Opinions. Everybody Has 'Em.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Paranormal (in)activity, the walking dead, and bleeding houses.

Perhaps I'm just a stubborn moo, but whenever a new book or movie floats through town on a raft of hype, I deliberately avoid climbing aboard with the initial wave of eager souls and wait instead until well after the storm has died down. Disappointingly often I find that the hype was just that, the over-excited babbling of someone in the marketing department ( Witness Dan Brown's 'The DaVinci Code' ). Such has been the case with movie-of-the-moment Paranormal Activity. All I can say is, there went ninety minutes of my life that I'll never get back. Even with the best marketing in the world setting it on fire through the Internet ( that huge black-hole repository of often useless junk ) and a truly fiendish word-of-mouth campaign, surely someone other than myself must have noticed that the actual movie, well, it sucks. Why are there now two sequels? Thank God I had the far superior Zombieland to cheer me back up afterwards, otherwise there are vases in my house might have been in serious danger of being shattered against walls. Woody Harrelson was a treat in that snakeskin jacket, and Jesse Eisenberg is such an unexpected hero. Take note, Paranormal Inactivity, if you want to do something simple but striking, this is how it should be done.

So very much better also is The Walking Dead, currently approaching its finale on FXUK. Just six episodes of this zombie-plague-destroys-the-world ( well, Atlanta, GA anyway ) TV show are not enough. My world was truly made when I found out that zombies would be shambling and moaning along to join the legion of vampires and werewolves biting and howling their way across our TV screens these days, and I was hooked on the show from the moment a zombified torso started crawling towards Sheriff Rick, skeletal jaw snapping, gurgling hungrily at this man-sized Happy Meal. There is something realistic and yet comic-book about The Walking Dead that is deeply unsettling. I'm as excited as a Santa Claus-believing 5 yr-old on Christmas Eve then to learn that the show has been commissioned for a second series run of 13 episodes. Take note, Paranormal Inactivity, if you want to make something look realistic enough to make your viewers doubt the safety of their cosy world just a little, this is how it should be done!

There's a recession on, the country's being run by a clueless toff and his mannequin, it's still bloody snowing, so what else is a girl to do but treat herself to a box set of the old ITV series Hammer House of Horror. Thirteen 1-hour stand-alone episodes derived from the series of movies from the same stable which ran in several repeats during the 80's, at some point I managed to convince my mother it would be a good idea to allow me to watch them. Starting with 'The House That Bled To Death', I was suitably creeped out at the time by this episode, especially by the scene of a birthday party ruined by some burst pipes drenching the cake in something a lot worse than a little collected rainwater! Re-watching a few of the episodes now, including the abovementioned, I am still suitably creeped out, proving that sometimes an oldie is indeed a goodie, even if the decor is a little dated and Mom's flares went out with Gary Glitter. God bless the 70's & 80's when horror was King. Take note Paranormal Inactivity...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Conspiracy nut - me? You can blame my old man then ...

My father was a strangely two-sided man. On the one hand he was very down-to-earth and ever practical, occasionally maddeningly logical if you were a teenager ruled by hormones and peer pressure. But on the other hand he was surprisingly open-minded to many things. I think his own experiences and his deep admiration for his own fair-minded and even-handed father had made him this way. He was also a Naval man who saw active service in Korea and Suez, and had many fascinating stories to relate, all of which I loved hearing and he loved telling, perhaps recognizing, like many a father has, that his greatest chance to be a mythological-style kingly hero lay with his doting daughter!

When he told me about the phenomenon would one day become known as 'rogue waves' I had no hesitation in believing his description. He told me of being in the Indian Ocean - on those slightly baffling things the military like to call 'manoueveres' ( no guarantee of my spelling there, it's one of my blind spots that word! ) - and suddenly seeing a "wall of water, 90 to 100 feet high, coming toward the ship out of a clear horizon". It was, he said, like watching a building rush toward you, and the most frightening thing he had ever witnessed. Yet neither he nor any of the other men on board thought it anything odd. The sea, they knew, is a force to be reckoned with and an unpredictable one at that. My dad, like most people who have spent time at sea, would say that people who don't know the sea, underestimate it all the time and that is their biggest mistake. He also told me about "glowing things, like gel filled with neon" that they would spot all around the ship and which he figured were some kind of luminous sea creatures. Of course now we know all about bio-luminescence.

Dad's descriptions and theories for these phenomena were very clear-headed and practical, hardly mystical or conspiratorial at all. And yet he was both fascinated by and very open-minded about everything from the Bermuda Triangle to UFO's. The first two non-fiction books he ever steered me in the direction of reading were Erich von Daniken's 'Chariots of the Gods' and a book all about some military planes lost in the Bermuda Triangle. He himself had read all about these things, and the Nazca lines and the 'ancient astronauts' theories, crop circles and the Pyramids at Giza being giant spacecraft-guidance machines. This was the same man who would answer your teenage " Oh but everyone is getting it!" pleas for the latest fashion accessory or gadget with the implaccable logic:

" And if everyone was getting a cold, would you want it too?"

He was not a man inclined to jumping on whatever bandwagon happened to be passing by. And yet he was open to the kinds of possibilities that others automatically reject as the ramblings of whacko's. Small wonder then that his daughter turned out to be similarly open-minded and ever-curious. When Dad left the Navy he went to work for the MOD and in doing so he had to officially sign something under the Secrets Act. For many years during the so-called Cold War, he was forbidden to visit the Iron Curtain countries, even though he was only a civilian worker. It was the government's contention that even civilian workers at MOD bases might have seen things that agents of a hostile country could use and their firm belief also that those foreign agents possessed the ways and means of extracting such subconsciously-held information from people using drugs and hypnosis. Dad never doubted that this was so. Nor did he doubt that our government had the same tools at its disposal and presumably the same willingness to use them given the opportunity.

If the government and military can make a civilian worker at an ordinary MOD base go to such lengths, then how willing would they be to cover up something as globally mind-blowing as the actual existence of UFO's? Which made this video footage from NASA all the more fascinating to me ... Wonder what Dad would have made of it? Considering it was he who recommended the movie 'Capricorn One' to me ...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My Ultimate Fantasy Monster-Slaying Army

If you could pick any movie, TV, book, comic characters to make up your own monster-slaying army, which would it be?

For me, first and foremost there would have to be Ash ( 'The Evil Dead' ). The man is an original and if you want someone to wield that chainsaw with some aplomb, look no further. I'd also want James Bond because he can make a flamethrower out of a cigarette lighter and some hair product. Without a skill like that you'd be up that messy brown creek if there were snakes, wouldn't you? Yeah. And there are always snakes. And still with the flamethrowers, Ripley ( 'Alien Quadrilogy' ) is another must for me. Not only is the woman a bit handy with a flamethrower, she used a payloader to chuck a big, nasty alien queen ( no, not Elton John ) out of an airlock. Since she's become super-clone Ripley I'd bet she could do some serious damage just by chucking a basketball at those ghoulies! I'd also like to have a slayer on hand for, well, slaying. Call me crazy ( won't be the first time anyone has, nor I suspect the last ) but I'd just feel a whole lot safer if it were rogue slayer Faith Lehane on my side rather than Buffy. Besides, Faith looks better in leather and one can never have enough nice things to look at in between lopping off all those zombie heads. What the heck, I might as well have some Willow too, just in case the army trips across a mad mage ( that means an angry wizard, not Madonna in a temper tantrum ) and need some quick spell-casting, and maybe a VanHelsing too, for the old-skool slaying touch. Speaking of things that look good, I reckon my army could do worse than include Kate Austen ( 'Lost' ) again just in case we found ourselves on some mysterious time-shifting island with bug-eyed men named Ben after us, or just fancied some coconuts. Hey, it could happen ... one minute you're staking cyber-vamps, the next you get that craving for fresh coconuts ... For sheer expertise in the arena of firearms and all things that go boom, I reckon I could do worse than have ex-spy Michael Westin and his trigger-happy girlfriend Fiona Glennane ( 'Burn Notice' ) along, and just in case the monsters are joined by human skin-wearing space lizards, I'd take Ham Tyler ( 'V' the original ) and Special Agent Erica Evans ( 'V' 2010 ), the latter just because she wears a thigh-holster very well and I do have my completely shallow moments. Finally, and this may sound like an odd choice so bear with me, I'd want Dr Cal Lightman ( 'Lie To Me' ) on my side. Hey, if I suspected my best friend had been taken over by the pod people and she was trying to convince me she was still human, I'd want Lightman there to tell me, " Nah, sod it. She's lying. I can tell by her eyebrows." He can bring his colleague Dr Gillian Foster along with him too. She's kinda handy with that psychology degree when she's let loose ... besides, she's cute and I'm sure I could find some use for her, even if it was just making the coffee.

So bring on the brain-eating zombies!!!

How To Recognize That You Are In A Horror Movie

There are certain elements that go into making up a horror movie. There can be variations on these themes but they must always be present in some form for it to be classified as a horror movie ...

1. Running In Heels Through The Cemetery. Graveyards are dangerous places. They are dangerous at any time of day but by night they become especially so. Hence it is NEVER a good idea to enter one. However, you are the bird-brain who appears in every horror movie and who leaves band practise / their date / the local crack-house later than expected and, despite the pea-soup fog and the eerie music playing in the background, will proceed to take an ill-advised short cut through the local cemetery ... the creepy, lonely one at the ass-end of town, right next to the dark woods, the one with all the legends surrounding it about some teenagers got chopped up by a bunch of psycho-cannibals. Naturally you will be in footwear inappropriate to trudging through cemeteries and this will lead to falling down and ricking an ankle, hence allowing the werewolf/vampire/psycho chasing you plenty of time to catch up. You are not Buffy Summers. You are not cut out for hanging around in lonely, creepy, monster-infested cemeteries. Therefore you are a goner. You will die horribly. And it's your own damn fault, you should have stuck to the beaten path.

2. The Curse Of Being The Second Banana. You are the tough, wise-cracking best friend of the leading female character, often kind of cute in that tomboyish way, and maybe even openly gay if the movie is trying really hard to be hip and inclusive. Usually you are destined to die a gruesome but heroic death in the last third of the movie, often whilst attempting to save the ass of the best friend ( which ass you have been secretly coveting for the entire movie ) or less often the ass of her entirely worthless boyfriend ( which ass you have openly been longing to hand to a demon for the entire movie ) but take heart. Your career may stall at playing this Second Banana but you will always have a loyal following amongst the lesbians. It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharpened ax.

3. The Unkillable Killer. When you see the guy in the hockey mask, the one lugging the ax /machete / chainsaw over his shoulder, there is but one thing to do: RUN AWAY. It does not matter what you inflict upon this guy, you can shoot him, stab him, set fire to him, hell, you can throw him from the top of the Empire State building, it might slow him down but it won't kill him. He'll be back. They always come back. I mean, if you could kill him, where would the sequel and the franchise be in that?

4. Just When You Thought It Was Safe ... it isn't. Please recall the above regarding unkillable killers. But you'll forget, won't you? Not five minutes after the blood has been mopped up and the last ripped-off limbs have been tidied away, you'll be right back in the water/woods/creepy summer camp, leaving yourself open to being hacked to pieces by that not-dead-at-all grinning maniac or dragged to hell by some seriously twisted tree roots. Oh well, you didn't learn. You deserve to die also.

5. Put That Chainsaw Down, You'll Have Someone's Eye Out. Seriously, it might look cool, running around waving a chainsaw and screaming like a banshee, but chainsaws are dangerous things. The unskilled should stick to shotguns, flaming torches, and anything sharp and stabby, and leave the chainsaws to the professionals. Otherwise you're just going to wind up cutting your own hands off and it's kind of hard to fight a zombie horde with no freaking hands. Trust me.

6. You've Got To Have Tits n Ass. It's a horror movie. The audience will be largely made up by horny, sticky little teenagers and a few serious weirdoes lurking up the back. Therefore there will be tit n ass. Be prepared to run naked down a beach, all your bits jiggling, and throw yourself into a body of water beneath which will be lurking something much worse than a back-row weirdo. If you possess particularly impressive jiggly bits you may get to play The Slut and will spend the first third of the movie shagging your way through the male cast ( and maybe one female cast member if it's that determinedly hip and inclusive movie you happen to be in ) only to become one of the first grisly casualties. Because if there is one thing the grinning psycho dislikes it's teenage sex. Being skewered whilst shagging Kevin Bacon might not earn you any Oscars but the teenagers and the back-row weirdoes will love it. Or anyone who's ever had a hankering to skewer Kevin Bacon.

7. Last Woman Standing. This is possibly the most coveted role in horror movies for actresses. You get to be tough and glamorous, able to spend a whole day and night plunging through woods in West Virginia ( I honestly don't know why anyone ever goes to Virginia anymore, the place is crawling with inbred psycho-cannibals according to Hollywood! ), and fight off a family of cannibals, and still come out of it with your lipstick intact. Even the torn clothing and the little smears of blood and dirt on your face will look adorably sexy on you. The downside to landing this coveted role is that you may get stuck with it for some considerable time. Horror movies are franchise favorites and you may wind up wondering why you ever tried out for that role when you're doing 'Friday The 13th Part 45'.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Horror-struck ... for all the wrong reasons

Dear me, what can the matter be with horror movies these days? I have just lately viewed 4 movies all of which managed to seriously rub my unfunny bone the wrong way.

The first offender was Sorority Row which, granted, I wasn't expecting greatness from. But nothing this bad either. Rumor Willis ... you'd have thought her parents might steer her in the direction of something a little less hapless. No, wait, last good thing Demi Moore did was St Elmo's Fire and Bruce Willis ... no, I simply can't cast my mind back that far. As for Carrie Fisher getting involved in this nonsense, I can only assume that she's back on the booze and drank the next month's rent money so needed something to fill the gap.

Next up was The Final Destination ... please not the The to distinguish it as the ultimate ... well, least said about that ... I just bloody well hope it is the final one. Was this in 3-D at the cinema? Because not even screen-popping special effects could make up for a script sounded like it had been written by an 82 yr-old Mormon Republican with a mania for over-explaining everything.

Although by now I was having serious doubts I stuck with my mini-marathon of unmoving horror movies for the remake of Nightmare On Elm Street, a movie which just should not have been remade at all because it is a classic. After watching the remake against my better judgment then, I realized it was two hours of my life that I would never get back and resolved to listen to my better judgment more carefully in future. And by the way, whose seriously messed-up idea was it to take the greatest horror-movie anti-hero of all time, Mr Freddy Krueger, and make him into something resembling an inbred redneck extra left over from Deliverance? Just leave the classics alone. Please. Thank you.

Finally, since I like to finish what I start ( well, sometimes ) I arrived at the final leg of this torturous marathon. I had hoped for better things from Drag Me To Hell but it seems even at the last hurdle life was to cheat me out of a prize. Hell is exactly where both Sam Raimi and this movie should be have been dragged to, and left there for eternity, preferrably before it had a chance to upset the finer sensibilities of horror fans like myself. Raimi's much-vaunted 'truimphant return to horror' was more of a last-gasp clutch at a straw that he has allowed to wither into mulch. Alison Lohman is no Bruce Campbell and I suspect even if she had cut off both her hands with a chainsaw and got dragged from hell to breakfast by a bunch of demented vines all singing the 'Hallelujah' chorus, I wouldn't have been able to raise much more than a bored, " Oh get on with it!"

I must come to the conclusion then that there are altogether too many horror-movie remakes these days ... Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Crazies ( okay, that one did work ), Nightmare On Elm Street ... and on and on. We need less regurgitation of what we have already digested and more assailing of our senses with fresh gore. The horror-movie makers of today also are desperately in need of a humor transplant. Does anyone know where Dr Herbert West is these days?

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Leave it alone. Robert Englund is Freddy. End of story.
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It's no use, sweetie. He's just gonna keep coming back. This is a franchise, don't you know?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Dreaming In Gore-O-Vision

Shambling brain-eaters haunt my dreams ...

I cannot surely be the only person who often dreams in horror movies ... can I? Who by slumbering night finds herself starring in her own personally-written and directed slasher flicks? Most often it's zombies. I don't know why this should be since, as my favored sub-genres of the horror genre go, zombies rank for me pretty far below vampires, werewolves, hockey mask-wearing chainsaw-wielding maniacs, and even the odd family of cannibalistic inbreeds. So why my subconscious should be dreaming up complex plots involving these unedifying bad-mannered shambling wrecks of creatures with their disgusting penchant for snacking on the brains of the still-living, I just don't know.

Oh, I have done all the proper dream analysis ... and Drs Freud and Jung, as much as I do love your psychoanalytic scribblings, did either of you really need to get so darned persnickety with our subconscious nocturnal wanderings? Now we can't just have a bad dream ( or a good dream about a bad subject - and that does make as much sense on paper as it did in my head, right? ) without it having to be all about underlying castration fears and other florid psychoses. Thank you very much indeed.

One of my zombie-influenced dreams was in fact so spectacular that I was prompted, in spite of the shambling brain-eaters not being my thing, to write it all down and file it for fleshing out at a later date into a novel proper.

Besides the zombies, I have also dreamed of a Godzilla-like monster arriving to herald the end of the world. That one was so eerily lifelike I actually awoke 99% certain that the world really had ended, until I realized it was merely that Monday feeling I was experiencing. There was also an intriguing dream-state jaunt taken to an idyllic island for a much-needed vacation, only to have it interrupted by some inconsiderate little aliens - weird and disturbingly ferocious hybrids of lizards and Snow White's diminutive friends. I don't need Drs F & J to know that one was inspired by a timely combination of the side effects of beginning a course of Vitamin B6 tablets ( B6 causes very vivid dreams ), watching 'V', and reading about Disney's experimental Perfect Town USA ( that in itself could fill an entire horror blog post - urrgh! )

And don't even get me started on the myriad variations on the theme of an insane janitor on the loose in some creepy-ass small town and me being either his next intended victim who has to avoid him or the cop who has to hunt him down. I have nothing against janitors, at least not consciously. However, apparently my subconscious finds them very suspect indeed.

On the whole I tend to rather enjoy these horror-movie dreams. They're inspiring as well as entertaining, and okay yes, occasionally I get a sniggering kick out of waking up the entire household with my " Help! I'm having a seriously bad dream!" 5am shrieking! I just wish my subconscious would get over the whole zombie thing and instead find itself something to fret about involving the infinitely sexier vampire thing.

I might have no conscious beef with janitors but my subconscious is convinced they are all Freddy Krueger...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Strong Stomach But Still Human

Growing up I enjoyed reading horror authors such as Stephen King, John Saul, and James Herbert, all of whom were deservedly renowned for paying attention to gory detail! I know I read many, many more authors in the same genre and although I can't recall their names now, I'm pretty sure that most of them probably went just as far as the abovementioned Unholy Trinity in their efforts to gross out their readership. Of course, the 80's were kind of horrific in general ... bat-wing jumpers, pineapple hairdo's, and Margaret Thatcher, does anyone really want to argue that those things were not the products of a deranged psyche? I loved horror movies too. Once upon a time, I could practically recite the script to 'The Evil Dead' by heart.
I still enjoy reading/watching horror today, in my fortieth year, with no sign of that growing-up I'm supposed to do happening yet ( thnak heaven, it's always seemed a little dreary to me, the whole 'adult' thing ), and I'm happy to say there are still many, many gorily good books and movies around to satisfy my bloodlust with! Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Bentley Little, and a host that I'm trying to get around to reading before my eyeballs really do explode. Stephen King ( " Bow to the Master!" ) has himself described Little as the 'poet laureate' of horror today and I have to say his work does remind me a good bit of the 80's slash-and-bleed style.
These dubious tastes of mine in blood 'n' gore-drenched reading and watching material are enabled by my having a particularly strong stomach for the kinds of imaginative violence it takes to produce blood 'n' gore by the bucketful, and by my being relatively unshockable. In fact, there is so little I have ever truly shrank from that fact in itself sometimes gives me pause. But not very often, and never for terribly long before the next hockey-masked psycho wielding a shiny ax comes along and distracts me from wondering what kind of human being I am that I'd have rather Edward just ripped Bella's mopey little head off from the get-go, drained every last drop of her blood, and discarded her limp carcass in a school canteen wastebucket for her giggling little friends to discover. That'd take their minds off their prom dresses.
But ... I am human after all, and in my lifetime of otherwise unshockable devouring of all things horrifically-flavored, there have been two things at which I have baulked. The one was reading James Herbert's 'The Rats' but frankly, once I read it again some years later I couldn't even recall what it was about it put me off so much first time. I can only surmise that I must have read it on On Of Those Days we all had as teenagers. The other was Wes Craven's original movie 'The Last House On The Left'. First time around that block I quit one-third of the way after realizing that even with judicious use of the fast-forward I was just never going to find it any less unreasonably distasteful a journey. This time it had nothing to do with a teenage bad-hair day either. For me, despite my lack of shockability and iron-clad stomach, there is nonetheless a line between enjoyable bloody, gory mayhem and the un-entertaining results of a director or writer just coming over all unnecessary, and this lady is not for crossing that line. I did give 'Last House' a second chance also ( the BBFC having lately decided to re-release it on an unsuspecting public after many years languishing in their video-nasty dungeon ) but, unlike Mr Herbert's work, the nausea-inducing impact of 'Last House' had not blunted with my ageing. I was still left scrambling for the Stop button and seething with a desire to find Mr Craven and just smack him around a little for taking what could have been a good horror movie and turning it into something even my strong stomach couldn't, well, stomach. Some people seem to like it though. Enough of them anyway for Hollywood to figure a remake would be profitable. I don't expect I'll tempt fate to test the strength of my stomach for a third time by watching it again though. I'll just get on with wading knee-deep through the enjoyable blood 'n' gore of all those other mayhem-makers still lurking in wait for me on the book and DVD shelves.
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Oh, just rip her head off, Edward...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Oh Ancient One ...

I was supposed to be doing something else but that darned squirrel is back and making a shiny, distracting pest of itself. Hence I found myself a short time ago futzing around on the 'net, reading one of those celebrity gossip sites, and therein was a little vignette about actress Eliza Dushku ( mm-mmm ) and her ex-basketball beau Rick Foxx ( who, like Jamie, apparently has some difficulty spelling his last name ) who have been an item since last October. Anyway, Ms Dushku and Mr Foxx-with-two-exes have recently moved in together. So far, so not earth-shattering. What draws the attention to this relationship is the ages of those involved. She's 29. He's 41. Age gaps like this seem to be a thing which draws a big " So what?" reaction from some people, like myself, who tend to see age as a number and not necessarily representative of who or what is the person behind the number. Others, however, that ubiquitious 'they', will screw up their little faces until those almost fall off and start proclaiming all manner of ill-informed judgment.
" It's all about the sex!" they will cry in abject disgust.
Um ... yes. That's still part of a romantic relationship, isn't it? That hasn't suddenly changed overnight, has it? No. Phew! Now, go away, Captain Obvious. And since they are both also legal, you can take your moral high horse with you.
The next most-oft cited objection to a May-December romance will concern, bizarrely, the hobbies and pastimes of those involved.
" How can they have anything in common?" they will demand in horrified puzzlement.
I could go into a whole list of things people can easily have in common that are not age-specific but it would take up a lot of precious space and would risk stating the obvious, and since we've just got rid of that guy... Some could try to argue that a decade effectively separates two people musically and culturally, but they might try bearing this in mind: there is no doubt I was on this earth when Journey first brought out 'Don't Stop Believing' but since I was more interested then in my Space Hopper than anything on the radio, it's not unsafe to say also that I have as little memory or meaning attatched to the song as do any of the 20-something 'Glee' cast reviving it now. Also, I'm pretty sure Simon Le Bon's haircut was every bit as silly as Justin Bieber's and he certainly had no less an army of silly teenage girls ( and their mothers in some cases ) swooning after him than does young Mr Bieber today. So the players in the pop-culture game may have changed but the rules generally haven't: silly haircuts on smug little boys at whose feet silly giggling girls will throw themselves. Did I miss anything out? And not every teenager/younger person goes ga-ga over pop-culture icons either. I certainly never swooned when I was a teenager ... Okay, I might have gotten a bit woozy over Sigourney Weaver, but hey, pobody's nerfect, right? Still do, and come to think of it, she's got twenty years on me ... Similarly, not everyone enters a pop-culture desert after the age of 25. We may not care much about Justin Bieber but that doesn't mean we don't know who he or his haircut are. So the cultural-divide argument can go the way of Captain Obvious and his moral high horse and take care that the door doesn't hit it in the rear end as it is leaving.
One final argument tends to involve any offspring from previous relationships of the older partner.
" Oh, he/she has a son/daughter the same age!" they will shriek in sanctimonious derision.
Unfortunately this invites Captain Obvious back into the fray but it has to be said: if the offspring are the same age, then it stands to reason they too are legal, old enough to fend for themselves, and big enough to butt out of mommy or daddy's love life. Now, away you go once more, Cap'n, and feed that horse, will you?
I wonder what those who object to May-December romances would think if vampires like Bill and Eric were real? A two thousand year-old Viking vampire and a twenty-six year-old waitress ... would anyone dare to point out to Mr Northman that he is old enough to be Sookie's great-great-great-great ... oh, fudge it! You get the point. And I don't care if Pam was born in the year 1 million BC, she looks darned fine right now and even if she doesn't know who Justin Bieber is, well, sometimes we all wish we didn't know that.

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Ripley The Squirrel ...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ah, Sookie Sookie Now...

Sorry, I just couldn't resist that! But anyway, let's talk about Sookie and True Blood and all those luscious vampires and werewolves and faeries, oh my. HBO has been known for some time as the home of cutting-edge TV, but its latest denizen has become quite the pop-culture phenomenon. To such a degree that it already has its own entry in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series ( read it, it's entertaining and it does kinda make you think in a not-too-hard way ). 'True Blood' is taken from the Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris and features easygoing, attractive, and telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse and a host of supernatural creatures who inhabit the fictional Southern town of Bon Temps alongside her. The resultant TV series is the brainchild of Alan Ball, creator of 'The Sopranos' and 'Six Feet Under', who read the books and was inspired by them to do some very good things as it turns out.

Harris's books are sweet, simply told stories of supernatural adventure, and yet in their very sweetness and simplicity hides a depth and complexity, and a shrewd commentary on life today. Many parallels are being drawn, through the TV adaptation, with what the vampire community 'coming out of the coffin' face by way of prejudice and persecution, with the same things faced for decades by the LGBT community. But these things are also addressed, if with a slightly more Southern subtlety, by Harris in her writing. That she has also created in Sookie perhaps one of the most likeable central characters ever in a series of novels, is a bonus. But Sookie's likeable quality does not make her perfect, far from it, and indeed her very human-ness just makes her even more likeable! She may be blonde and attractive, but she is down-to-earth, she tries not to be prejudice against anyone, she is considerate and accomodating but never anyone's fool, and we love her for it. She tries to be the best person she can be and when she feels that she has failed to be so, she admits her failing. She can have a pragmatic outlook when it is called for, which is just as well since her life has been turned pretty much upside down with the advent of the vampires and all the other weird and wonderful beasties into it. Of her role in the deaths of 'the vampire ho' Lorena and psychotically jealous werewolf Debbie Pelt, she muses, " It's not that I believe in killing, I don't usually, but my God, some people are just begging to put out of their misery, aren't they?" The casting in the role of Sookie of Anna Paquin - hitherto best known for her award-winning child role in 'The Piano' - was as inspired as Harris's creation of the character. Paquin manages to convey all of Sookie's written qualities and also injects a little extra that far from detracting from the character, adds a great deal. Indeed, all of the actors chosen to portray Harris's characters have seemed almost supernatural in their inspiration, bringing Eric, Bill, Pam et al to gorgeous, vibrant life on our screens.

Part of the appeal of 'True Blood' is its ability to reach crossover audiences. Harris and Ball have both described the world portrayed in Bon Temps as a 'soap opera with vampires' and it does indeed have many of the hallmarks of ( exceptionally good ) soap opera, but it is more than just well-formed soapy bubbles. It is drama, and comedy, and horror, and suspense, and fantasy, and yes, it is porn too! In Seasons 1 & 2 most of the latter might have been hetero, but Season 3 seems set to change that up a bit as the ridiculously beautiful Viking vampire Eric Northman sinks fangs and, well, other parts into the boyfriend of Russell Edgington! Who knows, perhaps we will be seeing some girlie action for his lesbian sidekick vampire Pam next?

It won't be Sookie getting it on with another gal, that's for sure, despite actress Anna Paquin's emerging from the closet as bisexual earlier this year. Sookie is straight. Very straight. In the novels, she makes this clear when lesbian vampire Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq announces that she and Sookie should have sex since Sookie has helped her and it is the done thing ... When Sookie politely declines this offer ( Can I just say here that I would be more than willing to take that one for the team in her place? Please? ) and Sophie-Anne decides then that they should both lie and just say it did happen, Sookie points out that anyone who knows her will know that this just 'isn't her thing' and would never have happened really. She isn't comfortable with either herself or Sophie-Anne telling such an obvious lie and so agrees instead to lie that she had sex with the Queen's odious but male right-hand vampire, even though that thought makes Sookie's skin crawl worse than the thought of having sex with Sophie-Anne, which she doesn't think is an awful proposition per se, it just doesn't do anything for her. It's this straightforward honesty that we like Sookie for. Her rejection of Sophie-Anne's proposal is not based in prejudice or even disgust. Sookie knows herself what it is like to live as a someone that others often consider to be 'different' and therefore a threat of some kind, strange and creepy, and maybe dangerous to have around the kids. Her own mind-reading ability, which she no more asked for than a person does their sexuality or gender identity, has brought her prejudice, even from her own friends, such as fellow waitress Arlene and even best friend Tara Thornton. Sookie therefore tries to keep her own mind open, figuratively if not literally since that tends to mean other people's thoughts come crashing in! It is also one of the major reasons that Sookie is drawn to Vampire Bill the first time she meets him, when she realizes that she can't hear a vampire's thoughts. The silence is bliss for her.

So Eric the Viking might be happily getting it on with a guy, but what of Pam indeed? Her part in the novels is certainly greater than it has been for Seasons 1 & 2 of the TV show. In the novels, she and Sookie even become friends, or as close to friends as Pam is willing to get with a human, even one as, well, not quite human as Sookie! There is, I think, a rather wonderful, hilarious little scene in Season 1 featuring Pam and Sookie. After Bill has dispatched barman Longshadow for trying to kill Sookie, getting blood and gore all over the poor girl in the process, Sookie retreats to the ladies to clean herself up. Pam enters with some fresh clothing for her and first gives her an appreciative look, announcing that she's beginning to see what the fuss might be about. She then reaches a hand toward Sookie and says very politely, " Pardon me. You have vampire in your cleavage" and plucks the offending lump of Longshadow from between Sookie's ample bosom. Sookie just blinks, looks at Pam and then the gore, and opines mildly, " Oh. Eew." It remains to be seen whether Ball will develop any of the book's friendship between Pam and Sookie, but I have heard that he will be giving Pam some other kind of action with another gal.

Well, praise Jesus and pass the Vaseline, as the Newlins may have said!

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Ah, the lovely Pam & Eric!

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And the lovely Sookie & Bill

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Evolution of The Vampire

Image by FlamingText.com

Image by FlamingText.com

Vampires are sexy. Vampires are cool. This we know. Ever since that dullard Adam's independantly-minded first wife Lillith started giving upright ( and uptight ) folks the horrors and became the inspiration for the demonic succubi - usually female vampire creatures who visited their victims in the night and 'suffocated' them whilst bringing them erotic nightmares - the concept of the vampire has been evolving. From the evil, sexually-insatiable female demon it morphed into the suave and sexually irresistable Count Dracula, with his bad Bela Lugosi accent, his penchant for frightening the horses, and that faintly ridiculous cape. There it remained for many years until one day along came a schoolgirl named Buffy Summers who moved into a small Californian town that just happened to be located right over the local Hellmouth. Buffy embraced her destiny as the Slayer and the whole book of vampires got itself rewritten by the new King Of The Universe, a fanboy named Joss Whedon ... Where would vampires go from here? Straight to Bon Temps, Louisiana, would be the answer. Eric, Bill et al have once again taken the rule book, shredded it, and proceeded with writing a whole new one. Vampires now wear Armani suits and pumps to die for and they have nerdily cool names like Eric and Bill and Pam. It also must be credited that all of these mainstream novels and TV shows have featured gay/lesbian characters and those which haven't already, plan to. But none have revolved around gay/lesbian vampires.

Similarly, all this bloodsucking has given rise ( pun fully intended ) to a host of mainly web-based bodice-ripping, heavy-breathing erotic fiction that often features vampires. It seems readers can't get enough of the allure of the Undead. Sex and fangs sells. And it does so with a hearty gay/lesbian element. However - and whilst I would never in any way want to be thought as denigrating this writing because so much of it is really so very good - it has to be noted that, from the lesbian point of view, much of it is penned by hetero- or bisexual women and this means it tends to involve male-female sex somewhere along the way. This is something that can be a turn-off to lesbian readers, again understandably, and it is to this fact which I address myself when I ask:

" Where are all the lesbian vampires?"

My consternation is concentrated upon the fact that the 'purely' lesbian fiction market has been so backward at coming forward into this lucrative and popular genre. It is, after all, awash in both romance and detective thriller fiction, and it has proven that it can make an entire TV series out of the lives of a group of lesbians. So why not horror/vampires? Elsewhere in my web-wonderings I have posed the question of what it may be puts both lesbian readers and writers off tackling this particular genre, so I won't repeat that. Take a look in LesbianMySpace if you want to see one of the versions of this wondering. Otherwise, let us concentrate here upon my proposed antitode to the lack of lesbian vampires.

I have been writing for a long time, longer than I either care to recall or go into. During that time I've always had a penchant for vampires and werewolves and ghosties, oh my, both personally and from a writing point of view. My first published full-length novel is then, unsurprisingly, a genre fiction, 'The Lesbian Vampire Chronicles Book 1 : The Children of Judas'. Published in August 2010 by YourPOD UK it chronicles, through narrator Dante Sonnier, a Hollywood agent and thirty-something modern lesbian, her involvement with the LA-based vampire community and their struggle against the Children of Judas, an outcast vampire sect led by a charismatic and deadly vampire with the unlikely name of Robin. Robin is bent on toppling the vampire leadership and outing the entire race. She also has a few startling secrets to reveal to Dante ... Dante's life amongst the vampires is further complicated by her being torn between her growing love for gentle vampire Ellis Kovacs and her irresistable attraction to movie-starlet gorgeous but unscrupulous leader Voshki Kevorkian. Voshki has made it clear also that she wishes Dante to be her human and will attempt to seduce her away from Ellis at all costs! As the title suggests, this is the first in a planned series featuring these, and other, colorful characters and revolving around the human-vampire interaction. As the series progresses, so will the feud between the vampires heat up and even threaten Dante's own very humanity. Part-comedy, part-horror, part-love story, 'The Lesbian Vampire Chronicles' is written specifically for a lesbian audience. Of course, anyone else who would wish to read it is more than welcome to do so! I've never ascribed to the dogma that says straight people can't create or appreciate gay/lesbian characters any more than I have ascribed to the one says gay/lesbian people can't create or appreciate straight characters. For heaven's sake, we wouldn't have any TV worth watching if that were the case!

For now, let me just say that I reckon it is high time for the real lesbian vampires to come out of the coffin and stake their claim ( groan! ) to their place in the genre.

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