In Defense of Rob Zombie

So–seriously, guys–why is all manner of internet Haterade directed at Rob Zombie?  I’ve been pondering that question for some time and yesterday’s post on Electronic Cerebrectomy which, in turn, linked over to Hunter Stephenson’s two-part /Film interview with Mr. Zombie (Part One and Part Two, respectively, for the lazyvolk), contained some really similar thoughts to mine on the topic.  All that hott compound-complex sentence action is circling around a single statement:  

I dig Rob Zombie’s films.

The controversy surrounding Zombie’s flicks seems to focus on his lack of originality and his depiction of so-called “white trash” characters.  Yes, he’s working in genre tropes and yes, he has a New York City art school background.  But… isn’t it part and parcel of making a horror movie to traffic in cliches and develop something engaging from that source material?  That’s the very definition of genre entertainment, in my mind.  As to Zombie’s perceived lack of firsthand knowledge of rural Caucasian serial killers, well… I’m fairly certain that Jean Rollin is not, in fact, a lesbian vampire, and this in no way diminishes my enjoyment of his films.
I know–I’m getting snarky here, but I really do have a hard time grasping why so much ire is directed at Rob Zombie’s films.  I really enjoy watching “House of 1,000 Corpses,” a film that stands up very well against my repeated viewings.  It’s a movie whose brutality is balanced with a black sense of humor, brimming with psychedelic visuals and employing a saturated color palette that place it in a different league from the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” rip-off that many have dubbed it.  Zombie is a horror fan, and as such, he references the movies, characters, and stories that he loves–his work is connected to the horror genre from a fan level, rather from the perspective of a cynical cash-in.
Regarding his “Halloween” remake and the upcoming “H2,” I’ll confess I’m a bit torn.  My gut reaction to the whole Remake/Reboot phenomenon is one of Generalized Fangirl Dismay.  Why not position the film as a sequel and not just claim the same title?  It smacks of plagiarism more than homage, and borders on a major marketing misstep.  Once I’m over my initial hot-blooded scorn, however, the Remake/Reboot phenomenon isn’t some new, unprecedented, postmodern, Film-by-Committee thing.  The emotional connection a lot of folks feel to characters like Michael Meyers, Freddy Kreuger, and Jason Voorhees is pretty similar to the one that’s been established to Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man.  I don’t have the same kind of ZOMG SACRILEGE feeling when I encounter a new representation of one of the Classic Monsters, and while it’s productive to discuss the relative merits of each interpretation, it seems kind of silly to rail against their very existence.  The slashers of the late 70s and early 80s are really just the newest crop of Classic Monsters, and in this context I don’t have a particular problem with filmmakers taking a stab (har har) at this source material.
Looking at Rob Zombie’s films objectively, it’s hard to deny that he has a true consistency and thoroughness of vision.  His visual landscape is colorful, weathered, and macabre–a gruesome All Hallow’s Eve populated by sinister characters who speak in a distinctive patois.  Whether or not it’s a flavor of vision that a particular film-goer enjoys is open to debate, as is the degree to which Zombie is able to convey his intended look and feel, but to deny its existence seems kinda disingenuous to me.
Or maybe that’s just my crush on Sheri Moon Zombie speaking…

Eyeball [1975]

I have a rather… shall we say… tempestuous relationship with gialli.  As a Naked Lady Delivery Device, the genre proves itself to be a mixed bag, from “Strip Nude for Your Killer,” in which everyone does, to “Naked You Die,” in which no one does.  The giallo is on equally uncertain ground as a Gruesome Murder Delivery Device, ranging from Argento’s operatic over-the-top blood spatter in such films as “Tenebre” to the almost self-conscious, postmodern, and gore-free hat-pin employed in “Murder Rock.”    I have a difficult time saying I’m a fan of the subgenre–while I really enjoy some entries, it fails to be love with others.   I do know that in order for me to properly enjoy any giallo, I have to remove certain words from my vocabulary, such as “coherent,” “gratuitous,” and “logical,” since the giallo by its very nature isn’t, is and isn’t, in precisely that order.

If you’re willing to agree to these terms, there’s plenty to enjoy in Umberto Lenzi’s “Eyeball.”  Yes, it is a nonsensical bit of Italian mystery fluff punctuated by the mutilation murders of young women and yes, it does employ lesbonic relations in order to elicit cheap thrills, but I just can’t parse why anyone would decry sexy girl-on-girl action as  “gratuitous.”  That is, quite simply, in-fucking-correct, interpals–a world without copious girlkissing is a world I’m not interested in living in.
"Eyeball" Film Still
“Eyeball” details a series of icky murders linked to a group of Americans on vacation in Spain.  Eschewing subtlety from the get-go, these Ugly Americans are shown to be bad news from their first appearances–we’ve got an adulterous husband making time with his secretary, a granddad-and-granddaughter pair whose mannerisms indicate possible incest, a probably-pervy priest, and a hot-tempered lesbian fashion photographer traveling with her exotic model girlfriend.  When bodies start piling up missing a titular sight organ, anyone could be a suspect.   You’ve got to admire the sheer audacity of a movie that contains at least two Red Herring Montages, in which each tourist’s character flaws are revealed over the course of a five-minute mega-mix of bad behavior.
"Eyeball" Film Still
Groovy gowns, chunky platform shoes, a parade of wigs, and big-ass Eurotrash sunglasses decorate the proceedings, and even the killer’s signature red raincoat (which is much-maligned in some of the other reviews I’ve read) looks glossy and creepy.  While the music isn’t as memorable as other soundtracks of the same era, it’s still suitably funky.
"Eyeball" Film Still
Colorful and filled with on-site flavor, this movie is engineered for maximum escapist entertainment.  As such, it leaves common sense and logical plot development in the dust like so many discarded panties.  Would it be very likely that a group of tourists would just carry on with their sight-seeing after Murder Number One?  Not so much.  In the universe of “Eyeball,” however, the characters are so selfish and preoccupied by their own interpersonal dramas that they seem aggravated by the deaths and not at all frightened.  I’ll admit that I was distracted enough by the simmering-if-silly melodrama, psychedelic fashions, and gorgeous Barcelona locations that I wasn’t much bothered by the ludicrousness of the plot development.  The film never relied on logic at any point, so it’s not like it suffered from any type of inconsistency.

And–really–am I about to complain about a movie that features a lesbian fashion photographer and a murder that takes place inside an old-fashioned dark ride?  You’re damn right I’m not!  I like being provided with a kaleidoscope of outlandishness–that’s why I watch these movies in the first place.
"Eyeball" Film Still
The cast does a creditable job, from Mirta Miller (playing the aforementioned photographer) and Silvia Solar (who looks kind of like Europe’s answer to Dyanne Thorne) of Naschy-film fame to Eurotrash vet Martine Brochard (nunsploitation *and* women in prison–check!) and a slightly-higher-hairlined John Richardson of Bava’s “Black Sunday.”  You won’t find anything bravura here, but as cartoon cut-outs, these folks are just fine.
You could find *far* worse ways to spend ninety minutes than sitting down to watch “Eyeball.”  Its unrepentant nonsense and flamboyant fashion appeal more than make up for its shortcomings as a gripping mystery tale. 

"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation – Part 2

For those of you who are deftly avoiding the rays of the sun this holiday weekend as much as I am, here’s the thrilling conclusion to “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter” from “Hammer’s Halls of Horror” issue 20.  As with last time, click the image to go to its Flickr page, then click ALL SIZES to see the expanded version.  Enjoy!

"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 7
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 8
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 9
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 10
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 11
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 12

And from the back cover of the magazine, a bonus treat for Pierre and the other denizens, fans and friends of Frankensteinia:
"Revenge of Frankenstein" Poster Art

"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation – Part 1

I own the fact that I would make a shitty vampire.  While I’ve got a slick mother-effin’ hairdo and a propensity for wearing too much makeup, I laugh too much, I’m kinda awkward, and I don’t have a sexy accent, so the scales tip against vampirism for me.  On the other hand, I’d like to think I’d make a really kickass vampire hunter.  I’ve got a low tolerance for weepy Anne Rice melodrama and an array of fabulous hats that make me an ideal candidate for that role.

Maybe that’s why I dig Captain Kronos so much.  Sure, he’s not exactly a Golden Age Hammer Horror Icon, but he’s got a certain swashbuckling sense of excellence that put him in my good graces.  Besides, I like arrogant bastards with swords–it’s a hold-over from my pre-teen love of all things Sword & Sorcery.
In this spirit of silly fun-itude, please enjoy the first installment of the comic book adaptation of “Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter” from “Hammer’s Halls of Horror” Issue 20 (released in 1978, the year of my birth–yay!).  Yes, I know the depiction of Carla hardly approaches Caroline Munro levels of hottness, but then again–what character other than Vampirella can?  Click on the images to go to the Flickr page–then click on ALL SIZES to read the teeny words.
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 1

"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 2
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 3
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 4
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 5
"Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter" Comics Adaptation 6
If you guys behave yourselves, I promise to give you the SHOCKING HORROR of the conclusion early next week.  I know–the suspense is killing you.

Personal Loss – This One’s for You, Tenebrous Mom

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I don’t really Cross The Streams by writing much about my personal life (unless it’s particularly ridiculous and/or involves the meeting of B-movie celebrities from the 1970s).  Hopefully you guys will forgive me for indulging in a little bit of world-mixing today–some life events are truly game changers, and one such event happened over the weekend.

My mom passed away on Sunday, never waking up after slipping into unconsciousness two weeks prior.  I’m very close with my parents, so it was an extraordinarily difficult period of time, but now we’re working on healing and enjoying my mom’s memories instead of going through what I can only describe as Medical Hell.  I’m feeling way, WAY more affectionate than usual and have probably doled out more hugs in the past fourteen days than I have in my entire life up to that point (seriously–I’m a dyed-in-the-wool WASP; a wave from across the room is usually as good as it gets).
I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU to everyone who has extended kind emails, Tweets, in-person support, and good thoughts/prayers to me and my family, in many cases without even knowing the extent of the situation.  You’re wonderful people, and I’m very fortunate to have such a kickass community of pals.
Now, because Tenebrous Mom would in no way abide by people being upset about her, and would far prefer for folks to just get along and be happy, I’ll offer up some suggestions of how to honor her memory for those who are so inclined.  Hell, I’ll even make them Tenebrous Empire Topical!
  1. Watch “Road House.”  This was a go-to feel-good flick for Tenebrous Mom, and as such I’ve probably seen it about ten times.  Not that I mind.  Sometimes you need a little “I’m gonna rip your throat out” Swayze action.  Just remember–be nice until it’s time to not be nice. Pls to note that my folks went to see “Road House” *in the movie theatre*, before it became a latter-day camp classic.
  2. Get a celebrity autograph for your mom (or wife, if you don’t have handy access to a mom–or barring that, husband/boyfriend–I’m not picky).  I made a point of getting tough-guy actors’ autographs reading “To the best mom ever” or somesuch similar sentiment when I went to conventions.  Except for when I met Fred Williamson–I couldn’t bear to potentially hurt his ego with the whole “my mom is a HUGE fan of yours” thing, so I just pretended *my* name was *her* name and had it made out to Tenebrous Mom that way.  Fred Williamson really dug my cleavage, though, and as a result, my mom had one very special autograph that read  “To [Her Name]–WOW!!! Love, Fred ‘The Hammer.'”  Her colleagues were duly impressed, naturally.
  3. Four words: “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”  My folks and I spent many an hour bonding while watching this show, and to this day, Peplum films are known as “Shiny Little Heinie Flicks” in deference to the show’s riffing during “Hercules vs. the Moon Men.”  I know that this show is kinda controversial in the cult film world, but if you can’t have a laugh at the stuff you love, life is going to get long and kinda terrible.
I’m going to miss the hell out of my mom, and there’s no question that my world is a little emptier now that I can’t call her up and compare workplace war stories or lament the state of women’s fashion or share movie recommendations or whatever.  But I’m doing my best to do what she’d want me to do, which is to get on with the business of living my life in the best way I know how.
So yeah–go home and give your families a hug, OK?

Personal Stuff – Be Back Soon!

Just so’s you know, interpals–I’m going through some tough family stuff right now and as you can probably tell from the lack of updates, I need a bit of a break from my Imperial Duties.

Been spending a lot of time in my Happy Place, which looks a little like this at times:
Any supportive thoughts, amusing anecdotes, and/or general goodwill are welcome and particularly appreciated at the moment.  I will look forward to balancing my Ice Person Girlkaiser humors soon!

The Room [2003]

So.  You might’ve heard of a little film called “The Room.”  You might even know that it’s officially  “The Room” Week right now (you should play along–it’s GREAT).  “The Room” been discussed on the “Tim and Eric Awesome Show” and even aired in its entirety on April 1st of this year on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.  It’s a cult film phenomenon!  When Bwana Voodoo of and The Naked Jungle suggested that this might be a film worth my 100 minutes, I was curious.  When Mr. Canacorn of Awesomeness for Awesome’s Sake started singing the praises of “The Room,” I was downright angry at myself for not having watched this movie.

Well, folks–I have watched “The Room” twice now and it’s really everything it’s alleged to be.  Let’s not mince words–it’s simultaneously one of the most earnest and most sublimely stupid films I have ever seen in my life.  It starts off like a practical joke–OK, Bwana and Mr. C talked me into watching a lousy melodrama–ha-HAH–very funny guys.  It looks like I’m spending the next nugget of my life watching some French dude with a funny voice who looks like a romance novel cover that was left out in the rain and his homely fiancee interact with their cadre of increasingly aggravating friends.
But therein lies the rub–I couldn’t tear my eyes away inexplicably malicious Lisa’s attempts to destroy her kind-hearted but quite possibly brain-damaged fiancee Johnny’s life.  I knew I was in for something special (both of the “unicorn” and “short bus” flavors) from less than ten minutes in, at which point I had already been treated to the introduction of one inexplicable character (Denny, Johnny’s man-child ward), an impromptu pillow-fight, and of course Tommy Wiseau’s incredible acting.  By the time the astonishingly downbeat ending rolls, “The Room” had woven its insidious spell in my brain.
This film’s very existence is a beautiful mystery come to life, sort of like if Skunk Ape walked into the middle of a cryptozoology conference and after pouring himself a cup of coffee, decided to do an impromptu Q&A.  “The Room” is a quintessential So Bad It’s Good Movie, with hinkey production values, a sub-normal script and a demented visionary at the helm.  Better yet–that demented visionary has embraced the perception of the film as a “black comedy” and encourages the wacky “Rocky Horror Picture Show” style of screen interaction.
This meant only one thing: I had to share it with Baron XIII.  I was wondering if it might be an infliction of cinema on an unprepared mind, but I was delighted to learn that “The Room” worked its magic on the Baron as well.  After the initial shock of seeing Tommy Wiseau’s “jaundiced and mottled” bottom (twice), the Baron’s brain was in a soft enough state to fully absorb the excellence of this film, and by the time Johnny’s interaction with the florist rolled around, he turned to me and told me that the movie had already packed in TOO MUCH WEIRD.  After that he just kinda gave up and grinned for the rest of the movie.
Comparisons to Ed Wood ring true to me–“The Room” is the product of a man with a vision so strong that only he could properly commit it to film.  Better than that, Wiseau is delighted at his oddball brand of fame, a fact that’s clear in the interviews he’s given.  Don’t believe me?  Then check out this fab-tastic clip of Tommy Wiseau discussing “The Room” on Mahalo Daily.  Even if you haven’t seen the glorious goofiness of “The Room,” you’ll be cheering him on when he says he’s going to produce future films, too!
To me, “The Room” is a prime example of what Mondo 70‘s Samuel Wilson likes to call “cinematic folk art”–there’s a vision there that a man was driven to create, and while it might not have the polish that mainstream cineastes embrace, there’s no denying that the joy this movie brings is something marvelous.

Happy Cinco de Mayo – "El Baron del Terror"

Happy Cinco de Mayo, interpals!  Enjoy “El Baron del Terror” nee “The Brainiac,” a fave Mexihorror flick of mine:

It’s got a brain-sucking monster, witchcraft, comets, and the grotesque overuse of papier mache special effects.  You’re welcome  🙂  And for those fellow aficionados of Mexploitation, please to note the presence of the EVER-awesome Abel Salazar, who played the titular blood-drinker in “The Vampire” and “The Vampire’s Coffin.”  ETA: Or didn’t–he was the GOOD GUY in those movies, Dr. Saldavar. Thanks, Prof. Grewbeard, for keepin’ me honest!  Extra bonus points for the application of the word TORMENT approximately four thousand times in the English-dubbed dialogue.
And–here’s a free note to any future Inquisitors–ALWAYS tear the tongue out BEFORE your victim can bring down the hexin’ mojo on your descendants.  It’s really a vital step in the torture and condemnation process.  Just sayin’.