Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Haute Tension

Note to friends and family. This is about a Horror film. Horror is about the vulgar half of our existence. What follows is fittingly vulgar.

Title: High Tension
Director: Some French guy who I didn't bother to remember but I think his name is Ars (he apparently went on to direct the The Hills Have Eyes remake which I'll also be scoping)

Marie and Alex are school buddies. They're visiting Alex's family when a psychopath strikes. Extremely Horrible Shit ensues!

Script/Direction: We'll skip the script for now (but boy will we ever get back to it) because the direction is where it's at. "High Tension" it is indeed. There's a combination of the tried and true "wait for iiiiiiiiit" suspenseful horror of "omg the killers gonna bust thru that door any second!" and a much more modern utter relentlessness when the horror does start to hit. In this movie, you've got thunder clouds booming a long time... but when it rains blood, it pours.

The completely frank brutality of the gory killings cuts through horror cliche like a- well- knife. It doesn't shove the gore in your face to say "whoopee! check this shit out!" What it does is shove your face in the gore. It's there, it's real, you cannot deny it, you cannot escape it. The superb special effects get this done.

But it all works so well because it's not sensationalized. And the best indicator of this is the music. It doesn't blare discord when you're "supposed" to jump. It doesn't play cheap on the strings when you're "supposed" to be tense. If anything, the subtle music just sounds kind of sad while the slaughter of a happy family is being drawn out.

Which segues nicely into the...

Soundtrack: Some cutesy sappy French pop song when the girls are driving down the highway. Some Reggae-hip-hop thing while our "heroine" um... calms herself before the storm... And, mother fucking MUSE at the movie's climax and finale. That there, ladies and gentlemen, is Thee Win.

Acting: Only 3 proper characters. Marie, the main chick; Alex, her friend taken captive; and Le Tuerer the madman whom, when we first meet him, is fellating himself with a [TEH SPOILERZ KICKIN IN] severed head. Yeahhhhh :(

Marie is a really cute butch girly-girl tomboy who is absolutely fucking worthless until she gets ahold of a barb-wire-wrapped fence post towards the end of the film. There's really nothing to like about her until you're seeing the movie for a second time. She's played by some French chick who actually has "France" in her name.

Alex is her dear friend and is played by none other than the Diva Plava Laguna. If you know wtf I'm talking about you win, if not, don't worry about it. She just sits chained up and crying the whole movie.

"Le Tuerer" is a serious fucking psychotic motherfucker. His violence is relentless with just the wrong amount of playfulness, and his obsessiveness is shared with the audience in very disturbing instances of intimacy. You don't doubt for a second what he's all about and there's no doubt he's pure horror. Michael Meyers without the mask (but with the coveralls!). In fact... how his face is obscured and revealed almost subliminally throughout the film is a masterwork of cinematography. He's played by some guy I'd never want to meet because I dunno how a human being could even pretend to be this sick fuck. The character is disturbing because he's not some abstract monster. He's just some dirty fuckin dude!

F/X: Superb (despite an early decapitation that's mostly goofy). The gore, as I said, is realistic and uncensored when you need a bucket of ice water in the face, and then at other times subdued or off camera entirely when it just lets you sit shivering in the puddle.

The Final Word:


This is the highly contentious thing. From what I've heard most of the movie is a straight cut and paste of a Dean Koontz book/mini-series, and the rest is a... well... twist

I heard about the plot twist long long ago, mainly from people bitching about how unoriginal it is, and how cheaply tacked on to this film it is. It is indeed one of the more common plot devices in suspense films in the past decade or so, and in most of those films it is completely cheap.

So I was not expecting to approve of it when I finally saw it. I just wanted to see some grisly horror cinema. Well grisly was sure delivered, but I gotta say the story worked out great for me too. Knowing the "twist" actually makes the character of Marie much more interesting and the film all the more intense because of how you realize the film is having you relate to her and the killer. I am a freakin FIEND for stories steeped in character and perspective, so I gotta say I really did appreciate the twist, and found that it blended in with the story as a whole very well. I think the best thing it does, when it's revealed, is give you a punch to the gut after watching Marie's gratifying victory- by assuring you that she can never EVER win.

I think, perhaps, the twist didn't bother me- didn't seem tacked on at least- because of 2 things... 1) I knew ahead of time but mainly 2) I get off on getting into characters' heads. When a film allows me to not just witness but even experience what a character is thinking/feeling... no matter how elating or disturbing... I am very appreciative. This film does this in very subtle ways. If you're not looking to get engrossed in the characters' experiences, you'll probably overlook all the stuff that gives the twist any meaning or value.

I watched the movie in French without subtitles. This is one of two movies I've ever watched like this because I felt I really didn't need to know exactly what the dialogs was, I just needed to empathize with the characters and then sit back and watch mayhem ensue. I feel I was right. (Fun Fact: John Woo's The Killer was the other film I watched with no dub nor subtitles.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Zero Point

The lights came up. The smoke settled. The whirring hum of the machinery faded away.

"What is the result?" shouted the Professor. His rigid demeanor was betrayed by excitement.

The assistant read off of ticker tape spilling out of the machine, "Zero-point-zero-one-zero-three-five-three... seven... repeating." Looking up with anxious eyes behind thick protective goggles he offered, "That's an all time best, Professor- nearly a 40% reduction."

The Professor did not reply. For the moment he simply stood back and surveyed the elaborate assembly of equipment filling the room. He arched a scrutinizing eyebrow. The technological amalgamate before him did not spy the stern gaze of its progenitor, nor did it realize that its efforts were being evaluated- nor even that they might be deemed unworthy. The equipment did not fret, it simply waited.

Of course the Professor expected no such thing from the inanimate objects. He finally relaxed and approached the assistant. "That is not the target result," he finally said. "That is not Zero."

"But, Professor..."

"Again," directed the Professor.

"Yes, Professor," replied the assistant, snapping presently to attention. "It will take several hours..."

"I know how long it takes. So get started."

"Yes, Professor."

As the assistant set about preparing the equipment again, the Professor retreated to his study to examine the data and adjust the parameters of the experiment. He had convinced the investors that he could produce a result of exactly Zero despite every precedent in the history of science. He had every intention to deliver that result exactly. If he was successful the ramifications would be Earth-shattering. What had been imagined as an impossible dream since humankind first began to study the nature of the world around it would finally be reality. Countless lives could be saved. The global economy would be redefined.

But, it had to be perfect. The smaller-minded might accept encouragement in a result of zero-point-zero-one-zero-three-five-seven repeating, or perhaps even zero-point-zero-zero-one-zero-three... or zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-one-zero-three... But, none of those were close enough. Zero-point-anything was too simply too much. Each experiment produced a smaller result but each result was infinitely wrong. No margin of error was acceptable.

And so, the Professor returned to his data, and he pondered and he pored and he calculated. Every variable was studied, every deviation eradicated. Several hours passed.


"Yes, I'm coming. The equipment is ready?"

"Yes, Professor."


The Professor recalibrated the equipment per his redefined parameters. The assistant engaged the power switches and pushed the execute button. The lights went down as the equipment energized an the experiment commenced.

When it had concluded the Professor asked, "What is the result?"

The assistant did not reply. The ticker tape was still printing.

"The result?" demanded the Professor.

"Yes, Professor," the assistant nervously replied as the tape continued to stream out of the machine. "Zero-point... zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero..." He caught his breath and just watched the tape continue to slide through his hands. "...zero...zero...repeating," he concluded, looking up at the Professor.

The Professor did not respond. For a moment there was no sound and no movement at all except for the endless printing of the ticker tape.

The assistant finally asked, "Is that close enough, Professor?"

Monday, June 04, 2007


Filbo Stoutwrist didn't know much about the world. He was born in his village and he knew full well he'd die there. He hadn't ventured more than a half mile outside of it either- because that, as everyone knew, was folly.

But Filbo, like virtually all his kin and townsfolk knew pretty much all there was to know about farming. As Hobbits, there was a natural inclination, of course, but it could be said with no exaggeration the good folk of that village had lived for several generations at the pinnacle of the craft.

They knew everything there was to know about making things grow. Everything about the soil, the sun, the water and the air that was needed to produce healthy taters, rhubarb, strawberries, and all manner of vegetables and grains, not to mention some of the loveliest flower gardens in all of Eriador.

The people of that village were so skilled in farming because those gardens (and in fact their whole village) was little more than a prison. For their home was nestled on the fringes of the dreaded Ettenmoors, a land becoming eclipsed by the Shadow.

Roaming bands of orcs, wargs, and spiders did daily run rampant and unchecked across the lands all around them. Mighty men defended the ruins of ancient keeps that dotted the region but in time all were swallowed by the Shadow. For generations it had been thus. Truth be told, no one currently in the village could be quite sure why their forefathers had ever come here at all.

And yet, here they remained, all this time drawing beautiful life from blood-soaked rock. Perhaps the land was once upon a time nothing but pure and green. And now, while the men fought in keeps with swords and shields against a vicious rampaging army... The Hobbits remained in their village and fought against darkness with beauty; fought against death with life. They would never surrender, and they were indeed mighty, these Master Hobbit farmers of the Ettenmoors.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


They know we exist but not in their world.

They know we have power, an influence on them.

So they try to reach us. They speak to us though they cannot hear.

They use their voodoo magic tricks to touch us, control us, to get a result.

They know we are watching them.
They know we are obsessed.
They know we envy them, They know we don't understand.

We are the stillborn populous. We grow up in Limbo.
We learn about life watching what they show.

We dance when they pull our strings because we love the attention.
They dance for us, the invisible audience, because they can see our money.

So their shamans cast their spells on us perform their demographical focus-group seance-rites, every night. Prime Time.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Mild Irritation

It would wake me up in the middle of the night,
But oxygen deprivation keeps me under.

The splinter in my mind
is starting to scab over.

A mild irritation gets inflamed from time to time.
Always find the ointment and squeeze out the tube.

Drown out the voice that tells me I'm wrong.
Put a pillow over my face whenever my eyes might open.

Get this all down, let it all out,
Then crumple it up and throw it away.

Pander and wonder and fantasize
about what it might be to live a life,

Then go back to sleep because dreams are free.
Reality's price is to try.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I stood in the crowd behind the tables listening to the Irish band play. The guy in front of me occasionally decided to hold the plastic cup of ale in his mouth and clap along, bumping into me. The only time I clapped was at the end of each song because my hands were tied... one to Guiness and one to Irish whiskey.

About three songs from the end of the set I felt the spiritual resonance of the bomb . The maker had loaded it with enough c4 to level the pub, but a lesser spirit (barely sentient) was tied to the bomb to take care of any survivors. The spirit's resonance was how I found the bomb; it was rage where everything else was celebration.

I listened to a few more songs, and felt to spirit shift from rage to readiness. To free my hands I slammed back the rest of the whiskey, and soothed the burn with the rest of the Guiness. I sighed as I grabbed my sister-in-law and shoved her out the open window. Her husband was pretty shocked at what I had just done. He did not respond when I threw him out too.

The physical aspect of the bomb exploded. Nearly everyone in the pub died from the initial blast. I felt the flames and debris wrap around me, but they would not dare touch me. The spirit flickered from survivor to survivor aggravating whatever wounds they had to the point of death, and then it noticed me. I drew my blade from Elsewhere.

It tried to attack with a few cheap shots, but the most basic defense of Crane Snares Frog knocked away the spirit easily. Most who learn true blade arts learn the technique within the first few weeks. The first two movements act to parry any attacks, while the third acts as a riposte. However, before my blade split the enemy its spiritual essence was already bleeding away into a sorcery.

A curious ripple of spiritual energy blossomed behind me, and I saw where the spirit had expended its energy. Thousands of charged shards of glass from the windows came at me. I countered with the blade technique Storm Kills Hive, and each piece of glass exploded into a fine sand before touching my body.

I leapt out the same window I had thrown my sister-in-law as my blade went back to its sheath in Elsewhere. She and her husband were standing quite a bit away from the flaming pub on the sidewalk. "Get in the car. Forget about the rest," I said, "Just go."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Oak Table

The gentleman arrived late in March and the Marquis recieved him graciously. That night and every night of his stay I waited upon the gentleman's every need as I had waited upon the Marquis for the past 20 some years.

Every evening I prepared supper for them in the banquet hall. It was a good deal of trouble to go to for just the two of them to dine, but as the Marquis no longer entertained regularly it was cause enough for the formality. The gentleman, after all, was a representative of the Duke. Every night at supper he met with the Marquis to discuss the workings of his serfdom and divine the cause of the last few years' steady decline in tribute to the Empire. Every night the Marquis patiently listened to the gentleman's lectures on the matters of government and economics, and answered all the gentleman's inquiries with polite yet delightfully vexing vagueries and musings.

During the day the gentleman roamed the estate or lingered in the library as the Marquis would not see him, save at supper, and his attempts to interview myself, the only servant of the manor, had not satisfied him in the least. Every night after dinner he returned to his chambers for the evening where I observed in secret his restless nights. Often I saw him run to shut the windows in a vain attempt to silence the howls of the wolves. But they would howl all night, because I of course had not fed them since the gentleman arrived.

Finally, one week after the gentleman had arrived I delivered to him the message that the Marquis did not wish to sup in the banquet hall that evening, but rather out on the veranda in the fresh air, where their discussions of the proper ways and means of state could be refreshed as well. The gentleman acknowledged this humble page but was not pleased. As I left he returned to the window of his chamber to contemplate the forest who's howling emanations kept his nights sleepless.

On the veranda I set the broad oak table with simple pewter place settings rather than the usual silver. They would certainly seem more fitting of the table itself. It was an single ancient slab from a mighty tree felled far from these mountains. It was a plain table, by most respects. It and the stout flat chairs that accompanied it were completely unadorned and had no varnish save what many years of what age and wear could do to darken them. Several gouges, blackened with grime and the dried accumulations of the various fluids spilled on the table over time, could be found on its surface. The Marquis, ever coy, would say that these only serve to define the bold and honorable character of the table.

The Marquis and the gentleman dined once again together that night, though they did not converse much. The gentleman was clearly uncomfortable with the spare arrangements, and the woods lingering just off to the East. The special seasoning I had added to his stew that supper took effect as soon as the meal was complete. I was just able to bus the gentleman's dishes away before he slumped over onto that old oak table. It was a curious recipe which I made a trek to procure once a year from a gnarled and crafty hag that lived in a cave deep in the mountains. The gentleman was not dead, and not even unconscious. He was, however, rendered quite immobile and utterly helpless for sufficient time. The Marquis got up from the table and removed his waist coat so as not to soil it. The wolves could be seen crossing the plain at that time, coming to the manor.

I proceeded with my role then, pulling the gentleman up onto the table and turning him over. His eyes glared at me with the most comical confusion. "Do not fear, good sir!" I told him as I removed his vest and shirt. "All matters of state shall soon be resolved by the good Marquis." And at that time I dimminished to simple observer as the Marquis approached the gentleman with his instruments in hand, and the wolves crept onto the veranda licking their chops and trembling in anticipation.