October 31, 2008

Halloween 365 Thanks to BPAL

I've always been big on Halloween. It broke my heart to move to NYC in the fall of '02 and not have the resources to be able to scratch together even the most homespun costume. Every year since I've tried to outdo myself in the costume department, but it's always sad to spend weeks or even months working on something and then retiring the costume after a night or two of use. [Update: here's this year.]

There are lots of ways to kindle that strange feeling of hiding in plain sight, but so far my favorite way has come via Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, the perfumer that I've been advertising up above for several months now. I wish I could plug them more without looking like a shill -- it's been so exciting to hoard piles of excellently hand-blended fragrances that evoke the darker, more lyrical and romantic aspects of art and literature. I look forward each morning (to the great amusement of my immediate kin) to pawing through bottles marked "Snake Oil" and "Jazz Funeral" and "The Great He-Goat" and figuring out what olfactory costume I feel like putting on that day. Even the most outlandish titles conceal incredibly evocative, tasteful blends; "He-Goat" is based on this painting by Goya and contains "Haitian vetiver, Egyptian amber, carnation, black musk, pomegranate, patchouli, and smoked ginger." My sister says it smells expensive. I'm just satisfied as long as I can surreptitiously sniff the back of my hand while riding the subway and imagine that I still have my plaster antlers on.

BPAL recently rolled out their annual crop of fall fragrances, including a series based on the tale of The Headless Horseman. Today they released their new set based on Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. I welcome my friends to explore the site (you can even use their Search page to hunt by ingredient, if you already know what kinds of smells you like) and consider how great you'll feel in two months (or six, or ten) when you're able to sidestep your unbearably boring life for a bit by slapping on a little "Rumpelstilzchen" and painting the town black, orange, and red.

I'll add a photo of this year's costume to this post first thing tomorrow, so be sure to come back and check it out. Have a beautiful night, everyone!

October 29, 2008

Seen Between Fingers -- Finally, a Beheading Everyone Can Enjoy

In this regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly reports back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. We've been a little frivolous in our selections over the last couple weeks, so I was excited to return to the stable of classic horror show-ponies. I thought Chris seemed nonplussed during the viewing, so I was pretty surprised to read what he had to say about Damien's debut...

So often, my work for this column makes me think that my readers have completely lost their minds. I simply can't imagine a group of sane individuals finding a film like The Midnight Meat Train tolerable, let alone enjoyable. I have suffered through two Hellraiser movies shaking my head. Even The Fly and Suspiria, while largely pleasant, still felt deeply and campily flawed at times.

The Omen has proved that either you all haven't gone crazy, or I'm just starting to go there with you.

This movie works because it clings so closely to real-world logic, a choice that grounds the otherworldly plot in a believable way. Early in the film, after Damien's first nanny commits suicide for him as a misguided birthday present, a replacement caretaker arrives in the house. Though Mrs. Baylock seems nice enough, Damien's parents promptly realize that neither of them has requested this woman's presence. As the scene changes to follow the new nanny's trip to the little boy's bedroom, I turned to my viewing companion and mocked, “I love how they're just going to let her--” My witticism was cut short when, just like it would happen in real life, the concerned mother and father jointly swept down the hallway to ask just a few more questions.

The filmmakers were also extremely lucky in getting Gregory Peck to play Damien's father. A compelling actor with a rich, commanding voice, he could convince me of just about anything. If he says this is a good movie, then it's hard to disagree. He really elevates the material. Watching him learn that his wife has died, it's evident what a mess this could have been if some high school drama club reject had been given the role. Instead, we're treated to scene after scene in which his rich baritone and thoughtful eyebrows ensure us that this is a rational man thrown into irrational circumstances. Even when he decides to murder a toddler with ancient knives on a church altar, you're inclined to assume that he must have a perfectly good reason. (Though the cops seem less convinced of this.)

Smartly, the movie offers little in the way of gore. Despite that, among other things, a man gets skewered right down the center with a ten-foot spike, we're shown only scant drops of blood here and there. In fact, comparatively little time is spent with spectacular deaths. Again adhering to the idea that reality is scarier than fantasy, the longest depiction of violence is a dog attack, a situation in which the audience can easily place themselves. On the other hand, the film also contains (and I am frightened to find myself typing this) the most awesome beheading I have ever seen. The decision of whether or not to watch it happen was so difficult that I nearly split my face in two trying to do both.

If anything, I would have liked to see the dramatic tension of the plot taken even further. I mean, for all the realism, we're still dealing with a story about a boyish incarnation of the devil. And while the characters in the story have their doubts about this conclusion, we as viewers never do. It might have been interesting to see a movie in which the child wasn't obviously demon spawn. While I adored Billie Whitelaw's wild-eyed take on Mrs. Baylock, it would have been all the more intriguing if she hadn't introduced herself to Damien with the kind of intensity that only Satan worshipers seem able to muster. What if, in the end, we really did have to question whether we trusted Gregory Peck's choice to murder his son? Slaying evil is scary, but killing an ordinary kid is even scarier.

Overall, this movie serves as a nice counterpoint, or even antidote, to Apocalypto. That picture proved that a lot of blood can amount to only a little horror; this one proves that a lot of horror can come from only a little blood. I'm going to give The Omen my seal of approval. It's a well-crafted little nugget. And honestly, any movie that can get me to compliment a decapitation must be doing something right.

Next week: An American Werewolf In London.

October 28, 2008

World Zombie Day Survivors Tell Their Tales

If you happened to run across any gangs of crater-faced, brain-eating ghouls this weekend, there's a chance it was just a bunch of otherwise normal people celebrating World Zombie Day. This growing phenomenon is part costume parade, part canned food drive, and part geek-uprising, and it's growing annually by leaps and bounds. In this week's Web Stalker, I asked WZD event-coordinators from all across the nation to describe their revenant-herding experience. I got a couple more reports back after my deadline (including one from WZD headquarters) which are included below. Thanks for getting back to me on short notice, everybody!

"I'm still waiting on more than half of my WZD cities to report. As of right now, we in Pittsburgh had 1,341 zombies participating (led by Ken Foree and Joseph Pilato!) and the cumulative count for the other 15 cities who have reported is about 3,000. We also have to wait for the food bank to give us a tally on the pounds of food collected... Pittsburgh also hosted a Zombie Ball on Friday and a Zombie Fest on Saturday and Sunday at the Monroeville Mall. Our fans had a great time and our exhibitors reported great success."

-- Sandy Stuhlfire, Pittsburgh PA

"We had a great event! over 1000 zombies in Portland and I'm sure we'll have more next year... We had babies and toddlers participating in the walk which is always fun. It is a family friendly event, and although we may scare some children I think most of them love it."

-- Blanca Garcia-Rinder, Portland OR

October 23, 2008

BOOK REVIEW - The Fly at 50

In the last year I've interviewed the star of the original The Fly as well as the director of the 1986 remake, and I also contributed the copy to an AMC slideshow about all of the other film incarnations spawned by George Langelaan's classic short story (yes, even those that don't star Daphne Zuniga). I guess I'm sort of an unofficial theflyologist. This field is about to get highly competitive, however -- thanks to Diane Kachmar and David Goudsward's new book, The Fly at 50, everyone in the world will have access to the details, memories, and observations of those who were there the first time that cloth was ripped away.

I was grateful to the contributors for creating a book with the emotional heft of a true memorial instead of merely a pop-culture cash-in; in addition to interviews (including a Q&A with David Hedison that makes our little chat on the phone look like... well, just a little chat on the phone) there are photos and production notes from all versions of The Fly (I loved reading about the fits and megrims that legendary makeup artist Ben Nye was driven to over that queasily effective fly-head mask, and hope he gets his own biography someday). The decision to lead readers back to the source of the horror by reprinting Langelaan's story in full at the end of the book is a master stroke.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Hedison will be signing copies of The Fly at 50 this weekend at the Chiller Theatre Expo in Parsippany, NJ. Since you were probably already planning to head out there so you could meet Linda Hamilton, Angie Dickinson, Ed Asner, and the guy that played Boba Fett, you'd better make sure you swing by David's table and shake the man's hand. Tell him that a (self-appointed) theflyologist sent you.

INTERVIEW - Jack Ketchum's True Hollywood Story

In this week's Web Stalker, veteran horror author Jack Ketchum explains to me why he thinks his novels have only recently been adapted to film, nearly thirty years after his debut novel Off Season refreshed America's healthy fear of wanton cannibalism.

I also asked Jack about his use of a pseudonym despite the fact that his real identity isn't exactly a guarded secret. Is it weird for him to have to juggle names at this point in his career? Here's what what's-his-name had to say on the matter:

"I lied my way into the novel-writing business. I'd been known to book editors as an agent for a number of years, but then I quit to work for the magazines. Some three years later I wrote Off Season and went to Judy-Lynn del Rey at Ballantine and said, 'Remember me? I found this really great novel by a guy named Jack Ketchum.' I confessed when she bought the book. But then because it was SO extreme, I decided to hide from my extended family behind the pseudonym just in case it embarrassed them. It didn't. Quite the contrary. Still, the book sold a lot of copies so I figured nobody'd be looking for a book by Dallas Mayr, they'd be looking for another Ketchum novel, so I kept it. But nah, it's not weird. I doubt that Evan Hunter ever minded being called Ed McBain now and then."

October 22, 2008

MicroHorror Featured Pick -- "Asphyxiation"

If you haven't already bopped over to MicroHorror to check out the annual Halloween story contest, then here's some additional incentive; when the contest is over, I plan to feature the winner(s) here at Hermitosis. In the meantime here's a wicked little number by Alice Evil to stave off the cold weather; the title itself would make an excellent "safe word," in my unprofessional opinion...

by Alice Evil


"Are you ready?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, waiting with anticipation. I smile at her, loving the outfit she’s wearing–a black lace corset with garters and fishnet stockings, topped off with a pair of stiletto boots.

“Do you remember the safety signal?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, naked, tied up.

“I love you,” she says as she leans in for a kiss on the lips. Before I can say anything else, she slips a clear, plastic bag on my head. She tightens the bottom around my neck and ties a knot at the back.

She gets on the bed, kneeling between my legs. She strokes my chest as she runs her tongue down my stomach–all the way down. My breath fogs up the bag. My hands are tingling from the lack of blood circulation. I lift my head a little to watch. Her head bobs up and down, slowly. She looks up at me. Her face is a blur. Everything is. I can feel her tongue flick every time she comes up. Her grip tightens. I’m throbbing, pulsing. I yank the scarves in two distinct pulls. She keeps bobbing up and down. She’s going faster, deeper. I yank harder, twice. The headboard rattles.

I breathe faster and harder, tossing the plastic bag in and out of my mouth. She’s not stopping. I squirm all over the bed, wrinkling the red bed sheet, 150-count Egyptian cotton, in every direction. I’m pulsing harder in her mouth, her saliva dribbling down, her hand moving smoothly with the rhythm of her head. I yank twice again, almost taking the headboard off the bed. I throw my head back. My back arches. The soft silk around my wrists feels rough from the friction. The plastic bag is practically in the back of my throat every time I breathe in. My knees press against the sides of her head. She pries them apart. She keeps them there, not missing a beat with her head, her tongue swirling around.

My knees press hard against the palms of her hands, but she still manages to keep them apart despite all my strength. She gets the message. There’s no way she hasn’t. I wrap my hands around the scarves and hold on tightly. I pull on them as hard as I can. This time, there is no count. I try to slow my breathing to save oxygen, to prevent carbon monoxide emissions from my lungs. My mind races with thoughts–what could I have done–what did I say to her this morning–is it because I left the toilet seat up again? I come up with nothing.

My head swirls. I’m coming in and out of consciousness. I don’t even know what she’s doing. It’s hard to pay attention. My head is tossing left and right, digging deep into the mattress. My legs are spastically moving in opposite directions of my head. My back is arching up higher. There’s nothing left to breathe in. I let go of the scarves. My body slowly slumps. My legs stop moving–knees bent outward. I get one last, blurry look at her through my fogged-up bag. She’s wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She runs her tongue around her gums and smacks her lips, coated with red lipstick, twice.

I can barely keep my eyes open, desperately trying to breathe in. All I do is choke on nothing, on wasted breath. She walks up. She leans in by my ear.

“I saw the e-mail.” She strokes my head, her hand squeaking against the plastic bag. “I love you. I can’t bear the thought of you with another woman.” Her arm is around my shoulder, her body curled up next to mine. She lays her head down on my chest. “I want my last memories of you loving me and no one else.”

I take one more futile breath. Everything goes black.

Copyright: © 2008 Alice Evil

October 21, 2008

Don Draper's Full Tarot Reading, Card By Card

On this week's episode of Mad Men, existentially-nauseated adman Don Draper received a rigorous Tarot reading from a well-meaning friend. The entire ten-card spread was briefly shown, but only two of them were discussed in the scene; however, since the show held pretty closely to the true meanings of those cards, then logically, the other cards on the table offer salient points as to what's in store for Don. Let's take a look, shall we?

The reading is a basic Celtic cross spread. I've provided an annotated screencap so that you can tell which positions I'm referring to. Where possible, I've linked to the cards on my Tarot site, Arcanalogue.


1. The first card, or "significator," is the one that represents the person the reading is about. In this case, it's The Sun, inverted. The Sun would generally paint a radiant, robustly positive picture of Don's overall situation, and let's face it -- as a wealthy, charismatic advertising executive with a beautiful family, Don wakes up every day with more going for him than most people. But it's inverted, so what appears to be a healthy and enviable situation is seriously corrupted. You could say that the Sun card represents the perfect face that people see when they look at Don's life, blinding them to how exhausted and unstable he actually is.

2. You can see that The Sun is crossed by the Eight of Cups, which represents the conflict at hand. The linked description perfectly sums up what Don's facing:
"...An important turning point. A certain ill-fated relationship or foolish fantasy has been indulged as far as you dare let it, and the time has come to face facts, and gather the strength to walk away. The fact that your attachment is emotional, not simply practical, will make it far harder to admit defeat -- but once you do, you'll find that every grudging step moves you closer to the new world just past those hillsides which once seemed so far away."

3. This card, Judgement, was one of those the show actually expounded on; Don thought it meant the end of the world, but the reader corrected him, saying it implied "resurrection." While I do think that was a helpful thing to tell him, I'd like to add a few points. First of all, this position tells us what a person's conscious, everyday approach to life is, so the card means that Don's struggle over his identity and true nature are at the forefront of his mind almost all the time. It indicates that one cycle of his life is drawing to a close, and that he's taking stock of which parts of it he'll be taking with him into the next cycle. If you've been watching the show since the first season, then you've definitely seen this coming as well.

4. Opposite that card is the one indicating his unconscious thoughts and desires. The Princess (or Page) of Pentacles makes it a little clearer why Don was so fascinated by those men working on hot-rods in the same episode; he may be a genius at advertising, but he finds it hollow and unfulfilling. He yearns to do something more substantial with his life:
"By approaching a traditional path or pattern with an adventurous and playful spirit, you can wind up creating work that is both substantial and inspiring. Our hands beg for something concrete to do, an outlet for our natural curiosity and restlessness and self-indulgence."
The Princess also holds an insight into the kind of woman who would satisfy this restlessness; perhaps it explains why he can't bring himself to truly leave Betty and his children behind.

5. This position shows us the past, or what is coming to an end. The appearance of an inverted Three of Cups lets us know that Don's days of wild abandon and gross excess are numbered. This is pretty perfectly illustrated by his reaction to the cadre of exotically wealthy playmates he camped out with in the last episode. Everything in the world was laid out before him, but he found that the largesse doesn't scratch the itch like it used to.

6. Uh-oh. As for what's on the horizon, it looks like the Sterling Cooper merger that Don's still unaware of might not work out in his favor. The Five of Swords indicates that Don isn't in a position to protect his best interests in the challenges ahead, and it could spell disaster:
"You may even find yourself flat-out tricked or lied to. But aside from any conflicts with external entities, it also indicates an inborn crisis in your own confidence and your ability to meet challenges fairly."
7. This is the other card addressed in the show, The World. I take issue with the interpretation she offers -- when she tells Don, "The only thing keeping you from being happy is the belief that you are alone," it's pretty obvious that she's using the card as an excuse to tell him something she already thinks. That made me like this character a lot more because it illustrates how well she knows Don, and that she's very skilled at influencing him. What she knows, but it smart enough not to say, is that he is on the verge of discovering his true calling, and that for a brief time he will have access to everything he needs to begin a new phase in his life. Letting him figure it out for himself is a master stroke.

8. Don has an entire world waiting for him back in New York, and the Nine of Wands gives us a glimpse of how they will respond to him upon his return. Basically, it says that he is the core source of strength to a great many people, in both his personal and professional life. That's been a fairly tolerable situation for him up until now, but I suspect that if he returns to NYC all tanned and "resurrected" that it's really going to shake the tent-poles and leave a lot of people scrambling and feeling betrayed.

9. The Wheel of Fortune represents Don's hopes and/or fears for the future; in this case, his leap into the great unknown has forced him to give up the illusion of control that he's perfected over the years, and that's scary as hell. While by the end of the episode he seems very inspired and willing to accept his uncertain destiny, the idea that sometime soon he might be an entirely different person (his true self, whomever that is) has to be pretty intimidating.

10. Whatever's gonna happen, it's gonna happen fast! As in, the next episode is probably going to spark a minor revolution. The Eight of Wands puts development into fast forward -- lots of "Aha!" moments and lightning strikes. While I'm no psychic, I'm assuming Don will return to NYC next episode, that all hell will break loose, and that the season will end right in the middle of this shitstorm. And something tells me when Season 3 starts, both the audience and the other characters on the show going to have a hard time recognizing Mr. Draper in his entirely new incarnation.

October 20, 2008

The Four Princesses

Speaking of same-sex union, the four-of-a-kinds are really stacking up over at Arcanalogue. Today's post takes on the Princesses and speculates as to whether they are secretly running the whole show. Enjoy!

Homo Hollywood Homecoming

This week I channeled my inner homecoming committee chairperson and wrote an article for ClubPlanet nominating Hollywood's gay couples for special (and in many cases, dubious) awards. Everyone knows that the tiara industry has been the hardest hit by the nation's current economic woes, so my deepest congratulations are all I have to crown you with. (Yes, even you, Clay Aiken...)

October 19, 2008

Seen Between Fingers -- Chris Kelly Sidesteps Mel Gibson's Apocalypto Boobytrap

In this regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly reports back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. We've been waiting for The Omen to arrive via Netflix; in the meantime, Chris casually mentioned to me that he'd rather die than watch Mel Gibson's orgiastic bloodbath Apocalypto. Like an evil genie, I couldn't help but make sure that within 24 hours, his worst nightmare came true...

You're probably as confused as I am about the choice to include Apocalypto in this series. No one involved in making this movie set out to create a horror film. None of the audience viewing it expected a horror film, and a horror film is not what they received. Though the finished product has an impressively high body count [editor's note: 114, to be exact], and though the gore is unflinchingly depicted, and though the deaths are increasingly creative, the fact remains that this is a pretty typical action movie.

It's also, in my opinion, a steaming pile. The fact that the first shot is of a tapir's wobbly ass isn't an accident: it's a warning.

I was asked to see this movie because it was assumed that I would be grossed out. I sure was. People meet some grisly fates. In fact, it almost seems as though Mel Gibson became bored at some point during the process and dreamed up new murders simply to keep himself amused. He loses interest after the third or fourth beheading. How about a panther? A fall from a great height? Poison darts? Bees? Spiked traps? It's in there. With just a little more faux-moralizing, this could have been a Saw prequel.

Yet the gut reaction of seeing a death feels muffled, because none of the characters strike me real people. Striving for archetypes, Mr. Gibson manages only to present us with paper cut-outs. The shrill mother-in-law, the unflinching hero, the heartless enemy, the prophetic toddler: each thinly scripted portrait carries about as much depth as a guest star on Full House. When they die (and most everyone does), it's almost a relief: one less melodramatic cliché to keep track of.

I'd say the movie is worth seeing for the production values. About a third of the way through we're treated to a breathtaking view of a Mayan city. To watch these scenes divested from the rest of the plot (and muted) would probably be best. Look at the people covered in white dust! The men painted blue! The women with crowns made from their own hair! The wildly costumed religious leaders! The crowds! The creativity and spectacle of it all nearly justify the $40 million that was apparently spent to execute this otherwise dull, artless slog of a misbegotten metaphor.

I'll save you the trouble: We start with the hero and his wife. They live in a peaceful village where life is simple and everyone laughs at jokes about balls. Then the army with En Vogue hair kills, rapes, and/or enslaves everyone. Once they get to the city, hit play. You'll get to see this dude, that guy, and OMG these ladies. As soon as the sacrifices are about to begin, you can just stop the DVD and put it back in the Netflix envelope. After that, pretty much everyone dies except for the aforementioned hero and his aforementioned wife (who rockets a baby out of her crotch in the most vigorous depiction of a birth perhaps ever).

So, that about sums up Apocalypto. It's historically inaccurate, overlong, completely implausible, and not scary. Don't bother.

Next week: The Omen, for real this time.

The One and Only Shells

I've been meaning to point out to my fellow New York-type people that you've been missing out on one of best shows in town. Meet Michelle "Shells" Haylie Hoffman, a lonely-hearts senior analyst at JP Morgan whose binge-drinking, date-stalking, Carrie Bradshaw-worshiping shame spirals have been setting Joe's Pub on fire throughout 2008. Hope you'll join me at her November show at the Zipper Factory; you can bet that songs will be sung, exes will be drunk-dialed, and new thresholds of "rock bottom" will be explored. Here are a few highlights:

• After Shells' hints about a guest appearance by Moby have proven to be hopelessly deluded, an 11th hour visitor transforms the evening...

• Shells tries to woo one-night stand Scott back into her life by giving her cat a more dude-friendly name.

• Shells' recent vanity project, a self-produced, self-starring independent film adaptation of Madame Bovary.

October 16, 2008

Two Teeny Tiny Halloween Contests

If you're looking for scary fun, don't just sit on your hands and wait for Halloween. Here are two contests that are raging all month which you can participate in with minimal fuss and muss:

1. Our oft-featured neighbor three crypts down, MicroHorror, is in the middle of its annual story contest. This year's prize is to have your story illustrated by renowned artist Sarah Clarke, whose stellar fan art led to a Borders Books commission to create promotional art for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Here are the rules -- the 666 word limit makes this a project that virtually anyone can try their hand at. Go write a freaking story already!

2. In case you haven't gotten my previous messages, updates, posts, or singing telegrams, AMC's Greatest Fear Video Contest is already underway as well. Make a video (under one minute long) on the theme of your greatest fear. Upload that shit. Win $4,000 plus an airing of your film on AMC. Did I mention that the final judge is Rob Zombie? If you know someone with a video camera, then you and your friends have literally no excuse to be bored this month.

October 15, 2008

INTERVIEW - How Fear(s) of the Dark Broadened Charles Burns' Horizons

All Charles Burns has to do now is release an album or perform on Broadway and he'll have done a little bit of everything. The author/artist recently turned animator for the creepy new film Fear(s) of the Dark, which will be hitting US cities beginning this month. In this week's Web Stalker, I spoke with Burns about Fear(s) and about that Black Hole adaptation everyone's always talking about. If you want to know a little more about how he approaches his own independent work, however, just keep reading...

On what Burns learned about his own work by animating it:

"I learned that there’s a reason why I work by myself as a cartoonist... with comics you can really maintain absolute control. I mean, obviously there are people who collaborate on comics, but for myself it’s something where I have control on every single level. If something falls on its face, it’s my fault. Whereas, when you’re doing animation, even in the most perfect situation, it’s always going to be collaborative effort."

On navigating his own projects as both an author and an artist:

"I approach it different ways; there are situations where a story, or a portion of a story, will suggest itself in a much more visual way. But it does all have to be integrated eventually. When I’m working, the first think I’m usually doing is just writing an incredible amount... writing and writing and writing. Then I kind of break down the story, and see what kind of visuals will be involved. But it works both ways -- occasionally there will be a pure visual idea that works its way into the story, so it really depends. I’ll trick myself into doing anything that works! But generally I’m just writing down ideas and forming them into a story.

On whether he now considers working alone to be a luxury:

"It is a luxury, but sometimes it can be one of those things where, since I don’t have this impending deadline, I kind of fine-tune things too much. But again, that’s just the way I work. And on top of that, just the nature of the drawing style I have just takes a really long time. I sound like I’m full of excuses!"

October 8, 2008

Come Visit Me On Frankenstein Night!

I'm not having a Halloween party this year, and I haven't made many plans for the night itself (though the costume will be legendary), so I was thrilled when Kevin Maher invited me to present a clip at this month's Sci Fi Screening Room event on the 27th. I found just the perfect thing to share with you all, so you'd better come check it out -- I'm sure the rest of the show will rock also. You can count on plenty of weird trivia, snacks, and surprises, which no Halloween would be without.

(Yes, you're supposed to celebrate Halloween with trivia. In fact, "trick or treat" was actually truncated from the original saying, "trick or treat or trivia." That's exactly the sort of obscure knowledge that we'll be laying on you on Frankenstein Night. )

October 7, 2008

INTERVIEW - Friday the 13th Not Unlucky For Travis Van Winkle

The Friday the 13th remake continues to intrigue... For this week's Web Stalker, I interviewed nascent horror hottie Travis Van Winkle, who informed me that being chased by Jason through the woods in real life is just as surreal as you'd think. But the life of a working actor is probably scarier in the long run, so I was glad to get to talk to Travis about his own uphill battle. It hasn't seemed to have affected his sense of humor...

TB: Do you ever look at your own IMDB page?

TVW: My manager will go through every now and then and tell me what's there; I try not to look at it. I had a friend who was on Everwood for a season and he got so caught up in looking at that stuff... Some people were nice, of course, but some talked shit -- talking about how he looked, you know, like an alien, or like a witch! It would make me crazy.

TB: How did you get started in film?

TVW: I dropped out of college to move to L.A. -- a little risky, but the second I got here, I started taking classes and got on track, and so far it’s going great... let’s hope it continues to go in that direction!

TB: That's a tough decision to make, because people are happy for you, but you know they're thinking you're making a big mistake...

TVW: Yeah, you can tell people are thinking, “Wow, you’re kind of crazy for doing this, you need to go back and finish college." But you can also see in their eyes that sort of "Damn, I wish I could take a leap of faith like that too!" But most people need that security, and this job doesn’t bring that. It forces you to live day by day.

TB: Is it hard to start breaking into success when your social circle is made up of actors who are struggling to do the same thing you're doing?

TVW: It's hard, but I always basically say that if you try and you do make the effort, it will pay off. You don’t know when, but as long as you really focus on it, it will pay off. Just because someone’s time hasn’t come yet doesn’t mean it’s not going to come. People I’ve come up alongside, I think we’ve all had those times, we’ve all gone through it. As you’re out here longer, you get a sense of that.

October 6, 2008

The Four Twos

This week Arcanalogue completed another four-of-a-kind set. Two being the loneliest number since the number one, it's definitely worth checking out.

October 4, 2008

MicroHorror Featured Pick -- "Inside Out"

For seven weeks now I've featured highlights from MicroHorror, where authors get their point across in fewer than 666 words. A new link on the sidebar will lay them all out for you! This week's story by Melinda Selmys is one of the shortest I've reprinted, but the inverted palette she paints from made me more than a little queasy...

"Inside Out"
by Melinda Selmys


The battlefield had turned itself inside out, and now everything was spattered with green, the soldiers clutching their stomachs and trying to hold in bright, grass-colored worms that must have been intestines. Their faces were as dark as pine trees, and the sky overhead a sinister orange. The orderly lay on his back, looking up at the blindingly black sun in the face of the pumpkin sky and began to laugh, with the high-pitched assurance of a man who knows that he is dead.

Copyright: © 2008 Melinda Selmys

October 3, 2008

Seen Between Fingers -- Chris Kelly Begs, "Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?"

In this regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly reports back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. I figured David Lynch's slimy and grimy debut would really upset someone as sensitive and imaginative as Chris -- I had no idea he'd turn out to be even weirder than the film itself...

Sorry, guys, the joke's on you.

I'm the first to admit that I am a total lightweight. My sunny outlook and distaste for even the suggestion of physical pain leave me ill-suited for viewing most horror movies, not to mention many mainstream titles. On the other hand, the same innocence that prevents me from looking at the horribleness on the screen can also prevent me from recognizing it.

That's where Eraserhead comes in.

I'll admit to being slightly unnerved at first. The abstract opening moments, followed by the long, eerie silences and gritty, claustrophobic imagery generally made me feel as though I was literally trapped inside David Lynch's head. It made a certain amount of sense to assume that his brain is run by a confused, tall-haired man-child and a he-goblin pulling levers. In fact, the movie even supports this assumption once the characters begin speaking: they deliver wholly plausible lines in implausible and sometimes unpleasant ways. It's as though the tall-haired, angelic man on Lynch's right shoulder wrote a light melodrama about a couple with a baby, and the knobby demon on his left shoulder decided to direct with the black-and-white, pseudo-sexual mania of Suddenly, Last Summer as performed by a cast of zombies.

Unfortunately for those of you who hoped to see me crumble, I clung steadfastly to the bringing-up-baby angle of the story, which smoothed over the rest of the creepy nonsense. Sure, that hysterical blond girl apparently gave birth to a partial calf fetus. Sure, the man with the hair has a tumorous Betty Boop impersonator living in his radiator. Sure, the landscape is apocalyptic, the people are foul, and the apartment is crawling with oversized sperm. But there's a baby!

Others with whom I have consulted have assured me that I was supposed to find the baby unquestionably awful. You underestimate the depth of my blind empathy. It was sweet and little. Listen to the cute little burbling noises! As the movie progressed, I found myself increasingly concerned with the lack of attention and care being provided to this child. Clearly, this is a special needs situation, and if Sarah Palin can be trusted with Swatch or Brisket or whatever she named this one, then Henry and Mary can manage with their lump of joy. I watched the movie thinking about the changes needed to make the apartment suitable for raising an infant. You know: transfer the baby from the kitchen table to a crib of some sort, take the houseplants out of the mounds of dirt they're lying in and put them in actual pots, sweep up the mountains of hair lying everywhere... the little things.

In the end, I was mostly unsettled by the shameful parenting displayed in this narrative. I don't care how many times you dream about your brain being made into pencil erasers. That's no excuse for cutting up the bandages that seem to be the only thing holding your offspring together. You brought it home from the hospital: the fourth-trimester abortion is not an option.

I'll give you one thing, though: the girl in the radiator is one gross bitch.

Next week: I dunno. The Omen? Okay, The Omen.

October 1, 2008

Sarah Palin = 666

A note from Lon Milo Duquette:

"According to the Hebrew Kabbalah, the name Sarah Palin enumerates to 666.

The name "Sarah" in Hebrew is spelled:

Shin = 300
Resh = 200
Heh = 5

"Palin," if a Hebrew word, would be spelled:

Pe = 80
Aleph = 1
Lamed = 30
Nun = 50
Total: 666