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Showing posts from 2009

Catch Some Cool Art at Forgotten Works this week!

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My talented wife, Rita Bellanca, is one of fifty honored participants in the Forgotten Works Art Challenge, exhibiting at the Tashiro Kaplan Building in Pioneer Square, 315 Prefontaine Place South! Thirty of her paintings will be on display, along with a lot of other great work from local artists, and the schedule is as follows: Wednesday, December 2: Preview (no works for sale), 5 to 8pm Thursday, December 3: The sale begins and runs from 5 to 9pm. This is a popular annual event, plus it's First Thursday in Pioneer Square, so make sure to arrive early: It will be busy! Saturday, December 5, the gallery will also be open from noon to 5pm. Rita's done a lot of great, great work (check out her Zazzle page and her Blog, Atomic War Bride , and prepare to be, well, Zazzled), so this is an outstanding opportunity for her work to be exhibited (and sold!). Hope to see you there!

Bizarro Movie Night at the Aster Coffee Lounge!

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I've got mucho irons in the fire, friends, so the 'Dish may be a bit under-stocked in the coming couple of weeks. HOWEVER! I will be hosting a Movie Night at the Aster Coffee Lounge in scenic Ballard, Washington and have created a Blog to summarily clarify/plug/pimp the blessed event. Feel free to stop by said Weblog  at your leisure and say hello. And try to come out for the shindig! I could be persuaded to pull my T-shirt halfway over my head, then bust out a baaad imitation of Vincent Price in The Pit and The Pendulum . Maybe. But one thing's for sure: I promise to deliver some seriously wiggy stuff...Stay tuned!

Have a Scary Story, and a Happy Halloween

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As you read this, I'll be relaxing on the Oregon Coast with wife and dog. But Horrorpalooza must go on; hence, the inclusion of this for your Halloween. Rather than break out another review, I thought I'd actually present a scary story. Five years ago, Rita and I vacationed in Romania, and one of the most eerily-inspiring places we visited was Snagov Monastery, an isolated house of worship reputedly housing the actual remains of Vlad the Impaler--the real Dracula. The entire week we visited, the weather was in the mid-seventies and sunny (at the tail end of October, no less)...Except for the day we visited Snagov. Fog enshrouded everything, and a palpable chill cut through the air as we sat in a rowboat and traversed the lake route to the Monastery's location. It was sublimely, fabulously spooky. I've been keeping the fiction writing muscles limber-ish via writing exercises in a Yahoo chat group. The conceit: A sentence is posted, and you have 15 minutes to writ

Freakshow at the Cafe Racer, 10/29/09

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It's fun being a fly on the wall at a freakshow. Last night, I visited the Cafe Racer in Seattle's University District. On display were several great pieces of art--all inspired by old-school freakshow banners and posters--and a tassel of convivial and scary folks. 'Twas one hell of a great way to spend Halloween Eve Eve.

Cemetery Man: A Beautiful Nightmare Mess

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I've always been a night owl. It takes next to nothing for me to stay up longer and later than most normal mortals, and on weekends or days off I'll routinely stay awake until 2 or 3 in the a.m. Writing during that time can be, in a strange way, fun. Sometimes, being up that late just turns you into a tired and punchy oaf the next day. But other times, drifting in that twilit state between consciousness and narcotic slumber stimulates great things. It's as if, when you're on that fine line, it opens up a door to untold wonders, beauties, nightmares, and imaginings. That twilit time means so much to me that when I see a movie that truly, deeply captures it--that drowsily-heady point where dreams and wakefulness dance so closely that you can't tell them apart--I fall for it like a frilly-shirted poet gazing at some alabaster-skinned Edwardian muse. Cemetery Man is one of those movies. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) works as a caretaker at Buffalora Ce

Dog Soldiers and The Descent: Neil Marshall, New Genre Hero

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British filmmaker Neil Marshall's only directed three movies so far, but on the strength of the two I've seen, I'm willing to go out on a limb and proclaim him one of the most promising guys working in the horror genre today. His inaugural features, 2002's Dog Soldiers and 2005's The Descent , do their jobs so well that they transcend the genre. Marshall's concise, lean style involves setting up a pretty basic fits-in-one-sentence synopsis, then turbo-charging it with clever, compact writing and solid characterizations. Seems simple enough, until you consider how few modern horror filmmakers actually get past the 'fits-in-one-sentence' part. Dog Soldiers' conceit? A squad of British soldiers on a routine training mission in the Scottish wilds are besieged by a pack of lycanthropes, then they barricade themselves in a deserted cottage. So, yeah, it's basically a classic World War II action opus with werewolves and a dash of Night of the Liv

Scary Song o' the Day: Peter Gabriel, "Intruder"

Everyone associates Peter Gabriel with the jaunty pop of "Sledgehammer" and "Big Time." But right after he left prog-rockers Genesis, he put out three musically-innovative records that incorporated pop melodies with tribal percussion and atmospheric scariness. "Intruder," from Gabriel's self-titled 1980 release, always chilled the living pants offa me. With it's pounding drums, tribal chants, atonal shards of guitar, and spastic xylophone break, the song always sounded like it belonged in a horror movie. This brief entry for today is a cop-out of sorts--sorry, all--but revisiting this horrific piece of music was almost as good as watching a horror movie. Almost. Stay tuned for more scary in the next couple of days...

Exor-Sistah is Doin' it for Herself: Abby

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A couple of weeks ago I reviewed The Exorcism of Emily Rose --a classy, tasteful treatment of possible demonic possession populated with A-list Oscar nominees and shot with polish and care. Respectful and respectable as it was, it kinda left me a little cold. Tonight I viewed Abby , a cheap  Exorcist rip-off from 1974. It's lustily potty-mouthed, silly as hell, moves like a chicken with its ass on fire, and doesn't give a hang as to how respectable it is. Guess which one I liked better. Abby 's backstory reflects almost as much drama and silliness as the movie itself...Almost. When The Exorcist became a massive box office hit back in 1973, it unleashed a slew of filmic imitations both here and abroad. It seemed like damn near everywhere you turned, local theaters and drive-ins were overflowing with heretofore innocent women vomitting pea soup thanks to the influence of some pesky demon-of-the-week. This proliferation of demonic-possession movies did not go unnot

Random Bits of Fright and F@$kery, 2009 Edition

I've got some real goodies in the offing if I may say so, kids, but none are close enough to completion to finish rapidly. Included are retrospectives on everything from a stately Universal classic to one of the best overlooked zombie flicks of the last twenty years. But they're gonna have to wait. The relentlessness of this weekend (Relaxation...Wuzzat?) prohibits me from being able to pour much time into this here entry, so I will openly cop out and give you a visual tour of some horror highlights, courtesy of YouTube... Not totally sold on the charms of The Incredible Melting Man after the rave in this here corner of the Blogosphere? Mayhaps this trailer will convince you... ...And if you're looking to replicate my Parkland Theater experience in microcosm, you should thrill to this trailer for the very entertaining Without Warning, Melting Man's partner in double-feature crime. Enjoy this trailer for The Pit and the Pendulum , a Roger Corman Poe classic

Four Flies on Grey Velvet: Dry Run for Horror's Most Gifted Savant

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The arrival of Dario Argento's 1972 giallo Four Flies on Grey Velvet on domestic DVD is kind of a horror-nerd big deal. Legal loopholes had kept it away from legit US issue for a lot of years, and it's one of the few films from his ouevre that I hadn't seen. So how is it? Bottom Line, it's nothing to write home about, but it does offer an intriguing view into the evolution of one of horror's great visual stylists. Rock drummer Roberto (Michael Brandon) is followed for days on end by a gaunt, suspicious-looking bald man. Freaked out and ultimately fed up with the man's presence, Roberto confronts him, and in a struggle the musician accidentally kills the stranger. For some reason, a weird voyeur happens to be on hand taking pictures of Roberto having just committed the crime, and soon incriminating photos and harrassing phone calls commence. Then, people around Roberto begin dying violently. Four Flies opens with a beautifully-shot and creatively-framed

I Heart Uwe Boll. Frickin' Sue Me.

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I'll say it loud and proud: Uwe Boll, contrary to what every mainstream critic in the country (no, the world...no, the SOLAR SYSTEM) might say, is NOT the worst director in the world...At least not by my criteria. Hollywood routinely excretes movies much worse than Boll's; generic, faceless, focus-grouped-to-death pieces of product slicker than the proverbial duck's ass but utterly bereft of personality. I'll assert that workmanlike hacks like Michael Bay and Brett Ratner deserve way more derision than the notorious German director ever will. This supposition is based on a simple litmus test: Uwe Boll's movies entertain the hell out of me. Are they polished? Nope. Subtle? Uh-uh. Are they fun? Hells, yes. Boll stands out amongst the Bays and Ratners of today not because he makes films for less money, but because he belongs in another era, alongside B-movie directors like Al Adamson and Ed Wood. Like those two filmmakers, the Teutonic titan makes lowbrow mov

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue: One Scary Trip to the Country

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Any horror movie that turns placid natural surroundings into a garden of fetid, horrific menace earns major props from this corner. The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue manages that rare hat trick, and much more. It first surfaced in theaters in 1974 under about a dozen different alternate titles-- Let Sleeping Corpses Lie , Don't Open the Window , Breakfast at Manchester Morgue , and a few others. Such chronic retitling usually signals a stinker, but The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue couldn't be further from it. In this Spanish-Italian co-production, antiques dealer George ( Ray Lovelock ) hops on his motorcycle and departs the tumult of bustling London for some relaxation in the country. En route, his bike's totalled by Edna (Christine Galbo), a young woman likewise heading to the remote countryside to visit her sister. George insinuates his way into her car and insists on her taking him to his new house in the tiny English hamlet of Windemere. They stop near a

Jonny Quest: It'll Scare you Spitless

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I loved Scooby-Doo as a kid, but it always gave a little horror-loving moppet like me (prepare for crudity, folks...) the prepubescent equivalent of blue-balls. Yeah, the comic interplay between Scooby and Shaggy (the Cheech and Chong of Saturday Morning Kiddie Kartoons) still holds up, and I sorta had dual crushes on Velma and Daphne. But in the end, every monster in the Scooby Rogue's Gallery turned out to be some greedy hoaxster schmuck in a costume, faking monster-dom in an attempt to get at a pile of treasure or to close down some old motel. Even as a tyke, I felt a little gypped. But Jonny Quest never let me down. Jonny Quest was a vigorously-syndicated 1964 cartoon show also produced by the brains behind Scooby-Doo , William Hanna and Joe Barbera . In decided contrast to Scooby's slapshticky shenanigans, Jonny Quest ran in a world of excitement, danger,...and scary stuff that frequently turned out to be chillingly real. It only lasted one season, but it grew le

Still Not Out on DVD: The Incredible Melting Man

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Every dyed-in-the-wool film buff has their personal cinematic Lost Ark: That indelible movie classic that's haunted them for years, yet somehow evaded release on DVD. For some film obsessives, it's John Huston's The African Queen . Others may bemoan the absence of Nicholas Ray's noir western Johnny Guitar from the domestic digital front (Criterion, incidentally, is supposedly remedying this, soon). Me, I would readily don the fedora and brave Indiana Jones-style perils for the love of... The Incredible Melting Man . In an era when even the most obscure vintage horror schlock makes it to the Digital Age (and when something like, oh, Dracula 3000 can be purchased at any frickin' video store), the absence of this mean-spirited little curio from the DVD pantheon sorta surprises me. It's gruesome, gloriously silly, and features makeup effects by a young Rick Baker--all prime reason for digital immortality. I lamented this gem's absence of a domestic DVD

Dracula 3000: Top Your Crappy Horror with A Dollop of Coolio Whip

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I've spent a good five minutes working on a zingy introduction to this exploration of yet another crappy direct-to-video horror schlocker; but then I realized that  Dracula 3000 ain't even worth that much effort. This from a guy who's spent a lot of time contemplating really lousy horror movies. What we've got here, friends and neighbors, is an incredibly cheap and impossibly incompetent weld of cheesy vampire flick and one of those Sci-Fi Channel thrillers in which several B-grade actors run around in a darkly-lit factory or airplane hanger that's shoddily standing in for the interior of a spaceship. I guess that makes it a cross-genre effort by crappy home-video standards. Set in (you guessed it) the year 3000, Dracula 3000 follows the crew of an intergalactic salvage ship as it stumbles across the Demeter , a deserted transport ship packed lots of coffins. Greedy crew members, searching for possible drugs in the coffins, smash some of the caskets open. One

Adolescence Sucks, Literally: Let the Right One In

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I've said it a million times, but only because it still holds true: Really good horror movies--the ones that live in your memory and dreams/nightmares long after you're finished watching them--are essentially dark fairy tales; veiled allegories for universal truths and subconscious fears that connect with viewers on a level deeper than just a jump and a spontaneous scream. That element makes Let the Right One In not just the best new horror film I've seen this year--It makes it one of the best I've ever seen, period. Withdrawn kid Oskar leads a solitary and monochromatic life in a Swedish suburb. He occupies himself by collecting morbid newspaper clippings, and faces a coldly-manipulative bully every day at school. Then a girl his age, Eli, moves in next door. She's a weird kid who walks barefoot through the snowy Swedish countryside every night. Her father's blocked all of their apartment windows from the sun's rays, and she has this habit of appearing

Blacula Dynamite: Hasty Scrawls from the Precipice of Too Busy

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I'm jam-packed with work and a music show to review for the SunBreak tonight, then more work tomorrow, so today's missive will be brief, meandering, and nuts. First, a plug for a non-horror flick hitting theaters this weekend. I caught Black Dynamite at the Seattle International Film Festival a few months back, and I haven't laughed so gut-constrictingly hard since Borat . It's a blaxploitation parody so funny that you don't have to be a Black Action Cinema aficionado to appreciate it; yet it reproduces that era so spot-perfectly that it coulda fit right in on a double bill with Coffy or Dolemite back in the day. BD belongs in that great pantheon of movies-spoofing-movies inhabited by Airplane and Young Frankenstein . Go see it before you throw your bucks at the sure-to-be-good Where the Wild Things Are ;  BD needs the money much more, and you won't regret it. Believe it , Bruthas and Sistas. About the only afro-centric 70's flick that doesn'

Cuisine Review: Franken Berry, Count Chocula, Boo Berry

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I actually take pride in eating pretty damned healthy most of the time--easy on the processed sugars, lots of veggies, and water as my usual beverage of choice. But a massive rush of childhood nostalgia hit me in Target the other day, and I could not resist its demon call. There, snuggled cozily between Target's overstock of  The Notebook DVD's and a shelf of Wheat Thins sat three icons of my childhood: The General Mills Monster Cereals , Franken Berry, Count Chocula, and Boo Berry. And at $1.99 a box, the missus and I just had to take some home. I'd been oblivious to their current status--forsaking these cereals' Creature-ific existence in favor of the grown-up cereals like Total and Smart Start--but General Mills redoubled distribution of these three cereals especially for Halloween. I vowed I would eat Count Chocula, Franken Berry, and Boo Berry again for the first time since the age of ten--nutritive correctness be damned. A bit of background may be in order

Favorite Scream Queens: Yvette Vickers

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Some B girls, like the wonderful Beverly Garland , you take home to mom.Yvette Vickers, conversely, is the girl you hop into the hot rod with--the sultry, thrill-seeking, wild-for-kicks vixen who's too much trouble to handle but too smoking-hot to resist. Vickers appeared in several movies and TV shows in the 1950's and '60's, usually in bit roles (she's got a great cameo in Sunset Boulevard as a giggling blonde on a phone at a party); she posed for Playboy in the late fifties; and she worked the lounge circuit as a pop singer, too.  But she amassed a rabid cult following from her work in two low-budget sci-fi classics. Even horror non-initiates know Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman , the immortal 1958 schlock epic in which despondent and put-upon heiress Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) grows to giant-size after falling afoul of a UFO.  Attack 's tawdry melodramatic shell conceals heaps of (probably unintentional) subtext: Nancy's imprisoned in a loveless marr

Sands of Oblivion: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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Some crappy made-for-cable horror movies are born with crappiness, some achieve their crappiness, and some have their crappiness thrust upon them. Despite the fact that it premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel (or as it's now known, SyFy --please explain, someone) in 2007, I'd argue that Sands of Oblivion was not born crappy. It's got the kernel of an interesting idea, some likeable actors, and a monster--three fine starting points for a night of Horrorpalooza entertainment. Sands of Oblivion's neural crappiness pathway runs twofold. On one hand the script works hard to achieve a pretty consistent level of crappy; on the other mitt, this little thriller's sphincter-cinchingly low budget thrusts the crappy onto it as well. As anyone who's visited these hallowed electronic halls knows, however, crappy in the convergent conventional sense often portends at least a few yocks with your schlock. I'm a sucker for speculative fiction that uses real-life events as