If 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?
Lately, I’ve been devouring fiction. Where for a long time in these parts, I moaned about my woeful sublight pace of reading (in fact, very, very slow) this year I kicked off a new reading paradigm informed by author, Joe Hill. Pick 10 books. Read them in that order. Marry yourself to the list. Every time you clear one, add a new one behind it to the bottom of the list. Since January 1, my reading habits have turned around to such a point that really all I want to do these days is a crack a book and put my feet up. Add to that that I’m slated to be on Casey Criswell’s podcast, ‘Dad and His Weird Friends‘ to talk about Warren Ellis’ crazy-ass novella, ‘Crooked Little Vein’, I’ve finally put my own inferiority complex aside and began writing the novel I’ve had kicking around in my head since The Sword released ‘Age of Winters’ and I’ve been driving the folks at Book Riot fucking insane with pleas to be a contributor to their upcoming project, Start Here, a manual for folks interested in reading an author that they’ve always wanted to get into but having no idea where to start. I sent them a long-winded credit dump illustrating why they want me in their book but when it came to offering expertise in a particular author, all I could do was say that I was sweet on Philip K. Dick, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Now they have a contest to grab contributors and raise the profile of their Kickstarter campaign and once again, I am making it known that I really want to be a part of this with this: my official entry on the work of my favorite comic writer of all time, Alan Moore. So here it is folks. Brace yourselves. I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE Write-In Giveaway!
Begin sample chapter!
Until the 1980′s, the comic book was a medium that couldn’t grow up. It began as something that kids read much to the dismay of their parents and then, through the years, remained much as it had since its inception: Goofy dudes running around in tights, fighting colorful villains in equally garish tights. Just add sidekick. Many factors in The United States came along to chain comics down as a juvenile medium, namely The Comic’s Code Authority, but Europe didn’t have this problem. As American comic book publishers gently pushed boundaries, European publishers had a regular schedule of gritty adult books and this liberal creative license in the UK allowed a man like Alan Moore to come up in the framework of the American superhero comic, while injecting it with his own form of mature and sophisticated storytelling that The US had never seen before. Moore’s entry into the pantheon of DC Comics brought with it a sea change in the way comics were both written and read. Moore has an entire galaxy of challenging and exciting work out there but if you really want to dive in, you’re probably going to want to put books like Promethea and The Lost Girls aside until you’ve found your true Alan Moore gateway drug.
Saga of the Swamp Thing
With his introduction to Swamp Thing, Moore was given free editorial rein to do whatever it is he wanted to do with the character. He grabbed this opportunity by the throat and ran wild with it, retconning the entire Swamp Thing canon. He took a corny horror comic and turned it into one of the most sophisticated literary horror comics to hit the presses. Its ripples can still be felt today and Moore’s work on the book from start to finish set the tone for further writers to take up the comic. Moore’s work, collected in trade paperbacks and a series of beautiful hardcovers, turns the book into a series of ironic horror shorts in the style of EC and Warren horror comics and bakes them into an ongoing narrative of spirituality, environmentalism and romance (no, really). The series peaks with the introduction of John Constantine, The Hellblazer, as he guides Swamp Thing through a series of paranormal encounters with ghosts, vampires and werewolves, culminating in an epic confrontation in Hell, the resolution being one of the most moving and amazing moments in the entire body of Alan Moore’s work.
V For Vendetta
Started in the British anthology comic, Warrior, V For Vendetta remained unfinished until the late 80’s when Moore had proven himself many times over as one of the most innovative writers in comics at the time. DC, his then-regular publisher colored the book and re-published the entire run, allowing Moore, after many years, to finally finish the story. V For Vendetta is set in a post-nuclear Great Britain where the vacuum of power allowed a fascist regime to take hold in England, placing the entire surviving population under its thumb and creating a corrupt ruling class. However, a nigh-unstoppable force rises to fight the fascists in the form of the ghost of their medical-experimentation past as a concentration camp escapee in a cape and Guy Fawkes mask assassinates key government officials and bombs government buildings with reckless abandon. Moore’s writing in this book is some his strongest and the setting is a reflection of his feelings about Margaret Thatcher’s England in the 80’s. It is impossible to read this and not find yourself in the shoes of V’s protege, Evey.
If you’re going to introduce someone to Alan Moore, Watchmen is a foregone conclusion. If the man were to be known for one book and one book only, it would be this one. In Watchmen, Moore pitches a story that deconstructs the entire notion of the superhero comic book and turns the medium on its ear as the line between hero and villain is blurred so significantly that you couldn’t even see it anymore. The result is a disturbing exploration of a real world where costumed crime fighters exist and how their status as vigilantes isolate them from the rest of us. It takes the typical model of the super hero as Greek god and brings them back down to Earth to become something more horribly recognizable and deeply flawed. In Watchmen, the world is approaching the brink of nuclear annihilation. Costumed heroes put the capes back on after a long absence to find the killer of one of their own and wind up uncovering a terrifying conspiracy with dire consequences. So impressive in scope is Watchmen that it would go on to become recognized as one of the most important comics of all time.
With The Dark Knight Rises dominating the box office and me neck-deep in Arkham City for Xbox 360, I’ve been thinking lately about an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time in half-baked format:
Maybe it’s just because I don’t actually follow Batman beyond the odd one-shot or mini-series. Maybe it’s because my fondest memories of the Adam West Batman show involve Vincent Price. Maybe it’s because that when I do buy a Batman book, it’s because my natural status as a horror fan draws me toward the darker explorations of Batman in a horror context, but it seems to me that every time I look, I find something in the Batman canon that makes me think that even when he’s being written in the most straight-ahead fashion by whatever Schmoe DC has hired, it seems to me that Batman is injected with at least some degree of the horror genre. The medium doesn’t matter, either! Whether it’s Detective Comics, the movies and even that outstanding Batman: The Animated Series. Batman is always spooky.
The very foundation of Batman’s origin is rooted in horror. Superman’s origins not only involve the death of his parents but the death of his entire race but he flies through the space away from this tragedy into the arms of a loving pair of parental units so it renders his argument moot. Others, however, The Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, any of the other members of The JLA, none of them feature a tragic back story involving the death of a child’s parents. Comic books have grown up since the golden age but the one thing you have to remember was that back in 1939 when Batman made a splash in the pages of Detective Comics #27, comics were largely a product directed at children. I’m sure there were handfuls of adults consuming comics on the sly but if the average comic book consumer of today were to be seen with boxes upon boxes of lovingly bagged and boarded comic books, they would have been marched off to the funny farm where they would have found an ice pick jammed through their ocular cavity, scrambling up the frontal lobe of their brain. It was fucking unheard of! Kids bought and read comics and their parents hated it! So how strange was it that as a child, Bruce Wayne witnessed the senseless murder of his parents? Disney did this a lot, too, in their feature cartoons using dead parents as a driving force behind a character. Take yourself back to 8 years old and put yourself there. It’s unpleasant to think about it now, even as a rational adult.
I know, I know. It’s been fucking forever since I’ve updated this place. I have a shitload going on these days. A baby in the coming months, a script in production on an indie horror flick and I just wrapped up a run at The Player’s Ring theater in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with my co-production with John Herman of An Evening of Grand Guignol: Theatre of Terror.
John is a local creative dynamo and I’ve talked about him a bit in this place since he and I have worked together in the past on some shit and we’ve had a lot of fun. A little while back I did a sort of capsule review of Le Theatre du Grand Guignol, the famous Paris house of horrors which staged hundreds of sadistic and gory plays much to the delight of France’s bloodthirsty theater patrons. John has done a series of one-act plays in the past with his ‘Evening of Steampunk’ and ‘Evening of Apocalypse Theater’ productions at The Player’s Ring, both done for the benefit of charity. In the wake of my article on Grand Guignol, it occurred to me that we could probably pull off another one of these Evening of… shows in the style of the Grand Guignol. John pitched the show to The Player’s Ring who gave us the thumbs up, we presented it to the press and their patrons one evening and then he, our friend E. Christopher Clarke and myself got to work on our respective scripts.
The idea of this show was to recreate the style of the Grand Guignol and I feel that with a couple of creative liberties, we got it mostly right. Each one of us produced and directed (well, not me. Michael Ficara directed my script) our own works. Chris Clarke wrote a very unpleasant, heavily Poe-inspired tale called The Boot, which featured a woman passionately copulating with the soggy reanimated corpse of her husband’s father while her husband looked on, helplessly trapped under the spectral weight of his father’s severed foot. John Herman adapted a Grand Guignol original by Andre De Lorde, A Crime In A Madhouse, wherein a crazy woman is terrorized by a pair of loonies in a crazy house who believe that an owl lives in her head and the only way to let it out is to tear her eyes out and I wrote my own, The Conspiracy of Three, which I have attached here for your reading and should you feel so inclined, I’ve slapped a Creative Commons License on it so that you can use it to stage your own Grand Guignol evening at whatever venue happens to think it’s grand idea.
In The Conspiracy of Three, the adulterous wife of a drug-addled physician plots to murder her husband with her lover and take off to Barbados with his money. My original intent was to portray it very seriously but upon reading it and seeing it performed in rehearsals, it occurred to me that it was, in fact, completely ridiculous and the director ordered the cast to play it up with maximum camp. The results were hilarious and the audience ate up every minute of the show. Lovers, Henry and Claire were played as though they were in a 30′s farce with Claire practically drowning in melodrama and Henry acting as a living, breathing analog of Pepe Le Pew. Dr. Clouseau was portrayed as a completely oblivious fool with a sort of silver age of Hollywood forcefulness. Night after night, the audience laughed its ass off until things got bloody and then they started squirming in their seats (while laughing their asses off).
This was a very effects heavy show by comparison to the other two plays in the program and to achieve the effects, director Mike Ficara and I parted with cash money to buy some serious gear. We hired the services of The Shoggoth Assembly of Portland, Maine to create the prop razor, the prop eyeball and a silicone appliance to be worn by William O’Donnell for when Dr. Clouseau, played by Matthew Schofield, cuts him open and pulls back the skin to reveal the meat and bone beneath. When Claire, played by Constance Witman, has her throat slashed, I built a device that she wore beneath her costume that used a CO2 gun to pressurize a cannister made from 1.5″ PVC pipe (yes, it was kind of big) full of fake blood. The blood snaked up through some surgical tubing and out the notched end of the tube hidden just below her collar to achieve a sort of Kill Bill arterial spray effect that hit the audience sitting in our “splatter section”. Night after night, this thing worked like a charm and was a real crowd pleaser. I wish I had pictures but no one ever thought to take pics of the show as it was performed.
So yeah. This is what I’ve been up to of late. We had a lot of fun and made a few bucks in the process to donate to a number of local charities. If producing a play wasn’t such a titanic pain in the ass, I’d be all over it again right now. Seeing my show performed for a room full of people who were very clearly enjoying it had a very addictive effect. Next up for me is a short film production of the comic Rich Woodall and I did for Zombie Bomb, Volume 2: This Night I’ll Eat Your Flesh, as part of Mike Ficara’s anthology horror film, The End.
I’m about to break the dry spell. I haven’t written a review in a long, long time. What’s more, I haven’t covered a horror movie since last year at some point so it is with great joy that I break the trend with a movie I’m not likely to stop talking about for some time. See, horror movies suck. It’s true! Well, wait. New horror movies suck. Hollywood hates the genre but they love the money the by-the-numbers stuff rakes in at the box office so, like most movies in wide release today, they play the safe game and do nothing but release a parade of sequels to movies that were hugely successful only a couple of years prior. But every now and then something comes along that manages to slip through the cracks. Thanks to studio politics, someone owes someone a favor and the most offbeat, original genre picture, rated R, no less, manages to find its way to the megaplex where it spends a couple of weeks playing in front of a handful of savvy genre fans, drunks and people who thought they were seeing something else before it shuffles its way off to DVD where it finally finds it audience. Or, in the case of The Cabin In The Woods, your movie stars a cast member of this summer’s blockbuster season opener and happens to bear a producer credit from said blockbuster’s director. Though, I’m sure studio suits thought that they were priming the box office money pump with some goofy horror flick that has been gathering dust in the vault for a couple of years but in the process of trying to squeeze as much money out of the Avengers and Joss Whedon’s name, they inadvertently released a horror movie into the wild that is among the most original, funny and relentlessly awesome flicks I’ve seen in a very, very long time.
Now for the bad news. I have no idea how I’m going to discuss the endless list of good things about The Cabin In The Woods because the entire movie is a giant horror movie in-joke that hinges on a very basic premise that unfolds very early on, but the central gag is so important to the rest of the movie that talking about it all would spoil horror’s best idea in years. So please excuse me if I’m being vague, but I want you to like this movie as much as I liked it Continue Reading »
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.
Municipal Waste enjoy heavy rotation on my iPod. This group of thrash maniacs keep the party hardy vibe of thrash metal’s past alive with a healthy fixation on Reagan-era social issues, horrible death through exposure to nuclear radiation, horror flicks, beer and weed. It seems like just yesterday that they released Massive Aggressive, an – ahem – darker album whose lyrical themes had less to do with getting wasted and more to do with being torn apart by wolves mutated by the radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. April 10th marks their return with their latest album, The Fatal Feast, which manages to bridge the gap between the extraordinarily violent Massive Aggressive and the extraordinarily ridiculous The Art of Partying. Still, they’re not quite as silly as Gama Bomb, but they’re getting there and the latest video to kick off the album, a tale of cannibalism and a haunted space station ought to give you an idea of what they’re angling for.
The rest of the album, by the way, is pretty good.
Hail Shatner! The world’s favorite Quebecois Starfleet captain, he who boldly went, turns 81 today and that hair piece is looking as good as ever. He brought us some of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, Kingdom of the Spiders, The Devil’s Rain, that weird-ass horror flick in Esperanto, Incubus and a reputation for being a total dick to Ensign Sulu. What makes Shatner so special is his total embrace of that ridiculous quality that makes us love him so much. Who but Shatner would release more of those speech/singing albums? Shat’s the shit, y’all, and today we salute him with this, Cinema Suicide contributor, Larry Clow, reading his original composition, The Erotic Shatner, at William Shatner Beat Night (aka The Night I Shat Myself) back in 2010 at The Coat of Arms in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
I’m a huge fan of old David Cronenberg. The shit he did in the 70′s and 80′s was freakin’ vital horror that twisted genre conventions and in many ways, carved out a creepy subgenre of its own where our own bodies become our worst enemy. Among my favorite horror movies of all time, Videodrome ranks pretty high. This period of Cronenberg had energy to it. It was daring and fucked up but going into the 90′s, that edge started to dull and even while he freaked out theater goers and pissed off film distributors with stuff like Crash, nothing that came after Crash felt quite as important or inspired. Going into the new millennium, I was pretty much resigned to the feeling that Dave was done and was going to coast to a quiet retirement as he mainstreamed with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, two adequate flicks that didn’t inspire me to rant or rave about them and that’s the worst thing for a film to do when it enters my world. However, the French trailer for his upcoming feature, Cosmopolis, looks positively nuts and I am beyond interested. You could say that I’m ecstatic over what looks like David Cronenberg reclaiming his nihilism from Gaspar Noe.
Cosmopolis is adapted from a 2003 Don Delillo novel and I wish that I could say more about it but all I can do is parrot what I see on Wikipedia about this book. Cronenberg, however, proved himself a fan of J.G. Ballard whose novels always bear a nihilistic streak of nasty and from the sounds of it, Delillo walks a similar path. The general vibe of this trailer reminds me of the Ballard novel Cocaine Nights, which highlights a series of fast living types; too much money and free time on their hands, the only way to get their kicks is through extremely self destructive behavior.
I also don’t give a shit that it’s Robert Pattinson. Unfortunately for him, he hitched his wagon to Edward Cullen and that sort of shit will dog him for the rest of his career. It makes sense that he’d go way out on a limb to prove to the filmmaking community that he’s more than just the stand-in for 1 out of 3 teenage girls’ ultimate boyfriend fantasies.
Frankly, I have high hopes that Cosmopolis turns out to be a fever dream of mayhem and carnage in the way that only David Cronenberg can deliver.
It was on Saturday that I saw the news. Moebius had died after a long fight with cancer. This stung. A bummer like few things. See, as a teen I was the worst kind of comic book hipster. I paid the exorbitant cover price for a copy of Uncanny X-Men that featured the wedding of Cyclops and Jean Grey and after recovering from what felt like a grand mal seizure, I realized that I had spent an awful lot of money on the one comic where the X-Men had officially jumped the shark and swore off major-label publishers and super heroes for good (it didn’t last but you get my drift). Instead I began shopping on the high shelves at my local shop, going out of my way to buy the weirdest shit imaginable and while this often meant shelling out for Daniel Clowes’ Eightball or a weirdo road trip adventure called The Cheese Heads, it also meant stumbling my way into the world of Euro-comics and it wasn’t long before I found myself scouring comic shows to assemble a collection of books illustrated by French artist, Moebius.
Comic books from Europe have always carried with them a more sophisticated vibe and back in the day when I was a kid I felt like this made me stand out from my friends who actually gave a shit about the ongoing adventures of Wolverine and his woefully underaged female sidekicks. Desperate attention seeking behavior on my part notwithstanding, European comics often served a dual market. Here in the states, comic books had always been served up for children and as adults, hungry for the nostalgia of youth, we continued to buy Punisher comics even though he’d been turned into a black guy, killed off and then brought back as an Angel with a duster full of heavenly guns. In places like Europe and Japan, however, the medium grew up with the consumer and among the glut of adult comics coming out of France, Belgium and Italy, the group of titles that most easily caught my eye were by Moebius. Moebius perfected the art of hyper detail without going overboard. Plenty of American artists adopted this style but tended to go bananas with it (Todd McFarlane, I’m looking at you). Moebius kept a tight leash on his stylistic flourishes and for it we were rewarded with exceptional character illustrations. No matter who he worked with, be it Alejandro Jodorowsky on the incomprehensible acid space opera, The Incal or his own western series, Blueberry, every page in whatever book you read burst with thin line detail that had no trouble communicating the way-out concepts Moebius’ writers were often handing in.
Through trips to the film-related sections of book stores, it would later turn out that before I’d even laid eyes on The Silver Surfer: Parable (my first introduction to Moebius, thanks in part to a fascination with all things Galactus), I’d seen the work of Moebius in concept art and this was often the most fascinating shit to me. In the last few years I’ve devoted plenty of words to lamenting the movie that never was, the Jodorowsky directed adaptation of my favorite science fiction novel, Dune. Giraud had been tasked by Jodorowsky with production design for all things House Aterides as well as some character concepts and the stuff that Moebius came up with was positively mind blowing. Being the fan that I am of the David Lynch film, had Jodorowsky managed to pull of his Quixotic dream, the Moebius designs would have changed the way we watch sci-fi movies. To boot, he’d contributed outstanding concept art for Alien, Tron, Willow and Masters of the (fuckin’) Universe..
Lastly, no tribute to Jean Giraud would be complete without a mention of the seminal sci-fi anthology comic (some might say magazine), Heavy Metal. Everybody knows Heavy Metal. Depending on where you bought it it was either kept next to the Playboys or next to the comics, both places being inappropriate spots for the magazine. Heavy Metal was Giraud’s home for the wildest shit kicking around in his head. Originally published in France, Heavy Metal, or Metal Hurlant, carried with it a particularly anything goes French vibe and explicit sexuality was an essential element to many a story. Look no further than the Moebius/Dan O’Bannon contribution, The Long Tomorrow for a taste of what I mean. Written during their tenure on Jodorowsky’s team of production maniacs, The Long Tomorrow has been namechecked by just about every important figure in science fiction with George Lucas lifting the design of the Empire Strikes Back probe droid right from its pages, William Gibson explaining that the general visual style of Neuromancer was pulled from those pages as well as the setting of Blade Runner.
Here in the United States we had comic book titans like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to steer the style of comic book art. Their European counterpart was Moebius. Less a force of design and art, Moebius was a force of nature. His art and visual prowess so powerful that even if you don’t realize it, your own illustration style has been influenced by him as the people who inspired you were first inspired by Moebius. The world lost a powerful science fiction mind on Saturday and Jean Giraud will be missed. I strongly urge all reading this to seek out everything you can by Moebius. It’s a genuinely mind-expanding experience to read the comic books he was involved in.
Jodorowsky has a reputation for way out psychedelic movies but while he hasn’t made a movie in forever, he has been studying the shit out of psychoanalytics and the Tarot, evident in The Holy Mountain. Never being able to get Dune off the ground clearly stuck in his craw and throughout his comic books, he got to explore ideas conjured up during the Dune period and came to life on the page with the help of Moebius in the form of The Incal, a sort of metaphor for the gnostic journey to the godhead. The Incal is about the trials of John DiFool, a mostly worthless layabout who likes to fuck robots and smoke cigars and not do much of else. Several forces in the galaxy, including extremely powerful forces of galactic government and alien races are going nuts for The Incal, a massively powerful crystal that falls into the possession of DiFool who must keep it out of the hands of the most powerful people in the galaxy whether he wants to or not. It’s incredibly fucking strange stuff.
Western comics are nothing new but American western comics tended to mirror the camp found in any given 60′s western television series. In Europe, however, the Spaghetti Western vibe with its gritty anti-heroes easily found its way to Moebius’ page in this, what is considered to be his magnum opus. Blueberry follows the many adventures of Lieutenant Mike Blueberry, a blending of Clint Eastwood and James Bond (and totally not in that Hokey Wild, Wild West way). In later years, the book would dip its toe into psychedelic and spiritual waters, inspiring American western characters like Jonah Hex. This quality was eventually blown way out of proportion in the Jan Kounnen adaptation of the comics, which features a lengthy psychic battle during a peyote trip . It’s been a while since I looked but last I knew, getting your hands on the out of print English translations of the comics meant parting with LOTS of money.
The Silver Surfer: Parable
Confession: I think Stan Lee is a lousy writer. Indeed, he was responsible for some absolutely vital parts of pop culture with his output at Marvel but when it came to writing dialog, I can barely stand it. However, the Silver Surfer: Parable redeems him quite a bit in my eyes and I feel like it had a lot to do with Moebius being on the set. The Surfer is probably the best character that the two could have chosen to work with and the character’s philosophical, head-shop past enabled Moebius to run wild in his usual psychedelic way. The comic brings Galactus back to earth putting in motion the means for mankind to kill itself off so that he can eat the planet. It’s a fairly basic plot summary but inside is all commentary that at the time was extremely relevant to American culture as the climate of televangelists was coming apart at the seams. Galactus announces himself a god and a hungry TV preacher hitches his wagon to that in order to gain personal power. There’s a lot at work here about faith, power and corruption that if you ask me, is way out of step with your usual Stan Lee script.
I’ve only actually seen bits and pieces of Arzach over the years as it’s one of Moebius’ greatest works for Heavy Metal that came out in bits and pieces through the years. There’s actually nothing to read as the adventures of Arzach are wordless picture stories taking place in strange, extremely psychedelic fantasy settings. Often times, Moebius’ work in these stories made think that he put up posters of artwork by Frank Frazetta and wondered on the page what the rest of those fantasy worlds looked like. Like most of Moebius’ best stuff, these collections are way out of print and may cost quite a bit.
Cinema Suicide began as most movie blogs do. One man, his many opinions and an ability to write that is questionable at best. Since then, movie reviews made room for the latest news in horror, exploitation and cult movies. What you can expect to find is everything you could possibly want to know from DVD releases and reviews to trivia about movies you may or may not be familiar with. At the bottom line, Cinema Suicide aims to reach beyond the shallow interactions of your typical blog and create a community that can come together around a concept that we all have in common: A love of really crappy movies.
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