Posts Tagged ‘horror’

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Fourteen

August 14, 2017

The flipside to Andy’s stairway to heaven is Sarah Palmer’s ongoing descent into hell – a journey, it seems, that’s literal as well as psychological. When the matriarch is hit on by a barfly, it sounds as if she can barely get out the words to reject him: “Would you sit back where you were,” she she stammers. “Please.” He turns vulgar, and potentially violent, at which point actor Grace Zabriskie’s eyes go wide. Then Mrs. Palmer reaches up … and takes her own face off, revealing a void inhabited by snake-like tongue, a ghostly hand, and an enormous, terrible grin. “Do you really want to fuck with this?” growls her voice from within. She puts her face back on. And then she bites an enormous chunk out of her harasser’s neck. When the bartender comes over to see what happened, Sarah turns cold. “Sure is a mystery, huh?”

It’s a horrifying scene, and not just for the obvious reasons. The Black Lodge is not just a supernatural locus of darkness; it’s an opportunistic infection that enters our world where our boundaries are worn thin by all-too-human evil. A quarter of a century ago, Mrs. Palmer was helpless to stop her possessed husband from assaulting and killing her daughter Laura (and other young women too) before the entity inside him devoured the man in turn. How do you recover from that? The allegorical answer offered in this scene, and its vision of corruption beneath the surface, is that you don’t. The Lodge, which first used her as its mouthpiece during a scene you may have forgotten from the original series finale, has eaten her away from within. (And while it’s tempting to wish that Laura had her mother’s powers when facing any of the men who abused her, you should recall that the original series’ posthumous heroine chose death rather than allowing that kind of evil to inhabit her.)

I reviewed last night’s episode of Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Thirteen

August 8, 2017

What’s worse: Crushing a person’s skull or crushing their spirit? The back-from-the-dead Twin Peaks has seen its fair share of the former violation, courtesy of the supernaturally strong denizens of the Black Lodge. When those demonic entities are around – whether they’re Woodsmen assaulting radio-station employees or Dale Cooper‘s evil doppelganger shattering a rival criminal’s face with a single punch after an arm-wrestling bout – no cranium is safe. And then there’s the long, wordless scene starring Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill, making his revival debut), which features no monsters and no murders – but as the credits roll over his sad and lonesome face, didn’t your brain feel under assault?

It’s not as if co-creator/director David Lynch is new to depicting the trials of growing up and getting old. You don’t need to look any farther afield than Twin Peaks‘ own Carl Rodd, played by Harry Dean Stanton, for a portrait of the weariness and wisdom that comes with that territory. (Stanton’s wordless appearance in the filmmaker’s 1999 movie The Straight Story is quietly devastating for the same reason.) Moreover, the visible effects of aging on actors such as Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), James Marshall (James Hurley), Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk), etc. were enough to take the breath away from any fan who remembered them primarily in their youthful, brown-haired heyday. It’s not that they looked bad, by any means – just that the lines in the face and the gray in their hair, or in James’ case the absence of hair altogether, remind you that you, too, have aged 25 years since our last visit to this sleepy, sinister town.

But Big Ed’s return is especially gutting. While at first it appears he’s together with Norma Jennings, the love of his life, at last, it turns out they’re now just friends; she’s actually seeing a corporate suit who’s helped her turn the Double R diner into a franchise. He still wears his wedding ring, but it’s unclear if he’s still together with his one-eyed wife Nadine; at any rate, she seems far more interested in Dr. Jacobyand his goofball anti-government, anti-capitalist screeds. Even Ed’s “Gas Farm” seems to be dying out from lack of business. So we’re left with a vision of this man alone at night, joylessly sipping soup – or is that garmonbozia? – from a Double R take-out cup and idly lighting fires that burn down to his fingers. With his high cheekbones and severe haircut, McGill gives the impression of a childless King Lear, surveying a kingdom of rust with no heirs to claim it.

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. The Big Ed scene is one of the most powerful and memorable things Lynch has ever shot, full stop.

The Top 30 Stephen King Movies, Ranked

August 3, 2017

3. The Dead Zone (1983)

David Cronenberg is the man who made “body horror” a thing; Stephen King’s tales of terror derive much of their power from down-to-earth Americana. An odd couple, to be sure. But the Canadian auteur brings out the best in the story of a New England schoolteacher (professional weirdo Christopher Walken, pitch-perfect) who awakens from a five-year coma with the ability to see the future of anyone he touches. Co-starring Martin Sheen as a blustery, right-wing politician rising to power via blue-collar populism and ready to trigger World War III – imagine that! It’s cerebral but not chilly, complex but compelling – and as eerily prescient as its psychic protagonist.  STC

I wrote about The Dead Zone for Rolling Stone’s very gutsy ranking of Stephen King movie adaptations. The Top 10 is going to throw you for a loop.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Twelve

July 31, 2017

As played by Grace Zabriskie, who is still utterly mesmerizing in the role, Sarah Palmer looks and acts like her daughter Laura’s murder incinerated her spirit and sanity for good. Staggering through the supermarket to pick up vodka and cigarettes, she has a panic attack at the checkout line, triggered by new items behind the counter. Her dialogue, reminiscent of the screaming driver from last week’s episode, is a crescendo of terror. “The room seems different. And men are coming. I am trying to tell you that you have to watch out! Things can happen! Something happened to me! I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good!” By the time Deputy Hawk checks in on Sarah later that day, she’s no longer agitated, but her flat affect is even harder to behold.

We’ve all got stories, yes. But in Twin Peaks, as in life, some of those stories end long before the lives of their main characters, leaving a lifetime of blank pages to turn, one after another, before the book closes.

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. I focused mostly on Audrey Horne’s unusual return and what such scenes say about the unseen stories of everyone’s life, but I wanted to share this concluding passage about Sarah Palmer.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eleven

July 24, 2017

It’s simply impossible to predict where this thing will go within any given scene, much less from one to the next. This wild blend of moods and styles draws you intothe resulting drama rather than pushing you out of it. It leaves you desperate to see what these black magicians will do next.

Take the extended sequence at the Double R Diner, featuring Deputy Bobby Briggs, his ex-wife Shelly and their wayward daughter Becky Burnett. It begins as a touching, gutting scene of family drama, in which the estranged couple try, gently but desperately, to help their girl escape her no-good husband Steven. His latest affair sent her rushing to the apartment of the other woman (Alicia Witt, reprising her brief role in the original series as Donna Hayward’s kid sister), guns blazing. It also left Shelly sprawled on the lawn of Carl Rodd‘s trailer park, when her attempt to stop the young woman by clinging to the hood of her own stolen car ended in failure.

The resulting performances are as sumptuous as one of Norma Jennings‘ cherry pies. In Bobby’s frustration with his shitheel son-in-law, actor Dana Ashbrook brings out flashes of the angry young man the character once was. As Becky, Amanda Seyfried is saucer-eyed wonder; her denial that her spouse beats her is as transparent as her parents’ need to believe it is heartbreaking – after all, Shelly herself was once in an abusive marriage. Mädchen Amick radiates the character’s older-but-wiser experience throughout the scene. Eventually, the trio reach an unspoken decision to pretend they’ve gotten somewhere and end the argument – a sensation familiar to anyone who’s repeatedly faced down the same interpersonal issue with no real results.

Suddenly, a familiar face appears in the window, rapidly approaching the diner: Red, the magic-wielding druglord whose taunting of Richard Horne sent the young sociopath on his fatal ride a few weeks ago. He’s also the former Mrs. Briggs’s new boyfriend, and she rushes out to neck with him like a teenager in love – leaving her actual one-time teenage lover Bobby looking like a sad puppy. Like her daughter, Shelly remains drawn to bad boys, even though it seems she has no idea how bad the boy really is.

No sooner does she sit back down than our false sense of security is shattered by gunshots. Rushing outside to confront the shooter, Bobby discovers neither hit men nor homicidal maniacs, but a furious mother in the middle of a traffic jam, berating her gun-nut husband for leaving a loaded weapon in the family car. Bobby stares at the kid who fired the shots – the boy’s “fuck you” demeanor is a miniature replica of his father’s – and winces at the cycle of macho idiocy already at work.

Meanwhile, the car behind the young gunman’s vehicle honks and honks. An older woman is furious about the traffic jam preventing her from getting home for dinner – and it’s clear something is wrong here. As her demeanor reaches white-hot panic, the woman bellows, “Her uncle is joining us! She hasn’t seen him in a very long while!” Wait – whose uncle? “We’re late! We’ve got miles to go! Please, we have to get home! She’s sick!” Then the horror begins: As the driver shrieks and shrieks, a girl rises up from the shadows of the passenger seat, arms outstretched like a zombie, green vomit leaking from her mouth. Then the sequence ends, its final moments chillingly unexplained.

I reviewed last night’s utterly marvelous Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone. I could have written four times as much about this diner sequence alone, but really any given scene from the episode could sustain a full review’s worth of analysis. The show is that good.

Mirror Mirror II @ 2dcloud.com

July 21, 2017

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Our anthology Mirror Mirror II, edited by Julia Gfrörer and myself, is now officially for sale from our publisher, 2dcloud. Click here to order, and see an extensive preview.

Contributors include Lala Albert, Clive Barker, Heather Benjamin, Apolo Cacho, Sean Christensen, Nicole Claveloux, Sean T. Collins, Al Columbia, Dame Darcy, Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin, 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, and Trungles.

Our contributors come from Australia, Brazil, England, France, Mexico, Russia, Wales, and the United States. The youngest is 24. The oldest is 77. The majority are women. They are trans and cis, straight and queer. They make comics, zines, fine art, music, film, literature, and journalism. For our book they made work basted around horror, pornography, the gothic, and the abject. They made dark, vulnerable work that reflects the dark, vulnerable world, in hopes that confronting it moves us toward empathy.

Here’s what people are saying about it:

Mirror Mirror II is troubling and challenging, but it is also rewarding and stunning—a thrilling experience that readers won’t soon forget.” —Shea Hennum, The A.V. Club, “The A.V. Club’s Favorite Comics of 2017 So Far”

“It awakens the long-underused [horror] genre and pushes your fear buttons in ways you could never have anticipated. It’s hard to pick the most memorably mind-devouring portion.” —Abraham Riesman, Vulture, “8 Comics You Need to Read This June”

“Reading this is like dreaming — though whether you’re immersed in a nightmare or a wet dream is unclear….This book is like a porn stash you’d find in the cupboard of a medieval demon.” —Dan Schindel, Hyperallergic

Mirror Mirror II is at once a frivolous memento mori and an outright challenge to your own personal space.” —Austin Lanari, Comics Bulletin

“High quality smut.” —Will Menaker, Chapo Trap House

“This is a book that provokes, that pushes and pulls, that strips down to the bone and re-clothes in different flesh any notions you might have about horror, pornography, and abjection. It’s wonderful….I haven’t had a book challenge me this much in a long time.” —Sarah Miller, Sequentialist

“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, Game of Thrones

“An impressive collection of beautiful depictions of grotesque things and grotesque depictions of beautiful things.” —Alan Resnick, Unedited Footage of a Bear / This House Has People in It

“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 pixelated 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 / Jezebel

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 Davis, Rookie / The Comics Journal

I am so proud of this book and hope you enjoy it. 

‘It’ Star Sophia Lillis on ‘Shocking’ First Encounter With Pennywise, Remake Details

July 20, 2017

This September, Lillis stars in director Andrés Muschietti’s highly anticipated adaptation of horror master Stephen King’s signature work, It. She plays Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of a close-knit gang of teen outcasts called the Loser’s Club. During one long, nightmarish summer, the Losers find themselves face to face with the child-murdering, shape-shifting entity that’s haunted their small town for centuries – a creature that most frequently takes the form of a sinister clown called Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård.

“We actually weren’t allowed to see him until our scenes, because we wanted the horror to be real,” Lillis recalls. “Everyone had different reactions, but all of us were like, ‘Wow, what did we get ourselves into?’ One look at him, and… you know, he’s a really scary clown that wants to kill us. I was a little bit shocked,” she laughs. “But then he went up to me afterwards and was like, ‘Hi, how’s things?’ He’s really nice, but I didn’t know how to react.”

Lillis had no such trouble connecting with her fellow Losers, who include Jaeden Lieberher as ringleader Bill Denbrough and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard as class clown Richie Tozier. “I spent all my summer with them, so we got really close. We still keep in touch, send messages to each other.” That closeness helped Lillis connect with her own character. “I relate to Beverly – the way she deals with her emotions, and the way she was around the Losers. I felt that way around the actual actors.”

I wrote a little profile of Sophia Lillis, aka Beverly in the new IT movie, for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Ten

July 17, 2017

If all this reboot did was alternate ridiculous scenes with horrifying ones, it would still be relatively easy to get a handle on: You’d just hold your breath each time the show cut to a new location until you figured out what you were in for, and that would be that. But this series isn’t just a coin that its co-creators repeatedly flip – it’s something more multidimensional and a lot messier. Consider the scene in which Rodney Mitchum, the intimidating co-owner of the Silver Mustang Casino, gets accidentally whacked in the forehead with a remote control by his daft showgirl girlfriend Candy, who’s so intent on killing a pesky housefly that its human landing site failed to register. The emotional cacophony that follows – Candy screaming and sobbing in horror, Rodney howling in pain, his brother Bradley (Jim Belushi!) rushing in to see what’s wrong – makes you laugh. And then you cringe. And then you get genuinely worried for all involved.

This goes double for the trio’s subsequent scenes. The brothers watch a news report on Ike the Spike‘s arrest after his attempted murder of Dougie while poor Candy wonders aloud if her beau can ever love her again. Later, Mr. Jones’ sleazy coworker Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) shows up at the Silver Mustang on the orders of the Mitchums’ rival – and the evil Cooper doppelganger’s minion – Duncan Todd to pin the blame for a costly insurance loss on Dougie. He hopes that the bros will finish the job the Spike started. But Sinclair is waylaid by the increasingly unhinged-seeming showgirl, who spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the benefits of air conditioning instead of simply showing him into their office.

Both scenes dance back and forth across the boundaries between funny, creepy and skin-crawlingly uncomfortable – a shuffling boogie not unlike the one our beloved Man from Another Place used to dance across the Red Room. So, for that matter, does the whole damn show. Thanks to canny policework by Albert and Tammy, as well as supernatural interventions by the Log Lady and the spirit of Laura Palmer, lawmen like Gordon Cole and Deputy Hawk are closer than ever to cracking the mystery of Coop’s disappearance and duplication. But the creative riddle of Twin Peaks still maddeningly, gloriously unsolvable.

I wrote about the horror of Richard Horne, the comedy of Dougie Jones, and the who-knows-what of Candy in my review of last night’s Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Nine

July 13, 2017

Last time we visited, Twin Peaks unleashed the fires of the atom and the demons of the Black Lodge. For the follow-up, the show wants to talk about … love. Why not? If director David Lynch and co-writer/co-creator Mark Frost have proven anything in this inventive, powerful relaunch of their supernatural soap opera, it’s that they can do pretty much anything they damn well please. A show that spends minutes on end inside a nuclear explosion one week can depict lovable goofballs Deputy Andy and Lucy Brennan ordering living-room furniture the next.

I reviewed this week’s Twin Peaks and talked about its attention to emotional detail for Rolling Stone.

The 100 Greatest Movies of the Nineties

July 13, 2017

49. Heavenly Creatures (1994) 

Before Peter Jackson took us all to Middle-earth, he brought moviegoers to the mad world of two troubled teenagers – a fictional universe every bit as engrossing as J.R.R. Tolkien’s, but far more romantic and lethal. Based on a true-crime story, the film depicts pre-stardom Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker and Juliet Hume, two New Zealand teenagers whose BFF-ship blossoms first into love, then madness and ultimately murder. Jackson’s kinetic camera captures the rapturous swirl of teenage dreams before plunging us into its brutal, bloody endpoint. It’s a beautiful dark twisted fantasy. STC

I wrote about Natural Born Killers, Heavenly Creatures, and The Blair Witch Project for Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Movies of the ’90s. My editor David Fear assembled an absolute murderers’ row of writers for this thing — it’s a real treat.

The A.V. Club’s favorite comics of 2017 so far

June 30, 2017

Mirror Mirror II (2dcloud), anthology

As with any anthology, Mirror Mirror II features some entries that will leave more of an impression than others, but the totality of the work presented is both haunting and astounding. Collecting comics, prose, and illustrative work from such luminaries as Clive Barker and Al Columbia, as well as work by younger authors like Céline Loup and Trungles, editors Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer have curated quite the book. The theme unifying all of these pieces is the convergence of the erotic and the macabre—some works being more explicit than others—but that may be the only commonality between them. Each one offers a striking aesthetic vision. And though some will resonate more deeply than others—which works stand out will most certainly depend on the reader—they accumulate to form an impressive volume. An enormity of spectacle is brought to bear on exploring the commingling of the pleasurable with the painful, the fantastic with the nightmarish, and the result is a series of truly shocking and often deeply moving images. Mirror Mirror II is troubling and challenging, but it is also rewarding and stunning—a thrilling experience that readers won’t soon forget. [Shea Hennum]

I’m proud to say that the AV Club selected Mirror Mirror II as one of its favorite comics of the year so far.  The reviews for this book have been just wonderful.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight

June 26, 2017

What is clear is the birth of Bob’s bracing message. This disturbing, disorienting episode explicitly ties the demon’s creation to the atom bomb’s detonation, an act of man that rivals, or betters, the dark deeds of any religion’s devil. The connection is no accident. Nor is it without precedent: Ever since the original Twin Peaks introduced supernatural horror into its director’s body of work, the link between otherworldly evil and real-world brutality has been a constant. Lynch treats human cruelty like a rupture in the fabric of reality through which demons of every shape and size can enter — think Lost Highway‘s white-faced Mystery Man, Mulholland Drive‘s monstrous dumpster-dweller and gibbering old folks, Inland Empire‘s balloon-faced Phantom and, of course, the dwellers of the Black Lodge. They all  feed on and perpetuate the cycle of violence that enabled their emergence.

Some experiences and emotions are so cataclysmic that our everyday imagery and vocabulary cannot possibly do them justice; monsters give shape to those feelings, the same way an aria in an opera or a song in a musical gives human passion a voice. In crafting creatures like that denim-clad monster and his dark brethren, Lynch is doing what all great horror does. He’s taking the agony and fear we already feel and, like Dr. Frankenstein in his lightning-streaked laboratory, bringing it to unholy life. The real question this episode asks, then, is no more or less than the one pilot Robert A. Lewis asked when he dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima: “My God, what have we done?”

I reviewed last night’s Twin Peaks, the most artistically ambitious episode of television I’ve ever seen, for Rolling Stone.

MIRROR MIRROR II @ Amazon

June 24, 2017

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Mirror Mirror II is now available for purchase at Amazon. It’s already shipped, and people have already received their copies. You can order it from Amazon, or pre-order it from our publisher 2dcloud — copies will ship soon.

I’m so glad this book is in the world for you.

“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.