Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Link roundup – mega edition

December 19th, 2010

Sorry for this screed, but it appears I haven’t had my Delicious links properly linked up lately. It’s worth it, I swear, if only for the casu marzu.

  • The Suits of James Bond – Well, just that, really. Good fetishism.
  • Clive Thompson: Will the word processor destroy our ability to think? – Looking at the impact of cut and paste on writing, and asking the question: has it changed the way we think? I can’t really imagine writing anything fully structured in one pass, but I must have done so when I was at school and early university. It’s strange to realise how alien the concept is now.
  • Designing Media: Interviews – Hyper interesting – a series of fantastic four-minute interviews with leading editors, designers and writers about the changing form of media, all to publicise Bill Moggridge’s new Designing Media book. Includes Neil Stevenson on making PopBitch, Chris Anderson on Wired’s relationship with its website, Ira Glass on telling narratives and Mark Zuckerberg on sharing and social connections.
  • The Twitter Hulks – From Feminist Hulk to Cross-dressing Hulk, Lit-crit Hulk to Film-crit Hulk.
  • Paleo-Future Blog: Dawn of the Wireless Phone – Professor William Edward Ayrton wondered in 1901 what it would mean to have portable, wireless telephones: “Think of what this would mean, of the calling which goes on every day from room to room of a house, and then think of that calling extending from pole to pole, not a noisy babble, but a call audible to him who wants to hear, and absolutely silent to all others. It would be almost like dreamland and ghostland, not the ghostland cultivated by a heated imagination, but a real communication from a distance based on true physical laws.”
  • Chris Burden’s Metropolis II – “It includes 1,200 custom-designed cars and 18 lanes; 13 toy trains and tracks; and, dotting the landscape, buildings made of wood block, tiles, Legos and Lincoln Logs. The crew is still at work on the installation. In “Metropolis II,” by his calculation, “every hour 100,000 cars circulate through the city,” Mr. Burden said. “It has an audio quality to it. When you have 1,200 cars circulating it mimics a real freeway. It’s quite intense.””
  • Batman symbols – Must be most, if not all of the Batman symbols. A remarkable range of shapes, but all maintain its distinctive identity.
  • NYT: The Attention-Span Myth – “At some point, we stopped calling Tom Sawyer-style distractibility either animal spirits or a discipline problem. We started to call it sick…” What exactly is an attention span? And is it really good to have one? Great piece of assumption busting.
  • Nine Eyes of Google Street View – Jon Rafman’s cuts of Street View, showing beauty and ugliness, humour and horror in momentary, sliced, sections of the world. Makes you realise that, though public, streets tend to go often unobserved. And it’s a project that seems rooted in a kind of compulsive madness of panning and zooming. Deckard surely has nothing on Rafman.
  • The Atlantic: The 12 Timeless Rules for Making a Good Publication – The Atlantic’s mid-20th century exceedingly elegant and thoughtful editorial guidelines. My favourite: “Always remember that the fastidious element in the Atlantic audience is its permanent and valuable core.”
  • Clay Shirky: The Times’ Paywall and Newsletter Economics – Guess what! Shirky doesn’t think it’s been an enormous success. Expanding on that, the venture “suggests that paywalls don’t and can’t rescue current organizational forms”.
  • On Set: Empire Strikes Back – Vanity Fair – Pictures from the set of Empire Strikes Back show the wonderful mundanity of making fantasy. Mattresses scattered beneath the platform during the climatic scene between Vader and Skywalker, model makers towering above AT-ATs. Also, check the way they created the yellow scrolling text at the start – they actually filmed it.
  • Human landscapes in SW Florida – Patterns amid natural forms in new housing estates in Florida.
  • Cheese I’m afraid of #43: casu marzu – Maggot-riddled casu marzu from Sardinia doesn’t sound like my thing. It’s eaten with thousands of maggots still in it, maggots which are not only able to jump six inches but also have mouthhooks which they can use to tear up your insides.

Last House On The Left

December 27th, 2009

We saw the original Last House On The Left last night, a Lovefilm delivery which we’ve been putting off for a while, what with all the warnings of it being horrible.

And it was. For those unaware, it’s a horror film, the directorial debut of Nightmare On Elm Street/Scream creator Wes Craven, about the abduction, rape and murder of two girls by a cadre of sadistic criminals and the subsequent revenge taken out on them by the parents of one of the girls. It was famously banned from general cinema release in the UK and Australia in 1974, and when it was mooted for DVD release in 2002, UK censors wanted to make 16 seconds of cuts. The distributor appealed the decision, calling film critic Mark Kermode forth to present an argument for the film being left unsullied, but the case failed – in fact, the appeal committee doubled the cuts to 31 seconds. Oops.

Frankly, it’s a total mess – the acting is mostly abysmal, the script is wobbly and the editing is all over the place. The narrative jumps ahead several times with no attempt to explain what happened in between, and some juxtapositions of scenes are eye-watering, swerving directly from rape to excruciating attempts at comedy with a bungling pair of cops. It was, after all, the first film most of the production team and actors had made.

And yet it’s also brutally effective. Over all these failings, and after all this time, Last House On The Left remains nail-biting, its depictions of violence and cruelty unblinking. Craven’s intention was to show violence and its repercussions without shying away – a reaction to the bloodless violence of such films as A Fistful Of Dollars, in which audiences would witness the deaths of many characters but not see the true horror of each act – torn flesh and bloody retribution.

His attempt to explore the horror of savagery, from its immediate effects to how it inspires equally barbaric revenge by the the ‘civilised’ middle class parents, isn’t quite so effective, though, struggling to make itself distinct from the mess. Let’s just say that Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring probably did it better – it did, after all, inspire LHOTL, with its story (which actually originates from a 13th century ballad) all but identical.

I think its visceral potency is down to Craven’s essential talent as a director. There are many great touches, including a lingering shot of the rapists awkwardly brushing grass off their hands after the act and some powerful jump shocks, in particular when one of the fleeing girls suddenly meets with the machete of one of her pursuers. And for all the fact that the team originally planned the film to be pornographic, and for all the weird lasciviousness of the opening section, it ultimately does not sexually objectify the girls. The scene in which they are forced to strip is about showing their total vulnerability rather than providing salacious thrills.

Lovefilm encourages users to grade films using five stars. But I found it pretty much impossible to rate Last House On The Left. It’d be easy to dwell on all its many failings, but it has a raw energy which makes it impossible to ignore. Despite its own tagline, ‘It’s only a movie,’ I rather think it’s both more and less than that.

Comic horror

August 27th, 2009

comics

I’ve read a couple of wonderful comics lately, Christophe Blain’s Isaac The Pirate (thanks, Aaron), and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha (thanks, Rich).

You’ll probably be aware of Tezuka already – he’s the man that helped to kickstart manga and anime in Japan in the 50s with Astro Boy and other such fusions of Disney and earlier Japanese visual arts, like kibyōshi. Blain‘s not so familiar to British shores, but he’s a stalwart of the French comic scene, having worked on the Dungeon series.

Obviously, then, these two creators are utterly different, and these comics are too. Buddha is an eight-volume epic that explores Buddha’s life, from his birth as a prince to his enlightenment and death, and as it does so, tells various stories about the people around him, from reformed bandits to clairvoyant babies. Isaac The Pirate, meanwhile, is a dark two-volume tale about an artist that takes to the seas, joining a band of pirates and meeting master thieves and thugs while he wends his way back into the arms of his beloved wife in Paris.

What they absolutely share, however, is irresistibly heady combinations of lightness of touch and unflinching gazes upon life’s cruelties. Both feature as a natural part of their courses death, torture and suffering, with characters mercilessly despatched while others act in ways that you really wish they wouldn’t.

For example, there’s a scene in Isaac The Pirate’s first volume, To Exotic Lands, in which the pirates encounter in the frozen seas of the Arctic a drifting ship with starving Swedes on-board. The events that follow are harrowing and shocking, coming as they do after a long sequence in which you develop a respect and affection for many of the crew. Isaac’s love, meanwhile, is in constant threat of being extinguished – through his death, hers, temptation or the distraction of the waves – a sombre kind of tension, given that it’s one of the only purely good things any characters have.

And for all Tezuka’s Disney doe-eyed animals, exaggerated expressions and the way he often inserts characters from his previous comics into the stories – and himself – he doesn’t hesitate to depict the other side of his world. Genocide, fathers persecuting their children, bloody revenge: his Buddha is a man forged by violence and horror. Other characters go on terrible journeys of discovery, the brutality behind the things they do only mitigated by Buddha’s teachings of forgiveness and that behind everything lies a reason.

In both comics, the humour and levity all this is contrasted against seems utterly casual. Their balance of light and dark gives them a sense of consequence and truth that so many books, films – and other comics – lack. It’s got to have something to do with their visual style, I think. Both are brilliantly expressive, Tezuka in particular spanning from beautiful and detailed panoramas to goggle-eyed cartoon exaggeration.

So, yeah, I can’t recommend these two comics enough.

I’ve read a couple of wonderful comics lately, Christophe Blain’s Isaac The Pirate (thanks, Aaron), and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha (thanks, Rich).You’ll probably be aware of Tezuka already – he’s the man that helped to kickstart manga and anime in Japan in the 50s with Astro Boy and other such fusions of Disney and earlier Japanese visual arts, like kibyōshi. Blain’s not so familiar to British shores, but he’s a stalwart of the French comic scene, having worked on the Dungeon series.

Obviously, then, these two creators are utterly different, and these comics are too. Buddha is an eight-volume epic that explores Buddha’s life, from his birth as a prince to his enlightenment and death, and as it does so, tells various stories about the people around him, from reformed bandits to clairvoyant babies. Isaac The Pirate, meanwhile, is a dark two-volume tale about an artist that takes to the seas, joining a band of pirates and meeting master thieves and thugs while he wends his way back into the arms of his beloved wife in Paris.

What they absolutely share, however, is irresistibly heady combinations of lightness of touch and unflinching gazes upon life’s cruelties. Both feature as a natural part of their courses death, torture and suffering, with characters mercilessly despatched while others act in ways that you really wish they wouldn’t.

For example, there’s a scene in Isaac The Pirate’s first volume, To Exotic Lands, in which the pirates encounter in the frozen seas of the Arctic a drifting ship of starving Swedes. The events that follow are harrowing and shocking, coming as they do after a long sequence in which you develop a respect and affection for many of the crew. Isaac’s love is in constant threat of being extinguished – through his death, hers, temptation or distraction of the waves – a sombre kind of tension, given that it’s one of the only purely good things going.

And for all Tezuka’s Disney touches of doe-eyed animals, exaggerated expressions and the way he often inserts himself and characters from his previous comics into the stories, he doesn’t hesitate to depict the other side of the times he depicts. Casual genocide, fathers persecuting their children, bloody revenge: his Buddha is forged in violence and horror. Other characters go on terrible journeys of discovery, the brutality behind the things they do only mitigated by Buddha’s teachings of forgiveness and that behind everything lies a reason.

All this is contrasted with humour and levity that seems utterly casual. These comics’ balance of light and dark gives them a heady sense of consequence and truth that so many books, films – and other comics – lack. It’s got to have something to do with their visual style, I think. Both are brilliantly expressive, Tezuka in particular spanning from beautiful and detailed panoramas to goggle-eyed cartoon exaggeration.

As such, I can’t recommend these two comics enough.