Category Archives: Random Thoughts

MS. HELSING, IF YOU NASTY…

Any show that the Sci Fi channel airs is always likely to arouse trepidation in the final product. Between lackluster genre fare, direct-to-video, fairly ridiculous-monster-duel-to-the-death flix,  and various cheesy serials….say, the latest iteration of Stargate,  Sci Fi as a network has consistently lowered the cultural and intellectual bar since it dialed back on classic genre staples and MST3K reruns. But a change may be afoot. We can’t say it’s gonna be the proverbial turning tide, but with the inclusion of VAN HELPING into it’s winter lineup, the station best known for making CGI beasts fight ad infinitum has got a winner.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, VAN HELSING takes place three years after a Vamp-fueled holocaust has made humanity the minority in a big way. Think a certain AMC zombie show for structure. And like that show,  small groups of humans survive and continually fight to hold onto the last vestiges of their race against a malevolent and in this case, lethally intelligent enemy. We focus early on, on one soldier who is guarding a comatose woman who was wanted prior to the fanged apocalypse by the military for reasons unknown. What seems to be just another cheap genre-flavored cash in quickly turns into a show of its own, moving at a much more exciting and steady clip than Walking Dead. You know what we mean. The prison, right?  The fucking prison.

Van Helsing IS yet another show about a group of survivors trying to find their way out of a dire and seemingly hopeless situation i.e. Revolution,  Lost,  Lost in Space, Walking Dead, etc etc. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in imminent watchability.  Better than average acting, production value,  writing, humor and an enjoyably bleak atmosphere add up to one of the best horror shows of 2016. Go find the first season now!!

 

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JUMPING THE STARK

Well, GOT, or Game of Thrones to those few sad, poor souls who have yet to watch this usually quite awesome and enjoyable show, has gotten so full itself it just may have gone a wee bit off the rails as of late. With it reaching the end of the narrative of the still unfinished books by George RR Martin, the showrunners have decided to just forge ahead and make the rest up as they go. And it sadly shows in the final product. Absent a pre-existing storyline already laid down by Martin, this season is lackluster, somewhat forced and oddly slow and simply NOT as good as the previous four. Sure, the every expanding trials of Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and of course, our hero Tyrion Lannister, have created a few moments worth watchingtaking odd risks by creating essentially an omniscient super villain in Ramsey Stark and giving us some of the most shocking scenes we have borne witness to in the show’s already shocking history. I personally was NOT jazzed about the marital rape scene featuring our dear Sansa, but not as much for the lack of any tastefulness or redeeming value, but more because it really, unlike so many other horrifying and tragic scenes past, didn’t do much to add to the show or move the narrative forward. Here’s hoping that with Cersei’s incarceration and the imminent fall of King’s Landing to religious zealots(led by cult hero Johnathan Pierce) that the show finds it way again. Because if this keeps up, we may all have to reconsider whether this show has it’s same magic…or if it has gonna all FONZIE on us.

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I WANT TO BELIEVE

I want to believe…I really do. I want to believe that with the announcement of the return of the greatest supernatural show to ever air on cable television short of the TWILIGHT ZONE, I have nothing to fear. I want to believe that creator and head writer Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson, and David Duchovney back on board, that this is gonna be awesome. And I’m certain it won’t be bad. That said, it had better rise up above the utter dreck that were the two feature length X-FILES films and that questionable final season of the show. I mean, Doggett and Reyes had their moments, but we needed Scully and Mulder…and perhaps we still do. It harkens back to purer and frankly just better era of television, before reality TV took over and MTV stopped showing any “M”. I want to believe…and I will…I do! I SHALL!! BRING IT THE F*** ON!!

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FACE EATERS PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT #36

With all that has been in the news, in addition to what anyone who as ever interacted in any way with a member of law enforcement knows, it is a cardinal fact that COPS SUCK. Did you know that the profession that has the highest incidence of domestic abuse is law enforcement? Go ahead, google it buddy. Cops beat their spouses more than anyone. And frankly, after the death of Freddie Gray last month at the hands of several officers who SEVERED HIS GODDAMN SPINE…we would just like to say the following: FUCK COPS, FUCK COPS AND ALL LAW ENFORECEMENT. The days of these lizard bitches abusing their power and putting fear into the hearts of everyone is drawing neigh my friends. Like NWA said, FUCK DA PO-LEECE. Thank you for your time.

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A STRANGE LOVE FOR ‘NIGHT OF THE COMET’, OR…HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE ‘BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’

We humans, despite our inherent proclivity for bickering, fighting and even killing for a great many(though ultimately dumb) reasons, can surely agree on at least this one simple fact: “The Avengers” was a damn fine film. It was basically perfect for what it was. For that matter, so was “Cabin In The Woods”. All this was due in no small part to the deft, nay EXPERT handling of these productions by seasoned storyteller and nerd-demi-god Joss Whedon. His time developing, overseeing and creating so many pieces of pop culture in such a short time and of such consistent quality have propelled him to the pantheon of the greatest filmmakers working today.

After years of resistance, predicated largely upon an underlying(and ultimately unnecessary) fear of cheesy-dialogue and laughable make-up FX, I recently began to marathon through the whole series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, as many in our collective have assured me it would be worth it. They were not wrong. It’s great. After an admittedly shaky first two seasons, the show begins to really find it’s stride during the third. And once you get past the inherently made-for-tv-horror-ness(I’m thinking of you here, Mick Garris) of the whole affair, you realize that the praise for the show’s writing was well deserved. Whedon’s career was forged in the fire of TV drama and with good reason. The ballsy story lines actually raised the bar for all horror/supernatural shows to follow and served as a basis by which all future vampire properties shall be compared. Great plotting, funny arcs, oddball characters, you know just great stuff. Buffy rocks. A ton by a bunch. I can continue to digress further, of course, by displaying for you, barely interested reader, the full extent of my pop-culty nerdiness, but I shan’t. No. I shall, however say that watching this made me want to know more about how Joss Whedon came about creating Buffy. I began doing a bit of research and THAT was when s*** got real.

Joss had said in several interviews that amongst a great many things which informed and inspired aspects of the show, he actually got the base idea of a cheerleader who fights evil creatures from seminal cult-flick and Face Eater favorite, “Night of the Comet”(1984). In the aforementioned piece of cinema gold, Kelly Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart play sisters Samantha and Regina Belmont respectively, who, faced with a zombie apocalypse, trade in their pom-pom’s for shiny-new SMG’s and begin battling hordes of the undead, running from crazed scientists and vying for the affections of the last “stud” on Earth. And, of course, they make sure to swing by the local mall for a guilt-free shopping-spree-montage set to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, and originally filmed as “Teenage Comet Zombies”, it’s just one of the greatest things ever handed down to us by God…or whatever jocular madman pulls the strings in this cosmic house of mirrors. It’s a cinema classic and it really only adds to the collective awesomeness of both to discover the correlary between the two properties.

So, here one can easily make the logic leap that after being inspired by “Night of the Comet”, Joss made his career with Buffy. It was there he really honed his craft. Then based on Buffy’s success, he jump started his film career, crescendo-ing with “The Avengers”. Cinema history is made as the guy who created the characters of Spike and Angelus goes on to be the director of the third highest-grossing film of all time. Starts with “Comet”, ends with Hulk. Ergo, “The Avengers” was a critical and financial success solely because of “Night of the Comet”. Sure, it’s far-fetched, relatively illogical, grossly inaccurate and I don’t believe it, but someone had to say it, by god. So I did. Just then. I said it.

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WILD ABOUT WILD

Let’s just say it up front, Reese Witherspoon has sorta kinda maybe let us all down just a little bit. Starting her career with small indies like “S.F.W” and “Overnight Delivery” with Paul Rudd, she exploded into the cult consciousness with the WILD-ly underrated “Freeway” where she gave the performance of her career as hilarious troubled teen Vanessa Lutz. Starring opposite Keifer Sutherland as serial killer Bob Wolverton, Reese managed to portray a convincingly lost, tragic and often-hilarious young woman who can more than hold her own even in the most life-threatening of circumstances. Since then, with the exception of a few amusing turns in “American Psycho”, “Election” and “Legally Blonde”(the first one, NOT that godawful second one), the early promise of her career seemed to be dwindling with each silly movie she made. Her cinema momentum had waned so much that by the late 2000’s, she was relegated to the bargain bin rom coms and tepid period pieces generally reserved for such former 90’s teen stars.

Then WILD came along.

To be brief, WILD is the Nick “High Fidelity” Hornby-adapted story based on the book “Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail” which details the real-life exploits of Cheryl Strayed as she makes her way along the titular path. At the point we join Cheryl, she has essentially lost everything. In the wake of her mothers death, her slip into heroin and sex addiction has destroyed her marriage and alienated her from everyone and everything she knows. Desperate to re-invent herself as “the woman my mother always thought I would be”, she packs a comically large backpack and heads off on a cathartic journey starting at the southern border with Mexico and ending at the northern border with Canada. What could easily slip into the cliche’s and routines of films about self-awakening and triumphing over adversity, instead turns into a penetrating examination of the small things in our past that guide our present and future. It’s a good little character study, and I was blown away by Reese’s performance. It’s no surprise upon reflection that the steady hand that guided Mrs. Witherspoon thru the travails of Cheryl’s life was none other than wunderkind and director-of-the-moment Jean-Marc Valle’, whose last feature, “Dallas Buyers Club” garnered Oscar wins for BOTH of it’s male leads. The movie is honestly much as you would expect, but integrates steam-of-consciousness cinematography with the story progression, making this journey more psychological than physical. And, as a fun cinema treat, Face Eater favorite and David Lynch-muse Laura Dern pulls off another wonderfully haunting portrayal of a free-spirited mother trying her best to keep personal demons at bay.

As the movie progresses, one’s expectations of what’s going to happen are disarmed and you find yourself appreciating the subtly of the whole affair. It’s a simple tale. In the beginning, she starts down a path and at the end, she reaches it’s conclusion. What happens in between is worth a good look though as it’s deftly written, overall well acted, and Reese has proven she still has some of that Vanessa Lutz-level intensity left in her after all. We say ride the wave Reese. It’s all uphill from here, baby.

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DID JOHN CARPENTER HELP OBAMA GET ELECTED?

Here’s an idea to twirl around the old noggin’. John Carpenter writes(under the pseudonym Frank Armitage, itself being a reference to Carpenter’s hero, H.P. Lovecraft) and directs the film “They Live”(1988) which becomes an instant classic. Almost a decade later, up and coming graphic designer and street artist Shepard Fairey adopts the conformist propaganda/OBEY iconography from the now classic cult film into his growing design/clothing line featuring the face of 80’s wrestler Andre the Giant. OBEY is born. And riding that success, Fairey becomes such a prolific modern artist that he is commissioned to make the art for Presidential nominee Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The iconic HOPE poster joins the zeitgeist. In turn, it helps Obama ride his grassroots momentum to an astute victory over the republican nominee making him the first African-American to hold office in US history.

Conclusion?

Carpenter was partly responsible for Obama getting elected.

Crazy?

Crazy like a FOX!

Heh…

No, sadly this was likely not a large factor in Obama’s decisive win over McCain, but it’s a fun thought. This much IS true: whether it’s having Keith David mercilessly kick Roddy Piper’s ass for what seems like hours or indirectly helping the first black president get elected, John Carpenter is not only one of the greatest film makers ever, he seems to enjoy empowering black men with the work he does. Remember that Keith David is also one of the only two people alive at the end of Carpenter’s “The Thing”(1982). Just another reason he totally kicks ass.

“I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum…”

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“WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN…”

Hey there Eaters of Face and all those who are also reading this, in one week it will have been ONE YEAR since the first FACECON. Considering how far we have already come as a burgeoning cinematic and dare we say, cultural collective, it’s exciting to ponder where we will be in another year’s time. We thank everyone who has been supporting the Face Eaters and attending FACECONS over the past twelve months. As Karen Carpenter once assured us, “We’ve only just begun…” and 2015 is looking to be a memorable year for the future of our group and these FACECONS we so love.

Random Data: “We’ve Only Just Begun”(1970) by The Carpenters was used extensively in John Carpenter’s “In The Mouth of Madness” and the Stephen King adaptation, “1408”, both of which have been screened at FACECONS.

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