Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Random Notes For A Wednesday Afternoon

It's been awhile since I've done one of these random posts, but figured it was time to ramble on a bit about well...nothing in particular.
  • I'm more than anxious for the start of the new show on F/X called 'American Horror Story', which seems to be a pretty strange combination of the sublime and the bizarre.  I'm thinking since it will be off the main five networks and on a station known to push the envelope (with shows like Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and in the past, Nip/Tuck), it's possible we horror fans could be in for a fun ride!  Coming Wednesday, October 5th at 10pm.  Check out the new trailer for the spooky opening credits for the show, over on 
  • When faced with the decision to go to the movies, I almost always choose horror.  Generally it is because I am going by myself.  But sometimes a friend will ask me to go, and then I have to be a bit more choosey.  One of my friends will always go see period films adapted from classic literature with me.  That someone is not my husband, of course - but I can't be more grateful that there is someone to go see films like Jane Eyre with me.  I have a favorite uncle I've mentioned here before that goes to see horror with me, and when he can't go I'm all for heading to the theater alone.  I'm not afraid of the dark.  I don't go see ridiculous or raunchy comedies, so when the hubby actually does go with, he settles for horror or the latest Jason Statham action flick.  But yesterday I headed to the theater with a dear friend and had no idea what to recommend. She really isn't into horror. The last film we saw together was Secretariat.  Which was excellent.  But I couldn't pick a film this time.  I wanted to see Straw Dogs, Drive, Warrior, and Killer Elite...none of which I thought she'd like.  And the Sarah Jessica Parker film was a no-go.  I despise her.  So it was either Contagion (which I heard was snooze-worthy) or Abduction, with the kid from TwilightAbduction was filmed in Pittsburgh, so we figured at least we could point out the places we knew (and there were a lot, with the whole of the last act playing out at PNC Park, where the Pirates play).   Surprisingly, it wasn't a bad flick overall.  A little cliched, but Taylor Lautner held his own and it's possible he might be able to shed the werewolf image sometime in the future.  Let's just say I think his future in film may be brighter than a certain vampire's...

  • Over at From Midnight, With Love, our pal The Mike is compiling a list of True Heroes of Horror, in which he is asking for help from everyone to shape the ultimate list up.  It should be rather awesome, as most of what The Mike does, is.  So if you're into lists like I am, read up on the specifics of being a Midnight Warrior.  Go here for details.  I for one, am having mucho difficulty narrowing my list down to just ten.  Damn you The Mike, for constraints!  I will be posting my list on here in a few days or so, and he can add it to the immense list I am sure he is gathering for our mutual enjoyment!

  • Is anyone watching anything new this television season?  I have DVR'd the premiere of Terra Nova the other night, but haven't sat down for the two-hour (yawn!) premiere yet. Is it worth it? I've caught the show The Secret Circle, since it airs directly after The Vampire Diaries, which is my go-to Thursday night entertainment.  TSC, based on a book series by the same author of the Vampire Diaries tomes,  is kind of like The Craft mixed with equal parts Practical Magic and Charmed with a little dab of every other CW show produced in the last ten years.  It's geared towards teens and young twenty-somethings, so I'm robbing the TV cradle here, but fuck it - I'm a renegade.  I'm more than ready for some adult entertainment that I'm hoping the aforementioned American Horror Story will bring and the show I know will be this year's shining star, The Walking Dead (premieres October 16 at 9pm on AMC).  Somehow I doubt anything else will come close. 

  • I just picked up the entire season of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena the other day and didn't want to let the passing of Andy Whitfield (original star of Spartacus: Blood and Sand) go without a mention of how incredibly sorry I was to hear this.  I've watched Spartacus since it's inception on Starz, and Whitfield absolutely owned that role.  I understand obviously, the need to re-cast the role, which has been done and I believe the new season (entitled Spartacus: Vengeance) starts this January. I'm sure Liam McIntyre will be wonderful in the re-casted role, but damn... Whitfield was so easy on the eyes. And  for those who can't seem to figure out how the Spartacus series fits in to the horror genre - you have never seen even one episode.  Blood-soaked just doesn't describe it well enough. 

  • So...what is up with the new The Thing movie?  At first, I heard it was a prequel to the 1982 Kurt Russell version (which is near and dear to most horror-genre buffs such as myself), to which I thought: well, at least it's not a flat-out re-make.  But the trailers have been hitting the internet all over the place and now we're seeing continual TV spots and I really have to think:  Are they doing anything new?  What the hell are they bringing to the table now?  I had originally heard it would be about what happened to those Norwegians at the camp nearby the US outpost (which is right where the '82 version picks up).  But it sure seems pretty familiar to me. In many of the film's synopses it explains that a few Americans have joined the Norwegian team and when they un-earth the "thing" it replicates itself and everybody dies.  Hmm....  I ate here before.  Check, please!

  • I'm just going to put this out there right now.  I'm not looking forward to The Human Centipede (Full Sequence).  I tend to agree with my good pal, BJ-C over at Day of the Woman that it just seems trite, and fairly pointless.  She has the trailer up over there so I'll let you click over if you're so inclined.  As for me, I'll stick with the centipede at left, thanks.

  • Just so you know, the previously awesome site, Fangirltastic, has morphed into the currently mind-blowing Planet Fury.  It's not up to me to explain the change, but just let me say the same excellent writing and impressive features have remained, and a few new surprises await!  You can read all about it here!  Onward, furious fans! 

  • The new issue of Paracinema is out, and by all means you should get your collective asses over to to purchase this wholesome goodness. 

    Well, maybe wholesome isn't the best word, but it's hard to describe the delight one gets when it arrives upon one's doorstep. This issue's cover is fanfreakingtastic, and the inside promises to be equally as excellent.  Quality speaks for itself, and this magazine roars.  Go there now!  While you're there, check out the blog content as well:  good stuff!

      • Recently I had the pleasure of screening a new DVD documentary entitled "Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode".  It is a fascinating look at the history of one of the greatest gothic novels ever written, Dracula; the story of its author, Bram Stoker; and the true history of Vlad the Impaler, on which bits of the novel were based on.  It separates fact from fiction and gives a good look at just what is truth and what is *ahem* bullshit.  And don't deny you're wondering what 'Voivode' means...
        Review forthcoming.

          • For me, a good ghost story is truly my favorite sub-genre in horror.  However, it isn't easy to find said  "good ghost story".  I can probably count on two hands ghost story films that have actually chilled me to the bone.  That isn't saying much considering the vast amount of spectral tales out there.  When I saw the trailer for the new period chiller, The Awakening, I got goosebumps.  THIS is what I'm looking for.  The story tells the tale of a skeptical hoax-debunker who is sent to an isolated boy's school to try and discover the reason that the boys are all scared to death and telling tales of a ghostly boy wandering the huge estate.  It made me think of several of my favorite films such as The Orphanage, The Devil's Backbone, Haunted, The Others, and probably my favorite ghost story, The Woman in Black
            If it even has half the atmosphere of these films, I'm going to be giddy with excitement. 
            See what I mean?:

          • Halloween is on its way.  Somehow I missed the entire summer and have spent the whole of September recuperating from surgery, so October is just days away and I couldn't be more thrilled! 
            I've been thinking of what to do for the blog for the Halloween month, and after much consideration, I've decided to do what I do best.  Lists.  So for each day of the month I will have a different list.  But the catch is that the lists will only be as long as whatever the date is.  So on October 1st, it will technically not be a list, it will be one item.  But by October 31st, you will have a list of 31 items.  Get it?  A hint at some of the randomness that will ensue?  October 8th brings us Eight Depressing Songs of Death. October 21st has Twenty-One Places No One Would Sleep Overnight get the picture?
            I haven't decided on a clever name for this festival of lists, so it will be a surprise come October 1st.
            If anyone has any savvy ideas, feel free to comment...

        Sunday, September 25, 2011

        Sunday Bloody Sunday

        Deadtime Stories, Vol. 1


        The Crypt

        Kiss of the Vampire

        Raiders of the Lost Ark

        Sunday, September 18, 2011

        Sunday Bloody Sunday

        12 Days of Terror
        Alice Sweet Alice
        A Horrible Way to Die

        Friday, September 16, 2011

        The Vampire Diaries: Sink Your Teeth Into This...

        With True Blood over for yet another year, I'm happy to have a substitute I can rely on to get my weekly vampire fix. Granted there isn't near the gratuitous nudity, crazy plot-lines, and over-the-top violence as the bloodsuckers from Bon Temps, but I can still enjoy a fang-fest every Thursday night courtesy of The Vampire Diaries.

        The first thing I want to say about The Vampire Diaries is that you should be watching it.  And I know you're not.  Well, some of you probably are, but there are others that are ready to hit the backspace button here and move on.  And here is where I implore you not to do so.

        Remember how everyone loved the hell out of Buffy?  Even though a whole lot of you were supposedly too old to be watching the teen vampire soap-opera?  This is what I'm talking about.  Who the hell cares if it isn't PC to be watching (and lusting over, quite frankly) a bunch of teens whose mission is to bite their way through half the small town they live in and have sex with the other half.  Repeat after me:  THIS SHOW IS NOT TWILIGHT, FOLKS.

        Based on (in my opinion) a less than stellar (but nowhere near as pathetic and vapid as Twilight) series of books by L.J. Smith, The television version of The Vampire Diaries (TVD) doesn't shy away from biting necks - nor does it stray from the copius amounts of sex we all know the vampires (and teens, if I'm being serious) want/need.  And guess what, not only are the vamps on this show heaps better looking than those pasty boys of Twilight, but they actually have fangs! What a concept.  And they are not afraid to use them.  Likewise, they are not the chaste, sparkling variety of bloodsuckers most of the teenage world are enamored and obsessed with.

        To recap, the show centers on Elena Gilbert (played by - in my husband's words - the "extremely do-able" Nina Dobrev), a teen whose parents were killed in an accident and she is being raised by her aunt Jenna (Sara Canning).  Into her life come two very attractive vampire brothers both vying for her affection.  Paul Wesley stars as Stefan, the "good" brother and Elena's first choice. A man whose eyebrows have their own zip code, Wesley spends most of his screen time brooding and telling Elena they shouldn't be together because it's so dangerous.  (One outright difference between TVD's Elena and Twilight's Bella is that Elena absolutely does not want to become a vampire, whereas Bella (a sheep if I've ever seen one) practically begs throughout each book/film for Edward to change her.)

        While Elena and Stefan try to live their happy little angst-free lives, we all know that isn't going to happen simply because what the hell fun would that be?  Enter Damon, the "bad" brother played to snarky perfection by too-hot-for-his-own-good Ian Somerhalder of LOST fame.
        It must be said that while it may seem like I lust for these boys perhaps a bit too much for my own good, let us remember that with Wesley clocking in at age 29 and Somerhalder at the ripe old age of 32, I don't think I'm robbing the proverbial cradle too much here...

        In the first two seasons the storyline opened up and explained that the Salvatore brothers lived in Mystic Falls (is that a typical supernatural town moniker or what?) during the Civil War era and both fell in love with the same woman, Katherine Pierce (a.k.a.Katerina Petrova).  Even more unfortunate than the fact that both boys loved the same girl is the fact that ol' Kat was a vampire.  She ends up making both of them vamps as well, then subsequently breaks both their hearts.  Perhaps unsurprising is the fact that Elena is a dead ringer for Katherine, making the Salvatore brothers swoon with affection for her. When Elena chooses Stefan she sets Damon off on a course of severe envy - and has him breaking just about every commandment out there.  Near the middle of last season we saw a gradual change overtaking Damon - he began to peel off the layers of malice in his cold, cold heart and you could see some of the sensitivity we knew was under there somewhere.

        Besides the core actors, there are a lot of other characters with intricately weaved storylines throughout the show, including Elena's younger brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of 'King of Cool', Steve McQueen!) who last year was brought back from the dead by his witchy girlfriend (and Elena's BFF) Bonnie Bennett (Katerina Graham).  This year he has went all Sixth Sense on us by aquiring a rather undesirable ability to see dead people - specifically past girlfriends.  What a bitch that would be, eh?  Bonnie herself comes from a long line of Mystic Falls witches, and her story has only just breached the surface.

        We also have Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola), a somewhat overbearing and generally spiteful friend of Elena's who last year was unwillingly turned into a vampire (by Damon no less) and this year has taken to being a kinder friend and ally for Elena - and also has discovered her wilder vampire side by taking up with the resident reluctant werewolf, Tyler Lockwood (Michael Trevino).
        Adding to the hot-guy factor is the local history teacher at the high school, Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis).  Once a vampire hunter, he has not only crossed sides to help Damon and Stefan, but his former wife has turned out to be Elena's real mother (who left him to become a vampire of her own free will.) Additionally, he was the boyfriend of Jenna until (SPOILER ALERT) she was killed in last year's finale.

        This season has marked a change for several reasons.  At the end of last season, Stefan had to sacrifice his own freedom to save his brother's life - he had to join forces with baddie vamp-werewolf hybrid Klaus (of course he'd have a name like Klaus!). Stefan left at the end of the season to start on a murderous rampage, leaving bodies in his wake like victims after a hurricane. 

        Of course Elena is left behind pining for him, but in all honesty I don't know what all the fuss is about - she's got herself the better of the two brothers anyway, in my opinion.  And it is obvious she will be torn between them quite rightly before mid-season sweeps.  Damon feels compelled to protect Elena, even knowing Stefan is her one true love (aw, how sticky-sweet!).  They will grow closer, mark my words.  And it will no doubt look damn authentic considering Dobrev and Somerhalder are apparently in a relationship outside the show as well.  (Just like Sookie and Bill, how friggin' sugary delicious!)

        If you're wondering if the vampires of TVD are more Twilight than True Blood, the answer wouold be no.  There is as much violence on this show as possible for a straight-laced network show.  In this year's season opener, Stefan threw a vampy fit and ripped his victims apart.  We saw the initial violent bite, but the "ripping" occurred off-screen.  However, when Damon and Alaric found Stefan's house of horrors, one of the best scenes was Damon simply touching one of the female victims and watching her head fall off her body and roll across the floor.  Apparently Stefan blacks out during his rampage but then feels remorse and tries to put the bodies back together.  Nice.

        There is a lot of growling, mucho biting of jugulars, fairly decent morphing werewolf effects, and hot and hurried sex.  Never too saccharin or schmaltzy, and thankfully taking place mostly outside the high school (though this town has one-too-many festivals, parties, and dances taking place!), The Vampire Diaries is a fun and entertaining romp into the world of the supernatural. 
        A far cry from Twilight, these vamps have bite.  Literally.

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        The Love/Hate Relationship: Hostel

        When I wrote my last Love/Hate piece on Rob Zombie's Halloween  (2007) I had no idea I'd be doing another - but damn it was so much fun, here I am with round two. Dissecting and criticizing the film, combined with a few compliments and praise is what this is all about.
        And yes, I do tend to ramble. So here goes:

        Hostel.  Sounds like hostile.  Which is what I have found a lot of people seem to think this film is. And they wouldn't be wrong.  When Hostel came out I really couldn't wait to see it.  It looked so different and downright terrifying. I'm really ambivalent as far as Eli Roth and his "attitude" that so many in the horror blog-o-sphere seem to complain about.  Quite honestly, I have mixed feelings about most directors. I let them do their thing and if I like it, great.  If I don't, I will certainly give them another shot when they put something else out.  I don't think Roth is a tool at all, in fact - I am considerably fond of his first venture, Cabin Fever.  So when all those ads for Hostel came out, I knew I'd be sitting in the back row of the theater (because there is no better place to plant your ass at the movies, in particular a horror movie - at least you can see it coming, and no one can spit saliva-soaked Jujubes into your hair!) Knowing Roth got into bed with Quentin Tarantino to put this film out there, I had a feeling it was going to be a wild ride.

        And then... the first thirty minutes or so dragged so much I wondered if I was actually at a horror movie. I'm all for character development but generally, when so much time is given fleshing out the roles of the main characters, I'd like to at least think I am invested in their welfare.  I should at least care a little bit that they are about to have their guts ripped out.  Take Psycho for instance.(And yes, I will always unfairly compare everything to that film, so get over it!)  A film everyone has probably seen. Nothing scary happens in the first half hour or so, right?  Because they are building a relationship between Marion and the audience.  Though Marion isn't even a very likable character, we become interested in her plight.  We care. People can relate to her situation.  She loves Sam but he won't marry her due to his ex-wife and all his debts.  So what happens?  All kinds of unforgivable behavior:  she stretches her lunch hours out to have some afternoon delight, extorts a huge sum of money, flees from her job, mouths off to a policeman, and then acts all snarky with Norman.  But even with all these things, we were appalled when Hitch offed her in the shower.  We felt bad because we cared.  (Well, that and it was Janet-effing-Leigh for pete's sake!)

        But with Hostel, the three main characters were so awful, so ridiculously infantile, that I nearly found myself cheering when the time came to dispose of them.   Okay, okay, I get it.  This was a guy's film, right?  A guy would relate to criss-crossing Europe looking for pussy.  I want to see the Pantheon, guys want a raunchy three-way in a skanky club in Amsterdam. Whatever.
        That being said, I still hated these guys.  At first I thought Josh (Derek Richardson) was going to be the "final guy".  Figured that since he acted like the chaste girl of the group (not wanting to have sex with "just anybody", not hooking up because a girl smokes, and let's not forget the worst of all his faults:  wearing a fanny pack! Gah!) that he'd be the idiot to make it through the trauma.  Pax (Jay Hernandez) was like forty thousand other college-age guys I have seen not only in movies but have known in real life. Obnoxious, half-baked, and thinking with the wrong head.  It was a given he was going to be murdered in a horrendous fashion, and I welcomed that.  Óli (Eyþór Guojonsson), the random Icelandic dude they met and were traveling with, is just downright goofy.  His laugh gave me an instant migraine and when you find out he has a kid (!) and he's gallivanting all over the place looking to unintentionally make more mini Óli's it gave me a pretty bad taste in my mouth. So far this seems pretty one-sided in the hate department, but I'll eventually get to the love...

        So our trio of tawdry boys meet a Russian slime-ball near their hostel who tells them, in no uncertain terms, that if they take the train to Bratislava they will find a whole country full of sordid women who will do "anything they want".  That's "annnnyythingggg", boys. Of course it's no surprise that the next thing we see is our guys on a train.

        After a disconcerting incident involving a Dutch businessman ((Jan Vlasák) who likes to eat salad with his fingers and make untoward advances towards American men, the guys find the hostel to which they were recommended.
        The place is a whole lot more like a spa than a hostel, and Josh and Pax are pleasantly surprised when they discover their roommates are two beautiful women.  Which of course would never happen in a million years.  Even less likely is the fact that Natalya and Svetlana think it's absolutely normal to be lodging with guys they don't know.  Right.
        After getting naked with these girls in a sweat room, they meet up in the local disco, take some drugs and then move on to sex (all of them in the same room) with our little vixens. 

        Right about here is where Hostel finally takes a turn toward violence - and it finally gets interesting!  I'd almost written it of, wondering what they hell was so nasty about it.
        After the night of wanton sex, the guys go to breakfast and can't find Óli.  They search the town a bit, thinking they see him entering a museum of torture (Does this place actually exist? And when can I go there??).  When they eventually discover it is not Óli but someone who apparently has his coat on, they soon receive a photo message from Óli showing just a head shot and the words "I go home".  It cuts to what appears to be an actual torture chamber and shows Óli's head separated from the rest of him and someone in a butcher's apron whistling a happy tune.  What I love about the next scene is that it makes me seriously squirm in my damn seat.  An Asian girl gets a toe snapped off.  Subtle, yet decidedly harsh.  I liked it. And strange as it may be, I hoped for more.  Does that make me weird?  Um, yeah....pretty sure it does.

        From here on, we have our dynamic duo of Josh and Paxton deciding to stay one more night to try a few more positions with Svetlana and Natalya, but end up getting drugged at the disco by the girls.  Josh disappears after staggering back to the hostel but Pax is lucky enough to get stuck in a storage room for the night.

        FINALLY we get to all the advertised violence.  It evokes a tremendous amount of inner chills when we see Josh tied to a chair in a rank torture room. Even worse is when we see the salad-eating businessman coming towards him with a hand drill.  This is what we wanted to see this movie for, right?  We were promised torture, and this movie delivers.  I cannot explain what the hell made me want to watch a guy get his achilles tendons cut and vomit all over himself.  Personally I think it is because it did actually scare me, at least back then.  It was so very different than anything else out there.  And it felt like it could happen.  It definitely made me want to stay the fuck home and never travel.  I had a friend ( a girl, no less) who traveled Europe on her own back in the 90's - and she stayed in hostels the entire time.  Totally effing crazy.

         In the a.m., Pax heads off looking for Josh after wondering what the hell would make Josh leave without him.  Questioning Natalya and Svetlana (who incidentally now look like haggard, drug-addicted sluts), Natalya tells him Josh went to an "art show". 
        Ok, seriously?  Sooo very hard to believe and though I'm pretty sure Pax isn't buying it, he implores Natalya to take him to the show.  Naturally, the art show is at the factory that doubles for a house of horrors. 

        I'll admit I was starting to like Pax at this point.  When you take Horny Óli and Pathetic Josh away, Pax is the bees knees. I doubted he'd make it through to the end, but was hoping for the best.  After realizing Josh wasn't "final guy", I figured Pax was as good a choice as any.

        What happens once Pax enters the factory is pretty much not a surprise considering what has already happened to Josh and Óli.  I have to commend Roth for capturing a true sense of dread- the film still gives me the willies to this day. When that German dude had the gun to Pax's head it was bad enough, but then you hear the chainsaw...  And don't even get me started about the Asian girl and her cringe-worthy eye trauma. Probably the most gut-churning moment in the entire movie.

        Hostel was berated over and over again for being a leader in the sub-genre of so-called "torture porn". Why they picked on it so harshly is beyond me, as the Saw franchise started a year prior - and if there was ever an obvious example of torture porn I should think the Saw films should have the corner on that market.  The beauty of Hostel for me is its gritty atmosphere.  The factory to which they are taken just reeks merciless brutality and horror.  You can practically smell the blood on the floor and hear the people screaming even if you have the movie on MUTE.  It's oppressively dank and overwhelmingly dreadful. Oooo, I like it.

        I recall seeing Captivity (2007), which is also in this sub-genre, and it just flat-out stinks.  It's awful, with no discernable plot, animal cruelty (which I abhor), and fairly awful acting.  Hostel actually runs rings around it, even when the guys are just fornicating and smoking copius amounts of hootch.    And I think it gets a totally bad rap.  It has a good plot, albeit an abbreviated one.  Not much to know except some guys go backpacking and end up being tortured, but the idea that there are nut-jobs out there that would actually pay large sums of cash to kill someone, and that there is a pay scale according to what race or country you come from.... yeah, I can see that happening.  One need only watch the news to know how some people feel about Americans.   Elite Hunting was a fun idea and not too far from a reality check.

        So my relationship with Hostel is basically a good one.  I can't hate it but frankly, I hate most of the characters and I hate how long the buildup to get to the action took.  I also got tired of all the damn vomit.  Ugh.  But if we are really calling it torture porn, I guess I'd have to admit it is a fine example.  There have been few since.  Including this film's sequel, which also includes two extremely annoying (and one just merely tolerable) main characters.

        Hostel is extremely gory, fairly depraved, and entirely unnerving - but I find myself enjoying that debauchery.  Call me crazy, you wouldn't be the first.

        Monday, September 12, 2011

        Mindless Movie Monday : Deadline

        Deadline has been hanging out on my Netflix queue for wow, a few years now it seems.  I keep moving it up and down, never able to decide if I actually want to see it or not.  So when I saw it was on one of my HD movie stations I decided to DVR it, that way I could watch it whenever the mood struck me.  Well, I've been struck. 

        I'm generally not one to talk smack about the dead, and that's really not what I'm doing here, but I really have to say - Brittany Murphy looks like death warmed over throughout this entire film.  Yes I realize she died in late 2009, ironically just days after this film came out on DVD.  Which in and of itself is creepy enough, but when you take a look at the DVD cover and it shows her looking quite cadaverous lying in a bathtub - and Brittany was found in her bathroom - it just freaks a girl out.  Quite frankly, in this whole film she looks just steps from death.  Resembles a forlorn crack addict on the way out.  Poor thing, I feel bad for what happened to her, but man she is simply pale and lifeless in this movie. Perhaps that is what the role called for...perhaps she was already ill.  Either way, she made me want to tuck her into bed with some Tylenol and a cold rag on her forehead. Seriously, practically every scene she is in she looks either on the brink of death or utterly stoned.

        Not that her acting is that bad.  The film has her character, Alice, moving into a stunning Victorian house out in the middle of nowhere.  She's a screenwriter and is leaving a city apartment because her ex is getting out of jail soon and she doesn't want him finding her.  Her friend Rebecca (Tammy Blanchard) is helping her pack and drives her out to the rental house owned by a producer friend of hers.  There is a vague discussion between the two girls about Alice being just a few fries short of a happy meal, apparently due to something said ex-boyfriend has done (and evidently done jail time for).  Lots of comments like "did you bring your medicine?" and "you really sure you want to stay here alone?" really make you wonder what on earth happened to her.

        So her good friend Rebecca leaves the fragile Alice at the sprawling near-mansion in order for her to "be alone to finish her manuscript before her deadline".  Yeah, I'd really like to think my BFF wouldn't leave me by myself if I was close to rocking in the corner or worse yet scared to death of an old boyfriend.  But hey, this is the movies. Whatever.

        Alice checks out the house, settles in, and before we know it is sitting in a dark room at a desk with just one lamp lit, working on her computer. Tell me why on earth nobody ever turns on the damn lights in these old houses? I'd have a light on in every room. Not that I would be stupid enough to move into a far-removed house with a crazy ex on the loose...
        She starts to receive the prerequisite creepy phone calls, unexplained noises, and is eventually led to the attic (where no one in their right mind would venture to in an unfamiliar house).  She finds a box of videotapes and sets about checking them out.  I should mention that she conveniently has a video camera with her and has a habit of filming random things.  She begins watching said videos and becomes convinced something terrible has happened in the house.  Overcome with the feeling that the couple in the videos have had a tragedy happen there, Alice discovers upon further viewing that Lucy (Thora Birch) and David (Marc Blucas) were a happily married couple who were having a baby.  However, as time (and videos) go by, David appears to be an extremely jealous and frenzied man.  He claims Lucy has been cheating on him and that the baby is not his. 
        Amazing to me is the fact that Alice watches the undated video clips in the clearly appropriate order, making her mystery-solving as easy as an episode of Scooby-Doo, with the next answer just within reach. 

        As we watch the videos with Alice, we also learn a bit about Alice's past and why she is such a nervous nellie.  The hard times she has lived through seem to parallel Lucy's, which makes it hard not only for Alice to differentiate the past from reality, but hard for us to figure out just what is going on.  The film is a bit slow, waiting until nearly the end to throw any action our way.  But it kept me intrigued enough to keep watching.  The house is gorgeous yet thoroughly creepy, with dark-lit rooms, creaking doors, dripping water - all the things that make a haunted house (if that is indeed what we should call it) feel authentic.

        Murphy carries the whole of the movie by herself, as a woman descending into possible madness.  She is believable and genuine, and like I said - she certainly looks the part of a haggard, somewhat mentally unstable woman.  She is so overwhelmed with the story of Lucy and David that she can't see what it is doing to her psychologically.  She begins to lose rational thought, immersing herself in their disturbing story so much that it's obvious she just might not make it back to reality.

        Deadline isn't exactly rocket science.  I had it figured out well before the ending but really wanted to see how it played out.  Like I said, it's a slow-mover, so much so that I actually drifted off (blame my surgical pain meds!) a few times and had to rewind.  Probably a good thing though, because I think it may take a second viewing to get the entire gist of this one.  The soundtrack/score is rather good here, lending a spooky backtrack to all of Alice's wandering aimlessly around dark empty rooms and trips to the bathroom to that damn leaky faucet.

        All in all I guess I would have to say I liked Deadline. I think?  Like I said, nothing mind-blowing plot-wise, but you could do worse on a random rainy afternoon.  It kind of felt like a Lifetime Movie-of the-Week, but if you're not above watching those (don't lie, you know you watch them!), you'll do fine.  Be forewarned it is a tedious, confusing movie at times, but it does convey a relatively dreadful atmosphere.  Again, maybe it was just my pain meds speaking to me.

        One final note:  the movie poster for Deadline was pulled immediately after Murphy's death on December 20th, 2009.  It had only been in release for 19 days (though it didn't play theaters, it went straight to DVD).  The unnerving image from the movie poster that I have at the top of this post is the original.  The one I display here is the one they used after her death.  Personally I think they both are in poor taste after how she died.  It creeps me out to see her displayed there in that bathtub like that, in particular with the title of the film.  But no one said movie studios have a heart.

        Sunday, September 11, 2011

        9/11: A Short Reflection On True Horror

        Photo Credit: Carmen Taylor, AP
        In the opening of the movie Apocalypse Now there are scenes with flames, backed up with The Doors' depressing and ominous mantra, The End.  I've always been affected by that particular sequence because it just seemed so final - and the film hadn't even started.
        And I remember feeling that similar anxiety on 9/11, watching scenes of the World Trade Center and Pentagon in flames.  I could hear that Doors song in the back of my head while all the television reporters raced around like monkeys and the world stood frozen in time, stunned at the outbreak of unbelievable violence that had happened on America's home turf.

        I'm not a political person.  And this is obviously not a political blog.  But for someone who has seen unimaginable frights and outrageously violent scenes put to film and enjoyed it, I felt I needed to take a minute and recognize a moment in time that probably terrified me more than any horror film I have ever seen (or will see for that matter.)

        I read somewhere once that 'terror is stronger than horror, though it usually lasts for a shorter time'.  For me, those words could not be farther from the truth.  Terror leaves a scar on your soul that never goes away.
        Ten years ago I was working the front desk at a medical office (where I am still employed).  We had barely opened when we heard the report on the radio of the first tower being hit by the plane.  We all gawked at each other, and made comments with the patients about how bizarre it was - had that ever occurred before anywhere else?  What a crazy thing to happen!  Of course it wasn't long before the report of the second tower being struck, and I recall getting this unnerving feeling in my gut.  Something wasn't right.  The words terrorist attack started flying out of not just the newscaster's mouths, but the patients in the waiting room were buzzing.  By the time the Pentagon got hit, everyone was utterly rattled.   I recall our cleaning lady calling to ask if we wanted her to bring in a little TV (we aren't one of those fancy offices with televisions running CNN 24/7) so we could watch the coverage - of course we said yes. And in between seeing patients we would all gather around the TV and watch in horror.  I remember how I couldn't wait to get home and glue my eyes to the TV and gather everything in, to try to understand what happened.  
        I also couldn't wait to see my husband.  There were moments - and I'm sure it was this way for everyone - in which I got this "doomsday" feeling that morning, as if the whole world was going to implode and I wouldn't get the chance to tell everyone I cared about just that. 
        I'm no spring chicken.  I wasn't ten years old when the towers were hit, I was 33.  It affected me, and I remember it like it was yesterday.  September 11th didn't mean I threw a fit because I wasn't able to go to the playground that day, it meant my supper was take-out pizza sitting around the TV watching CNN.  For the next two weeks!  It meant feeling helpless and paralyzed with fear about the future.  It meant horror movies could take a siesta because what I saw was more chilling than the best Hitchcock film out there. 

        As fans of horror movies, sometimes we are outcasts to society.  People shake their heads and wonder just what the hell is wrong with us - why on earth would we want to witness fake death and see such horrific things done to people?  And why the hell would we pay money to do so?  

        All of those people are hypocrites of the most colossal kind.  For these are people whose eyes were also unable to look away on 9/11.  They too, wanted to see those poor folks jumping to their deaths from the burning towers.  They hoped to catch a glimpse of someone who actually made it out and was bleeding from every orifice.  They are no better and in fact quite possibly worse than we "horror fans". We pay to see artificial death- so maybe we're the stupid ones, because we can get it for free on the ten o'clock news for heaven's sake.  We are ALL curiosity seekers - be it morbid or not.  I don't think there is a soul alive that wasn't affected in some way by 9/11.  And no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't look away.

        Imagine for a moment, being on a flight that is suddenly hijacked by terrorists.  Once you find out, you're scared, terrified even.  But you probably just think you're not going to land in LA, that the hijackers have some sort of ulterior motive, another city they want taken to. Maybe everything will be okay if the pilots just land where they want. I'm sure it didn't cross any minds right away that they would be crashing into a building. On purpose.  But once that horrific realization set in, can you imagine anything more frightening than knowing the pilot isn't flying the plane anymore? Or than trying to make that final phone call to your husband or wife?  Knowing that you're going to die in minutes?  Your guts are churning because the plane is descending 10,000 feet a minute, and in the end all you can see is the World Trade Center getting closer and closer?  Alternately, imagine being inside the tower and seeing a plane barreling towards your office window.  To me, this is more shocking and ghastly than anything I have ever, EVER seen in a horror movie. 

        In the days after the attacks, it's true, America changed.  I remember driving to work on September 12th and all I could see throughout my little town was red, white and blue.  EVERYONE had their flags out.  Even though it was the worst time in the history of the nation, my heart swelled with pride that I was American.  The events regarding Flight 93 hit home for me because I live only 85 miles away from Shanksville, Pa. where the passengers took control of the plane and crashed it into a field to avoid further mayhem.  The bravery those passengers showed was unsurpassed, but I know I would have been totally behind them if I'd have been on that plane and would have done whatever I could to help foil the plans of those terrorists. 
        Watching the change that has overtaken the USA over the last ten years, I realize that in the past we hoped nothing bad would happen, but these days we expect it.  We're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. The constant fear of another terror attack, nuclear holocaust, further military advancement in the Middle East, hell- even natural disasters.  We know something is coming, we just don't know when.  The hint of real-life horror is always overhead, waiting. 

        So then why do I watch horror?  Why do I want to subject myself to such things when all I need do is read the paper or turn on the evening news?  I can see men abusing and killing their wives, children being molested, racial turmoil, natural disasters wreaking havoc on a regular basis, foreign countries warning us of impending's all there for the taking.  And it's also part of the reason I almost cannot stand to watch the news.  Most of what I get I see online.  Because real-life horror is so much tougher to take.  Give me a nasty revenge film any day over real-life footage of a man who has kept his stepdaughter in a dungeon basement for thirteen years.  I can take the simulated violence.  It's the real stuff that keeps me up at night and changes my way of thinking.  And 9/11 only exacerbated that fear.

        I guess what I'm trying to say in this rambling post is that it's not enough for me to just remember the events of 9/11, I have to hold it in my heart.  It's changed me, and my outlook for the future.  It's hard to remain positive when things have become so grim.  And when someone asks me again why I watch horror - how can I watch it with so much real-life horror going on -  I'm just going to tell them it's my defense mechanism, because I've grown to think of it that way. After all, truth is stranger - and much more unsettling - than fiction.

        "This is the end
        My only friend, the end
        Of our elaborate plans, the end
        Of everything that stands, the end
        No safety or surprise, the end
        I'll never look into your eyes...again"
                      ~The Doors

        Sunday Bloody Sunday

        True Blood

        Blood & Chocolate



        Little Deaths

        Thursday, September 8, 2011

        Gushes of (True) Blood: A Love Letter to Lafayette Reynolds

        With the impending season finale of True Blood on Sunday, I decided I had to get another love letter in before things wrap up for another year.

        And so there is no one else I'd rather pledge my eternal devotion to than Lafayette Reynolds, the sassy and flamboyant short order cook/drug dealer/medium/style guru of Bon Temps.

        In True Blood's source material (The Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris), poor Lafayette doesn't even make it to book two.  Thank heavens for Alan Ball, who obviously saw something to be saved in Nelsan Ellis's portrayal of the over-the-top homoerotic jack-of-many-trades. Truly one of the best-written characters on television these days.

        Dear Lafayette - or can I call you La La?

        Wow, have you had a rough four seasons or what? When you first happened upon the scene in Merlotte's I was pleasantly surprised at how damn entertaining you were and on top of that - what a snappy dresser!  Your brazen sexuality displayed at every turn, you were at times the only bit of fun we were allowed in all the crazy vampire drama and shape-shifting madness.  I'll admit I laughed more than once at your choices in men (senators and pathetic 'middle-aged' vampires?!) as well as your pornographic pursuits and colorful language.
        Matter of fact your retribution at that trio of trailer trash who dissed you at Merlotte's made my entire night.  Who can forget "In this restaurant, a hamburger deluxe comes with french fries, tomato, mayo and AIDS!" Whoo-ee, that was fun!

        You kind of got put through the ringer though, didn't you?  I thought for sure when you were kidnapped at the end of Season One it was going to be curtains.  Selling that V didn't do you any favors.  First all that crap with Eddie, then chained up in Eric Northman's basement - yeah, time to stop the madness. But you managed to get out of that jam - although just barely!  And your ensuing case of PTSD was nearly the end of you. 

        But even with all these things you kept your fantastic sense of humor and your unbeatable vocabulary.  Not everyone can pull off the line:"This shit is goin faster than fritters at a fat farm" and get away with it.  And your sense of style - Oh honey! 
        And I guess that we shouldn't forget that you and Eric kind of came to terms and are somewhat congenial at this point - he bought you a new car, gave you some blood that made you as hyper as a badger, and set you back up at selling V.  A weird relationship but hey, no stranger than anything else you've done.

        I have to say though, I know you try to watch out for your spiteful, high maintenance, bad-tempered cousin Tara, but seriously she just seems to bring you down.  She's always getting herself into trouble that you have to bail her out of.  She's a constant pain in the ass and is forever bitching about something.  She needs to get the hell out of Bon Temps, for good this time. 
        Taking her to see your lovely but mentally unstable mother was a fine idea, but Tara apparently needs to be bashed over the head for anything to sink the hell in.  Hopeless cause, seriously!

        Then you go and get yourself all messed up with that maenad from hell, Maryann.  Hard to imagine that you were so easily manipulated by her, enough to kidnap Sookie to bring her to Maryann's little par-tay in the back yard.  Seems trouble seems to follow you everywhere you go.  Knowing what we know now, I can't help to think what you might have been able to do to Maryann if your medium powers would have surfaced a little earlier. 

        Reuniting with your mother left a lasting impression on you though, right?  And I don't mean by your mother - I mean by your own personal 'sex-on-a-stick', Jesus.  Hitting it off immediately (and why the hell not, Jesus is a fine piece of ass indeed), the two of you set out to discover the darker sides of yourselves by doing some V together and tripping out quite rightly.  And I know you were pretty freaked out by Jesus's admission that he is a brujo (witch), but it is also how you found out (from Jesus's wacky Mexican family) that you are a medium.  Obviously that would have come in handy a few years ago when you were locked in that dank basement at Fangtasia.  Or even when rowdy customers at Merlotte's get a little out of hand.

        So we fast forwarded a year and you & Jesus are still together and cohabitating, which I am totally in favor of.  You two are the cutest couple on the entire show. 
        But then you go and let that deranged wiccan Marnie get all up in your business and things have went south ever since.  I'll admit seeing Jesus work his magic has been intriguing, but then there's the whole medium thing.  First you allow one of Jesus's dead uncles to possess you (admittedly to save Jesus from a mortal snake bite), then you move on to a wronged slave named Mavis - luckily you helped her and her baby find their way to the afterlife, and made me laugh hysterically in the interim. 

        But you didn't stop there.  Unfortunately, here we are at the end of Season Four and again the cliffhangers we are presented with involve you being in danger and endangering others.  Seems to be a trend with you.  But it's really making for interesting stuff!

        All in all, I truly hope things work out in the end Lafayette... I'd simply hate to have anything happen to you.  You're the best part of my Sunday night and I couldn't stand it if I didn't see your lovely mug and hear you utter words like 'hooka' and 'day-um' again! 

        Your loyalty to your friends is unsurpassed even though everyone generally behaves so reprehensibly on this show that they are far from deserving of your trust and devotion. You're forever trying to make the best of the shitty situations you almost always end up in, so hopefully you'll come out smelling like a rose again. 

        So thanks, Lafayette, for giving me so much happiness over the last four years, and if my hunch is correct, you'll live to see another day.  And yet another season. 
        Here's to the resident slice of chocolate delight on True Blood - you will always have my full attention and undying affection.

        Love, Christine