Help Keep the Drive-In Open
Tuesday, May 14. 2013
Crowdfunding campaigns like Kickstarter have come under fire lately, and I don't quite understand why. No one is forced to pledge support. It's not like a tax hike, or fuel oil increase. Some people have a Pavlovian reaction when they are even brought up, as individuals appear to be outraged at the notion that they have to fund a project.
Well, like it or not, the Internet is changing every aspect of our lives. The way creative projects are financed and distributed are no exception. I see it as a good thing. Some cool projects stand no chance of being funded without crowdfunding. I don't see Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, and others going away anytime soon.
Some reject the very concept of crowdfunding, and that is their right, of course. Others have had a bad experience or two in the relatively short while these things have been going on.
I am very pleased to report that the people behind the movie adaptation of Edward Lee's The Bighead did it right. The production was completed in a timely fashion, funders received frequent updates, and DVDs were manufactured and sent out very quickly. I have nothing but praise for the way this campaign has gone.
Which brings me to Edward Lee. The man should need no introduction to those who visit Horror Drive-In, but suffice to say that Lee is the undisputed, the one, the only King of Hardcore Horror. Many have tried to copy his approach to writing. Few, in my opinion, have even come close to The Master at brutal, hilarious, grossout horror. None have exceeded him at it.
For one, Lee does not simply pour the guts, blood, and other body fluids upon the page. He weaves a tight plot, creates vivid characters, and tells a story at a breakneck pace. Not all of his fiction is over the top, but when he goes for broke, be prepared to be shocked, sickened, and sick from laughter. Simultaneously.
Astonishingly, The Bighead
is not the first piece by Edward Lee to be adapted to the screen. A lunatic named Archibald Flancranstin directed a movie version of Lee's notorious short story, Header
. He did a good job, too. Flancranstin captured the the vision of Edward Lee. Header is crude, and the acting is barely adequate, but it still works. It was distributed on DVD
by the good people at Synapse Films.
Now we have the short movie based on Lee's even more notorious The Bighead. Before it was published, the author made the claim that The Bighead was the grossest book ever written, and that no publisher would touch it. That changed when Necro Publications had the balls to put it out in a limited edition. The Overlook Connection reprinted it later in an expanded form.
Did The Bighead live up to its creator's bold statement? Oh yeah. It sure did.
I received my DVD yesterday, and you can make bet that I didn't wait long to watch it.
It is amazing. Director Michael Ling and his crew captured the look and the atmosphere of the story to perfection. All the actors nailed their roles. Dicky and Balls are particularly effective. In fact I found them more disturbing in the movie than in the book. Lee makes his fiendish characters sickeningly amusing. They are absolutely terrifying in the adaptation.
Best of all, the star of the show, The Bighead himself, is perfect. I cannot imagine a better representation of the character than has been done in this movie. I applaud everyone involved.
If I have a complaint, it is that it is very short. I want more and I hope that the producers can get the necessary funds to make a feature based on The Bighead. If they decide to Kickstart it, I will sign on with no hesitation.
The history of horror movies
is ripe with ballyhoo. Outrageous claims have been made for decades about how brutal, how terrifying, how disturbing, they are. Most of these claims are hollow. Trust me on this, people: The Bighead is NOT for everyone. Be advised: Horrifying depictions of murder, rape, torture, and gore are in this short. So make sure your parents are out for the night before watching it. No adults, please.
Tuesday, April 30. 2013
I thought about the various ways I could begin this review. These came immediately to mind:
"If Ed Wood were making horror films in 2013, the results might look like..."
"You'd have to go back to the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis to find the sort of gleeful ineptitude that you will see in..."
The Lords of Salem is an astonishing accomplishment. I mean that seriously. No lie. Something as garish, as awkward, as ludicrous, as stupid, and hilarious as this has got to get some credit.
Rob Zombie entered the realm of Satanic Acidhead movies with The Lords of Salem. It's sort of a throwback to I drink Your Blood, or better yet, Bert I. Gordon's Necromancy. Bad acting, cheap effects, trippy camerawork and editing. Add in liberal drug use and writhing naked bodies, and you have an entertaining couple hours of movie viewing. Forget quality, 'cause you aren't likely to find it in these kind of movies.
The plot of The Lords of Salem is a bit difficult to discuss. That's because it is difficult to determine what the damn plot is, but I'll give it a go...
Apparently some goody-two-shoes executed a witch back in the olden days, and now nefarious powers are out to wreak vengeance. Rob Zombie's wife, Sherri Moon Zombie, plays the unlucky young lady whose life is about to get freaky.
Moon is easy on the eyes, and she is not a terrible actress, but even if it were a good screenplay, she does not have the chops to carry out a film like this. One where the character is on camera for the majority of the running time. And there are lots and lots of slow scenes where she wanders around an apartment with a blank look on her face. She thinks she sees some creepy things, and has some vaguely bad dreams.
Yeah, The Lords of Salem takes place in an apartment, and Zombie seems to have used Roman Polanski as an inspiration. But this ain't Rosemary's Baby. Nor is it Repulsion. It's not even The Tenant. Not by a long shot.
Sherri Moon is a disc jockey who shares a radio show with two guys. The bits of the show we see in the film are as obnoxious and irritating as the radio personalities in your town. These things are universal.
We get a lot of dreary, sloooow scenes with her moping around, and finally a little something happens. Some band that calls itself--you guessed it--The Lords of Salem drops a record off at the station with a note saying that it is for Ms. Zombie. Of COURSE she plays it and the creaky music accelerates her psychedelic stupor. Then she plays it on the air and it makes the whole town dopey.
By the time the shit hits the fan, it's hard to even care. The viewer is treated to a side-splitting barrage of wacky images in the delirious finale. Sherri Moon rides a goat like she is in Urban Cowboy. A bunch of demonic disciples jack off, religious images flash back and forth. Honestly, by that time I howling with laughter so much that I probably missed a lot of it.
Rob Zombie must be enamored with the makeup you see Sherri in on the poster and the ads. It makes no sense that she looks like that, but I guess he thought it looked pretty cool.
I swear that I laughed harder at The Lords of Salem than just about any movie I can think of. I was sick to my stomach from it. It was so inept and ridiculous. Words hardly do it justice.
We left the theater in stitches and the lady I saw the movie with exclaimed, "He couldn't have been serious. It HAD to have been intended as a comedy". No, I assured her. I am pretty sure Rob Zombie was striving for genius with The Lords of Salem.
I am recommending The Lords of Salem without reservation. Seriously. It's awesome. A revelation. Stupefying. It must be seen to be believed.
I am not much of a Rob Zombie fan. I thought that The Devil's Rejects was pretty good. House of 1000 Corpses was bearable. His Halloween movies are dreary and depressing, and not in any good way. This movie is totally different. It's easily my favorite of them all. Satan bless you, Rob Zombie, for restoring my faith in bad cinema. I have not seen something this hysterically rotten in ages.
I know I'll have to own the DVD. The Lords of Salem will be a great party movie. I just wish The Notorious Bert I. Gordon's Necromancy would get a real release so I could have a Satanic Acidhead Double Feature.
Friday, April 19. 2013
Tomorrow, April 20th, 2013, is Record Store Day. 4/20. Get it? Appropriate, huh?
For the squares out there, 420 is a term that indicates marijuana use. Both the hour of the day, 4:20, and the date, 04/20. It started from a group of stoners at San Rafael High around the year 1971. They would meet at 4:20 to get high, and they started using the number as code to refer to pot. It spread and stuck.
Like cannabis or not, it and rock and roll are inexorably tied together. All that classic rock you love, and even the sappy pop songs like Happy Together, were all conceived and created under the massive influence of marijuana.
I don't see a damn thing wrong with it. It's certainly less dangerous than hard liquor. Casual pot use may not be completely harmless, but overdoing anything--alcohol, sugar, salt, fatty foods, tobacco--can have devastating effects on a person. If marijuana calms people and helps them to cope with this stressful life, I say God bless 'em. It has the opposite effect upon me. If I were to smoke that shit today, I'd be crawling on the ceiling like that woman in Exorcist 3.
Regardless of that, Saturday is Record Store Day, and I urge you to get out and support your local store. Get into the fun and excitement of it. A bunch of exclusive releases are coming out, and you can only find them at independent stores.
You'll meet serious music fans there. The ones who really care about it. Many people have tragically grown up and no longer really care about music. I feel nothing but pity for them.
Music touches the soul. It speaks to our hearts and our bodies. Music takes us away from our everyday struggles, and helps us to forget the tragedies of life.
And if you have either forgotten the pleasures of listening to a vinyl record, or have never experienced it, you really are missing out. Records are not as convenient as MP3s or compact discs, or worse yet, streaming sites like Spotify, but the difference in sound quality is palpable.
Many people prefer to download or stream music, movies, music because they say that they like not having to drive to the store to purchase them. That is one of the reasons I hate it. I like getting out and meeting people in my community. Everything is downloaded these days. Even friendship and relationships. I think people need to get away from their computers and their tablets or whatever.
These places need your support. No one is getting rich by operating an independent music store, or book store. They are doing it out of passion.
Passion. It's something that is being lost in this digital age.
Sure, you can browse music and books at a website like Amazon, but for me it isn't the same as actually walking through a store, physically picking up items and examining them.
I talk about records, but you do not have to buy vinyl on Record Store Day. Or any day. The stores carry compact discs. The main thing is that you get out there and show some support, spend a few bucks, and have some fun. You never know, you just might make a friend. I sure have made a few since I became a regular at my local shop.
The cool kids know the deal. They have caught on about the superior sound and greater aesthetics of vinyl records. Students from the local university are keeping my local shop alive.
When a bookstore or record store closes its doors, it is a genuine tragedy. Help prevent that from happening. Please.
There is a search function at the Record Store Day website
. Use it to see the participating stores near you.
Monday, April 15. 2013
I'm easier on movies than I am on books and music. I suppose that I am not much of a critical thinker in that regard. The truth is, I like horror movies. Even bad ones. Even mediocre ones. When I was a little boy I would cower by the TV screen watching them, and there were few that I didn't enjoy. I want to keep that wide-eyed little boy alive inside me.
I later watched horror and exploitation at drive-in theaters, and me and my buddies had a great time at them all. Sure, we loved seeing a great horror movie, such as the original Evil Dead, but we were happy to see anything. I always considered it a lucky occasion when I could see a new horror movie.
I tend to subscribe to the Joe Bob Briggs school of movie classification. If a picture delivers the blood, the breasts, and/or the beasts, I will generally have a good time with it.
Not that I like everything I see. I think Rob Zombie is a dreary hack, and I hate the Saw series. I also have no patience for movies that look like they were made on a computer. You know, computer modified backgrounds, unnatural looking sky and trees, and the dreaded CGI that make a good horror movie look like something out of a computer game.
But, yeah, I like horror movies for the most part.
It certainly did not hurt that I was in a good mood when I went to see the Evil Dead remake. A movie that was reviled before it even begun to be made. This might seem like heresy, but I like remakes. Again, not all of them, of course, but I don't mind a modernization of a classic. Sure, I wish that I could go to the multiplex and see a movie made from a Bentley Little story, or maybe a Laymon novel. Sadly, that just isn't the way things work.
I had gourmet burritos with two lovely ladies before seeing Evil Dead, and I was in a great mood before, during, and after the showing. And yes, we all enjoyed the movie.
I'm a little puzzled though. Everyone was saying that this Evil Dead had eschewed the humorous approach of the earlier movies. You could have fooled me. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. Intentionally so.
Going in to an Evil Dead movie is like walking into a funhouse. Logic and common sense are left at the door. These movies are unrelenting roller coaster rides. If you want logical motivations or realistic actions from characters, you'd be better off watching a Jason Straitham picture.
None of the character were remotely likable. The same thing is true with the old ones. Sure, Bruce Campbell as Ash is hilarious, but he is also an arrogant ass.
What would a horror movie of this kind be without a character to loathe? Like Harry from Night of the Living Dead, Franklin from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Ned from Friday the 13th, it is fun to watch a douchebag suffer and die. In Evil Dead we have the educated moron who summons the demons and acts like a total fish taco the entire time.
Hell, the entire case is made up of idiots. The arrogant doctor-in-training who has no clue about how to care for a junkie going through withdrawals. The brother of the addict who stands around pulling his dick when he should be torching demons. A woman who is basically fodder for the Evil Dead. Hell, the addict is the only sympathetic person in the story, as well as the only one with any common sense.
Yes, I had a blast with this remake. Which is really sort of, kind of, the second remake. The first sequel was a lopsided remake too. Things are topsy-turvy in the world of the Evil Dead.
While I thought the movie was completely silly, I still applauded the intensity of it. They really pulled the stops out. I was squirming in my seat when I was supposed to, and I was laughing when I was supposed to be laughing.
It's an Evil Dead movie. That is what these things do. I don't think the Evil Dead remake can hold a candle to parts one and two, but I like it more than Army of Darkness.
I thought it was nicely shot, crisply edited, with a jarring soundtrack (love that siren!), and the effects were top notch. It was exactly the thrill ride I was expecting and hoping for.
The theater was almost empty and me and my companions even cracked a few jokes during it. It felt like being at the drive-in again. Don't worry, I did not transgress against my morals. We were in the front row and no one was near us. We whispered our comments back and forth. It was fun. A hell of a lot of fun.
This Evil Dead movie has been a modest success, and I hope that means we'll see an Evil Dead 2. I know that not everyone agrees, but that's part of the fun of the community.
Two thumbs off.
Wednesday, April 10. 2013
Waitaminute. Why the hell is a horror website reviewing a book by the singer of The Turtles
, one of the wimpiest bands in history?
I'm glad you asked. I'll be delighted to enlighten you.
Number One: I maintain that The Turtles are not only not
one of the most uncool bands of all time, but rather one of the coolest. Allow me to elaborate.
The sixties were a tumultuous time, and many bands had political agendas. The Turtles were fun, funny, and tongue-in-cheek. They followed the trends of the decade---surf, folk, pop, psychedelia---and rode the waves of stardom. They were rarely serious, except when it came to performance. Especially singing. Lord, could Howard Kaylan
and Mark Vollman belt out tunes.
You may only know The Turtles from their mega-hit, Happy Together. Hey, sure it's sappy, but it's a feel-good song that has reached millions of people and brought them joy. They had fun on and offstage, their audiences had fun, and the people who hung out with them had fun. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to think of another rocker of his generation who I would rather party with than Howard Kaylan. Everyone seemed to like him. Even Harlan Ellison.
And party he did. You will get a contact buzz from all the dope smoking, snorting, and other outrageous activities Kaylan and his associates indulged in.
And who the hell did he not hang out or perform with? The list is incredible: Jimi Hendrix, John and Yoko, Mark Bolin, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Brian Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Dinah Shore, Howard Stern, Joey Ramone, Bruce Springsteen, Todd Rundgren, U2, Ray Davies, Martin Mull, Alice Cooper, Penn Jillette. I could literally go on and on. Including the aforementioned Harlan Ellison, who saves Kaylan's life in one memorable sequence.
Kaylan and The Turtles hobbed and nobbed with the hippest of the hip. All surrounded by an ever-present haze of hallucinogenic smoke. It's amazing he has lived to tell his story.
Oh, and Number Two: Howard Kaylan is one of us. He is a horror fiction reader and collector. He loves the genre, and even wrote a couple of good short stories that would have been published even if a not-famous name had submitted them to an editor. On top of that, The Turtles' 30+ year drummer, Joe Stefko, is the owner of the prestigious Charnel House
If all that ain't enough, Howard calls Woody Allen his idol. See, I told you he was cool.
The thing is, The Turtles were so busy whooping it up and creating great music that they apparently forgot that there was another side to the recording industry: Business. After a riding through the sixties with a strong of hit songs, they became embroiled in legal complications. So much so that at one point they could not only not record as The Turtles, but Howard and Mark couldn't even work under their own names. So what do the two singers of beloved songs like Happy Together and Eleanor do? That's simple. They join Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.
They knew Frank from the early years in L.A., and Mr. Z was looking for a new direction with his music. Howard Kaylan and Mark Vollman, with their immaculate voices and outrageous dispositions, became the new singers in Franks's band.
These are some of the most riveting moments in the book for an old Zappa freak like me. And I will say this: Howard reveals a few things that will shock even the most ardent Zappa devotee. No, I won't disclose them here. You'll have to read the book.
The new Mothers enjoyed their touring and recording, but things came to a tragic end. Both from a well-documented fire
at a show, to a horrible scene of violence that abruptly ended it all. Mark and Howard, now known as Flo and Eddie, were out of work, but they began a new stage of recording and touring.
I bet a lot of people had no idea that "Flo and Eddie" were the hit-making singers of The Turtles. I certainly didn't. Not for a while, anyway. But I like the Flo and Eddie period of their careers the best of all. These shows and records combined the sweet, melodic elements of The Turtles, with the irreverent direction they went with Zappa.
The life of Howard Kaylan is detailed in the following years. The radio shows he and Mark did, their success in soundtracks for animated cartoons, studio work with the best of the best, and even how they became notorious for fighting for rights of singers and songwriters whose work was sampled in hip hop songs.
It's all here: The ups and the downs. The high times are delirious, and the lows tend to seem like fun too. Except for the poignant moments when Kaylan talks about people who were more than friends and were taken too soon from the world.
Howard Kaylan is still around. Still Happy, still working, still partying. Still bringing good times to audiences of all ages everywhere. His story is hilarious, insightful, outrageous, and one of the most enjoyable books I have read in years.
Wednesday, April 3. 2013
Today I saw a funny video
of Huey Lewis and Weird Al parodying a scene from American Psycho. At the end it turned out to be an advertisement for the upcoming 30th Anniversary Edition of Sports, by Huey Lewis and the News.
It occurred to me that there are a lot of these things coming out lately, and there seems to be no end in sight. The music industry is always trying to come up with new and not very unique ways to get our money from music we've already paid for at least once before.
I can't blame the artists. They gotta make it how they can, and only a fool would say no to such an offer. Take Huey Lewis for example. I'm not a fan, but I have nothing against the guy. He seems like a cool dude, and he was excellent in the Karaoke move, Duets. Huey Lewis has continued to make music, but have you listened to his last album? I didn't either, but we all heard the shit out of Sports. Regardless of whether we wanted to or not.
The heyday is over for most of these musicians. People being what they are, they don't want the new stuff, but still eat up the classic materials they love from their glory days.
Anniversary Editions are nothing new, but they really seem to be the thing now. Here is a partial list of ones that have either come out in this decade, or will be out soon:
War, World is a Ghetto: 40th Anniversary Edition
The Postal Service, Give Up: 10th Anniversary Edition
R.E.M., Green, 25th Anniversary Edition
David Bowie, Aladdin Sane: 40th Anniversary Edition
Judas Priest, Screaming for Vengeance, 30th Anniversary Edition
Eric Clapton, Slowhand, 35th Anniversary Edition
Paul Simon, Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition
Woodstock, Three Days of Peace and Love: 40th Anniversary Edition
Dirty Dancing: 20th Anniversary Edition
The Sound of Music: 45th Anniversary Edition
Peter Gabriel, So, 25th Anniversary Edition
Derek & the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, 40th Anniversary Edition
Judas Priest, British Steel: 30th Anniversary Edition
Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick: 40th Anniversary Edition
Michael Jackson, Bad: 25th Anniversary Edition
Simon and Garfunkle, Bridge Over Troubled Water: 40th Anniversary Edition
Kansas, Two for the Show: 30th Anniversary Edition
Rage Against the Machine (Self-titled debut): 20th Anniversary Edition
Neil Young, The Bridge School Concerts: 25th Anniversary Edition
Jethro Tull, Aqualung: 40th Anniversary Edition
Ian Hunter, You're Never Alone With a Schizophrenic: 30th Anniversary Edition
Neil Diamond, Hot August Night: 40th Anniversary Edition
Elvis Presley, '68 Comeback: 40th Anniversary Edition
R.E.M., Document: 25th Anniversary Edition
David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: 40th Anniversary Edition
Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor: 10th Anniversary Edition
The Doors, L.A. Woman: 40th Anniversary Edition
Yes, Yessongs: 40th Anniversary Edition
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Texas Flood: 30th Anniversary Edition
Creedence Clearwater Revival: 40th Anniversary Editions Box Set
Curtis Mayfield, Superfly: 25th Anniversary Edition
Ransom (Self-titled debut): 20th Anniversary Edition
The Rolling Stones, 50th Anniversary Collector's Set
Mr. Mister, Welcome to the Real World: 25th Anniversary Edition
The Velvet Underground with Nico: 45th Anniversary Edition
Morrissey, Bona Drag: 20th Anniversary Edition
The Beach Boys: 50th Anniversary Collection
Tenacious D. (Self-titled debut), 12th Anniversary Edition
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Edition
The Go-Go's, Beauty and the Beat: 30th Anniversary Edition
Santana, Zebop: 30th Anniversary Edition
k.d. lang, a truly western experience: 25th Anniversary Edition
Lenny Kravitz, Mama Said: 21st Anniversary Edition
REO Speedwagon, High Infidelity: 30th Anniversary Edition
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken: 40th Anniversary Edition
Icehouse, Man of Colors: 25th Anniversary Edition
King Crimson, Starless and Bible Black: 40th Anniversary Edition
Creedence Cleerwater Revival, Willie and the Poor Boys: 40th Anniversary Edition
Megadeath, Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?: 25th Anniversary Edition
Rick Wakeman, Journey to the Center of the Earth: 30th Anniversary Edition
Elvis' Christmas Album: 55th Anniversary Edition
America, Hits: 40th Anniversary Edition
The O-Jays, Ship Ahoy: 40th Anniversary Edition
Queensryche, Empire: 20th Anniversary Edition
Concrete Blond, Bloodletting: 20th Anniversary Edition
Poison, Look What the Cat Dragged In: 20th Anniversary Edition
NOFX, 30th Anniversary Box Set
Bobby Womack, Across 110th Street: 40th Anniversary Edition
The Moody Blues, Days of Future Past: 45th Anniversary Edition
You get the idea. I could go on and on. The Boomers are aging fast, so let's get what we can out of them, right?
I really have no problem with anniversary editions. The collector geek in me drools over extra songs, B-Sides, demos, live cuts. Not to mention DVDs that are often included. I especially like the way many revered works are coming out in the superior vinyl format.
Of course the list does not include "original recording remastered" editions, expanded editions, or perhaps the ever-popular Legacy editions.
The ones that get me are the ten year anniversary editions, or just a random number of years. A band I like, The Aquabats, amusingly did a special One Year Anniversary Edition for their Charge! album a while back. That cracked me up.
The only thing is, many of these artists are still going strong. I would like to see the studios getting behind their new efforts more, rather than just living in the past. I'm a nostalgic guy, but the present is important too. One of my favorite artists, Todd Rundgren, has a new album coming out next week, and nearly every one of the fans I knew back in the day have not heard anything by him since the 80's. It's not like we're likely to hear anything new by older artists on the radio these days.
There aren't many on that list that have tempted me. Maybe when I see Weird Al's Dare to be Stupid, or Buster Poindexter's first album, in an anniversary edition I'll get excited.
Tuesday, March 26. 2013
We've had bad times before. Awful, shocking news, such as when Richard Laymon died suddenly. We lost others like Charles L. Grant and Ray Bradbury in recent memory. The last two were not entirely unexpected. We saw the fall of Borders and the slow, ugly decline of Leisure Books. All of these things hurt us.
However, we recently had three losses in the field. Big names, influential individuals. Irreplaceable talents. All three of them were reasonably young.
Bam, bam, bam; like the cliche goes, bad news comes in threes. We learned that David B. Silva, of The Horror Show and Hellnotes fame, had died. I talked about him recently
, so I will move on.
The second gut-punch was the death of James Herbert.
I had never met Mr. Herbert. He seemed to me to be a private sort of man. I knew his work though. Well. In the early months that I was a horror reader, I discovered books by James Herbert. The first I read was The Rats.
I cannot imagine reading The Rats in a more suitable place. I was living on a boat at the time. I would rise early, before dawn sometimes, and I would occasionally see cat-sized wharf rats scurrying about. The Rats is an effective horror story, and as I tried to sleep those nights I would imagine rat claws scraping aboard the boat.
Herbert's fiction was pulpish, especially early on in his career. Yet it was always well crafted, and it delivered the goods that horror readers craved. Many consider Richard Laymon to be the father of hardhitting, graphic horror, but Herbert was there first.
James Herbert got the reputation of being sort of a "Literary Nasty" writer. That's not so hard to believe when one considers The Fog, The Survivor, and of course his Rats trilogy. But his work showed great growth and maturity as the years went on. He dabbled in dark fantasy with the excellent novel, The Magic Cottage. His novel, Fluke, was damned near family-friendly, and the movie adapted from it definitely was. Much of his later fiction dealt with ghosts and there was more atmosphere and suspense than grue and gore.
As the quotes always said, James Herbert sold better than Stephen King in his native England. His work influenced a generation of genre writers, and a legion of readers had a shuddery blast while reading him.
We still hadn't recovered from those two blows when death claimed another genre legend: Rick Hautala.
Whenever I thought of Rick, for some reason that hologram from the cover of Night Stone came to mind. Night Stone was Rick's third book, and it was the one that put him on the map for a lot of readers. I hate to say it, but that silly hologram had something to do with it. It certainly caught my eye when it came out. But that hologram would have meant nothing and would be quickly forgotten had the writing in the novel not been first rate.
Rick's fiction was usually set in Maine and it detailed the terrain there. His stories always had such a strong sense of place in them. To me, he was as much a folklorist as he was a novelist. In that way his style and approach reminded me of Manly Wade Wellman. If you don't know who Wellman is, or haven't read him, shame on you. Especially if you call yourself a horror fiction fan.
Rick was prolific and like any good writer, his work improved as he honed his craft. I never had a bad time with one of his books. I've heard him called "The other horror writer from Maine", but he was in no way an imitator of King. Rick Hautala had his own unique voice.
I feel deprived hearing all of the stories from people who knew and cherished Rick Hautala. I met him once, at a Horrorfind convention. It was a brief meeting, but he was kind and clearly delighted to stop and talk to a fan. Which I definitely was, and I will always remain one.
I hope Death is satisfied and takes a long vacation. I'm still numb from all.
Wednesday, March 13. 2013
I came out of work today and checked in to see the afternoon's news, and I was greeted by a kick in my stomach. I read that David B. Silva had died.
You know what the saddest thing about it is? I bet a lot of so-called horror fiction fans today do not even know who Dave Silva is. And that, my friends, is the real tragedy.
Oldsters like myself cherish the memory of Dave's 1980's magazine, The Horror Show. It was the coolest magazine of its day, and also a contender for the coolest mag of all time. The Horror Show ran fiction and nonfiction, and Dave's mantra in it was "Better Weird Than Plastic". Weird the magazine definitely was. No one in their right mind would have called it plastic.
The Horror Show often had theme issues. I remember one devoted to Dean Koontz. Another to Robert McCammon. One was for J.K. Potter. One of my favorites was the Skipp and Spector issue. God, those were fun, exciting times.
Later superstars of the horror genre like Brian Hodge, Poppy Z. Brite, and Bentley Little had some of their early work in The Horror Show. Along with, of course, some of the best established writers of the time.
I used to buy The Horror Show from the B. Dalton bookstore in the mall near where I used to live. I loved that store, but it closed down about the time The Horror Show stopped publishing.
In the 90's, David B. Silva created Hellnotes, which at the time was a revolutionary weekly horror electronic newsletter. I believe that it was the first of its kind. I wasn't online for a long while, but I subscribed to the hardcopy version. I still have a lot of the issues up in my attic, boxed up. I need to break that stuff out one of these days.
There was a weekly contest in Hellnotes, and I won it a bunch of times. So much so that Dave knew me well. Very cool books were given away to those who answered the trivia questions correctly. It got to the point where I almost felt bad about entering.
Most important of all, David B. Silva was a writer. He wrote quite a few good novels, but his greatest strength in my opinion was in the short form. I remember when his story, Dry Whiskey, ran in Cemetery Dance Magazine. I thought it was amazing, and I wrote a letter to Dave telling him so. In longhand, sent by snail mail. It seems like a lifetime ago.
You won't go wrong with anything Silva wrote, but I highly recommend a theme collection that was published by Dark Regions called The Shadows of Kingston Mills
. If you like Twilight Zone-type fiction, this is a book for you.
I'm not going to stand here and make the claim that Dave Silva and I were good friends, but we corresponded quite a bit. It started with Dry Whiskey, and went on for a long time. Dave was always friendly, helpful, and extremely informative about the genre.
David B. Silva was a private kind of person. He kept out of the limelight, and you didn't see him getting into idiotic dust-ups on the internet. He was too smart and too good for that.
The genre would not be what it is today without the massive influence that Dave Silva had upon it. It would be immeasurably poorer.
Written by Mark Sieber
Thursday, March 7. 2013
Itís fair to say that when it comes to books, Iím an old-school guy (if, that is, a 36-year-old can even be
old school yet). I started reading at a very young age, and to this day I almost always have a book within easy reach. Some of my fondest memories are centered around the written word Ė perusing microfiche at both the public library and the bookstore I worked at in high school to see what books were forthcoming; hunting through stacks and stacks of used books at second-hand stores, hoping to find a diamond in the rough and inwardly doing cartwheels when I did; reading a book that had a profound emotional impact on me, whether it be laughter or tears, shock or disgust.
Until a few years ago, I literally had every single book Iíd ever read and/or purchased stored in boxes in my crawlspace at home. They were my most prized possessions, ranging from the $.25 pulp novel from the days of yesteryear to the $300+ signed limited edition hardcover with the fancy endpapers and breath-taking illustrations. While some books were ordered from places like Shocklines and Camelot Books, or occasionally direct from the publisher, for the most part they were all purchased in a store that I had visited. As places like Amazon and eBay came online and then made book-buying a breeze, I did my very best to stay away from them unless I really
wanted to read something that I hadnít been able to find in my familiar haunts. Why is this? Because I liked being in the stores, scanning shelves, digging in bins, holding the books in my hands, flipping through the blurbs and the synopses. It felt right, somehow. A much more personal experience where the cashiers in the smaller places knew you by name and may even go out on a limb and recommend something to you. Online shopping always struck me as cold and impersonal, sucking the fun out of the hunt. I did it when I had to, but didnít enjoy it nearly as much.
Over the years Iíve evolved as a reader. That crawlspace full of books is gone. Iím down to one lowly box of old paperbacks I havenít had time to read yet. The rest have all been sold online (howís that for hypocrisy?) or at Half-Price Books. I just got to a point where I was sick of lugging the things around from place to place, especially when I almost never reread a book anyway. Happily, Iíve also gotten rid of the nasty habit of finishing any book I started. There was a time that if I read the first page, I made myself sit down and read the whole thing, no matter how dreadful the story was. Iím not sure what flipped the switch, but thank God I donít fall into that trap anymore. Life is too short to get bogged down by something I donít enjoy.
Perhaps the biggest evolution is my foray into e-reading.
Herein begins the self-loathing.
I believe the first e-book I read was Stephen Kingís THE PLANT, and the only reason I read it that way was because it was the only format available. While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I most definitely did not enjoy reading at the computer. Prior to early 2012, I could count the number of e-books Iíd read on one hand. I had no desire to move into the electronic medium and give up my books, nor did I ever think I would.
And yet, I found myself walking down the e-reader aisles and peeking at the devices from time-to-time. I knew the flashy Nooks, Kindles, and iPads werenít for me. I stare at a computer screen all day for work, and I did not want to read on a device that mimicked a computer monitor. But the simple e-readers, with their e-ink technology, actually look like the pages of a book. Add in the fact that e-books are generally cheaper than physical books these days, and eventually the temptation to try one of the devices got to be too much. So, I dropped $100 on the cheapest version of the Nook and took the plunge, telling myself that Iíd still buy most of my books as real copies, and save the Nook for e-only stories (I had my eye on a bunch of out-of-print pulps that were no longer in print but had become available online). And at first, thatís the way it was.
But ever so slowly, my reading habits changed. Instead of sticking to the e-only King story MILE 81 and the OOP version of Bill Pronziniís UNDERCURRENT, I started downloading more. And more. Not only that, I was spending time perusing the online store for long-desired books that Iíd never been able to track down. Before long, I had over 100 e-books on my device.
And I was ashamed.
Silly, right? Well, it didnít (and, at times, still doesnít) feel silly to me. This damned Nook screams in the face of the way I like to read! I find myself staying away from bookstores because I can find everything I want online and download it in an instant, the very thing that hurts brick-and-mortal stores and is probably a factor in why places like my beloved Dreamhaven bookstore went away. I no longer have a battered paperback I can pass along to a friend when I want to introduce them to a new author. E-books donít have that new (or, in the case of a used book, that musty) smell that I love. No sexy endpapers. No easy-to-see illustrations on the device I use. No autographs. No thrill of the hunt. Honest to God, I hate, hate, hate everything these fuckiní devices stand for!
And yetÖdeep downÖ.I love
Iím reading books Iíve been wanting for years. I have my entire library at my fingertips, and if nothing in it grabs me at that moment, then I can instantly download something else. Iím buying a lot of books that the author is now getting paid for (however negligible an e-book royalty is) whereas all the used books in my collection netted them nothing. I like being able to eat my meals or exercise without having to tie up my hands flipping pages. I like being able to increase the font size as opposed to feeling like I need a magnifying glass for some of the paperbacks I used to read. I like saving a few bucks. All these and more are why I havenít bought a physical book in many, many months and I have my Nook attached to my hip wherever I go.
I know a lot of people say e-reading isnít for them. Hell, a year ago I said it wasnít for me either. But by taking a looooooong leap of faith and finding an e-reader that worked for me (again, a backlit monitor-like screen would be a deal-breaker for me), I was able to find an enjoyable reading experience that gives me access to so many more books than I was able to find before. I would encourage the old standard-bearers such as myself to give it a shot sometime, even if it means borrowing someoneís device to see if you can find a fit. While they will never replace my love for physical books, e-readers are well worth the price of admission when it comes to tracking down hard-to-find OOP titles at reasonable prices as well as ease of use and convenience.
Now excuse me while I crank up Joan Jettís ďI Hate Myself For Loving YouĒ and read the fourth Nameless Detective novelÖ
Written by Andrew Monge
Sunday, March 3. 2013
I got some bad, if not entirely unexpected, news this morning. An old friend by the name of Gerry Woodbury died last week.
I had not seen Gerry in years, but I knew him way back when.
The sad truth is, whenever I saw Gerry, he seemed to be drunk. Often unpleasantly so. One of the first times I ever talked to him was at a party. Gerry looked at me and said to no one in particular, "There's Mark Sieber. He knows I'm not worth a shit". Not the most auspicious of meetings.
The thing with substance abuse is, some individuals never want to grow up and wish to remain a party boy or girl their whole lives. Then there are others who, whether they even realize it or not, are grappling with mental and/or emotional difficulties and find comfort in the arms of drugs and alcohol. When, of course, that is false comfort and it only compounds the existing problems. And despite the way they destroy themselves and hurt those who care for them, we should only feel sympathy and compassion for people in that kind of situation.
It was immediately obvious that Gerry had low self esteem. And unfortunately there were far too many people more than willing to perpetuate that sense of worthlessness in him.
One night we were both at a party, and somehow the subject of books came up. Gerry told me that he loved The Chronicles of Narnia. I was shocked, and impressed. We discussed C.S. Lewis and other writers, and whenever I saw Gerry we would talk books.
Gerry liked Horror, but like most people he only knew of the big writers. King, of course,and Koontz. He knew about Clive Barker almost as soon as he was being published in The States.
Sadly, whenever I saw Gerry, he tended to be wasted. Many of us were back then, but he usually surpassed the rest of us in inebriation. It was often a painful and ugly thing to witness.
We went our separate ways. Heck, I didn't see most people I knew back then for years and years and years. I was busy with relationships and jobs. I heard things about Gerry over the years. None of it was good.
I just checked back, and I see that Gerry had contacted me on Facebook on October 11th, 2011. He asked of there were any new writers he should know about. Ha, were there ever! I gave him a long list.
Gerry thanked me for turning him on to F. Paul Wilson. Apparently I had given him a copy of The Keep years ago. I have no memory of that, but he said that Wilson was one of his favorite writers.
Gerry also said that he had just finished reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin, and that he loved it.
Now, a lot of you didn't care for The Passage. I loved it, but I can definitely see your point. However, I do not think many would deny that The Passage is not a book for stupid readers. It is complicated and difficult to read. My hat is off to anyone who made it through The Passage.
A lot of people put Gerry Woodbury down. They considered him to be an idiot. Like many people in such a downward spiral, there was a lot more to him than met the eye.
I offered to go visit Gerry, and bring him some books. I have a hell of a lot around here that could use good homes. He declined to take me up on my offer. My guess is, he didn't want me to see how he lived.
I heard this and that about Gerry after that. I can't confirm this, but I was told that he was addicted to medication. I'm not sure if it were pain pills, or antidepressants. A combination of them both perhaps, and more? And then add alcohol into the mix, and you have a deadly cocktail.
This morning I heard that Gerry Woodbury passed away. He was 51 years old. I had not seen him for twenty-five years.
I don't know how Gerry stood spiritually. Whether he had peace at the end, or not. I hope that he did.
Rest in Peace, Gerry Woodbury.
Sunday, February 24. 2013
Back in the late 80ís, around the age of 11 or 12, the books I read were pretty tame. I grew up reading The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators for the most part, and had just dipped my toes into my first fantasy series (Dragonlance). My parents, God bless them, always encouraged my reading. I spent many, many hours at the local library, and they would always buy me a book if nothing was grabbing me at the there (this despite having very little money for such purchases). They also came up with a great idea to further promote reading Ė I could go to bed each night at 9:00, or if I wanted to read I could stay up until 9:30. You can bet your library card I took them up on the extra half-hour to get more reading done.
(On a side note, this isnít a fail-safe method for getting kids to read. My brother was given the same option, and promptly went to bed every night at 9:00!)
Anyway, around this time I had grown bored with the same characters in roughly the same adventures all the time. So I went to my mom, who was and still is a voracious reader. Without blinking an eye she hands me a copy of Stephen Kingís MISERY. At first I admit to being a little unimpressed. Or maybe it was boredom. If memory serves me, the book starts with Paul Sheldonís Novril-induced coma and doesnít really go anywhere. But, I figured my mom had recommended the book to me, so Iíd stick it out. Before long, I was mesmerized and a little haunted. Amputation. Death by lawnmower. And tension, tension, tension. I tore through the remainder of the book and was nearly breathless by the time I finished it.
And thus it began.
My mom was a huge Stephen King fan, so I snapped up all of his other books from her shelf. Soon after MISERY she also introduced me to Dan Simmonsí SUMMER OF NIGHT, which floored me. Suddenly the tame dealings of Frank and Joe Hardy were things of the past. In their place were vampires, killer clowns, monsters, and worst of all, the all-too-real evildoers that could wander into my life without me knowing about it Ė serial killers, rapists, mentally-disturbed patients, etc. It was during the following years that I read more books than Iíve ever read since, finishing one book and immediately grabbing the next one off the shelf; having hours-long reading marathons, getting lost in the worlds created by these newfound ďadultĒ authors; opening my imagination to people and places I never dreamed of before.
Honestly, was there ever a better time to be a reader? I was a sponge, and absorbed everything I came across.
Time moved on. As high school finished and college began, I had less and less time to have my reading marathons. As college finished and marriage/parenthood began, reading became almost nonexistent. Reading was relegated to lunches at work and late-night insomnia. Now, donít get me wrong, itís not as if I didnít enjoy reading. I did, and I always will. But I donít think anything compares to that coming-of-age when you move from lighter fare into adult reading.
But Iím getting off track.
Iím the parent of three boys who at the time of this writing are 16, 12, and 11. As they grew up, they delighted in me reading stories to them. As they got older and learned how to read on their own, I tried to do the same things my parents did Ė buying them books, getting them library cards, offering extra time at night to read. With few exceptions, it didnít work. My youngest would read Curious George books, and my middle boy read comic strips, but that was about all I got. Needless to say, I was saddened that in this world where kids are bombarded with all manner of gadgetry from the moment theyíre born, they seemed to have no interest in boring, archaic books.
And then something flipped in the last couple years. My oldest son asked me for book recommendations, which I heartily gave him (the Dragonlance books I read as a child, Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, etc). He also branched out and found a couple series of books from recent years that he likes. While he probably only reads a couple books a year, it still made me happy to see him enjoying his time with the books he chose. Even more heartwarming is when my two little ones started reading this past year. My middle boy saw The Hunger Games on DVD last year, and immediately wanted to read the series. After finishing them off, he asked me for something new to read and I pointed him towards F. Paul Wilsonís Jack YA series, which he seems to be digging. Every time we talk he tells me where heís at and whatís going on. My youngest boy has taken to the Wimpy Kid books. I think heís now read them all with the exception of the newest one. Again, they donít read as much as I did, but considering they never had any interest in books and have also developed a little slower when it comes to their reading ability, Iím thrilled theyíre taking forays into the world of fiction and coming away excited by the experience.
But whatís my proudest moment in recent years? Itís got to be giving my mom recommendations and returning the favor to her 25 years after she got me going down this path. In the past 6 months sheís read 7 or 8 Repairman Jack books, and sheís dug into other authors like Joe Hill and John Irving. Sheís loving everything Iím sending her way, just as I did all those years ago, and we have lengthy conversations about books every few days. I suppose this is what itís like to have a book club of sorts, and I find that I love the moments we get to chat on the phone and talk about whatís good and whatís bad in the world of fiction.
Oh, and another amazing thing! My dad, who always encouraged me to read and was just as big of an advocate as my mom, had never read a book in his life. And I mean *never*. About 2 years ago he picked up a book while they were in Florida, and now the guy reads all day long! Heís into espionage stuff Ė Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, etc Ė but good God in Heaven, I never thought Iíd see the day! I still shake my head when I see him curled up on the couch reading.
And so, the wheel keeps turning. Thereís nothing more that I love doing in this world than reading a good book. I owe that love to my mother, who turned an innocent little twerp into a mystery- and suspense-loving fiend. Even more rewarding has been returning the favor to her as well as passing along the desire to read to my boys. And, I mustnít forget the good people at Gorezone, Shocklines, and our very own Horror Drive-In, without whom I never would have heard of Lansdale, Gorman, Pronzini, Morrell, etc, let alone recommended them to other people I meet.
In a world that keeps moving further and further away from the written word Ė be it on paper or on a screen Ė I encourage you to not only keep reading (which I donít think is an issue for anyone out here) but to also promote reading. You may have kids like mine who either struggle with it and/or donít enjoy it. Donít give up! Find somethingÖanything
Ö that will keep their attention, whether itís books, magazines, comics, audiobooks, etc. If they donít read on their own, then read to them. Make it fun by using different voices or mimicking some of the actions. And hell, if my old man at 66 years old can start reading for the very first time and devour books at a blistering pace, itís not too late for anyone. Help bring it all back around again so that others can know the enjoyment of a cozy reading spot, a refreshing drink, and a good story that keeps you flipping the pages well after dark.
Written by Andrew Monge
Wednesday, February 20. 2013
There are many responsible elements behind my lifelong obsession with all things horrific. The Universal Monster movies, to be sure. Dark Shadows. The Twilight Zone. Hammer Studios productions. The big-bug craze of the 50's. Edgar Allan Poe and Eight Tales of Terror. I don't know whether to be thankful for these things, or resentful.
These will be mostly unknown to all but the most ardent younger horror fan, those over the age of, say, 45, will surely remember those glorious Movies of the Week which came on the ABC network every Tuesday, from 1969 to 1976.
Nearly every type of movie was produced and aired. Bawdy comedies, timely stories of the hot topics of the day, action, suspense, romance. But the ones that seemed to be talked about the most were the horror movies.
Most of these aired for an hour-and-a-half, which made them only a little over an hour in length once commercial breaks were inserted. nowadays in that time period they would probably only be forty-five minutes long. Many movies feel drawn out to feature length. An hour or so is about novella length.
ABC had been the third rated of the Big Three television networks for a long time, but The ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week played a big role in changing that. Most of the stories were, frankly, potboilers. But they were incredibly popular at the time. There was usually a lot of lunchroom talk about them on Wednesday at school. Especially the horror and action stories.
Not all of the Tuesday movies were low rent affairs. Spielberg had audiences riveted to their seats with his suspenseful adaptation of Richard Matheson's Duel. ABC was savvy enough to allow the writer to adapt his own story. There was one called Tribes, in which a hippie played by Jan-Michael Vincent was drafted into the Army.
And, of course, every horror fan worth his or her salt rightly revers The Night Stalker. This classic was also penned by Matheson, but it was adapted from a then-unpublished manuscript by Jeff Rice. It was followed by a decent sequel, called The Night Strangler, and a silly but fondly remembered series that featured the Kolchack character fighting a different monster each week.
If you like Kolchack and have not read the Rice novel, you should make a point to do so as soon as possible. The character is quite a bit different, and the story is darker and more effective. Used copies are still pretty easy to find.
But I digress.
The producers were not only shrewd enough to hire the incomparable Richard Matheson, they also utilized the talents of Robert Bloch for some screenplays. They purchased and adapted stories by Theodore Sturgeon, John Farris, Zenna Henderson. Cult director Curtis Harrington did a couple of pictures with them.
Looking back, it was a golden time.
I've dreamed of having a chance to see some of them again. Of course it's easy to watch The Night Stalker, or Duel. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark was remade and isn't hard to find. But most were seemingly lost.
I have the fondest memories of shivering through ABC movies like Crowhaven Farm
, The Cat Creature
, How Awful About Alan
, The House That Would Not Die
, A Cold Night's Death
, Moon of the Wolf
, Satan's Triangle
, Night Slaves
, and so many more.
There are other famous ones that stand out in memory: Bad Ronald. Trilogy of Terror. When Michael Calls.
Some saint has uploaded a bunch of these on You Tube, and I have added hyperlinks to them. I haven't watched any yet, and I am wondering if I even should. Maybe some childhood memories should remain majestic. I'd hate to watch them and see that they are dated and corny. At the time they were so vivid and terrifying.
I may do so, but I'll wait for now. By all means, check a few out and let me know if I should take the plunge, or allow my sweetly dark memories to stay untarnished.
Wednesday, February 13. 2013
I've always been a teen movie junkie. The 80's were of course the boom time for the genre, and while it became hip to denounce Brat Pack movies, the films of John Hughes set a high standard for the genre. A standard too high for most to compete with.
There have been some good ones in the last decade or so: Juno, Easy A, Drillbit Taylor, I Love You Beth Cooper, and a few others. Not everyone liked these movies, but I found them all to be very enjoyable.
I had heard of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I saw the trailer. I knew that I wanted to see it, but I was unaware of how hard this story would hit me.
It got off to a rocky start, and I wasn't exactly thrilled to see Tom Savini in it near the beginning. But he played an uptight dick of a shop teacher, so the casting was spot on.
Seeing Paul Rudd as another teacher later on more than made up for it. Rudd is one of the most likable guys in the movies, and I welcome his presence in any production.
Set in 1991, The Perks of Being a Wallflower deals with a teen entering high school. Charlie is a loner and an outcast. He hopes that his social life will improve, but the first day doesn't go so well. However, Charlie meets Sam and Patrick, who introduce him into a world of exhilaration.
To describe the plot it doesn't sound like much, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower hits all the right notes. I was astonished at how much I identified with Charlie. Many scenes left me breathless.
I wasn't exactly like Charlie. The Rocky Horror Picture show plays a role in his story, but I was not a Rocky Horror kid. I went to the late shows where it was playing at other screens, but I was seeing things like Bloodsucking Freaks and Dawn of the Dead. Maybe 200 Motels.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower works in every way. It's funny, heartbreaking, joyous, inspiring. It reminds us that we are alive right now
. Life is never a preamble or an afterword.
The movie is based upon a novel, and I plan to read it as soon as I can.
I was mildly shocked that The Perks of Being a Wallflower got a PG-13 rating. The drug use in it alone would have landed it an R in days past. I agree with it though. Despite the adult themes in this movie, I don't see it as being harmful to younger teens. In fact, I think most would benefit from seeing it.
And, my God, it has one of the best kissing scenes ever.
I will not see a better movie this year.
Sunday, February 10. 2013
I'm way late to the party with the latest in the low budget but high profit horror franchise, Paranormal Activity. I missed it in the theaters, which I am firmly convinced is the only way to view these movies.
I almost always go to the theater in the off hours, when there are fewer people in attendance. For me this is the perfect environment to watch a Paranormal Activity movie. There's something about being in an unfamiliar place, in the dark, watching them. There really could be someone hiding between the rows of seats in there.
I've been a fan, and sometimes apologist, for the series since the beginning. I like that the movies rely on tension and mounting dread, rather than buckets of gore and endless violence. I'm an old gorehound, sure, but I like quiet horror too. I thought that the first three PA movies were very well done and pretty effective to boot.
The entire series owes a big debt, of course, to The Blair Witch Project. Like that movie or hate it, there is no denying the influence it had. Too bad it didn't turn into a lucrative series. I think I'm one of the five people who actually likes Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, but I will readily agree that the whole thing is bugfuck crazy. Kind of a mess, but there are some great moments mixed in with the awkward moments. I think the filmmakers rushed it into production and distribution too quickly. I understand the need to strike while the iron is hot, but you have to make a good movie first and foremost. The series ended with a whimper with Blair Witch 2.
On the other hand, it has always seemed to be a successful formula to make the exact movie over and over again in a series. Well, maybe not exact
, but close enough.
Though they went in different places with each sequel, the structure of the Paranormal Activity movies has been pretty similar. And the money has rolled in. PA 4 brought home over a hundred and forty million in worldwide revenue. Not exactly up there with Avengers or Twilight, but at a reputed five million dollar production budget, a nice, tidy profit.
I was prepared to like PA 4. After all, the last sequel was my favorite of the first three, so I had no reason to be pessimistic about number four.
PA 4 started out well enough. I liked the teen protagonists in it quite a bit. And there are a few creepy moments. But overall, I was uninvolved in the story, and I thought that the end was pretty laughable. Especially after the scary finale of part three. But then it looks as though the producers decided to pretend PA 3 never happened and picked up the story of the first sequel.
Would I have liked it more had I gotten my ticket torn and sat in a theater? Probably. Would I have still considered it the weakest entry of the series had I done so? That's hard to say. I liked Part 2, but I thought that the first and third were much stronger.
I didn't hate it though. I certainly do not regret the buck-fifty I spent at the Redbox to see it. But I am positive that I would have gotten a better bargain by seeing it on its theatrical run.
I don't care what kind of home entertainment system someone has. Nothing replaces the act of going out and seeing a picture at a cinema. A bad movie seems better there, and a good one is greatly enhanced by seeing it in a movie theater.
I don't know if the Paranormal Activity series will continue, but my bet is that it will. You can't deny the numbers the movies have brought to Paramount. Despite my lukewarm reaction to Paranormal Activity 4, I will see another sequel if it is made. And I will do so in a theater.
Monday, January 21. 2013
I woke up this morning after a reasonably enjoyable weekend to devastating news: My old friend, Andrew "Andy" Copp, took his own life this past weekend.
I've known Andy since the old days of Gorezone. Even before the first Book Forum was in existence. I met him in an odd way...
I always loved the films of Jim Van Bebber. His short, My Sweet Satan, kicks more ass than just about anything else out there. Van Bebber's feature length gang movie, Deadbeat at Dawn, is really good too. And Jim Van Bebber played the lead in both, and he did a terrifyingly convincing job in both of them.
I heard that there was a movie out called The Mutilation Man, and that Jim Van Bebber was in it. I ordered it from the director, on VHS. Yes, VHS. The director was named Andrew Copp.
I got the tape in the mail, with an enclosed letter from Andrew. He knew who I was from my activities at Gorezone. Wow, that was pretty cool. That night my ex-wife and I watched The Mutilation Man, and we both loved it.
I wrote a long email to Andy the net day, and that began our friendship.
It was a friendship that lasted many years. We talked at message boards. Andy was a member of The Horror Drive-In forums for a while. We exchanged lots of emails. We only met in person once, at the first Horrorfind Convention I went to.
Andy was passionate about films. On message boards he often used the name, Topo872, because his favorite movie was Jodorowsky's El Topo. He loved a lot of movie, but exploitation and horror were his favorites.
Andy and I shared a love of The Cinema of Transgression, and the music of Oingo Boingo. We also both hated the movies of Kevin Smith.
He was a filmmaker, too. And, as such, he was utterly fearless. At a time when his contemporaries would round up the local strippers, put fake vampire teeth on them, bare their silicon-enhanced breasts, and call themselves underground. Or just more gut-munching zombie tedium, which was old even back at the turn of the century.
Andy's movies were not crowd-pleasers. They were often non linear. They did not deal in conventional tropes. His movies were dark, bloody, and disturbing, but they also dealt with intensely personal themes. The horrible long term effects of abuse was a common thread in his work.
Andy did documentaries, and video magazines devoted to the genre. He also had a zine devoted to horror cinema.
Andy was a troubled guy. He confided me in more than once, and his story was a sad one. I won't disclose anything he revealed to me here, but suffice to say the guy was dealt a bad hand from the start.
Some will judge him for what he did. Not me. I used to be judgmental about this sort of thing, but no more. My own struggles in recent months made me realize a lot. I have nothing but compassion for him, and for anyone else going through severe depression.
Compassion. It's a commodity that is sorely lacking in much of today's society.
Many believe that Andy will burn in Hell for taking his own life. That would be horribly unjust. Andy already did his tenure in Hell while he was alive. If anyone deserves a reward it's him.
I'm not proud to say that Andy and I hadn't been in contact in a while. Too long. I should have contacted him last year, when things were bad for me. I doubt that I would have found a more sympathetic ear anywhere else. The fact is, I didn't, and I regret it.
I'm not going to beat myself up too much over it. People drift apart, especially in the world of the Internet. Besides, Andy would not have wanted me to blame myself in any way. There wasn't a cruel or malicious bone in his body.
Now all I have are the memories. And a DVD-R he made for me a decade ago for Christmas.
Goodbye, Andy. I wish life had been kinder to you.