Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Return of the Wicker Man

Someone once asked why I thought The Wicker Man was so chilling. They seemed perplexed.

It can be hard to convey the deep chill of a psychological terror film to those who watch it passively without deeper contemplation of the story implications.

I think the chill comes in part because of the "it could really happen" feel. It's not ghosts but humans at the heart of the story, but it's also that disturbing notion that there are moments and places where the rules of contemporary society don't seem to apply.

It happens in brutal terms in Deliverance as city men inadvertently tread on the territory of grim others who don't appreciate their presence.

And it happens to Edward Woodward's Sgt. Howie in subtle then increasingly barbarous terms as he prowls an island in the Hebrides where strange practices seem to be in place. The old ways.

He grows increasingly nervous that a missing girl may be the subject of a sacrifice, but there's even more horror planned for the pious policeman.

I read first of the tale in an issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine because it is a tale of mystery and detection as well as horror.

It took a long time to finally get to see it since it didn't play in many theaters. I finally got to watch via satellite some time in the '80s, though it's made the cable rounds and can be had on DVD.

It's interesting to learn that lost footage is being restored and that the true director's cut will be making the theatrical rounds again soon.

I read about it probably in 1979. It's been a long wait. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anna: Scream Queen Killer

Since we were just talking about slasher pics, I have news of a new horror thriller, Anna: Scream Queen Killer that's streaming on Amazon. It's from Chemical Burn, and it might be extreme.

The producers are calling it a "sexy horror exploitation film with a twist." It sounds like it might be in the vein of American Mary.

Here's the official synopsis and trailer. From here it's really up to you. (Trailer contains some nudity.)

The ultimate in actress exploitation, Scream Queen Killer takes you on a journey into the world of indie grindhouse film auditions with a mind bending twist. Anna is a young actress desperate to make it in the movies. She is invited to a series of filmed auditions, playing out various scenarios on camera. The problem is, the director is a perverted psychopath with only one thing on his mind. As Anna progresses through an ever more bizarre series of roles she slowly realizes that something is horribly wrong with this audition. Forced to strip and perform carnal acts in the name of the art, she eventually flips and takes matters into her own hands. A scenario many actresses may recognize in the industry, Scream Queen Killer is brutally realistic and superbly acted by Melanie Denholme (Lady of the Dark). How far is too far? And how far would you go to get the role?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

RIP Elmore Leonard

I picked up Unknown Man No. 89 by Elmore Leonard sometime in the eighties. I was a young reporter, covering the police beat on occasion and intrigued by his take on cops and criminals.

I zipped through Unknown Man about a process server who gets embroiled in crime and moved on pretty quickly to 52 Pick Up and Split Images. Great reads in that easy-going prose that took you into the minds of good guys and bad guys alike.

Gold Coast, The Switch, Swag aka Ryan's Rules, Stick. I can remember cracking them open late at night after my 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. news gig ended and reading into the wee hours.

I can vividly remember opening The Switch as the night air grew a little cooler that autumn, the window cracked just a little to let in the breeze.

On the radio, Toney Carey's "A Fine, Fine Day" about an old gangster getting out of prison after a long stretch, seemed like a perfect sound track for Leonard.

I've read many of Leonard's novels since, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Rum Punch and some of the Westerns, but there's a special chunk of my reading life that I'll always remember as Leonard time.

It seemed like he'd go on forever, churning out great stories.

RIP,  Mr. Leonard. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watch Instantly Watch: Donner Pass

I don't usually get enthusiastic when a horror film's premise involves a group of teens going anywhere or doing anything. It's a template that's served often and reached a fine meta place with The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. OK, there's the "Tuesday the 17th" segment of V/H/S also.

But I've seen it enough. I was a little sad that framework provided the underpinning for Dead Snow with its hordes of Nazi zombies.

I'm not sure why I clicked on Donner Pass as a Netflix watch instantly. The description warns it's about teenagers on a ski trip. Maybe the name Donner Pass spurred the override. That incident inspired the brilliant "A Child of the Golden West" from Dennis Etchison after all.

I was mildly curious, and the film opened with a historic scene giving an alternate version of the Donner Party's demise. George Donner went a little crazy when the wagon train became snowbound, we learn.

Flash forward to that aforementioned ski trip. Four, just four?, kids are headed to the mountain cabin belonging to the parents of the creepy Thomas (Erik Stocklin). He's a fifth wheel in a four-person party, but he's got the cabin.

A highway worker delivers the requisite warning of a person of interest in the area, and everyone forges ahead anyway.

They're soon  joined by friends of the terminally unfriendly Nicole (Adelaide Kane), upping the potential body even though Kayley (Desiree Hall) asks them to leave. She's the good girl.

People start to die. It all looks cookie cutter for a while, and then, suddenly it's not quite. Twists and a few additional ideas are woven late into the second act, and suddenly, with infighting and double crosses, everything gets more engaging than you'd expect.

Yes, it's one more slasher, one more band of dead teens, but there' just enough departure from template to keep things moving.

Of course there's cannibalism, but it's never overwhelming on the gore side, and, well, you'll find out more if you watch. I'm not pushing, but as those movies that bubble to the top of the Netflix "Now Available For Streaming" listings go, it's not a terrible hour and 26 minutes with credits.

There's some interesting music over those, a tune called High Ground by Orenda Fink.

Sid says, do whatever you want.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Favorite Short Stories: The April Witch by Ray Bradbury

Long before paranormal romance had been named, Ray Bradbury imagined his Elliott family, a clan of supernatural beings that rings a little like the Addams Family with a deeper tinge of melancholy. The tales are collected in the fix-up novel From the Dust Returned. 

I read a while back--all right it was a year ago, time flies--that a movie might be developed from the stories.

That might be fun.

The tales are filled with Bradbury's special magic, which can be at its best when sadness is acknowledged as a part of all things.

In "Homecoming," a core piece in the cycle, there's sense that once frequent reunions are becoming sporadic for the Eliotts, and bits of decorative black crepe paper flutter through subsequent stories, suggesting remnants of grander days as we learn more about the winged Uncle Einar and about the magical Cecy.

She's often pivotal to the tales but never more so than in "The April Witch." Told that the family can't marry humans without a loss of magic, the teen Cecy is devastated. She wants more than anything to be in love.

Since her abilities allow her to inhabit humans and things, she decides she'll experience love second hand.

As a leaf, she flutters into the world of Ann, a young woman in a farming community. Then, leaping into Ann, she forces a rekindling of interest with a young man named Tom.

Ann's resistant, to any romance, even to an outing, but with effort Cecy is able to override some decisions. That means a dance and enough proximity to Tom for Cecy to fall in love,  if it doesn't work for Ann.

The longing impels the story toward a culmination as poignant as Bradbury's other small masterpiece "The Foghorn."

It's fantastical, odd, eerie, offbeat and wonderful, a contemplation like no other of a "what might have been."

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Monty Update

Monty is home and has had his first dose of insulin. He's eaten well today, but his back legs are wobbly. Apparently that's a common problem in cats with diabetes.

Hopefully regulating his glucose will help on that front in time.

At the moment, he's sleeping in his favorite spot, a spot that actually became a favorite perhaps at a time that his diabetes was developing. It represented a move from the sofa, long his domain.

We weren't sure what brought the change. At the time, he could still hop up onto it as he chose, so I'm not sure what the move meant. At any rate, he's comfortable.

It's good to have him home, good to be able to brush his coat and offer comfort. I'm hopeful medication and care will give him a little more time.

I've always been cognizant of the fact that the pets don't live forever, but even if you are aware of the passage of time, you can't slow it down.

Vacations pass too quickly, even though you will each day to last longer, to stretch and be all it can.

It's not just vacations. All of life ticks by faster than we'd like.

What can you do but try to stay alert to that and keep moving?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Monty's Illness

I haven't mentioned my cats much on the blog in a while. Monty, seen above looking up as a flight carrying people to DisneyWorld passes over, has been a bit sluggish of late. I took him to the vet on Tuesday, and they've determined he's developed diabetes.

He's sixteen, which, in cat years, is the same as pretty old to you and me. I was able to win his release from the pound around 1998 where he was incarcerated over what he describes as a big misunderstanding.

He remained quite robust until a couple of months ago, but then he began to slow down a little.

We had his teeth cleaned and his blood checked, wanting to make sure there were no issues with his eating. They shaved some patches on his legs looking for a vein for the IV at the time. He did not find it amusing when we called him Boots or made poodle references.

The cleaning and a round of antibiotics seemed to help for a while, but earlier this week his heart just didn't seem to be in it when he tried to steal my dinner.

This time the blood test along with some calculations by the vet of some past readings confirmed he's going to need insulin injections.

I learned to give Miss Daisy, who still abides,  sub-q fluid treatments, so I guess I'll be learning give shots as well.

He'll love me for it, I'm sure, and I know I can count on his cooperation.

Update - 8-2-13
Here's a pic of Mon at the vet. He should get to come home after one more day. The IV's really helped his coat, and he issued verbal complaints when I visited today.

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