Archive for January 31, 2006

Bill Sherman on Masters of Horror

January 31, 2006

Showtime’s much-discussed horror anthology series Masters of Horror has wrapped up for the season, and Pop Culture Gadabout (and ADDTF co-blogfather) Bill Sherman has posted capsule reviews of every episode. If you’ve been following the series, you’re heartily advised to click on over and get Bill’s always astute take on the films and their makers; me, I’ll use it as a viewer’s guide for when I finally get around to watching the damn things…

Now as far as I’m concerned

January 30, 2006

This is how you do a horror movie trailer.

Yes, The Omen: 666 is just the latest in a string of largely superfluous remakes of ’70s horror hits. And yes, I thought the first one was a strong idea and a smattering of strong images (the fate of the nanny, the baboons, “his mother was a j–“) grafted into a go-nowhere sequel-primed non-thriller. But with its ostentatious quietness, I guarantee you the trailer for this remake will turn some heads, even if the movie ultimately doesn’t. It’s the smartest horror/thriller trailer I’ve seen since the teaser for Red Eye, from back before they decided it’d be a great idea to reveal that SHE GETS OFF THE GODDAMN PLANE ALIVE in the subsequent trailers. Ooooh, how suspenseful! Ahem. Anyways, enjoy.

(Link courtesy of Bloody Disgusting.)

Carnival of souls

January 29, 2006

It’s still so amazing to me just how many horror blogs there are out there, considering how few of them even a dedicated genre fan like myself has actually heard of. For example, how the hell did I never come across Zombie A-Go-Go before? This almost comically comprehensive blog covers all things zombie, from the latest big-budget outings to obscure indie films to books, actors, directors, the works. Essential reading if you’re, well, like me.

Speaking of zombies, I haven’t read anything Stephen King’s written more recently than the expanded edition of The Stand (1990!)–not for any particular reason, mind you, other than casual disinterest, I suppose?–but that seems likely to change now that I’ve finally gotten wind of what his new book, Cell, is about: Zombies! Technically, of course, they’re not zombies; they’re of the non-dead 28 Days Later/The Crazies variety. But I’m not one of those people who thinks that’s a distinction with a difference, let alone a difference that makes the latter self-evidently inferior to the former. And despite the goofball sci-fi premise–cellphones make you EVIL!–it sounds like lurid good fun. King’s quite good at survival horror–“The Mist,” “Trucks,” The Stand–so “King does zombies” is right down my alley. If anyone out there has read the book and has any thoughts, my email link’s to the left…

Getting away from zombies for a moment (everyone’s goal, when you think about it), Ian Brill emailed this link to some unreleased demos by the greatest hip-hop act of all time, the Wu Tang Clan, as well as its offshoot Gravediggaz. There’s simply never been as fascinating an act of world-building in popular music as the mythos of Five Percent Nation teachings, Eastern philosophy, Marvel Comics references, Scarface-style self-mythologizing, chop-socky movie quotes, eerie jazz and soul samples, fascinating street-life vignettes, and dizzyingly funny wordplay created by Wu mastermind the RZA and his nine or so compatriots. Fans of horror in music are well advised to check out the supremely atmospheric efforts of the group and its some of its members’ early solo projects, in particular the Clan’s Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), Genius/GZA’s Liquid Swords, the Method Man’s Tical (recorded before Meth’s goofball side took over), and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s shockingly coherent and edgy Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version . Wu spinoff Gravediggaz in particular is of interest to genre fans: Part of a shortlived but exciting and hilarious hip-hop sub-sub-genre called horrorcore, the group’s first album 6 Feet Deep–produced mostly by De La Soul collaborator Prince Paul, it was originally called Nigga Mortis, which gives you some indication of the gallows humor it traded in–added a slasher/Hammer/Troma spin to surprisingly funky and buoyant songs of drug abuse, suicide, and murder. Highly, highly recommended.

Finally, Slate’s Bryan Curtis runs down the horrors of the art-house movie theatre, which I thought was interesting for several reasons:

1) Curtis has been reluctantly hounded into art-houses because he finds multiplexes even more unbearable. Am I the only person who loves them? The plush seats, the stadium seating, the cup holders, the enormous screens–I remember when all movie theatres were crappy holes in the wall, and it’s not something I want to go back to. Yes, you have to put up with teenagers and cell phones and blah blah blah–isn’t it worth it?*

2) I am probably the kind of obnoxious, conspicuous eater that Curtis is railing against. Last time I went to see an art-house movie in a non-multiplex–A History of Violence at the Village East–I brought and ate a tuna fish sandwich.

3) In passing, he raises an issue that has been at the forefront of my horror-watching mind in the wake of movies like Hostel, Wolf Creek, Chaos, the Saw pictures and the more extreme exponents of the Asian-horror wave:

Extreme violence…will be applauded as an artful commentary on contemporary society. “I remember watching Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” says [New York film programmer Grady] Hendrix, “which is one of the most uncomfortable and unpleasant movies to sit through. And people were laughing! A woman is being electrocuted to death and urinating on herself while she dies, and they’re tittering like it’s an Oscar Wilde play!”

At what point does violence for violence’s sake cease to be a form of spectacle that reveals occulted meaning and become a sort of pornographic brutalization of the audience? Just a thought.

* I don’t mind art-house movie theatres either, now that I think about it. Still, read the piece, you’ll laugh.

Carnival of souls: Mostly a Giant Octopus Edition

January 28, 2006


Well, sorta. It was a relatively big octopus, sure, but mostly compared to the little minisub that it attacked, so we’re not exactly talking a kraken here. Still, reading this story sure as hell made my sea-monster-lovin’ morning. (Link courtesy of Glenn Reynolds.)

Next and last for now, the company behind the zombie role-playing game All Flesh Must Be Eaten is developing a science-fiction extension of the game bearing the awesome, awesome title of All Tomorrow’s Zombies. My only question: Will it come with a CD by the Velvet (No Longer Six Feet) Underground?


January 27, 2006

My lovely wife sent me a link to this proto-music video for David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” I’m assuming it’s from the short promotional film Bowie and his team cooked up in 1969, Love You Till Tuesday. It’s quite an artifact to look at, and what’s more it features an alternate version of the song that I’d never heard before. Go take a look at glam lifting itself up by the seat of its pants.

Ken Lowery on Mach Point and Crimes & Misdemeanors

January 26, 2006

Ken Lowery of Ringwood noticed, like I did, how surprisingly little people have made of the connection between Match Point and Crimes & Misdemeanors given how direct that connection is. So he’s done the work himself. I may offer an opinion on his verdict sometime soon, but for now, go and read.

Jog on the joys of mom-and-pop video shop horror sections

January 25, 2006

On the off chance that you’re not familiar with him already, Jog of the aptly named Jog the Blog is one of the two best comics bloggers on the Internet. But it’s always fun to read him on other topics as well, and today he’s posted on something close to my heart: that splendidly lurid and increasingly scarce phenomenon known as the horror-video section in a mom-and-pop video rental outlet. You might recall that I mentioned my retroactive fondness for the spectacularly grotesque VHS boxes and posters of those bygone moneymakers recently, so I was thrilled to read Jog’s story of what amounted to walking through a time warp into 1988. I think you will too.

Hipsters on the Darkness: A tale of two critics

January 24, 2006

Because you don’t have to be a New York Times reporter or a junkie memoirist to just make things up because they sound good.

Josh Love, Stylus Magazine, review of One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back by the Darkness, 01.20.2006 (Grade: B):

The antipathy directed towards the Darkness since their wildly unexpected 2003 breakthrough has been well-documented…what

Carnival of souls: Special “Horror in Unlikely Places” as ripped off from Dark But Shining edition

January 24, 2006

Okay, so I’m takin’ a page from the Dark But Shining crew’s “Horror in Unlikely Places” series, but if it works, it works!

First, scariest cold-remedy commercial EVER: Finally,’s Ad Report Card columnist Seth Stevenson tackles one of the creepiest commercials I’ve seen in a long time, Theraflu Thin Strips’ monster ad. If you haven’t seen it, it involves a city bus being boarded by what could well be a Mordor orc or an interstitial prosthetic from that scene in Willow where Bavmorda turns all the good guys into pigs. How creepy is it? Creepy enough that I’ve actually stopped fast-forwarding my TiVo to watch it, that’s how creepy.

It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to mention the video for the Chemical Brother’s song “Believe,” off their album Push the Button. It’s a harrowing little clip in which a man finds himself pursued by sentient, ravaging industrial machinery. Directed by Dom and Nick, it might not be the most original idea in the world–replace the machinery with guys in suits and you’ve got the (awesome) video for Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” pretty much–but it’s a compelling piece nonetheless, especially in the way it cleverly links robotic movements with reptilian ones. (You’ll think of your favorite Jurassic Park/King Kong scenes more than once, I assure you.) And naturally, any video that features giant robotic arms running around a city trying to kill somebody is well into “monumental horror-image” territory (even if in this case they’re more concerned with visceral, movement-based thrills than with stationary boundary-breaking).

Speaking of King Kong (and of, Hollywood Economist Edward Jay Epstein analyzes just how much Peter Jackson was actually paid by Universal for directing the big ape’s remake. Long story short: Comparatively little, given that the much-ballyhooed $20 million figure also included the producing and screenwriting costs for the film, and that his native New Zealand subsidizes studio movie ventures such as this up to the tune of $20 million anyway. [editorial comment]But who cares–Peter Jackson is a bargain at any price![/editorial comment]

Desperate Housewives: Superhero comics with trash instead of superheroes?

January 22, 2006

As I was fast-forwarding through the commercials on a TiVo’d episode of Judge Judy just now, I saw a clip from Desperate Housewives in an ad for Extra that got me thinking. It seems to me that if you’re not a Moore or Morrison in terms of ambition, the key to making a just-plain-entertaining superhero comic is to think “wouldn’t it be cool if…?”, then do those things. It helps to think back to what you thought would be cool when you were eight years old: “Wouldn’t it be cool if Spider-Man and Wolverine were on the same team?” “Wouldn’t it be cool if Magneto fought Iron Man?” “Wouldn’t it be cool if all the villains joined forces?” That sort of thing.

Well, the Desperate Housewives clip I saw, in which Eva Longoria got in a catfight with a nun, led me to believe that the show’s writers are doing the exact same thing, only with trash tropes instead of superhero tropes. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a catfight with a nun?” Am I right?

A few thoughts, reproduced from a post on a Tori Amos messageboard and probably spoilery for both Match Point and Crimes & Misdemeanors, about Woody Allen’s Match Point

January 21, 2006

I just saw it today.

Wow! An extraordinary film.

I’m surprised that so few of my friends who are fans of the Woodman have compared it to Crimes and Misdemeanors–this was basically a remake of that movie, but with a much better looking pair of adulterers and the funny second storyline with Woody Allen and Alan Alda removed.

So I guess I should have seen everything coming–hell, I recently read an interview in which Woody lamented putting the funny subplot he starred in into C&M, so once I saw what the subject of this movie was I should have put two and two together and guessed where it was going to end up. But man, the second I realized what Chris was going to do, I was STUNNED! My heart pounded for the duration of the film. That entire final third of the film was exquisitely paced and acted, enough to distinguish it from Crimes no matter how similar they were. (Chris’s speech to the “ghosts” was at one point almost word for word the same speech Martin Landau gave to Woody Allen at the end of C&M).

It was also a very subtle film in a lot of ways. The expensive washer and dryer that show up for a half-second shot in Chris’s shitty apartment, obviously bought and paid for by his future in-laws…the fact that almost everyone is always drinking, but it’s really only the lower-class Nola and her mother who are ever seen as being worse people for it…Chris alternating between reading Dostoevsky and reading a book on how to read Dostoevsky…I was really impressed with the way we WEREN’T beaten over the head with certain points, considering how potentially heavy-handed the themes being explored here could have been. Even the most capital-S Serious part, the dream sequence with its references to Sophocles and feel of something out of a Shakespearean tragedy, worked beautifully–it was shot so well and performed so chillingly. The notion that we can commit acts that can never be forgiven, made up for, undone–the notion that we might have to live with something like that for the rest of our lives–that is so frightening to me. There’s nothing MORE frightening to me than that. That’s why I liked Crimes & Misdemeanors so much, and that’s why I liked this so much as well.

I also want to point out that in many ways it was paced like a graphic novel. Generally when people compare films to graphic novels, they’re using the latter as a synonym for anything from stylized visuals to graphic violence to male-audience targeting to god knows what else, usually stuff they don’t like, which just kind of goes to show how few people (and I implicate fans, critics, and filmmakers equally in this) understand what graphic novels are or can be. But the way (particularly early on) Woody would quietly but rapidly edit together several discrete, short scenes through jump cuts, quickly painting a complete portrait of Chris’s life–it was like something out of Dan Clowes or Gilbert Hernandez or middle-period Chester Brown. It was so smart and elegant, without being showy or demonstrative.

And I couldn’t be happier that Jonathan Rhys Meyers, so compelling in my beloved Velvet Goldmine, is finding work, especially work of this caliber. I hope he becomes a big movie star. He’s got a face that can more than support this film’s and any film’s long, tight close-ups–it’s as though everything’s going on just below the surface, and as though he can get away with it because the surface is so lovely. And Scarlett Johansson was very good, too; “What I am is sexy,” as opposed to beautiful, was the perfect way to encapsulate both what was appealing about her character and what was ultimately off-putting about her. Nola was a fascinating failure, and the fact that people can be failures is horrifying to Chris and to us. Even scarier is that people can be failures, moral failures, and still succeed.

And how the hell did I forget to mention this?

January 20, 2006

Top Shelf Productions, publisher of such very very good comics creators as Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, and Jeffrey Brown, has put the comic I did with Matt Wiegle, “Destructor Comes to Croc Town,” on their website. It’s all kinds of user-friendly to view and it’s amongst a bunch of good comics by other folks, like Glenn Dakin, Farel Dalrymple, and Dave Kiersh. Check it out!

ADeadTree Too Flat

January 20, 2006

Just postin’ to let you magazine readers know that I’ve got a reviews Rick Geary’s A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Murder of Abraham Lincoln and Nikolai Maslov’s Siberia in the new issue of Giant Magazine (the one with Kate Beckinsale on the cover), on sale now. You can see the Siberia write-up here, but I really recommend you subscribe to the damn thing, and not just because I write for it–for my money it’s the most readable, most enjoyable entertainment mag on the stands. I mean, this one contains a lengthy rumination on the Smiths (not my cup o’ meat necessarily, but hey) and, for no real reason, a list of quotes from Anchorman. This is the magazine you always wanted to be reading.

Yes, questions, questions, questions, flooding into the mind of the concerned young person today

January 13, 2006

Joakim at Mexploitation asks the whole horror blogosphere, “What made you get into horror?”

My answer? Nothing.

Seriously! I don’t ever recall some light switching on in my head that made me think “ah, this horror stuff, I love it, more more more!” The closest thing I can think of is the time I saw my first “real” (read: rated R, non-classic, non-Kubrick, gory) horror movie, Nightbreed, but it still wasn’t one of those “and then I rented my way through the Blockbuster horror section, because I couldn’t get enough” kinda deals. It was just something I came to enjoy and still do.

This after one of the least horror-influenced childhoods imaginable. While I loved Godzilla, King Kong, and the Universal monsters, I was scared to death of modern horror films. I’m not one of those kid who was watching A Nightmare on Elm Street in third grade, no sir. Man, the mixed revulsion, fascination, and fear I felt toward the hideous faces leering off the boxes in the horror section of Video Quest, the local rental shop! My terrified reaction to “Thriller” happened pretty early on, but I pretended to be asleep so I wouldn’t have to watch Poltergeist III at a sleepover as late as sixth or seventh grade, if I recall. But eventually I started reading Stephen King, which softened me up; my first rated-R movie was The Lost Boys; and by high school I’d developed the love of Kubrick’s The Shining that most hip high-schoolers do. But like I said, no watershed moment.

And while I’m answering Joakim’s questions, why not tackle the meme he’s thrown my way?

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:

Hmmmm…it’s got to be watching Star Wars (taped off of CBS, with the commercials paused out by my dad) in the basement of the first house I lived in.

TWO (2) favourite lines from movies:

Jeez, I guess I don’t think of films in terms of favorite lines (this despite quoting movies morning noon and night) because this is a hard one for me. How about “This cheese is disgusting–get it away from me!” from Flirting with Disaster and “Look what your brother did to the door!” from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

THREE (3) jobs you

I like sea monsters, but air monsters are pretty freaking cool too

January 12, 2006

Fans of the thunderbird ought to appreciate this story: The AP reports that early man was hunted by large predatory birds.

To add a level of horror-geek goodness, the MSNBC link title that originally caught my eye read “Hitchcock was right!

Still around

January 7, 2006

Now her paints are dry

And I looked outside

At the corner boys

Ayh, oh, where did you go?

I don’t know

I went to see your pictures

I spread them across the floor

So this is where they are shown

Now they’re probably saying to you,

“If you keep it up you’ll be born”

But you won’t ever listen,

I’ll bet

Burnt out, grass

Scorched by the sun

The buildings remain

We will beat them all to dust,

I’ll bet

Pulled from a headless shell

That blinked on and off, “Hotel”

Now the nameless dwell

They hold your key and turn your knob,

I’ll bet

Will you say hello to my ma?

Will you pay a visit to her?

She was an artist, just as you were

I’d have introduced you to her

She would take me out on Sundays

We’d go laughing through the garbage

She repaired legs like a doctor

On the kitchen chairs we sat on

She was unhappy, just as you were

Unhappy, just as you were

Unhappy, just as you were

Unhappy, just as you were

–“Then She Did…”, Jane’s Addiction