Jun 7, 2014


Floating stage on Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria. The Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival) has become renowned for its unconventional staging of shows. 

Verdi’s opera, “A Masked Ball” in 1999, featured a giant book being read by a skeleton.

Jun 6, 2014


Edgar Switchblade is back with his third storied adventure and his second in book form. With his ever-faithful equine companion, Old Red, by his side, it would seem Edgar has been tasked with taking on and eradicating a zombie threat in the town of Cathedral Hill. The bounty seems easily satisfied, and what's left of the obliterated zombie remains are eaten entirely by the ravenous Red, but as usual in the life of Edgar Switchblade, things have only really just begun.

By now, the character of Edgar Switchblade has been duly established. He is a mankind-hating vegetarian cannibal (figure that one out) blessed by God (or he just thinks he is) who travels the land smiting any number of supernatural threats. He is a mostly irredeemable character that no one in their right mind should root for, but yet, author L. Wyatt knows his audience well enough at this point to be confident that, yeah, of course we're going to root for him. Though Edgar stabs and decapitates innocent people simply for getting in his way, oddly it's exactly this kind of anti-heroically behavior, as well as his undying loyalty for Old Red, that has us rooting for him anyway. In a way, Edgar represents the readers' desires to break free of the everyday and act out the most animalistic and vile things that simmer beneath our brain. The part of us that's "human" should be repulsed by Edgar's wanton disregard for anything the least bit civilized, but yet we find ourselves living vicariously through this rather rogue and rootless life that sees him and Old Red traveling the countryside, drinking to excess some Old Crow, whoring when the desire should so arise, and having the occasional bout with the supernatural. Compare all that to quality control procedures and itemized billing and TPS reports, and yeah, suddenly Edgar Switchblade's unscrupulous and murderous life suddenly seems all the more alluring.

The Dreadful Death of Edgar Switchblade is an improvement over the previous and introductory book of the Edgar Switchblade series, which didn't need all that much improving. While The Terrible Tale of Edgar Switchblade was tasked with telling a cohesive and current story while also dipping back in time to provide some necessary back-story on our titular character, with Book # 2, all that's gone to crow. What we have now is a rather straightforward adventure (or as close as we can get in the world of Edgar Switchblade) that sees Edgar teaming up with Old Red and Reverend Jebediah Hitchcock to take on the demon wizard Solomon Gorath. Along the way our trio meets Mary, who are comprised of both a shapely, fire-headed woman as well as her Persian cat, and together they become perhaps the most randomly compiled group of avengers ever seen.

By now the tone of the series has been handily established and relishes in unrelenting violence, vile disgust, and morbid humor. But really, even though there are moments of obvious humor, if you're not laughing along with the violent and absolutely disgusting acts that pepper this story, you're not doing it right. (For example, a rather sharp object ends up inside an unfortunate person's "anus" more than once - take that, James Patterson - and it's done to make you squirm in your seat and laugh out of sheer disbelief and discomfort.)

The painstaking detail to the physical design of the book - the undersized dime-store pulp novel with pink-stained edges that could be found on the lowest shelf of every drug-store book display in the 1940s/50s - is so-far consistent with the Edgar Switchblade series. It's such a fucking wonderful design that you wonder why more authors aren't doing it. 

As I'm sure I mentioned before in other Switchblade-related reviews, but which bears repeating here, the Edgar Switchblade series is an acquired taste. Very acquired. You have to be a little sick and deranged to enjoy it. Its mere presence on your bookshelf would horrify your mother and have the nearest insane asylum reserving a room for you in the cellar.

You can buy it here, by the way.

Jun 5, 2014


Death: A Picture Album

Disturbing, Macabre and Moving

80 pages, linen hardcover, full color, bookmark ribbon
About This Book
Disturbing, macabre and moving: the images in this book examine our enduring desire to make peace with death. Chosen from the spectacular collection of a death-obsessed print dealer from Chicago, Richard Harris, they include art from an array of time periods, places and traditions. Works by Linda Connor, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Otto Dix and Francisco Goya are shown alongside Renaissance vanitas paintings, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts, photographs of Mexico’s Day of the Dead and eerie snapshots from the 1900s of anonymous sitters posing with skulls and skeletons.

The book is divided into five sections (Contemplating Death, The Dance of Death, Violent Death, Eros & Thanatos, and Commemoration), each accompanied by a short introductory text. In these pages we are presented with some of the many faces of death: violent and cruel, benign and playful; death the friend and death the enemy. The epitome of terrible beauty, this book is a reminder of the end awaiting us all.

I will accept this gift from you.

Jun 4, 2014


There was once a couple who did nothing but bicker with each other. One night, after a particularly big fight, the father accidentally killed his wife. In order to hide the crime he buried her in the backyard and pretended that nothing happened.

The next day their 5-year-old son asked if they could go to a nearby park. The father obliged and played with the child. However, the son kept asking the father why the mother didn’t join them. The father just told him that she was tired.

As they were going home, the father asked his son if he had a great time. The child replied that he had fun, but it would have been better if his mother played with them too. The father repeated that she was too tired.
The son asked, “Oh, is that why you’ve been carrying her on your back all day?”

Story source.

Jun 2, 2014


Perhaps it all began with William Schoell's The Nightmare Never Ends: The Official History of Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street Films, the first modern book to tackle a series in its entirety (at least, at that time) film by film. A loving ode and heavily researched retrospective on a fantastical series, it would be one of many books to come down the pike that celebrated, analyzed, and perhaps even poked fun at the various entries that made up the film franchise being discussed. Following in Schoell's footsteps were Fangoria writer Bill Warren's The Evil Dead Companion, Stefan Jaworzyn's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Companion, Peter Bracke's amazing piece of printed art, Crystal Lake Memories: A Complete History of Friday the 13th, and 2006's quietly released The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy by Paul Kane. With Halloween: The Complete History coming (eventually) from author Justin Beahm, it would seem we've now got at least one series retrospective celebration on every one of our beloved horror movie villains*. That is, until Dustin McNeil came along, knowing that there was still one villainous madman out there who had yet to have his exploits examined with as much detail and devotion - one madman with perhaps the most devious and despicable plan for humanity of all those that came before and after him.

Said madman was also the tallest.

With the still-warm release of Phantasm Exhumed, author McNeil has done the Phantasm phamily and phans more than a service with his excruciatingly researched book. Finally, this series that never had the same marquee value as Jason or Freddy, and whose own successive entry had the power to turn off the casual viewer, instead entrapping those who became madly intrigued by the surreal and the absurd and fucking insane developments that the series would continuously offer over its 35 years in existence, Phantasm has its own slot on every horror aficionado's book shelf. And it honestly could not have been better.

Liz and the Creature: Mark Shostrom

Phantasm Exhumed covers every film in the Phantasm series, including the long-awaited and much-mooted Phantasm: RaVAger**, as well as the first two films in writer/director Don Coscarelli's career, Jim the World's Greatest and Kenny & Company. Prominent players from every film are on hand to share their recollections and experiences with the author, some with great fondness, some with bemusement, but all of them agreeing on one thing: that Don Coscarelli was a hell of a good guy, a kind-hearted professional, and destined to be making films. Chief among these participants are the hilarious A. Michael Baldwin (Mike), soft-spoken and humble Bill Thornbury (Jody), lovable Reggie Bannister (Reggie), and the absolutely eloquent Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man). Their voices join those of other familiar names, along with some not-so-familiar ones, to peel back their Phantasm curtain and let us phans in on the full story, much of it being shared for the first time. (On a personal note, I was also happy to see coverage of Jim the World's Greatest, as that remains a mythical part of Coscarelli's past. Once owned by Universal Studios, the film rights have since reverted back to the original production company, which no longer seems to exist. The film has never been released on any kind of home video format; the damned thing hasn't even leaked to Youtube or the torrent world [and believe me, I've been looking]. If this the closest I can ever get, I'd consider the matter at the very least satisfied.)

Considering myself a seasoned phan, I went into the book confident that I'd know a fair amount of the info to come - the three-hour cut of the first film; the cabin-fever setting where Don wrote the script; his original inspiration for making a horror film coming from a haunted-garage scene in Kenny & Company - but I was also confident I'd be learning stuff I hadn't previously known, being that I'm not that up my own ass. But I couldn't have prepared myself for how much I simply did not know about Phantasm and its phamily. Phantasm's original title was Morningside? Coscarelli originally tried to direct the eventual adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes before refashioning that concept into the Morningside script? Fucking Bill Thornbury met with George Lucas about possibly playing Luke Skywalker?

Holy shit!

And if you think I'm giving away all the non-common stuff, I haven't even scratched the surface of what Phantasm Exhumed has on display. Boasting interviews with every key player and crew member from the entire Phantasm series (though Coscarelli, as well as Phantasm II alumni James Le Gros and Paula Irvine, sadly declined involvement), and rare never-before-seen photos taken by the people who were there and experienced it first-hand, no kind of Phantasm retrospective will ever be as definitive. Prior to this, the Phantasmagoria documentary available only on the Anchor Bay UK Phantasm box set had been the ultimate phan experience.

Phantasm Exhumed now claims that honor. And all it took was a little digging.

The book is available now.

* It's time for someone to announce Chucky Unassembled: The Complete Child's Play History.
** Confession: I glossed over the section featuring Phantasm: RaVager, as I am trying to refrain from learning about the film as much as I can between now and its eventual release date.