MUSIC :: A HORROR FAN’S RUNNING PLAYLIST — PART IX — “PURPOSE-BUILT MAYHEM… 02”

This is the seventh installment in a continuing series calling out songs that should be in every horror fan’s running (or exercise) playlist. For this installment, it’s about those songs that were written for classic horror soundtracks. Not songs that were INCLUDED in horror films, but rather those CREATED for those films. We can’t fit all of this in just one installment, so I will be posting these as a series. We’re starting this week with some real rockers…

runningplaylist

On with the dark tuneage.  ::

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25

“Killer Clowns from Outer Space” — The Dickies

A true classic from the new wave-ish, vaguely pop-punk outfit, The Dickies. The film is PURE mondo kitsch and a classic in its own right. The song only brings this sense home. How can you not grin ear-to-ear on lines like :: “Theres cotton candy in their hands, Says a polka-dotted man with a stalk of jacaranda, They’re all diabolical bozos.” — OR — “See a rubber nose on a painted face, Bringing genocide to the human race.” — OR — “JOCKO!” Bubbly and fun!

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26

“The Maniac 2 Cop Rap” — Josh Barnes, and B. Dub Woods

Composed for the 1990 William Lustig horror film, this one’s a “grinner,” too. This ended the story of a supernatural killer cop who teams up with a serial killer for bloody hi-jinx with a fun bang. Simply fun as all hell! Remember when hip-hop didn’t rule the pop industry and was consequently AWESOME for genre applications like this? I am actually a HUGE fan of “real” rap and I love how it has come into its own, but I do sometimes long for the simpler days of tunes like this one. This will allow you to settle into a solid, conversational pace.

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27

“Trick or Treat” — Fastway

Metal so often makes for good runs. I think it’s the adrenaline that underlies it all. It also makes for really awesome 80’s kitsch horror. Metal itself was the central theme of this 1986 horror thriller with the same name as our track here and therefore music references and cameos are all OVER the movie. See it! Love it! Sweat to it!

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Get out there and do it (he says more for his own benefit than anything)!

Here’s all of the other parts in this series — CHECK IT OUT.

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FILM :: REVIEW… SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (1959)

Another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. ( More on my film poster project at large, here. )

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FILM :: SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER
YEAR :: 1959
DIRECTOR :: Joseph Mankiewicz

suddenlylastsummer_horror

“Suddenly, Last Summer.” Just saying the name in film circles stirs conversation. Yes… Homosexuality was considered taboo when the film was released. Yes… Cannibalism and predation are still bizarre territory and… Yes… There are some cartoonish performances in their intensity, here. BUT… IMHO, this is a striking bit of cinema and I think it has gotten a bad rap in many ways. In reviewing it, I thought I would address those criticisms head on.

—–

WHAT ABOUT THE SOURCE MATERIAL?

Ahhhh… Tennessee Williams, the great American bundle of neurotic literary genius. He was a literary giant of the 20th century and among the absolute best playwrights of the modern era. He gave us the story that forms the basis for this striking film. The play was challenging material when it was written and remains so to this day, but Williams does his usual masterful job of broaching a range of sensitive subjects in ways that are both deft and unforgettable. However, no matter how deftly it is approached, theater that addresses sexually predatory behaviors, homosexuality in the 1950s, mental illness, human exploitation, lobotomy, pedophilia and CANNIBALISM is just GOING to be a challenge for audiences.

The censors were a bit aghast at this one and they did have to lame the material in order to allow it to make it to the screen. Director Mankiewicz also wanted to bring out his own vision within the original work. Things got changed up a bit in the process. Williams was NOT pleased, as you might imagine, later saying that the film made him want to “throw up.”

All of this may be true on some level, but I do think the themes and the “edge” are still within this film. It is still lurid and psychologically fascinating at its core and that makes it a great watch for me.

—–

IS THE FILM HOMOPHOBIC?

Although the censors wanted to see this as an anti-gay piece, seeing the film as an illustration “the horrors of such a lifestyle,” they forced the filmmakers to remove any direct references to homosexuality. That has resulted in a long-standing reputation as a “homophobic” film for “Suddenly, Last Summer.”

HOWEVER…

Even taking into account a healthy amount of self-loathing on the part of Williams, it’s very difficult to imagine a genuinely homophobic story from someone partnered for more than 14 years with his personal secretary, the dashing Frank Merlo. Williams was gay, clearly not homophobic, so the source material remains agnostic on this, choosing not to demonize the homosexual lifestyle, but rather predation of any kind and from any sexual perspective.

True enough, the film was adapted for the screen by another of our “American Lions of Letters,” Gore Vidal, a self-declared bisexual with some decided self-loathing around homosexuality. It is true that Vidal did have trouble with the idea of self-identifying as strictly a “gay man.” He was however, most assuredly, a “power top,” having sex with over 1000 men before he was 25 years old and going on to enjoy dalliances with many of the stars of his era (even carousing with Williams himself). Though he may have been existentially conflicted on the subject of homosexuality and the meaning of the term “gay,” in practice, the great screenwriter of “Suddenly, Last Summer” was not. This also does not make this a homophobic film.

And what of the final cut of the film? Does it add, in the end, homophobia to the mix? Again, it’s difficult to give the film bad marks on this front as the film’s central on-screen villain, the detestable Mrs. Violet Venable is straight and certainly where the film’s gay character, Sebastian, learned his predatory behaviors. Often literally descending from above in an elevator and decked out as a ravenous raptor, some bizarre bird of prey, the hetero Violet is certainly the most “hateable” character in the film. Though this matriarch’s attempt to cloud the truth about her son’s sexual lifestyle lies at the film’s central drama, Violet also has a complex relationship with it, acting as “bait,” attracting young men for Sebastian to prey upon for sexual favor. Fascinating.

I do not think this film is homophobic, but rather again demonstrates a hatred of predatory behavior of any kind. Seriously, it’s time to look past this.

—–

HEYYYY… WHAT ABOUT THE PERFORMANCES?

OK. There are some performances that border upon caricature here. Fair enough.

BUT… I think this is just what the material needs. It only serves to underscore the wonderfully skewed, funhouse mirror of a story that we are experiencing in “Suddenly, Last Summer.” I may be in the minority, but I really thought the actors here did an amazing job with difficult storytelling. And let’s not forget that it’s a hell of a cast here, too. At the top of the bill, we have the legendary Katherine Hepburn as the frighteningly detached Violet Venable, the gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor as the unhinged Catherine Holly and as foil to them both, Montgomery Clift as the inscrutable and unflappable Dr. Cukrowitz. Let’s not forget Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge and Gary Raymond to boot. All heavy hitters to be sure and, for me, they bring a lot to their respective roles.

I was also fascinated to hear of the incredible conflict on-set during the making of this film. After a car crash near Taylor’s house prior to casting, Clift had become highly dependent on alcohol and drugs to make it through the day. Taylor insisted that he be hired for the Cukrowitz role. He found his long, emotional, “talky” scenes exhausting and required special help filming them. Director Mankiewicz showed little patience for the delays, berating Clift throughout filming. When the final “CUT” was called for the film, Hepburn reportedly approached the director and spat in his face for what she considered inexcusable treatment of Clift. How can you NOT think that something FASCINATING can come of that sort of combative and difficult chemistry? Come ON?

—–

Again, this film is a challenge on a host of levels. No question. But I feel it’s time to recognize it for the classic that it is. Challenges or not. The fact that it still makes us uncomfortable and perhaps even scares us after well over a half-century is a testament to the power and the skin-crawling rewards “Suddenly, Last Summer” can offer.

strangelogoforblog_4_stars

RATING ………………. 4 STARS

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LITERATURE :: REVIEW… “JOYLAND” BY STEPHEN KING

As I mentioned in my previous post, I worked my high school (and a few college) summers in the bright sun and the heady atmosphere of an amusement park.

I remember it all… The roar of the carousel’s organ in the air, the metallic grind from the sea of gears hurtling laughing park-goers to and fro, the bark and sigh of the games on the midway, the smoky spice of Italian sausage on searing grills, the cloying sweetness of magenta clouds of cotton candy, the smoke of graphite powder covering my shoes and socks after a night running rides like “The Teacups,” the sunny smiles of beautiful girls in shorts and t-shirts with their sleeves rolled up in some attempt to brown their bare, white shoulders in the precious few months of sunshine that upstate New York has to offer.

bookreviewtemplate_joyland

Situated at the spot where Irondequoit Bay opens into Lake Ontario, Seabreeze Amusement Park is a true American icon amongst amusement parks. The park opened in 1879, making it the 12th-oldest operating amusement park in the world and it’s still going strong. Despite a ton of updates over the years, the “Jack Rabbit” roller coaster is still the crown jewel of the park’s offerings. “The Rabbit,” as all of my former co-workers in Rides called it, opened in 1920 and it’s the 4th-largest coaster still operating world wide. In all, it’s a park steeped in a rich history and I’m thrilled to have Polaroid memories of those “Seabreeze Summers.”

That’s undoubtedly one reason why I just loved Stephen King’s “Joyland,” a DIRECT connection to the book through my own life experience. But it’s certainly not the only reason. There’s a ton to love about this college-kid-coming-of-age-story set amongst the summer carny life of a reportedly haunted amusement park.

Here’s what the publisher’s description has to say about the story ::

“Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.”

This hints at the key aspects of the story like any good tease should, but only barely hints at the resonance here and I think that emotional resonance is the core strength of this book.

King has styled this as a “hard case paperback,” hearkening to the back-pocket love of those great grab-and-go stories of childhood. He succeeds in creating something that turns pages like those old school paperbacks did. It’s fun and titillating in all of the right ways with just the right touch of a ghost story. The novel goes by like a summer afternoon and it seems ringed in a golden haze when you think of it afterwards.

But that doesn’t get to the emotional core of the book any more than the publisher’s description does.

Then there is the rich, storied language that King uses throughout the book, a hard-boiled patois of carny life, part real, part invented. Even to a former real-life-college-kid-turned-summer-carny… An insider… It feels tactile and real and adds a strong sense of place and tradition to the story. Big kudos to King for this aspect of the book. We feel immersed and are the better for it. I could almost hear echoes of the circus folk of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic film, “Freaks”… “We accept her, one of us! ONE OF US!”

BUT… That still doesn’t speak to the emotional appeal of “Joyland.”

That emotional appeal lies in the wonderful sense of longing that King brings to his main character, Devon Jones. We see a “good kid” at that deliciously heart-wrenching crossroads between adolescence and adulthood in Devon. He is, in turns, naive and wise, angst-ridden and jubilant… Mature enough to be focused and sometimes even emotionally self-possessed but boyish enough to be hopelessly heartbroken in love and still unable to even control his erections. King gives us tableaus throughout the book that show us this without telling us. I have been in the places this book takes us to before, both in my heart and in my experience, and it was wonderful to visit them again.

—–

In all, Joyland gives us a beautifully textured portrait for a “pulpy paperback” and Devon’s experience, his physical and emotional journey, is a true wistful joy. For anyone that has felt that longing, the pull of standing at that crossroads of youth and adulthood, it’s a story that totally disarms and delights with bittersweet touch. Oh, and don’t forget that there’s a ghost story here, too.

SO… Here’s to your “Seabreeze Summer” wherever it may take you!

strangelogoforblog_4andahalf_stars

RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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ME :: WINONA BOULEVARD… MIDNIGHT… 1989… “STILL LOVING YOU”

Winona Boulevard winds through a swath of the leafy Rochester, New York suburb of Irondequoit, the town where I grew up. Rolling past manicured lawns fronting family homes and kissing a public park, the street was one of my favorite places to go out for a run.

As a young man, I was a runner. Well, really, I still am. These days I just find myself far from the liquid freedom of movement of those halcyon days of youth. One thing that I haven’t lost over the years, however, is my love of a late-night jaunt in the ol’ running shoes.

I worked a summer job in high school as a Ride Operator (Read: Carny) at Seabreeze, a local amusement park. After the park closed, I often tried to hook up with friends for the night. Sometimes, it was just too late. On those nights, I slipped on the running shoes and headed out into the cool night along Winona.

Today, I heard a song that reminded me of an experience I had on one of those midnight runs.

Yes, the Scorpions classic, “Still Loving You.” I know that the song isn’t a horror staple in any way. Really it’s a song about attempting to reclaim a lost love. But it is unquestionably atmospheric and proved a haunting companion for this experience.

A hot summer day had given way to a cool night, raising a foggy mist in the air. A mid-August full moon cast a glow over the landscape, bringing out a surreal chiaroscuro in the darkness.

As I rounded the blind corner at Chapel Hill Drive, the haunting opening guitar strains of “Still Loving You” surged through my headphones.

What I saw next can only be described as true kismet.

exorcist_post
In a bizarre almost-recreation of the iconic poster from “The Exorcist,” I came upon the stone keep of All Saints Anglican Church with one of the clergy lit in the darkness by a single old-style lamp, standing in mist, looking up at the rock steeple.

I found a real picture of the church. I have done a little light Photoshop magic to merely hint at the scene here.

stilllovingyou

I felt transported. It was like standing in that legendary scene from the film, watching Father Merrin pausing at the work before him before entering the terrifying MacNeil household. An icy chill poured down my spine.

I stood silent to leave the scene interrupted. Minutes passed and eventually the tableau was broken when the clergyman left.

I haven’t forgotten that experience and every time I hear that song, I think of the night I was visited by Father Merrin.

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ART :: THE TOP 50 HORROR POSTERS OF ALL TIME… 20 >> 16

As you may be able to tell, I love great poster art, but especially posters from the great horror movie cannon. This is the fifth installment of my countdown of the best of the genre.

Here’s how I selected the list. I used three main criteria to shape my decisions ::

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>> DESIGN / IMAGE — This is the baseline. As a designer by trade, I feel strongly that any great or effective poster HAS to start here. Is the poster effective as a piece of art? Is the poster is a strong representative of the art of graphic design? Did it capture a particular spirit or movement in design?

>> TITILLATION / PROMOTION — Though we tend to contextualize film and the associated collateral as “art,” it is ultimately a form of commerce. Any movie poster has to promote the film it supports either through a delicious tease or overt sales pitch. How effective is the poster at selling the film it is tied to?

>> IMPACT / LEGACY — Sometimes even mediocre films get truly great posters. Sometimes, we even remember the image of the poster far longer than the film itself. What was the lasting effect of the poster? Was it iconic or timeless in some way? Was a part of a larger context?

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Every poster on this list is a cocktail of the above elements, mixed in different ways. All successful in their own right. Let’s jump in to 20 >> 16…

numbers20

hills2

2007

numbers19

thething

1982

numbers18

jaws

1975

numbers17

halloween

1978

numbers16

andy_warhols_frankenstein

1973

Look for Part VIII, coming right up!

Special thanks to http://www.impawards.com for many of the images in this countdown. AWESOME site.

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FUN :: CASTING CALL… VINCE CLARKE

Welcome to the first post in an irregular series entitled “CASTING CALL.” For each entry in the series, I will pick a horror character and nominate the perfect celeb to play them on film.

THE CHARACTER :: The Zombie from “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?,” Episode 13, Season 1… “Which Witch is Which?”

THE CAST :: Vince Clarke

castingcall_vinceclarke

Vince Clarke is a true legend. To be a founding member in one truly seminal band is a triumph few can claim. Clarke can say that many times over. His work with Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure and The Assembly gave us some of the most memorable moments of the Synth-Pop movement. I had the pleasure of seeing Erasure in St. Louis in 2011. It was an awesome performance all the way ’round and a great evening. It is impossible, however, not to see the incredible resemblance to Scooby’s Zombie nemesis and that’s what makes him perfect for this casting call.

NOTE :: For this casting call, Casey Kasem would STILL provide the groaning grunts of the Zombie’s vocals. Don’t mess with Casey.

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MUSIC :: A HORROR FAN’S RUNNING PLAYLIST — PART VIII — “PURPOSE-BUILT MAYHEM… 01”

This is the seventh installment in a continuing series calling out songs that should be in every horror fan’s running (or exercise) playlist. For this installment, it’s about those songs that were written for classic horror soundtracks. Not songs that were INCLUDED in horror films, but rather those CREATED for those films. We can’t fit all of this in just one installment, so I will be posting these as a series. We’re starting this week with some real rockers…

runningplaylist

On with the dark tuneage.  ::

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22

“Who Made Who” — AC/DC

AC/DC created this foot stomper for the Stephen King 80s popcorn horror thriller Maximum Overdrive. The film, the writer’s directorial debut, was a hot mess. Even Mr. King has self-disclosed that he was “coked out of his mind” during the making of the film. The tunes here, however, are awesome. In many ways, this brought AC/DC back into the spotlight and with good reason — this song still drives my fist into the sky and gets my feet moving in a big way.

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23

“Pet Sematary” — The Ramones

How can you not like The Ramones? I know their approach is seems simplistic at first, but it’s deceptive. There is a power in that simplicity… A blunt elegance with a wry smile. AND, how can you not LOVE the Ramones for the weird Stephen King (Yep. We’re going to Mr. King again on this one) creepfest “Pet Sematary?” If you need some running motivation, imagine yourself being chased by the unforgettable Zelda from the film…

…Not that she could move very fast, but hey. Imagine if she could. Scary!

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24

“Shocker” — The Dudes of Wrath

Though Wes Craven was clearly retreading some familiar ground with this film (Wes… “Nightmare on Elm Street” called, it wants its premise back), the title song definitely had a rock “supergroup” behind it and is a fun memory to get you going. Check out this lineup… KISS frontman Paul Stanley and producer Desmond Child co-leading vocals with backing vocals by Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony & Kane Roberts, Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell on guitars, Whitesnake’s Rudy Sarzo on bass with Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee on drums. A fun horror anthem to get you going!

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Get out there and do it (he says more for his own benefit than anything)!

Here’s all of the other parts in this series — CHECK IT OUT.

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ART :: MANILLA… CALAVERA OF THE WEEK

manilla

Welcome to the latest in an ongoing tribute to the art of the calavera. We have been focusing on the master of the form, José Posada. As I say each week… His rapier visual wit and penchant for the visual metaphor of the human bone remain stunningly fresh today. He was, at one time, just an apprentice, though. To whom? The master to the student in Posada… Manuel Alfonso Manilla . Let’s pay tribute this week to one of Manilla’s proto-calavera works. Stunning.

manilla1

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ME :: 100 POSTS AT “THE STRANGE, FAR PLACES”

My last post was the 100th post here at “The Strange, Far Places.”

100_posts

I know that’s a minor milestone to many and frankly, I had envisioned the blog at this landmark far sooner than today. However, life has taken me to some crazy and (sometimes) very difficult places since the inception of this blog, my love of the world of horror made manifest. In light of that, I suppose that even these 100 posts are worth celebrating in some small way and dammit, I’m going to.

AND NOW… Back to your regularly scheduled shivers…

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ART :: THE TOP 50 HORROR POSTERS OF ALL TIME… 25 >> 21

As you may be able to tell, I love great poster art, but especially posters from the great horror movie cannon. This is the fifth installment of my countdown of the best of the genre.

Here’s how I selected the list. I used three main criteria to shape my decisions ::

======

>> DESIGN / IMAGE — This is the baseline. As a designer by trade, I feel strongly that any great or effective poster HAS to start here. Is the poster effective as a piece of art? Is the poster is a strong representative of the art of graphic design? Did it capture a particular spirit or movement in design?

>> TITILLATION / PROMOTION — Though we tend to contextualize film and the associated collateral as “art,” it is ultimately a form of commerce. Any movie poster has to promote the film it supports either through a delicious tease or overt sales pitch. How effective is the poster at selling the film it is tied to?

>> IMPACT / LEGACY — Sometimes even mediocre films get truly great posters. Sometimes, we even remember the image of the poster far longer than the film itself. What was the lasting effect of the poster? Was it iconic or timeless in some way? Was a part of a larger context?

======

Every poster on this list is a cocktail of the above elements, mixed in different ways. All successful in their own right. Let’s jump in to 25 >> 21…

numbers25

dear_god_no

2011

numbers24

house

1986

numbers23

piranha

1978

numbers22

friday_the_13th

1980

numbers21

nightmare_on_elm_street

1984

Look for Part VII, coming right up!

Special thanks to http://www.impawards.com for many of the images in this countdown. AWESOME site.

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FILM :: BEST OF HORROR SHORTS… “DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE DEVIL?”

filmshorts

This week, we’re bringing you a story of the proverbial “deal with the devil.” Going all the way back to classics like 1913’s “The Student of Prague,” FW Murnau’s GORGEOUS 1926 masterpiece, “Faust,” or 1941’s legendary “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” we have certainly seen that theme plumbed on film a whole lot. However, this short gives us a slightly different take and it really brings the film to life.

We’re sticking right here in the US of A for this installment entitled “Do You Believe in the Devil?” Filmmaker Alex Grybauskas effectively draws us into the film through classic storytelling devices and solid editing. There really isn’t a lot of fat here in just the right way. Just good ol’ fashioned narrative. When we are served the twist at the end of the film, it definitely brings a smile because he has quite skillfully brought us here.

Also, special props for the lighting in this piece… It’s quite well lit throughout.

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FILM :: REVIEW… GODZILLA (2014)

Another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )

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FILM :: GODZILLA
YEAR :: 2014
DIRECTOR :: Gareth Edwards

godzilla_horror

As a young lad on Saturday afternoons in the 1970s, I would mount my metallic red Schwinn Sting Ray bicycle and pedal down to the Riviera Theater on Lake Avenue in Rochester, New York. For just 50 cents, I could see a Lone Ranger serial, and some cartoon shorts, but those weren’t what had my allowance money burning a hole in my pocket. No… I made that ride for the monsters.

Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan all of them filled the screen in the cool darkness of the Riviera. All monster royalty. But there was only one “King of the Monsters” for me. The great Godzilla. Though I was young, I can still remember those afternoons so clearly.

riviera

(The Riviera Theater in it’s heyday before my time, but it all remained into my youth.)

So… It was with a ton of nostalgia that I entered the theater for 2014’s version of the King of Monsters, “Godzilla.” Honestly, I left a little unsatisfied.

TO START :: There really is a lot to like about this film. Cranston and Binoche do an amazing job of drawing us in emotionally from frame one. The monsters are genuinely interesting and brilliantly executed. Annnnd that skydiving scene. Oh, that skydiving scene. That scene is a pitch-perfect piece of cinema. Pitch-perfect.

BUT… Unfortunately, that’s where the goodness stops for me.

We lose our loving couple in Cranston and Binoche very early and with them goes the emotional resonance of the film. The remaining family at the center of the story makes for a very attractive picture, but a wooden one. The performances were played for great emotion… We see their tears, but we don’t really FEEL anything. It really doesn’t stop with our central family, either. Everyone battling the monster leaves us with the same disconnected impression. It’s unfortunate, because you can tell that Edwards was striving for that emotional connection.

“BUT WAIT,” you say, “Classic campy “Kaiju” films like “Terror of Mechagodzilla” or “Destroy all Monsters” aren’t exactly replete with intelligent emotional reverberation.”

True that. But those films do deliver MONSTERS in spades (especially The King… Godzilla, himself). While the execution was amazing from a tech standpoint, we really didn’t get much in the way of screen time for our “Kaiju” friends. With the cocktail of today’s CG capabilities and recent hits like “Pacific Rim” in the collective consciousness, this should have felt like a monster version of the best “Rocky” fights all rolled into one. But, it just didn’t.

I think the film’s weakness spurs from that inability to deliver on either front — “emotional story” or “monster movie.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with either and I only got glimpses of both. With a lot of padding in between.

I eagerly look forward to the next time when Godzilla will rise from the depths. Maybe he’ll have just a bit more bite next time.

strangelogoforblog_3_stars

RATING ………………. 3 STARS

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ART :: RIP H.R. GIGER

We lost a very unique talent recently in both the worlds of art and horror and I wanted to make sure that he was memorialized here at “The Strange, Far Places.”

H.R. Giger, Swiss master of the nightmarishly surreal has left this mortal coil.

giger_RIP

To say that Giger’s work is unforgettable is an understatement. That’s no small feat for an artist in today’s over-exposed, disaffected, shellshocked cultural eyes, to be truly unique and imminently recognizable. Giger’s vision has always been at that edge.

Few artists can say that their style was so unique that they all-but invented a concept in the way that Giger did with “biomechanics.” This unparalleled style came directly from a nightmare he experienced while at school. In the dream, the walls of a Zürich bathroom erupted into a landscape of ravaged skin with demons (who he called “biomechanoids”) leering at him through the cracks in the walls. The artist had been plagued with night terrors since his youth and his art helped him deal with the dark nights.

His work for films from “Alien” to “Dune” to “Species” to “Prometheus” earned him an Oscar and seared his dark visions in the public mind. His album covers, posters, sculptures and interiors were legendary. But it was compendiums like his books of the dead, “Necronomicon” and “Necronomicon II,” that were perhaps his crowning glory, standing alone even today in the scope, strength and the madness of their fevered tactile expression. Many may want to pillory me, but these works form a sort of damnable version of Matisse’s masterwork “Jazz” for me, the dim hell to that colorful heaven. Brilliant.

I recently posted about one of his most iconic designs here.

What better way to pay tribute to Mr. Giger’s work than to show it? The video below takes many of his most interesting works into the 3-D space. Very interesting project (WARNING — NSFW) ::


Hans Rudolf, may you finally find peace from your nightmares. Godspeed.

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MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL :: FILM & LITERATURE :: REVIEWS…

In a special tribute to “Mother” in the broadest sense, we’re bringing you two reviews today uniquely suited to Mom’s Day.

mothersday_image

FILM ::

Let’s start with another review from the world of dark cinema.

With each review, I am also sharing minimalist movie posters I have created for every film after watching it. (More on my film poster project at large, here. )

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FILM :: MOTHER’S DAY

YEAR :: 1980

DIRECTOR :: Charles Kaufman

mothersday_review

Ahhhhhh, Troma. The bizarre, the sensational, the “beyond the pale.” Always with Troma. This film is a textbook example of what the studio was best known for.

In many ways, “Mother’s Day” is a classic. Certainly, it’s an unforgettable ride. It tries to carry forward the schlocky fun of so many of the grindcore classics of the period, especially from the studio that brought you “The Toxic Avenger,” and on some level it succeeds in doing that. There are guilty laughs here. Overall, there is a strong sense of the ridiculous to the piece as a whole.

I mean, when the titular character, “Mother” is suffocated with an inflatable pair of fake boobs during the final “boss fight,” it’s hard not to think of this as a comedy of sorts.

That’s where the film succeeds, without question.

However, I honestly can’t think of the last comedy I watched where abduction, torture and rape were central to the plot. All of that is here in spades along with the ridiculous camp. This is the tough thing with “Mother’s Day” when fed through modern sensibilities. Grindcore just isn’t very often played for comedy anymore.

That’s where the film will run aground in the eyes of many.

So, where to net out on this film?

Personally, I have a soft spot for this type of fare. “Mother’s Day” and films like it, were what I cut my teeth on as I delved into more “adult” horror cinema as a young teen. There was something undeniably taboo about this strain of film and magnetic accordingly. I think it is that frame of mind that I can drift back into today when watching “Mother’s Day.” For that reason, I have to give it props.

Conversely. The film’s subject matter does have to take it down a peg or two. For the uninitiated, this would be a bit of an endurance test.

If you’re up for what Troma typically has to offer, this can be something quite fun. Bizzarre, grim and challenging, but fun. If you’re new to the studio or the style, I wouldn’t suggest starting here. Try “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” instead.

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RATING ………………. 3.5 STARS

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LITERATURE ::

OK… This one’s a tough one. It’s funny to review this with “Mother’s Day,” as they do share some elements. What “Kin” does not share with “Mother’s Day,” however, is any sense of fun. This book is a blunt instrument, speckled with blood and crawling with maggots.

Here is how the publisher describes the story ::

On a scorching hot summer day in Elkwood, Alabama, Claire Lambert staggers naked, wounded, and half-blind away from the scene of an atrocity. She is the sole survivor of a nightmare that claimed her friends, and even as she prays for rescue, the killers — a family of cannibalistic lunatics — are closing in… A soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder returns from Iraq to the news that his brother is among the murdered in Elkwood… In snowbound Detroit, a waitress trapped in an abusive relationship gets an unexpected visit that will lead to bloodshed and send her back on the road to a past she has spent years trying to outrun… And Claire, the only survivor of the Elkwood Massacre, haunted by her dead friends, dreams of vengeance… a dream which will be realized as grief and rage turn good people into cold-blooded murderers and force alliances among strangers… It’s time to return to Elkwood.

This description only provides the barest HINTS at the twisted craziness that is “Kin.” As someone who spends a LOT of time in this space, even I have to say “Holy crap, this one’s relentless.” NOT for the faint of heart.

The good :: Burke does create some images that sear into the brain. One in particular was nothing short of heart-stopping. I won’t put any sort of spoiler in this review, but it was truly a skin-crawling image and concept that has remained with me since I read it (that involves a mom). Kudos on that. On that front, the book offers some inventive stuff with a solid turn of phrase. This is the best part of “Kin.” Again, very challenging material, but unforgettable.

That’s really where the novel’s true wins stop, however. Beyond those select few chilling images and set pieces, the novel is a pastiche of things we have seen before.

I was immediately reminded of the notable X-Files episode “Home.” Here is a collection of scenes from the show ::

There ARE differences. Sure. But the similarities are SO numerous that it’s tough to think there wasn’t some pretty darn siginifant influence here. And there are many other pieces “out there” that act as direct parents to this novel. That was a shame, because it cheapened the book.

The other MAJOR issue I had with the book itself was the ending. I did like aspects of the final fight at the climax of “Kin,” but the neat, shiny bow placed on the dovetailing storylines as the novel comes to an end is… At best… Unrealistic… At worst… Just plain ridiculous. Honestly, it was one of the least plausible endings I have read in a very long time. It really felt as if Burke just got tired of writing and tried to end it all quickly, giving us something sweet to chase away all of the stomach-churning images he had created thus far.

I’m giving this one the same sort of treatment I did the film above. If you’re ready for something NUTS that will leave you with creative-but-indelible images of horror, this is something to explore. But this one is really only suited for the most hardened fans of horror and they should read it for those images, those set pieces that Burke creates. Beyond that, “Kin” unfortunately charts little new territory.

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RATING ………………. 2.5 STARS

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