Saturday, December 31, 2016

That Time When Éomer and Dr. McCoy Ran Mega City One, or Thoughts on Dredd

 Dredd (2012), not to be confused with Stallone’s Judge Dredd (1995, and don’t you just love how you only have to mention Stallone to know exactly what kind of movie it was), is the far more successful and visionary adaptation of the 2000 AD comic book by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  Written and Produced by Alex Garland, who would go onto write and direct Ex Machina, https://goo.gl/LNqBeH (2015), the movie stars Karl Urban as the eponymous Judge who is the Law.
Karl Urban never takes his helmet off, staying true to the character and immediately winning over the fans.  There’s no back-story, no origin story, and very little in the way of explanation; nuclear apocalypse, over-population, violent crime, and an extremely overworked and draconian justice system.  The movie throws the viewer in the deep end and expects you to swim or drown.
That keep up or fall behind filmmaking ethic essentially echoes the journey of Olivia Thirlby’s Judge Anderson of Psi Division (which I am certain is a low key Joy Division reference, given that the character first appeared in the UK in 1980), a rookie on her first day being assessed by Mega City One’s most famous Judge.  There’s an element of randomness as Judge Dredd allows Anderson to pick the crime they’ll investigate and she decides on a triple homicide where Lena Headey as skinned her victims and thrown them off a balcony.
Lena Headey portrays Ma-Ma, the scarred  and psychopathic drug queen of the 200-storey mega-block that the bulk of the action takes place in, and there’s your movie.  Essentially a sci-fi remake of The Raid: Redemption (2011) but with Judge Dredd, it’s a video game format where the judges have to fight floor by floor until they reach the armored penthouse.
It’s a beautiful movie; even the slow motion violence has a certain Sam Peckinpah poetry that makes the film watchable, with slo-mo, a new future drug that enables the filmmakers to use 3D bullet time and punched up CGI graphics effectively.  The production design and wardrobe are updated but retain the comic book aesthetic, as well as the art direction’s day glow metallic colors.  The Lawgiver, if you care (and I know you do) is a modified Glock 17 with Rapid Fire, Armor Piercing, Incendiary, Stun and Hot Shot.  It is the most video gamey movie not based on a video game that I happen to enjoy.
Disappointing Box Office doomed the plans for a trilogy introducing Judge Death, though fans remain optimistic.  The movie holds a very respectable 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and is also one of my favorite modern Sci-Fi films.






my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking for Mr. Bigfoot, or Thoughts on Willow Creek

Much like an American The Wicker Man (1973, as opposed to Nicolas Cage’s 2006 remake), Willow Creek (2013) is about a pair of skeptical outsiders who trespass in a small town where they’re not welcome.  Kelly and Jim, two big city actors visit Willow Creek, CA, home of the actual Patterson-Gimlin film (1967), the clearest and most famous Bigfoot film footage.  Willow Creek has developed a Bigfoot tourism industry like a Northwest Area 51 (except for cryptozoology, not aliens) and the two spend the first half of the movie mocking the locals and interviewing eyewitnesses before heading out into the woods.  They are warned off but nobody ever listens in these movies and to be fair, there would be no story if they just turned around and went back home.
Willow Creek is an impressive, clever, low budget indie done right, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, the Police Academy Bobcat Golthwait). Half the movie is spent on build up before the creepy stuff happens during the first night in the woods.  Camping features an illusion of safety when in reality the only thing separating you from the wild is a thin sheet of nylon and a zipper.  There’s a 21-minute one-take tent scene reminiscent of Orson Welle’s War of the Worlds Mercury Theater radio play (1938) where the actors Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson react to sound effects; strange hootings, moans, and the sounds of footsteps getting closer.  There is a subtle genius at work here; it’s a simple scare that should be shown at film school as one of the best examples of the less is more philosophy.
Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999) but without the annoying shaky-cam, Willow Creek is less about Bigfoot and more about humans searching for Bigfoot, and how stupid they act in the woods.  The screenplay isn’t exactly funny, but if you’re familiar with Bobcat’s comedy (his stand-up style was a goofy, less-bitter Sam Kinison) you will hear his quirky sense of humor behind his actor’s lines.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Lady Han Solo With Daddy Issues, or Thoughts on Rogue One

There are so many orphans, absent fathers and surrogate father figures in the galaxy far, far away that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) inhabits, a movie that finally ends 40 years of speculation on that pesky exhaust port.  English actor Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the aforementioned orphan (well, technically she has an an absent father) who happens to be the daughter of the chief engineer of the Death Star, Galen Erso as portrayed by the inimitable Mads Mikkelsen.  She’s a scrappy space petty criminal with a heart of gold, and all she needs is a Wookie co-pilot.  There are sadly no Wookies in this movie but you do get a sassier robot than C-3PO with K2SO, as voiced by Alan Tudyk from Firefly and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010).  I don’t think I need to tease the plot any further, you’ve already seen this movie and it currently has a rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I would like to mention how nice it was to see Peter Cushing resurrected as Grand Moff Tarkin, hopefully Disney also gave him some digital cozy slippers.  Forrest Whittaker as Saw Gerrera, a cyborg with a Darth Vader-esque inhaler (there are also so many respiratory issues in this universe) is a kinder, gentler Immortan Joe, or perhaps General Grievous would be a better analogy.
Rogue One is a serious, darker, and more mature movie, a hard PG-13 (which I didn’t think was possible) that has none of the light-hearted, exhilarating adventure of A New Hope (1977) or even last year’s The Force Awakens (2015).  I suppose it's reflective of our decade and our contentious political climate, which is distressing, but then again I do tend to over think these movies.  I am happy to see Donnie Yen, the Iron Monkey (2002), as Chirrut Imwe, the blind Force Master, finally ending the confusing absence of Asian characters in Star Wars, despite the continual usage of Asian fighting styles, Asian sword play, Asian names (Obi-Wan Kenobi, seriously?), and the lamentable accents of the Trade Federation.
So much of the Star Wars universe has been established, every obscure character has been named, given a history and in many cases an adventure in books, graphic novels, videogames and fan fiction.  Maybe that means we may finally get that buddy comedy trilogy about space nerfherders that we never knew we wanted.
I do have to admit, while I follow Star Wars and speak it fluently, I’m more of a Star Trek guy; i find it has a more optimistic worldview.  Star Trek is based on science and essentially utopian, Star Wars is based on religion and is very dystopian.  Think about it, George Lucas literally wrote the template for the young adult dystopian fantasy.  Ok, he got the teen romance aspect completely wrong, but that’s the subject for another post.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Blasting Out From Under Mom’s Shadow, or Thoughts on Carrie Fisher’s Postcards From the Edge

Postcards From the Edge (1990), the movie adaptation of Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical novel of the same name, presents an unflattering portrait of her life at the time; doing bumps between takes in her trailer and overdosing in strange producer’s beds.  Suzanne Vale, the fictional Carrie Fisher, is played by the very real Meryl Streep at the top of her game, a sincere and melancholy performance that perfectly captures Suzanne’s loneliness and isolation under the unrelenting spotlight and pressure of being both a movie star and the daughter of a Hollywood icon.   Doris Mann, the stand-in for Carrie Fisher’s actual mother Debbie Reynolds, is played by actual Hollywood icon Shirley MacLean (Warren Beatty’s sister, nobody remembers that).
The surreal chaos of movie production is juxtaposed against Suzanne’s home life and her struggles with sobriety, as she moves back in with her mother who in turn micromanages her career, turns every conversation back towards herself and treats her daughter more as a younger, professional rival, almost as if  she's acting the part of being her mother in the movie of her life.  It seems an accurate portrait of a show-biz family and growing up in Hollywood and reminded me sadly in places of Judy Garland’s life; of a time when actresses were treated more as products or commodities.
Mike Nichols of The Graduate (1967) and Working Girl (1988) is a director's director, and the movie is a film student’s master class in screen tracking, single takes, and composition, in addition to portraying Carrie’s complicated and often toxic relationship with her mother.  Look out for old-school Hollywood manly man Gene Hackman as a paternal director who calls Suzanne a "spoiled, selfish, coked up little actress", Richard Dreyfus as the emergency room doctor who pumps her stomach and CCH Pounder as the rehab director.
Debbie Reynolds was a mid-century movie icon, an old-Hollywood triple threat (actor, dancer, singer), arguably most remembered for her role as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952, with Gene Kelly, and one of my favorite movies) and with an IMDb page that goes back to 1948.  Much like Jamie Lee Curtis, when Star Wars (1977) came out Carrie Fisher was referred to in reviews as “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter”.  That one role changed her life for better or for worse, and the irony is that Debbie Reynolds is now more famous for being Carrie Fisher’s mother.  
Carrie Fisher touched so many lives as the Rebel Princess from Alderaan, and fortunately she’s achieved a certain kind of cinematic immortality because of it.  I never knew Carrie Fisher, though her 19 year-old face is etched in my memory as if she were an old friend and in a sense she is.  We create one-sided relationships with our favorite movies and actors, we use them as touch-stones and mementos of our lives.  Our collective loss echoes across the galaxy, and creates a vast disturbance in The Force.





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Because They're Made of Wood, or Thoughts on the Blair Witch

No longer a project, Blair Witch (2016) features smug millennial film students with a drone, in much the same way The Blair Witch Project (1999) featured smug Gen-Xers with a VHS camera.  Like the first film, these kids have no business in the woods; they’re warned at every step, they live in a universe where the first movie actually happened and there are viral videos on YouTube, not to mention warnings from locals, No Trespassing signs and one of the college kids is the younger brother of Heather, from the first movie.
Directed by Adam Wingard, Blair Witch is not necessarily a found footage movie anymore, but rather a movie filmed in the POV, found footage style.  The woods can be an inherently scary place, even if there weren’t any witch legends there could be wolves, bears, Bigfoot or raptors.  The movie plays on these primordial fears as the cast provides endless exposition and keeps giving each other jump scares.  The drone is a clever but disappointing tease; it can never rise high enough to clear the tree line.
The movie also updates the scares by adding a sci-fi element including time loops, strange lights in the woods and some gory bio-horror scenes.  But the movie’s called the Blair Witch, not the Blair Alien, and these X-Files-esque side tracks get lost in the woods, (pun intended) and like the cast running in circles, lead nowhere.
The POV style is more comfortable with the video game generation, but the audience is not in control, we only see what the camera sees, and the overall effect is watching someone else play a horror game.  There’s no clear resolution or payoff, or even a clear glimpse of the witch to reward the viewer for making it to the end.  Additionally, the night scenes are filmed with a single light source that creates an annoying black frame on the screen.  It’s filmmaking by deletion where you only give the viewer 30% of the screen and tell the story with sound effects and dialogue.  There’s an expectation that audience will pick up the slack, which they are more than happy to do, provided the writing, performances are memorable, clever or compelling.

Adam Wingard contributed to the far superior V/H/S (2012), in addition to one of my favorite modern killer in the woods movie, You’re Next (2011).  Devotees of the modern found footage/POV horror film will be better served with Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek, in addition to the Spanish zombie outbreak movie REC (2007) and the American remake it inspired Quarantine  (2008).



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Maze Isn’t For You, or Collected Thoughts on Westworld

Westworld was easily my favorite TV series of 2016.  I have to admit I was prepared to dismiss it, given my automatic hatred of remakes despite John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) being in my top five and how much I love the Battlestar Galactica reboot.  In fact, I could write a whole post comparing the Cylons and the Hosts, although that might be too nerdy even for me.   Here are my reviews of the original movie and sequel, along with some thoughts on Season One.  (Takeaway: I love Maeve, Bernard is sad, Yul Brynner is cool, Blythe Danner is Gwynneth's mom, Wizard of Oz/Blade Runner metaphors, and Anthony Hopkins is consistently stellar).

Where Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, or Thoughts on Westworld (1973) 
These Violent Delights, or Thoughts on Westworld Season 1 (2016) 
A Deep and Dreamless Slumber, or More Thoughts on Westworld Season 1 (now with spoilers)
Now That You've Seen Westworld, Let's Watch Futureworld (1976) 





my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Blot of Mustard, A Crumb of Cheese and Some Christmas Movie Reviews

The Christmas horror movie seems like an oxymoron or some crazy cinematic cognitive dissonance; it doesn’t make sense.  Flipping that paradigm can be seen as mean-spirited, but it can also be the perfect remedy to balance out a season of overly-sentimental favorites including Miracle on 34th Street (1947), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Love Actually (2003).
It’s interesting to note that the traditional Christmas movie, based on some variation of Ebenezer Scrooge and A Christmas Carol, is technically a ghost story.  Santa is also, technically, an immortal, supernatural creature.  There’s always a supernatural element to show the protagonist what life would be like if he hadn’t been born, or what his future holds if he continues on his path.  From that perspective some of these movies presented here, in particular Black Christmas and Christmas Evil are more realistic, in the sense that they feature human killers inspired by the season to act out their various psychological traumas.  Usually with an axe, but in a Santa suit.  It’s convenient that it’s a red suit; that might be part of the appeal.

Back When Land Lines Were Scary, or Thoughts on Black Christmas 
Death By Sharpened Candy Cane, or Thoughts on the Black Christmas Remake 
A Literal Nightmare Before Christmas, or Thoughts on Christmas Evil 
A Vintage Tim Burton Daydream Before Christmas, or Thoughts on Edward Scissorhands 
The Instructions Were Quite Specific, or Thoughts on Gremlins 
Baby It’s Cold Outside, or Thoughts onP2 
The Weather Outside is Frightful, or Thoughts on Silent Night, Bloody Night 
When Santas Attack, or Thoughts on Silent Night, Deadly Night 
Have Yourself a Very Undead Christmas, or Thoughts on Silent Night, Zombie Night 



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Vintage Tim Burton Daydream Before Christmas, or Thoughts on Edward Scissorhands

Fresh off the box office success of Batman (1989), Tim Burton presented the public with his actual vision of Batman; part Pinocchio, part Peter Pan, part Frankenstein and a dash of Beauty and the Beast.  Edward Scissorhands (1990) as you are aware, is the sensitive teen boy in black vinyl who can never touch anyone because he has scissors for hands, an absurd metaphor that somehow works, carried along by Tim Burton’s tremendous visual style and the nascent star power of his greatest collaborator and one true muse, Johnny Depp.  Grace Kelly to Tim Burton’s Hitchcock (much like Danny Elfman is his Bernard Hermann), Johnny Depp embodies the character with true pathos and a childlike sense of wonder and humor, taking what could be a heavy-handed fantasy and transforming it into something wonderful and transcendent. 
Edward is a male version of Lydia Deetz, except less self-aware, and fortunately for him we have the actress who played Lydia.  Winona Ryder is Kim Boggs, cheerleader and popular girl who somehow sees past all the quirkiness and the scissors for hands and falls in love with Edward.  It sounds snarky in print, but it works, owing again to the natural chemistry of the two stars. 
While technically a Christmas movie in the sense that it’s set around the holidays, the Christmas theme is overwhelmed by the story of the outsider trying in vain to fit in, and the persecution by the angry villagers who don’t understand him.  Much like Jack Skellington hijacking Christmas, Edward Scissorhands is an early version of Tim Burton’s vision of a goth holiday Halloween/Christmas mash-up.
Horror icon and screen idol Vincent Price plays the mad scientist and inventor who creates Edward, only to die and leave him alone in his gothic mansion high above the pastel suburban valley.  Regrettably this was to be one of Vincent Price’s final appearances, in a 40-year career of over 200 roles including Laura (1944), House of Wax (1953), The Fly (1958), The House on Haunted Hill (1958), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), Scream and Scream Again (1969), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1970), and of course, Theater of Blood (1973).




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Instructions Were Quite Specific, or Thoughts on Gremlins

Written by Chris Columbus, who would go on to direct Home Alone (1990), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and a couple movies about that boy wizard with the glasses, Gremlins (1984) is perfectly balanced; light hearted but threatening, with just enough darkness to satisfy a Christmas Grinch while still keeping the attention of the larger holiday loving public.  From director Joe Dante of The Howling (1981) and produced by Steven Spielberg, Gremlins dovetails nicely into that sentimental and affectionate 80’s world of E.T.(1982), Back to The Future (1985), The Goonies (1985), Indiana Jones (1984), and Poltergeist (1982).
Keye Luke, Master Po from Kung Fu, the original Kato in the 1940 Green Hornet and Donald Corey in Star Trek’s Whom Gods Destroy (1969) is the mysterious (and perhaps a tad stereotypically racist from a contemporary viewing) ancient Chinese shopkeeper who inadvertently sells the cute Mogwai creature to wacky inventor Rand Peltzer, as portrayed by Hoyt Axton.  Even if you’ve never seen the movie you know the rules: keep them out of sunlight, don't expose them to water, and never, ever feed them after midnight.  Before the movie’s over, all three of those rules will be broken.
Gremlins is set in Kingston Falls, the same set that would become Marty McFly’s hometown Hill Valley, but it could easily be Bedford Falls, a nostalgic small town full of wacky characters like the legendary character actor Dick Miller as Murray Fetterman and Polly Holliday, doing her best Margaret Hamilton impression as Mrs. Deagle, the richest and meanest lady in town.  Zach Galligan is Billy Peltzer, Rand’s son who adopts the Mogwai and names him Gizmo and Phoebe Cates is his love interest and co-worker, Kate, who has a legitimate and very dark reason to hate Christmas, and remind the viewer that this is technically a horror movie.
The Mogwai are very furry and non-threatening, like an updated 80’s Tribble, or a tiny Ewok, or a really cute and friendly rare Sumatran rat monkey.    I am always amused at how the easily they are accepted by the characters in this movie;  no one's ever heard of this animal, they are a completely new species and they sort of speak English and everyone’s just on board.  The Gremlins of course are the stars of the movie, all teeth, reptilian skin and bad attitudes.  And even though their threat is real and they kill people, the Gremlins offer a comic lunacy that somehow let’s the audience be OK with that.
The special effects are gloriously analog; puppets, animatronics and stop motion.  The Gremlins run across Main Street like the Ray Harryhausen skeletons, and movie is full of affectionate references including a cameo by Robby the Robot from Lost in Space and Forbidden Planet (1956).  The effects contribute to the amorphous, sentimental holiday time frame; this movie could easily be set in the 50s or 60s, and that’s part of its considerable charm.
No one took the violence seriously except for the MPAA and a few concerned parents, and this movie, along with Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984) are largely responsible for creating the PG-13 rating.  But they literally don’t make movies like this anymore, Gremlins was a perfect storm of talent; writing direction, performance, music, and special effects were all balanced to create an instant holiday classic.  Even the teen romance worked organically, it was not forced and was with people you actually care about. 
With Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo and a cameo by Chuck Jones as Billy’s art teacher.  Watch out for Judge Reinholdt, in a small role that came out the same year as Beverly Hills Cop, and Francis Lee McCain as Lynn Peltzer, Billy’s mom and the real bad ass of the movie.  She isn’t afraid of the gremlins and kills them with a blender, microwave and the slasher movie weapon of choice, the kitchen knife. 

And pay very special attention to a young Jonathan Banks with hair as a drunk, frightened deputy.  




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby It’s Cold Outside, or Thoughts on P2

Like Die Hard (1988), P2 (2007) takes advantage of the isolation of a holiday weekend and control of the building’s security system to kidnap the office worker that he’s been stalking for the past year.  Wes Bentley from American Horror Story: Hotel portrays Thomas, the isolated security guard doing his best Norman  Bates impression; the sensitive, helpful loner with a dark agenda.  Rachel Nichols is Angela Bridges, you may remember her as Lisa the Babysitter in the 2005 The Amityville Horror remake and Galia, the first Orion (green) Starfleet cadet in Star Trek (2009).  She’s the ambitious overworked executive working late on Christmas Eve, both of them are quickly drawn caricatures but the movie only has 77 minutes to tell the story, so what do you expect.
Rachel, wearing a stylish red winter coat like an updated Red Riding Hood gets trapped on Parking Level 2.  It's not long before the lights go out and she’s chloroformed, kidnapped, and wakes up chained to the Christmas dinner table. 
Produced by Alexandre Aja from the far superior Haute Tension  2003) it’s not as violent and pretty straightforward, and it’s ironic to think that with a few tweaks this could be another zany and forgettable romantic comedy.  Neither of these leads are particularly sympathetic or memorable in these roles, and this indifference to the characters sucks any tension or drama from the movie.  Unlike the far superior cat and mouse fight to the death of a movie like Dead Calm (1989), the audience is left waiting for Rachel to break out the fire axe and end the movie.
Watch out for Phillip Akin as Karl, the security guard, who you may remember as Charlie DeSalvo from Highlander (1993, he ran Duncan’s Vancouver dojo).  Like the rest of these holiday horror/thriller movies, P2 features a lot of Christmas carols juxtaposed against ominous scenes, and Thomas even makes an effort to wear a Santa suit.  You gotta appreciate the little things, that’s what the holiday season’s all about.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Have Yourself a Very Undead Christmas, or Thoughts on Silent Night, Zombie Night

Do you think this title is a reference to Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972), or perhaps Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)?  And during the zombie apocalypse, how important is the holiday season, really?  Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009), is a low budget horror movie (that’s OK, Night of the Living Dead (1968) was a low budget horror movie) that follows Frank, Andy and Sarah, two LA cops and Frank’s estranged wife during a zombie outbreak that just happens to be during Christmas.
Trapped in the filmmaker's apartment for most of the film, (again, much like the farmhouse in Night of the Living Dead) the three of them fight off zombie attacks while dealing with their internal dramas.  Inevitable comparisons to the Rick, Shane and Lori triangle arise, and because of the location,  Fear the Walking Dead.  And can we talk about Southern California for a bit?  I''m a traditionalist, and I need snow in my Christmas-themed zombie movies; the only holiday elements are random Christmas trees and a zombie Santa.
These are fast zombies, very bitey, with lots of severed arm munchings.  Watch out for a clever bit during the trailer park zombie attack where the gunshots are perfectly timed to Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King.  Written and directed by Sean Cain, the performances and screenplay are better than you'd expect at this price point.  You can tell that the filmmakers care about this movie, and that sincerity shows.

With cameos by Vernon Wells, who you will remember as Wez in Mad Max 2 (1981) and Bennett in Commando (1985), portraying Paul Irwin, a zombie fighter in a leather duster and paintball mask who introduces a completely unnecessary alien theory involving worms wrapped around the brain stem.  Also look out for Felissa Rose from Sleepaway Camp (1983) and Lew Temple, Axel from Season 3 of The Walking Dead, and Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects (2005), as a zombie survivor.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

When Santas Attack, or Thoughts on Silent Night, Deadly Night

The gold standard for killer Santa movies, and the one you think about even if you’ve never seen it, Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) is about Billy, a troubled teen that snaps on Christmas Eve.  He’s had a hard life, what with witnessing the murders of his parents at the hands of another homicidal Santa wielding a Colt 1911 (my favorite handgun) and being raised by a sadistic Mother Superior at the orphanage.  
A third of the movie is spent on Billy's back-story and psychological makeup, adding elements of corporal punishment and teen sex voyeurism before he gets a job at a toy store where the audience is treated to a vintage 80’s toy montage featuring the ultra-rare 1983 Kenner Jabba the Hutt Action playset in the original box.  Everything’s fine until the holiday season rolls around and Billy has to put on the Santa suit. 
The same Santa suit, I might add, that the killer who murdered his parents and the Santa who traumatized young Billy at the orphanage wore.  I suppose the production saved money on costumes because they spent so much on the soundtrack, creating an entire playlist of fake Christmas carols and generic 80’s holiday pop songs.  The nudity made Silent Night, Deadly Night a late night hit on cable TV, while the Santa axe murders made it certain you weren’t watching another rerun of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, and to be honest, the actual gold standard for Christmas movies).
Tasteless and uncharismatic, it’s a hard-R slasher movie that would have never been made today in our easily offended cultural landscape.  Watch out for 80’s scream queen Linnea Quigley from The Return of The Living Dead (1985) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988) as Denise, an unlucky babysitter.  There were lots of unlucky babysitters in the 80’s; it was a popular role for her.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).