It never stops, and as one grows older the death count increases exponentially. The Grim Reaper stole three more souls from the world of horror this past week.

The one that struck me the deepest was the death of Larry Cohen. I not only consider Cohen to be every bit as important as John Carpenter, George Romero, or Wes Craven, to me he may have even been more crucial a figure in the field. While Larry Cohen worked with the majors here and there, the man was a true independent who did things his way, and damn the naysayers. He got big name talent to grace his oddball productions, too.

My first exposure to Mr. Cohen's work was really a non-event, but it left an indelible impression upon me anyway. Way back in 1976, a friend's older brother took three little squirts to the drive-in to see some quality entertainment. We saw a cheapo Spaghetti Western called Sundance Cassidy and Butch the Kid, and a T&A comedy called Hollywood High. We saw a trailer to Larry Cohen's It's Alive that evening, which to me was as stimulating as the other films. It's Alive was released in 1974, so the ad must have been for a re-release.

I didn't get to see It's Alive until a decade later, when I rented the videocassette, but that trailer made a strong impression upon me.

I made a point of watching every Larry Cohen film I could find, and the experiences were always good ones. No one made movies like he did. No one. No one ever did and no one ever will. Cohen was a maverick, a rebel, an iconoclast. His work felt like that of an outlaw.

My favorite Larry Cohen films are Bone, It's Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, Original Gangstas, and The Ambulance. I also really enjoyed screenplays that Larry Cohen wrote, but were directed by others, such as Maniac Cop, Best Seller, Uncle Sam, and Bodysnatchers. Finally, I have a very soft place in my heart (and, some might say, my head) for a pair of bizarre low-budget sequels Larry Cohen shot back-to-back in 1987: It's Alive 3: Island of the Alive, and A Return To Salem's Lot.

Larry Cohen provided decades of entertainment for not only myself, but for millions of oddball movie lovers. I'll miss him.

I've always maintained that I like each film in George Romero's original Dead Trilogy about equally. Night, Dawn, and Day are all excellent motion pictures, and each have their own tone. I know some who were disappointed in Day of the Dead, but I was never one of those.

One of the main reasons that Day of the Dead was so effective was the performance of Joseph Pilato as Captain Rhodes. Pilato owns the movie, even if he doesn't really have the starring role. I consider it to be one of the finest roles in the genre.

I witnessed Joe Pilato at a convention or two. I never spoke to the man, but it was cool to see him there, having fun. He seemed to be the exact opposite of the manic, near deranged military leader from Day of the Dead. I saw him laughing, smiling, partying. He seemed to be a jovial and really friendly guy.

Joe Pilato did some other things, such as roles in Knightriders, Dawn of the Dead, and Pulp Fiction, but it is as Captain Rhoades that horror fans will always remember him. One could have worse legacies than that.

One of the finest Lovecraft-inspired writers was W.H. Pugmire. He was arguably the very best at emulating the cosmic horror that H.P. Lovecraft evoked in his fiction.

I never met the man, Willum Hopfrog Pugmire, in the flesh, but I did correspond with him in the dark pre-internet days.

I used to read a lot of zines. I was an avid Factsheet 5 subscriber, and I ordered a lot of them. One that I enjoyed was Punk Lust. Unlike many, many others, Punk Lust was very well-written, passionate, atmospheric, and downright fascinating. It was made by Willum Hopfrog Pugmire, whose fiction I first encountered in Dennis Etchison's groundbreaking Cutting Edge anthology.

I enjoyed Punk Lust enough to write to Pugmire, telling him so, and also that I remembered and greatly enjoyed Pale, Trembling Youth, from Cutting Edge. I did a lot of letter writing in those days, so I had a lot of stamps. Knowing that most of the zinesters operated on shoestring budgets, I threw some extra postage in the letter. That delighted Pugmire to no end. We talked about this and that, mostly about classic horror literature, then we fell out of touch.

Later, Willum Pugmire was a Shocklines user. Who the hell wasn't in those days? He was always a kindly, smart, decent person on the boards.

Then there was his fiction, which was critically acclaimed and admired by readers. The best of his books, in my opinion, is a collection called Sesqua Valley & Other Haunts.

I remember at Shocklines at one point, Willum was talking about a grave illness he was dealing with. He feared that the end was near, and his request was to have a volume of Lovecraft's work to be interred in the coffin with his body. He pulled through that one, but has now fallen. I hope that, now that his end has come, his wish came true.

I also hope that Death takes a long vacation, but he is kind of a workaholic, isn't he?

Written by Mark Sieber



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