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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Guide to Recognizing Your October Horror

That title's a bit of a stretch, but whateva. You see, it's not the title that matters so much as it is the content that makes this post Beyond Thunderdome epic. Best part about it is I didn't even have to write it, because the ever-fantastical Stacia of She Blogged By Night fame has already done so. You see, Stacia has this incredible habit of posting a comprehensive list of "Movies to Watch for" on Fox Movies, TCM and Sundance Channel during the month ahead. And it just so happens that there is a certain little month known as October creeping up and around the corner, and that would naturally mean that many of the films featured on Stacia's list are of the horror variety! And hey, you love horror, don't you?! Sure you do!

So take a moment or two and head over to She Blogged By Night and check out what's in store on three of the best movie channels around (two of which I don't get Sad smile). You can literally use the post as a reference guide to a ton of unedited, commercial free horror goodies that October has to offer, without any of the work. It's like The Horror Hangover, but on roids and 100% less SyFy!  

October Movies to Watch For

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Valhalla Rising: Losing My Religion

valhalla rising

"We raised the cross, now we bring the sword!"

Part 1 Precursor

Often after I watch a film that either interests me or possibly gives me something meaty to chew on in either a positive or negative way, I'll take a peak at what other people across that vast universe known as the internet think. I like to get an idea of what others like or dislike about a film that I myself either like, dislike or am not fully sure about yet. While this is clearly a mistake as IMDB is mostly a cesspool for idiots (only to be outshined by YouTube), I still find myself checking out a few of their user reviews (both positive and negative), which can be a way of getting the average film fan's thoughts, as opposed to the cult/genre geek who may be too well aligned with my wavelength to get a solid differing opinion. 

Part 2 The Issue

This would happen most recently with Nicolas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising, a film that, for me, cements Refn as one of the most visually present and thought provokingly interesting filmmakers working today. Soon after I finished the film and processed my thoughts for a few moments, I took to the net, did some research (interviews with Refn, etc.), then read a few quick reviews. One of the recurring negative complaints about Valhalla Rising that stuck out like a sore dick was the proclamation that the film is all style and absolutely no substance

Now, in my experience with his work (and I have seen most of his films), I find that Refn is a virtual beast when it comes to what he presents on screen. Refn has an ability create astounding visuals; he commands powerful, next level performances from his actors; he captures a Neanderthalian brutality with a ferocity that simply pummels the audience; and most importantly for the sake of this piece, Refn delivers deep subtext in a way that doesn't stick its ass out at the audience.

Part 3 We're On A Mission From God

As for the film's story, Wikipedia describes Valhalla Rising's plot as such: "The film takes place in 1000 AD and follows a Norse warrior named One-Eye and a boy named Are as they travel with a band of Christian Crusaders in pursuit of a Crusade. Instead they find themselves in an unknown and unfamiliar land."

Valhalla Rising is very simplistic as far as the characters' physical journey goes, yet, it is the intricacies of what lie just at the surface that give it incredible depth. You read that description and you know this band of Christian Crusaders are on a Crusade, but it is what they are Crusading for that brings about the film's connotations; the overbearingly high-handed religious connotations that litter the film from front to back. High-handed religious connotations that greatly reflect many of the biggest challenges faced by mankind in the world in which we live today.

Their Crusade is for one thing and one thing only, to go back to Jerusalem and take back their land in the name of God. Their God.

For as long as mankind has dwelled upon this earth, (some) people have, do and will put themselves in positions of power by sending false messages of superiority. They use faith as a way of gaining trust as well as instilling fear in those who are without the ability to think for themselves. Those who are led to believe that if they follow the flock and fight for their God, they will be ensuring themselves a spot in heaven, safe and happy, while all those that dare to follow the wrong beliefs rot in hell. Or worse, a 9-to-5 job without benefits. Yikes.

Part 4 Driven by Fear

These Crusaders are only slightly more naïve than many who comb our Earth in present day and every day between now and the time in which Valhalla Rising is set. Their idealistic beliefs cause them to, deep down, fear those who do not share in their faith, and as the wise old Yoda once said, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering" In this case, the suffering is meant for those who do not support, who do not follow and who dare to stand opposed to a certain belief.

The symbolism is as simple as the line, "We Raised the cross, now we bring the sword!," when referring to the strange foreign land in which the Crusaders now inhabit and plan to overtake. Filled with unseen, indigenous natives who must be eradicated because they are not them. They are not Christians. They are not Crusaders of God.

And they wipe with leaves. Gross.

The symbolism is as simple as one character holding up two short swords to form the most iconic of Christian symbols: the cross. Using weapons of destruction as a representation of faith; the very same weapons that are also meant to take down those who oppose their ideology. Brandishing these instruments of death in such a way is reflective of the misguidance and lack of understanding that some people have for religion. They also represent the one choice that is given to anyone who comes within their reach. You're either with us, or against us, and if you're against us, well, we brought the sword if that should answer your question. 

Part 5 The Lamb

The vastly more obvious religious undertones come specifically from the character of One-Eye himself (played with a silent brilliance by Mads Mikkelsen of the Pusher films), as he is presented in a Christ-like fashion. However, while his character is used to represent a specific event for a specific religion, he represents sacrifice in a way that is not selfish, a way that is not driven by fear, greed, power, or a specific belief – but driven by faith, period. His sacrifice is propelled by selflessness, which is what many religions can easily preach,  yet, it always seems so difficult for people such as the Crusaders to actually live like those who inspired their beliefs. In fact, they do the exact opposite, and I guess that's just human nature for you.

Part 6 Resolution

I can see not enjoying Valhalla Rising because it's not what you want from a Viking film, but if it were just what you wanted, it would be no different from what has already been done in other Viking movies. If someone were to say to me they do not enjoy Valhalla Rising because it's too slow (and it is very slowly paced), or that they just aren't into any of this underlying, and possibly pretentious to some, subject matter that I have gone over here, then that's certainly fine by me. To each his own, and that is what subjection is all about. On the other hand, to classify Valhalla Rising as having no substance is completely and totally off the mark, as there is much more substance than one can easily see on the surface, if only they bothered to focus on something other than what is directly in front of them.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Silent House: This Old House OF HORROR!!!

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The Silent House is a low-budget Uruguayan horror film that opens with Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father, Wilson (Gustavo Alonso), just as they are moving into a cottage they plan to renovate with the intentions of eventually putting it up for sale. Not too long after the two arrive and are all settled in for a good night's rest, Laura begins to hear loud noises coming from the upper level of the cottage. When her father doesn't return from his investigation of these startling sounds, Laura is left all by her lonesome, with only the harsh light of a lantern as her guide, to try to find her father and get out of the house alive.

Claiming to deliver "Real Fear in Real Time," director Gustavo Hernández's The Silent House (La Casas Munda) is a handheld horror film shot in one continuous take. Or at least that's what those behind the film would suggest. I think it's safe to assume that competently filming a full-length feature in such a way is nearly impossible, so this claim is basically nothing more than hyperbole meant to generate interest in the film. Regardless, claiming that The Silent House is done in real-time is not an issue for me. I'm not the type of douche that will call them out over the moments where the edits are clearly hidden; I would much rather appreciate the approach they take as well as the execution and how it's achieved.

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This one take style of filmmaking has been done before, most notably with Hitchcock's Rope (which really sounds like a porno film) as well as the game show themed, serial killer film, Slashers, which is a lesser known low-budget horror flick that I have always enjoyed more than I probably should. While you will have no problem whatsoever figuring out where the cuts are hidden, the one continuous real-time shot works impressively well passed the gimmick and plays as an effective way to create some truly nerve-wracking tension. The key here is the way cinematographer Pedro Luque brilliantly choreographs the film. For a good portion of The Silent House, the camera is placed in a position similar to that of what one would see in a 3rd person videogame (behind and slightly to the side of the character), and if anyone that has actually played a well-made 3rd (or even 1st) person horror game knows there is a certain level of genuine creepiness that can be achieved if done right. And The Silent House certainly does it right.

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The strength of The Silent House comes from how it's technically put together. Luque uses a stabilized handheld approach in capturing the events as they unravel on screen. And with a budget of only $6,000 - which is incredible considering what is achieved - Hernández and Luque employ the techniques of the handheld style of filmmaking as a means to save on money as well as generate true anxiety, without having to resort to the tropes that come with your typical found footage cinema. It would also appear as if most of the film, if not all, is brought to life with the natural light provided by whatever may be around for the characters. Laura spends much of the film terrified, wandering around the decrepit house with only the guidance of candles and, most effectively, a lantern, which gives off a light that provokes an incredibly atmospheric and almost ghostly look from the darkened setting.

In many ways the videogame comparison I made earlier is spot on, as the film has no real immediate plot. The characters are introduced and the horror almost instantly begins, leaving Laura to simply walk around as if she were in a level from a horror themed videogame, as the viewer is left waiting for something to jump out at her. This works as a double edged sword, as I enjoy how there's no bullshit to deal with, just the horror of being in an eerie house with the fear that someone, or something, is out to get you. The pacing is also very patient in a way that can be grueling, leaving the viewer anxious as to when and where a scare might come from. On the other hand, the characters are almost nonexistent and serve no actual purpose outside of being conduits for scare tactics. Well, kind of.

the silent house2

There comes a point late in The Silent House's short runtime (an hour and fifteen minutes, minus the end credit sequence that comes before the film even ends) where I started to wonder how long I could sit and watch this girl continuously walk around a darkened cottage before it gets old. It works greatly for much of the first two acts, but there comes a point where you have to wonder why the hell hasn't she left yet? Incidentally, it's at this point that the character development is introduced in what is a major plot twist. This reveal is what gives the characters any semblance of depth, but by that point, it's a who cares situation. Couple that with the twist being absolutely and utterly horrendous, and you have yourself an experiment in fear that can execute the chills and tension, but not anything that would actually make one care about anyone involved.

I have a few specific films that I could compare The Silent House to for the sake of interesting conversation, but that would most certainly spoil this film for anyone reading this. I will say that you are asked to believe what your eyes do not show you, which is really a lot to ask of your viewers in most any situation. Regardless of its ending, the lack of logic and the too lame too late character depth, The Silent House is a film well worth the time of any horror fan that is looking for a good genuine scare. It's a subtle, authentically creepy, well made horror film that comes from a country that never shows up in the conversation. After seeing The Silent House, I believe that Gustavo Hernández will be one to keep an eye out for.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Paracinema's Luckiest Number!

The September issue of Paracinema has just recently been made available for pre-order, and holy dope, the shit looks off the meat rack, shun! First of all, it's issue #13, so that's pretty awesome. Second of all, the cover is, once again, sick like the flu. However, what's most important is the goodies that are to be found within this latest magazinerpiece! Yeah, I just created that word. It's masterpiece and magazine, all wrapped up into one, easy to say word that will save you time as well as work as the perfect descriptive for an issue of this magnitude!   

Here's what's in store for you in issue #13, bitch!

Blood Is Thicker Than Fear: Maternal Madness in Horror Cinema
by Ashley Avard

Allan Carr and the Making of Where the Boys Are ‘84
by Paul Talbot

Dreams That You Could Never Guess: Bela Lugosi on Poverty Row, 1940-42
by Andreas Stoehr

Turkish Rip-Offs
by Ronnie Tucker

Censoring the Centipede: How the BBFC are Sewing Our Eyes Shut
by Liam Underwood

Teenage Riot: Coming of Age in Modern Cinema
by Christian Sellers

And if you think that's all, well, you might want to think again! Boom!

You can pre-order issue #13 now for the measly price of $7. Also, while you're there, be sure to take a look at the awesome Warriors shirts they have for sale. It's only $12 bills and worth at least five million!

DO IT NOW!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bolo Ain't So Yeung Anymore

It's been nearly a month now since I first introduced the world to the creature growing in my backyard that doubles as both beauty AND the beast. Within that short amount of time, Bolo has made incredible strides, growing so massive and powerful that even Bud Selig couldn't ignore it. Well, he probably would anyway, but I digress. It has been long enough, with more than enough results, to follow-up with the epic monster that adorns my back yard. That sounds so brutal.

On with it, damn it!

bolo

Okay, first things first, here is a photo from the introductory post where I unleashed this bad boy unto you last month. Just to give you something to compare it to.

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As you can see, Bolo has grown more than a 12 year old boy looking through those boxes in the attic labeled "Dad's Stuff." Bolo is officially out of control, growing so long that he now has his own transportation system, complete with trains and homeless people. It's incredible.

bolo3

All that growth and shit is awesome and all, but this thing is here for one reason and one reason only, to suck my…I mean, to produce bad-ass mutant gourds for me to turn into bongs that I can sell to the neighborhood kids. And holy poop has Bolo been barefoot like Contessa since last month. The three gourds pictured above actually started growing shortly after the first post at the beginning of August, and since then, they have just about fully grown. I took a picture of one in my gross looking hand to give you an idea of their size. 

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Reminds me of those days spent at Uncle Steve's house

So, these first three came out swinging, however, there were a handful more that started and, unfortunately, didn't make it. You see, I had a small surgery on my arm a few weeks back due to an arm-wrestling injury where I was trying to go over the top, but instead, I ended up on the bottom. Sadly, this surgery kept me from trimming the bushes surrounding Bolo, therefore taking away from the amount of sun he was receiving, causing more than a few Bolo abortions.

A moment of silence…

After realizing that the dead babies were being caused by a lack of sunlight, and me drinking a gallon of schnapps, I called upon Oden and pulled out the strength to trim those wicked bushes, therefore giving Bolo the light that he needs to grow strong again! The results, well, within one day, three new baby Bolos came up (with many more lingering) and all look to be quite healthy in their infant stages as you will see below when you look there.  

See?!

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The two on the right look as if they've been pollinated (due to how the flowers look), but I won't be sure until tomorrow. The one on the left is good to go, and it should be noted that the one on the left has a distinct yellowish/orange bottom that doesn't appear on any of the other gourds from the first batch that you saw up above. Also, none of these gourds, thus far, look at all like the one that I stuck in the ground to start all of this, so I am curious as to how these things will all look in the end.

Alright, that's way too long a post about for me to talk about a plant, but I am proud of my baby boy Bolo and hope you all enjoy seeing his progress thus far. I'll do another update sometime next month, depending on progress, of course. Hopefully by that time, you know, in October (!), there will be some serious momentum and possibly even some new decorations from all of this!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dumpster Diving for Halloween!

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It's September 1st, bitches, and you know what that means, right?! No, it's not time for your monthly urine test that you have to do as a part of your probation. Well, it is, but that's not what I'm here for. Of course, I am talking about Halloween, which is now only 59 days away! I certainly have the fever, and I gander that you do too, so I thought it would be fun if I were to do a special Dumpster Diving for Gold showcasing a few of the cool Halloween items I have picked up on the cheap so far this year.

A few days back, the lady that I fast kiss to rock ballads with and myself went on a journey of Halloween proportions. It was still a tad early for any of the seasonal Halloween stores to be open just yet, but there were a few already bringing that straight grimy Halloween funk. After checking out a few places and getting ideas for what decorations we might want to nab this year, we took a walk into Goodwill where they had a surprisingly nice amount of solid decorations on display.   

halloween decorations1

The first - and maybe the worst - thing that I picked up was this set of light-up hands that unfortunately do not work. As you can see from this gorgeous photograph I have taken, they are meant to appear as it they are rising from the earth, just waiting to wring someone's neck. Instead, they are holding my television for reasons none of us should ever contemplate. Regardless of whether or not they work, together they were only $1.49 for the pair, and they don't look too terrible, so stay they will. Also, the hand holding the remote is from last Halloween, but I loved it so much that it ended up staying there year round. It really comes in handy when dusting my entertainment center. 

halloween decorations

Next, I have this awesome .99¢ ghost decoration thing, which, in all honesty, I have no idea what it's actually called. I suppose I could look it up, but me sounding dumb is far more interesting a read, I think. We don't have anything in any of the kitchen windows as far as decorations go, but when I saw this fucker, I saw a future for him in the window above the sink. I remember making shit like this when I was a kid, and after picking this guy up, I kind of want to make my own Halloween whatever these things are called to decorate with.

halloween decorations2

The last two items I have to share would just so happen to be the best of the best of the bunch, and that would be both the skull and the jack-o-lantern tea light candleholders. First of all, these things are pretty great looking pieces that only make my Halloween horror collection all the doper, but to add to the dopeness of it all, they only cost .99¢ apiece! If I were to take a guess, and I will, I would say that the two of these bought at a regular store would at least cost me a five spot for each one, maybe more, so I think I got me a serious deal here.

Now, both look great and all, but to really see them is to see them in their full glory, with lit candles all up in their guts. Which you can see in this not at all dorky video I made below. 

Rad, right?! Also, I want to point out the candle on the right of these two bad boys. It doesn't FALL into the dumpster category, but I must mention how awesome it is. It's made by a Cali company called McCall's Country Canning, and I found it at one of those country stores you see in the mall while shopping for boys.

The store had a handful of incredible Halloween and Autumn scents from McCall's, and each one comes in the most Halloween hard-on inducing jar holder with artwork that nearly caused me to start  breakdancing on the spot. The scent that I picked up is Pumpkin Spice (which will not be lit until the 1st of October!), and let me tell you, the smell is so intense and wonderful, that I will never again bother to smell the roses. It smells like a pumpkin orgy with me right in the middle, covered in pumpkin spunk. Yumm….

Okay, this post is too long, and it's starting to get weird. Have you found any great Halloween decorations for yourself yet? If so, then please share them with me and the rest of us, whoever the rest of us are!

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