14 Sep

Kickstarter: The End, an anthology film featuring the work of yours truly

Posted by Bryan White | Friday September 14, 2012 | Whimsy

Zombie Bomb volume 2If you’ve been following this site for a while, and from the looks of things you haven’t, then you’ll know that a few years back I did some writing for a bunch of comics that a few people read and seemed to really enjoy. In spite of my outspoken opposition of all things zombie and low-budget I’ve done more than my fair share of zombie-related shit in the last couple of years. Most recently, I banged out a couple of drafts of an adaptation of my first comic from Zombie Bomb, This Night I’ll Eat Your Flesh. A while back I actually got working on an expanded script that was to be adapted for a weekly Zombie Bomb TV show pilot that never made it past the “hey, we ought to do this” phase. This time, though, I have an actual director. There’s also a producer and a budget and a bunch of people actually committed to make this shit happen. Like, for real.

The director, Michael Ficara – who directed my Grand Guignol play back in July – is at the helm and riding shotgun with him is a collection of Seacoast, New Hampshire-based directors hungry to end the world just to see what happens. The project is called The End: A Collective and highlights our species’ collective fascination with the big finish of the human race and, naturally, because we all love motherfucking zombies, there’s a short in there about zombies. Mine.

In case you didn’t read This Night I’ll Eat Your Flesh in Zombie Bomb volume 2, the general gist is a modern interpretation of Tales From The Crypt as three unsavory individuals bumrush an old lady in her home to steal her haul of pharmaceuticals only to find that she’s not what they thought she was and that she and her pills are actually staving off the rot and hunger of some similar folks. I dislike the usual zombie rigmarole so I tried to inject it with some original business to make it seem less like the usual point and shoot them in the head foolishness. Maybe I did right.

Anyway. The Kickstarter goal is a mere $4,300 (since a good deal of the budget has already been secured) but to really make this shit shine, they need just a little more. So do me a solid and throw a few bucks their way. It’s sure to be a good time and I can personally vouch for the talent rolling behind this. They know what they’re doing. So help them make this shit a reality, would you?

Kickstart this project now!

11 Apr

The greatest horror movie scenes. Ever.

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday April 11, 2012 | Uncategorized,Whimsy

OK, so maybe they’re not the best scenes ever, but they’re certainly some of my favorites. Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out and jaded. Nothing I see interests me. The horror genre is starting to slip away again and I don’t feel much like writing about how much I hate the horror movies that I’ve been seeing lately. I spend my nights reading and playing video games and there’s enough bloggery out there about Game of Thrones that me tossing in my two cents wouldn’t cause much of a ripple. Basically all I’ve been up to lately is playing Battlefield 3, watching Mad Men and reading until my eyes cross. So casting all that negativity aside and bucking the need to write about fresh new horror, here I go, turning my eye to the past; to better days. These are the movies I love so dearly. They either fostered my love of the genre or gave it longevity. I haven’t written anything horror-related in a while. So here you go. Let’s get nostalgic. Feel free to comment, too! I want to know what your favorite scenes are. Bonus points if you link to the clips on Youtube.

Poltergeist – The face rip
The first movie that I actually remember scaring the fuck out of me, actually scaring me, was Poltergeist. It was broadcast on TV one night back when the major networks actually aired movies as part of their nightly programming and being as it was a PG rated movie, it made it to air with no cuts. This meant going out to televisions all across the country with this famous scene intact. The year was 1985. I was almost ten years old and watched it with my mom. While most of the movie spooked me, much to my delight, this particular scene was just too much for me and I wound up covering my eyes through the worst of it. I don’t care who directed it, Hooper or Spielberg. Whichever of you two was responsible for this scene, congratulations.

Friday the 13th Part 7 – Sleeping bag smash
I am a life-long Jason Voorhees fan, as I have made abundantly clear in the past. I really don’t care for most of the 80’s slasher icons as the core three (Jason, Freddy and Michael ‘The Shape’ Myers) are the only ones worth mentioning and by the time that I was actually old enough to start watching these flicks, the genre was limping toward its inevitable doom having been bled completely dry by the time I was 7 years old. Even my favorite franchise, The Fridays, was a limping race horse as the sequels numbered higher than 5, but no matter how ridiculous the franchise got, each one had at least one good kill. Friday 7, as ridiculous as it is, at least tried to do something more than lumbering killer slaughters stoned camp counselors, what with it introducing Tina the pyshic. Plus it brought us the mighty Kane Hodder. So popular was this kill that they brought it back for the hologram kill in Jason X, a movie I like way more than any grown-ass man should. This is the uncut clip in workprint form, which shows far, far more tree smashes and gore than we got in the theatrical cut.

The Silence of the Lambs – The importance of putting the lotion in the basket
My favorite scene of all time comes from one of my favorite movies of all time. Silence of the Lambs is an amazing piece of film. It’s a sophisticated example of mainstream cinema saturated in the lowbrow conventions of exploitation film. It always seems like it’s raining. The color palette is drab and muted and the subject matter is torn straight from the pages of a dozen true crime books. Even though the film is dominated by the interplay between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the true monster of the movie is Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill an amalgamation of America’s worst pathological murderers and this scene is clinically horrifying. There’s nothing explicit about it, either, which is why it’s so great. Most of my favorite scenes involve some sort of imaginative death scene, spectacular gore or in-your-face scares but there’s nothing in-your-face about this. It’s the subtle-to-forceful suggestion that his victim be properly moisturized so that her skin will be in good shape when he sews it into his woman suit. He uses the pronoun ‘it’ to deliberately dehumanize her and make it easier to kill and skin her. His cool demeanor, eventually blown sky high seals the deal. This scene is just plain disturbing for all the right reasons is one of many explanations for why The Silence of the Lambs is such a landmark horror movie.

The Sentinel – The truth is revealed
Director Michael Winner wasn’t really known for horror. His bag was actually action flicks and suspense with his best-known work being with Charles Bronson and the Death Wish franchise. It’s when a director a steps out of their comfort zone that they tend to shine and Winner really knocked it out of the park with a movie that I consider criminally underrated among horror movie fans, The Sentinel. This is an idea so strong that eventually Lucio Fulci would lift the concept and adapt it for his own landmark movie, The Beyond. Haunted house movies really get under my skin and this is one of the many that gave me actual chills. It’s mostly that idea of ‘there is something wrong here’ that gets to me. People and things being out of place. The scene below is the actual climax of the movie, so if you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend watching it because the story is pretty cool and the resolution, what Cristina Raines is actually supposed to be doing in the apartment building, is fucking awesome.

That video, by the way, is the entire movie. I highly recommend it.

Zombie – Eye gouge
Speaking of Fulci, when I discovered the global horror fan club on the Internet all those years ago and connected with people over at the legendary (and probably the first message board dedicated to horror movies), Mortado’s Page of Filth, I finally connected the dots and realized that some of my favorite video store shelf goblins, those wonky cheapos I was drawn to after I’d exhausted all the recognizable American movies, were all directed by the same weirdo with a penchant for intense gore and scripts that made no fucking sense whatsoever. My favorite Fulci is actually The Beyond, but Zombie’s famous eye gouge is one of Fulci’s greatest moments of direction. Most of the time I got the feeling that he instructed his cast to stand around looking confused but this is a scene of pure directorial genius. It is so long. It is drawn out to an agonizing degree. See the girl. See the splinter. See the girl. See the splinter. It gets closer and closer. Slowly. You know exactly what’s going to happen and when it does, it happens in explicit, nasty detail. The splinter slowly enters the cornea as her head is pulled into it. Fulci had a thing for eyeball abuse. All of his noteworthy movies have something awful happening to eyes but this one takes the cake. The effect is great!

Shaun of the Dead – Killing Mum
Shaun of the Dead is a lot of fun and introduced Americans to the one-two-three punch of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s genuinely very funny, it appeals to everyone’s inner slacker and taps right into that zombie apocalypse survival plan you’ve secretly been working on for so long. Above all, it’s British and if there’s one thing Americans love, it’s British stuff. I’m guilty, too. British stuff really resonates with me. Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Benny Hill. I don’t know what it is but you folks in the UK really have quality genre fare down to a fucking science. Keep it up. This is a very funny, very ironic movie that is basically silly bullshit with zombies but if there’s one thing that struck an odd chord with me is that moment in the third act, having been holed up at The Winchester for a while, when all of a sudden, this comedy seamlessly transitions to an actual horror movie with a deadly serious confrontation revolving around Shaun’s mother having been bitten. All of a sudden, shit gets real. They do this again in Hot Fuzz and the effect is a very similar feeling to having the rug pulled out from under you.

Dawn of the Dead – The Man Comes Around
I went pretty soft on the Dawn of the Dead remake because it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. James Gunn’s script maintains the general vibe and it probably could have been called anything else and been a decent zombie horror movie. The original is pretty cartoony and the introduction of the mall shuttles as armored anti-zombie vehicles kept that rolling but the star of the movie to me wasn’t the story. It wasn’t Ving Rhames or Sarah Polley or that dude from Modern Family. It was the titles at the beginning of the movie. They took the art of the credit sequence and elevated it to a religious experience, melding AP newsreel footage of riots with staged news reports, White House press briefings and zombie attacks and the whole thing is set to a Johnny Cash song about Armageddon. I think Zack Snyder is a hack and his movies are universally terrible but Dawn of the Dead was a pretty good attempt and if you ask me, is far bleaker than Romero’s original.

Day of the Dead – I’m running this monkey farm!
Of the holy trinity, Day of the Dead is my favorite. It gets tremendous amounts of flack for being so chatty, with long periods of talking between bursts of action and violence. Personally, I love the talking. The dramatic bits are propelled forward at breakneck speed by Joe Pilato’s absolutely nutty and venomous Captain Rhodes. He spends all his time on screen yelling and freaking out and it. is. glorious. This scene in particular illustrates my point, precisely, and it’s my favorite piece of the entire movie. Here is Captain Rhodes in all his bug-eyed glory, yelling and screaming, coming up with some bug-fuck nonsense about being in charge and for all of Romero’s social critique, this is the moment in the movie where his point is made clear. Romero’s original script had to be scaled way back for budgetary reasoning and in the process of cutting out the expensive shit, most of his message gets lost in translation but the forceful interplay between Rhodes and Doctor Logan illustrates the intellectual vs. anti-intellectual butting of heads that was so present in 80’s America (and has resurfaced today).

I’ll cut it short here. I could go on and on but you get the idea. Let’s hear it. I want to know your favorites.

2 Mar

Thirty years later. RIP Philip K. Dick.

Posted by Bryan White | Friday March 2, 2012 | Whimsy

Philip K. Dick by Robert CrumbI haven’t been as prolific lately as I’m typically known for. This time I have a pretty good excuse, though. It would seem my former place of employment saw fit to cut me loose so I  was without employment for a little while. No worries, though. I’m back at it already with a better job for more money. So fuck those fools, bro!

I’m known around these parts for being a horror guy. I was once interviewed by a local paper on the topic of horror lit and I explained to the interviewer that when it comes to the written word, I’m actually not all that into horror. Beyond the usual H.P. Lovecraft – which in a lot of ways is also science fiction – I just don’t get down with reading horror. Science fiction is more my speed. I learned today by way of Tor.com, publisher of fine science fiction and fantasy novels, that today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Philip K. Dick. Dick is a household name and an absolute monolith of sci-fi, spoken of in the same breath as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. Dick was no ordinary science fiction writer, though. He was as crazy as a shithouse rat and for a sci-fi author that’s a really advantageous thing. It takes a fractured mind to approach science fiction in a way that’s going to shake the foundations of the genre. Any joker can write half ass sci-fi about space ships and shit but like his contemporary, Frank Herbert, author of Dune, Dick’s best work could barely be classified as sci-fi in any traditional sense of the term. So here’s a primer on one of my favorite science fiction authors.

The Man In The High CastleThe Man In The High Castle
I once hijacked a conversation in a local book store between two dudes as one turned to the other and told his friend he always wanted to read PKD but didn’t know where to start.  His buddy reaches out to the shelf and pulls a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and hands it to him. I promptly interject that everybody goes to that one because it’s the book Blade Runner is based on and most people only know that one but that I think a better starting place is The Man In The High Castle. High Castle concerns the exploits of several characters living in a post World War 2 America where the Axis powers had won the war. The Germans control the eastern United States and the Japanese control the west but not all is good between the two powers. The Germans are secretly readying a plan to nuke Japan and caught up in the intrigue are numerous characters, many of whom create or sell fabrications or authentic pieces of American antiques which the Japanese occupiers hold in high regard. All the while, one character travels to Colorado to meet the author of a book banned in America which tells the story of an American where the Axis powers lost.

The Man In The High Castle is probably the purest example of Philip K. Dick available. It contains a mind-bending narrative that never slips into pure weirdo territory, features elements of Gnosticism and eastern mysticism and features a fictional analog of the author, himself, whose story within a story, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, offers a window out of the fiction and into our real world. It’s fascinating shit and as good a starting point as any, the way I see it.

On the other hand there’s VALIS. One of Dick’s final novels, the man certainly went out on a high note. And I do mean high. VALIS, a blurring of a fictional narrative and an autobiography of Dick’s own struggles with sanity, tells the story of Horselover Fat, who PKD admits early on is actually himself, even though Philip K. Dick appears as a separate character some ways into the novel. When Fat believes himself to be struck by a pink beam of light that fills him with strange knowledge about reality, he begins a quest to get to the bottom of what is happening to him. Clearly, he’s a man who is quickly slipping away into mental oblivion but through what are either strange coincidences or actual revelations from what Fat and his friends believe to be an intelligent satellite named VALIS which orbits the planet, Fat attempts to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state. That is, until his friends take in a weirdo arthouse movie starring a David  Bowie-style rock star that is loaded with hidden messages about VALIS. And that’s when shit gets real. If The Man In The High Castle is an even-keeled gateway drug to the world of Philip K. Dick, VALIS is PKD with the brakes removed. It is a harrowing look at a man struggling with the mental illness that had dogged him for much of his life not to mention a crumbling physical condition. In the end, it’s hard to even tell what VALIS is about if it’s about anything at all, but it serves more as an unfiltered look into the mid of the genius, warts and all. Like the best Dick novels, it warps reality and blurs the line between fact and fiction and it’s often hard to tell if you’re reading the diary of a madman or one of the most brilliantly twisted sci-fi novels ever written.

A Scanner DarklyA Scanner Darkly
Phil was drug user. Many of the best artists are. This may have had a hand in the dissolution of his sanity but his experimentations with drugs shifted his view of the world and stimulated his imagination in ways that nothing else could have. Nobody could have written the shit that Dick did without the aid of some kind of illicit substance. A Scanner Darkly has a lot to do with that, as Dick’s own life at the time was spent mostly under the influence of speed and in the company of teenage drug addicts. The book has to do with Bob Arctor, a drug addict in Orange County, California in 1994, and a big fan of the powerful psychedeclic, Substance D. At the same time, Bob is an undercover agent with the cops, gathering evidence on users of Substance D and the distribution network. So that the two personalities never cross, Bob/Fred meet with his police bosses in a disguise that makes it impossible to tell who he is. Unfortunately, Bob/Fred is hopelessly hooked on Substance D and has a hard time distinguishing between his two personalities until they suffer a complete break and he is removed from his undercover gig and placed in a rehab facility to get clean. Even more unfortunate, Bob/Fred doesn’t realize that he’s still working for the cops as he’s supposed to find out where the money for this rehab clinic is coming from. All along he, and us the readers, wonder what the fuck is going on here? Clearly the product of a speed freak, A Scanner Darkly is Dick at his most paranoid and compelling. As is the recurring theme in Dick’s work, the entire story orbits the concept of what is real and what is not. Is anything real, for that matter? Read this and then check out Richard Linklater’s outstanding animated adaptation. It’s something.

While you’re at it, take some time to check out the exceptional Tank Riot podcast about Philip K. Dick!


30 Jan

Grand Guignol: The roots of horror cinema

Posted by Bryan White | Monday January 30, 2012 | Whimsy

Grand Guignol posterHorror has been with the human race pretty  much since our origin as a species. Fear lives deep in the reptilian brain and we’ve always used storytelling to help us deal with the shit that freaks us out. As our means of telling stories progressed, horror travelled with us and it was a natural progression from the spoken word, to the written word to the projected image. Almost as soon as film was used to tell stories, horror made its grand entrance to that medium with Georges Melies’ 1896 film The Haunted Castle but between the advent of film and the printed word, horror was taken to the stage in varying degrees of grue. The stage was no stranger to violent imagery. Shakespeare’s greatest works are propelled by gory violence but at a theater in the Pigalle district of Paris, The Grand Guignol made gory violence its specialty.

Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, translated, means The Big Puppet Show and was intended by its owner and creator, Oscar Metenier, to be a space for the emerging naturalist theater performances, which downplayed the stylized deliveries of dialog by the casts, taking place in realistic settings in a world that audiences recognized. Metenier had ideas that were bold and scared the crap out of theater managers due to their explicit nature. In order to realize his vision, he was going to have to own his own space and in 1897, that’s just what he did. Guignol refers to a sort of social satire done in a Punch & Judy method but the plays which took place at The Grand Guignol were anything but.

Continue Reading »

4 May

Profiles in Bravery: Wedge Antilles

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday May 4, 2011 | Blogospherics,Whimsy

Wedge Antilles

It’s Star Wars day! May the 4th and all that. In celebration, Andre Dumas of The Horror Digest put up an article about her favorite ancillary Star Wars character, Wedge Antilles. In it, she wonders if anyone is down with Wedge like she is. Answer: Yes. Me. All my friends understandably went apeshit for Boba Fett in that department, what with the jetpack and armor, but I was a Wedge fan. He may not have had secret flamethrowers or a gravelly voice but he was one hell of a fighter pilot.

Rogue Squadron pilots came and went, mostly crashing and burning into the various surfaces of Death Stars, but Wedge came in and pulled off some of the most important moves in every battle and lived to tell the tale. At the Battle of Yavin 4, who swoops in and saves Luke Skywalker’s life when he can’t shake a TIE Fighter? Fuckin’ Wedge! Had he not managed this, Luke, who had only ever piloted a T-16 prior to this massively important mission, would have been reduced to pieces over the Death Star and he never would have used The Force to blow the whole thing to smithereens. After all it was only Wedge in a damaged X-Wing, Luke, a single Y-Wing crew and Han Solo/Chewbacca left by this point. When The Empire surprised the rebels on Hoth with AT-ATs, the rebels were getting smoked left and right because that armor’s too strong for blasters. Who found a way to take the AT-ATs down? Fuckin’ Wedge! He flew in low, watching that crossfire, and circled the walker with a tow cable until its own forward momentum and the inability to move its legs brought it down and exposed its armor’s weak spot. Wedge’s finest hour, however, came at the battle of the second Death Star. By this time, he’d understandably been promoted to Rogue Leader and was untouchable in the space around the Death Star. Even in the face of overwhelming odds and the sickening fact that it was a trap, Wedge was shooting fools down and in the final leg of the mission, who shot out the shield generator of the Death Star’s core so that Lando and Nien Nunb could finish the job and wreck the whole place? Fuckin’ Wedge! The man was indispensable in the rebel mission.

Through it all, Wedge was steely-eyed and unflappable. Seriously. Wedge Antilles was cool as a cucumber through it all. Not a hint of peril. This man was in control the entire time. You don’t survive three key battles like Yavin 4, Hoth and Death Star 2 unless you’re the best of the best and Wedge Antilles was the best. I’m not even sure what it is that Lucas saw in this character. In the first movie he’s played by two different actors and voiced by a separate unseen dialog actor. His last name is actually used in New Hope in relation to an unrelated and unseen character. C3PO tells Luke that they once belonged to Captain Antilles. It’s side characters like Wedge that make Star Wars such a fan favorite. Idiosyncrasies like these flesh out the back story and give this world the detail that drives fans to write their own fiction.

20 Apr

Hey, hey, hey! Smoke weed every day!

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday April 20, 2011 | Whimsy

Cheech and Chong Up In SmokeIt’s April 20th, 2011 today. That’s 4/20, a magical number that indicates more than the anniversary of the Columbine Shootings and the birthday of Adolf Hitler. Need I elaborate? Must I go on? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. I sort of blew my cover with the headline anyway. Since I can’t remember the last time I actually smoked a bowl, I’m going to have to live vicariously through you and provide a couple of laughs all the while. So don’t pack it too tight, put clean water in your bong,  grab a bag of Herr’s Potato Chips and watch these stony trailers.

28 Mar

This week in sociopaths: A retrospective of movie misanthropes

Posted by Bryan White | Monday March 28, 2011 | Whimsy

PsychopathWhen it comes to psychopaths Hollywood can hardly help itself. Firstly, Hollywood always gets it all wrong. The psychiatric community stopped using psychopathy as a diagnosis in the early 80’s and replaced it with antisocial personality disorder acting as a sort of blanket term for a wide range of behaviors that qualified as psychopathic behavior. To boot, sociopathy became a more common diagnosis describing a series of behaviors that were in direct conflict with social norms and viewed as traditionally evil by mainstream society. The problem with this is that the net is cast so wide with antisocial personality disorder that ordinary human behavior can often be decoded as antisocial and just about anyone with a Facebook could pass enough criteria to go down in the history books as presenting antisocial features. Psychopathy and sociopathy, these days, represent a series of nuanced behaviors that are just different enough to warrant their own subsets of pages in the DSM-IV. Hollywood screenwriters, however, can’t be bothered. Those that do, however, often present us with the very best of movie madmen and women. Often times, the movie maniac, when they’re not represented by an unstoppable cartoon villain in a mask, are raving maniacs, wringing their sweaty hands in filthy basements under harsh lighting and while I’m sure this class of killer is out there in America as we speak, it’s far more common that the most dangerous psychopaths in our lives are people we interact with daily. When they’re finally arrested, their neighbors are shown on TV telling a camera crew about how nice or quiet they always seem. Good sociopaths are hard to come by in movies. Here are some of my favorites.

Patrick BatemanI actually detest Brett Easton Ellis’ novel, American Psycho. I like what it represents because I have pretty vivid memories of the 80’s even though I was just a kid but the novel is littered with literary devices that outline Patrick Bateman’s personality that mirror a lot of the same reasons that I seriously fucking loathe Chuck Palahniuk novels.  They seem so singular and novelty driven. Every character Bateman encounters is described not by their features or personality traits but by the specifics of their designer wardrobes. That got old so fucking fast and it dates the book badly. Ellis, however, and the adaptation of the novel, nailed the psychopath angle. Patrick Bateman becomes less a character in a novel about his own sadism and shallow existence and becomes a living metaphor for the 80’s and the upper wrungs of the corporate ladder. Given our current economic climate, American Psycho seems more relevant than ever as the financial sector of the American economic landscape loots our stores of American taxpayer money and awards the very same people responsible for the housing crisis tremendous bonuses in the millions of dollar range. Sure, these guys aren’t wantonly murdering people with nail guns but they may as well be. In Ellis’ version of New York City, Patrick Bateman is the only person who exists. He confuses his friends for one another since they all seem so alike and in an ironic twist toward the end of the novel and movie, it turns out that they feel the same about him. Bateman, a caricature of a yuppie and a stand-in for the entire Me Generation paradigm, analogizes the entire shallow population of young and privileged professionals of the eras to psychopaths, irreversibly caught up in consumer narcissism, unable to conceive of anyone but themselves and their own personal bottom lines. There has never been a more authentic psychopath in movies than Patrick Bateman.

Hannibal LecterNumber two on my list of all-time greatest movie villains (Another list, entirely. Not this one.) is Hannibal Lecter. Second only to Darth Vader. Few sideline characters are so boldly iconic with so little screen time. When The Silence of the Lambs hit the box office in 1990, Lecter, strapped to a hand truck, bite mask in place, became as recognizable to pop-culture as Jason Voorhees and the hockey mask. I’ve often felt that the evil-genius angle of the character of disqualifies him from a certain real-world quotient of movie killers, but he gritty, true-crime tone of Johnathan Demme’s movie makes him feel like a part of our own real world. No killer in the history of murder has ever been so cunning and unique, even the ones who continue to stump authorities. For years, The Zodiac Killer was considered to be this kind of mad man thanks to his baffling cyphers and certain aspects of Jack The Ripper’s murders have led authorities to believe that Jack is of well above average intelligence but Lecter is a cartoony cut above the rest. I tend to ignore the further adventures of Hannibal Lecter because trying to explain his background and his motivations for eating flesh, take away a good deal of the mystique to me but his super-genius levels of intelliegence, manipulation of others for his own pleasure and patent sadism totally jives with the traditional diagnosis of psychopathy. In truth, killers The Tooth Fairy from Red Dragon and Buffalo Bill from Lambs are far more in line with actual serial murderers and I’m sure that Lecter’s appeal has a lot to do with Anthony Hopkins’ brilliant portrayal but there isn’t a more a frightening maniac out there than the one you find yourself rooting for in the end. Lecter’s sophistication is something that I actually like. Though, I’m sure that my apparent lack of sophistication would put my liver on his plate with some fava beans, I would probably find hanging out with Lecter a fascinating experience.

Night of the HunterFor my money, nobody plays a sociopath quite like Robert Mitchum. There are certain actors in the history of film who are so closely associated with certain menacing characters or a class of menacing characters that I find myself having a hard time separating fact from fiction. Their very presence, no matter who they’re playing, puts me on edge and among those is Mitchum solely for his roles in Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear. For all I know, Mitchum was a really nice guy and from what I know of him and his reputation on set, he was really down to earth and pleasant. None of this makes a difference to me because of the sheer power of evil portrayed in the characters Max Cady and Reverend Harry Powell. Powell is so plainly horrible and his LOVE/HATE tattoo schtick, told several times in the movie as if to win over the people he will eventually kill, is such baldfaced bullshit that it’s amazing that the only people in Night of the Hunter who ever see through it are a pair of children. Way before the analytical period of mental illness, the writing and portrayal of Powell is text book serial killer behavior. Psychopathy wasn’t a particularly well-known set of behaviors but Mitchum’s delivery of the lines is chilling to the bone and text book sadist. He presents as a man of god so to better manipulate people as he robs and then kills them. The lengths he goes to in order to find Night of the Hunter’s booty at the center of its conflict is elaborate. He goes so much further than any normal person would go in pursuit of stashed cash.

Robert Mitchum as Max CadyCape Fear’s villain, Max Cady, is a different kind of beast, however. While Powell is a cunning psychopath in the traditional mold, the monster, Max Cady, fits a much more broad spectrum of behaviors in the Antisocial Personality Disorder classification. Cady spend eight years in jail honing himself and planning and pining for the day he gets out so that he can get revenge on the lawyer that put him in jail. The problem is that Cady is, in fact, a horrible, remorseless criminal. A rapist, in fact. He is guilty as hell of his crime and his heedless desire to have his day with Sam Bowden is a reflection of his psychopath narcissism. Cady’s desire for revenge isn’t an expressive need for sudden death, either. He savors every second of the terror. He follows the Bowdens around and menaces them in every possible setting. This trademark sadism is characteristic of some of the worst serial killers in American murder history.

Got a favorite movie psychopath? Discuss them in the comments!

8 Feb

Check out the Battlestar Galactica (2004) Show Bible!

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday February 8, 2011 | Whimsy

Battlestar Galactica show bibleI’d never heard of a show bible until John Herman suggested we write one for our How To Survive The Strange web series. He explained that it was a major tool for writers on an ongoing series since it establishes characters, motivations and canon that can be used to script further episodes. Lots of shows have these, but not all (Shockingly The X-Files never had one). Any show that’s heavy on continuity will have something like this: 24, LOST, Dallas, you name it. The show bible’s detail varies wildly, though. I stumbled on to this one yesterday and if you follow me on Twitter then you probably caught it when I linked to it in the morning and then subsequently ruined your productivity for the day.

Every TV show goes into production with a Point A. You know? The starting point. Very few produced in North America go in with Point B in mind. This is something that BBC does all the time since their shows tend to have very short life spans and it makes more sense on a BBC budget to tell a quick story and move on. The endless drama is a symptom of American TV, though. In a lot of cases, that endless cycle leads to TV shows that go on too long and inevitably jump the shark. This happens to even the best of American TV. Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, however, was a rare exception to the rule. While I’m not sure that they ever imagined when the show would end, Moore went into production knowing that the Galactica could not roam endlessly through space. They would have to reach Earth, eventually. For this purpose, Moore’s bible for Battlestar Galactica is detailed to the nines! Every single aspect of the show was carefully planned from the outset, obviously leaving room for the writing staff to take the show in dynamic dramatic directions, but the technical details of everything were hammered out ahead of time. I loved Battlestar but reading Moore’s show bible made me appreciate it even more since the show’s endgame is outlined in the first few pages of the bible as Moore describes the religious culture of the twelve planets. He also goes into painful detail on the technical workings of the ship and why the Battlestars operated like they did. It’s amazing!

I wasn’t going to post this until Tony suggested that I get it up here. He analogizes it to Wikileaks for the nerd set and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a seriously detailed look behind the scenes of a really great show.

edit: I’ve been getting inconsistent results from this upload. I never seem to have a problem downloading or viewing the PDF but others have reported problems with the download. Please let me know in the comments if something goes wrong.

Battlestar Galactica Series Bible

4 Feb

The official Cinema Suicide list of coolest sci-fi and horror TV theme songs

Posted by Bryan White | Friday February 4, 2011 | Whimsy

Science Fiction TV theme songsI’ve been watching a lot of old school Doctor Who lately. I’m a big fan of the Tom Baker episodes from the 70’s and during this binge it occurred to me as it usually does during these bursts of Doctor Who fandom that the show has the god damn coolest theme song of any show ever. Seriously. That’s how I feel. It’s spooky and suitably sci-fi and if that’s not enough for you, it was originally generated with electronic components in 1963, way before everyone was experimenting with synthesizers! The end result is one of the most recognizable pieces of TV music. It got me to thinking, too. Doctor Who is not alone. Horror TV and sci-fi tend to come built in with a great theme song. Here are my favorites. Feel free to chime in in the comments with your own favorites because I’m bound to miss some of them.

Doctor Who

The Twilight Zone (You unlock this door with the key of imagination…)

The Prisoner (Unsurprisingly, also composed by Doctor Who’s Ron Grainer)

The Outer Limits (The original isn’t embeddable. This is a cool steregram, instead)

The Munsters

The Addams Family

The X-Files

Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Dark Shadows (Theremin!)

Star Trek (This song actually has lyrics, bet you didn’t know that.)

20 Jan

People always ask me if I know Calvin and Hobbes…

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday January 20, 2011 | Whimsy

Calvin & HobbesThree things, y’all.

  1. I love Fight Club. It’s the only Palahniuk novel that I can stomach and by that I mean I think Fight Club is a work of inspired genius and everything else he’s written is shit. I also love Fincher’s adaptation of the book.
  2. I love Calvin and Hobbes. I grew up on the books of collected strips and somewhere at home I still have all of them. The final strip that Bill Watterson did, the real one not that Ritalin fake, brought a tear to my eye and Watterson himself is a personal hero of mine.
  3. This mashup video is a work of pure genius. It’s 9:00am and this clip has made my day. I hope that it makes yours.
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