Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Totally Needs Krampus

My co-worker, Dan, recently informed me of something that I really want to start working into my Holiday season.

Apparently in Germany there used to be a tradition in early December that, in order to get little kids to behave in the Holiday seasons operated on the "more stick, less carrot" model. Germans, being Germans, had cooked up a surefire way of managing their kids by scaring the bejeezus out of bad kids with a fellow named Krampus (complete with horns, fangs, etc...) who came by in early December with Santa to warn little bad kids about how rotten they were, and apparently rattle chains and pop them with birch branches.

I'm not clear if an early December birch-thwacking was it for the kids, and if they still got apples in their shoes on December 25th or whatever the little stone age German kids used to get for Christmas, but I think we could work something out if we wanted to bring Krampus into the modern American Christmas.

Wouldn't this look awesome as an inflatable lawn decoration?

I like the idea that Santa and this Krampus guy can operate on a good cop/ bad cop model in a way that kids can wrap their heads around. It certainly puts a whole new spin on Santa when you consider that he seems to endorse Krampus's @#$%ed-up shenanigans.

Anyway, I guess in some parts of Alpine Germany, people still do this Krampus thing.

You know St. Nick thinks its totally hilarious to have a jack-ass side kick who makes those ungrateful little miscreants sweat a little

Oh, Germany. You are a font of never-ending old-school terror.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The League Reads/ Listens to: Dracula

On Thursday morning I finished a 12-hour audio book of the original novel of "Dracula".

If you've grown up in the US, you're familiar with Dracula via Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman or any of the other innumerable TV or film versions of the character. And, most likely, you've seen one of those History Channel specials on "The Real Dracula" about the Romanian count who is rumored to have killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people on the end of a pike.

I've seen the Browning directed, Lugosi starring "Dracula" at least five times, seen the Coppola directed, Oldman-starring "Dracula" two or three times, seen a few other versions, at least two plays of Dracula (one of which was a musical), odd sequels to Dracula from "Dracula 2000" to "Monster Squad" (which gave us the phrase "The Wolfman has Nards!", for which I am eternally grateful).

But I'd never read the book.

Drac didn't get to tidy up before you popped by.

For today's reader who picks up the book for the first time, unfortunately, "Dracula" has two things going against it.

1) It definitely works in that "paid by the word" mode of its contemporaries, where characters are likely to have long, unimportant asides and speeches that go nowhere. By today's standards of narrative economy, its hard-going at times.
2) It more or less defined a tradition and formula, based upon folklore and tradition, that has become so completely ingrained in the popular psyche that you already know what is coming through 99% of the book. Especially if you were familiar with the book from other sources.

That said...

Its not a bad listen or read. Even scenes which we've all witnessed on screen becoming far more chilling as described in the course of the book and with Stoker's ability to deliver this information as fresh and revelatory.

What struck me most is that, while Stoker does make a 4th quarter play to recognize that his Count was also once a human and therefore should get some measure of pity, this is not the "oh, I'm really just a stand in for those broody guys from high school" Dracula which we've come to know over the years. My guess is that the Lugosi (who, apparently, the ladies quite liked), and the lack of gore and general ickiness described in the book, makes becoming a vampire seem not all that bad. You stay good-looking, you never die or get sick, you get your way all the time, and have an array of super powers that would make Martian Manhunter jealous.

got... got a little something... right there. on your chin. there. you're gonna want a napkin.

But Stoker's Dracula and vampires are drawn from the tradition of demons and monsters, not GQ models. Dracula himself is horrible to behold before Harker even figures out there's anything amiss. Drawing blood isn't an exaggerated hicky, but something Drac and his lady-friends do by stealing peasant children in sacks and then going family-style on them. Turning into a vampire isn't waking up with superpowers, as if one were accidentally bathed in cosmic rays, but a weeks-long process of slow death with the knowledge that one is becoming a hellspawn, but cannot even tell anyone else to kill them, because that will just turn you into the hellspawn directly.

It's a bad scene, and when pop culture critics look with crooked eye at the post-Anne Rice foppish-emo take on vampires, there's a reason for it. The horror of being one of the undead is not an inconvenience, which is more or less how Rice and the post-Rice followers portrayed their vampires. There is no choice to live well by raiding blood supplies or hunting deer or whatever modern creators have decided is an acceptable substitute, because becoming a vampire means loss of self, and what replaces you (whether you or a demon substitute) is not particularly interested in the ethics of the living.

Being a vampire is not all that different from modern images of zombie-ism, in that the zombies (and in many cases, werewolves) obviously have no choice about their motivations. Oddly, one of the more popular visions which seemed to match up was how vampires were portrayed in the first season or two of Buffy (which I didn't watch after season two or so. Sue me.).

Dracula enjoys the great taste of Keanu.

I tip my hat to Stoker's depiction of Mina, a character who is portrayed often as a damsel in distress, and unconvincingly as a character at all by Winona Ryder. Stoker celebrates "the modern woman" who was still 30 years off from the vote, but who men were surprised to learn could type, understand science and math, etc... And which Madam Mina seems to exemplify (and is far, far more interesting a character than the character of Lucy, who mostly swoons and feels pretty, then sick).

The belief in science and reason by the heroes is never questioned, superstition is puzzled out, and even the supernatural is more or less suggested to be just one more mystery of science. This current is occasionally explicitly addressed, but is certainly evident in how Stoker's characters grapple with the dilemma's surrounding them and give way from from what they know as gentlemen, to what they eventually open their minds to via observation and experience (which, honestly, takes up a huge portion of the book, and often seems to be the exact point of the book).

I confess to a particular affection for the character of Quincey Morris, who is often eliminated from the stage and screen versions, as his role is mostly to be The Manly Texan who is there to wield a Bowie knife and be happy to tackle some vampires while the Englishmen are grieving, swooning, etc...

And, of course, its easy to see why so many versions (particularly Coppola's film) become enamored with the wily genius of Van Helsing (whose name but nothing else is lifted for the Hugh Jackman movie of a few years back then seemed hellbent on ruining Universal's Monster Movie franchise). He's an interesting character, a man of science who openly recognizes that perhaps the age of reason and scientific investigation have led to people not looking at the sources of folklore and myth.

Some of the "scientific" discussion doesn't make a load of sense (I never got the "child-brain vs. man-brain" thing), but Van Helsing really sells it.

Dracula himself becomes somewhat lost as a character after the first quarter of the book. Only Harker has direct conversations with Dracula, while still in Transylvania. The polite foreigner who has moved into town of stage and screen is an invention intended to keep Drac on stage. But you kind of have to love how darned eeee-vil Dracula is when dealing with Harker, and what a clear picture is drawn of who the guys is, and that he is, in fact, struggling to get the hell out of the sticks and be a man of the world/ have a much bigger hunting ground.

If I've a complaint, its that Dracula's death is oddly ant-climatic both because (a) you know its coming, and (b) by today's standards, its not exactly a "Big Boss Fight". I found myself sort of rooting for the guy by the end, which I would guess is not an uncommon position.

Batman makes everything awesomer.

Regarding sex and the vampire:

There's absolutely no question where Stoker was going with his succubi-like "Brides of Dracula" (a term which doesn't actually appear in the book, if memory serves). Harker discusses what a big turn-on the women are, and when Van Helsing happens upon them, he's no less enchanted.

However, having had heard repeatedly how "sexy" we're to find the character od Dracula, and given the tone of the Frank Langella, Lugosi and Lee films, the eroticism of Dracula himself is a bit non-existent. The source I figured I was counting on for the lustiness of Dracula was Coppola's presentation, which he were told was a faithful adaptation, but that's fairly iffy. Given that the book is written in the form of various journals and diaries, it's possible, one supposes, that Mina and Lucy simply do not discuss the sexual aspects of vampirism, but the scenes I recall from the Coppolla film in which Mina is wooed just aren't there.

I'm of a mind that Stoker intended for Dracula himself to be deriving some sort of pleasure from taking his female victims (which is very different from how one assumes Dracula dealt with the all-male crew of the ship which brought him to England, who seem to have been roughly dispatched), as he returns to them night after night, and the book does suggest that Vampirism may spread by lovers willingly being turned to spend eternity with their partners.

But as for a suave gentlemen who maybe nibbles a little to hard on the neck? That seems to be derived from plays and movies, as neither Mina or Lucy ever really actually meet Dracula outside of when he comes to them at night.

On the whole, yes, the book could be a bit of a struggle to get through if you're not one for the flowery and often purple prose of the time period. But as vampires have become such a hot topic of books, TV and film of late, its worth going back to the original material and trying to understand how we got to the point where vampires are hanging out in the deep south and ordering blood at bars, and it's probably worth considering why we try, quite literally, to defang them.

The book, be forewarned, was unusual for its day. Vampires were not dominating the sales charts, and every school kid probably didn't know how two or three ways in which you could bump off the undead. So the book spends no small amount of time basically explaining what the heck is going on and setting up the various rules and roles of vampires which our vampire media of today still at least acknowledges.

I did enjoy the book, and if you were of a mind to get at the origin of vampire in the popular imagination, I'd say its an invaluable read. I do not believe I'll seek out Dracula's predecessors in literature and penny dreadfuls (I think I've actually seen a filmic adaptation of Carmilla back in college, but beer was involved, so...).

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Red Death is Going to Ruin Your Party

This is a scene from one of my favorite movies, the 1925 Lon Chaney starring "Phantom of the Opera".

If you skip to 2:10 in the timeline, you'll get right to the Phantom upping the ante.

While we think of films as "Black and White", two-toned color processes were being experimented with even then. And the use of tint on a scene to indicate day, night, etc... was par for the course. In the past few years, Universal found original reels that had not been re-printed to simple black and white emulsion, and the effect is simply stunning.

I'd seen this movie a half-dozen times, but the two-tone color gives it a definite kick the graytones don't really capture.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Horror, The Horror (Movies)

I know, I know... it's two months until Halloween. But as League HQ will be throwing a Halloween party this year (we are! Be here after 8:00 on 10/31) I am trying to handle the cost by purchasing a few decorations early online, and last night I received a box with some stuff that should help set the appropriately cheesy/terrifying tone.*

And then Caffeinated Joe posted this gem, which I know more than a few Leaguers should be able to enjoy.

I sort of suspect Caffeinated Joe is in the Halloween Spirit all-year round.

I'm thinking ahead a bit, as last year I was a bit distracted by ending a job and starting a new job, etc... and just didn't really bother too much with the whole Halloween business. In fact, had Team Roth/ Harms not shown up spontaneously, I would have probably been in bed by 10:00.

When Jamie and I first moved in together, starting in October, I'd start watching horror movies as often as possible. Eventually we dwindled off the practice. Jamie's tolerance for horror is pretty low, and my own tastes for horror are fairly narrow.

Give me a good black and white movie with Karloff, but do not expect me to sit for "Hostel". I've seen James Whale's 1931 version of "Frankenstein" a dozen times, but I don't remember the last time I went to the theater to see a "horror" movie.

Its probably part of why I keep schilling for this Wolfman movie that's never actually going to arrive. I understand why people like a good slasher flick, but I also like the 3 types of monsters embodied by the classic trinity of Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein's monster.

1) Dracula - The Monster who walks as a man. These days, vampires are seen largely as dangerous, sexy women or men. Or, if you're any number of the women in my family, as sparkly eternal-teen-agers with super powers.

But Dracula represents the hidden danger of a monster who wears the face of the gentleman but who, frankly, wants to drink your blood and maybe taint your eternal soul. That's some creepy stuff.

Let's shoot this @#$%er...!

2) Wolfman - The man who is helplessly becoming a monster. The horror is just as much for the Wolfman as it is for the folks he winds up turning into dinner.

Wolfman spots the Alpo wagon...

3) Frankenstein's Monster - The unwanted side effect... OF SCIENCE (and man's hubris). Probably the most replicated of the horror and science-fiction concepts, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was dubbed "The Modern Prometheus" for a reason. We tend to think only of the lumbering, inarticulate Karloff creation of the first film, but both the film series and book know the horror belonged in equal parts to a monster brought unwanted into creation and the guy whose hubris led to his own ruination.

Frankie says: Relax

Anyway, good stuff.

It doesn't mean I don't want to see Jamie Lee Curtis do battle with a dude in a bleached out Shatner mask. Or Bruce Campbell take on the Evil Dead. And I've gone on record that I still believe that the original version of "The Haunting" is the most genuinely scary movie I've seen (because that @#$% can happen, man). The occasional zombie movie, of course. Or Julie Adams in "Creature from the Black Lagoon". Hubba Hubba.**

And I would like for someone to finally create a "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" movie half as scary as I found the cartoon when I was 7.

While I understand the visceral appeal of something like "Funny Games", it feels a bit more like a trick. If my movie has a scene where a villain is shooting puppies, of course its going to be fairly horrible, but so what? Its just horrible. That's not a good story so much as telling the audience that you can dream up ways to make them uncomfortable. I think I get enough of that sort of thing from the paper.

So as autumn falls, I'm going to be putting together a movie-watching schedule. If you have suggestions, or want to have a "Film Club", let me know.

(ed. note: It IS a Halloween kind of day. Leaving Subway with my Black Forest Ham sandwich, KMFA was playing "Night on Bald Mountain".)

*As I was writing this, Jamie came down the stairs with my old lab coat I wore a Halloween or two. It's just a very Halloween sort of day...

**or my girl Elsa Lanchester from the Bride movie. She knew how to work a fright wig and medical gauze.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wolfman Trailer

Well, they certainly expanded upon the original Wolfman movie. That's cool.

I've only seen the original twice, I think. But it's a good movie, and while the story looks mostly very different, it does look as if like they kept to the same spirit.

It also warms my heart that Universal loves its own monster movies enough that they don't blink at a re-make every once in a while.

Aren't we due for a "Bride of Frankenstein" remake?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Giant Octopus vs. Mega Shark (or something like that)

...all I know is that I am going to watch this movie.

God bless you, little Debbie Gibson.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

War of the Worlds, 70 years ago

When I was a kid (and continuing into adulthood) I was fascinated by the radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater. I don't recall the genesis of my interest, or how I learned about the broadcast and its after-effects, but I do remember that I spent my own coin to buy tapes of the broadcast when I was in 7th grade or so.

You probably know the story, but Orson Welles' team adapted "War of the Worlds", HG Wells' sci-fi blueprint classic of Martian invasion into a somewhat realistic sounding radio-broadcast, as if a night of musical programming were being interrupted by news bulletins, and finally military commandeering the radio waves to coordinate strikes.

Supposedly people switching over from the Edgar Bergen/ Charlie McCarthy show believed the program to be real, and some fled for the hills and/ or otherwise panicked. Rumor has it one farmer shot a water tower in the dark, believing he was shooting at one of the fearsome Martian tri-pods.

The broadcast itself is fairly chilling as you do, in fact, get a feeling of what this might have felt like to an audience who wasn't clear on what was going on. It's believably well-acted, and the narrative arc of curiosity to calamity sounds entirely plausible, even as the tri-pods incinerate a reporter. To this point, the technique of false news-casts hadn't been used, and caused a major stir in the days and weeks after the broadcast.

Rtaher than rehash in its entirety, its worth checking out what Wikipedia has to say.

This evening, Ball State radio will recreate the broadcast. I may listen in as its simulcast online.

I think you can hear the original broadcast recording here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sasquatch story: The jig is up

Well, the dream of a Sasquatch Scam is dead.

I honestly have no idea what these two guys from Georgia were thinking, or why anyone in their right mind went along with them on their "bigfoot in a freezer" story. I don't think I need to outline all the problems with their gameplan, if the goal was to make money off the discovery. My guess is that this was the introduction of the power of mass media to these two guys.

And, honestly, I'm disappointed that they didn't stick to their guns on their cockamamie story and just ride it out.

I will also say that the two hoaxers are handling things well... by disappearing!

They have managed to follow at least two parts of the three-fold path of the coward:
1) Deny everything
2) Make counter-allegations
3) Run like hell

And for that, I kind of respect them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sasquatch Corpse Saga Continues! I just wonder exactly how far this is going to go!

Here's an article from Yahoo!

These dudes are sticking to their guns in the face of mounting evidence, logic and common sense. And you have to respect that. The technique is what I would call "The Jason Alternate Reality Technique", where you insist your cockamamie story is true way past the point of reason, and refuse to let the story go 20 years later (you are not secretly 5th grade math teacher, Mr. Glowka, in a clever disguise).

CNN covered the story. Unfortunately, in doing so, there was a technical gaffe that led to the following:

When things go wrong at the CNN master control.

Bigfoot press conference - covered by Fox

Bigfoot press conference (spoof)

Classic Bigfoot

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bigfoot Story (sadly) Falling Apart

It sounds like the likelihood of us seeing a real Bigfoot corpse tomorrow is now next to nil.

And, I have to send out my sympathy to site-owner for CyrptoMundo, Loren Coleman. The reasone we couldn't get to his site the other day was that his server was hacked, and he's had to bring everything back up, entailing a lot of work during a possible high-profile time for Cryptomundo.

Anyway, Coleman describes why the story is crumbling here.

Whoever the guys are trying to get this hoax going need to learn how to strike while the iron is hot. And not put out a "bigfoot corpse" which makes Jamie burst into peels of laughter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Cryptozoological Hoo-Hah

El Chupacabra runs amok in Cuero

Reed sent this article along: You know its summer when chupacabra shows up

Note that you can link over to some video from that page, caught from the dashcam of a police cruiser.

It looks like some sort of dog that's managed to breed with little hair, or else suffers from mange. Natural selection choosing to greatly decrease hair on a dog living in Texas kind of makes sense, so I really don't know what we're looking at. And I don't know if this is the same nasty thing that's been attacking small livestock for generations. But it certainly doesn't seem like a domesticated house pet with no interest in your pygmy goats.

The last one that turned up, though, turned out to be nothing spookier than a coyote.

With this summer's earlier, and far more bizarre find of the Montauk Monster, one expects the Moth Man to be found drinking Schlitz at some bar in West Virginia.

More on Georgia Freezer Sasquatch

I found a site that had nabbed the pictures from Cryptomundo of that Bigfoot in a Freezer. Sorry that took so long.

I want to say that while the thought didn't pop into my head until I saw it online, but I suspect that this isn't just a hoax, but some sort of viral marketing campaign. Maybe for Jack Link's Beef Jerky. Or maybe an ARG spun out of control or something.

You just hope that nobody wanted those Otter Pops they left on the bottom of the freezer

here's a part of a Press Release:

August 12, 2008


DNA evidence and photo evidence to be presented at a PRESS CONFERENCE
to be held on
Date: Friday, August 15, 2008
Time: From 12Noon-1:00pm
Place: Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto (A Crown Plaza Resort) 4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California 94306

Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. Menlo Park, California
Tom Biscardi, CEO



A body that may very well be the body of the creature commonly known as “Bigfoot” has been found in the woods in northern Georgia.

DNA evidence and photo evidence of the creature will be presented in a press conference on Friday, August 15th from 12 Noon to 1:00pm at the Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto at 4290 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, 94306. The press conference will not be open to the public. It will only be open to credentialed members of the press.
Here are some of the vital statistics on the “Bigfoot” body:
*The creature is seven feet seven inches tall.
*It weighs over five hundred pounds.
*The creature looks like it is part human and part ape-like.
*It is male.
*It has reddish hair and blackish-grey eyes.
*It has two arms and two legs, and five fingers on each hand and
five toes on each foot.
*The feet are flat and similar to human feet.
*Its footprint is sixteen and three-quarters inches long and five and three-quarters inches wide at the heel.
*From the palm of the hand to the tip of the middle finger, its hands are
eleven and three-quarters inches long and six and one-quarter inches wide.
*The creatures walk upright. (Several of them were sighted on the same day that the body was found.)
*The teeth are more human-like than ape-like.
*DNA tests are currently being done and the current DNA and photo evidence will be presented at the press conference on Friday, August 15th.

I won't get into how the holes that are starting to form as part of the story, but I wouldn't expect much by Friday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Yahoos Claim to Have Corpse of Sasquatch

Hat tip to Occasional Superheroine for locating this story on CryptoMundo (what I assume is the New York Times for all your cryptozoological needs).

I've updated my link to a story where there are photos of the alleged creature.

Jason will surely freak out about all of this, but here we go...

Apparently some guys claim they have the body of a Bigfoot, found in Georgia. They're keeping the body in a freezer somewhere under armed guard until it can be released to the scientific community tomorrow. I, personally, think that this picture could be something, or it could be a latex mask and a costume shoved into a freezer with some deer innards. But I do find it interesting that they're taking it this far if its a hoax.

"But League," you say, "The Bigfoot lives in the Pacific Northwest!"
Oh, my friends... Bigfoots live all over the US. From our friends of the piney woods of Washington to the Bigfoot of Eastern Oklahoma to the Skunk Ape of Florida. Heck, if you turn and look around fast enough right now, there's probably a Bigfoot standing behind you.

The League streaks Zilker Park

Now, The League tends to be a bit cynical when it comes to cryptozoology. We're hopeful, but we mostly think that an undocumented species of 8 foot ape living in the US at this point is as likely as me learning Emmanuel Lewis is secretly living in Jamie's walk in closet.

I say that, but they DID just find several 10's of thousands more gorillas in Africa, so...

Anyway, mostly I'm deeply cynical of hoaxes and peoples' natural inclination to perpetrate hoaxes.

It will be interesting to see what these guys came up with. But it raises a good question.

Let us suppose these fellows in Georgia really have the body of a Bigfoot, and their find is confirmed and welcomed by the scientific community.

A) When you learn of the Bigfoot's authenticity, who is the first person you would tell?

B) If Bigfoot is real, what else might be real?

C) How would knowing Bigfoot is real change your outlook on life?

D) A Texas Oil Tycoon has offered a 300 million dollar bounty for finding and bringing back a corpse from another Bigfoot so he can stuff it and put it over his fireplace. A DotCom billionaire has offered 100 million for the first living Sasquatch brought into captivity. He's built a majestic habitat for the Bigfoot in Redmond, Washington. You think you know where a Bigfoot might be.

What do you do?

E) Any other thoughts on the possible reality of a Bigfoot?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wolf-Man is coming back to hassle you

Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.

I like The Wolf Man.

I'm not as big a fan of the original The Wolf Man movies as I am of the first two Frankenstein pictures. But I do think the original Wolf Man is a really good time. Horror. Romance. Pathos. Wolf clubbing.

I knew the story of the original Wolf Man from one of my monster movie books from when I was a kid, and its been spoofed, imitated, etc... so often that the story seems, perhaps, more simple than it actually is thanks to its immediate familiarity.

Suffer poor Lon Chaney Jr., who is talented, but who never landed his father's career or reputation. Yet, Lon Chaney Jr's actually a genial sort of Wolf-Man, and you really pull for him. I can't really imagine anyone else in the role, but part of that's sealed with time. Like many of the monster movies, the Wolf-Man is a sympathetic figure cursed with an affliction rather than a creature of outright evil (see: Dracula).

Now, its never a good time being a werewolf. You tend to kill and eat your friends, tear up the countryside and generally cause a lot of havoc that you normally would not. And without the benefit of getting to be a player, a la Edward Hyde.

The movie also features Claude Raines, and, dammit, when it comes to genre movies, YOU CANNOT GO WRONG WITH CLAUDE RAINES.

here's a fan-made trailer for the original:

Anyhoo, looks like they've finished a lot of principle photography on a new version of The Wolf Man, starring Benecio Del Toro. This is a bootleg video of ComicCon footage. Watch it before Universal pulls it down.

The director is Joe Johnston, who isn't my favorite director, but who I think could handle the material pretty well. Especially if he just really cuts loose. Plus, hey, lovely period outfits for the art film snobs.

I don't know why some trailers look wrong, and some look right. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the Keanu Reeves quotient.

Plus, you know, the promise of werewolves.

Wolf Man then

Wolf Man now