Sunday, May 31, 2009

Creeping Hemlock Press Newsletter

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

...No One Can Hear You Suck

An Alien remake? Really? Now with super shiny CG Alien hopping all over the place and gesticulating wildly, I am sure.

They may as well just remake The Exorcist, too, and get it over with. It can be about a little boy this time, and instead of Pazuzu possessing him we learn that it's the spirit of another little boy who Fathers Karris and Merrin tag-team corn-holed-to-death in the rectory.

In related news, here's Freddy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Drag Me to Hell

Tonight I realized something startling. (No, not the tragic fact that Alice Cooper's abandoned birthname is Vincent Damon Furnier. What a wasted fucking opportunity that was!) Rather, I realized this: that Sam Raimi has not spent the last twenty years continuing to make horror films is a terrific loss for us as film-goers.

Drag Me to Hell is delightful, a breath of fresh air when set against the modern mainstream horror-movie scene. Hollywood is content to trot out remake after remake--all dank, all grim, all flimsy and utterly formulaic. We're lucky to get a handful of independent or foreign winners each year, and even those are generally very serious or very silly. Drag Me to Hell flies in the face of all of these by bringing a large box of tools but a very simple plan.

A quality tragic moral setup places the protagonist, a loan officer, in a pickle: to grease the wheels for her own promotion, she denies a mortgage extension to an old woman of Eastern European descent and, as a result, basically gets mightily fucked up for the next ninety minutes. As with the best classic horror films, the plot is at times quite thin and the acting quite obvious, but you likely won't care through all the expertly-directed harrowing, violent, and often blackly humorous trials the protag goes through in attempting to redeem herself.

Raimi's new work walks the magical line he drew in 1987: the line between action and suspense, comedy and terror, homage and innovation. You'll find the mix recreated well here. Fans of Evil Dead II will not be disappointed. That being said, I can't imagine how it will play to those unfamiliar with Raimi's earlier work. I have to think that some of the classic gags and visuals will fall completely flat for them, particularly the young'uns who will undoubtedly flock to this, what they might perceive to be Just Another Blue-Filtered Boo Flick. Only this weekend's numbers will tell.

It does bear commenting: while most of the gore-and-ghost sequences are very effective, a few of the CG effects are surprisingly unfinished. There's no explanation for this discrepancy, except perhaps that the film was made on a scant budget and the last few hundred-thousand went justifiably toward wooing a certain elusive Mr. Ted Raimi for a cameo that's as heartbreakingly genius as it is brief.

I'm not sure what to make of the depiction of the Romani in this film. Between the "ugly old gypsy" and her requisite dispensation of a vengeance curse, there's essentially no deviation from the archaic stereotypes found in classic film and literature (note that Drag Me to Hell is, in fact, a Universal Pictures release--doesn't quite constitute a justification, but maybe part of an explanation). You feel sympathy for the curse-giver and her family, but they are not well-rounded or respected. I'm curious to learn Raimi's thoughts on the matter (perhaps it's an intentional caricature?), as well as reactions from people more familiar with the culture and its treatment than I.

Also, Justin Long is a fucking blight, a walking Mac ad with all its intrinsic smugness who somehow manages to be surrounded by the Apple logo in a movie that has jack shit to do with that. Is it supposed to be funny? Long has no range and no depth. Neither he nor his character help this movie one iota.

Fortunately for us, Drag Me to Hell doesn't need the Mac's help; it thrives in spite of his abominable presence. It's a triumph of popcorn-horror filmmaking, wall-to-wall fun of all the best gooey and gaspy stripes.

Also, mark me: handkerchiefs are the new cat-jumping-out-of-a-closet. Handkerchiefs, I say!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Walking Dead #61 and CHEW

The Walking Dead #61 does some shocking (and much-needed) cast paring-down. Yay! Also introduces a new character, the Suspicious, Unwavering Black Preacher.

I'm curious to see how this character shakes out. If you read this issue, you know that there's certainly more to him than meets the eye--he may not be at all what he claims to.

Also, this issue contains a preview of the title Chew, written by John Layman and rendered by a guy I got to meet at New Orleans' recent Alternative Media Expo, local hottie Rob Guillory.

(I mean "hottie" in the sense that he's a hot new player on the field--you know, a rising star. It would be wholly inappropriate for me to characterize this very-married man as irresistible, let alone delicious. Wholly inappropriate.)

Ahem. So, yes, Chew. I actually didn't read the preview and I'm too lazy to dig it out now, but it's about a food critic whose reviews are quite literally mouthwatering--readers actually taste the flavors as they read her vivid descriptions. (Do I smell magical realism? There should be more of this in comics! I love that.) When her feelings for haute cuisine turn sour, it seems she sticks to reviewing greasy-spoon eateries and street vendors, resulting in acute food poisoning among her readership. (Awesome.) "Cibopathic" cop Tony Chu uses his palate as a tool for clairvoyance, munching on victims to divine the details of their murder. It's his job to put and end to the critic's renegade psycho-poisoning while hiding his secret from a curious government. Whew!

Oh, yeah, and he's in love with her, too.

Look for this one June 3rd.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Comics round-up (well, at least the ones I read)

Kirkman may have been spinning his wheels a bit with THE WALKING DEAD, but he busts out all flavors of brilliant with this five-issue mini. Unlike WALKING DEAD, which I recommend purchasing in as trade paperbacks, DESTROYER delivers every issue, every page. It's a great buy in floppy format, especially considering the brevity of its run.

The most remarkable thing about DESTROYER, though, might be the art--or, rather, the juxtaposition of an art style that's clean, soft, simple, and lacks highly contrived composition (in these ways, nearly kiddie-cartoon-like) with such graphic, adult-aimed content. Millar's KICK-ASS comes to mind as a comparable title. That one's drawn by Romita Jr, whose right-angle/chest-level layouts, massive heads and bubble eyes struck me as very kid-friendly during his Spider-Man work. Of course this was paired with G-rated storytelling, only cinching my conception of him as an All-Audiences artist.

His work on the exceedingly violent KICK-ASS, then, is something of an exercise in contradiction. He can't render action and gore as realistically as, say, Steve McNiven (siiigh... dreamy), so the art falls short in that regard, but seeing cute kids in a tame art style pulling off a sudden and very bloody series of dismemberments, well... it's like they invented their own brand of Shudder. It's pretty shocking, I think.

DESTROYER has a similar effect.

Which answers a question that I suppose has been hanging for me. We've gone past the age of fairly innocent art with conventionally-moraled stories (early comics through the seventies) and through the really hardcore, subversive art with hardcore, subversive stories (from the eighties on up). Where do we go from there? Make both aspects even more hardcorerer? That's one route, I suppose.

But this unexpected hybrid of NC-17 storytelling with G-style art is growing on me. It's actually quite charming.

This title is all about *patience*. Wait years in between issues only to be tantalized by a story that keeps cutting around The Main Event and never actually shows it. However, this is a really great, creative story that plays with chronology like it's an air-hockey puck. Plus, Logan's dream-mentor-guy is a Panda. Fuck yeah.

(Did you know that the real-life wolverine is a repulsive little scavenging weasel-cousin that's also known by the names "stinkbear" and "nastycat"? Good luck washing that factoid from your gray stuff next time you see Logan cavorting in a wood with some badass "totemic" timberwolves!)

Also, Francis Yu's art is quite stunning. I'd give my right ovary for his talent. (Frankly, though, I'd likely give both my ovaries for a Arby's $5 gift card [OBO!] and be able to live out the rest of my life in contented security and financial freedom.)

Can't recommend this one. Unless I'm oddly mistaken, it builds on the WOLVERINE: ORIGIN mythology. While I really enjoyed ORIGIN as a standalone "here's a neat idea" piece, I don't consider it canon and I don't appreciate this attempt to capitalize on its (limited) cache by extending the pseudo-myth, especially when they NOIR in itself is not a great read. At least, this issue was not a great read--maybe the next one will be better. For my money, though, your #1 should have enough hook on its own without having to squander goodwill from previous creators' labors. Maybe, like Tutti-Frutti or Thousand-Year Egg, it's just not my flavor.

New THE WALKING DEAD is waiting for me at the shop! ...And there was much rejoicing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Completely spur of the moment, the fam and I decided to see catch a matinee today. I had terrifically low expectations and, as a result, great great fun. It was obviously designed to give hard-ons to fourteen-year-olds, so if you have any kind of love for brainless bravado, cheesy one-liners, and nonstop mediocre action, you'll probably enjoy this.

High points:
  • Every second Liev Schreiber's around
  • Ryan Reynolds speaking
  • Hugh Jackman's extended pantslessness

Low points:
  • Three words: Will. I. Am. (I'm not normally the type to shout "Kill him!" in the theater. Especially regarding a good guy.)
  • Surprise: adamantium can absorb Cyclopian eyeball-blasts!
  • Wolverine's claws and skeleton look like they're made of soft gray plastic like the butcher's knife from a cheap Halloween costume
  • Ma and Pa Kent
  • Mute Ryan Reynolds and his stupid-ass powers--even Liefeld couldn't have made Deadpool this awful

If you're from New Orleans, you had to wonder as he crossed the Greater New Orleans Bridge into the city: just what the fuck was Wolverine doing on the West Bank? Ain't no reason to be there unless you live there. It is NOT a route from anywhere else in the country to the city. Though it shore looks purdy on screen, don't it, chere?

The action never feels high-stakes, but it's pretty good regardless.

Stick around for the post-credits snippet. As a scene it's about as useless as ketchup to a kangaroo, but it does suggest that a sequel would draw from one of the best Wolverine stories, Claremont & Miller's mid-eighties Japan-set run. I don't know if that's really good news.