Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book of the week: “The Essential Dracula: The Difinitive Annotated Edition”

The Essential Dracula: The Definitive Annotated Edition, By Leonard Wolf
(Obviously the actual novel bit is by Bram Stoker)

Get me drunk enough, and there are a few things you’ll commonly see me do: talk with an Irish accent (even though I am in no way related to anyone Irish), spout random French words from my old high school French class, and complain that nobody has ever properly given Dracula it’s due on the big screen. What does this have to do with my favorite edition of Dracula I’ve ever read? Well, I’ll tell you.

It is not easy to write an annotated book without getting heavy-handed, or filling the novel with footnotes that just aren’t necessary or interesting. A lot of times, annotated books just break down to defining a word a moderate reader might not understand, like ‘superfluous’ or ‘clatu virata nicto’. Somehow, Mr. Wolf managed to inject an interesting or useful note into practically every page. The footnotes themselves actually add to Dracula, rather than taking away from it.

In reading this edition, I felt like I had come to know more about the time period, the novel, and Bram Stoker himself. What’s more, since there’s just so MUCH information, reading it again has still left me feeling like I learned something new every time. It also convinces me a little bit more each time I read this edition, that a film has never been made which could compare to the book. Yes, I understand movies rarely are anywhere near as good as the books they’re based on, but you’d think after 50+ tries, someone would have nailed it in the past 90 years.

I recommend this for those of us who love Dracula, and for those of us who love history. There’s an earlier edition with lots of pretty pictures and illustrations thrown in too, but I haven’t gotten my hand on a copy yet. Ultimately, I think if anyone actually decided to do true justice to the story of Dracula in a film, they would reap the most benefit from reading this edition. Thank you, Mr. Wolf, for this wonderful read.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Grim History: Torture Devices

So skimming through ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ this morning, I thought to myself about all of the grim torture equipment out there; I’m referring to the ones that aren’t for exercising, of course. Man’s greatest enemy has always been himself, as I’m sure you all know. Anyway, here’s a few that really give me some serious goose bumps…


I first read about this little sucker in 5th grade. I recall the book describing it as a method of torturing slaves, or extracting information. Let’s be honest…those are usually the only two reasons beyond pure sadism, when it comes to torture…no matter the device. The idea behind a thumbscrew is pretty much self-explanatory. The thumbs are forcibly inserted between the bars…then the screw on top is slowly twisted, applying pressure to the digits, and ultimately cracking them. Not unlike pecans. Maybe it isn’t going to kill you, beyond the likely development of gangrene, but the pain could only be excruciating. What’s more, there’s really no recovering from pancake thumbs. If this isn’t bad enough, picture the pilliwinks…which really did look like nutcrackers. Those? Those were applied to ALL of the fingers.

Punishing Shoes

Moving on, let’s talk about footwear. Have you ever heard the story of the 12 dancing princesses? They go to bed every evening and wake up to find their dancing shoes destroyed. There’s more to it, of course, but I think if their father had simply given them a pair of these babies: punishing shoes. If you heard horses screaming in terror after reading that, you’re either watching Young Frankenstein, or you know just how these were used. They’ve got spikes inside the heel portion, and you’d have to stand in place wearing them, usually with something really heavy on your head. Maybe a matching hat…either you become the world’s greatest ballet dancer in the process, or you end up crippled for life. Now doesn’t that sound fun?

Wooden Horse

Sometimes when I’m having trouble sleeping, I’m haunted by two thoughts: a knife coming up through my mattress and impaling me for no reason, and riding an infinitely long metal slide that slowly narrows until it’s just a razor blade. This is that second vision made as real as it could be, and this is also why I wear pants to bed. It’s called the ‘Wooden Horse’ or ‘The Spanish Donkey’, oddly enough, and if they were mixed drinks I think I might take a pass.

Now that I’ve thoroughly spoiled your holiday season, or at least made you question buying a rocking horse for your niece this year…I think I’m going to just look at pictures of cute kittens to floss my brain.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Horror Flick of the Week: Dead Alive/Braindead

Firing up my DVD player today, I thought back to when I first watched this movie. My mom was an avid horror fan, and she’d helped me pick this rental out at Hastings. I couldn’t have been more than maybe 9. This was the day my mom also gave me one of the best bits of advice I’ve ever received: do not eat and watch this film. Do not think of food while watching this film. Avoid consumption of anything before watching this…film. For those of you who may not have seen this or any of Peter Jackson’s other works, I’d advise you to heed these words.

Of course as a proud member of Nickelodeon’s first generation, I disregarded her wisdom. I thought I could handle it. I ate a chili dog the first time I saw Dead Alive (or Braindead to you non-American folks.)  I did pretty well until the custard scene…

I spent most of my childhood in small-town Texas. This may not mean much to a lot of you, but to others…you might also remember the small video rental shops tucked away at the back of those aging grocery stores. The mysterious collections of films I’d find there, I’ve yet to see at any regular video store. What attracted me to this movie was the video cover. It’s…well it’s pretty freaking awesome. It’s also pretty disturbing. The only reason my mom let me go ahead and rent it after walking past this little gem a thousand times, was because she’d seen it. A normal parent would probably have just been even more averse to letting his or her daughter watch Dead Alive alone after actually seeing the film, but go figure.

I scoff at most modern 'zombie' pictures, when I think of Dead Alive. Oh, so a virus got out and infected the populace? It's doomsday? There was a mad monkey? PLEASE. Be a bit more creative, people! I mean...this movie had rat monkeys. Ugly little bastard rat monkeys...apparently the offspring of rapist rats and innocent tree monkeys. RAT. MONKEYS.

He's got his father's charm...

So it opens with a man actually trying to transport one of these suckers to a zoo. The rat monkey gets there, unfortunately it bit off a bit more than it could chew. Wait, no. It bit off a bit more than the guy could handle. The guy bit off more than he could chew? There's a joke here somewhere.

It's the late 50s, so of course our hero has an overbearing bitch mother when we meet him. But first we meet Paquita, who's sweet on a deliveryman until her gypsy grandma reads her fortune. Might I just say that whenever Tarot cards are used in a movie, I squeal a little? There really is something epic about employing occult symbols in a horror flick. It adds to the supernatural feel of a picture.

Her fate lies not with he who brings the boxes, but he who spills the stationary.

Of course I'm taking about Lionel, the mama's boy protagonist. I'd also like to mention at this point that even though this film may have a much lower budget than LOTR or even Frighteners, it's already apparent that no matter what his funds...Peter Jackson is a damn good director and a damn good storyteller. Every angle in this film, the way the camera travels, the link from one scene to the's incredibly streamlined, and quite pretty (even the wet bits with the blood and goo have their merits.)

Now that he's met Piquita, Lionel's life will never be the same. His mother thoroughly establishes herself as a control-freak before this becomes apparent, but it isn't long before the two destined lovers have a lovely trip to the zoo. Oh wait, not so lovely...because this happens to Lionel's mom before things get too steamy...

Things don't seem to be looking up for the budding romance. And just when things seem to be going back to normal for Lionel and his mother, she becomes ill...and the custard scene. The...custard scene. Honestly, I'm getting a little sick just finding good screenshots from it, so instead I'll just let your imaginations do the work. It's already spoiled enough, frankly, I don't think I need to spoil the custard further.

As the infection from the rat monkey spreads, Piquita struggles to pursue Lionel. She eats her dog. Lionel's mom...eats Piquita's mom. Could the Tarot reading have been wrong? From this moment on, it's a bumpy ride. Zombie nurse. Zombie priest. Zombie baby. Zombie bikers. Zombie intestines. Zombie lamp. Zombie pervert. Zombie party...It's a gory, gross, green smorgasbord. That, my friends, is why Dead Alive/Braindead is the horror flick of the week. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go throw up...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Vintage Comics - Haunted Thrills: The Strange Bell of Obani, Music and Mayhem, Monsters for Rent (15-end)

Wrapping up this shorter vintage comic issue, we've got 3 stories today. The first story is about strange bells quite the opposite of the pleasant jingling ones on Santa's sleigh.

It's December, you didn't think I'd fit in a Christmas reference? Anyway, the second story is a strange mystery about a ghost...and murder. Thunder clap. Thunder clap.

The final story was actually one of the more original little tales I've seen. A couple tries to boost tourism through means of a mechanical monster, but things don't go quite as they planned. I actually found this last story genuinely creepy.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

For a Gory Cause: Charlie Lives

Hey guys, I'm taking a break from the regular routine of comics and reviews today to let you know about something that's got me pretty excited. It's an awesome kickstarter projected for a concept that I could really get behind.

You've got your Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Your House of 1000 Corpses. Your general classic slasher flicks that are inspired by real events, but have very little to do with them...and then you've got Charlie Lives. But I'll let the page to the talking for itself.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Drive-in Trailers: HO HO HO-...rror

As Christmas approaches, a strange chill seems to settle over the world. The carnage of Black Friday has passed, but an even greater danger waits. From his frozen lair, the beast awakens. Clawed and grinning, Kris Kringle must once more feed on the children of-…wait, that doesn’t happen? You mean he’s a completely genial symbol of a joyful holiday bringing families together to celebrate the birth of the Christian messiah, winter, and togetherness? Damn. Well, now I suppose this list of Christmas trailers is totally inappropriate…but I’ll list them anyway.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let It Snow

Not  a terribly large update today, but I just had to share this picture that put me in mind for the season. Who says Hitchcock didn't have a sense of humor?