The Death Game

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When you can live forever and recover for just about any injury, it becomes increasingly difficult to entertain yourself. That’s why two vampires living in Flagstaff, Arizona in the 1970s spend their free time figuring out increasingly more creative ways to kill themselves. What starts off as a game, eventually tests their relationship and reveals more about who these two vampires really are than they ever wanted to know. It’s a story about love and co-dependency and depression and abuse and murder and all the things that make life interesting.

Author’s note: While this particular story takes place in the cannon of Bloodletting and features characters from the series, I think of it as an aside to the main story and so I’m releasing it as a stand alone story instead of a numbered volume in the series.

For more information on this and other volumes in the Bloodletting series, please visit the website at bloodlettingbook.com

Buy it on Amazon now!

The Office Bully

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So I’ve had something on my mind lately. I think that the Jim Halpert character on The Office is the most accurate and honest portrayal of a bully I’ve ever seen on TV.

It’s weird, because it’s almost as though the writers understand that he IS a bully, and kind of an asshole, and there are a few scenes where they touch on this, but not many. For the most part, we’re meant to view Jim as the hero of the story. One of the few sane voices in an office full of supposedly annoying and unbearably quirky characters. Yet, if he were a real person in the real world, he’d be fired for the way he treats Dwight. Or, one would hope.

The show is a perfect example of how bullies are able to continue bullying. The relationship between Jim and Dwight is established immediately. Dwight is annoying and strange and socially awkward and Jim finds it amusing to “prank” him and laugh at how he reacts, mostly to impress the secretary he has crush on. We’re meant to go along with Jim and laugh at Dwight. It’s meant be amusing that Jim antagonizes him, winding him up for the entertainment of the rest of the office. It doesn’t matter that Dwight is clearly suffering from some sort of emotional and/or personality defect, in addition to an unconventional and culturally secluded upbringing. They make it clear that Dwight is a “nerd” by establishing his love for science fiction (especially Battlestar Galactica,) heavy metal, a myriad of computer games, and an obsession with history and natural science. These qualities are all used against him to portray Dwight (both by Jim and by the show itself) as strange and therefor annoying and deserving of belittling harassment.

(I should probably point out that I quite enjoyed The Office. Both the UK original and the US version. They both had moments of brilliance and while I think the US show fell apart a bit after Steve Carrell left, up to that point it was pretty consistently hilarious.)

Something that’s interesting about this particular perspective on Jim as a bully, is they make a point to portray Roy (fiance of Pam, the secretary and focus of Jim’s pining) as a bully in the traditional sense. Physically imposing, aggressive and dominating. Yet, Jim was the one perusing his fiance. When Roy came into the office to confront Jim after finding out that he’d kissed Pam, he’s portrayed as borderline psychotic. Certainly it’s wrong to assault someone (which Roy was threatening to do to Jim) but in that particular scenario, Roy was justified in being upset to the point of an altercation. Perhaps not a physical one, but few would argue that he was wrong for being angry and confronting Jim. That was a direct reaction to Jim’s active perusal of his romantic partner. Yet the show portrayed Roy as this awful brute and Jim as the poor victim. It’s worth pointing out that in that particular incident, it was Dwight who actually stepped up and defended Jim (literally, physically) and stopped Roy from attacking.

This dynamic between Jim and Dwight went on for most of the show. It seemed like they would occasionally throw in a friendly moment here and there to act like “Aww, we’re just having fun here. These guys really love each other” which, to me, is an even more disturbing example of how the show justified bullying. That’s the exact attitude that allows people to be harassed endlessly. The idea that the person being harassed is playing along with the fun, even though they clearly aren’t. Or that they’re overreacting to harmless teasing.

Was Dwight Schrute an annoying character? Certainly. He was designed specifically to be. He had a painful lack of self-awareness (as most victims of bullies do) and was socially awkward to the point that he was difficult to be around. He had a peculiar sense of entitlement and arrogance (though I wonder how much of this would be called confidence and initiative in a less annoying character) and often a lack of common sense, and he was dismissive of the feelings of others in his pursuit of approval from his boss. He was ruthless in his attempts at upward mobility within Dunder Mifflin.

Yes, as a real human being, Dwight Schrute would be difficult to deal with on a regular basis. That doesn’t justify years of harassment. It would be one thing if Jim was responding to specific incidents or slights made against him, but that’s not the way the relationship plays out. It’s made clear over and over again that Dwight is trying to do his job and Jim is systematically and repeatedly harassing him. To the point that, by all appearances, he invests more energy and time into bullying Dwight than his actual job. Throughout the show, they make it clear that Dwight makes countless complaints to human resources and his manager about Jim’s harassment, but is never taken seriously. It’s another source of humor, how hard he tries to get his employers to protect him from Jim’s “pranks.” Again, another example of the kind of environment that facilitates bullying.

Then there was the time Jim pushed another character, Andy Bernard, into a full mental and emotional collapse, using the same tactics he used on Dwight. Andy ended up freaking out, punching a hole in the wall and having to take time off work go to anger management courses. The implication being that he was the problem. Ha ha.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this bully dynamic was carried over directly from the UK show, and it made even more sense. I’d argue that the relationship between Tim and Gareth on the UK Office (the characters Jim and Dwight were based on) was an even crueler example of bullying. In the US they went to great lengths to establish how obnoxious and insufferable Dwight was. His social awkwardness was, at times, nearly sociopathic (though it seemed to stem from a deeply emotional and passionate love for his job and family) and so it was easy to laugh along with the crowd as Jim taunted him. Gareth, on the other hand, while socially awkward, came across more as just an incredibly simple man. A kind of Forest Gump-esque man-child. Tim’s bullying of Gareth was far crueler just because Gareth seemed to genuinely not understand why he was being tortured. At least Dwight had a kind of battle minded approach to his job. Gareth was just pathetic and sad.

It made me realize that this is likely the influence of Ricky Gervais, the co-creator of The Office. Gervais himself is something of a bully. It comes through constantly in his comedy. Whether it’s shaming overweight people (or, specifically, those more overweight than he himself) or his incessant need to ridicule and badger anyone who isn’t an atheist. While I understand that it’s the job of a comedian to poke at the sensitive and silly aspects of culture and society, and I would never suggest that they shouldn’t do that… there’s also a point where the comedian stops being funny and is just being a dick for the sake of it. Winding people up for the entertainment of the masses is a pretty lowbrow, thuggish style of comedy. On the internet these people are called “trolls” and I’d say that’s accurate description.

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Then there’s Ricky’s relationship with Karl Pilkington, which seems to be a real life example of the Tim/Gareth relationship. Karl Pilkington has served as a kind of springboard for the comedy of Ricky and Stephen Merchant (Ricky’s writing partner) for the last ten years or so, and they’re both consistently unbelievably cruel to him. It’s hilarious, because all three of those people are naturally very funny, and the only reason it works is because Karl seems to be immune to it. I don’t understand why. I don’t know if Karl is some kind of elaborate Andy Kaufman type character played by a comedic genius but some how he’s able to spin the way Rick and Stephen treat him into something funny rather than simply cruel.

Either way, my point is that the foundation of most of Ricky Gervais’ humor seems to be bullying. That came across clearly on the UK Office and it carried over directly into the US version. It’s something to think about next time you catch an episode. It’s certainly made me rethink the show itself and the environment it facilitates, seemingly with a sympathetic eye to the bully rather than the victim.

GTA V photography

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First photo. Franklin selfie. Rockin’ the Ice Cube fro and beard.

2
The hookers in Los Santos are much nicer than the ones in Liberty City.

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I just liked this lady’s face.

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Jimmy, voiced by Danny Tamberelli AKA Little Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete.

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Franklin, looking spiffy.

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Found The Playboy Mansion! They didn’t like me taking pictures of the boobies and everyone scattered after this. OH WELL.

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Trevor and his truck. Wearing the “Overlook Jacket” which appears to be the same jacket/flannel combo Jack Nicholson wore in The Shining.

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Home sweet home!

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I was running from the cops on foot and saw this hearse and needed a car so I jumped in, but as I was driving away I realized that there was actually a casket in the back and there were a bunch of people at the church I’d taken it from, presumably in the middle of a funeral, so I drove it back and parked it where I found it.

Also took a moment to take pictures. The cops weren’t too aggressive yet.

 1112
Woke up drunk and naked in someone’s back yard. Walked home.

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I generally don’t kill people just for the hell of it in this game. I also try to avoid car jacking, just because that seems like it would be a really traumatic experience and I don’t want to put people through that. Even imaginary people. I mean, I do still kill people and steal cars, and if I’m really in a pinch I’ll carjack someone, but I do try and avoid it.

Anyway, in this particular case, I got ahold of a stun gun and thought it would be fun to invent a game where I shoot people on motorcycles and ATVs with the stungun. It doesn’t kill them and it’s kind of funny because they fall off and like, have a seizer. Which I’m sure is pretty traumatic as well, but whatever. I pick my battles.

So this lady was driving an ATV and I shot her with the stun gun and then she just died and I felt bad. I called the ambulance but they never came. However, the police DID come and arrested me while I was taking that picture. I try to help her by calling the paramedics and I’M the one who gets arrested. What a world, what a world…

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Back at the Playboy Mansion because, well… because it’s awesome.

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Woke up drunk on top of a mountain wearing a dress. Proceeded to fall all the way down that mountain Homer Simpson style. 17

Sandy Shores
Trevor at home. Just finished an absolutely nauseating scene of him masturbating and then wiping his hand on the wall. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen something in a GTA game that made me cringe. It was pretty disgusting.

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Then I was following this unfortunate looking woman around on the beach trying to get a good picture of her, when this blonde chick sitting on a beach chair said “You are hella disgusting!” to me as I walked past. So I punched her boyfriend in the face and then chased her on foot for like, two miles. I could have just shot her, but I didn’t want to full on murder her for insulting me, but I did want to punch her in the head, so I had to chase her. Unfortunately, Trevor isn’t in the best shape so it took a really long time to catch up to her.  19
When I finally caught up to her and punched her in the head, I accidentally knocked her into the ocean and she drowned. First I tried to kick her body up onto the beach, but couldn’t get her very far like that. 21
Then I tried shooting her with a machine gun until she moved up onto the sand, then I called the ambulance, but again it never came and she just died. 22

I ran up from the beach and almost immediately got into an altercation and ended up getting “killed” by the police. When I woke up, I was digging this grave in the desert, which I assume was for the lady I punched in the head and accidentally killed.0_0

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Last one for now. Franklin just assassinated this dude on the roof of a skyscraper. Time to basejump off over beautiful Los Santos.

Bloodletting

So I haven’t updated this blog for a while. I’ve been working pretty hard on rewriting my old vampire screenplay, Bloodletting, into a serialized novel released as ebooks on amazon. There are five books out so far, and it’s going really well.

If you’d like to follow what I’ve been up to, I’m keeping a blog at http://bloodlettingbook.com

The books released so far:

Book 0: Patricia

Book 1.2: Charlie

Book 2.0: Devon

Book 3.1: Danny

Book 4.1: Jack

Speculative Sandman movie

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There’s been back and forth rumor mongering about a potential movie based on Neil Gaiman’s epic 90s comic book masterpiece series Sandman. There always seems to be some sort of speculation or rumor bouncing around. Like Watchmen was, it’s one of those stories that will be next to impossible to please everyone with. The die-hards will want it one way, but it order to function in the realm of movies there will have to be concessions. This isn’t The Avengers or Spider-Man we’re talking about. Sandman is some serious philosophically and psychologically challenging material. It will require an incredibly delicate balance of respecting the source material, handling the very heavy and awkward themes, and crafting a movie that the average comic book movie fan will sit and watch and enjoy.

I’m sure it could be done, but I’m not entirely sure how.

I’m willing to speculate though, and here’s how I would approach it.

I think the best person to give it a shot is Guillermo Del Toro in the role of producer, with someone like Juan Antonio Bayona directing.

The obvious story choice (as far as I’m concerned) is the story collected in Preludes & Nocturnes, the first Sandman graphic novel. It follows Morpheus AKA Dream, a member of a family of mythic, god like entities called The Endless. In the story, Morpheus is imprisoned by a magician for 70 years and, once freed, must go about collecting the scattered remains of his equipment and life. It serves as basically an introduction to the characters and the world, and the rules of that world. It ends with Morpheus realizing that he’s got 70 years of catching up to do, establishing the basis for the continuation of the book.

Now, it would make a fantastic HBO series, but I think it might be a little too cerebral for them. But then again, I wouldn’t have imagined Game of Thrones doing as well as it has, while staying as true to its source material. So who knows?

The casting of a Sandman movie would be contentious at best. Everyone has their own idea of how characters should be portrayed, and because of the more symbolic nature of most of the characters, the physical appearance of the cast from the comics has been fairly fluid over the years, changing from story to story and artist to artist.

For me, I think it makes sense to stick with a mostly UK cast. Neil Gaiman’s voice (writing voice) is fairly distinctly British, and I think most people would agree that, even though much of the story takes place in America.

Here’s who I would cast in the main roles, if it were up to me. Keep in mind that I’m considering things like whether or not I believe an actor would actually agree to play the role, and the distribution of budget and that kind of thing. I’m not going to pick A-List actors for every role, because that’s not realistic.

So here we go:

Morpheus/Dream – Benedict Cumberbatch

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Before I watched Sherlock, I’d only ever seen photos of Benedict Cumberbatch and I just thought he was an odd looking fellow. But then I watched Sherlock and heard his voice and it all came together and my brain went “This guy fucking IS Morpheus”. That’s honestly what got me thinking about this for the past six months or whatever it’s been since I watched Sherlock. He’s got the voice, he’s got the face, the haunted, knowing eyes. The delicate lips. He’d be perfect.

Johnny Constantine – Michael Fassbender

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Now, we all saw that thing they did with Keanu Reeves, and I genuinely do appreciate the effort they made with that movie, as misguided as it was. There was a few decent moments (casting Tilda Swinton as Gabriel for instance) and its real crime wasn’t in moving the setting to Los Angeles (though I do think that was a bad idea) or even in casting Keanu, but really the major problem with that movie was that they sucked all of the humor and playfulness out of it. John Constantine is a fun, funny character. Keanu Reeves played him like some kind of hardnosed film noire detective. He needed to be less Rick Deckard and more Han Solo.

In the first Sandman story, John shows up for a few issues, helping Morpheus track down some of his stuff. He’s a kind of go-to guy in the DC comics universe for all things supernatural and occult, so it only fit that he’d show up in Sandman.

Fassbender is probably my biggest stretch in terms of whether or not I think they’d do the project for the money available. I think he might and he’d be perfect for the role. Originally John Constantine’s appearance was based on Sting, and while they (thankfully) have drifted away from that, I do think that Fassbender has that kind of edgy weirdness that Sting used to embody back when he was cool. Which, in turn, would translate to the kind of edgy weirdness that makes John Constantine fun.

Death – Jenna-Louise Coleman

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The casting of Death would probably be the most contentious among fans, regardless of who was cast. Death is far and away the most beloved and memorably character in the Sandman series, and certainly my favorite. For a long time Fairuza Balk was attached to a solo Death movie in various stages of pre-production. But given that she seems to have floated off into the ether and I haven’t heard anything about that movie in many years, I’m going to assume it’s dead.

Now, I recognize that it may be slightly premature to put Jenna-Louise Coleman forward for this key role, given that we’ve only really just been introduced (or, at least I have), but she just fits the bill so perfectly. Obviously when it comes to The Doctor and his companions, there’s already a fair bit of infighting and fanboy baggage that comes along with picking one over another for anything. I’m see that and I don’t really care. I think she’d be a fantastic choice. She’s got just the right amount of cute charm and knowing detachment.

Lucifer – Cillian Murphy

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In the Sandman comics, they very deliberately went with the old testament view on Lucifer. He’s not some epitome of evil monster with horns and a pitchfork. He’s God’s favorite discarded angel, too beautiful for heaven. He’s vain and bored and very businesslike in his dealings with Morpheus. He’s a fun character in how mater of fact he is about everything.

Cillian has that exact right mixture of androgyny and inherent sense of superiority radiating off of him. There are plenty of people who could play that role, but I can’t imagine anyone more perfectly suited for it.

Desire – Ruth Wilson

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Now, this one is a little trickier. We’re in a bit of a Transitionary period in our culture when it comes to the concept of gender and gender identity. The character in the comics is generally portrayed as androgynous, with no gender defining characteristics. I believe Desire was meant to be a character that you project your own image of sexual attraction onto. A kind of genderless optical illusion. Because in the 90s we were dealing with a predominantly hetero-male audience (it was a fair assumption at the time) Desire was typically drawn as a somewhat androgynous looking female. Often looking quite like a Patrick Nagel painting or a Robert Palmer backup dancer. I think that for a modern take on the character, that whole aspect would need to be reconstructed for a modern audience. Now, if Tilda Swinton hadn’t already played an androgynous male character in Constantine, she would be the obvious choice for me. But because of that movie, she’s off the table. Ruth Wilson is one of the most interesting and downright frightening actresses working today. Her work on Luther is absolutely stellar.

For me, Desire’s androgyny isn’t the most defining or interesting thing about that character. Desire is crafty and manipulative and kind of sinister in a way the other Endless aren’t. Ruth Wilson would embody that perfectly, while still being sexy and probably quite well suited to androgyny.

Last but not least:

Delirium – Saoirse Ronan

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Delirium is generally presented as a young girl in the midst of a ridiculously intense acid trip with no real guidance or direction. Supposedly originally based on singer Tori Amos, she kind of flits around the story dropping non sequiturs that occasionally contain useful information. Really, the most important thing Delirium needs to embody is that sense of almost falling off the edge from high into bottomless mania. Unlike her sister Despair, Delirium represents the part of the psyche that just wants to drift off into a fantasy world to keep from having to deal with the horrors of reality.

I’ve seen Saoirse Ronana in two things, both of which she was quite good in. The Lovely Bones (which was an unfortunate movie, but it had good performances) and Hanna (which was amazing). I think she’s a fairly obvious and natural choice for the part, and that’s why I went with her.

Now, there are a few other members of The Endless that I haven’t bothered to cast. Despair is generally portrayed as a crawling, naked, dwarf like woman, and I don’t know what to do with that. There’s Destiny, who is this kind of generic monk type guy in a robe who doesn’t say much and you don’t ever see his face, so whatever. Then there’s Destruction, who I remember as being mostly absent in the first book. So I didn’t bother with him either.

Anyway, it’s getting late and this is about as much energy as I want to put into this. So yeah. That’s what I’d do.

Dear Lost

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Dear Lost,

I don’t know if I ever properly thanked you for the years of awesome discussion you provided me and the people around me. 

So thanks Lost, I miss you. 

 

Love,
Joe

 

PS
I liked the ending btw.

Oz the Great and Powerful

I know I haven’t updated this site in a million years but I’m doing it now so GET OFF MY BACK OKAY.

Just kidding. Nobody’s on my back.

here’s a review of the movie I watched today:

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

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(I’m not going to bother laying out the story. You’ve seen the trailer. You’ve seen The Wizard of Oz. You can work it out.)

Watched the Oz movie. It was alright. Not spectacular, but alright. Pretty decent. I like The Wizard of Oz well enough and I’m not against the occasionally flight of fancy. I mean, shit, I watched The Hobbit. I don’t ONLY watch horrifying movies full of murder and depravity.

Though I do find myself getting frustrated with movies where you can tell that 90% of the movie is actors in front of a green screen. It kind of bums me out when I’m watching a movie and I’m basically just watching actors walking around in an elaborate cartoon. That said, it was only really a problem for the first ten minutes or so that he’s in Oz and they’re trying to wow you with how amazing everything is. It was a bit like the Jolly Holiday scene in Mary Poppins.

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Plus it was one of those movies that wasn’t just content to put the movie in 3D so they can charge parents an extra 4 bucks per kid,  but they felt they needed to throw a bunch of shit at the camera to entertain the people watching it in 3D. I was, of course, watching it in 2D like an adult. So that was a little frustrating. But whatever.

I thought they did a good job integrating and setting up the original Wizard of Oz movie. I’m a little fuzzy on how much they were legally able to reference the MGM movie and how much of it was relying on shared source material from the original books. There definitely seemed to be an awareness of the original movie though, and a lot of the aesthetics (especially in the Emerald City and on the Yellow Brick Road) seemed to reference the movie specifically rather than just the books.

And, obviously, the transition from black and white to color was directly from the movie. (it’s in the trailer. Spoiler shmoiler)

I read all the books when I was a kid, but have since forgotten most of it. Watching the movie I found myself noticing an occasional ping in the back of my head as I’d remembered little tidbits they were referencing.

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James Franco is, unfortunately, a terrible actor and it seems that everyone knows it. I almost feel like it’s some kind of joke that everyone is participating in, casting him in movies because it’s funny rather than because he’s going to put in a good performance. Like he’s Betty White. Everyone being nice to him just because they’ve decided that he deserves it for some reason. I could tell that the role was written for RDJ (who left the movie at the last minute, leaving them scrambling for a new lead) and I respect his decision to not participate. It was beneath him. It wasn’t beneath James Franco though. Funnily, even though he was terrible, I don’t really have a problem with him in the movie either. The acting in the original movie was corny and over the top, so Franco’s corny, over the top style kind of suited the tone of the movie.

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Of the three hot witches in the movie, I definitely love Michelle Williams the most, and found myself unable to not mentally pull up visuals from Blue Valentine all through the movie. She’s just so hot. And her mouth always looks so warm and moist and… uh.

Never mind.

So yeah, anyway. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t bad. It was decent. I’d go see another one. Hell, I’d go see a Sam Raimi directed remake of the original story with Dorothy and the Scarecrow and all that. I enjoyed it for what it was.

PS

If this had been a David Lynch movie these two would have kissed. WHY COULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN A DAVID LYNCH MOVIE?

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The Munsters

Ever since I did that portrait of Lily Munster, I’ve been thinking about that show, and trying to sort out the family dynamic. I can’t make it work in my head. Of course, the obvious solution would be to search for the information online. I’m sure the people who made the show knew exactly how everyone was connected, but that’s too easy. I think I can work it out myself. Even though I haven’t seen that show since I was a small child.

Okay, so let’s start at the top.

Granpa Mnuster

Okay, so up to this point, my understanding was that Grandpa was Lily’s father, and that he built Herman as a companion for Lily. I don’t know if that’s something I knew as a bit of knowledge retained from having watched the show, or if it’s something I invented. So that kind of makes sense, except that it means that the Munster name starts with him. Given that Lily and he both share the same cartoonish vampire features, it would make sense that they are the blood relation.

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So, okay, if Lily is Grandpa’s daughter, and she retains his name, doesn’t the fact that Herman is also called Munster mean that they’re relationship is slightly incestuous? At least in name.

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Okay, so Grandpa builds Herman as a partner for his daughter Lily (and for some reason builds him to be this dopey, clumsy, possibly gay and borderline mentally handicapped doofus) and they get married and have a kid. That kid, Eddie Munster, has the physical characteristics of a vampire that Lily and Grandpa share, but is a werewolf?

EddieMunster

Wait, Eddie is a werewolf, right? He acts like a vampire (dresses like one, looks like one, sleeps in a dresser drawer like it’s a coffin) but he also grows weird hair and has pointed ears like a dog and carries around a werewolf doll. I’m pretty sure he’s a werewolf.

Then there’s Marilyn.

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I seem to remember that Marilyn was a cousin or niece or something that wasn’t immediate family. She seemed to be there as a hot piece of ass to have around all of these weirdos in their monster make-up. I think I remember that the joke was they treated her as though she were hideously unattractive.

I’m still not sure how they got Frankenstein’s monster breeding with a vampire would create a werewolf offspring. Or half werewolf/half vampire. 

Alright, well, that’s my guess on how it works out. I’m going to go look it up and see if I can get some confirmation.

 

brb

 

Okay, well, I got it mostly wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Munsters_characters

First of all, Grandpa’s name isn’t actually Munster, but Dracula. Sam Dracula. Apparently it’s suggested that he may be THE Dracula, and Lily is his daughter from a long line of dead wives.

Also, Grandpa didn’t build Herman. According to Wikipedia, like in the original story, Dr. Victor Frankenstein built Herman, along with a who series of other “monsters”, not just the one from the story.

Here’s a blurb from wikipedia:

In the context of the series, Herman was created in 1815 at the University of Heidelberg by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Work on him was finally completed in around 1850 (neither Lily nor Grandpa is quite sure when) along with his twin brother Charlie. Leaving Germany for Great Britain at a young age, Herman was adopted by the Munsters of Munster Hall, a noble family living in the fictitious Shroudshire, England. At some point Herman moved to Transylvania (a region in Romania), where he met Lily Dracula. In 1865 (technically at the age of 15, but physically older) Herman married Lily, and eventually the couple and Grandpa (Lily’s father) moved to America, where Herman joined the U.S. Army, fighting in World War II.

They put more thought into the backstory than I ever would have expected. Good for them.

This wasn’t nearly as interesting as I thought it would be. It’s just something that’s been on my mind lately.

I was more of an Addams Family kind of guy anyway.

Years long hunt ends in heartbreak

Some years ago, I saw this picture online:

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I absolutely loved it and became obsessed with finding out where I could buy that sign for my own car. I have no luck. I didn’t even know what to search for.

I gave up. Maybe once a year I would try again, and always come up empty.

I tried again today and came across this:

 

SignShark

http://www.australiansouvenirsonline.com.au/miscellaneous/road-sign-kangaroos-next-14km-clone-2.html

 

After some more internet detective work, I think I’ve pretty definitively figured out that the “I’m a shaaaaark! Suck my diiiiick!” sign doesn’t actually exist, and is the result of some clever photoshop work.

That makes me very sad.

I suppose the next step is to try and find someone who prints up custom Baby on Board signs and make my own.

V/H/S

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Directed by Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Wingard, Radio Silence

I watched this movie for two reasons. The first is that I find Ti West incredibly interesting. The second is that I absolutely love anthology horror movies. I love getting a bunch of writers and directors together and giving them twenty minutes to make a kick ass horror short film with a theme. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s fantastic.

The downside of anthology horror movies (except for ones where the same team works on all the segments ala Creepshow and Trick R Treat) is that the quality of the individual segments can vary wildly. That was certainly the case here. Unfortunately, I found that the good was only okay and pretty scarce and the bad was pretty abundant.

The theme for this movie was, naturally, VHS tapes. All of the shorts were filmed with handheld cameras. Something that’s a problem is that there is a reason VHS tapes weren’t typically used to make movies… because it’s a shitty medium for the job. That’s just all there is to it. It’s very hard to tell a story well, and have it look like something someone wants to watch for two hours, with a video camera. VHS is a shit format for making movies, it’s a shit format for watching movies. It’s just a shit format. That’s one thing I find really hard to digest is this new hipster romanticizing of VHS as a format. It’s a shitty format that gets shittier as we get farther away from it. Yes I recognize that there are movies that only exist on VHS, and that I’ll concede is a respectable pursuit. But if you’ve got the option of watching something on VHS or watching it on a blu-ray, and you choose the VHS, then you’re an asshole.

Anyway.

Of course, all of these stories were “found footage” style horror, but that’s a style of horror that is very hard to do well. Ti West is the only filmmaker in the bunch who I’m familiar with, and I didn’t know who was directing which segments (though I had a pretty good guess as to which one was Ti’s and I was right), so I had no real baggage going into the movie as far as expectations go.

The wrap around story was about this group of doofuses who go around filming themselves vandalizing property and sexually assaulting a women in a parking lot. They’ve been selling their tapes to an underground porn website. They get offered a job breaking into a house and stealing a particular tape from this old man’s collection. They break into the house and start going through the tapes, and that’s what sets up our individual segments.

The first segment was probably my favorite of the bunch. It was about this group of three guys who want to make a homemade porno movie using this pair of glasses with a webcam hidden in the frames. Right off the bat the VHS premise is flimsy and nonsensical. They never explain why a pair of glasses with a webcam hidden in them is recording onto a VHS tape. But whatever.

Anyway, so they pick up girls at a bar, bring them back to a hotel room and shit goes crazy. I won’t spoil it, because that story was one of the better ones.

The Ti West segment was next, and it was just okay. Of the five, it felt the most like real vacation footage, which is something. It followed a couple on their honeymoon as they travel around the southwest. While staying at a hotel, they get a knock on the door and a strange girl asks for a ride. The guy declines and shit goes a little crazy from there. In this case, it was just a matter of an extremely simplified story with no real surprises or anything new or interesting happening. I appreciated the acting and the construction of the footage, but by the time it was over, I just didn’t really care about what I was watching.

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The third segment was, I think, the worst of the bunch. It made the least sense, had the worst acting and the worst special effects. It followed a group of twenty-somethings going up to a lake, Friday the 13th style. They get up there, get murdered and the whole thing is just terrible from start to finish.

The forth segment  started off interesting and the just kind of fell apart. It was another webcam entry (which, again, makes no sense that it was on a VHS tape) following a couple’s online cam conversations. She’s alone in an apartment and he’s off at some kind of medical school or something. The apartment is haunted by creepy Ju-On/The Ring style ghost children. The main girl was quite likable and was the saving grace of this segment. As the truth of what’s actually going on in the apartment comes to light (only barely I might add) the story goes from being a predictable ghost story to a half assed, unrealized conspiracy. Which is a shame, because the whole Skype format was an interesting approach. It just didn’t really pan out into anything. And the Japanese style kid ghosts thing is super played out. vhs2

 

The last segment was decent. It takes place in 1998, and like the first segment, it’s recorded using a hidden camera. This time the main character (the guy with the camera) is going to a Halloween party dressed as a “nanny cam” which, I guess, justifies why everything we see is being recorded. Of course, it doesn’t at all explain exactly how he’s able to record all night onto a VHS tape inside of his costume, but again, whatever. They ask quite a lot of us as far as suspension of disbelief goes in this movie. The guy and his friends drive to the house they’re where the party is supposed to be, only to find the house empty and full of ghosts. After wandering through the clearly haunted house, they stumble across a bunch of horrific shit and then get killed. The end.

The last segment and the first segment are the only two that are really pretty decent. Only because they are the only two I felt did something beyond what a group of high school kids could have done with a video camera and some basic video editing skills. That’s the problem with this format. You have to really do something interesting with the video to take it beyond just looking like a shitty, amateur film made by people who don’t know what they’re doing. Even the segments I like I only liked because they weren’t awful.

It was a noble experiment, but I think it mostly failed. A couple of the segments are worth watching if you’re desperate for something different. But as a whole, this movie was just kind of meh. I think that’s part of the problem too. It’s like, because it’s all VHS, and because it all looks like shit someone recorded while dicking around with their parents camera, it’s like it thinks it doesn’t need to be judged on a normal scale. But that shouldn’t be the case. If I were to judge it compared to any other horror movie, it would be pretty far down the list. So I guess, as far as horror movies filmed on VHS cameras go, it’s okay. As far as horror movies as a whole go, it’s a big ass waste of time. A couple of fun moments don’t justify an otherwise failed experiment.

Lovely Molly

4.5

Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Lovely Molly is sort of a ghost story. It, at the very least, has the dressings of a ghost story. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but there was a lot to love in it.

The basic story is Molly and Tim are newlyweds who move into her childhood home. Very quickly things start going weird with Molly. She’s being tormented by a force only she can see. As the story progresses, we find out more about the nefarious history of her family in that house until everything goes bananas.

Now, story wise, we’re not really treading any new ground here. The concept of using paranormal activities as a metaphor for abuse and trauma is pretty well established. Even the specifics of this particularly story have all been explored at length in other movies with varying degrees of success.

Also the notion of putting into question whether or not the forces tormenting our lead are real or not is nothing new. That too has also been explored before.

That said, I still found it enjoyable for a few reasons.

The first is that the acting is quite impressive. Especially newcomer Gretchen Lodge, who plays Molly, and Alexandra Holden who plays Molly’s sister Hannah. I found both performances layered and nuanced. I felt genuinely sympathetic toward Molly, which is unusual in this kind of movie.

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Even though the story is pretty old hat, the way it was told was compelling, and they managed to keep me invested in what was happening. They did a good job keeping us in the dark about whether what was happening was real or not, and I left the movie satisfied, if not wanting for a little more closure. But that’s the nature of these kinds of stories. The best of them rarely leave you comfortable with all the ends tucked away. I still don’t completely understand exactly what was going on, but I think that was intentional.

In a lot of ways, Lovely Molly reminded me of the Lars Von Trier movie Anti-Christ, without all the philosophical layers, and with the disturbing gore and demented sex dialed back by five or six notches.  And without the breathtaking cinematography.

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In the end, I’d recommend Lovely Molly. It’s tense, has great performances and interesting twists and turns. Not the most original story, but it’s a story that’s told well.