Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: I Sell the Dead

Never trust a corpse. I think we can all agree that is some sound advice. And if you're a grave robber, it goes double. These lessons are learned the hard way in  I Sell the Dead, an indie flick from 2008 starring Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman.

Jack (o-lantern) Of All Trades

In today's entertainment industry, let alone the horror business, it's common for someone to be devoted to one artistic pursuit. Maybe they're a director, maybe a novelist, maybe an illustrator. It's rare to find a jack-o-lantern-of-all-trades, if you will. This was not always the case. American theatre and film was once choked with men and women who did it all. Without their tireless efforts, it's not unfair to say that classic horror (and entertainment media in general) as we know it today would be quite different.

No list about multi-tasking entertainers can start with anyone besides George M. Cohan. Dubbed "the man who owned Broadway" for obvious reasons, Cohan was a ridiculously successful playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, and producer. Yes, I did just copy that from Wikipedia. Saves time. Cohan did vaudeville at an early age, and would eventually go on to write over 500 songs in his lifetime, including the immortal "You're A Grand Old Flag." What does he have to show for horror cred? Not much, although he was the primary inspiration for Sander Cohen, the insane composer featured in the Bioshock games. That's got to count for something.

Yeesh. It's like Salvador Dali and The Joker's lovechild.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: The Facts In the Case Of Mister Hollow

Just when you think that there's no more originality in horror films, a gem works its way up through the festival circuit and surprises everyone. Three, in fact. The Demonology of Desire, The Eyes of Edward James, and The Facts In the Case Of Mister Hollow are short films directed by Rodrigo Gudino, founder and original Editor-In-Chief of long-running horror publication Rue Morgue Magazine. First premiering at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, all three shorts have garnered critical acclaim as well as rave reviews from the horror community. I have yet to view Demonology or Edward James, but I was lucky enough to catch a screening of Mister Hollow. Something's not quite right about this photograph.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pros And Cons of Horror-Comedy

In the past decade, most horror films released were... legitimately terrible. Gore-hungry filmgoers usually had the unsavory choice of either seeing a poor remake -excuse me, "re-imagining"- of a classic, or an American redo of a film that was far better in its native tongue. There was also a glut of vampire romances which I do not need to name here, suffice it to say that I'm looking forward to the next Garlic Years period. The one ray of light in this sea of sewage was a handful of horror-comedies, notably Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, I Sell the Dead, and, to a lesser extent, Dead Snow. (I've just realized that all the films mentioned feature zombies. Cannibalism guarantees big laughs, kids.)

As I've said before, horror and comedy go down real smooth. They both rely on well-timed shocks and outrageous predicaments, so it's not hard to see how they flow into each other. But is mixing funny and frightening the best thing for the genre? Let's draw up the list.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Freaky Fun For Everyone!"

If you're like me, your love of the macabre started early. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I turned to the dark side, but one thing certainly brought the ghastly home: Madballs.

Oh, do get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking about these:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Dead Snow

The great thing about horror movies is, whether the flick is good or bad, you can still have a good time. Even truly terrible pieces of work make for a fun evening. Hell, Mystery Science Theater 3000 proved that for over a decade. And since Netflix gave us the beautiful gift of Instant Watch (a godsend for horror fans if ever there was one), mountains of laughably bad films are just a click away. But what about when a movie is just... OK? Is there still fun to be had? In the case of Tommy Wirkola's Dead Snow, the answer is a definite maybe.

Isn't It Fun To Be A Little Scared?

They say to write about what you know. Thing is, they never tell you how. When you're working part-time in a department store and searching desperately for a creative outlet, writing seems like a particularly easy way to release. Plus, it keeps you from acting on all those murder fantasies involving you, your co-workers, and a chainsaw in place of your left hand.

When I was a wee lad, I owned a story and song album (the name of which presently eludes me) with an uneven assortment of musical stories and folk songs involving ghosts, monsters, and the like. The closer was a soft lullaby entitled "Isn't It Fun To Be A Little Scared?" I knew you were curious about where the brilliant title for this inaugural post originated. Anyway, the song posed a challenging question to my disturbed young mind. It is fun to get scared. It's that surprise, that uncertainty about what's lurking just out of sight, that makes horror so thrilling. Of course, the principle is the same in comedy too. A good laugh isn't generated by the outrageousness of the proceedings, not entirely. It relies on a well-executed shock. That's why humor and horror often make for such a winning combination.

None of this is a big revelation, I'm aware. Ever since the internet first gained steam, bloggers, journalists, and myriad others with writing skills more sharply defined than my own have put fingers to keyboard, reviewing books and movies, analyzing horror's place in society, and arguing over whether Evil Dead II is a remake or a sequel. I doubt I'll bring anything new to the blood-soaked table, but this isn't about being a unique voice in the horror community. It's about sharing my passion with people who will appreciate it. It's about celebrating the best and worst that this world has to offer. It's about ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens, serial killers, demons, and curses. It's about drive-in theaters and haunted houses. It's about the fun of being scared.

So I'll do movie reviews. I'll tell you what I think of horrorpunk bands. I'll dig spook show posters and Universal Monsters toys out of my closet. I'll share forgotten drive-in ads and theatrical cartoons. I'll wax poetic about Halloween. They say to write about what you know. Here's to blood, babes, and bump in the night.