the not so happening

The HappeningI don’t know if it seems naive or cynical, but often times I watch a movie and am absolutely stunned to see what was released. Wondering not so much who gave it the green-light as wondering how a bunch of movie people could have sat through the final cut and decided that it was ready to be released. Regardless of genre or taste or budget, some movies are just so thoroughly mediocre that they might only be passable if from Michael Bay or a first time director, but from anyone with any more credit than that? I must say, what happens?

We watched The Happening which seemed promising enough, as I have enjoyed The Village (the only other M Night movie I have seen). I know that a lot of folks didn’t like the Village, but this one was just inoffensive crap. When people suddenly start committing suicide in Central Park en masse and then the wave of suicides rapidly spreads throughout the northeast, we start following a small group of people as they try and figure out what is happening and keep ahead of the menace as it spreads from the cities to the towns. This group consists mainly of Marky Mark, Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo (who used to be a funny comedian… I don’t know what he’s trying to be now but his math teacher character here is terrible!). This group also turns out to not be very compelling, but then again, nothing else in the movie is either.

The Happening completely lacks any creepiness, tension, scares or cause for concern. It is just a shallow, vapid waste of time. The concept, while moderately intriguing, is dished out in a bland and heavy-handed manner that makes it seem dull and totally irrelevant, though I imagine that M Night thought he was making some kind of point, he doesn’t. He also does away with any final act twists here also, bringing the angle up so early and flaccidly flopping it about our faces so much that it just becomes an annoyance. The actors were an alright bunch but they all opted to put in completely throw-away performances here, devoid of any believability or interest. When there is a lame attempt at bringing up a “personal angle” with the lead characters at the end, it is almost shocking as you can’t believe that you were intended to have any interest in these walking cardboard stiffs and their trite little conflicts. Worst of all, the script is flat, dumb and suffers from an excessive amount of exposition. There are two alright bits, both of which tale place at houses that they come across and have to deal with the inhabitants, but the rest is worthless and boring.



we who walk here, walk alone

The HauntingTwo exciting evenings! Last night (the night before my birthday) I spoiled myself by watching, back to back, three movies… Something that I haven’t done in many years. And then today? Pondering those movies while enjoying a wonderful birthday beer consisting of a bottle of La Fin Du Monde (which leads me to endlessly ponder the film Le Fin Absolue du Monde... Hopefully, the beer won’t have the same effect as the movie is rumored to have).

One plus to plugging away at a number of films is that I end up watching things that I just haven’t been able to get around to seeing. Last night I finally sat down for The Haunting (1963). The first of a number of film adaptations of Shirley Jackson’s novel, the only other adaptation that I have seen is Stephen King’s Rose Red, though there is a recent remake. While those I’ve seen certainly have similarities, this one I found to be a more respectable (serious) work, and aside from factors due to its era, The Haunting lacks the corniness and chintzy feel of the King miniseries. Though The Haunting does start off a bit corny (it was 1963, after all), after an hour or so the story and drama really pick up and I found myself to be involved with it.

The story of a professor who brings a group of “psychic-type” people to a haunted mansion in his attempt to prove the existence of the super-natural. the professor (played by Richard Johnson) is the acting high point of this; his easy going eagerness and confidence make you feel somehow secure while watching the movie. But the lead character is Eleanor, a woman with a troubled past and some strong psychic connections. She comes along on the mission to the house as she wants to flee her family and she is looking to find where she truly belongs, and suspects that the house might be it. She seems to be verging on a mental breakdown and the movie frequently uses the narration of her internal thoughts to express her desires and misgivings about what it going on in the house. Especially once the house starts to wake up.

 

The Haunting

 

As it is a haunted house story, the atmosphere relies heavily upon sound effects, camera angles and music… And once it gets going, it becomes pretty effective. Plus, as one would expect from a piece such as this, there are some great sets and lighting and it is great to look at.



it seems like you’re not happy to see me

DeliriumI don’t know if you would call it a giallo, but if so, it is certainly one of the best I’ve seen. But then again, I’m not a fan of giallo as they tend to be boring films of people walking around Italy in the seventies with a few hokey, yet over-staged, murder scenes. This, while similar though, is sleazy and over the top in just the right amounts. Sure it still has the hot 70’s shirts, hairy chests and gold chains, but the overacting is quite prime and the psychosexual goings on come across as sincerely extreme. It all comes together to make this film rather schizophrenic, not only in its lead character, but also in its swings between a gruesomely serious work of sex and violence on the one hand, but also a crappy and cheesy farce on the other. In Delirium (no, not the, um, impressively cast film from the 1980’s, this is Delirio Caldo from 1972), Mickey Hargitay brings his all to the role of Dr. Lyutah, a criminal psychologist who is frequently called upon by the police to aid them in investigating murders… The particular murder investigation that starts this movie off shouldn’t be too hard for the good doctor, because he is in fact the murderer. You see, Lyutah is a sex-crazed serial murder, who also happens to be impotent and has a penchant for strangling. Which gives his crimes an unpleasant air of uncontrollable misogyny. But his other side is quite pleasant and respectable.

 

Delirium

 

The murders that we get tend to seem rather random… and pointless. In the first one he offers a girl in a bar a ride only to chase her down into a river bed, beat her and kill her. There are more that seem to just be going after women that he randomly encounters. While this violence is as corny (and the little blood as fake) as one would expect for this sort of film it still feels rather harsh, something about his cruel strained grimaces and his fixation on strangling, I suppose. At least they also throw in some fantasy sequences and whips and chains to dull the edge.

 

Delirium

 

Throughout all of this carrying on, he lives in a villa with the above three women: his virginal wife who is an emotional wreck about to go over the edge (and who at least suspects her husbands vile deeds), the maid who is a quiet young lady who is a bit over-sexed and under-inhibited and his wife’s niece (?). All of whom feature heavily in some dreamlike torture chamber orgy scenes where Hartigay looks more like his Crimson Executioner character from Bloody Pit of Horror than a psychiatrist…

 

Delirium

 

Though amidst all of this glory, there are some terrible issues, scenes that just seem a bit too unlikely to just pass by… The Doctor keeps a victims bloodied garments in an ornate locked box on the mantel! A girl fearing for her life runs into a phone booth and calls a newspaper office and asks them to call the police? More silly plot features are around every corner, and throughout it all, the terrible dialogue and dubbing (you can get both bad Italian dubbing and English subtitles at the same time!), the badly acted facial expressions (especially from the police) and then some crazy scenes towards the end. There is a chaotic and odd (or maybe dumb) scene where the women in the house start hearing screams, the lights go out and then minutes go by where the keep running around the house, screaming, having shadows cast upon them and falling to the floor where they seem unable to get up. Ridiculous? Yes. Rad? Yes.

 

Delirium

 

All in all, it is pretty entertaining.



take me back…

Black Sabbath - Live at Hammersmith OdeonI’ve never been a fan of live music, which is not to say that I haven’t seen my share of great concerts or got plenty of enjoyment out of Unleashed in the East, but generally it just doesn’t move me. In a similar vein, while I’ve always liked Pink Floyd a good bit, I’ve rarely gone out of my way to listen to them and my familiarity is really limited to the songs of The Dark Side of the Moon to The Wall. What’s become strange is that in the last week or so, my listening interests have really centered on Pink Floyd, including older albums that I hadn’t ever really heard before, especially Meddle and Obscured by Clouds, both of which are really great albums. I must say, I am really enjoying it this new focus. I have probably listened to more Floyd in the last week than in anytime since those nights in the late 1980’s when I would drink a bottle of Night Train and listen to The Wall every night, but that is a different story. What started me off on this kick was seeing the cover of this live Floyd piece.

Pink Floyd

And so the other, related, odd thing is that I have become fixated on live albums! Starting with listening to some songs from the above Pink Floyd 1972 show in Böblingen, German (which is really great spanning 50 minutes and three songs, I’d like to get the full concert!), I verged into the endless well of greatness that is live Sabbath! I’ve owned a live Sabbath disc for a good while (called “war pigs”) which is alright, but now I’ve heard the Dio-era Live at Hammersmith Odeon, which is great and I’ve begin enjoying other shows from the from the Ozzy Era, more greatness. Though I listened to some AC/DC live stuff, it wasn’t that good as it seems to tend to be poorly recorded (I’m of course not talking about If You Want Blood), but aside from that, this stuff that I’d never really thought much about before is really working for me right now. I even got a live Rainbow Album from 1979, Perfect Roger’s Birthday Party. And it’s pretty damned good too! Where does one stop?

Rainbow



Speaking of too much information…

Orwell Rolls in his GraveI guess we feel the air of election time approaching, so last night we re-watched Orwell Rolls in his Grave. Part of the flood of political documentaries that sprouted up after George Bush was, um, elected in 2000, it is one of my favorites of that genre. An all-encompassing movie, as its subject is the control of the media, media consolidation and the role that the modern media plays in the government. As the cover says, it explores what the media doesn’t want to talk about – Itself.

It is a serious documentary, being primarily just interviews, but these are interviews with some great folks: Charles Lewis (formerly of 60 Minutes), Mark Crispin Miller, Bernie Sanders, Greg Palast, Vincent Bugliosi and more! Filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas continually reminds us of the dangers of the national dialog being not just presented in the forms that they are, but with the control of that presentation in the hand of too few corporations whose agendas are more and more hand in hand with the government, rather than serving the public interest to inform us about the actions of the government and corporations.

The movie has extensive quotes from both Nineteen Eighty-Four and from Joseph Goebbels, I imagine in the hope of shocking the viewers in either awareness or an actual sense of caring about any of this. But as Caitlin said, the people who would watch this aren’t the people who need to see it. But would those people care anyway? Probably not.

Orwell Rolls in his Grave goes into the deregulation of the media, the removal of the fairness doctrine, the FCC lack of interest in the public good and the effects of all of those. It is scary stuff, rather aggravating with some great scenes… Especially the FCC committee hearing where they are planning on basically throwing out all ownership rules, hearing one board member make an extensive and intelligent argument against relaxing these rules, and then having another one make an terrible argument for it (against the first amendment rights of the corporations, and some chatter about media ownership limitations deny the citizens their right to choose?)… They also look at the power of the Media’s lobbyists in Washington (personally, I’m not ever sure why any lobbyists are allowed at all).

As with most of these films, it is frustrating and maddening, but also filled with though-provoking and valuable insights and it is all something that is good to keep in mind. And a reminder that though we are made to read Nineteen Eighty-Four in jr. high as (I imagine) some kind of warning, some of those kids took to it as a “how to succeed” guide.



touch too much

Gary NumanSure, I love Gary Numan as much as the next guy. Probably more. And I listen to him quite a bit, as I have since, yes, Cars came out. Back in the early 80’s I was all about Replicas (sorry, it’s Gary Numan. I don’t need any of that Tubeway Army talk), the Self-titled Tubeway Army record (I have that tagged as Gary Numan too, maybe I should change that one), The Pleasure Principle, Telekon (possibly the best album ever recorded… By anyone) and I, Assassin. I’m still pretty friendly with most of those, especially Replicas and Telekon, but I hadn’t listened to I, Assassin in many, many, many years. Today though, I gave it a whirl and quite enjoyed it. Sure, it’s no Telekon, But damn. It is still pretty darned good. I especially like “Music For Chameleons” and “We take Mystery To Bed”, but it’s an all-around strong album.

The point being that though I’ve had plenty of Numan to listen to and now I’ve got even more to put on my rotation (luckily I just bought a new iPod, the 16gb Nano), and that seems to be the case for everything. While I certainly don’t have one of the larger mp3 collections (at only 36.5 days), when I stare at all the CD’s and LP’s around here that I have yet to mp3, I start wondering what it is that I am going to do with all of this music? According to last.fm I’ve listened to 984 artists in the last year or so… What happened to those teenage days when I had 15 tapes and didn’t really think that there was much more than that out there? Sigh.

What brings this up is the proliferation of music blogs! My god, there are hundreds and hundreds filled with great, non-mainstream or OP or just plain old and forgotten bands. Sure, they are potential hotbeds of “copyright infringement” , but they are wonderful resources for finding out what is out there! I keep a few dozen of them bookmarked (yes, primarily metal) and I feel the urge/need to browse tham, and find more like them! The main places I keep an eye on are Old Skull Death/Thrash/Black Metal, Dunkelheit, Darkanuss, Axes of Heavy Metal and Cosmic Hearse… The point being, sometimes ones horizons can be expanded too far! Where does it end?!

Now if only someone would upload the Social Climbers LP, so I don’t have to dig out the LP and go through the hassle…



all really intelligent people should be cremated for reasons of public safety

Lovecraft Film FestivalAww yes. Part two of the Lovecraft Film Festival! Though I enjoyed myself alright on Friday night, I conducted this evening in a more organized fashion.

First thing, I saw the ‘Thickets table in the Bazaar area and bought the “Thing on the Stage” tour shirt that I’d been wanting, which was nice to get out of the way. Then I stepped into a theater to watch a new documentary, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. Pretty much a straight ahead biography of HPL, it was quite good. There was nice archival footage, some nice scenes of Providence (I’ve always been hankering to see Providence) and a lot of great interviews: Primarily Neil Gaiman, Guillermo Del Toro and John Carpenter, but also S T Joshi, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub and our own Andrew Migliore! It was quite good and something that I’ll need to be getting when it makes its DVD appearance.

After that it was down to the main theater to see Mike Mignola and Brian Lumley receive their Howie awards and then watch a block of shorts. As one might imagine, some of the shorts were rather unnotable (one seemed to just be a preview), but there were some winners! The highlights were: Eel Girl, the story of a scientist who is rather strangely attracted to his research subject. It’s an uckky “toothy-Siren in the lab” story from New Zealand that has scary teeth and a tub filled unwholesome-looking goo. There was the great AM 1200, which seemed to be a totally professionally done film, though only 40 minutes long. Nice script, cinematography, acting, CG, story-line… Everything. It was a really great short film about a “thing” that lives in a secluded radio station and uses broadcasting to attract people for its own nefarious purposes. It was really great and creepy, with a lot of it taking place out-of-doors in the dark. The third high point, though I don’t generally like comics or animated things, was the wonderful and terribly funny The Amazing Screw-on Head. Based on a Mignola comic, it’s the heroic tale of a, well, screw-on head (who is an agent of Abraham Lincoln) as he goes up against Emperor Zombie (with his two horrible old women and the monkey) and the evil demigod, it was quite great! Seemingly done as a potential TV series that never really took off.

Then to the highpoint of the evening…

 

Toren from The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

 

Off to Tony Starlight’s to see The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets! How this is my first time seeing them live, I just don’t know. But it was great! The place was packed, the band was in great form (sounding not much different than their recorded material) and they played some great favorites (Shoggoth’s Away, Slave Ship, Ogdru Jahad, the Innsmouth Look), plus some fun songs that I hadn’t heard before.

 

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

Though they were cramped ont a tiny stage, they really put on a good show with great energy, humor and just a heck of a lot of fun! And, of course, some great eldritch rock ‘n’ roll. Toren told me that they would be playing in Vancouver BC in December, so I’m going to ponder pretending that I could actually get up there for that show…

 

 

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

 

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

 



what october brings…

The Lovecraft Film FestivalWe all know this, yet another installment of the Lovecraft Film Festival! This year I am actually going to go to two evenings, so just wait until tomorrow when there will be a special music report!

Tonight though, I went to see a couple of movies. Due to arriving a bit late and the in-between movie event, I didn’t have anytime to browse the bazaar vendors. But the movies? First up was Hellboy, my first time on the big screen. I think I have warmed on it a bit since the last/first time that I watched it back in 2006, though my previous comments do remain the same. It is basically a fun action-filled comic book hero movie. The story of a young scientist who heads (with the army) to a small island to try and prevent the Nazi’s (and Rasputin) from opening a portal to the other side and letting terrible destructive beings through. While they generally succeed in their mission, one odd thing does get though, a little baby devil-boy with a giant forearm. He grows up, teamed with some other odd ducks, fighting whatever odd beings appear in the world. Of course, the evil folks who led to him being here in the first place come back to finish the job! It has great sets (though a bit much on the CGI), some good villains, and the Hellboy character is not too bad, though Karl Ruprecht Kroenen is easily the most interesting and compelling character in the film. I am lukewarm to the other paranormals and the romance stuff seems rather out of place, but it’s fun and quite entertaining to watch. I also really like the Ogdru Jahad! If anything is going to come and rain down apocalyptic destruction on the world, they would certainly be my first choice! After the film there was a Q&A with Mike Mignola, which was pretty fun…

And then we stepped into the evenings surprise…. The Dunwich Horror! Now, when I saw that they were playing The Dunwich horror with Dean Stockwell, I assumed that it was Roger Corman’s great 1970 film with Dean Stockwell, as I only knew of that. It wasn’t until minutes before it started when it was mentioned that Jeffrey Combs was in it that I started to realize that something else was going on. Boy was it ever. Something else like the difference between walking on the beach and walking into quicksand! Awful? Stink? This dud was terrible! Bad (no… terrible) script, bad cinematography, bad “sets”, bad casting, bad digital video… And they tried too hard to be corny. The worst was the lame half-assed “Lovecraft” angle! Sure, it sort of had some Dunwich Horror going on, but then they just throw in every Lovecraft reference they could think of, making a naive hodge-podge spoken by people who came across as amateur actors, though they were supposed to be brilliant and respected scientists. Griff Furst was the worst, but the whole thing was bad. I mean, Dean Stockwell was fine and Jeffrey Combs did his usual entertaining “look what a weirdo I can be” shtick, but the cast and acting was just bad. And though the worst was the “the house is the book!” scene, to top it all off they seemed to come too close to the un-lovecraftian good vs evil thing, with our “heroes” even using a pentagram for protection!



 

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