Showing posts with label Horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Horror. Show all posts


Hinter Lands

You guys! 


You see, I secretly left out the time bomb in that post about winter storms. I wrote about how there was an ice storm and a blizzard and I went to see Monsters and blah blah blah. All about where my life was two years ago, a little love letter to living in Uptown. The fact is, before the movie started there was a trailer that was so straight up bonkers that it stayed with me all this time, a time capsule of crazy that finally cracked open this past weekend. A Xmas extravaganza of gonzo proportions. 

Rare Exports. 
You know what? I'll save the gushing preamble and just link right to the trailer here

Look at it. Is it any wonder, with such a dark, mythological take on Santa that it would stick in my head so firmly over the last two years? Especially when you consider one of my favorite traditions is reading Last Christmas just for the spectacle? Amazing. It is so over the top and audacious there's no way it could be decent, right? Wrong. It is awesome. 
There is so much going on in this movie that could have quickly driven it off the rails. All of these potential problems end up working in its favor, though. Set in remote parts of Finland? Could be dreary and boring, instead becomes beautifully isolated and an authentic and logical setting. Mostly subtitled? Never a problem for me and I liked knowing the cast was using their native language. Grim and gory take on the essence of innocence and hope? It becomes an ominous, delightfully macabre story about our forgotten myths and shared history. Oh, and Santa being a malevolent force of doom? All. Kinds. of Awesome. 
This movie is so unique and fresh and absolutely appropriate for this holiday season. If you've had your fill of the usual holiday fare, look no further. If you want to scare yourself into your childhood sense of wonder at a world you don't understand, look no further. For real. It's not even an out and out horror movie. It's one of those bizarre hybrid movies that's somehow bigger than its parts. The soundtrack is also worth noting, because it has the excellent little motif that mixes music box levity with deep, foreboding bass. 
Do yourself a favor this Xmas. Check out Rare Exports. It stuck with me as a "oh yeah, I need to see that" kind of memory for two whole years and it totally paid off. Happy hunting.


Proto Man

So I finally saw Prometheus last night.

It was heavily buzzed last spring. I had as high of hopes as anyone else - probably even higher, to be honest. While my initial reaction to the announcement had been low expectations at best, that changed the more I saw. The trailer looked crazy and there was honest to goodness potential in Ridley Scott going back to the well for more of the once-great franchise. They even had Lost-alum (the admittedly divisive) Damon Lindelof on board to re-write the script and build the world a bit more. There was a great cast in line. Everything was lining up to be pretty damn stellar. 

Then the movie came out and the world of nerds on the internet collectively soiled themselves in anger. 

Once the negative feedback started online, I decided not to see it in the theater as I had originally planned. Instead, I waited to consume it in the same fashion I had any other entry in the fading Alien franchise: at home with some junk food and no expectations. So how was it?

Not bad.

While Prometheus was certainly not on the level with the original Alien or other staples of the genre like Blade Runner, it wasn't the cinematic abortion people were claiming it to be. In fact, despite a flawed story with arbitrary motivation and some contrived coincidences, I found it to be a grand and profound science fiction movie the likes of which rarely get made these days. Far from perfect but still enjoyable, there were plenty of moments where the soul of previous success would bleed through. Ridley Scott has had hits and misses, but when he gets on a good streak in a movie it can really build some momentum. Sure, it can be dashed on the rocks of characters who quickly become shouting morons, but there were more than enough entertaining moments to warrant its production.

Additionally, in a bid to stop typing altogether I dictated my thoughts into my phone as I sat in the dark, eating Whoppers and nursing a beer. Below is a full list of my notes, along with the clearer insight of having slept on what I saw in parentheses:

- Even the opening logo is that weird blue tint to it. (Must we do the orange/blue color shift every time?)

- The opening panoramas actually have that the Scott feel. (Pretty grand vistas and sweeping, heavy shots.)

- So is the intro of the movie the crux of the whole plot in a bad way? (Like, was that it? From what I had avoiding spoiling for myself in advance, seeing the first scene made me think 'Yeah, that's probably it, I should turn it off and save myself a couple hours. I was sort of wrong?)

- Even for science-fiction this dream reading business seems bogus. (Immediately forgetting Inception and, you know, space monsters and robots.)

- It's got a good look but the problem is that even the retro looking things clearly are more advanced than what was in Alien. (It's that balancing act of a PREQUEL being made 30 years later. Tech we hadn't thought of could be explained away as better funding by the Weyland Corp. Also, in Alien they were just a mining ship.)

- God awful accent. (Rafe Spall. Seriously.)

- Old make up still looks fake. (No matter how artfully applied and blended with CGI, my first thought was 'OMIGAD YOUNG PERSON IN MAKEUP. Why have Guy Pearce do that? Why not, say, hire an elderly actor?)

- I want the white sweatshirt. (Alright Rafe - I'll forgive the accent if I can have your weird hoodie.)

- There better funded that's what they have better tech. (My hand-waiving the jarring juxtaposition of this movie and Alien. See above.)

- That is one stupid scientist. (Dude. Even I know - DO. NOT. TOUCH. This was apparently establishing a running theme?)

- The geologist is clearly from a lesser film. (Sorry man, but your over the top acting was not due to script problems.)

- The engineer head coming back to my life momentarily is genuinely freaky. (No joke. A disturbing moment. Also? Totally animatronic, I found out.)

- Ask God why do we need robots? (A real BSOD moment for me. Never stopped to think 'Wait, why ARE we making robots in the first place? Simply to serve man? That's a cop out. Still chewing on this.)

- Apple TV remote visible on Shaw's couch. (Nice future tech, you thing I have on my coffee table.)

- That just went from bad to worse. (Blugh, that snake-thing snapping an arm and melting the helmet? That escalated quickly.)

- In the map room the difference between practical effects and CGI is still stark although it's good to see more Geiger. (It's hard to blend them, even all these years after Phantom Menace. Geiger's art is still so distinct and creepy, when used sparingly.)

- That is a slow non-guaranteed way to die and Charlize Theron didn't want to do it. (Seriously, setting him on fire? Probably would suffer for hours from complicated burns. You have guns. Shoot him.)

- I'm obviously not the first person to think Prometheus take place in the same world as Inception. (Cue the linking of that movie's universe, which makes the combined fictional universes Inception, Alien, Blade Runner and Predator.)

- Body horror in the medical pod a glimpse of things to come. (That abortion scene was one of the most disturbing things I've seen on film in a while. The opened cavity? Awful. A horrible look at the wonderful, sterile, male-driven world of medicine yet to come.)

- Arbitrary monster...( arbitrary. Shoe horned in for a scare/action scene? Waste of screen time.)

- Idris Elba is the best part of this and maybe David. (Okay, clearly David is the best thing about this movie, but Idris was pretty damn solid.)

- I would've believed it if they killed everybody. (A psych-out that I was willing to accept. If any movie had the stones to go bleak and kill 'em all, this would have been it. But alas, no.)

- Final alien was gratuitous, redundant and poorly designed. (Sorry, just didn't dig it. Even after all the build up. Show, don't tell. It was clearly the same Engineers and world of Alien, do we need to be hit over the head with it?)

So there you have it. Despite the high snark level of some of those comments, I really did enjoy Prometheus and will defend it to fellow nerds. It aspired to be more than it could, but despite a strong pedigree could not overcome some complex script problems.  If you're curious, I highly recommend it.

Still worth waiting to see after all the publicity.


Bad Mojo

How could I forget?

I struggled a bit with what to post on Halloween proper. I was afraid the magic was fading a bit. It's been hectic around here, there have been all sorts of obligations and things at the office and early colds/bugs...I wasn't really feeling it.

I know, I know.

Comparing the volumes of words last year to the scant posts this year, it's clear my head wasn't in the Halloween game. It felt like the intangible special air of the season hadn't appeared. But then I got home to my better half's chili and the giant bowl of candy to hand out. Suddenly it clicked. It was last minute but it was there. Spooky tunes on Pandora. Treehouse of Horror. Trick or treaters are coming for the first time! We've waited so long for this (and no more huge lines at bars and paying a cover and getting a cab and all the other adult Halloween misery)!

So I got jazzed here at the last minute.

To celebrate, I'll impart something I had forgotten (thankfully). In a recent post I mentioned how I don't believe in this mumbo jumbo about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Supporting my steadfast adherence to science is the fact that nothing...paranormal...has ever happened to me.

Until I was house shopping.

My better half and I had looked at probably 30 houses and were growing frustrated. One day while out with our realtors we stopped at a bit of a fixer upper in the west metro area. Decent, but not great neighborhood. The house was in fine shape from the outside. Inside, though, it I don't know. It's still hard to put a finger on what did it. It had this funny salmon color all over, and I think it had been foreclosed on? Or maybe the owners were renting it out and the people that were there weren't taking care of it. Whatever it was, they weren't taking proper care of it on the inside and everything was kind of slap-dash and in disarray. Seemed like a guy and a little girl, from the toys strewn about. 

As soon as the door had closed behind us something was happening to me. As far as I can recall, no one else felt it. I sure did, though. It felt terrible, like I was drowning, or there was a gas leak and only I was getting the fumes. My head was heavy and throbbing. My eyes hurt and I wanted to lie down and die. My chest felt like it was being crushed. I took maybe five minutes to get my bearings in the house, all the while my better half is imperviously seeing promise. She and the realtors are walking around admiring the kitchen and I practically vomit the phrase "I'm leaving. Now. We're not interested." They were totally perplexed by my sudden change in demeanor, but since I had never exhibited any kind of displeasure on this level, they shrugged and went with it. 

By the time we were in the car and driving away, my head cleared out and I explained what happened. They were a bit surprised but they accepted my reaction with aplomb. My better half was a bit bummed to miss out on what she saw as a great kitchen, even if I felt so horrible. We moved on, they were all cool with it. I'm sure the realtors had seen weirder and worse in their time.

It was so strange. I've never had such a bad feeling, this sense of malevolence or foreboding space. It was as if the house had the strongest bad vibes I'd ever felt. I don't know what to chalk it up to. My religious childhood and paranormal pop culture obsession wants to knee-jerk to call it spirits. My logical mind wants to call it undetected electromagnetics and low-level sub-audible humming. Hey, maybe it was low blood sugar and high stress. I just know there was no way I was going to spend more than five minutes there, let alone buy the place. It gives me the creeps to think about it, so I was glad to put it behind me. Dredging it out for you guys is kind of therapeutic. 

So, there it is. My only spooky deal. Not fun. Like I said, I don't beleive in any of it, which when considering how it felt, is just fine with me. I'll stick with cartoon skeletons and candy and the Monster Mash. Werewolf Barmitzvahs and all that. No real haunts, just real thrills. 


Inn & Out

Oh, right.


It's been October all month, hasn't it? It has. Where have I been? I don't know. Stuff gets busy, I guess. I was looking back at last October's posts and I was not only reliable but down right prolific. It was super fun, if I recall, but also super busy. I don't know how I got all that done. Must not have owned a house at the time. Yeah, that's gotta be it. I'm out raking and running when I have daylight now, instead of bumming around the city. This time last year I was looking eagerly, if optimistically to the idea of eventually having trick or treaters. That is a thing that looks to definitely be happening this year. I am, in a word, jazzed. Like, drum solo jazzed. 

But I digress.

I was looking back on what I was posting and what I wanted to get to and realized what I wanted to put out there this year. I don't have some crazy gimmick or overlooked gem from the past. Nah, I'm switching it up this time around. What I'm saying is there is a great flick that came out this last year that deserves all the love it can get. Something modern? How novel! So take a look at The Innkeepers...
Released in 2011, The Innkeepers is a low budget slow-burn of a creeper from up and coming horror director Ti West. Starring Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as titular innkeepers Claire and Luke, the flick shows a surprising amount of heart for a modern day haunting tale. Claire and Luke are the last remaining employees in a sleepy little inn that's set to close in a few days. While the last guest check in, they decide to step up their paranormal investigations of what they are sure must be a haunted locale. Needless to say, something goes bump in the night. 
Having only heard good things about this movie on Doug Loves Movies (from host Doug Benson and multiple guests), I have to say I really enjoyed it. It has more heart and character than so many movies that are touted as horror or suspense tales these days. It doesn't wallop you with gore or unrelenting terror. It's a slow, suspenseful build that will often have you wondering if anything is going to happen. Oddly enough, that comes to be a positive rather than a boring flaw. When things come to a boil they really jolt you. The quiet moments allow for personality to foster. You get a better sense of identity from the characters. In a way the visual aesthetic combined with the jaunty soundtrack brought to mind fond recollections of Ghostbusters. I'm sure it was intentional but it was a great way to call back on something that's rarely touched upon by so many imitators.
Halloween is almost here. Don't get stupid with gore, get scared with a modest charmer. It's really a strong movie that comes in a small package. Think outside the box and check out this under-the-radar thriller. It's still on Netflix, to boot. Do it. Do it do it do it.


Night Moves

So this'll be an experiment.

I don't know how this is going to work, but I'm going to try dictating a post to see how handy Siri actually is. I'm on the drive home from the office and Halloween is approaching so I thought I would impart something freaky that happened about eight years ago. 

Nothing paranormal has ever happened to me but there was one particular time where my veins ran cold. I was living with my sophomore year roommate in college. While we shared an apartment and before we moved in we knew each other well, you only really get to know somebody until you start to live with them. He was a very nice guy and my closest friend but I had no idea until we signed the lease that he suffered from night terrors. He kind of played it off and made seem like it wouldn't be a problem and that it was fairly rare. I had no background in sleep disorders so it all seemed fairly innocuous. I figured it couldn't be any worse than what I dealt with in the dorms. However he told me that sometimes he would wake up and not know where he was, and that if it happened I should keep my distance and CAREFULLY try to wake him up. No approaching, no touching and a wide berth.

We shared a room.

It was a one bedroom apartment with a sheet running down the middle of the room, Odd Couple style. It wasn't optimal for a couple of college dudes, but we made it work in our own weird way. It made us like brothers, in a sense. Goofing off on those carefree nights he introduced me to Bill Hicks and we streamed Nova specials and tripped out over String Theory. It was pretty rad.

One, night, though, it was not rad.

It was early in the fall semester and we had only shared the apartment for a few months. I had been out carousing and celebrating the arrival of the new scholastic year, which happened to take the form of a drinking contest. A sober and reliable friend dropped me back off at the apartment. My roommate had a part time job which required he be up early on Sunday. Knowing this, I attempted to make a stealth entrance to our shared abode and began to contentedly munch on some leftovers. I was out of the dorms and living the college dream!

This dream shattered when I was mid-forkful of lo mein noodles. Dead calm in the apartment, I was jolted out of my stupor by the roomie screaming "Hello? Hello?" There was a rustling of bedsheets and feet shuffling in the bedroom. Hearing his panicked voice made my blood turn to ice. It was silence, then screaming.

Thankfully, I could still remember his instructions. I called his name, carefully woke him up. I talked him down, explained where he was, why he was lost in his own home. He got his sense and then his bearings. We shared a shaky laugh. It was a kind of bonding moment. It freaked my business right out, but I was able to sleep. Hey, beer. 

Not much of a pre-Halloween story, but it's something. Right? Right. I'll keep digging. There has to be something spooky in here somewhere.


Irrational Fear

I'm an idiot. 

Not all of the time. 

Just some of the time. 

You see, last night before I went to sleep I was reading an article on the game Slender. It's a free-to-download PC game that has the player running around a park at night collecting pages of a book, avoiding the titular Slender Man, a meme that plays on our fear of the unknown and undefined. You look at him too much and you die. That's it. Sounds simple, right? It sure does, but according to almost all who have played it, it is supposed to be pants-fillingly terrifying. Something about the premise, setting and execution have made a simple yet disturbing game. Needless to say I'm stoked for it. It's sitting on my desktop but I'm waiting for Halloween. Or at the least, the month of October. My terror induced diarrhea must be timely. 

That's not why I'm an idiot, though. At least, not this time. 

No, the thing was that in the article was a link to this video from a series of YouTube clips about...something. I don't even know, really. However, that short clip was so effective in its use of framing timing that I was unnerved to the point of continuing anxiety. I had to put it out of my mind to sleep last night, and all during my run (in the dark, natch) this morning I would get these bolts of memory that would jar me and I honestly found myself looking back over my shoulder know? 

Look, I'm no scientist. But! I majored in Logic and Philosophy in college. I spend most of my brain power working out the rules and systems of the world around me. When given a game to play, I love looking for ways to break the system, to test the boundaries of a pre-established world. That we, as a species, have worked out the cosmos from the multiverse down to subatomic particles astounds me and makes me marvel at being alive. But I don't believe in the supernatural. I know a few people reading this will be disheartened to hear that as much as I love Mysterious Universe, I don't think of it as a journalistic endeavor - it's more a source of entertainment. Much of my ability to deal with the horrors of the world and the cruelty of fate stems from the cold, hard logic of science and how cause and effect operate, coupled with a good ol' dose of Chaos Theory. There's a lot of math I don't understand, but even cats can use an iPad even if they'll never build one. 
The point is - I know this stuff is pure, Grade A baloney. Noises in my house are the house settling or creaking in the wind or my cat being a little unhinged. No one chases me during my run except my thoughts and the local rabbits. Despite knowing these things...I still get the creeps. The willies. That little tingle up the spine that lingers from an evolutionary holdover in which was originally supposed to warn of large animals watching from the bushes. 
I'm not saying there's not danger in the world. Of course there is. Cancer. Car accidents. Random acts of violence. Super volcanoes. But I only control my own self and how I react to things. So why can't I control getting creeped out by stuff like that video late at night? Why do I love to torture myself, especially non-stop in October? Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Or maybe I like to pretend there's more out there. See how the other half lives. Who knows. 

I'll just glance over my shoulder every now and then to be sure. 


Donor Card

I donated some blood the other day. 

Not a lot. Just a pint. 

I know there's a certain squick factor here, but I rather enjoy the whole bizarre process. Being fortunate enough not to have a fear of needles, that's reason enough. I also happen to be the picture of health - no diseases, allergies, pre-existing conditions of any sort. I've never even broken a bone. So the least I can do is make good use of a healthy specimen and donate some blood to someone who might need it. Does it alleviate the guilt of having all the advantages I do and not doing much to make the world a better place? No. But, it does a small bit of good. Someone needs it. I guess it goes bad after a while, so fresh, healthy stock is needed. So why not?
It's a weird process. The more you think about it, the more unusual it becomes. There's this viscous goo inside us that we donate, and you feel really dopey and light headed afterword. Any other time you lose blood like that, you're probably terribly injured and at least a little traumatized. This time, you're okay, just have a cookie and relax for a minute. People can joke about oil and being a pint low and all that, but really - that there's this operating substance in us that can be siphoned out is so bizarre. It makes you reexamine your sense of self - there you are, draining out of your arm into a bag. It is both marvelous and humbling. We are a sum of parts, yet so much more.
Additionally, there are health benefits to donating as well. Apparently most Americans (possibly others, but I can only speak for my country of carnivores) have diets that are much too high in iron. These iron particulates, when unabsorbed in the bloodstream, behave as free-radicals, which are rarely a good thing. There is a saturation point at which our bodies fail to process all of the excess iron and it can build up to a detrimental level. Donating blood both removes some of this excess as well as allows the body to freely generate and replace the missing pint with its own fresh supply, thus redistributing the remaining amounts. 

So I probably sound like as ghoul, dissecting all this. Eh. It's a fascinating thing, one that more people should do if they're up for it. Gives me a break in the day and makes me appreciate the wonder of a functioning, healthy body. Good gravy, how's that for a glimpse under the hood, eh? #NoVamps #Twitterjoke 


Cadaver Caper

I really should be saving this for next Halloween.

You know what? I can't - this story is too good to share and I don't ever want to forget it.

My better half had a coworker who, contrary to her bright, life-affirming disposition, had a previous career as a mortician's assistant. While this, in and of itself, is worthy of ample amounts of dissection (dear goodness, no pun intended) over a happy hour, the seeming disparity between her persona and the occupation are not the heart of the matter. No, an event on the job, a particular incident, is what prompted me to jump to the keyboard. This was simply too amazing and horrifying to let slip into the ether. I feel compelled to share it with the world.


A brief word on the nature of our inevitable end. 

We're all doomed. Death is one of the few things in the world we will all experience. There is both a universality and taboo surrounding it. We are fascinated by it, yet speak of it in hushed tones. Our lives are seemingly spent in denial of it, yet only when we embrace it do we live to the fullest extent. We are meat containing something special. When that light behind the eyes goes out, all that remains is a vessel, a shell. What we leave behind is not us, but a reminder that we are something more than bags of mostly water. There is, to say the absolute minimum, a mental phenomenon unlike anything else we've seen in the universe. It is to be treasured and valued. Having been present at the moment a loved one has passed, there is certainly clear distinction between "they are with us" and "they are gone". It is simple, yet wholly distinct. 


What I am about to impart is meant in no way to desecrate that remarkable, ephemeral essence. Instead, it elucidates the mechanical nature of our existence that we mistakenly assume to be the beginning and end of who and what we are. But enough preamble. On to it.

This happy little pixie of a woman was a mortician's assistant. She assisted, among other duties, in the preparation for burial through the embalming process. This process involves draining the body of fluids and replacing them with substances that preserve our remains. At some point in the process a high powered suction device is used to drain the body cavity. It would seem that one must always be mindful of where you place such an item when taking a break, because this happy-go-lucky woman made the unfortunate mistake of dropping the suction device on the open throat of a deceased person. The suction and force of the device dropping onto soft tissue allowed it to break through the wind pipe, and begin drawing air (backwards) through the throat and over the vocal cords. The uncanny scream that erupted from the deceased's throat was enough to send the woman sprinting from the room, too terrified to return until the physical reaction was properly explained. All the while, due to the mechanism of the vacuum, the impossible screaming continued.


A horrifying little tale, no doubt. However, it reaffirms the absurdity of our mortal confines and allows me to thoroughly creep out friends around Halloween. I just wanted to make sure I could share it with everyone before the memory escaped me. So have fun with that, and feel free to share!



This is the only post my parents asked me not to write.

They relented, though, after determining the statute of limitations had probably put them in the clear by now. I doubt Los Federales will come knocking but I can understand their trepidation, I suppose. You see...we had bats. Lots of them.

As I explained last time, our house was very, very old. Such old houses have a way of becoming host to uninvited guests. I never saw a mouse or a bug (that started when we moved to the country - HUGE spiders) but damn did we have some flutter-mice. The attic, technically the third floor of the house, was host to who knows how many bats, sleeping and pooping during the day and leaving and swooping at night.

It wasn't a constant, swirling maelstrom of nocturnal nuisances, but it was definitely a problem. You would be sitting and watching a movie with the lights off, not even considering the risk of rabies, when a dark shape would flit across your field of vision. Instinctively we would all duck and cower and make a bee-line for our parents room, which contained our only method of pest control.

A tennis racket.

Wii remotes have nothing on the feeling of swinging a tennis racket as hard as you could, connecting with a terror-inducing bat (Bruce Wayne was a dick, it seems) and sending that little airborne menace flying across the room. Seeing them thwack against the wall and drop to the carpet, lifeless, we would then grab a folded newspaper and sweep them onto it, to be deposited in to the trash barrels outside. So it would go, for the foreseeable time - them, occasionally finding their way into our living space instead of the night sky, us killing a protected species in a shameful act of self-defense/cowardice.

The dynamic shifted one day when my father said he'd had enough. Enough shrieking children. Enough cats doing nothing while a free meal circled overhead. Enough siting up in bed, grabbing a racket that was sitting next to the damn night stand and killing them without even getting up. He had hit his limit. He created something that astounded and horrified us all.

The Bat Trap.
You see, bats can't take off like a bird. The have to drop from a perch and swoop up to take flight. My dad figured out which eave of the house they were mostly flying out of at night and set about devising a solution. A containment system. Risking a broken neck, he climbed up to the top of the house (an impressive height, especially without scaffolding or any safety gear whatsoever) and affixed a bucket and pulley mechanism. At dusk he would raise the bucket. Bats would drop in by the dozen, unable to alter course in time. In the morning, he would lower the bucket full of bats and do something horrible - kill them all. I won't divulge the method he initially attempted, but I'm still impressed and horrified he was able to do it and then put on a clean shirt and have a cup of coffee. After this disastrous first attempt he realized he needed to simplify and streamline his approach. The solution: put water in the bucket. Bats drop in, bats splash around, bats sink. Voila.

Secret best part to the story - he found out he had to kill them because he tried simply burying them alive one morning, only to have a league of furious bats claw their way up from the earth, obviously in search of vengeance. So my dad decided "I'll have to kill them before they can rise from their grave."
Being a fresh homeowner now, I can sort of see how he arrived at his course of action. I just hope I'm not driven mad in a conquest against a similar vermin like some villain from Batman.


Cabin Fever



I saw a little movie called Cabin in the Woods this weekend. 

I adored it.

This is, of course, the kind of thing I usually follow with a synopsis and digestion. Due to the nature of the film, however, I'm going to refrain from engaging in my typical activity. Instead, I strongly encourage you to see the movie as I did - in as much of a void of context as possible. While I can't explain the movie, perhaps my reasoning for the experience warrants dissection.
The less I say about the movie, the better. Here are the few facts I can divulge without spoiling the viewing experience: written, directed and produced by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, it has a fantastic pedigree. The dialogue and plot are natural despite the horrible things that happen. Characters are surprisingly believable given the circumstances that unfold. It's about some good looking young people that go to a Cabin in the Woods. Bad things happen and we are given a bit of a mystery to piece together. Saying more than that would begin to chip away at the unexpected delights in the movie.

You know what? 

I need to stop here.
I can feel a full, spoilerific rant waiting to gush out. It's hard to withhold, frankly. I'm even reticent to post any links or images to go along with all this. All I can really say at this point is that if you have any love whatsoever for horror movies, or the ritual of going to the movies or even just smart, incredibly well written and engagingly directed movies - do not hesitate. See it now, before anything gets spoiled. It worked so well in a vacuum. It was so amazing to see a movie that trusted the audience to keep it, to assume we were smart rather than play down to the base level.


Go now.

Don't read reviews, don't watch trailers. Just know that it has been incredibly well received and warrants seeing on the big screen.

Trust me - you won't be sorry.


Not Like That


Viral, viral, viral.

I've been thinking a lot about that word these last few days. Not in the sense of desperate ad men, chasing after the most recent buzz word theyve glommed onto. Side-bar: you can't arbitrarily shoot for your campaign or video 'going viral' dummy, that's the point of the concept. It happens unintentionally and without reason. Rant over. No, the viral I've been thinking about is the bad kind. The kind that makes you question every sore throat and itchy eye.

Like the Plum Island kind of viral.
I found a book. I think maybe I gave it to my father in law for a birthday. How quaint, right? A paper book! It was an exposé on the secrets and history of Lab 257 on Plum Island, out past Long Island. It has a strong whiff of conspiratorial cloak and dagger to it, but it was still a fun, gripping jaunt down the rabbit hole into a world of viruses and germ warfare I assumed only existed in Resident Evil games. If you ever read my post on the paranormal-focused podcast Mysterious Universe, you would know I have a strong inclination for the unknown and whispered about. The things that go bump in the night. Plum Island is the kind of place born of the mind of a fevered fiction writer, not the stern, sober minds of the United States Armed Forces. It's long been rumored to be home to horrifying experiments and animal testing. While the white-coats there aren't creating something for the Umbrella Corporation, they still do work with some of the deadliest pathogens known to man.

So here we are. That's a real place.

Lab 257, written and researched by Michael Christopher Carroll, is an expose that dates back to just after WWII. It's common knowledge we brought over Nazi scientists to build the rockets for our burgeoning space program. It's less commonly known that we brought over the best and most creative virologists to develop the latest thing: germs. 
This tiny little island, off the coast of New England, is home to labs that not only house some of the most deadly viri and bacteria in the world, but some of the most appallingly lax security. It used to be strong, mind you. Carroll's exhaustive history tells of elaborate and maddening levels of decontaminization coupled with strict protocol. All of this seemed to go out the window when the US Army pulled out of the facilities and handed control over to the USDA. Yes, that USDA. Whereas the Army would snipe the deer that would occasionally swim to the island (and possibly carry infected bugs off with them, because why not?) the USDA would just not deal with it. The manner in which Carroll lays out the facts and history here, you begin to see how not only Lyme's disease, but also the West Nile virus spread from the supposedly safe facilities. Also, the numerous security lapses and de-con failures are staggering. Straight up raw sewage, laden with still hot germs, was being dumped for years into what used to be fertile coast line.
Crazy stuff.

You've got to read this book. It is a page turner in the absolute best way. It's the kind of book where you come in to it with an incredulous attitude, only to find yourself flipping furiously through the pages and thinking 'No way would the government let this happen'. Yet it totally did. Read up! It's fascinating.



This may get kind of weird.

Since I've started down the path of Xmas Xceptions I've tried to keep a loose yet cohesive set of parameters for inclusion. Some of it has been sweet, some of it has been irreverent. How about we get gross and grimy? Let's take a look at a holiday phenomenon that crosses the line when addressing Christmas. It's audacious and awesome. It's The Last Christmas.
Published by Image Comics in 2006, The Last Christmas is a twisted tale of holiday cheer turned vengeance. Written by comedian/writers Brian Posehn and Gerry Dugan, with artwork by Rick Remender, the six-issue series tells the story of the end of the world and how it affects Santa's desire to die. Yes, you read that right. You see, when the zombies rose up from the earth, mankind went to hell. People died off in the millions and marauders took to the highways, stealing all they could and pillaging the remaining clusters of humanity. Still, children believed in Santa so he was able to continue existing. When the marauders make their way to the North Pole, though, tragedy falls upon Santa's village and he falls into a deep, seemingly endless despair. Only after a letter from the last child believing in Santa does he sober up long enough to take action. He decides to kill the last child who believes in him, to bring about his own death.
Merry Christmas, one and all.

This book is deranged. Santa hits the bottle, and hard. The undead devour the living. Snowmen lob ornament-grenades at men in spiked helmets. It's the most original take on Christmas I've ever seen. While Santa may actually waiver on the whole killing-his-last-believers thing, even that it toes that line is bonkers. On top of all the madness is a heart that somehow is sweet and sincere amidst all the bloodletting and zombie-slaying. I don't know how they did it, but this book hits all the wrong notes at just the right time.
The Last Christmas is the perfect sort of cathartic release a person can get for the holidays. Feel uninspired or bored? Feel like you could just snap and knock over a pine tree, decorations and all? Pick up this bizarre, profane and undeniably fantastic comic before the big day. You will never forget it.


Little Monsters

Evening, kids.

How about a trip down memory lane? After all, hasn't that become a de facto theme to this site? I breakdown something we've all forgotten about while giving you a personal anecdote? On board? Good? Great. Let's do this. Today's Xmas Xception is Gremlins, a film like no other.
If you are roughly my age, there's a strong chance this movie gave you a serious case of the creeps when you were young. It was terrifying despite being oh so appealing to the youth market. Gremlins was part of that microgenre that blends horror and comedy in a subtle way. Ghostbusters was another prime example, as was the modern iteration, Shaun of the Dead. How could kids not get suckered in by the adorable Gizmo - voiced by Howie Mandel, nonetheless. Still, you break those three inscrutable, arbitrary rules and all Hell breaks loose. Nothing seemed safe as a kid after that. The little monsters were so devious! So malicious! The original draft of the screenplay was even darker, with decapitations and animal mutilations abound. Nasty stuff, eh? Of particular note was the over the top gore of the finale when a melting gremlin becomes a horrendous, dripping mess. It broke my mind as a kid. Hey, as an adult it still elicits a visceral reaction from me. Pretty killer Christmas movie, huh?
Oh, what's that? You forgot Gremlins was a Christmas movie? That's right, world. This nasty little staple of 80s horror was planted squarely in the midst of yule tide madness. I found myself forgetting that fact, only to see a clip of the movie online and I recalled all the snow and realized "Oh man, I have to watch that again! I haven't seen it in years!" Well, by a bit of serendipity that actually happened to me last Christmas. There had been some conflicts with my Christmas arrangements last year, and I ended up spending the holiday here in Minnesota while my better half saw her family in Arizona. I had to be back at the office the next day, so when I got back to my place in Uptown I grabbed my mail and headed upstairs. There, in a now defunct Netflix envelope, was Gremlins. By some excellent coincidence my DVD queue had synced up perfectly with me being all alone after Christmas. So I did what any twentysomething would do - popped it in and cracked a bottle of wine.
It was awesome.

Gremlins was cathartic and mischievous, a fantastic way to vent after the stress of the holiday. A little Cabernet Sauvingon didn't hurt either, but hey! Monsters terrorizing the town and ruining Christmas! What better way to indulge my inner (but most likely outer) child! While obviously dated and intentionally hokey and B-movie-esque at times, it still held up really, really well. I had a lot of fun poking through the memories of my previous experiences watching this movie and being do damned scared. Sounds like good holiday fun!


The Right Choice


I watched a movie recently that made me sideline any music post I had coming for today. It was damn good. So good, in fact, that I kicked myself for not checking it out sooner. There had been plenty of buzz around it when it was first released in 2008. Hey, before I even saw it there was a localized, near shot-for-shot remake. I figure for the setting and mood of the picture, it's a perfect fit for this site. Strap in, kids. It's gonna get weird.
Based on a book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is a Swedish film that blends the poignant coming of age tales we're all familiar with and the creepy, skin crawling discomfort of the uncanny and horrible. It's not spoiling much to say there is a vampire involved in the story. The promotional artwork pretty much spells it out for you. Rather, like any good story it's not the set up that's so remarkable as it is the manner in which events unfold. On top of it, the setting and performances are stellar. The cast, dominated by child actors, turn in amazing performances that are painfully real. Director Tomas Alfredson has created something truly strange and scary in this quiet, menacing movie. Let's take a closer look, eh?
12 year old Oskar is a lonely, frustrated boy. He lives with his divorced mother in an apartment in Blackeberg, outside of Stockholm. Bullies torment him mercilessly and he feels like an outcast. Through painfully raw moments we get to know the quiet boy, seeing his dark side as well as his lingering childhood innocence. When a new neighbor moves into his apartment block, a cautious friendship is struck. Unfortunately, at this same time horrible murders begin occurring in the area, culimating in a suspect being apprehended. The man in question has burned his face beyond recognition, though, to protect the one he was committing the crimes for. As the story unfolds, we learn about Oskar's lonely life, the pale and tormented Eli and how the two become horribly intertwined at such a tender age. 
Let the Right One In is the rare film that easily exists as art as well as entertainment. The cinematography is simultaneously bleak and beautiful. The performances are genuine and affecting. The pacing is masterfully plotted. What we perceive as horrendous violence is actually often only hinted at, rather than explicitly shown. Interestingly, I noticed the effect the soundtrack had on my viewing experience. What was ostensibly a horror movie felt very much like an adolescent tale of romance due to the score. It very much accentuated the contrasting light and dark elements of the film.
Forget the American remake, Let Me In. Too literal, too much of the same. Go to the Swedish version. They're the ones who know cold, bleak emotional turmoil. This movie is a crazy way to step into the winter mindset. Sick of the holidays? This is the opposite of a Xmas movie. Pick it up or stream it on Netflix, either way - keep the lights off. It's fantastic.


Cut Loose

What. The Hell. Was That.

Doomtree have lost their minds.

You think you know an artist, having listened to them for years. You get a sense of communicated identity. You learn their inflection and tendencies, even more so when they're a local legend. Hell, in some cases, I've even kicked back and shared drinks with the odd member of the crew. You make assumptions, you feel safe, if not confident in their choices. The last crew release was a killer, a massive album that served as a landmark in the divergent Doomtree canon. When word of the available-any-second No Kings, I made the mistake of thinking "Oh sure, more of the same, but better and harder, right?"
Remember what I said about assumptions and sanity?

The leaked tracks should have been an indication. 'The Grand Experiment' and 'Beacon' signaled a darker, more nuanced tone from an already complex and dexterous crew. The video for the album cut 'Bolt Cutter''s dark and disturbing. Not in the gory, over the top schlock Hollywood tries to force feed us. No, this is the kind of strangely unnerving imagery that one would think impossible to pair up with hip hop, let alone such phenomenally talented artists as these. Stalking the gritty, grimy corridors of abandoned buildings. Climbing over the walls. Dodging spotlights while looking like their minds are unhinging before your eyes. Doomtree have lost their damn minds.

It couldn't be better art.
The song itself, a multi-segmented beast of a track, is just as sinister. P.O.S. brings you into his world over frantic, broken beats. Sims lurches through ever more violent wordplay, brandishing a verbal knife in the shadows as speakers bust and distortion flairs up. Suddenly the song breaks and becomes a slinking little thing that Dessa bats around like a cat with a mouse. She owns it and dares you to take her toy away. When you think it's safe, the track breaks wide open and Mike Mictlan screams in your face over crazed dance beats, rapping face down on a dirty floor in the video. As the crew stalk the empty corridors, P.O.S. ascends a ladder into the night time city and the song continues shifting. All of this is horrifyingly cohesive.
By the time you read this, No Kings will be available. Go get it. Once you've listened to it, call the men with the nets and white coats. These rappers are a danger to society, in the best possible way.


One More Thing

Okay, let me explain.

It is Halloween proper as I write this. Spooky Month has lived and thrived in the month of October. It's dying now, fading into the cold, dark abyss of Minnesota winter. As sad as I may be to see my favorite holiday come and go once again, it's not the end of the world. Fall here is a beautiful time; the leaves are changing. The air is crisp and clear. The first snow is beautiful. There - I said the S word. It's inevitable. Every year we have to face the undeniable return of the dreaded white stuff. Again, not the end of the world - it just feels like it. The older I've gotten, though, the more I see the beauty and natural order in it. So how does this tie in with the end of Spooky Month? Simple. I want to implore you to watch the 1982 version of The Thing.
The Thing is a classic of the horror genre, with a few unique twists that still set it apart from the modern dreck. Set in a research station on the South Pole, the movie tells a paranoia inducing tale of an alien creature that can change shape. That's really all I want to give away of a plot that's well worn and almost 30 years old. To say anymore would ruin a few good surprises. Kurt Russell stars as a burly and surly helicopter pilot who unravels the mystery in front of him, one shot of whiskey at a time. When a dog from a neighboring Norwegian research facility arrives at the station, being hunted by the last surviving Norske, things go awry and an expedition is sent out to find the facts. The venturing crew the ice. The Norwegian camp is in ashes. When they return to their outpost, Russell and co. are faced with a terrifying, inhuman force. It. Is. Amazing.
There are so many things that work well in this movie. The direction is fantastic, establishing a sense of space in a grounded, if painfully cold, place. Watching this movie almost gets me excited for winter, if that makes any semblance of sense. The cast do a superb job of recoiling in the face of indescribable monstrosities, which brings me to the crux of the movie. The monster, the titular Thing, is astounding and horrifying, even today. The practical effects are appalling in the best possible way (WARNING - NOT SAFE FOR STOMACH). Consider yourself warned - this movie is not for the faint of heart. It's nasty and ultra grotesque. In spite of, or perhaps because of the graphic and slimy gore, The Thing is an astounding watch.
I have little to no interest in seeing the recent prequel in theaters. This version, directed by John Carpenter (in his first major outing), is a perfect stand-alone horror movie. The story is told so fantastically well, the beats so well spaced and timed, the plot so deftly woven, that seeing explicitly what happens before it is simply not necessary. The chaos in the Norwegian camp was so perfectly established in this version that I just don't see the point in revisiting it to tell their story. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I just feel Carpenter's version is such a great, singular thing that it doesn't need expansion.
So there you have it. One last gasp of Spooky Month to see you through to next year. Get ready for the impending winter with a horrifying, paranoid tale of isolation and mistrust. It'll keep your mind free of cabin fever for the next season. Or maybe not. Maybe you'll just get more suspicious of your companions. Either way, enjoy The Thing. Lights off, as always.