That’s right, gentle readers, Black Friday has come and past. Time to start thinking seriously about that holiday shopping you’ve been dreading. Here at The Weekly Rot, we’d like to make that unpleasant task just a little bit easier. Not sure what to get the horror junkie on your list? Below are a few humble suggestions.
Thirst on DVD
The latest film from Korean auteur Chan-wook Park, creator the Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance). Thirst is the story of Sang-hyeon, a Catholic priest who volunteers for a deadly series of vaccine trials. The sole survivor of the experiment, Sang-hyeon emerges with a reputation for saintliness and thirst for human blood. Insinuating himself into a family who believes in his miraculous powers, Sang-hyeon becomes infatuated with Tae-joo, the young wife of a man he has supposedly healed. What follows could be described as a mash-up of Interview with a Vampire with The Postman Always Rings Twice, with a bit of The Ring and Rear Window thrown in for good measure. Thirst is an epic, and not just because of its 133 minute running time. Regular shifts of plot and tone lead the viewer to believe that Sang-hyeon really has lived a lifetime, from initial horror at his condition, to acceptance, through reckless abandon, and back to a much more weary horror. His destruction, when it finally arrives, clearly comes as a relief. As with all of Park’s work, there’s plenty of deeply disturbing, blackly humorous incident in between. Highly recommended.
Ben Templesmith’s Dracula
The perfect gift for aspiring young Goths who haven’t yet graduated beyond Stephenie Meyer. The unabridged text of Stoker’s 1897 novel with twenty-seven color illustrations by top horror comix artist Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Welcome to Hoxford). That’s one illustration for each and every chapter. (Take that, Barry Moser.) Templesmith’s work here (and elsewhere) is an eerie mix of scratchy pen, dark hued paint, and hazy digital overlays. A distinctly modern edition of the Victorian classic. I already own two editions of Dracula, but this book makes me want a third. (I recommend on-line purchase for this one, as it not stocked at most book stores.)
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
Adapted and Illustrated by Darwyn Cooke.
Okay, this isn’t so much a horror item as a noir item, but it’s still a worthy gift. As regular readers are no doubt aware, I am something of a Richard Stark fanatic. Even by my exacting standards, Cooke’s adaptation of the first Parker novel is incredibly faithful. (Cooke even dresses his sets using décor described in the book.) For once, Parker is allowed to be the brutal bastard he really is. (It’s also worth noting that this is the only Stark adaptation to receive the author’s unconditional approval. Neither of the two films based on the book was even allowed to use the name Parker.) Better yet, the story is presented as a period piece, taking place in 1962, the year of the novel’s composition. I was unfamiliar with Darwyn Cooke’s work prior to reading this, but his talent is evident here. Utilizing only black, white, and a murky blue, Cooke’s panels look more like mid-century advertising art than a contemporary comic. The design on the endpapers would look equally at home on the wall of a jet-age bachelor pad. This book is a major artistic achievement, as well as a fine introduction to one of crime fiction’s greatest anti-heroes.
Stiff Kitten T-Shirt
You don’t have to be a fan of the sadly defunct band to enjoy the shirt. C’mon, folks, it’s Zombie Hello Kitty. What’s not to love? (For those who care, Stiff Kitten was an alternative rock group out of Birmingham in the mid 90s. The band fell apart when guitarist Keith Barry committed suicide after an argument with singer/bassist Daria Parker about Barry’s heroine use. Parker is now a fixture on the lesbian folk circuit.) Buy the shirt exclusively at Ziraxia. It’s creepy. It’s cute. It’s Christmas.
The Roman Ritual
One more item needs to be added to this list. All through the 70s, 80s and 90s, I’ve yearned to reenact my favorite moments from The Exorcist—the film adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel. (The script was also written by Blatty. Having later read the actual text, the film is incredibly faithful.) Specifically the reading of the Roman Ritual to exorcise Regan.
Sadly, this text was a deep dark secret of the Catholic Church, which had wanted to sweep the whole exorcism thing under the carpet. Fortunately for us, all this changed on January 26, 1999. Pope John Paul II approved the document De Exorcismus et supplicationibus quibusdam (actually back on October 1st). This paved the way for the official recognition of “angelic creatures” and the aptly named creaures “who are opposed to God” (aka demons).
This new exorcism ritual replaces the 1614 version. Sadly, I have not yet found the phrase: “The power of Christ compels you.” The Second Vatican Council had been working on all the rituals for the last 30 years, with exorcism being the last on the docket.
You can find the Roman Ritual on eBay or Amazon or at your local Catholic store. Just make sure you get one marked with exorcism. The cost doesn’t get any cheaper than $65. Now go out and kick some demon butt.