Horror 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.
I’m really shitty when it comes to remembering dates. I have a few keys dates committed to memory: Birthdays of both my wife and daughter and my anniversary. These are key and forgetting them would be catastrophic. You learn this through the magic of sitcoms at an early age and when the time comes, you make sure that you don’t forget them. Otherwise, I forget everything else. Parent’s birthdays. Brother and Sister’s birthdays. Close friends. Everybody’s. Were it not for Facebook, I’d never remember. I never forget names and faces but, for the life of me, dates elude me. Today I leaned on Google to remind me that it was Charles Addams’ birthday. A fact that I’m sure Facebook would have told me had Charles Addams had one. But he doesn’t. On account of him being dead since the 80′s.
When it came to monstrous 60′s sitcoms you had your choice of either The Munsters or The Addams Family. I was an Addams Family guy. This preference had a lot to do mostly with Morticia Addams (rather Carolyn Jones’ proto-goth presentation of Morticia) and John Astin’s portrayal of Gomez Addams bleeding equal parts Barnabas Collins and Groucho Marx. The genesis of all of this, however, was cartoonist, Charles Addams.
For 50 years, Addams was a cartoonist for The New Yorker where, beginning in 1938, he contributed his first Addams Family cartoon. Addams was known for contributing other toons and strips but his true legacy lies in this morbid family of fiends. The Addams Family style was distinct. Rudimentary black and white illustrations existed in a single panel, sometimes with a quote, always saturated with subtle yet extremely black humor. Each panel was a single, unrelated image with no continuity between them. As a matter of fact, The Addams Family as we know them, existed without names until the sitcom premiered nor is their monstrous nature ever truly revealed. This was Addams’ style. Even his non-Addams Family toons were bizarre and contained gruesome and fantastic qualities.
Today is the birthday of Charles Addams. He would have been 100.
I’m always late with these year end wrap ups and I almost didn’t do one because looking back, back when I was in the mid-December funk, I couldn’t think of much that I liked in 2011 and of the stuff that I liked, I couldn’t find the words, but there has been a good deal of talk about 2011′s genre offerings over on the old Facebook between us networked movie bloggers and while most of the most of the bloggers are collectively jizzing on the indie darlings of last year’s film fest circuit, I didn’t see any of that shit. Nor do I think I would have given a rat’s ass about any of it anyway. Seriously. If I have to hear one more rave review of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ I’m going to fucking punch someone. So here’s my lowbrow wrap up of 2011′s best trash and cheap thrills.
FUBAR: Balls to the Wall
A lot of Americans love to make sideways jokes about Canada for reasons that I have a hard time putting into words. I work with a dude from Canada and he takes a lot of heat for the fact of his nationality. Not mean spirited heat, mind you, just the usual shit about clubbing baby seals. Thing is, I think Canada is the shit! They’re just like America only not so fat and stupid. They have an ace in the hole, too. Through some kind of historical lottery, Canadians manage to be born with a ridiculous comic potential and even though a lot of the cultural comedy goes right over my head, for instance, dudes from Calgary getting a right proper ribbing from dudes from Vancouver. I don’t get it but I do get a few things and this year one of my top picks was the righteous Canadian riff on Wayne’s World, FUBAR: Balls to the Wall. If any comic duo is heir apparent to the thrones of Bob and Doug McKenzie, it’s Terry and Deaner. FUBAR follows a loose plot about two rocker burnouts who move to the oil fields of Alberta to find what they think is a big paycheck for easy work and while that happens for them, everything else doesn’t really go as planned. It was ruthlessly funny from start to finish as the two dudes can’t spend their paychecks fast enough, a cancer scare produces hilarious results and the bonds of friendship are tested when the town pump comes between them. Good stuff. Total sleeper. Should be an indie comedy classic. Its director, Michael Dowse, has chops and for that I want to see Take Me Home Tonight and cannot wait for his violent hockey comedy, Goon.
Turns out I’m a pretty big fan of James Wan. I like the first Saw flick, I like his Death Wish riff (actually based on the first of Brian Garfield’s novels, which were the basis for the Bronson franchise), Death Sentence and no one was more surprised than me when Insidious actually scared the pants off me. Literally. One minute my pants are on. The next minute they’re in heap next to me and I find myself gripped with fear. It also gave me nightmares. THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Ever. Sure, Insidious goes off the rails in the third act and loses its footing but the setup and conflict is positively fucking gripping. The finale was enough to be a deal breaker for a lot of people but I didn’t feel that way at all. Wan was remarkably restrained in his novel approach to the haunted house flick and as I’ve been saying all along, that’s the only way you’re really going to scare people. There were a couple of cheap jump scares but for the most part, Wan’s set ups were enough to let your imagination do the heavy lifting. Insidious left a strong impression on me. I recommend it to everyone.
The Disco Exorcist
Yeah, yeah. Get it out of your systems, skeptics. For the third year in a row, a Richard Griffin movie makes my best of the year list and for the third year in a row I’m sure some sour grapes asshole will call me some kind of shill for Griffin because every one of his movies winds up on my favorites lists. The Disco Exorcist turned out to be scaled way back from its original plan to be shot on nasty old 8mm film stock but it turned out that aesthetic authenticity was, in fact, a disposable commodity seeing as how the flick, from former Cinema S contributor Tony Nunes, was exceptionally fucking funny and, dare I say, smart. The gang’s all here, finally affording Griffin regular, Michael Reed, his moment to shine as a womanizing king of disco who scorns an insecure crazy bitch with a direct line to the dark side in favor of a night with his favorite porn star. Brandon Aponte also turns in one of the funniest characters of the movie, for once not playing an over the top mobster and horror movie drag queen supreme Babette Bombshell turns up mostly out of costume in one of the movie’s funniest scenes. Like most Griffin flicks, the irreverent gags come fast and furious and to its merit, the film leaps forward in terms of film craft, making huge gains over the previous feature, Atomic Brain Invasion, a top pick from 2010. It’s hilarious and unexpectedly sexy.
I never mentioned this but back when Kevin Smith was in the early stages of promoting what would turn out to be his final feature, he opened up his home to movie bloggers since a lot of movie bloggers had this idea that he hated reviewers and chief among them, movie bloggers (like me). To prove the naysayers wrong, his invitation was extended to bloggers big and small and among those invited to his place to see the film was myself. Basically I bugged the shit out of him on Twitter until he pulled me in. I got the details and was about to book a flight to Los Angeles when it turned out that a bunch of writers, pissed off that they didn’t get the invite, called foul, acting like inviting writers to his house to watch the movie was some kind of bribe for good press, and they changed the terms. Maybe it was a bribe. I was certainly captured by the novelty of it all. No longer was it in Smith’s house, though. It was at a screening room in Hollywood and Kevin would not be in attendance. With the novelty of this offer gone, I backed out and sent my friend Wes from American Nonfiction to see it and write about it. He liked it. Months later I saw the movie. I liked it, too. Quite a bit, in fact. Word out of early screenings was that Smith’s horror movie was not actually a horror movie and was some kind of weird siege flick but upon inspection, I came to the conclusion that in spite of what so many writers claimed, Red State was actually a horror movie. In every sense of the term. I’m not sure what everyone was expecting but my shock, surprise and good vibes about the movie seemed to be the common reception. Unsuspecting victims. Morbid and absurd circumstances. A morally ambiguous third party. It definitely felt like the small movie that it set out to be but it was also extremely hard to accept the fact that it was directed by Kevin Smith. The camera actually moves! Shots are tight and expertly composed and there is no sign of Jason Mewes anywhere to be found! I didn’t expect it to hit my best of list but I can’t help it. Red State was the shit!
Hobo With A Shotgun
This list isn’t any sort of order but if I had to put one title at the top of the list, Hobo With A Shotgun might be it. I have a strong aversion to hype, even when that hype is about something I’m likely to appreciate. Hobo With A Shotgun, an expansion on the fake trailer that won that Alamo Grindhouse contest, was on the receiving end of a lot of hype. Even before it started its inevitable film festival rotation, photos and set reports from Halifax were coming out of every one of the internet’s orifices and I am immediately suspicious of that sort of thing. Then trailers dropped and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The end-product turned out to be an awesome time machine trip back to the 80′s where five bucks and a seedy little neighborhood video store could occupy your evening with morally reprehensible trash. Hobo With A Shotgun was pure Troma-style fun. It brought to mind the kind of goofy crap that could only exist in Tromaville and evoked other video gems like Street Trash and Frankenhooker. The cherry on top? Rutger Hauer, who made his name in Blade Runner but proliferated under a dozen cheapo action flicks that sunk at box offices but took flight on video shelves. What the world needs now is more outrageous crap like Hobo With A Shotgun.
Marriage. Serious business. Tremendous amounts of cash find themselves dumped on this most sacred institution but let’s face it, folks. You’ve seen one set of wedding photos, you’ve seen them all. If you’re married, I can pretty much guarantee that your wedding photos and the ensuing photosets from the reception look exactly like mine. Without variation. Still, these things wind up on everyone’s Facebook and we, out of a sense of duty, feel compelled to scrutinize each one and press the like button for some of them because that is what civilized people do. This set of wedding photos – engagement photos, really – actually merit your valuable time and if you were to be Facebook friends with Julian Sunmi Park and Benjamin Jinsuk Lee, you would most certainly like the whole set and then comment that you wish you could press the like button a thousand more times. The reason for this after the jump.
It’s no secret that I am a dyed in the wool fan of H.P. Lovecraft and if there’s one thing I like as much as the man’s own work, it’s interpretations and expansions on that work. Lovecraft’s common setting, New England and the maniacs therein who plumb the outer reaches of accepted science and esoterica, is a lush, vibrant place of endless possibilities in the realm of horror and science fiction. There are plenty of movies loosely based on the works of Lovecraft and whole new works taking place in that world. I love the movies of Stuart Gordon and the many Lovecraftian-themed board games that emanate from that place. At one time, Zombie Bomb series co-creator, Rich Woodall, and I were discussing a collaboration on a Lovecraft-inspired anthology comic that never really came together, but you see the possibilities with the material.
The video above was spotted on Strange Kids Club’s host-with-the-most, Rondal Scott’s Facebook wall and I couldn’t resist posting it here. For big budget production crews, Claymation is an excruciating, time consuming process. Those old Wallace and Gromit shorts used to take Aardman forever to knock out, so it’s an understatement to say that an indie like Red Hatchet Films was ambitious when they took on the adaptation of the Lovecraft short, From Beyond. Unlike Gordon’s adaptation of the movie, which takes wild liberties (as do most of his Lovecraft projects), this one gets it mostly right and presents the material as it is in the text, for the most part. The lighting, the menacing narration and the excellent portrayal of the hidden universe translates Lovecraft’s expertise at evoking dread perfectly. I defy you to find fault with this short!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Could it be? Do mine eyes deceiveth me? After a few months of sporadic updates are we actually getting two updates in one week?” If that’s not what you’re thinking, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Honestly? Another fucking book report?” Just bear with me. I’ve been busy, for fuck’s sake! The holiday season will take the fight right out of you and what has felt an awful lot like Major Depression or at the very least Seasonal Affective Disorder has pretty much sapped my will to watch horror movies and there isn’t a whole hell of a lot that I’ve really given a shit about lately. Everything I watch has sucked except for the few TV shows that I’ve been keeping up with. Every time I try to write anything, I get a thousand words in and find that I hate every single one of them. Bummer, I know. I’ll cut the shit.
I was once interviewed by a writer from one of the local free papers about horror in literature and comics and the then-sudden resurgence in books and comics about zombies. Because I’m local horror blogger numero uno in New Hampshire, the conversation inevitably drifted toward my favorite horror novels because I’m such a strong local resource in matters such as these. I was confronted with a problem, however. With the exception of my eternal devotion to H.P. Lovecraft, I don’t really read much horror. My bag when it comes to books is science fiction. Truth be told, at the time I didn’t read much at all. When it comes to lit I’m easily distracted and my progress when reading is typically very slow so it’s very easy for me to throw my hands up and shake off the entire notion of reading, leaving me to feel like some kind of moron because I can’t seem to make it through four hundred measly pages. Then one night I find myself in the home office of author Joe Hill (Locke & Key, Horns) and he shows me ‘The Shelf of 10′, an OCD collection the next ten books he’s going to read and the next ten movies he’s going to watch. In order. At first it strikes me as a little weird and then it clears a bit and strikes me as the sort of thing a working author might need since free time is a valuable commodity when you’re as busy as a Bram Stokers award winning author but then it dawns on me. Maybe this is what I need. A little organization coupled with the same force of will it took to quit smoking to pick ten books I want to read in order and then marry myself to that list. I go on and on about it but there’s a thin line between a self-effacing sense of humor and an obnoxious line of self pity. So maybe I don’t need to be so down on my reading habits. I just need a code to follow. I quickly put together a list on Goodreads and got to work. I began with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a title that I’ve seen tossed around liberally in the Twitter feeds of Wil Wheaton, Cory Doctorow and Patton Oswalt. With some of my favorite nerd-culture gurus namechecking it, I figured I ought to knuckle down and check it out. I couldn’t have been happier with this decision. Kicking off my own personal Shelf of 10 got me off to a good start and gave me the momentum to roll into another title right away.
Such is the way with a lot of speculative fiction with a sci-fi bent, it’s the future and the future sucks a dick, man. Fuel shortages, staggering unemployment, rising crime and widespread poverty have made America a really terrible place to live. An MMORPG called OASIS was developed several decades back as a competitor to World of Warcraft and then evolved into a deeply immersive front end for the entire internet. So if you’d like to party up and raid a dungeon, you can do that but you can also go to school there and spend your day in a huge library called Wikipedia. The designer of OASIS is James Halliday, an amalgamation of Richard Garriot and Steve Jobs and as our story begins, Halliday has died and released his last will and testament to all users of OASIS promising his entire estate, hundreds of billions of dollars and the entire company behind OASIS to the one person who can find three keys that open three gates in OASIS, each hidden cleverly with a series of clues. Halliday, being devoted to 80′s pop culture, laces his quest with obscure and deeply nerdy references to 80′s music, movies, video games and role playing games. The OASIS community springs into action and for years, Egg Hunters search OASIS for the first key before giving up, leaving behind only the most dedicated of the Gunters. Key among these is Wade Watts, Parzival, a teenager living in the oppressive settings known as the Oklahoma City stacks, literally towering stacks of RVs. Watts devotes his life and every available neuron to memorizing the life and times of James Halliday and every piece of 80′s pop culture, significant or insignificant so that he can escape his dire situation and live a life of luxury. Like everyone, he spends all his time in OASIS and has befriended other Gunters in the quest for Halliday’s keys. After years of no results, Parzival finally makes a crucial connection and makes his way to the first key, tipping off Gunters everywhere and a race begins to find the other keys as Wade and his friends struggle against the Sixers, agents of a tyrannical ISP that wants the OASIS all for themselves, feeling as though Halliday and his company never took full advantage of OASIS’ financial potential.
Ready Player One is making the rounds on blogs and lit review sites everywhere, garnering praise for what is, essentially, VH1′s I Love The 80′s couched in classic cyberpunk conventions. It’s a clever bombardment of pop culture with plenty of explorations of The Net with a heaping dose of ‘jacking in’. Every single page is saturated with nods to old school video gaming, John Hughes movies, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Saturday morning cartoons, etc. I mean this shit is nonstop. From cover to cover, you’ll be overwhelmed with nostalgia and that’s sometimes the problem. Protagonist and his friends, are drawn up to be complete characters with compelling stories of their own taking pace in a dreary, nasty setting that’s as compelling as our main characters and their motivations but all of these positive qualities are constantly contending with Cline’s constantly winking eye and nudging elbows, trying to remind those of us who grew up in that bygone era of how cool things used to be and while I don’t necessarily disagree – being a kid in the 80′s fucking ruled – There’s a lot at play in Ready Player One and it’s constantly being drowned out by lengthy walks down memory lane with regards to the Atari 2600. This quality is not a deal breaker. Hardly, in fact. It’s just a bit tedious and because the book’s main trait becomes its constantly shifting pattern of nostalgia, the second act sags as the tragedy builds among a rising tide of Family Ties and Wargames references. I won’t lie, though, a sprawling homage and an entire gameworld devoted to Rush’s album 2112 brought a huge smile to my face.
Mildly negative criticism aside, though, Ready Player One is hard to put down once you get started. Few books have ever driven me as hard as this one and the fact that it’s so deftly written and swiftly plotted makes it easy to hurtle to the finish line, all the while dreading the inevitable conclusion. Cline’s characterization of the extremely resourceful and quick witted Wade Watts left me wanting to live in his collapsing world forever in spite of its fatal flaws. As long as it was possible to log in to a game where I could have a physical fight with Godzilla and pilot the Milennium Falcon around as my personal mode of transportation, that is. Books don’t often make my heart race in anticipation nor do they often make me laugh out loud. The only other book to hold such titles is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Look, it’s a few days after Christmas and I’m sure you’re sitting there with at least one gift card to a major book retailer or there’s a local indie shop in your neighborhood that could use your cash. Why don’t you grace them with your patronage and ask the person at the counter for a copy of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The nostalgia net is cast so incredibly wide that no nerd fetish escapes its gravity and if you’re reading this – and my analytics are correct – you’re probably just the right age for this book to properly tweak your 80′s nostalgia gland. It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s a lot of fun. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Take my fucking word for it.
So did you guys get anything crappy for Christmas? Come on. We’re all friends here. You can tell me and I promise I won’t tell your mom because if you did, I know exactly what you can exchange that shit for. You’re going to want to ditch whatever you don’t want in order to get your hands on a copy of Titan Books’ latest Hammer Films-related release, The Hammer Vault by Marcus Hearn. I try not to heap praise on products here as it sounds really fishy when I do. When anyone does, really. I’m so cynical and take so much pleasure in pointing out flaws that when I can’t help myself but gush about something, people start to suspect that I’ve been bought off. Not so, I assure you. It’s just that when something tickles my fancy, I mean really gets down to the erogenous zones and stimulates me without the distractions of qualities that I can be negatively critical of, I don’t quite know what to do with myself and begin with the awkward fondling of its finer qualities.
Titan Books is probably the outlet for all your Hammer needs and they’ve kicked out a series of books on the topic that have proven to be nothing less than authoritative. About this time last year, I put their title, The Art of Hammer to the test; a book collecting twenty years of movie posters and not much else and in spite of its minimalist approach to Hammer data, it was still the sort of thing that Hammer fans were going to want kicking around. The Hammer Vault takes that premise and kicks it up a notch. Though, I sense that this line of fan service has just about been mined of all its value with this release, The Hammer Vault is still an excellent coffee table book that delivers insight and entertainment.
The Hammer Vault is a presentation of noteworthy Hammer releases, beginning with The Quatermass Experiment, and the marketing materials that were used to sell theaters on bookings and tickets at the box office. In many cases you see the original marketing brochures, posters used in pre-sales, original script pages, promotional photography and cadids, etc. Like previous Hammer books from Titan, this thing is exhaustive! Titan’s resident Hammer author, Marcus Hearn leaves no stone unturned and those of you horror fans out there with a yen for British vampires and the stately gentlemen who hunt them, you’ll appreciate the staggering depths that Hearn goes to to report on the history of one of the United Kingdom’s most important film institutions. Where The Hammer Vault takes a detour from The Art Of Hammer, which I keep comparing to it to for some reason, is that Hearn this time actually delivers some anecdote and written word to give these press materials some context and it’s all quite interesting. For instance, going back to Quatermass, I’d always wondered why they cast a bullish American in the role of a character who was clearly intended to be a British dude. Brian Donlevy always struck me as particularly wooden and as it would happen, Quatermass series creator, Nigel Kneale, felt the same way. See? Learning is fun! Thanks, Titan Books!
This being a product based on a particularly specific niche, it should come as no surprise that its potential audience is a little on the narrow side. If you’re as excited about this book as I am, it means that you’re in the club and Hammer horror is your bag, if not you’re probably not even reading this and chucking down the coin required for just such a hardcover treasure isn’t really in your future. I’m hoping, though, that Titan Books isn’t on your radar and that as a fan of Hammer Films, I’m shedding some light on a vast archive of nerd culture data that’ll get your heart racing. The Hammer Vault is, in fact, all that and a bowl of grits and pretty much another feather in Titan Books’ cap. This company is unstoppable, I tell you! I look forward to another Hammer item in 2012.
I keep hearing that Youtube is some kind of full-on replacement for TV, what with all these channels providing web series after web series. Some of these shows are produced on a peanuts and some have actual production value like something you might see on, you know, actual television but they all have one thing in common that I can’t get over: I usually don’t get it.
It’s times like these when I really feel the generation gap. It’s not like I’m really all that old but I watch some of these clips of the top Youtubers with their Vans slip-ons, wind-swept scene hair, making goofs on Metroid and Super Mario Brothers steeped in dubstep remixes of the Legend of Zelda theme song and it all just goes right over my head. I tell you, it makes me feel old. So f*CAW* those guys. All of them.
I could watch and have watched Epic Meal Time for marathon stretches. Those Quebecois motherf*CAW*ers are funny, once again supporting my Greater Theory of Canadian Comedy. If you’ve never seen them, it breaks down like this: Big mouthed Harley is the ring-leader of a bunch of maniacs who create ridiculous meals that generally consist of massive amounts of fast food, junk food and *CAW*loads of bacon. They have a theme: Make a meat car, make a giant s’more, make a giant protein bar and they handily get to work. At the bottom of the screen they usually count the calories and fat, which number in the thousands of grams, or kilograms, if you will (and I think you will). In the end, Harley’s hatchetman, a surly personal trainer known only as Muscles Glasses, messily chows down on whatever they’ve made. Between the conception of the meal and completion, they drink a sh*CAW*load of Jack Daniels. The latest installment of Epic Meal Time goofs on The Human Centipede in a most horrific way, therefore qualifying it for greater syndication on Cinema Suicide. I present to you: 800,000 calories of Thanksgiving horror. Sixty turkeys containing ducks, chicken, cornish game hens, quail, stuffing, covered in bacon and sewn inside ten whole roasted pigs, sewn together anus to mouth. If Epic Meal Time wasn’t already a celebration of excess, this episode features cameos from other Youtube stars, Smosh, that chick from My Drunk Kitchen, Jimmy Wong, etc. They also seize the moment to promote crass commercialism in the name of Epic Meal Time bacon products, which includes bacon-flavored lube. You know? For fuckin’.
During October they actually did a Cthulhu-themed meal and presented it at a Deadmau5 show. This would have qualified for Cinema Suicide syndication as well, except that they really didn’t eat much of it. It involved octopus tentacles and sh*CAW* and most of it went unconsumed, instead using the opportunity to promote Deadmau5, who I think is worthless.
This is the internet and I realize that a lot of you out there are going to feel compelled to add your voice to the ongoing discussion about Occupy Wall Street in my comments section. Internet comments are like retard magnets and quite a few of my articles seem to draw the absolute dregs of internet commentary. I’m talking worse than Youtube comments. So I’m just going to put this on front street and you can absorb it or let it wash over you. I DO NOT GIVE A FUCK WHAT YOU THINK OF OCCUPY WALL STREET. Personally, I am a huge supporter of the entire Occupy movement. I do not see it as a vague and muddled message. Growing movements don’t come together around vague and muddled messages. If you fail to see what’s going on around you and you can’t understand what’s happening on the streets down there in New York and Oakland and DC and everywhere else that protesters are sitting in, being abused by the cops, then that is your problem.
If you happen to be a sensible American who has had it with policy being influenced by huge corporations and banks, or if it bothers you that the very people who ruined our economy so spectacularly have been given tax money paid by you and I so that they can keep their banks alive and still post record profits you’re going to want to have a look at this. There are people on the ground in the Occupied cities who endure regular police brutality and the general change of the seasons just to make sure that nobody goes home until this shit is resolved and they need help in a logistical sense to make sure that no one starves or freezes to death. Plenty of people in a position to front some cash and deliver the goods are doing what they can and among the latest to join the fray is Matt Pizzolo of Halo-8 Entertainment.
Pizzolo explains that since the face of the resistance, the Guy Fawkes mask (actually a symbol Anonymous has been using for quite some time), came from comics, immortalized in Alan Moore’s absolutely sweeping comic book saga of rebellion, V For Vendetta, then the story of Occupy Wall Street ought to be told in similar format. To this end, he has pulled together a stable of artists who will tell that story through various artistic expressions in a series of comics called Occupy Comics. With people on board such as: Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Joseph Michael Linsner (Dawn), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan), Douglas Rushkoff (one of my favorite media-theorists) and Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls, aka Neil Gaiman’s wife) not to mention many, MANY more. This is a really gigantic project and these are just the names on the list that jumped out to me.
This isn’t just a cash grab by Halo-8, though. That would be incredibly sleazy not to mention wholly uncharacteristic of Pizzolo’s organization. There are obviously costs associated with the production of a comic. The contributors are pros and need to be compensated. There are filmmakers documenting the comic’s production, servers to host the digital copies of the comics, an eventual hardback compilation of all the work. These people need to be paid. Ultimately, according to the Occupy Comics website, these people will turn around and donate all of the money they received to the Occupy movement to buy shit like food, clothing, heaters and other essential survival equipment but for right now, they have to collect a little bit of cash. In the end, their donation becomes tax-deductible, so you can see the incentive. Pizzolo guarantees that it’ll be a transparent process. Occupy Comics is a strictly not-for-profit venture. According to Pizzolo:
I’m hyper aware of the need to keep things transparent,”said Pizzolo. “Halo-8 is only lending support because it can, but ideally third-party accounts will send all revenue directly to the fund–and I’d love for an indie publisher to step in. I don’t want this getting muddy and the more checks & balances the better. The idea is to keep hard costs as low as physically possible and all other revenue goes directly to the protesters.
Occupy Wall Street has been an inspiring movement. I’ve been a jaded and cynical asshole for the last 12 years. This country didn’t so much as lift a finger when the Bush Whitehouse all but mailed us each a baggy of Karl Rove’s feces to show its utter contempt for us. I was convinced that we would continue to allow all of these assholes to just do what they wanted. Who would have the balls to hit the street and start pushing back if they hadn’t by now but Occupy Wall Street has given me a tremendous amount of hope. It turned out that there was a tipping a point after all. Two months on, hundreds arrested, some severely injured by our very own police, worsening weather conditions, endless media criticism, pre-dawn evictions from the encampments; The Occupy movement has adequately demonstrated that it isn’t going anywhere. It reorganizes and changes to suit the times. We are presently looking at the most significant political movement of our lives and at this point it’s either join the protest or get the fuck out of the way.
Heavy metal music is fairly predictable stuff in terms of subject matter. The pairing of metal and horror is a no-brainer and has pretty much been in the mix since the dawn of the genre. The very name of the founding heavy metal band, Earth, was eventually changed to Black Sabbath when bass player, Geezer Butler, observed lines of people queuing up to see Mario Bava’s horror film of the same name. Death Metal made it even easier with its obsession with the fragility of the human body. What is surprisingly not so common is a heavy metal connection to science fiction. It’s out there, though. There’s an apparent crossover between horror and science fiction so naturally there is the same crossover between heavy metal and sci-fi. Like my lists of Songs About Vampires, Heavy Metal-themed horror movies and the Sci-fi, horror and fantasy connection to Progressive Rock, here’s a new list of science fiction-themed heavy metal.
Anthrax I Am The Law
from Among The Living
Thrash metal, the mutant offspring of heavy metal and hardcore punk was the chocolate to science fiction’s peanut butter. Most thrash in the 80′s that wasn’t heavily concerned with social and political issues of the Reagan 80′s had a weird fixation on post apocalypse settings, nuclear war, genetic mutations and man vs. machine conflicts. Just about every one of them had a song with heavy sci-fi tones. Anthrax, the flagship band of the East Coast thrash culture, nailed it down on what is probably the finest of their Joey Belladonna-era albums, Among The Living. Among The Living has all the social commentary you could want but in the middle of it all is a pummeling mainstay of their live sets, I Am The Law, a song about the iconic British comic character from 2000 AD, Judge Dredd.
Dredd takes place in a future United States rendered almost uninhabitable following a devastating nuclear war that confines humanity’s survivors to domed megalopolises that are riddled with crime. To combat the crime, the government institutes The Judges, roving officers of the law who exact justice on the spot. They’re cops but they’re also judge, jury and executioners. It’s a cool comic. Unsurprisingly, the band’s main lyricist, Scott Ian, is a pretty big fan of science fiction and comic books, in general (former Anthrax guitarist, Dan Spitz, was also known at this time to play a Jackson King V decorated with Ninja Turtles). The track doesn’t so much tell a story as it is a sort of overview of Judge Dredd, speaking of Megacity 1, isocubes, The Burning Earth and so on. In the lead up to the chorus the band shouts a gang vocal, “DROKK IT!!!”
Queensryche NM 156
from The Warning
I always felt kind of bad for Queensryche. I’m sure they feel differently, but it always seemed to me that they got the shaft and never received the respect they actually deserved. As metal was reaching critical mass at the end of the 80′s, they released their magnum opus, Operation: Mindcrime, an album that sounds as good today as it did in 1988 but somehow got mixed up with all those hair bands that were ruling the charts at the time. They were most certainly not a hair band in spite of a bit of posing, hair spray and leather fringe. As a matter of fact, they shared far more in common with bands from The New Wave of British Heavy Metal and their lyrics were often seriously cerebral. Then they hit huge with their slow jam Silent Lucidity and just kept on trucking, leaving their way out lyrics mostly in the past.
The first Queensryche LP, The Warning, was mostly unremarkable with the exception of a couple of standout tracks. The most notable among them was NM 156, a mysterious title about computer supremacy in the future. Mankind is ruthlessly kept in check by a dictatorial computer with a boner for cold logical data. Man versus machine was a common theme in metal’s explorations of science fiction. It’s easy and it preys and on the same sort of paranoia that fires off the same neurons that are stimulated during particularly horrifying death metal lyrics. Queensryche were way ahead of the curve, though. NM 156 reads like a blend of William Gibson’s Neuromancer (which was published a year after this album was recorded and Harlan Ellison’s nasty post-nuke novela, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. Queensryche was progressive before anyone had even thought of the concept of progressive metal.
Hypocrisy Dead Sky Dawning
from The Arrival
American death metal seemed to spring to life in Florida, of all places. Bands like Death, Deicide and Morbid Angel all came out of Florida and before the style had spread to the rest of the country, never mind the rest of the world, it was undergoing all manner of experimentation down in America’s wang (aka The Sunshine State). Plenty of bands in Europe were leaning in that direction but it wasn’t until Hypocrisy’s Peter Tagtgren picked up stakes from Florida and moved back to Sweden that the Swedish metal sound, one of the most popular variations on death metal in the world, began to take form. Hypocrisy was like most death metal bands with the usual gory lyrics but what was surprising about their rise was the more than occasional song featuring lyrics of a paranormal nature. Specifically, lyrics having to do with harrowing visitations and abductions by aliens. It almost became the Hypocrisy calling card. This weirdo twist on death metal passed into the metal consciousness without so much as a second thought as other death metal bands embraced the idea. Plenty of bands were writing songs about unstoppable serial killers and zombie hordes eating people, but a corner of the death metal community celebrated tracks both brutal and melodic about an apocalypse at the hands of flying saucer men. Nobody did it better than Hypocrisy, though, and Dead Sky Dawning, an actual return to themes of alien visitations after a hiatus from this theme, tells the story of mankind’s total demise at the hands of an enemy in the sky. It’s a ballsy track.
Municipal Waste Unleash The Bastards
from Hazardous Mutation
At some point in the early 90′s, thrash metal fell out of vogue as death and black metal dictated the future of metal’s extremes but in the last ten years or so, thrash has surfed a wave of nostalgia back into fashion and leading the way are thrash metal party masters, Municipal Waste. If they weren’t so fucking good at what they do, they’d seem like a novelty throwback that’s good for one album before breaking up.
Metal has a tendency to take itself seriously to a fatal degree. It’s not easy to sing a song like SATAN SPAWN!!!! THE CACODEMON!!! and be taken seriously but jokers like Glenn Benton are burning inverted crosses into their god damn foreheads, for crying out loud! In Norway a bunch of these guys committed serial arson and killed a couple of people. It’s nice to find a band like Municipal Waste who realize exactly how silly it all is and prefer to write songs about The Toxic Avenger. Not this song, though. Unleash The Bastards, in true thrash form, is another song about man against machine. This one is about killer robots. At some point, the people in control of, well, everyone, build a race of machines to keep those below them on the social food chain in line but the robots turn on their masters and kill them.
Gama Bomb OCP
from Citizen Brain
After this I promise I’ll leave thrash alone. I’m sure you get the picture. These goofy guys in the sleeveless denim and the upturned baseball caps fucking love horror and sci-fi movies. It’s a staple of the scene. Most of these guys come from a similar background as me and I’m sure that’s why more than any kind of metal in the 80′s when I was a little metalhead, thrash had the most appeal. It was fucking loud, it was fucking fast, it served up a bleak social message and they constantly namedropped horror movies that I spent hours past midnight watching from age 12 on. Nobody in the current wave of thrash owns this vibe more than Northern Ireland’s Gama Bomb. With songs like Lunch Hall Food Brawl and Horny For Blood, it’s hard to top Municipal Waste in terms of foolishness but Gama Bomb succeeds and exceeds with flying colors. They get the thrash sound right but lyrically they’re in the ballpark with shit like New Eliminators of Atlantis BC, Apocalypse 1997 and In The Court of General Zod. No track qualifies for this list more than OCP, though. For obvious reasons. It takes a ballsy disregard for giving a fuck to write a song about Robocop and arrange it so the lyrics are all taken from the movie.
Gama Bomb also wrote a song about ninjas. Bitches leave.
Voivod Tribal Convictions
from Dimension Hatross
Voivod are fucking genius, y’all. They began as your average thrash band from Quebec but with each LP they evolved into the most forward thinking metal band of their age. Voivod seemed to hit their peak with their album Nothingface but the release before it, Dimension Hatross is my personal favorite. Beginning with an album called Killing Technology, Voivod took to crafting concept albums featuring their ongoing character, The Voivod. On Dimension Hatross, Voivod has created a pocket universe with an atom smasher and uses it to move himself to this place to find a planet populated by warring factions representing ideologies of total, unrestrained freedom and complete dictatorial control. They all happen to be fairly primitive, though, and regard Voivod as a sort of god. They struggle against one another until the universe proves to be unstable and tears itself apart just after Voivod manages to escape.
Dimension Hatross is an intense, extremely experimental album. It toys with the model for what a heavy metal album can be. Compared to its contemporaries, it’s a fairly controlled and restrained experiment in metal. It has as much in common with Metallica as it does Pink Floyd. The lyrics are, at times, impenetrable and the structure of the music embraces weird tunings, keys and time signatures. It’s not as out there, musically, as Meshuggah but without Voivod there probably wouldn’t be a Meshuggah.
Megadeth Hangar 18
from Rust In Peace
Rust In Peace was the album when it all seemed to come together for Megadeth. Dave Mustaine is an exceptionally skilled guitarist but the first three Megadeth albums, as good as they are, are mostly unfocused affairs and have not aged well. With Rust In Peace, the lineup was magic and everyone was moving in the same direction. Megadeth no longer felt like Mustaine’s personal vendetta against James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. It was a huge step toward maturity and some of the tracks reflected the band’s interest in science fiction and comic books. Also on this album is the album opener, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due, which concerns both the religious fighting in Northern Ireland and Marvel Comics’ The Punisher. Hangar 18, however, is all about the United States government’s alleged containment facility at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the contents therein. Namely, the recovered alien craft that crash landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.
20 years on and this song still sounds fresh. This is not easy for a metal band to do. Particularly if your name is Megadeth. The first three albums sound like 80′s metal albums and, admittedly, much of Rust In Peace sounds like the time that it was produced in but this is such a blazing track with a number of killer solos and a great rhythm section. The lyrics concern a guided tour of the secret government facility that is Hangar 18. The person taking the tour clearly knows too much and that’s never a good thing.
Iron Maiden The Final Frontier
from The Final Frontier
Man, you’d think Maiden would provide a menu of sci-fi metal tracks to choose from. I mean, they’ve made a career as metal gods out of highly imaginative fantasy themes for their entire catalog but I had a bitch of a time nailing one down that I wanted to talk about. Turns out, apart from To Tame A Land from their album, Piece of Mind, there’s just nothing else to talk about that’s science fiction and that song kind of sucks. Let me stop you before you go any further, though. Caught Somewhere In Time isn’t actually about time travel. Sorry, bro.
No, it took Maiden this long to crank out a track that had something to do with sci-fi. At the time of this writing, the latest album is The Final Frontier. Once Bruce Dickinson was back in the band after a few years away, learning to pilot commercial aircraft, learning to fight with swords and kicking out a series of pretty decent solo albums, I gave the band an unfair shake, insisting that the reunited Iron Maiden wasn’t the band that they used to be and that without any kind of progress on their part, they now sounded like the bands that they influenced but that’s not fair at all because for all that lack of progress that I give Maiden a hard time about, I love AC/DC for the same reasons. No. The new Maiden albums are all pretty good. As for the song, it’s barely sci-fi material, actually. The song concerns the final thoughts of an astronaut whose craft has drifted off course and is woefully out of reach of any kind of help. He’ll drift through space until he finally dies and as he does this, he reflects on his life, his only regret being that he can’t tell his family that he loves them one more time. Poignant, but did this heartfelt and probably very genuine sentiment need to be framed in such a strange setting?
Nocturnus Arctic Crypt
Death metal isn’t the kind of place you’re going to commonly find sci-fi inspired soundscapes and lyrics. It’s just not the right setting. The entire notion of death metal is a celebration of horror. It’s an often over the top circus of gore and vomit. Black metal and power metal got all the trappings of fantasy and thrash pretty much cornered the market on sci-fi as I’ve proven. Hypocrisy bucked those trends but even before they were getting carried away with songs about alien invasions wiping humanity out of the universe there was Nocturnus. Nocturnus managed to combine the horror of death metal with their own interests in the paranormal. When they weren’t writing songs about ancient aliens, they were writing songs about vengeful pyschics and poltergeists. If it sounds silly, it is.
Death metal gets a bad rap from people who don’t know any better. Often dismissed as unsophisticated crap, the truth about death metal is so much more than your average music listener thinks. Nocturnus, one of the more obscure Florida death bands had two absolutely brilliant guitarists capable of technically complex and seriously amazing playing. They also had a keyboardist, which was something that stayed out of extreme metal until black metal bands in Norway started using them to add texture to an otherwise frozen expression of metal. Arctic Crypt concerns the discovery of an ancient alien craft hidden in polar glaciers for ages until an earthquake breaks it open. The people who discover it open it and wind up unleashing the being inside which wreaks havoc on the Earth. I mean, yes. This is some sci-fi shit, but it wouldn’t be death metal if the song didn’t describe at least some kind of act of genocide. Right?
Blue Oyster Cult Godzilla
Blue Oyster Cult were no strangers to the horrifying and the weird. While they’re a far cry from the hard rock and metal bands that came in their wake, they were among the first bands out there to point to genre media like comic books, horror movies and science fiction TV shows and base songs on these things. It just so happens that a certain song and an accompanying sketch from SNL made sure that everybody remembered them for Don’t Fear The Reaper. Then again, didn’t producer, Bruce Dickinson (played by Chrisopher Walken) tell them? More cowbell would ensure the song’s immortality! Truth is, Don’t Fear The Reaper was produced by Sandy Pearlman. It’s also a killer track.
Don’t Fear The Reaper dominates classic rock radio playlists for obvious reasons but from the same album is the hit song, Godzilla. I’ll give you three guesses what it’s about.
So there you have it. Ten unlikely tracks about science fiction themes from the world of heavy metal. If you want to check them out all in one place, plus a few more tracks that I didn’t mention here from the likes of Fear Factory, Deep Purple, Evile and In Flames, check out the 8tracks mix I put together for your listening pleasure.
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.