Posted in Other Media

Cinema Silliness, Deadite Edition

Evil Dead II

Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 27m
Rated: R

Director: Sam Raimi

Writers: Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel

Stars: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks

Initial: Okay, so this movie is pretty much a remake of The Evil Dead (1981), right?

Production Notes: Apparently, Raimi and company had always intended for an Evil Dead sequel to happen, but wanted one in which Ash gets sucked into a time portal to the Middle Ages. Men with money wanted a sequel more like the original, so Raimi gave them a sequel that was a pretty much a better (?) version of the original and made sure that a direct sequel would involve time travel.

What Did I Think:
It’s hard for me to parse how effective Evil Dead II is because when I saw The Evil Dead, I was somewhat surprised by it. While schlocky and extra, The Evil Dead was also unnerving. But now, the bizarre camera angles, the tree assault (which is revisited in Evil Dead 2), and the gouts of blood are much less discomfiting. Plot-wise, Bruce Campbell is left to chew scenery for the first portion of the film and, later, the story hackily sets up Army of Darkness.

It’s interesting how different the gore is in Evil Dead II and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It can be argued that Chain Saw Massacre is less gory—the corpses and random limbs, while ubiquitous, aren’t very bloody. In Evil Dead, there is so much blood that it’s cartoonish. Violence is treated similarly. Of course, one of these movies is a horror comedy, one is not. Is it telling that only in the comedy does the male “final girl” take most of the abuse?


Army of Darkness

Year: 1992
Runtime: 1h 21m
Rated: R

Director: Sam Raimi

Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi

Stars: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert

Initial: I know there are catch-phrases in this one . . .

Production Notes: Set in vague medieval Europe, filmed in California.

What Did I Think:
Some Sam Raimi movies are a like a carnival dark ride. And not a slick Disney dark ride, but one of those mall parking lot set-ups. Everything is a little schlocky, a little shoddy and a little too loud, but you’ll probably going to have a good time if you let yourself.

In the 4–5 years between the sequels, Ash has been given a backstory and a couple more brain cells. The end of the previous movie has been retconned: instead of almost immediately being hailed the prophesied one, it takes some doing to convince the primitive screwheads. And the trunk of the ’73 Oldsmobile Delta 88 is now chock-full of stuff needed to MacGyver a successful-ish offensive against an army of darkness.

I don’t think it’s entirely the stop-motion skeletons that made me think of Saturday matinee fodder like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) or Jason and the Argonauts (1963)—though give me a stop motion skeleton over a CGI one any day of the week. It’s probably more the anachronisms in setting and the convolutions of plot. But with a goofy, slapstick twist, and lots and lots of blood.

Posted in History

Monday Miscellanea, 3/28/22

Monday Miscellanea, a look back at the stuff of last week.

Reading

cover Ring Shout
cover Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown

Finished two books last week!

  • Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark – Why did I wait so long to read this? Great characters and world building, as always from Clark.
  • Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, edited by Marvin Kaye – This anthology is too large; too many of the stories are not masterpieces and had little terror or the unknown. The standout was “The Throwing Suit” by Darrell Schweitzer and Jason Van Hollander.

Before I sink into some classic supernatural tales by Elizabeth Gaskell for Spring Into Horror, I’m going to work on my occasional Harlan Ellison read-through.

Watching

Other than some Chainsaw Massacres movies, I started watching HBO’s new series Winning Time. And, well, watched a couple basketball games. While my bracket was pretty broken, St. Peter’s was fun to follow.

Listening

It was mostly a Nine Inch Nails kind of week, starting off with Broken (1992), but of course this collaboration between Danny Elfman and Trent Reznor came up.

Played

Ultimate frisbee. On Monday, our league team was savage, meaning we had no subs at all. It was windy, we played a zone D, and surprisingly won the game. On Wednesday, our league team was savage for us lady-types for half the game. It’s a mixed league, so we have a certain ratio of men and women on the field; the guys had some subs, one of our women showed up at half, and the other team loaned us a player. Managed to win that game too. And at pick-up on Friday, I played mostly against a fast 23-year old. I’m glad Eric and I do our own style of interval training at times when we don’t play as much. Otherwise, the week would have been really rough.

Goal Check-In

Writing & Entangled Tomes

  • No news on “Colors of the Sea.”
  • Didn’t write any fiction.
  • Decided on what might be the next Entangled Tome.

Shelf Maintenance

  • Up to 8 of 25 books read for my Beat the Backlog challenge.
  • It’s been 48 days since I acquired a book.
Posted in Other Media

Cinema Saturday, Chainsaw Massacre Edition

I had planned to rewatch the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as well as two of its sequels that were available on my current bunch of streaming providers. Alas(?), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was not available via hoopla like I was led to believe.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Year: 1974
Runtime: 1h 23m
Rated: R

Director: Tobe Hooper

Writers: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger

Initial: Rewatch, though I found that there was a lot about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that I didn’t remember.

Production Notes: Set in Texas, filmed in Texas!

What Did I Think:
The first time I watched The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I wasn’t really impressed. While I could see its influence on later horror movies, I didn’t find it that interesting. I never went out of my way to watch it a second time (before now) or watch any of its sequels.

Two things that caught me this time around:
First, I feel like there is an amorality to the fate of the characters. Sure, Franklin is annoying, and Pam and Kirk go to find the swimming hole to do things other than swimming, but they’re adults. This is the 70s after all. Instead, it plays out a little like a reality-based Ju-On (2001). They’ve stumbled upon the Sawyer family and now they’re screwed. They’re not being cosmically punished, they’ve just had bad luck.

Secondly, I do like the setting that is created. The beginning voice over doesn’t do much, really, but I love radio broadcasts in the background and this “art” that is shown. One of the Sawyer family is a frustrated artist, creating bone sculptures, mobiles, and such. It’s probably grave-robbing Nubbins, but maybe it’s Leatherface since he’s the only member of the family with any style. None of this is ever explained and I like that.


Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Year: 1994
Runtime: 1h 27m
Rated: R

Director: Kim Henkel

Writers: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper

Stars: Renée Zellweger, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Jacks

Initial: As someone who grew up in the 80s, I have an automatic distrust of horror sequels since so many of them seem to be blatant cash grabs. I haven’t even seen many of the sequels in horror franchises I like (Hellraiser (1987), for example). Then again, I have trouble finishing books series too, so . . .

Production Notes: Aw, young Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey! How many horror movies that aren’t The Silence of the Lambs (1991) can claim two Oscar winners in it?

What Did I Think:
Going in, I figured, “At least it’s written/directed by one of the original writers.”

There is an argument that Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation is parody and I almost buy it, especially since the original title of the film was The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Yes, it kind of riffs on itself (no one is actually killed with a chainsaw) and the umpteen slasher films that filled the 80s and 90s (we start the movie at a high school prom), but there is a befuddling amount of WTF?! to this movie’s plot. Vilmer (McConaughey’s character) has a robotic leg? Leatherface and family are now being employed by a secret society to bring transcendence via terror? (The character of Rothman, their employer, reveals scarification and piercings that, I guess, are supposed to be shocking and Hellraiser-ish.) Leatherface also cross-dresses more which feels a little like the movie was leaning into the success that Silence of the Lambs had a few years earlier. Overall, the effect is bigger and broader, but for me loses the things that made the original worthwhile.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Halfway to Halloween 2022

You know what April is? It’s halfway to Halloween!

Last year, I celebrated with a horror movie A to Z. I’m not quite that ambitious this year, though I do intend to also keep up a series of horror-aspected Cinema Saturdays. In the works are trio of Texas Chainsaw movies and an Evil Dead/Army of Darkness post.

As I’ve said, my reading has been pretty free-range this year, but I think I can definitely get “seasonal” for Seasons of Reading’s Spring into Horror Readathon. My Classics Club Spin book turned out to be Curious, if True: Strange Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is perfect for Spring into Horror. I’m also thinking about rereading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski and probably some other horror, mystery, thriller or gothic from off my shelves.

The next Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is April 30th, which might be a perfect way to end the month.

Posted in History

Monday Miscellanea, 3/21/22

Monday Miscellanea, a look back at the stuff of last week. Or something like that.

Read

cover for Ring Shout
cover for Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown
cover for The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
  • Nearly finished with Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark. It has not disappointed. I’ll probably read something nonfiction next.
  • Also nearly finished with the too large Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown anthology. If I continue with a story a day, I should finish by the end of the week. Next up is probably work on my Harlan Ellison read-through.
  • The Forest for the Trees has been a bit of a slog. The “writers” of the subtitle are writers of literary fiction, which really are different from writers of genre fiction. (Just the fact that Lerner refers to “genre” as being novels, short stories, plays, etc. befuddles me.)
  • “Nails” by Phoenix Alexander – Deal Me In, Week 10: J♠️
    Creepy bit of body horror.
  • “Infinite Love Engine” by Violet Allen – Deal Me In, Week 11: Q❤️
    Took me a little while to get into this poppy science fiction story, but it was well worth the effort.

Watched

In addition to what I covered in Cinema Saturday:

  • The Mummy (1999) – rewatch. Honestly, the early CGI effects in this movie hold up pretty well. Those scarabs still give me the willies.
  • The French Dispatch (2021) – I mean, it’s a Wes Anderson film, so you kind of know what you’re getting into. Quirky, though not as good as The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Carnivale, s1, e5–6: Inadvertent John Hannah double feature this week as he’s in both The Mummy and as a (doomed) guest star in these two episodes of Carnivale.

Listened To

Violator, Depeche Mode, 1990

Played

Minecraft, Morrowind, ultimate frisbee. Yadda, yadda.

Other

Sample of Katherine's tournament bracket in which none of her Midwest section picks made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Good grief . . .

National college basketball tournament began last week. University of Nebraska, Lincoln is my alma mater. UNL is not good a basketball. They’ve never won a game at the tournament in seven appearances and finished this season 10–22. So, once again, I have no horse in the race. That doesn’t mean I didn’t fill out a tournament bracket for the sheer agony of failing spectacularly in my predictions.

Goal Check-In

Writing & Entangled Tomes

  • According to the online submission thingy, “Colors of the Sea” is still “under review.”
  • Didn’t do much work last week, but I spent a good deal of time scheduling and planning, which was totally important and needed.

Shelf Maintenance

  • No movement on The Backlog.
  • It’s been 41 days since I’ve acquired a book.
Posted in Other Media

Cinema Saturday, 3/19/22

I’m going through what’s currently popular in horror (according to Just Watch) on my chosen streaming services. These three films are all currently available on Hulu.

Just so you know: there’s some nekkid-ness in this trailer.

Titane

Year: 2021
Runtime: 1h 48m
Rated: R

Director: Julia Ducournau

Writers: Julia Ducournau, Jacques Akchoti, Simonetta Greggio

Stars: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier

Double Feature Fodder:
Crash (1996) (a movie I haven’t seen, actually)

Initial: Going in to Titane, I only knew what the blurbs were telling me: girl with a titanium plate in her head, unexplained crimes, and a father reunited with his son.

Production Notes: Won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Julia Ducournau is only the second woman director to win it.

What Did I Think:
(avoiding spoilers)
I’m annoyed by this film. Visually, it’s great. I’m not familiar with DOP Ruben Impens, but I’d watch Julia Ducournau’s Raw (2016) for his involvement alone. Agathe Rousselle? What a wonderful debut. There is body horror in this movie that actually made me squirm (I’m still listing the good things here). And I really liked half the plot.

And the other half of the plot, I just don’t understand. If there’s some allegory, I’m missing it. If it’s just to be shocking, I don’t think the other half of this movie needed it or deserved to be upstaged by it, although I guess it’s gotten everyone talking about the movie. All the things that made me squirm? They weren’t part of this plot.


Fresh

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 54m
Rated: R

Director: Mimi Cave

Writers: Lauryn Kahn

Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs

Double Feature Fodder:
Dumplings (2005)

Initial: I knew a smidge more about Fresh than I knew about Titane. And, well, when a film mentions “appetites,” you know where it might be heading.

Production Notes: Mimi Cave’s feature length debut. Cave comes from the world of music videos, which historically includes my favorite directors.

What Did I Think:
(spoilers ahead)
In relation to Titane, Fresh is *so* conventional. It is very stylish, though. Sebastian Stan’s performance and the soundtrack reminds me a lot of Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), but again, Fresh is more conventional than that film too. Honestly, for a film about cannibalism, I feel like it was just a little too tame. It’s really more about the horrors of modern dating than about eating other people. I’m glad I’m married.


No Exit

Year: 2022
Runtime: 1h 35m
Rated: R

Director: Damien Power

Writers: Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari, Taylor Adams

Stars: Havana Rose Liu, Danny Ramirez, David Rysdahl

Double Feature Fodder:
Identity (2003)

Initial: I wasn’t super interested in this film, but it was on the aforementioned “popular” list.

Production Notes: Set on the way to Salt Lake City, Utah, but filmed in Auckland, New Zealand.

What Did I Think:
This movie was only an hour and a half long?! It felt so much longer . . .

As a writer, I’ve learned that sometimes, you can start a story in the wrong place. You think that maybe a chapter establishing a character’s background, or a situational background, will give scope to the story you’re about to tell. You’re usually wrong. This information does little to engage the audience in the story and the details are better used later in the narrative. This movie starts in the wrong place. It should have started nine minutes in with Darby driving in the snow (which is where the novel it’s based on starts) or even 15 minutes in when she walks into the visitor’s center (which is where a Quentin Tarantino movie would probably start). Knowing about Darby before anything else happens adds nothing. Would that change alone fix No Exit? Probably not. By the time there is any other twist in the plot, everything feels very tedious.

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Classics Club Spin #29

Classics Club picture featuring a black and white illustration of a young woman reading by candlelight and worriedly looking into the shadows.

My reading this year has been mostly “free range,” so I am a little hesitant to commit myself to reading any specific thing, but I’m also still willing to keep at my Classics Club list. Well, my rejiggered Classics Club list. Earlier in the year, I moved a few titles off the list and replaced them with backlog books—books I own but haven’t read. I’d like to kill as many birds with the fewest number of stones possible.

Anyway: Classics Club Spin is an occasional event put on by the Classics Club blog. I take my list and pick twenty books I haven’t read yet. On Sunday (March 20th), CC picks a number between 1 and 20. I read the corresponding book by April 20th.

So, here’s my list:

  1. Tales of Terror and Mystery by Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
  3. The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson
  4. The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham
  5. The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
  6. In Ghostly Japan by Lafcadio Hearn
  7. The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective by Catherine Louisa Pirkis
  8. King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
  9. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  10. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  11. Curious, if True Strange Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
  12. Piazza Tales by Herman Melville
  13. Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  14. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  15. Shakespeare’s Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  16. The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
  17. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  18. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  19. The Monk by M. G. Lewis
  20. The Mummy! by Jane Webb Loudon