31 Dec

Tony’s Picks For the Best Films of 2010

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday December 31, 2010 | Whimsy

Going back through the clutter of movies I saw in 2010, it was pretty clear to me which were the best.  There were those I loved, liked and hated, and some that I loved for my own selfish sentimentality.  The latter of that list were this years Machete and The Expendables, which took me back to the explosive, muscled heroics of the 80’s action movies I grew up obsessing over.  I loved these two movies, but found an even better crop for my top ten.  Another movie I loved, but it would be a conflict of interest to list (I was First AD on the film) was Richard Griffin’s Atomic Brain Invasion, a 50’s Sci-Fi action throwback in the family friendly light of Joe Dante or The Goonies.  For me, the themes that stood out in 2010, grabbing me the most were fanciful tales about giving ourselves up to technology.  With hundreds of millions of us on Facebook, information is changing by the second, tech is evolving to Orwellian levels, and fame is diluted by the thousands vying for that big break the online world deceivingly waves in our face.  Going through my list, I coincidentally noticed that most of my ten picks for the best films of 2010 are in some way or another guided by the rapid evolution of technology.  Check them out…

1) Inception
My favorite quote of all time is one by Steven Spielberg; “I dream for a living.” In Christopher Nolan’s Inception, his characters do just that, literally. Nolan himself does it too, with one of the most ambitious and awe-inspiring mind-trips ever in the movies. In one of, if not the most complex scripts ever written, Inception treats dreams like onions, layered levels of shrinking consciousness that collide fantasy with action. The cast of dream weavers led by DiCaprio, and Gordon-Levitt are a fantastic ensemble of the most edgy actors working today (look for Tom Hardy to have an amazing career ahead of him). The ability to delve into our most secret and seemingly secure hiding places, our dreams, may be a prophecy for a future of shrinking privacy, and vast human networking.

2) The Social Network
Speaking of human networking, how about one with 500 million users? When I first heard the idea of the “Facebook movie” I was a bit baffled. Then David Fincher’s name was thrown in to direct, and my interest was piqued. Then came the trailer with that haunting choral rendition of Radiohead’s Creep, and I was sold. Finally seeing the movie, I was blown away by the narrative ark Fincher and writer Sorkin invented to turn a seemingly mundane story into one of the most exciting and interesting of 2010. Antisocial, anarchistic, selfishly aspergers-esque computer nerds changing how we think and interact as people in the best paced movie of the year. A Silicone Valley love story where money and tech-hungry genius mate to unite the world.

3) Exit Through the Gift Shop
Next to Sci-Fi, Documentary is my favorite genre, and every year there is at least one doc that rocks me more than any other. Last year it was The Cove, and this year, its Banksy’s amazing street art opus. The electric editing and beyond bad ass art set this film apart from any other art doc ever made. Whether it’s Banksy painting an elephant, or Shepard Fairey spreading Andre the Giant across the world, I was inspired and in awe of these bold and beyond creative street artists. The best aspect of the film is the story of Thierry Guetta, a wannabe artist who blows up the LA art scene with his mimicked design of horrific pop art. I (and many others) can’t help but wonder if Guetta is Banksy himself, in a stunt to satirize the worlds new and digitally molested over consumption of art, and subsequent loss of aesthetic identity. Fun and beautiful little movie.

4) I’m Here
Now, this is a short film, and some may think that a short film shouldn’t be included in such a list. To that I say, its my list and a film is a film no matter the length. Spike Jonze is one of my most favorite directors. This little film about an LA where people and robots are assimilated into one pretty normal society is based on Shel Silversteins beloved children’s book, The Giving Tree. Ultimately, I’m Here is the beautifully made story of Sheldon (named after Silverstein) and the endless sacrifices he is willing to make for love. A great Sci-Fi story. A great love story. Certainly one of the always out-of -the-box thinking Spike Jonze’s most imaginative films to date. You can watch it free online through the Absolut Vodka website of all places. I implore you to check it out immediately.

5) The Ghost Writer
This is Roman Polanski’s best film in over twenty years, a political mystery filled with carefully constructed subtext. I couldn’t help but to feel like I was taken back to a time when filmmakers cared about every shot and detail in their film, a notion lost for the most part in today’s crop of auteurs. Polanski is a master, and in The Ghost Writer it shows. The story is without a doubt a loose jab at Tony Blair, an intelligently written, superbly acted piece of political intrigue. Polanski weaves this mystery so tight and perfect that the last shot will stick with you, perhaps even make you laugh at loud at the rich irony of it all. Definitely one of the best adapted screenplays of 2010.


6) Never Let Me Go
Dystopian (and post-apocalyptic) cinema are my absolute obsession. I can’t stay away from a good story of futuristic controls, and Never Let Me Go is a unique version of such a story. Imagining that science was ahead of its time, the film follows a group of children who live sheltered lives as organ donor clones, slowly realizing and coming to terms with the sad truths of their realties. This film is subtle and kind, taking time to avoid clichés of the genre, and instead focusing on the human side of its story. I heard an interview with the films director Mark Romanek on NPR, where he described his methods of directing the young actors to rehearse the older actors parts and vice-versa, and couldn’t help but be inspired by the level of care that went into the film. Really makes you ponder the line between scientific technology and humanity?

7) Catfish
Giving away any of the plot of this movie does its future viewers an injustice, so I’ll make this a brief commentary. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s documentary starts out as one thing and quickly turns into an unplanned warning on the dangers of trusting the online world we live in. Watching this film captivated and unnerved me to my core. Using technology as a filmmaking tool (i.e. using Google Places to set locations) the filmmakers really immerse us in a world we so blindly trust on the internet. I, like many others have my doubts about this being a real documentary, and not knowing (regardless of the filmmakers assurance) really takes the film to another level. It’s a film about not being able to deviate truth from fiction, and its ironic that the same debate is being argued about the reality of the film itself. Ambiguity at its most brilliant and ironic.

8 ) Black Swan
Like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan at the top of this list, Darren Aronofsky is one of the most virtuoso filmmakers working today. As with his great 2008 film The Wrestler, Aronofsky weaves a tale exploring the desperate limitations one is willing to take their body and soul for the craft they so love. Natalie Portman is absolutely brilliant and stunning as the mousey ballerina Nina Sayers, whose inner conflict is so gut wrenchingly portrayed in every frame of this film. A beautiful tale of physical and emotional horror masked behind the crescendo of Swan Lake, Black Swan is a scary and relentless trek through sexuality, obsession, and limitation. Best horror film of the year, even if you’re unwilling to agree with its classification in the genre.

9) Micmacs tied w/ Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
I love films that present quirky and bizarre worlds of fantastical fun. Jean Pierre Jeunet, known for his dreamy fantasies Delicatessen, Amelie, and The City of Lost Children does it again with Micmacs, a strange little tale of a group of homeless cave dwellers and their circus-like war against two dueling arms dealers. Mixed with contortionists, beautifully surreal visuals, and a motley crew of lovingly unique weirdoes, Micmacs was a perfectly constructed blast to behold.  Another fantastic world was the 8-Bit dominated video game landscape of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. As a gamer, I instantly fell in love with this fun and energetic little film, and especially a little Asian fan girl named Knives Chau played lovingly by Ellen Wong. If I didn’t loathe the one-note Michael Cera, this flick probably would have fared even higher on my list.

10) The Book Of Eli
Like I said with Never Let Me Go, I’m obsessed with dystopian and post-apocalyptic cinema. The Hughes Brothers Book of Eli was a badass nuclear wasteland film with a heart. Part action film, part religious parable, I found the blending of the two seamless and enormously fun. With a cast including Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Tom Waits, and Malcolm McDowell, how could this film fail? I loved every minute of it. Oh, and that twist ending, well, who didn’t go back in watch the film again right afterwards? Just plain post-apoc awesomeness.


Runners Up;  Action throwback in The Expendables, the best Iraq war movie yet in Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone, amazing con-artistry in I Love You Phillip Morris, risqué satire in Four Lions, Clooney at his best in The American, and the greatest Boston heist of all time in The Town.

1 Dec

You better watch out. You better not cry. Coal is not the worst thing you can get at Christmas.

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday December 1, 2010 | Whimsy

The KrampusWe take Santa Claus for granted these days. Those classic Coke and Macy’s images are burned into our global consciousness so that no matter where you are, since childhood you’ve heard the story that Santa is a guy who lives at the North Pole with a bunch of elves who build toys. He flies around in a sled. He wears a red suit to compliment his fat-ass appearance and gigantic white beard but what is downplayed or outright forgotten is that Santa also has a dark side. Kids love the presents and parents don’t want to scare the shit out of their kids these days so gradually over time, the notion of Santa’s travel companions was phased out of the mythology. Thankfully, a legion of fiendish horror bloggers like myself have been hard at work over the last few years celebrating these morbid corners of myth.

Being a parent can be really hard and a time honored tradition of child-rearing is scaring your kids into submission. Kids don’t give a fuck about anything and without a solid grasp on concepts like consequences, you have to be pretty creative if you want them to do what you need them to do. Just as hard as it is for kids to understand consequences, it’s as easy to convince them that something horrible lives in their closets or under their beds so they’d better just shut up and go to sleep or those vague horrors living in the darkened corners of their bedrooms will come for them. So it goes if they also intend to reap their Christmas-y rewards. As the song goes, You better watch out, you better not cry. Santa Claus is, indeed, coming to town, but if you hail from Western Europe, he’s not coming alone. The good kids will get toys. The bad kids will be tossed in burlap sacks and dragged off by some kind of horrible monster, barely kept under control by Santa’s wicked hand.

Continue Reading »

17 Sep

Stasis.

Posted by Bryan White | Friday September 17, 2010 | Whimsy

Big ups to Kiarna for passing this one along. Short films are a specialized craft of the film industry. People typically make them when they’re looking to get into the bigger industry and shoot features. Your short becomes your business card. In the past, those of us living in the boonies never got to see this stuff because they only venues booking short films were festivals in the major cities. The magic of the internet is making it so that you no longer have to ship your short out to dozens of fests in order to get it in front of the industry’s equivalent of A&R people. Now you can just post it to Vimeo, which is a garden of amazing short film work in case you haven’t bothered to mouse around there. We all get to share the magic and in the process, buzz starts sooner and you get seen by more people. More eyes on your short improves your personal economy. Case in point. Stasis.

Stasis plays out like a The Manchurian Candidate with a screenplay by Phillip K. Dick. Dick had a major hangup on subjective reality and turned the ambiguity bait and switch into his own personal calling card. Director Christian Swegal borrows the calling card to make you question whether or not any of this is actually happening and in the process spins a pretty riveting short story that features Ernie Hudson and Beau Bridges. My only criticism is that the end seems to borrow its closing note from Oldboy.

12 Sep

Morpheus meets The Dude

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday September 12, 2010 | Whimsy

Genius. That rug really tied these movies together. In this clip, Morpheus explains The Matrix to a mightily perplexed Dude who, to his horror, discovers that in The Matrix, there is only The Eagles.

25 Jul

The Cinema Suicide take on the Billy Loves Stu meme

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday July 25, 2010 | Whimsy

Pax Romano’s blog, Billy Loves Stu, is one of the more interesting horror blogs out there. The title is a reference to the homoerotic implications of the relationship between the killers from the first Scream picture and it should clue you in to what Pax’s blog is dedicated to. He writes about horror from the perspective of a gay fan and it makes for some of the more unique takes on horror blogging be you straight or gay. He and I don’t have a lot of contact, though. We share a syndication in the form of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers, though. I saw BJ-C’s run on his questionnaire at Day of the Woman and thought I’d take a swing at it since I’ve exhausted the Walking Dead Comic Con material and don’t have much else to write about right now.

1: In Ten Words or Less, Describe Your Blog:
It’s more than just a horror blog, damn it!

2: During What Cinematic Era Where you Born?
E: The Exorcism Era (Early to mid 70’s)

3: The Carrie Compatibility Question: (Sue Snell or Chris Hargensen, who would you take to the prom?)
Chris Hargensen – I even thought Nancy Allen looked good in body armor in Robocop.

4: You have been given an ungodly amount of money, and total control of a major motion picture studio – what would your dream Horror project be?
This is the sort of question that makes me seize up. Complete creative control and enough money to lure anyone I want into the picture? It would have to be a visually striking; Fritz Lang meets Chris Cunningham striking, with a script collaboration by Paul Schrader and Thomas Harris, based on an original story by me, a sort of true-crime serial killer manhunt by the FBI on a D.W. Griffith scale starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

5: What horror film “franchise” that others have embraced, left you cold?
A Nightmare On Elm Street. I could never connect with it. I don’t care for a funny, quipping killer, no matter how original and surreal the kill scenes are.

6: Is Michael Bay the Antichrist?
I can think of far worse directors working today. McG and Roland Emerich deserve to be dragged to death by monster trucks, if you ask me. Every medium of entertainment has its fast food variety and it just so happens that the current trends in film make a rock star out of Michael Bay because his movies are all spectacle and require zero thought. Quite frankly, if he were working in the 70’s, he’d be making trashy cops and robbers movies and car chase flicks. I’m surprised the exploitation movie fanbase aren’t writing love letters to the guy since the movies he makes are low-rent exploitation flicks with ridiculous fucking budgets! I think his movies suck cocks in hell, but he is a far cry from the cancer that is killing Hollywood.

7: Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Frankenstein Monster – which one of these classic villains scares you, and why?
Sorry. None of the above. I want to be Dracula, I wish I had the license to let my id run wild in public like The Wolfman and I feel bad for Frankenstein’s Monster. None of the classic Universals really scare me because each one is a direct reflection of something hidden in our subconscious that is already a part of us. I’m just a little more transparent than most people in that I readily admit that I’d love to be a sexually alluring parasite, a wild animal and that I have a sympathetic loner streak that allows me to understand and sympathize with a monster.

8: Tell me about a scene from a NON HORROR Film that scares the crap out of you:
The answer: Any one of the sex scenes from The Room prominently featuring Tommy Wiseau’s ass. But seriously, folks. I have thought and thought about this and have come to the conclusion that while I’m sure there’s one out there, I can’t think of it. Truth is, there aren’t a whole lot of horror movies that scare me so if you make some non-genre flick and something is either intended to make me jump or it comes off awkward enough to be spooky, it’s probably not registering with me because I’m just not turned for it.

9: Baby Jane Hudson invites you over to her house for lunch. What do you bring?
LSD.

10: So, between you and me, do you have any ulterior motives for blogging? Come, on you can tell me, it will be our little secret, I won’t tell a soul.
I started Cinema Suicide back in 2007 because I was tired of having my pitches to Rue Morgue and Fango rejected or ignored on the grounds that I had never been published before. In a passive-aggressive move to tell them all to go fuck themselves, I started up this site and became my own editor. But somewhere along the lines I actually caught on and started living with the fantasy that I could turn this site into a full-time job so I didn’t have to write code for a living. In 2008 I made a pretty hard push to make that happen and when it all came apart, I ditched the fantasy and kept this as a means to get free stuff from movie distributors looking for press. Now that doesn’t happen all that often, so I honestly don’t know why I keep doing this. As far as I’m concered, the only thing that sets me apart from your average horror blog is that I say fuck 50% more than anyone else. Also, the animosity that I feel toward the horror reporting powerhouses is gone since I’m friendly with Dread Central’s Steve Barton and I have an article running in the September issue of Rue Morgue.

11: What would you have brought to Rosemary Woodhouse’s baby shower?
Diapers and wipes. It doesn’t matter if you’re having your garden variety baby or the antichrist, nobody ever brings diapers and wipes to a baby shower and they ought to because them shits ain’t cheap and parents are always running out of them at the worst of times.

12: Godzilla vs The Cloverfield Monster, who wins?
Godzilla would rock the Cloverfield Monster’s ass so hard his feelings would be hurt. Seriously. It wouldn’t even be a fair fight and the battle would have wound up in that montage in the middle of Final Wars where G makes short work of every monster he’s ever battled in the past.

13: If you found out that Rob Zombie was reading your blog, what would you post in hopes that he read it?
I’d probably be flattered. I don’t have a beef with Rob Zombie. I don’t much like his movies and I think he makes music for people who don’t like good music but I certainly wouldn’t call him out here hoping to start a bro-down or a fight. He seems like an alright guy and I’m sure that with the sort of resources he has at his disposal, I’d probably fulfill my own fantasy of being Alice Cooper and John Carpenter simultaneously.

14: What is your favorite NON HORROR FILM, and why?
Escape From New York. Growing up in the 80’s, it was hard not to notice that we were all living on the precipice of nuclear oblivion or complete social collapse because it was at the top of everyone’s mind, even a ten year old’s. Escape From New York made it look like fun, though. Snake Plissken was the first time I’d seen anyone in a movie who was pure anti-hero and I got the feeling that I shouldn’t be rooting for him because he was actually a bad guy doing a good thing because he had no choice in the interest of self-preservation. The setting was really awesome and I think Carpenter’s score for the movie is the greatest score of any movie ever made ever. EVER.

15: If blogging technology did not exist, what would you be doing?
If blogging software or the internet in general? If there was no WordPress or anything like it, this would probably be a custom CMS of my own design because I’m capable of building that sort of thing but that’s not the answer you’re looking for is it, Pax? Let’s say there were no internet at all. Cinema Suicide was an inevitability in my life and would have wound up a low-tech fanzine of the xerox variety. I grew up punk and I loved zines. They’re still out there floating around in the U.S. Postal system and places elsewhere, but the golden days of the zine are gone and keeping up with them is a real pain in the ass now that we can spend the entire publishing budget of one issue on a year’s worth of hosting and publish daily rather than a couple of times a year, you know?

27 Jun

We Bite: 10 Songs about vampires.

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday June 27, 2010 | Whimsy

Every now and then I go on a vampire kick. Can you blame me? They’re pretty sexy monsters. I also wrote a short piece about how Dracula is my favorite vampire movie for The Vault of Horror/Brutal As Hell collaboration, Lucky 13, so I’m sort of in that mode right now. Movies are one thing, but if there’s another place that the vampire allure has also proliferated, it’s music. The idea of young and sexy forever is extremely compatible with rock. So for your enjoyment, here’s 10 songs about vampires.

The Pretty Reckless – Make Me Wanna Die

My wife, Denise, turned me on to this one. Prior to her mentioning the band, I’d never heard of them or their singer, Taylor Momsen, who I guess is some kind of actress on Gossip Girl. Never seen the show but she turns out a fairly smoky performance of a song full of veiled references to vampires.

Concrete Blonde – Bloodletting

By the time Concrete Blonde released Bloodletting, they’d been at it a while without making much of an impact on the rock world. They had a brief hit with their single Joey but that was about it and it’s a shame because they’re pretty good and singer, Johnette Napolitano puts on a hell of a show. This song lifts a lot of themes from Anne Rice novels.

Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Chances are if you’re reading this, you know who Bauhaus is and if that’s the case then you definitely know Bela Lugosi’s Dead. It’s not entirely clear what the song is actually about and even though the band is on record about how the song was some kind of obtuse joke, they unwittingly spawned an entire genre of music with devotees clad head to toe in black, silver jewelry and white makeup to get that vampire look just right.

Roky Erickson – Night of the Vampire

Roky Erickson made his name as the frontman for The 13th Floor Elevators, allgedly the first band to coin the term psychedelic rock. Heavy acid use and some troubles with the law in native Texas wound Roky up in a mental facility where he went even crazier and when he came out, he released a collection of songs with a heavy horror bent.

Wesley Willis – Vampire Bat

Continuing with the theme of vampirism and mental illness, here’s Wesley Willis. The late Chicago schizophrenic “musician” was known for a shit ton of songs about whatever happened to be on his mind at the time and were often performed to the preset songs on his keyboard. Most of them began with the words “once upon a time”. Wesley is confused about the differences between bats and birds and exactly how a bat might extract blood from a human but then again, Wesley was confused about most things.

Mazzy Star – Taste of Blood

It’s a shame that Mazzy Star never broke out bigger than they did. Back when radio was hungry for anything moody and “alternative”, their single Fade Into You popped into MTV rotation and then they were never heard from again, leaving most people with the impression that Mazzy Star was the name of the singer, whose name is actually Hope Sandoval. In actuality, they released three really good albums full of moody, jangly pop songs, combining shoegaze with The Doors. Among those pop songs is this one about being killed by a vampire.

Slayer – At Dawn They Sleep

It’s actually kind of alarming to me that Slayer has a song about vampires. The horror of their lyrics has often been relegated to Satan and true-crime death metal variations on horror. This one’s from their second album, Hell Awaits, an album that I really don’t care much for. Show No Mercy hasn’t exactly aged well, but it’s still a killer album and a tough one to follow and in my opinion, Hell Awaits doesn’t really stand up, but here’s what it sounds like when a thrash band takes on the vampire thing. See? It’s not just for goths!

Outkast – Dracula’s Wedding

Speaking of not just for goths. Here’s what happens when hip-hop takes on vampires. Dracula’s Wedding appears on The Love Below half of the Outkast double album with Speakerboxxx, that is, Andre 3000’s half of the album. Outkast has always been on the edge of hip-hop conventions but without Big Boi to tether him, Andre 3000 released what basically amounts to his interpretation of Purple Rain. The whole album is abstract and silly but everything lived in the shadow of Hey Ya, a single so strong that is absorbed just about everything else on the album.

Calabrese – Vampires Don’t Exist

I really wanted to avoid writing about a horror punk band because just about every one of them has a song about a vampire and just about every one of them sounds like The Misfits but Calabrese is the official band of Cinema Suicide and I fucking love this song.

Type O Negative – Black No. 1

I hate to speak ill of the dead but I always hated Peter Steele’s lyrics. The guy had a great voice, for sure, but the melodrama of “happy Halloween, baby” gives me eye strain from rolling them so hard and let’s not even approach the lyric, “boo bitch craft”. What the fuck is that? What would a list of vampire music be without at least one Type O Negative song, though? That was pretty much their thing and sometimes Peter Steele’s issues with enunciation in the vocals department led me to believe that he was singing with a pair of plastic fangs capping his canines.

9 May

Happy Mother’s Day from Cinema Suicide

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday May 9, 2010 | Whimsy

Man, I was all set to roll out some sweet Psycho shit for this occasion until I realized that B-Sol had already done so with a distinctly Danzig twist on his magnificent Vault of Horror blog. So here’s something else, entirely.

Here we are 25 years later and my mom still doesn’t get my fascination with horror but instead of having me committed all those years ago, she introduced me to H.P. Lovecraft and that has to stand for something.

My lovely wife, Nise, mother to our crazy daughter (who I caught rocking out to Goin’ Blind by KISS today) also has to put up with my bullshit and has sat through some absolutely repellent garbage in the name of movie criticism. So to the both of you, I love you very much you play a huge role in the founding and continuation of Cinema Suicide.

So to all you righteous moms out there, morbid or not, here’s a big thanks to you all.

3 May

J.X. Williams, profile of a phantom

Posted by Bryan White | Monday May 3, 2010 | Whimsy

Today I received an invitation to a screening. I get these things all the time, not to sound snobby or anything, but I can never attend them because no one books sweet, subversive cultural screenings in Buttfuck, New Hampshire. This screening was a retrospective dedicated to the director, J.X. Williams whose films today only exist in truncated pieces. Some of them have been circulating in the bootleg VHS circuit since the 80’s, others can be found on Youtube, but series curator, Noel Lawrence has assembled the greatest collection of J.X. Williams’ work in the world and is now ready to show it as he prepares a documentary about Williams.

Who is this guy, I hear you ask yourself. I thought the name sounded familiar, too, but I couldn’t place it. Turns out I’d seen one of Williams’ more notorious social experiments, Satan Claus, as part of the Experiments In Terror 3 (Review) short films collection. See, J.X. Williams was one of Hollywood’s fatal commie blacklist victims. Hollywood tends to hang to the left unless you’re John Milius or Walt Disney, and among those left leaning Hollywoodites was one J.X. Williams, a mail room flunky at RKO who managed to rise through the ranks and write a couple of features. But the blacklist hit and all he could do after he was direct some mob-backed stag films. It was in this setting, however, that Williams was able to flex his creativity and make sweet bank. By the time Williams had worked up to his notorious lost feature, Peep Show, he had developed a freaky film style that crossed pieces of  Roger Corman with The Kuchar Brothers and Kenneth Anger. After stewing for a decade  making dirty pictures, Williams returned to the Hollywood set and cranked out the aforementioned feature, Peep Show. Peep Show was a documentary of found footage mixed with narrative that made sweeping allegations about the role of organized crime in Washington, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and a plot to get Frank Sinatra hooked on dope. This was released only two years following the death of JFK and was way ahead of the conspiracy theory curve.

Williams always seemed to wear his Andy Milligan hat, though, and this kind of dedication to low culture and a self-imposed slavery to vice led to Williams shooting a ton of garbage. Some of it released, most of it left out to rot in settings unsuitable for storing film. Because of this, not much of Williams’ filmography has survived and what has is in really bad shape or is only screenable in fragments. For instance, Psych-Burn, a hearty fuck you television pilot that was intended to cash in on the burgeoning love-in hippie set but came off more like Laugh-In mixed with the acid trip sequence from Easy Rider. The most ambitious of Williams’ pictures, however, was The Virgin Sacrifice, a trashy Christian scare flick about Satanists living in the suburbs, among the rest of you God-fearing lot. Intended to be an avant approach to Rosemary’s Baby or The Devil’s Rain, the picture is among some of the most legendary cursed movies. Like Poltergeist or The Exorcist, the production was troubled to put it lightly. Williams barely survived a car bombing, thought to be left by mobsters he owed money to and there were numerous deaths from drug overdoses. In the end, the three hour horror epic did a few festivals before it was destroyed in a fire. These days, only a mere nine minutes remain. This curse is thought to have been placed on the picture when Williams had a falling-out with the film’s financier, a high-profile member of The Church of Satan whom many believe to have been Sammy Davis Jr.

There were other features but suffice to say, ensuing decades weren’t kind to Williams, who wound up directing a few new wave music videos before disappearing into a villa in the Alps where he paints landscapes these days. Curator of the J.X. Williams project, Noel Lawrence grabbed his attention when he started asking people questions about the Williams filmography in preparation for his documentary, The Big Footnote, coined from a Williams quote about all you can hope for in film history. Lawrence’s show is starting to make the rounds now. If you happen to be in the Philadelphia or New York City area, you can make it out and see what this psychedelic lunatic was up to at the height of his potency during the reigning era of American Parallel Cinema:

Friday, May 7
The Secret Cinema

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Program Details

Saturday, May 8
Anthology Film Archives

New York, New York
Program Details

Of course, I’m just giving you the nutshell version of the story. All the details, some clips, images are over at the J.X. Williams Archive. Here’s a taste:

26 Mar

Boss poster art for really bad movies

Posted by Bryan White | Friday March 26, 2010 | Uncategorized,Whimsy

Back in the day, aka the early 80’s, my dad packed all five of us into our dying Honda Civic and trucked the family into Boston to buy our first VCR. This was a momentous occasion for the family White. We took the spoils of our trip into the urban jungle home and on the way, stopped into Salem and set up an account at a video store called Video Paradise, whose big sales pitch was “Our videos cost $1 to rent”. Back then the home video market was still a novelty. They were fucking everywhere, you must understand, and much like the cottage industry of niche collector DVD boutiques that cropped up at the dawn of that medium, home video became this boomtown for anyone who had the money and license to transfer movie x to VHS and/or Beta. This resulted in a hilarious new industry of deception where the exploitation movie industry felt right at home. Video box art became the stuff of legend and lured a lot of people into renting some obnoxious crap based entirely on cool pictures. Here’s a list of a bunch that never failed to grab my attention when I was a kid, roaming the vaunted shelves of Video Paradise in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1984.

Ironmaster
dir. Umberto Lenzi, 1983
Two sections of the video store obviously held my attention more than the others. I was devoted to the action movies and the horror movies. My parents wouldn’t let me see any of them, though, and this burned me like you wouldn’t believe. Sure, I’d eventually catch up with all the movies I ever wanted to see when I was 9 years old on cable, late shows, video trades, what have you, but few boxes capture my imagination quite like the box for Umberto Lenzi’s Ironmaster. Would you look at that fucking thing? What a poster! What a sword! Of course, none of that Frank Frazetta shit factors into the movie. Ironmaster, in actuality, is a really crappy Quest For Fire ripoff. If you go into it expecting virginal fantasy movie women kneeling at the feet of badass macho warriors, you would be sorely disappointed. If you went in having never seen the poster and expected to find a nonsensical movie about starving cavemen, has Umberto Lenzi got a movie for you!  I always assumed that this was some kind of Conan The Barbarian type of movie but when I finally caught up with the tape at a liquidation sale for a local video store that was going out of business, my disappointment was so substantial that persons nearby could taste it.

Exterminators of the Year 3000
dir. Giuliano Camimeo, 1983
It was the mid-80’s and it seemed like a forgone conclusion that missiles from The Soviet Union were going to come in the middle of the night and reduce our fine nation to sand and fallout. The only sensible thing for low budget filmmakers to do was take several hundred thousand dollars and shoot a bunch of assholes in rags hauling ass around the desert in dune buggies while pointing crossbows at each other. Sure, early experiments in post-apocalypse filmmaking were pretty cool but it took no time for Italy to milk The Road Warrior dry. Exterminators of the Year 3000 is among the worst of the leatherpocalypse movies out there and that’s saying something. The poster, a totally awesome vision of the scorched Earth of the future always made me take notice, mostly because the kid with the gleaming hand was really cool. Like most of these posters, the art was totally sweet in order to cover up the fact that the movie, your typical scavengers scavenging for the last water/gas/fertile women in the world was a movie so cheap and insulting that they sold it under a half a dozen titles in different regions of the world to cover their tracks in case anyone came for their head. At least Warriors of the Wasteland had that ridiculous hair and the most ridiculous buttrape revenge scene ever put on film.

The Slumber Party Massacre
dir. Amy Jones, 1982
I still have not seen The Slumber Party Massacre and there isn’t a part of me that regrets that. Even when I was 10 years old, though, this registered in my prepubescent mind as sexy. A prime example for feminists, parent advocacy groups and Gene Siskel, this poster pretty much said, in one photo, what all of those people were trying to warn everyone about when it came to horror movies. Here were four women in obvious peril. A menacing man with the most phallic representation of a drill you’ve ever seen stands over terrified women whose only role in the movie was to find themselves in positions where their boobs threatened to fall out of their skivvies. This box art embodied everything that was so naughty while simultaneously appealing to me about horror. I was not then and am not now, even after thousands of hours among the most heinous horror movies ever made, some kind of mysoginist but that photo made me want to watch this movie. Badly. These days I’m told that it’s as shitty as it looks.

Escape From The Bronx
dir. Enzo Castellari, 1983
They had a big-ass poster up for this one that really drew me in. The art, depicting the movie’s star, Mark Gregory, once again as Trash in this sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors, a movie I like a lot more than I should, is pretty compelling stuff. The movie is actually a shameful piece of garbage but the art, coupled with that lure line, The Year Is 2000… was the kind of thing that really grabs a kid’s attention. Some ridiculous part of me hoped that in the far future of 2000, the world would really have gone to shit and gangs would be warring in the street over turf and resources. It’s stupid as hell, but based on this sort of poster art, could you blame me? The submachine gun, front and center, always suggested to me that it played some sort of role in the proceedings but it doesn’t. I still don’t know what the hell it’s doing on the poster apart from taking up negative space in the design. I caught a whiff of this one shortly after seeing Escape From New York for the first time so just about any combination of post apocalypse themes, escaping and New York were an allure that I could not resist. LEAVE THE BRONX!

Def-Con 4
dir. Paul Donovan, 1985
Everyone with an interest in post-nuke movies, and those of us who remember the halcyon days of the video store, are familiar with this box. Def-Con 4’s packaging embodies the spirit of this age when drawing people’s attention meant selling a video rental. Like most movies that took this road, the poster has little bearing on the actual movie. At this stage in its production, producers probably had a script outline and not much else. Sales and funding balanced precariously on the success or failure of the poster, which rarely ever featured actors in the movie or anything concrete from the actual film. With the exception of Blastfighter, I can’t think of a more misleading piece of movie art. The plot concerns a bunch of astronauts aboard a nuclear armed satellite, but the lion’s share of the movie takes place on Earth. So that’s about where the similarities end. For those with a tolerance for high cheese, Def-Con 4 is actually a pretty decent entry and one of the few Post-Nukes to emerge from Canada. I’ve actually seen this art in other place but I’m not sure where it came from. I’m fairly certain that it’s not an original piece of work commissioned for the film like a lot of these posters tend to be as it shows up every now and then in collections of science fiction themed art. I suspect that it was probably a pin-up from an issue of Heavy Metal.

Faces of Death
dir. Conan Le Clair, 1978
I’m actually having a really hard time finding the original box art for the Faces of Death sequels, which were even more threatening than the first but the big, bold, proudly displayed BANNED! banner was the sort of thing that you didn’t often see. This was the kiss of death for a lot of movies but it was a brilliant piece of marketing by Gorgon Video whose logo was also about the most intimidating thing on the shelves. Faces of Death (Review) was a mythical beast of the horror section. The packaging is actually quite plain but it speaks volumes. The movie is a fucking dog and everything about it is fake but because of this menacing red and black box, it had a sinister reputation. Think back to how many sleepovers you attended where this was one of the movies you watched. I still remember that sudden shock when my friend Mike and I actually managed to rent this at our local shop and that intense disappointment as I watched it and realized that the sales pitch was in the packaging and the product was a rancid horror movie with not a hint of ghoulish documentary to it. The sequels and Worst Of tapes did nothing to make me feel any better.

I Spit On Your Grave
dir. Meir Zarchi, 1978
I think the most troubling thing about the Wizard Video release (and subsequent releases) of I Spit On Your Grave, a movie I’ve never seen released under its original title, Day of the Woman, is the prominence of ass on the cover. There are few movies as vile as I Spit On Your Grave which, for its spectacle of extended, extremely graphic and unbearably sadistic rape scenes, has built a strange cult of weirdos and revenge movie fanatics. One of my favorite blogs is even named after it. If there’s one thing they really shouldn’t do is lure you in with the sexy because if there’s one thing this movie isn’t, it’s that. So there you go, more misleading shit that made me feel pretty bad upon viewing. I was 14 when I caught up with this one and was ready for some T&A. Unfortunately, I was treated to a half hour of T&A that I would rather not have seen since the T&A was attached to a brutalized, screaming, struggling woman. True to the poster copy, though, I’d have a pretty hard time convicting her of her crimes if I were on the jury but I don’t remember anyone being burned.

Demons
dir. Lamberto Bava, 1985
Demons was one of the first movies that I ever saw advertised in a newspaper with the actual X rating attached to it. I was still pretty young at the time and X rated, to me, meant that it was porn. I don’t know. Porn with demons, I guess, and a hard rockin’ soundtrack provided by Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and Go West (?). Unlike the other boxes on this list, Demons actually featured a still from the actual movie rather than some weird artist’s representation based on script treatments. I really loved that makeup and seeing this image at eleven years old just freaked my shit out like all good horror movie art tended to do. It fascinated me, though, and it wasn’t long before I took it home and popped it in the VCR with no real expectations. The movie is called Demons, the box has a demon on it. What more did I need? Well, a coherent narrative would have helped, for starters. Demons is a fucking shit show and I have to tell you, I expected more from someone bearing the name Bava. It just doesn’t make any sense but tries to convince you that it does. Demons lay siege to a movie theater. Everyone is eventually killed. A dude rides a motorcycle through the theater set to Flash of the Blade and then a helicopter crashes through the ceiling. The end. Wish there was more to it than that, but them’s the breaks, kid.

11 Jan

Behold! The eldritch horrors of recursive C programming!

Posted by Bryan White | Monday January 11, 2010 | Whimsy

I owe you a post. Last week was a tough one. Fought a cold. My laptop shit the bed and I’m way behind on writing this article for Screem. So in order to allocate personal resources accordingly, I sacrificed this here blog and I’m sorry for that. Truthfully, I didn’t see much worth talking about last week.

To make up for it, I’ll hook you up with this nugget and a piece of personal information that is probably not terribly valuable to anyone: I write code by day. As much as I’d love to go pro with Cinema Suicide, that’s just not in the cards. Available real estate for professional bloggery in the realm of movies is pretty much taken up and getting into that world means going back in time to a point when only a handful of writers were doing it and there weren’t four or five massive websites out there hogging all the press releases and ad duckets. So to keep a roof over my head, I write code. Web code, but code nonetheless. Cory Doctorow and I are probably the only guys on the internets right now who get a kick out of this short story, but bear with me. All this talk of code is actually going to tie into H.P. Lovecraft in the end.

In computer science, recursion is a function that calls itself to work out an integer or a condition by going over itself again and again and again until the condition is met. It can be tough to wrap your head around and I’m not nearly the kind of programmer that can parse that kind of bullcrap. I was raised on while and for loops (a vastly simplified form of recursion). Real software engineers, however, work out recursion to dizzying degrees of madness that can only be described as “Lovecraftian”. It’s only appropriate, then, that some smart ass software engineer out there with a solid grasp of Lovecraft Country and the C programming language write a short story that reads like The Shadow Over Innsmouth while describing the blasphemy of recursive programming. It’s quite funny.

I had heard tales of the… thing that C.A.R. Hoare had summoned up in ’62– dark hints of choosing one element from an array, and partitioning the rest into lesser and greater sets, and hellishly recursing until the data were twisted into a sorted list– but nothing I could have imagined would be in any way comparable to the daemoniac, blasphemous reality that I saw.

And yet I saw them in a limitless stream– flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating– sorting themselves inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. Their croaking, baying voices called out in the hideous language of the Old Ones:

void Rlyeh
(int mene[], int wgah, int nagl) {
int Ia, fhtagn;
if (wgah>=nagl) return;
swap (mene,wgah,(wgah+nagl)/2);
fhtagn = wgah;
for (Ia=wgah+1; Ia<=nagl; Ia++)
if (mene[Ia]<mene[wgah])
swap (mene,++fhtagn,Ia);
swap (mene,wgah,fhtagn);
Rlyeh (mene,wgah,fhtagn-1);
Rlyeh (mene,fhtagn+1,nagl);

} // PH’NGLUI MGLW’NAFH CTHULHU!

Read the rest. Maybe you’ll get the joke, maybe not. Either way, you have to agree, that shit reads exactly like Lovecraft, minus any disparaging commentary about jews and black people.

The C Programming Language 4.10 by Brian W Kernighan, Dennis M Ritchie & HP Lovecraft

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