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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Welcome to the jungle, baby. . .

An independent movie made with passion and conviction can easily make the viewer forget that there wasn’t a budget of millions when they are swept up in the intricacy of the plot, the solid performance of a cast entirely dedicated to the success of the movie and are treated to a crystal clear image of the director’s vision. Sadly, Attitude for Destruction was not one of those independent movies. I admit, when I stumbled upon this little nugget, I wasn’t exactly expecting a low budget Citizen Cane of the horror world for an audience of the twenty-first century. Yes, it’s true I grabbed this flick for a bit of a chuckle and to take a break from the high quality films I have been spoiling myself with recently. It could also be said that I purposefully sought out this movie as a bribe to encourage my hair metal loving housemate to sit down and watch a horror movie with me. I now fear I may have damaged our friendship beyond redemption. . .look at the trailer whilst I go console myself.

The premise of Attitude for Destruction is in the tradition of such rock and roll horror hybrid classics as Trick or Treat and Black Roses, well when I say that, what I actually mean is that it involves a “rock” band in a horror situation. No, there are cameos from REAL rock stars, like Trick or Treat had with Gene Simmons and Ozzy, and there is no one rock and roll savior to stand up to be the hero and there isn’t even a single metal record being played backwards to reveal a hidden and Satanic message. . .why don’t I just quickly move on to the super fast synopsis part whilst I am still ahead.

The movie begins with the scene of a band play half assed teen angst pseudo emo, bedecked in halloween costume, red capes and shoddily applied fake blood running from their eyes, in a garbage bag covered room. In the corner is a blood splattered, naked chick, hanging from an upside down cross. Pretty freaking rocking so far, right? We quickly gather the young lady howling from the cross is something of a captive audience and much to our surprise, it’s not the music that’s making her wail, but the fact her fate is to be the sacrifice to some cause unknown. What happened next was pretty damned surreal, yes she was gutted and her female disembowler went on to lavishly rub her face in her entrails but then suddenly, from behind the garbage bag strewn wall emerges a blood covered dwarf in leather shorts. . .no, you didn’t just misread that, I really did write “blood covered dwarf in leather shorts”. You think you’re stunned to read that, imagine how I felt to witness it.

The movie slowly meanders on to reveal the whole tired plot of a young and upcoming metal band that are offered a contract by a devious record company that want them to ditch their Axel Rose wannabe singer. Of course, being the true rock artisans they are, they sign the contract with only the slightest of quibbles; come on man, their music DOES need to be heard by the world. Rather than getting together to tell their now ditched singer that the deal is just for the band and not him, they decided to spring it on him at a rehearsal, makes sense right? I mean, you would continue rehearsing with someone that was no longer in the band, right? Obviously, Drake (yes, the lead singer’s name really was Drake. . I know, I know. . ) takes the news quite poorly and it all ends up with him being beaned in the head with a bass guitar. . .oh yeah, and the rest of the band rallying around him and kicking him to death.

I could go into more detail about the rest of the storyline, but there really isn’t anything more. Drake’s best friend and guitarist of the band, Mark, has a few bad dreams about what they did, Drake returns from the dead and starts picking them off one by one. . .and that’s pretty much it. Oh, apart from the fact, that Drake’s girlfriend who then goes on to be Mark’s girlfriend is the girl that preformed the sacrifice at the beginning and seems to be a Mistress of the black Arts, hence how Drake returns. The end, pretty much.

This movie came off as just one long and poorly made music video to showcase two bands’ music, the first being that terrible trio at the beginning and the other being Hollywood Roses, which also just so happens to be the name of the fictional band in the movie. The real frontman of Hollywood Roses, Colby Veil, also plays the onscreen band’s frontman, and of course returns from the grave with continuity defying make up job to clumsily slaughter the rest of the band. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the stylings of late eighties cock rock anyway, but I can acknowledge when it’s done well and Hollywood Roses (both the onscreen and real band) isn’t one of those bands. So between his musical career and this jump into the world of acting, I think its time Mister Veil rethought his career strategy.

Worst thing about Attitude for Destruction wasn’t that “Hollywood Roses” clearly had no clue as to how to play the instruments that were placed in their hands, it wasn’t the unintentionally funny script nor the horrendous wardrobe, hell it wasn’t even the big, rubber sword that Drake used to kill their poorly costumed Slash-like guitarist. No, the worst thing about Attitude for Destruction is the under use of the leather shorted, blood splattered dwarf. I was hoping he would return after his introduction at the very beginning of the film, but no, it was not to be. Now, gaze upon his beauty and tell me that he shouldn’t be in every god damned movie that is ever produced again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dead in the Water

This was not the post I was hoping to be the very first, in the official reporting of all things fantastical and blood drenched. I have recently watched some positively phantasmagorical films that simply must be shared with the world, in all their gore splattered glory, but sadly, after checking in on a project that originally filled me to the brim with anticipation for something quite new and deliciously quirky, my plans have been put on a temporary hold in order to have something of a rant, instead.

The source of my sorrow is the ill fated Worst Case Scenario. I had first found teasing little trailers on Upcoming Horror Movies, little vignettes that delighted me to the very core with the promise of what seemed to be some kind of scientific nightmare of biomechanical zombie Nazis. . .I need to say that again just because it felt so damned good. . .biomechanical zombie Nazis. They were simply divine, a perfect blend of humour and stunning creature design, what appeared to be a tasty new twist on a genre that has recently been regurgitated in various shades of gangrenous green and ghastly gray, each new offering worse than the last one. At a time when I was feeling as if I was finally reaching saturation point with one of my beloved horror monsters; the stiff shuffle, husky moaning, brain devouring zombies, the promise of this film sparked up a new hope that someone was going to resurrect the genre with new and beautifully designed undead.

An announcement on the official site cites lack of financial backing or more accurately, the lack of investors actually following through on their promises of financial backing, for the shelving of the film. For almost six years the makers struggled to get this project off the ground and I guess after six years of successive let downs, they have finally conceded and placed Worst Case Scenario on hold for the foreseeable future. Just to give you some idea why I am so incredibly, incensed, outraged and to the point of biting someone's nose off over this news, take a look at the sheer beauty of the trailers of what could have been possibly the best zombie movie since George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.

Gorgeous, aren’t they? Did they not entice rapturous little utterances of “ooh” and “aah” from you? Does it not fill your centre of the circulatory system with infinite sadness that those two trailers are all Worst Case Scenario will ever amount to? Welcome to my world. I guess we will just have to make do with the next glut of turgid Hollywood offerings of remakes of classics that never needed touching or morally pillaged renditions of non-American movies dumbed down and crammed with pretty stars to appeal to the North American market. I promise. . . next edition will be full of smiles and excitement over spurting blood, gnashing teeth and high pitched screams, or your money back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I'm your host, your ghost host with the most. . .

Welcome one, welcome all to this, the very first in what will hopefully be many posts of one woman’s reflections upon the world of horror culture. I can already hear the gears of your thoughts grinding, trying to grasp the notion of “horror culture”, so to spare your poor brain from spontaneously combusting (let’s be honest, spontaneous human combustion is only amusing when there are others to observe it)let’s just say that this blog will be entirely dedicated to the genre known as horror in all it’s glorious formats. Be it films, books, art, music or just a way of thinking, I will be covering any aspect of the genre that I can get my grubby little hands on, then putting on here in delicious little bite sized chunks, just for your consuming pleasure.

Originally this was going to be a blog entirely dedicated to the cinematic representation of horror, with the rather catchy sub heading of “Watching shitty horror movies, so you don’t have to!”, but then it dawned on me that by limiting myself to just one medium, I was limiting my excuse to submerge myself in entire worlds of terror and fear. . . .and where’s the fun in the fright if all five of your senses aren’t being tortured to their full capacity?

So, pull up a chair and your favourite blanket, as I take you to places you never wanted to go to and experience things which will haunt you until you end of days. . . or check out and laugh at how worked up a five foot three woman can get over what no one else would even give five minutes of their time for.

Your host,

Alba Dellamorta

(If you find any tasty nuggets of a horror type flavour that you think I should bear witness to then, more than likely dissect with a ruthless fervor, don’t hesitate to contact me at: You will be mentioned in the blog for your contribution, loved to within an inch of your life and quite possibly spared when I take over the world)