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She Who Lurks By Day
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in teenybuffalo's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, December 13th, 2014
    12:45 am
    Back from "The Slutcracker"
    ...which I enjoyed immensely.

    One thing that I went into the show not knowing, just because I never thought to ask and no one thought to mention it: The Slutcracker uses the entire Tchaikovsky score of The Nutcracker. I had no idea that was the case. I'd assumed it was the dance equivalent of a jukebox musical and had a storyline vaguely relating to The Nutcracker. I was wrong. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

    Every time I hear "Waltz of the Flowers" from now on, the first thing that comes to mind is likely to be the fantastic stripper ballerina flower fairy dancing a solo in purple and green underpants and pasties (who I learn is called the Wet Spot Fairy) and, you know, that's a pretty cool image to have in my head. (And the Russian Dance has likewise been overwritten by the whip-cracking dominatrices, but that came even more easily since the whip cracks have been in that music since it was created.)

    My word, that man in the pink sparkly penis-themed costume was an exceedingly agile and graceful dancer.

    The "Dance of the Reed Pole" stripper-pole sequence was the most amazing thing in the show. My respect for strippers' dance skills has increased. We just saw a dancer hang five feet in the air, swaying horizontally from the point where the inside of one knee gripped the pole, and whip off her top with a gesture that said "Whee!" Most people in that pose wouldn't be able to convey "Whee!" with the joy that she did. I'm frankly boggled.
    Friday, December 12th, 2014
    12:45 am
    teefs are good





    peace out
    Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
    11:28 pm
    There's an animal that's come out of the woods: "The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh"
    kestrell and alexx_kay watched this one recently, and their description sounded so much like my sort of thing that I had to give it a go. Short version: I love it. I just finished watching it a few minutes ago.

    Going in, I expected certain things: a house of eerie hoarder-clutter, religious horror, and scares that are low on budget and high on spookiness, such as barely-seen monsters and nightmares and voiceovers. I got that, and a lot of other stuff I didn't expect.

    It's a pretty standard horror plot. Thirty-something man was estranged from his mother years ago; she was possibly abusive and involved in something wack that he didn't understand and still doesn't. Now she's dead and he's here at her house to go through her stuff, all of which she left to him (there's the title drop). Spooky things happen; he's reminded of terrible things from his childhood, he feels helpless and unsure of his own grip on reality. Matters escalate. He sleeps there overnight, because he is apparently a self-destructive idiot, and that goes about as well as you would expect.

    The pleasure is in how well the film tells that story, and how little it explains anything that happens. It's virtually a one-man show, and that works really well. We see Leon Leigh (Aaron Poole), who looks kinda like a stubbly-white-guy generic video game protagonist, and he's almost constantly visible. We hear everyone else as disembodied voices on his phone, or voiceovers from the past, or voices in his head. The voice of his mother Rosalind is Vanessa Redgrave, who turns out to have a gift for guilt infliction and self-pitying parental authority. Leon talks to a lot of different people, but he's almost always alone in person. Watching him be sad and lonely and wigged out in the middle of the clutter of someone else's lifetime: that's scary right there. All the supernatural stuff is a nice bonus.

    The house is a primary character. It's crammed with statues of all sizes, mostly angels or angel-themed, with some naive art, some wood carvings, and this one huge, crude wood statue with white pearl buttons for eyes that freaked me right out. Every time the camera looked at the thing, I felt myself become more tense. Rosalind Leigh also apparently liked Victorian paintings; there are some framed Pre-Raphaelite pictures, an Ophelia here, a group of Lord Lytton nymphs there. And old books and creaky old furniture and taxidermied animals and moldy dried flowers and ferns, and an entire stuffed white peacock, and embroidered samplers saying spooky things, and glass vases and gazing-balls and crystal chandeliers covered in dust, and candles. Tons of pillar candles.

    The entire house looks like it would instantly go up in flames if you struck a match. In theory, I like places like this. In the long term, I hate clutter and dark interiors and rooms that you can't clean up or vacuum easily. By the time the movie was halfway through, I was hoping for a cathartic fire to end the movie. Then I realized that it was a real house interior and that the filmmakers' budget probably didn't extend to buying the place and burning it all down. Pity. It would be nice to send those twisted monstrosities of taxidermied animals to their final rest in a blast of purifying flame. To say nothing of the angels and cherubs. All the angels hate you, yes, you personally; the camera makes their bland smiles and fixed stares seem like the most passive-aggressive thing ever. They're as generic as they come, as if Rosalind Leigh started buying them in the first big angels-and-rose-quartz-crystals-and-dowsing craze of the 1980s and never stopped buying angels and cherubs wherever she went.

    Not that Leon grew up in Casa de Uncanny Valley. Rosalind moved into the building at an advanced age, and this is his first visit. When he was a little boy he lived with his parents in a nice house with sunlight and a modern kitchen and a minimum of kitsch. Since he stopped talking to his mother, he's sold off a lot of the childhood possessions that he took when he moved out. Oh, wait. Here they are. His mother contacted Leon's antique-dealer friend under an assumed name, and just bought up all of Leon's possessions as he sold them, and kept them for herself. And now he walks into the house where she died and finds a doll he thought he got rid of years ago. (The movie never comments on the fact that Leon had a doll as a little boy, but the fact that he isn't embarrassed about that as an adult is a nice realistic touch, since plenty of people have non-heteronormative toys as kids, goodness knows.)

    I would have liked to see him display affection for something physical--pick up the doll, hold a carving, something. If there was a weak note in this movie, it was the fact that we don't really get to see him longing for anything. For love and care from his mother, for understanding. The lack of those things drove him away, and now that he's here to deal with her estate many years later, we see his bitterness but we aren't really allowed into his regret. We get to see his mom's longing and regret, though. Boy howdy.

    Leon's mother was in a cult. They're still going strong, in fact, when he shows up as an adult. "God's Messengers," they're called. They worship angels, or at least that's what they look like they're doing when Leon watches a videotape of the congregation. They're mostly aged, well-heeled white retirees. God's Messengers have an active web presence, even featuring a short video with the cult founders, the Rahn Brothers, both looking like cynical crows and both played by Julian Richings, latest in a long line of oddly cool-looking actors I've admired in horror. At some point early in Leon's life his father committed suicide, and the headlines read Angel Cult Exonerated In Member's Suicide. Given the fact that the camera keeps lingering over a painting of a bridge high over a ravine every time this comes up, Leon's father probably jumped from a height. One of the brilliant moves in this film is that you don't find out whether Leon's dad killed himself for unrelated reasons, was driven to despair by the other cultists, or whether he killed himself as a religious statement and expected to be rewarded by God.

    Rosalind Leigh used to torment her son with something she called "the game of candles." She would light three candles in a dark room, in front of an angel statue, and ask him, "Do you believe in angels?" If he answered "No," she would pinch one candle out and ask him again, and tell him that when the last candle went out, the angel would turn its back and no longer protect him. And there are things out there that are Not Very Nice that want to get you.

    I may say here that I don't like religious horror as a genre. It's ignorant. The makers of religious horror movies aren't willing to learn a damn thing beyond their own prejudices. They can't tell Protestants from Catholics from Seventh-Day Adventists from Mormons, and any given film usually either exploits the shit out of religion in the grand old style of Van Helsing grinding holy wafers into putty, or it uses Christians as cliche'd villains swinging crosses and burning witches and persecuting the heroes for no good reason other than because Jesus says so, bluh bluh bluh abomination sinners hellfire repent. I'm sick of poorly-written repressive Christian villains with sticks up their butts--and said villains crop up everywhere, as if all the smug atheist teenagers have gone into filmmaking in order to revenge themselves on organized religion.

    That said, this is one of the rare religious horror films that I did like. One of the things it had going for it was the vague description of the cult--if the cultists have made up all of their own rules, I can hardly call it inaccurate to reality. Another good thing was the sense that the cult members derived personal solace from their beliefs. For Rosalind Leigh and her co-religionists, the world is full of creepy shit that God allows to roam free.

    The middle of the film has an escalating rhythm: creepy thing happens--Leon reacts with panic--he calms himself, or calls someone else who calms him--WORSE THING HAPPENS OMG. Repeat multiple times. It's all delicately implied with shadows and poorly-seen glimpses, and creepy voices on tape, and a possibly-doctored videotape of something impossible. There are hidden messages and a key to a hidden shrine, and omens, and nightmares. Aaron Poole is good at panicking and squeaking in a manly sort of way as a dreadful nameless THING chases him around the house, and he's great at hiding in the corner in a flop sweat, cuddling up to a cell phone that hopefully has someone helpful on the end.

    Lots more, including full plot spoilers.Collapse )

    There you have it. Oh, also, I enjoyed the fact that one of the end credits is TACTICAL CROSS STITCHING TEAM: LADY HELLBAT, TRICIA BIELSKI. Lots of love and attention went into making this house fully gross and cluttered and elaborate, and the people who did the backgrounds are stars.
    Monday, December 8th, 2014
    1:16 am
    Leagues of stars between them strewn/ Glimmering like downy awn
    I'm exhausted and have to be awake again way too soon, and my bedroom is a disaster area and my whole body aches and I haven't showered, but I got my rosemary plants potted up and indoors for the winter. There may be photos later.

    Plant tally:
    Rosemaries: like 11 (I'm too lazy to get up and re-count)
    Lemon trees: 8 of varying sizes
    Avocados: 3 (I planted a ton of avocado pits this summer in hopes of getting reinforcements, and they've shot up amazingly)
    Aloes: more than 7 once I divide the multi-branching pot that's getting overgrown
    Durians: 1 (it got a little frost-bitten and wind-damaged in the first days of cold weather, but Walter Philip Durian seems to be recovering)
    Succulents: 5 (and three are flowering!)

    If anyone wants a houseplant and is in the greater Boston area, I could part with a rosemary, an aloe, or one of the cute little cactus-like succulents. The potted trees are all staying with me.

    Earlier tonight, I also got to hear Tim Eriksen perform, and he's still powerful as all get-out, so all is right with the world at the moment.

    One of the songs they sang was "O Thou Who Driest the Mourner's Tear," words by Thomas Moore. Here he is singing the hymn in 2007. Don't be worried by the blurry video quality: I know it looks kinda Blair Witch, but it's just a nighttime outdoor rendition of the song.)

    O Thou who driest the mourner’s tear,
    How dark this world would be,
    If, when deceived and wounded here,
    We could not fly to Thee!

    The friends who in our sunshine live,
    When winter comes are flown;
    And he who has but tears to give,
    Must weep those tears alone.

    But Thou wilt heal that broken heart,
    Which, like the plants that throw
    Their fragrance from the wounded part,
    Breathes sweetness out of woe.

    When joy no longer soothes or cheers,
    And e’en the hope that threw
    A moment’s sparkle o’er our tears
    Is dimmed and vanished too—

    O who could bear life’s stormy doom,
    Did not Thy wing of love
    Come brightly wafting through the gloom
    Our peace-branch from above?

    Then sorrow, touched by Thee, grows bright,
    With more than rapture’s ray;
    As darkness shows us worlds of light
    We never saw by day.

    Sunday, December 7th, 2014
    1:09 pm
    Dost thou comprehend?!
    A post in which I go off like a rocket about the Salem witchcraft trials, and forget that it's Tumblr and no one is listening anyway. Linking here in case I need it again.
    3:23 am
    Did you see the naked guy with a goat's head and Macbeth licking blood off his chest?
    Last weekend I went visiting in New York after Thanksgiving. It was awesome. I'm still in denial about the trip being over. You know how an adventurous day can seem like it packed far more than one day's worth of activity? I wandered in a huge wilderness park at the (northern) pointy end of Manhattan, was taken to fascinating little cafes, hiked around Central Park, visited the Met, and bought a book or two at Forbidden Planet. I also spent time lost on the subway (rather pleasantly, since I wasn't in a rush to commute anywhere), saw Grand Central for the first time, and ate a lot of street cart food.

    Random coffee place recommendation: The Bean, across the intersection from the Strand. Good coffee, nice counter staff, big picture windows for people-watching, and big soft doughnuts in novelty flavors. I had the mocha glazed.

    On a more sobering note, it was right before the grand jury failed to indict the killer of Eric Garner, and I passed a demonstration consisting of about fifty protestors surrounded by what looked like five hundred policemen with prominent guns and big bundles of white plastic zip ties attached to their belts, waiting for wrists. It was the reverse of a reassuring sight.

    I bragged to friends about how I was going to New York to see the work of Henry Darger at the Folk Art Museum, but the joke was on me: the Folk Art Museum only has the room to display about two artists at a time, and neither one was Darger. That will teach me to call ahead. However, I walked across Central Park in some frustration and went to the Met instead, and had a good time there after all. Their display of mourning garments was wonderful. They had Queen Victoria's fancy black dress, which was cut for someone extremely short and built like a fireplug with maximum cleavage. She probably looked smashing in it; one of the things I like about Victoria is that she made up her mind what her style would be and then went with it in every possible combination of glittery black fabric, bugle beads, fine black lace, drapey veils, etc. I loved Queen Alexandra's long spangled mauve gown, the least mournful mourning garment ever to exist.

    The trip was built around the_termagant and I going to see "Sleep No More." I've been wanting to do that ever since hearing about it in 2013, and this was my first opportunity. It did not disappoint.

    It's... There's nothing like "Sleep No More." It's an interactive theater experience that is kind of like the best haunted house in the world, and kind of like a Let's Play of a horror-themed videogame, and kind of like an elaborate prank. There are at least three plot lines, one of which is Macbeth. It takes place in what they'll tell you on their website is an old hotel building, the McKittrick Hotel. I only found out on the day of the show that this was bullshit/part of the performance, and that the production took place in an old nightclub building. It was a former warehouse, in a district where there seems to be no one for miles, so it's unusually creepy just to walk to the site, past dead windows and high walls with barking dogs behind them. (It must be a lot prettier in nice weather--the High Line goes across the next street, so I'd like to go back with a bit more daylight and spend some time walking up there before going to the theater.)

    The premise in "Sleep No More" is that you, the audience member, are a ghost. You are ordered to keep silent, and issued a white mask with a beak like an Italian carnival mask. The characters will mostly ignore you, but sometimes they'll draw one of you aside for a short interaction. I didn't have any of those interactions, but I wish I had; I'll be bolder next time. What I did see made me wild to go back when I've saved enough money, and try to have a different and more varied experience.

    The entrance to the performing areas takes place via freight elevator. A couple of dozen of us were all piled in with a man in a bellhop's uniform who cautioned us, "Fortune favors the bold." I think I took that too much to heart, and ran off on my own to start exploring and hope to run across a performance. Unfortunately, it took a while for me to get the idea that I'd only see the action if I sought out actors and followed them from scene to scene. Still, my time was not wasted. I wandered creepy domestic rooms, in my white mask like an albino crow, and scared myself in the mirrors with my own reflection. The domestic level was haunted and distressing: a room full of flying baby jammies with nothing inside them, a room with an abandoned baby carriage, a room with crucifixes all over the wall and paper copies of the Bible text about not suffering a witch to live.

    There was an awesome easter egg in that level (there I go thinking of it as a game again): the murder bedroom. In reality, the room had a rumpled quilt on the bed. If you looked at its reflection in the mirror, the bed's covers were stripped down and the mattress was soaked in blood. Whether this was a vision of the future of the room, or a past murder, was unclear. I was the only one in there, which gave me a pleasant sense of exhibitionism. I opened all the drawers and read all the books and generally behaved like a happy burglar.

    About the actual performance, I'll not divulge much, except that it was good, that it involved the situation in the subject line at one point (the guy in the Satan goat mask was actually helicoptering his wang), and that it was incredibly frustrating for me not to be able to put together a coherent narrative. That's what comparing notes is for. alexx_kay has some much more detailed experiences with "Sleep No More" here. The dark fantasy and horrific elements are offset by a "realistic" presentation of events. We watched Hecate eat steak for dinner ver-ry slowly and deliberately, then find a ring in her dinner, marry an audience member with it, and get up on stage and lip-synch to the song "Is This All That There Is?" Hecate was the only Macbeth character I recognized instantly: she was a tall commanding older woman who wore a red dress like Jessica Rabbit's.
    Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
    7:34 pm
    Hey buddy you want a baby? I got two right here - fresh
    Hold everything!

    Courtesy of handful_ofdust, I just saw that

    *kazoo fanfare*


    OK, you may proceed.
    2:20 am
    hyperlocal news
    There were protests against the non-indictment of Mike Brown's murderer tonight. All over the US, but I saw the Boston one from the highway as I drove home tonight, and didn't know what I was seeing. The police were blockading an off-ramp and I assumed it was an accident. Not so.

    Intense pictures of the protestors
    Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
    2:19 am
    Well, stranger things have happened... That's not true. Nothing stranger has ever happened.
    Work is eating my life. I'm sorry I've been absent for so long.

    I just got through watching Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. It's a delight from start to finish, and I can recommend it if you want a yearning, unsatisfying almost-narrative about a one-man cult, outsider art, linoleum, ham radio, and pigeons.

    Briefly, this is the Toynbee tile phenomenon: since the eighties, someone has been making collage-art in the form of big tiles covered in writing, and gluing them to the pavement of public streets, all over the eastern U.S. and in South American nations like Brazil. Most of the original series were placed in the eighties and nineties; the ones currently appearing may be the work of copycats or homage artists. The tiles are made of linoleum. Someone has carved a linoleum tile into letter-shaped holes with a tile knife, and filled the holes with specially carved letters of another color, and glued the whole thing onto the road surface, where cars run it over and embed the whole tile down into the road surface. They don't last forever, but they last an awfully long time. My friend J. tried to show me one in downtown Boston last year, but it turned out the tile had vanished when the road was repaved. There are tons of them in Philadelphia, they're in New York in busy highways, they're in Brazil and Argentina.

    Nearly all of them say this:

    IN KUBRICK'S 2001

    The movie is about three men trying to figure out what the hell that even means. By far the most interesting person in the mysterious-street-tile fandom is Justin Duerr, a punk rocker and outsider artist from Philadelphia, tall and lanky and earnest and covered in tattoos of his own design, who has been photographing and documenting the tiles' messages and trying to find the originator for over twenty years (as of the 2011 documentary release). The movie is at least as much about Duerr as it is about the Toynbee tile artist. Duerr's loony enthusiasm carries the movie. There are a ton of talking-head interview scenes which Duerr manages to keep from killing the movie, but there are also scenes of Duerr taking selfies with tile after tile, lying flat on the asphalt beside them, rehabilitating his pet rescue-pigeons, drawing rock concert posters, and knocking at barred and bolted doors where the reclusive tile artist might live.

    He and the other documentary filmmakers believe the tile artist to be an older man living like a hermit in a run-down row house in Philadelphia. The man in question never agrees to talk with them, or answers their heartfelt letter of admiration, and only exchanges awkward looks with Justin Duerr when they wind up on the same train platform for a moment. Duerr, when the moment arrives, finds that he feels rude and doesn't want to trouble the man any further. So their theory stands, pleasantly, never able to be disproved.

    The Toynbee in question seems to be the historian Arnold Toynbee, who believed in a physical resurrection (though as far as I know he didn't claim that this would happen on the planet Jupiter). You all know Kubrick, and 2001, and the planet Jupiter. There's also a David Mamet play called "4 A.M." where a caller phones a radio host and talks about the dead being resurrected (scientifically!) on Jupiter. Mamet has sometimes claimed this is entirely fictional, and sometimes said that it was inspired by one particularly wacked-out caller to the Larry King Show back in the early eighties. The caller was probably the Toynbee tile artist.

    If you were making this movie as fiction, would you dare to have the protagonist and the mysterious artist united by their love of pigeon-keeping? Justin Duerr, and the mysterious recluse who won't answer the door to strangers, both are shown as keeping urban pigeons and being famous among their friends and neighbors for their love of birds. Maybe this is wishful thinking. The recluse must be the Toynbee tile artist because Duerr and the other filmmakers are so ready to like him. For all we know, the recluse doesn't exist, and the filmmakers are having us on. I don't think so, but the possibility is there.

    Whoever the Toynbee tile artist was or is, he was into ham radio in the early 1980s and used to drive around Philadelphia, using a radio set in his car to broadcast his preaching onto people's TV sets. The filmmakers find this out from airwave pirates at a ham radio convention. It was apparently the auditory answer to the message in the tiles: humans would be physically resurrected on Planet Jupiter by science! I've always found ham radio eerie, so this is pleasantly appropriate.

    There's one beautiful scene in the documentary where Justin Duerr recounts one night when he went to the deli at four a.m., and when he came back through the same intersection, there was a tile glued and tar-papered to the street which hadn't been there ten minutes earlier. Of course, he ran round the neighborhood shouting "Toynbee! Toynbee idea! I believe the Toynbee idea!" and hoping to catch up to the artist. He didn't, but I would have made the same attempt.

    The movie also features Philadelphia people with Philadelphia accents, where you talk very fast without moving your lips and put extra vowels into everything and it all sounds slightly Cockney. They're like the East Coast equivalent of Boomhauer from "King Of The Hill." I can just about understand them, these days, and this movie helped my comprehension.

    To sum up: a great deal of fun, manages to make even static images entertaining, Justin Duerr is an interesting fella to look at and listen to. I was delighted to find that he plays in a band called Northern Liberties, and used to play in one called the Vivian Girls Experience. 
    Saturday, November 8th, 2014
    7:49 pm
    Lost boys: "El Muerto" (2007)
    Last week, I watched El Muerto (The Dead One), with Kestrell and Alexx, in honor of the Day of the Dead. They told me almost nothing about it, going in, save that it was appropriate to the occasion, and so I had almost no prior expectations. I had a vague idea that this might be the one about the zombie Knights Templar.

    It isn't. (The one I was thinking of was La noche del terror ciego.) El Muerto is my sort of thing, and I can see why Kestrell and Alexx restrained themselves from talking about it at all till I had witnessed it myself.

    OK, this review contains total, massive spoilers for a movie that's been out since 2007. Those of you who would enjoy it will probably have seen it already, but on the off chance that you love movies about undeath, Dia de Los Muertos, evil mirrors, and ancient Aztec gods, and haven't watched El Muerto, stop reading and go rent it from Amazon.

    Short version: I loved it, and as I said on Tumblr, it was what Ghost Rider would have been if it were about Mexican characters, had a tiny budget, and was heartfelt rather than campy.

    Longer version: This film is based on a comic by Javier Hernandez called El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie, which shows you what we're in for. The comic is difficult-to-impossible to obtain, at least in the US, and the movie seems to have screened at a few festivals and then sunk with hardly a trace. (Although the artist has a tumblr, which has cool original cartoons and makes me want to track down more.) The opening sequence swaps back and forth between live actors and black-and-white cartoons by Hernandez.

    Once there was a little boy named Diego who went with the coyotes across the U.S. border. One of the adults in the immigrant group, who may or may not be his grandpa, takes him aside in the barren scrublands to clear the dirt off a skull carving in the rocks, and mutter about a god. Then the old guy cuts symbols into the palms of both their hands, spills their blood on the skull, and keels over and dies with his mission fulfilled. The little boy trudges to the bank of a nearby river with a rocky mountain range in the distance. Creepy things happen in the sky and around his reflection in the water: eyes stare at him, the clouds boil.

    Grown-up Diego lives in the L.A. sprawl, has a skull tattoo on his left upper arm, and is well-adjusted for someone who was consecrated to the ~ancient secret blood gods~ as a kid. He believes in everything supernatural, and argues a lot with his bestie/housemate, Zack, the geeky white atheist. "What's your name?" "Isaac." "The original sacrifice," says Diego, as if scoring a point. All this makes Diego sound menacing and like a Goth pretender, and he really isn't. He's a romantic dork who loves playing dress-up and loves his girlfriend Maria. There's a scene of them kissing and cuddling on a flowerbed of marigolds that will be a theme throughout the film. They exchange love-tokens. Milagro hearts are a strong theme in this movie too, and Maria puts a ring on Diego's finger with a red-heart-in-flames ornament. Then he goes to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos in a black-and-white Mariachi outfit covered in bones, and a full face of skull makeup. Maria is uncomfortable with this, and she's right to be: as he drives, the clouds bubble in the sky, lightning shapes itself into a pair of angry eyes over the mountains, and his car skids into a tree.

    There's a smoky sequence where a gigantic figure in robes and feathered crown, with a skull face, throws Diego onto a sacrificial table in a temple and carves his heart out of his chest. We don't see this very clearly because (I assume) the production values aren't great, but it hits the perfect balance of creepifying concealment/revelation. The figure is the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, aka Smoking Mirror, and boy, does he live up to his name. "One thing you need to know? Mirrors in Mexican cinema are evil," said Kestrell as we watched. Every time the characters came near a reflective surface, it would boil with smoke and fire, crack in a fine web, and manifest a pair of angry flame eyes, the god surveilling humanity. And apparently the god is hungry for sacrifice and wants to have servants. He throws Diego's severed heart in an alabaster vase and sets it on fire. Diego wakes up screaming and apparently unhurt, lying on the grass under the tree where the car crash happened.

    Oh, wait, maybe he's not okay: his eyes have turned completely black with no sclera, and he's still wearing his skull facepaint, and his car is gone. A pair of lovers necking in the woods run off screaming to their own car when he approaches them. Sing this with me if you know the tune: He hauls his weary self to the cemetery where he was heading, and finds the ceremonies are almost over. There's just one gravesite altar still standing, covered in candles and cupcakes and flowers and photos, with a trail of marigolds leading up to the grave itself. The mourners are Zack and Maria and almost everyone else he knew, pouring out a libation for their friend, who died one year ago tonight...

    dun dun DUNNN

    Diego watches his own memorial service miserably from behind a tree and doesn't dare approach. Excellent ambiguity here: we never find out whether they would have seen him if he had come forward, or what they would have perceived him to be. The nice caretaker does see Diego and offers him coffee (this would be the Sam Elliott character equivalent from Ghost Rider). But Diego works out how long he's been gone, and panics and flees. The next scenes are Diego's trying to figure out this "undeath" thing, failing hard at it, trying to pass as human, failing at that too, and generally fumbling his way through being a zombie/ghost/not quite sure.

    The gig doesn't seem to come with supernatural powers to do anything cool. He's like a human, only gross and pathetic and unable to wash off his skull makeup. He's got an incision down the center of his chest where the god carved his heart out, and he's corporeal, sorta: he can't glide around or appear one place or another, that would be too easy. He's gotta walk every step of the goddamn way to that cemetery, and then hitch a ride to the old apartment by hiding in the back of Zack's pickup truck. Zack is exactly as upset by having a dead friend walk into the house as you might imagine. The conversation leaves Zack useless for a while because he doesn't want to say "Diego came to visit me" and be taken off to a padded cell.

    So, Diego may be undead, but he still has to sleep. Outside, in the cemetery grass, by his grave, and usually in the rain. There are lots of images of him slumped under trees with a hoodie over his mariachi jacket, hugging his knees and crying to himself while raindrops keep falling on his head. Did I mention it's been unpredictably pouring with rain? Just before his death, and every day after his death, Diego is seemingly pursued by localized sun-showers out of a clear blue sky. You would think it was an outward expression of his sadness, like a man in a cartoon covered in stormclouds. But other people are noticing it too. Turns out that sun-showers are a sign of the Last Days, according to this super-ancient prophecy handed down from the Aztecs which foresees Tezcatlipoca taking over all creation. Also there will be three sacrifices in the run-up to the Return of Smoking Mirror. Because of course there will. Messy murders, which make the police think that our hero is a perfectly normal human serial killer.

    Meanwhile, Diego isn't good for much beyond going into denial, pouting, crying, and being a sad panda. He creepily follows Maria back to her house and watches her sleep, thinks about waking her, is overcome with self-loathing, and in the end just puts the love-token ring on her finger without waking her up. At his most pathetic he buys a hoodie, sunglasses, and a bottle of concealer, and tries to paint over his skull pattern and disguise himself as an ordinary dude. It fails hard.

    The turnaround comes when the nice older caretaker and the police officer on the case both catch up to Diego, where he's crouching on his own grave being the saddest little calavera of them all. He grabs a gun off the policeman and shoots himself, to no avail: the damage just closes over and he returns to his basic state of mostly-human-and-alive-ish-looking. The policeman promptly has a heart attack and dies on the spot. And the caretaker gives Diego a pep talk about how he's here for good and not for evil, and gets him to touch the guy's chest and bring him back to life in a blaze of light.

    That's right. This is a superhero origin story. My hand to God. I was not expecting it to go that route, but I am glad it did. El Muerto the Aztec Zombie can bring people back from the dead--sometimes, if there isn't a ton of damage--by touching them on the heart. Oh, and he has unnatural strength and feels no pain, to the point where he can be kicked in the junk and not even notice, but that kind of comes with the territory of being a superhero and I accept it unquestioningly. He can also calm down panicky people by touching them on the chest or shoulder. He's a reassuring zombie. Of course I love this guy so freaking much, you have no idea.

    Somewhere around the edges of the plot that is Zombie Angel Thingamajig Creature Gets A Clue, there's a plot about Smoking Mirror killing people on his way to manifesting in the physical world. It involves an excellent older woman actor, playing the witch-like physical form of the god. (Her name is Catrina. Er, well played.) That performance was first-rate. I cannot find this actor's name on IMDB, and I suspect that's because she didn't want to be associated with a downmarket horror movie. She is a thin and delicate-boned older woman who looks like she'd be attractive in real life, but here she's playing first a sickly old lady and then a horrible death god. Catrina spends the first part of the movie lying crumpled in bed with her face wrapped in bandages that cover her eyes, and she breathes through a respirator. Then there's a scene where either the Ancient Ultimate Evil crawls into Catrina's body and possesses her, or turns out to have been in her body all along (context is vague here). She starts leering and cackling, and her eyes are shown to be black from edge to edge, and she towers up into a hag with an obsidian knife that will be used for the final human sacrifice.

    This movie runs into the problem I've seen before in horror movies, where the villain's human form is an old woman, and the heroes look like jerks for beating her down, no matter how well deserved it may be. (Hellboy II: The Golden Army took the path of least resistance and just showed us Hellboy punching an old bag lady over the horizon. Granted, she was a troll in disguise, but it still looked pretty disturbing.) The final confrontation involves Evil!God!Catrina and Diego duking it out. It's a testament to the woman's performance that she made the contest look pretty evenly matched.

    Wilmer Valderrama plays Diego. I'd had no idea of his career otherwise, but apparently he's known for "That '70s Show." I was impressed how well he did with the role, because I tend to expect men who look like he does to trade on their good looks and be wooden actors. (Unfair of me, I know.) But he does a damn fine job of playing a hapless boy who's in over his head and who needs a lot of time to figure out what's going on, what hit him, and whether there's any way to deal with it. He spends a lot of time being flat-out scared: of himself, of the police, of living people in general, and of whatever that thing is glaring at him out of every reflective surface.  After a certain point, Diego starts sneaking past mirrors on the wall or dropping to a crouch and crawling under them as if they were laser beam traps in a video game. Did I mention this film has a good feel for comedy?  "I know what you are!" says the (extremely white) old lady store owner when Diego tries to buy himself a disguise. "Nightmare Before Christmas!" Diego gets chased through backyards and over chain-link fences and pursued by pit bulls, in a neighborhood that looks like one of the housing tracts from Repo Man; he gets beaten down and nearly arrested and keeps having to be rescued by his more clueful allies. When he finally does start to get his act together and use his powers for good, you feel like he's earned it.

    Diego's girlfriend Maria is one of the few poorly written parts of the movie. It's not that she's terrible or anything, it's just that she's a walking series of cliches. Yep, there's the prescient nightmare about danger befalling her beloved; yeah, there's the sentimental scene of their kissing and cuddling amid flowers, repeated about ten times more than it should have been; yeah, there she is being the Morality Token that stops our hero from getting evil and doing grimdark things; yeah, there she is in a white nightie, getting lost in her own backyard and showing some cleavage as she runs gasping through the woods into the very arms of the villain. Sigh. I don't know why I'm bothering to get exercised about this. After all, higher-budget moves write female characters just as badly every day. The Heroine isn't there to be a person. The Heroine is there to be a pair of tits that marries the hero. But I'll never stop being bothered by that. When there's one young woman in the movie and she's not a person, she's a trophy, I will always feel resentment,

    Okay, El Muerte made an attempt to have her not be cardboard. She tends sick people, she at least tries to set up a communication system with the other good guys so that the death god won't get them, and she is secure enough in her faith in God to sit down in church and reassure Diego she still loves him no matter what. She's still so cardboard most of the time that it's hard to see why her lover cares about her, but at least they tried to overcome that. An attempt was made.

    Finally, I've never seen a movie that made its shortcomings and cheap production values into strong points and plot elements with such rousing success. How many movies have you seen where the fact that the rain is fake and coming from a rain machine on a sunny day is a feature rather than a bug? El Muerto also sold me on the idea that a man in nonrealistic skull makeup is a tragic creature. And all they had to do was put makeup on Wilmer Valderrama and coat it with a really good sealant. For the rest, it's sold by his performance.

    In sum, this movie is almost entirely composed of rich, chocolatey goodness. It needs more love and attention. I've been hunting for reviews or critical reactions of any kind, and the internet is largely bare of any response to this movie's existence. Even the reviewers who cover a lot of obscure horror seem to have neglected El Muerto. Let me help to fill the gap.

    (I kind of want a sequel. I REALLY want an animated series, based on Hernandez' art. It could have a different monster every week--gods, sorcerers, unscrupulous housing developers, foul politicians, etc.--with Diego backed up by Zack and Maria and the old caretaker as the Scooby gang, and the defeated god Tezcatlipoca alternately helping out and screwing them all over. Somebody who isn't me should probably start a Kickstarter and make that real.)
    Saturday, October 25th, 2014
    2:26 pm
    Condor Street (1941, dir. Jacques Tourneur)
    (not an actual film, but I'll get to that)

    I renewed my driver's license and registration! Before they could become problems! This may not seem like much of a victory to anyone but me, but it's been a feature of my fairly austere lifestyle that the process always involves a lot of fear and anguish and money worries, up till now. But this time I pulled it off very smoothly. I did have to make a return visit because the chumps at one town's parking ticket office had failed to clear my record when I paid my tickets off, but I think that's par for the course.

    If anybody out there is in need of an RMV visit and dreading it, let me recommend the Revere RMV. It's way crowded, but the counter staff are all lovely people. There were three kind older women who took turns at the front desk while I waited (for two hours), and I never once heard a cross or hostile word out of any of them. And then the lady who actually completed my renewal was cool too. Altogether, A+++ would endorse this experience for anybody.

    How different from the episode in January 2013 when I was pulled over and my car towed, because I hadn't understood that a registration sticker was different from an inspection sticker. I don't think I blogged about this at the time, because I was too ashamed of myself for being ignorant, and afterwards I wanted to forget it had ever happened. At least a horrible experience was made as non-horrible as possible by the people involved. The police officer who pulled me over was a severe-looking woman who turned out to be as kind as she could possibly be under the circumstances. She was efficient and bloodless and unemotional about it, and I liked that. No anger, no pity, no attempts to scold me or call me "honey"; she just told me what I could do about it, made sure I got all my documentation out of the car, and had it put on a Todisco tow truck. I appreciated her neutral attitude, more than I can possibly convey. The older dude driving the tow truck dropped me off at my work. He was really nice, too. (I flinch whenever I see a Todisco truck these days, but that is not his fault.)

    But I am proud of my resourcefulness: I phoned my mom, got her to pay off my neglected excise taxes in my former town without telling her why I needed to have that done, and then paid my parking fines in Boston myself, got my new registration sticker, and took the T all the way out to East Boston in the freezing rain after dark that evening.

    It was terrifying. Everyone I actually met was nice or neutral, but the experience was fraught for me. Already, I was fearful and insecure--I'd just been deprived of my main source of mobility, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to get it back. You hear such stories about people whose cars are impounded till they can never afford them back (and I'd lose my job, and and and...)

    At the time, all I knew about East Boston was that it was a wretched hive and that was where stereotypical Crime happened, and I was hiking out Condor Street--no shit, that was its name--to a car impound lot where I was probably going to be hit on the head and robbed of my $80 cash. The quiet residential streets of row houses looked like sets for a noir film, with clouds of rain drifting through the yellow lamplight, and no one was about on foot on Condor Street but me. Obviously everybody who lived there drove wherever they went for fear of being mugged while on foot. Frankly, if a sub-Peter-Lorre bitplayer had skulked out at me with a knife, I would have been scared, but I wouldn't have been all that surprised.

    In fact, what happened was that I redeemed my car from an impound lot staffed by two bored boys who completely failed to murder me. I embraced Rhiannon, my car, begged her forgiveness, put the sticker on her plate and drove off, and I don't think I've talked about any of this till now. I even work in one part of East Boston and have friends in another neighborhood, and it has good associations these days.
    Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
    12:38 am
    May the candles on your cake burn like cities in your wake
    I turned thirty-three on Sunday, and forgot to mention it till now. So far, I like it. It hasn't altered the fact that I am really two children standing one atop another inside a big coat, but I don't think anything will change that.
    Sunday, October 12th, 2014
    12:15 pm
    Damn these bite marks deep in my arteries
    Drive-by recommendation: I watched "Near Dark" for the first time last night, and liked it very much.

    Vampire Texan murder family. Creepy yet ultimately pitiable little vampire boy. Impossible blood transfusions to rival the Bram Stoker book. No one ever says the word "vampire." Monsters scaring the horses. Monsters who travel in a big old silly-looking RV with bicycles on the back--in case they fancy stretching their legs at night? Well, at least one of the bikes is a hunting technique for the little boy, who pretends to have crashed his bike by the side of the road and then kills the person who comes to help him.

    Why the ever-loving hell can't you go to the police, human dorks? You don't have to say "vampires" when you get there. Just say, "I have information on the murder family who, you know, you already had an actual shootout with two days ago." You'll be a hero and the vampire crew will all wind up bursting into flames inside a jail somewhere the following morning.

    Director: Kathryn Bigelow. Nice. Sometimes I forget female directors are even a thing. Female horror directors are even rarer.

    Well, I know why our human dope hero doesn't go to the police after being rescued. It would have felt like a betrayal. Despite the fact that the vampires kidnapped and tormented him, he still kinda thinks of them as his people. The thing that this movie did best: making me fight on both sides at once. You don't live with people that closely, in that kind of desperation, and not bond with them. You don't stick with people through a shootout where they're laughing and screaming and the sun is coming in through the bullet holes in the wall to burn you all, and not feel some kinship with them. The good family and the evil family are contrasted: the humans eat a Norman Rockwell meal in a clean kitchen in front of billowing white curtains, and the vampires play poker in a crappy motel room and playfully threaten each other with handguns.

    I liked Jesse the Evil Dad Vampire with his face full of scars from fighting for the Confederacy. Lance Henriksen, who has been in all the films ever, apparently.

    You know what? One of the many things I like about monster/horror movies? Objectification of the male body. Coupled most often with an elaborate feast of horrible things happening to a male body. It happens every time there's a monster effect applied to a body that we're invited by the camera to examine at our leisure. It's been happening forever--look at the first appearance of the Creature in the James Whale Frankenstein, where Karloff enters the room and turns ve-rr-y slowly so you can look his monstrous physical form up and down as much as you want. This occurred to me during the many shots in Near Dark of the hero staggering around bent over, puking on his shoes, his stomach rejecting human food, people stripping his clothes off, lying on a lab table getting blood transfusions. Objectified to hell and gone. I like it. 
    Monday, October 6th, 2014
    11:29 pm
    My word is firm: firmer than sleep or the strength of heroes.
    Feeling crappy, can't work, can't write, can't concentrate on anything; I'm starting a cold which involves a sore throat that feels like someone has kicked me under the chin. I'm slouching in bed, under the Wendigo blanket (I'll explain that later), feeling very sorry for myself and planning on going to bed early. I owe posts and e-mails and other communications to some of you, and I'm sorry to falter like this. It's a shame that a raging cold is the only thing that can get me into bed before midnight.

    On the plus side, continuing my obsession with the Sanderson sisters, I just noticed that Winifred's spellbook has some extracts from the Kalevala. Evidence. (Look at the left-hand page in the second gif.)

    I said on Tumblr: Obviously Winifred Sanderson was a folklorist as well as an epic-level witch, and absorbed many different traditions into her handmade spellbook. Either that or the prop creators needed filler text and grabbed the first volume of poetry that came to hand, but I like my version better.

    Also, here's a screencap of the old and badassed creed of witchcraft; it's from a papyrus, and Wikipedia says it's ancient Thessalian without really citing a source for this:

    "If I command the moon, it will come down; and if I wish to withhold the day, night will linger over my head; and again, if I wish to embark on the sea, I need no ship, and if I wish to fly through the air, I am free from my weight."

    (Just to go from the sublime to the practical, there's a lunar eclipse coming up on October 8. Local times and dates to be found here.)
    Saturday, October 4th, 2014
    4:32 pm
    Now, brute, one last time will we play the game out: "Warlock" (1989)
    (from my Tumblr because why not. Look HERE for stills.)

    Just watched this again recently and I love it to bits. It’s as if this movie was made in an alternate reality where the filmmakers grew up reading the work of Gemma Files.

    This movie contains:

    —Julian Sands as an evil blond pretty-man known only as the Warlock, frequently seen in toe bondage as depicted above. He launches himself through a timey-wimey vortex thing into modern Southern California and runs amok. (AMOK, AMOK) He has a ponytail of ultimate villainy. He smirks all the time. He literally eats children. It is likely that you will find him hot and then feel dirty for that reaction. He is in search of the Grand Grimoire, a book which wants to be found and used to bring on the Apocalypse.

    —Lori Singer as a jaded modern-day Californian jerk who was just going about her business when a warlock and then a witch-finder invaded her home, killed her housemate and wrecked the place. She gets hexed and aged up to like two hundred years old, she gets better, she levels up and stops being obnoxious, and she defeats ancient evil while griping about it all the way.

    —Richard E. Grant as witch-finder Giles Redferne from Puritan Boston. In wolf furs, carrying a bullwhip. That was totally a Puritan thing, right? Right. He is Brooding and In Pain Deep Down, and yet manages to be a person and not just a bundle of film cliches. He figures out the modern world quickly, manages not to go for the obnoxious time-traveler jokes, and drags Kassandra all over the map hunting down the Warlock and the Grand Grimoire. Along the way he becomes less of a misogynist jackass and they bond.

    —I should mention that it is my life’s ambition to be as badass and as helpful as Giles Redferne, dressed in wolfskins, bursting in the front door shouting, “TELL ME YOUR WOES!”

    —This movie also contains:

    —veteran character actress Mary Woronov, who is always good to see;

    —a warlock who chugs flying potion and flies around like Superman in a bad yet lovable special effect;

    —an Amish family being plagued by evil magic that actually sours the cream and sickens the livestock;

    —a human tongue cooked in an omelet;

    —Richard E. Grant skewering Julian Sands with a weathervane spike and hauling him around like a balloon on a string;

    —Kassandra nailing the Warlock’s footprints to the ground to torture him, so we can look at Julian Sands’ bare feet some more;

    —Kassandra merrily committing credit card fraud everywhere in the name of stopping the Apocalypse;

    —our heroes marching onto a plane carrying a five-foot metal spear (it was a more innocent time);

    —the Warlock patting a pregnant woman’s belly and telling her that her twins will be born safe and healthy and un-deformed, IF she cooperates with him;

    —terrible Hollywood impressions of Boston, mostly shot with soundstages and greenscreens (did you know you can see right into downtown from Copp’s Hill? /nitpick) and one nice establishing shot of Paul Revere’s house in the actual North End.


    If you like supernatural horror and any of the things I just mentioned, then this is the film for you. It doesn’t get enough love, so I thought I’d give it some.

    2:02 pm
    I want so many things that I just cannot get,
    I want a big old house and garden and a snake as a pet,
    I want three thousand pretty dresses and like fifty sharp suits,
    But that doesn't matter now, because I've put on my boots.

    My stompy boots
    Stompy boots
    I am older, I am wiser,
    I own neither king nor Kaiser,
    When I wear my stompy boots,
    My stompy boots.

    They're size ten stompy boots and they're as red as a rose,
    So big I can't tip over when the stormy wind blows.
    And when I walk down the street, the boys are swayed to their roots,
    And people shout, "Wherever did you get those stompy boots?!"

    My stompy boots
    Stompy boots
    Life is always ten times brighter
    "Am I not a bonny fighter?"
    When I wear my stompy boots,
    My stompy boots.

    Wear your armor, wear your talismans, your royal robe and crown,
    Wear that one thing that makes you too damn big to tear down.
    To the tune of "I'm the boss" played on enthusiastic lutes,
    I'll be wiggling my toes inside my big old stompy boots.

    My stompy boots
    Stompy boots
    So whatever Fate may toss us
    I will stand like a Colossus,
    When I wear my stompy boots,
    My stompy boots.


    The weather is finally cold enough for me to wear my Docs, and this pleases me.
    Sunday, September 28th, 2014
    2:58 am
    Twist the bones and bend the back
    Hocus Pocus is one of those movies I love so much it's hard for me to write rationally about it. I watched it as a preteen who didn't see many movies, and I thought it was the best thing ever. Recently I rewatched it with kestrell, and then again with other friends. It has held up really well.

    This movie relies on the audience agreeing to believe that there were real witches at Salem. Funnily, that has never annoyed me. Everywhere else, that idea has made me explode with wrath. (Q: How many witches were executed in Salem? A: None.) But in this case, I don't mind it. I think this movie was so blatantly ahistorical that it made my twelve-year-old self go off and look up the real facts of the matter. So there you go, it made me do research. Supernatural horror: it will help your kids educate themselves. Sometimes out of sheer dread. Anyway, all you have to do to enjoy this movie is to tell yourself it's happening in the alternate universe where witchcraft is real, the Satan-worshiping-child-murdering-broomstick-flying witches meme is true, and the Salem witch hysteria continued into November of 1693 and actually happened in Salem. There you go, out of your difficulty at once!

    Now that's out of the way. Let me gush a little.


    --The Sanderson sisters (Winnie, Mary, and Sarah) are fantastic comedy performances who do not get enough love or recognition from horror fans or pop culture in general. As Kestrell said, "They're like the witchy Marx Sisters!"
    --This movie is way the hell more entertaining and thought-provoking than it had to be. It's a kids' Halloween movie about witches and talking cats; everybody could have flung it together halfheartedly between other gigs, but instead the writers, director and actors all seem to be bringing their A-game.
    --Bette Midler is a majestical being. I read somewhere that this was her favorite of all her roles, which is heartwarming in the same way as Vincent Price's saying that he'd achieved his fondest goal in life now that he'd been on the Muppet Show and been bitten on the neck by Kermit.
    --This movie is the best thing Sarah Jessica Parker has ever done, full stop.
    --The two human girls of this movie are pretty badass, and:
    --They both become witches too, in their own way.

    Anybody disagree? No? Good.

    Let me tell you how much I love Winnie Sanderson.

    Firebrands of Hell

    "We are just three kindly old spinster ladies!"
    "Uh... Spending a quiet evening at home!
    "Sucking the LIVES out of LITTLE CHILDREN!"

    So, I love funny female villainy. I can't get enough of it. There's not enough of it in fiction; it seems we can have female villains aplenty, but women aren't often allowed to be funny, and villains who are women and get to have some laughs? Vanishingly rare. Every time I find a good example, I consume it greedily. And of all female villains, Winnie, Mary, and Sarah Sanderson make me laugh most.

    It's the way they move. The way they physically relate to each other. They have the body language of people who have known each other all their lives. It's the little things: moving in unison without having to think about it, having facial tics and abusive patterns that none of them think are at all odd or unusual. Walking in step everywhere they go with their skirts hiked up and their heads thrust forward and swaying like cobras. The first time I saw them do this, I assumed it was a one-time joke. But, no: they really do walk like that all the time. Most actors wouldn't put this much thought into every little gesture. As I said, the performers didn't have to be this good, and yet they are. Each of the three witches moves in a distinct way, is uniquely herself. You don't look at them and go, "Gee, that's a funny performance," you assume that she gets up in the morning and behaves this way every day of her life.

    Winnie's my favorite. Of course she is. We tall red-haired buck-toothed wild-eyed women who wear a lot of green and have maniacal laughs have to stick together. Seriously, I want to cosplay as her (but you can't have just one Sanderson sister, and I'm having one hell of a time recruiting friends to be Mary and Sarah. It's like people don't WANT me to bully and boss them and blow my nose on them, or something). Isn't this the best look ever? This is the best look ever. Can't you just see me? Yes, Winnie can shoot Sith lightning out of her hands because of reasons.

    Dazzle me, my darling.Collapse )
    Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
    12:59 am
    Always wears an evil frown

    (Cross-posted from tumblr because why not)

    Two things make a trend, three or more things make a genre. I’ve come to realize that there is a very small musical niche of songs about horror movie actors.

    Bauhaus, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead

    White on white translucent black capes

    Back on the rack

    The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy, “Peter Lorre (He’s A Brick)

    Don’t spit on his shoes

    Or mess up his hair

    Or he will shoot you dead

    And go back upstairs

    The Jellybottys, “Peter Cushing Lives In Whitstable


    Marquis De Sade, “Conrad Veidt

    Conrad Veidt danse

    Les cris disseques dans d’epais catalogues

    Les levres articulent le lent monologue

    Voltaire, “The Devil And Mr. Jones

    He sits in the dark
    Looking into the glass
    with his hand in the jar
    It’s a sticky white mess.
    He applies it and he wonders “How’d I ever get here?”
    Piercing his reflection, as he pulls off an ear.


    Part 1 of 2; tomorrow I’ll line up some songs that are more generally about horror movies. This post now contains all the songs I can recall about horror actors. I feel oddly incomplete, because as far as I know, Boris Karloff doesn’t have a song about him. (Which means it’s now all up to us.)

    Sunday, September 21st, 2014
    2:48 am
    Even dead in a tale where the witches dwell
    So, there's something you all should know about me. I have this massive crush on the actor Doug Jones. It hit me about a month ago when I was on YouTube looking for something unrelated, and it's only grown stronger since then.

    Let me explain. You've probably seen him in something if you're into genre film in any way--he's famous for having played a lot of monsters, creatures, and nonhumans, most famously the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies, and in the second Fantastic Four movie as No Junk McShinyBuns the Silver Surfer. (Not even for Doug Jones am I watching that movie, but I hear his performance is the good part.) And he played the lead Gentleman in that one episode of BtVS that made everyone so uncomfortable (it was "Hush"--there's nothing like being deprived of speech to provoke unease).

    Also, that's Jones in my icon as Billy the dorky zombie from Hocus Pocus. He has less than ten minutes of screen time, but they're good minutes.

    I remember that one from my childhood--which is rare for me, because before my teens we didn't have a TV in the house and I rarely saw anything in the theaters that wasn't animation. But I watched Hocus Pocus right after it came out, and despite watching it with a bunch of numbskulled fellow twelve-year-olds who talked through the whole thing, I loved every second of it. Of course I did. It had witches and magic and flying broomsticks and a talking black cat and cemeteries and an entire town dancing itself to death and old people drinking children's souls to become young again. So it was pretty much made for me personally, as much as if the filmmakers had known my tastes. I remember also that the three harridan witches raised a dead ex-boyfriend as a zombie to do their bidding. With his lips sewn shut. I identified with him, even if I didn't know that use of the word "identified" at the time. There's nothing like being deprived of speech to provoke unease.

    There is this lovely phenomenon among people who saw Hocus Pocus in their early youth. I re-watched the whole movie via clips on YouTube, and every time there was a scene where Billy Butcherson appeared, someone or other was sure to have left a comment to the video that said something like, "I had such a crush on Billy when I was a kid! Yep, I was a baby bat even then." And someone else will say, "OMG me too! I'm such a freak!" and a third woman will add, "Don't worry, I did too." It's adorable. And it happens every single time this character is mentioned in a comment thread. (For the record, Doug Jones knows that having-a-girlhood-crush-on-Billy is a common thing, because grown fans come up to him in person and tell him about it. From all I can tell, he thinks it's cute and hilarious.) As for me, zombies are my people, so it doesn't seem freaky.

    In my recent bout of joy at rediscovering a performer whom I love, I've watched a bunch of stuff of Jones's. By his own admission he was in a lot of turkeys early in his career, so I'm not going to try to view an exhaustive list of every film and TV appearance in the history of ever. But a lot of his work is in films that I think I'll like or can at least sit through for his performance, so I have many options. Gods be good to us, there is a movie out there called Raze which features Zoe Bell as the latest in a series of women kidnapped and forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in secret underground arenas for the entertainment of jaded rich people. Jones plays the major villain. I'm probably going to watch it no matter what it's like, so fingers crossed that it's a lot of campy fun and doesn't try to take itself seriously. The most recent thing of his that I tried was an episode of a Canadian TV series called "Fear Itself" where he plays a wendigo. It interested me for a few reasons; I'll post about that separately. Not a lot of wendigos in pop culture. They could use a little more love, it seems to me. There's apparently one in "Supernatural" but that's about it in the grand scheme of things.

    Of course I want to see Doug Jones in all kinds of roles. I wish he'd do more human characters; he's exceedingly tall and thin, and so hyperflexible he can put his leg behind his neck. He's also a mime and a contortionist. For someone who's spent a lot of professional time having monstrous/inhuman bodies built around him, his own physical appearance is fascinating without special effects. (Hear me out: this guy as Jack Point in The Yeomen of the Guard. Right?!)

    aunt_zelda and I have an ongoing conversation on Tumblr where we cast him in imaginary projects like "Wingmen," which would be a buddy cop show with him and Andy Serkis playing twenty different roles and having slashy subtext. (Then it turned out that Jones himself knows that Tumblr exists and has an account and reads people's posts about him AND likes "Wingmen." And then Zelda and I both exploded into a million pink candy hearts. The End.) He has muse-like powers for everybody, not only for Guillermo del Toro.

    Like a lot of classic horror actors I admire, Jones out of character is very cute and winsome, with elegant hands and big soulful eyes. Yep. I'm crushing, here, and I don't care who knows it. The man has provided us with the most potent images of monstrousness to appear in recent years, and as if that weren't enough, he seems charming and funny and nice to his fanbase. Here he is at a con (it's the infamous Dashcon), dancing and being twirled at the evening party. Look at those legs. The man dances like Jack Skellington.

    csecooney? ~Yoohoo~ When there is a movie version of The Big Bah-Ha and "Wild Over Tombs Does Grow," this is the man who can play the Flabberghast. No one else can do him justice. Am I right or am I right?! (I don't know what he's doing in that last one. Velociraptor impressions, probably.)

    Get this, people: VOLTAIRE WROTE A SONG ABOUT HIM. Let me run that by you again. Voltaire the cabaret singer/songwriter/pirate/highwayman/vampire/elf is a huge fan of Doug Jones, and wrote a song about him called "The Devil And Mr. Jones," showcasing a ton of fannish love. Check it out here--I love it, but be warned the chorus is one big mass of in-jokes for those who know exactly who directed Jones in what movie. I adore things like this, where one person whom I admire has a crush on has affection for someone else I hold dear. Makes me more at ease about being a fangirl, too.

    There, I feel better for having talked about it. Share your own celebrity crushes in the comments, if you like.
    Thursday, September 11th, 2014
    2:36 am
    "Holy smokes," the preacher shouted
    Driveby rec: "Calvary" with Brendan Gleeson. I just saw it in the theater and I'm really glad I did. It's sad and scary and funny and occasionally horrifying. I loved it. I might go see it again. If you like movies or plays scripted by Martin McDonagh, you'll prolly like this: it's like the kinder, gentler, more cerebral McDonagh. Actually, forget "like"--that's exactly what it IS, because this one was written and directed by John Patrick McDonagh, actual brother of Martin.

    Brendan Gleeson is wonderful to look at. I've liked him ever since he broke my heart as Mad-Eye Moody, but this is my favorite performance he's ever done. As Father James, he is ponderous, patient, and very kind in a no-bullshit kind of way. The entire movie can be summed up as Messed-Up People Dump On Father James and it's an endless parade of sinister peasants, pompous asses, and self-obsessed jerks flocking up to Father James to cling to him for support or to use him as a verbal punching bag. He just flinches slightly and absorbs insults with his whole body. When he has a really miserable day his face turns into this: B-(  I'd like to see him and Doug Jones in a movie together: the bear and the greyhound.

    I've never been to Ireland. People keep telling me I should go, pretty much because I look "Irish" (my genes are from all over, and really, I could give a shit about my ancestry, it's what interests me that counts). I don't have the same enthusiasm for Ireland that people expect me to have. But I'd rather like to visit the place one day, because everything I've ever watched set in Ireland suggests that it's a ruggedly beautiful country populated 100% by macabre people who murder each other's dogs and seduce each other's boyfriends while spouting quotable one-liners. I'm going to be so let down when I go over there and no one even knows what an epigram is.
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