Posts Tagged ‘horror’

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven

June 19, 2017

The third pseudo-ominous scene, and we’re gonna guess it’s the one that gets people talking, takes place in the Bang Bang Bar, a.k.a. the Road House, a.k.a. the place where we just sit around and watch a guy sweep up debris from the floor for nearly the entire duration of “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs. Why? The answer that springs to mind is “why the hell not,” and hey, that’s perfectly valid. But the phone conversation that ends the scene, in which Jean-Michel Renault (no, not the long-dead sleazebag Jacques, but one of his equally gross relatives) rants and raves about the 15-year-old girls he pimped out to an unhappy client, provides a different answer. What you’ve got here is the banality of evil: A dude who can sit around twiddling his thumbs to an old R&B classic, then pick up the phone and crack jokes about statutory rape. As Jacques would say in a thick French-Canadian accent, “Bite ze bullet, baby.”

I reviewed last night’s tense and clever Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

8 Comics You Need to Read This June

June 14, 2017

Mirror Mirror II by various (2dcloud)

There was a time when you could rely on comic books for bone-deep terror — the early-1950s was the heyday of horror tales produced by publishers like EC Comics. Alas, that heyday was cut short by a moral panic and a subsequent regime of censorship, and horror comics never quite recovered as a phenomenon. Thank goodness, then, for Mirror Mirror II, a new collection of short horror pieces edited by Sean T. Collins (who is a contributor to Vulture) and Julia Gfrörer. It awakens the long-underused genre and pushes your fear buttons in ways you could never have anticipated. It’s hard to pick the most memorably mind-devouring portion: Is it cartoonist Mou’s tale of a guy who one day finds himself painfully ejaculating letters that spell out a set of cryptic sentences? Or filmmaker Clive Barker’s painted vignettes of savaged and distorted human figures? Or Al Columbia’s unnerving single-panel depictions of old-timey cartoon characters engaging in unspeakable acts? Open wide and decide for yourself.

Abraham Riesman included our book MIRROR MIRROR II in his list of the month’s must-read comics for Vulture. I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to get it one way or the other — retail or online — either at the very end of the month or the very beginning of July. I can’t wait till you all can see it.

Tiny Pages Made of Ashes 5/19/17: MIRROR MIRROR II

June 14, 2017

When I was younger, I practiced vipassana meditation.  Unlike my current zen habit of ‘just-sitting’, vipassana asked me to contemplate the true nature of reality by focusing on certain images that would help bring me closer to truth. One of the pertinent images that drove the Buddha towards the path of enlightenment was that of a corpse. But when you haven’t really seen a corpse that wasn’t pumped full of embalming fluid and dressed up for you, there is some serious detachment from what it really means to see inside of Death. Still, I think those hours spent drumming up morbid-but-hollow imagery were the closest I had ever gotten to actually thinking about The Abject.  And I would argue it is only about as close as a S.I. swimsuit cover could take you to thinking about the truly erotic.

Bubblegum enlightenment.

In her foreword to Mirror Mirror II, Felker-Martin asks readers like me to consider horror on a continuum with the erotic; this realm—the realm of The Abject—weaves through our humanity; from our sexuality, to the desires we bury, and back through to the very fragility of our flesh and what that means for us as everyday creatures.  More than bubblegum enlightenment, this sets up a spectrum of artwork that acts as what anthology editor and contributor Julia Gfrörer calls on a recent Process Party podcast, a “sublime ritual of degradation.”

And while my girlfriend probably isn’t thrilled about the idea of watching Hellraiser, Mirror Mirror II brought at least one more person to the altar of fiction which rends flesh. Prior to this anthology, my interest in horror media generally was almost exactly ZERO.  Felker-Martin’s prognosis for the reader gave me pause: “What you’re about to read will hurt you.” Why in the fuck would I want that?

[…]

In writing this review, I first attempted to sum things up as best I could about the kind of work Mirror Mirror II is; but so many of the individual works themselves reached out and grabbed me in particular ways that I felt compelled to say something about each one.And this just kept happening.

There’s still more work to talk about, from Carol Swain (shit, one of my favorite comics in the book was hers!), Al Columbia(!), Noel Freibert, Dame Darcy(!!), Mou, Uno Moralez, a murderer’s row of Clive Barker illustrations(!!!!!), a piece authored by co-editor Collins, and more.  But any omissions certainly won’t haunt me as much as the work itself.

While words like “degradation” and “abject” don’t follow a straight line to “empathy” either in a thesaurus or in the minds of many people, there is obviously a broadening of perspective that comes when you are rendered vulnerable.  And you cannot will yourself into vulnerability.  Alone, you can only conjure decay once you are already no longer living and breathing.  While you can still feel and fuck and fear, you must be led by a dark muse to a fetid clearing where a more communal sense of perversion and violation crawls between your toes.  You must peer at what lies just beyond.

You must hurt.

This is the beginning and end of an absolutely extraordinary review of our book MIRROR MIRROR II by Comics Bulletin’s Austin Lanari. In between he goes in-depth on contributions by Laura Lannes, Sean Christensen, Aidan Koch, Josh Simmons, Trungles, Julia Gfrörer, and Meaghan Garvey, and basically exceeds my wildest expectations about readers getting it. I’m so grateful.

“bear witness, that is all”

June 14, 2017

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Sherilyn Fenn, aka Audrey Horne, quoted my review of the latest Twin Peaks and added a bunch of cherry emojis. So I’m dead now,

“Twin Peaks” Thoughts, Season Three, Episode Six

June 14, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton is 90 years old, though he’s looked so world weary for so long that he seems somehow ageless and immortal. In light of the key Twin Peaks players who’ve died before the series’ return to the air – Jack Nance, Frank Silva, Frances Bay, Don S. Davis, Warren Frost, David Bowie, and most hauntingly Miguel Ferrer and Catherine Coulson, who reprised their roles as Albert Rosenfield and the Log Lady before they passed away – we’re fortunate to have him. When his character, Carl Rodd, tells his younger companion “I’ve been smokin’ for 75 years, every fuckin’ day,” he literally laughs in the face of his own mortality. But way back when we first met him in Fire Walk With Me, set nearly 30 years ago, he intimated to a pair of FBI agents investigating a Black Lodge–related murder that he’d seen too much. “I’ve already gone places,” he said. “I just want to stay where I am.”

Making Stanton’s Carl the Virgil on our journey to this episode’s particular Hell – the hit-and-run killing of a little boy by local monster Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) – lends even more weight to the moment. It provides a contrast between the old man’s long life – achieved against the medical odds, by his own admission – and the life of the little boy, cut so horrifically short. It offers an unparalleled range of emotion, beginning with him simply sitting on a bench and enjoying the wind and light through the trees and ending with him seeing one of the worst things a person can see. And whether he’s watching the boy’s soul ascend or simply providing his mother with human connection and validation by touching her and looking into her eyes, his role is just that: to see, to bear witness. It’s not that witnesses are in short supply – plenty of bystanders observe the accident and its aftermath. But when Carl takes the next step and comforts the grieving mother, he’s the only one to bear witness – bear as in a cross.

[…]

Two crucial links to the murdered child who set the entire chain of events in motion are uncovered in an episode that forces us to confront the killing of children face-on. Laura’s face appears in the opening credits every week, but this is a way to make her presence, and her absence, hit home. Doing any less would be a cop out, a dodge, a refusal to bear witness. “What kind of world are we living in where people can behave like this—treat other people this way, without any compassion or feeling for their suffering?” asks Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) elsewhere in the episode. “We are living in a dark, dark age.” This show has the courage to shine a light on it.

I reviewed this week’s extremely difficult Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. I have to say, the response I’ve gotten to my writing on the season so far, and this episode in particular, is extremely gratifying. What it’s doing means a lot to me.

“Fargo” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight: “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”

June 9, 2017

This is the one you’ve been waiting for. Whether you’ve been one of Fargo Season Three’s inexplicably large number of skeptics or singing its praises from the jump, this is the episode that either puts paid to your criticism or pays off your faith. It’s called “Who Rules the Land of Denial?”, and it features the season’s best action/thriller sequences, its goriest crimes, its biggest surprises, its most striking cinematography, and its most direct trafficking in the uncanny.

I adored this week’s episode of Fargo, which I reviewed for Decider.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Five

June 5, 2017

The shot that hits hardest is neither comedy nor horror, but pure pleasure. It’s a close-up on the face of Becky (Amanda Seyfried!), Shelly‘s troubled daughter, staring up at the sunlit sky as she rides around in her boyfriend’s car. In this moment of literal wide-eyed wonder, the show captures the joy of being alive. But more than that, it acknowledges that this joy really couldn’t give a shit if it comes from the bump of coke you did in your good-for-nothing boyfriend’s beater. You take your happiness where you can get it, and Becky gets it riding through town with the top down and her seatbelt off, while the Paris Sisters croon “I Love How You Love Me” on the radio.

Looking back at the show’s original two seasons and the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, it’s striking how many islands of bliss and contentment its screwed-up characters carve out for themselves amid all the murder and magic and mayhem. Think about how happy Shelly and Bobby were together, despite the ever-present menace presence of her Leo. Think about Coop, delighting in everything from the camaraderie of his friends in the Bureau and the Sheriff’s Department to the simple pleasures of coffee and pie. Think about Laura Palmer herself, dancing around with her best friend Donna at a picnic just weeks before her death, her life of addiction and abuse momentarily forgotten.

And this big-hearted optimism is not just limited to Twin Peaks within Lynch’s oeuvre, for that matter. The shot of Seyfried’s Becky completely blissing out is a clear echo of the opening of Mulholland Drive, in which new cast member Naomi Watts beams so brightly about the Hollywood dreams she believes are about to come true for her. If you focus solely on the filmmaker’s use of terrifying supernatural entities, or his ironic weaponization of Americana, or his treatment of sexual violence, you could come away wrongfully believing he’s a sadist (or simply a nihilist). But moments like Becky’s car ride show that he believes happiness is possible despite our fucked-up surroundings. As good as it is to have the comedy, the tragedy and the horror of this show back on the small screen, it’s even better to have that beautiful beating heart back as well.

I reviewed tonight’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. Dear god what a treat this show is.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episodes Three and Four

May 31, 2017

With four hours of the The Return under our belts, it’s getting a bit easier to understand its overall approach. Is it leaning hard on all of the original’s most esoteric and terrifying material? Yes. Is it still the kind of FBI/cop show that serves as the missing link between Hill Street Blues and The X-Files? Also yes. Is it going to make time for ridiculous comedy detours just like it did 25 years ago? Again, yes. Will it serve up the love and loss of soap opera and melodrama, with the emotional volume cranked so high that it could read as parody? Once more, yes. It’s just going to do all those things slowly, parceling them out a little bit at a time over the course of multiple hours, instead of whipsawing back and forth in every single outing. The comedy of part four, for example, provides a counterbalance for the black psychedelia of part three; you need to see both, however, to strike the balance.

In other words, as suspect as this kind of description has become in TV-watching circles, the new Twin Peaks really is an 18-hour movie. If you’ve ever seen Lynch’s epic-length Inland Empire, which is three full hours of his most experimental narrative work since Eraserhead, it’s not hard to imagine the director chomping at the bit for the chance to explore obsessions over an even larger canvas. For television this gutsy and this good, he can take all the time he needs.

Teach Me How to Dougie: I reviewed episodes three and four of Twin Peaks Season Three for Rolling Stone. I think people are starting to realize that all four episodes so far have been stone fucking classics. It’s basically a miracle.

Delete Your Account, Episode 49.5: The Culture Industry

May 26, 2017

I’m quite pleased to say I was the guest on this week’s subscriber-only edition of the leftist podcast Delete Your Account! Basically, host Kumars Salehi and I are both unhappy with how various factions of the Left talk about art these days, so we tried to come up with a left-wing discussion of politics and pop culture that won’t make you want to kill yourself. We cover Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, The Walking Dead, prestige TV, horror, the Four Worst Types of TV Critics, and more. It’s for Patreon subscriber’s only, so smash that motherfuckin subscribe button and give it a listen!

“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.