Saturday, October 31, 2009

halloween: a memoir

it is 1972. i am 5. we live in san jose. my father takes me trick-or-treating. i don't remember my costume. we, my father and i, approach a house on the corner about 2 blocks from our house. this house is dark, like no one is home. i along with 5 other neighbor kids walk slowly to the door. our bags of candy held before us awaiting another offering. we are almost at the door. all 5 of us kids. just then a figure covered head-to-toe in white bursts from the darkness with the loudest screech ever heard in my life. i run, we all run, screaming from the figure. i hide behind my father as the owner of the house takes off his sheet and offers each of us kids candy. each kid slowly moves toward the man's proffered hand. i am the last. i approach the hand with great trepidation. i am cautious. i want to live. my father is laughing his ass off.


Friday, October 30, 2009

lessons for travelers

1. no matter how many tattoos you have someone standing in a queue has more than you

2. no matter how corporate disney is everyone esp. the japanese loves the happiest place on earth

3. driving I-5 is better at night listening to halloween radio when it is pitch black outside and the winds are kicking up dust like fog across the land

4. the burg of gormley situated about 100 or so miles east of l.a. is freezing at 7:30 pm

5. the haunted mansion is proof that everyday is halloween

6. rush hour traffic in l.a. is nearly like driving in rush hour traffic in sac

7. even when you reach your 40s and you have hit the mid-point of life and nothing scares you because you can see death approach the horizon the ride at space mountain still hits you in the gullet

8. the ambient music used for space mountain is terrifying and makes you wonder why there is not a species of electronica called horror ambient

9. and that in the end there is no place like home

Sunday, October 25, 2009

heading out

just about to load up the car for a long drive down south

the destination: disneyland

nicholas is so amped his very molecules are humming

the book i'll bring to the happiest place on earth:

pride and prejudice and zombies

be gone til halloween

be good til we get back

Saturday, October 24, 2009

paranormal activity [2007]

if horror movies were poets then i'd say the blair witch project [1999], now a decade old, is the eliot of the genre. both the poet and bwp were once massively popular and are now at times derided or out-and-out dismissed by audiences and critics alike. yet, both have an undeniable popular appeal and wield enormous, like it or not, influence over their respective disciplines.

bwp's influence is arguably felt in every hand-held camera and pov narrative in both indie films and commercial cinema. look around, and you'll see the evidence. and no where is bwp influence demonstrated more keenly than filmmaker oren peli's paranormal activity. it is incontrovertible, such influence, but all to peli's talent as a scare-meister does his film succeed in making the audience jump from fright.

i must've been the oldest dude in the audience tonight. i was, i think, the only one without a companion. part of the charm of watching horror movies in a theater crowded with couples and young people is to observe their reactions. so when we get to the end of this flick the whole audience jumped outta their seats and yelled, i'm not making this up, at the same time SHIT!!!!

if you haven't heard the movie is about a young couple, micah and katie, who are menaced by some thing that literally goes bump in the night. micah purchases a video camera and begins taping their ordinary activities during the day, and sets the camera up in their bedroom to shoot whatever they can find. as the title of this film spells out the activity progresses in intensity. each night when the camera shows the couple sleeping the dread rises several notches. we see the date and the time counter speed past as the couple toss and turn in their bed. then something happens. first just a some droning noise. next night footsteps. and so on. the level of intensity is gradually ramped up so high that it feels like you might have a stroke as your blood pressure redlines.

i'll say no more about the pic, but for the fact that micah suffers from a guy complex. the kind of a guy who wants to protect his girl, fight the entity and uses more brawn than brain. which is exactly how most guys operate. but when katie calls a psychic who then recommends a demonologist for help, micah pooh-poohs katie's urge to call and instead gets a ouija board and taunts the entity by daring it to show him what its got. you want to slap the shit outta micah and shout call the demonologist. peli's talent as a filmmaker is no where more evident than his orchestrations of the young couple. they are so believable. and we would in all reality act like micah.

being a student of movies i couldn't help but see the construction of the scenes and was thinking how certain fx were achieved. this is a very low-budget film, made for around 15 grand i think. yet the scares are genuine and got me to jump a couple of times. without trying to sound like a smart-ass i knew how the flick was going to end 2/3rds the way thru. knowing how it ends didn't minimize the force of shock. not that i'm going to tell you the ending. do yourself a favor and catch this movie in a theater before it disappears again.

like bwp there were mixed reactions by the audience who were either dazzled and scared silly by the film or instead thought it was just a load of hokum. just like poets who read eliot, lotsa of dazzle and vision, or just a lot of pyrotechnics that add up to nothing that leaves you empty inside. it's all good. who knows, eliot might get his day again. and bwp is, in my humble opinion, a marvel of subtle and succint scares. paranormal activity is a worthy successor of the fake docu tradition. but without a lot of middle ground, i'm afraid. either you'll love it, or you might feel just goddamned used.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

manos: the hands of fate [1966]

it doesn't get any worse than this. i first saw this dreck on the late, great b-movie spoof show mystery science theater 3000 back in the early '90s when the fantastic joel hodgson hosted the show. if you follow the link above you can watch this cult flick in its entirety. but i wouldn't recommend it, unless you happen to be on a self-loathing kick and intend to drink yourself silly and feel sorry for yourself and want still more punishment. how much can you take, sucka? probably not much, after all, even deeply self-loathing masochists will cry uncle after the first reel.

how to describe the movie? i can't. it involves the god pan, the devil, a couple of bimbos as sacrificial fodder for satan, or manos, or whatever, and a family who is on a road trip and stumble upon satan, or manos, or whatever, and his factotum, torgo, the pan character, who both have the hots for the margaret the wife and mother of the traveling family. that's it. i don't remember much more as i blocked most of it out, or tried to, from my memory.

this flick however is a hard thing to shake. there is a scene when torgo menaces poor margaret and there is a long, slow pov shot of torgo shaking and going so fucking slow toward the camera as he whimpers his lust and holds out his hand to either strangle or touch margaret. all she need do to get away from torgo's advances is walk past him at a normal clip and she'd have outpaced him like an olympic sprinter going past an 80-year-old one-legged man. instead she cowers and freezes and un-acts her role.

still, if you're up to it seek out the mst3k version of this flick. it'll crack your ribs from laughing so hard. that's the highest recommendation i can bestow. watch it at your own peril. fair warning.


autumnal-anti-haiku [der blaue reiter remix]




o my


quote unquote

Task: to be where I am.
Even when I am in this solemn and absurd
role: I am still the place
where creation works on itself.

--tomas transtromer

[probably i've quoted this before, but tonight it seems fitting after the day i had]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


even when young

my soul still


was old

quote unquote

but i love sex all hail another generable gene probe have soMe fucking faith you tight asses get the genie of genital vibrancy My grandMother played the auto harp to tug My grandfather naked and i'M hereto praise it to the vicar of christ hiMself couldn't shout loud enough oh coMe on now let those priests and nuns have a go at life


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

mulberry street [2006]

this little indie shocker strikes no new ground but makes up for with adrenaline and chutzpah. packaged as one of the 2008 after dark horrorfest 8 films to die for series brought to you each year by lionsgate, which is a marketing scheme targeting horror junkies to lap up the newest product dumped onto dvd. this is a well-made film that ties on to the zombie genre a host of early 21st century worries and paranoia, e.g. terrorism and our changing landscape of cities from affordable neighborhoods and into redeveloped luxury homes for the wealthy.

watching this pic again last night i almost forgot that i was watching a horror film and instead was watching a minuscule budgeted indie flick about the lives of the denizens who live in the eponymous street in manhattan on a sweltering summer day. the film centers around clutch, played by nick damici, who also co-wrote the movie with director jim mickle. clutch is a former boxer who lives alone in his small flat located in mulberry street. clutch's world, the world the nyc school, both generations, of poets knew and wrote about, is changing. clutch and his neighbors face almost certain eviction as the buildings are being bought by a single developer who is turning over the flats into townhouses only the wealthy can afford.

what mickle and damici did is create quick sketches of the characters of mulberry street so that we get to know their individual quirks and personalities. a nice touch by the filmmakers is the relationship hinted between clutch and a gay neighbor, coco. it is obvious that they have a history together, perhaps once lovers, as they are still very close and share intimacies of clutch's daughter, casey, a soldier returning home after seeing combat in iraq. again the relationship is hinted at but is very poignant and it is a delight to not have it spelled out. there is a complicated mystery here, one that is all too human, and so much the better for it.

well now. the shit hits the fan. and the terror mounts as the city comes under siege. rats are attacking people, which is broadcast on the local news. the people go about their day and we get to see clutch and coco prepare and get nervous over casey's homecoming. we find the other inhabitants of the building at their various tasks, or non-tasks. two old-timers shuffle from apartment to local watering hole and back again. a single mother, who has a romantic interest in clutch, keeps her teenage son home from school, as he faked being sick, and goes to work as a bartender. then the attacks gradually increase until the victims metamorphose into cannibalistic rat-men and women.

yet the derivative plot device is meted out thru an honest depiction of these individual lives coping with chaos. clutch is a bad-ass, as we would expect from a hero of a zombie flick, but so is his daughter. the fighting comes with no grandeur at all. it is ugly and awkward and clutch does everything to keep himself and his loved ones and neighbors alive. until the bitter end.

mickle and damici goes old-skool and maintains a rather grim tone for the length of the run-time. i expect old master romero nodding his approval at the bleak ending. the soundtrack is pretty damn good, and the photography is a bit pixellated like a movie shot on digital would be. but the colors are dark, browns and greens, that calls to mind a kind of earthy light found in cities at night. and when the movie ends you might find yourself breathing heavy along with the last breaths of the survivors after that harrowing night of the living dead.


Monday, October 19, 2009


think past fulci's flick
sounds the sick flesh
walking up right as
a piece of graffito
fitting to the art
on the wall of the star
bucks & not 10 steps
later another signal
splashed in redish green
in large letters
i get nervous & wonder
if its finally going down
at last checking to find
victims of monster
crimes with their mouths
opened wide
& eyes like saucers
running blind and looking
over their shoulders
at what might become
the first day of our lives

Friday, October 16, 2009

[rec] (2007)

finally caught this spanish gem last night. what's weird is that the u.s. remake, quarrantine [2008], was made and released before the original even got to dvd. i've reviewed the remake this time last year and liked it well enough to buy the disc. not a great movie, and its only innovation is the hand-held camera and pov narration, without any music, which really isn't an innovation 10 years after the blair witch project [1999] turned the horror community, and the public at large, on its head, albeit briefly.

i might be accused of being a purist but i think when the americans get their hands on a foreign film and remake it for domestic consumption they usually fuck it up big time. i almost always prefer the original films to their often palid north american bastardization. the ring [2002] was just like that, a movie that dumbed down and spelled out the story to its audience. the japanese original, ringu [1998], is a subtler, quieter, and i think a far more creepy movie. quarrantine, however, is an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the spanish original, and strangely does not suck for being such a rip-off.

the gist is this, a young tv journalist who hosts a late-night show that features life in barcelona as it is lived very late at night. she and her camera man follow a pair of firefighters as they go on a medical call. when they reach the apartment building they find two police officers who escort the firefighters, the tv journalist and the camera man, to a flat where the lone old woman is covered in blood and behaving like a wild animal. the old woman attacks a cop and soon the building is sealed by the authorities. the rest, as they say, is zombie style mayhem.

what's cool about [rec] is how ordinary the denizens of the apartment building and the police officers look. no hollywood gods and goddesses, instead the people look like the kind we live with, see on the street and perhaps even find in the mirror. the exception to this rule is the reporter herself, played by a real tv journalist manuela velasco, who is a veritable babe. of course taste in looks is highly subjective and even tho i can appreciate beauty, both in men and women, i rarely find myself attracted to actors. velasco, well she's worth a collection of poems written solely about her. holy shit, i wanted to jump thru the screen and fight the infected for her. also, the firefighters are very good-looking too. what i found striking between the u.s. version and this one is that the spanish version left-out all the sexual banter of the american version. no sexy and/or sexist talk from the firefighters at all. absent too is the kind of macho bravado that was on display by the u.s. actors playing firefighters. i've no idea how life is like in barcelona but at least in this movie the actors portraying their characters played people who were simply doing their jobs with little flair.

another difference is that there is very little exposition to the cause of the infection that turns people into homicidal maniacs. it is suggested that the disease is a variant of rabies. it's not spelled out unlike the u.s. version. and the outside authorities are serious about sealing the building but they communicate with the occupants thru a bullhorn. the u.s. version tries to sustain the mystery with as little communication between the authorities outside and the victims trapped within. it works okay but i think the spanish film creates a greater verisimilitude that does not dumb itself down for the audience.

i can't help make these comparisons between these two films because the remake got to me first. as far as remakes go, especially dumbed down u.s. versions, the movie is pretty good. the spanish original is better i think not only in character development but technique. the camera gets battered, goes on the blink, is tossed aside for portions of the film, the sound goes out or is muffled which heightens the movie's realism. sure it beggars belief that the camera man does not worry about dead batteries. it's a horror movie; there's bound to be inconsistencies.

is that a recommendation or what!?


quote unquote

Andrew De Haan:

What advice or resources would like to pass on to younger poets?

Robert Vander Molen:

There's no money in it.

[from an interview with robert vander molen]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

drag me to hell [2009]

a young woman competes for a promotion at her bank and thinks that to get ahead she must make the tough decisions. this is what her boss tells her. she is ordinary but a good person. so when an old gypsy woman approaches the young woman and asks for yet another extension on her home loan to stave off an impending foreclosure the young woman denies the request. what happens next is traditional horror movie hokum but done very well.

sam raimi, sire of the evil dead flicks and latterly borne of the spiderman franchise, makes a return to fright films and we are the better for it. no, this movie ain't no masterpiece, but it is quite a fun ride. give the man a smaller budget and a bit more creative control over the content where his imagination can cook up all manner of goofball scares. this is the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster. the ride might feel dangerous and might scare the yell out of you but you very well know that you'll make it thru just fine.

which might be the problem. after all, what made the first evil dead film so affective at scaring is raimi's balls-to-the-wall attitude that made the film a more dangerous concoction. the tone of raimi's freshman picture was grim. the humor was on a low-burner and not turned on high as it was on raimi's subsequent projects. evil dead genuinely scared the crap outta me. the askewed compositions, hand-held camera, and frenetic editing made raimi's first pic an original innovation. nowadays every filmmaker utilizes these same techniques. not that these are bad things, by either raimi or any other filmmaker, just that raimi's dire tone and these innovative techniques helped create a feeling of sickening dread that was nonetheless exhilarating for it.

drag me to hell is similar in tone to raimi's first effort. yet, the scares are all telegraphed. when the camera turns sideways on its subject but leaves just a bit of room over the subject's shoulder you know something bad is about to creep out. or burst out. furthermore, complicating the scenarios are the loud, very loud, sound editing, so when the bad demon is about to make an appearance an unholy metallic screeching sounds so loudly you'll feel like your frontal lobes have been cauterized. normally, most horror movie geeks would find pleasure at being lobotomized, especially by a first-rate director, but for me i thought the sound could've been turned down just a bit. i don't need to be warned about an impending scare. that's why i'm watching a horror movie, because i'm fixing to be scared.

all is not lost however since this film is smartly edited and the photography contained just enough fuzz and grit to spook out the atmosphere. rarely do i get spooked by films but at the end of the movie, i turned off my computer [i've taken to the habit of watching films on my laptop because the clarity is better and the sound with my headphones envelops me], and turning off the lights to go to bed i swear there were shadows lurking in the corners hanging out for god-knows-what.

that's why i like this film. creepy just a bit and scary enough too. even tho i think the ending is telegraphed at the half-way mark it still was a satisfying conclusion. what does it mean that the protagonist is a decent woman who works for an industry that is in the business of profiting over the misery of people in the form of home foreclosures? i've read that raimi wrote this script with his brother years and years ago and that it is only a coincidence that the woman works in a bank and denies an old woman an extension thus effectively kicking the old woman out of her home. maybe. but movies are products of their times. even more so are genre movies where our fears are writ large. for our current and deep economic difficulties it would seem that raimi has made a revenge flick against the banking industry. if that's the case i wouldn't have been surprised that this film was met with cheers by a grateful public who are going thru hell right now.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

visual music

music sets the mood, especially in movies. without a good soundtrack and/or score the movie might not have the right tone despite it being brilliantly directed, written and designed. a couple years back a friend burned me a cd of horror movie soundtracks. you'd think i might already have such a library of music, but i don't. this is the cd that gets the most play at work. i try to keep it low so my co-workers won't think i've gone off my rocker as i obsess with a few pieces of horror movie music.

there are few composers associated with a feeling of dread as bernard herrmann. brilliant dread. the music-maker is so respected that he's even made it into the texts of poets like august kleinzahler. i was reminded of this respect when i read a few days ago 'limp node' by vincent katz in the latest edition of eoagh [to find katz' poem click here].

nothing bleeds like halloween than good ear wax. herrmann's scores delight the senses in creating a lush, palpable unease that is redolent of noir fiction and monster movies. these pieces also work well on their own as stand alone pieces. there are film composers who create music for the screen and there are film composers whose work is so cinematic the music is a host of imagery. few sets the mood better for halloween than certain pieces of music. one of those pieces is herrmann's 'psycho theme'. the sharp stabs and scratches of the strings creates brilliantly that awful shower scene and when the stabbing strings subside as the notes fall into a low dirge that encapsulates the melancholy and madness of bates dissevered personality.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

a real gullywasher

like totally this morning
the wind gusts up to 35 mph
made the rain go up rather
than down and sideways too
why walk to work when
the journey would've
been made easier by
jetski but walk i did
like an idiot soaking
wet and getting this
look from drivers
and their passengers
convinced that i
might've been from
mars or so like totally
unmoored from reality
that water no longer
was wet to me
i'm only happy when
it rains
and love the sound
of the wind batting
tree branches
as rain brattles
the roof and windows
the first rains of the
season but bummer
too that the stores
are now bringing
out their x-mas
wares which is
like totally
with those things
that go bump in
the night but a
big boo hoo
because like totally
poetry yes poetry
i find this uk indie
band that named
itself after
a poem by thom gunn
my sad captains
which for varied
reasons makes me
happy and happier
still because at
least one of their
tunes is catchy
as all hell
which i think
would make the
old poet ecstatic too

Monday, October 12, 2009

walls of malls

you've seen 'em. you've shopped in 'em. you may even have fond memories of coming of age with one or two of 'em. growing up in the latter half of the past century and now finishing up the first decade of the new century you know malls. we hate them. we love them. we might even consider them necessary evils. george a romero even critiqued 'em and our consumer culture in his brilliant zombie movie dawn of the dead [1978]. other movies, such as valley girl [1983], spend a considerable amount of rather uncritical screentime in 'em. however you take them they are a very fact of our lives. so i should be unsurprised to find a pretty cool blog tonight dedicated to the sort of mid-20th century malls i grew up with and in. mall hall of fame lays out design plans, photos of malls past and in their current incarnation, and hosts a nice set of links. welcome to the future, boys and girls, brought to you by today's technology in a town that time forgot.

the entity [1981]

allegedly based on a true story barbara hershey portrays the horrifying struggle of a single working mother who is repeatedly attacked and raped by an unseen malevolent force. it is this force that cannot be witnessed and therefore apprehended i find terrifying. the movie does a pretty good job of creating dread. there are few things truly terrifying as physical assault, particularly sexual assault.

hershey does a credible job as she plays carla moran, a woman who is struggling to understand and stop these attacks. the filmmaker teases out those moments when moran is alone, playing with the viewer's expectations of the worse to happen. and when these attacks do happen, savage beatings made more sinister for the fact that she is the only one visible in the room, the noose of dread tightens on the viewer's neck.

perhaps i find this film so scary because i think rape is most definitely the worst crime an individual can suffer. that loss of control over your own body thru the agency of another person intent on harming you and the loss of the feeling of safety of your environment, your home, car, outdoors, the very air you breathe, is just so fucking terrifying. in addition to that throw in a mean-spirited ghost doing the attacking and you have a horror movie scarier than any garden-variety monster found in almost every creature feature.

furthermore, moran can't escape her victimhood. in most ghost stories the protagonists are safe once they leave the confines of, say, the castle or the mansion. in this film the creep ghost follows moran wherever she goes. one scene i find particularly blood-curdling is when moran is driving her car on busy city streets in broad daylight. the ghost takes control of her vehicle and tries to kill her with it. that is i think another manifestation of the rape motif in another context. it is a manipulation of power for the sake of demented sexual gratification which is tied to, i think, control over another's body and, hence, life.

ron silver plays a parapsychologist who attempts to get to the bottom of moran's haunting. the movie loses a bit and goes slack when moran agrees with the good dr in an attempt to bring the ghost into a controlled environment in order to study and perhaps exorcise it from moran. yet from this exercise moran gains a bit of her sanity back in her life which was so totally unmoored from her ordinary existence as a woman and mother.

then the movie ends. the attacks subside over the years, get less intense, then finally cease. it would be interesting if the movie were made today as a fake documentary. it's not a great movie by any means. what makes this movie so powerful for me is hershey's performance. a lesser actor might've made moran shrill without the heroic fight of a real survivor. hershey plays it well as a believable ordinary woman who is fighting for her life. another thing i find terrifying is that the attacker is unseen. what can't be seen often can't be comprehended and that is in all probability the more terrifying thing of all.


quote unquote

Dear Lord, have you ever tried to wax poetic about a woman's ass as she walks? It defies comparison. It is infallibly, brightly, unaproachably itself. (The best I came up with was "orbiting worlds of apricots," a phrase I maybe partly stole from Appollinaire, but that's so far off -- not to mention clumsy -- it's insulting.) Dear Lord, her ass made me think of lordosis. I remember reading about lordosis in the ninth grade. As long as I live I will never forget the words in that textbook: "In mating, the female lion lays flat on the ground on her abdomen, and raises her rear end in the air, in a position called 'lordosis.' This is believed to provide the greatest penetration for the male." Dear Lord, have mercy. Dear Lord, when a woman wears tight jeans down a busy sidewalk shaking her booty like she stepped out of Al Green's wet-dream, it's difficult not to think of lordosis. In fact, dear Lord, it's enough to make a man fall to his fucking knees and weep.

--teddy macker

Friday, October 09, 2009

henry gibson for the united appeal for the dead


children of the grave [2007]

caught this last night on the Sy Fy Channel -- used to be known as the Sci Fi Channel, but like robin williams, as t.s. garp, in the film version of john irving's novel the world according to garp, the t.s. used to stand for 'terribly sexy' but now just means 'terribly sad' -- i watched portions of this fake docu-drama as i drifted in and out of consciousness.

didn't miss much i think. based on interviews with allegedly authentic ghost-hunters and their subordinates along with recreations of their investigations as they search for the ghosts of orphan children in all the usual places. what is it about most ghost-hunters anyway? why do they have to look like they either belong in the band lynard skynard circa 1978, or maybe they've contemporized their look like they might've stepped out of a white snake video via 1986.

still, the photography and some of the stories presented were fairly creepy. but when they were interviewing some milquetoast qua sheriff about the satanic cult in the backwoods of a state i can't recall now i almost threw in the towel. i love good ghost stories and it doesn't take much for me to raise the curtain of disbelief. the satanic cult angle, with the supposed blood-letting and human sacrifice, was nearly too much to bear. i mean, puh-lease. in these backwoods our rockstars had taken a series of photographs of the surrounding forest at night that when developed showed the shadows of the ghost of children between the trees. that was pretty freaky.

but when one of the longhairs is seen putting on body armor in preparation to his team's investigation of these ghost woods, just in case, and when the soundtrack devolved to a heavy metal song over a montage of spooky imagery, photos of the shadow children and serious rock&rollers complete with flashlights and radios combing the shrubbery, i fucking lost it. the only thing scary about heavy metal are the headbangers who think that horror movies all require metal for their movies to rock.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

trick 'r treat [2007]

finally on dvd this flick has long been the source of rumor and conjecture. does it live up to the hype? depends on whose watching. for the average film-goer the answer to that query is a most definitely maybe. no new ground is broken and the halloween imagery, jack o'lanterns and black cats et al., won't do much for those who think halloween is too much of a muchness. for the full-on horror geek, however, you know, like someone like me, who is hardcore into halloween then the wait, even tho it was far too long, was worth it.

the movie is a delight to the senses. writer/director michael dougherty and his crew of set designers pack every frame with pumpkins, candy, and things that will wanna knock you in the noggin at night. dougherty taps into the very nostalgia that older connoisseurs of halloween will delight in. the movie even opens with a mock psa in black&white about trick-or-treating safety.

if nostalgia was all dougherty trafficked in his film would become stale very quickly. thankfully he does not as the movie is an anthology of four compelling stories all happening on halloween night in a little town in ohio that takes its spooky celebrations seriously. the stories occur at the same time of night and rather than box each narrative as a single piece the filmmaker dovetails each story together with sight markers and tiny set pieces that connect each narrative in the larger framework. for example, there is a nasty little trick-or-treater that acts as a sort of chorus because he or she is present in every story but also plays a significant role as the antagonist of one very cranky old man who hates halloween. this little bastard, who has a very round, giant head covered in burlap with buttons for eyes, attacks the old man in his house. next door is another narrative that features a high school principal who is also a secret serial killer. the cranky old fart is becoming a nuisance to the principal as the younger man is in his backyard burying his victims. next we see the old man yelling for help in his window and before the camera turns to go into the house with the serial killer we see for just a moment the little fucker of a trick-or-treater knock the old cantankerous man out of the frame.

later we see this same scene played out but from the old man's perspective. these small details tie the plot together. the other stories range from kids playing a practical joke but the joke turns on them, and a young, virginal woman who is looking for either mister right or mister-right-now. dougherty packs a few subplots into the movie and again each frame is a veritable prop house of halloween toys. very drool-worthy. in fact, such imagery and the solid storytelling is for horror geeks what looking at a naked girl for the first time is for horny teenage boys.

hardcore. some of the actors you'll recognize. brian cox, the first, and in my humble opinion, the best dr hannibal lecter in michael mann's manhunter [1986] , is the bitchy and boozy old halloween hater. there's a reason he hates halloween which completes the story of the practical joke gone wrong and gives the reason why he's being attacked by the persona of halloween itself. there's also anna paquin as the virginal young woman. each of these stories have a twist, almost like a morality tale and in this regard come to resemble the old pre-code 1950s e.c. horror comics, and creepshow [1983] which is a paean to those old comics and classic horror movies by stephen king and george a romero. indeed, dougherty uses similar stylized comic-book graphics for his intro and conclusion like romero used in his film.

my only gripe with dougherty is a certain choice of song. dougherty populates his movie with many kinds of creatures, such as vampires and zombies and serial killers and werewolves. for the werewolves segment when the lycanthropes mutate from human to monster dougherty utilizes the marilyn manson cover of the eurythmics' song 'sweet dreams'. the song doesn't work for me. i'm not partial to the song and manson is a rather cliched trope to scare the shit out of adults. shock rockers are rarely scary. if dougherty was truly interested in scaring the bejesus out of his audience then he would have forsaken manson and gone with a clip of 60-something mick jagger doing his rooster strut clad only in a loin cloth. that'll chill your bones. otherwise, the music choices are top-notch and reading the end credits i discovered that dougherty also used bits and pieces of music from other films including a movie i've been watching a lot of recently as nicholas is a big fan of it, scooby-doo on zombie island [1998]. that's it. i'm hooked. happy halloween.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

the seventh seal [1957]

this might not be the most obvious choice for viewing at halloween but it is the first film i watched that gave me that terrible frisson of mortality. i've long been aware of death and my own impending death, but like little elizabeth bishop sitting in the waiting room at the dentist office who suddenly knows that she is a distinct human being, an i, and elizabeth, and not no other, i had a very similar feeling when watching this flick for about the 10th time in my early 20s about my own singular demise. it was an awful feeling.

in my estimate this is a masterpiece, without qualification. a very great film. bergman's eccliastical ruminations are leavened with a hearty dose of earthy humanism taken in the form of max von sydow's antonius block's squire, jon, played by the utterly magnficent gunnar bjornstrand. bjornstrand is i think one of the world's greatest actors, a man who disappears in each of his characters, and becomes that character totally. i've never read or heard anywhere a critic make the same claim for bjornstrand as i do as his being a very, very, and let me emphasize the very, great actor, and i wonder why.

rather than blather on with unqualified praise for this flick i must admit my own bias. i was pupped out of bergman from an early age. not out of any sense of duty a young poet has to viewing and digesting the great works, and when i was growing up bergman's films were considered great works, but from being a fan of cinema. i think of this movie as halloween fare because it is both horrifying, earthy, lofty and funny, like a well-made horror movie. later when i read about woody allen's bergman's obsessions i understood bergman's influence on allen, not because of only the angst of allen's characters share with bergman's characters but also by the great swede's comedy. the scene in the seventh seal when death cuts down the tree to get at one of his victims is a riot of black humor.

hence, such comedy in the midst of despair, and it bringing home my own pending mortality makes this film, at least for me, perfect halloween viewing, the time of year when the dead demand to be remembered and shall walk the earth. you all know the movie. you've probably seen it at least once. when i suggested to some friends that we watch this film for our occasional get-together movie night i was met with silence and then a firm rebuke. i realized that this movie is not for everyone and not every one considers it as great a movie as i do. however, the composition of each frame, its photography and editing, the writing and finally the acting are all utterly magnificent. it's entered the popular culture, like shakespeare or the beatles, so that you know of this flick, at least its imagery, even before seeing it. when i watch this film, especially around the scary season, i can hear in the near-distance dogs bay at the moon, the house creak, the windows rattle and maybe, just maybe, a chess board set in the kitchen awaiting the last losing game of my life.


listening to the radio

i hear the following song by grizzly bear. the voice sounds like michael mcdonald, of the doobie bros from the '70s etc. etc., and find out today it is michael mcdonald. fucking brilliant. really. what is old is new is old is. . .ah, who cares. what generation divide? it is a good song with strong vocals that give it some cool, old skool vibe.


quote unquote

If I write about Estonians, then I mean Estonians; but if I write about Indians, I mean Indians. And in a sense, I am an Indian too. I am a Buddhist, and I am simply a man. And, primarily, first of all, a sentient being, a sensitive being. And my poetry is a poetry written by such a being, not simply by an Estonian.

--jaan kaplinski

Friday, October 02, 2009

horation ode to the self #2

what's this self-pity
struggle to know thyself
give yourself a break
and forget it

did you think this shit
is easy enough
did you think you'd have it mastered
you're the fool buddyboy

open the anchor steam
breathe deeply
see that your are surrounded
take the day off and hope you are loved

more pricks than pricks

i get my flu shot today. regular flu. not the N1H1 flu shot. that one is expected to arrive later this month and specialized groups, small children and pregnent women for example, have priority. which is as it should be. my work provides the vaccinations free of charge. just show up, fill out a form, then roll up your sleeve as the nurse gets a rusted needle, dips it into a glaucous solution, licks off the excess from the needle, and jabs blindly at your arm as hard as the nurse can go.

har har har.

it's really a painless, anticlimactic endeavour. what amazes me is the level of fear and resistance some have getting vaccinated. is it needles? the fear of the vaccine itself. national public radio did a piece on that fear last week. how even some healthcare workers don't get flu shots because, because the fears are myriad, i guess.

perhaps the fear is the work of the emotions over the intellect. science v. blind belief. there's a metaphor here that i'm not quite expressing. that flu shots are very safe, and to know it in your mind, is not the same as the gut cramping from the thought of the shot and/or the vaccine. why would that be part of the human condition? but it is. how even the most rational of us will still read our horoscopes in the paper, not because they are accurate, but we do, and we do it, i think, just in case.

quote unquote

i lose a notebook of poems . Gayle comments, "What's gone is gone. You walk a new road. Don't get into an eccentric tragic artist trip."

--steve dalachinsky

Thursday, October 01, 2009

quote unquote

Fucking New York School! Ted Berrigan drank beer and took speed and wrote about it. We all did that. He died. We've got to write about something else.

--jim mccrary
[lifted from james yeary's blog]


it's oct. 1 and you bet i have a halloweenhead. not that i'm biased or nothing, but you should come to norcal in the fall. it is lovely. the light is lovely. when it is not blazing hot, the air really is mild and quite cool. there's a smokiness to it all. a russet and umber sky and at night, at least tonight, in the dark blue sky hangs a big white spud of a moon.

don't know much about ryan adams. what i've heard is okay to pretty good. this song is pretty catchy and one thing i like about adams is his mercurial personality, one moment a balladeer and the next thing he's rocking it hard. so sue me. this song has cool halloween imagery even if it is about, as i understand it, the rock&roller's bain of existence, drugs.

candy and pumpkins are good enough for me. it's not for nothing that i have a jack o'lantern inked on my arm. we choose those things, or those things choose us [i'm not quite sure which], that give us comfort and pleasure, that makes us happy and lowers the blood pressure. if we are lucky too those things become part of the dna and our so wired within that our mental, spiritual and physical life would be denuded without them.

this is halloween.