Archive for the Media Macabre Category

Agent Dale Cooper: Occult Detective

Posted in Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on October 18, 2019 by Occult Detective

31 day blog challenge

The owls are not what they seem…

Been thinking a lot about occult detectives today, as I’m wont to do. I mean, when your website’s moniker is “occult detective”, well, it can never truly be very far from one’s thoughts, now can it?

SHERILYN FENN, KYLE MACLAUGHLINIf I were backed into a corner and compelled to advise someone as to what tv series to watch to satisfy their occult detective itch, I would suggest Twin Peaks with little hesitation.

How to describe Twin Peaks? There is this — An idiosyncratic FBI Agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Of course, Twin Peaks shines brightest when David Lynch is at the helm. The first season is an amazingly compelling narrative and season two, despite disparate voices involved, works if you’re binge watching.

Season three, while a welcome (and brilliant) reprise is Lynch at his most strange, but it works on a guttural level, even if I would have preferred a different route that involved Agent Cooper throughout.

It is Cooper who is the heart of the series, ultimately, as the erstwhile occult detective (the Bookhouse Boys serve in this role as well) and I can’t help but think there are more stories to tell within that universe.

Lynch’s occult world building is surreal and dream-like, a perfect milieu for the strange and unusual. It can be difficult to navigate, especially once we’ve entered season three territory, when his cinematic universe collides with the chimeric Northwest of he and Mark Frost’s fertile imaginations.

I was drawn to Twin Peaks by its dark themes and its quirky and unusual storytelling, but in the end, it’s the characters the breathe life into the tale and the wonderfully acted performances by nearly everyone involved.

There are uncomfortable truths to discover in the world Lynch and Frost created and as much as I loved Season Three, a Fourth Season really needs to happen to give us a proper conclusion to Cooper’s journey.

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Horror Movies A-Z

Posted in Horror, Media Macabre on October 5, 2019 by Occult Detective

31 day blog challenge

My friend Kelli Owen started this on twitter so I thought I’d play along. Off the top of my head I’m going to list my favorite horror movies from A-Z. I expect some of these will be pretty rough, especially if I’m not going to cheat. So, here it goes:

A is for Angel Heart

B is for Black Sabbath

C is for Cast a Deadly Spell

D is for The Devil Rides Out

E is for The Exorcist

F is for Friday the 13th

G is for Ghost Story

H is for Halloween

I is for In the Mouth of Madness

J is for Jacob’s Ladder

K is for King Kong

L is for Let Me In

M is for The Mephisto Waltz

N is for The Night Stalker

O is for The Omen

P is for Psycho

Q is for Quartermass and the Pit

R is for Rosemary’s Baby

S is for Spectre

T is for The Thing

U is for The Unnameable

V is for Vampire$

W is for The Wicker Man

X is for The X-Files

Y is for You’re Next

Z is for Zombieland

And just for fun, a film that starts with a number for a title? 1408

My thoughts on Peter Levenda’s Starry Wisdom, the conclusion to his Lovecraft Trilogy

Posted in Horror, Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on October 3, 2019 by Occult Detective

31 day blog challenge

When I received a review copy of Starry Wisdom, Peter Levenda’s conclusion to his Lovecraft trilogy, I was more than a little excited. While I loved the ideas in The Lovecraft Code, it fell a little flat for me, but Dunwich showed definite signs of improvement. Being a fan of Levenda’s work, my hope was that his concluding chapter would finally see the author come into his own.

Before I get into my thoughts, here’s what the publisher had to say:

starrywisdomThis third novel in the trilogy that began with The Lovecraft Code and continued with Dunwich concludes the globe-spanning tale of Professor Gregory Angell and his attempt to keep the Necronomicon out of the clutches of a gaggle of secret societies, and his life out of the grasp of terrorists and intelligence agents.

Angell makes his way back to the Americas after trekking across Central Asia and China and sailing the South China Sea to Indonesia. In the meantime, the search for the missing professor and the all-important book consumes Dwight Monroe and his team, while a string of murders in New Orleans baffles Detective Cuneo and brings NYPD Lieutenant Wasserman out of retirement.

At the same time, Jamila, the young Yezidi woman with a strange paranormal ability and a deadly aim, finds herself on a mission in the United States to take out the man who destroyed her village. And a distraught mother whose two sons were abducted by a sinister being is now pregnant with another child and travels around the country looking for answers in gatherings of UFO contactees and the rites of a voodoo priestess where she will have to confront a mind-bending truth.

They all find themselves drawn together at a building in one of America’s iconic cities at a house with a bizarre architecture that is based on a strange but sacred geometry–a geometry that’s designed to call down something from the stars.

Peter-LevendaBased on themes from the works of H. P. Lovecraft, especially “The Haunter of the Dark” where the mysterious Shining Trapezohedron makes its appearance, Starry Wisdom ties together the various strands of occult knowledge, political intrigue, and pop culture that are woven through the first two books.

Hailed by author Christopher Farnsworth (Red, White and Blood, and The President’s Vampire) as a “more intelligent Da Vinci Code” and by Whitley Strieber (Communion, The Wolfen, and The Hunger) as “a riveting work of fiction,” this book will thrill ancient aliens’ fans and Lovecraft aficionados and is supported by the genuine scholarship of occultists, terrorists, military leaders, and intelligence agents.

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First off, this is certainly the superior of the three books. The prose is tighter, the themes more coherent, and there more of a flow to the narrative than in the previous volumes. Levenda shines as a researcher and non-fiction writer of conspiracy and fringe postulations and those skills highlight the best parts of Starry Wisdom (and of the whole trilogy).

I note that the Lovecraft trilogy is less a successor to the Illuminatus! books of Robert Anton Wilson and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, and more akin to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels.

I ultimately enjoyed Levenda more than Brown. There’s nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about the Lovecraft trilogy. It’s a gigantic story in which the entirety of pop cultural para-entertainment is meticulously layered.

That Levenda was able to stick the landing is a feat worthy of the highest praise. Whatever shortcomings one might find in the nuts and bolts of the writing itself, the story is a bold undertaking that almost any writer short of Nick Mamatas would be hard pressed to manage.

But manage Levenda does. He delivers a taut occult thriller worthy of the genre and one I recommend to hardcore enthusiasts.

Of course, the highlight for me came in the afterword penned by “Simon”. The exploration of Thelema as a world religion, its origins and connections to Afro-Caribbean practices, was an interesting rabbit hole, and one I can certainly see as relevant to society in its current and expanding guise.

I have my own Thelemic theories that diverge somewhat from Levenda’s narrative, but I certainly acknowledge the scholarship behind his academic speculation.

In the end, Starry Wisdom brings a startling and satisfying conclusion to the Lovecraft trilogy, and the ideas presented are not only worthy food for thought, but a thrilling exploration of the whole of alternative faiths and sciences.

Starry Wisdom is a beautiful book, as all editions produced by Ibis Press tend to be. It, along with the proceeding shapters, make for a handsome collection of one’s shelf.

Peter Levenda’s Starry Wisdom is available wherever books are sold. For more information, visit Red Wheel/Weiser.

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Descendant: A Novel of the Liber Monstrorum is available in trade paperback and ebook on Samhain, October 31. You can preorder the kindle version now via amazon.com.

DescendantCover

Day 2 of the 31 Day Hallowe’en Blog Challenge: Favorite Horror Film

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on October 2, 2019 by Occult Detective

31 day blog challenge

Today’s blog is a divergence as I look to finish up some All Hallow’s related things, but it’s a pleasant divergence. As I mentioned yesterday, this blog is shining a spotlight on my favorite ‘horror‘ film.

Now, that gets a bit tricky, because horror is so subjective.

Let’s face it, most of us grew up on scary movies (that’s why you’re here, no?). Being of a certain age, that meant watching black & white films at the drive-in or on late night tv hosted by Sammy Terry.

wolfmanAs a little kid, my favorite was The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney Jr. I watched it over and over again, enthralled by the magic and folklore of it all.

As I grew older, a number of films captured my imagination — but we’re here for me to draw the proverbial line in the sand.

What one movie, barring all others is my favorite horror film. Obviously it must have heavy occult overtones, with an occult detective of sorts involved in the mystery.

I can narrow it down to two.

On the one hand, The Devil Rides Out is such a near perfect picture, and Christopher Lee is a marvel to watch in it. It’s hard not to settle on it as my favorite…

devilridesout

But alas, after much soul searching, another film nudges it out of the hallowed spot. The film I declare as my favorite horror film is an occult detective classic. It stars award winning actors, is beautifully directed, and ticks all the right boxes for me.

It also has the distinction of being adapted from one of my favorite novels and yet has the distinction of actually being better than the book from which it is derived.

The film is Angel Heart, the 1987 adaptation of William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. It was written and directed by Alan Parker (of Pink Floyd’s The Wall fame), and starred Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling, Dann Florek, and Pruitt Taylor Vince.

Angel-Heart-22

Angel Heart is a visual masterpiece with an intriguing mystery wrapped up in a psychological thriller with noir sensibilities. This is a quintessential occult detective film, with plenty of twists and strange magics sprinkled throughout.

If you’ve not had the pleasure, rectify that at your earliest convenience.

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Don’t forget, I’ll be giving away some spooky books come Hallowe’en, including a signed copy of Descendant, which you can pre-order the ebook right HERE. If you prefer the trade you’ll have to wait till All Hallow’s Eve.

To have a chance at winning the frightfully delicious prizes all you need do is tag me (twitter.com/OccultDetective) and use the hashtags #Descendant and #Halloween together on Facebook and Twitter and you’re entered to win

Tune in tomorrow and I just might offer up some magical book reviews more than fitting for this Hallowe’en season…

My thoughts on Draugen

Posted in Media Macabre, Occult Detectives with tags on July 2, 2019 by Occult Detective

From Red Thread Games comes Draugen, a first-person psychological mystery set in Norway.

“The year is 1923. You play Edward Charles Harden, an American traveller who’s come to Norway to find his missing sister. But you’re not alone: at every step of the way, Edward’s accompanied by his ward, Lissie; a gregarious, independent and enigmatic young woman. Together, you must explore this scenic coastal community — nestled amongst the fjords and mountains of rural Norway — in your search for Edward’s sister, and unearth the darkness that lies beneath the picturesque surface.”

Draugen

First, let me explain that I reached out to Astrid Rosemarin, who works in marketing and PR for Red Thread, requesting the opportunity to review this game. She supplied me with a code for Steam and off I went.

In full disclosure, I rarely play PC games. I prefer console (XBoxOne), but the theme of this game piqued my interest and I wanted to share my thoughts with fellow occult detective fans.

The gameplay was simple, which was a big help to me, not being very comfortable gaming with a keyboard. If keyboards aren’t your thing either, no worries here. You’ll have no trouble navigating the world.

Draugen_screen_village

The visuals are stunning. The environment, settings, and characters are all extremely believable and immersive. I was never drawn out of the narrative because of graphics. Red Thread Games’ attention to detail is admirable.

I was also quite taken with the voice acting and sound effects. While Lissie was quite annoying, I can’t help but feel she was spot on and exactly right for what was needed for the story.

Draugen_screen_letter

And speaking of story, well, that’s the defining grace of the game. Billed as a psychological mystery, that is exactly what you get. It’s not horror, but there are elements of the genre to keep you more than satisfied if that’s what you’re looking for.

Of course there are some hiccups, narratively speaking, but I found the game more compelling than other similar games, such as The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Kona.

All in all, a very positive experience and one that I think occult detective fans will find interest in. There are Lovecraftian moments, with a Ligotti sensibility.

In summation, it is flawed, but compelling, with an excellent sensory immersion that will often leave you breathless. The pacing is slow, painfully so at times, but I believe this is by design, as the isolation, desperation, and descent into madness as the core themes is simulated by the narrative structure.

On a scale of 1-10, I rate it a measured 7.5 stars.

Draugen_screen_farmhouse

 

Coming Soon: @DraugenGame

Posted in Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on May 8, 2019 by Occult Detective

Hey, Occult Detective fans, I’d like to point you toward an exciting new game that embraces the genre we love. It’s gorgeously rendered, atmospheric, and, well, right up my alley. I suspect it’s right up yours as well.

Give their presskit a read, watch the story trailer, and see for yourself —

From the studio that brought you Dreamfall Chapters, and the creative team behind The Longest Journey and The Secret World, comes a first-person psychological mystery set in 1920s Norway.

The year is 1923. You play Edward Charles Harden, an American traveler who’s come to Norway to find his missing sister. But you’re not alone: at every step of the way, Edward’s accompanied by his ward, Lissie; a gregarious, independent and enigmatic young woman.

Together, you must explore this scenic coastal community — nestled amongst the fjords and mountains of rural Norway — in your search for Edward’s sister, and unearth the darkness that lies beneath the picturesque surface.

It reminds me of  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, which I had high hopes for, though that game was ultimately a letdown. I have a good feeling that Red Thread Games is going to deliver the game we’ve been waiting for.

With any luck I’ll have a chance to review this for you soon. Stay tuned for further updates.

True Detective Disappoints…Again

Posted in Media Macabre on February 26, 2019 by Occult Detective

truedetective3

Let’s cut to the chase — Season Three, the much heralded return of a series desperate to pretend Season Two never happened, was held together by some damn good acting by Ali and Dorff, but in the end it was an ultimately disappointing exercise where all the most interesting characters were women that got almost no screen time.

Pizzolatto is a writer who mines pop culture and true crime stories, pulls out the superficial bits, and then weaves an empty story around them.

There was a good story in there, hidden in the muck. That good story was recited as a weighty exposition while our characters were sitting at a kitchen table.

Ali’s portrayal of a man suffering from dementia was compelling and heartbreaking, but in the end it was just a mcguffin, a wearisome plot device so that the writer could deliver his ah-ha moment that was obvious as soon as we met Mike and his daughter, but we had to watch as “the ghost” of Amelia delivers the “truth” to Hays by the happenstance of a book falling to the floor on just the right page for the revelation to bear fruit.

That’s some weak writing unless you actually interject the paranormal element.

Pizzolatto just can’t make up his mind, largely, I think, because he’s lost in his own narrative. He doesn’t understand the story he’s telling. He has no grasp of the craft. He just plods along, stringing scenes together and hoping it all comes together in the end.

Well, it doesn’t. Not really.

Hell, he couldn’t even make up his mind how to end the damn thing. As we pull into Wayne’s eye, we find him and his girlfriend reconciling in the VFW then walking off into the white light like the finale of LOST.

Don’t tell me we’ve been in Purgatory all along.

Did Wayne die there on the porch just then, or did he descend even deeper into his dementia, never to return?

But wait, we’re not done. We end, instead, with Purple Hays in the jungles of Vietnam. Force Recon, Uh-Rah!

Did Wayne die and then take a detour into hell or did he descend even deeper into his dementia to become lost in that jungle of long ago?

Or is this Pizzolatto’s attempt at lifting the plot of Jacob’s Ladder? Did Purple Hays never come home from ‘Nam at all, dying in the jungle, and the entire season was ultimately a dying man’s fantasy?

Surely not, but one could see how such an interpretation could take hold. I suspect the author wrote both scenes and couldn’t decide which route to take, so delivered both, creating an ineffectual mess.

Want my bottom line? Nic Pizzolatto is a snake oil salesman with a flashy cart and fancy label on the bottle. Drinking it down won’t hurt you none, but don’t expect it to do you much good either.

Watch Season Three for the amazing performances, particularly from Stephen Dorff, who really surprised me in this.

Don’t expect much from the story and you’ll get along just fine.

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