A Collection of Caliginous Choppings

Author Archive

Tidbits of the Dead: Still

thewalkingdeadseason4

The title of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead is “Still.” Still alive. Still surviving in a world that is still dangerous. A still moment trapped inside the trunk of a car. A moonshine still as a source of cathartic release for a character that has people wondering, “why is she still on the show?” An episode that highlights that even though this diverse cast of characters is living in a dark new day, they are still trapped with the preconceptions of their previous lives. All their wants, needs, wishes, and desires bleed through into their zombie apocalyptic lives.

An equally apt title for the episode would be “Haves & Have-Nots.” The driving motivations of Beth and Darryl are towards things that they have been deprived of, not just in the Land of the Dead, but in their lives before that. Beth’s desires a drink. She’s never had one before, and even though she knows how it tainted her father’s life, she wants something to take her mind away from the pain of losing Hershel and (presumably) Maggie. Darryl’s desires are multiple but mostly left unstated. He picks up a purse and fills it with money and jewelry. These things have no meaning in their current predicament, but the desire for wealth is a holdover from his previous life. We learn that before the dead walked he was just a drifter, mostly following the whims of his older brother Merle. While a viewer may have previously felt that Darryl finally metaphorically stepped out of his brother’s shadow in the last season, when he put down Zombie Merle, this is clearly not the case. Truthfully, Darryl has been accepted as an integral member of the group, as Rick, Carol, Beth and all the others accept him. Still, he feels that he didn’t do enough to prevent the Governor from attacking the prison again.

The haves and have-nots are illustrated by the two locations used in this episode. The majority of the zombie action takes place at a golf course country club, where Darryl takes out his repressed anger on a roomful of walkers. The distinction between low class and high class is not subtle. Darryl in his tattered leather vest is almost in worse shape than these zombies in their brightly colored polo and collared shirts. Beth changes into a white cardigan that quickly gets covered with gore. Darryl might insist that she’s just an insulated college-girl — the carefree singer of the group — but Beth’s survival instinct has been newly asserted. Nice clothes don’t matter when you’re dead. Survival is the only thing that matters.

Of course, it’s always nice to have a drink too. Beth and Darryl escape the country club and arrive somewhere that symbolizes where Darryl came from in the world before. It’s a run-down shack out in the woods. Something like his old man used to have. Something familiar. But this familiarity breeds a discontent in Darryl. Beth goads him into drinking with her, and that opens up his perception of the have/have-not gap. He is tired of dealing with every dangerous situation and having everyone depend on him. There is a tense moment when Darryl makes Beth look down the sights of his crossbow at a pinned walker, but Beth proves that even without bow skills, she can handle herself by braining the zed.

They get the bright idea to burn down the shack. It is not a logical one considering the danger of not having shelter, but it is fitting of the characters and their personal progression through the series. Plus, Beth is in good hands being under the protection of who she says will be “the last man standing.” (On that she is probably not wrong. Not because he is so equipped to survive, but because of his popularity, particularly among the female fans of the show.)

Geek of the Week

rich bitch

This one is not a walker, but a corpse. The torso stuck onto mannequin legs was pretty damn cool. Plus, it really drives home the distinction between the haves and the have-nots. I doubt that she was killed because she was well off, but someone, obviously in disdain, took the energy to construct this effigy against rich bitches.

Some Thoughts

  • It looks like next week will continue with Beth and Darryl and expand the show’s POV to Maggie, Bob, and Shasha whom we haven’t seen since the return episode. Also, Beth is in danger, and with all of her good feely moralizing in this episode it wouldn’t surprise me to see her get bitten.
  • I liked the bit of hiding in the car. That and the random shack in the woods reminded me of a great, recent zombie flick called The Battery. It is a low budget but compelling character piece with only two main characters. And they spend a lot of time at a woods in a shack and stuck in a car.
  • How long do you think a zombie would hang before the rope finally cuts clear through the neck? A dead body would probably hang for a pretty long time. But I imagine that the friction caused by all of their undead movement would slowly cause the rope to saw through dead flesh. We’ve already seen hanging walkers before in season two. Let’s see some headless bodies and scattered heads underneath empty nooses!
  • Norman Reedus and Emily Kinney put on some of the finest acting since Andrew Lincoln’s Rick lost his wife last season. It is not surprising to see how Reedus has given his character such longevity, but who would have thought that the whiny suicidal girl from the farmhouse would have stuck around for so long?
  • Peach schnapps really would be a shit first drink.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!


Tidbits of the Dead: “Inmates” & “Claimed”

thewalkingdeadseason4

Well, I missed posting up a timely review of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Inmates,” so I will briefly touch on that before I delve into last night’s episode “Claimed.”

“Inmates,” in two words:

molotov_bullshit

OK, I’ll explain my disdain in more than two words.

Glenn’s use of a molotov cocktail on a previously destroyed automobile to lure away walkers in a direct line of sight from him, is an incredible leap of logic. It’s the part I took away “Inmates,” more than the awesome introduction of Abraham, Rosita, & Eugene, more than my annoyance of the bus full of red-shirts being conveniently slaughtered, more than Carol’s uneasy return to the show. Again, Glenn used a molotov cocktail to cause a distraction that lured a zombie to turn away from him and go towards a burning car. This is the sort of thing I expect in an Asylum zombie film, but not in America’s most beloved zombie television series!

Other than his usage of burning brandy, I wasn’t bothered by Glenn uniting with Tara to escape the ruin of the prison. Glenn raiding the prison cells for supplies and donning the riot gear was the smartest thing (outside of wearing zombie guts) he could have done to aid his escape. Of course, it is a bit of a stretch of belief to think that he didn’t just die (you know, from the flu superbug that got everyone else on the bus) while lying just out of reach of the walkers, but I digress.

“Inmates” started with Beth and Darryl escaping through the woods while Beth has a voice-over of words written in her diary. I’m actually less annoyed by Beth than other commentators. I’m glad that she has stuck around, even if her character shift (being the one to push Darryl to keep going) seems a bit forced since she was just suicidal 2 seasons ago. Still, I think she is a more interesting character than her sister Maggie, although I will admit that she’s probably more expendable. Hopefully this added screen importance will lead to her having an awesome death. Darryl in this episode doesn’t do much, besides tracking and kicking dirt on a fire.

As an aside, okay, I get that it is a necessity to build a fire. But, lets say you are in a zombie apocalypse situation. Nightfall comes. You’re in the woods. How do you best ensure your survival for the night? Sulking about next to the campfire, or perched up high in a tree and out of the reach of hungry hands? Hmm . . .

Elsewhere in the woods Tyreese has become primary caretaker of the children, Mika, Lizzie, and Baby Judith! Hooray, Shane’s baby is still alive. (Although we still have to sit through the Grimes’ grieving process.) Now, I’m not surprised that the baby wasn’t killed. Maybe if this show was on HBO, but I don’t think that AMC has the cajones to kill a baby, either on-screen or off. Although, it obviously doesn’t mind killing off the red-shirted children. Do you remember Young Mop Head and Hairband Girl?

prison-children

Neither Tyreese, nor Mika, nor the psychopathic Lizzie seem to be grieving for them. Perhaps Lizzie smothered them on their way out of the prison. Lizzie could very well be my new favorite character. She is certainly the most interesting, and you can’t fault her methods (quiet the baby!) for being ineffective. If you’ve read the comics then — SPOILER — I’d put her in the role of the murderous Ben/Billy twin. Only, instead of Carl putting her down, my money would be on Carol. Oh the conflict, oh the drama! — END COMICS SPOILER.

Fortunately for the unawares Grimes family, (and the at home viewers), Carol’s hand-of-God return into the story prevents the death of Baby Judith at the hands of Lizzie, as well as Lizzie & Mika’s death at the hands of walkers. There was tense moment as Carol assesses Tyreese who doesn’t actually know of the hideous act of mercy that she had committed. Not that it should really matter at this point. Did Tyreese’s girlfriend even have a name? If not, she wouldn’t have made it this far anyway.

The other group of stragglers is Maggie, Bob, and Sasha, in this episode representing EMOTION, ACCEPTANCE, & RATIONALITY. Maggie is driven to find Glenn, Bob the Alcoholic Combat Medic shot through the shoulder is cool with dying on a nice rock near the water, and Sasha is the only person who seems to still have her head on her shoulders and tries to regroup and rest up. Emotion wins out and they hunt down the bus, where Maggie kills a bunch of walkers that aren’t her husband. There was a bit of iffy acting as she killed the last zombie on the bus (whose face we don’t see). She seems to convey a range of emotions from happy to despondent, but none of them give a firm indication that she didn’t just off Glenn. Until after the commercial break . . .

At the end of the episode Glenn passes out and Tara is saved by a very badass-looking Sergeant Abraham Ford, his hotpants wearing Latina girlfriend (okay, well, just really like fuckbuddy in the comics) Rosita Espinosa, and the mulleted ‘Dr.’ Eugene Porter. It’s nice to have some fresh faces in the show who have names and who will actually do something!

That’s probably enough about “Inmates,” but before I go on, I want to bitch about red-shirts some more.

Darryl finds some footprints, to which Beth says, “Could be Luke’s, or Molly’s. Whoever they are it means they’re alive.” Darryl responds by saying it means they were alive four or five hours previously (classic Darryl). Now, as an astute viewer, I searched back in my memory to a Luke or a Molly. Couldn’t picture anyone. It took me a bit of Wikipedia sleuthing to deduce that Luke and Molly are Young Mop Head and Hairband Girl. Now, I’m a fan of this show. But I sure as hell don’t think that I should have to look up a character name in order to figure out who is being talked about. Beth could easily have dropped the names Lizzie or Mika, but by mentioning the other two she pulled me out of the narrative. Especially when neither Luke nor Molly actually show up! Maybe they are dead, but then again, we didn’t see them die onscreen, and following Walking Dead logic that means they could still be alive. Tyreese or the other two girls never indicate that they were separated from the others. They never mention that Luke & Molly got eaten either. They are just gone.

small-boot

Goodbye Luke and/or Molly.

Here is the other thing that I want to mention. There is a walker that attacks and is killed by Beth. He is obviously fresh, although neither Beth, nor Darryl seem to know this recently deceased individual. This show isn’t smart enough to do a metacommentary about its shitty use of red-shirts, although I admit that I had to stop and consider for a moment. Who is he?

the unknown walker

Later on, in a moment that happened before he turned, Tyreese, Carol & the kids stumble upon this hapless bitten individual. Turns out he was from a separate group, trying to go up the railroad tracks to the safety of ‘The Sanctuary.” Well, he doesn’t call it that, but for the sake of a better term, I will. This guy is someone completely new. Yet, because of how all of the other new characters have been mishandled, I have no idea who the fuck he is! In fact, because of the poorly fleshed out background characters, and the fact that Beth & Darryl are following them, I thought they were just unnamed prison people. But no . . .

All these nameless folks though, they were good people.

nameless-prison-dead

Which brings us to this week’s episode, “Claimed,” which focuses on the groups of Rick, Carl, & Michonne, and Glenn, Tara, Abraham, Rosita, & Eugene. But, actually, fuck it . . . I’ll just write up my thoughts on that episode tomorrow since it’s late and my other recap ran long. Stay frosty folks!


Tidbits of the Dead: After

thewalkingdeadseason4

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!

 

SYNOPSIS

I’m a bit rusty, but fortunately this episode was light on the complicated plot points. This episode follows Rick and Carl as they flee from the zombie madness that the prison became. We also follow America’s favorite scowling samurai Michonne as she gets some new zombie pets and also flees. Joy!

 

Rick

He is the least consequential character in this episode, as he fights a bit with Carl, fails to fully hatchet a zed in the head, and eventually passes out for a day-and-a-half. There was a brief is-he-or-isn’t-he-a-walker scare, but readers of the comic knew that he would pull through. The mid-season finale had a few iconic shots that were lifted from the comic books, but this entire episode was a bit of a self-contained arc in the comic as well. The dynamic between Rick and Carl works here too, but I felt that it was actually a bit better in the comics as Carl was then still his young child-like self.

 

Carl

The zombie apocalypse only exacerbates teenage angst. Rather than just idiotically running around the woods and taunting zombies, Carl is now cockily and idiotically running around the woods and killing zombies. It is interesting how he has turned survival into a sort of game, proclaiming, “I win,” when he scavenges more food than his father, as well as when he narrowly manages to kill 3 zeds that fall on top of him. If this show wouldn’t completely fall apart without the kid I’d have a bit more suspended disbelief, but I just can’t believe that AMC would kill off Carl and leave Rick a widower and childless. I wonder if Carl will bring up Shane again, or if he has got all of this rebelliousness out of his system.

 

Michonne

Rounding out this episode is a bit of character development (about a season & a half too late) for the sword-wielding badass of the group. The best, and most confusing, shot of this episode was the dreamlike (well, actual dream!) scene involving Michonne remembering her brother and lover, before her child Peanut runs up and jumps into her arms. Sadly, Michonne seemed just as awkward in this scene as the other times she tries to not be a badass. Establishing her missing family members at this point seems a bit too late to be genuine. But, I suppose it explains why exactly she has been so reluctant to form any sort of bond with the last few people living in Georgia. Also, she killed Walker Hershel.

 

Hershel_is_a_bodyless_walker

Geek of the Week

Which brings us to this episode’s most memorable zombie. It has to be Hershel for me. He looks a bit despondent lying there on the ground, but Michonne mercifully puts him out of his misery. Unfortunately, she isn’t kind enough to do that for any of the other dozens of walkers she beheads in this episode.

 

Lemme Bitch

Michonne leading around two walkers on a leash was a very cool introduction to the character in the comic book. Here it just seems a bit silly, especially when it is established that her previous two pets were known to her in her real, before the end of the world life. Theoretically it would make up for them being just two random walkers and I would also assume that it took a while for them to calm down to the always present meal before them. But here she was able to de-jaw and de-arm two zombies and tame them in the space of a commercial break. I guess my main question is this: why the hell aren’t they still trying to gnaw on her with their top incisors?

 

Looking Forward

In the next episode I predict more of the same. It will be a lot like this one, only focusing on different characters. Will Glen and Maggie reunite? Will the psychotic children get to Tyreese? Will the Governor’s lover and her sister reappear? Will Beth sing a sad song? Will Darryl eat a squirrel? But, the most important question is this: will a busfull of redshirts all namelessly die? Find out next week’s episode, “Inmates.”


Christmas Evil (1980)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the eleventh Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, sleigh-vans-a-flying, ten vids-a-streaming, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

Christmas-Evil-Variety-Print-Ad-1982

Welcome back to the holiday horror list that I’ve been checking twice. Today’s pick is 1980’s Christmas Evil starring Brandon Maggart (note the misspelling in the print ad above) as the quintessential disturbed man in love with Christmas. Harry Stralding is a man with a fragile psyche. He’s been that way ever since Christmas Eve 1947 when he walked in on his mom and Santa Claus in the midst of some uncharacteristically festive activities. Although the film has established that Santa is just their father in costume (Harry disbelieves this when told by his younger brother Philip, later played by Jeffrey DeMunn), Harry’s glimpse of this encounter causes him to snap. He breaks a snowglobe and in a fit of rage uses it to cut a gash into his hand.

Years later, Harry is still a man with a rather fragile psyche. He works as a middle-manager of a toy factory, but feels dismayed when his coworkers don’t share his same admiration for the Christmas Spirit. Harry lives and breathes Santa Claus — his apartment is packed with red-and-white memorabilia, and he playfully gives himself a white shaving cream beard before shaving in the morning. This is all well and good, but his obsession has a much more sinister manifestation: he’s been spying on the children in his neighborhood. He’s been taking notes in his books of nice and naughty little boys and girls. Harry is pleased to see one boy taking out the garbage for his family, but another perusing a Penthouse magazine only takes Harry one step closer to the edge.

Where will his murderous rampage take him when he finally breaks and decides it is time to punish the bad people of the world? You’ll have to check out my guest appearance on The Phantom Erik‘s 100 Years of Horror podcast to find out!

The 100 Years of Horror is one of the finest horror film podcasts out their as Erik always thoroughly researches his films and covers each picture’s place in the history of the horror genre. Listen in as we discuss, not just the plot of Christmas Evil, but also how it relates to the battle between consumerism vs. traditionalism, what it says about the role of family and mental health issues, and where this film falls in the ranks of other holiday horrors such as Silent Night, Deadly Night, Santa’s Slay, and Santa vs. the Zombies (bleeeh . . .). We also manage to compare it to It’s a Wonderful Life, Psycho, and Maniac! Please have a listen to this excellent podcast by clicking HERE.

sleigh van flying

Christmas Evil, directed by Lewis Jackson, unfairly gets lumped into the slasher flick pantheon of the 1980s. Truthfully though, this is a character study of a man brought to (and past) his breaking point. This ain’t a body-count film, but it is a well-crafted picture portraying one man’s mental breakdown. Or, a closer inspection may reveal that Harry Stradling, vehemently clinging to the lovely essence of Christmas, is sane, while all of us, disregarding peace on earth and good will towards men, are the crazy ones.

Merry Christmas Eve! I’ll be back tomorrow for one last goodie, but until then, feast your eyes on these posters.

Terror in Toyland VHS Box christmas_evil_posterchristmas-evil-polishDamn, Polish is an absolutely terrifying looking language.


Digging into the Short Film Christmas Pile

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the tenth Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, ten vids-a-streaming, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

Hopefully my previous slays have gotten you into the horror holiday mood, but if not you are in for a treat today. That’s right, this Axe-Wielding Santa is early for you good boys and girls and I come bearing the gifts of 10 short horrific films. Now, I’ve dug really deep into the pile this year to ensure that you don’t just get all of the same as previous seasonal holiday lists on other sites. But I will admit that there are a few chillers here that I found listed elsewhere that I didn’t want to leave off. Some of the flicks are animated. Some are claymation. Some are obviously amateurish (but still a good deal better than Santa vs. the Zombies, yeech). These yuletide treats were made with love, and I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.

Honorable mention: there is an excellent 7 minute short film that served as the precursor to Rare Exports. I don’t want to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it, but I do want to say that this is a very respectable short that covers the exact same material from the film. If you’ve seen the full-length Rare Exports then the shorter version is interesting to view to see a much more condensed version of the idea!

#1 The Winter Stalker

(these are in a mostly arbitrary order)

The 1980 film Christmas Evil (come back tomorrow for a longer review) details just how creepy it is for a middle-aged man to spy on children (both nice and naughty). Here is a short film written and directed by Stephen Reedy that distills the idea of becoming the target of a Santa Claus stalker.

#2 My Name is Kris Kringle

This one takes things a step further from just stalking children, as Santa is hauled into the police station after hacking up a few naughties with a meat cleaver. It isn’t until after explaining that he is simply following the orders on his list, that the full enormity of the situation comes to light. This very dark tale was written and directed by Drew Daywalt.

#3 I Still Believe

In this claymation short we can see a despondent Santa inches away from simply giving up. He hasn’t wandered into creepy stalker/killer territory yet, but it is very clear that this Old Saint Nick is far from jolly. Then he gets a visit that is simply out of this world. Can extraterrestrials get Santa Claus back into the Christmas spirit? This short was animated by the artist Mr. Oz.

#4 Night of the Living Santa

This darkly humorous cartoon was made by Michael Friedman for aniBOOM. Again, we find a depressed Santa, and see exactly what happens when he gives up. This is probably the most funny pick on the list, as the elves use the Christmas Necronomicon to bring Kris Kringle back from the dead. As you can imagine, an undead Santa would prefer brains over cookies on Christmas Eve!

#5 Vampire Santa

Following the idea of a zombie Santa is this one where Santa Claus is a vampire (possibly?). This is an episode of a show called Boss Hospital by Raym Hensley, which appears to be a little know gem of comedic weirdness. It’s a 2 and a half minute strange non-sequitur, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I enjoyed this. Hopefully you will too as you find yourself repeating “Merry Christ’s Mass” in a few days time.

#6 Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is a recent holiday tradition, but a strange one none-the-less. Santa has enlisted the help of these stone-faced smiling creeps the world over to watch over kids and ensure that they stay good during the holiday season. As Child’s Play, The Puppet Master, or more recently, The Conjuring, have shown us, dolls are inherently off-putting. But when imbued with magical powers they become all the more unsettling. There are several weird Elf on the Shelf videos online, but this one is the most effective.

#7 Christmas Morning

Here is an amateur film that has to be, technically speaking, one of the best. It doesn’t suffer from shaky cam, the special effects aren’t too bad, and the song featured is actually pretty funny. The girl lip-synching is a bit off at times, but that doesn’t take too much away from the video’s effectiveness. It was directed by Ryan Richardson and seemingly only featured his family members. I’d be interesting to see what he could put together with more of a budget.

#8 Little Cracker

Well, let’s say you’re a child, and your parents are murdered on Christmas. If you’re not lucky enough to have a grandma to live with, then probably you’d end up in an orphanage. Orphanages never seem to be especially happy places, but as Silent Night, Deadly Night, and this short film (and the following one) show us, they can really be deadly during the holidays. In Little Cracker, director Paul Mayers does a lot with very little to craft a story about an orphan boy who just isn’t right.

#9 The Bottleberry Orphans

This is a creepy poem about another deadly Christmas at the orphanage. The imagery used in the video is great, and the poem is off-putting. Lyrically it doesn’t rhyme, but that adds to its unsettling effectiveness. Unfortunately, this poem is not spoken, so you’ll have to read along with a spooky rendition of Silent Night, Holy Night in the background.

#10 976-Evil 2

My last pick for this holiday themed list of scary shorts comes from the full-length 976-Evil 2. The movie itself is largely unmemorable, but this mash-up of Night of the Living Dead and It’s a Wonderful Life is an excellent way to spice up that annual showing of Jimmy Stewart’s tale of angelic redemption. Just beware of Zuzu’s trowel.

So holiday horror hounds, cuddle up close to the fireplace and try to keep warm while watching these chillers!


Unbelief by Michael Marshall Smith

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the ninth Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

Welcome back to the list espouse all of the ho ho horror this holiday season. Today’s pick sees a return to the realm of audio fiction as the latest episode of Drabblecast contains a short story featuring Santa Claus squaring off against a hitman. In Michael Marshall Smith‘s Unbelief the naughtiest of acts is commissioned for a professional assassin. This self-proclaimed family man killer has been hired by a syndicate to off Jolly Old Saint Nick, but outside of the money, he says that it is personal. What is the horror he holds from his childhood that makes him despise Santa so? In a surprisingly tense story, this cold-hearted man struggles with what he claims to be the arbitrary moral codes upheld by the mythical Kris Kringle. In this story, he faces up to the true meaning of Christmas, and how his profession has left him cold and dead inside.

This is an excellent piece and quite a dark departure from the cheesy stuff elsewhere exhibited in this list. Drabblecast is a podcast that delivers strange stories, by strange authors, for strange listeners. If you’ve enjoyed the rest of the stuff in my list of X-mas Slays, then you’re sure to enjoy Drabblecast. Check out the latest episode by clicking HERE.

 

 

In addition to Michael Marshall Smith’s story, the host of Drabblecast, Norm Sherman, chats about the 13 trolls of Christmas, the Yule Lads of Icelandic lore. The Yule Lads are riffs of the traditional Santa Claus, but with much weirder names, such as Meat-Hook, Spoon-Licker, and Window Peeper. These guys don’t have the same demonic bent as Krampus, but they are definitely strange, as if you are a naughty child, then you’ll be left a rotten potato as a gift. In the Drabblecast, Mr. Sherman sings a familiar holiday tune with updated Yule Lad lyrics. It’s hilarious! So, if you’ll looking for a piece of darkness that is both grim and gelastic, check out the Drabblecast.

Until tomorrow, look out for rotten potatoes in your stockings!


Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the eighth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

After taking a day to recover from the seventh slay of Christmas — the horror that was Santa vs. The Zombies, bourbon, and an open mic — the list has returned with the Yuletide Schlock Classic that is Silent Night, Deadly Night 2!

Silent-Night-Deadly-Night-2

If you haven’t seen the first Silent Night, Deadly Night film, don’t fret, because the first 40 minutes of this sequel recaps the entire previous movie. All of the kills. Both psycho Santas. The gratuitous sexy bits. All of the gore and none of the goodness! It really is quite amazing how they were able to include just about everything of importance from the first movie — minus the crazy grandpa and the working-at-a-toy-store montage. Then there is another 40 minutes or so of new stuff that is less rushed, less focused, and more crazy than everything from the previous film. (There is an excellent write-up on FEARnet that tells how the producers actually just wanted the editor/director Lee Harry to recut the first movie into something entirely new and different, but fortunately for us fans of terrible cinema, they were able to add some new stuff into the mix.

I won’t go into everything that Psycho Billy did in SNDN1, but I will say that Psycho Ricky tops anything his brother did in his night of mayhem, simply due to actor Eric Freeman’s outrageous portrayal. The story is like this: Ricky has followed in the genetic footsteps of his brother, and like his grandfather, has ended up in some sort of mental hospital for the criminally insane. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by a psychiatrist to be interviewed about his past transgressions. After retelling Billy’s story, Ricky gets into it about how he was adopted by a nice Jewish couple — from a Catholic orphanage — who seemingly shielded him from the horrors of Santa during his childhood. This doesn’t last too long however, as a chance encounter with two nuns and a thick red cloth set off all of his old memories. From this time forward, he gets set off whenever he encounters a tense situation along with the color red.

His first kill is to a would-be rapist, who he runs over with a red Jeep. Later, after growing up a bit, he kills an extortionist in a back-alley (with an umbrella through the belly) because he had a red handkerchief and needed to be punished. He kills an annoying guy wearing a red shirt in the world’s most brightly lit movie theater. He kills his girlfriend’s ex with a car battery jumper cable to the tongue. You guessed it — the car was red. Unfortunately, this is the tipping point for young Ricky, because he then proceeds to kill everyone else in the nearby vicinity. His girlfriend gets it, because she freaked out about her ex’s death and also needed to be punished. This probably wasn’t the reaction Ricky was expecting since the woman whose attempted raper he killed thanked Ricky.

sndn2_cop

He then kills Barney Fife whose firearm lets Ricky continue his shooting spree, killing a football player, a poor soul casually taking out his garbage (despite gunshots in the neighborhood), and an explosion-prone red car. However, he does not kill the little girl with a red bow in her hair riding her tricycle around an urban warzone. She wasn’t naughty enough. The most senseless of these kills — the man acting out a simple garbage day routine — has since been immortalized in this oft seen clip:

The viewer get a bit of Eric Freeman’s dancing eyebrows in that clip as well!

Eventually the cops — better armed and less idiotic than before — catch up to Ricky, but they are more concerned about him foolishly throwing his life away with the revolver at his temple than trying to put down this spree killer. Afterwards Ricky ends up behind bars where doctor #13 has just finished with his interview. He’s finished also finished with his life, as Ricky has claimed another victim by strangling the doctor with his own audio tape. After making an off-screen escape through the orderlies, Ricky finds and kills a Santa Claus, relieving the poor guy of his suit, and makes after Old Mother Superior.

sndn2_mothersuperior

Ricky sets off to finish what his older brother couldn’t accomplish. While Ricky goes after the old wicked nun, the nun accompanying the police, Sister Mary, informs them that Mother Superior has retired, lives alone, and has had a stroke. Judging by her face, she must have had that stroke next to an open fireplace. Ricky easily finds her, and the cat-and-mouse games begin between the Psycho Santa Brother and the world’s strongest nun confined to a wheelchair.

I don’t want to spoil things if you haven’t already seen it, but suffice it to say, you’ll hear some great lines before the closing credits start. Here are some of my other favorites from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2:

I DON’T SLEEP! — Ricky, when asked if he has nightmares

You’re good Doc, but I know all the moves. I could squash you like a bug. — Ricky to the Doc

Fuck this! I’m getting a beer. But I’ll be back! — Attempted Rapist to woman after being kicked in the balls

Red car! Good point! — Ricky to the Doc after he writes this in his girly handwritten notebook

Sounded like some squirrel getting his nuts squeezed. — Ricky about a man being harassed by an extortionist

I’m really MAD now! — Ricky, after getting his axe stuck in Mother Superior’s wheelchair

Overall, Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 is not as good as the first one, but most slasher sequels aren’t. This film was less serious than the original, and much more fun overall. It is oozing with camp, and the first 40 minute recap can be pretty boring if you’ve recently watched part one. In terms of my list so far, this movie is miles ahead of Santa vs. the Zombies, but not quite as enjoyable as Santa’s Slay. Technically though, it is a fine film as the editing and music are both strong. Sadly, the atrocious acting (and those damn dancing eyebrows) puts this out of the realm of scary. This film is like that hideously designed, itchy sweater your great aunt made you that your mom makes you wear to the extended family X-mas get-together.

Until tomorrow, keep squirming in that sweater, and keep those eyebrows dancing!

 

sndn2_dancing-eyebrows


Santa Claus Versus the Zombies (2010)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

On the seventh day of Christmas, this genre gave to me, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

My my my. I guess I was naughty this year, because this lump of coal has arrived in my stocking. I don’t know quite frankly if I can do this film any due justice at the moment. Maybe I need some time to process. I’m not sure. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. And yes, zombies do make a cameo appearance. And tucked inside this low budget ‘family-friendly’ zombie film, there is a story about the President of the United States staving off a coup from a top military general. Actually, that’s what most of the film is about. The majority of the film is spent in a bunker with the president and his advisers, while Santa is stuck in a house with a family and some elves. All the while, there are zombies (unseen of course) keeping them indoors. Ay yie yie. I cant’ do this. There’s no way way I can write out any more about this . . .

I GAVE UP on trying to WRITE my thoughts about this movie, so LISTEN to my drunken ramblings:

OR, if you’d like some more coherent and sober thoughts on Santa vs. the Zombies, click HERE!

ALSO, for screenshots of this movie, you can amaze your eyeballs HERE!


Nackles by Donald Westlake

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

 

For the sixth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, enslaved demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

Today we are getting literary again with another short story based on a Santa-like construct that punishes the naughty. Nackles is the anti-Santa Claus, and he originates in Donald Westlake’s (writing under the pseudonym Curt Clark) story “Nackles” published in 1964. The evil Santa in this story is a bit different than what we’ve encountered before. While Krampus is a black-hearted demon enslaved by the righteous and more powerful Saint Nick, Nackles is an entity of equal power driven by an opposite motive. Also, whereas Goldberg plays his Santa-as-really-a-demon to comedic effect, Nackles is much more cerebral and mysterious.

 

Nackles is the evil alternative of Santa being not just an angelic being, but a godly one. This is a story that questions what Christmas has become in our modern society, with Santa as “a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption.” It also explores where the tenacious ideas of god and religion come from in the very first line: “Did God create men, or does Man create gods?

 

Nackles may be a more modern antithesis to Santa Claus than Krampus, but he is no less outwardly grotesque. He is “very very tall and very very thin. Dressed all in black, with a gaunt gray face and deep black eyes. He travels through an intricate series of tunnels under the earth, in a black chariot on rails, pulled by an octet of dead-white goats.” From this description, Nackles seems almost to be a holiday version of Slenderman!

 

flickr / Chris Isherwood
He sees you when you’re sleeping . . .

 

The story of Nackles was at one time being developed by George R. R. Martin and Harlan Ellison as a holiday episode of the 1980s Twilight Zone reboot. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition. Nackles is the perfect entity to exist in the Twilight Zone, as he is a fantastical creation brought to life (?) by the power of imagination. Millions of people believe that Santa Claus is real, and those of us enlightened folks (adults) go along with the whole schtick too. So, if we give lip service to a Santa, why not a Nackles?

 

You can read Donald Westlake’s “Nackles” in its entirety by clicking here.

You can read more about the Nackles Twilight Zone debacle by clicking here.

I’ll be back with another Slay of Christmas real soon. Until then, don’t be naughty!


Santa’s Slay (2005)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the fifth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, an Amicus anthology, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

santa's-slay

Upon debuting in WCW, Bill Goldberg became arguably the first (or second, behind Stone Cold Steve Austin) most popular wrestler in the world. He went on an unprecedented streak of 173 victories and zero losses. In Santa’s Slay, as the demonic son of Satan, he continues this insane streak by killing upwards of 30 people in the span of 78 minutes. In the film’s opening sequence Goldberg Claus decimates the likes of Rebecca Gayheart, Chris Kattan, Fran Drescher, and James Caan!

Santa’s Slay is a film that surprised me very much; I went into it with very low expectations — Goldberg could never cut a decent promo in the ring, much less carry a film on his wide shoulders — but those expectations were completely shattered. This is an outrageous and fun flick — deliciously cheesy and filled with Christmas camp. You may roll your eyes at some of the sophomoric humor (GONAD, rather than NORAD as the sleigh tracker), but occasionally even those bits had me laughing out loud.

Why exactly is Santa so angry and murderous? Well, it turns out that he has always been this way. He was conceived as the son of the devil thousands of years in the past, and prior to becoming the jolly old gift-giver he is commonly known as, Santa was a violent bully. He derived pleasure out of torturing elves and generally went about causing destruction and mayhem wherever he roamed. Then one day an angel descended down from heaven. This angel and Santa had a curling competition. The angel wagered his eternal soul, while Santa bet that if he lost, he would be kind, jolly, and deliver presents to all the good children all over the world for the next 1000 years. In an animated sequence of the same style as the 1960s Rankin/Bass Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV specials, we see a cocky Santa roll his curling stone right to the edge of a hole in the ice. The angel then wins the contest by bowling his stone into Santa’s, causing it to fall into the water. Thus is the beginning, against his will, of Jolly Old Saint Nick.

The film opens at the end of this 1000 years of kindness with Santa already on his rampage. A scene that start out as typical sitcom holiday special is turned into B-movie gold when Goldberg bursts through the chimney and kills an entire family with implements such as a turkey leg, the star topper of a Christmas tree, and a flaming mouthful of brandy. He even punts a pomeranian for good measure. Even if you have no desire to watch this film (the wrong choice to be sure), you should check out the hilarious opening sequence.

After the title credits which feature a variety of badass Santa pictures throughout the centuries, the movie properly opens in Hell Township on Christmas Eve. Nicholas Yulson (Douglas Smith) and his girlfriend, Mary ‘Mac’ McKenzie (Emilie de Ravin) get the night off early from their jobs at a Jewish deli. Mac drives Nicholas home where we are introduced to his crazy grandpa (Robert Culp). Grandpa is obviously paranoid with triplicate locks on the front door and a basement bunker that has several TVs of surveillance footage. Both Nicholas and Grandpa share a disdain for Christmas and the ability to read Norse. You can see where this is going right? Halfway through his reign of murderous mayhem, Santa targets Mac and Nicholas. Then the truth about Grandpa’s paranoia and an old Norse family connection to Santa Claus come out in the open.

Goldberg as Santa

The plot of this movie is fairly simplistic — run away from the Psycho Santa while he kills everyone around him. What keeps the viewer engaged are the inventive, but not really gory kills, and the fully comedic characters through-out. Santa shoves a candycane through the eye of a mugger. He lights fire to a strip club. He delivers exploding presents to potty-mouthed children on Christmas day. Also, his sleigh is drawn by a man-eating buffalo!

Some great characters to look out for in this are: an old lady who curses like a sailor and chain smokes while swerving all over the road, Dave Thomas as a sleazy pastor who steals from his church congregation to have spending cash at the strip club, and a brief cameo from wrestler/actor Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr. (Zeus!). All in all, Goldberg and the two leads are the weakest actors in the film, but it doesn’t matter because there are so many great characters in the peripheral of the movie to make up for it.

Along with the acting, the writing is a bit spotty in places. This is more to do with the actors’ inability to handle the lines more than the the lines themselves. It is also a bit choppy because rather than pure dialogue, each character speaks in a series of one liners. Some are hilarious: ‘Don ye now your gay apparel’ said to the homosexual police captain in a Santa get-up. Some funny, but a bit mean: ‘I’m as happy as a make-a-wish kid.’ Some just fall flat: ‘We’re trapped in a closet on Christmas with Santa trying to murder us. How fucked up is that?’ Goldberg’s Santa Claus also speaks mainly in one liners: ‘unfortunately, you’re time is about to expire.’ Patient wrestling fans have to wait until after the credits to hear him drop his in-ring catch-phrase, ‘who’s next?’

goldberg-whos-next

Santa’s Slay was written and directed by David Steiman. Due to its high production values and campy humor, it has already muscled a permanent place in my holiday rotation. So, kick back with some hot cocoa, invite your friends over, and witness the greatest wrestler-turned-Santa since Hulk Hogan in Santa with Muscles. Only, this one is better, because heels are always cooler!


Creepy Christmas Tunes

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

 

For the fourth slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, four creepy songs, an Amicus anthology, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

 

 

There’s that familiar chill in the air. A fresh dusting of snow on the ground. Folks bundled up tightly on their shopping excursions. Children out in their yards building snowmen or forts. In the midst of it all, your axe-wielding author dashes to and fro in hopes of avoiding that one most dreaded yuletide custom. Christmas music! It is a terrifying assault on the senses, and too much of it can turn even the most cheerful and saintly among us into old, curmudgeonly Scrooges.

 

I’ll be honest, I haven’t reached that tipping point yet this holiday season, although I can only hear singing chipmunks a few times before I finally snap. In light of the holiday close approaching, I thought I’d dig up some X-mas tunes a little more weird than the mainstream fare, and decidedly less grating to boot. Although, like any aesthetic opinion, these are all subject to my personal peculiar tastes. (My all-time favorite holiday song is Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun,” that, although consummately secular, is neither dark nor especially weird.)

So, for my fourth slay of Christmas 2013, I present four songs to add to your Christmas playlists!

 

The first tune on the Pieces of Darkness Holiday Playlist is this haunting rendition of “Carol of the Bells” by Cast in Bronze.

 

 

 

“Carol of the Bells” is one of the least annoying traditional Christmas songs since it lacks lyrics. When played on a carillon — a giant set of bells weighing over four tons — it sounds especially chilling. An antiquated instrument, coupled with the musician — Frank DellaPenna — wearing a strange golden bird mask and dressed head to toe in black,  makes the tune downright eerie. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this character were to pop up in an Argento film, as this entire act is one scarred face away from turning into the Phantom of the Opera.

 

The second tune for tonight is “Sled Zepplin” by Bob Rivers. It is a Christmas parody of Led Zepplin’s “D’yer M’aker,” and although the song itself is not terribly dark, the mellow beat played over clips of crazy Santa Clauses is a thing of beauty.

If you’ve been following my previous Slays of Christmas, you’ll note that two of these Psychotic Santas have already been featured in the list. Crazy Billy from Silent Night, Deadly Night, and the old mental institution escapee from Tales from the Crypt have had their day in the low winter sun, but be on the look out for Harry Stadling in 1980’s Christmas Evil to pop up sometime before Christmas day!

 

Kate Bush’s “Misty” is the next song on our holiday playlist. On its own this song is sad and evocative, but with the claymation video depicting a fatal tryst between a woman and a snowman, it becomes especially creepy.

 

 

If compared to Wham’s “Last Christmas,” about a lover being completely over their ex who left them on December 26th, this song shows the flip-side of the coin: an unhealthily bitter jilted lover. Or maybe it is about the remorse one feels for killing their ex in a crime of passion during the holiday season. It can’t simply be a cautionary tale about what happens when a hot blooded woman has a steamy night of love with a snowman, can it?

 

The last song to add to your X-mas playlist is a perennial childhood favorite of mine — Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” As the title indicates, this song is about Santa Claus going postal at the North Pole, gunning down elves and reindeer aplenty.

 

 

This parody of Soul Asylum’s “Black Gold” has an extra gorier alternative ending. The final verse goes like this:

Yes Virginia, now Santa Claus is dead.

Some guy from the SWAT team, blew a hole through his head.

Yes little friend now, there’s his brains on the floor.

I guess they won’t have the fat guy, to kick around anymore!

But now there’s no more presents, for the children’s enjoyment.

And the elves gotta stand in line to file for unemployment.

And they say Mrs Claus, she’s on the phone every night,

with the lawyers, negotiating the, movie rights!

 

So next time you get sick of incessantly hearing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or “Jingle Bells,” just put on this song, pour yourself a great big glass of spiked eggnog, and sit back and enjoy the sounds of Old Saint Nick being crazy violent dick.

See ya tomorrow folks!


Tales from the Crypt (1972)

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the third slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, an Amicus anthology, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

tftc_santa

If Santa Claus knocks at your door tonight, don’t answer. — from Roger Ebert’s review

Ho ho ho! Hope you’re in the holiday spirit, I sure know that I am! Today I am getting at the root of the Killer Santa with the original 1972 Amicus anthology Tales from the Crypt, directed by Freddie Francis. As far as I can ascertain (from a perfunctory Google search) this film is the first to feature a murderous madman clad in the red and white-trimmed suit. If that is incorrect, and you know of an earlier film with a killer from the North Pole, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Tonight’s treat is stocking-stuffed full of revenge tales and evil-doers getting their just desserts — a common thread through all of my X-mas picks this season thus far! Tales from the Crypt sees five strangers united on a tour of some old English catacombs. We, the viewer don’t know why they’re here, and they themselves don’t either. The central five are quickly separated from the rest of the group and joined by a mysterious cloaked figure — The Crypt Keeper. Now, honestly, Ralph Richardson isn’t The Crypt Keeper that I grew up with — he has much more flesh on his bones and much less cheesy jokes than HBO’s early 90s incarnation. But, as a very dry, slightly sardonic purveyor of eternal condemnation, he works in this role. Plus, he was knighted, so you know that means he’s one of the queen’s own actors. Indeed, the acting is very strong through-out this entire picture, but I also get a sense that they are all playing very familiar roles. With the exception of Peter Cushing, who plays a down-on-his-luck trash collector, the main actors are all well-to-do high society types, that just tend to rub middle-class me the wrong sort of way.

. . . And All Through the House

Case in point is Joan Collins as a money grubbing wife who kills her husband on Christmas Eve. The first thing that she does after clubbing the man in the head is not to clean up the murder scene, but to check the safe to see that his insurance papers are all in order. But then two things happen to up the ante. The first is that the couple’s daughter calls down from her upstairs bedroom. The second is that the radio announces that old crazy guy on the loose from the mental institution trope: “a man described as a homicidal maniac has escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane . . . and may be wearing a Santa Claus costume.” (I know this trope seems well-worn, but the only other time I can actually remember it from a film is Night of the Creeps.)

Now the murderous mother has to deal not only with cleaning up her crime scene, but also keeping the madman outside, and her daughter on the inside. The TV version of this episode has much more back and forth between the woman and Santa, but the ending to that plays out much the same here in the original. I won’t ruin either of them for you if you haven’t seen them. Just note that the Santa here is more likely to be seen on a Macy’s float while the latter Crypt Santa is more akin to the drooling on his straight-jacket in a padded cell sort of criminally insane.

tfnc_andallthroughthehouse

Reflection of Death

The second story in this anthology stars Ian Hendry as a man who leaves his wife and children to run away with his mistress. Only, obviously, things don’t go as they planned. Hendry wakes up from a nightmare during the drive, and moments afterward they are involved in a pretty wicked car crash. The car flips upside down several times, with silly slow motion cuts of each of them banging around the car’s interior. Then, seemingly moments after the crash, the man awakes to find himself in the English countryside, near his burned out car. As the viewers, we follow his POV shot through the woods looking for help, but everyone he stumbles upon runs or drives away. He returns to his wife’s house to have the door slammed on his face and her scream in terror. The reveal of whatever is so hideous and repulsive about this man doesn’t happen until he visits the apartment of his mistress and sees . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. I felt that Reflection of Death was the weakest of the tales in this film. It was one of those easy to see twist endings, as well as one of those weird, too funny to take seriously dream endings. It’s all very well shot and well acted, but just not up to the standard of the rest of the stories.

tftc_upsidedown

Poetic Justice

The third story features the late great Peter Cushing as a down-on-his-luck Mr. Rogers type character named Mr. Grimsdyke. All of the neighborhood children love him, and frequently visit his home to take in puppet shows and recieve gifts. Unfortunately, Mr. Grimsdyke is unfairly hated by his very well-off neighbor played by Robin Phillips. This entitled bastard takes it upon himself to get Grimsdyke to leave the neighborhood in an effort to ease their property taxes. It is laughable to see what the neighbor’s call a veritable pigsty actually be so clean and tidy. Perhaps they were offended by Grimsdyke’s finger-less hobo gloves. So, this young prick makes Grimsdyke’s life hell by first tearing up another neighbor’s rosebushes and getting the police to take Grimsdyke’s dogs away. Next, he gets him fired from his job as a trash-collector and then makes all the families in the neighborhood keep their children away from him. And if that isn’t enough, he sends the poor old man a bunch of NASTY Valentine’s Day cards.

grimsdyke

This kindly old man just can’t take it any more. Distraught after all of the vitriolic hatred, he decides to end his life by hanging himself in the pantry. With smug satisfaction the entitled young man and his father find the body, and for them at least, all is finally right in the neighborhood. Only, poetic justice is served, when one year later Grimsdyke rises from the grave to deliver his own Valentine’s Day card. This story is probably the best of the bunch in part to Cushing who was playing a character pretty similar to himself. Throughout Grimsdyke talked to the photograph of his deceased wife Helen when in reality Cushing’s own wife Helen had passed away about a year before this film. (I can’t comment on the actor’s use of a ouijia board or automatic writing device to contact her though.)

Wish You Were Here

The fourth story is a classic spin on that old story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. In fact, they even reference that story in this one! Richard Greene plays a business faced with mounting debts. Either he can go into bankruptcy, or sell off all of his collected artwork to stave off financial ruin. Surprisingly, he decides to be honorable, and sell of his excesses. That is when his wife stumbles across an oriental statue that promises to deliver them the standard three wishes. Immediatedly, despite a caution from the businessman himself, she wishes for their wealth back. Lo and behold, they get a call to meet with their lawyer, but when Greene goes he is chased by a skeletal biker, crashes, and dies. The wife, however, becomes well off because of her husband’s ample life insurance.

tftc_palerider

Knowing that she has still has two wishes, and distraught about her husband’s death, she uses another wish — again, despite the warning from the lawyer — and asks for him to be returned to her just as he was before the car crash. Some mysterious undertakers bring in the husband’s coffin and lay it out saying he had a heart attack right before the crash. Second wish wasted. She also wastes the third wish to ironic effect, but I won’t say what happens, except that of all five protagonists, this guy gets the rawest deal in the end, and actually given what happens, he shouldn’t be with the others in the Crypt Keeper’s prescence. It is the foolish wife who brings down all the trouble on this man.

Blind Alleys

The movie’s last story sees Nigel Patrick as Major William Rogers, the newly appointed superintendant for the Elmridge Home for the Blind. He addresses his men in the most military of fashions, and turns the home more into a barracks than a convalescent home. The blind men are not pleased, especially as the major and his German shepherd feast on steak and wine while they must eat meatless slop and sleep in their frigid beds on cold, heatless nights. When one of the blind men dies the others have finally had enough. They decide to take over the hospital and punish the major (and his dog) for how they have treated him.

tftc_mutinyoftheblind

The blind men lock up the major and his dog in separate cells in the basement. Then they go to work with wooden boards, saws, hammers, and nails, blindly shambling through their construction zone like zombies. Once they are finished, they open the door to the major’s cell, and he is faced with a Saw-esque torture hall covered with exposed razor blades. There is no going back, and he must proceed . . . to his doom!

This was such a fun film. It much less cornball than the 90s TV show, but I think there is still a healthy amount of sardonic charm and cinematic irony to make this fun for the whole family. It is only rated PG after all! It is well acted with a nicely rounded cast. Also, this is just dripping with Gothic charm as the visuals of a rundown cemetery at the opening and the music, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in the opening and closing, contribute to something that is very British, sophisticated yet atmospheric. It also doesn’t betray its comic book roots, as the blood throughout is bright vivid red. There isn’t anything too gory, but there madman Santa, as well as the Peter Cushing zombie have been iconic images in the horror genre.

If you haven’t watched Tales from the Crypt recently, then the holiday season might be just the time for you and yours to enjoy something shocking, yet pleasing for all, young and old.


St. Nicholas’ Helper by D.K. Thompson

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the second slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, Santa’s Demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

Meet Kramus!

“I’ll feast on the flesh of children tonight until the snow is stained red with their blood.”

— D.K. Thompson

 

Welcome back to the list that keeps on giving, Pieces of Darkness’s Twelve Slays of Christmas! Yesterday I explored a film all about the balancing the gift giving for good children with the punishment of the naughty ones with Silent Night, Deadly Night. Today I’m taking a stab at Santa’s own personal enslaved demon Krampus.

 

If you know nothing about this wooden faced, cloven hoofed, hairy beast, then allow me to enlighten you, with a little help from Wikipedia:

Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Yule season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children in his sack and carry them away to his lair.

What the opening paragraph fails to mention, is that soon after being hauled away to Krampus’s lair, these children would be dismembered and eaten by the demon. That makes getting coal in your stocking a pretty enticing gift afterall doesn’t it? Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and a Demon Claus too!

Krampus has his origins in pre-Christian pagan times, but eventually made his way into the Christmas traditions of central Europe. He suffered a bit of anti-propaganda from the Austrian government in the 1950s, but today seems to be rising in popularity and has been embraced by as a darker part of the Christmas tradition. There are even bachannalian Krampus Runs where participants dress up like this horned beast, get drunk, and trounce through the snow. (The consumption of child flesh is presumably kept to a minimum.)

 

Or, you could consume delicious chocolatey Krampus. Turn about is fair play demon!

 

Traditionally, Krampus stalked after children on December 6th, as that is The Feast of St. Nicholas, and the one day each year that Santa Claus releases Kramups from his chains. This is the case in D.K. Thompson’s short story St. Nicholas’ Helper. In it, two young girls have disobeyed their mother, and gone out on the Demon Night after their lost cat. Predictably, they are captured by Krampus, shoved into his great child-holding sack, and taken back to his lair.

“Don’t be scared, you’ve been good right?’

“I tried . . . but how good did I need to be?”

What is unexpected is the gory detail that the author uses to describe their fate, and the superb way it digs into your mind conveyed through the medium of audio fiction. Suffice it to say, the fate of the children is grim, especially when considering that all of the barrels stocked in Krampus’s lair are filled with his previous captures — “curing, so their flesh could be sold off as ham.” Also, we get more than a mere glimpse of Krampus, we get to smell him — “wet putrid fur, like an old forgotten carcass picked at by scavenging rats.” And we can almost hear the wet smack of organs tearing free as “Krampus pulled something long and twisted, like crimson serpents . . . and put them in an open barrel.”

The story comes down to a battle between a older, lither, Saint Nick, and his contemptuous demon, but I won’t spoil the outcome for you here. Listen for yourself, but bundle up, as it’s one to chill the blood.

St. Nicholas’ Helper by D.K. Thompson was ‘published’ in Pseudopod — one of the best horror fiction podcasts out there — in December of 2011. It was read by Marie Brennan. Check it out by clicking here! Also, be sure to check back tomorrow for the third slay of Christmas!


Silent Night, Deadly Night

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the first slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, a scream queen hanging free!

Welcome to the first of twelve slays this holiday season. I’m gearing up for Christmas in bloody good style with a look at several Christmas-themed horror genre (film, literature, etc.) picks. First on the list, is Silent Night, Deadly Night, one of the more infamous of the killer-in-a-Santa-suit films. This movie is notable as being the one to make Paramount put the axe to Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th part 4: The Final Friday, and it also has one of the most memorable movie posters from the glut of 1980s slasher flicks. Although this one might not feature the best Psycho Santa Claus, when compared to other holiday-themed horror outings, this one is certainly not terrible.

silent night deadly night title

The movie opens up on Christmas Eve 1971 with a family on a roadtrip to see Grandpa. All of the familiar faces are present: father, hot mother, un-carseat-strapped baby, and little boy in the backseat. Little Billy is concerned that he won’t be back home before Santa Claus comes to his house that evening. But, Hot Mom comforts her son by telling him, “Don’t worry, Santa Claus is going to bring you a big surprise tonight. You just wait and see!”

It doesn’t take a genius to realize this bit of foreshadowing, but the family showing up at a mental health facility to visit the institutionalized grandfather does take aback an unacquainted viewer. Grandpa is in a catatonic state and completely unresponsive to his family or the doctor. The family leaves Billy to go and ‘review papers’ in the doctor’s office. It is telling the sort of parents these two are to leave a kid — maybe 5 years old — alone on his own in an insane asylum. As Hot Mom walks away, she drops another winning line with “Don’t worry, Grandpa’s not going to hurt you.”

SNDN_crazygrandpa

Creepiest Grandpa outside of Texas.

Crazy Grandpa snaps out of his previous state and rants to little Billy about the evils of Christmas. “Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year. I’d be scared too, if I was you,” he says. Santa only gives presents to the nice children, but if you’re naughty, then you’ll get punished. “If you see Santa Claus tonight, you’d better run boy. You’d better run for your life!” Despite the foreboding tone, this warning would prove to better parenting advice than Hot Mom ever provided for Little Billy.

Later, on the drive home Billy confesses that he is scared that Santa will come and punish him, but Hot Mom tries to comfort her son by telling him that Grandpa is nothing but ‘a crazy old fool.” Little does she know, however, that elsewhere in the state some Santa suit clad criminal has just gunned down a store owner in a holdup for a measly $31.

SNDN_storeowner

Predictably, the family stops by this Madman Santa who has been having car trouble. Little Billy urges them to keep driving, but his dad stops to help, and gets shot for his troubles. Billy hightails it to the woods, while Santa deblouses (gotta get those tit shots in right?) Hot Mom before slitting her throat. Santa decides not to pick off the helpless crying baby brother, and instead just shouts into the woods after Billy, who winds up at an orphanage 3 years later. (There is absolutely no closure on this Psycho Santa, so presumably he is still out there in the backwoods of Utah killing Hot Moms and store owners for chump change.)

SNDN_deaddad

Saint Mary’s Home for Orphaned Children is not a very pleasant place for the Christmas-weary children of the world. The nuns running the joint seem to buy into the secular importance of Old Saint Nick, so you can imagine the shock that it causes when 8 year-old troubled child draws Bloody Kris Kringle and beheaded reindeer. The Mother Superior punishes the Awkwardly Mulleted Billy by sending him to his room.

SNDN_Billysdrawing

And Hitler just drew landscapes . . .

Sister Margaret thinks that the memory of the violence that Billy saw is just waiting to come out and be reenacted, but Mother Superior doesn’t care what she thinks. Mother Superior is old school, and feels that it is best to beat Billy’s violent urges into suppression. Which is exactly what happens after finding out that Sister Margaret has let Billy outside to play with the other children. He does, but only after stopping to peep on some older kids doing some pretty advanced mistletoe activities behind a locked door. (Mother Superior beats them too!)

That night, when Billy can’t stay in bed, so he gets tied down to the bedposts. Then the next day — Christmas Day — things come to a head, and although Mother Superior thinks her strict punishments have been effective, we know otherwise. Billy is dragged onto Santa’s lap, and punches the jolly fat man right in the nose. He goes off to cry in a corner, and there is an effective freeze frame of Billy looking up in terror at whatever punishment from Mother Superior lies in store.

SNDN_8yearoldBilly

Ten years later, Billy has developed into an 18 year-old dreamboat. This tall drink of water is ripped, and baby-faced, with brown eyes, blonde hair, and just a hint of dimples at the corners of his lips. Sister Margaret has just landed Big Buff Billy a job at Ira’s Toys as the new stockboy.

The filmmakers provide an awesome musical montage of what it was like to work in a toy store in the 1980s. I don’t want to spoil the fun too much, but there is a lot of box hauling, child lifting, time-card punching, and milk drinking, all while Boss Ira nods approvingly, and Billy’s lazy coworker slacks off and drinks J&B whiskey. Unfortunately, things can’t stay all musical montage good for Billy, as Christmas is now fast approaching. Billy has been acting more and more off — staring off into space and suffering wet dreams turning to nightmares — as December 25th approaches.

SNDN_BillyandIra

The tipping point comes when the regular Santa breaks his ankle and Billy must fill in. Billy is creepy and uncomfortable in the blood-red and white suit, and as children wriggle on his lap and he whispers to them to be good, or he’ll punish them. I really wanted this moment to be dragged out a bit, but instead we cut to the store’s after hours Christmas party, and one of the best lines from the movie with Ira’s: “Seven o’clock! It’s over! Time to get shitfaced!”

Sister Margaret is on her way, after being told that Billy was portraying Santa by the lazy J&B swilling coworker. But it is too late! All of the drunken holiday reveling, and overly forward, ripped-clothes lovemaking (read: attempted rape) makes Billy snap. It’s time to punish these naughty folks!

SNDN_hammerhead

He was gonna have headache anyway.

Psycho Santa Billy makes short work of the employees of Ira’s toys in a variety of ways that include X-Mas light hanging, boxcutter mutilation, clawhammer braining, and arrowing through the chest. Then Billy takes his rampage out on the streets. This is when 80s scream queen great Linnea Quigley gets offed in this movie’s most creative kill. As a neglectful babysitter, she leaves her boyfriend on the basement pool table, and goes upstairs, topless, to let in the homeowners’ cat. But when she opens the door, she finds that it isn’t the cat whose collar she heard jingling, but Psycho Santa Billy! He who chases after Quigley, wearing only hotpants, and impales her on a mounted deer head. The boyfriend gets thrown through a window and ends up impaled with a large chunk of glass. Finally, the babysittee comes away with a boxcutter, placed gently in her hand, as she is a good girl and not deserving of Santa’s punishment.

SNDN_throughdoor

With these balsa wood doors, I bet the homeowner’s heating bill is through the roof.

Billy continues on his rampage into the woods where he finally gets the chance to use that double-headed axe he’s been hauling around. The hapless victim is a sled-stealing bully who gets his comeuppance with a blow to the neck on a downhill run. His buddy (doppelganger of former pro-wrestler Edge) is left screaming his head off in the night.

SNDN_edgelookalike

Adam Copeland would survive the deadly, silent night and go on to win 31 WWE championships.

Sister Margaret and the police are worried as the body count is rising. The police are scouring the neighborhoods, but only interrupting tender family Christmas moments instead of finding the murderous Kris Kringle. They deduce that he is heading for the orphanage, so they dispatch officers there, who manage to get there just in time to gun down Santa Claus. Only, it’s not Psycho Billy Santa, but the kindly, old deaf priest who plays Santa for the orphaned children.

As Billy stalks his way to the orphanage, one wonders if Mother Superior will be the next person on the wrong end of an axe swing. Find out if Santa Claus dies by watching Silent Night, Deadly Night yourself. This is an above average slasher film and it certainly deserves to be seen by any fan of horror and/or Christmas movies.

Some Thoughts

It had been years (maybe a decade+) since I’d seen this, so I was thrilled when I rediscovered how good the acting was. Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior was obviously the best, as she was classically trained, and ran her own acting school. I thought that Little Billy (Jonathan Best) was far less annoying and more believable than Weird Mullet Billy (Danny Wagner). Also, a superb and creepy performance was put on by Will Hare as Crazy Grandpa. Robert Brian Wilson as Psycho Santa Billy wasn’t terrible, but he’s no Thom Mathews.

The special effects are standard fare, but it really makes me nostalgic for the days of complete physical effects. CGI squibs and gunshots just don’t really cut it in comparison to something as simple as some blood bags detonating.

It was pretty sweet to see all of those old 80s toys in Ira’s toy store. However, it’s probably for the best that toy stores these days don’t stock double-headed axes or bow and arrow sets.

Perry Botkin’s music is creepy throughout, especially the opening with the child singing. Even the funny picks, like the musical montage were spot on in tone and definitively 80s. When you think about it, even outside of a Santa slasher flick, all those X-Mas songs about an old man watching children throughout the year, and breaking into their houses to leave gifts for them, are a bit disconcerting.

Fun fact: this film opened the same weekend as A Nightmare on Elm Street and outgrossed that film before being pulled from theaters after becoming the target of parents’ protest groups.

Silent Night, Deadly Night was written by Michael Hickey and directed by Charles E. Sellier, Jr.

I recommend you watch it, and don’t be naughty this Christmas season!


Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

postergoingtopieces

I just finished this great documentary film about the humble beginnings, tumultuous but money making middle, slow sequel descent, and eventual rebirth of that most maligned subgenres of the horror genre — the slasher film. This 2006 documentary was written by J. Albert Bell, Rachel Belofsky, and Michael Derek Bohusz based off the 2002 book by Adam Rockoff. This feature is loaded with appearances from all of the usual big names like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, Greg Nicotero, Tom Savini, and Rob Zombie, but also features some lesser seen horror personalities such as Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp‘s Angela) and Slumber Party Massacre director Amy Holden Jones.

This film briefly touches on the early proto-slasher type films of Psycho and Peeping Tom, before acknowledging the true harbinger of the American slasher film movement with Halloween. That film, in my opinion, is great in just about every respect — an awesomely creepy score, atmospheric settings, appropriate pacing, and a strong ending — but admittedly, it does lack in gore. Fortunately, there are other (countless others) to fill the void in the blood and guts department. Savini and Nicotero discuss some of the effects seen in such slasher greats as The Prowler, The Burning, and Friday the 13th part 4. Additionally, the giallo film influence is mentioned, as these slasher greats are just as inspired by Italians maestros like Mario Bava and Dario Argento as they are American madmen like Ed Gein.

Halloween

Unfortunately, the slasher’s meteoric early-1980s rise was tempered by a mid-1980s backlash. Many of the early theatrical releases hold much more artistic value, but later churned out for the VHS-market releases simply provide a high body count without any sort of redeeming philosophical or artistic merit. When producers simply start pumping out film after film featuring a killer murdering on a certain day (My Bloody Valentine, April Fools Day, Graduation Day, etc.), something has to give.

Mardi Gras Massacre

Another nail in the coffin was the backlash from critics and concerned parents groups about the effect of slasher films on American audiences, particularly women and children. Roger Ebert is quoted as saying, “these films hate women.” Wes Craven admits “slasher films are considered one notch above pornography,” but many of these producers and directors, Craven included, feel that this idea is too short-sighted. Often times it is a strong feminine character who is able to survive the onslaught and provide representation of the sort of moralistic values the conservative (Reagan-era) leaders desired. Rather than being misogynistic, Amy Holden Jones maintains that a movie like hers plays to a woman’s true life fears, and contains more frequent and more graphically depicted male deaths. Also, Holden Jones adds that one can’t discount those movies that feature a female in the role of the killer. Betsy Russel (Mrs. Voorhees from the original Friday the 13th) puts it best with this quote: “I don’t think it’s demeaning to women! It’s an art form!”

POSTER - THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE

But what about the children? Won’t somebody think of the children? There is an anecdote retold about how protests of the movie Silent Night, Deadly Night not only led to its being pulled from theaters, but also convinced Paramount to put the axe to Jason Voorhees in The Final Friday. Children should be parented, rather than their biological producers smearing mud all over the good name of sleazy slasher flicks.  Besides, it is much safer to let teenagers key into these movies, with their fictional portrayals of violence, than to send them off to war as photographers (in Tom Savini’s case). Art, and I believe that is an apt term for a select number of slasher flicks, is a reflection of life and sometimes life is bloody, and filled with sexual deviancy or bodily mutilation. The desire of people to watch these films is to explore and understand part of the human condition and what it means to be a part of an ever growing materialistic society. Amy Holden Jones continues this line of thought: “Horror movies before [the 1980s], the metaphors had gotten old . . . I think in the 80s there was a new perception that the enemy was ourselves. That the worst possible enemy was another human who had gone crazy and whose motive was not rational and who could just come out of the blue and kill you.”

SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT

This emphasis on reality may have been what made the slashers great originally, but it was the more fantastical Nightmare on Elm Street that brought a resurgence for the genre in the mid-1980s. Again, there is the idea of paying for the sins of youth: sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll equals death, but a film like Nightmare, and a killer like Robert Englund’s Freddy Kruger, is much more sophisticated and stylish than the earlier glut of slashers. Unfortunately, Freddy was wearing some double-edged finger blades, as his films and character led to the greater corporatization of the slasher killers. All of a sudden murderous madmen could be marketed to middle America. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Leatherface were resurrected and milked for sequel after sequel until these films divulged into self-parody (see Friday the 13th part 6). All of our masked antiheroes sort of just faded away, into a 1990s slasher slump.

Until Wes Craven returned with the ultimate meta-critique on the genre with Scream. This film harkened back to Hitchcock’s Psycho with a big-name actress killed in the beginning of the movie. It also laid bare all of the rules and underlying philosophy that makes a slasher film tick. Scream made horror (and particularly slashers) mainstream again by using popular actresses in a familiar routine, only slightly shook up, and with a nod and a wink to all the genre’s fans from the previous decade. A movie like Silence of the Lambs may have been afraid to admit that it was horror, but Scream laid it all out, and led to later slasher-esque films like Saw and Hostel, which emphasize the familiar old troupes, tweak things a bit, and amp up the special effects gore to torture porn levels.

POSTER - HATCHET

It is obvious that since the release Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. horror has become more mainstream. Today Greg Nicotero’s gut-wrenching special effects in The Walking Dead are some of the most popular sights to be seen on cable television. Additionally there was an entire show focused on a serial killer with Dexter. True, there are still slasher stinkers (and remakes) cheaply being shit out by production companies, but there are some hidden gems out there like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon or the throwback Hatchet series to enthrall modern viewers. To quote former editor of Fangoria Tony Timpone, “the genre has an amazing resiliency, just like the characters in those films.”


Drunken Tidbits of the Dead: Too Far Gone

thewalkingdeadseason4

Warning: this blog post has been started on my third bourbon, and it might become four or five by the time I finish.

Holy fucking shit. Well, maybe I shouldn’t start with my reaction to the fall of the prison. Maybe I should start with an apology. I’ve neglected this blog, and only in its second month of existence. The truth is that I’ve been keeping up with my shows — American Horror Story and the Walking Dead — but I’ve been too damn busy to write up an in-depth post. Lately, I’ve been stuck in a pink, candy-coated land of sugary K-pop. My job has been really busy as the school semester is winding down, and one of my good friends just exited my life (potentially forever). I realize that not all of my random readers will understand, but certainly some of my hits from here in Korea (Jen), and those who have lived the life before (Arron, and albeit shortly, Mitch) will understand.

But enough about me. Hot damn The Walking Dead! I had initially though that the show was rushing too quickly to this plot point — probably the most anticipated (in comic and television) of the entire show — the fall of the prison. Some thought that it should have happened last season. I don’t agree, but I also don’t think that Woodbury should have fallen last season. This prison storyline should have been strung out a little longer, without the (hinted at, but ultimately swerved) redemption of the Governor.

Okay, this had flaws, and plenty of them. How the hell does anybody manage to run away from the machine gun fire of several well-armed people in the span of a few seconds? (I realize that Breaking Bad also suffered from this, but I criticized that show to my friends as well.) Both Rick and the Governor should have been dead within seconds of the gunfight starting — seeing as Carl et. al. had ‘Brian Heriot’ in their sights, and at least some of the guns were pointed at Rick. But they both managed to avoid HEADSHOT INSTAKILLS. And then later Rick is able to somehow jump the Gov. without anyone else coming to help him or pull the two men apart. How does that happen in the throes of combat? You’d think that someone would have been watching one of the two and tried to help the one that they didn’t like.

It’s with a sad and heavy heart that we say goodbye to Hershel. I’m actually a little surprised that more of the main characters didn’t die. I was almost certain that either Maggie or Beth would be shot through while clutching Baby Grimes. Instead we were served with the unsatisfying conclusion of a bloody car-seat. (And the shittiest thing is that it didn’t even have any bloody chunks, leading me to believe that one of the other children may have grabbed the baby. I realize this is cable TV and it is not kosher to kill children outside of  HBO or other premium channels, but it was a tad bit disappointing not to get a conclusive ending for little Judith Grimes.) Back to Hershel dying — I’m happy that the show kept the bit with the Governor being unable to lop off his victims head with a single strike like Michonne. Originally, SPOILER FOR THE COMICS STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT THAT SPOILED the Governor took several swings to remove the head of Tyreese, but I seeing as he was no-where near as endeared to the at-home viewers, I had thought that Glenn (or extra-special-devilishly Darryl) would fill this role. Although, I must admit that Hershel isn’t a bad choice, but I wonder if that puts the kibosh on a potential wounded-member-of-the-group-wanders-off-to-die-and-gets-eaten-by-cannibals storyline with what I had pegged for Hershel. OK, NOW THE COMICS SPOILER IS FINISHED.

hershel with his throat cut

Just a moment, I’m pouring myself a fourth bourbon.  It’s the Costco Kirkland brand. So cheap, but also not terrible on the tongue. This episode was great for showing the emotional range of David Morrissey. Actually, now that I think about it, I would like to see his story in TV form prior to becoming the Governor. DAMMIT, HERE WE GO WITH ANOTHER COMICS SPOILER: It was great that Lily killed him. Just like in the comic, but here it meant something more. I was also satisfied with the story that rounded out young Megan’s short life (although she was absent from the comic). It featured an homage to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, and really, any other zombie property that includes the living dead arising from the earth, but it also sealed the deal as to the Governor’s demise. None of the children that grow up in this world will be normal. Lizzie and the prison group confirm that. Megan was sheltered from her life away from the dead, and too young not to be warped or lost to the horrors of the new world. The Governor obviously didn’t want that for her. She was his new daughter (versus Hershel’s who he didn’t give a shit about), and he was fighting for the prison for her sake more than Lily or Tera’s. OKAY, I’LL END THE COMIC SPOILER HERE. But speaking of Lily or Tera, I wonder if we’ll see them again in the second half of this season. I really hope so! It would add an interesting dynamic to see some people who had originally been opposed to the prison group joining up with them later.

walkingdead_S4ep8_zombieoftheweek

And speaking of joining up with them later: I’m almost dead certain that Carol will come back this season. It is just too convenient that she is on her own now, but that now most of her former survivor friends are too — OK, NOW I’M FEELING THE WHISKEY — I think that Carol will be the conduit between Rick’s group and the new people with Abraham et. al. (fuck, that’s a comics spoiler, and a spoiler in general if you haven’t been following the online news about this show, but actually, not really, since I’m just name dropping a person whom you’ve never met before). Anyway, now I think that Darryl and Rick are the only people who know that Carol was the killer (since Hershel is dead) and the group has more to worry about these days than Tyreese’s potential lover being prematurely killed along with all the other dead redshirts, apart from Previously Seen Before Black Lady on the Bus. They’d best hide it if they do meet up with Carol later — and I think that maybe Tyreese’s concern about Whatever-Her-Name-Was will take a back burner to his concern over the well-being of his sister. But ultimately, it was pretty shitty that we didn’t have a more drawn-out moment between Tyreese-Darryl-Rick. (In which Andrew Lincoln tilts his head to the side and half-scowls, Chad Coleman looks angry and a bit bug-eyed, and Norman Reedus remains my sexy-as-hell-guy-I’d-go-gay-for.) Also, I bet that the whole feeding the rats to the zombies at the gates thing dies too, because that was a stupid side story and it was probably only crazy Lizzie (who I want to stick around!).

Yeah, alright. I’m pouring myself another bourbon, and I’m gonna stop hitting the backspace when I fuck up the spelling of words.

Welcome to the extra-special, extra-drunken edition of TIDBITS OF THE DEAD WITH AXE-WIELDING ALEX. Here are some random thoughts from the rest of the show, as I’ve not taken to plying my inebriated brain to fixing the coherent arguments of whatever the hell I’m thinking about.

    • David Morrisey as the Governor has been a great actor, but I agree with the online sentiment that he has not been redeemed as a despicable character on this show. Also, I’m not absolutely certain that the TV show did a good job of setting him up as beyond redemption. I felt that Rick almost reached him. He said liar, and then cut off Hershel’s head. But he previously admitted to Michonne that he knew his daughter Penny was not alive. (I wonder what would have happened had Lily and dead Megan arrived sooner.) Maybe he would have gone along with Rick’s idea of letting them all live.
    • How the hell is Tera the only one who questions the Governor? What’s-his-nuts-tank-driver’s brother was killed by Brian Heriot, and still her follows him blindly into battle. I’m happy that at least someone questioned the madman, and I hope that this episode isn’t the last that we’ve seen of Tera and Lily. (Yeah, it’s shitty that Tera’s lover got capped in the head by Lizzie, but I’ll hold out on her finding love again — maybe Sasha is a lesbian?)
    • This line: “Don’t look back Carl, just keep walking”  That comes straight from the comics. It was awesome then, and it was awesome tonight. The entire shot — with the prison in flames, and the walkers all in the background was exactly the same just as awesome!
    • How the fuck are there so many walkers, which Rick and Carl gun down, the night before the attack, but only like two (that the Governor easily dispatches) during the late afternoon showdown of Georgia’s last remaining humanity? I think that Martinez’s group should have been shown as having dealt with more.
    • And since we are on the topic of Martinez, how the fuck does he get killed in the last episode when there are actually so many fucking redshirts in the Governor’s group? There’s no way that goes unnoticed. Just as there is no way that such large groups as the previous episode (around 10 [or less] killed by whomever {hopefully cannibals} and Martinez & the Governor’s [what 20 or so?] go unnoticed by Rick and the prison’s group [who, remember, spent months wandering around {an entire winter at least}] before stumbling upon the prison and other people like Woodbury.)
    • Shit, I’ve actually been lying and going back and fixing my mistakes, but this last point was hard to write — what with parentheses, brackets, and whatever the hell the pointy brackets are called.
  • This bourbon is pretty damn good. If you’ve never had it, then I highly recommend that you do. Yes, I feel a bit woozy, but my mental clarity is pretty damn awesome. I’ve not got the inclination to go back and look up whatever delicious amber liquid the Governor and Rick shared last season was, but I’m sure that was just as good as this shit.

    this shit brought me back to chopping up Pieces of Darkness.

    This shit brought me back to chopping up Pieces of Darkness.

    • Will Beth and Carl hook up now that there is one less father (and one less older boyfriend) in the way?
    • Does having a 2 episode buffer help to detract from the fact that this episode featured the miraculous recovery (after a single night) of sick Glenn and all the others?
    • Which is more annoying: Michonne’s ability to roll away from danger in front of all of the Governor’s people, or her completely random disappearance from the show after killing Brian Heriot with her samurai sword, but without her helping of Rick and Carl to safety?
    • Darryl killing badass rough voiced tank driver with a cross-bow bolt to the heart was pretty awesome. I have a feeling that we would have liked (whomever his character’s name was) had we gotten the chance to meet him, but since we didn’t, our more favorite redneck character wins out.
    • Bob the Drunken Combat Medic (like me, only with more combat experience) put away his alcohol and got shot for his trying to help out the group. He is redeemed in my eyes, as I no longer think there was a Governor spy in the midst of the prison. [Though, I’d still be interested in how Shumpert and Martinez managed to make it alone before meeting up with the larger group of expendable redshirts].

Okay. That’s it for my drunken recap of this midseason finale of the Walking Dead. Hopefully more good characters come in YET ANOTHER COMICS SPOILER — I think Abraham & Eugene will be  in the next episode and Jesus (next season) will come in soon, but save that fucking weird tiger dude for a while (maybe season 6?). END COMICS SPOILER.

I’m gonna pour myself one more drink and then pass the fuck out. Happy late Thankskilling to your and yours!


Tidbits of the Dead — Live Bait

thewalkingdeadseason4

The Walking Dead’s sixth episode of season four proved to be exactly what I wanted it to be — an all Governor episode. “Live Bait” opens on the killing fields of Woodbury from last season. The Governor (David Morrisey) has just finished machine gunning all of his followers, except for his inner circle thugs Martinez and Shumpert the Bowman. In the next scene these three compatriots are camping out — each with a separate tent — while the Governor looks pensively into the campfire. His face is a mix of anger and regret. Wherever he is, he is not in the current moment, as he pays no attention to a female walker that advances towards him. It goes so far as to fall through the campfire without moving. Finally the Governor is pulled away from his thoughts but the gunshot of Martinez putting the walker down. Whoever this man is, he is no longer the maniacal psychopath that unsuccessfully tried to raid the prison at the end of season three. If possible, the Governor is even darker in these moments, as his anger is being bottled up. What is he thinking? Does he still want against Michonne and Rick? Or has he realized that this may be a futile effort?

Governor_walkingdead_S4

“Live Bait” shows us how a broken man, regardless of his state prior to breaking, must pick up the remaining pieces of his life. One could argue that this is what all the people in the world of The Walking Dead face. Everyone has to deal with death now cast in a much more dangerous light. But few people have managed to build something in spite of the hordes of zombies ready to break down the barriers holding the last few pockets of humanity. Rick has achieved something spectacular in clearing out and maintaining the prison. Similarly, the Governor, formerly Philip, and soon to be Brian Heriot, managed to build something in spite of the world of destruction he was living in. As warped as Woodbury under the surface, it was a functioning remnant of society — a piece of light in the darkness of a dead world. Eventually it rotted through as its core foundation — the Governor’s strong leadership — crumbled away. Had Michonne not killed the Governor’s zombified daughter — a mercy killing in the eyes of some, a murder in the eyes of a father — perhaps Woodbury would have stood while the prison fell.

It’s interesting to note that both leaders from last season suffered from mental instabilities. Rick saw the ghost of his dead wife, and that distracted him from being an effective leader. The Governor becomes obsessed with seeking revenge on Michonne and maintaining control over Andrea. In Rick’s case, there were others in his group that were able to pick up the slack that he dropped. Woodbury, however, was like a snake with its head cut off without the Governor in control. Neither of his seconds — Martinez or Shumpert, (or even Merle had he not switched sides) — could pick up the slack and divert the town from imploding. So, the prison group, whose own strained source of power stemmed from the in-fighting between Shane and Rick in season two, survived while the Governor and Woodbury went down in flames.

Where do we go from here? Let’s take a look at the cast from this episode.

Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) & Shumpert (Travis Love) — These two guys did exactly what they needed to do to survive — cut loose and run. Although it wouldn’t have been unjustified for one of them to gun down the Governor before driving away from the Woodbury population killing fields, they took the less messy route of leaving in the night. Perhaps the Governor’s hold on them was still too strong for them to turn their guns on him. As it was, they recognized that he was a failed leader, and they had better chances on their own. We see Martinez again at the end of the episode, but not Shumpert. I hope that Georgia’s second best arrow shooter is still alive!

Megan (Meyrick Murphy) — the Governor’s new daughter figure. Given the monumental task of making the Governor more sympathetic, this is the best way to go about it. If Philip became psychopathic from the deaths of his wife and daughter, then perhaps a new will set him straight again. Maybe this is what he wanted all along, just to reclaim his lost familial unit. If so, then this is exactly what drives Rick — see last week with his first questions asking about the safety of Carl and Judith. Rick and the Governor are just two sides of the same coin.

There were times when the Governor could have cut the dead weight of this family and went out on his own again — after the father died, and when the zombies were after them — but since he didn’t, I’ll take that as a sign that he really does care for this new family in his life. Now, as far as Megan herself goes, I think she has been pretty sheltered from the horrors of life in Zombieland. Her grandfather may have been the only one she saw reanimated, and then she had to witness the ordeal of seeing his head caved in by an oxygen tank. Good thing she’s got a brand new dad in her life, or otherwise she might end up like creepy Lizzie in the prison!

Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Lily (Audrey Marie Anderson) — The cop and the nurse. Who have been hiding away since the entire zombie apocalypse began. If that’s not dereliction of duty, then I don’t know what is. Okay, so Tara was just a cadet in the academy. But Lily should have had a bit more exposure to the dead if she was a nurse. At a hospital. Where sick, injured, dead people end up. However, they seemingly closed themselves off indoors at the first sign of trouble, and have stayed that way for over a year. Heh.

I like the budding relationship that is developing between Lily and ‘Brian Heriot.’ It would have been pretty awkward doing it in the back of a flatbed truck with your daughter and sister sleeping right next to you though. I’ve read criticism that this episode was slow and had too much drama. That’s okay in my opinion though. Had we seen the deaths of the Governor’s new family in the same episode they were introduced, I would not have been pleased. Please AMC, let them stick around for a week or two before pulling the trigger. That will give it a much stronger impact!

David (Danny Vinson) — Lily and Tara’s father and Megan’s grandfather. All in all, I’d say lung cancer ain’t a bad way to go during the end of the world. Still, I wonder why the Governor didn’t tell them that he would turn after his death. Perhaps he had his mind made up to leave, and didn’t have the heart to do so. Or perhaps he already thought they knew.

The Governor aka Philip aka ‘Brian Heriot’ (David Morrisey) — I really liked his transition from consummate bad guy to possibly redeemed by the end of the episode. I think that it won’t work out for him, yet again, and he’ll snap completely when his new family dies. Had it been just the Governor in the pit, do you think Martinez would have shot him? I think had the tables been turned, and the Governor’s family not been right there with him, then Martinez, or anybody else, would have had a new hole in his head. The Governor may be on a path to becoming a changed man, but I think that he will do anything it takes to protect the new family that has adopted him. Only, how will his new family react when they learn of the atrocities he has committed, and the lies he has told them?

Zombie of the Week

walkingdead_S4ep6_zombieoftheweek

The legless faceless ghoul stuck in the bathtub was incredible. Second place was the zed whose head the Governor ripped off at the jaw. That one looked normal, but that was an awesome effect!

Some Thoughts

    • The the big beard and dirty clothes, the Governor looks like a really frazzled, homeless Snake Plissken.
    • I love how he told the truth about the former leader of his group losing it. Has he really developed a new persona for himself outside of Woodbury, or is he really just manipulating them with his lies?
    • The situation in the apartment with the women and their invalid father is straight from the first Governor novel. Although, since they are on the road now, I doubt anything else similar from the novel will happen with them.
    • The Governor and Megan had some honestly cute interactions, and I think that had we not known the hell Brian went though (caused) to get to that point, he would be a ‘good guy.’
    • With that infection going around the prison, fist bumps might be a great deal safer than handshakes!
    • The burning of the picture could be one of two things. 1. It is a symbolic severing of the man that he used to be — consumed by anger and hatred — and a change into something else. 2. It is a means of the Governor protecting himself from being asked more questions by Lily and Megan about his previous life and family.
    • Is Tara the first lesbian in The Walking Dead?
    • It’s probably not the smartest plan to drop everything and just run willy nilly into the wilderness away from the zombie horde. Especially since the Governor is so adept at killing them with his bare hands!

walkingdead_S4ep6_openjaw

Next week, the Governor’s story — who cares about the prisoners? — continues in “Dead Weight.”


The Infestation of the Nutty Joes

Sometimes you don’t have time to sit down for a full length movie. Sometimes you get tired of tearing through episode after episode of your favorite TV show. Sometimes life is just too busy, and then you have to get your horror in shorter bits and pieces. That’s when it’s best to go with a short  film. In my time of scouring the depths of the internet, I’ve found a treasure trove of horrific short films that I’ll be blogging about here. The first of which is a creepy claymation film titled The Infestation of the Nutty Joes.

This is a weird, fun little ride through a city that is plagued by a unique type of zombie. The title is apt in calling them nutty, because rather than eating their victims, they laugh them into — not death, but conversion. Get close enough, and hear a Nutty Joe’s jabbering for long enough, and your own head will explode, only to be replaced by a Nutty Joe. In this way, it is a bit like Pontypool, in that the virus or disease or whatever is spread verbally.

There are plenty of zombie movie tropes in this one, but what I love the most is how it flips around the zombie outbreak source falling from the sky (ala Night of the Comet or Night of the Creeps) and makes that a giant brain. Out of which pops our initial Nutty Joe! Also, it’s not a spoiler to say that this short work has a typical zombie movie non-ending, akin to Demons. (Too be fair though, it seems like a sequel was planned, but never made.)

The Infestation of the Nutty Joes was created by Jan Stephens. He is an animator and illustrator living in England. Check out more of his creepy, weird, and downright nutty works on his website.


American Horror Story: Coven — The Axeman Cometh

AHS-Coven

It’s 1919 and the city of New Orleans is gripped in fear from a spate of axe murderers. No, it’s not your humble reviewer, Axe-Wielding Alex, running amuck with a time machine. This killer is a jazz musician with a penchant for chopping up lovely ladies. He holds the city ransom, saying that he will kill again if any house he passes in the night doesn’t have a jazz band playing inside.

Understandably, the women of New Orleans are terrified, but those of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies are particularly incensed. They are powerful witches after all, though their speech and ladylike manner of ninety-six years past belies their murderous potential. As Axeman (Danny Huston) passes their mansion on his night walk, he hears not jazz but opera music playing on a phonograph. He stalks up the stairs, axe in hand, and finds a solitary woman dealing out tarot cards. When she reaches the Death Card he goes to strike! Only his senses are betrayed! This is a trap that he didn’t foresee, and like Julius Ceasar centuries before, he is knifed to death by a mob of black-hooded figures.

axeman-stabbed

Thus begins of “The Axeman Cometh” with the mortal end of the Axeman. After the opening credits American Horror Story: Coven flashes forward to the present day with our second-most virginal witch Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) investigating the missing Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). Zoe rifles through a box of Madison’s stuff, where she finds a flask and a derringer, before being led by a rolling mini-bottle of alcohol into a secret closet compartment. She finds photographs populated by past coven women, but more importantly she finds a ouija board, or as Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) calls it, a spirit board.

Zoe presents her hypothesis of dwindling witch generations and proposes that the three remaining neophytes do something to combat the problem by starting with discovering what happened to Madison. While Nan (Jamie Brewer) is consumed by her crush on neighbor boy Luke (Alexander Dreymon [absent from this episode]), and Queenie, in the pocket of Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), wants to play things safe by first consulting the Supreme, Zoe’s initiative wins out. The three witches drink absinthe — drink of the divine, which [they] are — are then hold a seance with the spirit board. Queenie cautions the others — be polite! — but instead of summoning Madison, they make contact with another of the house’s deceased spirits — AXEMAN — who accuses the witches of murdering him. Queenie stops before they can find out anything more, again cautioning the others by saying, “If survival is so important to you, you better find out who you’re talking to!”

The girls research the Axeman by checking an online fan site. They quickly learn that the jazz man killed eight people, and connect the dots that the nickname for a saxophone, which he played, was an ‘axe.’ Nan points out a picture of the class of 1919 witches, and Queenie reads out a diary entry that foretells his killing: “This jazz killer has killed long enough. This city is done trembling. Tonight it ends.”

zoe-spiritboard

Zoe presses the Axeman’s ghost for more information about Madison, but Queenie and Nan, afraid of releasing the murderous spirit, wisely opt out of a second seance. The youngest witch goes it alone, and the spirit board gives her the clue ATTIC. Up in the attic Zoe finds walls of creepy babydolls, and then Madison’s overly ripe, one-armed corpse. Spalding (Denis O’Hare) grabs Zoe from behind, but she easily gets out of his grasp and knocks him out with one of his precious porcelain dolls.

The girls tie the “twisted tea-serving necrophiliac” up to a chair and torture a confession out of him. Spalding hides Fiona’s deeds and takes full responsibility for Madison’s death, saying that he killed her just to have sex with her dead body. He also mocks them, saying that if they go to the police it would bring disaster down on the coven. In retaliation Queenie uses her power to burn half of his cheek off with a red-hot spatula. Zoe doubts the veracity of his confession, but as of yet she doesn’t peg Fiona.

Instead, she travels to Misty Day (Lily Rabe)’s swampy sanctuary for help. Misty has been busy with the recently resurrected Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy), buried under a mound of mud, and the returning FrankenKyle (Evan Peters) Monster. Misty tries giving Kyle a bath, but doing this causes him to have visions of his incestuous mother. He has a fit of rage, smashing a chair and Misty’s 8-track player (along with her Stevie Nicks tape) in the process. Fortunately, Zoe arrives just in time to soothe the savage beast, and takes them both back to the mansion.

Kyle gets chained up while Zoe and Misty perform a ritual to bring Madison back to life. They reattached her arm, and then literally push the death out of her corpse. Out pops a mouthful of blood and a single cockroach, but Madison sits up, coughing, and says, “I need a cigarette.” Afterwards, Zoe decides to keep Madison a secret from Fiona. Misty raids the kitchen, but declines staying with the coven, saying that “she’s got bad vibes, real bad” about something foul in the house.

madison-dead

Meanwhile, Fiona receives chemotherapy, but she is plagued not just by cancer, but also by the thoughts of the other patients in the hospital room. Suddenly she has acquired the power of mind reading! This new power freaks her out, and she tries to leave, ripping the IV from her arm to squelch the others’ thoughts. She says that her daughter Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) needs her more than ever before, and that she’s only doing the cancer treatment for her. Of course, Fiona shows a bit more selfishness when she says that she just wants one more great love affair in her life. In order to comfort herself, she placates the others in the treatment room, easing the worries on their minds.

Blind Cordelia, using a white cane, arrives home with her husband Hank (Josh Hamilton) to find that Fiona has specially prepared her room for her. Cordelia finally has a bit of an edge to her character. She chides her mother for furnishing her room with the wrong type of flowers — “roses pull in love and romance, but that’s not what [she’s] looking for . . . [she] needs chrysanthemums for strength and protection.” She has another vision of her cheating scumbag of a husband, and says that he “will be accountable for every single betrayal.” After Hank leaves, Cordelia has a vision of Fiona burning Myrtle Snow at the stake. Fiona maintains that Snow committed the acid attack on her, but Cordelia knows that isn’t true.

Hank ends up going straight to Cornrows City, where he has a powwow with Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). In an interesting turn of a events, it seems that Hank is a ‘professional witchhunter’ hired by Laveau to take out not just the coven, but all of the descendants of the original Salem witches. Which is what he has been doing — in a flashback Hank is seen spying on Cordelia while interviewing Kaylee (Alexandra Breckenridge), the redhead whom he shot in the head two episodes ago. Hank cites her death, as well as eight others, as proof that he hasn’t gone soft. Bassett delivers an excellently acted monologue and with simmering anger rants about the coven witches disrespecting her, Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) being dug-up, and Fiona’s beheading of her beloved Minotaur. Laveau gives Hank an ultimatum, she’ll have either the heads of all the witches in the coven, or his.

However, it is not Hank who poses a threat to his wife, but the spirit of the Axeman. He had been promised release from Zoe, but she reneged on that, so now the vengeful spirit threatens Cordelia to call the others to release him.

At the same time in another room, Madison is being questioned by Zoe, Nan, and Queenie. The previously deceased witch doesn’t remember the circumstances surrounding her death, just the color red, and then black forever. Cordelia’s screams draw the living witches away. On the other side of a locked door, Cordelia blindly flees from her stalker, who relishes in chopping up the furniture. The lights cut out and jazz music fills the house. The three girls run down to the library, where Zoe is drawn to a book that will release the Axeman from his after-life imprisonment in the house. After the spell is said, all of the candles in the house flare up and they are able to get to Cordelia.

The next shot shows the Axeman, leaving the house, going out the front gate, and then arriving at a jazz bar to buy a gal a drink. And who is that gal? Why, it’s the Witch Supreme Fiona Goode.

Some Thoughts

The next episode is the halfway point of the season. I’m still not exactly sure how things are going to shape up for the second half of Coven’s run. There will be two factions against Fiona. Laveau’s voodoo sect along with Hank and Misty & Myrtle. I honestly don’t see someone like Laveau teaming up with the other two witches, but she may end up trying to use them in her schemes against the coven. There are two wildcards — Cordelia and Zoe. Cordelia did not approve of her mom killing Myrtle, but I honestly can’t see her turning against Fiona. While she is angry at her mom, she has a stronger connection to the coven than to possibly betraying it to Hank and Laveau. Zoe, I think, suspects Fiona. While Queenie is clearly in Fiona’s pocket now, Zoe has had more meaningful interactions with outsider Misty Day. Also, she has one of the witches most traumatized by Myrtle’s execution. However, she does proclaim to have the coven’s best interests in mind and wants the race of witches to be preserved for future generations.

The confrontation between Laveau and Fiona should be epic when it finally arrives, but I think that Fiona will have some other pesky things to deal with before then. She will probably feel the betrayal of a lover in the form of the Axeman. Would this bring her closer to her love-spurned daughter? I think that the Supreme will also have to reckon with Luke’s over-bearing Christian mom again in the future.

I have no doubt that Hank will have his head end up on someone’s platter, but whether that is Fiona’s, Cordelia’s or Laveau’s I’m not sure. Perhaps he may even try to get with Zoe and be fucked to death!

One of the things that I didn’t really like too much about AHS‘s first season was how much power it gave the spirits. They were dead, but essentially could act in any way a living person could. In my opinion their spiritness needed to be tempered with a limitation to their physical interactions with living characters. Coven obviously has taken a different route in dealing with the dead characters until now, but I hope that the Axeman gets some sort of demonic explanation rather than just being a disembodied ghost. On that note, I thought that Danny Huston was excellent in his role as a murderous madman. His facial expressions and mannerisms reminded me a bit of Laura Palmer’s killer in Twin Peaks.

I laughed out loud when Fiona called Hank jughead.

Additionally, this line from Bassett got a laugh too: “You think I did that? I look like the Taliban to you?”

Kathy Bates was conspicuous by her absence. I’m sure she will pop up next week, and it will be interesting where he allegiances lie concerning Fiona and the rest of the coven.

I was never a big Stevie Nicks fan before, but I’ve been digging her tunes in this season.

Next week, Fiona has one more great love affair with the Axeman in “The Dead.”


Tidbits of the Dead — Internment

thewalkingdeadseason4

If last week’s The Walking Dead was an episode to spotlight the Melissa McBride’s Carol character, then this week’s “Internment” served to illuminate Scott Wilson’s Hershel. This one had a lot of ups and down in my opinion. It was good to see a lot of Hershel, and I was actually on the edge of my seat at a few times during this episode. Unfortunately, I was also yelling at these idiotic characters a few times during my viewing as well. All in all, it was better than the average middle of the season episode and featured a good amount of zombie action, some characterization for some surviving (and dying) players, and the long-awaited return of an ominous character missing since last season.

Let’s take a closer look at who had the biggest impact this week:

  • Hershel (Scott Wilson) — spent the episode playing Florence Nightingale to the patients of the prison. He is first seen intubating another random redshirt — who you guessed it, wouldn’t survive the episode — with a very sick looking Glenn and Sasha. However, given that we know their names, odds are they are safe! Hershel decides that they will try to keep as many people alive for as long as possible until Daryl and the others get back with the magical medicine that’ll put any fear of sickness far in the past. Hershel and Glenn have been braining the dead ones away from the others, in order to keep up their dying spirits — mostly on the advice of some other unnamed redshirt who quoted this Steinbeck line to Hershel: a sad soul can kill quicker than a germ. No need to have this guy actually say the line as a living person, you know, to give the homeviewer a bit more of a feeling for his death. Nope, just stick that cold, sharp metal into skull and try to convey your own sense of loss for the senselessness of violence in this fictional world telegraphed into senseless violence on our TV screens.

I’m diverging a bit here. OK, I love violent films and shows just as much as the next guy. I really like this show too. The thing is, it already has plenty of senseless nameless killing with all of the zombies put down week in and week out. I just want to care for these humans before they are killed too. But I can’t. This show won’t let me. How are we supposed to give a shit about any of them if the producers don’t let us know anything about them? This season has introduced an irritatingly countless number of extras, and yet it is killing them off just as quickly as another unknown is able to mosey out of a prison cell. It’s so goddamned annoying. And I’m not hating on this just because I think The Walking Dead is a stupid show. I think this is a good show, and it has a lot of potential, but it is also really screwing the pooch in a lot of respects — especially in the of handling any newbies or non-comic series established characters. OK, end rant.

  • Hershel does some heroics, later on, wrestling an intubation bag out of the mouth of a walker while on top of a second floor jump guard. He also plays pied piper and finishes off the walker parade with some glorious shotgun blasts.

  • Glenn (Steven Yeun) — He plays Hershel’s second for most of the episode, but the virus is slowly sapping his strength. Glenn does CPR on and stabs a redshirt in the head. Near the end he collapses and begins choking on his own blood. Fortunately, Glenn is one lucky bastard, for three reasons. 1. Lizzie lures away a zombie that rightfully should have gotten its paws onto Glenn. 2. Maggie and Hershel get to him in time to intubate him with a questionably contaminated intubation tube. (I sure as hell wouldn’t want something in my mouth that had just been in a zed’s mouth, no matter how fresh that corpse was.) 3. He only gets really sick right before Daryl and the others show up with their magical medicine that will instantly cure all the sick people.

  • Maggie (Lauren Cohan) — She had a few moments of badassery this episode. I’m happy that we got the shot of her manning the prison fences solo until Rick came back. There was an ungodly amount of zombies piled against the fence, and notice how she was being proactive about it rather than running off like Rick did. Later she has a heart to heart with Hershel who was hiding how sick Glenn really was. Then at the moment when Hershel is struggling with the intubated walker on the jump guard Maggie has to make a tough decision to shoot and risk losing both of her loved ones (Glenn if she shot the bag, and Hershel if she missed the walker.) She ended up saving them both, so Maggie did good this episode.

  • Rick (Andrew Lincoln) — Maggie reinforces that he did the right thing about Carol. I’m still on the fence about that one though, because really had Carol simply communicated what should have been done to the others, it may have saved more lives in the end. But that’s in the past. Now we have a Rick who seems committed to living in this hellish future. He has a philosophical conversation with Hershel that seems like something we’ve heard countless times before. We’re changed, it won’t be the same, blah blah blah. This isn’t the beginning of the end of the world. There are dead people out there who want to eat you! You can’t be a farmer Rick, or as Carol said last week, “You can’t be just a farmer!” Rick seems to be on the decisive path of making up his mind and sticking to it, although he does flipflop once more before the episode would end: when he first returns he sees Carl, but wants him to stay put with the other children.

Carl: Dad, you can’t keep me from it.

Rick: From what?

Carl: From what always happens

Rick: Yeah, maybe, but I think it’s my job to try.

Later on realizes the stupidity of keeping his son locked away and has him help shore up the prison defences.

  • Carl (Chandler Riggs) — Turns out he is a crack shot with a machine gun. Of course, I was always under the impression that automatic weapons were foolish to use against zombies (see World War Z — the book, not the shitty movie). However, they work here just fine, despite the safer and smarter plan of picking off the invading zombie horde from one of the guard towers. If they had the ammunition, then why didn’t they just use it on the horde in the first place?

  • Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) — She assisted Hershel with the sickies. Good for her for helping. It’s not like any of the other no names were going to lift a finger. The writers wouldn’t let them.

  • Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) — I’m glad at least one new character got some good screen time. Psychologically damaged little Lizzie lured a zombie away from Glenn, saving his life. Although, it is not made entirely clear what she had planned to do to get rid of the zombie after that. She trips and falls, but fortunately Hershel is able to bound up the stairs (on one leg) and save her. As with Daryl, I think she will be most affected by Carol’s absence, although seeing how Hershel and Rick tend to baby the minors, they’ll probably hide the truth from the children about why their edged-weapons instructor is no longer a part of the group.

  • Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) — They return safely! Hooray! Daryl says and does little, but you know there will be hell to pay when Rick tells him what went down with Carol. (Hopefully this dramatic moment happens on screen, though I can see AMC just having a pissed off Daryl heading out after her to start the next episode.) Tyreese comforts his sister. Given how he doesn’t seem close to any of the Woodbury people, and the poor history with the original prison group, Tyreese is much less connected to everyone than in the comics. If (when) he bites the bullet, I think that this will dampen the impact of his death. Michonne is on walker duty, cleaning up the corpses. You gotta do something to stay fit. Bob the Drunken Combat Medic administers an IV. Hope he didn’t accidentally put vodka in that syringe, yukyukyuk!

  • The Governor (David Morrissey) — Hells yes! He’s back! Next week should be interesting. What I hope they do is have an all Governor episode to fill in the blanks of what’s been going on with him since last season. Why not? They have plenty of time to fill. Might as well show us how he’s been managing on the road and whatever happened to his missing lackeys Martinez and Shupert.

  • The Newbies (An Unnamed Legion) — Well, I already ranted a bit about them above, but why not some more? Here is photographic evidence of 15 other people in the prison beyond the mainlisted cast.

HenryThis is our first redshirt. Here he is being intubated because he can no longer breathe on his own. His name is Henry. But he didn’t get this name until he died and tried to attack Glen. Then he chased after Lizzie. Hershel threw him over the second floor railing and onto the jump guard. Maggie shot him in the head. Long live Henry.

 mrjacobsonThis is Mr. Jacobson. He is the only other redshirt to get a name in this episode. He dies and then Hershel and Glenn take him into another room away from the others. They put a sheet over his face. He wakes up as a zombie, and then Glenn stabs him in the head.

DrSThis is Dr. S or Caleb. Besides Bob and Lizzie, he has been the best established newbie character this season. He was the only one with the foresight to close his cell door before he died. He was also smart enough to bring a shotgun into the internment with him. See how he’s bleeding from the eye? Later Hershel would stab him through that eye. That’s foreshadowing folks.

Redshirt1

This guy likes Steinbeck but nothing else is known about his literary tastes. He collapses and dies in front of everybody, but Hershel takes him in another room before stabbing him in the head.

redshirt2&3

These redshirts stand up on the second floor and look down on Hershel while he tends to the Steinbeck fan.

redshirt4

This guy does likewise. At first I thought he was the same as the guy on the left in the picture above, but they do appear to be wearing different clothes. Nothing is none about how he survived Woodbury, or even if he was from Woodbury.

redshirt5

This kid appears to be about Carl’s age. He is probably only a fraction as badass though. Don’t expect him to wear any sort of awesome sheriff’s hat anytime soon.

redshirt6

This sickly guy is one person we get the best shot of. Which leads me to think that he’ll probably die violently in the next episode. He seems a little bit like Axel to me. Remember how the prison used to have prisoners inside?

redshirt9

This gal can be seen behind Hershel as he is loading the Steinbeck guy onto a stretcher. I think that she might be the one who dies and initiates the zombie attack on the first floor, but I could be wrong.

redshirt8

Here is another random woman. I don’t think she is the one who dies since she looks pretty spry here in this tiny-ass picture. Maybe she is the back-breaker woman, but her hair doesn’t look blonde enough.

redshirt10

Here is the bloody mouthed zombie that falls on top of Hershel. She gets her back broken with a well placed stomp from the blonde woman, which saves Hershel. Perhaps she is the grieving mother of the child that died a few episodes ago. Perhaps she harbored feelings for Daryl that she kept suppressed for respect of Carol. The world may never know . . . All we know for sure is that she ate a facefull of shotgun buck.

redshirt11

This guy actually had some lines! No name, but some lines! I had high hopes for him since he was smart enough to close the door to the cell holding him and his son. Only, actually he was pretty dumb. His son was dead, and although he had a gun, one can’t be certain that he was going to use it on his son. Instead he tries to shoot the zombie on Hershel, only to get bit by his zombie son and ends up accidentally shooting the blonde. Despite his obvious ineptitude he made it a year and a half into the zombie apocalypse, so that’s a win!

redshirt12

This young redshirt dies, reanimates, eats his dad and then gets shotgunned by Hershel.

blondeshirt

The blonde girl actually does something consequential, but ends up getting shot for her troubles. Is she alive or dead? No zombie is shown eating her, but no one is shown tending to her gunshot wound either. The group could use more go-getters like her, so maybe Rick or Daryl should strike up a conversation with her, learn her name, more about her, etc. (Or more likely, just never see her again.)

Zombie of the Week

walkingdead_S4ep5_zombieoftheweek

There was a bunch in the horde, and the bloody mouth girl and intubated Henry looked good, but I really liked this jawless guy whose forehead Rick shoves a steel rod into.

Come back next week as the Governor kills off all your favorite redshirts, this time played by entirely new actors! Until then, have a cry about killing your nameless comrades, and have a listen to this tune featured in the show:


American Horror Story: Coven — “Burn, Witch. Burn!”

AHS_S3_Spellbound

American Horror Story: Coven continues to wow me! This week’s episode, “Burn, Witch. Burn!,” has upped the ante on typical television (The Walking Dead) zombie gore, with an outrageous sequence of Zoe (Taissa Farminga) wielding a chainsaw. Along with the extended zombie attack, there was an initial seed of character progression with Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) who was attacked with acid in the last episode. And of course, as the title alludes to, there was a witch burning at the stake.

Synopsis

First, the episode opens on All Hallows Eve in 1833 with a reinforcement of Madam Delphine (Kathy Bates) LaLaurie’s despicability, as she shows off her chamber of horrors to the suitor of one of her daughters. He is grossed out by a dish full of eyeballs and a string of eviscerated intestines. Following this incident, LaLaurie catches her daughters plotting against her, and she has them abducted from their beds and imprisoned for a full year. These daughters are now zombies on the steps of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies where LaLaurie, Zoe, Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe), Nan (Jamie Brewer), and neighbor boy Luke (Alexander Dreymon) are trapped.

Nan says that the people besieging the house are dead, as she cannot hear them. Luke thinks that it is all a prank, so he goes outside to tell them off. For a moment they are in a catatonic, unmoving state, and neither Luke nor some teenagers (complimenting their awesome prosthetics) can rouse them. Then Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett), floating in her voodoo chamber, tells the zombies to “BEGIN.” They kill the random teens, and would have gotten Luke as well, if Nan hadn’t ran outside to save him. Zoe instructs Spalding (Denis O’Hare) to hustle the others upstairs, (but not, he silently indicates to his room), then she goes outside to find Nan and Luke trapped inside a car.

Zoe calls the zombies to pull them away from the car, but it seems to be a poorly thought-out plan, as they quickly chase her into a shed. Back inside the house, LaLaurie sees her daughter and opens the door to let her in. While LaLaurie seems to be rediscovering her humanity (unconvincingly, I might add), the living dead daughter has lost whatever remained of hers, and she attacks her mother. The shot cuts away with LaLaurie being held up off her feet, and the ghoul with a stranglehold around her neck. Unexplainably, later this same zombie is upstairs, and stalks Queenie after bludgeoning Spalding with a candle stick. Queenie uses a shard of glass and slices her own throat, transferring the effect with her human voodoo doll powers, and dusty gore sprays from the zombie’s throat. It doesn’t die though, until LaLaurie (frazzled, but seemingly unharmed) shoves a firepoker through its back and out its front.

Queenie says, “Holy shit, you killed it!” And this point proves that we aren’t in Romero zombie territory, but instead the witches are battling something more akin to the tele-fantastic zombies from The Video Dead — they have to be damaged enough to be killed again. Instead of discussing how to kill the rest of the ghouls, LaLaurie wallows, saying “She had a monster for a mother. This last act was the only kindness I ever did for her.”

Back outside, Nan and Luke make a run for the house, but Luke collapses and is too weak to move from blood loss. All seems lost as the zombies bear down on them, until Zoe appears with a MOTHERFLIPPING CHAINSAW! She does her best Bruce Campbell impression and slices and dices the dead until the chainsaw predictably sputters and dies. Instead of dismembering the last zombie, Zoe outstretches her arm and says some magic (Being of nature?) words. It collapses, as does Laveau in her voodoo chamber, who remarks, “I don’t know what that was, but they got some real power in that witchouse now.”

ahs-coven-chainsaw-split-zombie

Elsewhere in New Orleans, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) accompanies Cordelia to the hospital after catching a glimpse of a black-cloaked figure leaving the bar. Fiona has a breakdown after learning that her daughter is now blind. What follows are several dreamy sequences of Fiona walking down hospital corridors (complete with flickering lights and abandoned wheelchairs), pilfering pills from a storeroom, receiving a weird message from a creepy-looking (diaper-wearing) patient, and resurrecting a stillborn baby for a grieving mother. These shots are blurry, and coupled with the camera-work bouncing back and forth, give the viewer some insight into Fiona’s mental state.

Later Cordelia’s murderous, secret-life living husband Hank (Josh Hamilton) shows up to the hospital. Fiona has an angry spat with him, including the great jab “You’re one step up from the men who stand in front of Home Depot.” Ultimately Fiona leaves him alone with Cordelia, and as he holds onto her hand, Cordelia has a sudden vision of all of Hank’s secrets.

ahs-acid-burned-eyes

The next day sees the witches burning a big pile of zombie corpses, which apparently nobody else in the neighborhood much minds the smell of. Fiona tells Nan that Luke can stay until he is fully healed, and she also praises Zoe for protecting the coven. Then LaLaurie tries to bond with her over their shared terrible mothering skills. While LaLaurie hopes that their tragedies will bring them closer together, Fiona puts her in her place, telling her that “I doubt it, you are after all, the maid.”

The council returns and informs Fiona that she must abdicate her Supremecy of the coven. Instead Fiona pulls a political power play that fingers (acid-burned) Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) as the one who has committed all of the recent (and past) transgressions against the coven. Fiona produces photographic proof that Snow had been spying and plotting against her, and then has Queenie put acid burns on Snow’s hand to implicate her as Cordelia’s attacker. With all of this evidence, the Council has no choice but to condemn Myrtle Snow to death by burning at the stake.

Snow takes these accusations in stride. She decides it would be better to die than to stay connected to a coven that has become so polluted and mislead by Fiona’s personal ambition and lust for power. She says, “I go proudly to the flame. Go ahead. Burn me.”

Which they do. The witches’ albino mafia-looking goons tie up Snow, douse her with gasoline, and then Fiona ignites her with a lit cigarette, all while Dr. John’s Right Place Wrong Time plays over the scene. Snow burns for several agonizing seconds until her spirit seems to fly outward. The others are all mesmerized by the flames, but Fiona calmly walks away.

frances-conroy-burning-at-the-stake

The episode is essentially over here, except for a quick scenes that indicate where the story will be going in the next week:

  • Queenie expresses guilt about her part in implicating Snow, but Fiona placates her with the idea that she’ll help her to become the next Supreme of the coven.

  • Spalding sprays a lot of aerosol to cover up the stench of Madison’s visibly rotting corpse, stuck inside a trunk. He is dressed (bonnet and nightgown) for a teaparty, but when he tries to pull Madison out, her arm snaps off.

  • The episode ends with Misty Day (Lily Rabe) finding Myrtle Snow’s burned corpse. She uses her power of resurrection to bring Snow back to life.

Some Thoughts

I reference The Video Dead earlier in this blog, but the zombies also seem a bit like those from Burial Ground in their tool use, wielding hoes and axes. Also, the sequence held a bit of Night of the Creeps for me.

This episode really had a B-movie quality that I loved. Lange wandering around a creepy looking hospital was straight out of something like Session 9, Silent Hill, or akin to Laurie Strode in the deserted hospital in Halloween 2. Also, the fact that the zombie that attacks Kathy Bates illogically ends up in another part of the house, without killing Bates adds to the B-movie lack of logic. I think it is deliberate. While a show like The Walking Dead does (and should) take itself seriously, AHS has much more leeway to have fun.

I don’t like how Kathy Bates’s character is so hard and evil in the 1830s but rather grandmotherly in the present day. I’m not saying that this shift in character can’t (or shouldn’t) happen, but I don’t believe that it could have happened so quickly. It’s not like she changed during her time underground. She goes in a racist old coot, comes out a racist old coot, and then in the span of a few days becomes a softer, more grandmotherly person. Again, I like that her character is changing, but I don’t think it has been earned yet, especially when it opens by reinforcing how much of a wretched person she used to be.

Lily Rabe is back but only in a short bit. I have a feeling that she’ll play a bigger part in the next episode by teaming up with Frances Conroy’s character. Perhaps they’ll join with the voodoo sect against the coven, or maybe it will be Misty Day that has to chose between joining the coven and betraying Myrtle Snow, or sticking with the other witchy outcast.

I’m curious now to learn more about Hank and Cordelia’s relationship. I mean, obviously he knows she is a witch, but it seems that she has no idea about his secret life until this episode. Does he possibly have some superpowers in him too? Or is he just a murderous scumbag?

Come back later in the week for more witchy woman B-movie on TV goodness when American Horror Story: Coven returns with “The Axeman Cometh.”


12 Options for Your Body once You’re Stiff

stiff_cover
Mary Roach‘s Stiff is a very enjoyable and often humorous read about what happens to people who’ve donated their bodies to science. It’s an interesting take on the past, present, and future of cadaverous research that also takes funny diversions towards other morbid curiosities. Given the grim subject matter (death & body disposal) one assumes that this would likewise be a grim read. But one would be wrong. Roach is deft in her lighthearted tone, and she infuses the topic with levity while maintaining a certain respect for each deceased individual she encounters. To give you an overview of each chapter, as well as a tasty morsel of Roach’s writing, I’ve highlighted each of the book’s twelve chapters in this list of things that could happen to your body once you’re stiff.

1. Your head may be lopped off and used as a model for plastic surgery lessons.

Only they’ll leave the skin & flesh on.

skullsflickr / Pieter Cornelissen

The heads look like rubber Halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on top of human bodies . . . (p. 23)

2. While the history of using corpses for medical research is a long and sordid one, you need not worry about being snatched from the graves. Today’s researchers don’t dirty their hands with shovels, and the subdued decorum of a modern anatomy lab is much different than those of early predecessors.

Cruelty4wikimedia commons / The Reward of Cruelty by William Hogarth

Engravings by Thomas Rowlandson and William Hogarth of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century dissecting rooms show cadavers’ intestines hanging like parade streamers off the sides of tables, skulls bobbing in boiling pots, organs strewn on the floor being eaten by dogs. In the background, crowds of men gawk and leer. (p. 47)

Evidently, compassion for cadavers wasn’t discovered until sometime in the early twentieth century.

PCOM_Archives_1908_Dissection_Labwikimedia commons / Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine 1908 Dissection Lab

3. You could go to the body farm behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where corpses are kept in varying states of decay (and varying states of undress, varying burial depths, etc.) to study how different disposal methods affect the body and aid the work of criminal forensic investigators.

517px-Washington_-_Smithsonian_Museum_-_Grover_Krantz_&_Clyde

wikimedia commons / Strickwerker

Scientist Grover Krantz spent part of his after life on the body farm. Clyde, his dog, however was buried in his yard.

“You want a vivid description of what’s going through my brain as I’m cutting through a liver and all these larvae are spilling out all over me and juice pops out of the intestines?” (p. 63) — forensic research professor Arpad Vass

4. Your corpse could be used in a car crash tests. While dummies are good for taking a licking and keeping on ticking, nothing demonstrates an automobile’s effect on humans like a dead human.

car-crashflickr / perthhdproductions

This never would have happened with someone living behind the wheel.

But let’s be rational. Why is it okay for someone to guide a table saw through Granddad’s thigh and then pack the leg up for shipment to a lab, where it will be suspended from a hook and impacted with a simulated car bumper, yet not okay to ship him and use him whole? What makes cutting his leg off first any less distasteful or disrespectful? (p. 105)

5. Cadavers were once thrown from planes to study the effect of plane crashes on the human body. While this wouldn’t happen to your corpse nowadays, aviation crash investigators do have a term for bodies found at a crash site — ‘human wreckage.’

plane-crashflickr / Tom (shock264)

As far as I know, there’s no special term for crop wreckage.

For unlike a wing or a piece of fuselage, a corpse will float to the water’s surface. By studying victims’ wounds — the type, the severity, which side of the body they’re on — an injury analyst can begin to piece together the horrible unfolding of events. (p. 114)

6. Perhaps you’d like to join the army! There has been a lot of work with cadavers in the field of military research. While some research is done to find more humane weapons than lead bullets (which expand on impact and destroy more flesh), most militaries want weapons with the maximum stopping power, i.e. most damaging / the least humane.

Gunshot_skull_civil_warwikimedia commons / Civil War Collection, National Museum of Health and Medicine

Ballistics studies are especially problematic. How do you decide it’s okay to cut off someone’s grandfather’s head and shoot it in the face? (p. 147)

7. Be glad that you’re not a French stiff from 80 years ago. In the 1930s, a doctor in France named Pierre Barbet crucified a corpse and several severed arms in an attempt to authenticate the Shroud of Turin.

Käsien_naulaus_copywikimedia commons / Johnny Hillerman

In the weeks that followed, Barbet went through twelve more arms in a quest to find a suitable point in the human wrist through which to hammer a ⅓-inch nail. This was not a good time for vigorous men with minor hand injuries to visit the offices of Dr. Pierre Barbet. (p. 160)

8. Despite persistent urban legends, there is no ‘cellular memory’ in the organs of the dead transplanted on or into the living. Fortunately, your personality won’t change if you get the parts of a madman. Unfortunately, your heart may still be beating in someone else, but it won’t be ‘your’ heart.

BodypartsposterParamount Pictures / poster for Body Parts

In light of recent facts, the believability of this film is further strained.

Mehmet Oz (YES, THAT DR. OZ), the transplant surgeon I spoke with, also got curious about the phenomenon of heart transplant patients’ claiming to experience memories belonging to their donors. “There was this one fellow,” he told me, “who said, ‘I know who gave me this heart.’ He gave me a detailed description of a young black woman who died in a car accident. ‘I see myself in the mirror with blood on my face and I taste French fries in my mouth. I see that I’m black and I was in this accident.’ It spooked me,” says Oz, “and so I went back and checked. The donor was an elderly white male.” Did he have other patients who claimed to experience their donors’ memories or to know something specific about their donor’s life? He did. “They’re all wrong.” (p. 191)

9. Research on just-guillotined criminals progressed to dogs and later monkeys. While a human head transplant has never been attempted, it is theoretically medically viable — although you’d still be ‘just a head on a pillow.’

the-brain-that-wouldnt-dieAmerican International Pictures / The Brain that Wouldn’t Die

By putting them — their heads — onto new bodies, you would buy them a decade or two of life, without, in their case, much altering their quality of life. High-level quadriplegics are paralyzed from the neck down and require respiration, but everything from the neck up works fine. Ditto the transplanted head. (p. 212-213)

Here is a video of neurosurgeon Dr. Robert White explaining the procedure:

10. Perhaps you’d like to be consumed upon death. Just about every part of a dead body has been used as ancient medicinal or folk remedy. Blood is especially popular, both for drinking and bathing.

bathing-in-bloodflickr / rachel a. k.

It was when the prescription called for bathing in the blood of infants, or the blood of virgins, that things began to turn ugly. The disease in question was most often leprosy, and the dosage was measured out in bathtubs rather than eyedroppers. . . . We see nothing distasteful in injections of human blood, yet the thought of soaking in it makes us cringe. (p. 226&9)

11. If burial or cremation bores you, then you may be interested in other ways a body can be disposed of after death. There is freeze-drying and composting, as well as the newly developed method of ‘water reduction,’ more grimly named ‘tissue digestion.’

coffeeflickr / Francisco Javier Argel

Just don’t accidentally drink Grandma.

In a few hours . . . [the] equipment can dissolve the tissues of a corpse and reduce it to 2 or 3 percent of its body weight. What remains is a pile of decollagenated bones that can be crumbled in one’s fingers. Everything else has been turned into . . . a sterile “coffee-colored” liquid. (p. 252-253)

12. Maybe you want your corpse to last 10,000 years. In that case plastination is the only surefire way to make sure your corpse stays fresh for millennia. All of the water in your body is sucked out during an acetone bath, which evaporates, and then is replaced by a liquid polymer.

plastinationflickr / Paul Stevenson

Is it a little chilly in here, or is it just me?

Like a guinea pig the size of a police dog, the concept of being plastinated is more unsettling than the reality. You just lie there, soaking and plastinating. Eventually, someone lifts you out and poses you, much as one poses a Gumby. A catalyst is then rubbed into your skin, and a two-day hardening process begins, working its way through your tissues, preserving you for all eternity in your freshly dead state. (p. 289)

While not everyone would like to be naked and skinless for thousands of years, perhaps you’ve found something to do with yourself after ‘yourself’ ceases to exist. In the meantime, go out and pick up a copy of Stiff by Mary Roach. This book is a fun and enlightening read filled with many more quips than I’ve excerpted here. It’s a shining bit of amusement among death’s pieces of darkness.

Links

Click for more information on Tissue Digestion.

Click for more information about The Body Farm.

Click for more information about Dr. Pierre Barbet’s corpse crucifixion experiments.


Tidbits of the Dead — “Indifference”

thewalkingdeadseason4
The Walking Dead continued its streak of ‘I’ titles with this week’s “Indifference,” which obviously alludes to Carol’s indifference and lack of remorse about killing Karen and David. This episode was heavy on human drama and light on zombie action. It was also a roadtrip episode, which tend to be a bit better than most of the sit-and-twiddle-our-thumbs-in-the-prison episodes. Fortunately, we get the chance to have some much needed characterization for several of the newer main characters. Unfortunately, we have lost my favorite character of the season thus far, although, as you’ll see, she hasn’t left this show in typical Walking Dead fashion.

carol_S4ep4

  • Carol (Melissa McBride) — She changed more than anyone else in the original cast. From battered wife, to grieving mother, to hardened survivalist teacher, Carol has undergone a transformation unlike anyone else on this show. Perhaps she hardened too much. Rick seems to think so. It was callous to take the lives of two others without consulting the rest of the group. While, she believes what she did was the correct course of action, I doubt that she would have killed one of the children. Some say that her killing of Karen and David was too out of character for Carol. To a certain extent I agree, but it was a necessary plot device for the TV show. For one it made a bit of buzz around the show (who was the mysterious killer?), which only lasted for a single week. Secondly, it allowed for Tyreese to harness his anger, which barring the death of his sister, couldn’t have happened any other way. It is a shame that the prison group has lost one of its most valuable members. It’s more of a shame that The Walking Dead has lost one of its most valuable actresses. Fortunately with her driving out into the sunset, Melissa McBride’s character could return in the future. Although I don’t see that happening until after the prison falls, Carol could once again prove her mettle by being the link for Rick’s group into a newer, larger community.
  • Rick (Andrew Lincoln) — He did the right thing. Despite (my) loving Carol so much this season, I can see that Rick did a logically consistent thing by cutting her loose. He stayed true to himself. I think that he may be a bit disappointed to have to lose her. The others will probably second guess him, especially if he doesn’t tell them the truth, but that’s the way of Rick’s leadership. He rides the middle ground. I doubt any other killer in any other situation would get exiled, but Rick showed a bit of compassion in that.
  • Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) — Finally, the drunken combat medic’s alcoholic history comes into play! I really liked his interplay with Daryl in this episode. He proved his worth to the group by helping them find the proper medications, but he also showed how he could be detrimental to the others with the stranglehold that alcohol still has on him. They let him keep the bottle he took, so I’m hoping to see him get into more trouble because of it. It’s something to add more interest to the show, which will be necessary after losing Carol.

    bobanddaryl
    Daryl and Bob smoke in a few scenes of this episode. I doubt Farmer Rick has given any crop space to tobacco, so those cigarettes have to be nasty and stale as hell. Still, it’s a stress reliever that offers less detrimental side-effects than alcohol. Besides, all of their lives at a greater risk from the zombies, other humans, and an eye-bleeding infection, so cancer is hardly something to worry about.

  • Daryl (Norman Reedus) — He showed his caring side as well as a bit of badassery when confronting Bob about the bottle in this bag. Daryl fearlessly (recklessly?) pulled Bob’s gun out of the holster, and then kept calm even to resist the urge to push Bob off of the structure into the waiting undead hands below.
  • Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) — Anger gets you killed. He’ll get over Karen’s death, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the information that Carol was the killer. Will he personally want to get revenge and be driven to follow after her like Michonne is driven to find the governor? Will he think that Rick didn’t do enough to protect the group by letting Carol live? How would his mental state worsen if his sister dies too? In my opinion, Tyreese, angry and uncontrollable is worse to the group than a could and calculating Carol.
  • Michonne (Danai Gurira) — Maybe it is the actress, or maybe it is the character, but there is something insincere about Michonne dealing with her emotions. She always has to be hard and bitter like it would after her stature as a badass if she does anything otherwise. Daryl can be cute and goofy and a badass, but Michonne doesn’t get that pass. I’m not sure exactly why it isn’t working for me.
  • Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) — While all of the others at the prison were offscreen this week, Lizzie got a bit of screentime with Carol. I liked the interplay between the two, especially with her calling Carol mom. It’s a shame that we won’t have a psychologically-damaged child looking up to Carol in that way. I think I would have enjoyed that. Hopefully she won’t get lost in the shuffle, but I also don’t want to see her go off on her own (or with her sister) after Carol. Then the others would go traipsing off after them, and that would be too much like season 2’s search for Sophia. Only, I can see the creative types thinking that it would be a good reason for some more episodes away from the prison without having to actually go somewhere else. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear this may just happen.
  • The Newbies (Robin Lord Taylor & Brina Palencia) — Didn’t last long. Here it is a year and a half (or more) after the zombie apocalypse, and there are still lots of folks that should be hardened survivors dying like pansies. It’s interesting to note that they would have lived had they followed Rick’s orders to stay put, but instead they decided to help out like Carol wanted them to do. Seems a bit heavy-handed to me. And seriously, even if that girl had a fucked up leg, how does she get taken down by two walkers? Ugh.

Walker of the Week

walkingdead_S4ep4_zombieoftheweek


Honestly, none of them were terribly memorable this week. I’ll give the nod to this guy stuck under some wreckage though, just because he got the most screen time.

Next week’s episode continues the streak of ‘I’ titles with “Internment.” I’m guessing it’ll be another one chock-full of human drama — why do we have to stay locked up in quarantine guys? — and low on zombie violence. What do you think?


American Horror Story: Coven — “Fearful Pranks Ensue”

AHS-the-old-witches
“Fearful Pranks Ensue” opens up in 1961 depicting the type of racial incident that is not a prank, but does have dreadfully fearful consequences. A black youth is riding on his bicycle down a tree-lined lane when behind him a dark truck pulls up. It speeds up, getting closer and closer, so the boy pedals harder and harder. The truck’s bumper is inches away from the back tire of the bike, and finally the boy turns into a driveway, jumps off of his bike, and runs down an alley. Unfortunately, it is a dead end, and as the boy turns around he comes face-to-face with three angry looking white men. The scene cuts away to Marie Laveau’s hairshop, still in 1961, where one of the beauticians is saying that her son is starting his first day at the newly desegregated high school. Angela Bassett’s character seems to think this is a bad idea, and the viewer knows what is in store for the previously chased boy. There is a quick montage of a faraway shot of a single, desolate figure hanging from a large tree, a noose being cut down, and the mother over the lynched boy’s body, pushing the white police officer away. Laveau is in the background here looking fierce and plotting a voodoo revenge that she quickly executes with a ceremony involving slicing open snakes and drinking their flaming blood from a large chalice. Then, all of a sudden, American Horror Story turns into The Walking Dead as corpses start rising up from their graves. These living dead ain’t just hungry — they’re armed. There are some Native Americans with tomahawks, a civil war veteran carrying his bayonet mounted gun, and a big dead guy with an axe. The zombies stalk after and find the three men of the lynch mob, whose insides soon come out in a scene of bloody evisceration and dismemberment in what must be AHS’s most graphic scene to date.
Coming back from the show titles is the butler Spalding (Denis O’Hare) having a tea party with a roomful of creepy dolls. This is a very Spalding heavy episode which would circle back to this tea-party motif near the end of the episode. But first there is a quick recap of Spalding witnessing the neck-slashing scene that played out last week between Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts). He pours Fiona a drink, and rolls Madison’s body up in the bloodstained rug, while Fiona engages in what she does best — witty quips — saying, “I’ve always enjoyed our little talks together, particularly since you lost your tongue.”
Fiona goes to investigate a crash in the solarium, where she finds Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) having been gored by the minotaur. The beast rises up behind Fiona, but it is never shown how he is dealt with. Instead the next shot is a frazzled Fiona waking Cordelia (Sarah Paulson). While tending to Queenie, the mother and daughter have a spat about both of their meetings with Laveau. Queenie stops breathing, but Fiona saves her, by literally breathing life back into her. Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) is roused out of hiding, and is much more appreciative of Queenie since the black girl saved her life. However, later Queenie says that she’ll have to think about the best way for LaLaurie to really thank her.
The next day, at Cornrows City, a package arrives for Laveau. In it is the severed head of the minotaur, which blinks, so is seemingly still alive. This will prompt Laveau to prepare for an all-out war. Laveau’s second (Dana Gourrier) is against rekindling the animosity against the coven, given the truce that Laveau had signed with former Supreme Leighton (Christine Ebersole), whom Fiona murdered in 1971. Whatever tenuous peace there was between the witches and the voodoo practitioners is now over. The voodoo resurrection ritual from the opening is repeated, and once again the living dead rise from their graves, including the corpses of the lynch mob and (at least one of) Madam LaLaurie’s daughters.
The main conflict that this season is building to — the voodoo sect vs. the coven — has started in earnest in this episode, but there were some other interesting developments that happened concerning Kyle (Evan Peters), Cordelia’s husband Hank (Josh Hamilton), and the backstory between Fiona, Spalding, and witch council member Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy).
Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) finds the FrankenKyle monster beating his head against a bathtub. She gets emotional about the state that this creature is in, and realizes that it was wrong to bring him back to life. He speaks, claiming not to be Kyle and this is all too much for Zoe. She decides to fix him a lunch of tuna salad laced with rat poison and put him out of his misery. There is another complication though, which is that the monster has suddenly disappeared, and when Zoe looks outside to find him, all she can see are the ghouls and goblins of children dressed for Halloween.
Cordelia, perched on the edge of the bed like a smitten schoolgirl, talks on the phone with her husband Hank. He is off on a construction consultation job and says that the foreman is at his hotel room door. Only Hank isn’t meeting with a foreman. A woman (Alexandra Breckenridge) drops into his hotel room, and they engage in some intense lovemaking that culminates with Hank screaming like a madman. This girl is in love with Hank — he has her completely wrapped around his finger. She does have a good line though, and one that strikes a beat in Hank: “I think Halloween gives people permission to be who they really want to be.” Lest we think that Hank is only a cheating scumbag, things get much more interesting when he pulls out a silenced pistol and shoots the girl in the head in a big WTF moment. So who the hell is Hank exactly? He was obviously lying to this lover when he claimed to be a USDA inspector. He is also obviously lying to his wife Cordelia as well. While ready to write off Hank since his introduction into the show, this character kink makes him an interesting addition to the web of witches.
Nan (Jamie Brewer), no longer being able to read Madison’s mind, summons the Council, three witches including Myrtle Snow, Quentin (Leslie Jordan), a small, but flamboyant fedora-clad man, and Pimbrooke (Robin Bartlett), a frumpy grey-hair whom Fiona scoffs at. They set up an official inquiry into Madison’s disappearance and interview all of the women of Miss Robichaux’s Academy to find the whereabouts of Madison. Interviewees are informed that the punishment for inflicting grievous bodily harm against a Salem descendent is death by fire.
Each woman states what they know about Madison.
Cordelia volunteers way too much information about other matters (Queenie’s attack and her consultation contact with the voodoo sect), but little of consequence about Madison. She does blurt out that is her rug (the one in which Madison was wrapped up) is missing, but fails to realize the importance of this information.
The younger women have a bit more to say. Zoe says that Madison has a movie starlet charisma. Nan informs the Council of her burgeoning pyrokinetic ability. Queenie drops the best line with: “Madison Montgomery is a stone cold bitch who loves hard drinking, big dicks, and trouble. If she’s dead it’s probably because she got wasted and offered the grim reaper a handjob or something.”
Once the Council gets Fiona in the interrogation seat AHS viewers learn much more about the past relationship between her and the red-headed Snow. It seems that when Fiona took over as the Supreme (in 1971) she blamed Marie Laveau for the death of former Supreme Leighton. However, a younger (and ambitious) Myrtle Snow suspected that Fiona had killed Leighton. To find out the truth Snow put an enchantment spell on Spalding’s tongue (whom Snow suspected was hiding Fiona’s secret). Unfortunately, before Spalding could be coerced into telling what Fiona had done, he is found on the floor with his tongue removed. In the present day Snow asks Spalding to write on a piece of paper the name of witch who was responsible for severing his tongue. On the paper he writes ‘Myrtle Snow’ as Spalding was (and presumably still is) in love with Fiona. He did not want to implicate Fiona as a murderess, and since he couldn’t deny the truth, he instead cut out his own tongue with a straight razor.
Snow then has a screaming fit and is unable to contain her rage against Fiona. She claims that Fiona has twice gotten away with murder after killing the old and future Supreme. Only Cordelia confesses that Madison had a heart murmur and couldn’t have been the future Supreme with her poor health. The scene cuts away after this, but one suspects if there is to be a death by fire next week, it will most likely be Myrtle Snow tied to the burning post.
“Fearful Pranks Ensues” wraps up with a few short scenes likely to be continued next week:
  • Spalding, wearing a nightgown and bonnet, has another dolly tea party, only this time one of the attendees is Madison’s corpse, for whom he selects a frilly dress from the closet.
  • Cordelia and Fiona share some mother-daughter bonding time at a bar with Fiona lying about not killing Madison. Later, after retching in the bar toilet, Cordelia gets acid thrown into her eyes by a figure shrouded in black.
  • Neighbor boy Luke (Alexander Dreymon) brings over some cookies for Nan, but before any of the witches can enjoy them, the house is besieged by the undead.

Some random thoughts.

Lily Rabe’s Misty Day was missing from this week’s episode which is a shame.
Spalding hugged the scarecrow! (It’s little things like this that make AHS so great.)
Kathy Bates had a cute moment with the trick ‘r treaters at the door. However, I fear that her character may be progressing into a modern racial sensibility too quickly. Not that I’m advocating she be more racist, I just remain unconvinced that she would change so much in such a short time.
Apparently Nan (or any of the other witches) can’t read Spalding’s mind.
The show has reached that oh-shit-everything-is-crazy-now-point that it seems to attain every season. Already there has been the minotaur (and possible minotaur bestiality-ish sexual activity) and the FrankenKyle Monster sewed together from various body parts, but now there are zombies, a weird tongueless manchild having tea parties with his dollies, and a seemingly boring husband moonlighting as a murderous madman.
I am looking forward to next week’s episode which will have more zombie action (always a plus), although these voodoo corpses don’t seem to follow the same rules as the Romero-influenced Walking Dead geeks, so it will be interesting to see how the witches fare against them.