Friday, April 28, 2017

REVIEWING THE HANNIBAL LECTER SAGA PART ONE; SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Before we dive in here, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of director Jonathan Demme this week at the age of 73. He was a very talented director and seemed very smart and compassionate. I'm not terribly well versed on his filmography, but Silence Of The Lambs had a tremendous impact on me. There are scenes etched in my brain from my very first viewing. My heart goes out to his friends and family and the fans he touched with his art. Rest in peace.

"I'd rather confuse the audience for five minutes, than bore them for five seconds." -JD


Thomas Harris' novel Silence Of The Lambs is a chilling and engrossing novel about FBI trainee,
Clarice Starling, who inadvertently becomes embroiled in the Bureau's attempt to capture the serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. It starts with a chance to prove herself to Bureau director Jack Crawford by getting incarcerated serial murder and cannibal Hannibal Lecter to participate in a questionnaire. Starling and Lecter soon find themselves engaged in a wild and frightening chess game with a young woman's life hanging in the balance. Lecter offers Starling his aid in capturing Buffalo Bill, but there's nothing altruistic about his help.

Hannibal Lecter was originally introduced in the novel Red Dragon appearing in much the same capacity; incarcerated in the Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane, being sought for his help in capturing a killer known as The Tooth Fairy. In Red Dragon, though, it's not an inexperienced FBI trainee that dummies into Lecter's help, but a seasoned FBI profiler, what's more, the profiler, Will Graham, has a dark history with Lecter. Graham captured Lecter, but nearly died and subsequently quit the Bureau. Crawford drags Graham out of retirement to capture The Tooth Fairy and Graham reluctantly turns to Lecter-once a brilliant psychiatrist with a taste for human flesh.

Red Dragon is a fantastic novel, dark and chilling, full of characters that we still can't get enough of twenty-six years later. The book was adapted into a great, if a bit reductive, film by Michael Mann in 1986. The title was changed to Manhunter, fearing it would be mistaken for a kung fu flick. Lecter was played by Brian Cox (X-Men 2). The film was met with mixed reviews, but over the years has become a cult favorite. As good as the movie was, it was light years away from the phenomena that the Silence Of The Lambs would become.

Jonathan Demme was the director that ultimately ushered Silence Of The Lambs into cinemas after Gene Hackman backed out due to the overt violence. Demme was an odd choice for such dark material as his previous films had been off-beat comedies, but he got the material and with an already on board Jodie Foster, he was about to capture lightning in a bottle.

Foster campaigned for and won the role of Starling, while Jack Crawford was played by Scott Glen (Netflix's Daredevil) and Ted Levine (Shutter Island) was cast as Buffalo Bill aka Jame Gumb. There was an exhaustive search for who'd play Lecter and Demme found the perfect fit in British actor Anthony Hopkins. The behind the scenes/making of story of Silence Of The Lambs is well documented. In fact, the newest Blu Ray that you can pick up at Target for less than $10 has a handful of excellent featurettes that are worth every second of your time, beyond that there's the film's Wiki and IMDB pages. So let's skip all that and get down to the focus of our latest review series; Hannibal the Cannibal.

The novel Red Dragon gives us far more insight and background for Lecter than Manhunter does, but the character is far more fleshed out in Silence Of The Lambs. I've liked Brian Cox in everything I've seen him in and really liked him as Lecter as well, but I saw Silence first, so Hopkins was imprinted in my brain as Lecter and it took several viewings before I was able to fully appreciate Cox in the role. That said, Hopkins is the stronger Lecter for a number of reasons; the size of the role, the richness of material, the quality of the film, increased fleshed out source material, amount of screen time...Hopkins had no shortage of advantages over Cox, but primarily he was simply the better choice for the character. It's a role Hopkins was born to play and he did so in three films darkly delightful.

It's important to note, and I think it gets forgotten more than two decades later with Hannibal a household name, that Hopkins was not the main star of Silence-that would be Starling and it's Foster's stellar performance that propelled Hopkins' performance to the cultural heights we know today. I hate to imagine anyone else sitting on the other side of that plexiglass from Hopkins, because it is just too good watching them verbally spar. When he starts mocking her southern accent, it's not just the character Starling about to jump out of her skin, but the actress Foster. The two are so deep in their roles and so good at what they do! Which is why it was such a disappointment when she didn't return for Ridley Scott's Hannibal. Her replacement, Julianne Moore, who I normally love, suffered the same fate as Brian Cox for me, having to fill a role I couldn't imagine anyone else playing.  She's an accomplished and talented actress in her own right and doesn't deserve to be held to anyone's standards but her own and she still turns in an excellent portrayal. Also, the movie succeeds on many other levels as well.

Back to Silence Of The Lambs, the film was released in February 1991 and as the year went on and the film built a reputation and gained popularity, it became clear that the hero of the film was being eclipsed by the monster, and not even the main monster. Buffalo Bill is the main antagonist of Silence, while Lecter's story is more of an ongoing sub plot carried over from Red Dragon. Public interest made Hannibal the focus of Harris's next two novels, Hannibal and Hannibal Rising (a prequel/origin story). But why?

We love our monsters. We go don't go see Friday The 13th for the camp councilors or Frankenstein for the good doctor. Our monsters can reflect our real life boogy men-recession, divorce, abuse, war- while their defeat provides a moment of catharsis or their crimes and transgressions can be the catharsis for all of our inner angst that we have to push down and bury in our hearts and psyches. Hannibal is not like Jason. Jason can be our school bully or he can be us. Hannibal can't be imprinted on in the same way. We're not half as smart as Hannibal and our bullies and bosses sure as hell aren't either. Hannibal is this uncanny other. More real than Jason or Frankenstein's monster, because he's not a cultural archetype. His DNA is in real life serial murderers and he's infused with an intellect that's awe-inspiring, but not wholly unbelievable. He's in equal measures alluring and repulsive. As a villain, he has far more in common with Sherlock Holmes' Doctor Moriarty-a superior intellectual superman always one step ahead of the good guys, made all the more real by his flaws and weaknesses. He's egotistical and prideful and for all machinations he still wound up in a cage. Somehow, the way both Harris and Demme portrayed Hannibal in his cell with the whole institute on high alert where he was concerned made him so frightening.

The film spends ten minutes talking about Hannibal before we finally see him. Demme builds suspense and tension for Hannibal's big reveal like Hitchcock on steroids. When we finally see him, he's a friendly looking (at first glance), middle aged man with a warm smile. It's only after we have to spend some time with him that we realize that he's not blinking. That's not a smile, not a human smile, but more like the illusion a cat's smile gives us-there's no joy, that's just the face of an apex predator. In addition to his eloquent speech, he has impeccable manners, but he's always toying with the edges some immoral and perverse word play or riddle. There's a crudity to the man that's like a dirty, moldy wall covered in layer after layer of good paint. He toys with the film's characters like a cat that bats around a mouse for fun. He could snuff them out effortlessly, but he enjoys the game.

Neither the success of the novel or the success of the film can be solely attributed to Hannibal though. As magnetic as the character is, Moriarty needed Holmes and Hannibal has a host of adversaries worthy of him. Graham and Starling, with Jack Crawford, Alan Bloom, (Alana Bloom for TV), and others to a lesser extent either put Hannibal away or kept him running. In Clarice Starling, Harris created a great spoil for Hannibal, Buffalo Bill, and the powers that be in the FBI. Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal.
Starling could have come across like a Nancy Drew, but Harris crafted a believable and sympathetic heroine. Starling has the smarts, a strong, fierce drive to succeed, and a natural goodness inside her that take her a long way with her Bureau training and then it's her wits, her intuition, and in equal measures her bravery and ability to control her fears that ultimately saves the day. She's no Sherlock Holmes or Jason Bourne, she's someone we can believe in. We can believe in her smarts, her intuition, her endurance, her vulnerability, and her strength. Starling is the heart, the engine of Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal.

In the next installment we'll look at the book and film Hannibal before backing up to the book and remake of Manhunter, Red Dragon, since that was the order the Anthony Hopkins led films were shot in. Following that, I'll dig into both Hannibal Rising and Manhunter, while Popshifter's Leslie Hatton will join us for a look into Bryan Fuller's excellent TV adaptation, Hannibal.  
     

    

Thursday, April 27, 2017

CONTEST TIME! WIN A COPY OF JOHN LANDIS'S MONSTERS IN THE MOVIES!

Wanna win a copy of this gorgeous and exhaustive tribute to our favorite monsters on film? All you gotta do is comment below with your favorite monster! Winner will be chosen at random Sunday night!

Friday, March 31, 2017

MOTEL ON FIRE A NEW COLLECTION OF HORROR STORIES AVAILABLE NOW!

The wait is over, fiends, my new collection of horror shorts is out today!

You can go to Createspace directly right HERE or order from Amazon or your local bookstore.
ISBN 978-1543039016

From the author of the horror-noir City Long Suffering, comes a collection of horror stories that takes on much of what the genre has to offer, from body horror, to the supernatural, to the paranormal, to the occult, and beyond.

Motel On Fire is a book of journeys-some physical, some mental. It is a travelogue of terror, zig-zagging across America.

"The stories in "Motel on Fire" are short exploratory surgeries, deep cuts exposing the stinking, poverty-stricken heart of hell. Filled with gangs, nuns, demons and desperate people, "Motel on Fire" is horror without compromise. Violent without shame, terrifying without regret, each turn of the page will have you wincing in expectation of what's coming next. Murr has hit his stride with this collection, and "Motel on Fire" should put him on the map. Read it if you've got the balls." 
--Jeffery X Martin
Author of "Parham's Field" and "Hunting Witches"
copyright 2017 Stephanie Murr

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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

DEAD OF WINTER; GUEST POST FROM ANYA NOVAK! ISOLATION IN MISERY

Very honored to have Anya Novak aka @BookishPlinko as our first guest writer of 2017! You can read more of Anya's great work at Daily Grindhouse, Horror Writers, 100 Scenes, and 52 Weeks Of Horror. We continue our series Dead Of Winter with one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, Misery. This is a hell of a good piece and I enjoyed the hell out of reading it and I hope you do to, fiends! When I was adding the trailer at the end, I'll be damned if I didn't get the chills all over again! Get your snuggies and your whiskey spiked cocoa, kids!-TM

We are human. Humanity’s greatest need is for contact; we crave touch and acknowledgment from others. We crave proximity to others. So it stands to reason that one of the most basic fears of man is to be separated from others. Isolation is one of the most crucial elements in most horror stories. It confines the characters to an inescapable area and forces confrontation with the villain. We’ve seen it in some of the most iconic horror films: The Thing; The Shining; Alien. One of the more overlooked films featuring isolation, however, is Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of the bestselling Stephen King novel, Misery.

Famed historical romance writer Paul Sheldon has just finished his latest manuscript (his first “true”
work of literature after years of writing about a sappy character named Misery), and he begins the long drive home from his Colorado hideaway when he crashes his car during a nasty blizzard. Paul has dire injuries, but is rescued by a former nurse who happens to be Paul’s “number one fan”. She brings Paul back to her remote homestead in the mountains. After learning that Sheldon has killed off her beloved heroine Misery, she holds him prisoner at her home until he brings her back in a new novel. Bad things happen.

In a twist to the classic Gothic heroine, Paul Sheldon is a passive damsel in distress who is largely the subject of Annie Wilkes’ cruelty. In both book and film, Annie outmatches Paul in weight and (due to his debilitated state) strength. A bird with clipped wings, he is at the mercy of her manic mood swings, which can and do turn on a dime. One day she’s cooking gourmet meals, the next she’s literally bringing the hammer down on him.

Isolation has multiple angles in Misery. In the beginning of the film, Paul is in a sort of self-imposed exile, one that many creatives are familiar with. His isolation is voluntary; he prefers the solitude and his writing process benefits as a result. Once his manuscript is finished and he ends up in the care of Annie, however, that isolation became applied by force. Interestingly enough, isolation can be beneficial, when voluntary. According to Mark Conliff in his essay “On Isolation”:

“Isolation produces devastating consequences for many people, leading to lifelong emotional problems and difficulty in relationships with others. Conversely, the condition can move others toward extraordinary creativity and innovation as a result of having been forced to rely solely on their own minds as a source for meaning. As one might suspect, these two sides of the coin are not mutually exclusive; many people experience both positive and negative effects of isolation, deriving inspiration from it while at the same time feeling hurt and disturbed. Obviously, not all who feel isolated are literally alone, and not all who are alone are isolated.”

When in retreat at his Colorado hotel hideout, Paul had none of the usual distractions and thus had
optimal writing conditions to create. A closed-off environment worked for him. When Annie kept him trapped at her cabin the isolation had the opposite effect; he was in fear for his life. On top of voluntary versus involuntary isolation, Paul’s forced confinement was environmental, at a snowed-in cabin. He was also isolated physically; first in the car crash, then when Annie hobbles him. After the crash, his segregation is no longer by choice. Annie has cut off all means of communication, and no one knows of his whereabouts. He needs contact, but can’t get it. Paired with Annie’s erratic behavior and her obsession with Paul and Misery, the danger is heightened. It becomes clear to Paul that, given enough time and the right motivation, Annie would kill him, and no one would ever find out. With great isolation comes great peril; it’s a great way to build tension.

Mentally, Annie forced him to confront an inner conflict he’s been having since before the crash: Paul aspires to write “real” art, but will his fans allow it? Will the public allow it? Paul has nowhere to go but into his own mind. It is here that Misery shines, both in print and on screen. Psychological horror and isolation have long been thematic bosom buddies, and it’s clear why: they’re perfectly complementary. Cinematic victims of psychological torment are either alienated or they separate themselves from the pack. Protagonists who find themselves in isolated settings become paranoid and start to turn on each other or themselves. It’s a theme that Stephen King has explored in multiple works of his, including Gerald’s Game, The Shining and Under The Dome. King understands one of man’s greatest fears, and one of the horror genre’s greatest tools to swing down upon the collective ankles of movie audiences: being alone.


So naturally, I’m recommending that you watch or re-visit Misery by yourself for the best possible movie experience. Self-segregate. Wait until it’s miserably cold outside, so you won’t be interrupted by cock-a-doody sheriffs looking for a missing person. Turn off your phone so your dirty birdie agent can’t get in touch with you. Get comfy and wrap yourself in a blanket; you won’t be going anywhere for a while. Perhaps after a couple of hours with your number one fan, you’ll finally get the inspiration to finish that great work of art you’ve been mulling around in your head.
-Anya Novak