Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Be sure to stop by and say hello!
Regular visitors to Brutal as Hell will have noticed that we’ve got a bad case of retrospective fever at the moment; well, what can we say? 1982 in particular was obviously a hell of a year for renegade horror cinema, and we can’t let these milestone birthdays pass us by without celebrating them. It’s incredible really that, in such a short space of time, we get the releases of both The New York Ripper (which Marc has just written about) and, shortly afterwards, Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case: these are both films which have enjoyed ardent horror fandom ever since, and whilst they’re different in many ways, what we see in both films is a penchant for ramping it up, mixing the absurd with the grisly, whilst providing us with lurid time capsules of New York way back when, something which fans loved then and love now....
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Liz Kingsley of AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A SCIENTIST has been reviewing the Universal Mummy series of films. Her work is always informative and witty. Why not give her a read?
By the end of 1931, the fight to establish the horror movie in America had been fought and won. Although it was the gamble of Universal Studio’s twin nightmares, Dracula and Frankenstein, that had in effect created the horror genre, it was Paramount’s filming of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde that legitimised it, by demonstrating that the horror movie could also be art. Having sat back warily and watched as Universal in particular bore the brunt of the initial critical and social backlash, the other studios now jumped upon the bandwagon, determined to cut themselves a slice of this unexpected financial pie. Within the next twelve months, MGM, RKO and Warners, through its partnership with First National Pictures, all joined the fray; and indeed, 1932 would ultimately prove to be one of the finest and richest years in the history of the horror movie. Curiously, after its hugely successful first venture, Paramount withdrew itself from the battle (although when the studio did finally produce another horror film, it would again be a work of extraordinary power and artistry). Universal, on the other hand, seeing its rivals harvesting the new cash crop it had developed, redoubled its efforts; and towards the end of the year made another kind of history by producing the first major horror movie with an original screenplay written directly for the screen...
Much as some of us might bemoan the constant stream of sequels, prequels, and re-makes that emanates from Hollywood today, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. As film technique improved throughout the silent era, endless motion pictures were shot and re-shot to reflect the fact; while the move from silent film to talking pictures was another cue for countless films to get a makeover. Even the shift from the anything-goes attitude of the pre-Production Code era to the rule-bound post-Code world was an excuse for certain productions to be re-made in more “acceptable” form. It was, however, those behind the making of Hollywood’s first and greatest wave of horror movies who first grasped the concept not merely of the re-make, but the franchise – and embraced it. Film series were common enough, of course, but it was Carl Laemmle and his people at Universal Studios who realised that the supernatural themes of their lucrative new specialty offered the perfect pretext for returning to the well as often as they liked. Sure the monster was killed off at the end of each film....but just because it was dead, that didn’t mean it had to stay dead, right?...
This first sequel to 1940’s The Mummy’s Hand is in a number of ways a very strange film. Although of course a Universal film, with all that that implies, The Mummy’s Tomb often feels more akin to the slapdash contemporary productions emanating from Monogram and PRC---not on the level of its production values, though the budget was obviously low, but rather with respect to its brief and breathless style and its often startling disregard of “the rules” – including the most basic rule of passing time, as we shall see. The most unexpected aspect of this film is certainly the ruthlessness with which it sets about disposing of the returning cast members from The Mummy’s Hand, who were then – presumably – the audience’s identification figures; a quality that, in conjunction with Mehemet Bey’s countdown of potential victims, makes it feel like a proto-slasher movie. The other notable thing about The Mummy’s Tomb is that it is quite free of the painful comic relief that undermined the action of the preceding series entry. The result is a fast-moving, grimly entertaining little horror film...
BTW this was one of my favorite toys from childhood...
THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday November 8, 1994
“Once again I must repeat, that I understand that the crimes that many of these criminals have committed are heinous in the extreme but it does not give the State the right to take their lives. Imprison them yes, kill them no...”
Their guest speaker had been talking in monotone for almost forty minutes now. At least the speaker on world famine had had some amusing stories to tell about his adventures as a missionary in Africa but this guy was just droning on, feeding them his opinions as gospel fact. Stifling a yawn Tristam wondered if this was actually the guy they were supposed to get, maybe the real speaker was a home with the flu and he had sent in an understudy.
The auditorium had been built sometime in the fifties, a low ceilinged block of a building; it existed primarily so the younger students could put on school plays. At times like this however it was the closest thing Blessed Heart had to a place of general assembly - aside from the chapel of course. The chapel however was never used for anything of the sort, the surviving nuns wouldn’t have it. So here they were and Tristam found it fairly creepy to be listening to a speech about capital punishment in a room painted in cheery blues and yellows.
“You see the death penalty is merely the final tragic epilogue on a culture obsessed with violence. Violence in music, films and video games translates to violence in deed. It exacerbates the already violent tendencies of certain individuals and when they lash out how do we respond? With understanding? No. We railroad them onto death row, and believe me these trials are not fair. The public defenders are at best incompetent and overworked; at worst they are in league with a system bent on murder...”
Oh I see. We have to let the murderers go but put the people that make the ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ movies in jail. Makes sense. Tristam rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. He could feel his ability to stay awake crumbling, his neck no longer had the strength to support his sleep-heavy head. He blinked long blinks, their darkness seductive and inviting.
“The only way to end this cycle of violence is to rethink the way our culture uses violence metaphors in its art, its language and its education....”
He rubbed his eyes, coaxing them to stay awake. It was not enough. Pulses of sleep began to obscure the speaker’s voice. It was a dangerous thing to fall asleep during an assembly, he might wake up with gum in his hair or his shoes tied together
“...topics as diverse as organized sports...
“...greater leniency for the mentally ill...”
Monday, April 9, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Still Not Quite What They’re Looking For
As I made plans for my third year at a two year college I let my boss know that for the summer I would be available to work more hours. She let me know that she couldn’t care less.
I kept at the writing and I felt that I was doing better and better with each manuscript. I wrote a long novella that was my take on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, mostly because I felt he’d pussied out at the end. Yes, all things considered I was doing great work. I was also still unpublished.
"I was wondering when the new Mac Bolan novels will be available." The man in the beret asked.
"Oh. I'm not sure." I looked up from shelving books in the horror section, it was the smallest section of the store but I considered it mine. I made sure all my favorite authors and books were prominently displayed; Light At Then End by John Skipp and Craig Spector, Crucifax by Ray Garton, Night Songs by Charles L Grant,Deathgrip by Brian Hodge, The Drive In by Joe Lansdale and anything by the talented and dreamy Clive Barker. I made sure my favorite titles faced out and 'forgot' to send them back when it was time to return them and make room for the latest shipment of novels from John Saul or VC Andrews.
The man in the beret frowned, "They were supposed to be out last week. I still do not see them. The other titles have already arrived- Stony Man, Phoenix Force and Able Team. Where is Mac Bolan pray tell? They all arrive in the same box don't they?"
As usual the man in the beret was right so I went in the back room and dug the slim paperbacks out from under a pile of romance novels. When I brought them out the man in the Beret took the top one and went to the register without so much as a thank you or even an 'I told you so'. Since I still had a handful of the paperbacks in my hand I went to the 'men's adventure' spin rack that blocked the aisle between mystery and general fiction. As always fitting a new bunch of novels on the rickety old thing meant some serious rearranging had to be done.
You can imagine my surprise when a few minutes later a grenade rolled between my legs. I stumbled backwards to feel a garrote wrap around my throat. I was pulled back choking and terrified. I had heard that Ivanhoe Books Incorporated was planning to reduce staff for the summer months but I had never expected anything like this.
"Guess what?" A familiar voice hissed in my ear, "The army surplus store had a sale."
Gordon released me and I steadied myself on nearby shelf of self-help books. "Oh it's you," I said rubbing my throat, "I was worried it was someone crazy."
I hadn't seen much of Gordon since I left the Julia Shop, I knew he had lost his job at the arcade. There were rumors of theft but no one could prove where the Crazy Climber arcade game he kept in his closet came from.
"You're soft man," Gordon said. "What would you do if World War III broke out?"
"Die in a ball of nuclear hellfire?"
"I'm like Chewbacca man, I've always got my weapons close at hand," He retrieved the diffused grenade.
"I don't think Chewbacca carried piano wire and brass knuckles."
"I think it was implied."
It was about time for my break so I invited him to join me at the Woolworth's lunch counter. We talked about the state of our lives, the conversation was a little depressing but when you compared it the open faced meatloaf sandwiches we had been served it was positively uplifting. It turned out that Gordon had been working as a door to door Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman but he had been let go when several houses on his route had their welcome mats mysteriously catch fire. Gordon explained that the fact they hadn't answered the door when he knocked was a terrible coincidence.
As was the fact the police found him carrying lighter fluid with him, Gordon insisted he was just holding it for a friend.