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Are You Thrilled or Terrified?

I was thinking about doing another review for this week’s column but stopped when I thought about the film I’d chosen: 2013’s Coherence. While it’s technically a thriller, the film had been on my radar as a horror film.

This led me to an existential crisis – the best kind because it had no actual impact on my life whatsoever. What is a horror film? I did the series back when I first started writing for This Dark Matter about the allure of horror – Obsession, Thrill, Temptation, and Confusion. Looking back at those articles, those alluring qualities of horror are easily components of a good thriller. So what’s the difference between a horror film and a thriller?

It’s perhaps slightly ridiculous to get into a discussion of genre labeling because we live in an age where person A’s favorite horror film is Shaun of the Dead while person B’s favorite comedy film is Shaun of the Dead. Neither is wrong, we just live at a time when the strict definition between genres is failing further every year.

That being said, is Psycho a thriller or a horror film? What about Silence of the Lambs? Single White Female? Right now I’d say all three (in fact the majority of thrillers I’ve found via Wikipedia) to be horror films because of how completely they jive with the four tests. (And SWF is just mind-fuckingly terrifying. How can it not be a horror film?) But they aren’t horror films, are they? Let’s break it down into two parts – reality and blood. [click to continue…]


Alive by Scott Sigler: Book Review

Alive by Scott Sigler (Del Rey Books, ISBN-13 978-0553393101, July 14, 2015)

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust one another. Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

Review: Imagine escaping one confining trap just to find yourself in another. [click to continue…]

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Voodoo Cemetery Tour

No trip to New Orleans should be complete without a Voodoo Cemetery Tour. For one thing, the cemeteries in New Orleans are beautiful to behold. Because the city sits below water level, bodies are interred above ground, making cemeteries a creepy, fantastic tourist stop.

In the City of the Dead

In the City of the Dead

A stroll through these cities of the dead are full of unique tombs often decorated with wrought iron fences, flower boxes, and tokens of remembrances.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

In the heart of the French Quarter lies St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, home to the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. There are three places inside the cemetery where she’s rumored to be buried, each spot so often visited and vandalized by those wishing to pay homage to the queen, visitors are no longer allowed in the cemetery without a guide.



[click to continue…]



Look at the painting. Really look at it. Remind you of anything? It should. Barcelona artist Georgina Ciotti created some truly iconic creatures for Hellboy I and II and for Pan’s Labyrinth, at the invitation of Guillermo del Toro. Looking at the work shown here–which is not really a painting, but more of a street art piece, a mural done on the side of a flea market in Buenos Aires, Argentina–it’s easy to recognize Ciotti’s style in the films named. There’s a distinctive quality to her images.

So distinctive, in fact, that I’ve long been haunted by the look of Pan’s Labyrinth.

It was thrilling to see Ciotti’s work in another setting. I only saw the one mural of Ciotti’s in Buenos Aires on a recent trip there, but she’s done a series of pieces throughout the city. Technically, Ciotti is considered a graffiti artist, although graffiti isn’t illegal in Buenos Aires as it is in so many other places. As a result, the street art in the city is quite rich, as I discovered during my time there in July.  It’s not all unpaid work–many artists are paid to create public works, while others do it as a way to advertise what they’re capable of, hoping for paid gigs to follow.

For Ciotti, I’m not sure if she’s doing other work, but from the sound of things in many of her interviews, she committed to working in Buenos Aires solely on these wonderful, creepy public pieces:

Her beautiful designs light up a bar and theatre space, a tango studio, two hairdressers and a beauty parlour. Since returning from Spain at the end of 2009, Georgina Ciotti has dedicated herself to creating a series of fantastic murals in Buenos Aires. “I have always had a tendency for the fantasy,” says Georgina. “When I was working in Barcelona, my designs were more about women and the female form, and works relating to topics such as desire or suffering and these types of things. Now I’m trying to create a bit more of the fantasy.”

She’s also part of a budding collection of women artists in the Buenos Aires street art scene. If you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires, do yourself a favor and check out one of the street art tours to see Ciotti’s work, work by other female graffiti artists, and other pieces of public art. I opted for a tour of the north side of the city with Graffitimundo and the fabulous Ana Montenegro. Not all the work dark or creepy, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see more of these artists tapped for creature creation in horror films.

A few samples:


I used to have an obsession with zombie films. It was the only time in my life where I put up with shit films just to see zombies in any shape or form. These films were so bad I can’t even find references to them online. I could say my tastes have matured with age, but that isn’t true. I still love a zombie movie that holds to what drew me in the first place — emotion, social commentary, and fun. I just have less time to put up with shit.

Which brings me to Cockneys vs. Zombies, a fun 2012 British romp through London’s East End as a bunch of do-gooder bank robbers set out to save their grandfather from the zombie horde surrounding his nursing home. Emotion! Fun — an energetic and young cast juxtaposed with the octogenarians! The social commentary? The kids are driven to rob the bank because a developer wants to buy out the nursing home, and the kids’ll do anything to keep dear, old grandad in the East End. All three!

Unfortunately, in the midst of the fun and the kids’ sweet hearts, Cockneys vs. Zombies brings little new to the genre.1 Apart from the Cockney accent, of course. Your mileage will vary depending on your infatuation with English accents. The London skyline filled with smoke looks sad. The zombie attacks are uninspired. And worst of all, director Matthias Hoene relies on spectacle instead of consistency.

It’s not surprising — movies have always jettisoned consistency and logic if the spectacle was enough waving of hands to make the audience suspend their rationality just a bit more. But it does seem to be getting worse. There’s Man of Steel and the baffling desire to destroy a city and thousands of people so Supes can take out the guy who hit his dad that one time. There’s Pixels . . . which . . . just baffles common human decency. And, in keeping with the zombie theme, there’s World War Z which took the fast ‘zombies’ from 28 Days Later and enabled them in God Mode.

Cockneys vs. Zombies never trips into the ineptitude of those three movies mentioned, but it does forget a lot about physics and logic throughout. In fact, is was the final gunfight and triumphant hero poses of the kids and grandpa that inspired this article. Gone was the commentary. To the wind went the emotional story of a couple of kids who just wanted to save their grandfather. And gone was the fun (for the audience), replaced with fun for the actors and director whose inner 11-year-olds geeked the fuck out!

No shame — but one should always keep their inner 11-year-old firmly in check. At least when it comes to decisions about what works in a movie. Deciding to ditch work and go run in a field? Let that little dude/chick make havoc.

1The old folks getting their beatdown on is, seriously, cool. Not enough to carry the movie, though, especially when it’s the kids who save the day.

Musical accompaniment: birds, chirp chirp

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