Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Reflections: The Scary Vs. The Sexy

"Halloween is a day we honor monsters!" - Michael Scott, The Office 

Well, another Halloween has come and past. Now follows the inevitable winding down I always run into, and I'm a bit thoughtful. What do our Halloween traditions mean? I'm sure most don't give it a second thought. And I know most people my age use it as an excuse to drink and party (and for the females to dress like prostitutes. There is NO REASON a Sexy Wookie costume should exist. What the f*** is wrong with people!).

But Halloween is a festival with a deeper meaning. I've got a little bit of the Scots-Irish blood in my veins, and I can say "Samhain" is a bit of my own heritage. Halloween is a big deal in my family. And for me, I've always been encouraged to go for the more frightening aspects- to have horrific costumes, to make ghastly decorations, and to make things scary with the most cheer possible. And my family gives a good reason for this. We need to be safely scared. We need that jolt of horror. When we dress as the Devil, we don't celebrate him- we make a mockery of him, defang him. Because we all know that's not really TEH SATANS under there, it's just some dude.

The point is, we dress as the horrific, the monstrous and the diabolical to rob them of their power over us. We do ourselves a spiritual disservice by dressing as the mundane or the sexy (with, perhaps the exception of those who have an unhealthy fear of eroticism, although in that case I would recommend going for a sexually suggestive costume with distubing undertones- maybe a Cenobite.). The streets should be lined with ghouls, ghosts, the undead, the demonic, the murderers, and the grave robbers, not with witches in two strips of black cloth and a pointy hat and not with Spongebob motherf***ing Squarepants.

Spengbab, on the other hand...

Anyway, hope you all had a gore-riffically ghoulish Halloween. Happy Ninja-Vember to you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cthulhu and You: An HP Lovecraft Primer

This, ladies and gents, is Cthulhu.

You might recognize him- or something based on him. He may as well be the patron saint of Internet Culture- as linked with insanity as he is, that's quite appropriate. He's appeared personally or been referenced in numerous short stories and novels, a few video games, the Call of Cthulhu tabletop roleplaying game, the title of a Metallica instrumental, and as of Wedsnesday night, South Park. 

He's an important facet of geek culture- you're really in deep when your first response to tentacles isn't to make a joke at the expense of the Japanese but to shout Cthulhu F'taghn!

But let me assume you're not the huge nerd I am. What do you know about Cthulhu and his ilk beyond the fact that they have tentacles? (And not all of them have tentacles, by the way.) Well guess what, folks? You're about to learn something!

This charming fellow is Howard Phillips Lovecraft. He created Cthulhu and many of the places, characters, and tropes surrounding him. Along with Edgar Allan Poe, he is one of the fathers of modern Horror. While some facets of his work haven't aged very well- specifically his racism and classism- his stories have a spellbinding bleakness and stark horror that humanity might not be worth a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. In any case, he was an obscure pulp writer in his time and cultivated a small fanbase (notably the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Robert Howard; and the poet Clark Ashton Smith.) After his death in the 1930's, Lovecraft's fans formed the Arkham House publishing imprint, named after a town that features prominently in his stories.

Speaking of Arkham (and I've run into this a few times) you may recognize the name from the Batman comics' Arkham Asylum. Which I've noticed a lot of people seem to think originated in Batman comics. Well, Lovecraft (considering he died before the first Batman comic was printed) originated the name of the town in 1920 in his story "The Picture in The House", some 54 years before the name first appeared in Batman (in 1974) . The town is a cross-section of contemporary Boston, Salem, and Lovecraft's hometown of Providence, RI. Its most prominent institutions were Miskatonic University (featured in Re-Animator) and the Arkham Sanitarium, which no doubt inspired the Asylum in Batman and was the final stop for many of Lovecraft's protagonists.

Other notable locations in Lovecraft's fiction are the New England towns of Kingsport, Dunwich, and Innsmouth, as well as the Dreamlands. While Lovecraft is most well-known as a writer of Horror, he also wrote a number of fantasy stories, most of which took place in the Dreamlands.

Lovecraft created a variety of bizarre and inhuman entities- maybe aliens, maybe gods- the most well known of which is our pal Cthulhu. However, other entities you'll encounter in his stories include Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, the blind idiot God Azathoth (think a much scarier Galactus), the Yithians, the fungi from's a big, scary universe and you are an insignificant and probably tasty primate!

Not quite a character, but just as important are the various ancient tomes that appear in the stories. Most well known is the Necronomicon, or Al Azif if you prefer, but also appearing are the Unaussprechlich Kulten, De Vermiis Mysteriis, and the Pnakotic Manuscripts. Lovecraft's inventions have notably appeared in the Evil Dead films (pretty different, but a notable reference just the same.) and on the Simpsons. And if someone tries to tell you the Necronomicon is a real book and that Lovecraft didn't invent it, I permit you- nay, compel you, to beat them with a 2x4 until they agree that it's a fictional plot device. If a book of such powerful evil did exist, would you be able to buy it at Barnes and Noble?
On second thought, don't answer that.
Lovecraft's influence extends all over the place. You can see it in later writer's work- Stephen King, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman all take cues from him, as does Mike Mignola. John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon, and Guillermo Del Toro all take influence as well.

Anyways, if you've never experienced a Lovecraft story, I encourage you to check them out. Penguin Books makes some nice, well-arranged paperback versions of his work, and most of it is also available online. If you'd like to start reading Lovecraft, I recommend starting with "Pickman's Model" or "The Dunwich Horror". "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Rats in The Walls", and "The Colour Out of Space", are also recommended. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little look into the work of one of horror's most influential figures.

Online Texts: 
Pickman's Model :
The Colour Out of Space

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Halloween Mix

Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
Wrathchild - Iron Maiden
Hip to Be Square- Huey Lewis and the News
Cthulhu- Zombeast
Vampira- Misfits
Baby Elephant Walk- Harry Mancini
Bark at the Moon- Ozzy Osbourne
Alone in the Dark- Testament
Ghost of John- Bake West
Dig Up Her Bones- Misfits
California Lady - Fish Lipped Guy and the Band That Plays California Lady
Monster Mash - Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers
My Curse- The Chop Tops
Goin' Down to Dunwich- Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
The Greatest Show Unearthed- Creature Feature
Curse of The Pharaohs - Mercyful Fate
Murder in the Graveyard- Screaming Lord Sutch
Jack The Ripper- The Horrors
Am I Demon- Danzig
Dragula- Rob Zombie
Witchfinder General - Carl Douglas
No One Lives Forever- Oingo Boingo
Kickstart My Heart- Motley Crue
More Human Than Human-  White Zombie
Call of Ktulu- Metallica
Return of the Fly- Misfits
THEM!- Misfits
Shine- Mr Big
Skulls- The Misfits
Rob Zombie- Lords of Salem
The Innsmouth Look- Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Part 3)

What a horrible night to have a curse. And I'm cursed to finish reviewing this stupid movie.

I feel...

Okay. So I've gotten this far without saying much about Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. It's not necessarily a bad performance, it's just really off-putting. I mean let's consider our two most iconic portrayals of the character- Edward Van Sloan in the 1931 film and Peter Cushing in the Hammer series. Van Sloan played Van Helsing as a solid center of moral authority; Cushing played him as a determined and inquisitive scientist. Hopkins (who we're used to playing subtle and deliberate characters) portrays him as animated and over-the-top. It's really pretty jarring. It's like seing Samuel L. Jackson trying to play subtle, it's like "Come on, man! Do what you're best at!".

Anyway, Van Helsing both narrates and acts...drunk. At Lucy's funeral he decides to tell her bereaved suitors that he needs surgical knives to mutilate her corpse (presumably with science). Well that's tactful. That's like showing up to your best friend's wedding and saying "Hey, why don't you give me 15 minutes to grope the bride before she walks up the aisle."

We also get more idiocy from Winona describing how (but never WHY) she is in love with Dracula. This is the worst part of an already bad movie. Seriously, one of the funniest lines in the movie when Keanu, sounding more Ted-like than ever says, "It is the man himself! HE'S GROWN YOUNG!" To which I can only add- BOGUS.

We then switch back to Van Helsing and the Three Stooges as they raid Lucy's tomb. The fact that the ludicrous amount of blood in this scene makes it hilarious is rather sad, because it's otherwise a great set and very nicely put together scene with Lucy looking creepier than...well creepier than Gary Oldman EVER is in this film. The icing on the cake is Cary Elwes screaming his guts out like Reb Brown while hammering the stake in.

And then the Stooges decide to strike at Dracula in his bachelor pad. Meanwhile, Dracula is out and about as Winona is taken up to Seward's Sanitarium for safety. In a room with glass doors and open windows, as Dracula emerges as (what I assume is foul-smelling) green gas. Seriously? Why not just have Dracula traveling as a river of brown sewage to fully drive the point that this film is a piece of malodorous shit home?

He also kills off the already completely peripheral character of Renfield.  Yep. Plot point over.

And following comes the most uncomfortable scene in the movie. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I would kill to be watching Manos: The Hands of Fate. I want to be anywhere but here.

Have you ever wanted to see Gary Oldman as Dale Earndhart and Winona Ryder humping each other in period costume? Well, you sick f***, THIS IS YOUR LUCKY DAY! We get Dracula rambling on about how "nobody can love secksay old me" and then Winona starts slapping him in anger. Not viciously, more like that scene in Blazing Saddles with "You brute! you brute! You vicious brute!"

And then Oldman's shirt comes off. And it gets even more drawn out and uncomfortable. Seriously, this scene seems to go on for ages. To borrow a line from the movie, you will spend oceans of time wishing you were anywhere else in the world. To say nothing of how, for an allegedly Romantic character how rapey Dracula comes across as. Which includes Dracula's O-face and then a big hug. AWWW.

Then the Marx Brothers storm the room and Dracula turns into a Bat-Creature that looked far less silly in the 8-bit Castlevania. Gary Oldman's giant forehead, seriously. And then he becomes a big ole pile of rats. While Winona whimpers "Unclean". You speak for every sane person who just watched that scene, Winona Ryder. 

So then Dracula flees England and we get more Keanu narration (haha, BYOODA-pest) as the Merry Pranksters give chase, attempting to cut him off at the pass (I hate that cliche!) by taking a train. They split up for some reason, Mina and Van Helsing heading to Castle Man-Taking-Painful-Dump ahead of the Stooges. This leads to more bizarre and discomforting cinema as Mina starts gyrating and um...stuff, apparently under the influence of Dracula's Bride-Skanks. She then comes onto Van Helsing.


And then attacks him.

THE F***?

I don't know what happened. It was neither sexy or scary. But it ends with Hopkins pushing a Nilla Wafer onto Winona's forehead and lighting a circle of fire around her. FIRE, FIRE, heheheh. And...the brides...kill his horse or something. This movie does so much in silhouette it's hard to figure out what's actually happening and what's just suggested. Anyway, Van Helsing beheads the brides, chucks their heads into a chasm and (I shit you not) yells DRAGO! Yes. Anthony Hopkins in Rocky IV-2: The Hunt For DRAGO-la.

Following this is the only remotely exciting scene in the movie as Robin Hood and his men in tights ride up the mountain shooting at...Dracula's Non-Union Gypsy Labor...while Winona seems to think she's Saruman as she...I don't know. I don't know what in the name of f*** is happening. But this is a pretty decent scene. So I'll let it pass. Although for some reason the Sun keeps rising and setting. Nonsensically.

Then Vigo the Carpathian bursts out of his coffin in what appears to be a robe made of Gold Mylar and he and Mina stagger into the castle to have a little moment. As Dracula has a knife in his heart he starts to...turn into...JESUS? DRACULA...IS...JESUS?


Then she cuts his head off. Dance party! Movie over!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Part 2)

Back in London we're introduced to the far more interesting trio of Lucy's suitors, which consists of a bumbling Dr. Seward, a guy mimicking George W. Bush's speech patterns ten years early, and Cary Elwes. Seriously, Elwes is awesome. He's my favorite part of the film. He seems to know what kind of movie he's in and hams it up plenty. Plus he rocks a killer waxed handlebar mustache. It's no wonder the smooth motherf***er ends up bagging Lucy. The guy just has to say "As you wish" and women melt and bend to his will. It's the English Lord equivalent of Bruce Campbell's "Give me some sugar, baby."

We also get a few scenes of Dr. Seward at his asylum, talking to a miscast Tom Waits as Renfield (seriously, he looks like a character in Battleship Potemkin, and I can't get that out of my mind). On top of that, why do they allow a dangerous lunatic to have that little Freddy Krueger glove thing? Does that seem like a good idea? We also notice that the asylum is staffed by Pyramid Head's less creative brothers, and that the Doctor has a little morphine addiction. Which is never referenced again in the film, so the one scene where it's shown is completely pointless. So much for character development.

At one point Lucy runs out to tell Mina that she's accepted Cary Elwes' marriage proposal. Then it starts raining, so around the garden and briefly make out. I'm thinking when he was working on the Godfather, Coppola thought, "You know what would make this movie awesome? Two chicks making out!" While you can't really fault that logic, it does feel more than a little bit forced. It's like the guy has spent his entire career trying to shoehorn a couple of girl-girl kisses into his films and not finding any place for them in Tucker: The Man and His Dream, telling James V. Hart- WHATEVER ELSE YOU DO, I MUST HAVE LESBIANS!

Well, Dracula gets on a ship to England, where he slaughters the whole crew and regenerates into his younger self- a kind of weird combination of Geddy Lee and Dale Earndhart. First thing he does upon hitting the shore? Turns into a weird-ass wolf-bear thing and rapes Lucy. I think this form may be what Penny Arcade was talking about when they mentioned Dickwolves. So there you go. Dracula turns into a Dickwolf and...yeah none of this shit was in the novel. So much for being Bram Stoker's Dracula. Hello, Bob Guccione's Dracula! (Or Draculigula, if you prefer).

So Lucy becomes ill after the Dickwolf attack (Dracula bit her), and Dr Seward calls Dr Van Hannib-um, Van Helsing to come check up on her. This leads to attempting a blood transfusion, complete with gratuitous breast shot for no reason. Of course, this leads to the greatest single moment in the film, when Cary Elwes explodes the doors open with his bare hands and bellows "WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS GOING ON UP HYAH?"

Frankly at this point my concentration on what's happening is broken by the sheer awesomeness of that. The first time I saw that I had to hit reverse and re-watch the scene about ten times. The occupants of the room are lucky he only hit the doors to open them. If he's kicked the doors in he would have decapitated the two doctors!

(Note to self: SCREENPLAY IDEA.)

In the meantime, Dracula takes to stalking Winona Ryder around London, dressed like Willy Wonka. Or a Victorian pimp. I'll let you decide. The movie tries to play his awkward stalking as romantic. Sure, because bothering an engaged woman, taking her to a nudie theater, giving her absinthe and following her home is romantic and not stalkery and creepy. This is a theme you'll see popping up more and more in vampire fiction from the 1970's onward. And it's a load of horseshit that wasn't in Stoker's text. So my opinion- stalking is not cool nor sexy. I don't care if you're a walking corpse or not. It's just something you don't do. Now, this would work fine if the film was playing Dracula as the villain, but IT CASTS HIM AS THE SYMPATHETIC LEAD! Make up your damn minds, writers!

In the meantime Keanu jumps from Castle Dracula (which, you might notice bears an uncanny resemblance to a guy sitting on a toilet) into a river while Winona waltzes around candle filled rooms with Dracula. He finds his way to a church where he's nursed back to health and the Mother Superior shoots a letter of to Winona, who decides to leave Gary Oldman and his pornstache for more EXCELLENT! waters. She sends Drac a letter and he turns into a blubbering mess, crying purple watercolor tears in bizarre makeup and then yelling, "VINDS! WINDS! WIIIIIIIIIIINDS!" (Thundercats, HOOOOO!)

But wait. He was crying. DRACULA was crying. 


Anyways, Dracula decides to end Lucy because Mina abandoned him, which causes the walls to explode with spouts of high pressure blood. It reminds me a lot of Johnny Depp's death scene in Nightmare on Elm Street and I think they wanted to symbolize Dracula having an orgasm or something...which, if that's what they were going for, it's pretty tasteless. Anyhow, the scene ends up with Lucy dead and Mina on her way to meet and marry Keanu, whose hair is now badly dyed gray. 

So until the next arbitrary cliffhanger...TO BE CONTINUED!

Movie Review: Bram Stoker's Dracula (Part 1)

(This review is turning out to be pretty lengthy and in-depth, so I'm gonna release it piece by piece over a few days).

Bram Stoker's Dracula. Aka Coppola's Dracula. Or as I like to call it: BS Dracula.

This is definitely a weird one to review, because a lot of people really like this movie. While I can see that there are some good things about it- It's one of the stupidest and most disappointing vampire films ever. Let me begin with a rant. This film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He made the Godfather films, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. It stars Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. It's Dracula. It has no right to be a bad movie. Yet despite all odds, it manages to be SO BAD.

Now some of you might say, "What are you talking about, Chad? Coppola's Dracula is awesome!" Well, maybe I can imagine that. If you've never seen either Nosferatu, the Universal Draculas, or Christopher Lee in the Hammer films, I can see how you might make that mistake. And some others might claim it's the closest Dracula film to the source material. Well here are my answers: 1) No, you're wrong. This movie is watchable, but it's crap. 2) It's true to the letter (sometimes) but not to the spirit of the Bram Stoker novel. I imagine the people that claim this is the best Dracula film are either pretentious types who believe the horror genre is below them, or the people who think the musical version of Phantom of the Opera is superior to the Lon Chaney silent film. Both have a common characteristic of always being wrong.

OK, rant over. 

The movie 'expands' on the novel, linking Dracula with his historical namesake Vlad Tepes, who appears to be Gary Oldman playing Rob Zombie in armor. His lover commits suicide and he renounces God when a Hagrid-looking priest tells him that her soul is damned. Well, he's suitably pissed off. He stabs a stone cross while forsaking God, damning himself to become a vampire...somehow. On the plus side, the blood-spouting cross is one of the best effects in the movie and looks really sweet. Less than five minutes in, best effects in the movie. Yeah.

Next we cut to 1897, where Keanu Reeves is setting off to make a most triumphant real estate deal with Dracula. And this is where the movie starts to suck. Even the people who like the film won't defend Keanu Reeves. His attempt at a British accent is as painful as having your nose broken while having Tabasco poured in your eyes. Anyway, we see him taking Thunder Mountain Railroad to Transylvania while Gary Oldman narrates a letter. He gets on a carriage to the Borgo pass where some old dude with a helmet that...dangles quarters on a string gives him a crucifix. Soon after, Dracula's carriage shows up driven by a guy in armor which appears to be modeled after Sam the Eagle. He takes Keanu to the castle, where he's greeted by Gary Oldman cosplaying as Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters 2. I don't even need to mention that his hairstyle looks, literally, like an ass. Let me remind you, THIS FILM WON AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST COSTUMES.

Meanwhile back in England (we flip back and forth, so I'll try to keep the flow going), repressed schoolmarm Winona Ryder is hanging out with Sadie Frost, who can't seem to talk about anything other than sex. Which of course prompt's Winona Ryder's wallbanger of a line, "Lucy is a pure and virtuous girl." Yeah, after you've spent the last few scenes scolding her for having a dirty mouth. So...make up your damn mind, movie. Is Lucy a slut or not?

And I also want to bring up another thing- Sadie Frost actually does a really good job playing Lucy. She's just stuck with horrible lines and ridiculous scenes. This is true of pretty much everyone, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when she's doing so much better than Winona Ryder, who sounds about as English as Walter Brennan.

Back in Transylvania, Keanu is shaving and Dracula sneaks up on him. Like as a prank or something. Keanu cuts himself, Dracula takes the razor and licks the blood off. They exchange some expository banter in which Dracula pretty specifically tells Keanu not to check out the other rooms in the castle. Being the moron that he is, Keanu wanders around the castle, apparently long enough to enter the secret inverted part where Dracula's three hot vampire ladies await. The scene recalls nothing so much as the dream sequence in Ghostbusters when Dan Aykroyd, ghost head. Only with 300% more lesbian kissing. Now I'm all for girl-on-girl action (sad and lonely individual that I am), but in its proper context! After about 5 seconds the scene gets uncomfortable to watch. Until of course, Dracula shows up to chase his brides away and make us comfortable again. Or not. He pulls a baby out of a bag and feeds it to them. CHRIST. Cue the legendary Keanu scream from the AVGN's Sega CD review.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Movie Review: Friday the 13th Part IV- The Final Chapter

The Friday the 13th series is one that isn't really...that good. Now I will admit that Jason and his hockey mask are pretty cool, and can respect the series for what it is: about 10 hour and a half films of gratuitous murder and even more gratuitous nudity. Possibly (and probably) combined. Now the first two films are actually pretty good, as cheap exploitation flicks go- they aren't short on tension or shocks, and I actually consider the 2nd film to be one of the better slasher films. However, beyond that, the series takes a steep slide down a hill covered in cow pies. While 3 was nothing special, the fourth installment is more worthy of a verbal riffing. So here goes.

The film starts off where the previous one left off (making it take place on what, Saturday the 14th?). We see Jason get carted off to a hospital morgue. We're briefly introduced to two nameless meat puppets- a nurse and an orderly- who proceed to start screwing. And if there's anything that can wake up Jason from beyond death it's sex out of wedlock! Obviously he ends the two rather quickly. Probably saving the hospital a considerable amount of money for the amount of work they must be getting done (considering they're casually f***ing in an unlocked room). I also want to point out that I'm not sure what the orderly was watching- it seems to be a weird cross between porn, a workout tape and a music video. It fails at all three as it's neither erotic, good for your cardiovascular system or particularly rocking.

Anyway, we cut to two separate story threads. Crispin Glover and his douchenozzle friends are taking off to rent a cabin, and Corey Feldman, his sister and his mom are living at a cabin nearby. Neither group of people is particularly interesting, what with Feldman being an annoying little bastard and Crispin Glover, well...Maybe I should just show you.

Anyway, Crispin and pals head to their cabin after making pointless contact with Feldman and family, and promptly break out the beer, pot, and what I can only guess are silent era nudie films. I'm guessing after a few six packs of Old Mil you really don't give a damn what you're watching. And surprise, surprise, our old pal Jason shows up to butcher these heathen youths! Truly, Mr. Voorhees, thou art a servant of the Lord!

Meanwhile, back with the Goonie, we find Corey Feldman...not doing much. He has a dog named Gordon, which isn't funny by itself, but gets much funnier if you shout Brian Blessed's "GORDON'S ALIVE!!!" anytime he's onscreen. We only really come back to his story thread later in the movie, when Feldman and his sister are holding Jason off. Which really gets weird when Corey Feldman shaves his head and- I don't know plays on Jason's psyche with an image of- oh, f*** it. I don't know what it means, but I do think it was pretty funny that Corey Feldman of all people wasted a guy who waded through teenagers like they were rain puddles. And then Jason is apparently dead. BY. COREY. FELDMAN'S. HAND.

There are a lot of scenes in the movie that seem to try and play off Corey Feldman's character as some kind of boy genius- he "is getting pretty good at" making latex masks and can apparently fix his family station wagon with nothing more than a screwdriver. But seriously, I'm just not buying what they're selling.

And frankly? In this series it's not half bad. The expected amount of brutal kills, boobies, and bad acting all show up delivers what you expect. On the other hand, all movies beyond the 3rd were stupid, formulaic slashers, so...whatever. It's not remotely scary, but it has some redeeming values played as a campy (no pun) comedy.

Coming Soon: Reviewgamesh Video Reviews

I'm going to start doing comedic, insanity-tinged videos (in character) soon. With any luck I'll have the first one up mid-November.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Email Subject Line Horror

So I opened up the old email client and checked aound...among the usual "is now following you on Twitter" and "copyright infringements", there was one from iTunes. It was ominously titled only "Lady Gaga Says Thanks."

I immediately started to sweat. Admittedly, if it had said "Peter Gabriel Says Thanks" or "Steve Harris says thanks"- I wouldn't have given it a second thought. Heck, if it had said "Ke$ha says thanks" I would have been relieved because that would explain who's been rooting through my trash (and I blamed raccoons). But I'm not really a fan of Lady Gaga and I haven't downloaded any of her songs. The closest thing I have is the Eric Cartman rendition of Poker Face which, like anything Eric Cartman sings is at least 11 times better than the original. So you can understand that I get the chills when someone who wears meat (and doesn't, surprisingly claim to be a Viking berserker or an orc) says "thank you".

My first thought? Oh shit, she's gone beyond wearing meat and she now wants to wear human skin. And pre-emptively thank me for it. Admit it, in some corner of your psyche you've been afraid Lady Gaga wants to put a .30 slug through you, skin you and wear you as a man suit a la Buffalo Bill. And I get fed worms in some underground complex, being commanded to put the lotion on my skin until Jody Foster and Scott Glenn show up to rescue me. I think it's a legitimate and valid fear.

Anyway, it was just a stupid email subject line that I decided to exploit for comedy purposes. It was far more benign- just a badly titled form letter. The text advertised Apple's new Ping service:
"Lady GaGa found a new way to thank you. Britney Spears is doing yoga. Taylor Swift is hanging out at the Eiffel Tower with her brother. Follow your favorite pop artists and bands on Ping and comment on their posts, buy concert tickets, enjoy personal photos and videos, and more."

Well whoop de f***ing do. Apple, I cut you guys a lot of slack. I didn't say anything about the iPod's non-replaceable batteries. The slimline keyboards feel so insubstansial that I can't feel comfortable typing on them. But really? That's the most hilarious damn email headline I've ever seen. I know it's a form email but you guys could at least root through my iTunes history and replace "Lady Gaga" with...well something I've downloaded. Apple, I gave you the right to root through what I listen to so we can avoid faux pas like these.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My top ten Horror-Comedies

Well, Halloween is almost upon us and I've taken time out from my busy schedule of making snarky comments at Kotaku's expense to provide you with some good viewing choices for said night of ghouls and ghosts. Forget the vitriol of the last few posts, I'm gonna talk about something I like! There are 10 days till Halloween, so I present to you 10 films for your enjoyment!
(In no particular order, because I love all of these films.)

10. The 'Burbs- Perhaps the last Tom Hanks movie I can take seriously after seeing Mazes and Monsters, this little gem was directed by The Howling and Gremlins director Joe Dante, who has a rare gift for mixing horror with humor (or did until recently, if his hamfisted and unclever Masters of Horror entry is an indication). The plot concerns a suburban family man named Ray with a variety of kooky neighbors- an ex-green beret, a busybody, Corey Feldman, and the mysterious Klopeks. This one is something of an inversion of the old Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street"; or maybe just a version of it with a broken aesop. One way or another, it's still a pretty damn funny movie.

9. Tales of Terror "The Black Cat" - One of the Roger Corman Poe pictures, Tales of Terror combined 3 stories (most of which were actually comprised of multiple Edgar Allan Poe tales) into a single anthology film. "The Black Cat" is the most entertaining of these segments, featuring elements culled not only from the titular story but also the Cask of Amontillado. It concerns a hard-drinking man named Montresor (played by Peter Lorre) who enters a drinking contest with Vincent Price's Fortunato Luchresi. The two play off each other very well, with Lorre mostly playing deadpan straightman and Price hamming it up and clearly having a great time with the role. It's the best segment in the film, and well worth watching.

8. Ernest Scared Stupid- This is probably a controversial choice, as a) not everyone is fond of the Ernest movies and b) the Nostalgia Critic panned it. Well, I don't believe in getting butthurt because someone whose reviews I enjoy panned the first movie I saw in theaters. And it's pretty childish and campy, yes- but it's also a lot of fun. Involving Ernest, the town garbageman, and some trolls he raises, there are all kinds of what can best be described as "wacky hi-jinks". Yes, it's a little cornball, but my inner child would beat me with a plastic light saber if I didn't include it on this list. Also- it features creatures by the Chiodo brothers. So there.

7. Evil Dead 2- Best described as a ludicrously bloody Three Stooges movie, Evil Dead throws the serious horror of its predecessor to the wind in favor of cartoonish setpieces and masterful physical comedy, and is all the better for it. Bruce Campbell moves from stoic leading man to comic nutball within about 20 minutes, and the movie doesn't really let up after that. It might not be the ultimate experience in grueling horror, but it's a very, very funny film.

6. Night of the Creeps- Would almost be a straight-up cheesy 80's horror flick, if not for the fact that it's an homage-fest for fans of the genre. You can take it as a serious example of the genre or a spoof, and either way you'll end up having a lot of fun. In particular, the movie features the riotously deadpan Tom Atkins (from the Fog and Halloween III) as a police detective. What makes the movie fun is that the movie knows that it's cheesy and takes great pride in not taking itself too seriously.

5. Re-Animator- This would probably have been a pretty straight-up horror flick if not for two factors- the direction of Stuart Gordon and the iconic performance of Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, in one of the most inspired mad scientist roles ever. It helps a lot that the movie doesn't skip on characterization or splatter- we get some strongly written subplots alongside plenty of great special effects. But what everyone remembers is Jeff Combs as Herbert West and David Gale as his John Kerry-lookalike nemesis Dr. Hill.

4. Ghostbusters - This is an unlikely contender- after all, it contains big stars and a big budget! However, Ghostbusters has gone to become one of the most beloved comedies of all time, with comic geniuses at the helm and in front of the camera. If you haven't seen this cinematic masterpiece yet, what are you waiting for? There are no more words to describe it, ONLY ZUUL!

3. Shaun of The Dead - THE zombie comedy. While other zombie films have had elements of comedy (the Return of the Living Dead series) and George Romero's films always had a streak of dark humor, Edgar Wright's Shaun of The Dead is great because it would work as a straight up zombie film even if it wasn't very funny. Of course, the key selling point is that it's hysterical, and I think that this is in part because the cast plays so well off of each other. They just seem completely comfortable with each other- or uncomfortable, when it's appropriate. Simon Pegg is perfect as the most average of joes, and Nick Frost is equally memorable as his terminally non-serious best friend.

2. Young Frankenstein - What Entertainment Weekly's old review guide called Mel Brooks' most subtle and stylish film, you'll benefit from being familiar with Universal's first three Frankenstein films before watching this. Not that it isn't a great movie on its own- it's just that the barrage of homages and inside jokes might be lost on you otherwise and you'd be missing out on some of the best bits of the film. Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman (among others) give rollicking, eccentric performances that make it a memorable film, and its black and white photography is absolutely beautiful.

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein - The grandaddy of all horror spoofs, this one is pretty special. Not only does it feature the titular duo and the Frankenstein monster, but it features Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney, Jr. in their most famous roles as Dracula and the Wolf Man. Abbott and Costello deliver on the physical comedy and well-timed gags, while the Dracula conspires to bring the Frankenstein monster back to life. Even in a comedy, Lon Chaney Jr. gives Larry Talbot an air of sympathy and pathos as the ever tragic Wolf Man, and the fact that the movie balances humor and horror so well is what makes it my #1.

So now, there's 10 more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween...

Be sure to check out my Splatterhouse retrospective over at Bits 'n' Bytes if you haven't already!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kotaku's non-news :F*** That Noise!

Prepare yourself. Something stupid this way comes.

So yeah. Kotaku decided to waste a Tweet and a blog post to tell us that a porn star showed up for the premiere of Just Dance 2. And it was short. And it was stupid. And I'm going to write an article longer than the article I'm complaining about because Kotaku reported something that doesn't really have a damn thing to do with video games. 
Not to pull out a hardcore vs. casual stance, because I think that debate is incredibly stupid, but seriously. How many of Kotaku's readers give a damn that Just Dance 2 even exists? Why does it matter that a porn star showed up to the premiere? And I mean that regardless of her occupation. Barack Obama, Jesus Christ and The Joker could show up on a vintage train caboose towed by Godzilla, and it still wouldn't f***ing matter because Kotaku is (supposedly) a gaming news site. It's their job to cover games. Not the premieres of games (and do tell me, since when do video games have movie style premieres? Why do these things exist?). Kotaku is Kotaku, not TMZ, not Entertainment Tonight, they are Kotaku. We should hold them to a higher standard than this bullshit because they're getting paid. They're supposed to be journalists.

And game journalists at that, not tabloid hacks.

I've got news for you, Kotaku (god, does it HAVE to rhyme like that?). That news you think is news is not news. Find something substantial to write about, or I will. And I will try my hardest to make my 5 or 6 readers think your editing staff are chimps.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evil Logic

The logic of a puzzle can be problematic in a video game. In particular, I want to bitch about the Resident Evil series. I recently finished a playthrough of the original Resident Evil and then started up its sequel. Now in the original, insane puzzles line the mansion- involving various crests and armor-related keys. Considering the house was purpose built by a highly secretive company, I guess I can buy that. Now let's look at its sequel, which features a police station, a municipal building(!) with the same kind of puzzles. Now- don't get me wrong, Resident Evil 2 is one of my favorite PS1 games. But even in the context of a game where you have giant alligators, could a civil service building really run when statues have to be pushed and crests put in place just to get a damn door open? If the back door of the building was locked, the officers would have to plan a half hour ahead of time to find the pair of crests it would need to unlock the safe where the key to open the back door was. To say nothing of the outright bizarre architecture of the station, which features a squadroom that's separated by a courtyard from the detectives' offices, holding cells that are outside and in the basement, and no. Bloody. Bathrooms.

(I feel the need to point out just in case that my father was a career deputy and I visited a working police station many times in my youth. It looks like your typical office building with cubicles, just with a few more radios and gunlockers.)

The main problem I have is that in the Resident Evil series there is no justification for these puzzles. In a game like Silent Hill there's at least the excuses that the town is both built on chaos architecture and formed of people's thoughts and nightmares. Most graphic adventure games would cover the absurdity of the puzzles with humor or whimsy. But in Resident Evil? It's presumably taking place in what seems to be something like our own world. And come to think of it...half the characters you play in Resident Evil are military or police veterans. Shouldn't Leon and Chris be able to kick in doors? Or is that too difficult?

Well, at least that one is rectified in the more recent games.

And then...there's the inventory system. I'm very interested to know how three herbs on zigzag papers weigh/take up the same amount of space as a shotgun. Or why keys take up an inventory slot...really? Can't just stick 'em in a pocket?

Again, in recent games this problem has been better addressed, but it can make otherwise great games exercises in frustration. There is absolutely no reason I should be spending more time juggling inventory items than exploring a zombie-infested mansion!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Experience Points

This post is serious enough that it steps away from the intended humor and frivolity I hoped to bring to the internet. My second post and I'm already getting serious. Ugh.

OK, so I'm going to step away from the jokes for a minute and talk about something that's been bugging me. I was filming my epilogue video for my Resident Evil Let's Play and in the process of doing a stunt outside I busted a main water pipe. It quickly started to flood and me and the friend I was filming with were ever more frantically trying to get it under control. After a series of further mishaps we got the water shut off.

Notably I used logic from Resident Evil and Legend of Zelda to burn spider webs as the hole that the water shutoff valve was in was infested with black widows. Which happen to be the one creature on Earth I have complete loathing and zero sympathy for. OK, maybe scorpions too.

Anyhow, today I spent a good four hours outside with my dad fixing the broken pipe. It impresses me that he can do that even though he's not a professional plumber. He was a police officer for 30 years but manages to have a general knowledge of how to repair things. I'm pretty astounded by this. I can nail boards to other boards and I'm a pretty good hand with a paint roller. But as for repairing a pipe? Well i guess I'm qualified to attempt it now. I learned how to cut and fit lengths of pipe, how to use a grinder to even the edges. And I learned that I need to irradiate the shutoff valve with bug spray every few months so I don't get a handful of black widows.

How does someone come by the ability to fix things? Well, my dad is in his 50s. He's seen and done a lot more in his life than I have. I'm in my early 20's, and despite our differences we still have a lot of things in common. But the things he can teach me have seemed to peter off in recent years. We don't talk as much, don't go fishing or go to car shows like we used to. But once in a while, there's an opportunity to learn something from him. In my college years I have learned nothing that helped me to solve the flooding problem. Education is very important, but experience and know-how are pretty important too. And sometimes making dumb mistakes is the only way to learn that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chad's Thoughts: The 10 most Metal games of all time

For the purposes of this post, I'd like you to imagine me (however you imagine me looking is your business) hunched over, hands out like I'm clutching mystical orbs, growling my words with a permanent scowl. This, my friends, is the metal stance. It's your one-way ticket to midnight, to break the law, to ring Hell's bells. And I'm going to list the ten most metal games ever produced. If you prefer to read this in Strong Bad's voice, please do.

Oh, and Brutal Legend and Guitar Hero Metallica don't count because they were specifically designed to be Metall-riffic.

10. World of Warcraft (PC/Mac)- This game may as well exist for the sole purpose of giving you something to do while listening to DragonForce. They're enjoyable in the same over the top high fantasy mode, so you may as well mix them together.

9. The Bilestoad (Apple II) Reaching way back into the archives, we find this old top-down game where the only objective is to put an axe in your opponent. If that shouldn't be done while listening to Judas Priest then I don't know what should.

8. Temple of Elemental Evil (PC) This flawed gem takes place in the classic Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting of Greyhawk, and lets you run the classic ToEE module, where you'll fight everything from giant rats, spiders and frogs to Zuggtmoy, the demon god of FUNGI! Guh-guh-guh-yayah!

7. Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen (Playstation)- This game starts with your death. Soon after, you become a vampire, and soon after that you find out you can restore your health by drinking blood. Think vampires are sparkly bishonen? Kain will set you straight. And then kill you.

6. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES) If ever there was a game that deserved an Iron Maiden tie-in album, this was the one. Not only featuring the awesome, headband wearing Trevor Belmont, this hardest of Castlevanian nuts to crack also features a playable ninja-pirate and Dracula's own son, Alucard. The challenge is well worth the high probability of broken controllers.

5. Golden Axe (Sega Genesis)- This game is like a metal album cover in motion! As either a roided-out Warrior, scantily clad Amazon, or...a dwarf, you beat up giants, skeletons, and dudes in bondage gear while riding a fire-breathing chicken.  And isn't that what heavy metal is all about?

4. God of War (PS2)- You've got to love Kratos. A sociopathic, despicable, completely irredeemable bastard of a protagonist. He's gonna kill some gods. And get some sweet lovin' while he's at it. The generic Lord-of-The-Rings ripoff soundtrack is best replaced with some Pantera.

3. Splatterhouse (Arcade, TurboGrafx-16, Sega Genesis)- Rick Taylor has to save his girlfriend. To do that, he puts on a hockey mask and punches his way through a mansion of abominations that would scare Dr. Mephesto. He punches knives. He punches chairs. He punches a guy with chainsaws for hands. Nuff said.

2. Diablo (PC)- A game full of ambient creepiness worthy of Black Sabbath or Electric Wizard,  Diablo finds you leading your character into the depths of the catacombs of the town Tristram. The deeper you go, the more horrifying the demonic hordes get, until you finally face the big bad himself, El Diablo. You go head to head with Old Scratch himself in this epic battle of good vs. evil. The sequel ain't too shabby, either!

1. DooM (PC, every other system known to man) You knew it was coming. Was there any doubt? The game where you pretty much destroy Satan and all his little wizards. Yes, you destroy Hell. With chainsaws, shotguns, and the almighty BFG 9000. There's not a lot I can say to convince you otherwise.

-Chad Morelock