Carnival of souls

* While I enjoyed shopping at his enormous, perennial San Diego Comic Con booth as much as anyone, I never met nor knew much about late comics retailer Rory Root. Tom Spurgeon’s thoughtful obituary (accompanied by testimonials and remembrances from several industry figures) gave me a much clearer picture of what made Root a likable, interesting, and important figure.

* Here’s your first look at Viggo Mortensen in the upcoming Oscar-bait film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road (via Shock Till You Drop:


* Here’s another red-band trailer for The Happening. Visual spoiler warning duly noted. (Again via STYD.)

* It’s a big day for remakes of ’80s sci-fi/fantasy cult classics with kick-ass Queen theme songs, as the Hollywood Reporter, uh, reports that remakes are afoot for both Flash Gordon and Highlander–the latter from the writers of Iron Man.

* B-Sol at The Vault of Horror draws our attention to a casting call for The King’s Stilettos, a making-of docudrama about The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Neat! Here’s their website.

* Now here’s an odd one: Guest posting at Carnacki’s The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire, Arbogast of Arbogast on Film offers an interpretation of Wes Craven’s ultraviolent Virgin Spring riff The Last House on the Left as a modern-day blood libel, pointing out how various elements of the film can be seen as (probably unintentional) echoes of anti-Semitic propaganda. Really fascinating stuff.

* And speaking of both Carnacki and Arbogast, as well as many more of your favorite horror bloggers, I’ve been inducted into the League of Tana Tea Drinkers, an elite cadre of horror-blogging types. I’ve celebrated by perusing their recent roundtable of mini-essays on torture porn, which contains viewpoints both pro and con–and both insightful and retrograde (on both sides!). For example, I was sort of shocked by T Van’s dismissal of the use of torture on Battlestar Galactica as “ridiculous” simply because some of the characters are involved are “fucking robots”–this, of course, pretty much invalidates any fantastical genre as a legitimate mode of discussing important ideas. On the other hand, while I still disagree with Curt Purcell’s assertion that fear is overvalued as a criterion for horror, I find his theory fascinating and well constructed. And then there’s a lot of longing for the good old days of more wholesome fare like the Friday the 13th movies, which seems a bit like grown-ups complaining about those crazy kids and their rock and roll to me. A few writers make the connection between torture-porn horror and torture in non-horror films–including whoever wrote the introduction, which insightfully mentioned the likes of Irreversible, The Passion of the Christ, and BSG–but few of them have seen enough of the current torture-porn wave to feel confident enough to tease that connection into a thesis of any kind.

As I’ve discussed before, I think torture porn is a perfectly fine phrase that horror fans are using almost exclusively pejoratively, in ways they didn’t do with other seemingly dismissive terms like “grindhouse,” “exploitation,” or “slasher.” So that’s problem one: these discussions lump the “good” torture porn movies (Hostel, Wolf Creek) in with the bad (Hostel Part II, the Saw sequels). Problem two is this weirdly reactionary response to torture in horror, dismissing its appreciative viewers as mindless gorehounds in ways that these critics would not tolerate for other more “traditionally” gory horror movies, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that torture porn is at least as connected to Deliverance and the climax of Nineteen Eighty-Four as it is to Halloween, at least if it’s done right.

Anyway, enough rambling from me.

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