If there’s one benefit to being stuck inside during a global pandemic blasting through every single movie ever made in an anxiety-torpor, it’s that a film freak like me can really delve deep. Or deeper than usual, as the cabin fever had led me to not only exhaust every streaming service you’ve ever heard of (and plenty you haven’t), cross-reference each movie through every book and internet site within quarantined reach, and obsessively jot down my thoughts on everything from acclaimed current documentaries to the worst movies ever made. Sometimes even getting paid. 

Still, it’s nice to know that there are plenty of other movie obsessives out there giving vent to their own pressurized film fanaticism, all from the comfort of their own, hermetically sealed quarantine pods. Speaking of pods, one relatively new way I’ve found to sate my movie thirst even when my eyeballs are screaming at me to stop staring at glowing screens all day are movie podcasts. While the concept of listening to people talk about movies might suggest that we have collectively disappeared up our own pop culture sprocket-holes by this point in our shared isolation (and the fact that you’re reading about someone listening to people talk about movies only reinforces that), well, a great movie podcast is just the tonic for us film folk who so desperately miss going to the movies and then talking about them with our friends.

Matt Awkward and Tristan Gallagher in photoshopped mashup for their podcast. Image courtesy of Tristan Gallagher

Bring on Portland’s own Fun Box Monster Podcast, the hilariously informative and, yes, fun brainchild of Maine businessperson, entrepreneur (Coast City Comics/The Fun Box Monster Emporium), local rock god, and fellow guy who used to work at the late, lamented Videoport, Tristan Gallagher, and his trusty partner in criminally forgotten horror flicks, Matt Awkward. (In the pair’s recent episode, Gallagher explains that the pseudonymous Awkward adopts his nom de podcast so “people can’t look him up online,” so I’ll respect his secret identity.) 

There’s no shortage of movie podcasts out there, from the deadly serious to the thoroughly goofy. But, as anyone familiar with me knows, the Fun Box Monster Podcast lands right in the old aural sweet spot, centered as it is on Gallagher and Awkward’s métier of obscure, grimy and disreputable horror movies. Looking over the podcast’s impressive back catalog, I see (and am working my way through) the duo’s recorded analyses of such nostalgic not-classics as “Chopping Mall,” “Cellar Dweller,” the “Witchboard” series, “Slumber Party Massacre II” and a whole squirming nest of others. And while personal fave fellow podcasts like the very funny “The Flop House” and “How Did This Get Made?” and TV’s “Mystery Science Theater 3000” have made lucrative and entertaining careers out of showing us the joy of bashing bad movies, Gallagher and Awkward bring the added dimension of having not only encyclopedic knowledge of the sort of VHS horrors they take on, but a genuine and unironic appreciation of them. In all their gory glory. 

The most recent edition of the weekly podcast, the truly bewildering 1984 sci-fi musical abomination “Voyage of the Rock Aliens” represents something of a departure from the hosts’ traditional horror fare, as the beleaguered Gallagher confesses at the start. (It really is a terrible movie, portrayed aptly in the episode description as if noted over-the-top schlock-masters Troma Films tried to remake “Grease” with Pia Zadora and a PG-13 rating.) But since the movie was the choice of special guest (and Gallagher’s wife and fellow Congress Street businessperson, Green Hand Bookshop owner Michelle Souliere), the out-of-genre digression is hardly a hardship, especially since the outing is as reliably great as ever.

It’s not that the Fun Box guys shy away from recognizing the limitations, missteps and sometimes outright travesties of the films they’re discussing. In the March 12 episode on the 1989 Julien Sands/Richard E. Grant starrer “Warlock,” both hosts are pretty effusive about how much they admire the undeniably fun supernatural flick, while at the same time humorously musing on just how a time-displaced, 17th-century witch hunter with no identification is able to hop a commercial flight to Massachusetts while toting a blood-stained iron weathervane as his carry on. 

But that’s the great thing about a great movie podcast. It’s easy to make fun, but such podcasts can turn shallow and sour if all the hosts have to offer is ill-informed sniggering. The Fun Box Monster Podcast is hosted by two absolute horror film fanatics who, in addition to being sharp communicators and funny guys, can put any film they discuss (yes, even the no-budget “Alien” ripoff that is exploitation maven Fred Olen Ray’s “Dead Space”) into a context that respects the source material while occasionally ripping its many flaws to comical ribbons like a rubbery special-effect creature digging into scantily clad campers. 

Plus, Portland fixtures Gallagher and Awkward bring a local flair to the proceedings, as in Gallagher’s truly eerie anecdote on the “Warlock” episode, about a post-screening late-night trip to a now-defunct Westbrook Denny’s, an ominous series of in-diner events, and the years-later resurgence of Gallagher’s experience in another, Maine-centric guise entirely. So Maine movie fans looking to expand their horizons into the nether realms of dusty, goopy vintage horror under the hilariously intrepid guidance of two local experts should brave their favorite podcast provider to check out the decidedly fun Fun Box Monster Podcast. (It’s not for kids – although I watched plenty of inappropriate horror movies when I was a lad, and look how I turned out.)

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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