Life… Riffed.

In the not too distant future...
In the not too distant future…

We’re close to the 9th anniversary of Rifftrax! For those who don’t know, Rifftrax is one of several creative continuations of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show that has a premise as insane as the belief that it would last the ten years that it did. Mad scientists shoot a man into space and force him to watch bad movies. To maintain his sanity, said man riffs the movies with the help of two robot companions. The set-up and even the characters changed over the course of those ten glorious years, but this isn’t a history of the show.

This about what the show, and Rifftrax, has done for my family.

I’ll be the first to admit that I entered the fandom well into the Nelson Era when MST3K moved to Sci-Fi before the channel lost its damn mind and became Syfy. I’d heard of the show before but had never caught an episode until I sat through Revenge of the Creature with Mike and the Bots on full power. Sadly, MST3K would only have three more seasons before Sci-Fi canceled it once more.


MST3K Wallpaper- AndrewDickman by mst3k on DeviantArt

Of course, this wasn’t the end. I tracked down tapes, videos, DVDs, and soon also found the MST3K Digital Archive Project. I eventually got to know Joel, Doctor Forrester, and the rest of the first half of the show’s cast and crew.

But Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett were my first introduction to the show, and so they have a special place in my heart. Fast-forward to 2006 and Mike Nelson started Rifftrax, an ingenious idea wherein he would provide the riffed audio track for a movie while the customer provided the DVD. It was brilliant, and soon Kevin and Bill would join Mike for what is, at least in my heart, MST3K 2.0.

It’s hard to think that I started watching this show while I was still in middle school…

And yet the show, and these three men in particular, are very dear to me for many reasons.

When I first started watching MST3K, I was just entering my love of writing and seriously beginning to train myself to be an author, to be a writer, to join the greats. I was beginning to realize that stories were something I needed to tell, that science fiction, fantasy, and horror would be my bread and butter. I would learn from the best, the masters of the genre, and be the best I could be. The Holy Trinity of Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy, though, showed me that there was much to learn from the not-so-great entries into the genre. Sure, I could learn a lot from watching Kubrick’s work, from studying the classic paranoia of the 1950s invasion movies, and certainly could benefit from analyzing Dario Argento’s classic Italian horror… but I also had something to learn from the likes of Mansquito, Space Truckers, and Friday the 13th Part 8, the one where Jason dies by becoming a baby. I learned that I could laugh at these movies, not in a mean-spirited way, but as a way to learn what doesn’t work.


MST3K commission by Montygog on DeviantArt

This led to the second revelation. I could enjoy even the bad moments in life. MST3K and Rifftrax showed that it was possible to find humor even in something horrible. Future War could in fact be a treat. Even fraking Twilight became an amazing cinematic experience when filtered through the likes of these three men. Engaging with the film, despite the social convention against speaking while a movie is playing, became a more intellectually engaging process. Even something as horrible as Hellraiser Bloodlines suddenly became an opportunity for fun. This was the key word.

Opportunity.

No longer would we just accept the work on the screen. No longer would we be slaves to what others gave us. If the movie itself was terrible, we would and could make it better by virtue of riffing. Drinking games help, too.

Finally, and this couldn’t have happened at a better time, it’s important to not take yourself too seriously. Part of the humor in many of these films comes from the fact that, for example, someone thought it was a good idea to give Michael Bay the reins to the Transformers movies. On the other hand, some of these movies, such as Future War and Soultaker, clearly didn’t think things through enough. There must exist a balance between taking the work seriously and being able to laugh at yourself. You have to realize, at some point, that some parts of your life are absurd. Take me, for instance. Five years ago, my wife and I would go to bars, game every week, and watch horror movies while laughing our heads off. Now, the most gruesome thing we encounter is the host of eldritch horrors our baby summons into her diaper on a daily basis, more if she has curry.

Our first home!
Our first home!

MST3K was also present for another important time in my life. When my wife and I first moved in together, we didn’t have cable, let alone internet. The only television or movies we could watch were whatever DVDs we had or anything we had saved on our computer. I’d saved several episodes of MST3K to my hard drive. Before I even had a desk, the monitor would sit on one of our packed boxes and we would have dinner on plastic plates, while sitting on the ground, and I introduced Mary to the Satellite of Love just as I was introduced to it, through the Season 8 episode Revenge of the Creature. She became a devotee ever since then.

That was how we spent our first few weeks in that apartment, before we even had a couch, and before we set the apartment up how we wanted. Now, five years later, we watch Rifftrax and continue the tradition. If I knew a place to get plushy Tom and Crow dolls, you bet my baby would be snuggling up with one. I mean, she already has a Cthulhu plushie.

I was lucky enough to meet Mike Nelson back in 2007 when he spoke at DePauw University. I was also lucky enough to walk him from the hotel and have him sit in on our Comedy class to give his own insight on the genre. We had a short Twitter conversation back in February 8, 2012, where Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett also chimed in on the idea of the Greatest Canadian Hero. If I could have their attention for just one minute again, I would tell them that what they do is, under nearly any standard, absurd. It’s the kind of thing people have been doing since movies were first invented, and even then I’m sure people in Victorian England would sit around the latest novel and mock it as it was read to them.

And yet you turned it into an art form. Speaking to everyone who worked in MST3K, from the earliest days of public access, to the movie, and finally to its last hurrah on Sci-Fi, and to the various projects from Cinematic Titanic to Rifftrax, I want to say thank you. Thank you for more than twenty years of laughs.


MST3k Cast Photo by themadbutcher on DeviantArt

Specifically, today, congrats to Rifftrax for continuing a tradition that has shaped lives and changed the course of pop culture. Movie makers are on notice. The audience knows it can laugh. I am who I am because of my family, friends, and teachers, but a part of this crazy mind is due in part to spending my youth, and now my adult life, with the Satellite of Love’s crew, wherever they may go.

And I’ve had a cherished part of my life now passed on to the love of my life. Trust me when I say that when the Little One is old enough, she’s going to laugh along with us too as we keep returning to the Satellite of Love. At least for a moment, know you’ve changed my life for the better.

Here’s to the next thirty years and beyond, gentlemen.

And now, a reminder that even if the premise is absurd, just acknowledging it and having fun with it are better than pretending you’re making Hamlet. Embrace the cheese.

Show Some Lovecraftian Love

He's seen things...
He’s seen things…

June 18, 2013

Given the cosmic horror themes my current D&D campaign is about use, I felt it prudent to read up on Bloch, Howard, Smith, and of course Lovecraft. These men built on a fairly recent tradition of cosmic horror that would not really hit until decades later.

Having re-familiarized myself with these works, I feel I should point out how influential they have been in MANY areas of popular culture.

There are, of course, the films that are direct adaptations of Lovecraft’s world. I’ve reviewed Whisperer in Darkness and talked about how “Call of Cthulhu” is good for college courses. Of course, there are also the Gordon films (Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon, and “Dreams in the Witch-House), but there are also the films that borrowed from the central concepts of Lovecraft’s vision.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Sure, the Ghostbusters, well, uhm… busted ghosts. But the big bad in the first film is Gozer, an extradimensional being that seeks to destroy the world. The dead rising are a byproduct of its impending arrival.

Lovecraft was not a believer in the supernatural, despite modern pop belief in the contrary. His stories, even those that dealt with magic, made it seem more like an advanced form of super-science, an understanding beyond that which we know. The titular witch in “Dreams in the Witch-House” wasn’t a student of potions and astrology. She learned to manipulate space and time as a scientist would learn to mix different chemicals.


Ghostbusters – Gozer’s Entrance by ~thefenrir on deviantART

Alien Horror

H. G. Wells made the concept of alien invasion a reality with War of the Worlds. It’s a classic, but Lovecraft was the one who came up with the idea of aliens as truly horrible, and ALIEN, entities. Name a story in the mythos. Any story. Odds are that the beasties and nasties are not so much earth-bound horrors as they are alien “gods” from other worlds. Even if they are creatures from Earth, they likely have a connection to alien entities. Such a premise has caught on with others.

In Hellboy, for example, the ultimate evil is the alien monstrosities just waiting to be released. In The Thing, the titular, well… thing… is an alien shapeshifter that, aside from its origin, would not be out of place in a fantasy horror story. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they eventually made vampires into demons that were actually creatures from other dimensions.

Fan Fiction

Today, you can type the name of any show, movie, or book, and find terabytes of stories written by a host of fans from all over the world. Flame wars can erupt at the slightest provocation.

Well, Lovecraft encouraged such behavior.

What we call the Cthulhu Mythos, the collected mythology of alien horrors, is actually written by several different authors. Lovecraft himself borrowed terms and characters from other writers such as Ambrose Bierce. Years of authors borrowing from each other, building a common mythology, has led to retcons, inconsistencies, and a massive library of stories… and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s also why some people think things like the Necronomicon are real. So many authors mentioned it that it MUST have some sort of real-world analogue.


Cosmic Horror by ~NoxinOen on deviantART

There you have it. Lovecraft and others, I’m sure, are the unsung heroes of modern fantasy and horror. I’m not saying they’re the only ones responsible, but Lovecraftian horror had a serious impact on pop culture. It took decades, sure, but we’ve embraced these stories. We often use them for comedic effect, such South Park‘s take on Cthulhu himself or even the Unspeakable Vault of Doom. The truth is that the giants like Stephen King and Clive Barker owe much of their inspiration to the works of the early weird fantasy writers.

And I think they deserve more respect and recognition.

Whisperer in Darkness Review

I'm in ur head, removin ur brainz
I’m in ur head, removin ur brainz

June 11, 2013

Every few months, I get on this Lovecraft kick that often lasts weeks. To satiate this urge, Mary and I watched The Whisper in Darkness, a full-length movie by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the same people who brought us the short film adaptation of “The Call of Cthulhu.” This was a different film since it was a “talkie” in the style of 1930’s horror films.

So, what’s the verdict? A little background…

The Plot

Albert Wilmarth is a professor of folklore at Miskatonic University. He has doubts concerning the stories coming out of Vermont regarding strange creatures from other worlds washing down the river after a massive flood. After public humiliation following a debate with an anti-science advocate who believes in the stories, Wilmarth is approached by George Akeley, son of Henry Akeley, a man who’s been writing to him for months regarding strange creatures in the hills. George presents Wilmarth with evidence that the creatures are real and forces the academic to doubt his own sanity.

After months of frantic letters, Wilmarth receives one final letter from Henry Akeley asking him to come to Vermont with the evidence. Akeley furthermore claims that his panic over the creatures was unfounded and he now has a deeper understanding of their goals.

Upon arriving at the isolated farm, Wilmarth faces the shocking truth about the creatures and their plans for humanity.

The Good

Much like “The Call of Cthulhu,” this film was shot in “old-school” style, making it look like a 1930’s horror film. The special effects do incorporate some CGI this time around. While the effects do look somewhat cheap, it doesn’t make them less creepy. In fact, it adds to the charm of the overall film. They’re really only showcased in a few shots towards the end, anyway.

The acting is appropriately theatrical given the genre. Perhaps one of the most intense, and nerve-wrecking, moments in the film involved Wilmarth, played by Matt Foyer, simply looking at a door while strange, and possibly alien, voices, moved about outside his room.Having read the story, i knew what would happen, but I still found myself clutching Mary’s hand as tightly as she held mine.

Lovecraft is often celebrated for his imagination, but the original story did end quite abruptly, albeit it with a twist. It was also mostly a series of letters between two characters and some conversation, an exposition of things that had already happened. The filmmakers decided that this was fine, but it also served as a first act to a larger story. Normally, I would be very disappointed in someone thinking he or she should “improve” on the original story, but in this case, it worked.

The second half of the movie starts with what is the original story’s twist, then takes it in a direction closer to a thriller and a race against time. And yes, it does end with the usual dark, forbidding Lovecraftian ending that really seals the deal and creates a feeling of dread.


Mi-Go, the Fungi from Yuggoth by *Cloister on deviantART

The Bad

The aforementioned changes in the story, while pleasant and entertaining, can be a turn-off for die-hard Lovecraft fans. After “The Call of Cthulhu,” a wonderfully faithful adaptation, some might feel this one takes too many liberties with the source material.

There are also times in the movie where things just sort of… stop. It can get a little slow in several sections towards the middle, but it eventually picks up again. The beginning also takes a bit too long in getting to the main story.

The IA! IA! CTHULHU FTHAGN!

This was an enjoyable movie, creepier than I would have thought, and it was nice to see the Mi-go on screen. I would love to see the HPLHS do more of these films, maybe with bigger budgets. They’ve certainly showed they have a knack for bringing the dread and eeriness of Lovecraft’s world to the screen.

Like I said before, though, the change in story at the end might not be for die-hard fans. For casual fans, it’s still a good film. For people new to Lovecraft, I think it serves as a good introduction to the mythos.

If you’re curious, here’s the full trailer. Sweet dreams…

Quick Review: Fingerprints

First sign of trouble? Cover vs actual still.
First sign of trouble? Cover vs actual still.

May 22, 2013

As I looked through horror movies to watch this week, I came across Fingerprints, a low-budget horror movie based on a Texas urban legend regarding a train crash. The legend goes that a school bus stalled on a set of train tracks as a train was about to pass. A few kids managed to escape, but most died when the bus was hit by the train. Now, if a car stops near the tracks, the legend says the car will move, on its own, past the tracks. If you put talcum powder or something similar on your car, you’re supposed to be able to see the fingerprints of the ghost children who push you to get you to safety.

This being a state legend, and since I’m still buzzing from Charcoal Streets and those stories, I decided to see what this little film did with the legend, so I pulled it up on Netflix.

And the first thing I see?

Review1

…Comic sans? Really? Okay, so it’s not EXACTLY comic sans, but it’s pretty close. Maybe it’s just the first card.

Review2

Nope. They just keep going.

So, what about the title card itself? Surely they were smart enough to at least put in some weird effects. Or maybe they wanted the titles to look like a little kid drew them, just to hammer the point home that there are going to be creepy ghost children in this film?

Review3

…Wow. They just didn’t care.

First impressions are very powerful, and if my first impression of this movie is that the designers didn’t even bother to find a creepy or even serious font, I’m not even going to bother with the rest. Sorry, Fingerprints, but you actually lost me in three title cards. Bravo.

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

 

They see me rollin'...
They see me rollin’…

May 20, 2013

I had very mixed feelings four years ago when the Star trek reboot got underway. I didn’t want my beloved franchise ruined.

As it turns out, it’s been a fun romp.

I finally got to watch Star Trek Into Darkness earlier today and have a lot to say about it. Because of the nature of the movie, spoilers will be CLEARLY listed at the bottom of the review.

Synopsis

Set a few months after the last movie, this one starts with Kirk blatantly breaking the Prime Directive, Starfleet’s highest order of non-interference, and getting demoted for saving Spock in the process. Things go further south when a mysterious man named John Harrison orchestrates a bombing in London that kills forty-two people and takes out a secret Starfleet facility As it turns out, John Harrison is a Starfleet operative who’s gone rogue and has a plan for the Federation.

That’s when things get personal for Kirk after a second attack on Starfleet headquarters takes a personal toll on him.

And to say more than that would be to spoil the movie indeed.


Dark Side of Star Trek by ~kung-fu-eyebrow on deviantART

The Good

The story was a character study of both Kirk and Spock, their motivations and how they approach life. Much like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan showed the effects of age, this one showed the consequences of Kirk’s youth and Spock’s too-human side. Kirk’s gung-ho attitude and youth, something many people felt made no sense at the end of the last movie, come back to bite him in the butt, and hard. It was refreshing, and then the movie proceeds to show Kirk going through the pain and challenges that will mold Kirk into the captain we all know.

The film also addressed the contemporary issue of drone strikes, war, and vengeance. One of the major plot points early in the film involves the Enterprise being tasked with launching long-range torpedoes at an inhabited world to try and take out Harrison. Surprisingly, Kirk of all people is fine with this given his emotional investment, but others are very much shocked and appalled at the idea of launching weapons of mass destruction at a populated location to get a single individual without a trial.

The action sequences in this one are brutal, too, possibly to go along with the darker themes. Expect broken bones, crushed heads, and a starship beat-down that’s downright painful to watch. They are, however, utterly bad-ass. I’m also glad Abrams decided to tone down the lens flare effects on this one. They would have given me a headache with the 3D.

As in the previous film, there are plenty of allusions for die-hard Trek fans to latch on to and giggle over, so keep an eye out for them.


Star Trek Into Darkness by ~applejaxshii on deviantART

The Bad

Uhm… see the Spoilers section below.

Final Verdict (Spoiler-free)

The movie was fun, I enjoyed it, and would watch it again…

Now, if you want to know the full story and my other thoughts, go past the picture and read the spoiler-filled Final Verdict.


Star Trek: Into Darkness by *ThreshTheSky on deviantART

Final Verdict (WITH SPOILERS)

Okay, so Cumberbatch is actually Khan, thawed out and used by Starfleet to help design new weapons. A lot of people guessed it might have been Khan from the very beginning, and I tried to avoid any of those articles enough to try and remain surprised.

However, despite Cumberbatch being genuinely creepy as the bad guy, it does raise the unfortunate implication that one of the most iconic characters in Star Trek was recast as a white man. Ricardo Molteban’s run as Khan in the original series is legendary. Even people who don’t know the franchise will probably recognize one of the most famous moments from Star Trek II where Shatner eats the scenery and most of the movie lot and yells Khan’s name. Khan was smart, charismatic, and most of all, dangerous. Rightfully so, many people are complaining that Khan’s new actor is a white Brit who seems to be saying that a man of color can’t be all these things, can’t be dangerous and smart…

However, I’m going to call crap on part of this. Not all of it. Just part it.

The character of Khan is a genetically-engineered superman. His full name denotes Indian and Chinese heritage, and yet he was played by a Mexican actor. Likewise, John Cho, who is Korean, was cast as the Japanese Hikaru Sulu. Zoe Saldana is Puerto Rican and Dominican and plays Uhura, who based on several sources is either Central or South African and was played by Nichelle Nichols, who was from Illinois. But I guess since they LOOK the part, there aren’t too many complaints.

Also, consider the times in which we live in today. Khan is a terrorist, a warlord who wishes to wipe out those he considers inferior. Now consider what would have happened if a brown man had been cast in the part, especially given the movie’s overt theme of terrorism. While it was a noble gesture in the 60’s to make the villain a non-white, the original draft of the episode “Space Seed” did have Khan as a Nordic superman that sounds similar to a superpowered Nazi.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I am disappointed that the film went with the decision to cast a white actor, it has its good and bad points. I’m all for going with a great actor as opposed to one that just looks the part. Either way, Cumberbatch did a great job.

And now, if you’re still interested, here’s the final trailer…

Evil Dead Review: Worthy?

Yes, the chainsaw's back.
Yes, the chainsaw’s back.

April 29, 2013

Mary and I finally saw Evil Dead on Friday and were not disappointed. Of course, since this is a remake, everyone’s going to want to know how it stacks against the original, and let me tell you that as someone who grew up with thoughts of Ash kicking zombie ass for many years, this movie does not disappoint. In fact, I welcome it to the Evil Dead family.

Basic Rundown

Evil Dead is about Mia, a young woman trying to kick a serious drug addiction, and her friends and brother who have taken her to an isolated cabin in the woods to help her detox and quit cold turkey. As usually happens, they find an artifact of ancient eldritch power and one of these people is stupid enough to read from a book bound in human skin and filled with images of dismemberment and demonic possession.

Cue an hour and a half of five people trying to figure out how to stop the demon possessing them one by one until it claims all their souls and can escape into the real world.

The Good

Is it the same plot and characters as the original?

Of course not. It’s a retelling, a modern take on Raimi’s original idea. The special effects are updated and make as little use of CGI as possible. Actually, that’s a lie. While I know CGI was used, it’s not noticeable. It’s subtle make-up as opposed to a mask. Not to mention that practical effects just make the kills that much more painful to watch… in a good way.

Best of all, the music and gore are an homage to 1980’s horror movies. Think of it like an old, classic car that’s been given a new paintjob and wax job. Even better, the sound system is updated and the seats got new covers and cushions.

It’s pretty much what I wanted in a horror movie. It’s brutal and bloody without being cartoony. Okay, maybe a moment or two are cartoony, but the movie does a good job of creating tension and using gore to create an unsettling effect, not just for gore’s sake. It manages to keep raising the stakes and still feel believable. The tension keeps mounting for the last two thirds and it works.

Combined with good sound effects, the movie is scary, creepy, and it plays its few jump scares right.

The Bad

No Ash.

Okay, this one isn’t really the movie’s fault, but it’s following in the footsteps of a very famous movie series. Comparisons are bound to come up, but I say let the movie stand on its own. It can do it. As a horror movie, it works.

As a remake… well, I think it works as well as a remake can work. It takes some elements from the first two Evil Dead movies and strips the comedy, something that really made the originals memorable. Gone are the quips and the one-liners, though, which could really have helped move the movie from good to great.

Final Verdict?

Much like The Thing, this movie is a good attempt at trying to follow a series of movies that have colored the horror genre for more than thirty years. This remake/ retelling is its own animal, and by itself is a very creepy, very atmospheric horror movie, if formulaic.

The fact that the people who made the original worked on this as well, and there are hints that this remake may crossover with the original films (and Ash!), there’s a lot to be hopeful for if this series continues.

Check out the red-band trailer below and tell me what you think if you’ve seen it. You can also check out the original on Netflix instant right now if you’re so inclined.

The Final Randomology Post

I GIVE UP!
I GIVE UP!

April 1, 2013

After a long week of soul-searching, I’ve realized that I’ve made a terrible mistake. This entire website has been an exercise in futility and I’m going to pack it in.

I’ve realized that it truly is impossible to fight against the forces of conservatism and ignorance. They are just too strong. They have talk radio and major news outlets and they can scream really loudly. And that scares me. I don’t want people to think I’m a baby-killing pagan communist anymore.

To that end, I will do the only rational thing. I will shut up. For good.

This website will stand as a monument to my stupidity and hubris. How could I have thought for a second that I could make a difference?!

I should apologize to Glenn Beck for years of mocking him and thinking he was insane for thinking there was some vast conspiracy at work. There has to be. It makes perfect sense that he alone would have the vision to put together this web of lies that are ruling our lives.

I should also apologize to Fox News. I know I’ve said they’re the spawn of evil and deception in the world, but they’re not. I mean, they say everything so loudly and repeat it over and over again. It has to be true, right?

I’d like to apologize to the American Right Wing. I know you guys just want to make sure others can’t worship or lives their lives as they see fit, so I think you should just go ahead and do that. It’s exhausting hearing you.

But most of all, I want to apologize to my students and everyone who thought that writing, and critical thinking and expression could make a dent in the world. This is a cold, hard reality and it needs equally cold and hard people. Compassion, understanding, and curiosity have no place in it.

So, there you have it. Randomology is dead. And it failed. I’ll see you…

Well, I won’t. Just…

Bye. I’ll be leaving on a bus later today and heading to Alaska so that I may sit at the feet of Sarah Palin and learn a thing or two.

Death of the Horror Movie Part 3

Strange noises and disappeared teens... Let's explore!
Strange noises and disappeared teens… Let’s explore!

February 22, 2013

Do we really need to change the horror movie?

I just spent the last two articles talking about all the things that need to happen in order for horror movies to be fun and scary again, but do we really need all this?

The point of going to any movie is to be entertained. Do bad, cliché-ridden horror movies still provide that? Yes, in a way. Riffing and watching with a large group can still be highly enjoyable experiences. In fact, riffing the film is the best part of a bad movie. There’s certainly appeal to laughing at the misfortune of dumb kids getting hacked like Thanksgiving dinner or the general mistakes of someone who just didn’t care to make a movie the right way…

I guess this is where we start to veer into the difference between “great film” and “good movie.”

Wit was a great film. Trick ‘r Treat was a great film. The Dark Knight was a great film.

Feast, The Last Lovecraft, and Dredd were good movies.


Horror House by ~tobisagt on deviantART

What’s the difference? A great film stands the test of time. It can reach a wide audience and has layers upon layers of meaning that only get better with each successive viewing.

A good movie is fun. You may not necessarily watch it again, but it did its job.

I want great horror films again. I want the kinds of movies that get the crowd so quiet that you can hear your own heartbeat. I want real terror, not the endless gore of a slow death with no sympathy for the victim. I want to actually care about the victims so that I can feel something. I want horror with layers of meaning.

…But I also love movies that are good just on their own. For example, one of my favorite horror films, Feast, is a straight-up closed circle monster movie where the characters don’t even have names. It’s gory and so over the top it loops around and comes back to “plausible.”

And it has fun with it.


HORROR by ~LabrenzInk on deviantART

Maybe I’ve been going about this all wrong. Not every movie can be The Shining, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Some of my favorite memories watching movies involved movies that weren’t all that great but were obviously having a good laugh at themselves while we, the audience, laughed too.

Bad movies serve a purpose much like bad writing. They serve as examples. Eventually, the market gets so saturated with the bad that the good comes out. It’s strange. That’s not to say every movie on Netflix Instant should be a must-see, but it does mean that we get more examples of what doesn’t work. It’s like I said regarding drawing with charcoal. When you make enough mistakes and wipe the slate clean, eventually, you get something much better than the original work.

You know what? I changed my mind.

Bad movies can keep coming. They have a purpose. Good movies? Take note and learn from their mistakes.

And now, in celebration of this revelation, let’s bask in the glory of cheese that will be Spiders 3D.

Death of the Horror Movie Part 1

Shotgun to the face. Problem solved.
Shotgun to the face. Problem solved.

February 11, 2013

My love of horror and cheap movies should be evident to regular readers of this site. I love a good thriller. I like the anticipation before the scare. I love the adrenalin of a good chase scene and the mystery of a cryptic villain.

Alas, though, I’m starting to suspect the horror movie may be dead. The majority of new and mostly American films seem to be falling into a pattern. It’s not unexpected, especially when something works, for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. Halloween made the masked killer popular. Cue 30 years of imitation. Saw made the torture pron genre popular. Cue everyone and their mother making a movie about slow deaths. However, this is a bandwagon that cannot be tolerated any more.

I demand real horror. And cell phones killed it for me.

The plot of many horror movie involves a group of young adults or teens going somewhere without any communication to the outside world. A variation of this is to trap the protagonists in a place, often a blood-encrusted warehouse, with no means of escape. While varied, the result is to trap the people in a closed environment without any of the tools of the modern world. Help from the outside, then, is also impossible.

This is, if I may be blunt, crap.


5 horror by ~honking-capricorn on deviantART

Look back at the history of horror. Horror is about the other and the alien intruding on our lives, not the normal intruding into the strange. Real horror comes when the nice picket fences frame a crazed killer. It’s not the Cleavers going to an insane asylum to frolic among the crazies. Of course, Laurie Strode would have a cell phone if the story were set today. Modern alarm systems would alert the police. The universal nature of telecommunication and social media make it unlikely for someone to just drop off or find him or herself without access to the rest of the world. It’s not unlikely, but it seems as if modern horror movies go out of their way to put people in situations reminiscent of 1977. The first thing that usually happens in a modern horror movie? Cell phones stop working.

This is infuriating for two reasons.

First of all, what’s the point of this horror if it relies on a series of locations and circumstances most people would not find themselves in? When was the last time you had all cell phone reception just drop and stay that way for hours or days? When was the last time you went somewhere where all signals were dead? Granted, this could be a sign of something terrible about to happen. It can also set an environment apart from the rest of the world.

Second of all, movies that rely on this miss the point. If the protagonists are city slickers and modern teens and young adults who have grown up with technology, they will already be uneasy and the situation will already be alien to most of them. Dropping off the grid like that is horror in of itself.


Urban Horror Tale by *TonyCampagna on deviantART

Why not set the horror in the modern, urban world?

This is the difficult part. Like I said, the nature of cell phones and social media make it so everyone is connected all the time, and horror just hasn’t taken advantage of this as a plot device. We’ve had plenty of movies that paint the internet as a den of torturers and sadists, and some horror has made a legitimate effort to address the anonymity of modern information and technology, but it just feels like the genre is trying to set stories back in the wireless-free days because it’s easier.

Instead of being afraid of this connectivity, why not embrace it? Why not look around and try to find horror again? What is the “other” we can be afraid of and use for horror now? I have a few ideas.

Continued in Part 2

In the meantime, let’s ask the eternal question… how many calories DOES sex burn?

Those Wacky Terrorists

Just your average screw-ball romantic comedy featuring genocidal madmen and Nazi superweapons…

November 26, 2011

How long is long enough for “too soon” to be long ago enough?

More specifically, when can we start using real-world events for fiction? I recently managed to catch a piece of the film Iron Sky, a dark satire of modern world events, American attitudes, and racism that tells the story of Nazis on the moon who have decided to finally invade Earth after hiding for 60 years.

Yes, Nazis. On the moon. With spaceships. Just try to not make too much sense of it.


Iron Sky Wallpaper by ~Dominator501st on deviantART

The movie has its moments, such as the gorgeous space battle between weaponized space satellites and the Nazi fleet, the Sarah Palinesque American president and her shallow bid for reelection, and one moon Nazis conflict with her own morality after learning the true history of Nazism. Overall, not perfect, but it did get to me wonder.

When did Nazis become acceptable as comedic villains? As dark as the movie could get, the villains were over-the-top and as comical as villains on any old movie serial. Nazis have been fodder for pulp action for decades now, and Mel Brooks led the charge, I believe. He once stated that his goal was to make Hitler so ridiculous that no one would take him seriously as a leader. Maybe it’s worked. Brooks, though, is also a World War 2 veteran and was at the Battle of the Bulge, so as far as rights to mock Hitler, Brooks is covered.

But when can we start making fun of modern-day despots and terrorists? The Film Four Lions tried to do this and was met with positive acclaim. The sting of terrorism, though, it very much fresh for many people. Nazism pretty much died with Hitler, and although modern-day Nazis still exist, they are labeled as nuts and whackos, radicals without a home who have been fought and defeated, yet they still cling to an ideology that sent the world into war.


+iKillu+ by ~MadmanV3N0M on deviantART

Terrorism, though, is much more complex. It still exists today, and between drone strikes and invasions, there are many who view it as a legitimate tool to fight oppression and bring vengeance upon the enemy. American imperialism is also very much tangled with exceptionalism and other extreme patriot movements.

The key is that comedy is aimed at the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, not the victims or the crimes themselves. For example, I’m not sure anyone would seriously think a comedy about the holocaust would be either appropriate or funny. Comedy based around terrorists, then, must be about the perpetrators, not their crimes.

Unless you’re racist.

Likewise, it seems we’re not too preoccupied about making movies based on recent events. How long did it take for 9/11 movies to come out? A few years? Television shows set in the modern world obviously had to address these concerns, but how soon is too soon to make a drama about terrorism? 24 was well into production when 9/11 occurred. Now, we have Homeland.

It’ll be interesting to look back on this time from twenty, maybe thirty years from now and see just how our entertainment dealt with a dark period in our history. Will we groan at our dash to capitalize on tragedy or see terrorists reduced to inept, albeit scary, movie monsters?

Just something to think about.

In any case, here’s a group of people who really wish they’d stayed in bed. See you later, and keep sharing posts!