Monday, July 18, 2016

STRANGER THINGS
(July 2016)


"And you know it, and he knows it, but no one ever says anything until you both start punching and yelling at each other like goblins with Intelligence scores of zero.
"Now everything’s weird.”

For anyone who knows me, it should come as absolutely no surprise that Netflix’s Stranger Things had me by the second scene of its first episode/Chapter.
The scene in question: a D&D session that’s been 10 hours running, threatened by the intrusion of… dun-dun-dun-duuuun… parental concern that tomorrow is a school day.
Set in 1983, Stranger Things is the kind of show that resonates on a very specific frequency, and should appeal greatly to Geeks of a Certain Age, those who know exactly what that scene feels like, those who’ve lived that scene, in one variation or another.

“The bad men are comiiing!”
“Mad hen. Does that mean anything to you? Like a code name or something.”

Stranger Things’ 8-Chapter narrative kicks off with the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), last seen headed home after that marathon gaming session. The search for Will draws in not just his gaming buddies, but also a bunch of adults, a bunch of teenagers, and a few other characters besides.
With Stranger Things, the show’s creators--the Duffer brothers, twins Matt and Ross--have given us a love letter to that very specific ‘80’s Amblin strain of entertainment that Steven Spielberg spearheaded. Taking that as their template, they’ve infused it heavily with dollops of Stephen King, some smidgens of John Carpenter, and then sprinkled on many of the pop culture markers of that era, from the music (Joy Division! Echo and the Bunnymen! The Clash!) to the films (The Evil Dead! The Thing! The Empire Strikes Back!).
It’s a heady (and sometimes, emotionally-wrenching) rush of geek nostalgia, Stranger Things is. (And, speaking of geek nostalgia, look! Winona Ryder!!)

Of course, the thing about nostalgia is, it works on our emotional attachments to the familiar, to the things we grew up with. As such, there are a whole slew of visuals and story beats in Stranger Things that will recall, to varying degrees, those benchmarks of our past.*
But, given the way the show takes those elements and weaves them into the narrative whole, we still end up with something new. Reminiscent of something(s) old, oh yeah, definitely. But still, in the end, something new. (Or, new-ish, at the very least.)
To a certain extent, Stranger Things does the same thing The Force Awakens does, work from the template of something old and established, and dress it up with some new elements.
In point of fact, there’s something more pure and honest about the way Stranger Things uses that particular approach.
Let’s be honest: no matter how good it is, The Force Awakens, is after all, still constructed to be a franchise re-starter, while Stranger Things appears to be simply, a new story that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. (Of course, should Stranger Things suddenly explode into a multimedia juggernaut, then we can reexamine that assessment.)**

“You always say we should never stop being curious, to always open any curiosity door we find.”
“Dustin…”
“Why are you keeping this curiosity door locked?”

Now, while the contingent of young actors on the show are across the board excellent, Millie Bobby Brown (who was also one of the noteworthy elements of BBC’s Intruders) and Broadway vet Gaten Matarazzo (Gavroche on Les Misérables) must be commended for their performances; Matarazzo’s Dustin Henderson is officially the latest entry on my personal Awesomest TV Characters Ever! list.
Oh, and Amy Seimetz’s got a single ep guest spot here, too! (Just thought I’d throw that out there.)

So, if you happen to be a Geek of a Certain Age, you’d be doing yourself a mighty disservice if you didn’t check out Stranger Things.
And you know what? Even if you aren’t, check the show out anyway.
Look! Even Stephen King likes it!

My only question about the Netflix series STRANGER THINGS is whether or not it will be popular enough to crash their servers. It might be.
--Tweet from Stephen King


* For the record, there are also some visuals that recall more recent titles, like Silent Hill and Under the Skin. (You’ll know them when you see them.)

** Having said that, I will still freely go on the record to say, given the way they opted to close the 8th Chapter, please please please let there be a second season…

(Stranger Things OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #11

THE WITCH
(January 2015)



"O God, my Lord, I now begin,
O help me and I'll leave my sin.
For I, repentant now shall be,
From evil I will turn to Thee.
None ever shall destroy my faith,
Nor do I mind what Satan saith.”

Writer/director Robert Eggers’ feature debut, The Witch (or, The VVitch: A New-England Folktale, if thou preferest) is an astounding piece of period horror.
“Inspired”--as the film tells us at its climax--“by many folktales, fairytales and written accounts of historical witchcraft, including journals, diaries and court records,” The Witch follows the travails of a family living on the edge of a deep, dark wood, beset by misery and sinister occurrences.


“Black Phillip, Black Phillip,
King of sky and land.
Black Phillip, Black Phillip,
King of sea and sand.

“We are ye servants,
We are ye men.
Black Phillip eats the lions
From the lions’ den.”

Though most everything in The Witch is noteworthy (including Craig Lathrop’s production design, Jarin Blaschke’s  cinematography, and Mark Korven’s creeptastic score), the film’s casting should not be overlooked, particularly, the fact that the only readily recognizable genre face here is Kate Dickie.*
Suspension of disbelief is always a sight easier when the screen isn’t filled with Hollywood names. And if you love your horror--and treasure the lingering echoes of eeriness left behind by a tale of dread well told--then this is a story you’ll definitely want to get sucked into without any distractions.

“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”


(The Witch OS’ courtesy of impawards.com & hcgart.com.)

* At least, to me.
I imagine some Harry Potter fans may recognize Ralph Ineson, who, like Dickie, also appeared on Game of Thrones. I, however, was never a Potter fan, and for the life of me, cannot recall who GoT’s “Dagmer Cleftjaw” is, nor what he looked like…

Saturday, June 18, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #10

THE INVITATION
(March 2015)


While I wasn't particularly crazy about Karyn Kusama’s previous genre efforts (the live action adaptation of Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body)*, her latest feature, The Invitation, is another matter entirely.


Working from a screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (who’d previously worked with her on Aeon Flux), Kusama crafts an exquisite example of slow burn horror as a group of friends who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years are brought back together by the titular invitation, for a night of talk and drinks and a gradually escalating sense of wrongness.


Now, given that that’s all you’ll get here in terms of what the film is about, if seeing familiar genre faces makes you more comfortable, then the likes of John Carroll Lynch, and Michiel Huisman (who’s been conspicuously absent of late from Orphan Black, though is very much present on Game of Thrones), and Logan Marshall-Green, are here for the festivities.
Marshall-Green, in particular, needs to be singled out, as he pretty much anchors the film’s proceedings as Will, who is still dealing with the trauma of a personal tragedy, and is the one most attuned to the wrongness I made mention of earlier.

So, yeah. The Invitation.
RSVP, regrets only.

* I’ve still to find the opportunity to see Kusama’s feature debut, Girlfight, so, who knows, she might have kicked my film geek a$$ really early on, if only I’d caught it when it was first released…

(The Invitation OS’ courtesy of impawards.com & aintitcool.com.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE LOST JOURNAL OF ALEJANDRO PARDO


In case you haven't seen the interviews the mighty fine Jordan Clark of The Aswang Project conducted with THE LOST JOURNAL team (click here for the Writers interview, and here for the Artists interview), I had this to say at the tail end of our talk:

I imagine the possibility/reality of a Volume 2 (and, fingers crossed, beyond!) will lie in the public reaction to the first JOURNAL. (So, if you guys want to see more, then get your friends and your family to pick up their own copies and not mooch on yours!)

That still holds true, so, if you've been thinking of eventually picking up the JOURNAL, do us a solid and pick it up now (or, at the very least, ASAP).
And if you've already got a copy and have faith in our creative voices, then convince friends, family, and complete strangers to get their own copies!
Go!
Spread the Truth!
So we can all go beyond the JOURNAL!   

Thanx again to Jordan, for helping get the JOURNAL word out.

THE LOST JOURNAL OF ALEJANDRO PARDO: Creatures & Beasts of Philippine Folklore is now out (P295).



For those outside of the Philippines, it's available as a PDF from the Buqo Bookstore.

Once again, thanx to all you mighty fine folk for the enthusiasm and support.
Please feel free to spread the word and the love…

you can’t drink just six,

Dave

Thursday, May 5, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #9

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
(March 2016)


So in mid-January, Bad Robot stealthbombed us with the trailer for a heretofore unannounced “spiritual successor” to ¡Q horror! 2008 title, Cloverfield, Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane (which began life as The Cellar, and was developed and produced under the code name Valencia).

The initial trailer--brilliantly orchestrated to Tommy James & The Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”--certainly revved up my geek engine, and I was in constant fear of getting spoiled by the Internets before I had a chance to see the film.
Luckily, I was not, and here we are, with a ¡Q horror! slot staked out in its own name.

I will, of course, not tell you anything that you can’t pick up from the trailer, other than this…
Though Trachtenberg has confirmed that “… [Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane] are not in the same timeline,” look who’s the Bold Futura Employee of the Month for February 2016
John Goodman’s Howard Stambler…
Hrrmmm…
Maybe this is an alternate reality from the original Cloverfield, and an alternate reality Tagruato Corporation…?

Whatever the case, in this reality, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a solid candidate for some ¡Q horror! love…

 

(10 Cloverfield Lane OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A QUICK 'VERSE OVERVIEW



If you've always wanted a quick snapshot of the 'Verse titles, or ever wondered what the differences are between them, then this just went up.


Thanx to Ica, for helping get the word out.

you can’t drink just six,

Dave

Saturday, April 23, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #8

KRAMPUS
(November 2015)


"Twisted fairy tale horsesh!t!"

I've talked about this ‘round these parts before, that it’s always a good thing to have go-to holiday movies.

And while there are certain go-to Christmas titles (like Go or Tokyo Godfathers), there aren’t as many go-to Christmas horror titles, except, say, Gremlins, and--but this is a stretch, as far as the horror part is concerned--The Nightmare Before Christmas.
So, thank sweet baby Jeebus for Michael Dougherty’s Krampus!
Right from the slo-mo Mucho Mart opening sequence (orchestrated to Bing Crosby’s “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas”), Krampus is a holiday horror delight, as Max (Emjay Anthony) inadvertently calls down the “shadow of Saint Nicholas,” the titular Krampus, who comes “… not to reward, but to punish.”

After giving us the ¡Q horror! 2010 title, Trick ‘r Treat--which is, as indicated by its title, all about Halloween horror--Dougherty takes very nearly the same general approach, but this time, tipping his horror hat to Christmas, and focusing on a single story.
And while titles like Sheitan and À l'intérieur (Inside) and Calvaire all sport Christmas-set horrors, they’re also definitely not my idea of “fun” holiday horror viewing.
Krampus is.*

And really, how can you resist a movie that has a dog named Thor playing one named Rosie?

“Yeah, but Ben Kuklinski is always ragging on Christmas. He even told the first graders that Santa was just a cheap marketing ploy invented to sell Pepsi.”
“Coke.”
“You know what I mean.”
“But not why you care.”
“Well, someone’s gotta…”

* Having labeled it “‘fun’ holiday horror viewing,” I feel though that I should point out that this one still gets pretty dark in a number of strategic places…

(Krampus OS courtesy of impawards.com.)