Special: The Halloween Schedule….

October 28, 2008 at 5:20 pm (Particle Physics) (, , )

So, we’ve gone over the major horror genres out there – what next?  How about a ‘playlist’ for your Halloween enjoyment, given we’re barrelling head-on towards the big day?  I gave a recommendation list early on… but certain media have titles that are particularly suitable for Halloween.

Besides.  Some of those films (Freddy vs. Jason, anyone?) work best with some grounding in a lot of other films, and it’s not worth the trouble to really get into the full series just to watch the recommended film… especially if that full series is Friday the 13th.  And much of what I put up was based on author or creator, rather than title, which makes for a rather large body of work.

So, what should you watch, play, read, or listen to this Halloween?

Movies:

  1. The Beast with Five Fingers.  The best part?  It’s on Turner Classic Movies at 6:30 AM, EST, on 10/30 – so you can watch it for free!
  2. The Thing From Another World.  On Turner Classic Movies at 3:45 AM, EST, on 10/30 – so Wednesday night, set up your VCR, DVR, or DVD recorder to catch these beauts.  Never going to be a better time for it.
  3. Halloween.  The first of today’s John Carpenter beauties, and a truly wonderful horror film.  Just don’t watch the Rob Zombie remake – enjoy the classic, and try not to be too depressed by what happened when they made it into a series.
  4. In the Mouth of Madness.  The second of today’s John Carpenter beauties, this film is one of the best examples of a Lovecraftian film I’ve ever seen.  Unlike most of them, it doesn’t spend the entire movie throwing cheap monsters at you, and instead builds up a world that is slowly falling into madness around our protagonist.  The best part?  Only $5 on Amazon right now.
  5. Transylvania Twist.  If you want a little fun in your Halloween, you can’t do much better than this spoof of the genre that predated Scary Movie by a solid decade or so.

Music:

  1. Midnight Syndicate’s “Gates of Delirium” and “The 13th Hour.”  While they’re two separate albums, they really ought to be listened to together, forming the entire Haverghast Saga.
  2. Nox Arcana’s Darklore Manor.  Some truly creepy moments in this one.  Nox Arcana has also just put out Phantoms of the High Seas – and I mean Just put out – but I haven’t listened to it, so I can’t fully recommend it yet (though their track record says you probably can).  Nox Arcana is also available through iTunes, rather than just on Amazon.
  3. Blood of Angels, by Nox Arcana and Michelle Bellanger.
  4. Wolfman Jack’s Halloween Special: Monster Mash Bash.  No relation to the blogger, but this is a great collection of hit oldies with a slightly spooky twist.
  5. The Dark Adventure Radio Theatre collection – any of these three are delightfully wonderful, and they come with some of the coolest product tie-ins you’ll ever imagine.

Books:

  1. Hell House.  Yes, I will keep saying you should read this, if you’re up for the nastiness of Emeric Belasco.
  2. What’s better than a fictional book about the most haunted house on earth? Hell House: & Other TRUE Hauntings from Around the World contains info on hauntings from all around the world.  It’s a good read, and a very well put-together book.
  3. Spear of Destiny, by Trevor Ravenscroft, is a good read and a look at the occult history of the Third Reich.  It’s a good read in general, but particularly for Halloween.

Four, five, and many more?  The Leonard Wolf Annotated Gothic Classics, linked to under the Gothics.

Video Games:

  1. Still Life.  Not a very popular piece, but one that had a killer story, one of many horror-themed “point and click” adventure games.
  2. Indigo Prophecy.  Slightly better received, it’s much like Still Life in that it’s an adventure game, and quite different in that the story is far less rigid and open to a lot more evolution throughout the game.
  3. Resident Evil 4.  I’ll probably be flogged for putting this game so far down the list, but I just wasn’t as thrilled with it as with the first two.  However, it is one of the best horror-shooters I’ve ever played, even if it is a little frustrating in a few spots.
  4. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. I haven’t played Corruption yet (don’t have a Wii), but this game is one of the freakier titles out there in the sci-fi genre (he says, while hiding from the Dead Space fans….)
  5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.  Woefully underrated, largely because the Gamecube underperformed, but now you can play it on your Wii, so give it a shot.  Eternal Darkness is, hands down, one of the freakiest games ever.  I only rate it this low because, to my mind, a major part of the end of the game suffers from being easily compared to pokemon.  You, and most other people I’ve spoken to who’ve played it, might not think so, so give it a shot.

Listing those out… I just wish that Halloween were longer.  Ah well – at least it’s on a Friday this year!  So don’t think of Saturday and Sunday as the weekend – think of them as the 48 extra hours of Halloween and try to fit in as much spooky goodness as you can.

Because, really, what else is Halloween for, these days?

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I spoke with Joe!

October 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm (Politics) (, , , , )

Or, at least, that’s what the DNC would like me to believe.  You see, this last Saturday, I got a robo-call from “Joe, a plumber in Wisconsin.”  His recorded voice went on to explain how he raised an issue with McCain while he was campaigning, which McCain ignored before using him to launch false attacks against Barack Obama.

Now, I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt and say that it *was* Joe, a plumber in Wisconsin, who recorded that call.  However, it wasn’t the “Joe the Plumber” who McCain referenced – including by name – who is in Ohio, not Wisconsin.

Not the Joe everybody on the Obama side of the ticket was thrilled to discover had some financial problems, because it’s so much more PC to smear an individual than it is to smear entrepeneurs as a whole, which is who “Joe the Plumber” was chosen to represent.

Now, say what you will about Obama’s tax plan.  But if I’d donated money to his campaign, I’d really, really be pissed off that he’s using it to pay somebody to pose as another person entirely.  That’s generally called false advertising….

Or, y’know.  Politics.

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The Gothics

October 20, 2008 at 4:35 pm (Particle Physics) (, , , , , )

Here we are – my favorite genre.  The Gothics.  Now, to my mind, the gothics aren’t just true gothic horror (i.e., based on the stylings of the gothic novels.)  Instead, I count all the movies out there that take the subtle approach to stripping away the defenses of the characters and putting them in a horrific situation.  So my definition of Gothic includes the The Wolf Man (my personal favorite of the Universal flicks), Invisible Man, Frankenstein, The Spiral Staircase, House on Haunted Hill (watch the original *before* the remake – it’s infinitely better), and The Blair Witch Project.

As you might have gathered from the above, pretty much all of the Universal Horror flicks qualify, either as Gothics, or Monster Movies.

The gothics originated in novel form, however, with The Castle of Otranto and other novels.  They were named gothics for the medieval eras they were usually set in, and typically based off of the idea of a young person, isolated from the world around them, and in increasing danger from the forces around them, supernatural and otherwise.  It was only later that Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll were added in, expanding the genre and creating the true classics.  I highly recommend the annotated versions by Leonard Wolf, which include all manner of trivia – and information that explains some of the odd language of the time.

My personal favorite gothic novels are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula (in that order).  Of short stories, I’ve always been fond of The Monkey’s Paw, and Poe’s body of work.  While I mentioned Hell House under Torture Horror, I prefer to think of both – particularly the movie – as gothics of the 70’s.  The tone is far closer to the work of Stoker and Jackson than it is to Saw.  Other classics in the genre include Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” and King’s “The Shining” – though it should be noted that The Shining and Hell House are largely punched-up remakes of The Haunting of Hill House.

In films… the body of work is far, far too large to really work through.  Most of the novels I mentioned above have been filmed at least once, so I have to give personal nods to actors more than to particular films.  So here we have it – my personal favorite actors in the gothics.  You will rarely, if ever, go wrong looking these guys up.

  1. Boris Karloff – Perhaps the king of horror actors, Karloff is most always excellent.  You’ll rarely go wrong with his movies, but my personal preferences are Frankenstein, The Black Room, and The Terror (an underrated early start for Jack Nicholson, who later starred in The Shining.)
  2. Peter Lorre – God, I wish I could point you at more DVD gothics with his work.  Sadly… I can’t.  The one movie of his that I’ve seen that I’d call a true gothic – the Beast with Five Fingers – is delightfully wonderful.  Unfortunately, it’s not on DVD, only VHS.  This must be remedied… and the movie watched without paying over-much attention to the last 5 minutes, after the killer is caught.  If you like his work, he has several radio plays online available for free, and if you like the psychological thrillers you can’t do that much better than “M,” one of his classics.
  3. Vincent Price – You’ve no idea how hard it is to rate him below Peter Lorre, but I don’t have any film of Price’s that I love *quite* as much as Lorre’s “The Beast with Five Fingers.”  However, Price’s body of work rivals Karloff’s for size and skill.  House on Haunted Hill is just one of the most available pieces of his, and you may find “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” to be a fine example of the proto-slasher.  He portrayed the Invisible Man a few times, though not the first, and he played a key role in the first “The Fly.”
  4. Bela Lugosi – You may know him best as “Count… Dracula,” largely because Lugosi played the count thousands of times on the stage, and two immortal times on screen (the first time, and when he encountered Abbot & Costello…).  He had the wonderfully penetrating stare that made Dracula so powerful in the first film, and would have gone on to far better things… except for two little problems.  First, he had an ego that largely killed his career.  He turned down the role of Frankenstein’s Monster, which passed on to Karloff (perhaps creating Lugosi’s greatest professional rival outside of himself), and then he ended up in a number of poverty row productions that largely killed his career in larger studio films.  And then… well, to be blunt, Lugosi’s biggest problem was a heroine addiction that forced him to star in all of those poverty row productions so that he could keep his fix.  He died working for Ed Wood, a great fan who later would create the infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space with the last of his Lugosi footage.
  5. Dario Argento – Not an actor, but an excellent Italian director with numerous credits to his name.  I haven’t watched many of his works, but he manages a very… Italian… take on the gothic horror (which often means that he has more sex in his films than they’d have ever gotten away with in the older films.)

So, what’s your favorite gothic movie or novel?  I’d love to get a few comments on this one – I’m always on the lookout for a good piece to fill my Netflix queue.

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Interplanetary Incident?

October 20, 2008 at 8:50 am (Particle Physics) (, , , )

Looking at this story, I’m reminded of the similarly sized UFO’s sighted over Stephenville, Texas a couple years ago….

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081020/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_britain_ufo

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It’s… THEM!

October 17, 2008 at 4:32 pm (Particle Physics) (, , , , , , )

Ah, the monster movie.  Now we’re back in comfortable territory!

While I hate torture horror, and tend not to be fond of slasher flicks… who doesn’t love a good Monster Movie?

You, with your hand up there in the back, you can leave.  Turn in your taste (such as it is) at the door.  Thank you.

Now… monster movies.  It covers quite a range, doesn’t it?  Indeed, these days (and in the beginning) most monster movies are cross-pollinated with another genre; the earliest ones started out as part-gothics (Frankenstein, Dracula, and the other Universal Horror flicks are gothics more than monster movies, to a large extent), while modern monster flicks are often mixed with elements of slasher flicks.  However, some pure monster movies still exist… at least if you count the fact that most ‘pure’ monster movies are as much sci-fi as horror.

Monster movies are, contradictorily, both some of the deepest horror flicks and the most shallow.  After all – the fear of Godzilla, Kong, or the Cloverfield Monster is pretty obvious.  Nobody wants to get stepped on.  At the same time, the monsters are ultimately allegorical figures.  Let’s take a look at some of the most famous ones

Godzilla – King of the Monsters!  Godzilla’s got to be one of the best examples of Ye Olde Monstrous Analogy.  While he softened up over time, Godzilla started out as an unapologetic stand-in for the atomic bomb and the havoc he wreaked on Tokyo.  Released only nine years after the end of WWII, Japan’s movie industry still dealt with strong censorship regarding what they could say against the remaining American forces and the War in general.  The original Gojira worked around that by presenting the destruction of atomic warfare through the ravages of a monster, but there’s little working around the powerful imagery of the aftermath of Tokyo’s destruction.

Sticking with the terror of atomic monstrosities, we come across the grand-daddy of monster bug movies… Them! (presented here with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms).  Giant insects (and other creatures) have been a popular part of the genre for ages (especially with one Bert I. Gordon… initials which may have led to his preferred horrors), but they really got started with Them.  I only wish that this movie hadn’t been ruined for generations to come with the fact that the posters typically show the ants.  The idea to keep it secret up front was, in many ways, brilliant.

Moving along to other terrors, we find a rather smaller sort of monster… or, at least, usually smaller.  The alien monster typically represents the primal fear of the unknown.  All the way back to Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World, aliens have represented our fear of The Other.  In The Thing, it was more blatantly communists we were afraid of – cool, emotionless, and without a shred of mercy or charity in their soul (according to the propaganda of the time).  It’s no surprise that the ‘mad’ doctor involved wears that distinctive hat….

The Alien Quadrilogy addresses similar fears of the time; the fear of a superior being from outside of our experience, beyond our ability to fight.  It also spoke to our fears of unchecked capitalism, like a good many movies of its time – it wasn’t the military that wanted to save the monster.  It wasn’t a mad scientist.  No, it was somebody with an eye on the bottom line.

Moving even further into the realm of science fiction, I’d never be able to forgive myself if I didn’t point each and every one of you towards the Forbidden Planet.  This science-fiction retelling of Shakespeare’s Tempest reminds us that each and every one of us has a monster on the inside, no matter how high-minded we might normally be.  It speaks, in a way few movies do, to the horror of being the absolute master of everything around you… except yourself.

The Monster still manages to be cool and terrifying all at once, even more than 50 years after it was unleashed on the unsuspecting colonists from the Bellerophon.  Its hand-animated form is, if anything, even more convincing than the CGI it would inevitably be made with today – not because it looks more realistic, but because it looks more unnatural and alien.  The Forbidden Planet sparked a revolution in science fiction movies that continues today – away from cheap little thrillers that had a rocket in them, and towards a more thoughtful future.  You really owe it to yourself to get the Special Edition version, complete with its many extras, though you might not want to shell out for the tin-boxed Collector’s Edition – the extras included with it are nice, but the 2-Disc is sufficient.

Well, that’s enough about monster movies for now, I think.  Next week, the Gothics… and maybe something special just in time for Halloween.  😉

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Split Government

October 17, 2008 at 3:33 pm (Politics) (, , )

A few brief words on the virtues of a split government.

The Constitution of the United States is set up with three branches of government for a reason.  It’s set up with an Executive branch to enforce the laws and to have the right to veto them.  It’s got a Legislative branch to research and decide that a law should be created or repealed.  And it’s got a Judicial branch as a brake on the other two, able to pass down rulings that overturn the decisions of either.  Why do we have three branches?

Because the Founding Fathers realized that any less than that put too much power in the hands of too few people.  No two of those three functions can be put into the hands of the same people without the risk of creating a dictatorship.  However, it is most crucial that the power to create the laws and the power to enforce them is not put into the hands of the same people.

Why?  Because, sadly, the Constitution’s weakest point is the judiciary… if the powers of Congress and the POTUS are combined.  The number of justices who sit on the Supreme Court are limited only by the will of Congress.  If they wanted, they could declare that the next eight justices to retire can’t be replaced.  They could declare that there should be 19 Justices, not 9.  Doing so wouldn’t necessarily be popular, but it’s in their power.  The only thing keeping them from doing so at whim (aside from political impracticality) is the POTUS’ power to veto legislation making such a change.  Then it takes a 2/3’s vote to override the veto.

However, if any particular party in Congress has a 2/3’s majority in both houses, they could override such a veto.  That would allow them to go ahead and alter the number of justices any time they wanted… but they’d have to let the President nominate the justices.  Let’s just say that a Democratic Congress isn’t likely to require McCain to nominate a dozen or so justices and then approve them.  Similarly, a Republican one isn’t likely to let Obama do so.

However… if the President has a 2/3’s majority of the Congress, in particular the Senate, he can go ahead and add however many justices he might want.  Which means that if the Supreme Court disagrees with him (or Congress), he could just add enough justices to change their minds.  Don’t think it could happen?

FDR almost did just that to get the New Deal passed.  It was largely a doomed measure, but the fact that the Courts backed down from their stance against the New Deal laws raises the question of if they did so because they agreed they’d been wrong… or because they realized that he *could* pack the courts?

Once you have an overwhelming majority of the Congress and the President in agreement, the Judicial branch becomes alarmingly weak.  That is why Congress and the POTUS should, ideally, each want to keep the reins of power out of the hands of the other.

The separation of powers is much of what means the people don’t need to be absolutely terrified of the government, ready to rise up against them at the slightest provocation.  When the three branches disagree, they are forced to work together.  Even at this point in history, the Democrats can’t afford to completely ostracise the Republicans – if they do, they can’t get laws passed without them being vetoed constantly.  Similarly, the Republicans have to struggle to get anything through that both sides can’t agree on.

The idea that the people can select their government is the basis of any Republic. 

The idea that even the political (or ethnic, or whatever) minority get a say in the way their government operates is the basis of any just government.

The idea that either side deserves to have the power to do whatever they want is the basis of a consensual dictatorship. 

No matter how much you trust the people who are currently in power, you have to acknowledge that they won’t be in power forever, and what can you do if the people who replace them aren’t so trustworthy?

I’ve heard some people say that voting for one candidate or another to maintain the balance of power is ridiculous.  The thing is, those same people scream when the other side is in a position to upset that balance.  Before you go and do something – before you back a government that is overwhelmingly to the left or to the right – ask yourself if you’d want the government to be the other way around.  A government at war with itself finds it needs a cease-fire in order to exist.  A government ideologically united creates things like the PATRIOT Act.

A little conflict is a good thing.

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When you vote….

October 9, 2008 at 1:12 pm (Particle Physics, Politics) (, , , )

When you vote this November, I want you to think carefully… why choose the lesser of two evils?

Many thanks to monsieur Launet for putting the election into perspective.  😉

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“That One?”

October 9, 2008 at 11:48 am (Politics) (, , , )

At the recent debates, McCain referred to Obama as “That One.”  And while the thinking world groaned and shook its head at a dismissive reference that shouldn’t have been made, the rest of the world lit afire.  Why do I say that?

I’ve seen folks arguing that it was a racially motivated slur, for the love of Xenu!

People, he called him “that one.”  He didn’t call him “that nigger,” “that black,” “that coon,” or even “that boy over there.”  Though given the age/experience difference, that last one could be justifiable.  He called him “that one.”  A dismissive reference, and one that ‘subtly’ refers back to attacks on Obama’s celeb-appeal, referring to him as “the One.”

The only way you can make that into a racially motivated slur is if you are taking the approach that McCain wouldn’t have said something like that about a white candidate.  Now, I’ll admit, I haven’t listened to McCain regularly.  But I know his reputation, and I’ll say that it’s entirely plausible that in the more casual environment of the town-hall style debate, he simply slipped into the markedly more casual style he sticks with.

Unforgivably rude, yes.  Racist, I don’t think so.  If I were considering voting for McCain, this might make me reconsider if Obama’s policies didn’t worry me so very much more than impolitic wording.  I’m not voting for either of them, and this certainly isn’t making me reconsider that approach.

So if you’re gonna call McCain on this one, call it for the right thing – being remarkably rude to his opponent on national television.

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Slasher flicks

October 6, 2008 at 7:36 am (Particle Physics) (, , )

The slasher film.  Not as new as the torture flick (at least the popular ones), but possibly even more reviled.  Indeed, aside from their fans, most people can’t find anything worthwhile about slasher flicks, while even respectable film critics often try to link movies like Hostel to the American Condition in this fearsome, post-9/11 world of ours.

Well, as you might guess after my ranting about torture porn, I disagree.  I feel that there actually is a striking amount to appreciate about the slasher flick… or, at least, the well-done one.

Carol Clover, in her book Men, Women, and Chainsaws, says that slasher flicks are actually a way for adolescents to explore gender roles (among other things). Personally, I think that might be going just a smidge far. However, I will go so far as to say that the slasher flick is a twisted sort of adolescent wish fulfillment.

No, the teens aren’t wishing to be the killer.  They’re not identifying with the killer.  At least not most of the time.  Rather, they’re using the slasher flick as a sort of quiet, bloody metaphor for what they themselves are going through, and what they wish they could see happen.

Think about it.  What’s the basic slasher template?  A bunch of horny teens head off to smoke, drink, and screw.  Big nasty guy takes out all the most obnoxious examples of these teen stereotypes.  Then, the ‘good girl’ takes out the big bad guy, before making her escape… until the sequel.

Not much for a teen fantasy, huh?  Well… not really.  Having been a teen recently, lemme give you my view of it.  Who do you think most teens identify with, really?  The killer?  The horny teens?  Nah.  They identify with the heroine… the Final Girl.  That’s who they do identify with… but they want to identify with the rest of the teens.  The teens who pick on them, and pressure them to do things they really aren’t so sure about.  The teens who’re having fun.  The teens who’re getting laid.  The teens who’re getting… eww.  Okay, maybe not the teens who’re getting disemboweled by a hedge trimmer.  Hmm… okay, maybe it’s not so bad to be the mousy girl who’s a little afraid of guys after all.  Maybe it’s not so bad to not be the life of the party… better the wallflower than the first corpse, right?

Where does the killer play into this?

Do I really have to say it?  Look around most slasher flicks, and what don’t you see?  Parents.  Cops.  Authority figures, at least who have any positive effect.  Why?  Because the killer is the voice of the authority figure.  The killer is the one who punishes the “bad boys and girls,” the people who go out and screw around and do all those things we really kinda wish we could do.  And really… sorry to tell you, folks, but anybody over 30?  That’s probably how you’re being viewed by a lot of teenagers.  Too old to understand them, and if they step out of line you come down on them like a revved up chainsaw, leaving their bisected bodies behind to crawl helplessly back to their friends.

Therefore, the slasher flick becomes a story of the awkwardness and fears that teens endure.  It validates their decisions to behave, when they do, warns them against straying from the path, and tells them that, yeah, even if adults can be a drag, eventually you can overcome them, if you use your head, think things through, and don’t give up.  Maybe not the message we want to be sending all the time, but not a bad one for some teens to hear.

Now, of course, this isn’t the only interpretation of slasher flicks.  Frankly, 90% of them, if not more, were made for one reason only – to put butts in seats.  This explains most of the ugly things that people complain about – the protracted stalkings, the tendency to treat women as sex objects… ugly as it is, boobs and blood sell tickets.  Why put a more complex misogynist reading on a simple fact – it’s most economical to put them on screen right at the same time, or at least close together.

The other basic models of slasher flick, to my way of thinking, can be broken down into three different slices.  Avenger killers, Monsters, and… spoofs.  Taking our first model as the Authority killer, let’s look at some of the biggest examples of all four.

The 800 pound gorilla in the world of the Authority Killer has got to be Jason.  Perhaps sadly, Friday the 13th is the longest running series of slasher flicks, with the possible exception of Halloween, and probably the most important for being the first true slasher flick to turn into a series. The first two movies are the best, in most respects, and I’ve heard mixed reviews of both Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X – though the only positive review I’ve heard of Jason X came from somebody who admits to never seeing the rest (that, however, was a rave review). As for the (currently) final movie in the series, Freddy vs. Jason… that’ll wait. 😉

I haven’t watched too many other movies in this vein – most that I’ve watched fit into one of the others, possibly because I don’t really follow the genre that closely.  Because of that, I can’t cite other examples for certain, but I believe that My Bloody Valentine fits the bill, here featured in a double-billing along with April Fool’s Day, another excellent example.  From what I’ve heard (and I’ve seen April Fool’s Day), I’d actually say that both of those are better films than Friday the 13th, so bear that in mind when you’re looking for examples.

Moving along to the Avenger killers, here we have the one sub-genre of slasher flick where you really are supposed to identify with the killer, even if uncomfortably.  The difference here is that something bad happened to the killer… something that drove them to kill, and that makes their actions understandable to some extent.  The key here is that they’re not acting out against random people – but against the actual evildoers.  That’s what separates Jason from true Avengers.  To my mind, the best example of an Avenger killer is Sleepaway Camp – the first one, at any rate.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, because it’s one of the few slasher flick endings that will be burned into your brain, but suffice it to say that everybody who gets killed has gone out of his or her way to fall foul of our little monster… who has more than a few secrets and Serious Issues of his own. The entire series can be ordered in the Sleepaway Camp Survival Kit (Movies 1-3), but the series went down-hill after the first one (an irritating trend through all horror films).

Further examples of the sub-genre include the I Know What You Did Last Summer series, which managed to start stupid, get stupider, and finally have a brief flash of originality hidden in a remake of the original that fell flat on its face.

Finally, we get to the Monster killers.  This is the type that I’ve watched the most of, honestly.  Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, numerous take-offs of both… the key here is that the killer isn’t an authority figure gone awry.  He isn’t avenging some wrong.  No… the Monsters are killing for one reason, and one reason only.  They enjoy it.  Anybody is a potential victim here.  Halloween was perhaps the first example of the Monster Slasher. Michael Meyers was the quintessential bogeyman – silent, murderous, and as explained by an undertaker, “every small town has its story like this one.” Sadly, the sequels promptly squandered the potential the original. Ironically, a series of cheap “young adult” novels that came out do a better job of capturing the potential of the series than the movies do – the series should have always been Michael Meyers as the Angel of Death, transformed to the supernatural zeitgeist of the Bogeyman after Dr. Loomis emptied a revolver into him. Instead… blech.

Similarly, Nightmare on Elm Street is a series that started with a lot of potential, and ended up blowing it utterly. However, they did have blips – the third movie (Dream Warriors) and the last one (New Nightmare) both were pretty good. Not coincidentally, they involved Wes Craven, who dreamed up Freddy in the first place (sorry).

Another good example of a Monster killer is Phantasm – if nothing else, he’s got an evocative, unusual means of slaughtering his victims.

Now that we’ve brought up both Freddy and Jason, it’s about time we mention my favorite slasher flick ever – Freddy vs. Jason. Why is it my favorite? Because the creators actually put five minutes of thought into making it more than ‘just another slasher flick.’ It’s reasonably well thought out, and makes Freddy scary in a way that over half of his own movies completely and utterly fail to.

It also features the Kaiju-ification of Jason Voorhees – while he starts out a rampaging killer, by the end of the movie he’s the hero (sort of). In a strange way, it draws parallels to Gamera. And I can never help but giggle when I think of somebody saying the line “Jason Voorhees is friend to all children!” Even if, after Part 6, you could make the argument….

Now, spoofs.  There are more than enough of them out there, but probably the biggest example is… sadly… Scream.  Followed by Scary Movie, which was an actual spoof, rather than one that used ‘spoof’ as a defense of a horrible, horrible movie.  I know a lot of people loved Scream.  Me?  I hated it.  I still hate it.  The entire thing is a horrible mishmash of ripped-off tropes from movies, sloppy murders, and bad writing, whose only originality came out of ripping off an Italian movie they thought nobody would remember. Its only contribution to the genre is that it excused its sloppiness by claiming to have been a spoof. It deserves only enough attention to watch, realize that I’m right, and then quietly forget.

Are there any good spoofs out there? Yes. Watch it, and adore. You won’t regret it, at least not if you’re even basically conversant with horror movies and the 80’s.

Now, when I brought up Torture Horror, I went and exposed a few historical delights. What does the Slasher Genre have to offer, historically? Quite a bit, actually.

Hitchcock’s Psycho is often considered the first slasher flick – I don’t know that I agree, but it certainly had its influence later on, and could easily be called a proto-Monster Killer slasher flick. Black Christmas was an early Canadian example of the genre, which ends in a way that you really aren’t expecting through 90% of the movie.

But the real start of the slasher flick is further abroad – not in Canada, but in Italy. The Italian Giallos, mastered by Mario Bava. With movies like Bay of Blood (included in that boxed set) and Blood & Black Lace, he set up the formula for all slasher flicks to come – if you show the audience some boobs and some blood, you’ll get ’em in the seat.

The earliest of them all though? Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sure, that’s a 2007 version of a 1979 musical… but it’s a musical based on a serial first started in 1846!!!

Anybody who’d like to show me an earlier example than that?  You’re welcome to – I’ll probably even try and get my hands on a copy, assuming it doesn’t involve re-inventing the kinetoscope.  😉

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New feature!

October 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm (Particle Physics) (, , , , )

For anybody actually following my Halloween Horror special, I’ve got a special treat for you, that might just help me blog a bit more regularly in the long-term.  I’ve signed up as an Amazon Affiliate (I know, me and everybody else), and so – especially for this little stretch of horror focus – I’m going to put up links to products that might be of interest.  Since the Torture Horror post missed out, let’s fix that, shall we?

While I can’t recommend the movies, the Sawathon sale is going on, and a great deal if you happen to be into the Saw movies.

Difficult to read, but a legend in many circles, The 120 Days of Sodom remains an early example of its kind – I know I said that Hell House isn’t for the squeamish, but compared to this, Hell House is child’s play.  Fortunately, this particular book contains several far easier reads of de Sade’s as well, if you find yourself wanting to explore his work without having to delve into what he himself considered his unfinished magnum opus. Though I suppose you could use 120 Days as a sort of impromptu self-diagnostic – if you can read through it without feeling at least a little uneasy, you really ought to consider talking to a shrink, just in case.

Finally getting to the things I can whole-heartedly recommend, we have The Legend of Hell House, the movie-version of a book I love.  The movie is far tamer than the book, but still a blast, particularly since it stars Roddy McDowall at (in my opinion) his best, as the tortured psychic, Benjamin Fischer.

And, for those purists out there who prefer the original, we also have Richard Matheson’s Hell House, both alone and bundled with I Am Legend. The book is far better than the recent film adaptation, believe me.

So – can’t wait to get your hot little hands on your new horror purchases?

Amazon Prime is the best possible way to ship with Amazon. It costs $79 a year, but if you sign up through that link you can get a free 1 month trial. With Amazon Prime, you get unlimited free two day shipping, and can upgrade to overnight shipping for only $3.99 per item. If you’re like me, you’ll make it pay for itself every single year – especially if you pick up any particularly large items. There’s nothing like buying a big new TV and getting it shipped overnight for four bucks to make you cackle like a witch.

The best part? You can even extend your Prime membership to four of your closest friends and family – all part of the cost! So if you don’t want to shell out the $80 yourself, see if you can talk everybody in your family/dorm/whatever into chipping in – it’ll pay for itself even faster!

Full disclosure disclaimer: Obviously, I make a bit of coin on any purchases through here. If you find the products cheaper elsewhere, feel free to buy them there – I’d rather you do, honestly. Except for Amazon Prime – you won’t find that anywhere cheaper, and I’d advocate for it even if I wasn’t making some money off anybody who signs up. Why? Because I’m a proud charter member of the service, and I’ve never once regretted it, even when I was a poor college student (when I made it pay for itself right away by proving that, yes, you can get that big TV shipped overnight for four bucks… and that no, it’s not a good idea to haul said TV across campus back to your dorm without a cart. Yeah… what can I say? I got in because of my ACT scores, not my athletic ability….)

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