Tuesday, September 30, 2008

foul smelling skull candy tastes adequate...



Ok, so I'm jumping the gun and starting the Halloween coundtown a day early with something I've never really done before, a candy review.  Sort of.  It's not really a review.  I mean, I'm not going to get down deep into the semiotics of gummy candy or anything, but whatever.  I found these appropriately gross looking gummi skulls at Walgress for two for a dollar, and being a skull enthusiast I guess, figured I'd try them out.  They have a nice, heavy consistancy but are too sticky to really play with, unfortunately, otherwise I think they'd be really satisfying to throw around and slap people in the face with.  But, like I said, too sticky.  When you take them out of the plastic, they smell pretty bad, especially the green one.  From the plastic-y odor I was expecting more of a Play-Doh flavor but actually they tasted pretty fruity and good, without any influence of the odd stink they otherwise let off.  So, yeah, at 50 cents a piece, I say go for it.  Sorry the pics kind of suck.  Camera phone.  Happy Halloween.

halloween countdown...

The Halloween Countdown starts Wednesday. 31 days, at least one post a day, all horror, right up until Halloween night. Scary.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the last spectre post...

So, here's the last of the Fleischer/Aparo "Wrath of the Spectre" stories from "Adventure Comics," circa 1975. These wrap up the run decently, although apparently there were still some unused stories, either written and drawn, or written then later drawn (by Jim Aparo) and published in the 1980s. I might have those somewhere, I sort of remember having them swing my way at some point, but I have no idea where they are, so if I ever find them, I'll post them. Anyway, I totally dig the SLA-type revolutionaries in issue 339, and then the whole stuggle Spectre/Jim Corrigan has with his ghostly cause, the doomed romance etc. It's all good stuff. Both Dough Moench, in the 1980s, and John Ostrander, in the 1990s, would pick up various aspects of the character from the Fleischer-Aparo run for their respective "Spectre" series. After this, "Adventure Comics" shifted gears big time and started running significantly lighter stories starring Aquaman. To his credit, Jim Aparo was just as skilled at drawing Aquaman as he was at doing the Spectre, Phantom Stranger, Deadman or Batman, and created what I think is the definitive version (visually anyway, for me, anyway) or the aquatic avenger. Why do people bag on Aquaman so much?












Stay tuned for more of something, nothing or everything. Halloween countdown coming soon, like, in a week. Crazy, man.

Monday, September 22, 2008

blood & bore...


After I watched the first episode of the new TV show "True Blood," I wanted to write something about it, something to the effect of "True Blood is truly awful." Actually, originally it was "True Blood is Truly Bloody awful," but I think it's stupid when Americans try to use British slang (sometimes I think it sounds pretty stupid when British people use it), so I scaled it back some. But I never finished it, because I didn't care that much, and also I figured I'd watch the next couple of episodes to see if the show was really as bad as I thought.

Anway, "True Blood" is truly one of the most awful fucking shows I've ever seen on television. Shit suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. It's kind of like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" if everything kind of original about that show were made really cliched and stupid, all the characters were totally stereotyped and unlikable and, I dunno, if "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was totally idiotic and sucked. No, this show is kind of like "Angel," in that it's really stupid, but unlike "Angel," it doesn't know how stupid it is, so it isn't all campy and funny and stuff. It's just...bad. Really, really bad.

First off, I totally hate Alan Ball. The first few seasons of "Six Feet Under" were good but I think that was just a fluke, and the show quickly, dramatically degenerated from a show about family and mortality to a bunch of fucking horrible unlikable yuppies constantly complaining about their trite, uninteresting sexual dilemmas. "True Blood" has the same kind of adolescent (really, preadolescent in its' thoughtfulness) obsessiveness towards all things sexual, and because the show is set down South, most of the characters are horrible stereotypes of the lusty, decadent, hot blooded hick (or virile/sexually charged ethnic, take your pick what you want to offended by). Basically, there are two kinds of characters 0n this show- those who wanna fuck (and I mean fuck- not have sex, make love, get it on, do it, screw, fool around, mess around, bumping uglies or any of the other, often quite healthy and wholesome varieties of intercourse a mature adult is likely to encounter during the course of his or her lifetime) and those who haven't been educated yet that fucking is the primary purpose for all narrative drama, according to the southern gospel of Alan Ball. Oh, and by the way, just setting your show, or film or novel or whatever, in New Orleans doesn't automatically grant your work relevance if you don't have anything to say about New Orleans, even if you do have the Chomsky-esque political insight to have one of your African-American characters mention FEMA.

There's really nothing good about this show at all. The main story of the show is a really tired retreated of the Buffy-Angel good girl meets tortured nice guy vampire with a dark past from the first few seasons of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and the soapy operatics still aren't all that interesting. The supporting cast seems to be mainly culled from an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog (or WB/CW teen drama, if you will), giving the raunchy bayou settings all the gritty realism of, well, an Ambercombie and Fitch catalog or WB teen drama. The minority characters are painfully, painfully stereotyped, really offensively so, especially the main character's "sassy black friend," a stereotype that you think would have gotten old by now, but no, Tara (played by Rutina Wesley) so sassy, "talk to the hand"-y, "On no she didn't"-y, "Is that cuz I'm black?"-y that one suspects writer Ball consulted his local KKK chapter for insights into crafting believable minority characters.

The one thing I kind of like about this show is star Anna Paquin. Whether it's because she's a good actress or because she kind of gives me a boner is one for the ages to decide, but her gap toothiness is totally cute. Did you know she's not from New Zealand? I assumed, because her first big role was in "The Piano." But, no, she's Canadian. Anyway, maybe it's because her character on the show isn't the only one permanently obsessed with their genitalia and what to cram it into (or to cram into it, or whatever) next, she comes off kind of likable. But then, that's the problem with this show's dichotomistic approaching to human sexuality- you're either prostitute (literally- at least three of the characters are so far) or a virgin. Or, you know, an old personally who occasionally says something spicy because it's funny when old ladies swear. Or a mopey vampire with his shirt unbuttoned down to the middle, because that's how vampires dress.

Anyway, if you considering starting to watch this show, save your time and just punch yourself in the face instead. Is there anything not horrible coming on TV this season? I kinda like "the Connor Chronicles," because it has kind of a cyberpunk vibe, and also the boner factor (Summer Glau from "Firefly") and I can see myself watching "90210" until I remember that I don't give a fuck about teenagers (it's just a dumb and campy as the original series). I guess "Heroes" is coming back on, but I don't really care. Seriously, man, this is the videographic window into the collective concerns and obsessions of a people at war, on the edge of financial collapse, and facing what could be a relative cultural revolution, or a commitment to our ultimate self-immolation under the sludge of late capitalism, so where's the good TV shit? "Battlestar Galactica," that's what I'm talking about. When things get rough, there's usually some good shows about death to be found. Are "Reaper" and "Pushing Daisies" coming back? What else? The televisual landscape seems about as grim as, well, real life, and who wants to live like that, or whatever?

You know what's awesome, though? I used the word "boner" twice in this write up. Also I was watching the new episode of Connor Chronicles while I was writing this and one of the characters says to another," You're the yarn lover, yarn lover," which I thought was really funny. Boner city.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

adventure comics 437 & 438...

Hey, kids, comics!  Here's the penultimate posting of Michael Fleischer and Jim Aparo's Spectre stories in Adventure Comics.  For whatever reason, the art in these two issues is by Aparo with Ernie Chua aka Ernie Chan, DC's cover artists of choice during the mid-1970s.  Chua is a fine artist but his inks don't really work as well with Aparo's work than Aparo solo, or Aparo's work with Frank Thorne a couple of issues earlier, and the issues suffer for it at least a little.  Still, dig on Aparo's great covers, especially that giant horrible-looking fish on the cover of 437 (with the great, ghostly looking Spectre in the background).  Horror-wise, the issues are pretty strong too.  437 has a mind-controlling scientist forcing people to become suicide bombers, and making his minions mindlessly march into a barracuda tank.  438 has a different mad scientist randomly kidnapping an innocent mailman in order to stuff him and put him in a museum of human statues.  And of course all transgressors getting their grim comeuppance from the ghostly Spectre of vengeance...











Next, comics-wise, 439 & 440, the finale two Spectre stories from Adventure Comics...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

it's just around the corner...

Economic insecurity and general fiduciary anxiety mean that it's probably going to be a pretty lean year Halloween junk wise around the Negative Cave this year, but I was at Walgreens today and I couldn't pass up this cool glass skull for only $3.99.  Walgreens seems the place to scope for inexpensive, well-made skulls every Halloween, and this one doesn't disappoint, especially at the price.  There's nothing really extraordinary to say about it, just dig on the pics...




I guess it's meant to be a candle holder but I think it would make a cool cigarette holder.  Too bad I don't smoke anymore.  Any other suggestions of cool things to put in there?

Negative Pleasure's 31-Day Halloween countdown starts on October 1st.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

revenge of the dumb & mean...


Jesus christ, every time I stop to think about what's going on in the world, or even just in the United States, right now, my chest tightens and I start to feel dizzy. I'm not sure what's worse, the seeming collapse of the economy, which isn't really be treated with the seriousness it seems to deserve, and which isn't being called for what it is- the by-product of about three decades worth of cronyism, deregulation, greed and flat out corruption coming from folks like John McCain (one of the Keating Five back in the late 1980s), Dick Cheney, both Bushes and of course the granddaddy of economic bullshit policy, Ronald Reagan- or the American public's inexplicable fascination and utterly misguided approval of FUCKING IDIOT and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This is someone who deserves no form of validation whatsoever. As soon as she was announced as McCain's potential VP, the election should have been over. And yet the spin-masters have gone to work, and turned her into some kind of folksly bullshit fucking whatever. Are people in this country really so easy to fool? Is the power of christian fundamentialism and general redneckery really that strong? We're seeing the fallout of the current administartion right now now, they've totally run the country into the ground (and almost definitely going to get worse before they get better) and people are supporting candidates (I'm talking obviously about McCain and Palin, who are leading in the polls at the moment, despite nearly ever word coming out of either's mouth being a gaffe or boldfaced lie) who seem like they could actually be WORSE than what we have now. Seriously, this election started out as Anybody But Bush, but now we're starting down the barrel of the reality that things can get worse, much worse. Oh shit fuck cunting fuck shit HELP!!! I'm not one for lamenting the stupidity of middle America, I mean I don't think everyone between the coasts or out of the major urban centers is ignorant and backwards or anything like that, but right now they're just fucking acting like it, and if it weren't everybody's problem, I'd say let them elect the fucking corrupt idiots and suffer for it, but once again the willingness of some people to sacrifice their actual needs and interests in favor of bullshit religious issues and right-wing media spin is going to hurt everybody. Again.

So, yeah, that's my fucking introduction to my continuation of the last round of film reviews. I'm having a hard time maintaining any level of articulateness or basic intelligence, I just feel so totally deflated and fucked right now. As a job seeker (for like three months now, yikes!) this economic crisis really scares me, I think the already difficult job market is going to be even tougher now as money gets tighter and tighter. So, yeah, I'm feeling fucked. Fucked, I tells ya. So, anyway, last time we left off at "Nail Gun Massacre," a redneck rape-revenge pic (making it already more politically astute than rape vicitm-hating Sarah Palin) that, at the very least, does feature a nailgun massacre. "The Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre," on the other hand, delivers no meatcleaver massacre. In fact, this 1977 film by director Evan Lee is at least slightly classier than the lurid title suggests.

Most of the film's budget appears to have been spent on contracting Christopher Lee, which makes it even odder, given they sunk the money into buying an icon of some legitimacy and, even with his horror associations, class, to give the flick such a raunchy title. Lee plays a professorly type who opens and closes the picture (kinda like Bela Lugosi in Glen or Glenda) with some convoluted blah blah blah about the supernatural and whatever. To his credit, he appears in the most wood pannelled of offices, and sports the most plaid of red flared bellbottoms (with wide lapelled sportcoat and butterfly collar shirt, his burgandy ascot and beige turtleneck having been at the cleaners that day, apparently), signifying that this film was indeed made in the 1970s.

After Lee's introduction (which is basically nonsense, but much like his namsake Sarah, nobody doesn't like Christopher Lee), we settle into the story proper, which has a (community?) college professor (that college looks an awful lot like a high school), giving another lecture on supernatural hoodoo, with a bit of a pagan-cum-Lovecraftian (metal fans, take notice!) edge, and being met with some inexplicable hostility from the creepy, moustachioed, denim clad Mason (who looks a bit like a burnout version of John Amplas from George Romero's "Martin"). Mason and his druggie pals proceed to get drunk and stoned (and remain so throughout most of the film, it seems) and then visit the professor's house after hours for an impromptu killing spree. This may have been the massacre of the title, I dunno, I didn't see a meatcleaver...

The professor himself escapes slaughter (his daughter-I think- and t.a. aren't as lucky) but winds up in a coma or something, from which he supernaturally, or maybe telepathically, kills the cadre of attackers. And that's basically the whole rest of the whole movie. In between scenes of Mason's (oh, I get it, Mason=Manason) gang toking up and downing beers, members of the crew are killed off in oddly surrealistic/psychedelic/incomprehensible set pieces. There's some minor gore, but it's not really especially violent or disturbing, just confusing and...kinda cool. I mean, this isn't some kind of post-narrative experimental masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, and I did kind of stop paying attention eventually, because none of it really made any sense, and it wasn't really scary, and I couldn't really tell most of the characters from one another, but it was alright. Y'know, strange, witchy, whatever...

In the end, Mason is spared but winds up going insane, and everybody else dies. Christopher Lee gives another incomprehensible speech on the supernatural and stuff like that, and then we all go home. Director Evan Lee never made another film, neither did co-screenwriters Larry Justin or Keith Burns, though a third co-writer (is seriously took three people to write that movie?) went on to produce some "Faces of Death" type videos, and play a small part in "Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer." According to imdb, none of the cast, or at least the actors playing the professor, Mason, the detective on the case, or Mason's gang, or their girlfriends, or their victims, ever went on to another film. Too bad, not that "Meatcleaver Massacre" was all that good, but it wasn't all that bad, either. Or whatever.
Want a film that is bad, in fact, hilariously so? Check out "Pieces," a US-Spanish co-production directed by Spanish filmmaker JP Simon, and co-written by Italian porno/splatter-meister (and Troll 2 director) Joe D'Amato. And it shows, it really shows. "Pieces" features all of the incoherence, misogyny, interchangeable characters and inexplicable dialogue as your typic giallo (Italian slasher film), with none of the visually masterful setpieces. Early on in the film, one interchangeable coeds muses dreamily," The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time." That's basically the highlight of the movie, which is actually about a crazed, unseen killer (it's the dean of the college, as if anyone still cared by the end) who cuts women apart with a chainsaw to make pieces for a human jigsaw puzzle.

This plot I think is best when viewed in contrast to a film like "Don't Go in the House." In the early 1980s, when both of these came, it's likely that they were lumped together and viewed as basically the same, criticized on basically the same grounds. But "Don't Go in the House" features a character, who, after years of physical abuse, is driven insane by the death of his mother, who despite her abusiveness, he has become entirely dependent on, and whose actions have entirely shaped his view (and hatred) of women. In other words, it's an exploitation with some kind of brain in its' head, it's about something, its' characters have motivation- it's a real movie, basically. "Pieces" opens with the killer, as a kid, putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked lady, getting caught and reprimanded by his mom, then killing her with an axe (and getting away with it, because the cops don't bother to check for, like, fingerprints and stuff).

Aside from some hilarious dialogue and other general ridiculousness (including an inexplicable kung-fu attack that comes out of, and ultimately goes, nowhere), "Pieces" features great weirdo character Paul Smith, as a creepy red herring groundskeeper, who went from this buck and a quarter cheapie to playing Bluto in Robert Altman's "Popeye" and the Beast Rabban in David Lynch's "Dune" (and Sam Raimi's slapstick "Crimewave," Gene Wilder's "Haunted Honeymoon," a movie by that guy who never called me back for a job interview last week [with Erik Estrada and James Hong], and the super bizarre "Sonny Boy," with David Carradine as a transexual). Smith doesn't seem to give a fuck about his role in this movie, and just sort of grins and winks his way through the whole thing, like, yeah, whatever, dude, fuck you and pay me. Taking his role slightly more seriously is Christopher George, a real b-movie kind of dude (and really a pretty good actor), who got his big start on "Rat Patrol" in the 1960s, and went on to work with filmmakers like William Castle, William Girdler and Lucio Fulci. This was George's second to last film, and one of many he co-starred in with his wife, Lynda Day George, who plays a female cop/tennis superstar, or something. Anyway, "Pieces" is pretty silly and it mostly sucked, but it was also gross and entertaining, so I guess I kinda liked it. It was better than a poke in the eye.

Far more engaging, for me anyway, are the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis basically invented the "gore film" in 1963 with "Blood Feast," a gore film in this case being a movie that exists solely for the purpose of showing gross onscreen violence ("Pieces" qualifies) at the expense of narrative, characterization etc. Still, HG Lewis' films have a real kind of clunky charm, and his excuses for getting the red stuff on the screen are pretty creative. Over the past week, I took a gander at "Color Me Blood Red" (1965) and "the Gruesome Twosome" (1967). These are both goofy teen horror flix in the vein of many similar, tamer films of the 1950s and 1960s, but featuring extreme onscreen violence. Why not?

"Color Me Blood Red" takes some cues from the superior "Bucket of Blood" (by Roger Corman, natch), as it features an artist who discovers he can't paint without the particular shade of red provided by human blood. The basic physiology of human blood- the rate at which it dries and the fact that it changes color as it dries, is beyond Lewis and company, but that's cool, because "Color Me Blood Red" is loaded with a bunch of other fine touches, including the beatnik couple of dresses in identical costumes in every scene, or the female lead's mother, who just doesn't get the kids these days, and recites lines to this effect as awkwardly as possible. Then you've got scenes between the uber-asshole artist/killer and his long suffering girlfriend (who has the pointiest tits you've probably seen in any movie ever), which are kind of funny, until he stabs her to death, which isn't as funny, until he rubs her face against a canvas to paint with her blood, which is pretty funny. This was the third of Lewis' gore films, after "Blood Feast" and "Two Thousand Maniacs," and the tamest, making it also the lightest, since the brutality isn't so heavy as to get in the way to the shenanigans, but it also lacks to insane level of blood spattered goofusness on display in "Blood Feast."

"The Gruesome Twosome" is far more violent, but attempts to maintain a light tone, which makes it kind of a ridiculous mess, which makes it kind of brilliant and hilarious. An elderly woman and her retarded, psychopathic son run a wigshop. They lure young women in with the promise of a room to let, then the son scalps them (onscreen) for wig-hair. Their wigs are quite popular with the young ladies of a nearby sorority, who also comprise the bulk of their victims, which is really just kind of bad business when you think about it. Also it seems kind of weird that they'd be able to kill enough girls to continue to run a fairly successful business without raising any police interest until a Nancy Drew-type coed takes an interest in her missing friends. But what the fuck? If you like lighthearted college (and dotty old lady) comedy mixed with graphic depictions of women being scalped (albeit with admittedly poor special effects), this flick is reasonably good-natured (if wrongheaded) fun. If you really want to check out the best of Lewis' filmography, though, I'd have to recommend his (non-gory) attempts at "teen rebellion" pictures, "Just for the Hell of It" (a bunch of kids wreck shit up for no reason, then learn the error of their ways, or something) and "She-Devils on Wheels" (with the great garage-y theme song "Get off the Road," later covered by the Cramps).

Anyway, that's it. I'm going to go back to worrying about my future, semi-catatonic and quivering, constantly on the edge of a fullscale panic attack, receiving nothing remotely resembling any kind of relief whatsoever, just frustration, setback and failure piled upon shortcoming, defeat and disfunction. Check back soon for more negative pleasure shit...