Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eaten by Mountain Rats

In 1876, Pike’s Peak Signal Station attendant Private John O’Keefe told tall tales of life in the station to lawyer, newspaper man and drinking friend, Eliphat Price. O’Keefe recounted a story of large, man-eating rats that lived in caves on Pikes Peak.
The story grew to include how these rats attacked him and his wife and daughter in the station itself – devouring a side of beef in less than five minutes. While Private O’Keefe tried to protect his family using a club to fend off the rats, it was actually Mrs. O’Keefe who saved the day by electrocuting the rats with a coil of wire connected to the signal station’s battery.
According to the story, her efforts were too late. Before she could connect the wire to the battery terminals, hundreds of these killer rats had already devoured Erin, the O’Keefe’s only daughter.
O’Keefe quickly erected a grave on the summit to support his story and to woo tourists. However, O’Keefe wasn’t married and he didn’t have a daughter. Despite this, the story hit the wires and ended up being published in many newspapers around the globe.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


A very effective and creepy short horror film.

A pair of high tech, back alley psychics begrudgingly show a wealthy client a raw audiovisual feed that may or may not be straight from her late husband's experience of the afterlife.
Written and Directed by Karl Mueller

Widow from Karl Mueller on Vimeo.

The Bunny Man

The first incident was reported the evening of October 19, 1969 by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Bob Bennett and his fiancée who were visiting relatives on Guinea Road in Burke. Around midnight, while returning from a football game, they parked their car in a field on Guinea Road to talk. As they sat in the front seat with the car running, they noticed something moving outside the rear window. Moments later the front passenger window was smashed and there was a white-clad figure standing near the broken window. Bennett turned the car around while the man screamed at them about trespassing, including "You're on private property and I have your tag number." As they drove down the road they discovered a hatchet on the car floor.
When the police asked for a description of the man, Bob insisted he was wearing a white suit with long bunny ears, but Dusty remembered something white and pointed like a Ku Klux Klan hood. They both remembered seeing his face clearly, but in the darkness they could not determine his race. The police returned the hatchet to Bennett after examination. Bennett was required to report the incident upon his return to the Air Force Academy. It was later confirmed in Fairfax Police records that the man was wearing a bunny suit with ears, not Ku Klux Klan robes.
The second reported sighting occurred on the evening of October 29, 1970, when construction security guard Paul Phillips approached a man standing on the porch of an unfinished home in Kings Park West on Guinea Road. Phillips said the man was wearing a gray, black, and white bunny suit and was about 20 years old, 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall, and weighed about 175 pounds (79 kg). The man began chopping at a porch post with a long-handled axe, saying "All you people trespass around here. If you don't get out of here, I'm going to bust you on the head."
The Fairfax County Police opened investigations into both incidents, but both were eventually closed for lack of evidence. In the weeks following the incidents, more than 50 people contacted the police claiming to have seen the "bunny man." Several newspapers reported the incident of the "Bunny Man" eating a man's run-away cat. including the following articles in The Washington Post:
  • "Man in Bunny Suit Sought in Fairfax" (October 22, 1970)
  • "The 'Rabbit' Reappears" (October 31, 1970)
  • "Bunny Man Seen" (November 4, 1970)
  • "Bunny Reports Are Multiplying" (November 6, 1970)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Paint of the Mummy's Tomb

Mummy brown was a rich brown bituminous pigment, intermediate in tint between burnt umber and raw umber, which was one of the favorite colors of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline, one London colourman claiming that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy.
It fell from popularity in the early 19th century when its composition became generally known to artists. According to Jasmine Day, in her book The Mummy’s curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World, “In 1881, the artist Laurence Alma Tadema, famous for his romantic ancient Egyptian scenes (such as that above which is very … brown), saw his paint preparer grinding up a piece of a mummy.  Realizing where “mummy brown” came from, he alerted his fellow painter, Edward Burne-Jones [and] together with some family members, the remorseful artists held an impromptu funeral burying a tube of mummy brown paint.” [Source]

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Castle Dracula

Growing up, my family and I would always go to Cape May for the summer. And while in Cape May, we'd always take the short ride over to Wildwood for the boardwalk.

And every year, there stood Dracula's Castle.

It was a huge haunted amusement attraction. I was obsessed with horror movies as a kid (as I am now), and the old Universal films were always my favorite. So a chance to venture into Dracula's castle was like a dream come true to a kid like me.

Except I was terrified.

I remember as we drove towards the boardwalk I could see the shape of the castle jutting into the sky as the sun was setting slowly into the ocean. We always got there around sunset. And the castle was the first place we'd go to. I'd go and stand in front of the building, gazing up at it, my eyes drawn to a rubber skeleton dangling inside a cage hung from one of the towers.

Every now and then a robotic Dracula would appear on a balcony and beckon people inside. Boardwalk goers would line up for either the walk-through portion, or for the boat ride, which went through a tunnel beneath the castle. The water was dyed red like blood, and the boats had accompanying statues of the grim reaper.

Every year it would be the same thing. My parents would take me to the boardwalk. We'd go right to Dracula's Castle. We'd stand there, looking at the imposing building. My parents would ask "Are you going to go in?" And I would always say no. There was something about that towering castle that filled me with a nameless dread. This wasn't some rinky-dink haunted house; this was a huge fucking CASTLE. It looked endless; it looked like you could get lost within the stone walls.

One year, my cousins came with us to the shore. We all went to Wildwood. My uncle and one of my cousins went on the boat portion of the castle. They chided me to go along. I refused, steadfast in my belief that if I entered any portion of that place I would be killed.

I waited anxiously for their return. When they finally emerged from the other end, they both pretended to be sleeping--to mock me. They said it wasn't scary at all. They said they'd go through it again if I wanted to finally go.

No fucking way.

Year after year this continued. And eventually we stopped going down the shore. I grew older, and more jaded. Horror movies and life desensitized me to the point where nothing really scared me anymore. By the time I was in my late teens I was determined to go to Dracula's Castle once and for all.

But it was too late.

The castle had burned down in 2002, the victim of arson. There was talk of rebuilding, but it never came to pass. I'll never know what it was like inside. There's a video on youtube that appears to be a walk-through of the castle, from 1991. I'm not going to watch it. It just wouldn't be the same.

When I look at photos from the place, I am amused at how corny and un-terrifying they all look. I'm always going to regret never having gone into Dracula's Castle, but maybe it's better this way. Maybe it's best to remember it as a house of unending terror, rather than to have gone through only to come out the other side saying, disheartened, "THAT'S IT??"

For more about Dracula's Castle, as well as the location of the images I used, go here: Dark in the Park

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Faces of Death

The Bélmez Faces or the Faces of Bélmez is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in a private house in Spain which started in 1971 when residents claimed images of faces appeared in the concrete floor of the house. These images have continuously formed and disappeared on the floor of the home.
Located at the Pereira family home at Street Real 5, Bélmez de la MoraledaJaénAndalusia, Spain, the Bélmez faces have been responsible for bringing large numbers of sightseers to Bélmez. The phenomenon is considered by some parapsychologists the best-documented and "without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon in the 20th century".
Various faces have appeared and disappeared at irregular intervals since 1971 and have been frequently photographed by the local newspapers and curious visitors. Many Bélmez residents believe that the faces were not made by human hand. Some investigators believe that it is athoughtographic phenomenon subconsciously produced by the former owner of the house, María Gómez Cámara - now deceased ("Thoughtography" is considered a form of psychokinesis among parapsychologists).
Skeptical researchers point out that unlike other psychic claims this case is falsifiable. Since the faces of Bélmez are fixed on whitewash of cement, scientists are able to analyze the molecular changes that took place in such mass of concrete. Skeptics have performed extensive tests on the faces and claim that fakery has been involved.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cemetery Gun

In the 18th and 19th centuries, grave-robbing was a serious problem in Great Britain and the United States. Because surgeons and medical students could only legally dissect executed criminals or people who had donated their bodies to science (not a popular option at the time), a trade in illegally procured corpses sprang up. This cemetery gun, held in the Museum of Mourning Art at the Arlington Cemetery of Drexel Hill, Pa., was one dramatic strategy used to thwart so-called "resurrection men."
The gun, which the museum dates to 1710, is mounted on a mechanism that allows it to spin freely. Cemetery keepers set up the flintlock weapon at the foot of a grave, with three tripwires strung in an arc around its position. A prospective grave-robber, stumbling over the tripwire in the dark, would trigger the weapon—much to his own misfortune.
Grave-robbers evolved to meet this challenge. Some would send women posing as widows, carrying children and dressed in black, to case the gravesites during the day and report the locations of cemetery guns and other defenses. Cemetery keepers, in turn, learned to wait to set the guns up after dark, thereby preserving the element of surprise.
Because the guns were rented by the week and were prohibitively expensive to buy, the poorer people most likely to end up beneath the anatomist's knife—historian Michael Sappol writes that these included “black people, criminals, prostitutes, the Irish, ‘freaks,’ manual laborers, indigents, and Indians”—probably wouldn’t have benefited from this form of protection.

The Conjuring

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Corpse Road

In medieval Britain, corpse roads provided a practical means for transporting corpses from remote communities to cemeteries in larger towns, that had burial rights. Concomitant expansion of church building throughout the UK during the late medieval period inevitably encroached on the territories of existing mother churches or minsters. Demands for autonomy from outlying settlements made minster officials feel that their authority was waning, as were their revenues, so they instituted corpse roads connecting outlying locations and their mother churches that alone held burial rights.
For some parishioners, this decision meant that corpses had to be transported long distances, sometimes through difficult terrain: usually a corpse had to be carried unless the departed was a wealthy individual. Many of the corpse roads have long disappeared, while the original purposes of those that still survive as footpaths have been largely forgotten, especially if features such as coffin stones, on which the coffin was placed while the parishioners rested, or crosses no longer exist.
Such corpse roads have developed a great deal of associated folklore. The essence of spirit lore is that spirits, that is, spirits of the dead, phantasms of the living, wraiths, or fairies move through the physical landscape along special routes. Such routes are conceived of as being straight and by the same token, convoluted or non-linear features hinder spirit movement.
Similarly, corpse roads would run in a straight line over mountains and valleys and through marshes. In towns, they would pass the houses closely or go right through them. The paths end or originate at a cemetery; therefore, such a path or road was believed to have the same characteristics as a cemetery, where spirits of the deceased thrive. As such, corpse roads became intrinsically associated with fairy roads and the supernatural entities which reside there. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2013


VERY excited for this film. Here's the official synopsis:

Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on a true story described in the book House of Darkness, House of Light: The True Story by Andrea Perron, The Conjuring tells the horrifying tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

The Warrens are notorious for being FULL OF SHIT, but I'm not going to let that get in the way of enjoying a potentially creepy film.

The Conjuring comes out on July 19th.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Can I Be Honest With You? I Am Bad Fucking News" : Why Audiences are Missing the Point of Zero Dark Thirty

After a few minutes in total darkness, surrounded by the sounds of real 9-1-1 calls during September 11th, 2001, we, the audience, are dropped into the middle of an “enhanced interrogation” (torture) of a prisoner. CIA interrogator Dan (Jason Clarke)  wants prisoner Ammar (Reda Kateb) to divulge when and where an upcoming attack is going to take place.
Ammar is beaten, bound, water-boarded and deprived of food and water; treated more like an thing than a human being.

He appeals to the only female in the room, Maya (Jessica Chastain), when he tells her, in regards to Clarke’s character “Your friend is a monster.”

There’s a brief moment where it seems like Maya, who is clearly squeamish about these techniques, will take pity on the man. But she simply says: “You can help yourself by being truthful.

There has been a lot made about the torture in Zero Dark Thirty. Several members of Congress have stated the film is wrong for suggesting that torture lead to discovering Bin Laden’s whereabouts. Members of the Academy Awards have gone on record saying they refuse to vote for the film when it comes time for the Oscars, because it “supports torture.” 

The internet is full of people decrying the film as “propaganda” and “pro-torture.”

Every single one of these people is flat-out wrong. 

I have to wonder if these naysayers were paying attention during the film, or if indeed they even watched it at all. The controversy over ZDT is entirely fabricated, based on false notions and misunderstanding and rumor. 

Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal took great steps to be as accurate as possible in crafting their decade spanning thriller. Indeed, when the film was first being made, Bin Laden was still at large, and the film was mostly the story about how America was failing to get the job done. The actual death of Osama Bin Laden gave the filmmakers a whole new ending to the material, but until that ending, not much changes. The film is still primarily about how badly the CIA was doing, and how it took them so very, very long to finally get Bin Laden. 

The filmmakers take a very neutral stance with the story. They don’t hammer home any sort of “message.” There’s no heavy-handed exposition about why the characters are doing what they’re doing. And as such, there aren’t any scenes where characters thoughtfully pause and say “Gee, all this torture is wrong!” Because of this subtle approach, audiences are forced to think for themselves, and that’s not something audiences like to do that often.

The torture that takes place in the film does not lead to any positive results. In fact, after weeks of torturing Ammar, Dan and Maya finally get somewhere only when they start to be nice to the prisoner, offering him food and letting him leave his holding cell. The torture gets them nowhere; instead, Ammar is a complete wreck, unable to offer any useable information, and as a result, the next attack takes place. This alone should be enough to make audiences realize that the film is in no waycondoning torture. It doesn’t come right out and say it, but the message learned from the Ammar portion of the film is this: Torture got us nowhere, let’s try something else.
It’s a little embarrassing that a film like ZDT, which, make no mistake, is a masterpiece, is getting so much flak for something that isn’t even present in the film.

The frontrunner for best picture this year, Argo, also tells of turmoil in the Middle East, and is also based on a true story. However, as countless historians have pointed out, the events in Argo have been so heavily fictionalized that it bares little resemblance to what actually happened. Meanwhile, Zero Dark Thirty has gone to such painful extremes to be as accurate as possible, and people want to crucify the film. 

The simple fact of the matter is, just because the characters in the film don’t come out and declare the evils of torture, it doesn’t mean the film supports torture. 

It’s not pretty, but the truth is torture was used in real life. To ignore that torture, and act like it never happened—that would be the very definition of propaganda that so many are incorrectly labeling ZDT with. To complain that ZDT depicts torture so brutally would be the equivalent of someone complaining that Schindler’s List featured too many scenes of Jewish people being killed during the Holocaust. These things happened. They are not something to be proud of, but to ignore or overlook them would be a flaw itself. 

In an age when few filmmakers are willing to take chances, ZDT is a film that challenges its viewers. It is the type of film that should be rewarded and studied, not just casually tossed aside because of an incorrect assumption.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who SHOULD Win the Oscar?

Hollywood’s favorite night of giving themselves pats on the 

back and handjobs is fast approaching, so I thought I’d give you

my picks for who SHOULD win the major awards. It doesn’t 

necessarily  mean they WILL win—but they should.

Best Actor: 

Daniel Day-Lewis for LINCOLN: This is pretty much a no-brainer. Day-Lewis should, and

 likely will, walk away with the award. He’s one of the best actors around, and he was able

 to breathe real life into the marble-statue of Abraham Lincoln. We’ll never get to see how

 the real Lincoln talked and walked, but I’m willing to bet all the five dollar bills in the world

 that Day-Lewis’ performance is pretty darn close. (note: any other year, I would say this

 award should go to Joaquin Phoenix for his haunting performance in THE MASTER, but 

you just can’t beat Day-Lewis).

Best Supporting Actor:

Christoph Waltz for DJANGO UNCHAINED: This is a hard one. All of the actors

 nominated in this category gave great performances, especially Tommy Lee Jones in

 LINCOLN and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in THE MASTER. But Waltz is so damn fun in

 this role, his charm is irresistible.

Best Actress:

Jessica Chastain for ZERO DARK THIRTY: The media has pretty much all but declared

 this award for Jennifer Lawrence, and she will likely win, and that’s a damn shame. Don’t

 get me wrong, I love JLAW as much as the next fellow. She seems like a charming young

 lady, and she does give a fine performance in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. But

 Jessica Chastain’s work in ZERO DARK THIRTY is one of the strongest performances

 I’ve ever seen on film. It’s not a very showy performance, but it’s a thing of beauty.

 Chastain’s character Maya is in almost every frame of this film, and even when she’s not 

saying anything, you can constantly see the gears turning behind the eyes of this

 character. She is obsessive and determined, and in the final moments of the movie, she 

finally lets her guard down and we as audience see what a terrible toll this manhunt has

 taken on her. This award should be a lock for Chastain, and the fact that it isn’t goes to 

show you how flawed the Oscars can be.

Best Supporting Actress: 

Amy Adams for THE MASTER: Now, who am I kidding? This year this award might as

 well be called The Anne Hathaway Award for Excellence. Hathaway will be going home

 with this award come Oscar night, and it wont be entirely undeserved. Her performance is

 one of the best things about the messy train-wreck that is LES MISERABLES. But the

fact of the matter is, Hathaway doesn’t really do much. Her performance of I Dreamed a

Dream is no doubt a show-stopper, but she’s more or less out of the picture after that

scene. Amy Adams’ performance in THE MASTER, however, is a tour de force. Adams’

character first seems like a timid wife, but we slowly begin to realize how cunning and 

ruthless she can be. She also delivers perhaps the most awkward handjob in film 


Best Original Screenplay:

Quentin Tarantino for DJANGO UNCHAINED: Tarantino’s bloody, brutal, hilarious 

screenplay for DJANGO UNCHAINED is the stuff cinema dreams are made of. The 

screenplays for ZERO DARK THIRTY and MOONRISE KINGDOM both come very,very 

close to getting my pick, but when it comes down to it, Tarantino’s screenplay is just too 

damn good to ignore. 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Tony Kushner for LINCOLN: Chris Terrio’s script for ARGO will probably win this, but

really it should go to Kushner. Kushner turned what could’ve easily been a boring cradle

to the grave bio-pic into a heartfelt, touching, and surprisingly funny slice-of-life film about

the final days of Abraham Lincoln. Kushner took Doris Kearns Goodwins massive book 

Team of Rivals and whittled it down into a tight, fast-paced story.

Best Director:

Kathryn Bigelow for ZERO DARK THIRTY: Okay, this is cheating, because Bigelow

wasn’t even nominated—but remember, this is my list of who SHOULD win. And god 

damn it, Bigelow SHOULD WIN. The fact that the Academy chose NOT to nominate her is

a joke. Bigelow’s direction for ZDT is masterful—she has complete and total control of 

everything that is going on, and moves the story along at a break-neck speed. The

Academy should all get a swift kick in the ass for overlooking her this year. That said, if I

have to pick someone who was ACTUALLY NOMINATED, I would go with Steven 

Spielberg for LINCOLN. It’s the SECOND Best Directed film of the year…

And finally:

Best Picture:


Zero Dark Thirty: It seems like ARGO is going to win this award, since it has won pretty

much every other award in this category, and frankly, the Academy LOVES movies 

ABOUT movies, so it’s probably a safe bet that ARGO will win. But, to borrow a phrase 

from the film—Argo fuck yourself. ZERO DARK THIRTY is hands-down the best film of

the year. What could’ve simply been a propaganda piece, or a heavy-handed diatribe 

about post 9-11 politics is, in the hands of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, a break-neck 

thriller for our times. The lengthy hunt for Osama Bin Laden is stripped down to one

woman’s relentless quest to get her job done. The ending raid on Bin Laden’s compound 

is one of the best pieces of directing ever put up on the silver screen, and while many in

the media have talked out of their asses about the “message” of the film, Bigelow and

Boal never point fingers or even take a specific stance—they present the story as-is, and 

let the audience draw their own conclusions. This is challenging, thrilling filmmaking, and i

should be rewarded.

So there you have it. Feel free to tell me YOUR opinions/picks.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Make Good Art

When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician -- make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor -- make good art. IRS on your trail -- make good art. Cat exploded -- make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you're doing is stupid or evil or it's all been done before -- make good art.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


End of the year lists are stupid and pointless.

That said, here's one from me!

(note: everyone is saying ZERO DARK THIRTY is the bees knees, and I am dying to see it, but since it's not out here until January, I can't include it on my list, O CRUEL WORLD)

THE AVENGERS is probably the worst thing Joss Whedon has ever written. But since Joss Whedon is an amazing writer, that's not such a bad thing. The plot to this film is damn simplistic and paper-thin, but Whedon gets the most out the big ensemble cast, and creates damn entertaining action scenes. Whedon also managed to do something no other filmmaker has managed to do: make THE HULK interesting.

This movie came out back at the beginning of the year, so you might have forgotten it. Let me refresh your memory: The movie is about how there is no God, and Liam Neeson fights fucking wolves. THE GREY is a dark, existential look at what it takes to survive, unless you look at it from the point of view of the wolves, then it's about a bunch of fun wolf buddies who keep running into stupid, delicious humans.

Found footage movies are a dime a dozen, but CHRONICLE takes a novel concept: the found footage super hero film. There are more exciting action scenes in this very small budget flick than in 90 % of the big-budget bore fests that came out this year. Dane DeHaan gives a real breakout performance, perfectly conveying what it would be like if a socially unstable teen was suddenly presented with super powers. The last twenty minutes of this film are incredibly intense and awesome.


Christopher Nolan ends his Batman trilogy with a bang. This is the weakest of the three films, and frankly there's just too much stuff crammed into the plot. That said, the movie is an incredible spectacle and a fitting end to the franchise. Tom Hardy's bizarre, brutal performance as Bane is quite a thing to behold, and Anne Hathaway has the most fun I've seen anyone have on screen all year with her kick-ass interpretation of Catwoman. Also, Michael Caine cries a lot, and it's sad.

Director Rian Johnson's debut feature was the awesome BRICK, a pulpy noir set in a modern day high school. It established him as someone to watch, and he makes good on his early promise here with LOOPER, a film that borrows from literally every other time travel science fiction film ever made and yet still manages to be fiercely original. Also, it's always nice when Bruce Willis wakes up from his walking coma to turn in a good performance every ten years.

Paul Thomas Anderson's polarizing film is an examination of both Scientology and mental illness (WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE LOL DON'T SUE ME TOM CRUISE). A lot of critics and film goers were startled at the film, simply because it's so intense and features the most unlikeable protagonist in film history. If you can get past how bat-shit insane Joaquin Phoenix's performance is, you'll be rewarded with a remarkable and original film. And you'll also be treated to seeing Amy Adams give one of the most uncomfortable handjobs in the history of the universe.

Hot damn, what a fun movie. A love letter to horror movie fans, CABIN IN THE WOODS takes every horror cliche in the book and embraces them lovingly, and once again, (co)writer Joss Whedon gets to kill off everyone.

In my book, Wes Anderson has never made a bad film, but MOONRISE KINGDOM may be one of his best. An incredibly charming love story about two young misfits, and hey, what do you know, there's Bruce Willis again! TWO non-sleepwalking performances in one year? Someone must have been slipping him caffeine pills. Like all Wes Anderson movies, MOONRISE KINGDOM is quirky and full of aesthetically pleasing character wardrobes, but there's an incredible heart to this film, and by the end, I was weeping at how touching it all was.

Quentin Tarantino was all but written-off (by me) after the shitty DEATH PROOF, but he bounced back remarkably with INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and here, with DJANGO UNCHAINED, he's pulled off one of the best films of his career. DJANGO is a blood-soaked, brutal, disturbing, hilarious masterpiece, with everyone giving knock-out performances. Christoph Waltz, so good in BASTERDS, is delightful here, and Leonardo DiCaprio has never played such a slimy, evil character before--and he's so damn good at it. Also, Samuel L. Jackson gives probably the best performance of his career, after coasting on fumes for the last two decades as an almost self-parody. Tarantino himself also returns to acting for a cameo, and man did he get fucking fat in the last few years.

Much like DJANGO UNCHAINED, LINCOLN deals with the horrible institution of slavery, but with less gore and anachronistic music. Daniel Day-Lewis once again vanishes into a performance, breathing life into Abraham Lincoln. Steven Spielberg has never been more reserved in his directing, and it works wonders. What could have been a stuffy biopic is a fast-paced, inspiring and even funny look at all the hurdles Honest Abe had to jump through to finally abolish slavery. Also, he hunts vampires or something.

And just to be thorough  here are my runner-up films that were very good but didn't make the top ten: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED   BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, KILLING THEM SOFTLY, THE INNKEEPERS, KILLER JOE, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, SKYFALL, ARGO.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Directed by Steven C. Miller

Here's a concept for you: guy dressed as Santa Claus, around Christmas time, killing people. You hear that and think "You'd have to be an idiot to fuck that up!"

And yet, for five films, the filmmakers of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night series did just that. The first film is regarded as something of a "classic," but I think that has more to do with nostalgia and also people remembering something the movie is not. And aside from the infamous and memorable "GARBAGE DAY!!!" sequence from Part 2 (CLICK HERE TO SEE IT!!), the original franchise is a tiny, uncooked Christmas goose, not worthy of even Bob Cratchit and his poor family.

Here is one franchise that was read for a reboot/remake/whatever. So how did they do? Well, it's not a total catastrophe! That's something!

For one thing, the film looks pretty professional, and director Steven C. Miller must have been watching a ton of J.J. Abrams stuff before he sat down in the director's chair, because there are lens flares all over this thing.

SILENT NIGHT takes place in a town where apparently everyone is a fucking jerk-off. There are creepy, pervert priests; there are disgruntled Santa's who make kids cry; there are pornographers and cocaine addicts; and there is lazy town sherif, played by lazy actor Malcolm McDowell.

Jamie King stars as Aubrey, a deputy getting over the loss of her husband. She's nervous on the job, which is bad timing, because some crazy man in a Santa Claus suit is killing people in town. He appears to be killing "naughty" people, like a really bratty little girl, and people committing adultery and so on. However, the filmmakers seem to abandon this plot point, because soon our killer Santa is killing everyone in sight, naughty or nice.

The movie is kind of a mess. There's a strange plot-line that appears in the middle of the film about man in the past who ALSO dressed as Santa and killed a bunch of people with a flame thrower. Then there's Aubrey's uncertainty with her job. At one point she's even visited by what I can only assume is the ghost of her dead husband, dressed in a Santa suit. It's weird. Most likely there were half a dozen different drafts of the screenplay, and they just did a little pick-n-choose and hoped they all stuck.

Malcolm McDowell ponders: "What the fuck happened to my career?"
The movie does have its saving graces. The gore-factor is top notch, and I appreciate that they used a lot of practical effects rather than just CGI blood and gore. The Santa costume, with its clear mask, is actually pretty creepy looking. And the film doesn't pull punches; people die in nasty ways.

But there's no heart or soul at play here. If a filmmaker with passion had tackled this film, even with its messy screenplay, we could've ended up with something near-perfect. But Steven C. Miller seems to just be going through the motions, moving from point A to point B in dull procession.

Characters come and go, popping up from time to time to make the audience say "Oh yeah, that guy..."; the ending "plot-twist" is pointless; the town looks like an obvious studio backlot. And then there's that whole "naughty or nice" angle. Early in the film, there are several scenes where killer Santa will dispatch some rude asshole, and spare some "innocent" person nearby. Okay, that's fine. But then they forget all about that, and soon Santa is going after the Mayor, who seemed like a nice guy, and the cute police station dispatch girl, who also seems pretty nice. What's your deal, Santa? Make up your goddamn mind. 

Also, Jamie King is a cute actress and she's clearly trying, but she gives a pretty bad performance here, and is incapable of carrying a film. At one point she comes across the corpse of someone very very close to her and her "horrified" reaction is laughable.

But, any film that features a scene like this can't be all bad:

SILENT NIGHT is a not an awful film. It has its moments, and its certainly more enjoyable than any of the films from the original franchise (GARBAGE DAY!! scene excluded, of course). You could do a lot worse when it comes to Killer Santa movies. However, with such a seemingly good concept, it still baffles me that no one has managed to get it right yet.


         TWO NOGS out of FOUR