Monday, March 30, 2009

My Top 10 Horror and/or Macabre and/or Odd/ Weird Books of All Time

There are certainly no shortage of Top Ten Lists covering people's Top Ten Horror Movies on the Intergoogle. In fact, it seems to be the genre that is ranked more than any other film genre. Or perhaps it is the only one I care about so I haven't even noticed. You can correct me on this. And then you can go to Hell. So in my pathetic attempt to prove falsely that I am literate I am presenting my top ten books. I don't want to just call it a "Horror" list because some of these aren't necessarily scary but are either creepy, macabre, odd or fit the genre in some roundabout way. And I have also included some things that you may or may not have heard of, so you might give a few of these a chance.

Finally, I tried my best not to include pretentious choices like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (which I read in High School and loved) or Bram Stoker's Dracula (which I read in college and liked) because these are literary classic and I always hate those a-holes who are like, "my favorite comedians are Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and my favorite plays are anything by Shakespeare". No they're not, okay? They are not. I betcha if in Virgin Megastore's "Going Out of Business Sale!" they were selling "The Best of Buster Keaton" for $5 you wouldn't buy it. So I tried to make selections that are what I truly like as opposed to what makes me sound smart.

I have also included Amazon links so that if you click on them you can get more product details as well as buy them and help me out with a little some some.

10. Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die - This is one of those oddities selections. This book is an "encyclopedia" of some the really bizarre ways people have died. From cell phones to washing machines, from ants to hand creams they cover a lot of stupid shit, and it is pretty funny, but it is not the kind of book you sit down and read. It truly is a reference book because although you will initially sit down and try and read it, it is much more like a Bartlett's Quotations book where you think to yourself, "I wonder if anyone has said anything famous about rats", except in this one you go, "I wonder if anyone has ever died from sticking a rat up his ass." And then you look it up. It ain't in there incidentally. Drats.

9. Twilight Zone - You know the series, you loved the series, but how familiar are you with the stories today? Rod Serling, who wrote most of the episodes himself also turned 19 of the teleplays into short stories and they are some of the best ones. My costume designer for the haunted house actually gave the book to me two years ago as an opening night present. It was incredibly captivating and easy to read (a theme for me. I like easy. I have been reading Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" for about 10 years now. Not an easy read).

8. Stanley Kubrick (Midsize) - Stanley Kubrick is my favorite film director, hands down, who directed my number two favorite horror film of all time - The Shining (and i will indeed join the ranks and create a top ten film list soon) - and countless creepy, unnerving psychological mind sexes. This book - a life in pictures as well as words - captures exactly what makes this director a genius: His Eye. Any film lover and horror buff should have this in their collection. You want to know how to create the most unsettling mise-en-scene? Watch his films, read this book.

7. Tales of Terror: 58 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense - The same costume designer also gave me this collection of short stories selected by Alfred Hitchcock himself. he didn't write them, but he chose them and some of them are pretty dark. Twilight Zone is weird and eerie and all, but Hitchcock had issues. Two of my favorite horror stories of all time come from Hitchcock presents the show - the one about the woman who was raped in her house and never wanted to leave her house again, and when she finally goes outside with her husband she sees the person who raped her, and then her husband chases the man down, catches him, murders him, runs back to the car and they drive away, and not one minute later she points to another man, and then another, and another telling her husband it was those people as well. Creepy. I would tell you the other one, but I don't feel like it.

6. 20th Century Ghosts - This one is by Joe Hill who also wrote Heart-Shaped Box which i have not read, but hear is very good (and pretty scary). Joe, for those who don't know, is Stephen King's devil seed. Heard of him? He's this other guy that's on this list a couple of time. This collection of short stories is not particularly scary, but that isn't it's M.O. entirely. Some are romantic, eerie, poetic, and... pick your genre tone. And he is good at most of them. My only criticism is that while some of the stories feel fully fleshed out and realized, others seem like the first chapter in a book that Joe Hill decided not to write. Otherwise, it is super easy to read as it mixes so dramatically in style that you never lose enthusiasm to keep reading. I finished this book in like 3 days.

5. Let the Right One In: A Novel - More on my obsession with vampires later. I just read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist that the movie is based on after I saw and absolutely adored it (and i think it is now on DVD. Hmm, I gotta get that). The book is actually more graphic, more in depth (as books tend to be) and make the vampire a little boy instead of a little girl. I kind of liked it being a girl, and the film sets up an effective premise for its conclusion because of that, but the book is dark and beautiful and utterly captivating.

4. Darkly Dreaming Dexter - I know this is a pretty commercial choice, but perhaps fans of the Showtime show don't realize that the series is actually based on another series of Books. I am only listing the first of Jeff Lindsey's brilliant novels here 9there are 4), but I encourage you to read them all. I have, and none of them get tired, in fact I feel like they only get better. if you have seen the show you might want to go right to the second one because this one is about the Ice Truck Killer, and the TV show stick closely to the plot of the book, where the others aren't necessarily what happens on the television box (well, at least not entirely). I am absolutely in love with this character, the dialogue is snappy, its insights are original, and it's effectively eerie, scary and suspenseful. And I am addicted to the show as well.

3. It - Perhaps an obvious book that no one needs to be introduced to, so I won't say much about it, but in my youth I read tons of Stephen King and liked most of them, hated a few (never, ever read Tommyknockers), but feel like he should be on my list twice at least. This is King's best book (the stupid battle with a giant crab-like creature at the end aside), and although I rank Salem's Lot higher (it scared me more and has had a greater influence), "It" is horror writing at its best. It's also the quintessential fear of clowns book (or coulrophobia). They should probably make this into a real movie and not a made-for-TV cheese festival.

2. 'Salem's Lot - This book terrified me as a kid, and is one of the reasons I chose to do 'Vampires' as the theme for this year's haunted house. Salem's Lot in many ways made me a horror aficionado. I faced my fear and became consumed. It really, truly did scare the shit out of me, i could not sleep thinking that some dead boy was going to tap at my bedroom window and ask to be let inside. It never happened. while i was awake.

1. Blindness - This is not only my number one horror book, but is also one of my favorite books of all time. I am more of a non-fiction guy since I am constantly trying to make up for the fact that all I did in college was figure out ways to fool teachers into thinking I was doing the work instead of actually learning shit. But this is one of those non-fiction books that is so prescient and intuitive that you feel like you learned something about the world. And then I guess there is the question of whether this book should even qualify because it is a Nobel Prize winning masterpiece about how untenable the binds that attach us are, and how our understanding of the world and people is only superficial, and in the end life is about survival, or more over survival of the fittest, and when push comes to shove our basic animal instincts come out, and about a million other things that others can (and have) articulate much better than myself. But it is absolutely terrifying in its dystopian view of a world without sight tearing itself apart both figuratively and literally. It is grotesque, violent, suspenseful, action-packed, thrilling and horrific. All things you would want out of anything in the horror genre. So it qualifies. I beg you to read it if you haven't.

Talk to me. I want to hear what your favorite horror books are. I am always looking for a good book in the genre, so help me out! I would especially like to know about more esoteric things that I may not have heard about (i.e. don't tell me I need to read Silence of the Lambs. I have yet to read it, but I also don't need to be turned on to it. It's kind of well-known). Look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Watchmen Review #2: I Guess




In the run up to the opening of this film I read the "Watchmen graphic novel"only a week before. I knew i wanted to review the movie, and there was such an enthusiasm for the book
that i felt an unusual obligation to read it first. Perhaps because many of these "directed by the guy who did 300" or "from the people who did Sin City" movies are all about the highly stylized nature of not just adapting the graphic novel to the big screen, but actually making it still feel like you are thumbing through the pages of the graphic novel itself. So i read it. Perhaps a bad idea. An avid comic book nerd (of which I am not) friend of mine told me that i should have read it, but like a year ago or more. Not right before because it only gave me the tools to judge the literal success of the adaptation and not the sense of it. Kind of how Stephen King ragged on Stanley Kubrick's masterful "The Shining" because he swayed so far from the plot points in the book, so when he did his own literal "made-for-TV" adaptation and it blew he went on record saying "ah, i get it. Making a movie is different than writing a book. My bad, Stanley Kubrick actually did know how to direct a film. I'm a dickcheese."

Read more at Haunternet.com

So I tried my best not to get caught up in that nonsense, although it's hard when you see something that was in the book that was not in the movie that you genuinely believe would have made the movie better. But I actually didn't see that so much. There were things that I found very interesting in the book that were not in the movie, but I understand why they were excised (so that the movie was not nine-hours long), and there were things in the book I was happy to not see in the film (i.e. the internal comic book, "The Black Freighter", storyline). In addition to "that film getting its own DVD release" in the coming days, there will be, of course, "a director's cut" that will combine them both, as well as all the other junk the director "wanted" to put in. No, my problems with the film, which I basically liked incidentally, were mostly with both the book and the film, although I do have one gripe with action directing for today.

The film is beautiful to look at. It actually captures the essence of a comic book without having to add that rotoscoping, film negative, noirish, we-are-only-going-to-show-the-color-red sheen to make it clear that "This is a comic book in action people, isn't that friggin' awesome!" Director "Zack Snyder" who felt he needed said gimmick in "300", matured this go-around to just figure out the best way to tell this already fantastic story. The solutions are bound to be stylistic enough because it ain't real. He is, however, guilty of the the wire-work that apparently some wire-rigging union forced all of the major studios on having in all action films. Perhaps I am to blame the action movie-going public that will think any action film that does not have its protagonist(s) floating up to kick someone in the throat, or doing the splits on a tree is just bullshit lame. But The Watchmen seems like the one action movie that would avoid doing this. All the other effects are cool enough to let us know they've got the budget for it, so for a movie whose central premise is "what if people actually dressed up in costumes and hit the streets pretending to be super heroes" really happened, I would have loved to have seen the fights be more realistic. I just don't believe that someone like Malin Ackerman, without any real rationale as to why she could fight at all, would floor a gang of rapists with a few spinning back kicks. It would be a real struggle. I'll accept that she could win the fight, but I would love it if they based her success on the ways someone like her could actually win that fight: with cunning, speed, grace, flexibility and skill. Not with brute strength. Sorry, but she can't crack a man's arm in half. This goes double for Matthew Goode who, despite being a normal human like every one else, has no trouble dispatching three other Watchmen in a fist fight. Like they were nothin'. Again, I realize as the story goes, Ozymandias wins this fight, but I would have appreciated it more if it represented more of the struggle that it would have been. This is true for all the fights. Make them win, make them heroes, but make them real and I think we would have really bought into the possibility.

I also can't decide whether I have an issue with the character Dr. Manhattan as played by Billy Crudup and a globular piece of hanging blue penis flesh. One of the reasons I have never liked Superman is how nearly invincible he is. I have never liked super heroes that cannot be beat. Sure you can be a douche and beat him with this glowing rock kryptonite, but he is essentially omnipotent. And so is Dr. Manhattan. It just sort of takes the fun out of it. But put into context I see his thematic significance. Aside from being essential to the climax, he is a super-hero whose only weakness is his extraordinary indifference to life and disdain for man. Juxtapose him against everyguys with no inherent powers beyond a zest for punching people in the face; crime-fighting fundamentalists and then you have an interesting dialectic about the helplessness of man and their inability to shape the world with any significant impact. That said, indifference may be a sexy enough worldview in the pages of a book where the poetry lies in words, but comes up somewhat short on celluloid. Meaning, there were times i was thinking, "Oh jesus, not this wet blanket again." However, i was surprised how well his trip to Mars and subsequent haiku-esque re-telling of how he became who he is, played. It was one of many artsy-fartsy moments that I am sure alienated those that just wanted to see some super heroes kick ass and save the day, and are not use to seeing or hearing anything more poetic than the beauty of a truck explosion. The team involved, however, were more interested in remaining as true to the source material as possible and telling it with as much class and dignity one can when one of the lead characters walks around naked with their blue, glowing junk flapping around.

I felt the casting was mostly fine. Although it employed half the cast from "Little Children", I think I am a fan of Patrick Wilson's clean-cut good-guy schtick overall, and for those who are interested, he shows a ton of man-ass. His body looks very similar to my body. But he kind of phones it in here. I felt Malin Ackerman looked like the drag-queen "Lypsinka" for most of the movie but then goes full-frontal and we learn that she is very much a woman, but is still a poor man's Cameron Diaz. Billy Crudup was fine as Dr. Manhattan, but mostly had the thankless job of only providing the voice for the CGI. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was unu - what's that? that wasn't Downey? It was Jeffrey Dean Morgan? oops. Well, The Comedian was always a tricky character because he so incredibly unsympathetic. He's called The Comedian, but you find it hard to figure out why. There are all kinds of metaphysical reasons why like, "he sees the world for the joke that it is", but Downey/ Morgan adds another layer and despite being a complete raping, child killing monster actually finds the humor. I don't know if it is a good thing, or if he is "good" in this movie since he mostly just plays "asshole", but I guess it ain't easy, for some reason, to get laughs out of shooting a pregnant Vietnamese woman in the head because you aren't ready to be a father. Matthew Goode is my least favorite casting because he comes off as a smarmy effete bad guy right from the beginning which always means villain. They project the finale by just casting this guy. The most debatable casting is "Jackie Earle Haley". I think this Bad News Bear is a brilliant actor. He is wonderful in Little Children, he is wonderful in "The Bad News Bears Go To Japan", and he is essentially wonderful here. He is exactly the Rorschach as i imagined him. My only problem is he is like 5'3". And he kicks some incredible ass in this movie. Like, tons of ass. And he is tiny. It would be like Prince kicking your ass. And I was so desperate for some very real fighting involving some very real scenarios. He doesn't fit that bill, but he is very good in all other ways, so I will let it slide.

Overall, I remember finding the ending to the book chilling, but less so in the film. This may be because I already knew it, and it was fresh in my mind. It may also be because Alan Moore, the book's author. was right when he notably said this book was unfilmable. Ultimately, he was wrong. I believe the creative team brought their estimable talents to play and the result is a visually arresting, kinetically directed, solidly acted, somewhat moving art house comic book action flick. And I think that's pretty good.

Friday the 13th Review: 13 Reasons to Hate Friday the 13th


Did I think that Friday 13th was going to be smart? No. Did i think Friday the 13th was going to be artistic? What? Of course not. Did I think Friday the 13th was going to be sublime in anyway? Mostly no. What's that you say? Only mostly? well, yes, i guess there has to be some reason to go and see a movie you are pretty sure is going to suck. You do hope it is going to be sublime in the following ways: Good effects, good thrills, an adrenaline rush, some shocks, some suspense, maybe even a few laughs. So i only judge them based on this. I never want anyone to accuse me of not judging horror/ slasher flicks on their terms. I know the form, i am not expecting them to transcend it. Hell, the movie just made 42 million smakaroonies this past weekend, so why ef with the formula? But here are the 13 things that i hated about this movie. They are very specific; No platitudes. I want you to actually get a sense of how incredibly incompetent this movie truly is. Lots of spoilers, but who gives a shit; there are zero surprises in this movie:

Read this review on Haunternet.com

1. flashback of what was kind of the end of the original F13 with the psychopathic mother being killed. the "hero" cuts mom's nut off, and then the camera pans down to the head, and then the next thing you see are the feet of a young Jason, picking up the machete that was used to cut off his mom's head. Like the very second, meaning that the person who cut the mom's head off (who by the way did not drop the machete), had to have still been standing right there and could have been like, "wait, what? who are you? are you Jason? jeez man, this must be weird for you? hey, by the way, if you were alive and living in your house (a stupid fact the filmmakers decided was the case when in the original series it was just an abandoned cabin) why did your mom go around killing people? Seems like that chip on her shoulder about all of us letting her son die seems kind of misguided, no?" and then he would have said, "ooga booga" because he was like a mongloid or something.

2. Campers wander into woods looking for some mystical patch of weed that was growing around dem der parts. Something they needed a GPS to find, it is very elusive. SO elusive that you can actually see houses on the other side of the lake, and there is a wide open, very suburban, shorn lawn where they end up camping. It's as if the director was like, "I got a backyard, lets just film this here" and then he was all to himself "tee hee, i can get some extra cash for the location and i am going to need that because this will be the last movie i make because i have no business making anything for any industry."

3. This one guy is talking to his nerd friend about "all this technology" and the cool guy is being distracted by his girlfriend who is behind the nerd pulling out of her blouse the ugliest pair of fake tits you will ever, ever see. You can actually see where her nipples were sewn back on. But that's not the bad part. That's the part where the asshole of a director said in his pitch meeting, "and there will be tits, like tons of tits. You know how in all of the earlier Friday movies there were always pointless scenes where girls took off their tops just so that there can be some T&A because that was the genre? well, i am going to have 11 of those to honor the number of F13 movies already made." No, the bad part is that the cool guy, who is face to face with his nerd friend is making the most egregious, over the top "i want to frick you" faces, i.e tongue licking lips, pursing his lips, pretending like he is masturbating, et al, all the while his friend is talking to him. Like, right in front of him. And the friend is none the wiser. Really? what exactly was the dramaturgical justification for purposely putting things in this movie that were just out and out stupid? This moment didn't add a thing to the movie, and if they felt we needed to see a pair of Frankenboobs, couldn't the cool guy just say, "don't look now, but my girl's got her boobies out and I want to bury my face in her boobies and i don't want to talk to you anymore because it is boobie time." i just wrote that. Didn't think about it at all. But now you think about it. if that line of dialogue was in this movie, wouldn't you have thought it was funny? You would have said, "hey, this movie is cool, it's quirky. I think i can expect something a little different."

4. Even before the opening credits, Jason kills all said campers, fine, but inexplicably leaves one alive (you only learn this by the middle of the movie, but with all the subtlety of Shaquille O'Neal's dick smacking me in the eye, you know this immediately). But the biggest question mark is, why the ef did he leave that one girl alive? He in fact not only leaves her alive, but has her chained up in the underground labyrinth beneath his house. Quite a sophisticated operation for someone so mentally challenged by the by. He does nothing with her other than to have her there. Nothing. there is absolutely no reason to have kept her alive. Zero, Zilch. He kills without remorse or a second thought, yet spares this girl's life. never knew Jason to spare a life for no purpose other than to facilitate a plot device involving that girl's brother coming to Crystal Lake to look for her.

5. That same brother goes all around town looking for his missing sister. Apparently he has been doing this for months and is starting to work the nerves of the local authorities. At one point a cop pulls him over and tells him, "look, she's not here. check another town. We had 10 of our best guys trying to crack this case and nothing. Not one clue. vets on the force. Nothing." i mean this guy goes out of his way to talk about how scrupulous their detective work was. They couldn't find anything? We learn from every other townsfolk that everyone knows about Jason, but if you leave him alone he leaves you alone. Since Jason's house is kind of out in the open, and he has apparently killed before, you'd think they would have sent a couple of guys over to his place to sniff around a bit. If they had they would have seen their bodies strewn all over the place without any effort to conceal. Jason's crime scenes are about as clean as a baby eating apple sauce using cooked spaghetti as a utensil.

6. Speaking of the "if you don't mess with him, he don't mess with you" theory that some old lady opines when the brother comes around, nothing could be further from the truth. You could suggest that the opening campers came into his backyard so that was "messing with him," but past them, he went to everyone else's pad and killed them. No one was messing with his ass. Furthermore, this guy has lived in the woods there for over 20 years, never killed a local apparently because they respected the aforementioned theorem, and those out-of-towners who have gone missing have, as one local puts it, "stay missing." Yet, completely contradictory to its own tenets that they establish, within 20 minutes he kills 3 locals who were not messing with him. One of them is how he gets his hockey mask. It would have been so easy to do this. Here's my script: Local/policeman are in cahoots with Jason like in Texas Chainsaw. Why? Because they are scared of him. He's like the boogie man. They're local rubes, so they believe in that kind of stuff, besides they might know something that we don't. You eliminate the line about "don't mess with him he don't mess with you" because it is pointless, contradictory and wrong and you're good to go. At least at that point you are as stupid as all the other movies in your genre and not more stupid.

7. There were at least 4 completely out of focus shots. At least. Not artistically out of focus, but just, "goddmann, that shot is out of focus," says dick director. "I'll set up the shot again, let's get a good one," says DP. "Nah," says douche director.

8. 6, count 'em 6, instances where women, never men, have to cover their mouths with their stupid hands to keep from letting out a scream. And these are the voluntary variety. Not the "you just jumped out at me and i involuntarily squealed" kind, but the "i am under the bed/ in the closet/pantry/ behind the car/ shower curtain/ stuffed animal and i see your feet looking for me and i just can't keep my stupid yapper shut, so i literally have to put both, not one, but both hands for extra security over my mouth to keep quiet. This is how incredibly pathetic me and my entire sex are." Calling all horror directors: Can we please put a moratorium on this?

9. Jason is seriously the most skilled killer you will ever encounter. The man is like a Navy Seal, Ninja and Chuck Norris all rolled up in one. He can kill anyone in anyway. He kills one guy who is driving a speedboat by putting an arrow that he shoots from 200 yards away through his eye. Again, through his eye. The speedboat is weaving in and out to give the person he is pulling water skiing a better ride. Then Arrow. Through the eye. dead. 200 yards away. speed boat. maybe going 40 mph. weaving.

10. The Asian guy doesn't always have to be comic relief. I know you want one of each, but next time can we make the Asian guy the smart, nerdy guy? It's like always making movies about the future where the president is either a woman or a black guy. Now that we have one of those, can we stop being afraid of not being PC? it is just dumb. Hey, i have an idea. if you really want to be PC why don't you make the Asian guy the lead character who saves the day? that would be trailblazing.

11. Try something at home if you live with someone. Tonight, play this game. Tell the person that you live with to hunt you down. You don't hide; you look in the bathroom mirror and constantly open it and close it. See if the person you live with can slip behind you when you open the mirror one of the times without you noticing at all so that when you close it he or she appears in the mirror and is right behind you. Now, I am sure you are saying that that is not possible, that you would certainly hear a human being squeezing in behind you, and if not, you would feel them. Now make the person you live with 6-10, 300 lbs. Do you think that is possible? yet that is what happens like three times in every horror movie. It happens ad nauseum in this piece of crap. Can we put a moratorium on this as well?

12. At the end Jason pounds the lead guys face into the windows of a bus, breaking the glass, and then moving his face to another panel and smashing his face against that panel leaving him for dead. He gets up, not a scratch on his face. Good work guys.

13. The movie ends on the dumbest note of all. Jason kills everyone except for the brother and sister who save themselves and kill Jason. Jason even killed the cop, and that is when i learned that when he said earlier that he put 10 of his best guys on the case he meant it. I thought at that moment, ah, the town is in on it, but no, he meant it. Anyway, so they kill him. Back at the house there are 6 dead twenty-somethings, a dead cop and two survivors. So instead of calling the cops and making it clear that they had nothing to do with the killings that it was this psycho, they wrap the body up in sheets, attach dead weights to it and push it into the lake. For absolutely no fricking reason. why did they do this? Why? why did they? Why did they throw his body in the lake like they were mafia hitmen? Why? Please tell me why? why didn't they call the authorities and save themselves from being suspects? why would their first instinct be, "hey, let's dump the body in the lake," why would it be? why? WHY GODDAMNIT?!

this movie is terrible.My Bloody Valentine looks genius in comparison. I take back anything negative I said about that movie. I now know how dumb, dumb can be. Sorry "My Bloody

My film "Monitor"

Many of you have probably already seen this, it is my "horror" film MONITOR. It really is my first effort at making a short horror film, and it was 2 years ago (it stars my wife and my 1 year old son. Boy am i traumatizing that kid) and i don't think it is too shabby. With practice I'll get much better, just in time for my big horror feature! If you haven't seen this, check it out; if you have then write a super positive comment because quite frankly who cares if you hate it.

What's up with Nightmare video

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Name This Blog!

I am going to be expanding this blog into a full-fledged horror blog. Although I will still provide updates on what is going on with the haunted house (like, due to this crappy economy which is even worse in all of Asia, it doesn't look likely that Korea or any other Asian market is going to happen this year. Alas, sigh, sob), but i am going to work on it daily providing horror content from across the spectrum. Horror movie reviews, haunted house news from around the globe, and my basic musings about horror in general. I would love to do some things that other horror sites don't and try and spotlight some of the less celebrated aspects of horror: music, theatre, toys, art and more. i want to feature it all. And if you have a horror-esque blog, let me know and i will link back to you.

And now for the most important part. what the H is the name of my blog? help me! right now, as associated with the haunted house, it is merely called hauntedhousenyc.blogspot.com ick. Not too sexy. let's make it sexy. help me name it! Send in your comments now!