Archive for November, 2015

Films That Haunt Me: RAVENOUS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2015 by smuckyproductions

As December approaches and the air grows cold, it’s time to start talking about those chilly horror classics best consumed in front of a fire while the wind howls outside. What better time to talk about the Wendigo? This elusive and freakish beast is little scene in film, which is unfortunate – it appears to great effect in one of the more unique horror offerings of the last 20 years, Antonia Bird’s RAVENOUS.

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Like an unfortunate number of 90s films, this one got misrepresented by its marketing team. While trailers make it look like an action-packed gore-fest, Bird has actually created a bizarre but terrific mix of pitch-black comedy and ruthless horror. The film follows a U.S. soldier who, disgraced during the Spanish-American war, is sent to a remote California post where nothing happens… until an unknown man stumbles in from the wilderness, half-frozen to death and terrified. He claims that his traveling group got lost in the mountains and had to resort to cannibalism – an act that possesses the eater with an ancient vampiric evil. When the soldiers go to search for the man’s crew, they realize the story is truer than they expected… and far more hideous.

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There is a veritable melting pot of genres in “Ravenous.” It’s a war epic, a vampire movie, a bloody slapstick routine, and a grand horror story straight out of Blackwood. This may have been what drove many critics and audience members away – but for those who are open to the originality, Bird mixes the genres amazingly well. It’s one of the most original films to come out of that era of horror – and possibly one of the bloodiest. When it isn’t busy being a riotous satire, it actually gets pretty frightening – there were more than a few scenes that unsettled me to my core.

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It’s fascinating, too, for its brilliant evocation of American legend. The images of the army fort and its ragtag team of soldiers are straight out of “Dances with Wolves,” but far more interesting, as Bird soaks them in gallons of guts. The Wendigo myth – something pilfered from Native American culture as a symbol of starvation and desperation – is used to comment on the nature of the American Dream: devour before they devour you.

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Sure, this theme is drawn a bit too boldly in the film – they say various versions of the above about twenty times – but it pairs the overt message so powerfully with brutal images of man eating man. The film is so ironically masculine, loud and proud about its violence, that it ends up tearing down those ideas in the same way that characters rip each other apart. Whatever patriotism the film might have had is mauled, slaughtered without mercy. It may be one of the more honest depictions of the pioneer myth. These soldiers are animalistic, and they kill like animals.

If this all sounds too crazy, then this film isn’t for you. But its gory humor and horrific statements about Americana are worth exploring. Especially as the winter sets in and the snow seems to call out, scratching hungrily at the window, begging to be fed.

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Forbidden Tomes: BOOKS OF BLOOD I-III by CLIVE BARKER

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Logic would never place horror and erotica in the same field. But history goes to show, these two genres often cross over, finding commonalities in each other that perhaps should not be uncovered. For the most part these crossovers are subtle and quiet. Not so with Clive Barker, who broke open the pairing with his debut work, the BOOKS OF BLOOD.

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First published in 1984, these stories combine two things that often go together – sex and death – but does so in such a blatant, shameless, and powerful way that is so rarely seen. Clive Barker is obsessed with flesh. His prose style is unflinching and brutal, often satirical, but always engrossing (emphasis on gross) in its exploration of the human body. It makes sense, then, that he would focus his stories on the most corporeal of all human acts: fornication and decay.

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The three-part collection is split into different forms of stories. There are traditional horror yarns – “The Midnight Meat Train,” “Rawhead Rex,” and “Scape-Goats,” et cetera – and more comical stories, like “Son of Celluloid,” “Sex, Death and Starshine,” and “The Yattering and Jack.” My favorites, however, occupy a bizarre in-between of philosophical fantasy and horror: “In the Hills, the Cities,” “Dread,” “The Skins of the Fathers” and “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” are the best examples. Here, Barker creates a space in which reality bends, then shatters altogether, questioning the nature of humanity itself.

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In the latter stories especially, the human body becomes an almost celestial plane of horrors, a conduit for the supernatural and the surreal. It might be acceptable to say that the titular story – “The Book of Blood,” kicking off Volume 1 – lays out Barker’s thesis in this regard: “The dead have highways,” he begins, and ends by showing the dead breaking into our world through those highways, literally engraving their words into a boy’s skin. The flesh of his characters is always so vulnerable, yet powerful, too – Jacqueline Ess uses the power of her sexuality to actually alter men’s anatomies, and an entire town joins together to create a singular giant in “In the Hills.”

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What truly makes me love these stories is the sense of freakishness, of abnormality, that pervades the best of them. Barker infuses his protagonists with an aberrant streak that might make them frightening, but also makes them sympathetic, heartbreakingly so. Those of us who have felt like freaks can find voice in these monsters. It is the power of horror, to find a heart in the most horrific of things, and Barker understands this better than most. His stories find the purest core of horror – no trappings, no undue elegance, just raw blood, terror, and beauty.

Films That Haunt Me: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford: two notorious queens of screen melodrama who absolutely hated each other. The Hollywood rivalry. It doesn’t make sense that they would do a film together, but lo and behold, it happened. No surprise that it’s a horror film, either, and one of the most powerful ever made. This is WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

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The film pits Davis and Crawford against each other as sisters, one a forgotten child star and the other a fading Hollywood actress, locked together in their decaying Los Angeles mansion. The former hates the latter because of her long-lasting success; the latter hates the former because, rumor has it, she caused a car crash that landed her sister in a wheelchair. In their old age, their hatred has only grown. And it’s about to explode into some violence.

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“Baby Jane” is a very special film. It was born from the actual conflict between these actresses, and the energy of this conflict is present throughout every scene. But what makes it truly remarkable are the characters. The boiling, unrequited hatred between them resembles something from Shirley Jackson or Flannery O’Connor – pure human grotesqueness.

There is no monster or murderer in this film other than their rivalry, but that proves to be a greater villain than any other. The vicious nature of the sister’s attacks on each other (mainly Davis, as the bitter child star, on wheelchair-bound Crawford) is utterly shocking. Particularly because there is deep emotion behind it, the undeniable bond of sisters.

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The film’s imagery is a necessity to discuss as well. Davis is ingenious as the forgotten Baby Jane, dolled up in a terrible amount of makeup, prancing around like a little girl – or exploding in murderous rages. Watching her prowl through the decayed mansion is a chilling as any screen demon. And the progression of her vengeance on her sister – starting with sisterly pranks, escalating into acts of brutality – is absolutely chilling, even more so because she isn’t doing it fully out of spite. But I won’t give too much away.

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Here we have a perfect example of film alchemy: so many elements gelling almost by luck into a piece of cinema that defies effort. Grand Guignol sets, neo-Gothic imagery (creepy dolls included), two grotesque characters… and a deeply unhealthy sibling relationship, bolstered by the actual animosity between the stars. All of this igniting into a single work of horrific, beautiful film. For that reason it is special, and a must-see – if the viewer is content with having their mind warped for two hours.

 

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: LEFTOVERS

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2015 by smuckyproductions

After so much feasting and flesh, there’s bound to be some leftovers…

Celebrate your post-Thanksgiving hangover with a new MINUTE MORBIDITIES!

New episodes every TUESDAY and FRIDAY.

Share the scare, and enjoy the remains!

Happy Thanksgiving from Smucky’s Grave!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 26, 2015 by smuckyproductions

As the dark of winter descends, we gather today to feast on flesh and the spoils of our labor. Enjoy the festivities and the people whose blood you share. Give thanks to the gross and spooky things that brighten our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving from your favorite ghouls at Smucky’s Grave!

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Forbidden Tomes: ZOMBIE by JOYCE CAROL OATES

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2015 by smuckyproductions

There are countless thrillers and mysteries about serial killers, hard-boiled cops following grotesque trails of breadcrumbs to catch a psychopath. But rarely do we get a convincing glimpse into the mind of the killer him or herself. Perhaps because to enter such a mind means questioning your own. One book that accomplishes this all too well, and most disturbingly, is Joyce Carol Oates’s ZOMBIE.

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We all know about Jeffrey Dahmer – the pretty boy who had a habit of lobotomizing his lovers, killing them by accident, and keeping their body parts in jars of formaldehyde. Ever wonder what it’s like inside his head? Through the fictional character of Quentin P., Oates delves into this mind, unearthing thoughts and secrets in the form of a diary. The reader follows this diary through the most mundane of things – school visits, family dinners, days at home. Oh, and the occasional murder. He is simply engaging in a hobby. That hobby just happens to be lobotomizing young men in an attempt to make them his sex slaves.

This is a fascinating exercise in empathy. Oates does not linger on the nasty bits – she spends most of her time exploring Quentin’s everyday life, which is more or less similar to our own. That is what makes it so disturbing when he does commit crimes. He is a human being, after all; and Oates makes it clear that Quentin does not believe that he is doing anything wrong. It’s easy to write a character who is ‘evil,’ who relishes in causing others pain. But what if the ‘evil’ thinks it is good?

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Because of this, Oates’s killer becomes horrifically real, and almost sympathetic. He isn’t a coldblooded beast, causing pain for the joy of it. He is a human being, trying to find love and connection in a world that shuns him. Who hasn’t felt like an outsider before? By tapping into this emotional core, Oates makes Quentin a protagonist who we can root for – even though we don’t want to. It’s a dirty trick, sure, but it reveals so much about who we are as people.

Reading this book feels perverse, in the end, due to the extreme nature of the empathy that Quentin P. conjures in us. That is a testament to the power of Oates’s writing. She crafts horrific narratives but inverts the point of view – without warning, the reader is seeing through the eyes of someone who society deems monstrous, evil. While there is no glorification of murder – the book is as grim and depressing as they come – it does raise some immensely disturbing questions. How can someone be evil when they believe they are doing good? And how do we know that we aren’t hurting someone in our actions, too?

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Let that serve as a warning to readers: this book twists and ruins a person’s mind for a while after finishing. But the experience is, in the end, revelatory. That is the power of horror, and the power of empathy alike: it forces you to see something you do not want to face.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: WOMB DREAM

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Dark dreams of mother dearest this holiday season… a new Minute Morbidities gets extra weird.

Watch WOMB DREAM here:

Give your mother a call. And SHARE THE SCARE…