Archive for September, 2011

REMINDER: The Big Book of Bizarro Release Party October 6 at MAC

Posted in Books, Morgantown Poets, Writing with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2011 by Scott Emerson

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Burning Bulb Publishing, in association with Morgantown Poets, will be hosting a book release party for its newest title The Big Book of Bizarro Thursday October 6 from 7-9pm at Monongalia Arts Center (MAC). The event is free and open to the public.

The Big Book of Bizarro brings together the peculiar prose of an international cast of the most grotesquely gonzo, genre-grinding modern writers including Night of the Living Dead screenwriter John Russo, D. Harlan Wilson, and William Pauley III. The 500-page anthology also features several area authors.

Editors Rich Bottles Jr. and Gary Lee Vincent, along with contributor Scott Emerson, will be on hand to read their work. A limited number of copies will be available for purchase.

Public parking is available near the MAC in the parking garage at the corner of Pleasant and Chestnut Streets and at the city lot behind 142 High Street (enter off Spruce). The MAC is accessible to individuals with special mobility requirements; schedule ahead at least two days prior to the event by calling 304-292-3325, or write to info@monartscenter.com.

Morgantown Poets is an informal not-for-profit, all-volunteer community group that meets 7-9 p.m. the third Thursday each month at the MAC, providing literary enthusiasts in north-central West Virginia the opportunity to express themselves, share their work, network and to connect up-and-coming writers with more established authors. New writers are welcome. Join on Facebook by entering “Morgantown Poets” in the search or join the mailing list at morgantownpoets@yahoo. Follow us on Twitter (@MorgantownPoets) or watch videos of past events on our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/MorgantownPoets).

Check out the book trailer here.

Pulled Apart By Horses, “Back to the Fuck Yeah”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on September 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Just discovered this rockin’ little number and its fun, EVIL DEAD-inspired video.

What’s Wrong With This Picture

Posted in Miscellaneous, Politics and Current Events with tags , , on September 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Sorry, Internet, but I just can’t get behind this particular meme. There’s a self-congratulatory smugness to it that makes it hard to share, in addition to a fundamentally shaky premise. I’ve never watched a second of JERSEY SHORE, but thanks to the ubiquity of the show and it’s, um, charismatic stars I can’t help but know who Snooki is. I really wish it were otherwise; ignorance, after all, is bliss.

And I’m not here–today, anyway–to pass judgment on popular entertainment, but I think the real problem is that we, as a viewing public, have allowed the concept of a pop culture-friendly scientist to go extinct. (Sure, some of you are thinking Stephen Hawkings, but I’d bet the general population knows him more as “robot voice in a wheelchair” than “brilliant physicist.”)

And really, are you going to claim this is what’s wrong with America just days after this video comes to light?

Okay, off the soapbox. Back to writing about movies in which mutant babies are stuck in ovens.

Please Do Disturb: Combat Shock

Posted in Movies, Please Do Disturb with tags , , , , , , on September 27, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Nihilism as a theme is a fairly uncommon animal in film, especially in mainstream productions where the crowd-pleasing ethos makes it difficult to explore the meaningless of life. Even TAXI DRIVER, one of the most celebrated examinations of nihilism, has a redemptive arc. (And begs the question, how successful would Scorsese’s film be without it?)

Horror films of course get a free pass to delve into bleakness and despair, though they too can encounter resistence by going “too dark” (case in point: the reaction to Frank Darabont’s epilogue for THE MIST). Yet even with the recent spate of torture porn and such offerings as THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE and A SERBIAN FILM it’s hard to find a study of human suffering as unrelentingly and unapologetically downbeat as Buddy Giovinazzo’s COMBAT SHOCK.

Originally filmed as AMERICAN NIGHTMARES, the film was picked up by Troma in 1986, who retitled it, trimmed it, and slapped it with an ad campaign that implied it was a RAMBO clone. (Troma did go on to release a nice two-disc special edition in 2009 that includes both cuts, and is well worth picking up.) But even the tinkering for an R rating and palatable reception couldn’t blunt the edge of Giovinazzo’s shocking melodrama.

COMBAT SHOCK chronicles the final, miserable hours of Frankie (played by Giovinazzo’s brother Ricky, in a raw wound of a performance), an unemployed, impoverished Vietnam veteran living with his wife and Agent Orange-mutated baby in a Staten Island hellhole. When he’s not dealing with flashbacks to his stint in a Vietnamese POW camp, Frankie struggles to find a job while trying to keep his family from falling prey to the mafia goons to whom he owes money. If that wasn’t enough–and in Giovinazzo’s world, it never is–they’re about to get tossed from their squallid apartment. Frankie’s feeble, vain attempts to right the sinking ship of his life triggers a series of events that culminates in one of the harshest, most staggering climaxes the genre has seen.

There’s little in the way of traditional action, but what keeps COMBAT SHOCK from being a depressing slog is Giovinazzo’s strong narrative skills and keen eye for detail. (He also makes effective use out of a largely non-professional cast, giving the derelict setting a dingy cinema verite feel.) He never flinches in depicting this hell, be it the heroin addict who, lacking the works to inject his fix, gouges a hole in his arm to sprinkle in his junk or the cheerfully oblivious child prostitutes Frankie encounters. The approach peels back the characters’ grimy facades, making them instantly real and relatable, and which only serves to make its ending all the more brutal. (Though Giovinazzo also finds moments in which to inject slivers of pitch-black humor.)

But the film’s signature centerpiece is Frankie’s baby. Symbolic of the traumas he suffered in (and brought home from) the war, it’s the most unnerving cinematic infant since the one in ERASERHEAD. It’s such a disturbing visual that even its technical crudity can’t diminish its impact.

I’m tempted to write more in depth about the film’s climax, in which Frankie finally takes care of his family, but I’ll hold off. If you’ve seen the film you know what a shocking, tragic scene it is (made more so by its sheer inevitability), and if you haven’t–well, you’re in for a nasty little revelation. I will, however, say that Giovinazzo handles the moment just right, unafraid to follow events to their grim conclusion while keeping it from going unneccessarily over the top. And once the horrible moment has passed, Giovinazzo proves once again that things can always get worse, adding a brief metaphorical coda that suggests Frankie’s torments will continue in the afterlife.

Rivaling CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST for the title of Most Grueling Horror Film, COMBAT SHOCK is a grim and unpleasant picture, but too powerful and well-crafted to be missed. It’s a statement of anger and helplessness; one that, in this era of economic downturns and soldiers readjusting to civilian life, remains as relevant (and resonant) today, a quarter-century later.

Happy Birthday, Stephen King

Posted in Books, Miscellaneous, Writing with tags , , on September 21, 2011 by Scott Emerson

The Master turns 64 today.

Review: eyeballs growing all over me . . . again by Tony Rauch

Posted in Bizarro Brigade, Books with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2011 by Scott Emerson

(Review for Bizarro Brigade.)

One of the great things about bizarro fiction is the diversity it allows; “weird” is open to all sorts of interpretation, and much of the fun of reading bizarro lit is seeing different authors’ takes on the concept. With his collection EYEBALLS GROWING ALL OVER ME . . . AGAIN Tony Rauch presents twenty-three stories that view the strange through a bittersweet, whimsical, and practically life-affirming lens.

In this series of vignettes (some as brief as a couple of pages) Rauch examines themes of second chances (in “send krupac through the portal” scientists bend the space-time continuum to take the romantic lament maybe in another time to its most illogical extreme), using time travel to correct mistakes in one’s past (“redball jet (drop me off on planet earth)”), and the search for love (“gilbert, the sexy robot,” which deals with a lovelorn scientist’s articifial means to meet women).

While several of the stories stop before really taking flight (often protagonists will declare their intentions and then proceed to the ending, leaving the reader to assume they’re successful), Rauch posits many intriguing concepts, sprinkled with a healthy dose of absurdist humor. Here you’ll find giant chickens, goat-headed sisters, and a unique game of tabletop football.

Readers looking for something positive and upbeat without sacrificing the weird will want to give this a look.

Earth vs. the Spider

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , on September 18, 2011 by Scott Emerson