Monday, November 14, 2011

Movies that, based on their trailers, I probably shouldn't watch ... but I still might

Hello All,

While putting together that "Halloween Scares" post a few weeks back, I ended up getting caught in one of those interminable, slightly disorienting YouTube search sessions. You know the ones I'm talking about: you go there to watch that cute video of a cat playing contentedly with a cockatoo, which leads to a slightly less cute video of a sleeping cat falling off a chest of drawers, which leads, casually yet somehow inevitably, to a video of a millipede devouring a mouse, which leads to 2 Girls 1 Cup, which leads nowhere at all. 2 Girls 1 Cup is for all intents and purposes the end of the Internet. The vanishing point.

So you watch a few more funny animal clips as a palate cleanser and glance at the clock. Holy shit! 3 hours have slipped past. It's dark outside and you're sweaty and hungry and have to pee. Such are the mysteries of the YouTube time sink.

Anyway, while I was looking for a few video clips the other week I found myself in a similar loop. I watched a bunch of old horror movie trailers. Holy Smokes, did some of them look awful! And Holy SMOKES! ... did I ever want to watch them despite that very obvious fact. Here are some. Tell me you disagree.

1. From Beyond

This movie, released in 1986, is familiar to me from back in the days when I used to frequent the video store as a kid. It was stocked in the Horror section, of course, and while my folks allowed me to browse around that section staring at the lurid covers I was not allowed to actually rent these. Which was a smart move on my folks' part, considering Ghostbusters reduced me to a blubbering mess.

This movie I recall as being especially intriguing. I knew---I just knew---it would be gangbusters. For my eleven-year-old self it sang a seductive Siren's song. Now that I'm old enough to watch it, I really ought to. It's based on an HP Lovecraft story, and that twisted old opium-eater had a whacked out imagination. Plus the effects look suitably old-school---ie: gross. Lots of Vaseline and cow entrails were used, I'm sure. The good stuff! Screw CGI. Screw it to hell!

Opening line:
"Every journey begins in the mind ..." (Which is of course patently untrue. In fact, every journey begins with the phrase, I have to return these library books ...)

Quality Lines:


WOMAN: Shriek!



(You bet they are, pally! Easy, easy prey. Still, not as easy as tree sloths. You should go hunt a few of those. Like shooting fish in a barrel, I tell you. Also: you have something on your forehead.)

2. Society

So this is by the same producer/director team as From Beyond. I remember it being the subject of schoolyard rumors---there was one kid, Kevin, whose parents actually let him watch these films. As such, I'm sure he's some kind of demented sex fiend and criminal now. This was the one movie that Kevin said made him want to puke. That was a high, high endorsement of quality back in those days.

Society starred that little nerd from Baywatch. Not David Hasselhoff, the other one. What was his name? Cobie? I can't even be bothered to find out. Anyway, in this movie he's the new kid in a tony gated community and he's sure that shady doin's are afoot. He thinks the rich people are preying on the poor people. EATING them, even. Goddamn 1%! It's eerily prescient in terms of today's world.


Have I seen this entire film? No. Have I seen the famous "shunting" scene at the end, which is in all likelihood the only thing worth watching---providing you want to watch a bunch of hideously old B-movie actors coated in Astro Glide forming some kind of disgusting flesh-meld, turning into a seething, roiling, 2,000-pound mass of disambiguated flesh?

Yes. Yes indeed I did watch that part.

You can watch it on YouTube, too, if you'd like, although I'm not going to link to it here. The search is worth it ... if you like that sort of thing.

But as a show of good faith I'll give you this scene: WATCH! WAAAATCH!

You watched it, didn't you? Yeah, you watched it. Sicko. Ah, god, how could you? Really, you should learn a little restraint. I mean, really, you'd lead a happier life.

"For Bill Whitney, fear plays a large part in family life ... "

Quality lines:

SOCIETY SCUMBAG: Didn't you know, Billy? The rich have always sucked off low-class scum like you!

BILLY: I didn't know, no! Thanks for the tip, good sir! [this line was left on the editing room floor, sadly]


BILLY'S TRACK-SUIT-WEARING "COOL" FATHER: People are what they are. Now you have to learn to accept that.

BILLY: No! They're meanies! They treat me like a horse flop---a HORSE FLOP, I tell you! [also, tragically, this dialogue failed to make the final cut. It was later discovered the the screenplay writer was, in fact, a seven-year-old boy who'd learned how to use his father's Final Draft software].

OSCAR-BAIT DIALOGUE (1:34 of trailer):

BILLY: No, no, no, no, NO! [in a word: INTENSE!]

3. Scalps

Every once in awhile---a lifetime, really---there comes a movie that reiterates exactly what cinema is capable of doing. Ever since Thomas Edison (or whoever the hell it was) invented the Black Maria, and invited nubile young ladies into it, requested they drop their bloomers and dance the Charleston so that the footage could be shown to the toothless rummies and swindlers in the haypenny Nickleodeons of yore---yes, ever since those halcyon days when the cinema was in its infancy, when everything was still shot in black and white (Edison did in fact have the technology to shoot in color right off the bat, but as a result of his crippling color blindness was unaware of the vastness of the color spectrum) ... ever since then cinema as a form of art and expression was moving towards that moment in 1983 when director Fred Olen Ray was bequeathed his late grandmother's 8mm camera in an estate auction, ate an entire baggie of peyote and wandered off into the gobi desert (or someplace) to film Scalps.

Citizen Kane? Merely scratching the surface of greatness.

Scalps? Greatness achieved. With authority.

So, do I know what this movie is about? I do not. More to the point: can a movie like Scalps really be "about" anything? I mean, what is a symphony "about"? What is a summer's day "about"? Magnets---how do they work? Some things cannot be explained. They exist above all explication. Such as how Fred Olen Ray convinced anyone to act in, let alone fund, his movie. Such are the mysteries of the universe.

Opening Line:

"She did not know she was calling evil spirits of the past ..."

(How could she? All she was doing was knocking two sticks together. If that's what it takes to summon evil spirits, Grade One music classes all over the country would be beset by face-ripping daemons and succubi hungering for the blood of the innocent. Playing the triangle would probably summon bee-headed Beezlebub---he'd fuck those poor kids UP.)


BLONDE GIRL IN THE TUBE TOP WHO LOOKS LIKE PJ SOLES BUT ISN'T: I'm feeling the evil in this ground. It's ALIVE with evil! [grabs shovel] STOP IT!

GUY WITH FRIZZY HAIR WHO CLEARLY DIDN'T DRESS PROPERLY FOR AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG: Now ahm gonna tell you this one time, bitch, and one time only: you best calm yo high-toned ass down. I best be getting back to my digging here. In fact, just now before you so rudely interrupted me I felt the shovel ping on something ... something bony. Like ... like a bone. Maybe the bone of a skeleton. An evil skeleton, likes. Lord, it's hot. I could sure use a Tab. [Again, this dialogue was excised from the final script]

Also [at 0:47]:

BEARDO 1: Look!

BEARDO 2: It's ... blood.

BEARDO 1: And it's coming from nowhere!

BEARDO 2: My God, Jenkins! Do you ... do you know what this could mean for science? Blood from nowhere? Bubbling up out of a coconut shell? My heavens, man, this is a miracle! Nobody will ever have to donate blood again! Countless lives will be saved! Ah, thank you, evil spirits of dead Native Americans! We will take your wondrous blood-gourd back to our white settlements and use it for the continued prosperity and happiness of the white race! You do us heap big favor! Quick, Jenkins! Let's break camp and get home. I have an eerie feeling people will start getting scalped if we stick around much longer! [CREDITS ROLL] (again, this may not be entirely accurate)

Final trailer line: "SCALPS---the only movie you may not be strong enough to watch to the end ... or at all! I mean, why would you? Look at it. We shot it for, like, seven dollars."

All best, Craig.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two books you should read (or buy for your child to read)

Hi All,

So friends of mine have published books lately. I thought that I'd give you a heads-up about the books and then encourage you to go and buy them. Why not, right? If you're illiterate you have an excuse. Or if you die while reading this post. Otherwise, you have none.

Book 1: David Hickey's A Very Small Something. Dave is the first buddy of mine who's written a kid's book. That's because, for the most part I hang out with the Triple Ds: Degenerates, Drifters and Dope fiends. All of whom are righteous cats, really cool; there's nothing I prefer of an evening than to hang out under the train trestle drinking Sterno, sandwiching the mushrooms that grow in the soft loam between thick slabs of Government Cheese, playing my harmonica, and painting lascivious watercolors of Handsome Maggie who has been known to doff her knickers for a Snickers (bar).

Where was I? Oh, yes. David Hickey's children's book. Dave's a great poet who has written two very well-received books with Biblioasis, a respected press, and he approached them with an idea for a children's book and I guess they were like: Let's do it! Like I said, Dave's a fantastic writer with a childlike sense of wonderment; if I had a child, I would read this book to said child. In fact, I'm going to kidnap a child just so I can read this to him or her. I'm a fount of great ideas!

Dave's book

Book 2: Michael Rowe's Enter, Night. There could not be two different books, I don't think, than Michael's and Dave's. Michael's is a vampire novel---but before you start thinking about twinkling vamps or those lush vamps of Anne Rice's New Orleans, think again. Michael's tale takes place in Northern Ontario, in a mining town of Parr's Landing. It's a vampire book much more in the style of Salem's Lot: these aren't sparkly vamps who dress in frilly-sleeved silks. These are mean, nasty, predatory hunters. They are remorseless and not to be reasoned with. Quite frankly, they're scary as hell.

But there's more going on in this novel than that. Michael gets the characters right. He writes from the heart. The scenes of a boy and his dog are particularly memorable and touching. This is one of the touchstones of a good horror book: as a reader, you've got to care about the characters to give a damn about what happens to them. Michael makes you care.

Michael's book

And now, as the old gypsy lady says in The Simpsons: You buy! You buy!

All best, Craig.