Over the weekend our Gruesome family received the heart-wrenching news that one of our own – Santos Ellin Jr – had unexpectedly passed away. On Friday evening we received the news and by Sunday we had processed it enough to be able to post our feelings to social media. Below are a collection of our postings as we remember our friend and protege. RIP buddy – mere words cannot properly reflect the depth of our love for you….
John Slattery (Doc Rotten):
With a heavy heart and an endless stream of tears, I write this to share the loss of beloved film critic, podcast co-host, and my dearest friend, Santos Ellin Jr. widely and affectionately known as The Black Saint. He was the voice of HNR with a great wit, a great laugh, and a wonderful way with words. He set us up with a series of “you know”s and land his point with a hilarious “fuck you, [insert target here]”. He was always a delightful curmudgeon and we all loved him for it. He was generous with his affection for horror and film and with his family and friends. He would share great stories of seeing films in Times Square throughout the years. He was always available to listen and to help out a friend in need. He was more a “saint” than he would have liked people to know.
Santos and I first became friends as we formed Horror News Radio with Thomas Mariani and Dave Dreher (and later Vixen, followed by a growing family of Grue-Crew). This was four and half years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, it also seems just like yesterday. Santos quickly went from a complete stranger to one of my dearest friends, the closest thing to a brother I will ever have. We could share films we adored, we could argue about ones where we disagreed, and we could voice any thought virtually unfiltered between us – and everything would be just fine. As a fan would recently suggest – along with the help of Thomas Mariani – he would become the Eeyore to my Tigger.
We would meet at conventions from time to time as we lived a great distance apart – he in New York City, me in North Carolina. We first met at the premiere of John Johnson’s Plan 9 in, of all places, Roanoke, Virginia – Santos had a cameo in the film and helped with the production. Santos would travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to join us at Mad Monster Party. We would meet at various cons in New Jersey, Bizarre AC and Monster-Mania. Last year, with thanks to Christopher G. Moore and Derek Tatum, Santos and I – along with Thomas Mariani – would take part in the Horror Track as DragonCon. With every stop, we would gain more friends and the Grue-Crew family would grow, in a big part due to Santos’ disarmingly charming personality. He never considered himself funny but he was always good for a great big laugh. However, catching him with a smile on camera was a chore. Catching that smile did happen though – from time to time.
Learning of his passing has been devastating. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family who I have never personally met but through Santos, they have been a part of my world the past few years. They would sound off before or after an HNR recording and his daughter Mariana would join on an episode of Decades of Horror. Santos would offer tidbits of their trials, successes, and everyday lives – sharing a film with his son or the recent engagement of his daughter. He loved his family dearly. His affection and love knew no bounds. My thoughts go out to my HNR co-hosts, Dave and Thomas, who have shared most every Monday night together since April 2013. Santos has been a great influence on us all. Then there’s the Grue-Crew, the HNR family that came to love and adore Santos as well: Vixen, Christopher G. Moore, Joseph Fittos (and Mary), Joseph Perry, Chad Hunt, Jeff Mohr, Bill Mulligan, and much more – too many to mention. And to those that knew him in the horror community online or in person or at the New York City Horror Film Festival where he was a film judge – a legion of fans and friends. And the HNR fans and listeners who would rally around the idea of being “banned” as part of Stump the Saint – turning it into a badge of honor.
I will miss his laugh, his words of encouragement and his guidance. I will miss our discussions about horror films. I will miss sharing our affection for horror films of the 1970s. I will miss his love for William Girdler and The Manitou. I will miss his reviews on HorrorNews.Net. I will miss him on HNR and Decade of Horror. I will miss his wonderfully grumpy face and his brotherly hugs whenever we met. God damn it, I will miss him so terribly much. As brother Dave said, Mondays will never ever be the same again.
RIP Santos Ellin, Jr. (The Black Saint). We lost you way too soon.
People say when it rains it pours. This weekend has been a real waterfall. On my way over to mourn one friend, I hear about the death of another. I first met Santos Ellin Jr. when John Slattery introduced him and Dave Dreher to me right before we recorded our first Horror News Radio episode. I only ever met Santos in person once, but recording at least one podcast a week with him for the past four years was a highlight of my day today. He was such a large personality who added to the chemistry we all had. A curmudgeon we all loved poking til he smiled. He could be as bitter as the Whiskey Sours he loved so much, but he had a gooey center we all loved revealing. He touched so many lives and whenever we met fans, we mutually were in awe that they loved us talking about stupid stuff. But I did secretly know, because of how much talking with him about stupid stuff affected me. RIP Santos. Have another round of whiskey sours on me.
So many thoughts, so many memories – I’ve sat here staring at this blank page, at first just in my mind and then physically, hand froze on the keyboard because I know that seeing it in print will mean that I can no longer deny the truth but as we all know, the truth can not be hidden from.
Santos Ellin Jr. – my podcast partner, my friend for the last 4 ½ years has passed.
It’s so strange – but not to be unexpected I suppose in this digital age – but Santos and I never met face to face, never shook hands, never shared a beer but we did share a passion for film and a love for the horror genre in particular.
Every Monday night for over 200 podcasts Doc, Thomas, Santos and myself would gather and spend several hours ripping apart the latest releases (and every now and again actually liking one) and discuss the news highlights of the week. It was easily the high point of any given week. In the last year, the Grue-crew (as we’ve taken to calling ourselves) embarked on a new journey with the release of Gruesome Magazine and Santos (as he always was) was a driving creative force.
A huge personality – an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre – an infectious laugh and one of the most opinionated bastards I have ever had the privilege of hearing speak.
My love and respect for him runs deep and the burden of realizing that I will never again be able to speak to him seems impossible to comprehend.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all who were lucky enough to call him a friend.
RIP Santos – Monday nights will never be the same again.
Christopher G. Moore:
I waited until after this crazy weekend of being at the Wreak Havoc Horror Film Festival to finally process my feelings on the passing of my good friend, Santos Ellin Jr. It really didn’t fully hit me until this past Sunday, when I broke down in the shower. I had the realization that I’ll never get to see or hear from Santos ever again. My podcasting buddy. My filmmaking supporter. My hilarious and loving friend.
I first met Santos, when he and Doc Rotten attended Mad Monster Party many years back. That’s where I started my relationship with the podcasting peeps at Gruesome Magazine and through that, I developed an ongoing friendship with Santos or as they call him as part of the Grue Crew, The Black Saint. Over the years I got to know him more by doing podcasts with him when I would have guest host stints on Horror News Radio or some of the Decades of Horror podcasts. Some of the funniest conversations happened on those episodes.
He was also extremely supportive of my filmmaking and wrote some really kind reviews of my films. He called Disengaged “one of the most accomplished short films [he’s] ever seen” and for Knob Goblins he said the film proves that I’m a “filmmaker to be reckoned with.” And this is from a guy who would tell you up front if your movie sucked. LOL! It was praise that I hold dearly. It means a lot to have someone believe in your and be supportive of the art you make.
I once made the comment that I always wanted to have one of my films mentioned in Fangoria. It was bucket list item for me. He reached out to a friend of his at the magazine and Santos agreed to interview me over the phone for the article, so the interview would be featured in the magazine at some point. The interview did happen, but luckily being featured in the mag didn’t come to fruition due to a changeover in leadership, but the interview was later posted on Shock Till You Drop. I felt extremely humbled to be featured on that site.
I also had the privilege of having both Disengaged and Knob Goblins screen at the NYC Horror Film Festival which Santos was a part of as a judge. I have some great memories of hanging out with him and others at that fest. He would always find me to hang and chat when he wasn’t busy. He even bought me drinks and bought my dinner one night. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have thought about submitting to the fest and by attending I wouldn’t have met and found the talented actress, Sara Gorsky, for my newest film Gut Punched. On top of that, just being at the festival with Knob Goblins allowed my film to be reviewed for the Fangoria site. My bucket list item finally achieved.
For someone known as being so grumpy, he had a heart of gold. You could always tell how much he cared about his friends and family. A day didn’t go by where he didn’t mention how much he loved his children. You could never have a bad day around him. Some of my favorite moments of going to festivals and conventions was being able to hang with him and laugh with him. He was a person bigger than life. As entertaining as any of the characters he watched and reviewed in movies.
I feel very fortunate and lucky that my path crossed with Santos and that he was an integral part of my life. As a filmmaker, having supporters like Santos in your corner can only lead to feeling like you can do anything in this world. Santos (along with several other peeps at Gruesome Magazine) contributed money out of his own pocket to help make my newest short film and he was looking forward to watching it. I’m sad that he won’t be around to see it screen or be able to write a review for it. I’m sad that I won’t be able to have fun talking about movies on HNR or DOH. I’m sad that we won’t be making any more trips to cons or fests together.
The only thing I can do is to keep his memory alive by letting others know about the amazing and funny person he was and the impact he made on me as a person and as a filmmaker. In fact, Gut Punched will have a dedication to him in the final credits. That’s the least I can do for Santos who was a great friend, supporter and an overall nice guy. We’re gonna miss ya, buddy. The world just isn’t the same without you in it.
Joseph Fittos III:
A personal tribute to my big brother Santos Ellin Jr.
I believe that God brings people into your life for a reason. These people have effects on our lives that we may not even realize until years down the road and then there are those you immediately connect with who truly bring joy and enrichment to your life. One such person for me was Santos Ellin Jr. To a lot of people, he is better known as the Black Saint. Santos was someone I began listening to about four years ago on the Horror News Radio podcast and bantered with over Facebook. Now my wife Mary (who was not a big fan of horror at the time) and I decided to attend Bizarre AC because Doc Rotten and The Black Saint were in attendance. I figured we would stop by the booth introduce ourselves, shake hands then head on our merry way. Instead, we hung out with Santos and Doc the entire evening, watched an awful film then had dinner together. Two important things happened due to this; my wife became a horror fan and more importantly, we made two lifelong friends. Santos and I began to chat more and more after that; eventually, he would always refer to me as his little brother. Santos is one of the only people I would let get away with calling me “little”.
On a day about three years ago I was in the ER due to an incident that had happened at the workplace. Santos, always concerned about others was so concerned about me and we proceeded to chat while I was laying in the ER. He said to me “you know anything you need and anytime you want, you can call me, right?” That was my big brother, a true gentleman that always made himself available to support others and put them ahead of himself.
Around the same time, Mary had gotten pregnant and the HNR family was so happy for us, especially Santos, we would chat a lot about the joys of fatherhood and how much he loved his son and two daughters. He would send me pictures of them; he was always so proud of them. I know they turned out as good as they did because of the father he was. A few weeks later we received a crushing blow when we found out we lost the baby. Who was one of the people that were a huge support for us and was? You guessed it, Santos Ellin Jr. I will never forget that.
Aside from the heaviness that life sometimes brings our way, we would do our fair share of trash talking. Santos as a NY Mets and NY Giants fan and me as a Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles fan. I said to Mary last night after the Eagles beat the Giants that right about now Santos and I would be bantering back and forth.
I knew Santos was up all hours of the day and night so we would always chat about films, sports, and life in general. Many of late laundry nights we would be chatting or playing Trivia crack; Santo was the only person with a winning record against me.
Santos and “the boy” as he referred to his son came down to Monstermania in Cherry Hill, NJ to meet Mary and me last year. Anyone who knows Santos knows about his affinity for t-shirts; of course, a lot of our time was spent in the vendor rooms checking out the latest in horror tees. We then adjourned to a local Italian restaurant for dinner for which Santos picked up the check, to be fair he did lose a bet to me. About a year later, last month to be precise, Gruesome Magazine had a booth at Monstermania. It was Doc, Christopher G. Moore, Santos and myself manning the booth and having a blast just enjoying each others company. The Friday night of the con Mary’s mom passed away. She decided that it was better to be around people and came over to the con. Santos walked up to her and just gave her such a loving embrace and spoke kind, reassuring words to her. Being the gentleman he was he then proceeded to go get her tissues. That evening after the con we all went to the restaurant of the hotel we were staying in and shared food, drinks, and laughs. We’re talking laughs that make your stomach hurt. There was a blues band playing and this was after the whole “dropping of the mustard” so we cobbled together words to go along with the music and entitled the song “The Manitou Blues”. One line I specifically remember was “Man I dropped the mustard, but I still got that Manitou”. Santos even through a line or two in and I will tell you, he was definitely smiling and laughing along with us. I am so thankful for those few days because that is the last time I will ever get to see this man who I will forever refer to as my big brother.
On Friday, September 23rd I saw a post from Doc on Facebook that made me wonder if something happened. I messaged Doc and asked him if everything was ok. Doc told me not really and that he would talk to me in a bit. I messaged Santos to see how he was feeling; no answer. During the early evening, I was on my way to the NJ Horror Con when at 5:58 pm II received a message that would suck the air out of my lungs and immediately bring tears to my eyes. I had to pull over and remember to tell myself to breathe. I immediately called Mary who was at home and we both cried wordlessly together as I sat on the side of the road. My big brother had moved on from this world.
Santos Ellin Jr. “The Black Saint” means so much to so many people. He never looked at himself as more than someone who loved horror films and got to talk about it with friends. But Santos, you were a great husband, father, mentor, critic friend, and brother. You were truly a blessing to us and you will NEVER be forgotten. Your family is in my prayers. Every time Mary and I sit together to watch the Manitou we will do it with love in our hearts and tears in our eyes. I love you big brother.