I was wavering between writing a post about fantasy baseball or a radio show that you need to be adding to your listening rotation, when a thread on a message board I frequent forced its way into my brain. Though it would be easy to simply list and post over there, the idea is simply too fun to NOT post here. First, the concept:
“Okay. You’ve been made editor-in-chief of MARVEL. You have been given a command by your Corporate Disney Masters: Eliminate the entire X-Universe, save twelve. Twelve Mutants to restart the entire X-Franchise. No more, no less. And the kicker? Anyone you DON’T pick will be killed and the character rights sold off so that they can never be brought back to life.”
Great idea, right? You have the power to trim 50 duodecillion mutants down to 12 and potentially save a comic book franchise that has gotten fat and unwieldy. The problems? First, the idea that any you don’t pick gets killed and the character rights sold. It’s unrealistic – if you hate Wolverine and he doesn’t make the cut, do you REALLY think Disney/Marvel would just sell him off? Of course not, so let’s remove that provision right off the bat. The second problem: Wolverine. You may hate him, but he’s not going anywhere. Fanboys, old and young, love Wolverine. It’s why he’s on every X-Men team, the Avengers, has at least two solo books, multiple monthly appearances, and (for all I know) a regular cameo in DC Comics’ titles. Wolverine makes the cut, so there. Last problem: Who are your villains? You gotta have villains, or X-Men becomes Glee with less singing and more superpowers. Which elevates Glee, but who wants that in their monthly fiX-Men?
So. We refine the original premise: One X-Men team. 12 members. No mutant who misses the cut gets to join…EVER. And you better come up with some sweet villains for your team to fight. Got it? Good. Here’s my list:
Already, I hear the cries of fanboys everywhere. “Where’s Rogue and Gambit, or [random mutant you love]???” Not here. “What about New Mutants and X-Force???” None made it cut, sorry. “For Heaven’s sake, where’s CHARLES BLEEPING XAVIER???”
And on that bombshell, I leave you to your teeth-gnashing, comments, and hate mail. Part Two will explain why Chuck didn’t make the cut, provide you those sweet villains I promised, and maybe even offer up some solid allies who will help our newly streamlined team in their battles.
Yesterday was haircut day for yours truly. I pulled out of my driveway and threw on the radio, ignoring sports talk, the wife’s pop stations, and the local college’s radio offering in favor of some nice rock radio channel-surfing. I tuned into what I thought was the local classic rock station out of Boston and settled in for some Boston or Bob Seger or Led Zeppelin. Maybe some Gimme Shelter, Feel Like Makin’ Love, or Somebody To Love (the Queen version, as Jefferson Airplane would be on the oldies channel). But I had clearly made a mistake of preset, because instead of the sweet riffs of Hendrix or the octopus-style drumming of Ginger Baker or Michael Anthony’s ignorable bass lines, I got an earful of…Slash.
She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue skies
Well that couldn’t be right. My wife must’ve changed up the presets, right? Obviously I was too busy driving safely out of my street to pay attention to which station I hit, right? Clearly I had stumbled on the rock station out of Providence, RI, right? Classic rock wouldn’t be playing Guns ‘n’ Roses, right? Right? RIGHT???
But it could, and it did, and it had. And as I listened to the song that extended hair metal’s life by about five years, a few things occurred to me:
1) Guns ‘n’ Roses’ classic debut, Appetite For Destruction, is 25 years old this year.
2) The music that I listened to growing up and considered “classic rock” was between 15 and 25 years old at the time.
3) Which means, goddamn it, I am getting older…
* * *
Believe me, I don’t fear it, or try to fight against it. I’m quite comfortable with my age. On my 30th birthday, as I discovered strands of grey in my hair while getting ready for the day, I found myself smiling with pride and relief – grey hair on your head isn’t brown hair in the sink, and I’d rather be grey than bald any day of the week. I am exactly 20 years older than my niece, and 24 years older than my nephew, and I have had the joy and privilege of watching them grow and mature into people that I not only love as family but truly like as people on their own terms. The horror flicks I could only dream of renting as a wee lad are now part of my permanent DVD collection, to be savored any time I want. And I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for anything – I’m not so far removed from those years that nostalgia colors the reality of those awkward, sometimes terrifying, rites of passage into adulthood.
But I will not lie to you. Hearing Guns ‘n’ Roses (a band that not only has its roots in the 80s, but in the late 80s, which makes it older than a college’s Class of 2012) on classic rock radio (which traditionally featured music from the late 60s through the 70s) was a cold slap of reality. The only 80s music that classic rock would play was (should be?) the later albums of bands with their roots in the earlier decades (Aeromsmith’s Permanent Vacation and Pump…The Police…Van Halen…AC/DC with Brian Johnson on vocals…you get the idea). Now I have to realistically expect music from my teenage years to feature prominently, though I pray it’ll only be true rock bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Def Leppard (up to Pyromania, please, as I was sick of the Hysteria album after the 3rd listen), Scorpions, Motley Crue…and not the pretty-boy “glam metal” of Poison, Warrant, Enuff Z’Nuff, Trixter, and what a female friend from my distant past referred to as “White bands” (White Lion, Whitesnake, Great White…). I don’t think my heart can take those slow-dancing pop standards (“Love Of A Lifetime,” “When The Children Cry,” “Fly High Michelle,” “Heaven,” and so on ad nauseum) being lumped in as “classic rock” alongside “More Than A Feeling,” “Seasons Of Wither,” “Unchained,” “Night Moves,” and so many just-plain-great tunes.
Which may be music snobbery on my part. I like those songs for the most part, but I don’t think they belong with the giants of my own youth. Put it this way: whether you love or hate Bruce Springsteen, Ozzy Osbourne (with Black Sabbath or solo), or the Rolling Stones, do you REALLY think Poison’s Open Up And Say Ahhh! album belongs alongside Born To Run, Paranoid, or Sticky Fingers? Can you name a single hair band that belongs in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame? That music speaks to a time in our pop culture history, true, but so do the exploitation films of the 70s. And while I love Coffey, Foxy Brown, the Blind Dead series, The Devil’s Nightmare, School Of The Holy Beast, and the slasher flicks of the 80s, I have no illusions that those movies are not classics in the traditional sense. I’m not kidding myself by putting them at the same level of the first two Godfather films, Glengarry Glen Ross, or the majority of Hitchcock’s filmography. The exploitation genre, and glam metal, is junk food. And while I like junk food, I’m not eating it for dinner.
But the truth is the truth. Time passes whether you like it or not. The “latest” of our parents becomes our “classic.” The music that I remember as new and revolutionary is oftentimes dismissed as “old people’s music.” And so, in the end, I have to make my peace with the fact that I am…shudder…an adult. To be referred to as “Mr. Scheckland” by the kids in my neighborhood. To remember where I was and how I reacted to my first time seeing Guns ‘n’ Roses and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on MTV. To chuckle at the memories of slow dancing with girlfriends to those wonderfully, awfully cheesy hair ballads. To grit my teeth and get used to hearing “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Rock Of Ages” and maybe “I Wanna Rock” on the same radio channel as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “We Will Rock You.” To accept my pop culture age with the same grace that I accepted my biological age. Hey, at least I have my iPod to help me ease into that particular tar pit with “Peace Of Mind,” right?
But I swear, the first time I hear “Wish You Were Here” segue-way into “Give It To Me Good” or “Talk Dirty To Me” or – God help me – “The Final Countdown,” I will tear my car stereo out with my bare hands and toss it out of my car…
And John Adams? I wouldn’t laugh. You’re less than five years away from Smashing Pumpkins being tossed in with the rest of us dinosaurs…
The film I’m about to talk about is…well, it’s one of my favorites. Not just one of my favorite horror films, but one of my favorite films, period. It’s one I know I can show to non-horror fans and have them enjoy. And if this is your first time hearing about or seeing it, then I envy you. Please, permit me to introduce you to…
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Glen Echo is a quiet town with a secret. Twenty years ago, a young boy was captured by a mob and killed in what can only be called vigilante justice. Tossed over a waterfall for his crimes, the boy was left for dead. Now, as the anniversary of his death approaches, the boy has returned home. He is no town legend. He is all-too-real. He has invited a documentary film crew to see what he will do, why he will do it, and bear witness to the birth of a new monster. Crystal Lake has Voorhees. Springwood, Krueger. Haddonfield remembers the name, Myers. Now, Glen Echo was come face-to-face with the sins of its past and remember the name…Vernon.
Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon is more than a mockumentary, more than a slasher flick. It is a seamless combination and more than the sum of its parts. We are brought into a world where all of those “supernatural murderers” (Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, et al) are real beings. And yet, when we meet Leslie, we find he is no different from us. He is intelligent and charming. He loves his pet turtles and is loyal to his friends. He charms us, and because we cannot help but like him, we become – like grad students/filmmakers Taylor, Todd, and Doug – complicit in the crimes he intends to commit.
In lesser hands, the film wouldn’t work. But the script, written by David J. Stieve and Scott Glosserman (who also directed), provides a great balance of humor, tension, and flat out horror. We genuinely like Leslie and the college students who follow him, as well has the husband and wife who act as Leslie’s mentors and have a history of their own. As a result, we find ourselves rooting against Robert Englund in the role of the Loomis-like Doc Halloran. And, as the body count rises, we eagerly wait for Vernon’s chosen “final girl” to step up and accept her destiny. The film breaks down the cliches of the slasher film while simultaneously confirming and building on them. There is gore, but it is restrained. The end result is a horror flick that entertains both new horror fans and those who’ve “seen it all.”
There are cameos. Kane Hodder (of the Hatchet films, Friday the 13th sequels, and too many horror flicks to list) briefly shows up as a citizen of Glen Cove. Zelda (Poltergeist) Rubenstein plays a librarian in what would be her final role. There is the aforementioned Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund. And the great Scott Wilson plays Vernon’s mentor, Eugene. The main characters – Angela Goethal as Taylor Gentry, Ben Pace as Doug, and Britain Spellings as Todd – are charming and likeable. But no one steals the show from Nathan Baesel as Leslie Vernon. In fact, it is a crime that he hasn’t appeared in more films.
I’m begging you, see Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. You will love it. It’s on Netflix Streaming right now, and it’s well worth your time. If you do decide to take my word – and Cthulhu bless you for that – it wouldn’t hurt to try and get a copy of the DVD, as the deleted scenes are brilliant in their own right (especially the scene that explains how a walking killer can catch a victim that’s running for its life). I leave you with two final thoughts:
1) The sequel is in pre-production. Because Starz/Anchor Bay – the distributors of the first film – stupidly doesn’t want to be involved with it, the creators are following a more grass roots approach to raising funds. If you find yourself loving this films as much as I do, please visit their Facebook page
here and consider helping out.
2) LONG LIVE LESLIE VERNON!!!
And so it begins!
The beauty of being a horror fan these days is that one has a wealth of places one can look when one is hunting for the next fix. Back in the 80s, one needed to rely on the local Mom ‘n’ Pop video store, Fangoria magazine, and basic word of mouth to find the good stuff. But today? If you can’t find a copy of magazines like Rue Morgue or Fangoria near you, there are enough web sites and message boards to help guide you. On Demand, Netflix, Red Box, and Blockbuster also help to feed the need. It is a good time to be a horror fan!
FILM #1: THE BURROWERS (2008)
To start the month off, I decided to finally watch a film that I’d heard about through various channels, from various people. Word of mouth was good enough, and I’m a sucker for cross-genre flicks, so this Western/Horror movie was right up my alley. The Burrowers, set back in the Dakota Territories of the 1870s, starts out with an attack on a homestead. The men are killed and the women and children are kidnapped. A posse is formed to track down the Native Americans responsible, but what they find is something far, far worse.
The beauty of The Burrowers is that director JT Petty (and you wondered why his name is in the title!) balances what makes a solid horror flick with the beats of a good Western. Relations with the local native tribes can charitably be called “hostile,” as can the (beautifully shot!) land itself. In other words, these characters that we root for face plenty of danger before the secret of what they’re hunting is revealed. It is a credit to the director and the script that our heroes do not do anything illogical or stupid – mistakes are made, but within the confines of what little the characters know or believe.
The Burrowers is a meticulously paced film. Petty succeeds in crafting a suspenseful little flick that relies more on a building of dread than on cheap jump scares. Characters are developed in such a way that the viewer’s sympathies are earned and never betrayed, and when death comes, it has impact. And it’s not much a spoiler to call the climax and ending bleakly realistic. Which makes The Burrowers a good film for me to start my month of viewing and one that is well worth your viewing time. Which brings me to…
FILM #2: SOFT FOR DIGGING (2001)
When a hermit goes looking for his escaped cat, he is witness to a horrible crime. He reports it to the police, but when a search turns up nothing, the case is quickly closed. Did he imagine the whole thing, or did someone get away with murder?
It’s a quick synopsis for a quick (74 minute running time) film. But the plot of JT Petty’s film debut moves like its elderly main character. The first line of dialogue (“Murder…”) occurs at about the 14 minute mark, and not another word is spoken until about the 62nd. One hopes that the soundtrack and acting will help move the film along, but one is disappointed. In fact, there are “chapter” cards that actually slow the pacing down further. The revelation of killer and motivation borders on nonsensical, which adversely affects the fate of the killer (about which I will only say “two minutes of sheer audio annoyance”) as well as the end of the film. Which is a shame, because those opening 14 minutes, while glacial in pacing, set up what should have been a tense, brisk film. But chalk up Soft For Digging as a learning experience for a director who would later make something as solidly creepy and entertaining as The Burrowers.
September 25th??? Jaysus, where does the time go???
We have so much to discuss. Books to review. Films to rave about and slag. I’m sure I have a fantasy sports rant in me somewhere. And I keep putting off my review of a nasty li’l (heh…) film called The Sinful Dwarf. But all of that needs to stay on the back burner for now. You’ll have to wait to hear my thoughts regarding the first two parts of Mira Grant’s zombie apocalypse trilogy. No time (yet) to convince you that Pirate Radio is a film that is very, very good for you. Amanda Palmer will dodge my loving ire for a bit longer. Because we are six days from October, and with that months comes Halloween, which has inspired two traditions in the Scheckland household: the reading of The Book of Lists: Horror and Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, and…
31 Films in 31 days!!!
The rules are pretty simple. Over the course of October, I will watch 31 horror/exploitation films (averaging – you guessed it! – one a day for 31 days), and post my thoughts and reviews in this very forum for your amusement. To make things more difficult or interesting, I usually set limits for my viewing – only films I’ve never seen before, strictly foreign horrors, a month of slashers, “It Came From My Cable Box,” etc. This year, to add a more interactive wrinkle, I will only watch movies I get from Netflix Online. While that will make viewing easier as far as my ability to actually find films, it makes thinks a bit more interesting in that anything I watch, you can watch. As always, if I don’t post it, I didn’t watch it. So, in six days time, please join me as I kill time, (probably) brain cells, and (quite possibly) the will to live.
31 Films in 31 days!!!
It’s a Sunday afternoon in July and I am mowing my back lawn. There’s a lot of ground to cover and it’s slow going thanks to heat that has permanently glued my T-shirt to my torso and humidity that makes breathing feeling inhaling lobster bisque. My glasses are smeared with the same sweat that is in my eyes. I’m mentally debating the pros and cons of saying “Fuck it” and going in for the day, but having to mow in the cooler weather is outweighed by the fact that the cooler weather is some weeknight after work. I push on, miserable, and barely hear the sound of my name coming from the deck. My wife is motioning me to come over. She has a plate of sliced tomato and a bottle of water. She asks me how it’s going and I tell her it’ll be another half hour before I’m done. Reading my mind, she tells me that it’s “pretty fucking nasty out” and I can hold off on finishing the lawn until a cooler evening. I half-smile, half-grimace and tell her that I’ll just bang out the mowing. She tells me that there’ll be tuna for lunch when I’m done and then takes the plate in. I put the water in my back pocket and finish the lawn in less than twenty minutes. The heat and humidity are long forgotten.
* * * * *
It’s a summer night in late July of 2004. I’ve been at work since 2pm and, thanks to the Democratic National Convention, can’t even think of driving home until 1am when the roads out of Boston open up. I’ve been keeping busy, reading and watching the trouble reports coming in. I get word that Escape From Boston can finally occur and I rush out the door. I hop in my company car and push that little shitbox to about 85 as I race home, barely beating my own fatigue and 2 o’clock in the morning. My wife – girlfriend at the time – is waiting for me. I’m barely through the door when she’s taken my bag from me and led me back out the door. I’m too tired to be annoyed as she leads me to her car and drives us…somewhere, casually mentioning that she held off on eating until I was home. We do drive-through at the nearby 24-hour McDonalds, parking to eat and chat. I tell her about my night and she tells me about her day. We drive home and I end up sleeping like a baby. Later this week or month or year, we’ll do our grocery shopping at the local grocery store that inexplicably is open all night. We agree that this is the best time to shop.
* * * * *
We’re driving home from somewhere – our friends’ house, dinner with our family, the bank…anywhere – and we’re listening to a mix CD that she made. Most of the songs, for me, range from ignorable to somewhat enjoyable thanks to somewhat similar but mostly different tastes in music. She’s talking about her latest idea for a novel and I’m alternating between nodding as she talks and providing some initial feedback. The next song comes on, and as the opening notes play, I smile because I know it’s on this CD because I like it. I start singing along and when the female part comes my wife joins in. We’re singing a song we both enjoy, both smiling and ignoring the irony of it all…
The band? Stars. The song? “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead.”
* * * * *
It’s August 16th, 2011. 12:30am. I’m in bed with seven hours to sleep before work. My wife comes in and engages me in a Twitter-Feed-inspired conversation about the ten best Horror movies of the last fifteen years. I’m having trouble debating most of her choices, as mine are pretty much the same. I tell her I wish she’d watch The Abandoned because I think it’d make her list, although what she’d bump is a mystery to me. She asks me what I’d cut to fit The Descent onto my list. We’re deep into the conversation when she tells me, “I shouldn’t be talking to you about this at 12:30 in the morning…” and I realize that it’s now 1:30, actually. She lets me have my troubled sleep; I drift off arguing in my head whether The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity make my Ten, or if The Descent bounces both. My last coherent thought before sleep takes me is to wonder what year Ginger Snaps was made…
That afternoon, I get an email from her. She’s asking me what I thought of the latest chapter of her new project. As an afterthought, she wishes me a “happy anniversary or some shit.” I reply that I loved the chapter, and knowing what I know about one of these characters, I hate her for how much I loved the book so far. I end my note to her, “Oh, is our anniversary today? Huh…” To celebrate our two years as husband and wife, we order Chinese delivery and dork around on World of Warcraft.
You might ask, “Why aren’t you doing more to celebrate this blessed event?” I know that my niece’s view of romance may have been shattered when I told her what we were doing today. My wife’s offer to “juggle midgets” was little comfort. I could argue that these two years of marriage (that bwessed event…that dweam wiffin a dweam…) were preceded by ten years together. I could tell you horror stories of what we’ve been through together as well as tales that still make us laugh to this day. But it comes down to this simple fact: I love my wife, and what makes her happy makes me happy. Today, what made her happy was a PuPu platter and pork lo mein, knowing that I adore her new project, and the confirmation that she’s got some pretty solid taste in my favorite film genre.
Seeing The Ring with friends and the aftermath of it…
The length and shape of her nose, which she’s needlessly self conscious of (and will make me pay for even mentioning), but that I any crazy about…
The car ride where we named our first Basset Hound, and the fact that I came up with the name. Her response was a pause for thought and a half-surprised “That’s a pretty good idea for a name…”
The debate over the perfect album…
Trick ‘r Treat…
The negotiations of chores for DVDs or books…
Power-leveling a WoW character that I never planned on having, much less becoming attached to…
The Halloween we went in a theme costume…as each other…
Happy Anniversary, babes. I love you.
[“I love you too, asshole.”]
…is not on Food Network, not on the Cooking Channel, and not on Canada’s FoodTV. It’s on your friendly neighborhood YouTube and it’s called My Drunk Kitchen.
It’s nice to know, no matter what your cooking skill level maybe be, that you can always make the perfect mimosa.
As I write this, my wife is away for the evening. She is at her mother’s house, tending to my mother-in-law’s hounds while I am left at home to fend for myself. I am sitting in front of my computer, typing out my latest series of random synapse firings and eating my dinner. No, that’s not entirely true. I’m not eating my dinner, I’m savoring it. I’m loudly devouring it, making yummy noises, as my two Basset hounds stare at me longingly. The older of the two is chuffing and woofing as if to say, “Hello father. We are here and we would certainly appreciate your generosity if you were to share whatever heavenly dish you are currently enjoying.” The younger is pawing at me – her message is more simple: “Daddy! Daddy!! Want some want some want some!!!” But they’ll end up disappointed, because I won’t share this delight. It’s mine…all MINE, I tells ya!!! And no one is getting any of this treasure! And what culinary godsend – what gourmet’s dream, you may ask – has me in a state of bliss usually reserved for the most hardcore of food porn?
Ramen noodles, my friends. But not just any ol’ ramen. Nissin Bowl Noodles. Hot & Spicy Chicken Flavor. That’s right: I have achieved nirvana at $1 per bowl.
I am washing down my meal with a can of Pepsi Throwback. And, yes, I realize that it’s just old-school Pepsi, made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. And, yes, I know that this meal is neither “good” nor good for me. And, yes, if my wife were home, I probably wouldn’t be eating this at all, much less with the vigor and delight that I am at this moment. I am not “allowed” to have this type of junk food, not because I am “whipped” but because I am loved. My wife wants me to live a nice long life with her and the sodium content alone runs contrary to that wish. But that’s kind of the point isn’t it? I’m eating it because she’s not here to tell me I shouldn’t, and it’s deliciousness is based solely on the “verboten” factor. This is forbidden fruit and that’s why it’s so damned good.
Can you imagine how delicious that apple must have been to get Humanity kicked out of Paradise???
Perhaps you doubt what I’m telling you, that part of a food’s flavor and satisfaction value is tied into the fact that we shouldn’t, or can’t, have it. If that’s the case, I offer you this experiment. Go to a McDonalds with a friend, preferably one who prefers that you eat your food and they eat theirs. Order whatever you like but make sure your friend gets a large order of french fries. Go to your table and eat some of your own meal. Pretty good, right? You know you shouldn’t have McDonalds every day but this meal, in this moment, is pretty freakin’ good, isn’t it? Eat one of your fries. Yummy! Now wait for your moment, perhaps as your friend is reaching for a fry of their own, and steal one of theirs! As your friend asks you what the hell you were thinking, annoyed at the rudeness, pulling their food out of your reach, try convincing yourself that the french fry in your mouth ISN’T more tasty than your own. I guarantee you that you can’t, because stolen fries are always more delicious than our own. And if you didn’t know it before, you certainly do now.
And the concept of forbidden fruit doesn’t just refer to food, mind you. Think of the toys you wanted as a child, the ones your parents wouldn’t buy for you right at that moment. How many times were you reduced to a raging hurricane of temper tantrum? Or the cars you stare at longingly, knowing you’ll never even test-drive them, much less buy. Is there REALLY a difference between a Mustang and a Toyota on a highway during rush hour? I had zero desire to attend this year’s Rue Morgue Festival of Fear in Toronto thanks to the lousy time I had the last time thanks to (convention organizer) Hobbystar’s hideous excuse for organization and fan treatment…until Rue Morgue magazine (whom I love) announced one of the bands that would be playing this year. Now, even as I know I cannot (and still really don’t want to) go, part of me would kill and/or steal to be able to attend.
I know my wife is going to read this. And she’ll inevitably give me that look of mild-to-middling disappointment mixed with a good portion of empathy. She’ll tell me I shouldn’t be eating that crap and I’ll shamefacedly agree. And not too far from now, she’ll email me at the office, asking me to grab her a pint of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream on the way home. I’ll grumble and grouse, telling her she doesn’t need the damned ice cream any more than I need to be sidetracked from coming home after a long day of work. But we both know I’ll buy it, just as we both know that the first spoonful that goes into her mouth will be the most satisfying. Because nothing fuels our desires more than the words “no” or “shouldn’t.” Because we want what we cannot, or should not, have. And at the end of the day, no salad or fat-free heart healthy anything holds a candle to a single forbidden fruit.
So what are your “forbidden fruits?”
I do not like films, I love Film. I love every type of film, from horror and science fiction to comedies or dramas or dramedies or dromedaries or whatever. I love big loud blockbusters and small little indie films. I’ll see movies on Thursday night at midnight with friends or on Tuesday afternoon at noon by myself. And, when I fall in love with a film, I’ll buy it on DVD and see it every time it comes on cable. I LOVE Film! And, yet, I cannot honestly tell you the last time I went to a movie theater to see a Hollywood film. Part of it is the lack of studio offerings that I find myself wanting to see, much less NEEDING to see (a disturbing reality for me, as I love movie theaters as much as I love movies), and part of the problem is…well, that’s a rant for another day. But once a year, for eight days, I disappear from my home and friends’ lives and rush to the dark confines of the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, I celebrate a cinematic bacchanalia. I am immersed in the bizarre, the taboo, the wildly interesting and the downright horrible. Late March, for me, is a combination of Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and Halloween. Because that’s when I celebrate the Boston Underground Film Festival – BUFF, for short. I’ve have been attending this “celebration of the bizarre and insane…uncompromising, unflinching film and video” (to borrow their own description) since 2006 and every year it seems to get bigger, better, wilder, stranger, and just plain more fun.
This was a year of firsts for me. It was the first time that I actually planned vacation time specifically so I could attend all eight days without worrying about having to rush out from work to avoid missing something. It was the first year I went into the festival knowing nothing about the programming, the guests, or weekend parties. And it was the first year that I went into the opening night firmly believing that it would be impossible for the team behind BUFF to top the previous year’s offerings. 2010, after all, was notable for its opening night feature Love Exposure (Sion [Suicide Circle, Strange Circus] Sono’s four-hour meditation on love, sex, society, religion, and the fetish of upskirt photography), Red, White and Blue (beautifully touching and bleak with a killer climax), The Romantic (a grossly underrated animated feature, and probably my favorite of the festival), The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (my biggest regret of last year’s festival, as I chose to see another movie when it was playing and chose poorly) and – especially – Amer (a Belgian giallo about sex and death…two hours after seeing it, I was looking everywhere I could online to buy a copy [Rejoice! It’s scheduled for US release on 5/29!!!]). Surely there was no way they could outdo 2010!!!
Man, I love being wrong sometimes!!!
This year’s opening night feature was Jason Eisener’s long awaited Hobo With A Shotgun – a tale of a man who arrives with a dream to buy his own lawn mower and ends up cleaning up the crime and corruption that runs rampant in
Hope Scum Town. For those of us who knew Eisener from the fake trailer he made for a contest run by Grindhouse directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (the trailer which ended up winning said contest, running with the film in its Canadian release, and becoming a Youtube sensation), there was a question of “Will the feature match the spirit and insanity of the original trailer?” We needn’t have worried. The movie was every bit as violent and crazy and hilarious as we’d hoped it would be and, as the credits rolled and the house lights came up, the packed house in attendance stood and cheered for the director who was in attendance, much to our pleasant surprise.
But that was Thursday night, and BUFF hadn’t even truly started. Friday night was most notable for Machete Maidens Unleashed! – a documentary about the exploitation film boom in the Philippines made the the creators of the Ozploitation documentary, Not Quite Hollywood. As with BUFF’s 2010 documentary offering – American Grindhouse – I left the theater with a brain full of movie titles to track down for future viewing. As as the festival kicked into high gear, I saw one gem after another. The Corridor, which made its US premier at BUFF, while not my favorite film of the festival, was a pleasant surprise. Atomic Brain Invasion, Richard Griffin’s love letter to 50s sci-fi/horror and Creature Double Feature, was a movie I didn’t not even want to see but ended up enjoying immensely. Phase 7, BUFF’s “closing night feature,” was a pleasant surprise – an Argentinian film that evoked comparisons to [REC] and The Crazies on a minuscule budget. And Helldriver, directed by Yoshihiro (Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, Mutant Girl Squad, and the makeup effect supervisor on too many films to mention) Nishimura, did not disappoint – it had me at “zombie flick” and “chainsaw katana.”
Three old friends showed up for the festivities. Coldfish represented Sion Sono’s return to BUFF, and it was a wonderful, bleak little film about murder and mayhem between two fish store owners (based on true events, of course!). Trent Haaga, screenwriter of 2009’s Deadgirl, he of Troma fame, made his directorial debut with Chop, and it had me practically peeing myself throughout. And Travis Betz, who bored me to tears in 2009 with Lo, showed up with a film called The Dead Inside and, if this meta/zombie-horror/comedy/musical didn’t represent my favorite of BUFF’s programming, it is certainly the one I will rush to have my non horror-loving friends see.
(Quick aside: There were so many features that I wanted and needed to see, that BUFF’s short film offerings went almost completely by the boards. Suffice to say, I did catch the horror collection and the music video package and loved both. Also, I’m not even going into the BUFF-hosted parties I attended. Let me make one this clear – BUFF goes all out on all fronts to entertain and delight movie-goers, friends , and fans. ‘Nuff said!)
Of course, there were some mis-cues. I missed the Filipino low-budget homage/rip-off of The Island of Doctor Moreau (featuring Pam Grier) in favor of catching Lucky McKee’s latest film, The Woman, and spent the rest of the festival regretting the decision. Not just because it was a boring, predictable, uninspired, weak-sauce attempt to shock, but also because McKee’s appearance and the post-screening Q&A was a pretentious, tedious affair. When he wasn’t whining about supposed “technical difficulties” or bemoaning the “debacle” that was his involvement in Jack Ketchum’s Red, he was answering boring, cliched questions from every hipster douchebag that could pull himself (or herself) away from his/her latest filmic magnum opus. Luster was a tight little film that had all the makings of a “must add this to my DVD collection” movie…until the ending, which was so shockingly bad that it ruined everything that had come before. And due to a an error on the projectionist’s part, The Beast Pageant picked up for our viewing 20 minutes into the film, ended, and restarted…and no one noticed. We chalked it up to a narrative choice by the director until one of the BUFF organizers came in and apologized profusely. Not that any of us were overly upset – the film was a David Lynch rip-off and gave us all the excuse to grab dinner before seeing better films.
But overall, BUFF was a blast. Eight days of pure pleasure for one who loves Film. A powerhouse lineup that had me feeling a bit sad when all was over. After all, it would be another year before I would be able to get my fix. And I can honestly say I have NO idea how 2012 will be able to top this year’s festival. For those of you who live close to Boston, I’d tell you to keep the end of March open and make it a point to keep eyes and ears open for next year’s festival. Your diligence will be rewarded. For those of you who may live in or near another city, I’d encourage you to track down your own version of BUFF. These festivals are something special. They offer films will most likely never get a wide theatrical release, which is often a shame. They are the types of movies that Hollywood will never – could never – make. And they are well worth your time. You may find yourself offended, upset, horrified, amused…but never bored. You might even leave the theater entertained. And that, dear reader, would be a Good Thing.