Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring "Awakening": The Stuff that Nightmares, Beauty are Made of

Found this amazing clip from

French performance group La Machine creates a giant, hydraulic steampunk spider and parades it down the streets of Liverpool, Tokyo.

I can't help thinking how ALIVE this thing is, this mixture of metal and gas and plastic and ingenuity. I wanted to reach out and shake it's leg, say hello. Acknowledge its existence.

It's also terrifying. Note the staged "battle" between spider and humanity (with fireworks!).

This saddened me a little: it was a very "Frankenstein" like moment.

Amazing what they can do with technology nowadays.

Watch it in action in Liverpool here:

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Curfew Tolls the Knell of Parting Day...

Horror Icon Vampira has passed.

Such beauty and talent will surely be missed.

Rumored to have been kicked off a Broadway production for upstaging Mae West and a muse to the infamous Ed Wood in his film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), even non-horror fans can recognize her trademark black talons, arched eyebrows and wasp-thin waist. Her persona, modeled after Charles Addams' Morticia, would appear again in the 1980s in the form of Elvira.

Purported to be the world's first horror host, her influence on horror and television is still being felt today, helping to usher the first wave of 1930s American horror to new audiences. What resulted was a renaissance of horror that further established the genre as an everyday part of American life. And to that, we owe her a debt of gratitude for her part in the movement.

RIP, Maila Syrjäniemi.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

YouTube Friday: Special Sunday Edition

So there's a little bit of horror film-related wonderfulness happening close to home.

I have the proud distinction of being a University of Wisconsin - Whitewater alumni, Class of 2007. Whitewater's a great little town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields and cow pastures and sheep farms. The kind of town you can walk around at three in the morning and feel completely safe (as I have done on several occasions), but basically shuts down after nine pm (except for the bars, of course, though there aren't too many). Typical small college town.

Except that they call Whitewater the "Second Salem" for all the *supposed* occult happenings around town. Except that people hear whispers in the woods, drums at midnight. Except that corpses end up on hall steps, witch towers are the places of hangings, evil books cause madness, and the specters of axe murderers haunt dormitory halls.

So they say.

The reason I'm bringing it up is that Whitewater has served as the basis for a new horror movie called The Witches of Whitewater (2008) that is meant to be filmed in town. Can we say awesomeness? Way to go, Wisconsin filmmakers!

Doesn't hurt that Wisconsin has just passed legislation making film making very cheap and profitable in good old WI. In addition, Marcus Theaters has just signed an agreement to run Wisconsin films theatrically in their large chain of theaters. When a WI filmmaker once had to hustle to get a film shown on the big screen (Hello, Mike Borchardt!) now it's easier than ever to make a movie that can get funded and seen. Almost makes me want to pick up a camera, only I have no film making experience. Or talent. Or inclination. No sir, I'll just to stick to what I know.

This isn't Wisconsin's - or even Jefferson County's first foray into Wisconsin-flavored horror. The Beast of Bray Road (2005), the "stinky cinematic suppository"(to quote MST3K) was chronicled in the "based on true events" story of Bray Road's werewolf creature that purportedly stalks the lonely highway at night. About fifteen minutes away from Whitewater, the Beast is a favorite scare for Whitewater students, who drive out to the road on Halloween in hopes of catching sight of the huge werewolf. The legend, which has been the subject of books and cable documentaries, is awesome, and worthy of your time. The movie is not. It's a waste of time, money, and the irrevocably lost precious moments of your life. Blech.

For all you who would like to know more about the Second Salem and my prestigious alma mater, you can read a story by our college paper detailing Whitewater's local legends (P.S. the dead girl on the mall is absolutely true. Weird, huh?) here.

More Whitewater legends can be found here and here. And some Beast of Bray Road stuff here. Knock yourself out. Wisconsin is full of creepy shit. It's the most haunted state in the Union for good reason. The only way I can survive is my blatant, pig-headed refusal to believe any of the weird stuff that happens here. Doesn't always work, but what can you do?

In fact, all of Wisconsin's weirdness has a website. See it here.

For you Facebook bums, you can join the "They Made a Movie About Whitewater...And it's Based on a True Story!!" group.

BTW, speaking of creepy, I'm getting married here.

A now the trailer for The Witches of Whitewater (for some reason YouTube is being silly and won't let me embed). Sorry.

And, for a laugh: the trailer for The Beast of Bray Road

Friday, January 11, 2008

YouTube Friday: The Val Lewton Edition

Val Lewton in the motherfucking house!

TCM and Martin Scorsese have made a documentary about the life and times of horror producer Val Lewton, famous for such classic pictures as Cat People (1942) and The Leopard Man (1943). Great films, great plots, great acting.

Great producer.

My personal favorite - surprise, surprise - is 1943's I Walked With a Zombie.

I can't even begin to say how excellent this film is: beautifully directed by Jacques Tourneur, beautifully shot with all the ethereal resonance of a pre-Raphaelite painting; there is something truly mythic about this film. Maybe it's the eternal paradox of moral ambiguity the film presents: is it possible to view the world in terms of black and white, good and evil, pagan and Christian, the colonizer and the colonized? Or is it, as I suspect Tourneur and Lewton argued, simply varying shades of grey?

Is Jessica a zombie? A mental case?

Is Betsy's unrelenting zeal to heal Jessica a sign of he overwhelmingly good heart? Or a symptom of her sad, misguided oppression?

Who knows? I don't even think Lewton could - or would even want to - answer that question. As a witness of WWII, I'm sure Lewton could attest to the moral ambiguities of war-time everyday life where "good" people suddenly found themselves doing bad things just to stay alive. To Lewton, I suspect the world was entirely grey.

Regardless of his philosophical leanings, Lewton's films are finally enjoying the recognition they deserve.

Watch Scorsese's documentary Monday night at 7:00pm central on TCM.

Yahoo! article: Scorsese chronicles horror film producer

TCM Val Lewton website:

And now, in order to pay my part of the YouTube Friday bargain, the salacious trailer for I Walked With a Zombie:

Believe it or not, I Walked With a Zombie was loosely based on the Charlotte Bronte Gothic chiller, Jane Eyre.

What? You thought Jane Eyre was just one of those stuffy "classics" you read in English? Hells no! There's enough Gothic in this crazy drama to shake a stick at. Hmm....let's see. A mysterious evil woman. A drafty, foreboding house. A brooding, Byronic hero. A madwoman in the attic. Madness. Despair. Grievous bodily harm. Fires. Barely suppressed sexuality. Heaving bosoms. The list goes on and on.

So in honor of the Jane Eyre Gothic tradition and in celebration of the BBC's excellent new adaptation of said masterpiece, might I present to you, good sirs and ladies, Miss Jane Eyre?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fun for the Depraved

Take this test!

It always seems so safe in a hotel room, with the dead-bolted doors, security guards, and that concierge ready to help with your every need. But if you've seen Psycho, you know that's not always the case. There sure are some crazy people out there, but most of them seem so normal. Is your mind playing tricks on you? No way!

Just like your horror movie match, you're seen by others as smart and thoughtful. If it's psychological, creative, or just plain interesting, you'll be all over it. So on the next rainy day, check into the Bates Motel and have a good scare!

Saturday, December 01, 2007


My two favorite things: Muppets and violence.

I may have died and gone to heaven.

Thanks to my baby sister, Stacy, for the heads up.

Friday, November 30, 2007

YouTube Friday: The Horror Begins

As some of you might have inferred, I have a long-standing love affair with adding video clips to the blog. I decided to channel that unseemly love into something productive, therefore...

...from the stinking depths of the primordial ooze, where the miracle of birth mingles with the aberrations of Nature, comes forth from an unholy union a creature so monstrous that babies' lips wobble at the very sight of it....

Might I present YouTube Friday. Please, don't scream! It doesn't like it when you scream.

Up first on the docket is a little gem I found at the New York Times website. Normally, performance art ends towards the annoyingly pretentious - anyone who's ever seen the episode of Spaced where Brian takes Daisy and Tim to see a performance piece by a woman named Vulva knows what I mean (Not to mention, it also has one of the awesomest Resident Evil references/homages I've ever seen).

Performance art tends to be creepy-weird: no one really gets it though everyone pretends to and you feel like a giant dumbass because you're not indie/trendy/hip (insert your own adjective that indicates value here) enough to get it.

Not so with Jillian Mcdonald. Known throughout the internet for her obsessive love for Billy Bob Thornton, Ms. Mcdonald has ventured into exciting, horror-themed exploits. One piece shows her sitting demurely on the subway, legs elegantly crossed, while she proceeds to paint her face like a zombie whilst onlookers try not to stare. Another shows a superimposed image of the artist in famous horror movies screaming at the monsters, "not out of helpless fear but with a powerful, sometimes destructive force that scares or even blows the monsters away" according to her website.

Funny, unpretentious, and firmly-tongue in cheek, Mcdonald's work does more than entertain - it sends powerful messages about what it means to be scared (or scary) and female in Western society. Critic Trent Morse writes, "Mcdonald's shrieking character is an empowered woman using her presumed weakness as a sonic bludgeon, but always in a humorous way. The brevity of the movie clips, removed from their plots and storylines, exaggerates the silliness of these horror films. Each time I saw the video, Mcdonald's grossed-out reactions to her conquered enemies elicited grins and even out-loud laughter from gallery goers, a rarity in an art world that sometimes takes itself too seriously."

What I find refreshing is Mcdonald's subtle brand of feminism. Instead of espousing the hyper sexualized gun toters that seem to pervade Hollywood horror movies (Ahem, Ms. Jovovich), Mcdonald portrays a woman menaced (by a hyper sexualized female vampire, interestingly enough) but not put-upon. She doesn't run, breasts joggling for the audience to oogle. Nor does she suddenly gain an uncanny knowledge of martial arts and weaponry and start blasting the hell out the predator with her phallisized gun. No. She simply uses her voice - symbol of identity and personal strength - and screams it into submission. Unnervingly simple, but mind-shakingly profound, Mcdonald's work is truly a joy to view. I'm a little stunned, frankly, that I got so much meaning out of that little clip. Damn, she's good.

She also loves zombies, mostly because she used to be terrified of them. Sound familiar? I am eternally fascinated by how people get wrapped up in horror movies. They're always guaranteed to be interesting stories. Check her stuff out, not only is she smart and funny, she's darn good at what she does. I think I'm developing a little bit of a girl-crush on her.

Oh, and just for fun: Trailers from Hell - along with Edgar Wright - present the trailer for Raw Meat, which I am dying to get my hands on.

Also, X Factor (the UK's version of American Idol) has a wonderful contestant named Rhydian (yes, his real name!) who sang a bit from 2004's The Phantom of the Opera.