Archive for satire

Fragment from SERPENT SOULS: Smile

Posted in Halloween, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2017 by smuckyproductions

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 10.51.01 AMIn honor of a Halloween season surrounded by the evils of capitalist pigs, here is a fragment from an older novel. SERPENT SOULS follows a naive young man who gets a job at his beloved brother’s exclusive country club, but he must fight for his life when its violent curse begins haunting him. It’s a supernatural mystery, violent satire, and nightmare of cosmic cruelty born from the American dream. This is a prophetic dream that the main character experiences before his first day of work.

A hallway – dark and thin. No sound but the quiet hum, electric or otherwise. Small line of light in the distance. Sneaking under a door. To find its source is the only option.

A door, impossibly tall, with no threshold. The handle is dented. It turns and the door creaks open – the apartment. Light is fluorescent, flickers on a constant rhythm. Corpses of a hundred bugs litter the casings. More victims flutter around the glow. Unknowing. Approaching.

A second door across from this one. The only thing illuminated; the rest of the apartment is shadowed. Something sighs and the door swings open. Vicious darkness. A small figure limps forward. A child, familiar but dirt-covered face, blue eyes that glisten and threaten to fall out, they are so wide. Viscous tears dribble down his face and leave clean lines in the dirt. The tuxedo around his body overpowers him. The slashed sleeves ooze lining and the shirt crackles with a brown stain. Only the bow tie still holds its color, vivid red.

The child opens his mouth. Wet gash in the dark. The words splash from his tongue.

“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t go there. Please, don’t go there…”

His plea falls to tatters, sobbing. He stiffens. Another figure, twice his size, emerges from the miasma. The new figure wears a tailored tuxedo, perfect condition, red bow tie gleaming. A wide salesman smile covers his chin, long teeth flash. The dark conceals the upper portion of his face. Hint of wicked eyes hiding in shadow. The smile is enough to give him familiarity, fresher than the child’s. But a familiar fear as well.

Two figures, miniature and full model. The large one places a hand on the small’s shoulder. Hulking gold rings shimmer, bleed with colors from fire-laden jewels, shoot prisms toward the invisible ceiling. The other hand unseen. Rustling in his jacket pocket. A hard, metallic sound, widening the smile, and the hand slips out, holding an intricate silver knife. Rubies wink from the handle. The knife rests against the child’s head and waits there. Curve of the blade smiles with its owner.

“Don’t don’t don’t,” the child blubbers. “Oh don’t don’t’ don’t…”

The large figure chuckles. “Don’t mind him.” Voice like a winter breeze. “He is not himself today. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

With a swipe of his golden hand, the child stops blubbering. Knife finds its mark and peels open the child’s throat. Skin yawns, thick spurt of blood over the carpet. The child tries to close the wound, begging in liquid grunts. It spreads wide as the killer’s smile. Veins empty. He falls to his knees. The head leans, nearly tears off. The killer stops it, holds it in place, plunges a hand into the stump. Digs for a moment until he finds his prize – the surfacing hand shines, glows, in spite of the blood. And something new as well, glimmering powerful things. The killer laughs in triumph. A wealth of gold coins in his hand, chime and clink as he displays them. More ooze from the stump as the child at last crumples to the ground. Dull thump, clink of metal.

The killer holds out his treasure as if offering to share. Temptation rises. He knows this and smiles until his cheeks split, revealing darkness beneath. The knife, still glinting, still hungry. It grins too. And swings forward as the killer says, calm and tender, “Smile.”

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Forbidden Tomes: THE ACCURSED

Posted in Forbidden Tomes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Happy March, ghouls – we’re beginning to get a taste of spring in the air. It’s a time of reawakening, good weather, and fertility. Unless you’re in a Joyce Carol Oates book. In one of her only outwardly supernatural works, Oates weaves a disturbing portrait of historical Princeton as it falls under the power of demons. Things get weird in the sepulchral spring of THE ACCURSED.

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It’s 1905 and we’re in Princeton. While some actual figures appear in the background, like Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair (who were at Princeton then), the main story depicts the Slade family as the daughter – set to be married – is targeted by a vampiric demon. When the demon takes young Slade as his unwilling wife, the surrounding characters (accurate and fictional alike) fall into madness, betrayal, and violence. It really sucks when demons walk into history; they tend to ruin things.

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Having read a few other works by Oates, I expected this one to be like those – psychological, grim, and very disturbing. While it is all of those things, this novel sports a wonderful, crooked sense of humor as well. Like Shirley Jackson’s work, there is social satire to spare here, stemming from these real people’s responses to demonic activity. And though it may be funny, it also tends to get nasty. Oates has created a synthesis of the macabre, the grotesque, the political, and the tragic. It’s pure literary fun to watch Mark Twain, Jack London and Sinclair interact in a world where demons roam.

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Being a part of Oates’s Gothic series (which includes “Bellefleur” and “The Mysteries of Winterthurn”), this novel is written in high language and spares no detail. It moves slowly, which for some is a turn-off. But for those who are willing to wait for the Gothic nightmares to begin, the payoff is all the better for what is established before. The imagery and manifestations are suitably bizarre – possessed babies, toad-demons in a bog-castle, snakes ejecting from men’s throats – and, even better, visually represent the neuroses of the characters. Oates is brutal with the psychological dissection of her creations, and this is no exception.

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In spite of its slow pace and its ultimate focus on satire over horror, “The Accursed” is a wicked ghost story – more so because the supernatural elements explore the human characters. The period setting and springtime aura give the uncanny occurrences an air of elegance, almost loveliness. Oates’s universe is pleasant… until it’s not. The madness and horror that seep (or explode) through the historical trappings is of the highest order. It’s a hellish tale, poking through the fallacy of human belief and their sureness in themselves, finding corpses instead.

For an old-fashioned but gruesome epic of phantoms and broken minds, Oates has given us a gift. She is a craftsman of the highest order, as long as one has the patience. So take the vow and enter this work of nightmares – but know that those vows are binding.

New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: UNRESPONSIVE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Do your friends take this long to respond? Welcome to the club.

Watch the new MINUTE MORBIDITIES, UNRESPONSIVE, here:

SUBSCRIBE for new nasty videos every TUESDAY and FRIDAY!

Review: #HORROR

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This is a tough one to place, partially because I haven’t seen anything quite like it. But that is also what makes #HORROR worth talking about.

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Directed by actress Tara Subkoff, played out by both veterans like Chloe Sevigny and a group of newcomers, this film feels like a mix of several disparate elements: video art piece, a lost episode of American Horror Story, and a very grim Breakfast Club-style dramedy. All of this comes together to tell a story about cyberbullying, the vicious nature of teenage girls who take their insecurities out on others, and the violence that results. (Sort of.)

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Let it be said that, structurally, #Horror is a mess – there is no clear story, beats are repeated over and over again, and the ending is frustratingly rushed – what could have been tense and scary is confused (but disturbing nonetheless). Many audience members will be completely turned off by this. But it seems, maybe, that this is the point.

Subkoff constructs her film to look and feel like a millennial’s subconscious. It’s flashy, fancy and sleek – the production design is stunning – and it’s also cold as hell. The Connecticut winter woods that serve as the backdrop reflect the characters themselves: pretty, but frozen and ruthless. The video art that represents social media in the film is loud, colorful, and abrasive – disturbingly so. It’s frenetic, unfocused, and crazy. Which, as a millennial, I can say isn’t wholly inaccurate.

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The sleekness is almost mocked by the brutality of the characters. They’re pure grotesque, which is another thing audience members will recoil from – they’re easy to hate. Subkoff doesn’t leave them in the dust, though. She makes it clear that these girls are hurting – and their parents, too. It’s the unjust nature of the story that does not allow them to reconcile. They destroy each other and themselves, parent and child, friend and enemy. It helps that the cast is very, very talented – especially the newcomers, who display a lot of confidence in the face of a script that doesn’t pull punches.

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I am not arguing that the film is good. That is something I haven’t decided myself. It is, however, fascinating and evocative, which is more than can be said about many films. And it’s the first horror film I’ve seen that has tackled the bizarre world of social media, along with the self-hatred that accompanies such a world, in an honest, authentic way. Tara Subkoff has created a wildly unique film – even if it doesn’t horrify or entertain, it does provoke.

My initial reaction is still confused, but I applaud #Horror for being one of the only horror offerings that has commented on the state of youth today. We need more of these films. And may they all be as frenetic, original, and strange as this one.

Films That Haunt Me: SOCIETY

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Ah, body horror. We don’t see enough of it anymore. What horror fan doesn’t appreciate a good old slime-fest, with a dash of social commentary thrown into the goop? It’s a genre that often gets overlooked as being purely gross – but the best body horror films have some insightful and penetrating things to say about our civilization. No film does this more overtly, or with more fluids, than SOCIETY.

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Directed by Stuart Gordon collaborator Brian Yuzna, this ick-fest starts off innocently enough – a high school boy believes that his yuppie suburban town is hiding something sinister beneath its pastels. People are disappearing, the snobby rich kids are acting up, and is that woman’s torso twisting around like that?? These unusual occurrences culminate in a horrific realization about his family and friends – a society of people that aren’t people at all.

It’s hard to talk about this movie without spoiling the ending. It’s a sin to give away such a great surprise. (And surprisingly hard to find photos to put in this post that don’t involve what happens.) To avoid ruining the entirety of it, I’ll just say this – Yunza creates a brilliant, satirical view of the homogenous wealthy, who are quite literally all the same person. The makeup effects are bizarre and ingenious. What makes them so striking, beyond their nastiness, is the way the visuals comment on the ‘theme’ of the cruel bourgeois. They are not wholly human, and thus, they look down on everyone who is human. And use them for certain purposes. I’ll leave it up to you viewers to find that out for yourselves.

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Since we get to see this society from the point of view of an outsider, we are able to share in his surprise and horror – and Yuzna also permits himself, through this, to be as surreal and weird as he pleases. The world that our hero stumbles upon goes so far beyond anything we could imagine that it is impossible not to find hilarious, but in a way that makes it hard to tell whether or not we should really be laughing. Yuzna’s sense of humor is similar to Peter Jackson’s in “Braindead” – using gore as slapstick and an opportunity for puns. But beneath this, there is that thread of disturbing social commentary, which is so spot on that it makes the unreal sequences hard to completely write off.

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The level of satire makes it difficult to take seriously at times, especially in the earlier scenes, when it’s hard to decide if the film is a mystery-thriller or a John Hughes rip-off. But for those who can look past the off-kilter opening, the payoff is gob-smackingly terrific. I argue that, for the ending alone, it can take its place alongside the best horror efforts of David Cronenberg, and even some of Lynch’s more grotesque work.

This film represents, for me, the great artistic value of a genre that we don’t often see anymore. Body horror had its heyday in the 80’s, but once the slasher craze really took off, it fell by the wayside. There are a few modest efforts available today, but what happened to the surplus of nasty and sub-political films that used to saturate the market? In honor of “Society” and its kin, here’s to hoping that body horror makes a comeback. For now, we can relish in this one’s bizarre humor and quantity of slime-covered satire. You’ll be singing the Eton Boating song for days to come.

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.