December 31, 2009

Have a Bloody New Year!

2009 is dead as dead can be, which can mean only thing: 2010 better be a good year or we'll sure as hell send it back to wherever it came from! :) Joking aside, 2009 was a good year for Danse Macabre and horror in general and if 2010 has anything more to offer, we're in the driving seat, man, and there's no one stopping us but ourselves. This year over the course of 8 months we aired some 26 episodes of our blood-splashing show covering basic stuff such as witches and ghosts next to more complex issues such as the philosophy behind torture porn and Twin Peaks; but note: THAT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING!

2010 will see us honoring literary luminaries of the highest order (King and Barker at one end, Ballard and Palahniuk at the other) while also delving deeper in the realms of sheer weirdness and exploitation horror (think of The Thing with Two Heads), branching out to films from countries such as Norway and Russia, and covering as many comic books as we can get our hands on (EC Comics, Hellboy, The Walking Dead)! Well, these are just some of the topics that are coming your way in 2010. We could tell you everything we are planning but that would be spoiling it, don't you think? Besides, we have to run: the monster party is about to start!

Oh, and by the way: Bloody New Year is a real film and it's ripe with camp value so do give it a try whenever you have nothing better to do!

December 28, 2009

Danse Macabre's Top 11 Albums for 2009

As you see 2009 slowly dying out, you know it's time for some yearly best of lists and since Danse Macabre is really a radio show that plays quite a bit of music, it's only natural that we'd make our own selection of Top 10 LPs or some version thereof. Well, we made Top 11 - hope you don't mind - and as you'll notice not all of it is outright horror - most of it is merely fittingly bizarre - but then again, life shouldn't be focused solely on the ugly things. As far as the number one goes, though, please pay attention to the lyrics: they make all the difference between great music and a deeply moving emotional experience.

11. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

10. The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation - Succubus

9. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

8. Sunn O))) – Monoliths & Dimensions

7. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

6. Mount Eerie – Winds Poem

5. Baroness – Blue Record

4. Zombi – Spirit Animal

3. Oneida – Rated O

2. The Black Heart Procession - Six

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

December 27, 2009

Episode 19 - Alfred Hitchcock Presents

If it looks like I've been delaying the upload of this episode for ages, it's because I have. I was nervous during the entire episode for fear of saying something wrong in the presence of my two prominent guests, Gjorgji Janevski and Baze Petrushev, and it shows. After all, it is difficult to say something new about Alfred Hitchcock, the man has been analyzed to death and back - Slavoj Zizek's ideas are particularly interesting here - but that doesn't mean one shouldn't try. In the end, my fears may have been for nothing: between the three of us in the studio we dug up enough interesting facts, trivia and ideas to fully justify the episode. We even added some brilliant Hitchcock monologues for good measure!

The first film we talked about is Psycho (1960), by far the most important - if not the best - of Hitchock's films. Piling up information on top of Bernard Hermann's stabbing score, we went through camera angles, alternate takes, questions of identities, Marion Crane's untimely death at the middle of the film, and of course, the Gus Van Sant remake from 1998, which is analyzed in depth in this essay here.

Then, there's The Birds (1963), Hitchock's only pure horror film for which Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has quite a lot to say in the following clip.

Finally, we talked about Vertigo (1958), which in my humble opinion is the master's richest film by far, overflowing with Saul Bass's grand visuals (including the nightmare sequence captured below), Hitch's multilayered storytelling and the spirit of San Francisco. There is a very good reason why Terry Gilliam cited the film in his SF masterpiece 12 Monkeys (1995) along with Chris Marker's 28-minute photo story La Jetée (1962), building up from the connecting theme of identity loss and re-creation of time. Should you have an open evening before you, I suggest you watch all three films in chronological order for maximum impact.

Musically speaking, the episode features a heavy dose of Bernard Hermann's iconic soundtrack scores, a string of tracks by his follower, the shifty Barry Adamson, as well as a couple of rarities in Landscape's "Norman Bates" and the theme song to the bizarre Psychos in Love.

>>> Stream the episode away!

>>> Download the whole thing and don't look back!

Oh, and by the way, I still don't get it entirely: despite the fact he's made only two films that could be labeled as horror - the splatter-sub-genre-defining Psycho and the somewhat subversive The Birds - just why do people still insist on calling him "director of the macabre"? Are two films enough to seal one's status?

December 24, 2009

Holidays in Hell Ad

Well, by now the internet is flooded with these ads, and there's a good reason for it. The damn thing is funny, that's all. Well, I wish you all a Black Christmas!

December 20, 2009

Stephen King Book Covers

Here's a slight change of direction. Instead of the usual list of movie posters what you have in front of you is a series of Stephen King book covers. Of course, the present artwork does not come any way near to being exhaustive on the subject matter what with King's incredibly prolific career and the dozens of cover versions for each title. The present works, however, are indeed among the most interesting attempts at illustrating the master of horror's words. Just look at the covers for Firestarter and The Dark Half, both based on a single gaze yet seductively creepy, inviting you to open the respective books and follow whatever story hides behind them. Well, enjoy!

December 19, 2009

Various Artists - Closed on Account of Rabies: Poems and Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (1997)

Tribute albums are always difficult to pull off as the listener is bound to take into account how each covered track sounds in its original version. What is particularly difficult about albums such as Closed on Account of Rabies - where there is no such thing as an original track but rather multiple individual perceptions of how a text should be read - is that the covers compete with imaginary - and therefore perfect - originals. How Edgar Allan Poe would have read his short stories and poems is anyone's guess; all we really have to go by are the narrative tics that permeate his writing.

Closed on Account of Rabies, then, is phenomenal success, combining magnificent spoken word performances by an array of famous artists with superb sound production. The vast majority of the renditions here maximize Poe's eccentricities and induce creepiness with no problem whatsoever. If you're a Poe fan, you will love Christopher Walken's reading of "The Raven", which is second to none (by the way, I am not a huge fan of Vincent Price's reading). You will also find that Iggy Pop's rendition of "A Tell-Tale Heart" is perfectly chilling and Jeff Buckley's "Ulalume" is mesmerizing. My favorite track of the album , though, is Gabriel Byrne's take on "The Masque of the Read Death" which springs to life behind Byrne's accent and the background noises. If you like what you hear here, you might also want to check out Lou Reed's version of "The Fall of the House of Usher", which is very similar in sensibility and has amazing production values.

>>> Download Closed on Account of Rabies

December 14, 2009

The Raven (1963)

While I doubt that Edgar Allan Poe imagined his poem "The Raven" quite like this, the cult Roger Corman flick is a truly delicious slice of camp that will surely stay with you for ages after you see it. The all star cast is worth the watch on its own: a combination of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and a young Jack Nicholson simply cannot go wrong! Oh, and by the way, don't miss the burning roof sequence that Corman used in every single movie he filmed during the early 1960's :)

December 8, 2009

Buried Poster

This one is for the claustrophobic among you.

Buried, directed by Rodrigo Cortes, stars Ryan Reynolds as an American contractor working in Iraq. After being attacked by insurgents, he awakens to find himself buried alive with only a lighter and a cellphone to keep him company. Can he escape his tomb before time runs out?

The poster treatment and the short synopsis have me fired up for this already.

December 6, 2009

Devil Doll - The Girl Who Was... Death (1989)

As far as rock bands go, Devil Doll is one of those bizarre musical experiments that succeed in spite of the musicians' best attempts to destroy all evidence of their own existence. An Italian-Slovenian project, the band formed in 1987 with the mysterious "Mr. Doctor" at the helm signing most of the recorded music before burning whatever recordings he could get his hands on. The band has gained a strong cult following for its ultra-theatrical mix of gothic rock, classical and slavonic folk music, and of course, the antics of Mr. Doctor.

The Girl Who Was... Death is the first Devil Doll album that fans could actually get copies of. The first edition of the album was pressed into 500 copies, but only 150 were handed out after a live performance while the remaining 350 LPs were burned by Mr. Doctor. To make things weirder, each album handed out had a unique inlay written by Mr. Doctor personally, and as the story goes, some of these inlays were written in his own blood. To top it all, there's the cover: if the photo of Frankenstein's Bride screaming her lungs at you doesn't get your attention, you're not human, period.

The Girl Who Was... Death is based on the subversive TV series called The Prisoner about a British former secret agent who is held prisoner in a mysterious seaside village where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. If you haven't seen the show, don't worry: the album is self-sufficient through and through. As the single track - clocking at 66 minutes and 6 seconds - develops its narrative by way of violins, metal guitars and eerie vocals, you get a sense of dark atmosphere that fully complements the band's back story, delivering pure horror at one turn and hilarious parody at the next. For all his weirdness, Mr. Doctor's "old witch" shtick actually works here, full of menace and melancholy as it rages all the way through. In short, the perfect album to listen to at night as you question the meaning of everything and nothing.

>>> Download The Girl Who Was... Death (and while you're at it, why not the whole of Devil Doll's discography?)

November 30, 2009

Episode 18 - The Dark Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents… some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age.”

H.P. Lovecraft in “The Call of Cthulhu”

Everyone knows Stephen King, everyone knows Edgar Allan Poe, but ask your friends and I bet you'll get the same answer from 9 out of 10: "No, I don't know H.P. Lovecraft. Should I?" Well, there is a strong enough reason why Danse Macabre kicks off its journey through the long list of literary and cinematic horror authors with the candle-carrying fellow pictured above and below. It just wouldn't be possible to continue with the show at this point without introducing the most influential horror writer of the 20th century - Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft out of Providence, Rhode Island, United States, born in 1890 and passed on in 1937.

If you're asking yourself whether you've seen any film based on his works, please don't. Although there are numerous films that carry the Lovecraft name, few of them can even begin to compare with the written word. Of course, there's the cult horror comedy known as Re-Animator (1985) based on the short story "Herbert West: Re-Animator" but it's the exception rather than the rule. Besides, the film never deals with the philosophy that festers at the roots of Lovecraft's work and makes this skinny fellow influential to this very day.

OK, so let's try to sum Lovecraft in a couple of paragraphs. As you'll notice, it takes bits and pieces from another author we have discussed i.e. Mary Shelley, and more importantly, every current author of the macabre worth his salt is indebted to some extent to Lovecraft (King and Barker, especially). Well, here it goes...

As deep as the human imagination might seem to us, humanity cannot really grasp concepts that go beyond its existence, beyond that which makes itself apparent. Science does give us new answers each day but it has its limitations. We are as small in the grand scheme of the World as a microbe is small in comparison to us, so how could we ever aspire to understand what lies on the other side of our current knowledge? How could we aspire to control it? To surpass it?

Lovecraft's heroes, stranded before alien civilizations and strange cults, are aware of the power hidden behind these great truths, yet they continue to challenge them in their search for a semblance of real knowledge. When faced with the truths of the Universe, though, these same characters go on to become clinically insane, as true knowledge becomes so horrifying to them that they feel it would be best to shun it. Ignorance would be bliss in face of the horrors they come to know, but still, they try to grasp them and never give up until it's too late.

Lovecraft’s cynicism towards science and human knowledge is pervasive, thus molding dark, brooding worlds where no light can be shed about its ancient, occult secrets, and where mankind faces indescribable horrors, powerless to defend itself against them. Just check out the Cthulhu mythos in all its glory.

This and more is the subject of the 18th episode of the show, originally aired on 2 October (we know we're late with the episodes but we promise, we'll get in step soon!). Musically speaking, it's time for some prog rock via King Crimson and Caravan as well as the perfectly suitable Isis and Nick Gisburne's reading of Lovecraft's early story "The Beast in the Cave".

>>> Stream the episode away!

>>> Download the whole thing and don't look back!