Friday, June 30, 2017

"The Bone That Cracks the Loudest" in Crannóg Magazine

My latest short story, a peculiar kind of ghost tale called "The Bone That Cracks the Loudest," has been published in the latest issue (No. 45) of Crannóg Magazine, a literary journal based out of Galway, Ireland. It is available for purchase in print here.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... THE WICKER MAN

Only now does it occur to me... that perennial recording artist Cher is clearly Christopher Lee's spirit animal.

(As evidenced by these screencaps from the pagan revelries at the heart of THE WICKER MAN and THE SONNY AND CHER COMEDY HOUR.)

It's even more astonishing that this attachment was not confined to the 1970s. In fact, late '90s "Believe"-era Cher exerted a notable influence on THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Is it any wonder that both went on to inspire macabre vintage toys?

Feel free to debate the cultural (and cosmological) significance in the comments section.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS

Only now does it occur to me... that John Carpenter's IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994) is such a wealth of creatively horrific visuals and ideas that one of its throwaway scares (not even really a scare, per se, moreso a morbid detail) became, in 2017, the entire basis of the marketing campaign for a $125 million Hollywood blockbuster.

I'm speaking here of THE MUMMY reboot (starring Tom Cruise), a film I must admit I have very little interest in seeing. However, I couldn't help but notice that the creepy "double-iris" of their Mummy has become quite ubiquitous:

Upon seeing this poster on the subway, I immediately thought of IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS––particularly the scene where a mad axeman looms behind Sam Neill and Bernie Casey outside a Manhattan diner.

Toward the scene's conclusion, while the axeman is menacing a frightened Sam Neill, we get a closer look at his eyes, which contain the double-iris effect:

What's funny is that this scene is so tightly constructed and confident in its "horror in broad daylight" premise that the whole "double-iris" aspect is probably only the fourth or fifth scariest detail of the entire tableau.

I reviewed IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS at length seven years ago (seven years?!), and for those who haven't seen it, the entirety of IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS is similarly layered––it has a sort of "throw in every scary thing you can think of and the kitchen sink" sensibility, but it really thrives on it. It's a mosaic of nightmare and lunacy that is incredibly focused; every element is carefully curated to fit the bigger picture, both thematically and visually. The double-iris is such a small detail that it's possible many people who have seen the film may have forgotten about it by the time the credits rolled. And yet, that's the power of Carpenter's films––from the spider-leg head in THE FACULTY (referencing THE THING), to CHILD'S PLAY 3's "Colonel Cochrane" (referencing HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) to DAZED AND CONFUSED paraphrasing the best line ("I've come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...") from THEY LIVE, etc., etc., apparently Carpenter minutiae have been enthralling Hollywood for decades.

Note: it's also possible that THE MUMMY designers were inspired by DOUBLE VISION (2002), or something else entirely of which I'm unaware, but I'm going to go ahead and continue assuming that John Carpenter is the center of the universe.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Only now does it occur to me... LEGIONNAIRE

Only now does it occur to me... that when Jean-Claude Van Damme makes a $35 million prestige picture and it ends up going straight-to-video... there's a reason for that.

Written by JCVD himself in collaboration with Sheldon Lettich (LIONHEART, DOUBLE IMPACT) and Rebecca Morrison (SCORCHER) and directed by Peter MacDonald (RAMBO III, THE NEVER ENDING STORY III), LEGIONNAIRE sees Van Damme playing "Alain Lefevre," a 1920s French boxer with a level of moral righteousness that is usually only seen in movies where the star is also the executive producer. Did I mention that this film is produced by (among others) Jean-Claude Van Damme and Edward R. Pressman (BADLANDS, WALL STREET, AMERICAN PSYCHO)?

Anyway, the film begins promisingly enough, with punching and grunting

and the bursting of flashbulbs, and you can tell from the styling that they think they're making RAGING BULL. When JCVD is told to throw the fight, he refuses and winds up on the run in a lavishly produced chase scene on the streets of Marseille,

complete with a weepy damsel waiting at a fog-machine-drenched train platform.

However, JCVD never makes his train, and, while on the lam from French gangsters and sorrowfully hiding on a cart of discarded vegetables,

he spies a poster for the French Foreign Legion,

which luckily has a late-nite drive-thru recruitment station.

Next thing you know, JCVD's wandering the desert with a rifle, and the movie has transformed into a kind of tedious '90s variant of GUNGA DIN or Von Sternberg's MOROCCO. And it's here that the movie begins to really drag.

It's trying very hard for poignancy the entire time, too, which makes it all the more painful, even if the filmmaking is technically more competent than his Cannon work.

You can tell it is a Serious Picture because of JCVD's patented pathos-face.

Anyway, there's lots of men and dust and guns and horses
and men with guns on dusty horses

and some Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

and I can't decide if it's more or less homoerotic than LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

I mean, maybe it's technically more homoerotic,

in practice, if not in spirit.

In comparison, JCVD's THE QUEST (which he directed and co-wrote) was also an earnest attempt at Oscar bait, but it brought a certain joie de vivre (Joie-Claude Van Vivre?) to the proceedings. It, too, was a period piece with tear-jerkin' pretensions, but it was at least centered around a martial arts tournament, and sort of felt like BLOODSPORT mixed with a '40s swashbuckler (and maybe a Dickens novel?)

In LEGIONNAIRE, JCVD still has the amazing newsie cap from THE QUEST, though it seems to have shrunk a bit.

Alas, his clown makeup from THE QUEST does not make a reappearance.

In any event, perhaps all you really need to know is that there are no splits in LEGIONNAIRE, at least not on-screen.