Archive for December, 2008

Awaiting the Apocalypse with a Bowl of Popcorn

Posted in Rotten with tags , , on December 28, 2008 by davehurwitz

I woke up Christmas morning with a bloody eye.  No, I didn’t duke it out with the in-laws Christmas Eve.  This wasn’t a black eye.  And no, it wasn’t the webby pink of too much time spent staring at screens.  This was a big bloody splotch clouding the white just west of my iris.  While a far cry from a full on eight ball hemorrhage, something had clearly popped where things should not be popping.  I have my usual holiday cold.  One of my more vigorous coughs probably jacked my blood pressure high enough to burst a capillary.  That, or I need more fiber in my diet.  Either way, not the best of omens for the coming year.

Which brings me to today’s topic, the End of the World.  Frankly, gentle readers, I’m running out of good ones.  I could use your help finding more.

Allow me to clarify.  For the past nine years I have hosted the annual End of the World Film Festival in my living room on New Years Eve.  It started as a joke, when I insisted on watching Strange Days on New Years Eve 1999/2000.  (Don’t get the joke?  Then you need to watch the movie.)  Ever since then, I’ve been exhibiting films where civilization comes to end, has already come to end, or is at least threatening to come to an end.  The guest list is short, my TV is tiny, and I don’t even serve alcohol.  None the less, I it’s a tradition I’ve come to enjoy.  Trouble is, after nine years, I’m running out of decent movies.

That’s where you come in.  If you can think of a good End of the World movie that isn’t on the list below, I need you to tell me about it via the comment button on this page.  Please note, all suggestions should be suitable for “mixed company” as they used to say.  Meaning no gut-gnawing, no graphic sex, and no Charlton Heston.  I know this disqualifies a lot of great films, but them’s the rules, folks.

The End of the World Film Festival Roll of Horror:
1999/2000:  Strange Days
Hands down, my favorite performances by Ralph Fiennes.  Never mind the goofy sci-fi premise.  Watching Ralph agonize over his lost love, potential city destroying riots, and the state of his wardrobe is the real joy here.

2000/2001:  The Last Wave
A lawyer discovers he’s destined to destroy civilization.  Go figure.

2001/2002: Death Race 2000
The original, not the Running-Man-with-a-car remake.

2002/2003:  Reign of Fire & Slipstream
I can’t drink, but this double bill made me wish I could.

2003/2004: Last Night
A quirky black comedy with a nice cameo by David Cronenberg.

2004/2005: On the Beach
A great film, almost fatally marred by a score that consists entirely of different arrangements of “Waltzing Matilda.”  No, I am not making that up.

2005/2006: The Last Man on Earth & Nausicaä
The first screen version of the Richard Matheson classic, with Vincent Price in the roll most recently played by Will Smith, and an environmental fable from the so-called Walt Disney of Japan, Hayao Miyazaki.

2006/2007: Silent Running
Silent, except for my exasperated muttering.

2007/2008: Planet of the Apes & Invaders from Mars
Okay, I managed to sneak in one Heston flick.  The latter is a low budge prototype for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, largely a stock footage parade.

roadwarriorAnd this year?  I’m planning my first triple feature: Logan’s Run, The Road Warrior, and I Am Legend, presuming we can stand to watch them all.  After that, it’s up to you.  I’d like to keep this thing going, at least until the Mayan calendar rolls over in 2012.

I leave the End of the World in your capable hands.

Dave Hurwitz

Weird Gifts for the Fan of Horror and the Bizzare

Posted in Cinema with tags , , on December 21, 2008 by davehurwitz

Next year I should really post this a little earlier. Three days till Christmas doesn’t give much time. But these gifts work all year round. So here you go:

Plush Facehugger and Chestbuster

Plush Facehugger and Chestbuster

Plush Alien Face Hugger and Chestbuster
Distributed by Distributoys (Find them at Amazon)
$32.97 Facehugger
$24.99 Chestbuster

I first saw the facehugger at the 2008 Comic Con in San Diego. It was draped around the shoulders of some girl. I finally tracked down the seller and orderd one on the spot. Now my year-old daughter plays with it. (I know, I’m disturbed.) But hey, if you want to reenact Alien or Aliens (the only good movies in the series), order these lovely plushes. As you can tell, they are safe for children, though the flexible wire skeleton pokes a bit, so you should be careful.

The Immaculate Conception of Maria Rosenthal

The Immaculate Conception of Maria Rosenthal

The Immaculate Conception of Maria Rosenthal
by Alex CF
About $500

My wife first introduced me to the artwork of Alex CF. His work is a bit pricey, but typically they are one-of-a-kind. You can request all sorts of custom weridness. Alex CF specializes in steampunk and Victorian assemblages. He’s had vampire hunting kits, werewolf kits, Cthulu kits (this one I have). This is his latest.

This kit contains the remains of an 18th century nun worshipped by a small enclave of sisters who believed that she was born through immaculate conception. Contained in this old wooden case are the consecrated remains of the nuns face, a vile of her blood, and held within a gold leaf case—a lock of her hair, and a fragment of a treaty she wrote in regards to women and the concil of benedict.

What Alice Saw

What Alice Saw

What Alice Saw (Limited Edition Prints)
by Alex CF
About $50

Here is a cheaper alternative to buy into Alex CF’s art. These limited edition set of 10 prints charts Alex’s take on Alice of Wonderland. The prints are truly twisted. Check out the whole set at his blog.

Chris Kalidor

Gift Ideas for Horror Fans

Posted in Rotten with tags , on December 14, 2008 by davehurwitz

Apologies for the long hiatus, gentle readers.  It has been a strange and difficult few weeks.  More on that in subsequent posts.  For now, here’s a couple of holiday-time suggestions for what to get the horror junkie in your life.  For my money, there’s nothing better than a scary book, unless it’s a scary book in a really fancy edition.  Here are two of this year’s best.

Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror, by Guy de Maupassant
Introduction by Ramsey Campbell
Published by Tartarus Press, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Many years ago, perusing horror paperbacks at Adams Avenue Books, I happened upon The Dark Side: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural by Guy de Maupassant, selected and translated by Arnold Kellett.  Prior to this, I knew Maupassant only from frequently anthologized stories like “The Necklace” and “The Lady or the Tiger.”  Standing there in the store, I read Kellett’s introduction, in which he explained how Maupassant—an absinthe drinking, red windmill frequenting Parisian of the late 1800s—contracted syphilis from a prostitute and went slowly insane before taking his own life in a lunatic asylum.  In fact, many of the stories in this book had been written while his brain was being eaten away by the disease.  Of course, I had to buy it.

There are some great horror stories in Dark Side.  There’s “A Night in Paris,” where the city of lights is mysteriously empty of people.  There’s “The Hand,” possibly the first effort in the severed-hand-that-comes-to-life sub-genre.  My personal favorite is “Who Knows?”  A young country lord, returning on foot from a late night at the opera, discovers that all his furniture has come alive and is fleeing from the house.  Maupassant beautifully describes the piano galloping past, “rattling and tinkling with music.”  These tales of terror are wild and improbable, the hothouse orchids of literature.  Like life itself, they are strangely shaped and hard to predict.  Sadly, Dark Side has been out of print since it’s paperback publication in 1990.  Until now.

Tartarus has brought back Dark Side under a new title with one additional story—“Mademoiselle Perle”—and their usual sterling production values.  A small press in the true sense of the word, Tartarus crafts books in the Victorian style.  Thick, acid-free pages with wide margins.  Sewn binding.  And very limited press runs.  Many of their previous books have become valuable collector’s items.  I’ve already ordered mine.

Fair warning:  This is a pricey book.  $55, unless you pay with PayPal, in which case you’ll save a couple dollars on the exchange rates.  With an official publication date of December 11, and mail service from the UK being what it is, this one might not arrive in time for Christmas.

Annotated Dracula

Annotated Dracula

The New Annotated Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Edited by Leslie Kilinger, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman
Published by W. W. Norton & Company

I know most readers hate footnotes and annotations.  Kilinger’s genius as an editor and annotator lies not in the considerable depth of his research, but in the fact he makes his notes fun.  How?  By treating the events of Dracula as though they had really occurred.  For example, he speculates on whether or not Stoker changed the names of his principle characters to protect their true identities.  While Kilinger’s tongue is firmly planted in his cheek, his tone remains deadly serious throughout.  As a result, his notes are at least as entertaining as the text of Dracula itself.

This too is a nice looking book.  While the large trim size makes it a bit unwieldy, the flocks of Dracula related illustrations and photos ranging from the Victorian period to the present more than make up for this difficulty.  The usual handful of Dracula related essays rounds out the book, though once again Kilinger strives to make these enjoyable to non-academic readers.  The New Annotated Dracula has a cover price of $39.95, but the mainstream press rollout means that it can be had for considerably less (Amazon).  I’m hoping to find this one under the tree this year myself, assuming I can stay off the Naughty List.

Dave Hurwitz