Halloween. He stated; “It’s pretty crazy how many times they’ve re-booted the movies at this point! But I think that Rob knows his horror, and does try to make a point to bring people from the genre into his films, so I was happy to be a part of that. I had a friend of mine who had worked with Rob before that gave me a really great piece of advice, which was to be prepared that Rob might just completely go off script if he doesn’t like the way something is going. And that turned out to be the greatest advice, because what Rob’s trying to find is the truth of a scene, and I really appreciate that. A lot of times directors get so caught up in the process of moving things along, they don’t stay in the process and try to make something good out of it.”

He went into greater detail; “So what was supposed to be one day’s worth of work turned into another because we kept working it and adding stuff to it. It was such a nasty, disturbing scene though that nobody wanted to hang around the monitor to watch it, and I’ve never seen that before. But I like the way Rob works, and he has a great sense of the vibe and design of a scene. He knows what he likes and what his audience likes, and has a very great sense of all that.

This very weekend (which happens to kick off with a Friday the 13th!) is primed to be a busy one for Gains, as he informed me; “There’s a haunted house out in the woods in North Carolina called the Haunted Pyramids, and my band will be playing two nights there on the 14th and 15th. So we’ll be playing for a bunch of horror fans out there. All the rest of the bands are going to be metal except ours, but we’re going to go out there and rock their asses off anyway! (Laughs).”

And with Halloween just around the corner, the last thing I wanted to know was whether or not Gains had any sort of personal annual traditions for the holiday at all (it should be noted, in addition to all of the films previously mentioned, Gains has also appeared in the likes of more recent seasonal films such as 2015’s The Funhouse Massacre and 2019’s Candy Corn). He told me; “I’m the worst (laughs), because like, what do I do for a living? I get dressed up in costumes! And I’m usually doing conventions around this time, so Halloween is usually my day off! (Laughs).”

Retro Review: Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil (Elektra Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I was around thirteen years old at the time when my older sister’s boyfriend, Ed (who has since become my brother-in-law) gave me my first true taste of Motley Crue ever when he passed down two of their albums on cassette down to me at the same time; 1985’s Theatre of Pain, and, the one that really made an impression on me, 1983’s Shout at the Devil (thanks again, Ed!).

I didn’t know what to expect when I first popped that white tape in my boombox at the time, but my interest was instantly piqued via the eerie intro that was “In the Beginning.” The brief piece, which was spoken by British engineer Geoff Workman under the pseudonym Allister Fiend, set the tone for the album when it ended with the words, “Be strong, and Shout at the Devil!,” which quickly launches into one of the most memorable one-two intro punches in rock history with the fist-pumping title track and its relentless chants quickly following.

“Looks That Kill” (hands-down the biggest “hit” from the album, complete with its iconic dystopian music video featuring scantly-clad vixens) and “Bastard” keep the momentum going full speed ahead. The somber instrumental “God Bless the Children of the Beast” takes things down a notch with Mick Mars’ guitar lead sounding like something straight out of a Nintendo game, before the band dives into their blistering cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”

The record’s second side was my personal favorite, with the numbers “Red Hot,” “Too Young to Fall in Love,” “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid,” “Ten Seconds to Love,” and “Danger” all containing their each unique moments of greatness. There was simply something about the way these tracks sounded that felt so dark and forbidden to my young mind at the time (very similar to how I felt the first time I heard the first couple of Iron Maiden albums, too).

It was almost as though all of these songs were meant to be the soundtrack to the night lives of the depraved, or the entrance to some sort of exclusive club that I wanted in on (it’s rumored that bassist and main songwriter Nikki Sixx had been dabbling in the occult and Satanism while working on the songs that would ultimately become the album, causing him to change the name from Shout With the Devil to its eventual title after some strange moments in the studio during recording).

Since first acquiring Shout at the Devil all those years ago, I’ve seen the band live in concert multiple times, the most memorable being on their 2005 tour where they included not only the usual “hits” from Shout…, but even notable deep cuts such as “Ten Seconds to Love” (that will always remain one of my personal favorite concert memories, and a moment I had always known was destined to come sooner or later). Happy fortieth birthday to a true classic American metal masterpiece!

Original copy of Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil on cassette from the author’s personal collection.

Retrospective: 35 Years of ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’ By Jesse Striewski

It was simply one of those movies you just had to see to believe; over-sized aliens appearing as grotesque clowns invade anywhere town America and cause havoc with popcorn guns and cotton candy cocoons over the course of one chaotic night (which in theaters originally landed on May 27, 1988).

Spawned from the minds of Charles, Edward, and Stephen Chiodo (collectively known as the Chiodo Brothers) in their directorial debut, the trio applied their skills they had previously honed on such other creature-effects driven films as the Critters franchise. The three were at their creative prime, unleashing one of the wackiest movies to ever hit the screens up until that time.

In the film, young lovers Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are interrupted at the local lovers’ lane hot spot when they see what they believe to be a comet crashing to the earth. But upon further investigation, they discover a glowing circus tent where the comet by all accounts should have landed, and it’s then that the mayhem truly ensues.

From there the film becomes a classic case of a group of small town kids trying to save the world from evil, but this time that evil just happens to be murderous clowns. Cramer – joined by two dimwitted brothers in an ice cream truck (played by Michael S. Sigel and Peter Licassi) does an admirable enough job as the leader of the group, protecting Snyder (the de facto ’80s damsel in distress, also known for 1986’s Night of the Creeps and 1988’s Return of the Living Dead Part II) from the threat of both the aliens and one very hard-assed local sheriff (played brilliantly by John Vernon of Animal House fame).

The film is also notable for being one of the final appearances by late old-school actor Royal Dano (who had carved out a niche for playing the “old man” role in many a late ’80s horror film, including 1987’s House II: The Second Story and 1988’s Ghoulies II), appropriately appearing as simply “The Farmer.” Pop punks The Dickies also provided the theme song to Killer Klowns…, complete with an accompanying music video. Years after the film’s release, I was able to actually catch the band perform and even meet their guitarist Stan Lee in 2003 (but alas, I can’t recall them performing the track that night).

The author with Dickies guitarist Stan Lee (left) and The Damned drummer Pinch (right) after Fiend Fest in Tampa, FL on 8/12/03.

Today, the film remains a staple in pop culture, with endless midnight screenings and/or cable showings (the film will once again be featured on the upcoming schedule of Svengoolie soon), and countless masks, decorations, and various other appearances across multiple spectrums (including full displays currently seen on a national level at most Spirit Halloween stores. Not bad for a little comedy-horror flick that brought in $43 million in its original theatrical run (that’s a LOT of cotton and popcorn!).

Author Jesse Striewski (right) with wife Brooke and Killer Klown “Slim” on display at a Spirit Halloween store on 8/26/23.

Retro Review: Kiss – Lick It Up (Mercury Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Call me crazy, but I’ve always felt the material Kiss released during their non-makeup period of the ’80s and early ’90s is just as good – if not better in many cases – than the material from their ’70s hey day (it is after all closer to my own generation, having not been around yet myself until the early ’80s). While the band’s first two efforts in the earlier part of said decade – 1980’s Unmasked and 1981’s Music from “The Elder,” are to this day still at the bottom of the list for most Kiss fans – the guys slowly but surely started getting it right again.

When Kiss dropped Lick It Up on September 18, 1983, it was more than just your everyday album at the time, but rather a statement to the rock world that their talent was not based solely around their looks alone. And with new lead guitarist Vinnie Vincent in tow in replace of Ace Frehley, the band were as revitalized as ever. Vincent was one of several guitarists to perform on the group’s previous outing, 1982’s Creatures of the Night, but Lick it Up would be his first (and ultimately only) attempt as an actual full time member of the band. Late drummer Eric Carr’s (who first joined the band in time for The Elder) talent is also on full display this time around.

Fans are instantly greeted here with thrashy riffs in the form of the Paul Stanley-driven “Exciter,” a sound they had already built on with Creatures…Gene Simmons takes over with the menacing “Not For the Innocent,” easily one of the best tracks on the entire album. The infamous title track follows, and remains a staple in the band’s setlists to this very day (it was the only non-makeup-era track they performed when I finally saw them live in 2012). The dystopian music video that accompanies it also remains a classic, with the band lip-syncing the track while walking desolate streets overran by scantly-clad women in true ’80s fashion.

“Young and Wasted” is a pretty fun party track, while “Gimmie More” is not much more than filler. “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” was released as the second single, and features Stanley “rapping” the verses before a catchy, sing-a-long chorus. Like the title track, it too had a very similar (and fun) music video to go along with it. “A Million to One” is Stanley at his finest, declaring to an ex lover they will never find a similar love.

The rest of the album is closed out with Simmons-fueled numbers in the form of “Fits Like a Glove,” “Dance All Over Your Face,” and “And on the 8th Day,” each with varying results. While many of these tracks have long since been forgotten by time, the legacy of Lick it Up is still strong to this day, and it’s rare to find a rock station or cover band not jamming the title track somewhere at any given time. As the album hits its fortieth anniversary, don’t hesitate to give it a spin on your record player; in the immortal words of Stanley, “It ain’t a crime to be good to yourself!”

Book Review: Into the Void – From Birth to Black Sabbath and Beyond By Geezer Butler (Harper Collins)

By: Jesse Striewski

When Ozzy Osbourne released his autobiography back in 2010, I of course was all over it at the time. But I’m honestly more prone to the “just the facts” type of memoir rather than those set up mainly for shock factors, and that’s exactly what fans are given here by Osbourne’s once band mate and original Black Sabbath bassist, Geezer Butler.

After a brief rundown of his early life and how he got from point A to point B, Butler goes through each period of his time in the band from album to album, describing each process in great detail (my personal favorite was his breakdown of what he described as the band’s “Sabbath Tap” period during the lesser-remembered Born Again era of the early ’80s).

There’s no overt need to be crude or crass found here, though Butler still maintains a sense of open honesty that still shines through. As a bass player myself who once honed their skills based around many of Butler’s riffs, and as just a metal and rock fan in general, this is truly the type of memoir I always have, and always will seek out for myself.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Album Review: Courtney Gains -Safe Haven (Fake Fangs Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Until semi-recently, I honestly had no idea that actor Courtney Gains, who is perhaps best remembered for appearing in such classic ’80s flicks as Children of the Corn and The ‘Burbs, was also a talented singer/songwriter/musician. But such is the case indeed, and thankfully it’s a welcomed surprise.

Admittedly, it took a minute for a few the songs from this new six-track EP, Safe Haven, to grow on me. But after a few spins, I finally began to appreciate what Gains has created here, a sort of hybrid rock that’s somewhere between the ’60s anthems of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the ’90s’ answer to hippie rock, Blind Melon.

From the opening title track, to closer “Good Times,” and all of the interesting moments that are found in between, there’s no shortage of bright spots (“Look Out” has quickly risen as my favorite tune on the record) that I hope to be able to hear live in the near future. I was also lucky enough to even catch up with Gains recently over the phone for a brief interview; be sure to “look out” for that piece to post soon on Rewind It Magazine!

Rating: 4/5 Stars