Help Keep the Drive-In Open
Wednesday, January 21. 2015
The surest sign of a great work of art is its ability to get into one's head and stay there for a long time. Sure, we all like idiot entertainment now and then. It's fine to enjoy a dumb comedy, or a mindless action movie. But when a movie stays and haunts the viewer long after it is watched, that is a real achievement.
Linklater's Boyhood didn't just stay in my head. It is as if a I swallowed a marlin hook and had it rip my guts out.
I run hot and cold on the film work of Richard Linklater. Take Slacker...please! While it gave film student types spontaneous orgasms, the movie bored me to tears. Watching people I would cross the street to avoid isn't my idea of a great time.
Then came Dazed and Confused, which blew me away. Linklater captured high school (emphasis on the word, high
) perfectly. I've seen this one numerous times and I treasure it.
I didn't care so much for some of the others. Before Sunrise was beautiful to look at, but I found it to be uninvolving and dull. I probably need to give these movies a second chance.
I despised The School of Rock, but my distaste for Jack Black has a lot to do with that.
I actually enjoyed his Bad News Bears remake.
So I considered Linklater to be a director to watch, but not necessarily one to get excited about. Which is probably why I didn't see Boyhood for a while.
I corrected that this past weekend, and I am still winded by the experience.
Boyhood, plain and simple, is a masterpiece. I have literally never been so affected by a motion picture as this one. It is more, much more, than a gimmick. Boyhood is sweet and sad, funny and tragic, joyous and heartbreaking.
One scene got to me above all others. It really isn't much on the surface and I doubt if many others were as moved by it as I was. Kids were in line at a midnight Harry Potter release party. Many of them were dressed up as characters from the books, and all of them were excited about getting their copies of the new novel.
It brought back so much to me. I raised children in the '00 decade, and the Harry Potter phenomenon was so strong. My kids loved the books. The scenes of the party made me feel anguish and deep sadness. They made me long for those wonderful days and they made me miss my children desperately.
But it was more than that. Those humble scenes made me feel such love for the joy, the enthusiasm, the passion, the imagination, and the unbridled wonder that children have.
Boyhood is filled with moments like that. It's story is both extraordinary and mundane. An average life of a bright boy in love with life. His experiences are true and real and they burn with humanity.
Not everyone is as enamoured of Boyhood as I am. Some criticize its pacing and felt that it should have been more exciting. More explosions, or more sex and violence, probably.
Some also complain about the "naturalistic" film style. To them I recommend more viewings of Guardians of the Galaxy. Or hold their breath until the Avengers sequel is released.
Boyhood broke my heart and made me weep with joy and sadness. I cannot say that I ever enjoyed a movie more than I did this one.
Richard Linklater nailed my generation with Dazed and Confused, and now he has nailed the Millennials with Boyhood. I am in awe of him.
Monday, January 19. 2015
I happen to be listening to the Hell House audiobook at the moment, and last night I saw that Gauntlet Publications
is doing a special publication of one of Richard Matheson's most underlooked novel, The Beardless Warriors.
I have always been an enormous fan of Mathson's work. I can't remember when I first began seeing his name in anthologies and in TV/movie credits, but the name always carried great weight to me.
Matheson is primarily known as a fantasist, but The Beardless Warriors takes place in the coldest reality. It is a fictional chronicle of the author's own experiences in World War 2. It is also as gripping and terrifying as anything he ever published. Some of the themes of Matheson's greater work are present in The Beardless Warriors. Such as the plight of one man against an unimaginably large and unimaginable adversary.
This ordinarily might not be such a big announcement. Another expensive reprint of a book that most serious fans have already read. But there is more to it.
This is, as my heading suggests, a combination deal. There will be the deluxe reprint of The Beardless Warriors, but there will be an accompanying anthology of short stories inspired by the novel.
Brothers in Arms is edited by Gauntlet publisher, Barry Hoffman and Richard Christian Matheson. There will be stories in it by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, David Schow, Ed Gorman, Richard Chizmar, William F. Nolan, Mick Garris, Joe Lansdale, R.C. Matheson, Tom Monteleone, Mort Castle, Preston Sturges, Barry Hoffman, Clive Barker, Gary Braunbeck, Kevin J. Anderson, Whitley Strieber, and Chelsey Quinn Yarbro.
Not a bad lineup, huh? Unfortunately it's a little rich for my blood these days. I hope that Gauntlet
, or some other publisher, will see fit to put it out in a more affordable edition sometime in the future.
Tuesday, January 13. 2015
I know this individual. He prides himself on keeping abreast of current affairs. That's cool, but he also has contemptuous attitude about reading fiction. I'm sure you've experienced the attitude before. When some of us in a group discuss books, this person has flatly stated, "If you want to read, read the paper".
I used to read and watch the news more than I do now. These days my heart can barely stand to do it. It's too disheartening, and besides, I have become convinced that the news is full of half truths. If not outright lies.
Ever see an article about a situation that you have intimate knowledge about? Did you notice that much of it is utter bullshit?
I suppose one could sift through all the news sources and attempt to diffuse some sort of informed opinion. If he or she had the time to do so. To me, so much of it is propaganda.
On one recent occasion, the person in question was saying that he preferred to know what was going on in the world instead of reading a bunch of lies.
I replied that all
writers are professional liars, but at least writers of fiction write honest lies.
Honest Lies. I like that. It would make a good title for a short story collection.
Did my argument work? What do you think? Does anyone ever win an argument? Maybe, but it's as rare as a good horror sequel.
Now, I know that people online are thick-skinned and slow to anger, but I want to emphasize that I am not putting down people who read/watch the news. To be honest I check out CNN.com nearly every day. You better believe that I take what I read with a grain of salt the size of the Dead Sea. My contempt is for those who snub the reading of fiction.
Wednesday, January 7. 2015
This has been a long time coming, and after the murderous week I've had, I have decided to take a desperately-needed break from the message board scene. How long a break? I have no idea. A day? A month? Forever? I cannot answer.
Folks, before you explain to me that I have
to continue to moderate a message board, consider this: I have been doing this stuff in one form or another since 1998. That's a long damned time. And time is a commodity that I have little of these days.
I have spent much more time talking about horror fiction than actually reading it. And, worst of all, I have neglected the other areas of this website.
I work a lot of hours. I am committed to a strict workout routine at the gym. I would like to acquire a social life.
I have decided to let Ron Clinton help with moderation duties. Ron is as fair a guy as I have ever known, and he organized the fundraiser to keep the site alive.
I expect you not to respect Ron as much as me, but to respect him more than you would me. His word is law. I have 100% confidence that he will be a splendid job.
I am looking forward to a break. To clear my head and to have some freedom. I have gotten enjoyment and made amazing friends with message boards, but they have also been a like a set of chains on me.
You guys be cool, and take care. Be nice to each other.
Sunday, January 4. 2015
2015 is here, and like so many others, I am hoping for a better year than the last one.
It started off with, not a bang, but a whimper. I got drunk by myself on New Year's Eve 2013, listening to Ween records. I woke up in 2014 to find my car had been ransacked.
From there things went downhill.
A pipe broke in my attic and flooded my house with freezing water. I live in the upper south, and whole my northern neighbors like to smirk when we talk about the cold down here, the truth is, our buildings were not made to withstand severe cold. Even cold that is far lesser than they are accustomed to.
Then, dreaded Spring arrived, and the allergies were worse than ever. If that was not enough, my Mom died in April, and my cat died around one week later. Judge me if you will, but losing my kitty was the hardest part. My family was not close. This does not make losing my birth mother an easy thing.
The allergic reaction turned into a full-blown sinus infection. But that was not the worst of it. Oh no.
The Scares That Care convention was in June. I flew my stepdaughter in for the occasion, and I planned it for over a year. The sinus infection turned into pneumonia. Right before the convention. We had a road trip planned, and I went ahead with it. I drove eight-hundred miles with the pneumonia, and then attended the convention.
Scares That Care was a fantastic show, especially when one considers that it was a maiden voyage. It was far more organized and well-run than many long-running cons I have attended over the years. I had a great time. I was also absolutely miserable every minute of it. It was extremely foolhardy for me to even have been there.
I came home, broke, but ready to buckle down and get caught up financially. Life had other plans for me in that area, too.
I was laid off from my job shortly after the con. A job I had put my heart and soul into for twenty-three years. No warning. No severance. Just a boot out there door without even a "Good luck" on the way.
I had taken out a loan to ensure a good time at the con. I had a car payment, a mortgage, other debt, as well as monthly expenses to contend with. I received the maximum amount of unemployment available. Which was not enough to even come close to covering my obligations.
I applied for Food Stamps. Guess what? I was denied the benefit. All the taxes I have paid in my life, and I hit a bad patch through no fault of my own, and I was refused. While people live off of that kind of assistance their entire lives. You'll be unsurprised to hear that my faith in the system is nonexistent.
I sold nearly all my DVDs and records. The ones that held any value, anyway. I scraped by, falling behind on my bills very quickly.
Thus I entered one of the worst periods of my life. I felt alone, dejected, abandoned, and nearly suicidal.
I have struggled with drinking problems my entire life, and though I needed to hold on to every cent I could, I began drinking nightly again. It was the only way I knew to forget about my situation and relax enough to sleep at night. Very foolish, I know, but there you go.
My fortune changed with a phone call one morning. A company was interested in employing me. After a near-disastrous interview and processing period, where my anxiety almost wrecked my chances, I was hired. I am now currently employed at a government facility.
Money is substantially less than I was making at my former job, but I was, and am, working again. I am on a plan to get my house payments caught up. (Remind me to tell you about the asshole at the mortgage company who assured me that no late fees or penalties would accrue while I was unemployed. They did anyway.)
The dreaded holidays have come and gone. It is a difficult time for those of us with no family and precious few friends.
So now I am at the cusp of a new year, I am cautiously hopeful. I look forward to better times and hopefully more money at my job. As always, I hope for good reading, viewing, and listening experiences.
It is also a time for looking back at the highs and lows of the past year.
I'm afraid that I was not much of an adventurous year for me as a reader. My favorites are pretty predictable. F. Paul Wilson's Dark City, Bill Pronzini's Strangers, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Blue Labyrinth, Ed Gorman's Riders on the Storm.
My favorite novel of the year was Stephen King's Revival. I know that not everyone agrees on this one, but I thought it was an absolutely brilliant character study. The theme of loss is strong in the book. Loss of loved ones, faith, youth, and ultimately, life. And if the actual outcome was a tad disappointing, the buildup to it was so dark and frightening that I don't hold it against the novel. For me, one of King's best.
A big runner-up was Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss's The Halloween Children. A beautifully-written, scary novel that is as much about the dark side of marriage as it is a savagely disturbing Halloween yarn. These guys are both favorites, and I hope that they collaborate again.
As for movies, my favorite was a feature that was reviled by people who, for the most part, did not see it. Men, Women and Children was accused, tried, convicted, and executed by almost everyone. No one seemed to believe me when I said that it is not as preachy as the trailers make it seem to be, and that it is a pretty fair-minded portrayal of today's society. On the other hand, you might as well criticize people's tattoos. Few want to hear about the pratfalls of their infernal gadgets and cherished social media outlets. For me, however, Men, Women and Children is a smart, profound, moving movie by one of today's most consistently entertaining and provocative directors working today: Jason Reitman.
The vinyl revolution continues to grow in popularity in the world of music. True music lovers have turned back to the vastly superior sound of the record album. Of course the industry still bites the hand that feeds it by charging obscene prices for records. It's especially galling in the cases of classic rock releases that have made the studios money time and time and time again over the years.
Resolutions? Yeah, I guess I have a few. I want to do more reading, and try to check out more newer writers. Unfortunately I have paid good money in the past, and been disappointed in so many of them. Books and authors that are praised to the heavens by people in the community.
I also intend to continue my battle with drinking, see more movies at the theater, and attempt to have a better social life.
Monday, December 29. 2014
It was both shocking and sobering to see how old Bill Murray is in St. Vincent. My God, where have the years gone?
Bill was always my favorite of the SNL alumni. There isn't really a lot of competition, but he struck me with his charm and wit right from the start. Then his movie debut, Meatballs, sealed Bill Murray as an all-time favorite actor.
The years have come and gone, but when Murray smiles in St. Vincent, infrequent as it may be, you can still see the impish, childlike ghost of Tripper Harrison, from Meatballs.
Bill Murray has become a titan of comedy since Meatballs. In some ways he is without peer. Sure, he has done some turkeys, but look at some of the crap that other SNL refugees have been in.
Meatballs will always be special to me. I loved the movie when I first saw it, and that love has only grown as I have watched it countless times since then. Meatballs is a favorite movie of my daughters, and I was gratified that they enjoyed it as much--or even more--than I did.
Despite the mischievous hyjinx in Meatballs, I think it is actually a good movie to show kids. It entertainingly demonstrates the importance of individualism and perseverance. Not to mention how critical it is to have fun in all aspects of life.
Murray's second film was the Hunter S. Thompson vehicle, Where the Buffalo Roam. It's not a terribly good movie, but Murray's portrayal of Thompson was spot-on.
I am not the biggest Caddyshack fan. I like Murray much more as a kindly big brother or BBF type as he was in Meatballs and Stripes. I couldn't relate to his character in this one at all. Still, there are some side-splitting moments in Caddyshack.
Stripes came next, and it is another big favorite. The final third of Stripes suffers, but the basic training scenes are so wonderful that I don't mind a bit.
Of course there was Ghostbusters. I was never a big fan of this movie, but I sure have a lot of fond memories of it. It was a more innocent time, and I get so nostalgic when I spin my Ghostbusters 45 on the turntable. This movie struck a chord with the public and was a huge hit.
The success of Ghostbusters seemingly took a toll on Murray, and he devoted time to a dream project. Bill co-wrote and starred in an excellent adaptation of the Somerset Maugham novel, The Razor's Edge. Audiences stayed away in droves, as they say, but I always loved this movie. You should seek it out.
By this time Bill Murray had become an icon of comedy. Obviously audiences did not care to see him in dramatic roles. It was around this time that he started playing curmudgeonly characters.
Sadly, Scrooged could have been a classic, if the studio had the balls to shoot Michael Donahue's screenplay and not watered it down. In the end it became a bland nothing. Not acerbic enough to be an edgy cult classic, and just a little too weird to be a feel-good family film.
Murray has worked steady for his entire career. He does small roles in movies sometimes, and other occasions he is the star of the picture. Some I like a lot: Wild Things, Ed Wood, Mad Dog and Glory, The Monuments Men. Bill has appeared in jim Jarmusch movies, which shows his indie cred. But then he is a regular in Wes Anderson movies, and I sadly cannot stand that filmmaker's style.
I neglected to mention one picture, but it is arguably the best movie of Bill Murray's career. I am talking about Groundhog Day. This is an entertaining and funny movie, but it works on numerous levels. Groundhog Day has been embraced by Buddhists. In some ways it is a spiritual movie of the highest order. Groundhog Day shows how we must repeat our mistakes time and again, whether in this or other lives, until we learn the proper way to live.
Now we finally have Bill Murray in a new starring role that is almost
worthy of his talents.
Bill Murray shines in St. Vincent. His performance is flawless and he put a lifetime of experience into it. His character is alternately hilarious, tragic, infuriating.
As for the movie itself, well, no one can accuse it of originality. It's your basic Little kid warms the heart of mean old bastard
plot. It certainly isn't a bad movie, and I do recommend that you see it. Preferably in a theater.
The multiplexes are jam-packed with big, dumb, loud movies that assault the senses. Many look as though they were made on a computer. If you, like me, enjoy smaller, more intimate motion picture experiences, I urge you to see movies like St. Vincent.
And while you are there you will see a bravura performance by an icon who well may be the greatest comic actor alive today.
Saturday, December 20. 2014
As you are, I once was. As I am you will be.
At least I hope so.
In his afterword to the audio version Bag of Bones, Stephen King talks about how when people catch the audiobook bug, it becomes an addiction. I know that it is true in my case. But unlike the other types of addictions, this is a beautiful one.
So many readers tell me that they simply can't do audiofiction. I understand. I really do, because I was exactly the same way. I might do a short audio story or maybe a novella, but I could not imagine indulging in a long audiobook.
What changed it for me was Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky. This has always been one of my favorite novels, and I bought an MP3 disc of it for a trip I was taking. I listened to it twice through, and then I began devouring more audobooks.
I'm a full-fledged audiofiction junkie now. I have found that it has helped me in so many ways. It makes the long commute I have much, much more bearable. It also helps me have the time to go back to books I have read an enjoyed in the past. Around 90% of the audiobooks I do are of books I have previously read.
I can't count how many I've listened to in the past year or two. Dozens. Some favorites of mine are Swan Song, Needful Things, the aforementioned Farmer in the Sky, the Hap and Leonard novels of Joe R. Lansdale, The Cabinet of Curiosities, the early NYC trilogy of Repairman Jack novels...I could go on and on.
Some have been acute disappointments. If a reader does not do the work justice, or if his inflections and delivery unsuit me, the book is a bust.
Audiobooks are big productions now, with sound effects and careful editing. No longer do narrators simply read the books aloud.
And they are getting bigger all the time. Many seem to think that the Audiobook sun rises and sets with Audible.com, but I do not use that service. I don't like their user-unfriendly file formats, and I don't care to contribute to Amazon's success.
I much prefer Downpour.com
. Their membership is cheaper and more flexible than Audible's, but you do not have to be a member to take advantage of unbeatable sales they have. In a Black Friday blowout this year I scored audiobooks by Richard Matheson, Frederic Brown, Charles Beaumont, Stephen King, Theodore Sturgeon, and many others.
Brilliance Audio has been putting out audiobooks in inexpensive MP3 formats, often with prices under ten dollars. I've gotten ones from F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Robert A. Heinlein, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child in this way.
Most libraries have generous selections of audiobooks. Both in physical formats, as well as downloadable ones.
I have a friend who I trade audiobooks with from time to time. He never reads and only does the audio format. I will never do that. Or at least as long as I have eyes to see. Nothing will replace a real book in my hands.
I'm hoping that more readers will branch out and start listening to audiobooks. I've been having a grand time with them, and once the bug catches you, I bet that you will as well.
Tuesday, December 2. 2014
So, after all these years, it's goodbye to Repairman Jack. I'm a little choked up.
Jack and I go way back. In fact, the first F. Paul Wilson novel I read was The Tomb. This was back around 1985, when I was living in Seattle. I was a very enthusiastic horror reader at the time, and I had exhausted the existing works of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Charles L. Grant, James Herbert, etc. I was always looking for something new.
The Downtown Seattle library was, and presumably is, a wonderful place for readers. They had the Whispers Press edition of The Tomb on their shelf, and I greedily grabbed it and checked it out. Thus began a longterm relationship between Jack and I.
This isn't to say that I did not enjoy the other works by Wilson. Not at all. I consider Black Wind to be among his finest novels. I enjoyed all of his medical thrillers. Sibs is a top notch suspense story. Sims is the way science fiction should be written.
But Jack? There is something special about the character. It was evident right away when I started The Tomb.
Maybe it was Jack's enjoyment of James Whale movies. That certainly didn't hurt the character's likability. There is, however, much more to it than that.
Repairman Jack is the guy many of us would like to be. He's tough, but fair. He can be funny, but he isn't some wise-cracking dope of a hero.
Jack takes care of business. Most of us are limited to going about our daily business. Patting ourselves on the back for voting, maybe helping out a stray animal, or donating to a charity now and then.
Surely all of the fans of The Tomb hungered to see Repairman Jack return to the pages of F. Paul Wilson books. He showed up in short stories now and then, and we were grateful.
Then our hopes were fulfilled when a full-length Repairman Jack was published in 1998. The book is Legacies, and I consider it to be one of the best in the series. Not only that, I think Legacies is a perfect introduction to the character and to the work of F. Paul Wilson.
Jack's adventures really kicked into gear at that point, and Wilson ingeniously wove Repairman Jack into his Adversary Cycle of novels and stories.
Faithful readers followed Jack through give or take twenty novels as we watched the cataclysmic events in the stories unravel. Wilson took us back to Jack's childhood with a trio of YA stories. And, finally, he came full circle and chronicled Repairman Jack's early days in NYC.
The third of that series, and purportedly the final Jack story, has just been published. It is appropriately called Fear City.
F. Paul Wilson is not what you'd normally consider to be a hardcore writer of gore or violence. He's definitely no Edward Lee. However, there are scenes in Fear City that really disturbed this jaded old genre reader. Come to think of it, I just listened to the audio presentation of Reprisal, and that book has some pretty unnerving elements in it as well.
It's a good thing that Paul is putting Jack behind him. No writer should stay in one place for so long. Still, I'll miss Jack. Badly. Very badly.
But maybe F. Paul Wilson won't be able to resist returning to Repairman Jack in the future. Was Arthur Conan Doyle able to stay away from his most famous creation? Part of me hopes this isn't really the end. In the meantime, I anxiously await whatever thrills and chills F. Paul Wilson has in store for his many readers in the immediate future.
Tuesday, November 25. 2014
Most of us love Thanksgiving. Roast turkey on the table, Wild Turkey in the glass. Plenty of relatives to fight with, and a loud, obnoxious sports event on the TV.
Some of us, the true turkey lovers, held Thanksgiving dear to our hearts for the annual Turkey Day Celebration from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
I love Rifftrax, but nothing can take the place of Joel or Mike up in the Satellite of Love, cutting up while watching really bad movies. I watched the show whenever I could catch it, and Thanksgiving was the best day for it.
Those days are gone, and the Best Brains gang have dispersed, but we can relive them. The great folks at Shout! Factory are doing more than their parts to keep physical media alive, and they are releasing a Turkey Day MST3K box set. Unfortunately for those of us struggling to pay our bills and to keep health insurance, the sets put out by Shout! are pretty expensive.
But wait! There is good news here in 2014. Lord knows we all need it, right?
Various websites will be streaming a Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day extravaganza this year. It will be older episodes of the show, but Joel Hodgson will be providing new introductory material for them.
So have a Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy your turkey.
Wednesday, November 19. 2014
I have the feeling that everyone has the same response when they discover one of these movies. It's a mixed reaction of confusion as to how a film called Amateur Porn Star Killer
followed by shock when they find out there are three
of the damn things.
None of us is blind to the budding genre that combines horror films and pornography. The two categories have slowly blended over the years as allowances for sexual content in mainstream films increased and adult horror parodies have become more popular. The line defining the two is certainly a blurry one, but the Amateur Porn Star Killer
series combines porn with parody, horror, and even snuff films. It's all done in a way that breaks the fourth wall, acknowledging the recent trend of line blurring while taking full advantage of it.
Released in 2006, the first film was a mockumentary snuff film in which the director character, played by actual director Shane Ryan, takes advantage of his victim (Michiko Jimenez) before murdering her. The low-budget film actually had a decent amount of buzz surrounding it at the time, mostly for its shock value. Film Threat
writer Doug Brunell says, "Picture Ted Bundy with a camera, and you get a pretty good idea of what you’re going to see." Creepy.
Ryan released the sequel, Amateur Porn Star Killer 2
(APSK2), a few years later in 2008. The second movie had the same premise as the first, with Kai Lanette playing the new victim.
Even with the attention garnered by the first film, the second didn't receive a boost in budget. In an interview with Film School Rejects
, Ryan said the first film cost about 45 bucks—the cost of the hotel room where the film was shot. The second film cost $20, thanks to the location being provided.
Finally, unlike the low-budget of the first two indie films, Ryan pulled out all the stops for the third, even hiring adult star Regan Reese. Instead of just having an actress imitate an aspiring star, Reese's involvement in the film blurs the series' line between reality, horror, and pornography even further. She's best known for her role in the series Illicit Affairs
, where she takes part in of "one of the hottest casts ever assembled for an adult movie," as noted by Adam and Eve
. It's likely her extensive experience with such projects that led her to being the most actively involved in the production of an APSK film over the previous actresses playing the victims.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, though, the third film wasn't well received among audiences. It was given a paltry 2.8/10 review on IMDb
—in other words, it failed to capture the, erm, "magic" of its predecessors.
If you really want a taste, you can check out the trailer on YouTube
. It's safe to say that the truly scary aspect of this series is the uncertainty on whether or not they'll make a fourth. Maybe it's time it got killed off and Ryan went in another direction.
Monday, November 10. 2014
I get to work at least thirty minutes early and I always sit in my car, drink my mug of Irish Breakfast Tea, and read a few chapters before going in. Crazy, I know, but I have a bit of a drive. I work on a Navy base and can't be late.
This morning I read the last chapters of Rick Hautala's The Big Tree. It's a good story, but a sad one. The core of The Big Tree is the death of childhood. Of course, I reflected about the death of Rick Hautala, too, when I was done.
The Big Tree stuck with me all morning, and I went back to my car at lunch to eat and to listen to some audiofiction. I checked my phone and saw the news. J.F. Gonzalez had died.
I'm not going to claim that he and I were close buddies, but I knew Jesus Gonzalez. I've known him for over a decade. I was and am a big fan of his writing, and I let him know that. I am not normally the biggest fan of over the top horror, but I really liked his hard-hitting novel, Survivor.
I had known of J.F. Gonzalez for a long time before I met him. I bought and cherished all three issues of his magazine, Iniquities. I was always sad that it didn't last longer than it did.
Fast forward several years, and Clickers came along. I was involved in the Gorezone Book Forum at the time, and it seemed like everyone there was reading it. And enjoying it.
I honestly can't remember the first time I met Jesus, but I'm guessing it was at one of the Horrorfind Weekends. I always enjoyed talking with him.
One of my best memories of Horrorfind was a weekend morning when I was up obscenely early. I was seeking food and I went into the hotel restaurant. J.F. was sitting alone, eating. He invited me to join him.
Jesus's passion and knowledge of horror was impressive, but we did not talk about the genre that morning. We spoke of family, of work. Frustration with the insurance industry, and of growing older.
In the grand scheme of things, that conversation might not have been a huge deal, but it stuck with me.
J.F. Gonzalez was a prolific writer who took chances and did not always play it safe with his fiction. He wrote hard suspense (Survivor, Fetish, Bully), Supernatural (Shapeshifter, The Beloved), Apocalyptic (Primitive). Then there is the Clickers series, most of which were written in collaboration with Brian Keene.
If you give a damn, I suggest that you buy a book or two
. His family will get the royalties, and publishers always need support. And you will have some good reading ahead of you.
In the meantime we mourn the loss of a good man, a trusted friend to many in the community, and one of the most important writers the genre has seen in the last fifteen years.
Goodbye, J.F. Gonzalez.
Monday, October 6. 2014
I had been a Joe Lansdale fan for a few years prior to the publication of COLD IN JULY. I greatly enjoyed the novels that came before it. Especially THE MAGIC WAGON. I enjoyed the short stories, too. The nonfiction as well, for that matter. I was already calling him my favorite writer.
However, COLD IN JULY was a revelation. I was amazed at how good it was. For me, with this one novel, Joe went from a highly enjoyable cult favorite to the equal of any suspense writer in the world. COLD IN JULY is a tight, scary novel that is somehow both restrained and shocking.
I had high hopes when I heard it was to be a movie. Lansdale has had some success with adaptations of his work in the past. Many know him best as the author of BUBBA HO-TEP, which was made into a good movie by Don (PHANTASM) Coscarelli. His nail-biting story, INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD, was made into an episode of MASTERS OF HORROR. DRIVE-IN DATE is one of Joe's most disturbing pieces of fiction, and a decent, if very low budget, short movie was made from it.
My favorite adaptation had been another short subject. THE JOB is a professionally shot short movie based on the story of the same name. I felt that it captured the feel of Lansdale's work more than any of the others. But then none were an embarrassment to their source materials.
Now we have COLD IN JULY. It was made by the same individual who directed the vampire feature, STAKELAND. So far, so good.
I made an extremely rare DVD purchase in the case of COLD IN JULY. I am very happy that I did so.
First off, I am grateful that the producers resisted the temptation to update the story to the present. I feel that this is done too often, and it sometimes takes away critical atmosphere to a production. COLD IN JULY, the movie, is set in the late 1980's, as is the novel.
I'm not going to run down the plot of COLD IN JULY here. If you are visiting this site, chances are very good that you have read it. If you haven't done so, you should. As soon as possible.
I was excited to see Don Johnson portray Jim Bob Luke, who is a larger-than-life character in COLD IN JULY and other Lansdale works. I pictured the character as being more flamboyant than Johnson played him, but I was not disappointed. It would be very easy to take such a character over the top and in turn take the viewer out of the story. Better to reign it in than overdo it..
Part of me wishes that it had been a bigger production, and I almost said to myself that director Jim Mickle is no Tarantino or Scorsese, but you know what? Having the means to hire the world's greatest cinematographers, stunt coordinators, effects crews, etc, go a very long way toward making a director look good.
Jim Mickle and his cast and crew deserve applause and gratitude for bringing this important novel in Lansdale's career to the screen. It is a success in every way.
Sunday, September 21. 2014
When I mentioned to some people that I was going to start collecting VHS tapes again, I received some derisive comments. Some merely said that they had no interest in going back to collecting videotapes. A couple of people actually ridiculed me.
Who cares? Collectors are all crazy anyway. Why is collecting old tapes more preposterous than paying three hundred dollars for a book that will never be read? Or coveting old postage? It's all relative.
What did surprise me is how hard it was going to be. Oh, there are plenty of tapes out there in the thrift stores. Stuff from the 90's and 00 decade. TONS of it. Collectors are not interested in that stuff. Regardless of how good the movies may be. There are scores of Pulp Fiction tapes everywhere. Jaws. Forrest Gump. Saving Private Ryan. And I swear that copies of Jerry McGuire actually seem to be reproducing themselves.
No, collectors want old stuff. Early tapes. Action. Horror. Sexploitation. Raunchy comedy.
Those old tapes are so fucking cool
. It was a common practice in the first years of VHS to have illustrated covers. The art might not have been exactly museum pieces in most cases, but it gave the movies a special feel.
The importance of collecting those old tapes is palpable. Many of the old movies are being lost. Dozens and dozens of old movies have never been released on DVD. Some turn up on You Tube now and then, but who the hell knows? You Tube might not be here forever, and they might get to the point where they are eliminating a lot of old stuff that has limited appeal to the masses.
I'm not sure if collectors have grabbed up all the cool old tapes, or if the thrift stores just chuck 'em, thinking that no one would want that cheesy old stuff. Probably a little bit of both.
I found a handful of cool old tapes this weekend at a library sale. It's not a lot of movies, but it is a start. I haven't been doing a whole lot of searching in the last couple of months, because I have been unemployed. I start my new job tomorrow, and I hope to get more serious about it in days to come.
Wednesday, September 17. 2014
Today celebrates the birthday of one of the most beloved figures in fantasy film history. Who doesn't like Roddy McDowell?
Born in 1928, McDowell was already acting at age ten. He kept at the trade his entire life, and in fact never seemed to lose his youthful charm. You could still see that ten-year-old boy's gleaming eyes all the way to the end of his career.
Roddy McDowell is known to most for his appearances in the Planet of the Apes movies. Long before Andy Serkis his behind a CGI cloak for his performances, McDowell put on the heavy makeup and his warmth shined through.
McDowell worked with the finest directors of old Hollywood, like John Ford, and Fritz Lang. He was a regular in the classic days of live TV. He did voice work in radio and he appeared in Broadway plays.
Roddy McDowell seemed to be equally comfortable doing comedy, westerns, drama, action. But as I said above, we remember and revere him for his roles in fantasy and horror pictures.
Many classically trained actors made ends meet by taking roles in horror movies. You can sometimes see the mortification in their eyes. Roddy McDowell, like his longtime friend Vincent Price, took the movies on with gleeful relish. He always appeared to be having as much fun making the movies as we did watching them.
The list of great performances McDowell did is long and illustrious: The Poseidon Adventure, The Legend of Hell House, It! (a golem movie, and an early favorite of mine), Hello Down There, The Cool Ones, Batman (he played The Bookworm!), Pretty Maids All in a Row, Arnold
, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, The Martian Chronicles, Cutting Class, Dead of Winter, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Class of 1984.
And, of course, there was the original Planet of the Apes series. Roddy McDowell not only appeared in every one of the films, he was on the TV series.
But there is one role that horror fans cherish the most. It is, of course, that of Peter Vincent, Vampire Slayer, from Fright Night. Vincent was a bumbling TV horror host, and sometime actor in Hammer-style vampire movies. He is approached by teenagers who believe that a real dead vampire lives next door to them. He scoffs, but of course it is true.
Fright Night came out at the tail end of the original slasher cycle, and it was so great to see such a classy, funny, wonderful nod to atmospheric horror of days gone by.
Boris Karloff possibly did better movies, but his swan song is certainly Targets. Vincent Price did Edward Scissorhands at the very end of his life, and it is a fittingly dignified farewell to him for fans. Roddy McDowell did many movies after Fright Night, but it is the one that I think of first when he comes to mind. I consider it to be the capstone of his magnificent career.
Roderick Andrew Anthony Jude McDowell died of lung cancer on October 3rd, 1998. He was only seventy years old. I close my eyes and I can see him now, eyes blazing with passion, a cross thrust out to thwart the undead, exclaiming "Back, spawn of Satan!".
Sunday, September 14. 2014
You said you like horror, right? This book is more disturbing than just about anything ever published in the genre.
When the name Corey Feldman comes up, more times than not it is in a derogatory sense. You have the Tiger Beat spotlight on him and his erstwhile acting partner Corey Haim. The really bad movies. The rumors of excessive drug abuse. And, perhaps worst of all, the hideous Michael Jackson dance impersonations Feldman was doing.
However, Corey Feldman was a pretty remarkable child actor. His career began at age three, when he did his first commercial. It was a Christmas Ad for McDonald's
. He made appearances in dozens of other commercials before beginning to appear in movies.
Hey, who didn't like Corey F. in Gremlins? Or, better still, in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter? The Goonies was fun, and so was The Lost Boys. Things started to slip when the studios continued to feature Feldman and Haim together in movies. License To Drive has its moments, but ultimately is not one of the better 80's teen movies. Dream a Little Dream is one of the worst of the child-to-adult personality switch movies of the time. The 'burbs is cool, but disturbing reports of Corey Feldman's drug use and insane behavior cast a dark cloud over it.
As with far too many child actors in Hollywood, things went bad fairly quickly with Corey Feldman. He went from A-List productions to direct-to-home video dreck in a few short years.
Few can deny the strong performance Corey Feldman gave in his best movie, which of course is Stand By Me. He mined the painful memories of his own abused childhood for the roll of Teddy Duchamp, and his work in that film never fails to move me.
I'm as puzzled as to why I read Corey Feldman's autobiography as you probably are. It caught my eye in the library and I checked it out on a whim. I liked his early movies and I wondered about his real story.
As you probably know, it ain't pretty. You've probably heard about the allegations of pedophilia in regard to both Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. Well, if he is to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt his account, they were both molested numerous times.
Feldman maintains that Corey Haim got it worse then he did. According to the book, Haim was raped while making the movie Lucas. Feldman too encountered grown men in Hollywood who sexually abused children. He also says that pedophilia is the biggest secret in the movie industry.
So, is it any wonder than so many Hollywood kids turn to drugs and deranged behavior? Drugs and sex are the ways that the careers of the money-making kids are controlled. Child performers are drained like dishrags and then tossed in the trash while the despicable gossip mongers ridicule them.
Many people take it for granted that Corey Feldman was molested by Michael Jackson. They were friends and Feldman spent time at Neverland Ranch. Corey insists that it never happened, and again, I see no reason to doubt him. It could be speculated that he was paid off, and who knows what really happened? I like to think he is telling the truth about it.
People want Corey Feldman to "name names". To out the predatory perverts who destroyed the life of Corey Haim (who died in 2010) and almost killed him. He refuses to do this, and his reasons are completely understandable. To go up against some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry, you had better have hard proof.
Instead, he has lobbied for stricter regulations for child actors. Background checks and more supervision when kids are employed in show business.
Will this completely fix the problem? Almost certainly not, but any change for the positive will help.
Corey's Feldman's young life was full of delirious highs and horrifying lows. He was a spirited, talented kid, but his parents were insane and he was cast like prime bait into the savage waters of Hollywood. It's an all-too-common story, and I commend his bravery in coming forth to tell it.
Coreyography is compulsive reading for anyone interested in the dark side of the entertainment business. It will be especially fascinating to any movie fan who grew up in the 80's.