Dec 4, 2011

CROSSROADS

Meeting with the Devil at the Crossroads

A “vision,” as told by Henry Goodman

Robert Johnson been playing down in Yazoo City and over at Beulah trying to get back up to Helena, ride left him out on a road next to the levee, walking up the highway, guitar in his hand propped up on his shoulder. October cool night, full moon filling up the dark sky, Robert Johnson thinking about Son House preaching to him, “Put that guitar down, boy, you drivin’ people nuts.” Robert Johnson needing as always a woman and some whiskey. Big trees all around, dark and lonesome road, a crazed, poisoned dog howling and moaning in a ditch alongside the road sending electrified chills up and down Robert Johnson’s spine, coming up on a crossroads just south of Rosedale. Robert Johnson, feeling bad and lonesome, knows people up the highway in Gunnison. Can get a drink of whiskey and more up there. Man sitting off to the side of the road on a log at the crossroads says, “You’re late, Robert Johnson.” Robert Johnson drops to his knees and says, “Maybe not.”

The man stands up, tall, barrel-chested, and black as the forever-closed eyes of Robert Johnson’s stillborn baby, and walks out to the middle of the crossroads where Robert Johnson kneels. He says, “Stand up, Robert Johnson. You want to throw that guitar over there in that ditch with that hairless dog and go on back up to Robinsonville and play the harp with Willie Brown and Son, because you just another guitar player like all the rest, or you want to play that guitar like nobody ever played it before? Make a sound nobody ever heard before? You want to be the King of the Delta Blues and have all the whiskey and women you want?”

“That’s a lot of whiskey and women, Devil-Man.”

“I know you, Robert Johnson,” says the man.

Robert Johnson, feels the moonlight bearing down on his head and the back of his neck as the moon seems to be growing bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter. He feels it like the heat of the noonday sun bearing down, and the howling and moaning of the dog in the ditch penetrates his soul, coming up through his feet and the tips of his fingers through his legs and arms, settling in that big empty place beneath his breastbone causing him to shake and shudder like a man with the palsy. Robert Johnson says, “That dog gone mad.”

The man laughs. “That hound belong to me. He ain’t mad, he’s got the Blues. I got his soul in my hand.”

The dog lets out a low, long soulful moan, a howling like never heard before, rhythmic, syncopated grunts, yelps, and barks, seizing Robert Johnson like a Grand Mal, and causing the strings on his guitar to vibrate, hum, and sing with a sound dark and blue, beautiful, soulful chords and notes possessing Robert Johnson, taking him over, spinning him around, losing him inside of his own self, wasting him, lifting him up into the sky. Robert Johnson looks over in the ditch and sees the eyes of the dog reflecting the bright moonlight or, more likely so it seems to Robert Johnson, glowing on their own, a deep violet penetrating glow, and Robert Johnson knows and feels that he is staring into the eyes of a Hellhound as his body shudders from head to toe.

The man says, “The dog ain’t for sale, Robert Johnson, but the sound can be yours. That’s the sound of the Delta Blues.”

“I got to have that sound, Devil-Man. That sound is mine. Where do I sign?”

The man says, “You ain’t got a pencil, Robert Johnson. Your word is good enough. All you got to do is keep walking north. But you better be prepared. There are consequences.”

“Prepared for what, Devil-man?”

“You know where you are, Robert Johnson? You are standing in the middle of the crossroads. At midnight, that full moon is right over your head. You take one more step, you’ll be in Rosedale. You take this road to the east, you’ll get back over to Highway 61 in Cleveland, or you can turn around and go back down to Beulah or just go to the west and sit up on the levee and look at the River. But if you take one more step in the direction you’re headed, you going to be in Rosedale at midnight under this full October moon, and you are going to have the Blues like never known to this world. My left hand will be forever wrapped around your soul, and your music will possess all who hear it. That’s what’s going to happen. That’s what you better be prepared for. Your soul will belong to me. This is not just any crossroads. I put this “X” here for a reason, and I been waiting on you.”

Robert Johnson rolls his head around, his eyes upwards in their sockets to stare at the blinding light of the moon which has now completely filled tie pitch-black Delta night, piercing his right eye like a bolt of lightning as the midnight hour hits. He looks the big man squarely in the eyes and says, “Step back, Devil-Man, I’m going to Rosedale. I am the Blues.”

The man moves to one side and says, “Go on, Robert Johnson. You the King of the Delta Blues. Go on home to Rosedale. And when you get on up in town, you get you a plate of hot tamales because you going to be needing something on your stomach where you’re headed.”



Dec 2, 2011

OUR NEW LITTLE FRIENDS

"These are not your average kiddie dolls. They are hellish, tortured souls. Definitely conversation starters or the beginning of your bad dreams. Mutilation, injuries and monsters might be common themes in my work but they aren't all that bad! They still give you that warm, fuzzy feeling where you just want to hug each and every one of them. Right?.... Right? Hmmm.... its pretty quiet out there. Where did everybody go?"

Get the creeps.

Dec 1, 2011

A SADISTIC APPETITE

Marie Delphine LaLaurie (d. 1842), more commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a Louisiana-born socialite, known for her involvement in the torture of black slaves.

Jeanne deLavigne, writing in Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans (1946), alleged that LaLaurie had a "sadistic appetite [that] seemed never appeased until she had inflicted on one or more of her black servitors some hideous form of torture" and claimed that those who responded to [an] 1834 fire had found "male slaves, stark naked, chained to the wall, their eyes gouged out, their fingernails pulled off by the roots; others had their joints skinned and festering, great holes in their buttocks where the flesh had been sliced away, their ears hanging by shreds, their lips sewn together ... Intestines were pulled out and knotted around naked waists. There were holes in skulls, where a rough stick had been inserted to stir the brains."

The story was further popularized and embellished in Journey Into Darkness: Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans (1998) by Kalila Katherina Smith, the operator of a New Orleans ghost tour business. Smith's book added several more explicit details to the discoveries allegedly made by rescuers during the 1834 fire, including a "victim [who] obviously had her arms amputated and her skin peeled off in a circular pattern, making her look like a human caterpillar," and another who had had her limbs broken and reset "at odd angles so she resembled a human crab."

More.

Nov 30, 2011

A FEW MURDERS


"The caretakers will leave at midnight, locking us in here until they come back in the morning. Once the door is locked, there's no way out. The windows have bars that a jail would be proud of, and the only door to the outside locks like vault. There's no electricity, no phone, no one within miles, so no way to call for help."

Nov 29, 2011

SHITTY FLICKS: THE UNDYING

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


The Undying is the greatest concept for a Tropic Thunder/Grindhouse fake trailer there ever was. The only problem, however, is that it's not a joke, but a real, honest-to-Gosh movie. With a story so confoundedly ludicrous, and acting so questionable, it truly feels that the movie should have actually been a parody sketch instead of 100 minutes of poorly conceived fodder marketed towards repressed housewives.

Picture, in your best Don LaFontaine trailer narration voice, the following log line:
SHE'S a widow, desperate to put her life back together after the accidental death of her husband.
HE'S the displaced spirit of a long dead Civil War soldier who happens to reside in her new home.
Together, they will overcome centuries of separation, the pain of heartbreak and loss, and at-odds racial faux pas.
They are...THE UNDYING.
Barbara (Robin Weigart) has just moved into her new home—a Civil War era house somewhere in the Pennsylvanian countryside. You see, after her husband tragically died by literally falling backwards off a curb into traffic, she felt she needed to get away from it all. It is there she meets Henry (Franklin Ojeda Smith), the generic cool old black guy who owns the property and is renting it to Barbara, so that she may stay up late, cry into her ice cream bucket, and remember that one time her husband died by literally falling backwards off a curb into traffic.

Henry tells Barbara of the alleged ghost that is said to haunt the old house—a confederate Civil War soldier named Elijah who was gunned down by two Yankees while in the love hole of his lady.

Images for this movie are almost non-existent, so please enjoy this Elijah from the feature film Unbreakable.

Meanwhile, Barbara begins her new position at the local hospital, where she is constantly hit on by her new boss, Dr. Lassiter (Jay O. Sanders, who slimeballs his way through the role of Slimeball). It is there she meets her highly unlikely love interest: Jason (Anthony Carrigan), a coma patient who apparently lived a very mean life of fists and cursing—so much that his wife, Betty (the ludicrously attractive Paolo Mendoza), is eager to pull his plug.

And so they do! Jason flatlines and the doctors and nurses do doctor and nurse things until wait a minute what's this oh gosh I guess Barbara is a little insane, because she kidnaps Jason's dead body, impossibly stuffs it into her SUV (along with the gurney), and drives him to her home. It is there she lays the body out and invites the ghost of Elijah to hop in and take him for a test drive.

Well, he does, and for the first half of the movie, not only does Elijah the Ghost ride in Jason the Body, but he sports a beard and wig so fake that even an "Unsolved Mysteries" actor would be embarrassed. The look this poor actor sports is reminiscent of Jesus Christ, the Geico Caveman, and Charles Manson, with the added bonus of clearly being brand new out of the beard bag. Why the filmmakers chose THIS look for the modern male, and not the Civil War soldier, who in flashbacks is played by the baby-faced and hairless body of a boy straight out of "The Hills" is beyond me, but that's okay, because if that were the case, I would have less to laugh at.

 
Actor Carrigan bravely chooses to portray this broken-down spirit without any emotion whatsoever, so that when he says stuff, you almost kind of care what he's saying sometimes. His performance will go down in history as the most affecting and heartbreaking since Larry Drake's  role as 'morgue slab corpse' in an episode of "The X Files." He also uses a sometimes there/sometimes not southern accent.

The musical score does what Elijah does not—attempts to force you to feel anything at all. While certainly not a bad score, there is hardly a single moment of silence in the film. Even scenes of Barbara walking down the hallway, or looking through files, is complemented by stirring music.

This isn't radio, folks—it's cinema. It's okay to have silence from time to time.

Elijah is understandably mystified by his new surroundings—what with being knock-knock-zoom-zoomed 150 years into the future. He points out the window to Henry, Barbara's black landlord, and asks, "Is that your house ni--er?"

Barbara goes on to explain that the Civil War is over—the south having lost—and that the n-word isn't used anymore, because we all have equality; there is no longer any such thing as master and slave, and we are all neighbors, regardless of our skin color. Elijah, who in his first life was a fervent confederate soldier, fighting with great passion for an ideal in which he powerfully believed, says, "Oh," and then drops the matter entirely.

You can imagine where it goes from here:

"What's this thing?" (A coffee maker.)

"Say, Abraham Lincoln is on your money? Better not react." (He doesn't.)

"You mean voices and faces come out of this magical noise box? I better instantly accept this and begin watching public domain programming for hours on end." (He does.)

The two lost souls begin a romantic affair, which when considering their ten-year age difference, is more than creepy. Barbara spends much of the time rubbing her face against Elijah's fake beard, not quite meeting his lips with her own, and moaning a little too loudly.

Soon, Barbara begins to suspect that Elijah is responsible for a nearby murder. And only one measly day after they BOTH drive by this very same murder scene and see the body covered in a white sheet, Barbara asks Elijah, "Did you know a girl was murdered recently?" to which Elijah responds, "No."

As if the filmmakers could sense my joy, Barbara cuts off Elijah's long hair and heavy beard, turning him into a typical hispter douchebag, complete with hipster douchebag rim glasses. This transformation then decreases the appearance of his age to roughly fifteen, making the remainder of their intimate scenes even creepier.

A computer generated image
of how a Civil War soldier would
appear today (backwards).

The ending eventually occurs, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and then lets us turn the movie off. Then you sit back and realize you've learned a little more about the world, each other, and yourself (and beards).

I give writer/director Steven Peros credit for making a movie he clearly believed in. This was certainly not a movie made for the masses, and the story he had hoped to fill with white-knuckled thrills hides somewhere within the unintentionally hilarious pastiche of badly realized "horror" scenes and tired jump scares. He avoided violence unless necessary and attempted to rely on Gothic horror as his guide, and for that he earns points, but alas, the movie is more Lifetime than Robert Wise. Ultimately, it's the story of a woman learning to overcome grief, but more importantly, learning the lesson that she doesn't need a man to make her happy. (Are you listening, Twilight ?) 

Plus, let's face it: the Geico Caveman making a threatening face will never be threatening at all. 

Nov 27, 2011

FINALE

It must have been pretty amazing seeing Carpenter's original Halloween back when it first came out in 1978 - back when every little technique and scare was fresh and original.