My Horror Memories on the Bleeding Critic: Hellraiser

I was looking for new reviews of my work on the Internet when I ran across this blast from the past. This is a video of me talking about the first movie that truly terrified me: Hellraiser. I made this video in 2015 and submitted it to The Bleeding Critic. This was the first time I made a video, so I come across as somewhat stiff. You can also tell that I am reading my monologue from some cue cards that my then fiancée, now wife, was holding.

The background is an abstract expressionist painting that I created. It is entitled “De Profundis”. Here is a link to an overall view at my art website philslatteryart.wordpress.com, which I have not updated in some time.

“De Profundis” is the opening line in Latin from Psalm 130 and means “out of the depths. It has been used extensively in literature and art.

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

King James Version

My painting is supposed to represent boiling magma in hell, the greatest depth to which a soul can fall. It’s a good theme for someone who like to write horror.

I will embed this soon in an appropriately prominent spot on the weblog.

Let me know your thoughts.

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How Do You Know You’re Good Enough as a Writer?

I am up late tonight. I don’t have insomnia per se at the moment, but I am only now starting to feel sleepy–and it’s 4:00 a.m.

I am, of course, surfing YouTube. I came across this gem of UCLA professor Richard Walter talking about how does someone know that he/she is good enough to be a writer. Even though he is talking specifically about screenwriting, I can relate to a lot of what he says.

Check it out.

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Notes on “The Possession Experiment”

About 3:00 I finished talking to my wife (in Texas) via Messenger intending to go to bed soon. But first, I thought, I will watch a little of a movie on Amazon. In all the times I have told myself that, it has never worked out as I planned.

I chose the 2016 horror flick “The Possession Experiment”, which is about a college student who starts out writing who intends to interview a priest who conducted and exorcism as part of a project for his theology class. However, he eventually decides to go much further and actually be possessed by a demon.

It is now 4:44 a.m. and although I am drawing close to the end of the movie, I paused to write down a few notes.

  1. This is a good movie. It’s not great, but it is not bad and it is fun.
  2. The movie, initially, has a lot of dramatic tension for the first two-thirds, but no gore. At the hour mark though, the gore and horror began and keep building.
  3. The acting is good…for the most part. The actors playing Brandon (the protagonist), Clay (Brandon’s classmate), and Leda (a medical student they hire to monitor Brandon’s vital signs during the possession) all do well. I think Clay does the best though. One failing of the movie is that the lines written for Brandon’s dad sound like they were written by a drunken eight-year-old, though the rest of the writing is reasonably bood. It does not help though that the actor playing Brandon’s dad is terrible and is awkward in his delivery. He might do well at narrating corporate workplace safety videos, but that’s it.
  4. I like the character of Brandon. The actor (I don’t know his name) does well portraying a college student who is a little “out there” to begin with and who becomes increasingly twisted as the story progresses. That said, I think the actor portraying Clay does better and the actress playing Leda (I disagree with the idea of calling all performers actors by negating their gender; I give credit where credit is due) does well also.
  5. There is at least one major gaffe when the trio goes to the place for the exorcism and brings a woman with them, but who she is is not revealed (not even her name) until a few minutes later. I was startled to see an additional character following them into the spot chosen for the possession with no mention of her being made previously.
  6. Nevertheless, this movie is worth watching.
  7. The horror ramps up in the last half hour.

That’s all for now. I might write more later but felt I needed to get those thoughts down right away.

Hasta luego. Wear your mask.

UPDATE 1:47 p.m. October 25:

Of course, I finished watching the movie a few minutes after the last post. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the ending. The horror and tension ramp up more and more the closer one comes to the ending.

I recommend watching this movie on Amazon as part of a subscription or renting it from Redbox or another low-cost source, but I wouldn’t buy the DVD or pay for a theater ticket.

Incredible Documentary of Lizard and Snakes

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I ran across this video on Twitter and just had to share it, though it has nothing to do with writing or literature. It would make a good story or even an Aesop’s fable. It has drama and is loaded with tension and suspense. Check it out.

 

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Wear your mask.

Cinefix on Dialogue; My Thoughts on Movies as Part of the Storytelling Art

 

Cinefx’s focus is, naturally, on movies vs. writing. However, I have seen this video at least three to four times and it is one of the best analyses of what dialogue is. Watching this for the first time was enlightening.

I learn a lot about how to write from studying movies. After all, movies are just another form of storytelling. While writing a novel does not involve concerns like camera angle or stagecraft or background, there are commonalities with film such as dialogue, character development, and plot.

Besides, I simply love movies. I have probably seen a lot more movies than I have read books. I love the experience of going into a theatre and being focused on an immense screen reacting to the scenes in unison with the rest of the audience. Unfortunately, I have not been able to make it to the movies much over the last few years and Coronavirus has not helped matters. I haven’t been to the movies at all since well before the Coronavirus pandemic began.

At Buzzard Beach, Arkansas

At Buzzard Beach, Arkansas

Streaming movies on your home TV is just not the same experience as watching them in a theater. Even if you have a screen that is fifty feet across and a completely dark room. Odds are you won’t have the same size audience. Imagine going to a football game and you are the only fan in the bleachers. It’s not the same experience as when the bleachers are filled. Humans are social animals. While we often appreciate solitude, being in the company of others is our natural state.

Movies are an interesting form of storytelling. It must be, without a doubt, challenging to tell a good story in less than two hours. If you own any audiobooks, check the play time on them. Unabridged audiobooks of novels last anywhere from seven to thirteen hours or more. This is undoubtedly why a lot of movies are based on short stories or novellas or plays. A really long play might last three hours. Even if someone tries to condense a novel like Roots or Don Quixote into a TV miniseries, the miniseries will still not be able to cover all the nuances of the novel, though a lot of the novel’s nuances may be covered by the actors’ performance and the scenery which can be shown vs. being described.

Cover of The Hellbound Heart

The movie “Hellraiser” was based on Clive Barker’s novel The Hellbound Heart. The movie does not veer too much from the novel, though there are significant differences in details. In the original novel Pinhead was a woman with diamond-capped pins in her head.

These are some of the reasons I love to watch Cinefix on YouTube. It really helps me with my art of storytelling. I see things from a different perspective.

One way to look at this is that when you read a story, you probably visualize the events in that story just as you would see them in a movie. Both deal with the images that form in your mind as you experience a story. While with a novel, you have to imagine how the events are depicted, with a movie you eliminate this step and the events are depicted for you–hopefully in accordance with how the underlying novel or play was written. Filmmakers are notorious for changing endings trying to improve the storyline or to develop their own art.

By the way, when you compare the cost of going to a movie that will last for two hours vs. the cost of buying a novel that will keep you entertained for ten, you can see the novel is the better deal economically.

But I digress.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts.

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe.

Hasta luego.

 

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Film Review: “Body Bags” (1993)

Poster for Body Bags

Poster for “Body Bags”, 1993

Last night, I managed (we live in a remote part of Arkansas) to hook up Roku to our bedroom TV and finally get a decent stream of TV into said bedroom. Now my wife, on summer vacation from teaching, has spent much of last night and today watching Shudder (I more than she having had a bout of insomnia). I expect this to continue for some time. She is a big horror fan, the more modern the better. However, she does enjoy some blasts from the past. She caught a glimpse of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” from 1974, starring Jack Palance, and instantly proclaimed it a classic.  This was immediately before succumbing to Mr. Snooze and Mr. Snore after imbibing our version of a Sea Breeze cocktail (1:1 Malibu Coconut Rum and Ocean Spray Cranberry juice, shaken and on the rocks). Shudder, by the way, is a fun, little Amazon Prime horror channel.

The first thing we watched together though was John Carpenter’s “Body Bags” from 1993. This is a cheesy film, but so cheesy that it is quite enjoyable. Wikipedia accurately describes it as “… a 1993 American horror comedy anthology television film originally made for television, featuring three unconnected stories, with bookend segments featuring John Carpenter, Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper as deranged morgue attendees.” As Wikipedia also notes, it is most notable for its celebrity cameo appearances. 

The three stories are fun for television horror of the early 90’s. My first thought on watching about the first five minutes was that John Carpenter must have gotten together with some of his horror director pals and done this on a drunken goof. The stories are not worthy of any directors

Mark Hamill in Body Bags

Mark Hamill in “Body Bags” (1993)

involved. They are rather silly and amateurish in terms of plot, etc. The first, “The Gas Station” involves a pretty girl pursued by a serial killer on her first night shift at a local gas station. The second story, “Hair”, has Stacy Keach as a vain executive type undergoing a radical hair growth technique and then discovering its horrifying consequences. The third story, “Eye”, has Mark Hamill as a baseball player who loses an eye in an automobile accident and then has it replaced (unknowingly, of course) with the eye of a serial killer. You can pretty much figure out where that one is headed from that brief description.

Now, on to the interesting part: the celebrity cameos. Note that I said in the above paragraph that this film is not worthy of any of the directors involved. That’s because this film has cameos from most of the most famous horror directors of that era: Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman, and Wes Craven. If you are curious about what these guys are like in real life, this is your chance to find out. I won’t go into long, meticulous detail about each of their roles. It will be more fun for you to just watch the film and watch them pop out here and there, then watch the credits to see if you’re right.

There are also a few other non-horror celebrities making an appearance: Stacy Keach, Sheena Easton (for you younger set, she was very popular and very hot in every sense of the word in the early 90’s), and Charles Napier. One horror star that crops up is David Naughton of “An American Werewolf in London” fame.

Anyway, I won’t bore you with much else. I have some writing to do and a light supper to eat, so I must be signing off.

Bottom line: watch this movie just for fun. Don’t take it seriously. It was obviously made to be camp and silly. Just enjoy it for the silliness and the trivia value.

 

Review: The Witch in the Window (2018)

Photo of The Witch in the Window (2018)

The witch from The Witch in the Window (2018), directed by Andy Mitton.

Last night/early this morning, my wife and I watched The Witch in the Window (2018, directed by Alex Mitton) on Shudder.

This is one movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat and has an ending that was disturbing yet somewhat comforting.

The movie involves a divorced father who takes his estranged 12-year-old son for a while so that they can work together on a house in Vermont in order to flip it. Naturally, as you can tell by the title, the story relates how the father and son are plagued by the ghost of a witch that was the house’s most recent inhabitant.

There is no blood or gore in this film, nor are there any jump scares, torture, or any of the other usual tropes or motifs found in most of today’s horror. Instead, this story focuses on the poignant relationship between the father and the son. The father cares deeply for his son and tries to help him with his problems and issues as best he can. The son takes his father’s advice to heart. This relationship is developed tenderly and carefully. Then the witch appears. What she does does not destroy or disrupt the tightening father-son bond, but makes the movie’s end heart-rending.  If you liked The Witch, you will probably like The Witch in the Window (the two are not related in any sense so far as I could see).

If you want blood and guts, this movie is not for you. If you like to see carefully constructed character development and great acting and to actually feel something that reaches to your heart and soul instead of just turning your stomach or making your skin crawl, this movie is for you.

Shudder is becoming our favorite Amazon channel for horror.

Don’t forget to like this article and subscribe to this website.

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The Saturday Night Special: “At the Mountains of Madness”, a Short Lovecraft Animation Film

I ran across this on YouTube and thought it would make a good Saturday Night Special. It’s the classic Lovecraft tale and comes via Michele Boticelli. I love watching any of the Lovecraft animation shorts I can find on YouTube. Of course, some are better than others, but to me almost all are very enjoyable. It’s nice to have read a Lovecraft story and then see if someone else envisioned it in the same way.

The Saturday Night Special: “The Deep End” a Lovecraftian Short Film

I ran across this on YouTube and thought it would make a good Saturday Night Special. It says it’s a “Lovecraft Short Film”, but to be precise, this is a short film, albeit a good one, based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Ergo, you will note a great difference in the narration, plot, and themes, but it is entertaining.

This comes from the Daniel Johansson channel, which has several short films but only a few related to Lovecraft. I haven’t watched any of the others yet, but they look interesting. However, most of the titles seem to be in either Norwegian or Swedish. I am not certain of which, but I recognize the alphabet as being Scandinavian of some sort. The cast, from what I can see of them, also appear Scandinavian.

Review of Titus Andronicus, October 13, 2019

Anthony Hopkins in the eponymous role of Titus Andronicus

After I watched Equus on Sunday, I decided to ramp up the drama into horrific tragedy by watching Julie Taymor’s  bizarre 1999 film version of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

This film is bloody enough in its own right, but it transcends the usual graphic horror found in Stephen King novels or teen slasher flicks by showering the innocent as well as the not-so-innocent with the soul-wrenching agony of parents watching their children  and the children watching their siblings suffer horrible deaths and torture.

Think of Titus Andronicus as Shakespeare’s predecessor to Game of Thrones with the horror turned up a notch but without the mercy that occasionally pops up.

Wikipedia notes that Shakespeare wrote this to “to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the 16th century [per Joseph Quincy Adams’ Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: The First Quarto, 1594 published by Scribner’s Sons, 1936].

Shakespeare knew how to work with his audience’s emotion.

Unlike other Shakespeare plays, this one is not based on a historical character. It is set in an unspecified time in Rome after the reign of Julius Caesar. Titus is a general returning from a successful campaign against the Goths (who defeated the Romans at Adrianople in 378 CE followed by the Visigoths sacking Rome in 410 CE).  He has brought with him the Goth queen Tamora and her three sons. To pay homage to the gods during the interment of 25 of his soldiers, Titus sacrifices the eldest son of Tamora, who begs for her son’s life. Titus continues with the sacrifice.

The emperor of Rome has died and just after the execution of Tamora’s son, the emperor’s son Satuninus ascends to the throne. Saturninus wants Titus’s daughter Lavinia for his bride and Titus gives her to him, even though she is in love with Bassanius. Just after Lavinia takes her place beside Saturninus,  Titus gives him an additional gift of Tamora and her two remaining sons.  Saturninus practically drools over Tamora. Lavinia immediately runs off with Bassianus, but Saturninus has the woman he craves, so he decides not to bother with Lavinia. This makes Tamora the empress of Rome. Things keep getting worse and worse for Titus and his family as only Shakespeare can do.  Lots of gore and blood and screaming. If John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, George Romero, Dario Argento, and Guillermo de Toro could team up for a movie, this would be the movie they would make, but in King James English. Lots of limbs and heads coming off.

Julie Taymor sets this in a fantasy time, where swords and guns, horses and cars,, togas and suits are used with anachronistic abandon. From what the Wikipedia article on Titus Andronicus says, she did this to show the timelessness of violence. In one of the few obscenities I will use on this website, I will say NO SHIT, JULIE. VIOLENCE IS TIMELESS. TELL US SOMETHING WE DON’T KNOW.

But then, her production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is also unusual including the gender of the wizard and main character, Prospero, is changed from a man to a woman. Still, If she hadn’t translated these films to cinema, who would have. I am grateful that I got to see them in whatever form, so long as they remain reasonably true to Shakespeare’s script. Setting a Shakespeare play in another time is not unusual. Kenneth Branagh did it with Hamlet and Baz Luhrmann did it with Romeo and Juliet.

Still, with Taymor the effect is still a tad weird. She starts out in the modern day with a boy of about 11 playing violent games with toys on his kitchen table. He is then whisked away to the fictional time and world of Titus Andronicus, where he spends several scenes loitering in the foreground and watching the main characters, before he becomes Titus’s grandson toward the end of the movie.

In my humble opinion, the movie could have done without the character of the modern boy. It’s too distracting from the story and the dialogue. I don’t mind so much the setting being in a fantasy time and world, but the boy is an unnecessary detail that adds nothing to the plot or to the overall story.

Personally, I would have preferred that the movie be more historically accurate, even though the characters are fictional.  Julie should have just picked a post-Christ era of the Roman empire and ran with it.

Mel Gibson could have done it better.

Anyway, if you are into horror, like I am (though I don’t go for really graphic stuff), this may be the Shakespeare play for you.

Overall, it was a decent production and NOT BORING. I was definitely wide awake and pausing the movie when I had to take the dog out. I don’t do that for all films.  The plot is intriguing and the characters sympathetic with good and evil in each, though often one outweighs the other.

As with all Shakespeare plays made into movies and sticking to the original script, the King James English is tricky to learn at first, but it can be done. I have watched several of these films and it takes a while to adapt, but it helps it you read the closed captions. Once you adapt to it, you will wonder what happened to the beauty of the English language over the centuries. There are some beautiful and incredibly poignant passages in the dialogues, made even more poignant when you understand the overall situation the speaking character is in.

I would write more, but I have a headache from being in the declining phase of a cold and will close it here. Maybe I will write more later. I have wanted to watch Titus Andronicus for a long time and finally got around to it today. I am glad I did.

I recommend this movie highly, especially for all Shakespeare aficionados.