Posts Tagged ‘horror’

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episodes One and Two

May 22, 2017

It’s the first time we’ve see the Twin Peaks logo and heard the opening notes of Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable theme song in 25 years. When it happens, we’re looking right at the face of Laura Palmer. Director David Lynch and his co-creator and co-writer Mark Frost could have chosen pretty much any image to pair with the kick-off of the show’s almost manically anticipated return. But after a cold-open flashback that recycled footage from the original series – the sequence from the series finale in which she informs Agent Dale Cooper that she’ll see him again “in 25 years” – it’s the high-school girl whose horrific murder set the whole story in motion to whom they give the honor.

Whether in its two seasons on TV in the early 1990s or in the 1992 prequel film Fire Walk With Me, Twin Peaks has always placed Laura front and center, treating her not as a fetish object or an excuse for male characters to sleuth and mourn, but as a person deserving of our empathy and respect. All these years later, that has not changed.

Much else about the show, however, has changed. The rest of the opening credit sequence traces the progress of roaring water as it cascades down the falls, and then shows the black-and-white zig-zag floor and billowing red curtains of the Black Lodge, the nightmarish source of the story’s supernatural evil. That’s the other half of the equation for Showtime’s new Twin Peaks season, which bears the subtitle “The Return”:  a plunge into magic and madness.

Words I never thought I’d type: I reviewed the season premiere of Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

‘Twin Peaks’: Your A to Z Guide

May 17, 2017

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

A: Angelo Badalamenti
“Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.”
That music – as indispensable to to the series as Dale Cooper or donuts and coffee – is the work of Lynch’s longtime musical collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, whose suite of lush leitmotifs made the show sound like a world all its own. Twin Peaks without the composer’s sumptuous synths is like Psycho without Bernard Herrman’s screeching strings, or Jaws without John Williams’s menacing “dun-DUN-dun-DUNs.” This clip of the composer explaining how he and Lynch came up with “Laura Palmer’s Theme” shows how much heart and soul he poured into every note.

B: Bob
Lynch was filming a scene for the pilot in which the late Laura Palmer’s mother sits bolt upright and screams. Then he noticed a face in the mirror behind her – the same face he himself saw when its owner, an actor turned set dresser named Frank Silva, crouched behind Laura’s bed to dodge the camera for a different shot. From this sinister coincidence was born Bob, the demonic rapist and murder from the otherworldly Black Lodge who began the series by killing Laura Palmer and ended it by possessing Agent Dale Cooper. Thanks to his malevolent presence, no show has ever been scarier.

I wrote about the many-faceted magic of Twin Peaks, from Angelo Badalamenti to Grace Zabriskie, for Rolling Stone.

The 20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies

May 17, 2017

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 

Demme’s ticket to horror-movie immortality, and a well-deserved one at that. This iconic thriller about an FBI agent (Jodie Foster, never better) using a serial killer to catch a serial killer made a superstar out of Anthony Hopkins; compare the actor’s work here to his subsequent turns as the charismatic, cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter and you can see the director’s sense of less-is-more restraint paying dividends. The film also broke a bloody glass ceiling at the Oscars, too, becoming the only horror movie to date to win Best Picture. But it’s the thoughtful way in which Demme shot the world that our heroine Clarice Starling has to navigate – so many male faces, looming huge in the frame and staring right into her (and our) eyes – that remains Silence’s most pointed commentary on predators and patriarchy. STC

I forgot to link to this when it went up, but Rolling Stone put together a lovely tribute to the work of the late director Jonathan Demme, and I was honored to contribute a few words on The Silence of the Lambs, a great film.

“American Gods” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two: “The Secret of Spoons”

May 8, 2017

They’re gettin’ the pantheon back together, man! “The Secret of Spoons,” American Gods second episode, is where the show truly begins living up to its title, as Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon meet a series of deities from around the world, up to and including an idol of the silver screen itself. But the residual thrill you get from watching the show do its version of a movie trope as familiar and beloved “the team comes together” is where this episode’s pleasures begin and end. Alternately corny and cringeworthy, it otherwise leads you to suspect that American Gods is material tailor made to bring out the worst in Bryan Fuller. It reduces his visual spectacle to mere excess and flattens his writing from operatic to dime-store paperback.

I reviewed this week’s episode of American Gods for Decider.

“American Gods” thoughts, Season One, Episode One: “The Bone Orchard”

May 4, 2017

Will you believe in American Gods? There are two ways to uncover the answer, and fortunately neither involves accepting any deity as your personal lord and savior. The first hinges on how you felt about Hannibal, AG co-creator Bryan Fuller’s spectacularly disgusting, confrontationally beautiful (or is that the other way around?) adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels. The slow-motion gouts of computer-enhanced arterial spray, the gardens of the dead, the highly symbolic horned-animal imagery — it’s all here, as spectacular as ever under frequent Fuller collaborator David Slade’s sure directorial hand. (Even if Hannibal composer Brian Reitzell’s score works way too hard to sell it to you.)

The second hinges on whether you can stomach characters called Shadow Moon and Mad Sweeney fighting for the pleasure of Mr. Wednesday in a show called American Gods. For fans of Neil Gaiman, the comics writer and novelist from whose book Fuller and co-creator Michael Green adapted the show, this is the sort of modern-fairy-tale whimsy that makes him such a beloved and influential figure. (His work has inspired some comics writers’ entire careers. Hell, it’s inspired some comics publishers’ entire careers.) But if you’re allergic to Gaiman’s “it’s the Magic of Storytelling” schtick, or to the urban-fantasy vibe that this show shares with series like Preacher and True Blood (themselves based on books that are hard to imagine existing without Gaiman), you may be out of luck.

Looks like I’m covering American Gods after all! I reviewed the series premiere, which as you can see above shook out how you might have thought it would for me, for Decider.

FLASH FORWARD

April 10, 2017

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FLASH FORWARD by me and Jonny Negron. Final 10 copies. $8. First come first served. Click here and note your mailing address.

STC & MMII @ MoCCA

April 1, 2017

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Some pics from Day One of MoCCA Fest 2017 in New York, where me and the MIRROR MIRROR II crew (that’s Laura Lannes, Lala Albert, Julia Gfrörer, and me in the middle picture) sold and signed the book. I had to leave early due to illness but I hope to be back tomorrow and I hope to see you there if i am! Either way, the kickstarter for MMII and the rest of our publisher 2dcloud’s spring lineup is entering its final hours. Now’s your chance to snap up the whole line for a pittance, but whether or not you order the books, of course every bit donated helps!

Our Kickstarter is fully funded!

March 30, 2017

cover by Julia Gfrörer

Thanks to everyone who pitched in or spread the word. It means so much to us! Now our beautiful book just needs to find its way into your hands. Order today!

Bad at Sports Sunday Comics with Julia Gfrörer

March 30, 2017

Max Morris: Your most recent project is co-editing Mirror Mirror II with Sean T. Collins, which is set to be released by 2D Cloud for their Spring 2017 collection. To my knowledge, this is the first anthology of comics work you’ve edited, but please let me know if I am incorrect. How was your experience of putting this book together?

Julia Gfrörer: It certainly deepened my empathy for people who regularly curate anthologies—it’s a lot of work, like herding cats. But it was also really a pleasure to work on, and gave me and Sean an opportunity to hone our vision of what matters most to us in art, writing, and comics. We’re honored to be able to work with so many incredible artists, many of whom are already well-known but have very different audiences, and get new eyes on their work.

Julia spoke to Max Morris at Bad at Sports about Mirror Mirror II, which you can purchase via our Kickstarter.

Interview: Sean T. Collins

March 30, 2017

First off: wow! I haven’t had a book challenge me this much in a long time, in the sense that it tapped into some deep desires that I most often prefer to keep in the back rather than the forefront of my mind. Is this an effect that you were hoping to have on your readers?

Since I take that all as very high praise indeed, I suppose the answer is yes, it’s exactly the effect we were hoping to have. Julia and I share a lot of things—in addition to co-editing Mirror Mirror II, we live together and have a family as well—and one of them is the belief that when done right, dark and difficult work can push the reader in the direction of empathy. And our conviction is that it’s precisely by forcing the reader—and the artist, too—to confront parts of both the world and their own minds that they’d perhaps otherwise ignore or prefer to remain hidden that this kind of work makes real empathy possible. Instead of coming away reassured that you and the artist are in a sort of Good People Club where you agree that Behavior A is bad and Behavior B is good and aren’t we all enlightened to think so… I dunno, you can coast on that kind of work, you know what I mean? It lets you off the hook—again, meaning both the creator and the audience here. So in that sense we hope that the comics and art in Mirror Mirror II keep you on that hook, and I’m glad to hear it seems to have turned out that way for you.

I talked to Sarah Miller at Sequentialist about Mirror Mirror II, which you can order via our Kickstarter.

Interview: Sean T. Collins Talks Mirror Mirror II, 2D Cloud and their Kickstarter

March 30, 2017

Rob: There are so many awesome horror comics. It’s one of my favorite genres, too. What makes comics such a great art form for horror?

Sean:  That’s a tough question for me, because a lot of what people think of when they think of “horror comics” don’t move or frighten me at all. Mirror Mirror II is basically a who’s who of the artists who have scared us–Al Columbia, Uno Moralez, Renee French, Josh Simmons, and Julia too. Have you ever watched a horror movie, gotten to a really intensely scary part, and then been unable to resist rewinding and watching again? I definitely have, and I think the best horror comics make that compulsive instinct to face what frightens and disgusts us easy to give in to. You control the speed at which you pass through the images, so when something really sinks its claws into you, it’s entirely up to you how fast you pull those claws back out by turning the page.

I spoke to Rob McGonigal at Panel Patter about Mirror Mirror II, the horror comics and art anthology I co-edited with Julia Gfrörer. The kickstarter where you can order the book is right here.

They Are ‘Legion’: Tracking the Superhero Show’s Key Horror References

March 30, 2017

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While Lynch gets the “Legion”-related headlines, another director named David seems to have left an even deeper mark. That would be David Cronenberg, who made a name for himself with a series of body-horror films that depicted the disturbing interplay between mind and matter, often with a conspiratorial backdrop of sinister secret agencies or killer corporations out to harness psychic power for their own ends.

“Legion” paints in shades of Cronenberg’s “Videodrome,” with its pulsating inanimate objects; “Shivers,” with its parasite imagery; “The Brood,” with its story of a powerful telepath under the care of a manipulative therapist (played by Oliver Reed, who may have lent both his name and his machismo to the guru figure Oliver Bird); and most especially “Scanners,” with its all-out war between rival psychic factions and a protagonist who’s telepathically tormented by the voices in his head. (“Scanners” also features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance from a very familiar-looking deep sea diver suit).

I wrote about David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and Legion’s other major horror influences for the New York Times. I have my beefs with Legion, but it’s porting its horror references into a whole different genre, as opposed to Stranger Things, which is just reheating them in the microwave and trying to pass of leftovers as a fresh-cooked dish.

Julia Gfrörer items for sale

March 24, 2017

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My partner Julia Gfrörer has really opened the floodgates for amazing things to purchase this week. In addition to the MIRROR MIRROR II kickstarter, she’s selling a host of t-shirt designs through her newly opened Threadless shop, including the coveted MISANDRY shirt (now available in black, white, or pink!). She’s entered a contest at Threadless for her leggings design, TEN OF SWORDS, as well, so please go vote for her. Finally, she’s selling the original art for her MMII contribution, her illustrations of medieval French heraldic devices by Claude Paradin, at her Etsy store. These things are unspeakably gorgeous up close, and it’s rare for Julia to part with this much original art all at once, so take advantage!

And please, if you haven’t done so already, consider ordering MIRROR MIRROR II through our kickstarter, or simply donating to it, and spreading the word far and wide across social media or to your friends. We’re about 65% of the way through with 9 days remaining, and we need your support. Just look at those beautiful books up there!

Process Party Episode 24: Julia Gfrörer & Sean T. Collins

March 20, 2017

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Julia Gfrörer, my partner and co-editor on the MIRROR MIRROR II anthology coming soon from 2dcloud, are the guests on this week’s episode of the Process Party podcast! Cartoonists and co-hosts Mike Dawson and Zack Soto go deep with us on the making of the book and our own contributions to it. At one point it gets really real out of nowhere! Please listen!

Meanwhile, with 12 days to go, the kickstarter for MIRROR MIRROR II and the rest of 2dcloud’s Spring 2017 collection is hovering at about the 45% mark. Please consider placing an order or making a donation. I’m proud of this book and I believe that if you enjoy what I do here, you’ll enjoy the book as well.

MIRROR MIRROR II/2dcloud Spring Collection 2017

March 5, 2017

2dcloud—the publisher of MIRROR MIRROR II, the gothic comics anthology edited by me & Julia Gfrörer—has launched the kickstarter for its spring collection, in which our book is featured. For just ten bucks over the MMII cover price you can get every single book in the lineup. And as I’ve said a million times, our book is exactly what we wanted it to be when we jotted names down on a napkin in the bar across the street a year ago. I couldn’t be prouder of it, or to be a part of 2dcloud. Please consider ordering or donating at the link.

As a reminder, here’s what our book is:

Mirror Mirror II

 

edited by Sean T. Collins & Julia Gfrörer

Lala Albert — Clive Barker — Heather Benjamin — Apolo Cacho — Sean Christensen — Nicole Claveloux — Sean T. Collins — Al Columbia — Dame Darcy — Noel Freibert — Renee French — Meaghan Garvey — Julia Gfrörer — Simon Hanselmann — Aidan Koch — Laura Lannes — Céline Loup — Uno Moralez — Mou — Jonny Negron — Claude Paradin — Chloe Piene — Josh Simmons — Carol Swain — Trungles

6 x 9″
240pp
pantone black offset
flexibound
black fore edge printing
MSRP 39.95$

A thought-provoking, richly entertaining collection from some of the most exciting comic artists working today. A must read for fans of the horrific and perverse. —Bryan Cogman, coexecutive producer/writer, Game of Thrones

An impressive collection of beautiful depictions of grotesque things and grotesque depictions of beautiful things. —Alan Resnick, writer director, Adult Swim’s Unedited Footage of a Bear and This House Has People in It

Mirror Mirror II invites the most innovative creators working in the form today and proves just how expansive the pornographic and gothic can be, encapsulating the pop cultural, fantastical, and realistic in one fell swoop. —Rachel Davies, Rookie Magazine

Editors Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer have assembled an exquisitely creepy and seductive new collection of comics with Mirror Mirror II. From Uno Moralez’s pixilated noirs to Dame Darcy’s ornate Gothic ghost stories, the wide range of horror here is fantastic, as characters creep and fuck in the shadows of unimaginable darkness throughout. It’s certainly the perfect, freaky anthology for you, your lover, and all the demons in your mind. —Hazel Cills, MTV News

This Valentine’s Day, Watch ‘The Love Witch’

February 14, 2017

But the most romantic thing about The Love Witch is the existence of the film itself. To call a work of art “a labor of love” is to imply a sort of jejune passion, an amateur’s enthusiasm, but nothing could be further from the case here. Taking the concept of the auteur to a whole new level, Anna Biller not only wrote, edited, scored, produced, and directed this movie — she also served as the production designer, the set decorator, the art director, and the costume designer. She personally built, knit, sewed, collected, or otherwise provided many of the film’s key props, from the witches’ altar to the characters’ jewelry to a rug that took her months to make. If the lengthy and thoughtful essays and interviews on her blog are any indication, she also served as the movie’s on-set philosopher. Short of starring in the movie herself, there’s no way The Love Witch could be more Anna Biller’s vision.

The result is unmistakably familiar. To watch The Love Witch is to enter the headspace and heartspace of another human being as surely as falling in love.

This becomes crystal clear barely five minutes into the film. After an opening driving sequence that’s a loving homage to similar scenes in Hitchock’s Psycho and The Birds, we enter the Billerverse in earnest — a world where every detail is deliberate and delightful. Tucking her cherry-red cigarette case into her cherry-red purse, Elaine emerges from her cherry-red car in her cherry-red dress, then takes her cherry-red suitcase out of the cherry-red trunk to enter an apartment full of occult artwork so colorful it’d make a Crayola 64-pack blush. Next, we’re off to a sumptuously appointed tea room in which every one of the all-female clientele is clad in cotton-candy pink; the matching floral-patterned tea set, hand selected by Biller herself, looks like something made of marzipan in the sugar-spun home of a fairy-tale cannibal witch.

By the time I hit this point in the movie, I was laughing out loud in sheer joyful admiration. Whether working in true independent form like Biller or blessed with the carte blanche freedom afforded to established and acclaimed names like Scorsese, Anderson, Tarantino, or Coen, few filmmakers have anything close to this level of confidence in their own taste and vision. Pulling this off for a single scene would be reason to celebrate. Constructing an entire film from a single intelligent, idiosyncratic worldview is close to a miracle. And from its first scene to its last, from the font choice in its opening titles to the music over the closing credits, that kind of miracle is exactly what The Love Witch delivers. Watch it with some witch you love.

Love Witch and chill: I wrote about what makes The Love Witch the perfect Valentine’s Day movie for Vulture.

Artcrime: What “Beware the Slenderman” Says About Blaming Artists for Violence

January 25, 2017

There is no artist behind Slender Man, not in the panoptic, memetic form in which Morgan and Anissa encountered him. Slender Man’s “author” is the internet and the army of artists and writers and filmmakers and game designers who inhabit it. Only the accident of history, in which the original posts can be tracked down, enables us to put names to the faceless being at all. A few decades ago Slender Man would just be Bloody Mary or the killer with a hook for a hand who disrupts teenagers necking in their cars. A few centuries ago and he’d be the vampire a town feared enough to dig up graves and behead the corpses inside, or the witch who lures wayward children to their doom. With no artist in play, it becomes clear how fallacious it is to pin the blame on artists for the actions of disturbed individuals who consumed their art at all.

This is not to say art never affects society or inspires terrible things. When Jared Kushner crows about targeting ads for his odious father-in-law Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to viewers of The Walking Dead because of their concerns about immigration, he’s recognizing the fascist ideology that underlies both the show and the current administration. But art with an ideological vector connects the reader or viewer to a cohesive worldview, which, right or wrong, helps explain society and prescribe remedies for its ills. Action and reaction are to be expected.

That’s different from a movie about a pair of abused kids who become mass murderers and media superstars, or music by a glam-influenced Satanist, or creepy internet posts about a demon with no face. These merely provide monsters who embody fears and desires, not a political program. Those monsters will always exist in one form or another, and disturbed kids like Morgan and Anissa will always find them and use them as the mold into which they pour their crumbling sanity or mounting bloodlust. In blaming the art or the artist, we commit the exact same error, looking for a boogeyman to help us explain the inexplicable. We’re finding our own Slender Man to serve.

I wrote about the documentary Beware the Slenderman and when we should and shouldn’t hold artists to account for crimes inspired by their art for the New York Observer.

“Taboo” thoughts, Episode One

January 10, 2017

As of this premiere, Tom Hardy himself is the best thing about Taboo. He’d better be, since he’s pretty much the only thing about Taboo. Everyone and everything else on the show simply reacts to his menacing presence.

What a presence it is, though. Your mileage may vary regarding Hardy’s mumble-mouthed machismo, but I find the way he carries himself a delight to watch. As Delaney, Hardy saunters across the screen like he’s en route to an ass-kicking contest that starts in ten minutes and it’s a leisurely five-minute walk away. Call it “brute casual,” a trait that he’s got it in spades, and Taboo allows him to dole it out by the shovelful.

[…]

Taboo suffers from the dull, expensive look that’s endemic to prestige TV generally and its period-piece iteration specifically. Director Kristoffer Nyholm, late of the original Danish version of The Killing, captures a few magical moments on the muddy, sun-streaked London riverbank, but beyond that, you could swap entire sets and shots with Penny Dreadful or The Knick or Peaky Blinders and only students of historical fashion would be the wiser. Moreover, the show shares its rich yet sickly “realistic” lighting and color palette with everything from The Night Of to any scene involving gangsters on Marvel’s Netflix shows; you get the sense it looks this way simply because this is how TV shows look now. (I’m no fan of The OA, but how refreshing was it to watch a drama that was brightly lit?) There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.

Hey look, it’s my first review for Vulture! I’m talkin’ Tom Hardy and the series premiere of Taboo, which I’ll be covering for Vulture all season. (I’m exceedingly proud of that “Hardy saunters across the screen like he’s en route to an ass-kicking contest that starts in ten minutes and it’s a leisurely five-minute walk away” bit.)

They Lie About ‘They Live’: John Carpenter and the Neo-Nazi Quagmire

January 4, 2017

My heart goes out to John Carpenter, a thoughtful, talented, humane artist whose contributions to our culture dwarf those of every single one of these wannabe Goebbelses combined. I can’t imagine how infuriating it must be to see your art—let alone a work of outright anti-capitalist agitprop like They Live—twisted into its ideological opposite by bigots and charlatans. I’d almost certainly have spoken out, too.

But I’m not convinced it will do any good. I’m not convinced it won’t outright hurt, in fact. Like Hillary Clinton’s “alt-right” speech during the campaign, this has now elevated the neo-Nazi smears and lies into the realm of debatable topics, the stuff of “meet the dashing new face of the extreme right” puff pieces.

They Live is about International Jewry” is something that had never occurred to non-piece-of-shit people before this week. Now it’s a sick, sad footnote in the film’s history, a slug in its Wikipedia entry, a scratch on the lens of the sunglasses that help us see reality for what it is. That’s the goal of the racists and fascists, after all: Distort our vision until everything is as ugly as they are.

I wrote about John Carpenter’s They Live and the difficulty of combatting neo-Nazi bullshit for Decider.

The 10 Best Horror Movies of 2016

December 16, 2016

A shape-shifter, a baby-killer, a forest predator who communes with the Devil himself – the title character of Robert Eggers’ Puritan “folk tale” is a Satanic hag of the first order. And when this monster gets her claws into a 17th-century New England family excommunicated by their righteous religious neighbors, it feels less like a cathartic comeuppance for old-world bible-thumpers and more like a vicious assault on people trying their best to live and love in an unforgiving world.

I tag-teamed with my aptly named editor David Fear on a write-up for The Witch in Rolling Stone’s list of the year’s 10 Best Horror Movies.