Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Recommends

With Halloween fast approaching, I decided to recommend a few horror films for your viewing pleasure.  As you will see, my taste is rather conventional, but I hope you will find some hidden treasures on the list.  They are not listed in any particular order.

THE HAUNTING, 1963, d. Robert Wise

This is my current favorite.  It remains a chilling film despite its total lack of gore and deliberate pacing.  I grew up in a very haunted house.  If anyone asks me what it was like, I tell them to watch this film.  It's all about cowering under the echo of inexplicable bangings and footsteps at night, only to spend the day either denying what happened or doubting your sanity.   Avoid the 1999 remake starring Liam Neeson at all costs.

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, 1973, d. John Hough

Essentially the same plot as The Haunting, however, this film, scripted by Richard Matheson from his own book, revels in everything the earlier film refrained from showing.  It isn't as good as The Haunting, but it is fun on its own level.  It remains a guilty pleasure that reminds me of my many days spent at the Arcade Theater on Harford Road.  (Why did my parents let me see this film alone?)


This film best represents my childhood spent watching creature features every Friday and Saturday night.  I suspect that these classic horror films are too tame for today's cynical youth.  That is a pity, because  this film remains a masterpiece of cinematography, art direction, writing and performance.  Karloff is amazing.  He brings both tremendous empathy and menace to the monster.

THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1968, d. George A. Romero

I first saw this film on Super 8mm.  I didn't know what to expect.  The synopsis sounded corny to me, but the movie, with its gritty documentary feel, absolutely blew me away.  I literally sat stunned with my mouth wide open at the end.  

THE EXORCIST, 1973, d. William Friedkin

This film usually tops various internet lists of the scariest horror film, but I was actually quite dismissive of it for many years.  Initially, I felt it was cheap.  To me, it relied too heavily on shock effects and not enough on story and character.  I was wrong.  With the more people I have lost over time, the more the story of these two characters, a priest losing his faith because of his inability to save his mother and a desperate mother wanting to do anything to save her daughter, resonates with me.


Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but this omnibus film really scared me as a kid -- especially the third story:  A Drop of Water.  It remains a guilty pleasure, but now I prefer to enjoy it in its native Italian language.

PHANTASM, 1979, d. Don Coscarelli

If you truly analyze the script, you'd find it is a contradictory mess.  What really happened?  Still, coherence must take a backseat to mood.  I think Coscarelli manages to churn up some primordial fears concerning loss, death and the things of death, from the adolescent perspective, in this effective little film.

DAWN OF THE DEAD, 1978, d. George A. Romero

Everywhere you  look, you seem zombies nowadays.  I think you have to bless or curse this film for that phenomenon.   This film about four people trying survive a zombie apocalypse in a shopping mall skillfully mixed gore with subtle social satire about our materialistic society.  It has been all downhill for Romero as his social statements became more heavy-handed in his subsequent zombie epics.

THE NIGHT STALKER, 1972, John Llewellyn Moxey

A cynical newsman begins to believe that a series of killings in Las Vegas are the result of a vampire in this made-for-TV film scripted by Richard Matheson.  This film, which updated the vampire myth and placed it in a thoroughly modern context, has been an influence on my own writing.  In my opinion, this remains one of the best vampire movies ever.


I was a huge fan of afternoon gothic soap opera Dark Shadows growing up, and it remained a pleasant memory until someone gave me a DVD of some of the original television programs.  Sadly, I found them unwatchable.  This film, however, another fond memory from my ill-spent youth at the Arcade Theater, still works.  It does suffer from a little shorthand because the filmmakers expected the audience to be familiar with the characters, but it is a taut, well-directed horror film.  The TV soap actors successfully stepped up their game for the big screen.

THE SHINING, 1980, d. Stanley Kubrick

Stephen King hated Kubrick's adaptation of his novel, but it remains the best King adaptation.  It remains consistently creeping -- especially those little girls.  Kubrick tends to be a filmmaker with a chilly, cerebral approach, and horror is sometimes best served cold.

CARNIVAL OF SOULS, 1962, d. Herk Harvey

A woman emerging from a river after a car accident finds herself drawn toward a strange carnival in this genuinely creepy thriller made on a shoestring in Kansas and Utah.  I once visited the dancehall site on the Great Salt Lake in Utah that inspired the film.  It was as creepy as the film.

SPOORLOOS (THE VANISHING), 1988, d. George Sluizer

Technically speaking, this is probably a thriller or mystery rather than a horror film, but it remains a disturbing film that builds to a chilling climax that will stay with you for a long time.  In the film, a young man tries for years to find out what happened to his girlfriend who disappeared during a holiday in France.  Moved by his perseverance, the abductor makes contact with him.  Avoid the 1993 American remake starring Jeff Bridges at all costs!

HALLOWEEN, 1978, d. John Carpenter

Don't blame this film for all of the horrible slasher film that regrettably followed in its wake.  This innovative and compelling film still that introduced all of the tropes of the genre still works.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Crack The Sky: Mr. President

Over the course of my career as an editor, I have had the pleasure to work on a number of rock videos.  The highest profile artist I worked with was rapper Big Pun at the height of his career, but my favorites were recording artists with ties to my native State of Maryland.  During college I had some peripheral involvement with Timothy Ratajczak's videos for The Ravyns and Growing Up Different.  Later I had the good fortune to work with Greg Kihn, who had a couple of Top 5 hits in the 80s, and Nils Lofgren, who is now a member of the E Street Band.  However, I started at the top.  My first real video was for Baltimore's biggest rock heroes:  Crack The Sky.

I grew up musically ignorant.  I was obsessed with the movies, but my musical taste was very limited.  It ran from BA - the Bach keyboard pieces I learned on the piano - to BE - The Beatles.  Still, I definitely knew who Crack The Sky were.  The rock stations played their music incessantly.  My sisters had some of their albums, too.  What I didn't realize was that the band was essentially a regional phenomenon despite the fact that their first album was declared the debut of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.  It would be no exaggeration to say that, in Baltimore, Crack The Sky was as popular as The Rolling Stones.

I first got to know John Palumbo, the chief singer and songwriter of Crack The Sky, when he opened a recording studio in Baltimore.  My friend Victor Giordano started working there as an engineer and, in my capacity as a broadcast producer for Smith Burke & Azzam, I started doing some radio spots there.  I must admit I was a little nervous when I first met John.  To a Baltimorean, it was like meeting Mick Jagger.

We got to know each other pretty well.  He called me his "mortgage payment."  I hung out quite a bit at his studio flirting endlessly with Terri, his sexy secretary.  One boring afternoon at the advertising agency, I edited a video to The Beatles' song "The End" which illustrated the story of America's involvement in Vietnam in two minutes.  John was one of the first people to see the video.  He immediately hired me to edit a video for a local band he was producing.  It was my first step on a career that has enriched and sustained me for over twenty years.

When I first met John, the Crack The Sky had just released "From The Greenhouse," an album that got some pretty good airplay all around the country.  I remember when I went one of my winding, driving vacations that summer, I dutifully made note of every place and every time I heard the title song on the radio.  When it came time to release the follow-up album, "Dog City," my friend David Butler was slated to direct the video and I was slated to edit it.  Here it is:

It was a great experience.  It is always great working with David Butler, and we were fortunate to work with one of my favorite cinematographers, the late Tom Loizeaux.  I was also delighted to get my niece Natalie in the video, and Joel, the son of my friends David and Teresa Miller.

I only have one regret when I think about my work with John Palumbo and Crack The Sky, and it has nothing to do with the video.  When I did that first video for John Palumbo, I asked him how much he charged to produce a song.  He asked why.  I said I wanted to record a song with my band The Atomic Enema.  He immediately volunteered to do it for free.  Then the strangest thing happened.  I got cold feet, which was odd, because I was always willing to play my songs for anyone -- especially the darker, more sarcastic ones.  (Like this one.)  I offered up an excuse.  I said, "I don't know, my band is so out of practice.  We haven't played in a while."  John said, "That's okay.  We'll play all the instruments ourselves."  Here it was.  What I always wanted:  To have one of my songs played by a real recording artist that I respected.  But I chickened out*....

Oh well.

At least I got to work with all the local musical heroes of my youth.

Except Face Dancer.....

*Interestingly, although I was afraid to play my songs for John, we ended up playing on the same stage at a party.  John was scheduled to close the show -- backed up by some members of Bootcamp, another popular local band.  I was supposed to do my Elvis impersonation right before him.  However, after John saw me in my custom-made jumpsuit, he suggested that we change places.  And we did.  So, technically-speaking, John opened for me. (Big Al Anderson, of NRBQ, also "opened" for me that night.)

Check out my book:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

Some other fun videos I edited:
Face Dancer: Red Shoes
Greg Kihn: Horror Show
Nils Lofgren: Alone

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

James Denton talks Black Rider on Fox & Friends

James Denton seems to be doing the circuit to support my new film "The Black Rider:  Revelation Road 3."  Thanks, James!  I appreciate it.   Here he is on Fox & Friends:  James Denton talks faith, dark new film.

Check out my book:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

James Denton talks Black Rider on the Today Show

Here's James Denton, one-time sexiest man alive, on the NBC's Today Show talking with Kathi Lee & Hoda about my film "The Black Rider:  Revelation Road 3."  Thanks for getting the press, James!  Now I wish I went out to the set and met you!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The film is now available on DVD at Walmart and fine Christian Bookstores everywhere.    Speaking of bookstores, you should check out my book.  Here's the link to Amazon:  The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

James Denton talks Black Rider on Access Hollywood

James Denton discussed his dark turn on my new film "The Black Rider:  Revelation Road 3" on Access Hollywood.  The film will be available on Blu Ray and DVD on October 6th.

Check out my book:  "The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God"