Last night I took the girls trick-or-treating up and down the block.
Cecilia dressed up as a bat; my lovely wife made her a set of bat
wings, and I made her some ears. Naomi was a cat, which pretty much
meant black sweats and a pair of store-bought cat ears and tail.
Despite the fact that less than half the houses on our block had
their porch lights on, the girls cleaned up in terms of candy, and
Cecilia was very charming as she clambered up the various porch
steps, knocked on the doors, and said "Trick or treating!" Eventually
they got so loaded up that I stopped bringing Naomi up...there's
no way she's going to eat that much candy, and if she did we'd have
one wired toddler on our hands.
After the girls settled down for bed, we watched our new DVD
All in all, it was a very pleasant and special holiday.
Today's horror wallpaper shows zombies roaming a shopping mall in
a scene from 1978's Dawn
of the Dead, George
A. Romero's superlative sequel to the 1968 classic Night
of the Living Dead. A deft blend of horror, comedy, gore
(supplied my special effects master Tom
Savini, who also makes a couple of cameo appearances) and social
commentary, Dawn surpasses its excellent predecessor and
stands as perhaps the definitive zombie movie. Indeed, its success
in Europe spawned the legion of Italian zombie movies we know and
love. Dawn was released in Italy as Zombi; prompting
1979 not-exactly sequel to be released as Zombi 2, arriving in the
US called simply Zombie.
As the guys from Teleport
out, the situation is reminiscent of the whole Big Boss/Chinese
Connection/Fist of Fury naming debacle that affected
Bruce Lee movies.
we celebrate the final countdown toward Halloween, the last batch
of wallpapers are going to be from the coolest horror flicks ever
(not that they pretty much haven't been all along). Let's kick things
off with an old-school reference: some classic Universal horror,
in this case James
Whale's 1931 classic Frankenstein,
which launched the long horror career of a British actor named William
Henry Pratt, who achieved fame under the stage name Boris
Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori is not
exactly a household name — but, for the speculative fiction community
at least, he could prove to be an important one. The reason why
can be summed up in a simple, strangely elegant phrase that translates
into English as “the uncanny valley”.
Though originally intended to provide an insight into human psychological
reaction to robotic design, the concept expressed by this phrase
is equally applicable to interactions with nearly any nonhuman
entity. Stated simply, the idea is that if one were to plot emotional
response against similarity to human appearance and movement,
the curve is not a sure, steady upward trend. Instead, there is
a peak shortly before one reaches a completely human “look” .
. . but then a deep chasm plunges below neutrality into a strongly
negative response before rebounding to a second peak where resemblance
to humanity is complete.
This chasm — the uncanny valley of Doctor Mori’s thesis — represents
the point at which a person observing the creature or object in
question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough
off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting. The first peak, moreover,
is where that same individual would see something that is human
enough to arouse some empathy, yet at the same time is clearly
enough not human to avoid the sense of wrongness. The slope leading
up to this first peak is a province of relative emotional detachment
— affection, perhaps, but rarely more than that.
Here's MSN Entertainment's picks of the top
10 Halloween movies. It focuses exclusively on post-Psycho
era; none of the classic Universal or Hammer horror flicks are
represented. The list's compiler, Dave McCoy, explains why: "The
mark of a great horror film is whether it sustains its vision of
terror through several generations of increasingly desensitized
viewers. Does the movie still make you jump or squirm or sweat or
Sorry for the delay in posting this morning's wallpaper. I spent
the morning at the Central Indiana
Regional Blood Center donating platelets. I used to do apheresis
(platelet) donations all the time in Louisville; I was very pleased
when the CIRBC called requesting that I do so here (apparently they
liked whatever they found when they analyzed my blood from the
Donating platelets is different from giving blood because
the blood is drawn from one arm, spun through a centrifuge
to extract the platelets (which help the blood clot) and the
remainder--plasma, red cells, white cells, etc.--returned
in the other arm. The process takes about two hours. The donation
center is set up so that individual donors can view movies
they select (I watched Jet Li's Black
Mask (also starring the lovely and talented Francoise
Yip), as there were no good horror flicks on the list),
so it isn't an unpleasant experience at all.
In other news, I was shopping for a birthday present for
my nephew last night and saw the PlayStation game Parasite
Eve 2 on sale, so I picked it up. I haven't had much time
to look it over, but on first impression it seems very cool.
It retains the survival horror elements of the original--in
the opening story, player character Aya Brea must battle mutants
amidst the bloody remains of a SWAT team the creatures have
taken out--while exchanging the Final
Fantasy-like turn-based combat style with a real-time
system. I'm sure I'll enjoy it, and it was a bargain to boot.
is a creepy desktop image from Wes
Craven's landmark 1984 scarefest A
Nightmare on Elm Street. This film adhered to the tradition
of having a succession of increasingly L4m3 sequels (and unfortunately
marked the debut of the wisecracking killer), it does buck the trend
on two notable occasions: the exceptional third installment, Dream
Warriors, which marked the return of Nightmare lead
actress Heather Langenkamp and Craven as screenwriter, and the 1994
which took the bold step of casting veteran Nightmare cast
Langenkamp, action stalwart John
Saxon and Robert
Englund--and Craven himself--as themselves (and as Freddy
Krueger, in Englund's case) battling a Freddy who threatens to emerge
from the mythical reality of the films. New Nightmare is
a much more satisfyignly self-referential film than 1996's Scream,
and I rented it the other day for a repeat viewing.
...and in other news, the sky is blue (thank you, FARK).
Here's a juicy
rant about the deplorable state of screenwriting, and the
author points the finger squarely at the writers themselves.
I think screenwriting has lost its edge. ...We’re
making millionaires out of less than talented people. But that’s
not even what’s at the core the problem. It’s just sloppy, unimaginative,
and vile screenwriting. Recently I interviewed one professional
screenwriter and asked him what were some literary influences
in his life? He could not name one. ...How many professional screenwriters
today do you think could pound out a decent novel? They’re not
writers today, but merely facilitators. Often the best parts of
a modern movie are the ones created by a technician sitting at
a computer (CGI creation).
Today's wallpaper is a rendered version of the teaser poster
from George A. Romero's horror classic, Dawn
of the Dead. Like Bride
of Frankenstein, this sequel (to Night of the Living
Dead) surpassed the original by including thinly veiled
social commentary and not a little comedy (zombies slipping
and falling as they try to cross an ice skating rink, for
example). Check out the reviews at Badmovies.org,
Fusion Video Reviews.
LEGODEATH is a spiffy yet
demented Flash-enabled gallery of various morbid scenes created
with LEGO blocks. Categories
include a torture chamber, methods of execution throughout the ages,
and sceens of horror from the home and workplace.
Today's wallpaper is from The
Bride of Frankenstein, the excellent 1935 follow-up to James
Whale's unforgettable adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel. Indeed,
in the prologue Elsa Lanchester plays the story's author (and the
Bride, uncredited, later on) as she tells her husband, poet Percy
Shelley, and the flamboyant Lord Byron that the story didn't end
with the burning of the mill at the close of the first movie.
The Bride of Frankenstein is one of the rare cases where
a sequel actually surpasses the original. (Dawn
of the Dead is another.) For starters, the monster learns
to speak, so Boris Karloff gets to expand on the already impressive
acting chops he brings to his portrayal of the Creature. In addition,
the sequel picks up plot elements of Shelley's novel that were
discarded for the first movie--the Creature's desire for a mate,
and the old blind hermit befriending the hapless Creature. Viewed
today, it's amazing the amount of subtext Whale was able to get
away with in 1935.
By the way, if you haven't seen the 1998 movie Gods
and Monsters, which portrays Frankenstein director
James Whale at the end of his life, you should check it out. For
one thing, you might be amazed to discover that Brendan Fraser
really can act.
I downloaded this wallpaper last year and no longer remember
where I found it, unfortunately.
In these days of unending re-makes and "re-imaginings";
of sequels and prequels and spin-offs; of absolutely relentless
cinematic regurgitation, I would much rather watch an attempt
to do something original than something I’ve seen a hundred times
before under a hundred different names – even if, in the end,
that attempt trips over its own aspirations and falls flat on
its face in the mud – as is the case with The Heretic.
I downloaded today's wallpaper for last Halloween and no longer
remember where it came from. It's a cutscene from the classic Capcom
survival horror game Resident
Evil, from early in the game when the payer interrupts a zombie
Not much time to blog so far today (which is a pity, because I have
a good half-dozen new links sitting on my desktop), but I did want
to mention The Mutant
Reviewers from Hell. It's a group of young reviewers who've
looked at hundreds of movies and give their opinions, singly and
collectively. They've even watched The
Doom Generation so you don't have to. For your convenience,
they also group their film reviews by category, including scary
movies. Well worth checking out.
of the Tweety Zombies is a fun game on the official Looney
Tunes site. It seems that Sylvester has finally offed his old
nemesis Tweety, except the little bird now keeps coming back from
the grave! The player steers Sylvester around to stomp on the Tweety
zombies and duck flying bats.
Scott Adams and Keith Allison at Teleport City have reviewed a number of horror movies--mostly Italian zombie and giallo flicks, Japanese creepiness, kung-fu zombie craziness, and a couple of bad slasher films. It's great reading and an interesting look at some different kinds of cinematic horror.
I'd downloaded the Quake soundtrack way back in May, and the MP3s pretty much sat in my download directory until last night, when I burned them onto a music CD. I figured Trent Rezonor's music would be appropriate Halloween background music (and I've been listening to the OSTs from the first two Resident Evil games and Parasite Eve way too much at work). I played the CD today, and it was just as I expected--murky, industrial, and ominous, a perfect background for the Halloween season. I expect this CD will be in heavy rotation until the end of the month.
A downloadable full version of an installement of the horror/comedy variety show "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein" (featuring Vincent Price!).
Update: Great googly moogly! I downloaded it, and was surprised to discover I remember this show from waaaaay back in the '70s. It's truly bizarre but funny in a whacked-out kind of way. Vincent Price is a sort of MC who introduces the various sketches with odd verse. There's an oracle who drops his crystal ball, a character resembling Lobo from the Ed Wood flick Bride of the Monster, and the truly wacky vampire/puppet segment you see here. Quite a blast from the past!
Today's horror movie desktop is from the 1979 made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen king's chilling vampire novel 'Salem's Lot. Helmed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, the adaptation of 'Salem's Lot proved a chillingly effective movie, especially considering its made-for-TV origins. Look for the full-length (three hour) DVD version instead of the 90-minute "feature-length" version edited for release on video. Hooper and a cast of familiar character actors (including David Soul, James Mason, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Barbara Babcock, Ed Flanders, and Fred Willard!) achieve the dual goals of invoking an atmosphere of dread as the small town of 'Salems Lot is taken over by vampires and creating some unforgettable episodes of horror. The memory of the scene in which young Lance Kerwin is awakened by the vampiric form of one of his friends scratching on the window brings chills even today.
Trivia: Viennese actor Reggie Nalder, who appeared uncredited as the Nosferatu-inspired vampire Barlow, starred that same year as Van Helsing alongside the likes of John Holmes and Annette Haven in a pr0n version of the Dracula tale.
Abandoned Places is a c00L photo gallery that chronicles the strange, sad appeal that empty, decaying building sometimes have. It's an interesting site, especially during the Halloween season. (Related link: Abandoned-Buildings.com)
Today's wallpaper obviously got me thinking about the Silent Hill game. Last Halloween it was the survival horror game I chose to obsess over, and it was an entertainingly creepy experience.
The gamer plays Harry Mason, a writer who somehow gets lost on his way to vacation in the town of Silent Hill. Awakening after a car accident, he finds his daughter Cheryl missing and the town…changed. Snow is falling in the middle of summer, and fog enshrouds the streets. (The fog effect was developed to avoid overloading the PSX’s graphics capability with the level of detail the designers wanted, but it proved so effectively spooky that the designers included it in the PlayStation 2 sequel, even though the PS2’s higher graphics power made it unnecessary.) Some of the city street end abruptly in yawning chasms, as if the very town were somehow torn away from reality as we know it.
Pick up the ammo by that abandoned police car, Harry...you'll need it!
Even more frightening, almost all the town’s inhabitants have vanished, and monsters—from fiendish winged creatures to zombified dogs—prowl the streets. Although Harry has a handgun, ammunition is limited and worse, Harry’s a pretty lousy shot. One of the effective horror elements in the game are the weapons Harry collects. In addition to the standard shotgun—for which ammo is even more rare—and the useless but somehow comforting kitchen knife, Harry finds a variety of blunt instruments, from a steel pipe to a sledgehammer. Harry can conserve ammo by bashing in a few zombie skulls—but the clubs are slow and clumsy, and missing is bad news indeed.
Fortunately, Harry doesn’t have to fight every monster thanks to an outstanding innovation: Harry’s pocket radio no longer works in Silent Hill, but the presence of monsters cause it to emit a steadily louder burst of static. This excellent system means the player hears monsters long before they’re visible, and the static’s increasing volume ratchets up the tension as the player attempts to avoid or confront the thing.
Harry finds himself in a twisted, nightmarish parody of the town of Silent Hill.
Another enhancement to the atmosphere of horror is a frequent change of setting. As Harry explores the deserted Silent Hill in search of his daughter, the town changes to a nightmarish parody of itself, a dark and twisted wasteland of rust and blood that’s positively creepsville. The eerie and bizarre setting of Silent Hill renders the various puzzles Harry must solve a logical part of the nightmare, instead of a frustrating and incongruous obstacle.
Numerous other nice touches abound. When Harry runs for an extended distance, he pants when the player stops running. The soundtrack is also a definite plus—the music alternates between sinister and melancholy, and the game abounds with subtle background noises, from the creatures' moans to to the faint air-raid siren in the alternate reality to Harry's echoing footsteps and the radio's warning static. References to other horror writers and their work are scattered throughout the town, from the street names to details hidden among the town’s scenery. The game creates an unrelenting atmosphere of dread that doesn’t rely on frequent combat; when fights are unavoidable, Harry’s limited prowess with a weapon lends a realistic touch to the game. The creepy atmosphere makes Silent Hill a fiendishly entertaining place to revisit, enhanced by the fact that the game’s multiple endings present obscure and mutually contradictory hints about how the evil gripped the small town. In fact, while I'm currently working through the B games of Resident Evil 2, I think I may just dust off my copy of Silent Hill between now and Halloween.
ZombieGirls.net is a horror
film review site that, as you might guess, is written by a
trio of women. It sports reviews
and commentary on a wide variety of horror movies--not just
zombie flicks--sorted alphabetically and by category. The site sports
lots of images,
and more. ZombieGirls also hosts detailed sites devoted to such
horror topics as the excellent zombie movie The
Dead Hate the Living and the PlayStation creepfest Silent
As I mentioned in my review of the recent Resident Evil movie,
zombie fans were disappointed when horrormeister George Romero's
involvement with the project didn't pan out. But you might not know
that it wasn't the first time Romero has been involved in a Resident
Evil project: he directed
a commerical for Japanese TV for the release of sequel Biohazard
2 (known here in the States as Resident Evil 2). Although the commercial
was never broadcast Stateside, it is available
on the Internet. Although it's only 30 seconds, you can see
that Romero still knows how to make a zombie picture work.
Today's wallpaper is inspired not by a movie but by a classic survival
horror video game--Biohazard, the Japanese name for Resident
Evil. Dr. Freex at The
Bad Movie Report calls Resident
Evil "the bad movie you play." It creates a wonderfully creepy
atmosphere by providing a sure-fire forumla for dread: lots of zombies,
and little ammo. Dr. Freex sums it up:
Resident Evil is a fairly standard adventure game:
find keys, open doors, solve puzzles, try not to die. It's the
desperate gunning down of beasties that make you feel like you're
immersed in a George Romero movie, angrily cursing every missed
shot, because each bullet is precious. Only a soundtrack
by Goblin would have improved the overall feel.
By the way, Capcom's official Resident Evil site has a fairly
game that lets you try out the various weapons in RE: Code
Veronica X at a pop-up zombie target.
movie reviews from people who watch horror movies"--is an excellent
movie review site. Of course it concentrates on horror movies, especially
those in the zombie genre. It is a great resource for information
on low-budget and shot-on-video zombie flicks. It Best
in Horror selection is also pretty solid, IMO.
SAN MATEO -- Police came to San Mateo High School
Tuesday prepared to deal with a rally of parents protesting the
school's backing of a club based on Satanism.
But the officers milling around the school's performing
arts center were left with nothing to do.
While the new club called The Satanic Thought Society
has received attention nationwide, there's been little brouhaha
locally over the group started by two 10th-graders who just wanted
to stir up controversy and study an alternative religion.
..."They (club members) say they're not practicing
rituals. Not yet," [a parent who organized the abortive protest]
said. "When you start choosing to worship darkness, there's something
But San Mateo Union High School District superintendent
Tom Mohr as well as the club's founders have said it is not about
"I wanted to make it clear that these kids are
being supervised properly and they have an outstanding adviser,"
I'm in a Hammer mood this morning, it seems. Today's wallpaper is
from the 1966 Christopher Lee flick Dracula,
Prince of Darkness, the sequel to the awesome Hammer flick
The Horror of Dracula.
This one did not star Peter Cushing as Dracula's nemesis, but did
feature Hammer honey Barbara Shelley.
As I mentioned
yesterday, I like to celebrate the Halloween season by watching
a lot of horror movies during October. In that spirit, this
guy has launched a mini-blog in which he'll provide a capsule
review of one horror movie per day throughout the month--31
horror movies in 31 days. (Thus far: John Carpenter's underrated
scare flick The
Fog and Mario Bava's Baron
As a public service during this Halloween season, I give you the
home page of the makers of the Zombie
Alert system. This revolutionary product promises an early warming
of the presence of the living dead--an important asset given the
sobering statistic that "Ninety-five percent of Americans live within
two miles of a cemetery or mortuary." The company is so sure of
its product it offers a million-dollar guarantee in the event of
an undetected zombie assault. Models include the standard, resembling
a home smoke detector, the industrial-size model capable of detecting
ghouls up to a mile away, and a personal model encased within a
wristwatch. A good shotgun and one of these, and you're set for
any zombie siege!*
My friends and I back in Louisville used to celebrate Halloween
with an all-day and -night horror film marathon. Since living
up here places obstacles to attending, I've taken to renting lots
of horror flicks on cheap-video-rental Tuesdays and watching them,
in additioon to the flicks I already own, on almost every weeknight.
Tonight I'll be kicking off the month-long horror fest with my
The Beyond. I haven't decided on a theme yet, but I
think I'll devote this week's rentals to Giant Bug Flicks. Speaking
of which, the B-Masters have recently done another of their roundtable
reviews of enormous arachnid films.