Actual content is on the way. In the meantime, I don't think I've posted this issue of Plop, DC's great humor-horror comic of the 1970s, before. Cover art by Basil Wolverton. Interior art by Sergio Aragones and others. Enjoy...
So, without being too much of a sap about it, I wanted to post some kind of something for Thanksgiving. Y'know, it's been kind of a tough year, for me and alot of the people around me, and it's no secret I'm not above complaining about it from time to time (all the time), but in truth I'm really thankful for alot. In many ways, I've got a great life, with a roof over my head and shoes on my feet, a loving family, many awesome friends. If success, fame, fortune and intercourse have eluded me lately, there are many creature comforts and other wonderful things that haven't. And even though I get depressed, very depressed sometimes, in a broad sense, I love life, I love all the movies that are out there for me to watch, all the comics and books I can read, all the wonderful avenues of popular culture to explore. And the election, that was good. Very pleased with that. So, yeah, life, it's not that bad. I mean, it is that bad, but there are good things in it, things to be thankful for. So, thanks, life, for not fucking up my shit that bad. I really, really need a job though.
I got tagged with this on Facebook, so I figured I'd share it here too. Post your guesses in the comments section, if you have the guts...
The Rules: - Pick 30 of your favorite movies. - Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie. - Post them here for everyone to guess. - No Googling/using IMDb/Wikiquote search functions for those of you guessing. - No looking at people who have already answered before making your guesses.
harris sez- Abe tagged me on this and now I'm tagging you! Post your answers here and then post your list in your notes or on your blog.
1. Here they are again, folks! These wonderful, wonderful kids! Still struggling! Still hoping! As the clock of fate ticks away, the dance of destiny continues! The marathon goes on, and on, and on! HOW LONG CAN THEY LAST!
2. Oh, Lord, forgive me for harboring such unworthy thoughts, but sometimes I wish I could tear it all down!
3. Twas like where you're from weren't never there. Where you're going doesn't matter. And where you are ain't no good unless you can get away from it!
4. We should be cellmates. I don't snore, and I'm a quiet masturbator. Hell, I'll even give you the top bunk.
5. Can't you feel the vibes in your own house, man? Bad, sport, real bad. The karma in here is so thick, you need an aqualung to breathe.
6. Eat 'em! Eat 'em! Crunch crunch!
7. I wouldn't give you the skin off a grape.
8. Salsa y ketchup, you tell me and I'll fetch up
9. I won't have that kind of toilet talk in my kitchen.
10. How you doin', Jess? Like shit! How 'bout you? I'm down to my last inch of skin!
11. Abergail's missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren't they? And Freddy and Christina... They don't eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?
12. ...and it smelled just like cleaning fluid and made me wanna like WAX THE FLOOR. So like can someone tell me like, is this concert for real, or it it just another rip off?
13. This is an honor, Mr. Beverly, you're my hero. You're rich, you're powerful, you're famous, you're ruthless. Nobody fucks with you, you fuck with everybody!
14. But the false promise of a new dawn usually leads to a most bloody sunset.
15. Now be careful! These things are like a bad, fucked up, George Jetson nightmare!
16. There's fuckin' room to move as a fry cook. I could be manager in two years. King. God.
17. Do you know any married people today? They're a team. They pull together and they get rich. They got it all.
18. We get 'em all: sun-worshippers, moon-worshippers, Satanists. The Manson family used to hang around and shoplift. Bunch of deadbeats!
19. I want to put the game on pause. The game can be paused, can't it? I mean, all games can be paused, right? Yeah, sure. But why? What's wrong? Aren't you dying to see what's so special about the special? I'm feeling a little disconnected from my real life. I'm kinda losing touch with the texture of it. You know what I mean? I actually think there is an element of psychosis involved here.
20. Looks like you pissed yourself there buddy, must be the stress, stress of high finance
21. I saw a statue once. It was called, "the third time Phyllis saw me, she exploded." Man, what kind of statue was that? I dunno, it was made out of driftwood and dipped in fluoric acid. Very wild.
22. Gonna shoot some pigs.
23. You're a comical little geezer. You'll look funny when you're fifty.
24. Tell this to the workers when they ask where their leader went. We, the soldiers of The National Liberation Front of America, in the name of the workers and all the oppressed of this imperialist country, have struck a fatal blow to the fascist police state. What better revolutionary example than to let their president perish in the inhuman dungeon of his own imperialist prison.
25. Alright, out with it. What's on your mind? It's just that some guys are born smart about women and some guys are born dumb. Some guys are born clowns. You were born dumb.
26. There goes my last lead. I feel all dead inside. I'm backed up in a dark corner, and I don't know who's hitting me.
27. He's the cutie pie, you're the smartass, you little honky bastard.
28. I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in. It had no bottom. I felt pretty good - like an amputated leg.
29. I believe that the growth in my head-this head-this one right here. I think that it is not really a tumor... not an uncontrolled, undirected little bubbling pot of flesh... but that it is in fact a new organ... a new part of the brain.
30. I think you're a very stupid person. You look stupid, you're in a stupid business, and you're on a stupid case. I get it. I'm stupid.
Friday night and, as per usual, someone is standing outside of my bedroom window screaming. I have nothing to say about it, really, except that I wish they'd stop screaming, and also I needed some kind of introduction, and that was it. Anyway, I wanted to get out of the horror mood for a minute, or really kind of a half-minute, and talk about something more cheery- war movies. Well, just one war movie actually, Sydney Pollack's "Castle Keep," from 1969. "Castle Keep" is what you might call a psychedelic war film, which is to say that although it takes place in World War 2 Europe, it comes from a 1960s sensibility, and has anti-war undertones, though I wouldn't call it specifically an antiwar film, in the sense that something like "Catch-22" is pretty overtly an antiwar film. "Castle Keep" definitely isn't a pro-war film, but despite lefty leanings, it's also primarily a Hollywood film, which isn't meant as a put down, just a descriptive here.
Written by Daniel (Knock on Any Door, Picnic) Taradash and David (Jeremiah Johnson) Rayfiel, from a novel by William Eastlake (Donald Westlake's evil twin?), "Castle Keep" has a one-eyed (a rip on John Wayne in "True Grit"?) major (the great Burt Lancaster) and his troops (including Scott Wilson, Tony Bill, Al Freeman Jr and a hilarious Peter Falk) stationed in the French castle of of the Count of Maldorais (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and his wife (Astrid Heeren). Amidst sporadic bursts of violence, impromptu art lessons from Captain Beckman (Patrick O'Neal), visits to a nearby whorehouse, the Major's affair with the countess and encounters with a lost platoon of religious zealots (lead by Bruce Dern), wait for the Germans to attack, or the war to end, whichever comes first. Of course, there's totally a bunch of violence and chaos at the end.
"Catch-22" is the film one could most compare "Castle Keep" to, in fact. Both deal with the insanity of war through parody. Both are somewhat stylistically disjointed, as influenced by the "Hollywood Renessaince" of the late-1960s ala "Easy Rider" etc. Both have large ensemble casts. And both films are boundary pushers in regards to content (both are among the first mainstream American films to feature frontal nudity). Of the two, "Catch-22" is the more extreme, the funnier, the gorier, the more absurd and as such perhaps the more memorable. But as a companion piece, the more subdued, detached "Castle Keep" is worthy of mention, particularly in regards to being a war film produced with presumable antiwar intent during an unpopular war.
During Vietnam, of course, filmmakers weren't making films explicitly about Vietnam, but rather filtering their reactions to the war through other genres. War films were about WW2 and WWI (Johnny Got His Gun) and then of course there were westerns (the Wild Bunch) and horror films (Night of the Living Dead). For whatever reason, this approach makes more sense to me than making films explicitly about something that's going on at the time you're making the thing it's about (which would be about as awkward as this sentence here). The only movie about Vietnam actually made during Vietnam that I can think of is "The Green Berets," a propagandistic John Wayne flick that used to have something of a cult follow but seems to have been mostly forgotten over the past fifteen or twenty years. Grafting contemporary themes onto an existing genre gives the filmmaker some distance and some leeway to react directly without the concern for immediate authenticity. Call it allegory, or metaphor, or symbolism, or whatever, but sometimes being a step removed can bring you a step closer to your subject. I'm not 100% on this, but it's a thought. Perspective requires time.
Interestingly enough, the other film that "Castle Keep" most resembles is William Peter Blatty's "The Ninth Configuration," a post-Vietnam movie (in fact, an explicitly post-Vietnam movie). Both films feature groups of soldiers sequestered in remote castles, dealing with boredom and insanity (in "Castle Keep," the insanity of war, in "Ninth Configuration," the soldiers' own insanity) (both films also feature actor Scott Wilson, whom I like quite a bit). And again, we have a disjointed and distant cinematic style and cryptic ending. In many ways, these movies, along with "Catch 22," are the opposite of contemporary (or semi-contemporary, as this film, I realize, is several years old now, but still influential) war movies like "Saving Private Ryan," which portray war as a kind of stunt ride, not so much in an action movies sense, but in an aggressive, you-are-there way that strives for authenticity but of course is not really authentic because, after all, it's only a movie.
These older films seem to acknowledge the impossibility of accurately portraying the horrors of war onscreen, that the makers of the films haven't experience the horrors of war firsthand, and that there will always be a layer of unreality between cinema and truth. As such, the reality of these films is portrayed as fragmented and absurd, not specifically temporally linear, and distanced further by ironic humor. The results, in all three cases, are disorienting, at times disturbing. "Castle Keep" is definitely the "straightest" of the three movies but in some ways it's deceptive in its' slowness and dreaminess, lulling the viewer into something of a fugue state, of engrossment, identification, then shocking with a moment of violence, or humor, or sheer oddness. "Castle Keep" is an easy film to get lost in, and I think is the type of movie that benefits from multiple viewings.
Oddest of all is that this film seems to be so historically overlooked. It's not exactly as "important" a film as "Catch 22" (forgotten more or less for many years itself, and still not as revered as it probably deserves to be), but it is a significant film in viewing Hollywood's (Pollack made this right after "the Scalphunters," also with Lancaster, and right before "They Shoot Horses Don't They," my favorite film) reaction to Vietnam, and it does contain some moments of genuine absurd brilliance. In one scene, a soldier rhapsodizes over the beauty of a Volkswagon. In another, Falk, at his funniest, splits with the rest of the troops on their way to the bordello, opting to go to a nearby bakery instead. "Where there's a bakery," he announces," there's a baker's wife." Upon meeting the (widowed) baker's wife, he tells her, "I'm a baker." She replies, "I'm a baker's wife."
Up next, postwar examinations of violence in "Naked Massacre" and "Mr. Majestyk," and maybe some more Charles Bronson shit. Maybe...
Well, not really, but something inside me is definitely hibernating and pushing the rest of me towards doing the same. I'm getting some stuff done, but the sudden (welcome) onset of winter weather plus, I dunno, other stuff, equals sleepytime more than writing time, or whatever. Did I just say sleepytime? My mind is going, totally going.
Anyway, I wanted to continue somewhat along the lines of my last entry, talking about recent horror films, or at least one recent horror film. "Reeker" and "Drive Thru" both occupy the same strata of horror filmmaking, being modestly but reasonably budgeted (in the millions, for sure), featuring fairly well-known performers, if not outright stars, but recognizable faces. And they both have had fair distribution and press, not playing theatrically, but still getting wide video releases. "Reeker" has played on cable (I think both the sci-fi channel and Showtime) and if "Drive Thru" hasn't, I wouldn't be surprised if it did eventually. And both of these films are of about the same quality, as previously discussed, nothing earth shattering, but thoroughly entertaining, better-than-average, kinda funny, not trying to be anything they aren't, but not exactly generic. These are b-movies, not just in the sense that they are b-movies, but also in the sense that if I were grading them, I'd give them a "b".
That's one level of the horror hierarchy. It's not necessarily a place where you usually find good films, but as "Reeker" and "Drive Thru" show, there's some decent stuff to be found there, probably much more so than more mainstream films that get a theatrical release, not as much so as those a notch above, the festival favorites with a bit more arthouse credibility, like "Ginger Snaps" or "May," or the recent "Let the Right One In," which I haven't seen yet but have heard good things about. Go a step below, though, and you're really wading in the muck of low-budget horror. I certainly don't want to come down on makers of low budget movies. I make low budget movies. Most of my friends make low budget movies. A lot of my favorite films are low budget. And in a general sense, I am totally in favor of the democratizing of filmmaking via the increasingly financially accessibility of digital video and HD technology. But it's also changed the definition of what a movie is.
Well, that's not really true. It just means that it's easier to get your idea, even if it's totally half-assed, into what would basically constitute a feature-film format, and with the influx of DVD companies, cable channels and film festivals, as well as digital distribution, easier to get at least a few people to see it. Of course, shitty low-budget movies aren't a specifically new thing. But, and this is totally a matter of opinion, and admittedly kind of snobbish opinion at that, there's a certain aura to bad low-budget films of bygone eras that I really don't feel is present in the current crop of similar shit. The older films have a certain degree of naivety, or at times an unrepentant, or importantly, unironic, sense of sleaziness or wrongness. Everything now is so self-aware, self-conscious and all too often self-confident when it ought not be.
Which is all probably more of an introduction than the recent, bad, low-budget horror film "Home Sick" really deserves. This film, directed by Adam Wingard from a script by EL Katz, is only the first or second new, American feature released by DVD company Synapse, and if it's any account of the company's general cinematic aesthetic, they should totally stick to 1970s and 1980s Eurotrash, Asian gore and American slashers. "Home Sick" sucks. It sucks AND it's shot on film (16mm), as opposed to DV or HD, so it probably wasn't as cheap to make as it looks or feels. And it feels pretty bad, mainly like an excuse for some extremely gory special effects, without much of a story or characters to back them up. I mean, there's a story, but it doesn't make any sense, and there are characters, but there isn't much to tell one from another, so I guess it's not a lack of these things that's the problem, it's the quality of them.
For one thing, it feels like New Jersey vomited all over this film. Seriously, all the characters are these obnoxious, drug-addled Jersey hardcore kids, but like that bad hardcore-metal hybrid, which isn't really hardcore and isn't really metal, isn't really that hard but somehow inspires loser suburban kids to act really hard, or try to, and sometimes the singers start rapping in it, y'know? It doesn't help that there's like 20 million characters in "Home Sick" and they're all pretty much exactly the same. There's characters in the opening scene who, as far as I could tell, never showed up in the film again. Or got killed, or something. Then there's a girl who's pretty clearly set up from the beginning to be the main character, or have some kind of significance as a character in the movie, but then just totally disappears from the middle hour of the movie, then shows up again at the end to do nothing. So, yeah, this whole movie is just all kind of Jersey motherfuckers running around getting killed or killing each other. Seriously, I watch this stuff so you don't have to.
The story, insomuch as there is one, has a bunch of these kids having one of their parties invaded, for some reason, by a creepy guy in a suit, played by Bill Moseley of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2," who starts cutting himself, for some reason, and asks everyone who the person they hate the most is. Then those people starting getting tortured and killed. Then all the kids start getting killed. Then Tom Towles, from "Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer," and easily the best actor at work here, shows up as a crazy Texas redneck with a bunch of guns. Then everybody else kills each other. The end. For real, that's the movie.
There are plenty of movies that are pretty much just excuses for cool special effects, and low-budget horror movies that exist just as gore for the sake of gore. Sometimes it works. I've mentioned "the Deadly Spawn" before. That's a film that's essentially just a showcase for some clever, bargain basement effects work, but the makers actually managed to craft a movie around their effects, with like style and characters and stuff. It feels like, you know, like a movie. And there's cheap, plotless gore movies that work too. Check out Nathan Shciff's Super-8 lensed "Long Island Cannibal Massacre." Totally bad acting, senseless story, cheap gory effects...but it's also fun. "Home Sick" isn't fun. And it isn't challenging in an artistic way. It's just a lousy movie. I don't even know why I bothered to write about it, and as I'm finishing this, I feel like I've sort of been wasting my time revisiting something that wasn't really worth the first 90 minutes I spent on it. Maybe if you're a nu-metal/pseudo-hardcore douchebag from Jersey you'd be really into this, but then you're probably friends with the dudes who made it anyway, and you always have to support your buddies work, right? Now matter how empty it makes you feel...
And "Long Island Cannibal Massacre?" Very educational. For one thing, I learned that leprosy can turn you into a flesh eating monster, invulnerable to bullets, with ill-defined psychic powers. I also learned that everyone on Long Island in the late 1970s/early 1980s had a moustache. Even the ladies. Seriously, this flick is a gas. Watch it twice.
Alright, alright, I've been seriously wayyyyyy to slack about writing lately, the problem being mainly a lack of energy and inspiration, plus having to work on a much slower computer than I'm used to since my laptop died. But excuses, excuses, right? The list of films I've been meaning to cover has been getting longer and longer, and so not writing becomes now a part of my regular everyday stress and blah blah blah There isn't really a point to this, it's just that when I don't write i feel the need to address that I haven't been writing, for whatever it's worth, and I don't think it's worth that much.
I've been trying to figure out what to cover first and how I want to format this to cover the most material possible. It's been a few weeks, but I recently caught a few relatively new, relatively decent horror flicks that I felt were worth mentioning. "Reeker," for instance, take a familiar scenario (kids stranded in the middle of nowhere, stalked by some kind of killer), combines it with another familiar scenario (not to ruin it for ya- spoiler alert, as they say- but everybody's already dead and just doesn't know it, ala "Carnival of Souls" [sorry to ruin that one for ya to, but really it's more about the atmosphere]) and comes out on top in large part because of some slick visuals (it's shot on HD, I believe) and a likable cast, including Devon Gummersal from "My So Called Life" (as a blind guy), who I always thought was kind of underrated, and Eric Mabius, from "Ugly Betty," as well as the great Michael Ironside, from "Scanners" and TV's "V."
Thinking back on "Reeker," there's nothing really extraordinary about it, and I really don't mean that as a put down, it's a solid, entertaining piece of filmmaking with credible performances, and it strikes a good balance between horror and humor. I don't have any deep, esoteric insights into what the film is all about, although I'm struck while writing this of thoughts of Ernest Becker's great book "The Denial of Death," and the the connections one could draw between that work of philosophy and "don't know they're dead" sort of films like this, "Carnival of Souls," "Sole Survivor" and "Soul Survivors," or between a film like this and the visions of the afterlife present in films like the Japanese "Afterlife" or the TV series "Dead Like Me." So, yeah, I dunno, maybe there is something to "Reeker," though I'd say skip the mediocre sequel-prequel "No Man's Land- Rise of the Rekker," which is just more of the same only less so.
Less meaningful, but ballsier and funnier, is "Drive Thru," another recent slasher film with comedic overtones (undertones? poptones? whatever, it's funny sometimes). This one has a group of stoned teens being stalked and killed by a murderous fast food clown for the crimes of their parents. Yeah, it's pretty stupid, but it's also kind of charmingly vulgar. Because the situation is again pretty cliched, this film also relies upon a talented cast to stave off toxic shock. Leighton Meester (from the tv show "Gossip Girl") is the lead, with Melora Hardin (Jan from "the Office") is her mom, Nicholas D'Agosto (who played Jan's assistant on "the Office," and was also in the great indie "Rocket Science") is the boyfriend. Humorously, you've also got a police detective teach called Cheese and Crackers (well, Chase and Crockers). Inexplicably, you've also got a badly cast, badly acting Morgan Spurlock (director of "Super Size Me") as the nerdy manager of a fast food joint.
The inclusion of Spulock gives the impression that this is perhaps intended to be some kind of "Fast Food Nation"-inspired anti-MacDonald's track hidden in the form in a gory horror comedy, but truly, it isn't. It's a slight, goofy yet fun movie about a bunch of kids being chased by an evil Ronald MacDonald stand-in that contains a few pointed pokes at the world of fast food, but hardly any incisive criticism. If anything, the film errs towards the "clowns are scary" cliche more than it attempts to wring any terror out of the mysteries of processed foods. It's this, the film's confusion about its' own intent, where it falters the most, where the jokes fall the flattest and the whole proceedings are at their hammiest, so to speak, but it doesn't detract too much from the enjoyability of the overall experience of watching "Drive Thru."
That said, where is the really good horror film about how gross and unhealthy fast food is? The possibilities to do something genuinely kind of unsettling in that arena are great, but to my knowledge no one has ever made a really serious horror film about fast, junk or even just processed foods that gets at not only how they're made, but what they do to your body when you eat them. Larry Cohen's "The Stuff" comes close, but not really, aqnd even Richard Linklatter's narrative adaptation of "Fast Food Nation" was pretty lacking (there's some good information in Spurlock's "Super Size Me," but I find him such an obnoxious screen presence, it's hard to give his film any credence).
Up next, when indie horror goes wrong, gore for the sake of gore, 'Nam vets go wild, Charles Bronson, and Rondo Hatton...
Meanwhile, I've been planning on getting some more substantial content up, but I'm recovering from a minor bout of stomach flu, and dealing with the latest barrage of stress issues that have come up in the past couple of weeks (looking for a roommate, problem with my bank account, plus the still-broken laptop and lack of full time employment, amongst others). Still happy about the outcome of the election, but, sheesh, universe, how about some kind of reprieve from this constant state of personal disruption? It wears on a fella...
So, Halloween's over, which kind of sucks because it was something to look forward to. There's still the election, of course, but even that's only a couple of days away, and at this point anything but a sweeping Obama victory is far too devastating to even think about.
Anyway, I hit the bricks for DC on Thursday. Friday the plan was to go out to dinner (I'm visiting my folks) with my aunt, great aunt and uncle, and other great uncle, who were all also in town (along with like a billion cousins) and then come back in time for the neighborhood Halloween block party, check out the kids' costumes, hand out some candy and generally do some Halloween type things. Of course, family being family, we didn't make it back home from dinner until way after the party and trick or treating had ended (I also missed a showing of "the Howling," possibly with horror hosts on one of the local former-UHF stations), so basically after all the build up, I missed Halloween entirely. Before the party, while my parents' neighbors were setting up, I did take a walk up and down the block, and snapped these few pics, so enjoy...
It's so cool that the neighborhood takes Halloween seriously. Maybe next year I'll come back and actually go to the party. Anyway, despite a very non-spooky Halloween, which, again, was kind of a big let-down, I did have a decent weekend, got to spend time with some family members I don't see alot (everyone was there for my cousin's bar mitzvah), got to experience the full spectrum of my many, many cousins (including one, from Seattle [related by marriage, not blood, thank god], who was convinced that there were going to be riots in New York this week whether Obama got elected or not, to which I tried to explain to him that, at least for the thirteen years I've lived there, New York isn't really a riot-crazy town [again, I only have the benefit of a decade plus worth's of experience, but that includes September 11th, Bush stealing the election in 2000, and a citywide blackout during to dog days of August about four years ago, plus five fucking years of Giulliani with racist police brutality incidents like the sodomization, in a police station, of Abner Louima, and the shooting of unarmed Amadou Diallo, and thus far no rioting), got food shoved down my face every minute of every day here (in three days we went to two dinners and two luncheons) and my dad and I get to check out a screening of one of my favorite films, "Kiss of Death," with Richard Widmark and Henry Hathaway, and the AFI Silver Theatre just outside of Washington in Silver Spring, Maryland (it's a neighborhood where I used to go to check out record stores and thrift stores, and to the Tast-ee Diner, which they actually picked up and moved a few blocks about ten years ago, but anyway the whole area is super developed now, with lots of chain stores and stuff). The old AFI theatre used to be in the Kennedy Center, and it was functional but not much else, and the programming was fair at best (I saw "Day of the Dead" there one Halloween, but it was projected off VHS [keeping in mind this is several years before DVD had been invented], you'd think the so-called American Film Institute could get it together to find a film print), but the new space is really impressive, and the programming, done at least in part by a family friend, is really pretty decent. It's comparable to BAM or Walter Reade in New York, but with a more populist bent, and a nicer screen. Anyway, "Kiss of Death" kind of made up for missing Halloween and being a little sick all weekend, although, man, stress. It's getting to me. There are so many things I have to deal with when I get back, it's kind of ridiculous. And there's really nothing especially awesome going on to offset the tiresomeness. So, yeah, now I'm depressed. But, hey, chances are Tuesday is going to be this historical, inspiration, triumphant moment. Then again, Wednesday I have to go back to looking for a job (and, I just found out, a new roommate), you, y'know, depressed.