September 30, 2009

Caligari and Hellraiser: A Lineage

For the 100th post, a little treat for the Hellraiser fans out there. It's a short but very interesting essay that links the ultra-classic film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Clive Barker's cult creation. In near future, I will probably expand on this, but for now, enjoy!

Psycho Trailer

I wish more film makers were as interesting as this little chubby guy in here. Then again, I don't think that in the media saturated world of today it is possible at all to retain the mystique he possessed. David Lynch is there, of course, but then again I've seen way too many interviews with him... Oh, shucks!

September 29, 2009

Antichrist - Yet Another Poster!

Honestly, the more I know of Antichrist, the less I want to see it: Lars Von Trier is one sadistic bastard and he's way too good a manipulator to be left to direct. That said, the posters are all amazing and remarkably different so I may yet watch this at great personal risk.

The Nightmare on Elm Street Trailer

OK, it is produced by Michael Bay and it looks like it's going to be your standard teen horror flick, so at this point one can only hope that it won't be epically crap. As I've stated before, though, it's still Freddy and it should be worth watching no matter what. Some remarks: 1. The mask seems to be new, which is to say slightly blander and more realistic - get over it; 2. At least one scene copies a scene from the original film; 3. The burning scene looks really good and I hope the implication that Freddy is innocent is actually used in the film as a plot point. 4. Finally, I like the idea of Jackie Earl Haley as the anti-hero.

September 26, 2009

Quills (A Reminder)

Not a horror film but a strong offering, nonetheless, especially given our latest subject i.e. the always fascinating Marquis de Sade. One remark, though: Geoffrey Rush is way too handsome to play the Marquis who according to writings from the time was quite the piglet.

September 23, 2009

Warning: Sunlight!

It's True Blood promo billboard, so of course it's brilliant. Did you miss the last one? Check it out here. By the by, the second season was tons better than the first one!

September 21, 2009

Episode 15: Faust vs. Pinhead

“. . . If he were beautiful
As he is hideous now, and yet did dare
To scowl upon his Maker, well from him
May all our misery flow. Ph, what a sight!”
Dante, Inferno

According to The Rolling Stones, we live in a period of history where the Devil is so inconspicuous he needs to introduce himself. After all, would you really notice if the Evil One was your neighbor or your math teacher or your beloved Prime Minister / President? I know I wouldn’t: they all look equally suspicious to me.

Bad jokes and religious beliefs aside, the concept of a being that embodies all human corruption and whose main goal is to destroy all goodness in the world is so deeply ingrained in our collective subconscious that we tend to take it for granted and ignore the subtleties and complex moral dilemmas it really stands for.

The belief in demons is as old as mankind. The Judeo-Christian Satan or Devil – the “popular” horned, tailed, winged fallen angel who rules over Hell – has his roots in antecedents such as Tryphon, Set, and other sinister deities of the ancient Egyptians, as well as the evil spirit Ahriman from the Persian dualistic system.

The concept of the Devil has also gone through several evolutionary phases by the way of Christian literature, including various writings and readings of the Bible. It took learned Christians quite a while to determine that it was the same Satan or Lucifer, Son of Morning, that lured Adam and Eve and tempted Christ. It took them longer – about 12 centuries, in fact – to agree that Satan was emperor of Hell and ruled an appropriate court hierarchy. Other parts of the myth would continue to be added even further down the road, mostly through poetry and visual arts – the pitchfork, for example, is a product of 19th century poster art.

Of course, my favorite visual depiction of the Devil and his Hell comes from Dante’s Inferno. What is more striking than a winged giant frozen waist-deep in a lake of ice, trapped at the Earth’s core, forever grinding the worst of human traitors such as Brutus, Cassius and Judas Iscariot? The French artist Gustave Dore made a brilliant rendering of this image in the 19th century, and I can bet that even as we speak there is an aspiring metal band that is trying to express it through music in some forlorn garage.

What makes the Devil so appealing and scary as an idea, however, is not so much his grotesqueness as much as his power to corrupt, which is why the story of Faust and all other versions thereof have always fascinated me.

The basic story of Faust goes something like this: Faustus, a scholar of Wittenberg desires more knowledge and power so he makes a pact with the Devil, whereby all his wishes are to be granted for 24 years in exchange for his soul. Faustus does gain knowledge and power but he spends most of his time frivolously, playing jokes on the Holy Roman Emperor and on the pope, and resurrecting Helen of Troy. In the end, he meets a hideous doom within earshot of other scholars, who, when they break into the room, find only bloody traces. Goethe greatly expands the plot, particularly by giving Faust the chance to redeem himself, but the basic idea of corruption remains at the heart of the story.

Interestingly, Johannes Faust was a real person. He performed tricks, gained a reputation for prophecy, and claimed that his powers came from the Devil, the best proof of which seems to be that he somehow escaped the stake. His claims of demonism were taken at face value, and, as soon as he was dead, fanciful publications called Faustbuchs began to appear relating to stories of his adventures, told in such a way as to incorporate stories formerly told about Roger Bacon and Pope Sylvester II.

Basically, all stories about the Devil worth their salt are variations on the Faust theme. Films such as Rosemary’s Baby and Angel Heart first come to mind for the obvious reasons but the theme could be stretched all the way to William Golding’s literary masterpiece Lord of the Flies where the pact and the subsequent corruption are implicit. The most intriguing Devil concept, however, is presented in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: the idea that devils and angels, hell and heaven, are one and the same rings true on so many levels, it positively reeks of humanity.

On the other hand, stories where the Devil is merely an evil entity that openly confronts the main characters aren’t devil stories at all – I’d much rather view these as monster movies where the monster takes the shape of the Evil One. The Omen is an example of this: Damien could easily be some sort of super-vampire as he poses little to none moral questions on his way to destroy the world, or differently put, the film asks the viewer to be afraid of being killed, not of being tricked into becoming a monster. I’m still undecided on what The Exorcist is, but if you press me hard, I’d say it’s a vampire film, as well, since it’s just a thinly veiled allegory of sexual awakening.

Finally, let’s get back to The Rolling Stones and the Devil’s introduction. Ever since the renaissance, the Devil has been presented chiefly as a perfect human being, which, of course, makes it much easier for him to create pacts and buy out souls. You’d run from a red-skinned triple-horned monster but not from naked Angelina Jollie / Brad Pitt, would you? This is what, at the end of the day, makes the concept of the Devil so scary: corruption is not a threat that one can kill or banish like other monsters but rather a constant threat one has to learn to live with and fight off on regular basis, which is extremely hard once you take into account all those deeply corrupted people around you that flash their ill-gained money and power along with, you know, their golden crucifixes.

A word or two about the music in this episode: including The Rolling Stones would have been way too easy, don't you think? The Laibach version of "Sympathy for the Devil" included is much more fun and it certainly meshes better with the two versions of "Ave Satani" that follow. The hit of the night, however, goes to Buck Owens and his "Satan's Got to Get Along without Me". Enjoy!

>>> Download the episode, good man!

>>> Stream the episode, Scottie!

...and that's not all! We've added a little bonus here: the trailer to the videogame Dante's Inferno, just so you know what gamer delights you might have been missing, he-he... 'Till next episode, then!

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

"Every town has an Elm Street!"

The trailer for Never Sleep Again, the feature-length documentary about Freddy Krueger is now online! If you ask me, it feels a bit cheesy at this point, much like the gazillion Elm Street sequels in the late 1980s, but hey, Freddy's still our favorite bogeyman so we're eagerly waiting for the final product, which is due sometime in 2010.

September 19, 2009

Zombie Posters, Yeah!

It's time for a hefty zombie poster art update! (Que blog visitors screaming from the top of their lungs in ecstasy; someone mumbles that 28 Days Later is NOT a zombie movie) OK, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later are not quite zombie movies in the sense that the creatures are not dead - they're resting - but this pair of films does get full credits for portraying the kind of zombie apocalypse that kicked into high gear with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. If you wanna go further into the matter, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead series doesn't fall into the zombie category either since it's really about evil spirits, and you know what, I don't care: if they're dead, their bodies are decomposing, and they wanna get as many living folks as possible, it's good enough for me. In any case, here's a string of 30+ posters about the living dead, warts and all!

September 18, 2009

Survival of the Dead!

It's time to jazz up old stuff! George A. Romero's sixth installment in his ...of the Dead series had its premiere last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, and according to incoming reports it's OK but far from game-changing. The ironically titled Survival of the Dead will also take part in the main competition of the Venice Film Festival, which makes it the first horror film for such consideration since 1932's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If this is any indiciation, this time we should get a much better treat than the hand-held camera-based Diary of the Dead. That last part of the ongoing series demonstrated lack of fresh ideas and thinning of Romero's apocalyptic vision established in Night of the Living Dead, all of which effectively led to significant decrease in interest for the upcoming Survival. That said, let's wait and see for ourselves just what the old master has cranked up this time.

September 17, 2009

Clive Barker - The Damnation Game (1985)

Many years ago, Stephen King was so fascinated with one up-and-coming writer that he bestowed upon his shoulders the weight of being "the future of horror". In the 20+ years since, that young author has become a household name with each of his books and films now carrying big fat capital letters just so you know who you're dealing with: it's Mr. Clive Barker for you, Sir. The unexpected thing, however, is that Clive Barker proved to be not only a fine master of the genre but an exquisitely imaginative literary mind, too, often going way beyond what can be considered horror or modern literature, into the timeless realms of the Word itself. By comparison, Stephen King is merely a craftsman who was caught up in the zeitgeist.

This turn of events was hinted at already in Barker's earliest works, namely the Lovecraftian horror collections Books of Blood and his first novel, the insular Faustian epic, The Damnation Game, something that Mr. King clearly recognized. Sadly, while the Books of Blood have achieved cult status since their first run in the mid-1980s, Barker's large format debut is nowadays mostly forgotten in favor of his later more polished works such as The Hellbound Heart, Imajica, Coldheart Canyon etc.; books for which the Game is the most important foundation, and none of which replicate its sheer raw power.

The story of the novel goes something like this: "Marty Strauss, an 'inocent' gambling addict released on parole from prison is hired to be the personal bodyguard of Joseph Whitehead, one of the wealthiest men in the world. The job proves more complicated and dangerous than he thought, as Marty soon gets caught up in a series of supernatural events involving Whitehead, his heroin-addict daughter, and a mysterious centuires-old man named Mamoulian, to whom Whitehead essentially sold his soul during World War II..." In practice, this basic plot is much messier, dirtier and schizoid than it initially seems but Barker's deviant prose works almost all the way through, creating intriguing characters and locations, as well as often brilliant dialogues.

The centerpiece of the story is, of course, Mamoulian, an extra-powerful being that in many ways is predecessor to Pinhead only much more human and tied to a broader set of ideas. It is the mystery of who Mamoulian is and what he intends to do with Whitehead that really pushes the story forward even while other characters are stuck in a rut, trying to figure out how to get mentally from point A to point B. The aura of Mamoulian is so strong, in fact, that even the tedious resolution of his past doesn't dissipate the tension that he creates every single time he appears on the page.

Certainly, Mamoulian is not the only character worth reading the novel through: the top 4 characters are all fun in a disturbed way and the things they do to each other will certainly make you squirm on several occasions. In any case, don't take my word for it, and instead, download, borrow or buy the book and read it! Clive Barker may have gone a bit soft since the year it was published, but it still remains as a perfect monument to his skills as the master of the macabre.

>>> Download The Damnation Game torrent!