Tuesday, December 29, 2009

10 Best Martial Arts movies of the decade!

Honorable mentions: House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower, Ashes of Time Redux, The Restless, Legend of the Black Scorpion, The Promise, Chocolate, Kiss of the Dragon, Ong Bak, Forbidden Kingdom.

The Rebel – Johnny Tri Nguyen got his start being a stunt double as the Green Goblin in spider-man. This movie cements his status as a star in the next generation of MA film stars. He not only starred in it but he co-wrote and directed this film too. Set in colonial 1922 Vietnam, this is the first action movie I've seen out of Nam. Dustin Nguyen (21 jump st) is also great as his boss in the police. Ngo Thanh Van is a love interest, but she has great MA scenes in the film as well. Great action, top notch.

The Protector – Thai actor Tony Jaa was excellent in Ong Bak, and it made him a star. If you are looking for pure fights that is your ticket. But this follow -up has more story, so it's a little cheezy with Jaa being the protector of an elephant. How can I not love martial arts ass whipping over a non human animal. The reason this makes the list is one scene which is worth the rental. A three story fight that was done in one building as Jaa climbs filmed in a single shot. Amazing.

Seven Swords: Master filmmaker Tusi Hark has had a rough decade after coming out strong with a fantastic off the hook action movie Time and Tide in 2000. Legend of Zu looked pretty but tanked and didn't make sense even after you read the back of the video box. Black Mask 2 sans Jet Li was embarrassing to watch. His big comeback film was supposed to be Seven Swords. It did alright, but not well enough to launch the sequel Hark had planned. He still insists he is making it. He also produced a TV show based on the same material.

Seven Swords is a Wuxia Pan kungfu fantasy based on the novel “Seven swordsmen of Mount Tian” by the same author who created the Bride with White Hair - Liang Yusheng. Hark tried to do some inserting things with the story, focused on the swords(title was changed for a reason) and shot the film different. I am in a minority who liked the film. The cheap-o sounding score is only thing I think hurts the movie. That may have in the 1993 hey day of HK cinema, but Wuxia Pan movies had graduated to have full scores with powerful takes on ancient Chinese music.

Donnie Yen is great, infact the whole cast is great, the fights are good and best of all is the crazy mohawked super goth villain with crazy wheat cutter sword. She is collecting the heads of suspected Martial Artists. The story takes place during the manchu take-over and is about the martial artist ban. Thumbs up here.

Brotherhood of the Wolf: Why is Mark Dacascos not a huge action movie star? With better career management he would have stayed out of the awful Cradle 2 tha Grave and would be a huge star now. This should have done it. He is amazing as a native american ass-kicker, Why this french man's native American Sidekick is martial artist is besides the point. This is weird arthouse french martial arts horror movie. Yes, werewolves and kungfu. It is not perfect, but boy is it fun. Actually I need to see this again.

Red Cliff: John Woo made a few amazing martial arts movies in his young career. Hand of Death with Sammo Hung and Jackie Chain and the amazing Shaw Brothers production “The Last Hurrah for Chivalry.” The rest is history he made genius action movies like Hard-Boiled and the Killer before crapping garbage like Paycheck and Mission Impossible II.

Yes Woo is back in china making an epic Wuxia Pan war movie based on the classical novel the Three Kingdoms. It has amazingly huge battles with seemless CGI and it has Woo's over the top action. What most impressed me is John Woo not doing his usual tricks. No slo-mo, and most all I was impressed that it didn't look like a John Woo movie. Impressive. Watch it on video so you can see the whole two part epic.

Fearless – Jet Li scared us all by saying this was his last Martial Arts movie. He was of course splitting hairs. None the less this is a passion project and epic MA movie. The Yuen Woo Ping fights are all amazing some of the best Li/Woo Ping fights since Fist of Legend. That is saying a lot since Fist is the best fights of Jet Li's career. This film is directed by Ronny Yu (Bride with White Hair/ Freddy Vs. Jason). Jet Li gives a fantastic performance that at times is heart breaking and uplifting.

The Warlords – After the stunning Wuxia Pan fantasy The Promise director Peter Chan (Which didn't make my list because I couldn't stand the looney tunes meets running of the bulls scene) followed it up with this bleak and realistic ancient china War drama. This has been an Asian film trend of late to do the bleak war movies. This is a remake of the Chang Cheh Shaw classic The Blood Brothers. Great cast with amazing performces by Andy Lau and Jet Li

As an actor Jet Li is more talented than he is given credit for. I first really began to notice it with his underrated performance in Kiss of the Dragon. Since this was Li's first film after Fearless much was made about Jet Li in an acting role. He does more acting than fighting but he does do his share of fighting in the movie. This is violent epic with more huge battles but it is the insanity of Jet Li's character that really carries this movie.

SPL - Released in the us under the cheezy title Killzone this Donnie Yen action drama is really badass. Sammo Hung is amazing a gangster who is a new father. Donnie Yen and Simon Yam are great as cops forced to work together As Simon Yam character is about to die from a terminal illness. His one regret is not jailing Sammo's character. Wilson Yip the director teases the auidence for the first forty minutes by showing the drama leading to the fights but not the fights.

When the fights come they are off the hook. You'll find it hard to believe Sammo at his age and girth can move like he does. Donnie Yen designed the fights and they are the best of his career. The last fight between Sammo and Donnie is worth a rental alone.

Hero: I was bothered by the nationalistic message of this film but the first Wuxia Pan epic by Zang Yimou was everything I hoped for. It stomps Crouching tiger for epic Wuxia Pan-ness. The cast from Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi are all outstanding. The best sound effects, special effects and scope ever attempted in a Wuxia Pan film. I was breath -less through most of my first viewing. When it was over I was ready to start it over.

Musa the Warrior: One of the stars of Iron Monkey and Zhang Ziyi is a Korean sword movie. That is all I knew when I rented this movie. This powerful brutal piece of kungfu movie is not exactly a kungfu fantasy, as it is grounded in mostly brutal realism. Outside of the title characters fight scenes which are a little over the top this movie is biggest Korean movie every to be made at the time. Mongol armies, Ming armies and Korean soldiers. All filmed speaking their native languages.

The main characters are Korean enoys who need to return in disgrace after the diplomats they were escorting are killed. They are offered a chance at redemption, Save a Ming Chinese Princess (Zhang Ziyi) from capture by a Mongol army. Brutal battles over the princess plays out over this Two and half hour epic. If you see one movie on this list, this is the one.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 20 Best horror films of the decade 2000-10

First off this list is not going to contain Hostel or Saw, they were ok but to me this list are the movies that helped expand the genre. When I say a film is scary I want to point out horror film watching 101. No piece of horror fiction works without you the viewer/reader doing their part. You must put yourself in the shoes of the characters. If you look at any of these movies and say – Well that didn't scare me. Go back and put yourself in the character's shoes. I understand that it is the filmmakers's job to make you care about the characters, but I think a failure to scare is more often on the viewer than the filmmaker.

Surveillance: I would not mention that David Lynch's daughter directed this movie, if it didn't seem like a movie he would have made when he was younger. Bill Pullman is awesome in this movie which he did at the last minute as a favor to the lynch family. Strange characters twists and turns and a brutal story line. I'm sorry this movie didn't get a wide release.

Below: Haunted submarine story mixes a classical horror tale with one of the most scary themes to me in horror fiction isolation. At one time Darren Aronofsky the director of the wrestler and Requiem for a Dream was working on this film, the script has couple of intense moments that remind me of DA's films. Bruce Greenwood is a stand-out as the captain of the submarine but really the whole cast is excellent. Dimension films did nothing but dump this movie on DVD and that is too bad. David Twohy was on a horror role after his excellent cult hit Pitch Black.

Wrong Turn:
Nothing original here, but it is basically a better remake of the Hills Have Eyes then the one with the same name. Six college kids in the woods, a crazy cannibal family andsall kinds of demented-ness. What makes this one good is that it is intense and scary, not just gore drenched. Well it's still gore drenched. I have heard the sequel is good, but have not gotten there yet.

The Devils' Rejects: I hated House of 1,000 Corpses. I thought it was a mess, made no sense, and had not one minute of tension in it. I felt nothing in it. The only thing that made me uncomfortable in the film was how goofy it was. So I am not sure why I went to see the sequel in the theater. Much like Requiem for Dream I thought Devils Rejects was great but I never want to see it again. Zombie made a hell of sequel, I forgot about the original. Rejects is a dirty, nasty film. With no likable characters, well the freebird montage was bit much I found myself squirming at this one. Well done.

Splinter: Very recent monster movie, with a very Lovecraftian razorbacked thing like monster. Very rich characters and suspenseful directing. It is short with a lot of scares a little bit of gore and above all I didn't feel dumber for having watched it. The film has several strong performances, with a suspenseful plot before the monster even shows up.

The Others: Not the best, but a horror film based on atmosphere and Nicole Kidman is great as a deranged mother. The ending may have been predictable but it's a traditional ghost story that was well directed and acted by the Spanish director that was behind the excellent late 90's film Open your eyes. I loved it.

28 Days Later/ 28 Weeks Later
: Danny Boyle made the best zombie movie of the decade and doesn't get much credit for bringing back the zombie movie. While the I didn't like the way it was shot with grainy shakey cam, the movie had great characters and it was intense. The sequel had some of the best most intense post apocalyptic action scenes ever set to film. The story was a little weaker and the Dad re-appearing five hundred times was just silly. But still pretty damn good.

This French horror film was hard to watch. Makes Hostel look like it's PG-13. You know when the DVD comes with an introduction by the director apologizing for the film he just released that something messed up is coming. The main character is kidnapped and tortured in an old slaughterhouse. There is a strange cult behind the “Experiments” in the film. The last half hour was a bit over the top with the torture. I could go my whole life and never see this movie again. This film is a part of an ultra-violent new wave of French horror movies. There was another one I liked a lot called 'Them'. This director was set to direct the remake of Hellraiser, Clive Barker approved based on the strength of Martyrs. Not sure why, but the Director has since left Hellraiser.

3 Extremes: A three part horror anthology with filmmakers from China, Korea and Japan. Each segment is different. The first one Dumplings is kinda gross and somewhat of a black comedy. The second film from the director of Oldboy is intense character drama about a film extra torturing a director. The third by Takeshi miike is a super surreal film called Box. It is just plain bizarro, and not for everyone. Three great examples of Asian horror, that showcases filmmakers not coping hollywood.

Frailty: Starring and Directed by veteran actor Bill Paxton Frailty is an underrated southern Gothic horror film. Told in flashbacks to the 70's when the movie takes place. The period is done subtle but effective. Paxton plays a single father who is able to see “demons” hiding as humans. Is he a crazy man killing innocent people or does he really have this gift? I really loved this one, Bill Paxton knocks the ball out of the park in both the acting and directing. Bummed me out he went on to make a crappy baseball movie.

: This is one of the best modern Hitchcock-ish films. Directed by Brad Anderson who will have a film higher on this same list. I don't know how the world missed this excellent thriller. Some with say it's not horror. A Suspense, or action movie. It's all those things and horror. Starring Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer (She was in Woody Allen's excellent Match Point),and Ben Kingsley(You might have seen him in a minor threat video). There is also a great performance by Spainish actor Eduardo Noriega who I remember best from his role as the bully in Devil's backbone Excellent performances all around but Emily Mortimer shows a much more mature performance than her role in Match Point. Tight Suspense and amazing direction. This film should not be missed, Brad Anderson is not fluke he is three for three on full length, his episode of Fear itself my only dissapointment.

Wolf Creek: Based on a true story, well maybe not. This Australian movie takes a little while to warm-up and I have heard people complain that it takes too long. The director is just letting you know about the characters, hang in there it's worth it. This is the best of the high tension, Texas chainsaw stalker in the woods type movies. Set in the Australian outback Wold Creek has some grisly moments and the best horror villain of the decade played by Aussie stuntman Nathan Phillips. Roger Ebert gave it zero stars, which he almost never does. I usually agree with him but not here. I think it is a skillfully brutal horror film. With a villain who would be a true nightmare.

A Perfect Getaway: I'm afraid to say anything about this movie, you really should just see it. Another Hitchcock style thriller, almost lost and forgotten at theaters. This happens a lot to director David Twoy who already made this list withBelow. Pitch Black and Riddick were he only “hits” although Riddick didn't really become a hit until video. This is excellently written and directed thriller is designed to be watched multiple times. I have not seen it for the second time yet, but I promise it will be a different movie on the second spin. Spoilers are bad news. Don't read reviews, watch trailers or anything. Go in as blind as possible and rent this sucker. Don't read the back of the box even.

Unbreakable: M. Night's masterpiece. This film is dark and unsettling in a way that none of his others films do. He wasn't trying to make his characters funny and likable, which was a problem for signs, and he didn't have the 'Lucas style over confidence' that led to duds like Lady in the Water and The Crapenning. This is a solid film that works as a superhero origin story and as a creepy horror film. The scene at the table with the gun and the scene where Bruce Willis tracks the killer are intense and scary.

Bruce Willis is outstanding, Sam Jackson is solid(pun intended), M Night needs to get back this kind of mojo.

A Tale of Two Sisters: this is a subtle Korean horror masterpiece. If you want action and excitement watch this director's more recent film The Good, the Bad, the Weird. His more recent film was an insanely awesome Asian Western, with over the top gun battles. Tale is a quiet but intense family drama horror film with some great acting. Best Korean horror since Tell Me Something in 1999. Sadly this was remade into a hollywood film called The uninvited which I am afraid to watch.

Vacancy: This was the biggest surprise for me. I got it because it was free at the library, didn't expect much. The nail bitingly best horror film I watched on video this decade. Directed by Nimrod Attel (who made the Hungarian film named Kontrol) and is next to make a Predator movie. The writing and directing is spot on with tons of suspenseful moments. The characters and the story of motel manager and his friends moonlighting as snuff directors is off-the hook good. Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson are great, every thing is top notch. Infact I need to see that again soon.

Stir of Echoes: Would been right here but it was 1999. Too bad I loved that movie.

The Machinist- This was a brilliant piece of horror film making. If you disagree I'll almost bet a finger you watched it on video. I saw this movie opening night in the theater in San Diego. Much of course was made of Christian Bale losing ridiculous amounts of weight. And yeah it is was way more disturbing to see it huge on the screen. The environment of the film is not as engulfing on video, the crazy-ness of the film on the big screen is like a 9 or a 10 on video it's a 3 at best. Few movies have suffered so much when taken out of the theater. Still one dark and messed up piece of film making by Brad Anderson(Session 9) who made the list already with Trans-Siberian. He has a fan here now. I can't believe there are people who don't think this is a horror movie.

It also doesn't hurt that there was an amazing cameo by Cult actor Michael Ironside (V- The final Battle, Total Recall, Starship Troopers). Great score and haunting Black and White.

Oldboy – Not a horror film you say? Did you see the end of that movie? Did you grab your mouth in horror when the guy had his teeth ripped out with a hammer. The greatest revenge movie ever. This film is funny, sad, engaging and extremely violent. The fights are great, the acting is amazing and the end is just masterful. Might be my favorite film of the decade. Except...

Pans Labyrinth – Before you tell me it's a fantasy, I'll tell you to shut up. It's the best horror film or monster fairy tale of the decade. The scene with the tall man chasing the girl down the hall is one of the most frightening things I have ever seen. The film was perfectly written and directed. Del Toro deserved his Oscar nominations and validates the genre. It's not a horror director making Oscar bait in another genre, he made the movie in this genre and won for it.

Honorable mention: Panic Room, The Devils Rejects, Moon, A History of Violence, Blade 2, Land of the Dead, The Host, The Descent, Them (French horror), War of the worlds, Wrong Turn, R-point, There will be blood (listen to the score on that movie, it's a horror movie)

Pretty good decade, probably better than the nineties but not as good as the eighties.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sad news Day...

Dan O'Bannon Screenwriter of Alien and Writer/Director of Return of the living Dead Passed away yesterday. I didn't know him personally but all of us who take the modern weird tale seriously will mourn the loss.

Yet another old Bloomington friend passed away this last summer and in part because I lost contact with her I somehow didn't find out until my buddy Austin comfirmed it. Samantha Jane Dorsett passed away after extensive injuries in a fall. I worked with Sam at the secret sailor bookstore that s/he spent every dime of a family inheritance to start.

Cari lived with him for a year. s/he was indeed to smart for this world. Sam hhad made me a character in a puppet show once, It was pretty funny. Here is the tribute from Chris Johnson of Plan-it-x records the label he helped start.


The 4th of July.

It's taken me a while to admit this to myself. It's been about two weeks. I still feel blank. I don't know what to say. Samantha Jane Dorsett is gone. She is no longer among us living people. It still feels like a joke to me, like she will pop up soon and say, gotcha. Sam was my best friend.

In case your new to the plan-it-x world, Samantha founded this record label in 1994. She named it and released the first release, my bands tape. She insisted that we sell stuff cheap. She said, "if it ain't cheap, it ain't punk".

She did a lot of other great things in her life too. Oh, yeah, to clear up any confusion, Sam was born a boy but later figured out that she would be happier as a girl. So she became one.

I feel strange writting this stuff to share with the Internet but, I feel like the plan-it-x community has some right to know. Sam has shaped all of our lives for better. She is important.

Without her I would be a nobody. Really. She taught me so many things. She was the smartest person I know. Maybe too smart to live in this world. If I ever had a question about science, history, math, middle earth or anything, I'd ask and she always knew.

She started Secret Sailor books in Bloomington, which changed into Boxcar Books (still going strong). She wrote 'zines. She organized protests. She fought this world so hard. She scammed. She shoplifted. She dumpstered. She was passionate and loving.

Together Sam and I took on the evils of the world. We plotted and planned. We took action. We vowed to never work for anyone else. No bosses over us. We had so many plans. So many that I still hoped we could do.

I really don't know what to say. My best friend is gone. Today is her birthday. Sam, born on the 4th of July. I'm not kidding.

The world is worse than it was.

There was talk of people sending money. It won't help. It won't change anything. If you want to honor Samantha today, on her birthday, burn a flag. Burn it and say, this is for Samantha.

If you want to memorialize her in some way, spend your life fighting against the evil white business men who control our world. Fight homophobia. Fight sexism, racism and all forms of stupidy. Read more books. Write more books. Live as free as you can with out hurting anyone else. Tell your friends you love them.

I have a million things I'd like to say but I can't really get it straight in my head.

I want to thank everyone who helped Sam out last time. I want to thank Ada for always being there for Sam.

Happy birthday Sam. - chris

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review: Fearful Symmetries By Thomas F. Monteleone

Fearful Symmetries By Thomas F. Monteleone
479 pages
Cemetery Dance Publications

For those of you horror geeks out there you probably know this Monteleone character is, Cemetery Dance columnist and long time contributer. He and his wife Elizabeth are also co-founders of borderlands press and runs the borderlands boot camp for writers that I am attending next month. I wanted to be as prepared as possible so I thought it would be a good idea to read some of his work. I got this wonderful short story collection from the library. I expected it to be good, but to be honest I was blown away by the quality of many of the stories.

Aspiring writers have more to find than just good yarns. TFM gives each story an introduction and there is a lot to learn from in the introductions alone. Just as important it can be inspiring to young writers to follow in order an authors progression as a short storyteller.

Like all great short story collections FS has stories that range from Dark to funny. Brutal to sentimental and best of all sometimes in the same story. My favorites were two very Twilight zone-ish tales “The Rehearsal” (Which is hands down my favorite in the book) and “The Night is Freezing Fast.” another highlight for me is Prodigal Son, which is an inventive take on a post vampire takeover of the world.

I think this was limited edition and is out of print but if you can find a copy it is one of the best you can read. Can't praise it enough.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good news about my first novel - Hunting the Moon Tribe

My first novel Hunting the Moon Tribe is on the way soon from Afterbirth books. While Afterbirth is closing down Karen wants to finish out the books she was planning to publish which include books by myself and Bradley Sands. All Afterbirth books will stay in print so I'll still be selling copies of Screams and Moon Tribe no problem.

I should be getting the cover art this month and blurbs are starting to come including this first from bizarro author Jordan Krall. (check the description of Jordan's latest book at the bottom of this post)

“Remember that old Shaw Brothers / Hammer Studios flick The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires? HUNTING THE MOON TRIBE is what that movie should have been. It is an extremely entertaining epic of kick-ass martial arts and bloody horror. Agranoff not only dazzles us with breathtaking action scenes and vampire violence but also tugs at our heartstrings with realistic family drama and romance. It’s a scary martial arts fantasy that will please just about everyone. David Agranoff is a gifted storyteller.” - Jordan Krall Author of Fistful of Feet and Squid pulp Blues

Can't wait to read Hunting the Moon Tribe? Well in January you'll get a chance to read the the prequel entitled The Fallen Guardian’s Mandate. It will be published as web only serial on the the fantastic Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. My short story “A Planet of Our Own” appeared in the July issue alongside a serialized novella Sky pirates by one favorite authors John Shirley.

The prequel will be the headlining story of January, featuring what basically amounts to the pilot episode and will introduce Xu (pronounced Shee-you) a fallen Shoalin monk.It is also a kungfu Wuxia pan Dark Fantasy think like X-files meets the Bride with White Hair. Each month the freezine will contain another chapter that will continue the story. I hope you will check it out. If you follow the the web-novel and read Hunting The Moon Tribe when it comes out you'll get a extra special reveal in the story line that will bring both together.

In the mean time don't forget that my short story collection Screams From a Dying World is still for sale. You can buy it at the Afterbirth books website, bizarro central, Amazon, or Barnes and Nobles. So here is the promised info About Jordan Krall check out his website and his book. I can't wait to read Fistful of Feet, I read the prequel story in the first issue of bizarro magazine and loved it.

From the back cover:
A bizarro tribute to Spaghetti westerns, HP Lovecraft, and foot fetish enthusiasts. Screwhorse, Nevada is legendary for its violent and unusual pleasures, but when a mysterious gunslinger drags a wooden donkey into the desert town, the stage is set for a bloodbath unlike anything the west has ever seen. His name is Calamaro, and he’s from New Jersey.
Featuring Cthulhu-worshipping Indians, a woman with four feet, a Giallo-esque serial killer, a crazed gunman who is obsessed with sucking on candy, Syphilis-ridden mutants, ass juice, burping pistols, sexually transmitted tattoos, and a house devoted to the freakiest fetishes, Jordan Krall’s Fistful of Feet is the weirdest western ever written.

Jordan Krall: www.filmynoir.com/

New horror magazines out!

Cemetery Dance #62 and Dark Discoveries #15

I just got new issues of the two best horror magazines around. CD I picked up at Powells and Dark Discoveries I subscribe to. If you are into horror fiction both are must reads.

Cemetery dance has not changed much in the 25 issues I have read but they are always quality. Book reviews and the usual columns. Bev Vincent does his Stephen King reporting, movie reviews by Michael Marano and few newer columns have found there way in. Like a final question that is posed to several horror figures on the last page.

This is the special William Peter Blatty(author of the Exorcist) issue and one of the best features of the magazine is the excellent interview of Blatty by my fellow Monster Librarian book reviewer Brian Freeman. Blatty also gave CD Two scenes lost from the screenplays of Exorcist I and III. A very old werewolf story he wrote long ago.

Fiction wise this issue features my favorite Cody Goodfellow story Wasted on the Young. It is a great punk rock horror tale. Also part two of a serialized novella by Douglas Clegg and two stories by Rambo creator David Morrell.

Pick it up you will not regret it.

Dark discoveries #15 is out as well. It's their HP Lovecraft special issue. Editors James Beach and Jason V. Brock didn't over do the Lovecraft worship. Wisely they focused on the modern genre influenced by Lovecraft. The full color look of the magazine gets better all the time. The wasted space of the early issues of DD is gone. The content cover to cover is outstanding.

The highlights for me are the interview with Necroscope creator Brian Lumley and a new deep sea Lovecraftian tale of remote viewing by Cody Goodfellow. Yes it's a good month when one of my absolute favorite authors is in both of the major horror fiction magazines. I also enjoyed the mythos tale by William Pugmire and the classic reprint of a Lovecraft tale finished after his death by Lumley.

An interesting pieces of non-fiction with out a single stinker. The most interesting is a two page profile of Alien screenwriter Dan O'Bannon who claims to be working a translation of a real life Necronomicon.

This issue should not be missed, this magazine gets better each issue, pick it up and find out why I got a subscription.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Review The Day Before by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow

The Day Before By John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow
135 pages
Bad Moon books (Limited edition)

A couple years back an anthology was announced called "A Nation of Ash" it was supposed to be a shared universe with several big names in the horror field putting together stories in an America destroyed by nuclear war. I was very excited for this book because post apoc is my favorite horror sub-genre but it was set to feature a novella length piece by the new writing duo John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow. John Skipp is the NY times bestselling author of several 80's horror novels that are considered splatterpunk classics. He also co-wrote a Nightmare on Elm Street film and the novelization of fright night.

After years of teaming with Craig Spector Skipp spent the 90's going solo and writing excellent novels like the "Long Last Call" and the fantastic collection “Conscience.” He has been trying for year to get a film off the ground and recent made the decision that he had a partner for prose again.

Cody Goodfellow was brilliant and perfect choice for Skipp. They were born to be a team, one only has to watch them have a conversation to see they will make brilliantly insane horror fiction together. Alone They write the kinda books that deserve protective gear and would give Tipper Gore a reason to call congressional hearings so here we go with their second book together.

The first was Jake's Wake, that was Skipp idea that he had penned as screenplay before before Cody added his half of the ingredients to the book. The day before represents the first Skipp and Goodfellow book that was spitballed by the team. To say I was excited to read it is an understatement.

The story begins six months after warheads rain down upon America and end life as we have known it. Hollywood elites who were vacationing off the the so cal coast on Catalina island, their staffs and personal trainers as well ride out the apocalypse in somewhat of a peace until they raided by the navy for their food and supplies. Things are looking bleak for our narrator, writer director Peter Kornberg who was on the island working on his comeback script.

He is ready to waste away when a submarine shows up captained by producer Julian Harvey. He was the producer who can canned Kornberg from a film, but now he was here with a crew and an offer. Write and direct the last film of the human race as the world dies around them. So that is what they do in the crater that was once LA Kornberg struggles like a post nuke Coppla to finish his apocalypse now. His crew have to fight off biker gangs, his leading actors are so filled with radiation their hair is coming out and still he is getting stupid notes from his producer.

What can I say about a book that is a third Road Warrior with the other two thirds being like Doctor Strangelove and Tropic Thunder. This short but fantastic satire of all things LA whose biggest short coming is it's short length. In short snappy chapters the day before is quick read that balances dark and comic tones throughout. Sure there are silly and hilarious chapters like the one where an army dude steps on a mine trying to prove he is the post nuclear Chuck Norris to poignant statements on LA's car culture.

“Los Angeles was our beloved whore-goddess,and she lingers on each of our heads, showing us what we wished for, all those thousands of gridlocked hours of godless prayer.”

Perhaps my favorite part comes when they are visited by another filmmaker to survive the war, Adrian Seele who is a not so thinly veiled Michael Bay. He arrived on a helicopter blasting motorhead and tries to hijack Peter and Harvey's film crew. I love the idea that he buys black market award statues and melts them down in a statue of a middle finger.

This novella is middle finger to Hollywood, I am not sure it will help Skipp get in good graces with Hollywood. But man I would be first in line to see a film of this. For fans of cheap italian end of the world movies where a few nuclear warheads are all that stands between civilization and roving mohawked cannibal gangs in spiked muscle cars you have found your novel.

The New Twilight Zone (well new in 1985)

I remember when this show aired I was super into it. The original TZ was a huge part of how I discovered horror fiction. It was where I first fell in love with the the weird tale. It is how I discovered Richard Matheson who I began to read at the same time as Clive Barker and Stephen King. It was at this same time that CBS launched a new attempt at the TZ.

I have not seen many of the episodes since they were first on in the eighties but much like the OG Twilight zone many of the imagines like the the Button unit and the last shot of the nuclear warhead in the time freeze episode stayed in my memory. I remembered the episode nightcrawlers and Gramma for being super intense.

After months of requesting it at both videos I go to here in Portland(movie maddess and Clinton Street video) movie maddess got all three season of the 80's TZ. So over thanksgiving weekend I watched most of season one. I was worried it would not live up to my memories of the show. Some of the episodes were super awful and some were really great.

Writers it's worth a rental for the commentary tracks alone. Wes Craven and Harlan Ellison commentary tracks are pretty priceless. Some times they comment on the same episodes and it is awesome to see how differently they remember the process. As a commentary track junkie I was surprised by Wes Craven who useless commentary on the orginal nightmare on Elm Street left me wondering if he remembered making that movie at all. Harlan Ellison(Trademark) in his old jewish bombastic ego tripping way has a lot of wonderful things to to teach writers.

The best episode without a doubt is Nightcrawlers based on The amazing Robert McCammon short story. I tried to find a clip on line. Directed by William Friedkin (The exorcist, French Connection) this episode is horrorific and it's hard to believe it was on a 8 pm in 1985.

in the 80's remake of the zone they did everything right that UPN did wrong in the recent remake. First off as Ellison points out they remembered that TZ is a writers show. They bought short stories by published established genre authors inside of picking some wanna be screenwriter they met in line at the Beverley hills coffee bean and tea leaf. This meant episodes based on short stories by Harlan Ellison(who was a creative consultant and writer on the show), Stephen King, George RR Martin, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury.

Next they hired established genre directors like William Friedkin, Wes Craven, and Tommy Lee Wallace (he wasn't great but he worked for John Carpenter). They hired established actors some before they were famous like Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman, but they were not cheap about it.

Over all I think the 80's Twilight zone is worth a rental. Here are some that I found online.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Review: Ground Zero by F. Paul Wilson

Ground Zero by F.Paul Wilson
A repairman jack novel
355 pages

The scale and vast scope of Stephen King's Dark Tower series is well noted. While career spanning mythos are common in the fantasy novels (IE authors like George RR Martin/ Robert Jordan) it is not very common in horror fiction. King is known for horror fiction and many of his strictly horror fiction tales( the mist and Salem's Lot connect to the Dark Tower) but that series is also fantasy. F.Paul wilson has created a career spanning saga and mythos of horror fiction that spans almost twenty books. Several classics like “The Keep” and “NightWorld” are more than twenty years old but impressively he is still working on this one story. The common thread is a lovecraftian-ish end of the world cosmic horror tale that ended our world in the novel Nightworld.

Since that book was published Wilson has returned to it's main character Repairman Jack in more than a dozen novels and expanded on the mythology. Within the framework of Repairmen Jack novels Wilson has explored many genres and themes. Even written a young adult novel about Jack as a teenager.

It is a massive undertaking of genre fiction that in many ways is more impressive than the Dark Tower in it's scope. I admit that I have not read any of the other Repairmen Jack novels but have read a couple of the Adversary cycle which are apart of the same story. The Keep is in fact one of my all time favorite novels.

I became interested in Ground Zero when I realized that Wilson was weaving the events of 9/11 and truth movement ideas into his end of the world mythology. It sounded fascinating, and it was. Wilson explains the back story enough that I was able to follow but I am sure the novel is easier to follow if you read the other 11 or 15 books that he has already written in the saga.

The story is fast paced and well written with short page turning chapters that go back in forth between perfectly timed chapter breaks. The characters are rich and keep you involved in the intense story of monstrous conspiracy and paranoia. Thumbs up. Get hooked on Repairman Jack

Suffocation video - Amazing death metal

With post apoc lyrics. Way into it.

Book Review: Psycho by Robert Bloch

Psycho by Robert Bloch

It is hard to imagine the world of modern horror fiction with the Hitchcock film Psycho, it's influence is everywhere. In so many ways it changed the horror film for the better. I listened to this novel on CD and tried listen to with an ear for the experience of the original reader. What it would have been like to read this book in the late 50's when there was no film to compare it too? I tried to do the same the last time I read the Shining.

Psycho is a brillant work of horror fiction that despite the statements of the film's screenwriter(who likes to take way to much credit) is a lot like the film. Probably the only difference is that Norman Bates is fat in the novel. The structure of the film, the creepy setting and all the twists and turns are there.

While HP Lovecraft is often cited as kick starting the modern horror tale it was he student Robert Bloch who really set the stage for modern horror novel. If you were not aware Bloch was taught the craft through letters and critiques of his work that Lovecraft traded with him before his death. Bloch had Lovecraft's ability to do the grand cosmic horror tale but developed skills that were beyond his mentor.

He was not the reclusive misanthrope that Lovecraft was, he could write a realistic tale set in the modern world with very real seeming human characters. Norman Bates is a ridculous killer character like Jason or Freddy. He is a realistic psychopath who could be out there. His crimes are not that far fetched and that is part of the power of this short novel.

Long before Thomas Harris and James Patterson got on the best seller list with serial killers, or before slasher movies took the teeth out of the concept of how scary a serial killer could be Bloch nailed this story. Nailed Norman Bates and unrolled the suspense like a red carpet.

Try to put the movie out of your head and read this novel, it could teach modern horror authors a lot about what it takes to make chills.