Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TRAILER PARK; HAPPY CAKE DAY, DAVID CRONENBERG!

My favorite director David Cronenberg turned 74 today, so to celebrate this edition of Trailer Park is dedicated to his filmography. Enjoy, fiends!
Shivers 1975
Rabid 1977
Fast Company 1978
The Brood 1979
Scanners 1981
Videodrome 1983
The Dead Zone 1983
The Fly 1986
Dead Ringers 1988
Naked Lunch 1991
M. Butterfly 1993
Crash 1996
eXistenZ 1999
Spider 2002
A History Of Violence 2005
Eastern Promises 2007
A Dangerous Method 2011
Cosmopolis 2012
Map To The Stars 2014
And as a bonus, the trailer Cronenberg directed for his debut novel Consumed
2014
 
And a great scene from Clive Barker's Nightbreed featuring Cronenberg as the nefarious Dr. Dekkar



Thursday, February 16, 2017

NIHIL NOCTEM'S FOR A GOOD TIME CALL..."REVENGE IS ONLY THE BEGINNING"


Director Izzy Lee, who made the great INNSMOUTH, which is streaming on Shudder now (read my review HERE), A FAVOR, POSTPARTUM, and PICKET just got her first Official Selection for the Chattanooga Film Fest for her short FOR A GOOD TIME CALL... which stars Diana Porter (INNSMOUTH) and Tristan Risk (INNSMOUTH, AMERICAN MARY). Like all her work, it's a challenging, creepy, and punk-as-fuck piece of transgressive cinema.





The film starts with an asshole (played with considerable sleaze by Sean Carmichael) hiding a camera in his room before having sex with a woman (Porter). He then leaks the video to the internet and the woman is shattered. He plays dumb, of course, has no idea how the video got on the web, naturally! And he's really broken up by how upset this woman has gotten-so upset, in fact, that he doesn't hesitate to follow another woman into a public toilet at a rest stop.

"I hope something very bad happens to you,"Porter's character had said before the next woman appears.


And then things get...dark.


All I'm going to tell you is that Tristan Risk is scary here. The make up FX is superb and the story, as a short film, combines technology with urban legend come-to-life. It calls to mind one of the morality stories from TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, but with a far more pronounced since of the fucked up. I love it.

Any and all accolades Lee receive are earned and deserved. She absolutely kicks ass as a director and writer. On the heels of the Chattanooga Film Fest announcement came the news that INNSMOUTH also got an Official Selection nod from Mad Monster Party in Charleston SC.


To see the teaser follow the link HERE to view it on Vimeo and you can follow Lee on Twitter @NihilNoctem. 

PARHAM'S FIELD a novella by JEFFERY X MARTIN

Let's take a road trip back to Elder's Keep. Back to the mysterious hills and hideaways of East Tennessee. A place of beauty and heavy history. A haunted place. Haunted even before the Cherokee got there, probably. A place where I grew up. Author Jeffery X Martin grew up there too.

So connected to the dirt beneath his feet, my old friend Jeff started weaving tales about Elder's Keep, or The Keep, in his first short story collection, BLACK FRIDAY. He brought us back to The Keep with HUNTING WITCHES, a novel. Both journeys were chilling, emotional, and as haunted as those green hills. Now he takes us back with his newest story, a novella, that just went live on Valentines Day, which was eerily fitting.

The story opens with a murder. I'll leave it at that. Then begins the investigation, heading by sheriff Graham Strahan and accompanied by Joseph "Josie" Nance, who runs the Elder's Keep Historical Society. The murder occurs in Parham's Field, a place everyone in The Keep knows to stay out of. The details of the murder has Strahan stumped and he turns to Josie for some help. It's Josie that suggest they go talk to the shut in, Dr. Parham, who Strahan just assumed was dead, as his house and property had been in disrepair for as long as Strahan could remember.  They pay a visit to the old doctor together, just to ask a few questions, but nothing is ever simple in The Keep, and the men get a tale nothing could have prepared them for.

PARHAM'S FIELD is such a tightly, well crafted, and tragically beautiful slow burn of a story, that I found myself bouncing along to the book's own unique rhythm and getting lost in a narrative that's part family history, part police investigation. This isn't a mystery, it's, as the doctor says, a confession. Jeff pushes the needle towards the red ever so gently, ever so slightly, building a sense of dread from page one-which you'll carry with you anyway if you've read either of the previous books-and then holds the tension until what you find is undeniable, regardless of where your mind may have been at the beginning. Vague, I know, but I feel it's important to guard the book's secrets. Let Dr. Parham tell them to you, after all, it's his story to tell.

On a couple of personal notes, Jeff's wife finished the book in tears and refused to talk to him for the rest of the night. I think that's important to know going in. "It gets dark," Jeff said. Yes it does. Also, there's a bit about a church in a place called Wheat. That church is said to be haunted and I personally tried to break in there when I was 18 or 19 to see if it were true, but...events had my friends and I speeding away from the area at 100 MPH. A little midnight ghost hunting lead to a wrong turn and we found ourselves on restricted government property. Kids.

I'm giving PARHAM'S FIELD my highest recommendation. You don't need to have read the previous two books to get into it, but they're so good as well, there's no reason to skip them. You can order your copy HERE

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

DEAD OF WINTER; GUEST POST! LESS LEE MOORE; THE CORRIDOR

Everyone have a good Valentines Day? Whatever, I don't care. Anyway, how's winter treating you? We've had lots of great lake effect snow here and it's been really lovely.  Perfect weather to stay inside and watch horror movies. Which is why we're all here, right? Well for our latest installment of Dead Of Winter the lovely and talented LESS LEE MOORE has graced us with her review of THE CORRIDOR, which is currently streaming on Shudder. Less Lee is the mastermind behind the awesome POPSHIFTER (which I also write for) and you can also find her on Modern Horrors, Everything is Scary, and in the pages of Rue Morgue!


One of the coolest subgenres of horror is the “unreliable narrator.” From Let’s Scare Jessica To Death
to the more recent POD, this trope is sometimes manifested through the main character’s mental instability. As such, it can provide a frightening commentary on the real-life horrors of mental illness.

2010’s The Corridor, directed by Evan Kelly, takes an unreliable narrator and places him in a cabin in the middle of the snowy wilderness. Like the titular character in Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, Tyler Crawley has just been released from a mental hospital and is trying to get his life back together. He and four friends are spending the weekend at his now-deceased mother’s cabin in the woods and they are all understandably hesitant about whether or not Tyler is truly sane.


The film’s prologue places the audience in media res to a standoff that took place at some point before the boys’ weekend. Tyler is hiding in a closet, hearing his mother’s voice inside his head, even though his mother’s dead body lies on the floor of the hallway in front of him. When his friends try to intervene, he goes after them with a knife before being tackled to the ground. This memory hangs heavily over Tyler and his friends – Chris, Everett, Jim, and Bob – as they try to pick up the pieces of their shattered friendship.


The Corridor also explores the crisis of masculinity that each of these characters experiences. Tyler’s fragility is the most obvious, but not necessarily the most damaging. Everett has impersonal sex with a woman at work before he heads out to the cabin; Jim is wondering how to tell his wife that he’s sterile; Chris feels like he hasn’t become a man yet; Bob overcompensates for his thinning hair by acting extra macho.


All of these individual dramas are filtered through ongoing reminiscences about Tyler’s mom, Pauline, who looms large in the collective memory of the four friends. This exacerbates the already-existing tension of the male characters’ apparent need to assert their masculinity.


When Tyler discovers a strange phenomenon in the woods, he’s not sure if it’s he’s seeing things
again or if it’s real. There’s a sense of relief when he brings the others outside and they see it, too. Yet, because this is a horror film, we know that relief will not last long. In fact, it soon becomes replaced with something more disturbing.


There’s a considerable science fiction element to The Corridor. While the movie may sometimes remind viewers of The Thing, it trades John Carpenter’s iconic body horror for something more cerebral (but still brutal). It’s never clear what the phenomenon in the woods is or where it came from, but as the characters soon find out, it’s been around for a long time.


Not all of the questions raised by The Corridor are answered, and the film presents us with enough horrifying sights that it will creep around in your head for a while. You can watch it on Shudder Canada. (Just watch out for static on the TV…)

Friday, February 3, 2017

DEAD OF WINTER DOUBLE FEATURE; WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER


And we're back! Missing summer yet? Of course you're not! We've had plenty of lake effect snow here in the greater Syracuse area and it's glorious. The perfect weather to keep your ass on the couch with a big ass mug of coffee and watch horror movies while the wind howls and whips and the windows.






For this latest edition, I'm looking at two films by art-horror auteur Larry
Fessenden-writer, director, producer, actor. Fessenden has made and/or appeared in several of the best independently produced horror films we fans have. The purpose of this series, of course, I'm focusing on his films WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER. Both films were released through Fessenden's Glass Eye Pix and both films are the epitome of great winter chill horror.

In 2001's WENDIGO, a family (mother, father, and son) head to Upstate New York for a weekend in the country, but have an unfortunate run in with some locals that gets out of control and leads to the malevolent Native American legend, the Wendigo, manifesting itself from the imagination of the young son. A slow burn and immersive film, Fessenden does a deep dive into character drama, while the tension builds almost subversively. The third act is dizzying and harrowing.
2007's THE LAST WINTER, starring Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Blade II), James LeGros (Phantasm II, Drugstore Cowboy), and Connie Britton (American Horror Story), THE LAST WINTER is about an oil company in the frozen expanse of Alaska that accidentally release something ancient and deadly from the long frozen ground. THE LAST WINTER is the scarier and more fast paced of the two films, but also mines a bit of the same mythical territory as WENDIGO. This time though, its the ghosts of ancient earth lashing out against man for his trespasses against nature. It's hard not to make comparisons to THE THING, given the frozen setting and isolation/hopelessness faced by the characters, but the comparisons end there. THE LAST WINTER is very much it's own movie and plays up a more psychological horror that evolves into a supernatural descent into violence and destruction. It's a powerful and jarring film, but also very beautiful. And like in WENDIGO,  Fessenden puts a
heavy emphasis on character development, ignoring the good guy/bad guy conventions of typical story telling, instead giving us flawed and real characters who exist in a more realistic gray area.

Both films take full advantage of their settings with Fessenden ratcheting up the terror and dread in thought provoking stories. I recommend both films, highly. THE LAST WINTER is streaming on Shudder right now, but WENDIGO seems a bit harder to track down outside of the LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION box set, which also includes the down beat urban vampire film HABIT.    

Thursday, January 26, 2017

KING VULTURE'S SOUND ATTACK; 1.26.17; SONGS OF THE CONDEMNED

This Sound Attack was inspired by listening to Maiden's Number Of The Beast, particularly the album closer "Hallowed Be Thy Name", a seven minute epic about a prisoner about to be hanged. It's one of Maiden's greatest songs and a live staple (I saw it performed in Charlotte NC a few years ago-it's an incredibly powerful moment in a set that's full of powerful moments). I immediately thought of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds' "Mercy Seat" and there you go, a new Sound Attack is born, featuring songs about the condemned. Expect multiple Johnny Cash songs, by the way. He recorded more than a few!
For the record, I oppose the death penalty and I don't believe these songs to be in anyway endorsing the practice. There is much horror and drama to be found in the stories of the condemned and these artists (along with several others I didn't include) do a great job of giving voice to the voiceless. This set closes with a beautiful Tom Waits track (also recorded by Johnny Cash) that isn't necessarily from the perspective of a condemned man, but at least a wayward pilgrim that has arrived at that last train station.
Iron Maiden..."Hallowed Be Thy Name"
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds..."The Mercy Seat"
Johnny Cash..."The Mercy Seat"
Black 47..."Sam Hall"
Johnny Cash..."Sam Hall"
Bruce Springsteen..."Dead Man Walking"
Metallica..."Ride The Lightning"
Pine Valley Cosmonauts..."25 Minutes To Go"
Johnny Cash..."25 Minutes To Go"
Puerto Muerto..."Hangman's Song"
Tom Waits..."Down There By The Train"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

DEAD OF WINTER GUEST POST; A RAVENOUS AMERICA: ALL YOU CAN EAT by ALBERT MULLER





It's great to have Albert Muller return once more to Stranger With Friction! Last time he was here he contributed to our filmography series with the excellent and in depth piece on John Carpenter in the 80s. You can find more of Albert over at Daily Grindhouse and you can follow him on Twitter @aj_macready ...and you should!



"It's lonely being a cannibal," a character says late in Antonia Bird's 1999 RAVENOUS. "Cold, too," he could have added, for the players in the story we see unfold are surrounded by one unforgiving Mother of Nature that would have no compunctions about ending their lives in a particularly miserable fashion -- if they didn't get eaten first.

You see, RAVENOUS follows one Captain John Boyd (the great Guy Pearce) who has been sent to a
remote Sierra Nevada outpost during the Mexican-American War of the mid-1800s, ostensibly a hero but known to his superiors (and us) as a coward. His destination, Fort Spencer, is a place just like other soldiers like him; fuck-ups, basically. The supporting cast handling these roles is just excellent, from Jeffrey Jones as the nominal leader to Neal McDonough as the way-too-into-being-a-soldier Reich (with special attention being paid to the resident weirdoes Jeremy Davies & David Arquette, playing characters they more or less own a patent on). Boyd settles in as best he can among the outcasts in the middle of nowhere when screenwriter Ted Griffin (creator of TERRIERS, a show I will regret being canceled until I shuffle loose this mortal coil) springs his inciting incident upon us: a starving man close to death staggers into the camp. Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle, superb as ever) tells the men a story that sounds suspiciously similar to what we nowadays refer to as The Donner Party; a small group of settlers traveling the wilderness were stranded, began to starve, and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Upon hearing that there may yet be survivors, the unit gears up on a rescue mission, Colqhoun leading the way to the cave of horrors where his people did unspeakable things to survive -- or WAS it only to survive? Did some of them fall prey to an awful hunger, one the film introduces by having a Native American character tell the legend of the Wendigo; essentially the idea is that a man who eats the flesh of another absorbs that man's strength and power. RAVENOUS uses this idea as a jumping off point of sorts that takes your typical cannibal fare into something resembling vampire territory, and damn if it isn't entertaining for an audience who loves this sort of thing.

First off: it's most important, when discussing RAVENOUS, to acknowledge the tone of the film. One would think it'd be blatantly, almost comically obvious from the two quotes the movie literally begins with before we ever see a frame of footage but apparently some don't quite get where the flick is coming from. RAVENOUS is, at heart, a horribly dark comedy that at times approaches satire. There's an element of Manifest Destiny examined as a metaphor of a burgeouning country's insatiable appetite for growth and the like, but it's only touched upon so much. Mostly, the flick is content to illustrate the jet-black humor in Griffin's script, and does a fantastic job of it. 

Rather than film on location in the forests and mountains of California, RAVENOUS was shot in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and let me tell you, that shit looks seriously cold. Snow covered mountains surround Fort Spencer and blanket the ground in a dirty white, the actors' cheeks burn red throughout roughly 65% of the film, and overall it just looks like a miserable place to be. No fun at all, is what I'm saying, and that's BEFORE motherfuckers start getting served for dinner. The isolation the characters experience only serves to further the ability of the story to go to some pretty insane places and is ultimately highly effective. As stated before, the cast is comprised of some fairly heavy-hitting character actors and they are all fantastic in their roles, with special mention being made of leads Pearce and Carlyle. Carlyle tears into his role with gusto and is clearly having a ball chewing the scenery as joyfully as he does co-stars and does both with equal aplomb. Pearce has the more difficult role, as it's almost entirely internal in nature (in fact, the man goes almost 20 minutes of screentime before he ever utters a complete sentence); I've seen some criticize his performance for being too bland but I don't think that's the case at all. Boyd isn't a cipher that we in the audience project things upon -- even if he does represent our terror/disgust/revulsion at the events that occur -- rather, this is a man being consumed by inner demons that he is struggling to overcome, one not given to loud proclamations or speeches. The conflicts he experiences play out upon his face, and Pearce does his usual remarkable job of expressing that with skill and subtlety.

I'm a big fan of this one, and have been ever since I was lucky enough to catch it when it played in
theaters (it still kinda blows my mind that such a strange and decidedly non-mainstream story with such unpleasant and violent goings-on was financed and released by a major American studio). It's almost gleefully gory in spots, which warms this horror fan's dark little heart, and fully hilarious in others. Again, the sort of humor in this flick is "I laughed, realized how sick what I was laughing at is, and then laughed again at the whole wrongness of it" and it fits the story like a glove. The score by Damon Albarn (of the band Blur) and Michael Nyman is as odd and unique as the rest of the flick, especially a horror flick, but it's utterly stellar (which it would need to be, considering how much attention it calls to itself) and very memorable, helping to give RAVENOUS its own, quite distinct identity. Griffin's script is a real treat for genre fans looking for something different -- even if some of his more outlandish elements, such as the villain racing through treetops as he chases his prey were cut before filming. The haunting vibe throughout is peppered with atmospheric moments that come close to some sort of psycho Gothic Western hybrid ambience, and the effect it has on me is palpable.


To sum up: RAVENOUS is by turns creepy as fuck, violent as hell, and funny as shit. There are definitely worse films to warm yourself up by campfire on those chilly nights, and I can't recommend it more highly to the discerning horror fan. If you haven't seen it, you really should.