Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Thing (1982)


The Meat of The Thing (1982): The Thing digs your meat. The Thing wants to absorb your meat. Replicate your meat. Become your meat. 

Lady Terminator's Special Guest: Artist, musician, insomniac...Erik Wilson! If you're a fan of extreme horror writer, Edward Lee, you're probably already familiar with Erik's work. If not, feast your eyes on some of his beautiful cover art!


Ghouls (interior) The Haunter of the Threshold, Lucifer's Lottery, The Innswich Horror

If Erik's not already on your radar, he should be! This Twin Peaks inspired piece should tell you why. 


http://www.erikwilsonart.com


Let's see what 5 things this talented bastard loves about The Thing (1982). As always, be forewarned. Spoilers lurk ahead!


This movie isn't my favorite John Carpenter movie.

This movie isn't my favorite horror movie.

This movie is my favorite movie.

Times watched: Uncountable. Hundreds.

Picking five Things to isolate as Things to call out is nearly impossible. It is a Thing of beauty from all aspects: script, cinematography, acting, direction, and of course, those beautiful effects. I could play the movie, randomly pause at five different points, and bore the shit out of you droning on for hours about the importance of the board games and signs in the background, or how this or that particular effect was achieved, or the Christian metaphors in The Thing's monstrous agenda (they're there, but that's an entire article in and of itself). I'll  try to reign it in, and keep it short. I'll try.

I promise nothing.



1. The (post-title) Opening Scene:

After the saucer crashing into the Earth's atmosphere and the incredible title burn-in...





...the story proper opens up with the vast whiteout of Antarctica at the beginning of winter. A husky-ish dog bounds through the snow, being chased by two Norwegian men in a helicopter.




The pilot is getting as close as he can to the running dog, and the second man is trying to gun the animal down.





It's made clear very quickly that these men are desperate to kill this animal. Even though they're not speaking English, you know from their tone, their body language, that they're terrified.  




And when they make it to the American camp, before dying in their futile attempt, one of them yells something out in Norwegian. Carpenter or scriptwriter Bill Lancaster could have had the actor say anything. Gibberish. Random Norwegian. Just "Hey, get that dog!". But what he says is this:

"Get the hell out of there. That's not a dog, it's some sort of thing! It's imitating a dog, it isn't real! GET AWAY YOU IDIOTS!!"

There's the entire movie, right there. Even though we the audience almost certainly couldn't understand the line, we knew this was bad. We knew this was the end of the world.






2. MacReady's Drinking





Alcohol is a symbol of MacReady's humanity - the first scene we see him in, he pours a drink into an electronic chess game, "killing" his inhuman foe.




Immediately after this, Bennings is wounded by the Norwegian trying to kill the dog, and MacReady comforts him with...booze. When he visits Blair in the makeshift prison-shack, MacReady takes a sip of the alcohol sitting on the table, as he tells Blair to have faith. Even though he knows at this point that if Blair is the Thing, he could be infecting himself by drinking from the bottle. Similarly he offers (and shares) a drink with Childs at the end of the movie, when it's very likely that Childs is a Thing. 




The giving, taking and sharing of drink is a symbol of humanity, echoing the sharing of mead in Teutonic and Nordic hero-tales.

MacReady is an anti-Thing, and he's (symbolically) infecting those around him through its sharing with humanity. It's incredibly subtle and brilliant.



3. The Effects




Holy shit, the effects. Rob Bottin, only 22 at the time, created a masterpiece of cinema art. The creature sculptures are beautiful, and I mean that in the deepest, purest sense of the word. It still holds up now, and looks better than anything I've seen attempted digitally. the Norris heart attack scene in toto, starting with the "jaws" chest opening...





and ending with the "spider head" (and the best line in any movie, ever) ...



 

...is astounding and scary and funny and weird and just perfect.


Stan Winston's dog-Thing in the kennel sequence is brilliant too.





4. The Lighting



As perfect as Bottin's sculpts were, it was Dean Cundey's lighting and cinematography that made them work on camera. And not just that - the lighting in the entire film is just flawless. Even choices like using blue airport lights for the outdoor nighttime scenes make the movie more than it would have been otherwise.




Not taking anything away from Carpenter, but I think a lot of what makes his early films work so well is Dean Cundey's  lighting.





5. The Ending




One of, if not THE, best film endings ever. I won't go on and on here. Just go watch it. I was 13 when I saw this movie when it opened in theaters. I saw it twice opening night. I had never seen a movie until then that just had the balls to end that way. People around me groaned and cried and complained. I got back in line and watched it again.



Lady Terminator Quickie: Here's a brief list of 5 things I love about The Thing (1982)...

1. Mac's Luxurious Mane
It's like a Pantene commercial up in here.


2. Isolation
The Antarctic setting contributes to the feeling of dread. 

3. Monsters
The creatures in this film are some of the best practical effects of all time. 

4. Paranoia
If the Thing doesn't destroy you, the not-knowing will! The blood test scene is insanely intense!

5. Nauls' Rollerskates


Nauls wasn't about to leave behind his skates for some job in the Antarctic. Nuh-uh.



The Final Tallies? 





What we learned today:

1. Erik Wilson might be a Thing. Since I can't perform a blood test, maybe we'll just have to monitor his activities. 




You can do that in the following places...

Website: erikwilsonart.com 
Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/ErikWilsonArt
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ErikWilsonArt
Twitter: https://twitter.com/erikwwilson

You'll also want to keep an eye out for an upcoming project of Erik's that I and 29 other authors took part in! Go here for a tease. 



2. It's unanimous! Both Erik Wilson and Lady Terminator think John Carpenter's The Thing is about as perfect as a film can get. If you haven't watched it...go do it! If you're already a fan, watch it again! And if you have a dog...maybe give him some side-eye. 




Until next time...

Sloppy Infected Kisses,
Lady Terminator AKA Erika Instead





Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001)





The Meat of Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001): There's not enough room in the city for both an Electric Dragon and a Thunderbolt Buddha! There can be only one! *CRACKLE* *ZAP* 


Lady Terminator's Special Guest: Author Jamie Grefe! All you have to do is take one look at the badass cover of Jamie's newest release to know you're in for a smutty slaughterfest!


Available Here!

I'm a huge exploitation fan and I absolute loved Domo ArigaDIE!!! You can check out more of my thoughts on it over on Goodreads.

If you're diggin' the vibe, be sure to head on over to Jamie's blog for 30 Days of Curated Domo ArigaDIE!!!
 

And now here's Jamie with 5 things he loves about Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001). As always, be forewarned. Mild spoilers may lurk ahead!




I blame my lack of inner stillness on those foreign films I used to rent from the library. I lived alone. That was when the library still carried VHS. Undusted shelves packed with plastic stories, mysteries to be pondered. Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels. Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. Fellini. Even Godard and his crashed cars. But Sogo Ishii’s Angel Dust was the one film that seeped over: the needle pricks, packed trains of silence, the psychic powers, bodies, the horror within. It was all so quiet. And Angel Dust injected a seed in my cranium. Once I began my Japanese language studies, I suffered to decipher that foreign code without subtitles, each time more baffled than the last. Each time richer. And then I got lucky. 


I took a flight to Osaka in 2001 to stay with a friend. Eventually, we made our way up to Saitama, took the train to Tokyo to sightsee city lights. I had other, more "electric," plans in mind. Somehow, I had caught wind of an intimate movie theater called Uplink X in Shibuya. The day we were in Tokyo it happened to be playing a tremendous film called Electric Dragon 80,000V directed by the same mind-warper who did Angel Dust. Of course, we bought tickets and lived that film.  


My friend was pummeled by a wicked dizzy spell when the film finished. I had forgotten that a film could do that to a person. Films can overwhelm. She was nauseous from the voluminous roar. Electric Dragon 80,000V is no ordinary film. In my world, it is immense.  


This film is a heavy metal punch.

This film is string-scraping feedback.

This film is lightning lizards.

This film is skin turning reptile. 


This cinematic experience is a study in how to shiver with electric fever, wanting more. Whereas Ishii's Angel Dust is a study in restrained, quiet psychological horror, Electric Dragon plays out as a blast of violent intensity, volume, volume, smashingly loud reptilian volume. 



1. THE SOUND AND THE SQUEAL



Shibuya’s Uplink X had cranked the volume up to maximum level for this movie. The sound was as loud as a scrap metal concert melting your skull or the sound when you stick your head inside a tractor. I should have brought earplugs to squelch the blood. It hurt. I felt like I was being ear-drilled for an hour. And I paid money for that revelation. I’d like to think the barrage of volume was purposeful. It certainly accounted for my friend’s physical discomfort (an expulsion of the dragon) after the film. And the sound in this film is a gorgeous monster.

From the crackling power lines...



...to the squeal of “Dragon Eye” Morrison’s guitar...




...and how his pet dragon slurps up fresh bugs in juicy slurp swallows...



...crisply satisfying. 

Everything flows. Dub. Bass. Noise arcing. Jungle. Humming. City drone. And a punch to the jaw explodes a face. 




2. PSYCHOPHYSICAL TRAINING: “DRAGON EYE” MORRISON



They tried to control his rage. They tried to suppress the rumbling darkness of excess. Even as a boxer, Morrison was too much. This is a character with more psychophysical power than his soul knows how to handle. Tadanobu Asano, maestro thespian. He plays the part perfectly. He’s a poisonous cobra, an actor in possession of the powers of transfiguration. 




I idolized Asano for years, mainly due to his role in this film. I found myself searching to slay my own dragons across four countries. Maybe I’m still searching. Maybe my eyes haven’t yet clouded over, become fully human. 




Not that I haven’t tried to summon that great beast out of the breast of who I would like to be, but I don’t own a guitar anymore. I left my Dan Electro baritone in Shinjuku. I hope a dragon shreds it to bits, breaks it, stills the strings to sing, destroyed by concrete and neon. By electric death. 




3. VOLT CONTROL / NON-CONTROL: THUNDERBOLT BUDDHA 



I am frightened by characters who wear masks, but characters who wear half-masks are the best. And this mask, this Buddha (has to be golden, right? Silver, maybe?) is too good to not talk about. A ghost in daylight afloat on the streets. 





The listener. And that scene on the rooftop where Thunderbolt is spying on the yakuza's sleazy phone conversation, wearing his electrician’s uniform, electronic gear laid out, signals buzzing, static and crackles abound, that scene made me want to devote my wasted life to the allure of the current. 




It’s like he can’t not be plugged in to something greater than himself. His obsession. The quest for Truth. For what's right. He’s the grid, embodied, the transient source, a villain of corrupt enlightenment, cloaked in Tokyo. 




4. WHEN IS IT TOKYO? 


Director Ishii's wonderland supreme. And it gets better once you’re there. Seeing this film (a film as much about the electric waves of Tokyo as it is about reptilian journeys) within the maze of that city, as, at that time, a traveler in the city, makes my memory of this film all the more sharpened. 




Yes, it’s a cinematized representation of the labyrinth, but what a wonderful representation it turned out to be. The prominence of the artificial, the convenient. The contrast between the city’s quiet nature and the harsh blasts of noise that rise up out of its depths (high above in a grungy apartment or a rooftop) and the music. At night. A violin on the street. Tokyo is a city of hidden music. I fell in love at an impressionable age with the music of the Japanese language, a music that blended into Japanese music and how a city itself is able to light ideas within a person. And how better to show that idea than through the gaze of a Thunderbolt Buddha and an Electric Dragon? Some have said that Tokyo is a wistful blend of traditional and modern, but this film escalates that idea to a mixture of the Ancient and the Transcendent. This film is not a moment of Zen. 



It’s an electric chair of passion. 




5. REPTILIAN ANTI-REPRESSION 101 




And repression building. And shards. The psychophysical sessions where “Dragon Eye” Morrison straps himself to that table and electrocutes himself, those sessions are the image of a man attempting to cure himself of his inner (or ancient) dragons. He channels the dragons through the harsh noise he makes on his guitar. 




The noise consumes him, diminishes his own monster. The only thing that keeps our warrior calm is gazing at his real-life pet dragons, his own inner dragons, externalized, perhaps? We can find him searching the city. As we all are. And Thunderbolt Buddha suffers greatly in the opposite direction, unable to control the surge of his own electric curse. Yes, at times, he is able to direct it, but ultimately, I think it is a tumult inside him surging to erupt. And when these two giants collide, it’s mayhem blossoming, the purest kind of violent becoming we can hope to experience. It scathes. It roars. It has the potential to heal.




What does Lady Terminator think?   

Oh, man. Electric Dragon 80.000 V wasn't even on my radar until Jamie chose it for this blog post. And boy is it a beauty! You'll probably dig this if you're a fan of Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989).



 The Final Tallies?





What we learned today:

1. Jamie Grefe has awesome taste in movies. He writes cool shit. You should keep an eye on his blog so you don't miss anything and be sure to check out some of his work!

2. Electric Dragon 80.000 V is more than just a film. It's an experience. One that starts in your eyes...your ears...and ends in your reptile brain. Lady T recommends it!


Until next time...

Electric Kisses,
Lady Terminator AKA Erika Instead




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Six-String Samurai (1998)



The Meat of Six-String Samurai (1998): Buddy just wants to be king but an orphaned kid, roving gangs of the wasteland, and Death himself aren't going to make this easy.

Lady Terminator's Special Guest: Author and editor, John Bruni! This dude writes the shit out of strange fiction. 
 
Available on Amazon

And when he's not getting his own writing out there, he's editing pieces for StrangeHouse Books and their monster erotica imprint, MonstErection Publishing. Check out John's blog Tabard Inn: Tales of Questionable Taste to read some of his stories and to keep up with his projects!


And now here's John with 5 things he loves about Six-String Samurai. As always, be forewarned. Mild spoilers may lurk ahead!

Back when I was in college, I watched a lot of late night Skinemax. No, not for the purpose of seeing softcore porn, although I wouldn't turn away from it if I found it. No, occasionally they played oddball movies you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. It's where I saw Cannibal: The Musical for the first time, and this was before South Park was a show. In fact, they played a lot of Troma movies back then, which is how I saw Terror Firmer for the first time. 

Howerever, the night I stumbled upon Six-String Samurai changed my life. I was consuming a lot of bizarro work back then, in ye olde days before they had a name for the genre, when guys like Joe R. Lansdale were putting out the weirdest stories available. Six-String Samurai was the king of all bizarro cinema back then, and it hit me in just the right part of my mind at just the right time. I have yet to see anything like it, and as a result, it is one of my favorite movies of all time. 

I know this blog is more about horror than bizarro, but rest assured: this movie contains enough horror elements to qualify, as one of the villains will attest. Also, there is a sequence that happens in Hell (or at least the afterlife). Here are a few things I truly enjoy about this movie.


1. The Setting




This movie is technically alternate reality science fiction. The point of divergence with our reality? In 1957, the USSR nuked the fuck out of the US and took over everything except for Lost Vegas, "the last bastion of freedom" where Elvis Presley reigns as king.





Fast forward forty years, and Elvis has died. Now, every guitar-slinging swordsman wants the crown. Let the competition begin!





2. The Hero



The Six-String Samurai in question is a guy named Buddy, who looks suspiciously like Buddy Holly




Hell, they even call him Buddy, although a last name is never mentioned. He is the Clint Eastwood-ish anti-hero of our story. He's a warrior guitarist who has a habit of saying "swell" whenever something happens that he doesn't like. (That's more of a Dirty Harry thing than a Man with No Name thing, but still.)




He would have been at home in a Sergio Leone western or any number of kung fu classics. All he wants to do is get to Vegas and win the crown, but when he unintentionally rescues a kid from Death, he finds himself learning how to care for others, a necessary quality for a good king to have. 



3. The Tone



This movie is shot like a spaghetti western, which makes sense since the first such western, A Fistful of Dollars, was inspired by a Japanese samurai movie called Yojimbo




Except here, the Ennio Morricone score has been replaced by rock 'n' roll tunes. 





Plus, there's a reference to Clint early in the movie when a character who looks and sounds a lot like him shows up at a gas station/bar and accidentally sets himself on fire. 





4. The Villain



You can't get any better than Death himself. He's a contender for the throne, and he spends most of the movie killing other guitarist warriors. The fact that he looks like Slash is even more awesome, and you never see his face...


  

...except for in brief moments when all you can see is a skull.





5. Buddy's Encounters




To describe the things Buddy and the kid have to go through to get to Lost Vegas would be an act of madness. It's all so over the top, it's insane. It's bizarro. 

The first group of bad guys is made up of bowling enthusiasts. They dress in bowling shirts and carry around ball-bags; inside of each is a mace and a bowling pin dagger.






In the background, you can see the Red Elvises, a rock 'n' roll group of Elvis impersonating Russians who want Buddy's guitar (and, of course, the throne). 




You'll also see quite a few Mad Max-esque headbangers who catapult gumballs at their enemies. 





And then there are the Windmill People who dress in astronaut suits and worship an underground machine gone mad. 





The Red Army puts in a slightly racist appearance, as they fill in the role of the Native American in this insane western/kung fu extravaganza. 




But none of these villains can hold a candle to the cannibal family who live their lives as if they were the Cleavers from Leave It to Beaver





This family alone is worth the price of admission. Although I'm pretty sure I did a good job of enticing you. If you like bizarro, you should not miss this movie.  



What does Lady Terminator think?

Oh, man. This movie is fantastic. It's just my kind of strange, it has a great soundtrack and the visuals are gorgeous. They really milked these desolate locations for some tasty eye candy. I'm just going to let these amazing images do the talking...


















The Final Tallies?







What we learned today:


1. Six-String Samurai is a beautifully bizarre film and totally worth your time. 

2. John Bruni is also beautifully bizarre and his books are totally worth your time.  (You can pick some up here.)


Until next time...

Stay Swell,
Lady Terminator AKA Erika Instead