Obligatory Thanksgiving Post (2015 Edition)

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turkey-carcassHere we are, the week of Thanksgiving. Which means that I’m in the midst of the Holiday Edition of my periodic Downward Spiral, something that begins when Halloween breathes its last at the strike of Midnight, and continues steadily until some time after New Years. By that time, I’ve blocked all of the light emanating in the domicile I reside in, and have a special soundtrack that features the likes of Dead Artist Syndrome, L. S. U., Saviour Machine and other darker stuff playing on an endless loop, while I sit on the couch and read ancient Gothic literature to the candle light to stave off the creeping darkness. Fun times.

But, if you’re worried you’re about to read a bunch of self-pity-ing whining that you would normally find on a blog of some emo kid, far from it. I’m currently at the part of the overall Holiday Clusterbomb where I like to refer to my level of depression as “whimsically melancholy”.

This year, due to the scheduling algorithm, I work on Thanksgiving. Which, for me, is fine. I fear that, in my middle age, Thanksgiving–along with Christmas–have lost all cohesion for me in terms of celebratory importance. They’re just days on the calendar for me.

Certainly, I enjoy gathering together with the family, sharing in a meal of some sort, and enjoying everyone’s presence. All of my memories of Thanksgiving gatherings with the family have been pleasant ones, and I actually look forward to any time we can spend together in that capacity. Only…we can do that at any other given day out of the 365 that comprise the year, and not just on one Thursday at the end of the second-to-last month of the year.

However, instead of focusing on the secular trappings of the holiday, let’s focus on the spirit of the day. And by that, I mean the “Thanks” in “Thanksgiving”. And thus, I share with you all a bit of a list of things I’m thankful for, things that may not be on your typical “I’m Thankful For…” lists. Also, they’re in no particular order, as these are more brain droppings than an actual structured list (as most of these blog posts are):

– ATHEISTS
Without them, I wouldn’t be challenged into thinking logically as to why I believe what I believe. You might say my Christian faith is stronger because of my unbelieving friends. And I’m stone-cold serious about that. No sarcasm whatsoever.

– HORROR MOVIES
Contrary to popular belief, horror movies don’t cause fear, but releases our fear. It’s the perfect genre for Christians to get creative in. And no, I’m not going to explain myself. It would take too long.

– GOTHIC LITERATURE
The old stuff, from the mid-18th Century to the early 20th Century, have a certain charm to them that seems to appeal to me more than a lot of modern horror literature. And I can look pretentious reading them, too.

– SCI-FI
Such bloody good yarns, such imaginations, such thinly-veiled commentary on present issues done in future tense. Also, robots and space ships and aliens, oh my.

– BOOKS
Do I even need to explain this one? Physical books; old, new, paperback and hardback, of all shapes and sizes…er, that didn’t sound as weird in my head as it does written down…anyway…

– QUORN NAKED CHIK’N CUTLETS
I’m no vegetarian by any means, but at those times where I need to cut back on the tender flesh of the innocent, I find the Quorn brand of meatless products to be more agreeable with faking out my brain into thinking I’m still consuming meat. And their “chicken” patties are the best ones going.

There we are, a lovely list to contemplate for our thankfulness of the season. Or whatever. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good things and happy memory-making. Me, I’m going to catch up on my reading and some writing at work. It’s dead, I’m told. Maybe pick up some pre-prepared turkey to at least overdose on tryptophan. Some traditions I like.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movie Review: TOOTH AND NAIL

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tooth and nailLions Gate Films / After Dark Films
2007
R

“What’s the point of being a carnivore if all we can eat is rabbit food?”

A small group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world take refuge in an empty hospital with plans on re-building society. They rescue a young girl who is the victim of a brutal attack, but soon discover that they were followed by a savage band of cannibals known as Rovers. The Rovers begin to kill them one by one, and the trapped survivors must find a way to outwit their stalkers.

Oh, hey, another post-apocalypse flick! What brought this one on? Science gone awry? Cataclysmic natural disaster? Post-nuclear fallout? Alien invasion? None of those? Well, what was…um, the world ran out of gas? Seriously? The sudden lack of combustible fuel brought about the sudden degradation of society, turning civilized humans into instant savage troglodytes? Sorry, I don’t buy it. But, let’s just stretch out my suspension of disbelief (I’ve done it so many times before), for the sake of argument. At least tell me there’s some zombie action going about. No? Cannibals, you say? Well, that’s halfway to a zombie, I guess. One of ’em is played by Michael Madsen, but then he gets offed halfway through the movie? And the “protagonists” are a bunch of annoying little whiny drama queens that you actually start rooting for the cannibals before you even realize there are cannibals in the movie? Gads, why am I watching this movie again? Oh, right. I made a blood oath to watch all of the After Dark movies before I die. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, here you have a post-apocalyptic movie with a weak premise and a badly cribbed Assault On Precinct 13 story with the only bright spot coming from the afore-mentioned Michael Madsen, who really exemplifies the kind of actor who can take literally nothing and have fun anyway. All’s the pity, as this points out that Tooth And Nail could have been much more fun than what it turned out to be.

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – Session 3.14

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SESSION 3.14

after a bit of a holiday after Halloween to let the withdrawls dwindle a bit, Uncle NecRo is back with another session of Brutal Music Therapy!

featuring cuts from:

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: LAKE MUNGO

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lake-mungoAfter Dark Films
2008
R

“Alice kept secrets. She kept the fact that she kept secrets a secret.”

In December 2005, the accidental death of a teenage girl initiated a series of supernatural events that would haunt her grieving family. This film is a record of those events.

At first glance at that DVD back cover blurb that I’ve included, you would probably be forgiven for thinking of Lake Mungo as just another found footage movie with supernatural leanings and such. There are a lot of Paranormal Activity rip-offs going around, as they’re cheep to make and release. As to this being a rip-off of Paranormal Activity, I don’t know. It seems to have come out a year after Paranormal Activity, and given production times and how different the execution is between the two, I would have to say that Lake Mungo isn’t really another Paranormal Activity knock off. What it is, however, is a disappointment.

For the most part, Lake Mungo is a rather well put together independent film that takes the documentary style and makes it work, having this feel more like an actual television documentary you might catch on…whatever television channel runs documentaries, I don’t know. PBS? Does the History Channel even do documentaries anymore?

Anyway, the story involves the family of a drowned 16-year-old girl talking about how they thought that they had evidence of the ghost of their daughter haunting their house. The son had strong photographic and video evidence capturing the ghostly images of what looks like their deceased daughter…until later, when the son confesses to faking everything, and describing how he went about doing so. It was kind of brilliant, actually. In the process, though, the family begins to find evidence that their little girl maybe wasn’t so innocent as they thought. Then they find the one questionable image on her phone taken at the titular Lake Mungo camping site that there might be kinda-sorta a ghost involved…but then they move from the house and the movie ends.

Lake Mungo was marketed as a “psychological horror” film, and was included in the fourth After Dark Horrorfest lineup back in 2010. I wish to congratulate whoever it was that listed that in the application while presumably maintaining a straight face. Because Lake Mungo is “psychological horror” only if you back up a few feet, squint and maybe relax your eyes like this was one of those ubiquitous “magic eye” posters that were all the rage for all of ten minutes back in the 1990s. An episode of Unsolved Mysteries had more psychological horror than this movie did. And labeling it like that is Lake Mungo’s major downfall, as I kept waiting for something supernatural to happen, only to be left feeling more than a bit cheated when the end credits rolled and I got nothing.

Which is all the pity, because Lake Mungo is actually a decent film. It was shot well, looks and flows great, and the actors really pull off the harder-than-it-looks realism needed to sell this as a mocumentary. The story itself was interesting enough to not have to fall back on the whole “ghost story” angle entirely. So, I would recommend watching Lake Mungo, but do so expecting a drama mystery rather than a horror film.

Book Review: CHILDHOOD’S END

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childhood's endArthur C. Clarke
Ballantine Books
1953

Man was, therefore, still a prisoner on his own planet. It was a much fairer, but a much smaller, planet than it had been a century before. When the Overlords had abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure.

Without warning, giant silver ships from deep space appear in the skies above every major city on Earth. They are manned by the Overlords…mysterious creatures from an alien race who soon take over control of the world. Within fifty years, these brilliant masters have all but eliminated ignorance, disease, poverty and fear. Then suddenly this golden age ends…and the end of Mankind begins!

I first came to know about Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel Childhood’s End in the same way I came about a bunch of literary classics back in the day: Having a late night discussion with my college roommate, we were somehow discussing the classics in science fiction literature, and he described for me the general story behind Childhood’s End. Which, of course, blew my mind. The idea of aliens conquering and wiping out humanity as we know it by way of bringing about peace and utopia was…well, not unheard of, but still rather intriguing in my over-active imagination. I immediately put it on my Must Read Before Death list.

The problem was, unlike some other better known works by Arthur C. Clarke–like, say, that other book about aliens meddling with human evolution like drunk kittens, Two-Thousand Something-Something or other, I can’t recall at the moment–it took me a while to locate a copy of Childhood’s End to read. Like, over twenty years, if you can fathom that. But, I recently managed to snag a good mass market paperback reprint from 1991 through the Del Rey imprint, apparently re-released in conjunction with the publication of Clarke’s sequel novel 2061: Odyssey Three. Which is the cover image we’re using here, natch.

Originally starting life as the short story “Guardian Angel” back in 1946, Clarke expanded this into the novel version as the first part of the overarching narrative, subtitled “Earth and the Overlords”. The story begin by the aliens showing up at the hight of the Cold War, right before we’re all about to wipe each other out by way of Mutually Assured Destruction (we all go “boom”), and bring about peace and stuff among us all. Only thing is, they’re a bit shy about showing their actual mugs to us humans, claiming it would be too much for us all to handle. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, even after they’ve set up a nice peaceful existence among us as our new overlords. They give us 50 years or so, before they show us what they actually look like. And when they do…well, let’s just say it was probably a good idea. But even decades after they all find out who these benevolent aliens are, the question still remains: Are they really benefiting humanity? Or is there some kind of underlying sinister motive behind everything? Which leads some guy to sneak aboard one of the supply ships and catch a ride to the home planet…only to be brought back to find–thanks to time relativity and and space travel and all that fun stuff–that the population of Earth was indeed depopulated with normal human beings after an entire generation became super-evolved beings no longer in need of Earth. The whole thing ends in a downer. The end.

So, Childhood’s End was, indeed, a rather interesting book to read. Even now, several weeks after having read it, I’m still chewing on the story, and the implications and such. What if we did achieve enlightened peace? How would we grow and enrich ourselves, not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually? What if that comes at the price of identity? Am I reading too much into this? Fine. Childhood’s End was also a rather good read, from a straight science fiction sense. Now that I’ve read this one, maybe I can talk myself into finally cracking into 2001: A Space Odyssey. But, not just yet. As far as Childhood’s End goes, I know I’ve been saying this a lot in my reviews, but I would recommend looking into this book, and owning it outright. And not only because it’s written by one of the Big Three of sci-fi literature’s early Modern Age, either.

Movie Review: DEATHGASM

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deathgasmDark Sky Films
2015
NR

Imagine, if you will, director Peter Jackson deciding to go back to his wacky horror days, and deciding to do a mash-up of the 1986 Metalsploitation cult classic Trick Or Treat and Sam Raimi’s legendary Evil Dead 2. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Deathgasm.

After his mother is institutionalized after a meth bender, young metalhead Brodie is now living with his Aunt and Uncle, who are both fundamentalist Christian types, with a cousin who is a relentless bully douche-nozzle. After meeting fellow metalhead Zakk, they form a band with a couple of mates called Deathgasm. After stumbling upon an ancient piece of music, they accidentally on purpose unleash a powerful demon who begins killing and possessing everyone in the town. It’s now up to them to stop not only the demon but also his worshipers with the power of \,,/METAL\,,/…and various power tools. Wackiness ensues.

Deathgasm was another movie that I discovered existed by way of an announcement on the Metal Sucks website. The moment I read the synopsis, along with the fact that writer / director Jason Lei Howden was a fellow \,,/METALHEAD\,,/, Deathgasm was immediately put on my I MUST WATCH THIS NOW!!!! list. Unfortunately, at the time it was still going through the usual film fest rounds, with nary an indication as to when it would ever be picked up for distribution beyond its New Zealand shores. And while it’s not slated to get released in DVD until the beginning of 2016, it’s on streaming now, so yeah, I got to check it out finally. And here’s your Uncle NecRo’s assessment:

I swear by Rob Halford’s spiked leather thong that Deathgasm is bloody AWESOME. Like with two other favorites of mine that mix the genres of metal and horror with a twisted sense of humor–Metalocalypse and Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil–Deathgasm takes the tropes and stereotypes of horror and metalheads and fashions them into a highly entertaining over-the-top gorefest that should please fans of both metal and supernatural horror-sploitation.

While it’s definitely not the perfect marriage of horror and metal going (personally, I think the afore-mentioned Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil managed far better), watching Deathgasm was a fun romp that was much-needed. There needs to be more of these. Advising to check this one out post-haste.

Movie Review: GOOSEBUMPS

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gersbermpsColumbia Pictures
2015
PG

“Hello. My name is Mr. R. L. Stine. Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the twist.”

Author R. L. Stine’s famous (if that isn’t understating things) line of book geared toward giving children and tweens a good, healthy dose of the spooks first came out in the summer of 1992. By that time, I had graduated High School, and was firmly ensconced with the more advanced works of Stephen King, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker for my literary horror fix. Also, I was 18, so the Goosebumps series wasn’t exactly geared for my target demographic. I did, however, find some amusement with the television anthology that was based on the book series that ran from 1994 through to…I think some time in the early Aughts, I want to say? I wasn’t a diehard fan of the show. But, this is besides the point. Point is, it was the show itself that provided me sufficient amount of interest to watch this big screen movie about Goosebumps. Well, technically about R. L. Stine. That’s not a docu-drama. Let me see if I can explain without making your collective heads do that cute popping noise I love so very, very much.

Goosebumps, the movie, takes the second question* every writer sooner or later gets tired of having to answer–“Where do you get your ideas from?”–and turns it into a fantasy/horror/comedy befitting the spirit of the Goosebumps series. While I hesitate to use the phrase “Family Friendly Horror”, but this is really what it is: a movie that is as whimsical as it is dark, something akin to an intense roller coaster ride that can entertain not only the grade schooler and tween crowd, but will entertain the adults who have to take them to the movie in the first place.

The story consists of a teenage boy and his mother moving to a small New England town and, in a series of Rear Window-like events, end up discovering that his next door neighbor is none other than famous young adult horror novelist R. L. Stine! Oh, and also he inadvertently sets free all of the creatures and monsters from all of the book manuscripts that he’s written. Now, he-along with his best friend, Mr. Stein and Stein’s daughter-is in a race to get all of the book characters that have sprung literally from the mind of R. L. Stein back into the pages from whence they came. Only, there’s one book character that thinks this is not a great idea.

Goosebumps the movie itself is a surprisingly entertaining movie; surprising because it is a Goosebumps movie, in more than just one way it seems. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m prattling on about: if you’re familiar with the movie The Naked Lunch, you know that is less a movie adaptation of the William H. Burrows novel, and more a movie about the writing of the William H. Burrows novel. This is kind of lik that, as it’s rather meta fiction that isn’t based on any one book of the Goosebumps series, but is more of a loving tribute to it. I consider this a good proper scaring for the kiddies that the parents can get into as well. Recommended.

[*- the first question, in case you were wondering, is “How do you write?” It’s so very hard not go shoot back with a sarcastic answer with that one]

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