For the last four years, I've been publishing lists of some of my picks for essential episodes of Shock Waves (formerly Killer POV), still my favorite of all the podcasts I listen to every week. Hosts Rebekah McKendry, Ryan Turek, Rob Galluzzo, and Elric Kane (a former guest on F This Movie!) are the dream team of horror podcasters: articulate and educated, passionate and endlessly entertaining. I know everyone has their favorite host, because it's in our nature to pick a favorite. I bring this up not to get you to name your favorite in the comments (you really don't need to...unless it's Elric, as he needs that kind of constant reassurance and ego stroking), but rather to say that my favorite is "all of them."
This past year -- the first full year of the show as Shock Waves -- saw a few changes for the podcast. First, nearly everyone (save for Ryan Turek) has changed day jobs, especially with Blumhouse.com (a site for which Rebekah and Rob both worked) no longer a going concern. Rebekah completed her PhD, making her "DR. McKendry." There was also a period in which they experimented with the format, breaking the show up over the course of two episodes: the first covering the host-only discussion and the second devoted to the guest interview. I respect that they continue to tinker and improve the podcast, but I'll also admit that I'm really glad they moved back to the longer episodes released only once a week. I think it flows better and I think it gets listeners to check out some interviews and voices they might have just skipped if released a la carte.
New Nightmares with Heather Langenkamp - Yes, I know I'm working backwards here and naming their most recent episode first. Deal with it. Though Rebekah McKendry had to sit this one out for medical reasons, the three boys conduct an incredible interview with Langenkamp, who has worked in horror for more than 30 years, first in front of the camera as a movie star and now behind the scenes as part of makeup effects. She is so smart and honest and practical about her own experiences and the state of modern horror (and moviemaking in general); like so many of the best Shock Waves interviews, we really get to know the person behind the art and it makes us like both the person and the art even more than we already did. A Nightmare on Elm Street is my favorite horror movie, Nancy Thompson is my favorite final girl, Shock Waves is my favorite podcast, and this is one of my favorite episodes they've ever done.
Our Tribute to Tobe Hooper - It will surprise absolutely no one that I included this episode. The Shock Waves crew did a lovely tribute to George Romero this year as well, but my love and sadness over the loss of Tobe Hooper makes this essential listening as far as I'm concerned. The guest is screenwriter Jared Rivet, whose first produced feature Jackals was released around the same time this episode dropped (it's available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray and totally worth checking out), and who knew Tobe on a personal level. They had worked together on a number projects that went unproduced, meaning Jared got to know TH as both a colleague and as a friend. Plus, after making headlines just a few weeks prior when director John Leonetti plainly stated on the podcast that it was Steven Spielberg who directed Poltergeist, Shock Waves gives Rivet the opportunity to walk back those claims a bit and share his own opinions on the controversy based on what he knew. His insight into Tobe as a creator and as a person is invaluable, especially in the wake of his passing when I needed to hear those that knew him confirm what I thought of him as a good and incredibly talented man. I miss Tobe Hooper every day, but episodes like this make it a little more bearable.
Day of the Woman with B.J. Colangelo - This incredible conversation is with horror journalist (and moderator of the Shock Waves FB group) BJ Colangelo, who has written some of the best and most essential pieces I've ever read on the subject of rape revenge films. As a survivor of sexual assault herself -- an experience she has chosen to be very candid and honest about -- Colangelo speaks not just about the rape revenge genre but all of horror with a specific perspective that is insightful and inspiring. I also appreciate that Colangelo is always quick to point out that she can speak only for herself and her own experiences, acknowledging that it would be unfair and dishonest to suggest how others "should" respond to these films or to horror in general. That this show is able to tackle questions like "what is transgressive?" and "what really scares us and why?" is exactly why Shock Waves stands head and shoulders above every other horror podcast. BJ is incredible, and so is this episode.
The Unsung Exploits of Jim Kunz - I was not terribly familiar with Jim Kunz prior to this episode, but I defy anyone to come away from this conversation and not adore him. A filmmaker and producer of tons of DVD and Blu-ray bonus features, Kunz's stories about teaching himself how to be a one-man operation and working with everyone from Elvira to Code Red's Bill Olson (!!) are fascinating. His work ethic is tireless and he devotes himself to this stuff not for money, but because he genuinely loves the genre. I'm a sucker for this kind of behind-the-scenes talk about how special edition discs come together (as evidenced by some of my other picks on this list), but what I really enjoyed about this particular episode was Kunz himself.
Double Features with Scott Reynolds and Daniel Budnik - Only Rob and Ryan are in studio for this episode (though Elric chimes in with a pre-recorded message) that focuses on double features, with guests Scott Reynolds (a writer for Dexter, as well as Netflix's Jessica Jones and Iron Fist) and Daniel Budnik of Bleeding Skull. I'll admit that a big part of the reason I love this episode is because it speaks directly to my love of programming different movies to play together, whether it's as a double feature or in one of my "24 Hours of Movies" columns. I love thinking about how different films interact with one another, so all of this talk about double feature both real (out in L.A., these are not uncommon; hell, the New Beverly alone plays a double bill every single night) and hypothetical hits me right in the fandom.
Building the Perfect Horror Anthology - This episode features the return of screenwriter and producer Darin Scott, one of the creative forces behind the great anthology Tales from the Hood. That makes him the perfect guest to talk horror anthologies, but what makes this episode so much fun is that the gang doesn't just share their favorite omnibus films (sorry...portmanteau films), but instead construct their own ideal anthologies out of segments from existing movies. Once again, the Shock Waves crew combine both passion for the genre and a deep knowledge of some of the more obscure corners (you better believe I went and sought out 1977's Dead of Night after listening to this show, and everything they say about "Bobby" is true) to make for the single best horror podcast there is.
The Great Don Coscarelli - Since the Killer POV days, director Don Coscarelli has been near the top (if not the top) of the list of dream guests. His appearance does not disappoint. Both a brilliant, visionary filmmaker and one of the nicest human beings alive, Coscarelli's soft-spoken sweetness and humility towards his own achievements in the genre makes him an utterly charming interview. I'm always impressed by the hosts' ability to be total fans of their guests while not just fanning out in interviews, always managing to ask really interesting questions -- and, more importantly, questions we (and the guests) haven't already heard a dozen times before. They're such pros.
Episode 39: How Do You Consume Horror?- In addition to having one of my favorite "what have you been watching?" segments that features discussions of Valentine and The Whip and the Body and contains one of my favorite moments in the history of the podcast when Bekah mentions watching an Italian giallo called In the Folds of the Flesh, to which co-host Ryan Turek quietly responds practically off-mic "Bekah, staying on brand...," this episode has a great interview with Mark Ward of RLJ Entertainment. Ward was at Anchor Bay during the Golden Age of DVD horror in the early 2000s and talks about the various incarnations of home video formats; he's also a huge horror fan and really feels like one of us, so the conversation is both interesting and highly relatable as a lifelong horror lover and collector. The reason Shock Waves is my favorite podcast is because it totally understands what being a devoted fan of horror feels like, never judging for being the "wrong" kind of fan but also exploring the word in ways that go way beyond liking this movie or that movie. Loving horror is a way of life, and this episode is a celebration of that idea.
Kong is King - I remember this being something of a polarizing episode when it was first released, with a number of comments in the Shock Waves Fan Club Facebook group that complained about director Jackie Kong's self-promotion during her interview. I mean, ok, whatever. I love the fact that Jackie Kong came on, first because it pays off the "Kong is king" meme that Elric has been saying for years and because she's not someone who does a lot of interviews or press, so getting to hear her in this kind of long-form interview is a real treat. She talks about making her early cult films (The Being, Night Patrol, Blood Diner) and has some amazing stories about Marlon Brando. Kong was a singular voice in the genre, and listening to this conversation made me realize how much I missed that voice all these years. As for her "self-promotion," if she's not going to promote herself, who is?
A Silent Night, Deadly Night Family Reunion Christmas Special - Here's an episode that belongs on this list just for being a total coup, bringing together the stars of the first two Silent Night, Deadly Night films: Robert Brian Wilson and, even more impressively, Eric Freeman, the star of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 who was completely off the grid for decades. They talk about their careers and what it was like to be part of such low-budget, controversial and totally crazy movies. Just hearing one of them interviewed would have been a ton of fun, but Shock Waves' masterstroke is in getting them both on together. There's a kind of understanding between the two actors that the only person in the world who can really understand what it was like to be in one of these movies is each other.
Going Beyond the Gates with Jackson Stewart - Yes, this one is a totally personal choice because I love Jackson Stewart and consider him a friend. I also love his first feature, Beyond the Gates, which I may have mentioned once or twice or 50 times on this site. He gets to talk about writing a script for Supernatural and his early days working for Stuart Gordon. What's so cool about this episode, though, is that Jackson is has also been friends with the hosts for many years, meaning there's something really cool and special about them having him on as a guest to talk about a feature film he made that's getting released through IFC Midnight and eventually a Blu-ray from Scream Factory. They're proud of their friend. And while I'm miles away from the indie horror community out in L.A., Shock Waves has always done a good job of opening up that community and making us all feel a part of it, which means we all get to be proud of Jackson, too.