Review of “American Horror Story”: The Best Show on Television?

Posted in Movie reviews on June 5, 2012 by Peter S

From the moment I heard that Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Nip Tuck”, was doing a full-on horror series for the FX Network, I thanked the old gods and I patiently awaited the October 2011 premiere. I was a fan of the consistently exploitative “Nip/Tuck” and one of the reasons I liked that series was the underlying “horror” that it contained. Specifically, the horrific parts of it dealt with the lengths people that would go to, all in the pursuit of beauty.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I heard that “American Horror Story” was going to be a haunted-house type of story. After 15 years-or-so of bland “haunting” films and a slew of ghost-themed television shows, I really wasn’t in the mood for yet another one. But, my skepticism was put to rest because Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck, and the fantastic cast of AHS managed to craft a fresh and engaging show that surpassed all my expectations. Aside from a few shows (like “Dexter”) on the premium channels,  I think that AHS is currently the best show on television.

At this point, most people have heard something or other about the series, so I am not going to discuss every detail of it. Though, I will say that the show is based upon a combination of horror films, urban legends, and real-life killings. For example, the larger “haunted-house” story is interspersed with things like the Richard Speck nurse-killings, the Black Dahlia mystery, and a version of the old Bloody Mary mirror ritual – to name a few. No, it’s nothing new but I feel that the familiarity of the content actually works in the show’s favor.

That leads me to my next point: the strength of AHS lies mainly in the style and execution. Because it has a very familiar foundation, I feel that the series can easily unfold and venture into unpredictable areas. Basically, it has a blank canvas so there are no limits for the visuals, characters, and other aspects of the show. The creators really built upon the traditional, archetypal haunting story and in the process successfully rebooted a tired horror sub-genre. It is vibrant, complex, textured, and focuses on every little detail – from the seductive charm of the creepy Victorian house right down to the inspired and unusual musical cues. Contrary to the “American” in the title, I feel that the show is actually done in more of a European or Asian style. And you know what? It is actually better than most American horror films that I have seen over the past 15 years.

One of the best things about AHS is that it dares to go into the territory of “scary” subject matter, where most people feel uncomfortable. A few examples of the “scary” subject matter are: a school-shooter; an appearance-oriented, dramatic, politically-incorrect, baby boomer who is an abusive Joan Crawford type; a drug-addicted doctor who performs abortions in the basement of the house; a kidnapped and dismembered baby; and a cheating man who burns his wife and kids alive. All of the characters in the series have some hidden “horror” in their life that is eating away at them and destroying all of the people around them. The truly “scary” part is that things like the aforemtioned happen in real life – in some neighborhood, in some household, behind closed doors.

In fact, a recurring theme of the series is: keeping up the appearance of normality, just for the sake of appearance, is one of the most destructive things in life. AHS certainly tears off every aspect of “appearance”, jumps right in, and gets to the truth.  The whole point of the show, I feel, is the comparison between the horror of fiction and the horror of reality. In a thought-provoking, yet subtle way, the series poses the following question: “What is more scary, ghost and haunted houses or the things that go on in real life, in the newspaper headlines?”

After all is said and done, I really don’t have any criticism of the show. It’s as perfect as a television series can get and it sets the quality bar very high. For the second season, I understand that the series is going to take place in a whole new setting (some type of institution on the east coast). Also, some of the same actors will be returning but they won’t be playing the same characters. Essentially, it is a new story with some of the same actors. Yes, it seemed a little odd to me at first – and risky – but I think the creators can pull it off.

To recap, “American Horror Story” is an intelligent, shocking, honest, scary, and entertaining series that is addictive and very fulfilling. For a cable television show, the creators and FX took a lot of chances and I am very happy for that. Along with the “uncomfortable” subject matter, there is a strong sexual component (heterosexual, homosexual, fetishes) which definitely makes it an adult-oriented series. As with “Nip/Tuck”, kudos to the FX network for airing the series and not apologizing for it. My only complaint is that I wanted a little more resolution and explanation (some, not all) of the first season. But, I guess that could also be a compliment because the show always left me wanting more.


Review and Quick Byte by Peter Syslo

VOW (05/28/2012): Morbid Angel – Existo Vulgore

Posted in VOWS on May 29, 2012 by Peter S

This week, I’m celebrating Morbid Angel’s video for the song “Existo Vulgore”, off of their 2011 album “Illud Divinum Insanus”. The video is done in the style of silent films and it’s a perfect fit for the music. Yes, I will say it again. Heavy music (at least Morbid Angel’s music) is a darn good pairing with the visuals of creepy, old silent films.

This video has a faded black-and-white appearance that simulates film age and wear, there are dialogue cards between some shots, and vocalist/bassist David Vincent is dressed up as the boo-and-hiss-worthy villain. The only thing missing is the train bearing down upon the damsel in distress. On second thought the rapid drumming, rhythm guitars, bass, and growling vocals ARE that menacing locomotive. Very cool. Hit the link below to watch it.

Morbid Angel “Existo Vulogre” Video   

Your Friend,


VOW (5/21/2012): Rammstein – Sonne

Posted in VOWS on May 21, 2012 by Peter S

I’m introducing a new weekly feature called VOW, which stands for Video-Of-the-Week. Typically, this will be a music video from a metal/hard rock band that I find interesting. I will be focusing on the combination of the music with the visuals and, of course, this will go hand-in-hand with the other dark content of this blog.

This week’s video is Rammstein’s “Sonne” (which means “sun” in German). It tells the tale of a narcissistic, drug-addicted Snow White who is abusive to her hard-working Seven Dwarves. I saw this video for the first time, this past weekend, and I loved it. I always liked the song and the twisted visuals really enhance the music. Fairly tales seem to be the new vampires and werewolves, so I thought that this video was  a relevant choice. Nothing against “Once Upon a Time”, “Grimm” and “Snow White and the Hunstman”, but Rammstein’s is the kind of fairy tale re-telling that I’d like to see. Hit the following link to watch the video. Enjoy!

Rammstein “Sonne” video

Your friend,


An Interview with Geno McGahee

Posted in interviews on May 3, 2012 by Peter S

I’ve gotten to know Geno McGahee over the past five years and I’ve watched him evolve into the filmmaker that he is today. I was always impressed with what he had done with a small budget and small crew, so it’s exciting to see him achieve his goals as a filmmaker. He honestly cares about what his fans want, he’s a really nice guy, and I hear that he hates weekend rainstorms. Anyway, you can find Geno at Scared Stiff Reviews or on Facebook at the XPosse Productions and Geno McGahee pages. Now, its time for me to hand the grindstone over to him and let the readers get to know Geno McGahee.      

PS: Geno, thanks for the interview. It’s always great to hear your thoughts on the horror genre and independent filmmaking. It seems like a lot has been going on at XPosse Productions over the past year or so. As a starting point, could you bring us up to speed on XPosse and your upcoming projects?

GM: Thank you for the interview!  XPosse Productions has gone through drastic changes over the course of the last couple of years.  In 2009, I made the leap away from backyard filmmaking and brought in people that knew the art, understood the game, and have taught me the stuff that I didn’t know. I have always been a writer and a storyteller and that was my contribution to EVIL AWAKENING (2001) and RISE OF THE SCARECROWS (2003), but I really didn’t know the rest and I was put into that group of ‘micro budget, backyard filmmakers’ and rightfully so.

FAMILY SECRET was my first attempt to make something that was professional-looking, better acted, and complete.  I still made some mistakes with the casting and some other elements, but the jump in quality and learning experience really was great.

My projects on the horizon are SCARY TALES, a reshoot of a 2008 film that I didn’t release, SICKLE, a supernatural monster movie, and I’m currently directing a film called “THE COWBOY AND THE TAVERN,” which is a non-horror flick.  It was the first time that I have directed something that I didn’t write and it has been a great experience.   In 2013, I plan to shoot HEAD HUNTER, another horror film, and am currently co-writing a project with a talented writer and great actress by the name of Charlotte Lewis.   I’m trying to grow as much as I can as a filmmaker.  Directing THE COWBOY AND THE TAVERN and co-writing a screenplay are steps in that direction.

Geno McGahee, Charlotte Lewis (center), Savanah Gauthier

PS: I’d like to go into more detail about your upcoming release of the newly-filmed “Scary Tales”. Why did you decide to completely re-shoot the film?

GM: With FAMILY SECRET, I had learned so much and the first version of SCARY TALES paled so much in comparison that I couldn’t really release it.  People would have saw regression if they were released in the order that they would have had to been.  I also had access to some very good actors and actresses now and thought that I should take advantage of that.  The acting is very good across the board in SCARY TALES with Tim Pieciak, Charlotte Lewis, Crystal Aya, Jaki Valensi-Lauper, Mike Lauper, Forris Day, JR., Savanah Lee Gauthier, Martin DuPlessis, Logan Lopez, Sarah Surprenant, Scott Day, Ray Surprenant, Kate Lago, Dave Sauriol, Brent Northup, Richard Smith, and the list goes on and on.  I am VERY fortunate to have and maintain a cast like this. They have brought the movie to life.

SCARY TALES has five tales, all together.  We have four high school friends, reuniting after over 20 years of not seeing each other and they all recall a strange experience that they have had in their lives…a Scary Tale apiece.  The movie features Zombies, Satanists, Ghosts, Monsters and the Devil himself.  There are some twists and turns and overall, there is something for everyone.  I also have a great CGI guy named Chris Dias that did some wonderful work with it and Greg Kozlowski, a talented musician that did the official score.

PS: Are there any changes to the stories or the organization of the film?

GM: In the original, the wraparound story was “The Movers,” which really wasn’t that good.  I removed it and replaced it with “The Cabin,” which is where the four old friends meet up.

Each story is relatively the same from the first, but there have been changes.  “The Bridge” is totally different.  The others are about the same, but with more to them.  The character development in the first take on this film wasn’t as good as it is now.  I have grown as a writer and storyteller and people will witness it here.

PS: Will we see any of the original cast members reprising their roles?

GM: Steven Joseph Adams has a role in “Majority Rules,” the zombie card game story and Leeann Aubuchon and Josh Tienson did return to their original roles in “Curiosity Kills,” but, other than that, it’s a new world.  I had to get away from my old crowd and hire real actors that could deliver the lines in a believable way and a knowledgeable crew.  The people are the best critics and when they emailed me after watching my first two films and tore into me, they were mostly right. I want to create good films and be respected and if the acting sucks, then the movie sucks.   There are so many great actors and actresses in the area and I would be foolish not to take advantage of that fact.

PS: Did the same crew members from “Family Secret” (effects, cinematography, editing, etc.) work with you on the new “Scary Tales”?

GM: Yes, for the most part.  I am now behind the camera mostly.  John Golden, my cinematographer from FAMILY SECRET taught me a great deal and my editor, Forris Day, JR., knows how to run a camera and has also shown me the way.  The effects are now done by Jamie Swimm and Leeann Abuchon as far as the gore, and Chris Dias does the CGI.  Collectively, they are amazing and have helped me so much in making SCARY TALES a winner.

PS: The original “Scary Tales” was your third film, which was a few years back. What was it like revisiting the film and making those changes?

GM: It was neat!  Doing it again gave me the opportunity to really focus on how I would film it and what I would do to make it better.  The near rape scene in “Curiosity Kills” was one that I spent the time to do right.  I wanted the audience to see this scene as larger than life and with the way that I shot it, they will.  I am so proud of what this film has become.

PS: The upcoming film “Sickle” sounds interesting, from the name alone. Could you give us a glimpse of the storyline?

GM: Michael, played by Logan Lopez, was accused of killing his babysitter when he was 12 years old but claimed that a monster had done it.  He was sent away for 15 years and is now back out in the public and the monster is returning into his life.  Ghost Hunters take a special interest in him because they think he was one of the few that saw the Grim Reaper and want to recreate a situation to make him appear again, using Michael to do so.  Sickle is a monster that sort of lives in another dimension and has found a way into our world.  He has many secrets that will be revealed and there are plenty of twists and turns that will surprise.  This is the best film I have ever shot, ever wrote, and SICKLE is going to surprise a lot of people.

I have always wanted to make a paranormal monster movie and SICKLE is it.  It’s an original idea and I am really looking forward to unleashing it on the public in 2013.

PS: You always write an in-depth story and your films naturally bring forth your influences without having that deliberate, “manufactured” feel. As fans of the slasher subgenre, we both know that it sometimes becomes oversaturated. How do you keep a story fresh and original when you have experienced so many similar types of films?

GM: I think that I’m strange by nature.  I’m different and my odd personality has helped immensely with my storytelling and original ideas.   I have many strange thoughts and I tend to think that I am in the vast minority that has those thoughts enter their minds.   I have influences but never want to ‘re-create’ anything.  I don’t want people walking away saying ‘SAW rip off,’ or anything like that.

I guess that the overall lack of originality across the board has helped me.  Indie filmmakers and Hollywood seem to love the SAW movies, torture-porn, and found footage flicks.  I’m old school. I’m a 1970’s horror nut and that’s when the films were dialogue driven and story-based.  What’s the point in making something like SAW, unless you are just in it for the money?  I’m not in this for the money. I’m an artist and I want to create something that people enjoy … I hope that they enjoy.

PS: I watched “Family Secret” recently and I saw that you did the musical score. Will you be doing more composing for other films?

GM: No.  I actually had a musician for FAMILY SECRET and we sort of differed on the amount of compensation, and it led me to try my hand as doing the score myself.  I bought the equivalent of Garage Band or whatever it is that they call it and started messing around with the different instruments and began coming up with tunes.  I am not a musician and have a total respect for what they do…even more so now, after trying my hand at it.  Greg Kozlowski will be doing the score for SICKLE as he did for SCARY TALES, and I hope to remain out of that realm.  I would do it out of necessity but I don’t think that I will have to do so again.  I have met so many talented musicians over the last several years and they are always willing to help me out.

PS: What’s your process for pairing a specific piece of music with a scene?

GM: It’s instinctual for me.  With FAMILY SECRET, I watched it over and over again with different tunes I had created and eventually dropped them in when I felt it was right and thankfully, people seemed to have liked it.  As I said, now, with Greg Kozlowski, it’s simple.  He is amazing and has this sense of how to match a scene’s feel with his music, and it turned SCARY TALES into a really scary flick.  The impact music can have on a film is something that I have full respect for and Greg has proven to me the power of a good score.

PS: I’ve been meaning to ask you about the external locations in “Family Secret”, such as the bowling alley and the Italian restaurant. Compared to your previous films, “Family Secret” included more scenes in public settings. Are you planning to do more location work in your upcoming films? Has the community been supportive of your productions?

GM: The community has been more than supportive.  I am very introverted and it was a major leap out of my comfort zone to film in places like Pazzos and the bowling alley, but in order to make a believable film, I can’t stay in my house and the woods all of the time.  With SICKLE, we were once again at local establishments and we keep on growing a local following that are ready to help the indie guy trying to make it.  I can’t say enough great things about the local business owners that have come forward for indie film.

PS: I also wanted to ask you about nighttime shots. You have really progressed with the quality, clarity, and lighting. Could you tell us about some of the challenges of a nighttime shoot?

GM: Thankfully, Forris Day, JR., knows a great deal about lighting and has helped making the night scenes look very sharp.  In fact, there are some night scenes in SCARY TALES that are just wonderful.  The challenges are with the lighting itself and sometimes finding the juice to run the lights.  There were some great locations where we could have shot, but there was no electricity to run the lights.

Shooting outside, day or night, can be tricky due to our crazy New England weather.  With both SICKLE and SCARY TALES, I dealt with heavy rain on weekends and it drove me crazy!  Actually, SICKLE was created in the year when we were hit with tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.  I was wondering if SICKLE was a doomed production because of all the delays in filming because of weather.

PS: Aside from filmmaking, you also operate the website Scared Stiff Reviews. What do you see as the future of the horror genre?

GM: I’m hoping the future is the past.  I would love to see some dialogue driven, atmospheric horror films.  Hollywood has such a lack of respect for the viewer.  If it’s not loaded with CGI every 10 seconds and blood and gore every 2 minutes, then they think that the audience cannot enjoy it.  TRANSFORMERS being successful may be some good evidence in their favor.

There are certainly good filmmakers in the horror genre and what’s good about Hollywood is that horror finds a way and it will dictate the direction.  THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out and was a hit and that was a low budget horror flick.  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is another.  Low budget is where the heart is and if you have a flick that is popular and quality, sometimes, Hollywood will mass produce them and you’ll get some good ones out of it.

The 1980s had the slasher and it was a great time.  We have SAW and it’s just garbage.   Because the 1980s are frowned upon for style and overall entertainment, the slasher has been down and out.  I would love to see it return.  So, I am hoping that we will stray away from the remakes, re-imaginings, and mutants, and get back to filmmakers that love and understand the genre.

PS: You are still involved in the boxing world with your other website, The Ringside Report. What’s new at the site?

GM: Not much. Unfortunately, boxing has lost a lot of its luster due to the MMA coming on so strong and zero American heavyweights that can give a challenge to the Klitschko brothers.  Then you have the Floyd Mayweather JR – Manny Pacquiao fight not materializing, but the UFC continues to put on matches that the fans want to see. covers wrestling, boxing, and the MMA now, which is something new, and we had to out of necessity.   Boxing isn’t what it was when you had guys like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the ring.

I did start a new site with my friend, Brad Berkwitt, called “,” and it covers entertainment and world news.  It has really gained popularity quick and it’s not really a surprise considering the topics we cover and our group of charismatic writers.

PS: Speaking of boxing, how did you cast Jose Antonio Rivera in Family Secret?

GM: Jose and I go way back.  I have covered his career for years and produced a show called “THE BOXING SHOW,” where he was a panelist.  He had done some film work in an Adam Sandler movie and THE FIGHTER, and figured that it would be rather neat to get him into the film.  He is a great guy and was great to work with.  FAMILY SECRET was sort of my new introduction to the horror fans and I wanted to just make it a celebration of sorts and that is why Jose is in it and Crazy Carl Robinson from DEMON SUMMER and MIDNIGHT SKATER is in it.  I love boxing and I love horror films and both Jose and Carl represented that and it was great to include them.

PS: Last but not least – I want to thank you again, Geno. What are some important dates for 2012 and where can people buy/view your films?

GM: I hope that everyone looks for SCARY TALES in the near future.  We just completed the editing and are now planning to run the festival route and seek a distributor.  SICKLE will be out in 2013, I believe, and I have HEAD HUNTER for probable production in the spring/summer of 2013.  FAMILY SECRET can be seen, streaming at and the DVD can be purchased there as well.

I want to also personally thank you, Peter, for the interview and the horror fans that have given FAMILY SECRET a chance and have stuck with me.  I will continue to make better and better productions as I go and am always here if somebody wants to email me with a question or comment.  They can find me on Facebook.  The critiques of my first two films have helped me improve and I want to give the people a good and professional scare.  You can view the trailers for all three of my new films (FAMILY SECRET, SCARY TALES, SICKLE) on Youtube.


Interview by Peter Syslo

Review of “Family Secret”

Posted in Movie reviews on April 18, 2012 by Peter S


“Family Secret” is the 2011 offering from filmmaker Geno McGahee, Xposse Productions, and Webhead Entertainment. The film is about a recently deceased grandmother who apparently comes back from the grave and starts killing off her family members. Her grandson, Geno, is thrust into the center of it all as he tries to uncover the true reason for the killings.

Story-wise, the film is a slasher and giallo combination. I know that slashers and giallos are closely related, but they do have basic differences. In a slasher film, you know who the killer is and the reason for the killing spree (the backstory) is established near the beginning of the film. Most of it is about revealing the survivor and his/her connection to the killer. In a giallo, you don’t know who the killer is and several suspects are introduced throughout the film. The majority of it is about revealing the identity of the killer and his/her backstory.

The reason I consider “Family Secret” to be a slasher/giallo combo is that it weaves in and out of both sub-genres, successfully. You get the slasher killings but you also have the mysterious elements of a giallo. If you need a specific frame of reference, think of the film as equal parts John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, and Roman Polanski. As always, McGahee tells an in-depth story and, in that sense, “Family Secret” works very well.

However, my main criticism is that there seemed to be an emotional disconnect throughout the entire film. I feel that this created an imbalance and it took away from the overall work. I realize that everyone worked hard on the production and I am not faulting any specific actor or crew member.  Rather, there are three “global” reasons for the disconnect. Mind you, I didn’t want the emotional drama of a soap opera. I only wanted what was necessary to flesh-out the characters and make them real.

First, I thought there were too many “main” characters. I recognize that McGahee was trying to establish possible suspects for the killer and he was also exploring the dysfunctional relationships in that family, but some of the characters blended together and it became a little confusing. Most of the characters had a sketchy moral background and it got to the point where everyone was a possible suspect. I think that the film would have worked better (especially in the first half) if only a few characters were defined and were made unique, in regard to one another. Those family relationships could have been explored more effectively and I feel it would have created a stronger emotional component to the film (a lot of potential there).

For example, the character of Geno was one of the more distinct and memorable characters because he was clearly established as the peacekeeper, the rational one, and the problem-solver of the family. Once he was defined, some ambiguity was introduced and the character became a plausible suspect for the killings. I wanted to see more of that type of process, albeit with less characters.

Second,  I feel that the set design could have been used more for defining and clarifying characters. I realize that there are budget and time constraints, but I thought that there were a lot of missed opportunities for sculpting characters and creating atmosphere for the overall film. I believe that this also would have fostered more emotional connectivity because everyone may have been more “in-character” if the surrounding environment encouraged that.

One standout example of this was Geno’s work cubicle. Yes, Geno was a well-written and defined character but I also felt that he wasn’t fleshed out and made real (with emotion and depth). His cubicle was a prime opportunity for making him real and I point this out because his cubicle was bare/gray and his computer screen was always blank. Some clippings from Geno’s past work – maybe about the child molester investigation – could be hanging up. Maybe there could be some past-due utility bills laying on his desk, implying that he sacrifices his personal needs for his family and work. Maybe he could have a weird message in his email about conspiracies, etc. Maybe some generic, safe pictures of trees and landscapes could show that he is a status-quo guy, which would set up the fact that he needs to take charge, put his foot down, step out of his comfort zone, and “rock the family boat” so to speak. As you can see, there were many set-design possibilities, for that scene and others.

In all fairness, there were a few instances where small aspects of set design (intentional or not) made a huge impact. In one scene, early-on in the film, two family members are talking in front of a mantle, in one of the homes. On the mantle, behind one character, there is a picture of an older man and it looks like the man is eerily looking over one character’s shoulder. The implication being: a family elder is keeping an eye on things and that character, whom he is watching, is a servant to the watchful eye. Another scene is when Geno and another character go to the grandfather’s house. On the kitchen wall there is something that looks like an eye chart (you know, with the letters gradually getting smaller). Again, it was a small thing but it added a little mystery to the grandfather character and also added some “cryptic” atmosphere to the overall film.

Third, I felt that the characters all delivered very interesting dialogue, but that dialogue wasn’t delivered emotionally. Most of the characters’ acting/presence did not fit the dialogue or the overall scene and this is one of the main reasons for the emotional disconnect of the film. Overall, I felt there was too much dialogue and it would have been better if less was said and more was expressed, through acting and presence. Throughout the film, actors would describe an emotion by saying something like, “hey, you can’t talk to me like that. I’m part of this family”  but they wouldn’t convey that emotion. Instead of saying “hey, you can’t talk to me like that”, I think it would have been better – for the scene and the overall film – if that line was dropped and the “hey…” anger/defensiveness was expressed in the “I’m…” line. In other words, all of the “hey…” feeling would be expressed through tone of voice, body language, and facial expression while the actor said the line “I’m part of this family”.

Before I go on, I do want to point out one scene that worked extremely well and stuck in my mind. This scene contained the three things that I wanted more of, in the film. In the scene, Geno’s female co-worker is hitting on him and basically asking him to cheat on his wife. The boss hears this and fires the girl. She runs out to the parking lot and the sex offender (that Geno investigated in the past) starts harassing her. Geno runs up and defends her, implying-but-not-saying that he won’t cheat on his wife but he does care about the girl as a human being. He wishes her well and offers to help her if she needs anything. The scene closes with her embracing him and the camera focuses on her face, over Geno’s shoulder. In that strange moment, Geno finds a true “family” relationship that he never found in his real family. I might be reading into it, but this scene is a great example of what McGahee, the crew, and the actors can do. It was one of the high points of the film and it said a lot without actually saying it in dialogue. Great scene.

Despite those three issues, I felt the movie really “kicked-into-gear” in the second half. I enjoyed the design/look of the old-lady killer and McGahee’s musical score employed an effective killer motif – very much in the style of John Carpenter. In fact, all of the musical cues were spot-on and supported the scenes – McGahee is quite good at pairing music with film.

The special effects were another strong point and all looked pretty good. Some on-camera effects, some off-camera, and some quick cut-shots were used, but the blood and gore looked very real. The “killer” aspect of the film really came together in the bowling alley scene, where it was pure slasher. This harkened back to 1980s “party” slashers where the killer was targeting groups of victims in an enclosed area, rather than picking them off one by one in various locations (Halloween II, Nightmare on Elm St. 2, Popcorn, My Bloody Valentine, etc). That part was a lot of fun.

Aside from the sets, the external locations (got to see some of the Massachusetts area) and the outside/night shots were great. I enjoyed the view of the church, which was similar to the imposing image of the funeral home in the Phantasm films. Director of Photography John Golden framed all the shots very well, the lighting was good, and the multiple camera angles really worked during character interaction. Also, kudos to skillful editing by Forris Day Jr. (who also played Geno). Because of their attention to detail, I thought that this was one of McGahee’s best filmed and edited works.

Anyway, “Family Secret” has a great story and solid production, but I don’t feel that it totally reached its full potential. McGahee and the Xposse crew have progressed and the production aspects of their films have gotten better, but the characters, set design, and dialogue need to be more in-balance with those stronger elements. I did enjoy watching “Family Secret” and I am looking forward to watching it again for the DVD commentary and special features. It’s definitely worth watching and I think fans of slashers, giallos, and conspiracy films will appreciate it. For more information on the film, visit and

Review and Quick Byte by Peter Syslo

An Interview with Jim Haggerty

Posted in interviews on April 8, 2012 by Peter S

Recently, I got a chance to ask filmmaker Jim Haggerty a few questions about his upcoming films and about his company, Yellow Ape Productions. Actually, Jim can say it better than I can in my clumsy introduction, so I’ll hand the blog over to him for a few minutes. Here is the interview:

PS: Jim, it’s great to talk with you again and thanks for the interview. It looks like 2012 will be another busy year for you and the crew at Yellow Ape Productions. Could you tell us about your upcoming projects and your recent DVD releases on Tempe?

JH: Well, the good folks at Tempe Video have just put FROM THE INSIDE and IS THIS A JOKE? into wide release which is very exciting – I never felt those films found the audience they could have, but that’s because they were only available at our website. And in April we will be premiering the all new WHEN DEATH CALLS starring my old friend Suzi Lorraine and the great Tina Krause. So it is an exciting time.

PS: I read that you are working on your first short film, for the festival circuit?

JH: Well, it’s written and I’m very happy with the script. I’ve discovered a wonderful actress who is perfect for the lead role named Risa Cohen. But that’s as far as we are with it. We have to finish casting and shoot it, but I don’t have anything scheduled yet. But I think it’s the kind of film that we will get some festival attention with. It’s a bit of a departure, it’s very character-driven and serious. Can’t wait to do it.

PS: Your most recent film is the horror anthology “When Death Calls”. Without giving away any secrets, could you tell us a little about the stories in the film?

JH: The stories are all pretty cool and they really run the gamut of horror styles, I think. It feels to me more like a mini horror movie festival. There’s a monster movie, a slasher movie, a dark comedy – a bunch of different styles pulled together.

PS: What draws you to the anthology format?

JH: Well, it gives you some variety – it’s not like week after week you’re telling the same story with the same characters and the same actors. You shoot a short segment for a few days, then you get to delve into something completely different. Like sketch comedy, it’s a like treat bag – you’re always excited as to what will come out next!

PS: How did the shoot for “When Death Calls” compare to the shoot for your other anthology film, “Grave Danger”?

JH: Well, we’ve certainly come a long way since GRAVE DANGER, so it’s a much more polished affair. Originally we were going to do a sequel to GRAVE DANGER, but for various reasons we decided WHEN DEATH CALLS should have it’s own identity. Though fans of GRAVE DANGER will notice one or two recurring characters, wink wink!

PS: “When Death Calls” stars the lovely Suzi Lorraine (who also starred in “Witchmaster General”) and the equally lovely scream-queen Tina Krause. Tell us about the casting process of “When Death Calls” and how both Suzi and Tina became involved.

JH: Well, Suzi is always a pleasure to work with and always an asset on screen. We were thrilled to work with her again. Tina came on board last – we had a role that she would be right for and I ended up getting in contact with her, so I asked her if she would do it. And I was delighted she did it since I’m such a fan and she was so great to work with. Apart from that, a lot of the casting was done for a different project called THE HOTEL KILLER which we were unable to do at this point for various reasons. So we shifted gears at the last minute to do what was originally going to be GRAVE DANGER 2 and utilized a lot of the people we’d cast in that film like Nathalie Bryant, Pooya Mohseni, Darlene McCullogh – as well as our old friends like Jae Mosc, Rebecca Rose McCain, Robert Lincourt, and Stephen Alan Wilson. And what a great cast we came out with.

PS: Along with Suzi, you are also working with a lot of the actors from your previous films such as Jae Mosc, Robert Lincourt, etc. After 10 years of working with some actors, what is the working relationship like and what have you learned, as a filmmaker, from your actors?

JH: That’s a good question. It really varies from person to person. Some I’m very close friends with, others I only see on set – it’s a very business-only relationship, which is fine. I certainly like all of my returning actors, and they keep coming back so they probably don’t hate me (laughs). And even if they do, by coming back they must respect what I do to come back. But I think everyone likes me, I just don’t see them all socially. But I’m hard to know on the set, I think – I tend to be very quiet when working on a film. Not to be rude, but my mind is going in so many different directions, I can’t really be too social. But I like to think we’re all friends to varying degrees.

PS: I read that you have been working with an expanded crew. Your wife Susan is editing and you have a production assistant and cinematographer/lighting director. Also, you have reconnected with the composer who worked on some of your previous films. Could you tell us more about the new additions to the Yellow Ape team?

JH: Well, my wife Susan is always a big help. It’s tough for her because it’s not really her passion, but thankfully she is so supportive and so talented as an editor. Of course my right hand man Dennis Newman who’s been with us since GRAVE DANGER is always invaluable – and has developed into something of a good actor in recent films.

PS: Was it strange letting others handle those tasks that you used to do?

JH: It’s always odd relinquishing control when you started out being kind of a one-man act. But it feels good to have help and to be able to rely on people and trust them.

PS: Now that you are able to focus more on writing, directing, and producing has it changed your approach to filmmaking?

JH: Well, I’ve always focused on these things. I think the approach changes the more you grow and learn. And I’ve learned from all of my films. And I’m pleased to say we’ve grown and improved each time.

PS: “Is This a Joke?” encapsulates your sense of humor and your comedic side. What were some of your influences on the film?

JH: It was really an attempt to create an old-fashioned ‘dirty joke’ movie from the 70’s – these were a little-known genre where actors performed old dirty jokes as skits. And I think we really captured it – the jokes we selected, the performances, the look of the film, the sound effects, the music. I’m quite proud of it, it’s a lot of fun. And I love that when we did the screening it went over well with the audience. Comedy is tough to do, so I’m glad it worked. But it was interesting that some of the stuff I didn’t think was that funny got the biggest laughs and things that I thought were hysterical didn’t get as big a response. That’s why comedy is tough.

PS: Looking back on “From the Inside”, how do you feel about the film now? I know that it was a passion project for years and honestly, I think it is one of your best films. Now that it has had a wider DVD release, what has the reaction been to it?

JH: Thank you, I am extremely proud of the film. Until WHEN DEATH CALLS, I believed it was my best film. It’s really a solid film – such a great ensemble cast, and I’m very proud of the story and the script. I think it really works – it’s the kind of story that you can put yourself into, and it also asks moral questions. What would I do if…? I think it’s solid – certainly my darkest movie, but a real triumph. Now that Tempe has it out there I hope it will find a larger audience.

PS: You really are one of the busiest and most productive guys I know. What keeps you motivated and what is your ultimate goal, as a filmmaker?

JH: Well thank you, I always try to be productive – it’s real easy to get lazy. But I guess the ultimate goal is to just keep on keeping on. I want to keep making movies and keep making the kind of movies I make. I love what I do, and I love my films that I’ve made.

PS: I’ve been wanting to ask you this one for awhile. What is your definition of a “Midnight Movie”?

JH: I guess to me a midnight movie is about freedom. The term comes from back when movies that were considered ‘cult’ movies used to show in theaters on weekends at midnight. And to me theses were always the movies that were free – they were different. They didn’t have to play by rules, they could be vulgar, they could be silly, they could be violent – they didn’t have to fit into the mainstream. Those were the kind of movies I set out to make, and I like to think I succeeded.

PS: I just want to say thanks again, Jim, and best wishes for 2012. What are some important calendar dates for Yellow Ape Productions and where can readers find out more about Jim Haggerty and his films?

JH: Thank You Peter, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. Not sure when this will be published, but I will be at the Macabre Faire on Long Island with a Yellow Ape table on April 13-15, and then on the 28th we have the WHEN DEATH CALLS premiere. Suzi and Tina are both attending, so those in the NY area may want to try and make it. And I will be there as well!


Interview by Peter Syslo

Back to the Grindstone!

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2012 by Peter S

It’s been awhile ( a year hiatus? cripes!) but I’m back and ready to review. I’ll be making some format changes in the upcoming weeks but the core of my reviews will be the same. I’m looking forward to 2012 and I’ve got a lot to talk about. And no, you are not going crazy – I changed the name of this blog from “Cinebyte” to “Blood on the Grindstone” (

Your friend,


Zombies on TV: Review of “The Walking Dead” and “Dead Set”

Posted in Movie reviews on November 23, 2010 by Peter S

Sitcoms are back and reality shows are more popular than ever. I’m not criticizing those types of shows, I’m just making the point that the television climate has changed over the past two years and it seems like the high-concept show is gone, for now. Personally, I feel it too. My taste in television has changed.

I know that “The Event” and “Fringe” are two high-concept shows, but I haven’t watched either because I don’t want to get involved in the ambiguity, especially after being emotionally abused by “Lost” for six years. I know that it is a foolish reason for not giving a show a chance, but I am just not in the mood for painfully-long storyline arcs which, inevitably, lead to the beginnings of new arcs. What I feel like, right now, is a straightforward show that is event-driven or plot-driven. I want simple characters in plausible situations and I want the arcs to have some resolution, once in a while.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” appears to be a show that can meet my needs. It is only four episodes in, but I do like what I see. It doesn’t break any new ground, as far as the zombie subgenre goes, but it does give the viewer great-looking zombies, a shocking amount of gore and tense survival situations. The typical zombie rules apply: the virus explanation, the contagious zombie bite and the good-old headshot (as the way to kill a zombie). But, my main criticism of the show is that everything in it has been done before. The show is finely-tuned, beautifully shot and it is a nice encapsulation of 40 years of zombie cinema, but it needs a little something more to make it “can’t-miss television”.

I am not familiar with the graphic novels, upon which the show is based, so I do have to give it a break. However, the derivative content of the episodes is definitely noticeable, by anyone who is familiar with the zombie subgenre. Episode One was an imitation/combination of “28 Days Later” and “I Am Legend”. Episode Two was a lot like “Dawn Of The Dead”, “28 Days Later” and “I Am Legend”. Episode Three was a strange combination of “Saw”, any zombie film, and an akward version of “Sex and the City” (the vibrator conversation was terribly written – usually, I like that sort of thing). Lastly, Episode Four was a lot like Episode Two and its influences, but it did become interesting towards the end. My point is that I enjoy seeing the influences in the story but I am still waiting for more original content.

In its defense, I really liked one part of Episode Two. The trooper/hero and another survivor wanted to sneak out of a surrounded building, to get to a nearby truck. So they killed a zombie, inside, and dismembered it. The two then smeared the “guts” all over their clothes so that they would smell like the zombies (they discovered that zombies have a keen sense of smell for live humans). After the smearing, the two made their way to the truck. More “unique” scenarios like that are what the show needs.

Overall, the acting is quite good, but another criticism I have is that I am not emotionally invested in any of the characters, yet. I started to loose interest during Episode Three, because I really didn’t care about the trooper/hero finding his family. It was nice to see that arc complete itself, but I hope that the show doesn’t delve fully into the dramatic side of things. I’m not in the mood for it; I just want simple characters and a straightforward, original story.

The part of the show that does keep me coming back for more is that it brings forth the message that most humans will band together and help one another, in a large-scale survival situation. It has a realistic view of human nature, but it does entertain the idea that there is good in everyone and that people can always change. I like that bit of optimism and its a nice contrast to the gloom and doom of it all. Despite all that I said about lack of originality and general boredom, that overall message is a pleasant surprise.

On the other side of the dial, the five-episode British miniseries “Dead Set” appeared on IFC this Halloween. It seemed to tell the same tale as “The Walking Dead”, only with a more pessimistic view. Just like “The Walking Dead”, “Dead Set” is very derivative, with the whole five-episode span being pretty much a re-imagining of the orignal “Night of the Living Dead”.

The premise of the show is as follows: On the final eviction night of British “Big Brother”, zombies start to appear and everyone clamors to survive. The “Big Brother” cast-mates are inside the locked-down house and are unaware of the outbreak, until a few people from the outside make their way into the house. That’s the whole five-episode miniseries. It’s just a group of people trapped in a house with zombies attacking from the outside.

That’s not to say that it is a bad show – it’s not. In fact, “Dead Set” is a well-produced and polished show. Like “The Walking Dead”, it adheres to the traditional zombie rules, with one exception: the zombies run fast. They are pretty intense-looking, like the “28 Days Later” zombies and the action is more frenetic/violent as a result of the hand-held, shaky, POV-style camerawork. There is a lot of gruesome material and a lot of gore, similar to the Italian style of zombie films. The headshot reigns supreme as a manner of disposing of zombies and the virus explanation is present. But, aside from the urgent pace and the “Big Brother” setting, it really doesn’t add anything new to the zombie subgenre. Like “The Walking Dead”, it can be tedious at times.

I do admit, the action is great and the overall message of the show is thought-provoking (humans are their own worst enemy, humans are already zombies, etc.), but my attention wavered a bit because (again) I really wasn’t interested in any of the characters or the average zombie scenarios. In fact, the only truly interesting character was the cutthroat producer, whose self-preservation was top priority. But even that character wasn’t anything new; that type is often seen in zombie films and horror films, in general.

I guess what I am trying to say about both “The Walking Dead” and “Dead Set” is that I like the shows, but I don’t love them. I enjoy the zombie traditions, but I would like to seem some originality. In essence, they are both the same show. Whatever one you prefer is a matter of personal taste. If you want a faster, darker, meaner zombie story, Britain’s “Dead Set” would be the best choice. If you want a slow, cinematic, hopeful tale, then “The Walking Dead” is the show for you. As for me? For some reason, I have a good feeling about “The Walking Dead”. It hasn’t “hit its stride” yet and it deserves a chance to do so.


Review and Bytes by Peter Syslo



Review of “A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)”

Posted in Movie reviews on October 10, 2010 by Peter S

I went into “A Nightmare On Elm Street” hoping that it would be a decent remake and that it would just be a decent film, period. Well, it turns out that it failed in its mission, on both fronts. Strangely, the worst thing about the movie was that it was a little boring. Yeah, boring. Some of the films in the franchise haven’t been that hot but I can’t say that any of them were particularly dull, not even part 5 “The Dream Child”. Though I am annoyed by Freddy and his “zingers” in the later sequels, I find that there is always something enjoyable about a “Nightmare” film. The effects are always unique, the kill scenes are interesting, the dream sequences are surreal, and the Freddy character is engaging. Even “Freddy vs. Jason” was enjoyable to watch, though it didn’t quite capture the spirit of the original films. In essence, that is the whole problem with the 2010 “Nightmare” remake. It just wasn’t enjoyable to watch.

One of the main reasons that I disliked the film was that it boiled the Freddy character down to make him relevent and topical, in regards to 2010 society. So what did they do exactly? They made Freddy a creepy pedophile. No, not a child murderer, a pedophile. In the original 1984 film, it was sort of implied that he was a pedophile, along with being a child murderer. Craven didn’t come out and say it point blank, but you kind of got that feeling from it. The remake out and out based its whole premise upon the pedophile angle and it just ruined the film. That is the main reason why it wasn’t enjoyable. I am not making light of pedophilia in any way; it is a horrible thing. But, I also don’t want to watch a movie based upon it. For example, look at “Hard Candy”. For all purposes, it was a good, well-made film but it is not something that I have the urge to rewatch every now and then. I don’t find myself saying, “Yeah guys, come on over! We’re watching “Hard Candy” again. We’re gonna order some Chinese food and play Uno and…” That’s exactly how I feel about this remake. I don’t think that I will want to watch it again. Actually, “Hard Candy” would be a much better choice, regarding the subject matter.

Along with that unsettling aspect, there were other things that failed to make it a good film. Because they didn’t make Freddy a murderer (when he was alive), the whole “parents-cornering him-and-burning-him” was slightly askew. I understand that the parents were horrified and angry but it really didn’t make sense. If he were a murderer, you would see that the extreme punishment was appropriate and justified. But in this case, it almost makes Freddy look like a victim. I know that they were trying to force him out of hiding, with the fire, but there is no mention of the legal system failing, etc. that was part of the original. This is an example of one of the many “gaps” in the movie which disturbed the overall flow of it.

Another shortcoming was that Freddy’s dream power was never clearly explained and no “rules” governing the dreams were established. In the original, early on in the film, you “get” that if you’re harmed in the dream, you are harmed in real life. You get that these are no ordinary nightmares and you have a sense of why this guy Freddy is doing this in the dreams. In the remake, there are spots where some of the dream content is explored, such as the tie-in with the legend of The Pied Piper and Nancy’s ability to pull him out into reality. But overall, it didn’t make total sense why Freddy became a dream killer… other than the fact that the parents shouldn’t have been vigilantes. As for the glove, you don’t get that feeling of impending danger from it as you did with the original. In this one, he mainly uses it as sort of a prop to scare the kids. Of course, there are scenes where you do see him cutting with it, but it is a long run to each of those kills, with a lot of melodrama to sit through, in-between.

On a positive note, I did like Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy. I thought that he did a good job with the character and he did make him “his own”. He looked like a real burn victim but I still don’t know if that worked or not. Also, the voice was more of a softer monotone, rather than the insane nature of the original Freddy. Again, I don’t know if that worked or not but it was interesting facet of the character. One other thing that I did like was that the kids talked about sleep deprivation and the fact that at a certain point, the body will go into a coma. I thought that it was a neat idea and it was one of the brighter spots of the film. I liked the way that they used that and it was thought-provoking how Freddy could also benefit from the coma.

Well, enough already. I’ve said what I wanted to say. There are a couple of positive things about the movie, but otherwise it fell flat and it was truly boring, at times. It was a case of too much story, bland characters, not enough action, and obvious connections that ruined the suspense and intrigue. Throw the awful subject matter into that and it was a brooding, depressing experience which was a lot like a U.S. remake of an Asian horror film. Even the effects weren’t all that great. The CGI looked bad and it was most noticeable in the famous “protruding-from-the-wall-scene”. The original shot was scary and surreal. This shot in the 2010 version was contrived and looked fake  (in some cases, practical effects still look better than CGI). To be fair, there are a few startles in the movie, but overall I think that the original is scarier and is a much better film. The 2010 version is worth checking out, to see what they did with it, but I would rather stick with the original films and remember Freddy as he was, in his gratuitous glory days.

Review and Byte by Peter Syslo  


Review of the film “From The Inside”

Posted in Movie reviews on September 26, 2010 by Peter S

 “From The Inside” is the latest creation of independent filmmaker Jim Haggerty and his company, Yellow Ape Productions. Haggerty has worked mainly in the horror and exploitation genre and he proclaims that his films are “movies for the midnight hour”. In the case of FTI, I feel that his proclaimation is correct. He has truly achieved his goal of creating a midnight movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I do think that this is his best work to date.The film is exactly like something you would see from a studio like Crown International, in the 1970s. From the lulling and beautiful opening song (which is reminiscent of 70s films where tragedy befalls innocent people) to the moral questionablility of the events that transpire, this is absolutely a drive-in, grindhouse, after-hours film which delivers what that specific type of audience craves.

I’m definitely not saying that any of the filmmaking is poor or lackluster – on the contrary. This displays a new level of maturity in Haggerty’s style and it really is a finely crafted film. He has sharpened all of his techniques and I have seen a definite progression from his earlier works to this one. The writing is good, as always, but it is taken one step further because Haggerty has specifically chosen when to let the film “breathe” a little bit and let the visuals tell the story. What I mean is that he always writes with great depth and detail and he does the same in this case. But, there are times when he holds back on the dialogue and lets the film just move forward on its own. For example, there is one scene where the two brothers are in a car and it flows nicely, because it is not overdone with dialogue. Certain points are emphasized, verbally, but it is the motion of travelling in the car which propels the plot, in that scene.

Along with that balance of visual/verbal, the acting was better and more natural in this film, as opposed to his previous films. Yes, there are still times when lines seemed a tad “forced”, but I feel that Haggerty did get the best performances out of every actor involved. Brian Haggerty is very good and very believable, as the Detective. Jae Mosc – who is almost a staple of every Jim Haggerty film – continues to be entertaining and he competently brings that “everyman” quality to his role. In fact, he really gets the viewer involved in this picture because it is very easy to place yourself in his shoes and ask, “what would I do in that situation?”. However, the standout performance of the film was by Robert Lincourt, who played Bill Baxter. This guy was genuinely creepy, in a “Deliverance”, “Texas Chainsaw”, “Last House on the Left”, “Savage Weekend”, Lenny from “Of Mice and Men” sort of way. Get my drift? He was a joy to watch because his behavior was so odd and dysfunctional (at one point, you see him cowering by a refrigerator, like an abused child). He was like the Dennis Hopper from “Blue Velvet” of the film. You weren’t sure whether he was good, bad, or both and he made me uneasy the whole time that he was on screen. The guy’s appearance, mannerisms, and overall presence was enough to cause discomfort. Like I mentioned before, a lot of the power of this movie was in what was not said.

Also enhancing the viewing experience, the locations were an integral and successful part of FTI. It was great to see Haggerty take a large portion of the story into a forest setting. He does move back to the urban backdrop, later in the film, but it was nice to see the contrast between the two. I feel that the first portion of the film wouldn’t have worked as well, if it took place in the urban enivronment. Plus, it kind of mirrors the plot in which the wooded setting creates a “lawless” arena for events and the urban setting actually becomes a safe place where normalcy, order, and morality is restored. That type of location contrast is also reminiscent of the 1970s films in this genre.

The visuals were definitely a strong point and the set design worked very well with the locations. As a viewer, I was pleased to see a real forest home, the depth of the surrounding woods, the inside of vehicles, the opening scene on board the deck of a boat, and the traditional look of a police station. To me, the story is at the heart of any film and if the story is good, I do believe that all else will survive. Ideally though, the best scenario, is when the visuals enhance and augment the story, like they did here. Kudos to the set designers and their choice of locations.

The last key element to successful visuals was the strong cinematography, courtesy of Gareth Chater. I feel that Haggerty and crew were especially meticulous with lighting and angles, this time around. Action is centered, focused, well-lit, and there really is no scene out of place. Well, there is one exception; a scene, with the detective, took place in one room and the camerawork didn’t seem to bring forth the intensity which was needed (It also went a little long and it slowed the picture a bit). But aside from that, each scene was effectively shot, the editing was very good, and elements of Haggerty’s style were kept intact. For instance, there were two camera angles which switched back and forth to each individual character during dialogue. One character would face one camera and then the other would speak directly to the other camera. I liked that and it’s another instance which displays filmmaking maturity. It involves the viewer more when that type of camera interaction is used, rather than filming the whole dialogue from a side angle, where both actors are seen simultaneously. Yes, some of that technique is still used and is essential, but the other camera angles really liven up the conversation. Specifically, some of my favorite shots were when a trio or duo of characters were deciding what to do in a tough situation. The camera was at a low angle, facing up towards the actors and it really brought forth that “what are they going to do now?” kind of feeling. Also, I do want to note that the opening cinematography was superb and was a perfect companion to the song. Actually all of the cinematography fit well with the musical cues.

“From The Inside” is definitely a film that is worth watching. Haggerty and company display skill, maturity, and good-old-fashioned storytelling – which is an essential part of any effective film. There are many twists and turns in the story (I purposely witheld any description of the plot) and the performances and craftsmenship of it make you want to see what happens next. I am actually surprised that, albeit dark subject matter and ugly human nature, the film did leave me with a positive feeling. Just like its 1970s counterparts, this had that optimism and innocence that was characterized by the opening music. It shows that life does get crazy at times, but some good things will always come out of a bad situation. There is always hope. Well done.

Review and Byte by Peter Syslo