Monday, February 11, 2013

Flogging the Corpse

There is nothing sadder than a long and loving relationship coming to an end. You can look back through the years with rosy tinted glasses and think, “We had so much fun. We had so much in common. Where did it all go wrong?” You look to the other half of this relationship and you barely recognise what is there, right in front of you anymore. Feelings of contempt and exasperation have now drowned the emotions of adoration and exhilaration, and there is nothing you want more than just snip it clean off like a wilted and dead flower.

When you have been in love since your childhood, it is painful to come to terms with the feelings of growing apart. The hardest thing to ever face is that it is time to let go and move on. I’m an adult now and I can see clearly that it has come to this. I can no longer dwell on the glory days when everything was new and so breath-takingly adventurous; I can now behold the reality in all of its disappointment. No longer can I keep kidding myself that I can learn to fall in love again, that all we need is time and we’ll find that spark again. No amount of booze will twist my vision into a gaudy kaleidoscope of wonder.

Sorrow floats, my friends.

Wait, wait, wait. Back up a second. You think this is some sort of “Woe is me! My beloved doesn’t love me anymore!” swan song? You actually think I would clutter up this temple to the horrific with that kind of teenage girl, tear-stained journal plea for your pity? Oh dear, sweet reader, I thought you, above all others, knew me better.

No, this is not a mere mortal relationship that I have grown enough to mourn. This is me finally coming to terms with the fact that it is time for me to break up with the undead. Get your coat and hat zombies, it’s time for you to go home and it’s a long cold walk back to the graveyard.

Let me rewind back a few years, many years….many, many years, when I was just a wee tiny horror pup.  Zombies had always had that spicy and slightly musty voodoo flavour that came from appearing in old black and white Bela Lugosi titles; this is how I knew them. I knew that the only real way one could be disposed of was to catch it, then fill its mouth with salt and sew it shut….right? Then, at a weekly outing to the neon and flickering cathode mecca that was the video store, I discovered something that would completely alter my view of zombies, something that would spark a decades-long love affair. My sweaty little paws had found the now legendary Return of the Living Dead.  That was it, it was love at first viewing and an obsession was spawned.

DO YOU WANT TO PAAAAAAAAAARTY?! Oh, yes, actually! Yes I do!        Return of the Living Dead 1985

It followed me from Scotland to England then all the way back to The Great White North. It shambled by my side through countless romantic relationships. It kept me distracted from my studies in high school, college and university with its adorable decaying flesh and cute, little, hungered groans. It was there happily munching on brains on every lunch hour at every job I worked. I was “That gal that really likes zombies.”  When it came to birthdays and Christmases, friends and family alike knew that if the gift was in anyway zombie related, it was a sure fire success.

Then the outbreak happened. 

In March of 2004, after years of neglect, the zombie returned. Two films from either side of the Atlantic premiered in one month: Dawn of the Dead and Shaun on the Dead.  Both films took the same subject matter, but each approached in an entirely different context. Dawn was the reimagining of the Romero classic with a huge Hollywood budget and angry, steroid stuffed zombies that are now referred to as “runners”. Shaun was the polar opposite: a romantic comedy set within in a zombie outbreak written and directed by a pair of zombie genre nerds. Both were huge successes and in turn sparked the tidal wave of animated corpses that would following their wake for what is now shambling towards nine years.

"Just look at the face: it's vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who's lost a bet. "    Shaun of the Dead 2004

The thing about zombies is that they are an easy target; anyone can smear a little dirt and a little blood around their chops and SHAZAAAM!! Zombie. This was something that the film industry, both the big execs and the little man caught on to with lightning speed.  The popularity of the zombie exploded into ridiculous heights, something it had never done before, knocking its “sexy” undead cousin, the vampire, down from its crushed velvet throne of everyone’s favourite monster. It wasn’t just the movie makers that had latched on to this unstoppable corpse: there were comics, there were books, there were music videos, there were songs, there were video games…they had infected every single media available. It didn’t matter where you looked the infection had taken hold and was just claiming more and more victims with every day that passed.

At first I was thrilled. This little subgenre that I had been so desperately in love with for so long was finally getting the attention I thought it deserved. All those old flicks I had spent digging my way through the most precarious of archaic video stores to find even a bootlegged copy of, were now getting a proper release on DVD with multiple discs and features and neat boxes and ZOMG ALL OF THE THINGS!!! It was like I was being rewarded for championing the little, rotting guy for so long. People started coming to me for recommendations since they had been swept up in this wave of putrescence and there was me riding the very crest of it on a surfboard made of tattered human flesh.
But, it was a deadly momentum that continued to stumble at a terrifying velocity. Zombies were turning up everywhere: kids’ shows, advertising campaigns, food and beverages, clothing lines, kids’ toys, phone apps…and even in porn. Movie after movie was being churned out with every available and able hand jumping on to that bulldozing bandwagon. Anything that had been written on the subject of zombies was being snapped up to be adapted into film and television and none of it was particularly good.

Zombie baby....really? it was all going so well too.   Dawn of the Dead 2004

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the disillusionment began to set in, thank you George A. Romero for Land of the Dead or what I now call “The Beginning of the End”. This has been something I have been battling with for quite a while and the over exposure to zombies has left me feeling apathetic to each and every “new” zombie related release.  AMC’s The Walking Dead has to be WAY up there with the afore mentioned Land of the Dead in terms of massive disappointment.  Like with Land, I was so incredibly excited for its existence, I was a huge fan of the comics, so even just the notion that it was going to be there, on my television screen in full colour glory was pants  wetting exciting….then I watched it. Sure it’s pretty and the makeup designs for the creatures are just stunning, but the one thing that made the comics so incredible seemed to have vanished, the human face. It just feels like yet another zombie thing with a bunch of people you know are either going to be eaten by zombies or turn on each other.  Yaaaaawn….

No, no matter how pretty you are, no more love for you Walking Dead zombie lady.   The  Walking Dead 2010

As with any thing of a horrific nature, once you see it in full daylight for an extended amount of time, it loses whatever it was that made it frightening. It’s happened with vampires, once they were monsters of legend that came in the night to feast upon unsuspecting innocents then taint them into godless creatures in their own image: now they are pretty boys with wounded hearts that sparkle in the summer sunshine as they play baseball and sip a skinny no fat Starbucks latte. Zombies can now run, think, learn, fall in love and now with the new release Warm Bodies (a film based on yet another “young adult” book…ew) they too can be pretty. Not very monstrous at all, is it?

So as my facebook is swamped with my friends all getting their frillies in a twist about the new season on Walking Dead starting tonight, I have come to the very sad and long time coming conclusion that it’s over. That final headshot rings clear and my decades long love affair with zombies has come to a close. 

At least I still have werewolves.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Thing that should not be.....

I am a terrible blogger.

 My actual blog posts are pretty nifty, but the frequency with which I blog is pretty poor.

 So without further ado and any excuses, I continue…with what, no doubt will be something with just a little bite of bitterness.

Welcome to my review of the 2011 The Thing prequel.

 Looks oddly familiar.....The Thing 2011

 I have this problem, it is called optimism. It manifests when I begin reading or watching something incredibly awful. I become invested in truly shitty media with the na├»ve notion that “it will get better, it has to get better.” I start to try to convince myself that there are positive parts of a whole that consists of utter crap. With Land of the Dead (which I have still not forgiven George A Romero for, especially since the further two contributions to the living dead franchise have been progressively worse) I celebrated the beautiful creature effects that Greg Nicatero assaulted my gore starved eyeballs with. I give the worst dribbles of unadulterated garbage little get-out clauses for being a good premise or for having neato costumes or anything that my poor mind can scrabble for to justify these complete lemons stealing moments of my life I will never get back.

 This is what I tried to do with The Thing prequel and failed quite spectacularly.

When I first heard that there was going to be a big budget Hollywood outing that would dare touch the sanctity of John Carpenter’s 1982 vision of John W Campbell’s novella “Who Goes There?” I was filled with the kind of blind rage that would fuel fifty little plucky teenage girls that outlive their slutty friends in every single 1980’s stalk and slash movie. I wasn’t exactly surprised, being that pretty much every genre movie with big studio backing that has come out over the last five years has either been a remake or sequel. When I found out that it would be a prequel filling in the back story of the Norwegian team that first encounters the creature, my fury subsided a tad and that creeping optimism managed to dig its razor sharp claws in. As more information was released on the nature of the prequel, the more that distaste in mouth began to return. The inclusion of American characters was my first alarm bell, the second came when it was announced the main character would be American and also a woman.

American woman, stay away from me! American woman, mama let me be! The Thing 2011

 The 1982 version of The Thing is my benchmark for good effects in a horror setting, which is something for a film that celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year. Rob Bottin’s effects were revolutionary in their hideousness and his passion for the project was blinding in every pus soaked malformation and perversion of living flesh. There are facets of those creature designs that are new and never seen before with each viewing and I have been watching this movie for at least twenty-nine of its thirty year existence. I knew that the creature effects in the prequel would be nowhere near the league of Bottin’s nightmares, with thanks to the advent and over-usage of the dreaded CGI that is so prevalent in twenty- first century cinema.

Rob Bottin overcame his lycanthropy to produece some of the best monster design ever. The thing 1982

 So it came as no big surprise, whatsoever, that the CGI fairy took a huge big dump over all of the landscape in The Thing 2011. At no point for the duration of the film did I even get that little buzz of “Oh, nice play there effects folks”, there was no shock, no horror, just a whole heck of a lot of been there, done that, seen that a million times before in every single shitty creature feature that has been tainted by the hand of CGI. It eventually became a game between my husband and I to greet each new incarnation of the creature with where the effects people had blatantly stolen their concept from, “How’s it going Dead Space Necromorph number three!” or “Hola El Plaguas, bit chilly compared to Resident Evil four!” What comes as an even bigger smack in the face for all the hard work of the creature designers is that there are genuine creations of latex and pulley systems under all the post-production layers of computer generated crapola! Sure, it’s possible that maybe the creators of the film thought that maybe the audience would be more interested in the developing characters and thrilling plot, but seriously….both of those areas were starved down to their frosty skeletons.

 You know a film is thin on character development when you don’t remember their names as you’re watching the bloody film. In this particular gem of a polished turd, there was American chick that was Ramona Flowers in the Scott Pilgrim movie (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), “cute” American blond guy that you just know is going to come to a horrible end, guy with big bushy beard, the guy who can’t speak any English who is obviously the survivor because you have seen the 1982 The Thing, the guy who cannot be trusted and…..oh seriously, who gives a flying monkey’s ass about any of these people, they’re all just going to end up being Thing fodder anyway.

Unbelievably, that is a real beard without any CGI enhancements.

 In writing this review I had a peek on Wikipedia to do just a little digging and find out, exactly what the makers of The Thing 2011 were setting out to achieve and I found this little nugget:

 “Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Lloyd, an American vertebrate paleontologist graduate from Columbia University: In order to not try to compete with Kurt Russell's portrayal of the 1982 film's protagonist, R.J. MacReady, the character of Kate Lloyd was designed to have traits in common with the character Ellen Ripley from the Alien film series” 

The writer must have researched the Xenomorph crap out of those concepts, because the only “traits” that Kate Lloyd (so that was her name!) and Ellen Ripley had in common were having dark hair and being female. I think what should have been admitted was that they knew it was impossible to have a character anywhere near the vicinity of being as badass as R.J. MacReady, so they thought they would throw in some boobs.

 No amount of boobs could ever make up for the badassery of this man. The Thing 1982

 Even the obligatory scene where they finally devise a plan to figure out who is The Thing was a turgid little fart of an exercise. The brilliant Dr Ladyface who is an expert in being a token female, somehow discovers that The Thing can only imitate organic matter, so in her blinding brilliance, peeks in the mouth of every survivor with her trusty Maglite flashlight in search of fillings. Obviously this fails and has the tense moment of having half of the freaking team sectioned off, because they have good dental hygiene. Obviously, The Thing “surprises” everyone by showing up in this intense moment of mouth gazing, because having several people all standing around saying “NOT IT!” would force any alien life form masquerading as the local fauna to show itself.

 "Cooee! Here I am!" The Thing 2011

 What made the John Carpenter film so magical, even without the eye gouging effects, was the atmospherics. From the moment the helicopter touches down, the feeling of unease and tension is palpable, it’s like that rotten tooth in the back of your mouth that your tongue just can’t leave alone. Each character is a fully realised individual that carries the story along its hideous path and most importantly, you have no freaking idea where or who The Thing is going to pop up out of next: key elements that this prequel seems to have entirely missed.

 I admit that the 1982 The Thing is something of a sacred cow in my little, twisted heart. No matter how the subject matter would have been handled, I would have had some sort of problem with it, because the Carpenter film is held in such remarkably high regards, but this offer just stumbled with every misplaced step. It didn’t quite miss the mark as completely ignore the mark and careen off towards some other destination that wasn’t even on the map.

 My optimism that usually chirps all the way through until the inevitable roll of credits gave up after the first reveal of the creature, even it knew that there was no way in green hell that I could scrounge any redeemable qualities from this sad and pallid cash in.

 I’m not mad, just disappointed……

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pardon? Merci. Je suis le Grande Zombie.

France. The land of romance, yes. The land of fine cuisine, but of course. The land of haute couture, undoubtedly. The land of bright new hope for horror, actually, surprisingly, yes.


Traditionally, when I thought of horror's European summer home, Italy has always been the flourishing hot house of festering delights.We have Dario Argento with his bouyant breasts and buckets of blood set to a back drop of heavy symbolism. We have Lucio Fulci that taught us that zombies can hold their own against sharks and that a doorframe can cause some serious eye trauma. We have Mario Bava, the grandfather of Italian horror, without whom we would never had had the decades of delights we gained from Hammer Horror films or his son, Lamberto's masterpiece, Demons. Let's also not forget Ruggero Deodato, who will always be held aloft for his gut wrenching symphony of carnage, Cannibal Holocaust. Some point in the last ten years, the Gauls north of the border have managed to coax all that is dark and disturbing to take residence in the seedier parts of Paris and back roads of the secluded French countryside.

My most recent foray into French horror was with La Horde. Being that I now live on the other side of the Atlantic, I came somewhat late to the party that started in 2009. Despite my tardiness and my belly ALMOST full to bursting with the over-saturation of those lovable, cannibalistic undead shamblers we affectionately call zombies, La Horde still managed to entice a spark of excitement.

No subtitled La Horde trailer could be found...and I am a lazy geek girl.

The plot follows an unofficial unit of Parisian police officers embarking on a swift hit of vengeance on a Nigerian drug dealer they hold accountable for a fallen colleague. Confined to the crumbling corridors of a condemned tower block in an equally decaying quarter of Paris, the unit find what should have been a swift and brutal take down, inevitably becomes an irreversible failure that leaves two of it's team barely alive.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT fuck with this man.

Their capture by the hands of their prey quickly becomes the least of their problems as the growing epidemic of undead that is amassing outside is dropped right in the centre of the cramped apartment both police and gangsters are holed up in. Realising the only chance of survival is to forge an uneasy coalition, both sides of the law battle through the apartment block in hopes of finding a way past the infected and into some sort of secluded safety.

La Horde Ouessem
I was originally only going to post one picture of "Ouessem", but how can you chose between this one and the one above? The man, and his moustache are legendary.

La Horde delivers beautifully with an unsettling cocktail of paranoia, anger and frustration that fuels some of the most breath-takingly honest violence I have seen in a film of any genre. Every swing of an axe, shot of a gun and pounding of fist is brimming with conviction and passion; every spat word and hateful glare is guided to the very core, without question. It's an incredible piece of cinema that focuses on the human element, making it a character driven piece rather than just another effects movie centered on seeing how far they can push the "gross out" envelope, and yet the creature design, especially the sound design for the zombies, was nothing short of delicious.

La Horde Adewale
Your choice: forget this man has killed a few of your comrades and is an incredibly dangerous drug dealer in order to have him on your side to face the growing horde.....or face the horde on your own. Seriously, it's a no-brainer.

Maybe after watching this delight I will be able to coach myself into watching the handful of other franco-horror films that I have been too damned sissy to sit down and watch. Merci bien, La Horde, vous est Le Grande Zombie.

La Horde Le jamb....
The has to go...

P.S. Whilst looking for the trailer to entice others to watch La Horde, I found the english dubbed version for those that for some reason, don't like subtitles. I didn't know whether to give myself a hernia laughing or feel a deep rooted english speaking person shame. Observe:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mark of Cain

I am far from impressed with this deal that we've been handed in the 21st century. Sure, I could wear a silver jumpsuit and coif my hair high into a cotton candy coloured beehive whilst wearing mirrored, bug eyed goggles, and most of the other people in the po-dunk town I live in would probably not blink all that hard. What does bring me grief is that fact that I still haven't been given a meal replacement pill or a personal jetpack that actually works for longer than five minutes without blowing up or there isn't actually a reliable teleportation device that won't scramble my molecules into oblivion or I don't live in a bubble high in the ozone to be waited on hand and foot by a voluptuous robot slave and, like where in the hell is the uprising of intelligent great apes, aliens or robots? Okay, maybe those are just minor grievances in comparison to the body bag packed to bursting point with the rotting parts of my real beefs with life in the 21st century. I could bust out all of my personal politics, but in all seriousness, who would really want to read that on a blog that's only purpose is to indulge my life long obsession with one of the most looked down upon genres of ...well...anything....ever?

Current teleportation still has a few wrinkles to iron out.... (The Fly, 1986)

The horror genre has long been regarded with a massive amount of disdain. With the major exception of the Giallo subgenre, it has been viewed as a playground for the semi-literate and uneducated, for teenage boys and rednecks, for those who are "smart enough" or just the socially awkward. Now, don't get me wrong, there are MILLIONS of horror fans that fall into one, if not all of those categories, but there is also a whole army of horrorphiles that exist that, regardless of their adoration for guts and gore, are highly intelligent individuals. It is entirely possible to be a forward thinking individual with a university degree, that also enjoys huddling in the dark to bear witness to the latest gorefest that went straight to DVD.

With my devotion to horror being worn on my sleeve like a fresh-from-the-chest-cavity, still beating heart surging with undead life, I have had many "normal" people confess their secret love to genre in clandestine whispers, as if it were some filthy little exchange between two kindred souls of darkness. I always end up being "That girl to talk to about horror", because I have no shame of my love and I can conduct a conversation about that passion with a multi-syllabic fluency.....and this is what I believe has caused the vast majority of the prejudice against horror fans, let me just ramble through an example here...

Before I sat down to write a new post, I thought I would thinly veil my procrastination by surfing some of my usual sources of horror information. Check out what was happening out there and what was generating an excited buzz, maybe procrastinate further by watching a few trailers or clips and justify that procrastination as "research", after "researching" for a few hours and have my husband giving me a typically raised eyebrow that voices "you're full of shit" more than mere words could. My first port of call is, which is perfect for all of my dodging doing any real work needs. There are articles, trailers and updates galore that I can immerse myself in for hours, and actually give the impression that I am actually information gathering at the same time. As soon as that first page pops up, there is something that instantly forces a groan out of my chest.....yet another sequel to a film that had no possible opening for a sequel. I push forward, my morbid curiosity demanding I check out the details even though I have decided it's going to be a steaming pile of turd. I check out the posters, read the cast list and the snatches of comments made by the makers to tease the loyal fans, I watch the teaser and the teaser trailer ...and shock looks like it might just be alright, like looks like it might even be, dare I say it...FUN. I couldn't stop there though, I mean, I would actually have to write something if I stopped there, right? So, I went on to read through the comments left by my fellow horror fans......and there, right there in the two pages of comments, it was revealed to me why those who look down upon us, do so.

The first few comments are typical fanboy responses with a whole glut of emoticons thrown in by members with typically inspiring names such as "FreddyKrueger13", fair enough, right? I keep scanning and SHAZAM!!! There it is, the point at which I bark an obscenity loud enough to stir my beloved from his third run through of Silent Hill: Homecoming. I swear on a stack of Father Damien Karras' finest exorcising bibles that this is lifted directly from the comments, "If Chrome Skull were to have a one on one fight with The Collector who would win? Photobucket"

Notice the totally AWESOME use of the "coolguy" emoticon there to add an extra amount of je ne sais quoi to the question? The bile rose in my throat, my head hung....then I read the replies and my ire only grew. A volley between Freddy and another poster began as they went on to discuss the finer points of the battle between two fictional killers with such literacy gems as "I'm just saying cowards kill people that way. if you want to take someone out, there's but one proper way - stab them in the neck. real upclose and personal.Photobucket
and the Collector, pft, without his little traps he's nothing. hell, I'm about twice as big as him, and would have no difficulty dismembering him with my bare hands. after a dozen or so beers, of course. sober, I'm violent. drunk, I'm a fucking berserker! *roar* Photobucket"

...and also "Mabye in the sequal The Collector will be explained a little more making him more known, or they could give him a weapon to be known for like Jason and his machete or Krueger and his glove. What weapon do you think they should give The Collector that would make him better in your eyes? Photobucket"

You see that grimace on my face? That's what a tiny piece of me dying looks like.

Oh goody!! Horror fans falling into embarrassing dorky stereotypes!! (The Ring, 2002)

I'm sure the two guys locked in the conversation are top notch fellas, honestly, but it's this kind of thing that makes your standard movie goer look down on us horror lovers with a look akin to finding a particularly fragrant sludge of dog crap on their brand new pair of Nikes. To make the matter even worse, there is the new trend of branding something as an "elevated genre" to make it okay to like certain new horror films.

What IS that? Seriously, what EXACTLY does "elevated genre" mean? I've seen it used in reference to a handful of movies that have come out in the past year. Films that, without a doubt fall into the category of horror, but have a slightly political or cerebral flavour. Monsters was the last film I saw with this horrific label applied to it. Sure, it had a mild political flavour to it but, IT WAS A FRIGGEN MONSTER MOVIE PEOPLE!! Gojira, the original Godzilla movie was a political comment on nuclear weapons, in it's original form before us westerners got our hands on it and added a dubbed voice track that completely took it out of context. So, does Godzilla fall into the elevated genre slot? NO!!! ITS A FRIGGEN MONSTER MOVIE!!! It's like those who want to hide their dirty, little horror movie secret shame are making it alright for themselves by giving it this entirely wanky new name, making it sound like some kind of pretentious art house movement. It's not, it's just another horror movie, folks.

Sorry fella, no "elevated genre" status for you. (Gojira, 1954)

So back to my original gripe before I went off on multiple enraged tangents. What is so wrong with being a devotee to all things dark and gruesome? Why is it that I am looked at with the same expression as I would be if I just told a person I have a highly infectious venereal disease when I voice my preference for horror? Why is it automatically assumed that my I.Q. is at the same level as Cro-Magnon man when I declare my passion for darkness? Why are people so horrified to find that I would rather snuggle up at night and watch Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre rather than the next fetid installment in the Sex in The City franchise? Is it really that difficult to imagine a highly articulate and intelligent woman genuinely enjoying the finer points of a multinational banned, video nasty mocumentary filled to gushing brim with severed body parts, cussing and cannibalism?

Intellectuals LOVE love a good, old fashioned impaling! (Cannibal Holocaust, 1980)

I am socially outgoing woman, with a university education and level of intelligence to match and I am a horror fan, so I will never be able to answer any of these questions without a heavy bias. I just hope that one day in the not so distant future, this beloved genre of mine, is accepted as more than a novelty that most people grow out of once they stop using Clearasil, because I can't see me getting that pink spaceship fitted out with shag carpeting happening in the near future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

When there's no more room in hell....

...the lazy shall get their arse off the couch and begin to blog once more.

Yes, it's true. After much cajoling from loved ones and mortal enemies, I have hauled my ample rear back to the keyboard to get back to what I first set out to do with this dank little corner.

I could blame the carefully contained outbreak of a new and particularly futuristic strain of ebola in the western most provinces of Canada or claim that I was locked in a cupboard for the past year and a half and was forced to watch Human Centipede on repeat until I was convinced my face was sewn to the anus of another human being, but no, I will just admit to the less exciting reality of being a lazy bugger.

So as I sit here in the luxury of my living room, with the rubber suited classic "Son of Godzilla" playing in the background and my "intellectually gifted" dog, who is named after an obese, video game zombie that pukes bile on you and explodes when you shoot them, I delve back into the world that has been the seat of my passion for as long as I can remember.

Thanks Mister Dellamorta and Bucky Chainsaw Massacre for giving me the exact blend of arse kicking and encouragement to get me writing again, you guys are my blood.

Your ghastly gal pal,

Alba Dellamorta.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cocktails and Carnage

When you think of horror inspired music what do you usually think of? Is it the horror punk anthems of golden age Misfits, complete with sing-along choruses, glorious devilocks and of course the satanic croon of the mighty Danzig? Is it the atmospheric syntho-prog rock of Goblin, weaving electronic webs of inorganic terror? Perhaps it’s the cacophony of full tilt heavy metal, with distortion drenched guitars, a thundering drum beat and lyrics hinting at an alliance with the Prince of Lies himself? More than likely one if not all of these sounds popped into your head at the thought of horror inspired music and not jaunty, upbeat melodies played acoustically with the odd treat of a mandolin or glockenspiel thrown into the mix, right? That’s because you have never witnessed the delight that is Harley Poe.

The path trodden by Harley Poe has been one fraught with both trials and tribulations, a shaky start of grinding through different members left fans of the band with some uncertainty as to whether they would make it through to the next release, but the pulsating undead heart of the music, frontman Joe Whiteford, persisted with the tenacity of one of the walking dead with an insatiable hunger for fresh, human brains. We’ll never know whether it was radiation, a comet, the resurrecting powers of Trioxin or just the sheer determination to survive of Mister Whiteford, but something of a less than natural nature won out in delivering us the solid lineup that is the current incarnation of Harley Poe.

I was first exposed to Harley Poe by a good friend of mine, Zakk, we have eerily similar tastes in pretty much everything to the extent that I sometimes wonder if maybe he is actually just my very own Tyler Durden, in a taller, better looking and decidedly male version of my ideal self. I can remember him popping online and ranting about this new band that I HAD to listen to. So, I had a dig around, found their myspace page and was as converted as he was. Their music is as infectious as a zombie’s bite and you find yourself singing along to choruses, clapping your hands and tapping your feet within that very first listen. Once those melodies and lyrics are locked into your brain, it’s not long before you find yourself wandering down the street under a swollen harvest moon singing tales of murder, revenge or unrequited love with a glazed and distant look in your eyes. Try to explain to your neighbour, at three o’clock in the morning why you are belting out, “I don’t want you, I waaaaaaaaaaaant your blood!!” or perhaps why you are merrily proclaiming, “Cold and wet and dirty. You’re looking mighty purdy, but I just don’t understand why a dead girl’s gotta be the one true love for me, I’m a Corpse Grinding Man!”. . . . especially when you are a short, little, round chick.

Never has deviancy, depression or psychosis sounded so particularly cheery, nor has it ever had the true ability to get the whole household, despite their feelings on horror culture, to sing along with smiles as wide as good old Bruce as he sinks his row upon row of serrated teeth into Quint’s boat. Harley Poe deserve a long and illustrious career, telling tales of ghouls and vampires, love beyond the grave and the high school nerd’s ultimate revenge until they themselves need the aid of a voodoo priest to resurrect their weary bones. Do the right thing people, get out there, listen to the music of Harley Poe and support the independent music scene by buying ALL of their back catalogue. Seriously. Do it, like, now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

But, there is just so much blood. . .

There are so many bad jokes that start with the words “You know you’re getting older when:” and I battled hard not to use that as my opener for this new post, I succeeded obviously, but only in the most lamest of ways imaginable. It is odd the things you begin to notice as you grow older and mature, how your views on certain things change, how you become more accepting of some things and yet at the same time, your tolerance for others recedes with the same unforgiving rate as the hair of a man with male pattern balding. One of these losses for me has been my ability to sit back and blithely watch scenes of ultra violence and intense gore, which is not something you want to happen being a life long devotee of the horror genre, indeed, it is like being a vampire and discovering the sight of blood makes you squeamish or being a zombie and realizing that you don’t actually enjoy the taste of fresh from the cranium grey matter.

Let me put some perspective on this for you. For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of horror in its many guises; from the excitement that Halloween brings every year since I was old enough to realize what it was , to actively seeking out new and improved ways to scare myself absolutely shitless. Some of my fondest childhood memories are imbedded in this life long passion. I remember curling up on the dark brown corduroy couch in a living room in Alberta, Canada, with both parents and an abundance of popcorn, watching Poltergeist on cable as a family. I couldn’t have been any older than six or seven and I also remember after the movie was finished, freaking out when the television continued to play the audio after I had switched it off, because it was played through the stereo, which I had neglected to turn off in my spooked haste.

Chunky strawberry jam and a lamb's tongue, yummy, no? (Blood Feast 1963)

As I grew older and my parents deemed films with more adult themes suitable for my precocious mind to be able to differentiate from reality, I began to find that I had a thirst for splatter and gore. By the time I was thirteen I was a full on and hardened, self proclaimed gorehound. I would actively search out the most extreme and visceral film at the video store and then of course insist that my poor Mother sit through whatever blood drenched piece of trash I had chosen. She would sit on the couch with her legs curled tight into her body, her hand half covering her eyes and the odd expletive or cry of “Oh ew!!” would sound from her side of the room. I found this highly amusing and would usually use her reaction as a gauge of the movie’s worth. I would laugh and usually console her with the worldly wise words of, “Come on Mum, it’s only a movie, jeeeese, stop being such a big wuss.” I still have no idea why that poor woman continued to agree on watching every single offensive piece of crap I bought into the house, perhaps it was some sort of masochistic Mother/daughter bonding ceremony on her part.

If I were to calculate the amount of blood I have seen spilled, limbs torn from bodies, deaths via stabbings, blunt force trauma, exploding heads, gauged out eyeballs. . . .you get the idea, I am more than certain that via the wonders of celluloid I have witnessed more human suffering than both World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, both Gulf Wars and an entire season of Friends combined produced. So, with this in mind you would think that a few more splashes of the old red stuff, the odd death or three of fully deserving stupid teens or even the flaying of some poor unfortunate would be breakfast viewing over a nice hot bowl of shreddies, by now right? In fact the exact opposite is true, for the shame and no doubt eternal mocking of my thirteen year old self.

Peter Jackson was far more fun before he started fooling around with hobbits (Dead Alive AKA Brain Dead 1992)

This isn’t a gradual thing either; this new intolerance is something that has sneaked up on me with the stealth of my beloved stalk and slashers, and struck with the same fearless and unyielding tenacity of a chain saw brandishing psycho. This is something that has happened within the last three years. The last thing I can remember watching that was considered gory and horrific to the average Joe public and actually being able to roll my eyes and feel genuinely unaffected by was Hostel. Okay, I was able to shake my head in the plot holes the size of Luxemburg and shrug off all of the gore and blatant sensationalism. . .apart from the slicing of the Achilles tendon moment, but that’s allowed, because that has always made me have that “rodent writhing in my stomach” feeling, even back in the days of Pet Sematary, where poor old Fred Gwynne suffered that particular fate.

Since this discovery I have been wracking my brain to figure out how this has come about. I had always had a problem watching real violence and suffering, I’ve never been able to watch the nightly news or any of those reality TV shows based in hospitals that showcase human suffering as cheap entertainment. That thick scarlet line between reality and fantasy has continuously shone brightly and unlike many of my friends that were fellow gorehounds, I never searched out the legendary Faces of Death. For those who are not in the know, Faces of Death is a mondo style movie with realistic scenes of (yes, you guessed you, you clever things!) death, interspersed with genuine footage of murder, deaths both of our fellow human beings and other creatures we share the planet with and grainy shots of human suffering, from wartime footage of Hitler inspiring the masses to the napalming of Vietnam. This never seemed like a form of entertainment to me, even though I knew a good forty percent of the movie was faked. The pain, suffering, death and destruction just wasn’t fun if someone was really getting hurt and it was no longer “safe”.

Oh noes!! Michael Ironside made mai hed splode!!! (Scanners 1981)

Is it my own fragile mortality that forces me to half turn away from the gallons of Karo flavoured blood and slabs of latex lovingly created in the image of human flesh? Is it perhaps the strong voice of my inner maternal instinct that causes me shrink away from scenes of beautifully choreographed torture and violence? Is it perhaps some sort of awoken with age social conscious of the real atrocities that my fellow human beings are more than capable and possibly somewhere out there carrying out that causes my heart rate to increase to the point I feel close to vomiting when the chorus of screams from the beautiful young actress on the screen is mutilated by the hand of her on screen villain and a whole team of CGI wizards? What is it that is turning me into the very vision of my Mother on the couch, her hand obscuring her eyes and her feet pulled in tight to her body to avoid the grasp of cold hands clutching at her from under the furniture? What the hell is it that is turning me into a big pussy?!

It has gotten to the point that despite, glowing reviews and stills saturated with absolutely glorious and gory beauty are not enough to take that leap into watching certain films. There are a handful of new movies that are critically acclaimed for their brutal new vision, the veritable new breath that the genre has so desperately needed, especially in a time where remakes are running rampant. Films such as Frontiere(s), Inside and Martyrs have all been side stepped at every given opportunity to watch them and instead I have made do with something else I know for a fact pales in comparison, in both quality and intelligence. My fingers have dangled teasingly on the slick plastic of the DVD cases and that thirteen year old voice rings out in my head, daring me to take it to the counter and rent it, but I am a grown up and am impervious to the taunts, even if they are coming from myself.

The food is always the best at the Captain's table! Zombies say "OM NOM NOM NOM !!!" (Day of the Dead 1985)

The good news is that I can still endure supernatural or just out and out stupid gore as was recently proven by sitting through Laid to Rest. (Keep your peepers peeled for an upcoming review) There was plenty of the claret stuff splashed around and even some disgustingly enjoyable kills which rekindled the love of those silent prowling maniacs that seemed to inhabit the brightly lit shelves of the video store in the eighties. So at least I now know that so long as the entrails are being used like bunting for a small child’s party or the plasma is being sprayed by the hands of some gribbly creature or even if the killer that is hacking the upper portion of his victim’s head off with a rusty axe is doing so in jovial manner; I am still okay and my inner gorehound can be sated and not have to mock me for being old and wussy. . much like my poor Mum was all those years ago. . .sorry Mum, I guess karma did rear up and bite me in the ass in the long run.