Monthly Archives: September 2020

Perilous Update, 9/28/20

Notes of Peril

Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo

Finished reading Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo. I’ll probably post about it tomorrow/later this week. Due to library holds, next up is Ben H. Winters’ Bedbugs which I was reminded of by Cathy @ 746 Books. So far, it’s really hitting the spot, no pun intended.

I’m in the homestretch with the first half of Horror Films A to Z: Part II. (That makes total sequel sense, right?) I think I’ll do a summary of my September movies on the 1st.

Deal Me In, Week 39: 6♠️
I read “The Hammer’s Prayer” by Benjamin C. Kinney. I’m a sucker for golems. This story presented a point of view I hadn’t experienced before in a golem story. Very enjoyable and a quick read.

Notes of Non-Peril

Bookhype – Long ago in internet time, there was a KickStarter for a Goodreads alternative. It wasn’t funded, but work continued on it. Six years later, I received an email from the campaign. Bookhype has been launched! It looks pretty good. I’ll check it out for a while.

Since it’s officially fall now I can officially be annoyed by 100+F temperatures. Thankfully, we’re done with 110+ and the nights have been comfortable. No more 24-7 AC for a while.

Horror Films A–Z, Sept. 2020: U, V & W

Underworld

Year: 2003
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rated: R

Director: Len Wiseman

Writers: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly

“What’s… this… ruckus?”

Initial: It’s been so long since I saw Underworld that I forgot there were werewolves in it.

Production Notes: There was some controversy about whether Underworld infringed on White Wolf’s World of Darkness tabletop RPG setting. The matter was settled out of court.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
May my dear sister who gave me this DVD forgive me: I couldn’t make it through Underworld. Yes, Kate Beckinsale leaping and landing with a swirling trench coat is lovely, but…

So, I like competence porn. You know the sort of movies/stories I mean; stories with characters who are good at what they do. Selene is a Death Dealer with centuries of experience, yet she cannot hit the broad side of a barn with her dual pistols… When told that she’s lost a lot of blood and will probably end up crashing a car, she denies that anything is wrong, then promptly faints and crashes the car…

Maybe it’s my mood right now, but I just had no patience for this movie.


The Vanishing

Year: 1993
Runtime: 1h 49m
Rated: R

Director: George Sluizer

Writers: Tim Krabbé, Todd Graff

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, Nancy Travis

“Your obsession is my weapon.”

Initial: I may be the only person who likes this remake.

Production Notes: George Sluizer directed both the highly regarded original and the much maligned remake.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I feel like much the grumpiness about 1993’s The Vanishing comes down to its “Hollywood” ending. The original was a French-Dutch collaboration based on the Dutch novel The Golden Egg. It isn’t a Hollywood concept to begin with, but Todd Graff doesn’t to that bad of a job Americanizing some of the more philosophical concepts. Plus, this ending gives us Nancy Travis kicking butt. How can that be wrong?

Jeff Bridges is kind of kooky in a scary way as Barney, and I always liked that Jeff and Diane do not have a perfect relationship to start with. Major pet peeve though: Waiting twenty-four hours to report a missing person is a MYTH, and it gets repeated at least twice in this movie.


West of Hell

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: Not Rated

Director: Michael Steves

Writers: Yousef Abu-Taleb, Gabi Chennisi Duncombe, Bubba Fish, Michael Steves

Stars: Tony Todd, Michael Eklund, Lance Henriksen

“We hear you’re amenable to making deals.”

Initial: There are not enough horror Westerns.

Production Notes: Lance Henriksen making his fourth appearance on this list.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
West of Hell was very stylishly shot. There are some really great visuals. All around, it has a nice look. The concept of the movie is also not without merit: six sinners find themselves on a midnight train to hell. Each is damned for their own reasons, which are revealed, and strikes their own deal with the Devil. The set up could have made great anthology movie. Alas, the end product isn’t very good. The stories aren’t very clear. The sound design and score are muddled. Tony Todd and Michael Eklund both give pretty good performances, but I wish their characters’ arcs had been a little cleaner.

Horror Films A–Z, Sept. 2020: R, S & T

Rabid

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: Not Rated

Directors: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Writers: John Serge, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Stars: Laura Vandervoort, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ted Atherton

“Now, what do you tell the critics that are saying that you premiering your collection during a public health crisis is a tasteless publicity stunt?”

Initial: My original pick for a new-to-me movie for the letter R involved cursed objects and, after Queen of Spades, I just couldn’t.

Production Notes: A remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 film by the same title. Both are Canadian productions.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I tried to watch the original Rabid once and didn’t get very far. I had just watched Cronenberg’s Shivers and there seemed to be a lot in common between the two movies. So, I can’t say whether the Soska Sister’s remake is faithful to the original. It doesn’t have the sexual heaviness that Cronenberg films have, but I only miss that in retrospect. It does have a some commentary on appearance and fashion, along with a healthy dose of gore. But, oh, the creature effects aren’t great…

There are quite a few Cronenberg Easter eggs in this film. My favorite? There are characters named Dr. Beverly and Dr. Elliot, a nod to the twins in Dead Ringers (1988). Dr. Elliot is played by Heidi von Palleske, who had a small role in that film.


Starfish

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rated: M

Director: A.T. White

Writer: A.T. White

Stars: Virginia Gardner, Christina Masterson, Eric Beecroft

Based on a True Story

Initial: I don’t quite remember how this film ended up on my list…

Production Notes: Couldn’t find out much about this movie. It’s A. T. White’s first full-length feature.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
What if the fate of the world was dependent on the actions of a grieving young woman who doesn’t really care if the world exists or not? This is maybe not the most horrific movie on my list though the creature design here is unsettling in a Lovecraftian way. The film pretty much hinges on Virginia Gardner’s performance as she time- and dimension-slips her way through the mix tapes left behind by her friend. And she’s really good. Much of the rest of the cast, the people who formerly peopled her life, are insinuated by the places they’ve left behind. This is a very deliberately made movie; maybe not for everyone.


They Live

Year: 1988
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rated: R

Director: John Carpenter

Writers: Ray Nelson, John Carpenter

Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Initial: I once named a ulitmate frisbee league team Chew Bubblegum and Huck Discs…

Production Notes: Wrestler Roddy Piper had to split with the WWF to make They Live. The film opened at #1 and subsequently paved the way for future wrestler/actors.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I’m glad I rolled odd for this rewatch today. I was in the mood for an 80s movie. A little bit of cheese, a little bit of heavy-handed political themes…

I always remember the set up for this movie, but never the end. That might be because over half of the movie is set up for a visually memorable premise. We don’t see one of the aliens until over a half hour in. The finale is kind of inevitable, but I respect a director/writer that isn’t going to give his hero an easy way out.

Perilous Update, 9/21/20

Mini Reviews

Read “The Bolted Door” by Edith Wharton for Deal Me In, Week 37. I feel there is some ambiguity as to whether failed playwright Hubert Granice actually committed the murder he confesses to, or whether he’s framing himself. I have to say, though, Wharton goes on sometimes. She’s not my favorite author.

For Week 38, I read “The Bone Flute Quartet” by K. J. Kabza. It’s a delightful tale of witchery and storytelling. One of the things I really enjoy about Kabza’s writing is his sentence level choices. I mean, read the following and tell me it isn’t evocative:

The highest spire’s roots spread into the White Palace, the royal quarters of Prince Hallegim, who administered Millstones in the King’s stead. Above, the spire’s tip shone wetly with the blood of the setting sun.

William Gibson's Alien 3

William Gibson’s Alien 3 by William Gibson, Johnnie Christmas (Illustrator), Tamra Bonvillain (Illustrator)

I ended up rewatching Aliens last week and decided it was a good time to pull this graphic novel from my RIP TBR stack. I will admit, I’m more of an Aliens fan than a fan of the Alien franchise, but the movie does cause a problem. It goes too big. What do you do next when you’ve just (spoilers ahead) blown the bigger, more cunning alien queen out the airlock? I mean, I guess a good solution is to not make sequels, but that doesn’t fly in Hollywood when there’s still money on the table.

Personally, I don’t think David Fincher’s Alien³ is that bad. If anything, it makes some interesting decisions. But before there was the Snyder cut, there was the mythical unproduced William Gibson Aliens 3 script. Gibson is of course known for pioneering the sci-fi genre of cyberpunk. What would he do with a Aliens treatment? Actually, it seems that Gibson was a pretty big fan of the first two movies and wrote a script that continued in very much the same vein instead of a story with more cyberpunk flavor. It wasn’t used for the eventual movie and lingered in fandom consciousness until Dark Horse produced a limited run series based on Gibson’s script.

The result is…okay. It is bureaucracy-heavy and I can see why it might not have been what the movie producers wanted.

Notes of Peril

Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination

Using Cuts as a Visual Effect – Great video from David F. Sandberg about using cuts in movies, with a focus on horror movies.

#SomethingWickedFall Watch-a-longs
Updated ➡️ Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Friday, October 2 at 9:00pm ET/8:00pm CT/6:00pm PT
Updated ➡️ Sleepy Hollow – Friday, October 9 at 9:00pm ET/8:00 pm CT/6:00 pm PT
Sweeney Todd – Friday, October 30 at 9:00pm ET/8:00 pm CT/6:00 pm PT

I’m supposed to be reading Gothic stuff for #SomethingWickedFall but it just hasn’t been working for me. My current pick: Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination by Edogawa Rampo, James B. Harris (Translator)

Horror Films A–Z, Sept. 2020: O, P & Q

Pumpkinhead

Year: 1988
Runtime: 1h 26m
Rated: R

Director: Stan Winston

Writers: Ed Justin, Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston, Richard Weinman, Gary Gerani

Stars: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino

“You’re a fool, Ed Harley.”

Initial: I wasn’t in the mood for my original rewatch pick, but horror movies beginning with the letter “O” are few and far between. Instead, I decided to go with a Lance Henriksen double feature (after Near Dark).

Production Notes: Directorial debut of special effects creator Stan Winston.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Pumpkinhead is a solid story premise, fairly well executed. I hadn’t seen this movie in *years*, but I had remembered it fondly; happily, for good reason.

Pumpkinhead is a force when set in motion, but all of the human characters are shades of gray, none of them completely evil. That being said, Pumpkinhead is a moral tale, a fairy tale even, and prone to that sort of heightened reality. Where else but a fairy tale would you find a vengeance demon utterly dismissive of Christian iconography born in a pumpkin patch/graveyard?

Many of the nighttime outdoor scenes have an indoor set look to them, but that sort of works for this film. The day time is dusty and expansive, while the night is shadowy and back-lit. It is also a movie that takes its time with the story its telling, but is still in and out in under 90mins.


Psycho III

Year: 1986
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rated: R

Director: Anthony Perkins

Writers: Charles Edward Pogue, Robert Bloch

Stars: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey

“Well, he acted pretty weird this morning when I brought the subject up, but then Norman’s a pretty weird-acting guy.”

Initial: Rewatched Psycho II back in August; decided to put part three on my list for RIP.

Production Notes: Anthony Perkins only directed two movies. His son, Osgood Perkins, has thus far directed three features, including I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) which was part of my April view-a-thon.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Despite what it had to live up to, Psycho II (1983) isn’t a bad horror movie and is actually a good sequel. Psycho III is pretty much what you’d be afraid that a Psycho sequel would be. Norman Bates becomes more of a slasher, retreading much of the same ground as the earlier films, but with a less interesting female lead. Funnily enough, it’s Anthony Perkins’ odd film-making choices that gives it any style at all.


Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite

Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: TV-14

Director: Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy

Writer: Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy

Stars: Alina Babak, Valeriya Dmitrieva, Igor Khripunov

There are some words you mustn’t say in front of a mirror.

Initial: A Russian take on Bloody Mary?

Production Notes: I’d really like to know if the Queen of Spades is really an urban legend or if it was concocted for the film.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
I feel like somewhere along the way pointless slasher movies were exchanged for pointless ghost-curse movies. Queen of Spades isn’t a badly made movie on a technical level, but it doesn’t have a story that hasn’t been done better elsewhere. Considering the low budget, the effects are decent, but the TV-14 rating means that it isn’t scary either.

Horror Films A–Z, Sept. 2020: L, M & N

The Lighthouse

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 49m
Rated: R

Director: Robert Eggers

Writers: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman

Should pale death, with treble dread, make the ocean caves our bed, God who hears the surges roll deign to save our suppliant soul.

Initial: I’m not sure there is agreement as to whether The Lighthouse is horror or not… By the Eli Roth Rule that I laid out in the last post, it’s produced by A24 (Hereditary (2018)) and directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch (2016)), so that’s enough to make it count, right?

Production Notes: Filmed purposefully in 1.19:1 ratio and in black and white.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
The Lighthouse is weird enough and has enough insanity to make it fit with my months of perilous movies, but I don’t think anything can be interpreted as supernatural. I didn’t *not* enjoy The Lighthouse, but I can’t imagine that I will ever want to watch it again. Also, I wouldn’t *not* recommend it. The acting by Pattinson and Dafoe is superb. Willem Dafoe did not sound like Willem Dafoe, which is something I’m pretty sensitive to. Honestly, while the black and white and the limited aspect ration work for the film, I think there are better black and while films out there. This is a slow, subtle movie that isn’t for every day.


Mary

Year: 2019
Runtime: 1h 24m
Rated: R

Director: Michael Goi

Writer: Anthony Jaswinski

Stars: Gary Oldman, Emily Mortimer, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

In Puritan times, known witch by rite, / Was taken to sea and drowned in dark night. / Her children it’s told, were whisked far away, / And so shall she rise, to take yours one cold day…

Initial: A list change-up. Horror on a boat! I like horror on a boat!

Production Notes: Nicolas Cage was originally wanted for the role Gary Oldman plays.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Nicolas Cage would have made this a better movie due to his intrinsic Nick Cage-ness…

By the end of this movie, and I did make it to the end, I realized what my biggest problem was with Mary: I didn’t believe a single character’s motivations for doing anything. I didn’t care about the characters and, therefore, I didn’t care what happened to them. There is effort to provide some back story, but it’s just flat. I did appreciate that they tried to keep the effects to a minimum, though most of the scares were in dream sequences. There’s also almost a mythology created about witches and the sea, but it just feels like an afterthought.


Near Dark

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rated: R

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writers: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red

Stars: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen

“Boy, you people sure stay up late.”

“We keep odd hours.”

Initial: Oh man, after Mary, I was really glad to get to rewatch a favorite. Since I was a day behind on my movie-watching this was a double feature.

Production Notes: Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein all worked together previously on Aliens (1986) which was directed by James Cameron who would become Kathryn Bigelow’s husband for a while.

What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead)
Near Dark is by no means a perfect film. It’s pretty rough around the edges, actually, but it’s such a great take on vampires. They’re grimy, brutal, but also innovative. How does a modern vampire get by? With a good deal of duct tape, tin foil, and spray paint, obviously. Also, I had never seen a vampire movie set in the west/southwest. (It’s set in Oklahoma and north Texas, but was filmed mostly in Arizona…) Give me an old trope in a new setting and you’ll get me everytime.

I would say, I don’t buy the chemistry between Caleb and Mae. The best part of the movie is the family dynamic that Caleb “marries” into. Also, if there is any moral to this story, it’s don’t coerce a kiss; consent is the key.

Perilous Update, 9/14/20

Notes of Peril

Read the Eugie Award-Winning “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll, a humorous tale of cats and deals with the Devil. Not familiar with the Eugie Award? It was named for author Eugie Foster, and if you’re looking for some excellent speculative fiction, please, read some of her work. She was a wonderful writer and a lovely person that this world lost too soon.

Otherwise, last week was kind of a low patch. We had some cooler temperatures, some of which was helped by haze from the California fires, but no rain. I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted to read next, so read very little of anything.

Notes of Non-Peril

We finally got a trailer for Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming Dune remake.

At the beginning of the year, I decided that instead of taking some kind of vacation-y trip, I wanted to see more movies in theaters. The year would start with Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen and probably end with Dune. I had not chosen to see Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 in the theater and had been kicking myself since I finally saw it at home. Of course, the year hasn’t turned out as I expected. Since I don’t much trust my fellow human’s abilities to keep me safe (because that’s what wearing a mask is, keeping someone else safe), I’m probably not going to the theater in the near future. But I’m still pretty stoked for Dune.

Someone Created an Updated Trailer for David Lynch’s Dune – Lots of mashing up of David Lynch’s 1984 version with the new trailer.

Book Cover Trends thru Time (via DUNE) – Some good, some bad, some… um…

And, yes, some of my RIP book hangover is being caused by wanting to reread Dune. I’m not entirely giving in, but I will reading some chapters here and there.