Sunday, March 31, 2013

Casualties of War?

Last week's episode reduced Merle to an undead redneck, and additional characters are likely to die in tonight's season finale of The Walking Dead.  Who stands to be offed before the show reaches the off season?  My predictions (as followers of this blog can attest) have been off-target in the past, but that won't stop me from laying the following odds:

Milton (3 to 1): Imminent doom started looming the moment this sniveling underling showed some spine to the Governor.  If Milton indeed torched the walker pit, his goose is cooked.

Andrea (7 to 1): All year long I've been saying that she will be the next major character to go, but now that she finds herself in such obvious peril (detained in the Governor's torture chamber), I wonder if she will miraculously escape harm.

Beth (10 to 1): Her character has yet to be fleshed out (her only role on the show seeming to be the crooning of soulful songs), making her likely provender for the eponymous flesheaters.

The Governor (12 to 1): The catharsis no doubt will be enormous when this archvillain is finally felled.  But he's such a compelling character, the writers just might stretch his storyline into next season.

Maggie (15 to 1): Her nuptials interrupted by the undead? It seemed a bad omen to me when Glenn clipped the engagement ring from a walker's moldering finger.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Universal Monsters in Our Midst

Frankenstein Vintage Official Universal Studios Monsters Puzzle

Here's the perfect item for anyone looking to channel his inner Victor.  The aspiring mad scientist gets to piece together his own Frankenstein's Monster.  And he won't even have to dirty his hands with grave robbing to procure the parts.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mob Scene: Frankenweenie


Not since Mel Brooks has a director so cleverly referenced the climactic mob scene in 1931 Frankenstein.  "He's killed the little girl!" Bob's Mom exclaims when Sparky, the titular revivified canine, appears carrying Elsa's pony-tailed wig (part of her Dutch Day costume) in his jaws.  Such hasty blaming recalls the denouncement of Frankenstein's Monster as a murderer when the drowned body of the peasant girl is found.  The parallels between the Tim Burton and James Whale films are extended when Mayor Burgemeister in Frankenweenie promptly urges his torch-sporting constituents: "After him! Kill the monster!"

Then the chase is on, with Sparky actually leading the mob to the windmill where Elsa is located (menaced inside by the mutated Mr. Whiskers).  The oblivious Burgemeister, confronting Sparky and demanding to know where his niece Elsa is, accidentally ignites the windmill with his lofted torch (the burning windmill seems to be another Burton motif--cf. Sleepy Hollow).  Frankenweenie's satiric twists grow more evident as the mob (in contrast to the unruly bunch in Frankenstein, who deliberately raze the windmill) is reduced to a group of stupefied bystanders, passive observers of the chaotic scene. 

Burton's oeuvre is filled with angry villager scenes, but this 2012 instance represents the macabre maestro's best-orchestrated
Frankenstein riff to date.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dead Lines

Last night's episode (the best of the season so far) was Merle-dominated, so there's no surprise that  "This Sorrowful Life" was full of terrific dialogue...

Merle: (to Rick) Huh, the inner circle.  I'm honored.  You know, when we'd go out on runs, [the Governor]'d bash somebody's skull, slash somebody's throat, and he'd say, "Never waste a bullet." And I always thought it was just an excuse.  [beat]  You go on.  Give him that girl.  He ain't gonna kill her, you know.  He's gonna do things to her.  Probably take out one of her eyes.  Both of 'em, most likely.  You'd let that happen for a shot?  Whew.  You're cold as ice, Officer Friendly.

Daryl: He's gonna make it right.  I'm gonna make him.  There's gotta be  away.  Just needs to be a little forgiveness, is all.
Glenn: He tied me to a chair, beat me, and threw a walker in the room.  Maybe I could call it even.  But he--he took Maggie to a man that terrorized her, humiliated her.  I care more about her than I care about me.

Merle: Your people look at me like I'm the Devil, grabbing up those lovebirds like that, huh?  Now y'all want to do the same damn thing I did--snatch someone up and deliver them to the Governor.  Just like me.  Yeah.  People do what they gotta do, or they die.
Daryl: Can't do things without people anymore, man.
Merle: Maybe these people need someone like me around, huh?  Do their dirty work.  The bad guy.

Michonne: That's a whole lot of maybes.
Merle: You gotta play the hand you're dealt.  I only got one.

Rick: What I said last year, that first night after the can't be like that.  It can't.  What we do, what we're willing to do, who we are, it's not my call.  It can't be.  I couldn't sacrifice one of us for the greater good because--because we are the greater good.  We're the reason we're still here, not me.  This is life and death.  How you live, how you die, it isn't up to me.  I'm not your Governor.  We choose to go.  We choose to stay.  We stick together.  We vote.  We can stay and fight, or we can go.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Check Out Time


Some quick thoughts on the premiere episode of Bates Motel, "First You Dream, Then You Die":

The driving force of the show is Norma (Vera Farmiga), not Norman.  This Ms. Bates isn't some shrill, shriveled harpy, but an alluring femme fatale.  She can manipulate her son with tears just as easily as with tirades.  It is going to be fascinating to watch the mind games she plays on her unfortunate son.

The verdict is still out on the casting of Freddie Highmore as 17-year-old Norman.  He looks like he should be playing in an Eli Manning biopic.  Judging from the first episode, he is more nerdy than unnerving, and lacks any real sense of menace.  Making him too sympathetic a figure could be a fatal flaw.

The show will benefit greatly from the iconic nature of the Hitchcock film.  Shots of the hilltop manse and the roadside motel create instant atmosphere.  There are plenty of opportunities, too, for sly references, as in the scene where a corpse is secreted behind a drawn shower curtain.

The setting of the prequel series in modern times proves a bit disorienting.  Norman Bates wielding a cell phone just doesn't seem right.

The darkness apparently is going to reach beyond the Bates family to the community as a whole.  Such attention to American Gothic
detail could be vital to the show's success, helping it to overcome the familiarity of its Bates-related material for audience members and the pre-ordained nature of its plotline (i.e. we all know already that Norman is going to grow into a psycho).

Based on the premiere episode, there is the potential for some grim and sinister splendor here.  I'll be stopping off at Bates Motel again next Monday night on A&E, and hope that it will be open for business for the rest of the season.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dead Lines

Alas, last night's episode, "Prey," failed to serve up much in the way of choice dialogue.  In fact, to me the only memorable line was spoken before the opening credits even rolled:

Michonne [to Andrea]:  They [her "pets"] deserved what they got.  They weren't human to begin with.

Here's hoping the dialogue will return to its usually-superb level as Season 3 climaxes...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beelzebub Tweets


BLZ, Bub

[For previous tweets, click here.]

Memo to the Vatican gang: come on Down Below and we'll show you how to really play with black smoke.
--6:11 A.M., March 13th

To improve my rating with the idolatrous teenybopper demo-graphic, I am thinking of changing my name to Beelzebieber.
--12:23 P.M., March 5th

It's actually paved with human grue, not good intentions, and sports many serpentine curves.
--7:37 P.M., February 28th

Still can't decide what to give up for Lent?  How about Christianity?
--4:56 A.M., February 20th

"Blade Runner Shoots Girlfriend"?  Maybe he discovered she was a replicant.
--9:08 P.M., February 15th

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Return to Sender?


The 2011 short film "Mail Order," based on the Jack Ketchum story of the same title, involves a snuff film aficionado who recognizes a former girlfriend as the torture/murder victim in one of the illicit videos he purchases.  The premise and quasi-cinematic subject matter seem ideal for translation from page to screen, but the short-film adaptation of "Mail Order" sadly fails to deliver.  A stark, static lensing would have been thematically appropriate here, but instead the director opts for frenetically-shaking camera work that proves more irritating than interesting.  Ironically, the film can only hint at the graphic violence that Ketchum's prose depicts so metic-ulously and with such unflinching hand.  A good plot twist in the original tale is regrettably absent from the film (I suspect because it would have necessitated paying another actress).  And the decision to deck out the videotaped sadists in pig masks ("Tricky Dick Nixon masks" in Ketchum's story) makes the short film seem like some
cheap Saw knock-off.

But the video (which can be viewed here, courtesy of Fangoria)
ultimately forms an admirable package, thanks to the interview with Ketchum included in the featurette that follows the short film.  The author provides a terrific anecdote about how his mother and the legendary Robert Bloch worked together to set him on his career path.  Ketchum also discusses his creative process, and recounts the real-life experience that led him to pen "Mail Order."
Essential viewing for true Ketchum fans.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dead Lines

In the first spoken line of last night's episode, "Arrow on the Doorpost," the Governor tells Rick, "We have  a lot to talk about."  His words set the stage for an episode full of tense and memorable dialogue.  Some examples:

Carl: My dad can take care of himself.
Merle: Sorry, son, but your dad's head could be on a pike real soon.

Rick: I thought you'd take responsibility.
The Governor: I thought you were a cop, not a lawyer.
Rick: Either way, I don't pretend to be a governor.
The Governor: I told you, I'm their leader.
Rick: You're the town drunk who knocked over my fence and ripped up my lawn, nothing more.

Hershel: I'm not showing you my leg.
Milton: It's important data.
Hershel: I just met you.  At least buy me a drink first.

Andrea: What happened with Maggie?
Hershel: He's a sick man.
Andrea: What am I going to do now?  I can't go back there.
Hershel: We're family.  You belong with us.  But if you join us, it's settled.

Merle: Mercy killing.  But that don't make [Carl] an assassin.
Michonne: Hmm, but you are?
Merle: When I have to be.
Michonne: Then how do you explain letting me get away?
Merle: I must have been seduced by your sterling personality.

Rick: [to his group] He wants this prison.  He wants us gone.  Dead.  He wants us dead for what we did to Woodbury....We're going to war.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kingly Trivia

The annual flu season might be drawing to a close, but the superflu
that first spread across our Macabre Republic in 1978 is still raging strong.  Which of the following characters from Stephen King's beloved apocalyptic epic The Stand was not felled by Captain Trips?

Charlie Campion
Norm Bruett
Vic Hammer
Frank D. Bruce
Fred Goldsmith
Peter Goldsmith
Sheriff John Baker
Alice Underwood
Vince Hogan
Amy Lauder
Kit Bradenton
Amy Lauder
Donald Merwin Elbert

Correct answers appear in the Comments section of this post.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dead Lines

Last night's episode, "Clear," featured only a handful of characters, but immense dramatic resonance.  And Lennie James gave an Emmy-worthy performance in his role as Morgan (last seen in the very first episode of the series).  Some of the premiere dialogue from "Clear":

Rick: There's a few places out on the main street--bars, a liquor store.  Owners had a gun or two behind the counter that people didn't know about.  I did.  I signed the permits. They might still be there.  [beat] Do you have a problem with that approach? 
Michonne: [softly--yet suggestively] No, Rick, I don't have a problem.

Rick: He's wearing body armor.  He's alive.
Michonne: Do we care?
Rick: [removing the man's helmet and recognizing Morgan]  Yeah.

Rick: We're eating his food now?
Michonne: [shrugs] The mat said "Welcome."

Morgan: We was looking for food.  You know, it always came down to food.  And I was--I was checking out a cellar and didn't want Duane to come down there with me.  And then when I came up she was standing right there in front of him and he had his gun up, and he wouldn't do it.  So I called to him and he turned.  And then she was just...just on him.  And I see red.  I see red.  Everything is red.  Everything I see is red.  And I do it [i.e. shoot his undead wife].  Finally.  Finally was too late.

Morgan: Hey, your boy.  Is he dead?
Rick: No.
Morgan: No?  He will be.  See, 'cause people like you, the good people, they always die.  And the bad people do, too.  But the weak people, the people like me: we have inherited the earth.

Michonne: [seeing Morgan up and about]  Is he okay?
Rick: No, he's not.

Carl: I had to shoot you.  You know I had to, right?  I'm sorry.
Morgan: Hey, son.  Don't ever be sorry.

Sunday, March 3, 2013



Continuing with the Lovecraftian theme of the previous post, here's a poem that I had published in Star*Line last year:


Occult classic
Of rarest edition
Iniquitous scripture
Perennially banned

Technological magic
Digital dissemination
The Necronomicon now available on Kindle
Download of the Old Ones at hand