Archive for the Media Macabre Category

My Favourite Movies of 2016

Posted in Media Macabre on December 31, 2016 by Occult Detective

Another year comes to a close. I saw far fewer movies this year than normal, and they are very genre heavy. I’m sure I missed out on some great films, and one in particular, The Love Witch, is on my must-see list just as soon as it’s available for purchase.

Let’s have a look —

10: Warcraft

This movie got a lot of hate, but I enjoyed it over-all. It would have ranked higher but the ending really left a sour taste in my mouth.

09: The Witch

Nice, suspenseful period piece that was visually stunning. A little light on the scares, and I think it could have gone a bit farther, but it was a beautiful film.

08: The Invitation

This movie was just bloody dripping with tension throughout, and when it finally exploded — wow, what an unexpected, and very violent, twist.

07: The Nice Guys

My friend Doug pressured me to watch this and I’m glad he did. It was easily the funniest movie I saw all year, with terrific performances from the entire cast. The 70s never looked so good.

06: The Legend of Tarzan

Easily the most gorgeous movie I saw. As a huge fan of Tarzan, I loved the story and thought it really captured the feel of Burroughs’ most famous creation. Cast a different Tarzan and Williams and this could have been my number two.

05: Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

In a welcome return to Rowlings’ Wizarding World, this movie was hit or miss, but I was enamoured and glamoured by the possibilities Fantastic Beasts presented. I think future installments need some refinement, but overall a thrilling new franchise addition.

04: Captain America: Civil War

Marvel continues to deliver. With as many characters as this movie showcased, they did a fantastic job of keeping all the pieces moving.

03: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This movie ranks as high as it does because of the Third Act. Acts One and Two were uneven, but the end was a fantastic culmination of what I had hoped for.

02: Suicide Squad

Wow, this movie irritated a lot of people. Not me. The soundtrack popped, Harley Quinn and Deadshot were slick, and hey even Batman was cool. I think the plot would have made for a better Justice League Dark movie, but I thought it was killer and easily the best modern DC movie to date.

01: Doctor Strange

doctor-strange-teaser-poster

Doctor Strange is arguably my favorite movie of all time. It pushed all the right buttons. Sure, there were a couple of sour jokes, but I can live with that. What it delivered was mind-bending special effects and the most resonating depiction of magic on screen I’ve ever seen. And the end, seeing a ‘super-hero’ defeat the Big Bad by using brains over brawn, was exactly what the Doctor ordered.

So there you have it, my Top 10 Films of 2016. I don’t expect many to agree with them and that’s okay. I look forward to reading your own lists.

May the Force be with you…always.

Posted in Media Macabre on December 27, 2016 by Occult Detective

leia3

Carrie Fisher
(October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016)

I wanted to write something poignant about the passing of Carrie Fisher, but it’s too fresh, I guess. Star Wars was, for my generation, a life-altering event. It defined most all of us in ways few can truly understand. Carrie Fisher embodied the beautiful but independent modern woman. She was no mere damsel in distress as we’d previously been reared on. She was tough as nails and a leader of men. I hope she realized just how special she was…

Farewell, Leia Organa. You will be sorely missed…

A few thoughts on Rogue One (Spoilers)

Posted in Media Macabre on December 21, 2016 by Occult Detective

rrogue-one

Kim, Connor, and I finally made it to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The general consensus by fans and reviewers has been extremely positive. I don’t think I can really argue that point.

Rogue One was, first and foremost, entertaining, at least as a war movie. My wife wasn’t interested at all. She felt there was no emotional hook, and on that, I agree. But as an action movie, and as a piece of nostalgia, it worked.

FOREWARNED — HERE BE SPOILERS

Let’s break things down a bit —

The Good?

Yeah, well, the Third Act really, particularly the dogfights. I was really invested in seeing proper X- and Y-Wings in action and all that. I was not disappointed.

The pace. Yes, pacing can really make or break a movie and I thought the director did a great job of keeping all the pieces moving. Even when the plot was a bit askew, the story pressed forward, never lingering long enough for any serious harm.

The acting was solid throughout and the special effects were, mostly, outstanding.

I liked the characters quite a bit. I thought they were fleshed out enough for what they were asked to do. K-2SO was a highlight, really. Alan Tudyk’s delivery was spot on, with great comedic timing. And, like everyone else, I thought Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen were terrific. They made an excellent team.

All the call backs and Easter Eggs to A New Hope, especially Ponda Baba and Colonel Evaza, Red & Gold Leader, and did I see Biggs Darklighter?

The Bad?

Michael Giacchino is one of my favorite composers. His soundtrack for LOST is one of my most important writing aids, and his recent turn at scoring Doctor Strange cemented his work for me. But Rogue One’s music felt flat and lifeless. There were moments, usually taking their cues from John Williams’ legendary work, but overall, it didn’t work.

Saw Gerrera. Yeah, he didn’t really work either, mainly because of STORY.

Yes, the THIRD ACT was stellar, but the plot leading up to that desperate battle, and the first victory of the Rebellion, was really rough around the edges, held together only by good direction and acting from all involved. Pity the writing couldn’t have been a touch better.

The Ugly?

Look, it was a bloody thrill to see Tarkin and Leia. It really was. And I forgive the inadequate CGI, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t good. Tarkin was slightly better than Leia, but we are still a few years away from seamlessly integrating CGI and RL Characters.

DARTH VADER

vader

Okay, Vader gets his own talking points, because he was the best thing about the movie.

The Good? Easy enough. Vader, physically, was a menace and awesome presence. It was nice to have one of the greatest movie villains of all time returned to his former glory.

The absolute best thing, hands down, in the movie was the Dark Lord walking through those Rebel soldiers during the film’s climax.

I also really dug Castle Vader on the planet Mustafar.

The Bad? Not enough. Not nearly enough. Giving Vader even more of a presence in the movie would have gone a long way to erasing some of the first two acts’ issues.

The Ugly? James Earl Jones. His voice acting was flat and uninspired.

FINAL WORD

So where does Rogue One rank
in the Star Wars TV/Movie Canon?

1. Star Wars
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. The Clone Wars
4. Rebels
5. Rogue One
6. The Force Awakens
7. Star Wars Holiday Special
(Boba Fett Animated Feature)
8. Revenge of the Sith
9. Return of the Jedi
10. The Phantom Menace
11. Attack of the Clones
12. Droids
13. Ewoks

I’ve been a fan from day one, obviously. In May of 1977, I was two months past my 11th birthday. Star Wars was my everything. It was the first movie I saw by myself, sitting in a packed house, staring up at the screen from the first row, last seat on the right side of the theatre. I was spellbound.

I bought the toys, hung up the posters, collected the trading cards, read the comic books and novelizations, and drank from the K-Mart Frozen Coke plastic collectible glasses.

I have watched the franchise spiral out of control. But nothing could ever diminish the joy I felt watching that movie for the very first time. The third act of Rogue One rekindled a little bit of that… Now I’m just waiting for someone to stitch the ending of Rogue One together with the beginning of the now-called New Hope.

Come on, Internet. Make that happen. Just be sure to edit out the opening scrawl.

 

 

My 13 Favorite Horror Comics?

Posted in Horror, Media Macabre, Occult Detectives on October 30, 2016 by Occult Detective

This may have been the toughest challenge I’ve given myself. Listing my thirteen favorite horror comics, in no particular order beyond my number 1, and already I’m second guessing… Swamp Thing, Son of Satan, Kirby’s original The Demon run, Unexpected, Hellboy and BPRD, Sandman, Secrets of Haunted House, Fatale, Nocturnals, Night Force… I could make a legitimate “Best Horror Comics Ever” list out of the the stuff I’ve left off.

horror comics.jpg

The 12 comics above are all solid contenders. Most have forty years of nostalgia on their side, but others, like Afterlife with Archie, Locke & Key, The Damned, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are there because they’ve revitalized my love for horror comics in recent years. And word is, a new The Damned comic is coming, so, yeah, it’s not a bad time to dig horror comics, let me tell you.

Hellblazer_1

Of course, the one comic for which there is no question is John Constantine: Hellblazer.

It survived for 300 issues before inferior dopplegangers started showing up. 300 is a good run. I didn’t love every creator that worked on it over the entire series, but when Hellblazer sang, it really sang.

Hellblazer was more than just a horror comic, more than just an examination or chaos magic. Hellblazer at its best was infused with political and social commentary. And the book was decidedly British.

John Constantine is a bastard, don’t get me wrong, and you’d never want him to get too close. His friends, if you can call them that, generally end up in harm’s way, but when things go bump in the night, you need John Constantine. Just don’t turn your back on him.

Here to wishing you a magical and mischievous Devil’s Night tonight… There’ll be a New Moon overhead, so be ready. You never know what kind of haint might crawl up out of the Nevermore…

‘Tis the Season — Here are 13 of my horror movie favorites

Posted in Horror, Media Macabre on October 26, 2016 by Occult Detective

bobtoberish13 of My Favorite Horror Films
(maybe you’ve heard of a few of them)

.:.

Angel Heart (1987)

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Spectre (1977)

The Night Stalker (1972)

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Exorcist (1973) / The Exorcist III (1990)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

House of Dark Shadows (1970)

The Thing (1982)

Cast A Deadly Spell (1991)

Frailty (2001)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

My interview with Greg Mitchell, author of Dracula vs Great White Shark

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Media Macabre, Writing in Theory & Practice on October 25, 2016 by Occult Detective

gmitchellGreg Mitchell is more than just a talented author and screenwriter. He’s good people. Greg and I met a few years back after appearing in an anthology together. Discovering we had mutual interests in cinematic storytelling and monster hunters, a friendship grew quickly.

Greg has a strong sense of family, a solid moral center, and small town values that I both relate to and appreciate. This translates well into his fiction as he’s able to capture that essence, twist it, darken it, and send shivers down your spine.

With Hallowe’en almost upon, I thought it would be the perfect time to check in with Greg, especially as he has a new book out that not only captures the spirit of the season but is also the perfect title to promote as a part of Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read.

The All Hallow’s Read tradition, which began in 2010, is brilliant in its simplicity. The idea is that during the week of Hallowe’en, or on Hallowe’en Night itself, you give someone a scary book. Not instead of candy or what have you, but in addition to.

Greg Mitchell’s latest, Dracula vs Great White Shark, is the perfect title for All Hallow’s Read this year. For starters, it’s all-ages. It’s an inspired supplement to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though, to be honest, it’s more akin to Christopher Lee’s Count than anything. It’s an inexpensive purchase, easily snatched up on Amazon for less than $10. And it is fun, which is what Hallowe’en is all about.

dracula_vs-_great_wh_cover

So without further ado, here’s my brief conversation with my friend and fellow author, Greg Mitchell.

Bob: Thanks for joining me here at The Occult Detective, Greg. The first question I’d like to ask you I will paraphrase from one of my favorite interviewers, Rune Soup’s Gordon White. Tell me, were you a strange and unusual kid?

Greg: No, not on the outside, I suppose. I was the quiet kid in the back who made good grades and didn’t have any beef with anybody. I think, growing up, most people would say I was the “nice kid”. If I was unusual, it was due to the fact that I didn’t stand out at all. I was nearly invisible. Behind that quiet veneer, however, were worlds of monsters. I was always creating and fixating on the dark “what ifs” of life. Even now, I still think it catches people by surprise, as I’m still the “nice, quiet kid in the back”, but then they see what I write and there’s always a moment of “Oh, that came from you?”

Bob: That’s an interesting observation. So tell me, it’s a bit of a cliched question, but for writers, an important one, who were your biggest literary inspirations?

Greg: It’s a sign of my generation, but I would have to say Stephen King—not that I’ve read a ton of Stephen King, mind you. But growing up in the 80s-90s, King WAS horror. I can still remember in middle school and junior high, all the kids bringing worn King paperbacks to class, sneaking a read in between periods, and talking excitedly about the lurid, morbid fantasies inside. More than anything, it was the sheer excitement swirling around King in those days. The man was nigh unto a real-life bogeyman, himself, with his name being whispered on the lips of all the children on the school bus. What I’ve read of King, I obviously appreciate, though I think his magic isn’t in his horror—which doesn’t really strike me as very scary on the written page—but in his characters. I think that’s been the key to his success all these years, in that he writes us. Our hopes and fears, our secrets, our longings. He’s a master of writing the human condition and throwing a monster in there as a symbol of our collective fears, and that’s something that I strive to accomplish as well in my own humble offerings.

Bob: We both grew up in and continue to live in small towns. In my own writing, that ‘small town voice’ is ever-present. How big of an influence are your native environs?

Greg: Super big. I live in one of those small towns, the kind they always show in 80s horror movies. And I guess seeing those movies shaped my view of my town. Growing up, I was told by my peers how boring and safe my town was, but then I’d pop in a suburban horror movie and was opened up to the possibility that, just beneath the quaint charm, there could be something exciting and dangerous lurking. You just had to look a little closer and use your imagination. I don’t think I’ve been able to look at small towns the same since. So I’m in a relatively safe place—which works great for real life—but it also provides the groundwork for imagining what secrets might be brewing beneath our feet.

Bob: I’ve got to tell you, your latest book, is a great read. The characters are so well drawn and you did a masterful job of ratcheting up the suspense. It was really a lot of fun. Tell me a bit about what inspired you to write Dracula vs Great White Shark?

Greg: For the last few years, I’ve been tasked with creating more original content for the Syfy Channel as lead-ins for their impossibly popular Sharknado events. That process begins with pitching shark-related titles to the network, trying to find one that catches their interest and could lead to developing a feature. At first, Dracula vs Great White Shark was just one of a hundred other absurd titles, but once the network passed on it, the name stayed with me. I loved the “monster rally” aspect of it and thought it could be legitimately interesting to take a classic monster of old and have him rumble with his ubiquitous modern day counterpart. As stated in the book, there isn’t much difference in a vampire and shark—they’re both apex predators, both must constantly hunt to survive. The important thing is that I didn’t want to make this a parody. Aside from the gloriously ridiculous title, I still wanted to treat Dracula with a great reverence, and I borrowed heavily from Hammer movies and the Tomb of Dracula comics for my rendition.

Bob: I admire you reaching out to the all-ages market by developing an imprint for those kinds of stories.Tell me more about MonsterKid Press and what sort of titles you envision in the imprint’s future.

Greg: MonsterKid Press is a new imprint of my Genre Experience independent label. It’s designed for a younger audience, and its aim is just pure monster fun. Most of my novels lean heavily on a serious, spiritual angle. And that’s fine most of the time, but truthfully, it can get taxing. As much as I love to explore the deeper truths of spirituality and the mortal struggle of fear versus faith, sometimes I just want to write a book about Dracula wrestling a shark, you know? Working on Syfy has shown me the benefits of shaking loose your imagination and writing from a place of unabashed entertainment. That’s not to say something like Dracula vs Great White Shark doesn’t have something more meaningful to offer, just that it’s not the driving force. I’ve got a few more ideas lined up for MonsterKid—fun, creature-filled spooky romps that are born from that part of my soul where I’m eternally twelve years old and it’s always HalloweenNight.

Bob: You mentioned earlier your work with Syfy. I’ve been impressed by the great success you’ve had as a screenwriter. Do you find the creative process different between writing scripts and novels?

Greg: Not really, no. At least, not the way I do it. I started my career wanting to be a screenwriter. I fell into “novelist” by accident because I was twenty years old and had no idea how to get an independent movie off the ground. Keep in mind, this was in the late ‘90s before YouTube and the boom of DIY movies. The internet was still in its infancy, and I had no tangible way of connecting to like-minded filmmakers. I very much felt alone out there. But I approach both the same way. I write novels like I write movies—which I know irks many literary types, but that’s how I’ve always done it, for good or for ill. My wife is constantly correcting me because when I’m telling her about a new book, I talk about “scenes” and “cutting to” and “fading out”, and she tells me “You know it’s not a movie, right?” But in my head it is, complete with soundtrack and poster art.

Bob: Ha. That’s great. My brain works the same way. So now that you’ve got Dracula vs Great White Shark out there, tell me about your current work in progress?

Greg: I am currently in the early stages of writing my long-gestating prequel to The Coming Evil Trilogy. Fans of that series should be excited to learn that it will explore the origins of the town of Greensboro and reveal its initial contact with the malevolent Strange Man. It’s set in the Old West and focuses on the first settlers of Old Greenesboro—as it was once known. It’s a pretty big story, bigger than I had anticipated. I’m still meeting all the new characters and getting to know them, but the writing is fruitful if not at a slower pace.

Bob: Believe me, I feel your pain. I’ve a couple of series that have been on the old slow-burner. What readers seldom realize is that each book is like a child and they’re all different and require different levels of attention before they’re ready for the world.

What can we hope to see next from Greg Mitchell?

Greg: Next up on the chopping block is my novel Infernal City. In a parallel reality, that would be out now, but Dracula vs Great White Shark manifested more quickly than I had expected and stole my attention. But once the Halloween season passes and winter sets in properly, I’ll return to work getting Infernal City ready for publication early next year. The book is a quasi-tie-in to The Coming Evil, taking place in the City that was mentioned a few times in the Trilogy. In this book, we learn a little more about the City and its mystical connection to Greensboro. Not only that, but this book also serves as a bridge between the small town horror of The Coming Evil series and the larger cosmic horrors of my superhero/Lovecraftian/Doctor Who amalgamation—the Rift Jump duology. In Infernal City, we meet Quinn, who is an enforcer for the City. There are those who strike deals with the entity lurking beneath the City’s streets for riches and success, and Quinn makes sure they live up to their end of their Faustian bargains. It’s told in first person from a bruiser’s perspective and has a very monster noir feel to it.

Bob: Man, that all sounds fantastic. You fans will be thrilled. Thanks again for sitting down with me and sharing your time with us here at The Occult Detective, Greg. It’s always a real treat when you come by and I wish you nothing less than continued success.

For more information about Greg, you can visit his blog, The Coming Evil, or check him out on Facebook. You can purchase Greg Mitchell’s works via his author’s page on Amazon.

The Power of Hallowe’en

Posted in Liber et Audax, Media Macabre on October 21, 2016 by Occult Detective

I have a lot to do today, but I wanted to share something. Oddy enough, an article about Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame led me to thinking about the records I used to spin as a child. While I initially reminisced about the aforementioned Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, The Beatles, The Ventures, Jackson 5, and The Monkees (all in heavy rotation, along with various K-Tel Records), there was a collection of record albums that I played more than anything else, especially at bedtime.

Power Records.

drac

I had a ton of them: Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Batman, Spider-Man, Conan, Frankenstein, Man-Thing, Curse of the Werewolf, and so many more…

 

My favorite might have been this one though. Just listening to it now takes me back to my bedroom in our old trailer. It had no heat, and my little brother and I would place a fan at the end of my bed, on full blast in winter, and hide under thick blankets while this played…

 

 

Nothing invokes the season better than a vintage “spooky sounds” record, crackles, pops, and all.

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