Posts Tagged ‘horror’

“Mindhunter” thoughts, Season One, Episode Three

October 17, 2017

Kemper [is] back for another round of interviews so thick with gallows humor you can almost see the nooses. “Big Ed” had a sick sense of humor during his murders, one he can’t help but chuckle about to himself as he recounts the details to Bill and Holden—like how he shoved his mother’s severed vocal cords into the garbage disposal to shut her up permanently, or how he buried the decaptiated heads of his victims face up near her window, because “Mom always liked people to look up to her.”

These exchanges say a lot about both the killer and his questioners. Ed thinks he’s winning them over with his gruesome gags, but he’s really revealing the depths of his disregard for other people: The women he killed meant nothing more to him than becoming potential punchlines for sick jokes played at his hated mother’s expense. Bill and Holden, meanwhile, react with the reluctant but irrepressible exclamations you might hear from the crowd at comedy club where the stand-up said something particularly off-color—until they get to their car afterwards and simply stare at each other in disbelief. They’re good enough at their jobs to instinctively transform their shock and disgust into reactions that will keep them on Ed’s good side, so they can keep getting what they want from him in turn.

Bill spells all this out to Holden on the flight home, in one of the show’s best conversations yet about the nature of their job. “There’s nothing behind Kemper’s eyes,” he says. “It’s like standing near a black hole. And he thinks we’re his friends!” He pauses. “Well, he thinks you’re his friend.” Then he leans in to Holden for the conclusion: “Which makes you a pretty great FBI agent.” These guys are uniquely equipped to gaze into the abyss without its returning gaze getting the better of them, for now at least.

I reviewed episode three of Mindhunter for the A.V. Club. It’s improving for sure, but the conversations that don’t include serial killers still sound like they were written by aliens.

Wet Nightmares: a conversation with the editors of erotic horror comics anthology ‘Mirror Mirror II’

October 16, 2017

What are your thoughts around criticisms of erotic horror as a genre that sensationalizes and glorifies violence, or abstracts violence as an idea rather than damage done to real people?

J: In my life I’ve experienced and witnessed enough violence that I don’t consider my feelings about violence to be an abstraction. My experiences are my experiences. My responsibility to write something honest takes priority.

I think we we can be overzealous in condemning creators for making work about trauma – Sean and I are both abuse survivors, but we’re sometimes criticized for insensitivity towards sexual violence and doing harm to survivors in that way. And no doubt many of those critics are survivors too. It’s tiresome to have to produce a resume of trauma to prove you’re allowed to discuss it, and when you do you get it from the other side – from people who think you’re too close to the subject to handle it well. What I’m getting at is that there’s no correct way to deal with violence in art, and what harms one reader can be healing to another. I’d rather give artists the benefit of the doubt.

S: Julia pretty much says it all here. I’ll just add that it goes back to what I said earlier about different approaches within horror – similarly, there are different ways to address and convey the pain and suffering experienced by real people. Certainly my work as a writer and now as an editor is an attempt to do so, with my own pain just for starters. The great power of fantastic fiction of all kinds, perhaps horror most of all, is that it can give voice to everyday feelings, emotions, and experiences the magnitude of which is beyond the ability of everyday language to express.

My partner and co-editor Julia Gfrörer and I spoke to Minh Nguyen about our comics anthology Mirror Mirror II for AQNB. I’m ashamed of myself for not thinking of “Wet Nightmares” sooner.

“Mindhunter” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two

October 15, 2017

Edmund Kemper is not your average pop-culture serial killer. That’s the point. Mindhunter’s second episode may be dogged by many of the same problems as its premiere—we’ll get to that later—but its decision to cast “The Co-Ed Killer” at the Hannibal Lecter to restless FBI Agent Holden Ford’s Clarice Starling is as smart and sinister as the man himself. Played by actor Cameron Britton, whose performance is already one of the most chilling of its type, Kemper is the embodiment of Ford’s argument that this new breed of killer is too crazily complex for the existing rulebook to cover.

The “we’ll get to that later” is doing a lot of work in the above paragraph, but nevertheless I enjoyed the Ed Kemper material in episode two of Mindhunter, which I reviewed for the A.V. Club, a great deal. Just be prepared for my very different thoughts on the music cues and the female lead.

“Mindhunter” thoughts, Season One, Episode One

October 14, 2017

“It’s not like there’s some magical machine that makes identical copies of things.” To its eternal credit, Mad Men got the single worst line of dialogue in the entire series out of the way in its pilot episode. Don Draper’s brief aside about the state of the art in office equipment functions as a gag only from the perspective of its 2007 audience, at the expense of its 1960 characters. What we know, and what Don doesn’t, is that of course there are magical machines that make identical copies of things, or that there will be eventually. The poor sap has the temerity not to have journeyed via time machine to an era where photocopiers are a thing. Joke’s on you, buddy!

I thought of this line a lot while watching Mindhunter, Netflix’s new serial-killer procedural from writer-creator Joe Penhall and producer-director David Fincher. The difference is that while Mad Men relegated its “look at these troglodytes who haven’t even heard of Xerox yet” hindsight to one brief, bad joke, it’s Mindhunter’s entire premise.

Based on the influential true-crime book Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas, and featuring analogues for Douglas and his fellow Fed Robert K. Ressler, it chronicles the birth of criminal profiling and the concept of the serial killer as we know them, during an era when law enforcement’s skepticism of such notions—and of psychology in general—was ingrained and endemic. In other words, it’s a war story written from the perspective of the winners, one which enlists its audience as recruits for the retrospectively inevitable victory. That’s the problem, really: It’s a tale of bone-deep uncertainty in uncharted territory, told with the quiet confidence of a sure thing.

I’m covering the first season of Mindhunter for the A.V. Club, where believe it or not I’ve never written about television before! Here’s my review of the premiere, which helped me realize there’s basically a whole subgenre of “based on a true story” that I don’t care for: the origin of something everyone thought was wrong but which we in the audience know turned out to be right. Also, you gotta hear the dialogue in this thing. It’s like an alien wrote it.

STC x Drunk Ed: MONSTERS

October 9, 2017

monster-collage

Wanna see something really scary? I’ll be giving a talk about Clive Barker as part of “Monsters,” the latest in the Drunk Ed lecture series. It’s happening this Wednesday, October 11th, from 8-10p at Littlefield, 635 Sackett Street, Brooklyn. The other speakers include Meredith Graves, Arabelle Sicardi, and Eric Thurm (I think merritt k had to bail but who knows), so come on by!

‘The Punisher’: Everything You Need to Know About Marvel’s Vigilante Antihero

October 4, 2017

Punisher comics have gotten pretty weird over the years
We know what you’re thinking: Gun-toting combat veteran goes kill-crazy against criminals after they murder his family – this concept is pure meat-and-potatoes street-level stuff, right? But we’re talking about superhero comics, folks. After a few decades of near-continuous publication, pretty much every character gets pushed out of his or her comfort zone, and our the Punisher is no exception.

Among his strangest adventures? The Punisher: Purgatory (1998-99), in which the then-dead vigilante was revived to serve as an angelic demon-slayer. The similarly supernatural FrankenCastle arrived a decade later; this knowingly screwball storyline saw the antihero, who had been killed once again, brought back as a Frankenstein-like monster, fighting alongside horror-tinged characters like Morbius the Living Vampire and Man-Thing. (In a word: No.) In 2012, the character got a sci-fi makeover in Space: Punisher – which featured, yes, the Punisher in space, punishing aliens and whatnot.

Years before his character-defining run on the character, Garth Ennis wrote the one-shot Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. The 1995 special chronicles a short, bloody alternate timeline in which Castle’s family gets killed in the crossfire of an X-Men/Avengers battle, leading him to slaughter every single superhero and supervillain in the company’s catalog. He eventually turns the gun on himself. But for sheer WTF-itude, nothing beats 1994’s Archie Meets the Punisher, a crossover between Marvel’s bloodiest antihero and Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the rest of the Riverdale gang. Sure, it’s just a footnote in Punisherology, but crazy stunts like this are exactly what brought Archie back to pop-culture prominence over two decades later. A crossover between the Netflix Punisher show and Riverdale doesn’t sound completely out of the question now, does it?

In anticipation of the upcoming Netflix/Jon Bernthal series, I wrote a guide to the Punisher’s many multimedia incarnations for Rolling Stone. One thing this reminded me is that the showrunner is Steve Lightfoot, who was the Ed Burns to Bryan Fuller’s David Simon on Hannibal. That bodes well.

MIRROR MIRROR II BOOK RELEASE PARTY @ DESERT ISLAND BROOKLYN

September 24, 2017

mm2-poster2

MIRROR MIRROR II
signing and book release party

Thursday, September 28th
7-9pm
Desert Island
540 Metropolitan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY

featuring
Lala Albert
Sean T. Collins
Al Columbia
Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin
Julia Gfrörer
Aidan Koch
Laura Lannes

Also debuting the latest new works from these authors:
-Wet Earth by Lala Albert | Sonatina
-By Monday I’ll Be Floating in the Hudson with the Other Garbage by Laura Lannes | 2dcloud
-No End Will Be Found by Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin | Thuban Press

poster by Laura Lannes

Harry Dean Stanton: 10 Essential Movies

September 18, 2017

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

“I’ve already gone places. I just wanna stay where I am.” Stanton’s role as tired-looking trailer-park owner Carl Rodd in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks prequel was as cryptic as everything else in the film, lasting just a few short minutes and some spare lines of dialogue. But he packs decades of world-weariness into his brief screen time; nobody could turn “It’s just more shit I gotta do now” into a punchline that doubled as a declaration of existential despair. Stanton reprised and expanded the role in Peaks’ astonishing third season this year, cracking jokes about defying death one minute, bearing witness to unspeakable tragedy like an earthbound angel the next – a moving, bonus grace note in a long, legendary career. STC

I consider it one of the great privileges of my career as a writer to have written about Alien and Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone’s list of 10 Essential Harry Dean Stanton Movies.

“It”: Everything You Need to Know About Stephen King’s Killer Clown Story

September 11, 2017

Pennywise is one of modern horror’s greatest monsters
He’s the original killer clown from outer space and the most infamous villain in Stephen King’s bibliography, which is saying something. (All apologies, Randall Flagg.)  Pennywise the Dancing Clown is the form most frequently taken by a malevolent entity that’s been haunting the entire town of Derry, Maine for centuries; it’s lurked beneath the land since it hurtled through the cosmos and crash-landed on Earth from another dimension millennia ago. This shape-shifter can transform into its victims’ worst nightmares, feeding on both their fear and their flesh. Its preferred target: little kids, whose vivid imaginations give it an extensive menu of terrors to choose from. This also explains the monster’s default mode: What kid doesn’t love clowns? (At least before It more or less singlehandedly ruined their image, that is.)

But in addition to being one mean, multifaceted predator, Pennywise has exerted a malign influence on the entire town. He himself – or It Itself – only emerges from hibernation once every 27 years or so for a feeding frenzy that lasts roughly a year to 18 months. But Its presence in the sewers beneath Derry radiates an evil that makes the small town the murder capital of New England … and generates a sort of willful amnesia among the population. Such forgetfulness keeps folks from reflecting on their sleepy burg’s history of atrocities, disasters and mass murders. It also prevents people from connecting the dots when the creature resurfaces and kids start going missing en masse.

Overall, Pennywise combines a killer look and set of powers with one of King’s strongest concepts: a fairy-tale troll that hides out not under a bridge, but an entire city – a ghost that haunts not just one house, but all of them. As our foremost chronicler of small-town American evil, King has a royally good time with the idea.

I wrote a primer on It — the book, the miniseries, the movie, Pennywise, Tim Curry, That Scene, you name it — just in time for the release of the new blockbuster film adaptation for Rolling Stone.