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…
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.
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.
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…
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?
…Comic sans? Really? Okay, so it’s not EXACTLY comic sans, but it’s pretty close. Maybe it’s just the first card.
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?
…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.
The horror genre has had more twists and turns than a Mexican highway. Today, horror is filled with blood splatter, torture chambers, and cheap Syfy movies that think CG is a substitute for actual plot and characters. I’m being overly general, of course, but it’s hard to not look at my beloved horror, the genre that helped pass many a dark nights and many dates with Mary, and not think that something has gone massively awry.
Where did we go wrong? It helps if we look at horror from its humble beginnings to today’s pop version.
Okay, let’s talk about old horror. There is no such thing.
Read the full article on my guest post at World Weaver Press.
July 6, 2012
I miss old movies.
It’s how I know I’m getting old. I don’t miss them for the usual reasons, though. It’s not that we aren’t making good movies nowadays. I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The Dark Knight was a blast. 28 Days Later was awesome. In general, it’s not so much the old plots and conventions that I miss, but rather the special effects, and this goes mostly for horror movies.
Can we please stop using CGI for EVERYTHING?
I realize it’s easier for a lot of studios to make a CG monster and it grants the opportunity to make effects for nearly any budget level, but that doesn’t mean the effects look good. Or real. Take a look at these two short clips. Tell me which one looks better, more real, and strikes a better cord with the audience in terms of suspension of disbelief.
And now, Exhibit B:
Okay, I know. I’m comparing one of the classic 90’s movies, and one of the pioneers of the modern special effects movement, to a SyFy channel original movie starring Edward “Wanna Pay to Watch Me Poop on a Plate” Furlong. It’s not a fair comparison.
But I’m really only focusing on the effects. Even a movie like Terminator 3, which should have had effects ten times better and more realistic than T2, actually looked worse. The news is even worse for horror movies. With CG, you can create all the gory little cuts you want, add squibs, or show us the insides of your hapless victims. It’s good to have these tools, but like overeager writing students who think they can write a sonnet and not worry about meter because rules are meant to be broken, moviemakers have gone overboard.
Even Rob Zombie, a man who is an avowed fan of horror movies, couldn’t resist going CG with his own movies despite making them as an homage to 70’s horror and exploitation flicks. While I’m not one who thinks gore equals horror, it does add a level of realism to have actual props, blood, and monsters on camera. We’re not at the point where CG can totally recreate reality, at least not on the levels some studios think it can.
Maybe some day it will look as good, but we’re not there yet. I actually miss watching behind-the-scenes videos that showed the ingenuity needed to make shots occur. Now, behind-the-scenes videos are just information on how many terabytes certain things took up.
All I’m saying is… take the time to make it look good. Or at least make an effort. If it feels like it was too easy, it probably was.
And now, I leave you with a trailer for a movie that, despite using CG, seems to rely more on actual plot. Time will tell, though.
November 9, 2011
I recently discovered Drinkify, a website that matches muscicians with the type of drink best suited to listen to their music. There’s a short list of a few samples over at Buzzfeed, but I think someone needs to make a database for drinks best suited to artists and other areas of art. And gaming.
In fact, we need to get some drinks together. Let’s get started.
Edgar Allan Poe
- 1/3 oz absinthe
- 2/3 oz blackberry liqueur
Add blackberry liqueur to shot glass and layer absinthe on top.
H. P. Lovecraft
Dark and Stormy
- 1 oz black rum
- 1 beer
Pour rum into the beer. Drink.
- 1 part Schnapps, butterscotch
- 1 dash Schnapps, vanilla
- 7 parts cream soda
Add both vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps to mug. Pour in cold cream soda and stir very gently.
- 1.5 oz Scotch
- 1 tea bag
- 1 tbsp honey
Put scotch and honey into a mug. Add a tea bag and fill with boiling water. Steep for a few minutes, then remove the tea bag.
Dungeons and Dragons
This one actually has several drink suggestions based on your style of play. I’m planning on making the spiced wine this weekend to try it out.
- 1 bottle of beer (bock works best)
- 1 shot bourbon (Jim Beam works best)
Add the shot of bourbon to the beer. Drink.
German Hot Spiced Wine
- 1 gal Burgundy wine
- 1/2 gallon water
- 1 tsp all-spice
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- Whole cloves
- 3 lemons
Slice half the orange and 2 lemons. Peel the zest from the last lemon. Drop into pot. In a tea ball or a piece of cheese cloth, put the allspice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, drop into pot. Add the burgundy and water. Heat on low until hot, add sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours. Turn off and let rest 30 minutes. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth. Serve in warmed mugs and garnish with 1/2 slice orange floating in cup.
- ½ oz bourbon
- ½ oz Mountain Dew
- 1 oz cinnamon Schnapps
Mix all ingredients in mixing glass, along with 1 cup crushed iced. Strain into margarita glass and serve immediately.
That’s it for today, folks. I’d like to make this a regular feature. If you have specific drink recipes or combos you think are applicable for authors, art, gaming, movies, whatever, send me a message through the Contact Me page and I might include it next time. For now, with the recent announcement that Where’s Waldo? might be made into a movie, enjoy this possible sneak peak at what this cinematic, uhm, experience, might be like.
November 8, 2011
Guess who has to drop several pounds gained over the last year? Yeah, it’s going to be a fun month cutting back on caffeine, sugar, pounds, AND getting ready for the holiday season. Woohoo?
With that in mind, let’s get some links out of the way.
- Assassin’s Creed may be making its way tot he movies, but some insiders are shocked, SHOCKED I say, that Ubisoft has virtually total control over story, casting, everything. What does a video game company know about making movies, they ask? I’d ask instead what the hell Hollywood knows about adapting video games to movies. Bloodrayne, anyone? Prince of Persia? Doom? I could go on…
- Speaking of which, the president of Universal admits his company makes “shitty” movies. His words, not mine.
- Rachel Maddow has a theory about Herman Cain. He’s an actor. He has to be. The entire presidential run has to be some sort of massive art project. She explains her reasoning and, frankly, it makes sense.
- I did not and will not talk about the Kim Kardashian divorce. Just like I didn’t talk about the wedding. However, this article lays out how the divorce, at the same time the show is still showering us with images and video of the happy newlyweds, is actually good for America. In a nutshell, the dissonance between seeing the couple just a few weeks ago and the reality of today shatters the illusion of “reality” television. It’s staged, we all know that, but this is the most glaring example so far.
- If you find yourself complaining about the MTV Generation… you may be TOO old. Older than you think.
- Another moron from Jersey Shore got paid good money to lecture, this time at Columbia University. Thankfully, the students he spoke to were less than pleased he was there and let him know it.
- James Marsters, aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer answers some questions and makes a holiday picture like only Spike could make.
- I once asked if someone could make a chart of how many explosions Michael Bay could fit into a movie and still make money. Amazingly, someone did just that. It seems there is a point at which the explosions cannot save a movie, but beyond that point, more boom means more cash.
- Do you know someone who is against gay marriage? Here’s a handy set of pictures and text to explain the concept of gay marriage (what they gays refer to simply as MARRIAGE).
- I already knew the patron saint of hopeless causes and the patron saint of beer, but I was surprised to learn there is a patron saint of ugliness. Check out the other saints you may not have heard of.
- I love sleeping with some nice, semi-fluffy pillows and a warm comforter, but this is probably the best place to sleep EVAH!
- Adam Savage had a small role in a zombie flick. Short and sweet. Check it out.
- We have new images of the construction of the Death Star.
- There can be an argument that some people have TOO much money. They buy things that no one needs. Things like, well, anything in the Skymall catalogue. Or they go and do crap like THIS.
- Neil Gaiman will be on The Simpsons. Also, he gets roped into trying to do an American accent. Hilarity ensues.
- Here is a headbanging bear.
- And finally, here’s the trailer to Denzel Washington’s new movie, Safe House. Enjoy, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Today, let me share two pieces of flash fiction. Enjoy, and have a safe and fun Halloween!
“We Do It For You”
Whenever I feel like doing something silly, I wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and make faces. I stick out my tongue or roll my eyes. Sometimes I just smirk. It takes effort, but it’s very relaxing to do something unexpected. The rest of my day is just spent waiting for my next task. I beg you. Be silly. Show the faces other people don’t know. You really should lighten up. Every time you look in a mirror, it’s always to make sure you look good. It’s to make sure you show the face people want to see.
That’s why I make those faces. You’re too uptight. I’m just trying to lighten the mood. All I ever do is the things you do, copy all your movements.
One day, I’m going to make you grab a pen and shove it in your eye.
“The Sound of the Fight”
My uncle is an exorcist. We were talking one day and I happened to mention my friends and I were going to see a horror movie later. He looked at me with all seriousness and said he never watches horror movies. It’s not that he’s scared. He’s insulted. They’ve never gotten it right.
An exorcism isn’t some ritual performed on some teen girl wearing a white nightgown. An exorcism is a fight. He told me he once went to a house in a poor section of the city. One of the man’s daughters was possessed, and my uncle went in to do battle. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a man who studied theology in all its forms. He was a man of faith. If The Exorcist showed the tactical game of wits between good and evil, my uncle was a street fighter who walked up to demons and ghosts and sent them out with a sucker punch.
He never really told me what the exorcism looked like. I didn’t want to press him since he had the kind of look a soldier gives if you ask if he ever had to shoot someone.
My uncle did tell me one thing, a small detail I’ve never been able to forget. While an exorcist fights demons, the demons will fight back and make sounds like dogs. They howl and bark and sound like animals in pain.
How many howling dogs in the middle of the night are demons trying to stay on Earth?
October 24, 2011
It’s the best week of the year, and with Halloween coming up, I thought a whole week of horror-themed articles are in order.
Let’s talk about the must have’s for any Halloween movie viewing marathon.
The thing to remember when trying to pick horror movies for mass viewing is that everyone is going to have vastly different tastes. Some people want gore. Others want something scary but funny. Maybe others love the suspense. With that in mind, this list is going to include a little bit of everything. It’s not a “The Best Horror Movies EVAH!” list. It’s what I think works when you have to satisfy a lot of tastes.
Genius inventor Jigsaw traps people in elaborate traps designed to metaphorically make them face something about themselves. This is usually a dark secret or a vice that makes them inadequate in the killer’s eyes.
Okay, so the sequels could have done without basically turning into a series of more and more elaborate scenarios that missed the whole thematic point of the original. So what if pretty much the point of the movies after the third one was to show how sadistic the writers could be?
The original movie is AWESOME. It barely shows any blood (unlike the sequels), and it’s more concerned with the characters actually finding a way out, unlike the rest of the series where we just get a sickening countdown until someone dies because, let’s face it. If you’re in a Jigsaw trap, you’re dead. Most the gore is implied, making this, surprisingly, a good intro to novice horror watchers. Trust me. They don’t show anything you wouldn’t see on a graphic episode of CSI.
This is it. The gore-fest. The standard. Every movie with exploding bodies or dismembered body parts wishes it has the kind of humor, shock, and lasting power this movie has enjoyed.
Herbert West is a medical student with a secret. He’s working on a serum, his “reagent,” that can bring dead flesh back to life. His goal is to wipe out death, to make humans immortal, but the tests aren’t promising. Anyone brought back suffers from violent personality and animal-like hunger. That’s not going to stop the good doctor from trying, though.
This has to be not only one of my favorite horror movies, but also one of my favorite horror films. Not only do we get Jeffrey Combs at his hammy best, but the film is very much aware of what it is: a horror comedy. And it does it well. The gore is over the top. The humor is dark. The whole movie’s like finishing an onion blossom by yourself. It’s fried and you know it can’t be this good, but damn if it’s not tasty.
I showed this to a friend who is very squeamish about gore, and while she shrieked and yelped, she admitted she had a great time with it. It’s just so over-the-top that it works.
“Halloween” and “Halloween H20”
Okay, so this one’s two films instead of one.
Halloween is the classic story of horny teens getting offed by a masked killer on a meaningful holiday. Michael Meyers is one of the templates for every slasher after 1977. The films that came out afterwards? It gets crappier and crappier until the last few movies where the writers decide to throw in something about a Celtic curse and some psychic powers. Needless to say, those last few movies are… not good.
If you watch only the first movie, the 1977 film that made Jamie Lee Curtis one of the undisputed scream queens, then jump twenty years to the unfortunately named Halloween H20, you get a decent storyline that actually has plot.
H20 still has the trappings of the slasher genre, but it’s smart enough to bring back Curtis as a more mature, grown up version of her original character. Think about it. She survived one of the most traumatic nights of her life and evaded a serial killer that is the stuff of legend. What would something like that do to a person? That’s pretty much what H20 is about, and it leads up to a climactic battle that caps off a 20-year old rivalry.
Just ignore the movie that came after this one, too. Trust me. It’s better if you don’t know.
Monsters attack diner. Diner Patrons fight back. Monsters start killing off patrons one by one. No one has a name.
Feast is both a parody and homage to horror movies. Every character is designated by a convenient subtitle like “Hero,” or “Harley Mom,” or “Beer Guy.” We even get a little leaning-on-the-fourth-wall subtitle telling us everyone’s chance of survival. Some of these estimates are clearly sarcastic.
The result is a movie that is actually a lot smarter than it looks. The patrons are very much aware of how screwed they are and they aren’t all dumb. In fact, they’re quite mortal and when I say anyone can die, I mean ANYONE. No, really. Just try and guess who makes it out and who actually bites the dust and when.
“In the Mouth of Madness”
Let’s say you got that one guy in the crowd that wants something a little meatier, something more psychological. Bust out some Sam Neil.
A prominent author (lovingly modeled after Stephen King) has vanished as his new book is due to hit the shelves. A series of strange murders tied to his books has the publisher worried, so they send a private investigator to find the elusive writer. The journey takes our investigator on a trip into a town that should be fictional, a town filled with beings and situations that cannot possibly be real. All the while, our hero and the audience have to wonder… Is it all real, or are we seeing things through the eyes of a madman?
The movie never really concerns itself with fully explains where the eldritch abominations from beyond time and space came from or why they chose to come through books and other media. It doesn’t explain why the author is seemingly the avatar of alien monstrosities. It doesn’t even bother showing you if things are real or just a dream.
It’s just going to throw weirdness after weirdness and you and you’re going to accept it. Why? Because it’s cool…
It just is. Trust me.
There are MANY more movies out there you could use. Of course there are: The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Psycho, The Shining, etc. These are just a few of the ones I think would be good for a party. If you just want to do some drinking games with dum kids getting killed, any old slasher film will work. I recommend something from the 80’s or somewhere between 1999 and 2009. Most of the schlock came from these years. The more obscure, the better.
Just remember. There are no bad movies. Just movies you can make REALLY funny with the right crowd.
To show you how to properly riff, here are Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy doing what they do best.