Archive for July, 2008

Best. Lovecraft. Movie. Ever.

Posted in Horror, Movies with tags , , , , on 31 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

From the yeah, that was pretty cool — wish I’d written about it then department:

Horror writers H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King share a similar problem: their authorial voices are almost impossible to transfer to the medium of film. Particulars of their stories aside, what we love about these authors’ work is their expository language — their storytelling style and descriptive powers. That’s why, I think, that with a couple of notable exceptions aside, most cinematic adaptations of their works are disappointing.

The 2005 film THE CALL OF CTHULHU , produced by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, is one of those exceptions, and it’s an absolutely spectacular one!

Ironically, that may be because of the severe budgetary limitations the production was working under. Making a virtue out of necessity, director Andrew Leman and writer-producer Sean Branney hit on the brilliant (but not so obvious) idea of filming Lovecraft’s classic tale as a black-and-white silent film, as it might have been done in the 1920s. Instead of worrying about realistic special effects (or, God forbid, CGI) they were instead able to utilize a little Georges Méliès-style magic in their home-built practical effects.These two elements of the film complement each other beautifully, and, combined with the (really terrific!) original symphonic music score, add up to a hugely pleasurable viewing experience.

Especially for Lovecraft fans! Because this movie, this no-budget little labor-of-love fan film, is probably the best cinematic adaptation of an HPL story ever made. All the elements of the original story are there; and the story is very well told by the actor’s facial expressions and body language, plus the occasional well-placed title card (the text of which, as far as I can tell, are taken directly from the published story). The mood and atmosphere of the film are note-perfect, and stands in perfectly for Lovecraft’s ever-anxious authorial voice. A sense of of spooky mystery is evoked in the first act, set in the fabled Massachusetts city of Arkham. Real horror accompanies the second, at the pagan goings-on in swamps of Louisiana. And in the ocean-going third, when the titular Mr. C. makes his dread appearance, the terror of the characters is palpable.

Check out the trailer for yourself —

— and then immediately go to the HPLHS website, or to Amazon.com, and buy it. You’ll be happy that you did! And I’ll be too, because of these cats make enough money, they’re going to go on to film Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness. Woo hoo!

“Cornhole”… look it up!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 17 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

From the “you learn something new every day” department…

I was having coffee with a friend this morning, and he offhandedly mentioned that he and his friends were going to get together this evening to drink beer and “play cornhole.”

After wiping up the coffee from my Danny Thomas spit-take, I cautiously asked him what that game consisted of. He explained that it involved the tossing of a small bag of corn through a hole in a distantly-placed wooden board. I thought to myself, “ah, just like a beanbag toss — y’know, normal stuff.”

My friend is from the Philippines, so I figured that “Cornhole” was the Filipino version of, or word for, our “Beanbag Toss,” the traditional (and wholesome!) backyard game the whole family can enjoy together. Not the other activity that immediately came to my mind when hearing that term. I cautioned him that he shouldn’t go around in public saying that he and his friends drink beer and “play cornhole” together. Visions of drunken sodomy orgies are not something one would normally introduce into casual conversation. I explained, sotto voce, that in our colorful American vernacular, “cornhole” pretty much refers to anal sex. He was shocked — and, ultimately, disbelieving. He said that he and his friends actually had purchased a Cornhole game kit from a local sporting goods store.

So, I figured, let’s go to the trusty internets to get to the real truth. Turning to the always unerring Wikipedia, I discovered, to my utter amazement, this:

(Link to Wikipedia article RIGHT HERE)

Maybe I could say, Well, I’ll be cornholed!, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I always thought I was possessed of a relatively clean mind, but I guess I shouldn’t jump to the wrong conclusions over innocent remarks. But still… CORNHOLE is a game?? Who’da thunk?

Amazing horsemanship!

Posted in Cool video with tags , , , , , on 12 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

Andreas Helgstrand is an award-winning Danish dressage rider who is most known for riding the nine-year-old mare Blue Hors Matiné. This footage is from the World Equestrian Games 2006 Freestyle Finals. It is flat-out freaking amazing! Set aside 6 1/2 minutes and be prepared to have your jaw drop:

I don’t know anything about horses or dressage or riding, but I do know a fantastic display of animal/human interface when I see one. Let me tell you… a horse that good, you don’t eat all at once!

Empire or Federation: where would you rather live?

Posted in Movies, Science Fiction, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on 6 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

Because I’m a geek, and because I have plenty of time, I’ve been thinking lately about Star Trek and Star Wars. Comparing and contrasting, listing pros and cons, entertaining questions for which I’ve never had satisfactory answers, etc. I’m a fan of both franchises (how I hate that term!), and, in my idle moments of Walter Mitty-like fantasizing, project myself into their respective universes. While I’m (mentally) there, these are some of the things that occur to me…

In Star Trek*, you never see any private or commercial space traffic. How come? Is that by design, or merely a practical consideration of Trek’s limited budgeting? Alien ships aside, Starfleet appears to be the only authorized human venue for space travel. Which would be kind of like, in our present day, having only Navy ships at sea; no freighters, no yachts, no tankers, no runabouts — only armed-to-the-teeth warships, even for the most benign exploratory or scientific purposes. And, I guess, only Air Force planes in the sky. Hey, that would be like living in a military dictatorship!

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE

What makes “classic horror” a classic?

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , on 5 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

A message board that I enjoy participating on is over at FEARnet, the website for the cable horror channel. On the “Classics” board, a 38-year-old post the question “What constitutes a classic?”

I chuckled when I read that he used the year 1987 as the cutoff point for “classic” status, giving that distinguished appellation to such fare as FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Of course, he was right, to some degree… everybody defines these things, subjectively at least, by their own age, and the circumstances under which they saw these films. But still… 1987?? Why, that was only, um, 31 years ago… geez, thirty-one years? Shit!

Frankenstein's monster

Personally, and trying to remain somewhat objective about the issue, I peg the dividing line at 1968. That year’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was the first film to really break with the Gothic horror tradition exemplified by Universal Studios in the 30s, Val Lewton-era RKO in the 40s, Hammer Films in the 50s, and American International Pictures in the early 60s. From this point in time, it may be hard to grasp how shatteringly taboo-breaking NOTLD was, and why it was. After that, and the soon-on-its-heels THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT , and THE EXORCIST, well… hell. How can anybody find Frankenstein or Dracula or the Mummy or the Wolf Man truly scary anymore? Vincent Price creeping around some haunted house looked pretty quaint by that time. So, by my reckoning, 1968 was the year of birth for modern horror.

The only thing was, those earlier films were, for the most part, pretty damn good. Some could even be called works of art, if you buy into the argument that cinema is an art form. (Certainly, the first films of each of those studio’s franchises were excellent, even if the various sequels got a little flabby.) So, like many old movies that are well made and still remain popular, the “classic” tag was applied.

Another way to think about it would also be that those earlier horror films always dealt with their monsters as an external threat, to be defeated by men of reason and high moral character. (I’m thinking mostly of the Universal and Hammer product here.) This could also be defined as “classical” horror, as opposed to “romantic” horror. “Right wing” horror versus “left wing” horror; “Apollonian” versus “Dionysian.” “The monster is them, out there” versus “the monster is us, right here.”

Just a theory…

Interspecies friendship

Posted in Cool video with tags on 4 July 2008 by Doc Tourneau

Oh, hell… this almost makes me cry. Too goddamn beautiful. Just watch the fucking thing: