A super issue 6 for Cracked's For Monsters Only has it all: Vic Martin's groovy monster mobile cut-out (I did cut it out way back when and hung it up!); Jerry Grandenetti's poetic, kinetic art in The Secret Files of Marc Vangoro, Frankenstein '68 (with story by Otter Binder?); Richard Bojarski's articles on John Carradine and Lionell Atwill; and must-have items like the miniature secret spy camera (yes, I bought it!) and the Monster Size Glow in the Dark Skeleton (ditto!) in the ad pages. I also bought the x-ray binocular specs but I still couldn't see through walls or clothes. Damn.
In 1965, the corner store's magazine rack was filled with monster magazines and young monsterkids reaching up to grab them. Gorged on the zany, horror host, hosted Shock! television packages of classic (and spastic) horror and science fiction movies, monsterish humor was all the rage by the middle 1960s. It would take the 1970s and maturing monsterkids to clamor for more sophisticated reading, but until then, blame Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland for making horror movies fun and cool by poking a little fun and a lot of puns their way. Carrying the humor to the extreme was Cracked's For Monsters Only. Cartoons, wacky John Severin drawn comics, and photo-captioned mutants, aliens, monsters, and other assorted nasties went for the readers funny bone instead of his or her jugular vein. Here's issue 1.
If you missed the first go-round of Cracked's For Monsters Only, here's your chance to get a taste of the zaniness with the cartoons, funny captioned photos, and monster comics that went for the yucks in those issues. The humor is give or take for me. The artwork is to die for, though, and it captures the monsterkid love with style.
I think I like the 1970s the best for comic collecting. That's when comics became sought after collectibles for real, fans became more earnest and knowledgeable, and conventions were more fun to attend because they didn't have moviemercials and had a more intimate atmosphere. Now its all glitz and blitz. And I had around 10,000 comic books in the 1970s. Up to that point I had complete runs of every Marvel title. I also loved DC's Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen, but lost those issues when my basement flooded. I eventually sold my comics and retired. From collecting, that is.
Richard Bojarski comes to the rescue again in issue 7 of Cracked's For Monsters Only with Peter Cushing: Monster Fighter and Karloff and Lugosi: The Titans of Terror. Otherwise, it's the usual filler comprised of ad pages, humor pages (which are actually quite funny this time around), and a 16-page comic, The Secret Files of Marc Vangoro, Master of Horror (he appears in another adventure in CFMO No. 8.)
With a cover that's a zoomed in portion of the cover from Tales From the Tomb, May 1974, this issue of Weird, which picks up 15 months after the original magazine's run, "ain't nuthin' but a bunch of reprints. Evidently the kid who picked the stories was a fan of Macagno and Mandrafina, as their artwork takes up over half of the magazine." (from The Weird Indexes of Eerie Publications byMike Howlett) But, hey, these stories are still chilling when read in the dead of night.
"Lord, hell must be frozen over by now. I see Boston and much of the Northeast is," remarked Zombos, reading his New York Times. He turned the page. Yes, old habits die hard with him, and he refused to shake off his love for newsprint-smudged fingers, the paper mill smell, and a crinkle of pulpy newspaper for the lesser sensory experience glossy digital screens provided.
"I wonder what Pretorius' hat is doing in the middle of the lawn," I said, standing uncertainly on the worn, shaky-on-its-track, rolling ladder as I windexed the large full arch head window that let the most light into the library.
Our groundskeeper took to wearing a deerstalker cap during the winter months. It was dark brown, made of leather with fuzzy ear flaps, and had a golden PS embroidered in large letters on it. Those letters stood out above the dark color of the hat and now almost glittered in the whiteness of the deep snow mounds that stretched across the breadth of the great lawn.
Zombos put down his newspaper and walked over to the window. We both stared down at the hat. It moved.
"Oh, my, you better pull him out of the snow before he freezes solid," said Zombos. He returned to his chair and his newspaper.
"How?" I asked. "Snowpiercer couldn't get through that amount of snow."
"Oh, just toss on some snowshoes and you will be fine," he said. "Three fingers of Brandy to brace yourself for the challenge would help."
I thought about the Brandy and a career change while I bounded down the staircase. I also thought about Joon-ho Bong's Snowpiercer and his post-apocalyptic snowscapes and endless mounds of snow. And how does one actually put on snowshoes anyway?
Each decade's worth of cinematic endeavors produces at least one movie that attempts to capture the defining fear, hope, and hopelessness of the time period it is created in. You might call this meta-genre approach zeitgeist cinema, or light-heartedly label it fretful cinema; or even brush it aside with a brief nod to how it is simply a pandering cinema. Call it what you like; it is still a reflection on the topicality generated from the trending distillation of disconcerting infotoids (what passes for news these days on the Internet) that are continuously funneled through the usual digital channels for our consumption, in-between posting selfies. Feeding our innate paranoia with fear is a mainstay of all news streams now.
And horror movies, of course. It's either zombies, nasty aliens, or some catastrophic event nipping at humanity's heels. We never seem to tire of dying together: living together seems the bigger challenge. Sometimes a brush with fear can be enlightening and emotionally cathartic. Fear also makes for good horror stories when what to be feared is familiar to us (the audience) but we still ignore it (the movie's victims). What we refuse to acknowledge in our fears allows us to play its uncertainties, giving us a sense of comfort, as real or as false as we choose it to be.
In Snowpiercer (a movie adapted from the 1982 French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige), fear starts with the frigid weather and worsens when a failed scientific solution for stopping global warming--a little too much, a little too late--makes the snow fall, and fall, and fall. Sub-zero cold locks the planet into an ice age that kills almost everything. The survivors are themselves locked into the Snowpiercer, a massive train whose perpetual engine keeps it rapidly circling the planet, completely, once a year. In the graphic novel it is 1000 cars long. I don't know how many cars are in the movie version but there are enough here to show us how brilliant the Snowpiercer's creator is (a perfect Ed Harris in a perfectly detestable role), and how insane.
In the back of the train are the less fortunate survivors, crammed into squalid living conditions and surviving on protein gelatin bars that look as nasty as they must taste. Towards the front of the train are the fortunate survivors, living in luxury, cleanliness, and greedy excess. In-between are the cars that provide food, water, and a chance for the have nots to reach the front of the train and take control from the haves. But the way is blocked by impregnable doors and soldiers determined to stop any rebellion begun at the back of the train. The soldiers are mostly Korean. I'm not sure if this is meant to mean something or is simply a result of the shared movie production with South Korea. I still found it disturbing and despised them immediately (within the context of the movie).
Previous rebellions have failed. This time, Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) has a better plan for breaching the doors and by-passing the soldiers to reach the locomotive car. Wearing enough clothing to hide his muscular-frame and a scruffy beard to hide his good looks, Evans gives us a different kind of hero; one who isn't all good or even idealistic. Just desperate. The protein bars aren't enough to keep everyone alive and the few children growing up in the squalid, cramped, rear of the train are mysteriously taken away every so often, never to be seen again. We find out why later, but its hideous and makes you hate Ed Harris's Wilford more than Everett does. And Everett's reason is shocking and sad and may make you want to hate Everett almost as much.
The rebellion is sparked by Minister Mason's brutality (a perfectly despicable and calmly loony Tilda Swinton), and, car by car, we see absurdity, insanity, and inhumanity gelled together like one of those protein bars, and just as distasteful. Evans must free Minsu (Song Kang-ho) from the prison car, along with his daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung), because Minsu designed the train's doors and know's how to open them. Minsu and Yona are hooked on Kronole, a drug made from industrial waste. They are more concerned with finding Kronole than hurrying up the rebellion. A brief stop for sushi in one car, a chillingly bloody fight undertaken in sudden darkness with rejects from Hostile in another, a classroom car filled with dangerous subjects, and a final confrontation with the train's creator all unfold with outrageous art house flair. The art direction, scene effects, and textures and colors bring you into the train, into the blustery snowscapes outside, and along for a wild ride on icy rails through a deadman's curve and much turmoil. This is one of those movies you wonder how it got past the stiffs and standards of typical movie-making and bless the fact it did.
Snowpiercer (both the train and the movie) can be viewed in many ways: it is a self-sustaining ecosystem; it is an an analog for the perennial polemic of [insert whatever country you like here] social classes pitted against each other; it is a bold statement about humankind's propensity for always turning dire situations into an US or THEM algorithm; it is simply a damn good yarn filled with crazy action, desperate, morally corrupt characters, and a wild visual flair you don't see very often.
One of the 10 best films of 2014, Snowpiercer leaves you with your mouth open and an uncomfortable, winky sense that, yes, even though it bends its movie-reality into absurd shapes, it easily fits our really-real-reality into those shapes with too much familiarity. It rubs our noses in it. It makes us realize that if push comes to shove, YOU would want to be one of the lucky ones at the front of the train, even though you despise them for being the lucky ones at the front of the train.
Tony Rivers (Teenage Horror Factory) goes all caveman by sending us his movie pressbook scans for The Neanderthal Man. I don't know if it's the "greatest thriller-chiller since Frankenstein," but the color-in feature is cool as hell. And the overly ambitious shock-appeal marquee illustration is wild.
Thanks to a nudge from author James Chambers (he's also head honcho for the New York Chapter of the Horror Writers Association), I had the opportunity to watch the horror entries for the Winter Film Awards 2015 (http://winterfilmawards.com/) in preparation for judging, and I must say almost every entry is fresh and engaging in direction and storyline. Here's the kit and kaboodle in one take.
My favorite is the 23 minute Tokyo Halloween Night by Mari Okada (http://www.momomatsuri.com/2013/tokyohalloweennight.html). A delightful, and cheeky, fantasy that brings together a very unhappy scarecrow and a very lonely zombie for one Halloween night, it's playful with its visual and narrative texts, in both style and scripting. With her balance between horror elements and whimsy, Okada brings a fun film that's part storybook, part social commentary, and all horror comedy. I can easily see this short being developed into a full-length movie. (See Mari Okada here: http://vimeo.com/user16899819)
At 82 minutes running time, The Redwood Massacre gore-mess by director David Ryan Keith, is the longest entry in the WFA 2015 horror nominee pool. It's also the least satisfying. Unstoppable serial-killing machine (been there), heads sawed open with rusty blades (okay, that's really disturbing!), sharp weapons wielded with aplomb (no one ever ducks anymore?), and the mostly comatose-minded victims meandering into the killer's warren, leave this movie a slowly paced, albeit energetically gory, slice of the same-old, same-old. Faster pacing, inspired scripting, and a focal point extending beyond the bloody closeups would have benefitted this one and us.
The 3 minute Institutionalized, by director Roy Schweiger, is a strange, evocative, and bewildering 19 still image conversion into moving frames. A fashion statement, a mind-blown statement, and a statement I can't quite put my finger on, there's a weirdness filtering throughout. His Milan-based beauty and fashion photography background is brought foreground here, creating a short entry into the disturbing for you. (http://vimeo.com/92082037).
Director Marc Martínez Jordán's Timothy,(https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timothy-the-shortfilm/584999148225915), is a 10 minute horror short about a boy, his bossy sitter, and a kids show the boy likes to watch, with a cartoon-voiced, and really big bunny named Timothy (if you're okay with a person dressed up as a funny fuzzy bunny, that is) as its host. All three meld together in one evening of mayhem. I would point you to a Goosebumps episode where the kids show host pops out of the TV for an idea of what's happening, but then I'd be a bit wrong because..well, I'll leave that up to you to find out. A good short, not entirely original or fresh, but the direction, production values, and atmosphere are executed as well as the victim. What's very interesting here is how Jordan takes a Japanese horror trope--the creepazoid person-animal-thing--and makes it his own. I can see why this entry is in the Winter Film Awards for 2015.
Cynthia, by Christopher Wells, is 11 minutes of hell. It's who's hell I'll leave for you to figure out. Of course the main character is the prime suspect, and there's the devil to pay (actually, he is waiting for payment, apparently), and a woman who is hanging around (double meaning alert!), with a computer as the main complaint, or instigator, or excuse. I get the feeling Wells is drawing on personal experience here. Brisk editing, short sour moments, and key visuals to fill in just enough of the backstory, make this a traditional horror themed play on guilt, condemnation, and no reconciliation possible. It plays like a Reefer Madness for computer-addicted users. I feel so guilty after watching it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aei_tOBPsWI)
Yung-Jen Yang's Sweet Sixteen is 9 minutes of birthday party and dreadful circumstance. But some of it seems to have been lost in translation. There's Haley, an adopted Chinese girl, who wants to know who her biological mother is. Simple. Or not. There's a little vengeance spirit holding a grudge angle here, so we know there's a sinister secret waiting to be discovered. Or not. There's a flashback, or flash ahead, and a sharp cake knife handled in the wrong way. Or not. More here is needed to understand, but these 9 minutes aren't quite enough to flesh out the picture Yang is drawing for us. So count this one interesting but incomplete. Of all the nominees, this one needed another minute or two of backstory, or future story, to help it sink into our psyche. (http://sweet16yang.wix.com/yungjenyang#!sweet-sixteen/c1amd)
I can try and explain The Jelly Wrestler but you wouldn't believe me. I can say, though, that, working in a bar in Brooklyn (well back when), I can understand, even accept, the premise, the angst, and the sticky squish. I'm not even sure if this is an official entry, but it appears on the nominees page, just only it looks like an afterthought, or maybe a late addition, so it's fair game. The horror comes in at the end, or maybe it's there all the time. I'll let you decide. It's directed by Rebecca Thomson and written by Claire D'Este, and there's something a little delirious, something a lot serious about this 14 minute story of Eileen, a former Queen of the Gelatine, barmaid who's getting too old, too bitter, and too brushed-aside. She's also a very sore loser. (http://www.rebeccathomson.com.au/#!the-jelly-wrestler/cj7j). Don't miss this one. I can't say why you shouldn't (still wondering myself), but just don't miss it.
Tony Rivers (Teenage Horror Factory) strikes again, sharing his recently acquired pressbook for The Creature Walks Among Us. My favorite part of this pressbook is the Creature Walks Among Us Coloring Fun! Get your crayons out now!
This news release in my email caught my interest. Not a horror movie, but the off-the-safestream story here makes me want to see how the director and scripter handle it.
Sundance Hit Drunktown's Finest opens at New York's Quad Cinema ( 34 West 13th Street) on February 20, for a one-week run.
Drunktown's Finest premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and has since gone on to win a number of awards, including the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Narrative and HBO Best First Feature awards at Outfest 2014, as well as Best Film at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco. The film has screened at over 50 film festivals around the world, hailed by Twitch as "a compelling snapshot of contemporary Navajo life". Filmmaker Magazine lauded transgender Navajo American writer/director Freeland for her "authentic voice."
Drunktown’s Finest is the coming-of-age story of three young Native Americans – a college-bound Christian girl raised by white parents, a rebellious and lost father-to-be, and a promiscuous yet gorgeous transsexual - as they struggle to escape the hardships of life on the Navajo reservation. This film portrays modern Native American youths struggling to find their place in the world, but, more importantly, reveals the same struggles that many young Americans face while growing up in small town U.S.A.