a zoo in hell


On a roll - 03.12.11

I'm going to try and offer at least a weekly blog roll of sorts. I spend my weekend mornings trolling through the web trying to find interesting tidbits that are related to my writing and aesthetic pursuits, so I may as well condense them here.

So, Uninvited Books creator Robert Dunbar has a brief interview about his imprint and his ideas about the future of the small press. I wonder about writers becoming publishers, one doesn't equal the other, of course, but I like his approach to literature as he expresses it here.

Midnight Echo is a young dark fiction mag that is getting some notice out there. It's a byproduct of the Australian Horror Writer's Association, a sizable group, but like other genre associations, I wonder what the goal is. A good story should transcend regionalism, right?

I found this bit of art at Horrormall. Interesting bit of Cthulianism.

 Although, I have to say I am weary of the Egyptian overtones in some supernatural horror. At it's worst in invokes a retro pulp view of the world that is xenophobic and archaic in all the wrong ways. It's like your racist grandma that you love but often have to ignore.

Also at Horrormall, I found this title. Too Extreme for Cemetary Dance it's a chapbook that claims to include just what it says, but I wonder how tongue in cheek the title is. If it is "too extreme" for Cemetery Dance, it probably could find a home somewhere else. I can't see what made it "too extreme". Sex? Gore? Radical bike stunts? It's an interesting marketing idea, though.

There's this Bizarro thing happening. It's a clique of writers who seem to occupy a small corner of the weird fiction neighborhood. Check out the site, Carlton Mellick has some certain ideas about what Bizarro is or isn't. As a pseudo-movement, on some level, it suffers from the very thing that Mr. Mellick admonishes against -- it places its meaning (dogma) ahead of the stories.

And for something completely different: Anton Lavey pez dispensers.


I got around to watching Devil a little over a month ago. I think it is a shame that what turned out to be a nice "supernatural Lifeboat" was marred by a heavy-handed first and third act. I could guess that Shyamalan had the idea for the elevator part of the story and someone wrapped a silly Christian morality story around it. As an agnostic, I can see the usefulness for this approach -- it is much easier to create a supernatural story if the evil is something the audience already believes in, but it is also much easier to lose them if they don't share that exact belief.

The film had it's moments, all of them in the confusion of the elevator, but the final reveal was not too surprising and dulled by the moralizing to follow.

The Last Exorcism had the opposite effect for me. The film starts at the same religious point as Devil, but  instead of remaining there, the story moves forward into unexpected and more rewarding directions. There are multitudes of evil in play, and instead of finding a simple folkish remedy, the characters find themselves more lost with each encounter.  Perhaps the final scene disappoints, because it does reach the point that was suggested once the final plot movement began, but its brevity creates shock and finality that serves the film overall.

This is one of the better entries in the faux documentary genre, as it draws the viewer into the world of the documentarians rather than excluding them from it.  The viewer has to decide who they can trust, who they can believe and what their real motivations are. The crew are functional characters, much more than the 2-dimensional "ghost hunters" seen elsewhere.

I should mention that I also watched S&Man not too long ago. This neo-doc is more clever than effective. The idea of the film is very laudable; the filmmakers weave real interviews with real experts, real interviews with underground filmmakers together with a wrap-around story about a filmmaker who has a different approach to making his low-budget flicks. This is a big, smart subject which could have been mind-blowing, but the production just doesn't get there. There are some nice creepy moments, and plenty of food for thought, but too many topics are mentioned and not dealt with in a satisfying way.

One of the film's key points is that real murder is much less spectacular than the splatterfests make it appear to be, true enough, but the special effects in this film are underwhelming if anything. Something is just missing in the "snuff" footage, something that makes the film feel more like a student project than a complete work. Perhaps I was more acutely disappointed by it than others; I've watched the beheading videos, the sniper videos, the car accident videos and they have left a profound scar on my spirit. I would hope a film like this could explore this, but perhaps that is a subject for someone more mature to approach.