Friday, September 28, 2007

I've been bad...

...about posting lately. Sorry about that dear readers.

I've actually been really busy with finishing my newest novel. I'm within a chapter or so of wrapping it up, finally. With work, real life, and everything else dog-piling me lately - it's been hard to stay focused and just get the damn thing done. I do have to say that I am not looking forward to the monumental pain in the ass it's going to be to try and find and agent and/or a publisher who'll be interested in publishing it. I learned a lot with my last novel - - mostly how I absolutely don't want this novel to be published. I need a publisher who will help me get publicity for it, and not leave the onus of arranging signings and shit up to me.

I do have to say I was a lot younger when my first novel was published, and it was also at a time in my life when things were crazy (I had only been married a couple years, had a 1 year old boy, and a new born baby girl). Not exactly the most conducive time to try and get publicity for my book, and I think that's why I made all of about $38 dollars in royalties on it and it never got even any local press coverage. Had a couple book signings though. That was cool, I guess...

So, I need to finish it, and start looking for an agent. I think that an agent's the only way I'm going to get what I want from my writing (I.E. -some fame and at least enough mney for me to think, "Maybe I can quit my job and write full time?" before quickly dismissing it and just being happy with the fame).

My newest novel is a survival horror piece, by the way. I'll most likely be finishing the first draft within a week or two and then begin the arduous task of rewriting and editing, and then the real hell begins. And please don't act all surprised when I pimp it like a motherfucker on here when it's ready.

Sorry about that.

In other personal writing news, I was notified about a month and a half ago that one of my thesis papers won an award and will be published in a Cleveland State University publication. That's kind of cool. Although I love my creative writing, there's something cool about having my analytical writing recognized. It adds to the literary prestige, bitches! The article, by the way is called First Person Confirmations of Elizabeth's Perspective in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Oooh! Gives you goosebumps, huh? It's a riveting analysis of narrative perspective. Really. Seriously. (Don't think I don't hear you all yawning out there! Worms! I won't forget this slight. I'll remember your dismissing my intellectual contributions to literary analysis when I rule the world - and we'll see who's sorry then!)

But I digress.

Couple quick links I found that are just really cool...

Over at Dread Central - there's an interview with Rob Zombie about his upcoming cartoon, The Haunted Adventures of El Superbeasto. I'm really looking forward to this as it looks absolutely insane. I read the original Zombie comic books where El Superbeasto made his first appearance and I've been a fan of the character ever since then. El Superbeasto, by the way, is a retired luchadore wrestler who battles the forces of evil with the help of his barely clothed and sexy sister. As Zombie says, "It's like if Spongebob Squarepants took place in a world full of monsters and strippers and was made for adults". While I'd argue that Spongebob WAS indeed made for adults, the rest of his description is spot on. After the disappointment that was Halloween, I hope Rob redeems himself with this - hopefully - NC-17 cartoon gore fest. Come on, Rob. Don't let me down, buddy!

I also saw this article over on Stupid Evil Bastard. While I agree that having Patrick Stewart do an appearance on Dr. Who would rock at a sub-atomic level... what excited me more was the revelation that he and David Tennant are performing Hamlet together with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford next summer. The Doctor will be playing the title role ("Get thee to a TARDIS, Why wouldst thou be a breeder of Daleks?"), while Jean Luc Picard will be playing Hamlet's Uncle, Claudius ("Oh, my offense is rank! It smells to Heaven! Make it so!". The English Literature major within me is abolutely mind melding with the unrepentant sci-fi geek that shares space with it in my soul! I'm in agony here. Besides seeing the RSC - in fucking Stratford - but actually combining that with Dr. Who and Star Trek actors?!?! I feel like I'm going to explode.

Mrs. Zombie and I went to England for our honeymoon and my one regret when we went is that we never made it to Stratford. We spent the whole week in London (which is befitting of a trip to England's capitol. One could spend 2 weeks there and still not see and do it all). We took the time to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theater in the Strand - which was awesome. But MY love and passion is Elizabethan drama (and what I expect my specialization will be when I get my Master's in English Lit)I'd wished we'd had the time and money to see a Shakespearan play.

And then this news rears its beautifully geekish head.

Next year's our ten year anniversary, and I know that money's tight - but gods I wish I could convince Mrs. Zombie to fly to England for 3 or 4 days so we could catch a performance next summer. I'm looking for suggestions as to how I can convince her to indulge this completely unrealistic wish. Anybody got any suggestions for me? Is there anyone out there who can please give me some guidance as to how I can swing the $1000 or so dollars to fly there, catch a show, and NOT get arrested trying to get photos and autographs from the Doctor AND Professor X.?!? And keep my marriage intact?!?

Let Doctor Zombie's scheming begin...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And so it starts...

It's that time of the year! My favoritest season is upon us, which means that Halloween is near!!


I can feel it coming and the signs are there if you know what you're looking for...

- Candy Corn can be purchased at the store now (as well as Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins. Mmmm... Peanut Butter Pumpkins... Glaaaahhhh...)
- there's an increase of horror related movies on TV. (I just DVR'd Fright Night, which is one of the best 80's horror flicks ever!)
- Leaves are starting to fall.
- I keep a radio on at work and I heard, for the first time this season, a haunted house radio promo! (Do you dare enter the Seven Acres of Hell! Muwahahahah!!!)
- Apple cider and pumpkins can now be purchased at the grocery store and local market.
- It's cold in the morning. I've had to wear a jacket on the Harley every morning this week!


In the next few days, I'll post some kooky, spooky Halloween links!

Watch for it, dear readers!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Movie Review - Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish language fantasy opus; Pan’s Labyrinth is a spell binding, magical, wondrous movie that is a dizzying mix of horror, fantasy, action, and drama.

El Laberinto del Fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth for those who sprechen the English!), tells the story of an intelligent, but bookwormish, young girl named Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero) who is forced to move into the Spanish countryside in 1944. Her recently widowed mother has remarried a captain in the fascist Spanish Army who is leading a campaign to eradicate pro-democracy rebels in the surrounding Spanish hills.

Captain Vidal, played by Sergi Lopez, is a cold, evil man who has traces of the callousness and bloodthirstiness of Ralph Fiennes character in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. He shows an immediate disdain for Ofelia as she is not his child, is a girl, and is baggage that her mother brings from her first marriage. Ofelia’s mother, on the other hand, is loving – bat also pregnant with Captain Vidal’s child. To Captain Vidal, she carries his son, who will carry Vidal’s name and who will fulfill all of Vidal’s dreams of primogeniture.

It is among this backdrop of interfamilial politics, set against the wartime background of the army’s protracted campaign against local rebels, that Ofelia withdraws into a fantastical world. Near their villa is an old hedge maze that leads to a pre-Roman, pagan, grotto dedicated to the pagan god, Pan.

Ofelia meets a fairy, who leads her to the labyrinth, and to a faun in the service of the King of the Fairies. He tells Ofelia that she is the King’s daughter who has been cursed and trapped in human form. Fortunately, the curse can be broken, but to do so she must complete three tasks in order to regain her place as the Princess of the Fairies.

Whether this is her imagination or it is real is immaterial. Del Toro weaves the conflict of the real world with the supernatural challenges Ofelia faces incredibly. The imagery, the make up, the effects, the photography are all breathtaking and beautiful. Amid the beauty and splendor and sometimes horror of Ofelia’s fairy world trials is a story of a child lost in the ravages and horror of war; as well as the greedy ambitions of the sociopathic Captain.

It’s so hard to believe that the same man who brought us Hellboy (One of my favorite films ever, hand down!) could put together so moving and visually stunning a spectacle, but he has. The narrative moves in and out of the two worlds and maintains a deliberate and inevitable pace that lead inexorably towards its poignant and haunting ending.

To review this movie, or even try to capture all of the wonder that is this movie, is near impossible. All I can say is that you must see it! It is one of the best films I have EVER seen (strong words, I know, but true none the less.). This is less a horror or fantasy movie than it is true cinema. It is unique, awe-inspiring, and is one of those rare films that shows that cinema as a medium can rise above simple eye candy and superficial storytelling. This is the type of movie that proves that motion pictures can be true, soul touching art.

Go…see it! Do it now!

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Chomped Brains!!!

Movie Review – Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)

So I went into this with really, really high expectations. I came away with some of my expectations met, and some disappointment.

I liked the movie, I liked it a lot. But part of me is still glad that I can, when the mood strikes me, pull out John Carpenter’s classic original and revel in the simple elegance of one of the greatest horror movies of all time. That said, I do have to caution anyone going to see this movie - go into it with the intention of seeing a revision of the idea, and not necessarily an improvement.

So – what happens? As Rob Zombie’s said in interviews, he was fascinated with the time between when Michael kills Judith, ends up in Smith’s Grove, and then comes back 15 years later. And Rob does a great job of filling in this gap and showing how Michael became Michael.

The film opens and we see Michael as a chubby, long haired kid with a KISS t-shirt. He lives in a fucked up household with his stripper mother (played by the ever lovely Sherri Moon Zombie), his sister Judith, his baby sister Laurie, and mom’s abusive, drunk boyfriend Ronnie (played by the delightfully profane and intense William Forsythe). This scene establishes right out of the gate that this isn’t Halloween as you remember it. There’s plenty of Rob Zombie style cursing and dialogue, which – truthfully – I love. I honestly like the way he writes, it reminds me of Kevin Smith’s style – just with a whole lot more dirty words, if one can believe that!

We learn that Michael is a budding psychopath – complete with all of the beginning signs like killing animals and social issues. We also meet a long-haired, optimistic, and dedicated Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis. We learn that Michael is fascinated with masks. And then we see him make his first kill. I’m beginning to notice that Rob likes to refer to his past movies, and this flick does it the most. His first kill is reminiscent of Otis’ tree branch carnage in The Devil’s Rejects, but seems so much more focused and disturbing.

From here, Michael goes on his fateful killing spree at home with chilling efficiency and deliciously gory results. The movie then shifts to Michael’s stay at the Smiths Grove Sanitarium where Loomis tries to reach him and heal him, only to see that the boy is slipping away and a monster is coming to be. As the years go on, Loomis becomes more jaded and cynical, Michael retreats into silence and an obsession with masks, and his mother kills herself in depression at his worsening condition.

Fast forward 15 years, and we see that Michael is now grown, hasn’t spoken in 12 years, and is as big as a professional wrestler (which he is, being played by Tyler Mane and all). The night before Halloween, Loomis quits as his therapist and the state decides to move him to another facility. Obviously, things go horribly awry and – in a chill inducing scene reminiscent of the one when Hannibal Lector escapes in Silence of the Lambs, Michael smears the halls and wall of Smiths Grove with the blood of the hospital staff. This was a great scene – and I refer to Silence of the Lambs – because Zombie does a great job of building the suspense and horror. There is a palpable sense of, “Oh fuck. I’m trapped in a locked hospital with a remorseless, amoral killing machine.”

After this, we veer into familiar territory as Michael returns to Haddonfield and begins the stalking and killing of dumb teenagers who have sex. I say that with my tongue firmly planted in my undead cheek. Killing nubile, sexually active teens became de rigueur in 80’s slasher flicks, so much so that one could watch a movie and know who was going to die based on who was getting boinked. It''s important to bear in mind, though, that this genre necessity was first established by Carpenter’s original Halloween. Just one more way that Halloween set the rules that defined the genre.

So – where was I? Oh yeah, Michael comes to Haddonfield. Michael kills teens. Loomis runs around warning everybody. Nobody believes or groks that Loomis might actually know what the fuck he’s talking about. Michael gets stabbed, shot, and impaled repeatedly. You know, basically just like the original. In this case Laurie is played by the really, really hot Scout Taylor-Compton, and her friends Annie and Lynda are played by Danielle Harris and Kristina Klebe respectively. And We must at this point take a moment to bask in the joy and wonder that is the very hot and delicious Danielle Harris. The very, hot, delicious, and totally topless Danielle Harris. Sigh. (Danielle, by the way, played Laurie’s daughter Jamie in Halloween 4 and 5. How awesome is it that Zombie managed to get her into this film?!?)

What worked about this flick? Well, I have to say that Zombie didn’t disappoint. He understands horror and gets what makes us squirm uncomfortably in our seats. He’s a real horror fan and it shows in his devotion to the craft. I also liked the pre-Halloween material. It was a fascinating look into an otherwise unknown facet of the Halloween mythos. And Zombie’s style seems to be evolving and getting better every time he gets behind the camera. The best part is that there were just some great cameos in the film. Sid Haig makes an appearance, as well as Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Udo Keir, Richard Lynch, Bill Moseley, Ken Foree, and Dee Wallace. Best of all was an appearance by the cool as all hell Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett. Brad Dourif (Chucky from Child’s Play, Worm Tongue from LOTR, and Doc Cochran from Deadwood) was totally unexpected and any movie with him in it is a slice of fried gold, bitches!

In addition to this, we see more of Zombie’s homage to his prior work. Tommy Doyle’s Halloween costume is the same that Otis wore at the end of House of 1000 Corpses, as well as also had painted on his steel mask in The Devil’s Rejects. And as always, Zombie did a great job with the soundtrack. In all of the commercials (and also when I saw Zombie in concert last summer) - I kept hearing a reworked, horror-metal version of Carpenter’s original score. My biggest fear was that they would scrap the original music and theme. Surprisingly, they kept it in the movie. Big kudos to Rob for recognizing that the score from the original was one of the reasons that Halloween worked so well. Carpenter’s plinking, eerie, synthesized piano theme is a distinctive, integral part of the suspense of this movie, as well as a piece of horror history. (Admittedly, I’m a little biased here. It’s the damned ring tone on my phone, for chrissakes!)

Finally - Malcolm Mcdowell as Loomis. Pure casting genius! If any actor could convey the almost mad desperation of Donald Pleasance's original performance, Malcom McDowell is that man, me bonny droogs! And he does a super job here. He is probably the best casting choice Zombie made, hands down!

But all this leads to the inevitable question of, "What didn’t work?" For me, what didn’t work was when we get back to Haddonfield and Zombie recreates entire scenes from the original. From Lynda’s irritating use of “Totally!” as an all purpose indefinite article (this is a pet peeve of mine from the original. PJ Harvey’s use of it still annoys the ever living crap out of me. Mrs. Zombie laughs because I totally make fun of Lynda whenever we, like, totally watch the original. Totally.); to the recreation of the scene where Loomis goes to the graveyard to find Judith’s missing headstone. Zombie even recreates one of the pivotal murder scenes where he lifts and - ka-chunk – nails Bob to the wall with his butcher knife. When you can’t bear anymore of this, though, Zombie goes in a completely different direction with the story and changes the ending significantly from Carpenter’s masterpiece. So there is some redemption.

And as awesome as the early years stuff was, Zombie made an error in making Michael Meyers care about his baby sister (Boo in the early years, Laurie later - after her mother’s death and adoption by the Strode’s). This is my biggest gripe about the film. Zombie did everything he could to make Michael an inhuman, monstrous, killing machine; but then gives him this emotional pathos as it pertains to his sister. Even the abortions that were the later Halloween sequels understood that the only reason Michael kept coming back was to kill Laurie (and later his niece, Jamie). His inhuman, methodical, bad as hell sociopathy is somehow lessened by making him act tenderly towards Laurie.

All that being said, I held off on writing this review because I wanted some time to think about the movie and whether or not I liked it. Now, with some time and perspective, I can say I honestly enjoyed it as a stand alone movie. In fact, when held up to the rest of Zombie’s work, it is by far the best, most mature, most well put together of his movies. It is in no way as good as the original Halloween, but it was good on it’s own merits. He added to the series and did so with some great, gory, horrific scenes. So I liked it. I liked it a lot. And I will most definitely own it and recommend it to others as a great movie. I will also - undoubtedly - watch the hell out of it. (Please dear, dark, pagan gods - give us an unrated version!!!)

But - and I hate to say this - I suspect that sometime this October I will be revisiting Carpenter’s original as I gear up for the wondrous holiday that is Halloween. Not because it is better, but because it still stands the test of time.

Sorry, Rob.

Doctor Zombie’s rating: 4 out of 5 Chomped Brains!!!