brothercyst: December 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 SUCKED?

I just went to the movies with my old high school teacher (ten years!) and had a fucking great time.  Had lunch.  Listened to Leon Russell.  Feel good.  Got back from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the "secret city."  Met some relatives I'd never met before, who were awesome.

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Went to church a few days ago.  First time I'd been there since I was probably 14 or so.  I thought "This'll be fine, I can zone out, enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, think about things or about nothing... I could use a break."  What I forgot is they design it so you can't do that.  Stand up!  Sit down!  Sing!  Kneel!  It never ends.  Getting on your knees and waiting there for four, five minutes is miserable.  I don't know how those old people do it.  A lifetime of kneeling, I guess you get used to it.

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The first time I went to church I was four years old.  My mother whispered to me to explain what was going on.  When they did the communion bit, she said, "They're Catholic, so they believe that actually turns into his blood, and that actually turns into his body."  A few minutes later, I screamed in the middle of church: "Oh my God, they're eating him!

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EDIT: What on Earth?

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Reading about people's miserable 2010s on Jezebel is addictive.

I guess I had a relatively good 2010.

The Bad: Depressing breakup early on.  Didn't get a writing job I wanted.  Fired old agent.  Didn't see family much.  No reliable source of income.  Irregular freelance work can't stop money from dwindling.  Didn't read enough novels.

The Good: Glorious Dominican Republic trip in January.  Fun in Los Angeles.  Started driving again.  Made lots of good new friends.  Got new agent.  Wrote multiple scripts with Ned.  Was best man at wedding.  Midnight Picnic won a Shirley Jackson Award.  Swam outside in warm sun and driving rain.  Published some short stories.  Stayed in cool new places.  Wrote new script at the end of the year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'M IN TENNESSEE / NSFW MUSIC VIDEO

It's cold here.

Pleasing music video / horror movie homage -- "Invisible Light" by Scissor Sisters

NSFW

Monday, December 27, 2010

MOVIES

Calvaire, aka The Ordeal, is an amazing movie.  Feels like Texas Chainsaw Massacre as directed by Bruno Dumont.  Very little violence onscreen.  True dread.  A Christmas movie. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

DAY AFTER

Long Thomas Ligotti post on Dennis Cooper's blog.  I love Ligotti; he's one of my favorite living writers.  I wrote about Teatro Grottesco on HTMLGIANT a while back.  Have you read Teatro Grottesco yet?  Read it, read it, read it.  It's incredible.

Friday, December 24, 2010

LIMBO

Yesterday I saw True Grit, which I loved.  Today I saw Tron, which I also loved.

I have to go do some Christmas shopping.  I don't want to look at my bank account.  I've made less money this year than any year since I graduated college... far, far less.  Today I looked at my Amazon wishlist for the first time in years.  Here it is, rich patrons.  I deleted a bunch of old books.  My mother made a delicious meal that will supply leftovers for a few days.  I haven't written or read anything except some magazine articles in a few days.  Feel worthless, have to muster life force.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"AND MORE SINGING FROM THE PRINCESS!!!"

The legendary, legendarily awful Star Wars Holiday Special.  I couldn't watch the whole thing either, although I did watch a good chunk--in delighted horror. 

I'm in Maryland, and there's snow everywhere.  When I was in elementary school we planted some small fir trees beside the driveway, and now they're huge.  It's a very weird feeling, looking at them.

I read some of David Grann's amazing The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, which contains a number of best articles I've ever read in the New Yorker, including the ones about Krystian Bala, Frédéric Bourdin, and the Aryan Brotherhood.

Today I saw Unstoppable, which was fun even though I'd already seen it five thousand times as a trailer before every movie that came out this year.  It's a strictly paint-by-numbers things, executed with extreme competence, entertaining, whatever.

Now I'm going to go watch Lake Mungo, a horror movie I'm very excited about.

Monday, December 20, 2010

FASCINATING WEATHER

I look out my window and it looks like a jungle covered in fog.  I expect to see gorillas coming at me any second.  I got David Grann's The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.  Excited to read it.  Got some Ken Grimwood books, too.  I haven't read anything by him but am excited to.  Other than that, just reading about the Bunnyman.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HORROR MOVIE REPORT CARD

I fucking love horror movies.  Night of the Living Dead and Jaws are two of my earliest movie-watching experiences, and NOTLD, oddly enough, was one of the formative experiences that made me want to write novels.  The atmosphere of dread and encroaching threat inspired me.  It's something I tried to capture in my first novel.  Over the past two weeks I watched many, many horror movies.  Its ostensibly for something I'm thinking about writing, but it's also for my own pleasure.


Babysitter Wanted (2008)
Jonas Barnes & Michael Manasseri

This was the biggest surprise of my horror marathon.  Hear the title and you may think, as I did: Oh, it's House of the Devil, except I've never heard of it.  It's in fact much better than House of the Devil, which I also enjoyed.  Do not watch the trailer or take anything from the poster, which suggest that it is torture porn.  It's not.  The nastily elegant script concerns, as you might imagine, a young woman who answers an ad for a babysitter and finds herself in great danger.  This rather familiar premise tilts a little with the introduction of certain atmospheric details (a creepy child who will not take off his cowboy hat, a fridge full of meat and buttermilk) and then takes a hard left turn about halfway through the film, a turn which I will not spoil.  I get a very specific kind of aesthetic pleasure from this sort of basic structural ingenuity; it's like watching a casual magic trick.


A Serbian Film (2010)
Srđan Spasojević
What to say about this?  A Serbian porn star, now retired, is offered a tremendous amount of money to return to his old profession for one last film -- on the condition that he know nothing about the film before shooting begins.  Needless to say, the nature of the film is rather beyond traditional pornography.  A Serbian Film is a glossily made feature, with a real budget, good actors, and professional technical standards that seem comparable to a mid-level Hollywood film.  It also contains scenes of sexual and homicidal depravity that are, to put it mildly, bracing.  Allegedly the film is a comment on the relationship of the Serbian people to the Serbian government, but I don't know enough about that situation to comment intelligently on the film's nuances (if they exist) in that regard.  I just know that it is grueling to sit through, and I mostly kept watching out of sick fascination and curiosity.  When it is over there is no sense of groping intelligence or transgressive beauty, as there was with Martyrs, a similarly beyond-horrific horror movie I watched earlier this year.


The Stepfather (1987)
Joseph Ruben
A classic.  I'd seen it before but watching it again was a pleasure.  The Donald Westlake script is like a template of how to structure a "Suburban Normalcy Disrupted" horror movie, and the plot--about an angry man who marries single mothers, then kills them and their children when they "disappoint" him by not fulfilling his idea of a perfect family--is a vicious satire of Reagan-era family values.  Terry O'Quinn (Locke from Lost) is the Stepfather, and the scenes where his grip on his assumed identity starts to slip ("Wait... who am I here?") are profoundly creepy.  The subplot with the survivor of the previous massacre trying to track him down is a little dull, but doesn't detract in any significant way.  Like The Shining--although not quite, since The Shining is the best horror movie ever made--The Stepfather exploits the inherent menace of the father figure. Also, it has a great, creepy score.


Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
An infamous and infamously banned horror film about a married couple who visit an island where the adults seem to have disappeared and the child... well, something is wrong with the children.  The woman is pregnant, which is an easy and reliable way to make a female character more vulnerable but has a special resonance, obviously, in this film.  I was a bit disappointed by this not-particularly-upsetting film, in part because of its use of horrifying footage over the opening credits, in which we see children ravaged by global conflicts.  Nothing in the film that follows matches the horrifying effect of that footage.  Space and sound, two of the most vital weapons in the horror filmmaker's arsenal, are not employed to any striking effect.  The film is conceptually horrifying, but not all that disturbing or scary, and not nearly so profound as it believes itself to be.

Pieces (1982)
Juan Piquer Simón 
A camp horror classic.  Not even remotely scary, and not intended to be, this is the ultimate early 80s ridiculous sexy-teens-get-killed horror movie.  It's sort of like Clue, or like one of those Grindhouse trailers, except it's a real movie.  And it's fucking delightful.

Session 9 (2001)
Brad Anderson
Another one I'd seen before but needed to watch again for research purposes.  Shot on grainy digital video and almost entirely at an abandoned New England mental hospital, Session 9 makes stellar use of space and sound to disrupt and unsettle.  The actors take a naturalistic style, talking over each other, bantering, playing everything subtle.  It drags a little, but mostly it works.  And Josh Lucas wandering around with the big metal spike in his eye is particularly memorable.

Orphan (2009)
Jaume Collet-Serra
Not a "good"movie, but an interesting one, with far more gloss and pedigree than it deserves.  The twist is conceptually horrifying, so inherently creepy that it carries the whole movie.  The little girl is a little more "creepy" than she should be--you know something's wrong with her right away, and it's hard to believe that these people would want to adopt her.  The Freudian aspect of the whole thing is the most compelling part.  It feels cheap the way they open with a horrifying dream sequence, as if to reassure that this is a horror movie even though we don't even meet the "orphan" until more than 15 minutes into the film.

The Strangers (2008)
Bryan Bertino
Saw it in the theater when it came out.  From a narrative perspective this is just a straightforward home invasion movie.  But the execution makes it remarkable.  The first half is the scariest part of any movie I've seen in the last ten years.  The image of Liv Tyler standing in the house while, unbeknownst to her, a masked figure stands calmly in the doorway behind her... fucking amazing.  Whatever Bertino makes next, I'm there.  I remember watching this in a Times Square movie theater one afternoon when i was supposed to be at work, and being too freaked out to go back to work afterward.  I just walked around.
 
The Orphanage (2007)
Juan Bayona
The best movie on this whole list, and a marvel of screenwriting structure and ingenuity.  I'd already seen it many times, but it remains scary as shit.  (The only disappointing element is the very end, which diminishes an element of menace.)  The scene in which she has to play the game she used to play as a little girl, but all her playmates are now dead, is one of the best horror scenes of all time.


The Signal (2007)
David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry
The first 30 minutes are extraordinary and deeply unsettling.  A woman leaves her lover's apartment, where a strange signal has come over the TV, and encounters an aggressive man in the parking garage.  Fleeing him, she returns to her apartment building, where the halls are crowded with ranting, angry people.  A sense of terrible claustrophobia and dread is achieved.  The digital video photography is used to great effect.  In the woman's apartment, her husband and his friends are beginning to heatedly argue....  Unfortunately the film is divided into three parts, and after the first one (which I believe was directed by Bruckner), the movie turns into something completely different, a splattery slapstick reminiscent of early Peter Jackson.  Mildly entertaining, but still shitty, and totally paltry compared to the opening.  After a while I just went back and watched the first 30 minutes again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MORNING

Posted about raccoons on htmlgiant.   With pictures from last night.

Re-watched The Conformist last night... what a fucking great movie!!  One of the most visually striking movies ever.  Storaro was such an incredible genius.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

LETTERS

Weird.  I got two letters from the cops regarding a complaint I filed way back in the spring in an effort to get reimbursed for about $400 in tow yard fees I had to pay to recover my car when an Ivan Drago lookalike cop took it. The whole situation was such bullshit that the desk sergeant took one look at it and waived my police impound fee so I figured why not try to recoup the other costs too.  I'm sort of pleasantly surprised they even replied to 4 or 5 page long cranky letter.  Their two letters were sent on the same day, ostensibly from the same office (although the letterhead is different; weird) but one says my complaint has no grounds whatsoever and the other acknowledges "the involved deputy acted rudely."  Fair enough.  I did encounter some very nice people at the sheriff's station.



Also, here's an interesting document that was posted in their station.  Does this mean that if the police come into your house with a search warrant and toss the place, you owe them $10?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

WHAT'S THE MUSIC IN THIS VIDEO?

I recognize the music at the beginning of this fake commercial, but I can't identify it.  What is it?? 

ABSENT

I've been away from the internet for a few days, sort of. All I ate today was a pumpkin pie and a piece of leftover pizza, and some oysters from a tin. I've written quite a bit. And I've watched a ton of horror movies, taking notes as I went. If I get around to it, I'll write a roundup post about them soon. The biggest surprise was Babysitter Wanted, which I'd never heard of before and loved.  It's not what you think it is from the torture-porny cover.  Also wonderful is the original The Stepfather.  I haven't read a book in almost a week.  Which is bad because I have to read something soon to review it.  Tonight I was going to see a screening of Heat but canceled at the last minute because I needed to stay in and work.  Last night I had a gigantic deep dish pizza.  It was so deep it was like lasagna.  I'm not permitting myself to sleep until I reach a page goal for today.