From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

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Madness in Dark Fantasy and Horror on Film: Why My Bloody Valentine 3D May Be the First True Chick Slasher

Madness is a staple of horror and dark fantasy. There are reasons for this, namely that horror is based on stimulating primal instincts (fear, most of all, but also lust, revenge, etc.), that the situations in horror tend to push characters over the edge, and that madness alters the perception of reality, distorting it so that even “normal” seems horrific. Everything’s fantasy from a psychotic perspective.

So, I went to see My Bloody Valentine 3D last weekend and by God, I think that the makers of this film have finally done the previously-not-thought-possible: they have created the first true chick slasher (take that however you want, fanfic lovers). Women, my friends, like this film. More than men.

Speaking of altered perceptions of reality, 3D really lends itself to a specific perspective. It’s a lot like staring into a diorama at the Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately, filmmakers are going to have to get over the urge to poke the audience in the eye every five minutes with something or other and get back to showing what people are actually doing inside that diorama. But that’s a column for another time.

And before I proceed any farther, let me warn you that I’m going to spoil the stories I talk about up, down, sideways and in 3D because the fates of the protagonists in these stories are extremely important to what I’m trying to get across. So, if you hate that, bail out now.


Blog For A Beer: Friday the 13th

Oh no, it’s Friday the 13th! Scary! Run! Hide!

Why? Isn’t there a new Jason movie out today? That’s enough to scare me. Or bore me. …I’m not a fan.

Let’s talk about Friday the 13th. Not just the movie(s), but to put it in Wikipedia-speak: Friday the 13th (disambiguation). Blog about any Ft13-related things. Are you superstitious about this day? Do you have a funny/frightening/share-worthy story about a Ft13? Do you like this new movie? Were you fans of the old one? Do you hate Jason and how annoying he is? Is Freddy awesomer? Does anyone even remember the TV series? (I liked it…) Do you know something nifty about the origins of Ft13? Want to make up an origin story and pretend its real? (You get extra points for that.) Numerology freak? Triskaidekaphobic?


No Objectivity: The Year of Magical Thinking

In a year like this, there’s no better track to positive thinking than a little magical realism, doled out in palatable doses – and with the recent popularity of slightly-speculative movies, there’s never been a better time to Netflix to your heart’s content without running the risk of an existential crisis. Here, we offer a twelve-movie sampler of movies with a magical element; some are B-movie pulp, some are art-house stalwarts, but all suggest a world where the everyday is anything but usual.


Valentine’s Day is upon us; show your love for your sweetheart with a lush period piece. Perfume follows the sociopath Grenouille, whose superhuman sense of smell leads him into an epic obsession with obtaining the perfect scent, which is, conveniently, the scent of young and lovely virgins. (Those lovely virgins just cannot catch a break in allegorical stories!) The magnetic Grenouille makes the best serial killer since Hannibal Lecter, and there’s just enough costumed goodness to make you feel like you’re getting a history lesson. Ignore, if you can, Dustin Hoffman’s scenery-chewing, and let the period detail wash over you; it’s so real you can almost smell it.



In the opening scene of Henry Selick’s stop-motion Coraline, a pair of spindly hands rips open and remakes a little rag doll. The matter-of-factness with which the doll is turned inside-out and reassembled is made even more unsettling in 3-D, as the doll’s stuffing bursts richly forth from every seam. By the time the doll makes its second appearance, as a gift to the quirky and lonely young Coraline, the sense of dread is palpable.


The Hamlet Mystery

When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, in 1601, he inserted secret codes and messages into the story that have baffled scholars for centuries.  The first is the mystery of Hamlet’s age. In act five scene one Hamlet says it was “three and twenty seven years” since Yorick was buried. The math doesn’t add up. Hamlet just finished college, so how could he have known Yorick?   In Act Three, Scene Two, we see Hamlet’s most baffling soliloquy, in which he says:

Tis now the very witching time of night… Now I could drink hot blood.

What does Hamlet mean here? What was Shakespeare hiding with those words?  The answer lies with the mysterious figure of Francis Bacon, thought by some scholars to be the true author of Shakespeare’s greatest work


Crossing Lines: My Favorite Christmas Film

‘Tis the Christmas season! Lights are being strung up in cities, Santas stand on corners ringing bells, songs about love and joy fill the air, people preach about holiday cheer and the spirit of giving, peace suffuses the air or at least that’s what we’re supposed to focus on. It all makes me throw up in my mouth just a little bit.

The things that I see about the Christmas season in addition to what’s put forward: credit card debt, hearing lecherous men making jokes about sitting on their laps, people killing and hurting others for the latest toy or gadget, money and commercialism slowly becoming more and more important that anything else and worst of all the songs that you hear everywhere and get stuck in your brain until you want to slam it up against the brick wall. It’s not that I hate Christmas, I just hate the pretending that goes along with it, the falseness of acting as if everything is hunky-dory. So it’s safe to say my choice of film is not going to be It’s A Wonderful Life. Every year when this season roles around once again I pop in my favorite Christmas movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas.


They Shoot, They Score! The Ten Biggest Movies of 2008, and Why

It was a good year to release a science fiction movie: of the top ten grossing movies of 2008, nine were genre. It’s always easy to draw a parallel between the difficulties of the real world and the relative popularity of escapist fantasy and science-fiction fare; however, this year’s big movies tackled some big issues, as well. Whether the studios developed a conscientious point-of-view to battle dark times remains to be seen. Looking at this list, though, the relevant undertones of this year’s “escapist” movies are hard to deny. Below, we go by the numbers and check out what made the best, the best.


Worst Genre Movies of 2008

This year had several mediocre genre movies (I’m looking at you Indiana Jones), over-hyped flicks that turned out to be a disappointment (Cloverfield, and no, I was not scared), and pretty-looking stuff (Hellboy 2, with the guy that looks like Elric of Melnibone) which didn’t hold up. But the following list is reserved for the worst of the worst. These are the movies we should feed to the rancor.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

This sword and sorcery movie has it all: a lousy script, bad performances and terrible casting choices. Burt Reynolds plays a king in peril and Jason Statham, the guy from the Transporter movies, is the peasant named Peasant trying to save the realm. Did I mention Ray Liotta is an evil wizard spewing outrageous lines? In the Name of the King is so bad it is almost good. In fact, if a decent writer had tweaked the plot they might have had a nice little parody. Unfortunately the movie wants us to take it seriously, which is hard when you have everyone hamming it up. This flick reportedly cost $60 million dollars. Roger Corman would have made it for a fraction of the cost and it would have probably been a great deal more entertaining and mercifully shorter.

Babylon AD

The director of Babylon AD disowned it, and for good reasons. This is one ugly baby. It does not start too bad but quickly descends, like a poor souffle, to the realm of crap. Vin Diesel is a tough mercenary hired to take a mysterious young woman from point A to point B. The near future world he inhabits looks nifty and the mystery of the young woman is enough to sustain the viewer’s interest at the beginning of the movie. However, as the action progresses, it becomes obvious the plot has been murdered. Or maybe there was no plot to begin with. Anyway, everything just turns into a mess with tacked on, uninspired bits of action. The special effects are decent, but when everyone has computer generated stuff rushing across the screen these days, does it even matter? The finale will have you groaning.


Blog For A Beer: Best/Worst Of The Year

It’s December, and you know what that means: lists.  Specifically Best Of lists.  We humans have this need to look back over a meaningful section of time and decide on the most awesome things they experienced in that time period.  Exciting, right?

What you don’t see too often is Worst Of lists.  The biggest piles of crap you had the misfortune to witness within a calendar year.  Stuff you wish you could forget but you can’t.  So, instead, you rant about it.

Over the next three weeks we’re going to compile some Best Of/Worst Of lists, and you’re going to help.  Why, you ask?  Because we might give you $10 if you do!

We’ll start with something easy this week: Movies.  What are the 5 best genre movies you saw this year?  How about the 5 worst?  (And I’m talking about movies in the theater, not direct-to-DVD stinkers or, Zuul help us, Sci-Fi Channel clunkers.)  Whatever movies you choose, you have to back it up.  Convince us.  Because we’re going to put together the definitive Best/Worst Movies of 2008 list and we will defend it… to the death.


The Rosicrucian and Goldenstonian Manifestoes

The Rosicrucian and Goldenstonian Manifestoes, published in 1615, are filled with references to the Kabbalah, Hermeticism and Alchemy. They describe two men of great learning, esoteric understanding and healing power, named Rosenkreutz and Goldenstone, who founded the secret society two hundred years earlier, in 1398.

The author of the manifestoes, Lutheran theologian and mystic Johannes Valentine Andrae, claims to have discovered the tomb of these two men in London, in 1601, but the tomb was open and the men were still alive.