Monthly Archives: October 2011

The October Collection (bleeding autumn leaves)

This year’s project was to take a photo as close to every day as I could, so that over the course of September and October, I could capture the slow spread of the leaves turning orange, slowly dying. I’m not utterly satisfied with the results yet, but next year, wherever I might be, I definitely want to try again. Feel free to join me!

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Something Followed Me HOME?!

Leave your comments below! I’m super curious to hear your guys’s thoughts and analysis

Paranormal Activity 3 Review

Saw Paranormal Activity 3 last night at midnight release. Yes. I tolerated the drunk college dudes yelling (“Take it off!” and “Fake!”) when the lights would go down. (“Night 13 dude. THIR-teen. This is where all the shit’s gonna go down” and the surprisingly aware; “It’s the upside down triangles in the circle thing, that’s the devil’s symbol.” “No. It’s just a pagan symbol.” “No brah, I’m pretty sure if it’s upside down, then it’s the devil’s.” “No, it’s just Pagan.” I almost turned around to tell them they were both right, and that it’s called a Pentagram.) (PS, for you googlers, I don’t know what that other symbol is, if it’s an actual occult symbol at all, sorry.)

For you guys. I endure. You know. Cuz I’m the hero you need.

I guess that would make my filmmaker buddy AJ, who was with me, the hero you deserve. I’m sorry.

(That’ll teach you to stop stealing your buddy’s cereal when you think no one’s watching. Yes you)

I don’t have much bad to say about this film. If anything, my qualms come with the overall trilogy and how it took three movies to iron out seams that should probably have been ironed out in a few more script revisions (cough, PA2. Cough. Too overt? Sorry, I’ll go for subtlety. The writing in PA2 BLEW).

Here, the pacing was perfect. Aside from a dust-on-an-invisible-human-figure-shape far too early in the movie, which seemed like too much, too obvious, too soon., the escalation of activity was perfect. The characters were likable – though I can’t say we got to know them the way we got to know the nuances of their personality that Asshat and Katie carried in the first film.

And, like the second, there is that ONE SCENE that has me practically jumping onto my chair – not in fear because of some great scare – but because of the EPIC that’s unleashed in the moment. This one kills the one in PA2.

The first, I’ll say each time, was brilliant until the end (even my hatred of Asshat was a testament to a well acted, well written character), taking the very fine nuances of those residential hauntings that so terrify many families, and translating that to film in a genre populated by sawed-off limbs, excessive blood, drooling zombies, and back-breaking demonic contortions. Essentially, the first was an achievement in subtlety in a now-overt genre, for a public that’s become hard against shock and torture porn. It was well-researched. well-presented.

But by the third, it’s old hat. Like these days’ Bond flicks, it’s a sequence (here, jump scares, there actions scenes) linked together by scattered underlying plot points. PA2 took the plot a creative step forward. 3 is filling in the gaps. Making this story last beyond this one would quickly be trite.

Possibly my favorite parts about these movies is the return of emphasis, with that subtlety, on cinematography. PA2 introduced storytelling from multiple cameras a la House of Leaves. PA3 introduces the oscillating camera, and the — as filmmaker friend and deserved hero AJ describes it — choreography required to make these shots perfect in pitch, timing, and dread, is a work of art. Each movie is indeed a progression (and reminder) of the effectiveness of subtlety to craft genuine creeping dread. 

By the third though, here too it’s still becoming old hat. They make good play on the anticipated jump scares and amp up the violence of the later activity in a way that’s written well enough that it feels not at all overdone, but anything beyond 3 would be a mockery of everything that came before.

If you didn’t like the first two because they weren’t scary, odds are this one won’t be particularly satisfying (though of the three it has the best chance of doing it, if any). This movie finally finds that line between movies for those people who want to be scared by the dread of anticipation and those who like a bit of good unseen back-breaking power, but ultimately it’s still Paranormal Activity, it’s still about that use of space outside the camera’s frame, a family utterly broken by a dark history, and of that alien, demonic horror that you’re powerless to — powerless that is, unless you command it.

“A” movies for me are thematic masterpieces; movies that are really trying to make a statement or a commentary. The first in some ways did work at this. By the third — it’s for the scares. But it does its scares well.

B+

The October Collection (part 8)

“One night I woke up in the middle of the night and there was a tall dark man standing over my bed. He had long arms that stretched from one side of the room to the other side of the room. He held on like a scarecrow.”

Karl Pfeiffer Games Children Play

Games Children Play Excerpt

1.

 Don’t tell my mom this. Don’t let her read it.

Sometimes I hear my Aunt Ella. She calls my name at night and keeps me awake. I think that’s because I killed her.

 

2.

 Ariel, please. Sweetie?  I screamed.

Like she could even hear me anymore.

 

3.

My name is Ariel. My teacher asked me to write this. She wanted to know about if I am afraid of the dark. I told her that I wasn’t when she asked but I fibbed some. My Aunt Ella calls that a little white lie.

I am only scared of the dark sometimes. Sometimes my room gets really scary while I am trying to sleep. Mom says that is only because I’m still getting used to it.

Sometimes my closet is what bothers me. I can’t tell you why. I guess it just feels like there is something in there and it watches me try to sleep. People shouldn’t watch others sleep. That’s private. Unless they’re babies. But that’s because babies need protected.

 

4.

It’s ironic, looking back, in our dialogue and conversation, how much blurring there was between boundaries so carefully established by time and culture. Your childhood is there, behind you. Your present is here before you, and you’re required to act your age, else the good respectable people of society — your bosses, your fathers, your friends, your girlfriend’s family — will shun you, will supply you those pitying looks only reserved for single fathers with wild children at the stores and kids at restaurants who can’t stay in their seats, the ones who talk and cry during the movies. The paining hypocrisy, or fitting irony, of these looks is that even in the cases of those without offspring of their own is the insistence through and through that they were not children. That they did not see the world as a place of magic. That they did not look without care or worry at proprieties established to keep the cogs of civilization running. There was only romance and darkness and it was only in the deepest parts of the night that they pulled tight their blinding masks. Eventually whatever it was, bullies or violent movies or late night news broadcasts or the death of their Grans and Pappys made them pull tight these masks permanently deciding instead it was easier to leave them there forever.

Ariel, please. Take off the mask, look back to the places you’re always looked, and turn to me. Don’t grow up. Don’t stop playing these games because there is a dead body on the floor. Please.

 

We were drunk when it started.

No big surprise. It was my final year of college and I was taking easy semesters to drag out my stay. I didn’t want to hit the real world. I didn’t want to find a job and worry about getting off my parents’ insurance policies and cell phone plans and file dependent tax returns and worry about fully supporting myself, falling into that river of souls that stank of asphalt and thirty second American dreams with car logos and exclamation points at their ends.

Being drunk felt like being a kid again. There were no cares. You didn’t worry what stupid shit you did or said. Confessions of love or hate or dancing in the sprinklers on late night walks — none of it mattered. Better still, there was a kind of freedom behind it all. Where as a kid, society pushed those rules on you. Bedtimes at nine. No PG-13 movies. A boundary of only the neighborhood roads. No sugar unless the parents said it was okay. As an adult masquerading as a child, there were no rules at all. So long as you avoided the cops, the world was your oyster.

So I got drunk a lot that year. My friends, those still in college, felt the same way. Those out of college weren’t long being frightened of the way things worked and retreated into the lawless college shell that was still warm from use and packed not so far into the closet.

We didn’t host rager parties or go to the bars much. We’d grown up to a different kind of drunk. There was a sadness in our conversations and a nostalgic glee in our play.

That night we were walking along the neighborhood sidewalk toward the ball fields and playground. The sprinklers were on, watering the small lawns in front of small townhome apartments and the tops of our flip-flopped feet, were we wearing any shoes at all. The ball fields were hardly a block from our house. Cut through the neighborhood and they were only on the other side of the street. At night they turned to more of a black hole in the landscape. The features disappeared into one another. The streetlamps stayed away as if avoiding the place in favor of somewhere more homey.

They scared me a little. Dark ball parks always have. Maybe it’s just that they’re too different at night, there’s too much of a discord. During the day we’d always used to go to watch my brother’s games. We’d sit in the stands and dad would eat his peanuts and drop the shells on the concrete below us and the other teammates’ families would smoke or spit seeds. Sure, the environment of the place was utterly polluted. Hot dog smells co-mingled with the reek of the cigarettes. It was no wonder why my mother never came. My father made me, mostly so he could have some company. Mostly I only agreed so that I could get the ice cream he always promised me and my brother after the trips. I was on a middle school kick back then anyway. Rebelling without actually rebelling, calling out the problems I saw with my parents’ and brother’s lifestyle habits as if to demonstrate some superiority.

The ballpark was dirty, yes, but now looking back on it, it makes a kind of sense. That was the essence of the local baseball fields. It wouldn’t be a ball game without those things. They were a part of the moment. I never saw my father eat those shelled peanuts anywhere else in his life (though after bar-hopping enough in the first few months after twenty-one, I imagine he’d had his fair share at a fair number of bars). He was participating with the place.

At night though? At night it lost all that.

 

Download the entire story Tuesday October 18 at smashwords.com

Tucker and Dale Vs. EVIL

Landed myself a copy of Tucker and Dale Vs Evil last night after waiting, excited, for the past month or two. Being a smaller release, it’s going through the less conventional not-quite-wide-release On Demand and limited theater release rounds until its eventual DVD break.

But if you can find it near you, WATCH IT.

If you’ve never heard of the movie and want to go check out the trailer, DON’T. I’ll drop a teaser in here, but I’d recommend avoiding much more. It’s one of the best trailers of the year mind you, but only because it shares the best jokes. Which seems to be a trend lately.

The story revolves around two hillbilly gentlemen, their dream vacation cabin, and eight yuppie college students who, despite their tans, don’t get out of the theater much. I say that in terms of their fashion sense as well as their plot-driving paranoia. What begins as two backwoods guys trying to do a good thing, saving the life of Allison (Katrina Bowden, who steals scenes with looks alone), turns quickly misinterpretatied by the seven others, seeing a stuck in the woods esque nightmare, where bloodthirsty roughnecks who missed a link in the evolutionary chain are bent on killing everything in sight.

If I may be so cliche, hilarity ensues.

The setup alone is what makes the movie brilliant. Bear with my English major riff for a moment. Periods of writing history are marked by movements. The latest is one we call post-modernism, which essentially looks at turning on its head everything we once thought about how we see the world. An offshoot within Post-Modernism is deconstructive theory, my favorite. In it, the traditional representations of binary oppositions are reversed; oppositions like good and evil, man and woman, poverty and riches, government and anarchy, you name it. An example of which is good and evil; what if what we normally see as good (the white, the pure, the beautiful) is flipped with what we normally see as evil (the dark, the tainted, the ugly)? You get these nasty antiheros fighting even dark demons (and likely by this new darker, twisted exterior nature, likely some inner demons too that’ll make for some serious dramatic tension). And it’s badass. It’s why I love Batman so much. It questions superficial notions of what we have historically called good or evil.

English lesson aside, that’s what this movie is doing — but not in a cultural or religious critiquing way, but in a comedic one. This movie asks what if the “bad guys” are actually the good guys and the “good guys” are actually the bad guys in the lost-in-the-woods-with-a-maniac-tradition? What if Jason or Freddy wasn’t a bad guy so much as utterly misunderstood? It’d be fucking hilarious is what it would be.

That’s what Tucker and Dale goes after. And the results are fantastic. There’s a cleverness in the writing that spins situations with just enough ambiguity that both parties can continue to misunderstand each other until the very end. There’s enough gore to remind you of the genre that this film is, while twisting, still necessarily has to be a part of. Audiences can get behind it so easily because they know what it looks like, they know why these kids are freaking out because they’ve freaked out in plenty a theater alongside in the past, but the movie is immediately thorough enough to understand Dale and Tucker too, and how everything goes wrong so easily.

Is it on par production-wise with the likes of horror-comedies like Zombieland? Not quite. There’s still something missing. Maybe a couple hundred thousand more dollars and a couple more tweaks to the script, but at the end of the day it might need it to go down in history, but it doesn’t need it to be a fantastic and clever comedy. Is it the best comedy that’s come along in years? No. But it’s refreshing to see (not simply a movie but a comedy at that) finally embrace big themes and big ideas and not quite live up to their full potential, rather than the other way.

I hate stupid comedies but this one is a comedy doing some real work. I’m a huge fan.

A-

The October Collection (part 7)

I don’t know that there are real ghosts and goblins, but there are always more trick-or-treaters than neighborhood kids.  ~Robert Brault

Barnes and Noble Pouts Over DC Deal

In a solid logical business move today, B&N representatives feel that, and I’m paraphrasing here, if they can’t have access to the future, they’re damn well gonna get rid of their access to the past too.

Barnes and Noble today decided to clear shelves of their DC comics selections because of the publishers hesitation to offer their titles in all digital formats, to date going exclusively with the Amazon Fire Kindle. CNN quotes reps as saying;

“To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the e-book available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere”

Because that makes sense. If we can’t have every book available everywhere, we’d rather not have them available anywhere. Having books only available in bookstores and for online order is A DAMN TRAVESTY. So we’re just gonna leave them at online order.

Full story here. http://money.cnn.com/2011/10/07/technology/kindle_dc_comics/

Dream House Review

It’s like a dream house if your dream house were a single story ranch style with flat faded green carpet from the nineteen seventies, that smells mildly of cigarettes and rebellion, nostalgic maybe, the kind of house that your parents’ friends lived in when you were four and visited for football games.

I guess anyone can put together a psychological thriller with the right grab bag of horror tropes.

The mainmost trope has been done: Dude living an idyllic life who finds out he’s actually kind of a hallucinating nutty psycho killer.

No spoilers — it’s in the trailer and even the first ten minutes if you’re sharp. If you’ve seen Number 23 and Shutter Island you’ll be set to smell it by now.

The biggest problem with this was that the film walked an hesitant line that didn’t know whether it was a twist movie or trying to establish a premise and build from it into something fresh and new. Obviously you can’t recycle another “You’re actually crazy and YOU did it!” Twist, and so this movie from the first scene demanded something more. Yet the characters’ painfully obvious realization took a good two thirds of the movie and drained me of all my enthusiasm and steam, leaving the final pieces to fall together in a kind of clumsy, tacked-on feel that had me checking my watch.

It’s clear the director knows little about horror storytelling, occasionally descending to a flickering, burning wallpaper imagery that felt as tacked on as the rest of the narrative elements. The rest was just close ups of Daniel Craig’s scruffy face and blue eyes. Big. Blue..

Speaking of — the acting is there; Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz really landed their punches in exactly the way they should have. There was a magical feel to this family, which was ultimately the point. And the ideas are there, but that’s it’s ultimate failure, a failure to commit to a good story.

I’ve been writing a psychological thriller intently since June. I know the metaphorical, symbolic, allegorical, and narrative-twisting possibility in blurring reality beyond just realizing what is true and how you can move past it (or not). And so it’s another Hollywood flick that fails to get off the runway. I mean, how much room there could be to get inside this characters head, to blur reality with memory and writing and imagination and the supernatural into one tangled mess that only means something in what lies just beneath the surface; be that in the mystery of the plot or some kind of deeper, perhaps familial statement.

But no.

The pieces are there, but this one should have percolated for a couple more years to give the story, the writing, and the directing some real vision.

C