Archive for black humor

Sundance Review: THE GREASY STRANGLER

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Sitting in the Yarrow Theater at 9 pm on January 23rd was a special experience. And by special I mean disgusting, bewildering, stupefying and inanely hilarious. It isn’t often that you witness the birth of the next cult phenomenon. In the midst of oily grapefruits, potatoes, hootie-tootie-disco-cuties and a vat of costuming grease, those of us in Park City can say we did just that. This film is THE GREASY STRANGLER.

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Looking back on it, I’m shocked to remember that there is a very coherent plot. A father and son duo, living together after the death of their wife/mother, begin a personal war when they fall in love with the same woman. But there is an even more dangerous scheme afoot – a murderer is stalking the streets, someone covered in grease and growling like a post-modern Wolfman. Also like the Wolfman, his kill of choice is a good, old-fashioned strangle. (The title is very literal.)

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Another surprise – the film is gorgeously crafted. The production design and lighting are vibrant and ultra-professional, lending it the aesthetic of a true Hollywood rom-com. That look only makes the bizarre aspects more delirious. From the opening, we are assaulted by totally insane images and conversations – greasy coffee, oozing sausages, men in pink short shorts, and endless Dada arguments about free drinks and potatoes. (Also, BULLSHIT ARTIST.) And don’t forget the prosthetic penises. Yes, I said it, prosthetic penises.

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It’s a hymnal to absurdist humor and the grotesque (in the classic sense of the word, which means ugly to a hilarious extreme). While there is a clear plot, which is more than can be said about many ‘normal’ films, there is nothing clear in the way it pans out. The film is utterly baffling in the most exhilarating way – an amalgamation of cartoonish comedy and endless goop that all serves to create a world we’ve never seen before. And I truly haven’t seen anything like this in film. Comparisons to John Waters can be made, but this film is so surreal, almost animated, that it creates its own brand of weird.

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This originality is only part of the reason I call it the next cult hit. The charm of this film hard to explain to someone who wasn’t in the theater. Listening to the audience erupt in almost-constant confused laughter, usually because the images on screen were just so out there, was undeniably special. Like “Rocky Horror” and “The Room,” I think this film is destined for midnight greatness. Its wacky quotability and immersive boldness will give it eternal life.

When viewing this repugnant and beautiful piece of work, leave all conception of film at the door. This is an experience like no other. And it’s worth it. Come mingle in the mire, the disco, and the colorful chaos that is THE GREASY STRANGLER.

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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!

Short Story: HER MASTERPIECE

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2015 by smuckyproductions

I did this as a writing exercise, but ended up really liking the result. Let’s see if you guys think the same. 

HER MASTERPIECE

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            She knew he was watching, but she didn’t stop. Her palm skin had melted into the handle and her arm swung of its own volition. The burn of her muscles radiated to her mind and heated her thoughts so that she did not care about the eyes that had chained themselves onto the mess of a head beneath her. She knew he could hear the crunch more sharply than she, with the heat sizzling in her ears as it was, and she envied him for that. The sound of Mrs. Tergell’s breaking skull was the detail she had looked forward to the most.

With a blaring tang the blunt head of the hammer snapped off its mount and bounced into the air. She howled and ducked from it, but it clattered into the gutter a few feet away. When it settled and the street grew silent, her ears were still clogged with the muffled cries and squelches of impact. Several moments passed before she grew accustomed to the loathsome quiet. Then she turned to face the watching man, searing with rage. He, after all, had caused the hammer to break, and had cut her triumphant percussions cruelly short.

He stood where he had halted upon rounding the corner. When he had first appeared, his jaw had gone limp and his arms had dangled like severed puppet strings. She had expected him to scream or to faint, but he had remained upright, almost mocking her. The rage stemmed from this parody of her expectations. Now she faced him and wielded the jagged handle. He was meant to scream, plead, or piss himself. But he had not moved at all; only his expression had altered, pulling taut into a nearly lustful grin, cracking all the way up to his impossibly dark eyes.

“How wonderful,” he said.

The rage, so red and metallic before, sizzled into the steam of shock. Her thoughts produced no logical response – in fact, they had ceased altogether, chased out by the battering echo of his two words. She stared at him, dumbfounded.

Somehow managing to widen his grin, he extended a puppet arm – far too long – and pointed at the sticky pulp of Mrs. Tergell’s corpse. “What do you call it?” he exclaimed. “It’s marvelous! Brilliant!”

Her fingers lost all tension and the handle slipped through them. “Oh – I…” she stammered.

“No name, then? Even better – very mysterious,” he said. His legs began to quiver and he clapped rapidly. It seemed that he had begun to dance. “I’ll take it,” he shouted, pointing to the dark sky. “For one point five. No less. Or even two. Anything. Name your price.”

Understanding crested over her mind like a radiant dawn. She, too, could feel herself grinning. Beholding her masterpiece as a mother would her first, most angelic child, she said, “Two point five.”

Forbidden Tomes: HANGSAMAN by SHIRLEY JACKSON

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2015 by smuckyproductions

As we enter into the full swing of the school year, we encounter once again the dramas and anxieties of classes and fellow students. There are legions of comedies and dramedies that deal with these themes. But, I find, very few horror stories; and as the ever-brilliant Shirley Jackson proves, that genre may be the best suited to conveying them truthfully. She demonstrates this to stunning effect in her second novel, HANGSAMAN.

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Everyone knows Shirley Jackson for her slow-building nightmare “The Lottery” and her maddeningly terrifying ghost tale “The Haunting of Hill House.” But her tragically short literary career was full of quieter gems as well. In her sophomore effort, she enters the mind of a socially awkward (or worse?) young woman who has just started college. She desperately wants to create her own identity and grow into herself… but that’s hard to do when everyone around you is backstabbing each other, and you start going insane.

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Part coming-of-age drama, part social satire, and a whole lot of psychological nightmare, this novel is a powerhouse of emotion. Anyone who is familiar with “The Lottery” knows that Jackson is the master of slow-build, suffocating tension. She is brilliant at keeping the reader in the dark, spinning cryptic thoughts within her characters that hint at something dreadful and placing them in situations that are eerily confusing. This novel demonstrated that in full force. Natalie, the main character, navigates a world in which people – including herself – are dangling by a thread over the abyss of insanity. There is the constant threat of danger, but never an outburst of violence. We, along with everyone else, are holding our breath, waiting for it to come.

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Natalie’s world is populated with deliciously off-kilter characters – a handsome teacher who marries his student, and the wife, who drinks away her anxieties; a gossipy classmate who spies on girls whom she wants to slander; a mysterious, unnamed friend who leads Natalie into a nebulous and dangerous existence; et cetera. Many of these characters, uncanny as they are, also give humor to the book. Jackson is a genius when it comes to gallows humor. You laugh, but only to prevent yourself from screaming.

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But what makes me adore this book, and Jackson’s others as well, goes beyond the grotesque characters and growing tension – it’s the penetrating, ruthless, but accurate insight into the human condition. These characters, in their madness, reveal a disturbingly recognizable side of the reader: a side that is riddled with irrational terrors and hatred of themselves and others. We’d rather not look at this side of ourselves, but Jackson allows us to do so without destroying ourselves completely. I always discover something about my thoughts when I read her books. The xenophobia and paranoia that infect her characters are things that I have felt, and to recognize them in something else makes it easier to rid myself of them.

Shirley Jackson is a glorious writer, and “Hangsaman” demonstrates the best of her abilities in comedy, horror, and human insight. It is a book to consume when you’re alone, shut away from the world. And the monsters lurking inside the pages look so terribly much like you.