Archive for November, 2011

Help Preserve a Piece of Zombie History

Posted in 365 Days of the Dead, Miscellaneous, Movies with tags , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by Scott Emerson

The Evans City Cemetery chapel, known to zombie fans worldwide from the iconic opening sequence of George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, has fallen into disrepair and needs your help. Gary Streiner, who worked on the original film and has organized NOTLD events in the past, is looking to raise funds to restore the structure and create a monument to zombie-film history. If you’re a fan of the undead, please consider donating to the cause.

Go here for more info.

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Bite-Sized Movie Reviews 11/29/2011

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by Scott Emerson

THE AMITYVILLE CURSE

In-name-only sequel from 1990, in which a group of bland, interchangeable yuppies (led by Kim Coates, displaying not an iota of his SONS OF ANARCHY charisma) take over the infamous Long Island house with predictable, budget-conscious results. The kind of franchise-minded pap that discards everything about the property but the name–it doesn’t even bother to use the iconic house, though given its cut-rate production value that’s probably moot.

DOOM ASYLUM

This 1987 slasherfest from PHANTOM OF THE MALL’s Richard Freidman pulls an unlikely double-cross. What first appears to be a gloriously awful film in the vein of TROLL 2 turns out to be, in fact, a half-assed intentional horror-comedy (both hyphenates used loosely). This tale of a disfigured lawyer wreaking havoc on teens in an abandoned mental hospital is notable for two things: the presence of a pre-SEX IN THE CITY Kristin Davis in huge ’80s glasses, and that roughly a third of its 77-minute running time is padded with footage from old Tod Slaughter films.

THE UNHOLY

When this slab of quasi-demonic pablum hit theaters in 1988 it immediately became a must-see for me–thanks to what I remember as a pretty aggressive ad campaign–yet I somehow managed to avoid actually watching it until recently. (Or maybe I saw it somewhere along the way and completely forgot it, which considering the wholly unremarkable enterprise in question is rather plausible.) Ben Cross plays a priest battling demonic forces in New Orleans, but it’s pretty weak sauce, riddled with bad acting, laughable dialogue (“I’m Theresa, the caretaker. I take care of things around here.”), and a plot that goes out of its way to not be scary. Nor does it help that the film resembles a third-rate late-night soap opera. Despite the presences of usually-reliable folk like Ned Beatty and Hal Holbrook and a cheesy rubber demon at its climax THE UNHOLY ends up being a waste of time.

ANIMAL PASSIONS

Christopher Spencer’s 2004 documentary ranks as one of the most queasily compelling films I’ve ever seen. Tackling the subject of bestiality, the film follows a handful of zoophiles as they explain what makes them tick, how they came to be, and (unfortunately) what turns them on. Disturbing as it is fascinating, especially when the subjects discuss past encounters (many of whom judiciously edit their anecdotes so that the animal in question sexually approaches them, sounding a lot like pedophiles who justify their actions by claiming the child instigated contact). ANIMAL PASSIONS is worth watching just for the description of a first date that transformed into a man-woman-horse threesome.

You can watch it for free here.

“Keeper” Finalist at Bleeding Words Paranormal Poetry Contest

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

New publication Bleeding Words is kicking off its inaugural issue with a paranormal poetry contest. My poem “Keeper” is among the finalists. If you’d like to show some much-appreciated support you can go here to read the entries and cast your vote (poll closes December 5).

The digital issue of Bleeding Words can be purchased here.

The print issue can be purchased here.

How to Make a Monster

Posted in Miscellaneous, Movies with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by Scott Emerson

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2011 by Scott Emerson

“Perception is reality,” many Human Resource manuals claim, a rather unsettling way of saying If the woman two cubicles over thinks you’re a leering pervert, then you are. It’s also the hook that director Eli Craig hangs the twist on in the 2010 splatter comedy TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL.

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star as the titular duo, a couple of good ol’ boys headed into the West Virginia mountains to restore a cabin. Along the way they meet a pack of party-minded co-eds, among them 30 ROCK’s Katrina Bowden, with whom Dale gets immediately smitten. Unfortunately, Dale’s awkwardness with women, paired with the college students’ prejudiced misconceptions, causes them to mistake him and Tucker for creepy, ill-intending hillfolk. Thus sets up a series of misunderstandings and half-assed assumptions that quickly escalate out of hand into an inadvertent bloodbath.

TUCKER AND DALE mines plenty of laughs out of slasher-film and scary-redneck cliches, spoofing their tropes without the annoying meta “we’re totally in a horror movie” approach that usually infects recent horror-comedies. The script stretches the premise almost to the breaking point, threatening to turn its slapstick plot points unacceptably ludicrous, but wisely switches gears in the second half, offering one of the would-be “victims” (Jesse Moss, in a weasely nefarious turn) into a genuine threat.

There’s nothing special to TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (which reportedly sat on the shelf for three years before seeing limited release), but it does provide some plentiful gore and genuine laughs. Tudyk and Labine make for a winning pair of reluctant heroes, displaying great chemistry together (I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in more misadventures–maybe next time they can stumble upon a zombie outbreak?). And Bowden gets a chance to be funny without playing dumb, while still playing up her, um, less subtle assets.

It’s no classic, but TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is definitely worth checking out.

New Bizarro B.C. at Bizarro Central

Posted in Books, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by Scott Emerson

My latest Bizarro B.C. piece–which looks back at proto-bizarro fiction, in this case William S. Burrough’s lesser-known mindtrip CITIES OF THE RED NIGHT–is now live at Bizarro Central. Read it here.

Review: Play Dead by Michael A. Arnzen

Posted in Bizarro Brigade, Books, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by Scott Emerson

(Review for Bizarro Brigade.)

In his second novel PLAY DEAD, Michael A. Arnzen introduces us to Johnny Frieze, a down-on-his-luck gambler in Las Vegas. Licking his wounds, figuratively and literally, in a homeless shelter following the high-stakes poker game that ruined him, Johnny gets a chance at redemption from Winston, one of the shelter’s denizens. Winston’s helping put together, with the backing of a more-than-he-seems casino owner, an unusual card game, the rules of which involve the players making their own cards, cards that “capture life.” Johnny quickly learns exactly what that means–especially in a game where the losers don’t walk away from the table.

Arnzen’s renowned for his excellent short fiction, and proves equally adept in the long form, upping the narrative ante by carefully dealing clues and information at a brisk clip. PLAY DEAD wrestles with some big themes, namely capital-F Fate, our place in it, and how futile the attempts to change it can be.

But where Arnzen really flourishes is in the story’s unique construction. Compiled in 52 sections, the novel is stacked like a card deck with four chapters as suits, yet this gimmick never impedes the flow of the narrative. Equally impressive is the razor-sharp wordplay and symbolism Arnzen employs, much of it shot through with a generous helping of black humor, throughout the book, a barrage of clever turns of phrase that are admirable in both quantity and effectiveness. The skill with which Arnzen writes makes the read worthwhile in of itself.

And now I’m going to listen to this many, many times.