As a writer, I can tell you that beginnings are extremely important. You want to grab the reader’s attention right away. But this is not to say that you merely wish to shock them. Shock is good, but it also has to have a lure behind it that pulls the reader deeper inward.
The beginning of a book can make a reader decide whether or not they’ll bother going forward or even buy the damned thing. So it is crucial for a writer to perfect the art of opening with a bang… or, with a fuck.
Max Booth III’s new novel, The Mind is a Razorblade, opens with everyone’s favorite curse word, but knowing shock isn’t enough Booth sinks in his meat hook and reels us in right away. Our protagonist is not only cursing, he is drowning, and he’s also swimming with a dead man.
This is what I mean by a luring beginning.
Meet Bob. He’d certainly like to meet himself. He can’t seem to remember anything, except how to fire a gun. He’s naked and half-dead and that’s just the start of his problems. He is lost in a city of raving derelicts, criminal kingpins and spider-burping, marauding ghouls. He’s searching for his identity but has nowhere to turn except for a burlesque house he found on the back of a soggy matchbox.
Bob’s amnesiac adventure begins in dank pits and dive bars that swarm with lowlifes who slowly help him to put the pieces back together, albeit vaguely and even hesitantly, as if they enjoy torturing the poor guy. But maybe they have good reason to. Seems Bob has been mighty naughty, given the organs he’s been transporting around town.
But Bob doesn’t want any part of that now. He just wants to find the redhead in his frazzled memories who makes his heart stop hurting, and he hopes that when he finds her everything will be all right again.
Not quite, Bob, not quite.
Razorblade moves forward in a steady pace, never losing steam or letting go of the curiosity that haunts both the protagonist and the reader. It’s world is a bizarre bastardization of our own – a drug-fueled fever dream that pulsates with violence and depravity. Booth has a colorful style and he knows how to keep us glued, teasing us with the end of each chapter so we can’t resist diving into the next. The book is reminiscent of the paranoid cat-and-mouse stories of Philip K. Dick (We Can Remember it for You Wholesale comes to mind) and the surreal, junky playgrounds of William S. Burroughs’s Interzone. At times it even reads with the fast, frantic pace of a graphic novel, Booth painting elaborate pictures, making it all feel very cinematic (head’s up, David Lynch).
Still, despite its bloodshed and palpable horrors, Razorblade also has a tender side that celebrates the love between a man and woman, as well as the unbreakable bond between parent and child. The book is not overly dark or nihilistic the way the title might make some assume. Bob, for all his faults (which are plentiful), is a man we can all relate to. We just have to ride the nightmare with him and wait to see if he’s limping towards redemption or ruin. Either way, it’s a free fall worth braving.Read More
Whenever a new, American horror film suddenly gets an enormous amount of buzz, a wheel inside of me begins to turn. The horror film genre as a whole has been in a sad and sorry state for decades now, and the ones coming out of Hollywood are undoubtedly the worst of all. The unnecessary remakes, the found footage fiascos, and the plethora of uninspired zombie sagas have taken a once unbound world of creativity and reduced it to forgettable, seat-filling dreck. As much as I hate to admit it, the foreign market is where I search for my new chills now, and I make a much bigger effort to unearth long lost VHS horror trash than I do going to the movie theater to see the latest CGI shitbath.
So when buzz gets going on a new horror movie, part of me gets excited, because I really, really want it to be good, but a bigger part of me takes a step back like a wise victim.
Be careful, Kris, you’ve been hurt like this before.
But, in most cases I usually find myself checking these new raves out, sometimes with big success (Hatchet, Behind the Mask) and sometimes with pulverizing disappointment (The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity). From the examples I have given, I’m sure you can sense a pattern too; the more widespread the praise, the less likely the movie will be any good. I have figured out long ago that the public has very poor taste in everything, and even worse taste in horror movies. But as a hardcore horrorhound, I crave new terrors like a strung out junkie. I lay huddled in the corner of an abandoned video store, subsiding on old Tales from the Crypt episodes until I can catch the next big fix.
So, when everyone started raving about It Follows, horror’s current flavor of the month, and when it received a wider release, I decided to go. It’s the first time my wife and I have gone to the movies in five months, our previous outing being to see the premier of Birdman, which we thought was a soaring turd, and then it swept the academy with its highfalutin, self-congratulating swill – further evidence of the public’s fried taste buds.
I went into It Follows knowing the bare minimum. I always try to avoid trailers or long synopsises of films. All I knew is what you all probably know too:
After sleeping with her new beau, a young woman becomes the target of an evil creature that passes from person to person via sexual intercourse.
You know, the Fuckadook.
From here on in my general bitching ends and the full review begins so there are some mild spoilers, but I avoid the big ones. But if you want to avoid a synopsis, mild though they may be, you can skip to my general opinion of the movie in the “final thoughts” segment at the bottom.
We begin with a solid opening sequence of a half-dressed teenage girl running up and down the street in her suburban neighborhood. So, so far, I’m a happy guy. She is in a state of confused terror and refuses help from her neighbor as well as her own father. She drives off in a panic and goes to a secluded spot on the shore where she makes a final goodbye call to her loved ones. The next thing we know it is morning and her badly mutilated body is shown on the shore.
This sets us up for the “it” part of the title.
After the credits the main story begins and we meet Jay. She is a pretty suburban white chick between the ages of 18 and 21 – pure, unadulterated monster bait. We also meet her sister, Kelly (a pretty, suburban, white chick just slightly younger than Jay), and their friends Paul and Yara. The lot of them are painfully hipster – complete with knitted leggings, seashell cell phones, and a taste for sci-fi films from the 50’s.
Jay goes on a few dates with a nervy guy named Jeff, and eventually she does the right thing – she puts out. But things take a dark turn when Jeff dopes her with chloroform and ties her to a wheelchair, which guys usually do before the sex, not after. Get your shit together, Jeff.
From here, the movie becomes pretty creepy.
Jeff keeps her tied to a wheelchair in the middle of nowhere, inside the ruins of an old building near the railroad tracks. He assures Jay that he is sorry and that he is not going to hurt her. He tells her he knows she is just going to think that he is crazy, but she has to remember what he says.
This thing is going to come after you. It can look like anybody. Sometimes it looks like people you know, just to fuck with you. But only you and other infected people can see it. You get it by having sex with an infected person. If you pass it on to someone else, then it goes after them instead of you, but once it kills them it goes back to chasing you, and so on down the line. Give it to someone else as soon as you can.
You know, lay it forward.
To convince her to take this batshit conspiracy plot seriously, Jeff waits for the “it” to arrive and when it does he points it out. It has taken the form of a brusied, naked woman and it is slowly making its way towards them. Jeff lets it scare the piss out of Jay, but then he gets them both the hell out of there and dumps her, half-naked, on her front lawn where her sister and friends are playing Old Maid (fucking hipsters).
The typical “we can’t find anything” police shit goes down and we start to get the very clear impression that parents will be non-existent in this movie. This is to the film’s credit, for the most part, as it creates that feeling of youth in solidarity, which we all felt with our friends when we were young, before we got old and bitter and started horror blogs. The group, along with their rock n’ roll neighbor Gregg, become like a less likeable version of The Goonies in their quest to save Jay from her invisible STD slasher, which comes a-stalkin’ right quick.
First Jay is in class, listening to her teacher give a lecture that eerily mirrors what Jay is about to go through, and she looks out the window to see the haunting image of a creeping old lady in a hospital gown coming towards her. If this scene sounds familiar it is because it is a clear homage to Halloween (the real one) where Jamie Lee Curtis first sees Michael Myers. This scene was also wonderfully recreated by horror legend Keenen Ivory Wayans in his chilling masterpiece Scary Movie. But director David Robert Mitchell makes many nods to Halloween in It Follows, from the retro synth score to simple yet wonderful scenes of the teenage girls walking through their neighborhoods in early fall.
For the next twenty minutes or so, It Follows really delivers. Jay’s initial confrontations with “it” are terrifying. The creature is filled with malevolent sentience – it appears randomly and chases her insistently. Its pace is sluggish, but it cannot be daunted. So, the whole first half of the movie works extremely well. We start to become just as paranoid as Jay. Every person we see walking towards her is potentially the monster, and actress Maika Monroe, who plays Jay, is very convincing as she depicts Jay losing her shit. The monster comes lurching for her, she freaks out, and she runs as far and as fast as she can. It’s a classic horror movie springboard.
Problem is, it doesn’t spring into anything.
By the halfway mark, we’re tired of seeing the monster creep up on Jay over and over again only for her to get away again. The problem is that we begin to see the monster as an empty threat. It gets close but all you have to do is see it and run. Then you’re safe for a day or two. This happens ad nauseum to Jay and, because she is the only one the monster is after and is the main character, the element of danger is removed entirely. The monster becomes a mere annoyance.
Alternate title: It Annoys.
Luckily, men will do anything to get laid, and I mean anything.
Both Greg and Paul are willing to “help” Jay by having sex with her so that they too can see the monster. This makes it possible for the monster to have someone other than the protagonist to limp after, so the threat comes back, but when the monster finally, finally, finally gets a victim, we are left feeling jipped by what should have been a brutal death, given the shredded torso of the girl from the beginning of the movie. We wait forever for this snail of a monster, having been given a prelude of a Mortal Kombat style fatality, only to see a kill scene that has the intensity level of removing a Bandaid.
The movie suffers greatly from these sort of letdown moments, its unbearable repetition, and the confusing nature of the story all together. For example, Jeff, who gave the curse of the monster to Jay, says that he thinks he got it from a one-night stand. He thinks. This means that he isn’t sure, which means whoever gave it to him didn’t brief him on the monster, and yet for some reason he is the know-all expert when it comes to “it”. In addition, no matter how badly these kids get hurt, the parents and even the cops remain nonexistent, and never separate these kids who would appear to be greatly endangering each other.
The pace of the film is slower than the monster itself, and the approach it takes to scaring people is uninspired and weak. Jay is the only one who can see what appear to be dead people limping around. Sound familiar?
The group eventually comes up with a terrible plan to trap the monster, which is okay, because they are teens, but what is not okay is that the finale is a total anti-climax, which is ironic for a movie that has so much to do with fucking.
If you have seen The Sixth Sense, The Ring, The Grudge or any other ghost movie from the 90’s then you have already seen all the scares that It Follows has to offer. The only difference is that this boogeyman is sexually transmitted. In order for a slow-burn horror film to work, there has to be an eventual fire, but It Follows sizzles out before the flame can catch. There is much to enjoy here, but all the John Carpenter homages in the world can’t compensate for a script that was simply never thought through.
In all, It Follows was just a tease that left this viewer limp and blue balled.
2 out of 5 stars.
CHICK OF THE LITTER
First of all, for a movie about sex, there is way too little nudity here. That aside, all of the girls in this movie are decades younger than me, so it would be creepy of me to say which one I think is the hottest. But I am a creep. A total creep. Still, instead of saying that barely legal Lili Sepe is a babe, or that the obvious Maiki Monroe is my choice, I’ll go with Olivia Luccardi, who plays the throw away character of Yara, who is supposed to be the one who isn’t hot, but that’s only by movie standards. Take off the glasses and you have a new woman. Also, she is the closet to my age, so I feel like less of a scumbag in your judging eyes.
It is with a heavy heart that I must admit that your bartender has steered away from alcoholic lavations for the last few months. As much as I love the craft beer world I have just weaned off of booze all together. I didn’t make a hard decision to quit or anything like that, I just found myself less and less interested. Beer was available as I watched It Follows, but I just had a Sprite because most places don’t sell Yoo-hoo, my beverage of choice.
But I want to recommend a brew anyway, as is the nature of the webpage, so I will suggest the Jalapeno Pale Ale by Bird Song, which my wife enjoyed while we watched the movie. It is an amber colored, chili beer that is native to our home state of North Carolina, and it provides a fresh flavor that will surprise even the most experienced connoisseur. Hopefully its surprises will make up for the lack of them in It Follows.Read More
When it comes to inside information about the creation of our favorite horror gems, we genre nerds simply can’t get enough. We paw through one magazine article after another regarding the same films and listen in on our DVD director’s commentaries like teenage girls picking up juicy gossip. Being so beloved by us, we thirst for every bit of origin story when it comes to the horrorsphere. We want the scoop on movies we’ve seen a hundred times sometimes even more than we want the scoop on movies just slated for release. We just as feverishly read about a book as we do the book itself.
Now, thanks to Michael McCarty and Crystal Lake Publishing, we have a book that is the about the book as well as being a definitive guide for horror and sci-fi movie history. In this staggering collection of interviews with some of the world’s greatest writers, directors and film stars, McCarty has crafted a sort of bible for the obsessive fright fan. And when I say the greatest, I mean the absolute goddamned greatest.
How great, you ask?
Some of the interviewees include Richard Matheson, John Carpenter, Ramsey Campbell, Elvira, Jack Ketchum, Linnea Quigley, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Ingrid Pitt, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Bradbury and Mick Garris. All of these talents give thorough and insightful interviews, and they’re only 11 of the 35 conversations we get to enjoy.
The interviews cover varieties of topics as well. Instead of focusing on one specific work, the dialogue flows naturally as the artist’s craft as a whole is broken down, their personal favorites are brought to light, and even their tastes, senses of humor and other intimate details come into the limelight.
We get to read such tidbits as movie starlet Adrienne Barbeau discussing an 80’s horror classic: “I love Billie in Creepshow. She’s one of my all-time favorite characters… I just told George (Romero) I was going to do what I thought would work for her and if he didn’t like it, he’d better send me home immediately.” We marvel as Ray Bradbury discusses how his masterpiece Something Wicked This Way Comes is truly a part of his heart: “The two boys are the two halves of myself – the light half and the dark half. The father is me in the library. The entire book is me.” Jack Ketchum delves into the dark art of the extreme horror novel while Dean Koontz explains the approach of his signature style, and a cavalcade of film legends divulge some spooky little secrets.
What I enjoyed most is that McCarty’s questions are clever and unique. He doesn’t bother with the routine enquires you read in most banal rags. As he puts it, “Every interview is walking a tightrope without a net, with a strong wind blowing as you try to keep your balance.” As a veteran author of non-fiction who has been conducting interviews like this for four decades, McCarty clearly knows more about horror and sci-fi than even the most die-hard, convention-hopping, compulsive collectors and horrorhounds… people like you and me. He has also been featured in our favorite magazines, such as Cemetery Dance, Filmfax and the legendary Fangoria. He is the author of several similar books, but Modern Mythmakers is his latest and perhaps best collection, comprised of years of dedication to the underappreciated art of creepy, crawly creativity.
For a limited time, the e-book edition of Modern Mythmakers is available on Amazon for the steal of only 99 cents, and the paperback edition will be out this Friday.
How appropriate that Hatchet III, the third installment in the cult horror franchise, should be released for Father’s Day weekend. Those of you who are familiar with Victor Crowley, arguably the most beloved slasher of the new millennium, know that he has serious Daddy issues.
I’ve followed the Hatchet saga since the beginning, seeing the premier of the original in a low-rent theater outside of Boston. Its classic 80’s slasher feel, during the rise of tired remakes and SOV drivel, was a much-appreciated back-to-basics for gorehounds across the world.
The second film, though bogged down by too much juxtaposition and needlessly complicated back story, delivered the same sort of creative kills and high octane violence that made the first one such a delight – so much so that it had to be released unrated to keep the carnage in tact.
For the third and possibly final film in the Crowley legacy, writer-director Adam Green passes the director’s torch to Florida filmmaker BJ McDonnell, but still wields his creative wand as screenwriter.
Does the third film deliver, or is it time to give Victor Crowley the axe?
Now available in select theaters and on every VOD site, it’s up to us horror fans to judge for ourselves. We at the Tavern downloaded it as soon as we could, and although we’re still bogged down in a big project that put our webpage on hold all through May, we thought the return of Victor Crowley should get us to dust off our keyboard.…Read More
Followers of my insane ramblings will surely know by now that I was self-fed a steady audio diet of hair metal as a young teen. That germinated into a death metal phase in my late teens, which then transformed into Nick Cave worship in my twenties. Now that I am in my mid-thirties I find myself drawn back to the music I loved as a thirteen-year-old aspiring vandal. There is something so fantastic about the 80’s hair metal era and the stadium-packing mania that came with it. It was rock n’ roll at its most decadent: filled with sex, drugs and hairspray. It was the most fun music has ever been, and it’s sad to me that the one long suicide note of alternative rock came in and ruined everything by September of 1991.
All we have now are the golden records of yesteryear: the pounding anthems of Def Leppard, the sex-crazed rollercoaster of Motley Crue’s hits, and the untouchable awesomeness juggernaut we call Judas Priest. Sure, we’ve still got our Bullet Boys and Danger Danger cassettes, but now they’re played on the “classic” rock station. But we still have the memories, still have the songs that our wives have helped us convert to MP3s (in my case, anyway), and we still have the occasional B-movie from that bygone era that aptly showcases all the liquid eyeliner, dry ice, and topless babes that made hair metal the rainbow in the dark we so fondly remember.Read More
To celebrate our new affiliation with the delightful madmen at T-Shirt Bordello, we have teamed up with them to give away THREE FREE KICK-ASS HORROR SHIRTS. What I always loved about their designs is the creativity that goes into them. They aren’t just simple images from films; they are hilarious amalgams like the ones you see below:
With that incredible absurdity in mind, I chose to make a list of the top ten most absurd monsters in horror films. Keep reading to check out the list and find out how to enter the giveaway.