Saturday, August 4, 2012
I was into Lovecraft before he got popular. Ugh, sorry, that's a really bitchy way to start an article. And, you know, it wasn't really that no one knew about Lovecraft. His stories have been around since the early 20th century, for goodness sake, and he's a major source of inspiration for all sorts of important--nay, even scriptural--fantasy properties such as Dungeons and Dragons and horror properties such as Evil Dead or Reanimator. So, it's not really true, strictly speaking. And yet... I was into Lovecraft's works before the current craze for all things Cthulhu. I was into Cthulhu Madness back when it meant the mind-wrenching touch of the impossibly cosmic and humanly inconceivable... not an internet passion for plushies and the compulsory namedropping of Leng and R'lyeh into every horror fantasy tale. Nearly a decade ago, when I first discovered his work, there wasn't really a huge, overt celebration of the man's icons. I simply happened to read a very old article on a book that miraculously--or diabolically?--happened to turn up at a local library. It was called The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadeth. And boy, was that a strange book. Everything, from the overwrought page-long sentences, to the ritualistically intoned lists of impossible, inconceivable places, to the strange inhabitants of the dream world intruded upon by Randolph Carter, to that description, that maddeningly vague yet tantalizingly detailed description, of the void where Azathoth knaws hungrily amidst chaos and the stomping and piping of the mindless Outer Gods whose soul and messenger is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos--all of it ripped open the simple material confines of my world and exposed me to the gaping maw that was Lovecraft's horribly empty yet terrifyingly occupied heavenly dome. And although his prose was often a slog the ideas within were enough to keep me intrigued for the next few years... until the Cthulsplosion, when suddenly Lovecraft's skulking creatures that were better suited to dancing and piping beneath alien stars were thrust into the bright light of the Internet, and the vast, neon party that is Media Capitalism. The stars were right for the dead dreaming god to emerge from the sea, and suddenly all I wanted to do was ram a big honking yacht into the squidfaced fuck...
Thursday, August 2, 2012
My earliest memory is the ticking of clocks. Sometimes I would hear one. Sometimes I would hear THOUSANDS. These weren’t real clocks, of course, but that’s the best way I can describe the sound...
STORIES IN THE KEY OF LOVECRAFT:
Forever ‘Till The End Of Time
Al Bruno III
I must be quick because I am not sure how much time I have left.
It all began the same week that my divorce from Deborah became final. She called me and begged that I come to the house we had shared for over a decade. Just a visit, that was all she wanted. I patiently told her again that there was no hope of a reconciliation.
Reconciliation, however, was the furthest thing from her mind. She told me she had uncovered an original draft of The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation. I admit this news surprised and intrigued me. My former wife and I were both academics, experts in the fields of archeology and history; but while I made my living from teaching, Deborah had turned her attention to pure research.
Perhaps that was why she had collected accolades while I had collected dalliances with graduate students.
“Who else but you,” she had said, “who else but you could appreciate this?”
Curiosity won out over common sense and the next night I took the hour long drive to Arkham. As each mile passed my excitement faded and my dread grew. My parting with Deborah had been angry and tearful. I knew that even now, despite everything, she still loved me. Every relationship is like that in the end, with one party caring for the other more; the worshipper and the worshipped.
I found that both my former home and former wife had suffered a swift decline. The lawn was overgrown, the mail and newspapers unclaimed. Deborah herself looked tired and light-starved. She had gained weight, yet her face had become gaunt.
She had barely shut the door behind me before she began talking franticly, stumbling over her words in an effort to tell me everything at once. I had seen her in such frenzies before, discoveries like this caused her to succumb to a kind of madness. Regardless of such considerations I will admit I was impressed. Her researches into the connections between Sumerian and Polynesian mythology had led her to a new understanding of the disturbing legends of Ythogtha and his offspring Ubb the father of worms. Her work would force the academic world to reconsider everything it knew about the Xothic legend cycle.
Each room of the house was a chaos of old books and hastily scrawled notes. There were maps of the ancient and modern worlds tacked on the walls, patterns had been drawn along and through the oceans and continents.
Instead of leading me to her study she asked me to follow her down to the basement.
A foul odor assaulted me as I descended the stairs. Deborah had somehow managed to tear up the concrete floor of the basement. The soil she had revealed was black and uneven, it reeked of sewage and rot. Before I could question her about this I saw an object sitting alone on a long metal table in the center of the room.
It was the kind of idol that we had both read descriptions of over the years. The kind of idols that missionaries had taken care to destroy. Nothing like this was supposed to have survived into the modern age. I should have been excited but instead I felt a cold dread settle around me. The effigy was no more than a foot tall and made from a yellowish stone that gleamed like it might be exuding some kind of sickly inner moisture. This Plathelminthe-like image could only be that of Ubb, the father of worms.
“Ubb is immortal among his kind,” Deborah explained, “raised up by Ythogtha to live and crawl and know. So if he is immortal why were kings and shamans sacrificed to him?”
I backed away from her, afraid of the way her eyes had lit up when she said the word sacrificed. How irrational had she become?
She drew closer to me, reaching out. Her fingertips were darkly stained. “Can’t you see? Ubb ingests but does not digest. He is merciful.”
Was it my legs quaking beneath me or something more? Even now I cannot say.
“How could you love someone else when I can give you forever?”
My revulsion turned to violence and I pushed her away. She fell backwards into the damp dirt and in doing so revealed what had been carelessly buried there.
I have no memory of fleeing what had once been my home or of screaming in the streets until I fainted dead away.
The rest of my story is public knowledge. The authorities were alerted and a search of the house revealed nearly a dozen bodies. Deborah and the statue were never found, considering her final words to me I am not at all surprised.
In the weeks since I have kept to myself, answering whatever questions the authorities might have and refusing all visitors- reporters and old friends alike. Each night I drink myself to sleep hoping to quell the dreams which now haunt me. Those dreams of a great flatworm-like thing burrowing purposefully through the Earth’s mantle and waiting for the stars to be right.
In that dream I am bodiless and weightless, I float close enough to see every detail of its churning body. It glows with an internal bioluminescence. It is blind yet it sees. It is called the father of worms yet it leaves a trail of young in its wake.
The middle of the thing’s body is swollen and translucent. I can see the shapes that crowd there, half-mummified and unmistakably human, generations of lords and wise men.
This is Ubb and he sees me. I have been marked. Despite knowing this I do not have the courage to take my own life, to choose oblivion over the fate I know awaits me.
Someday soon the father of worms will reach out and drag me down through miles of Earth to join Deborah and together we will live forever in the belly of the beast.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
I have to tell you, I have tried hard to curb my role-playing game consumption over the years. I have stacks of books from games I have never and will never play. But, look at this cover? Seriously? A huge barbarian in a pit, a tentacled horror, a mostly naked sacrifice, and a gorilla in a witch-doctor mask. Let me repeat that: a gorilla in a witch-doctor mask. Obviously, this demands investigation...
Matango has long been a picture that intrigued me, ever since I first saw bootleg videotapes labelled "Attack of the Mushroom People" being sold at a convention. The movie didn't get much circulation in America until its 2005 DVD release, and it's too weird to easily fall into familiar niches- it's not quite a kaiju picture, nor a straight horror film. Instead it's a weird fable about dehumanization and conformity that articulates its metaphor through the central image of people turning into fungus. In some ways it straddles the line between Toho's conventional movies and the more surreal Japanese art films that began to flourish in this decade and afterwards, and it's a response to the same anxiety about rapid social change and technological progress. It's also an effectively creepy and atmospheric little picture that, if it drags a little, still has a Hell of a payoff...
A little more than five years ago, the Duke of DVD and I started this blog with a review of Vengeance of the Zombies (1973). That film was and is a perfect example of everything Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies has sought to celebrate, a little-known slice of insane and deliriously entertaining cinema that brought us so much joy, we just had to share it with the world. It was also the first movie we had ever seen featuring the legendary hunk of monstrous manliness that is Jacinto Molina, better known to us all as Paul "Fucking" Naschy. Over half a decade and more than 350 reviews, Paul has been the patron saint of our site, inspiring us to continue our search for treasure in the forgotten realms of b-movie madness, and providing an immovable foundation on which we have tried to build a fitting tribute. His frequent appearances here only give a small glimpse of the wonder he has afforded us, the joy he has so generously given. So it's only fitting that, in this belated 5th Anniversary Post, I come back to the man who started it all. And ironic perhaps that I do so with the film that, in a way, ended it all: Paul's very last starring role in a feature film, Empusa (2010). I admit, going into this flick, I was a little worried--I'd been waiting for this since August of 2007, two years before Naschy's death, when I heard that principal photography was finished and post-production had begun. As the months passed, my excitement flowed and ebbed, and now at last here it was, ready to be watched. Could it possibly live up to my anticipation? Would it be a fitting end to my idol's magnificent career? Would it deliver the madness and joy I craved, or would it fall flat? Would Empusa (perish the thought) disappoint? Ah, Paul, fogive me. I should never have doubted you...
I've read about this series for a while, but never bothered looking into it. It's pretty goofy, a long-running melding of the men's adventure genre with "heroic fantasy," all about a James Bond-type who, each volume, is sent via a high-tech computer into "Dimension X," where he tests himself in some quasi-Medieval, fantastical world, scoring with tons of scantily-clad babes along the way. In other words, it's full-on wish-fulfillment, about a modern dude flung into the primordial chaos of some Frank Frazetta-inspired paradise where good and evil are clearly delineated. And for all of that, it's not that bad, most likely because this volume (as well as the next seven) were written by Manning Lee Stokes, whose contributions to the John Eagle Expeditor series I've greatly enjoyed...