Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, dear friends!

I think this lil' article, with the accompanying 30-second clip, is just perfect for today -- in terms of the holiday, and in terms of life cycles. (I feel like I'm shifting from one cycle to the next, completing one while another starts. They are overlapping.)

Thanks for being you,

Monday, October 28, 2013

Max Lilja’s All Cello Twin Peaks Theme

This is fantastic:


Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hi everybody,

DANSE MACABRE, an eight-and-a-half minute short by Pedro Pires, has been promoted by the director with this simple, profound description:

For a period of time, while we believe it to be perfectly still, lifeless flesh responds, stirs and contorts in a final macabre ballet. Are these spasms merely erratic motions or do they echo the chaotic twists and turns of a past life?

Here's a link to DANSE MACABRE on Fangoria. Please watch. It's incredibly beautiful, and to describe it here would take away a bit of the wonder of discovery.

My Warmest Regards,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Oh, the Horror (Classics)!

Okay, on second thought, I should really post the trailers and posters for The Descent and The Strangers as well, just in case you're strange enough to not have seen these movies yet!

The Descent is a claustrophobic thriller featuring creepy-crawlies and kick-ass grrrl power.

The Strangers, starring Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler, is the most unnerving home invasion flick I've ever seen.

Oh, the Horror!

Recently I emailed a friend about The Descent and The Strangers being modern classics. (You've seen these two, right? Trust me -- they're going down in the record books.) That being said, there have been plenty of solid horror flicks these past few years, some of which are bordering on classic potential themselves. Cases in point:

House at the End of the Street, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue. I love these two actresses so much.

Dark Skies, starring Felicity's own Keri Russell. From deciding between Ben & Noel to being stalked by alien forces -- our girl's all grown up!

The Conjuring, starring Lily Taylor, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson (one of my celebrity crushes -- check out his form-fitting pants in this flick).

You’re Next, with a bit part by one of my favorite new directors, Ti West.

Speaking of Ti West, he directed The House of the Devil, an early '80s throwback in tone and execution. This film is a slow burn, but stick with it.

That Ti West is really winning over my heart. He also directed the ghost story The Innkeepers, which expertly mixes horror, romance, and humor. And watch for that extended cameo by Girls' creator & star Lena Dunham!

Let the Right One In and its American remake/companion Let Me In -- based on the Swedish novel by John Ajvide -- are two of the best "vampire" flicks out these days. (*Swedish version) (*American version)

Finally, where would we be without this anthologized Creepshow-style ode to the '80s, Trick 'r Treat, starring Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Battlestar Galactica hottie Tahmoh Penikett, and other familiar faces? Sam is one of my favorite new villains (*he's both cute and creepy, a combo deal I always love).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I just love this.

From an interview with Natasha Khan and Jon Hopkins in the most recent issue of Guardian Guide:

For Khan, visuals and music come together, and she's been described in the past as being able to "see the songs". It's clear she has a more cosmic, otherworldly way of approaching both. "Did you see that Björk meets David Attenborough documentary?" she asks Jon. "There was this incredible moment where this guy had developed a speaker that plays music upwards on a flat surface. He poured sand over the top of it and, with each note, the most incredible geometric patterns were created, like hexagons, a beehive and then floral shapes. Each note has an endless pattern that belongs to it. It means that if you love a particular singer, it's because you love the pattern they make with their voice. Seeing that was a real watershed moment for me."

Well, we love *you*, Ms. Bat for Lashes.

The rest of the interview can be read here:

Monday, October 21, 2013

'Tis the Season...for Spooky Storytelling & Awesome Mothers

I love Halloween. You all know that. I love the Trick-R-Treaters decked out in costumes, the homes and yards decorated with fake cobwebs, skulls, witches, gravestones. Crunchy leaves crackle under your feet, and the trees are splashed with oranges, yellows, reds, and browns. (This year in particular seems so vibrant, beautiful, and crisp here in Portland.) In addition, I love the history of Halloween, All Hallows' Eve, Samhain: its bloody and ritualistic beginnings, its notion that the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Things creep in. Things creep out. Things are just plain creepy.

Most of all, I love the storytelling aspect of Halloween -- how this is relayed to us in literature, film, TV, music, art. One thinks of ghost stories told by candlelight on foggy, chilled evenings. You might even reflect back on remnants of summer, those urban legends told around campfires while drinking beer and eating S'mores. But what really makes the story? Sure, it's the tale itself -- its tragic events, haunting specters, desolate locales, moonlit backdrops, and heart-thumping climaxes. But even more importantly, in my opinion, is the storyteller in this equation. Does s/he whisper or shout, lean close, make eye contact? What cues, verbal and non-verbal, lend itself to this primal act of sharing? What instincts drive a good storyteller to reel the listener in, so they feel like they've tumbled down a ravine into the dark with the storyteller?

I get my storytelling instincts from my mother, Janice, and from my grandmother, Nellie. (Sadly, my grandma passed away from cancer when I was around nine years old.) Words can't express (oddly enough!) how much these two strong women have influenced my desire to be a writer. It's part DNA and part environment, as I do believe this gift was passed down through the blood *and* was passed down because of how often Mom and Grandma Nellie read to me. We'd sit close on the couch, and I'd flip the pages, and we'd be warm and cozy while also scared. My books' spines would crack apart because I'd make Mom and Grandma read stories over and over and over. This storytelling didn't stop in early childhood, either. One of my favorite memories is from when I was maybe thirteen, and Mom took Jordan, Aaron, and me camping along the Wisconsin River. We'd canoe throughout the day, and stop along beaches at night to pitch our tent and relax by a bonfire under the summer stars. Mom made up this story that she continued each night of the trip -- it was part Deliverance, part The Hills Have Eyes, and part Friday the 13th. (Should Mom have been telling her three young kids about hillbilly murderers stalking a family through the woods and rivers on a camping trip? Debatable! But we sure loved it!) I also remember sitting around fires in our backyard in Lake Geneva, and how this one night she told a really kick-ass werewolf story. (This werewolf in a small Wisconsin town was stalking a family that was sitting out enjoying a fire in their backyard -- I sense a theme here.)

More often than not, when I think of my mother's gift for storytelling I think about movies. Let me explain: Mom and Dad would have date nights, and we'd stay home with Stephanie the babysitter (or by ourselves, when I was older). Sometimes I managed to stay awake until they returned, or sometimes I dozed off, but there were several occasions where I'd stir, interest piqued when they walked through the door. Sometimes perched on the edge of my bed, but often huddled comfortably on the couch, Mom would lean in and use her dramatic gestures (the South Side of Chicago Italian in her) as she re-told me the plots of the movies. I'm not just talking a quick summary. I'm talking a detailed, sometimes embellished or changed, rich, and descriptive account of the story, and the characters' motivations. She'd pause naturally, instinctively, for dramatic effect, and would rush through certain parts or slow other parts down depending on the needs and tones of given scenes. I remember that old red couch we had forever, the fireplace sometimes crackling, the glow of accent lights all around us and on our faces. I fell in love with movies then, and maybe that's why I love the artistry of filmmaking too. I'm a fiction writer first (some might argue, Gus included, that I'm a poet in a fiction writer's disguise), but I sure do love how scenes are edited together, what actors are cast, what music is used, how colors bleed and shade the emotional tapestries and physical settings. Like many writers, I write toward images. I get images in my mind, paintings or photographs almost, and I explore my way to their meaning, to the moment that camera has gone "click" and trapped them in my heart. I need to understand these captured moments. I need to make them a little less haunting and haunted. So I write stories.

I'll end with this: there was something special and sacred in the shared love of storytelling between mother and son, the teller and listener joined rapturously. Jordan, Aaron, and Dad were in the house, but this was about the two of us; the rest of the world fell away. What mattered was that we understood our roles and embraced them; Mom got to relive the stories and I got to imagine them before actually seeing them....And for the record, you better believe I've watched each and every movie that Mom came home raving about! I most remember: Silver Bullet, The Believers, Fatal Attraction, Top Gun, and Starman. Happy (Almost) Halloween, everyone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Visitor

Here's part of a recent email I sent to my friends Joanna and Chris, based on our talk about the 1979 film The Visitor:
...So here's something interesting, true, and fateful: years ago -- when I was 11 or 12 or something -- I saw this really weird movie. Couldn't remember what it was, it was just randomly on TV one day or something. I remember birds, and a woman on a tram going down stairs, and wire, and blood, and weirdness, and supernatural freaky religious stuff. Over the years I've reflected on this film, wondering, "What the hell was that movie anyway?" Several months ago I had a supposed revelation: It's The Exorcist II: The Heretic! I have the box set but for some reason hadn't watched Part II since childhood. It felt like the right time, so I popped it in. And while fascinating, and better than people give it credit for, and oddly risky in its thematic elements, it wasn't the film I'd been haunted by. I was disappointed. I ended up doing this whole Google search and asking around, but to no avail. So here we go and have a nice day with you, and we get home just now and Gus decides to look up The Visitor trailer. You guessed it. It's that freakin' movie! Here's the trailer:

You'll note [that Drafthouse Films] says that The Visitor is "about an intergalactic warrior battling a demonic eight-year-old girl and her pet hawk, as the fate of the universe hangs in the balance." Um, yes please.

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin called it "a blackhearted blowout of interplanetary possession, telekinetic avian assault, exploding basketballs, and ecclesiastical laser storms." Double yes please.

So there you have it. Can't wait for this oddball freakshow of a cult masterpiece to be re-released in theaters this fall, remastered in all its insane glory.

p.s. Exorcist II: The Heretic really is worth a second chance, if you've written it off or just believed all the negative reviews. It's a strange (satanic) beast of a flick.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Book, Great Title, Great Author, Great Cover....Just Great.

From Powell's Books' website, courtesy of the book's publisher, Hyperion Books:

In the spring of her senior year, Donna Parisi finds new life in an unexpected place: a coffin.
Since her father's death four years ago, Donna has gone through the motions of living: her friendships are empty, she's clueless about what to do after high school graduation, and her grief keeps her isolated, cut off even from the one parent she has left. That is until she's standing in front of the dead body of a classmate at Brighton Brothers' Funeral Home. At that moment, Donna realizes what might just give her life purpose is comforting others in death. That maybe what she really wants to be is a mortician.

This discovery sets in motion a life Donna never imagined was possible. She befriends a charismatic new student, Liz, notices a boy, Charlie, and realizes that maybe he's been noticing her, too, and finds herself trying things she hadn't dreamed of trying before. By taking risks, Donna comes into her own, diving into her mortuary studies with a passion and skill she didn't know she had in her. And she finally understands that moving forward doesn't mean forgetting someone you love.

Jen Violi's heartfelt and funny debut novel is a story of transformation — how one girl learns to grieve and say goodbye, turn loss into a gift, and let herself be loving, applying lipstick to corpses, and finding life in the wake of death.

You can check out Jen Violi here --

She is a wise, kind, creative spirit!