A Kind of (Black) Magic: Another Look at Clive Barker’s LORD OF ILLUSIONS

May 11, 2016

The filmography of Clive Barker, limited in quantity as it is, has been a most interesting beast. From the whirlwind success of HELLRAISER, his directorial debut, to the recent re-evaluation (and resurrection) of his sophomore follow-up NIGHTBREED, Barker’s work has earned its place in the pantheon. Which is why it’s all the more surprising that his third (and final) effort behind the camera, LORD OF ILLUSIONS, has been relegated to relative obscurity (at least in the general public’s eyes) as a footnote of his cinematic career.

A loose adaptation of his novella, THE LAST ILLUSION (first published in BOOKS OF BLOOD Volume VI), this was to be the start of many new things: for Barker, it was another step away from the ever-expanding (some would say smothering) shadow of the HELLRAISER franchise, a series that has strayed further from his original vision with each new (and cheaper) installment.

It was also to be the start of a new franchise, featuring Barker’s long-suffering private eye, Harry D’Amour, a recurring character in multiple short stories as well as a featured player in THE ART trilogy. With lackluster box office and middling reception from fans and critics, though, it ended up being none of the above… and that’s a real shame. Because once you get past the grand expectations and preconceived notions, there’s a weird quirky little horror-noir mashup waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

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Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula), a New York private eye, finds himself hired to investigate threats against Philip Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor), the world-renowned illusionist. When Swann dies onstage during his most elaborate trick yet, D’Amour stays around to protect Swann’s widow, Dorothea (Famke Jansen, oozing 1940s femme fatale glam) digs deeper into Swann’s history and discovers the dark truths behind Swann’s talents.

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It all goes back several years to his time with The Cult of Nix, and his connection with the cult’s leader — a real-deal dyed-in-the-wool magician — who wanted Swann as his protégé. Ambushed by Swann and a small group of allies for his abduction of a young girl for sacrificial rites, Nix is bound and buried deep, deep away from the rest of mankind.

Being a Barker story, it should be no surprise to anyone that Nix is coming back for revenge… and much, much worse. It all culminates in a last stand as D’Amour goes toe-to-toe with a dark and malignant force that wants “to murder the world.”

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Is LORD OF ILLUSIONS a lost gem? Misunderstood perfection, waiting to be rediscovered by the masses? That’s debatable. There are some pacing issues in the middle where not much happens aside from exposition on Swann and Nix’s history. It also trucks in some of the more clichéd aspects of film noir, with the romantic entanglement of D’Amour and Dorothea, feeling particularly forced and unnecessary. And, as time is wont to do, the special effects haven’t aged very well. But when it clicks, when it taps into the dark current of magic running through the narrative? Man, it clicks hard.

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Nowhere is that better exemplified that in our “big bad” — Nix, The Puritan, as played by the late character actor, Daniel Von Bargen. Disheveled, dirty and wild-eyed, Von Bargen brings a world-weary gravitas to this aspiring demigod. It’s an underrated performance from one of America’s great character actors and a Barker antagonist that has been left in the looming shadow of Barker’s other menaces, Pinhead and Candyman.

Which brings us to Harry. Barker has gone on record to say that Scott Bakula owns D’Amour now and has influenced the character’s appearances in other works, including last year’s “last Pinhead story,” THE SCARLET GOSPELS. And he’s very good here. An understated, blue-collar, everyday Joe even when the world around him is turning topsy-turvy. And like any good pulp detective, D’Amour’s got flaws and chinks in his armor.

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Plagued by nightmares from a case/exorcism turned very bad, more often on the receiving end of a beating than dishing it out and also a less-than-crack-shot, D’Amour is the classic “regular guy” trying to do the right thing. He’s no John Constantine — there’s no cocky swagger or magical aces up the sleeve for Harry. All he has is a snub-nose revolver, the will to do the right thing and a very open mind.

When asked by Valentin, Swann’s major-domo, if he’s a believer, Harry responds with a sly grin: “Oh, yeah. I signed on for all of them in my time. Catholic, Hindu, Moonies. You can’t have too many saviors.” This was to be D’Amour’s grand debut, the beginning of many more cinematic cases to investigate with Bakula at the top of the marquee.  A lackluster ad campaign, studio indifference and the subsequent financial and critical failure put an end to that, though. And fast.

What makes it all the more a shame is it was our first glimpse of Barker’s evolution, both as a storyteller and a director. There is none of HELLRAISER’s elaborate violence nor NIGHTBREED’s menagerie of fantastic monsters and freaks. Much of the story is grounded in reality (of a sort), with the slowly creeping presence of The Puritan bleeding in from the sides, slowly building to the climactic showdown at the cult’s desert compound. The performances are subtle, subdued, anchored by Bakula’s stoic everyman charm.

HELLRAISER may be Barker’s most famous work and NIGHTBREED his most ambitious, but ILLUSIONS feels like his most mature work. It was a great leap forward that would sadly be his last.

In an alternate timeline, somewhere out there, the Harry D’Amour franchise is a thing. Given time and support, it could have been a big thing, at that.  More importantly, Clive Barker would have continued to make movies, growing and evolving as a filmmaker with each endeavor. But not in this timeline. And we’re a little worse off for it, too.

Scream! Factory’s LORD OF ILLUSIONS Collectors’ Edition was released on Blu-Ray December 2014 and is available here. It contains both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film (with commentary by Barker), as well as a sizable selection of behind-the-scenes features, including deleted scenes.

SPONSORED CONTENT

Nihil Noctem’s Lovecraftian short, INNSMOUTH

 

Originally Published September 11, 2015 for rue-morgue.com

 “You can bet that prying strangers ain’t welcome around Innsmouth. I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government man that’s disappeared there…”

H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth

When one thinks of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, “erotica” and “full-frontal” aren’t the first words that spring immediately to mind. Despite Lovecraft’s fabled aversion (and apparent squeamishness) to humanity’s most basic of instincts, sex and nudity have long been front-and-center in cinematic adaptations of his stories, especially in Stuart Gordon’s now classic triad of RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DAGON.

You can now add Izzy Lee’s INNSMOUTH to the list of films that put the “Love” in “Lovecraft”.

 Lee has been making waves on the festival circuit with her brand of transgressive and politically-charged short films for some time now. Tackling such issues as the religious right (PICKET) and the battle over female reproductive rights (LEGITIMATE), Lee’s horror is filtered through a definitive (and unabashedly so) feminist perspective, something that makes INNSMOUTH’s take on Lovecraft’s mythos that much more subversive.

The plot is pulp-simplicity: Homicide Detective Olmstead (Diana Porter) is investigating a mysterious and gruesome homicide in Arkham, a case that will take her to the nearby coastal town of Innsmouth. It isn’t long before Olmstead finds herself on the receiving end of the town’s fabled “hospitality” for outsiders, and the attention of town matriarch, Alice Marsh (Tristan Risk).

 At ten minutes long, there’s not much more that can be said without spoiling its surprises – and rest assured, they’re there. What can be said is that it’s a rebellious and erotic take on Lovecraft’s fabled coastal town. Faithful to its history, yet unconventional in every other way. The female protagonist, lesbian erotica and hints of Marsh’s ambisexual proclivities are as far removed from Lovercraft’s sexless and somewhat misogynist prose as can be, but the mood keeps it tethered to its literary roots.

And in what will come as no surprise to anyone, Tristan Risk owns this. While her screen time is minimal, she makes every second that she’s onscreen hers for the taking. She has seductive evil down pat – vampy, but not campy. More importantly, though, the girl is fearless. In keeping with the “no spoilers” vibe, Risk cements her reputation as one of horror’s bravest, giving us a 100% NSFW moment that serves as the film’s climax and confirmation that she’s well ahead of her onscreen contemporaries in destroying boundaries.

INNSMOUTH does exactly what the best of short films should do: teases at a much bigger picture waiting in the wings and leaves you wanting more.

INNSMOUTH will be screened at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland on the weekend of Oct 2 – 4, with other screenings lined up for festivals and conventions going into 2016. Check out Nihil Noctem’s websiteFacebook page and Twitter feed for updates as they become available.

Clive Barker’s Seraphim Comics Reopens The Labyrinth with HELLRAISER: ANTHOLOGY

Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER is one of the seminal films of the 1980s horror boom. Smart, sophisticated and visceral, Barker’s directorial debut became a cottage industry of its own, with multiple sequels (and the merchandise to go with them) , as well as two comics series (Marvel’s Epic Comics, 1989 – 1994 and Boom! Comics, 2011 – 2015). They say the third time’s the charm, as Barker reopens the doorway to the “the further regions of experience” next month in a new and ambitious outing that should leave the Cenobites’ acolytes very pleased indeed.

Hellraiser: Anthology, the inaugural project for Barker’s new graphic novel imprint, Seraphim Comics, is a 90-page hardcover collection featuring 11 original tales set in the universe first introduced with his novella, THE HELLBOUND HEARTThe hardcover collection is priced at $35, while a limited edition (signed by Barker) will be going for $65. The digital edition ($15) is also available for those who like their comics on the portable side

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As for who’s behind the wheel, Seraphim has lined up a solid list of contributors to play in Barker’s infernal playground. As well as tales from Barker himself (both writing and illustrating)and both Seraphim’s VP, Mark Alan Miller ( who just so happens to be interviewed right here) and Editor -In-Chief Ben Meares,  there are also contributions from Blumhouse.com’s Editor-In-Chief, Rebekah McKendry and contributing writer, David McKendry, POW Entertainment’s Matt Murray. Art duties have been filled by Daniele Serra (responsible for the cover art shown above), Riley Schmitz, Sam Shearon, Nick Percival, Jim Terry and Jimm O’Dell.

 

While there have been previous four-colour forays into Hell’s Labyrinth, this one feels very different and exciting – not only because of Barker’s involvement in the process but this time out, as the original tagline for HELLRAISER reads …there are no limits.
We had a very simple mission statement at the beginning of our journey with this comic” states Meares in discussing the project. “We set out to create something with no limits and no censorship that everyone involved, as both creatives and fans of the Hellraiser mythos, would be proud of.” And if the previews provided by Seraphim are any indication, it looks to do the sadistic and sensual series proper justice, with visions (and characters)  both new and exciting and -as seen below – very familiar.

 

Preview 1, (Ben Meares and Daniele Serra

 

Preview 2, (Ben Meares and Daniele Serra

Miller seconds the notion.  “We chose to publish this anthology in-house for one main reason…It frees us to tell stories that are entirely uncensored. Hellraiser, as a film and comic book franchise, has always needed to be censored to one degree or another. By producing this comic in-house, and distributing it straight to Hellraiser fans via our web store, the wide array of talented people on the book are free to tell the stories they want to tell, and dig as deep into their twisted imaginations as they please. And, let me tell you, the experience has been utterly freeing for all involved, and that creative freedom bleeds through the pages of this anthology.

I’ve been a part of a number of Hellraiser projects throughout my years with Clive… and this is easily the most personal project I’ve seen pass through these walls. It’s as lovingly curated as it is delightfully grotesque. I’m proud to have my name in its pages.”

HELLRAISER: ANTHOLOGY makes its grand debut on at this year’s Monsterpalooza convention in Pasadena, CA.  Following its arrival at the weekend-long convention (April 7th to 9th 2017), it will go on sale on April 14th through, www.realclivebarker.com, in both hardcover and digital formats.

And, in a move that will shock absolutely no one who knows me, I will have a review in the coming weeks. So keep your eyes (and flesh) peeled..

Preview 4, Pin-Occhio

NEXT TESTAMENT: The Gospel, According To Mark Alan Miller

 Mark Alan Miller is a busy guy. On top of his “day job” as Vice-President of Clive Barker’s Seraphim Inc., Miller was the driving force behind the long-awaited “director’s cut” restoration of Barker’s 1990 cult classic, NIGHTBREED. But aside from overseeing the day-to-day operations of The House That Barker Built, Miller’s been flexing his own creative muscles.

And it’s a lot of flexing, too.

Starting off in somewhat familiar territory with BOOM! Studios HELLRAISER comics, Miller went on to collaborate with Barker on NEXT TESTAMENT, a twelve-issue series that introduces Mr. Wick, the true Old Testament God who’s not pleased with what he sees on his return… and sets about destroying it all.

Following that, Miller teamed up with Dark Horse and Joe R. Lansdale for THE STEAM MAN, a deliriously inventive and brutal mash-up of Steampunk & vintage pulp sci-fi/horror set in the Wild West based on Lansdale’s short story,“The Steam Man of the Prairie and the Dark Rider Get Down: A Dime Novel.”.

Having now staked his claim in comics, Miller has moved into full-length prose with the upcoming release of the novelization of NEXT TESTAMENT (courtesy of Earthling Publications) and while it may seem odd to adapt a comic into novel form, it’s all part of the plan. But I’ll let Miller himself explain that, as well as what’s coming around the bend.
miller_next_testament-174x268What were the first seedlings of the story for NEXT TESTAMENT?
It was all the stuff that Clive and I initially bonded over when we first started getting to know each other. We are both incredibly inspired by the Bible, and what people do in its name. We’re also drawn to metaphors, and telling stories that exercise certain portions of our psyches. This was very much an exorcism.
The story first appeared as a mini-series for Boom! Studios. What prompted the upgrade to prose-based novelization, or was that always the endgame in the back of your mind?
Funny enough, the original idea was to do it as a novel. Clive and I had created Wick, and devised this story that really did it for both of us, and I was going to write it all out, and Clive was going to illustrate it. Then we had a conversation with Boom! after the success of the Hellraiser comic, and they were looking for something new. We immediately though of Next Testament, because it began with the visuals, so it just made sense. To their eternal credit, Boom! loved it, and just let us get to work. It was easily one of the greatest professional experiences of my career.
Tell us a bit about Barker’s involvement and inspiration in this project.
When we initially came up with the story together, Clive was doing an experiment with paints. He’d already painted about 3,000 canvases, all standing close to 4 feet tall (and who hasn’t really?) so he wanted to try something new, and he began turning the human form into a canvas, letting the paintbrush lead him. I volunteered to be one of the experiments. Who wouldn’t want to be an original Clive Barker monster?! So, hell yeah, I jumped at the chance. And when Clive was done, we both stepped back, and looked at what had emerged, and it was Wick, in the flesh. This guy standing in the mirror looked wicked, and mischievous, and his colors felt like they had their roots in something ancient that tapped into life itself. The story we came up with on the spot was essentially the skeleton of Next Testament. This new creature was God, he’d been dormant for a long time, and he woke up and saw the world, he wasn’t happy.
Has there been any consideration in adapting the work to film or television? And which would be your preferred choice?
Oh absolutely. There’s lots of talk about it. Personally, I’d love to see it as an animated series. I think you can get away with a lot more in that format. That being said, I won’t close the door to any incarnation this story wants to be. I’ve lived with it for a long time. It feels very personal. So I’ll be with it wherever it wants to go.
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As Vice-President of Seraphim, much of your time is overseeing the Barker empire. How do you juggle the day-to-day of running a multimedia undertaking like that with personal creative goals? Is there an overlap between the two?
That is correct. I’m on the front lines, fighting the Barker war every day. The day to day is certainly a challenge, but it’s one that I wake up excited to take on every day. The library is so vast, and  has been spread throughout the world, and throughout the decades. There’s always a line in the sand to follow, and always someone fascinating to talk about this very dark, very beautiful world. My title is Vice President of the company, but I identify as a writer and a producer – as a creative. So I’d definitely say there’s overlap. I love creating worlds with Clive. And I also love protecting his worlds, and exposing them to new audiences and in new ways. Sometimes I get to do both at the same time, and a guy can’t ask for a much greater gift than that.
 On top of TESTAMENT, you also collaborated with Joe R. Lansdale on Dark Horse’s THE STEAM MAN. What was it like working with the prolific author?
4872369-01It was another dream come true! Joe is part of my holy trinity of great authors. It’s Clive, Joe, and James Ellroy. Of course there are countless other authors I love and admire and even idolize, but more than anyone else,  those three guys have blown the doors off my brain. Working with Joe was great, because I got to stretch different muscles when writing with his voice in mind. And it was a fun place to visit!
We’re talking about doing a few other things. In fact, I adapted a short story of his called The Dump for the anthology books that American Gothic Press did in honor of Forest Ackerman’s 100th birthday. It’s called Tales from the Ackermansion and my story follows John Carpenter’s. So…again…not a bad gig.
Now that TESTAMENT is on its way, what’s next – for you and for Seraphim?

Oh lots. Always lots. The conversations we’re having are on another level. With any luck, there will be some incredible Barker television coming your way in the coming months. We’re also diving deeper into self-publishing. We’ve got The Thief Of Always anniversary edition that Christian Francis and Vicky Barker produced together which will be sold exclusively on our web store. I’ve held it in my hand. It’s amazing. And you can also keep your eyes peeled for a new Hellraiser anthology comic, also for sale through our web store – www.realclivebarker.com. It’s a love letter to EC comics and the old Epic Hellraiser comics as well. It’s a no holds barred anthology where bad things happen…and sometimes they even happen to good people. If all goes according to plan, it should get under your skin quite nicely and stay there.

NEXT TESTAMENT is slated for publication later this year by Earthling Publications.
The HELLRAISER anthology is also scheduled for release this spring through Seraphim Ink and will be available exclusively at The Official Clive Barker Store.

The Exorcism of 2016 (aka #MMXVIMustDie!)

It’s been said that to expunge an abstract yet malicious force, one must give it solidity.

A name. A face. Something solid to drive the stake through and end it, right and proper.

Such is the case with 2016, a year that’s best described as “a flaming clown car of misery”. We’ve spent a good chunk of the last 365 days trying to anthropomorphize this particular chronological cycle as some kind of metaphysical horror-movie slasher. Well, we’re nearing the end credits, folks, so before it gets one last swing in today, I’ve been working on a solution.

See, I’ve given 2016 a physical form, and a name to bind it to this plane…and we’re going to kill this motherfucker before he gets a chance to sabotage 2017 before it even starts.

This is Emmex Vei. The year, made tangible. And you’re going to help me kick him square in the balls and out the door.

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Here’s the gist:

Having channeled all the hate, fear and tragedy of the past year into this well-dressed and infinitely vicious piece of shit and branding his real name on his head , I came up with the follow-up plan to thus destroy him. But Emmex is a strong and persistent malignancy, so it’s going to take more than I’ve got here.

Here’s where you come in.

I need you to print this effigy of pen/ink/Photoshop and defile/destroy it how you see fit. Light it on fire. Tear it to shreds. Grab a handful of crayons and cover him in crudely drawn penises. Whatever it takes to diminish and weaken him before you strike the final blow.

At the very least, it’ll be cathartic. There isn’t a person I know who hasn’t had an especially rough time of it this year, and I’m no exception. There will be no resurrections, no sequels, no carry-over into the new year. If we’re going to get the fresh start and the tiniest glimmer of hope… Emmex Vei/MMXVI/2016 MUST FUCKING DIE!

And maybe, just maybe, we’ve got a fighting chance starting tomorrow.

Happy New Year, one and all. May the fates protect us.

#MMXVIMustDie

Share the hashtag. Put this fucking monster in the ground.

FIVE BY FIVE: BRITTNEY-JADE COLANGELO

img_0212At age 18, Brittney-Jade Colangelo hit the ground running with Day Of The Woman, a blog that took a look at “the feminine side of fear”. It was raw, honest and gave no shits about your finer sensitivities. Most importantly, she was a a strong and unapologetic feminist who spoke her mind freely and with razor-keen intelligence. The writing,  academic yet accessible. The world-view open and analytical, never one to take a side blindly.

And funny. She’s also damn funny.

Since that time, she has  retired DOTW  (which is still up and running in the archival sense) and has since been plying her trade online with Blumhouse, Playboy and – most recently – Birth Movies Death.

Did I mention she’s making movies? Right…she’s also making movies!
Sickening Pictures, the production company started by her and partner Zach Shildwachter, has already amassed an impressive list of horror shorts under their banner, with their most recent – LOVE IS DEAD – making the rounds on the festival circuit.
So I’m just going to come out and say it: she’s one of my heroes. She made me want to do this kind of writing on a more-regular basis. She was also, fittingly, my very first interview subject for Rue Morgue Magazine.

So, here we are again, full circle. Five Q’s. Five A’s.

1) A lot has changed in the blogosphere since you first hit the keyboards for Day Of The Woman. What do you think are the most notable changes found in the world of online critique and journalism?

Day of the Woman started in 2009 when I was only 18 years old. Saying that out loud feels incredibly foreign, and in the age of the internet, this is a lifetime away. That was pre-twitter, that was when Myspace was still hanging on by a thread. 2009 was around the time that the internet was really starting to EXPLODE and accessibility and connection speeds were at an all time high, so we were flooded with tons of sites and blogs popping up every day. Since then, most of the casual hobby sites have gone the way of the dodo. Sure, the market is still heavily saturated, but the ones that exist seem to hold themselves to a higher standard. People can’t get away with being assholes for the sake of being assholes anymore about a film, and because audiences have so many outlets to chose from, it forces writers to really step up their game and provide quality content or risk losing their readership. It’s still got a way to go, but I’m a much bigger fan of the “blogosphere” in 2016 than I was in 2009.

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2) Often, you have come under attack for your views, most notably by those with and ax to grind against feminism. Has this changed for you since moving into other “respectable brand” venues (Blumhouse, Playboy, etc.)

My views haven’t changed, if anything, they’ve just gotten stronger and more refined. Writing about feminism as an 18 year old is ridiculously more different than writing about feminism as a 26 year old. I stride to incorporate intersectionality in my analyses of cinema and writing for more “respectable” sites rather than just an independently run website has encouraged me to do as much research as possible into my articles. I’m speaking on a much bigger soapbox these days, and it’s vital that I keep myself as educated and up to date as possible. It’s not about my “personal opinions” anymore, it’s a means to start a conversation with the masses through an entertaining medium.

 

3) How do you think your worldview has changed from the time you started DOTW to now?

I’ve done a lot of maturing since starting Day of the Woman, but I think this has a lot to do with growing older. Unlike a lot of my comrades, my growth and development from a high school senior to a functioning adult member of society is documented and on display for the world to see. I’m embarrassed by some of the things I’ve said years ago, as I’m sure everyone can relate to, but I see it as a physical representation of how I’ve grown as a person. I like to think I’m a bit kinder but stronger in my stance. I’ve gained a lot of confidence since finishing college, and I hope that shows in my writing.

 

4) Tell me a bit about your recent forays into indie film productions. The highs, the lows? Is there money to be made, or is it a “love of the game” sort of deal?

I’d love to one day say that I’m making money on indie film productions, but for the time being, it’s a labor of love. I see it as the ultimate education experience. Who am I to rate and review a film without ever having endured the filmmaking process? I have gained a better perspective and respect for cinema now that I’ve dabbled in making it both in front of and behind the camera. I love the creative process of making a film, the only trouble is trying to get the finished product in front of an audience that has more media at their fingertips than any other time in history.

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Joanne Angel & Aaron Thompson in LOVE IS DEAD, produced by Sickening Pictures

5) With Day Of The Woman, you established yourself as one of the trailblazers for this kind of online journalism/critique. Where would you like to see things go, and what advice do you have for anyone looking to follow this path?

I’d love for click-bait to die in a fiery blaze and for audiences to crave well-researched and well thought out stories. I’m a fan of top 10 lists like everyone else, but instead of telling me what to watch, I’d love to know WHY to watch. For those looking to follow this path, write what you love and because you love it. Period.
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Britney-Jade Colangelo can be found…well, everywhere. Twitter. Blumhouse. Playboy. BirthMoviesDeath. And probably more venues before this hits online.

And be sure to follow her forays into film-making  on Facebook and Vimeo, while you’re at it.

ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART SOMETHING-SOMETHING

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It’s been a long time since I’ve put fingers to keyboard here, so the three or four of you (and that is being incredibly generous) still here might be wondering ” Where have you been? What’s with all the silence?” The short answer: a lot. The longer one’s gonna require a paragraph, may be two. I promise to keep things less on the loquacious side and more “brevity is wit”-ish.

Let’s start off with terminal illness,shall we? Not mine, but close enough to home. Our family made the move to new accommodations at the end of December – bigger, more rooms and a kick-ass basement custom made for reclusive writer time –  to help my wife’s mother with her ongoing treatment for two different types of cancer. Both rare, both found in single-digit percentiles of the population. Then the cancer got ballsy, made its way into the marrow, bumped things up from “concerning” to “this is going to kill you”. There were weeks left, if we were lucky. After a debilitating first round of chemo, we started to see improvements. Vast, “holy shit” honest-to-goodness miracle kind of improvements. And that trend continued for months, till we got the good news a couple of weeks ago. Zero traces. The marrow is clean. It’s over, and we couldn’t be happier at this outcome. We’re a tight little unit, this family. And every day, I’m glad to be surrounded by such strong and beautiful people.

As a result of the above, though, some things had to be placed on the back-burner while we waged this little war. With the fires put out, and a new “normal” slowly becoming commonplace, it’s time to get back to business. To quote Abraham Van Helsing, ” There is work – wild work – to be done.” First, and certainly not least – I’m plying my trade under a new umbrella. The folks at Blumhouse.com (specifically Editor-In-Chief, Rebekah McKendry) have been kind enough (and trusting -the fools…) to allow me to spew words on their website. Before the above-mentioned crisis shook up the status quo, I managed to post a couple of articles.

Should you feel the need to read assorted verbiage on genre-related fooferaw,  take a gander at the menu:

A Kind of (Black) Magic: Another Look at Clive Barker’s LORD OF ILLUSIONS

DC’s ANIMAL MAN Volume II: The Best Horror Comic You May Have Missed

Marvel Movies Phase IV — Bring on the MONSTERS!

What Lies Beneath: Toronto and The Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown

They’re a good gang to hook up with – fans with a love of the genre who aren’t afraid to fly the flag for their personal favourites – and they trust me enough to let me occupy space on their real estate. I’m still not convinced that my style of writing could be labelled “journalism”. But it’s fun. I get to talk about things I like, and share it among like-minded individuals. So I’m going to keep at that for a while.

I also quit smoking. 25 years on the hook, now ten months nicotine-free. And I don’t miss it. Not a bit. It’s hard, but not impossible. So maybe I’ll write about it here.

And we got a dog. Her name is Maggie. And she’s awesome.

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Aside from that? Who knows. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that life is short and no one is going to hand anything to you. So there will be more writing, here and elsewhere. I could get all wordy about my intentions, or just get down to the work.

In the end, the work is the only thing that matters. So time to get back to it.
It feels good to be back.

 

An Open Letter to Ryan Reynolds (and 20th-Century Fox… but mostly Ryan Reynolds)

Dear Mister Reynolds.

First off, congratulations on being Ryan Reynolds. Seriously, you lucked out on that one.
But I digress…

If I can pull you away from your picture-perfect marriage, your adorable child and whatever business comes along with being sexy as hell, there’s something I was hoping to talk to you about. Y’know, plant a bug in your ear.

It’s about your labour-of-love turned license-to-print-money success story, DEADPOOL. Specifically, the sequel. I understand there’s an opening for a director. Now, I’m certain you have a veritable conga line of directors forming around the block for this gig, and no surprise. One of the most successful R-rated movies of all time, not to mention the highest grossing film in the X-Men franchise? That’s a pretty choice checkmark for anyone’s CV! I’d go for it myself if, y’know, I knew the first thing about making a movie! I mean, I find the camera on my phone is challenging at times, and I wouldn’t even know where … I’m off track, again. I’m sorry. I’m getting help for it.

The point is, I’m not the best candidate for the job but I know someone who is.
Two someones, in fact.
Twins, to boot.

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Meet The Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska. Writers/actresses/directors/all-around badasses.

Now, you may know them from their seminal cult film, AMERICAN MARY. Or their stint as the taskmasters on GSN’s HELLEVATOR. Or their larger-than-life presence on social media. Chances are, though, you’ve heard of them. Especially with everyone making a big to-do on ( your social network of choice) about how they’re the obvious choice to direct the sequel. Before I go any further, yes, social media fooferaw like this should be taken with a sizable grain of salt. Hot button tweets and likes have a short shelf life online and can burn out real quick-like. Ask KONY. He’ll back me up. But the difference here is that the buzz is legit. In fact, you guys have more in common than you may be aware of. How much so? Let me break it down for you, starting with…

1) Number #1 Fan:It’s safe to say that there’s probably not a bigger fan of Wade Wilson’s hijinx than you. A man doesn’t spend that much time cultivating a project like this for A DECADE without a bit of love for it. But I’d be willing to wager that The Soskas could give you a run for your money on Deadpool 101. Not only can they tell you whether or not Deadpool was ever infected by a splinter of the Venom symbiote (answer: yes) , but they’ll tell you which series,volume and issue it happened in. Hell, they’ll break it right down to the page and panel. Believe me, I know! But beyond an encyclopedic knowledge of the character, they GET Deadpool – the character, the universe, the specific quirks and traits that make him such a standout from the rest of the spandex crowd on both the page and screen.

Like you do, really. And who wouldn’t want that in their corner?

2) Hometown Pride: You’re from Vancouver. Guess what? So are they. They know the scene, they know how to get the most bang for your buck out west. It may seem like a little thing, one of those tenuous-at-best connections , but it’s one more point in this little connect the dots, and I’m trying to make an argument here.

3) Ringing Endorsements: As mentioned before, the social networks are buzzing with support and calls for the girls to take the helm. Their fan base is loyal… VERY loyal. And vocal about their support, too. There have been petitions, hashtags and every other media tool possible to spread the word. But there’s also been high praise from other persons of interest, too, that bare mentioning:

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Yes. THAT Slash. String-shredding, top-hat-wearing, rock-and-roll royalty!

I’m not saying it’s enough to swing the vote completely but HOLY CRAP, IT’S G-N-F’N-R’s SLASH!!!

4) Maximum Effort: these girls started out 100% DIY, Ryan ( I feel like we can first-name basis this stuff, now. We’ve been through *so* much now.). From a handful of short films to their GRINDHOUSE-inspired DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK to the cult-phenomenon that is AMERICAN MARY. Currently, they’re ramping up to start on the remake to David Cronenberg’s RABID, as well as more-projects-than-common sense in development. They know how to make a little look like a lot.And while I don’t know that much about filmmaking (ie: nothing at all), I know that, brother, that ain’t easy.

Put em all together, and what does that spell?

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Yeah, I know. I’m sorry.

Look, my opinion doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. I’m neither a captain of industry nor a mover-and-shaker (which incidentally sounds like a substitute name for a go-go dancer). I’m merely a guy with a blog, who happens to occasionally write for other outlets when the mood hits him. That probably puts me just a fraction above “angry teenager with a Reddit page”. The point is, you could do worse things then taking a lunch meeting with them and letting them make the pitch. Hell, Sylvia has stated that she’ll waive her pay for the chance.

I repeat: free labour! That’s living the dream, friend-o!

And what do I have to gain from this? Nothing. I have no horse in this race, and I’m sure there have been more eloquent arguments put forward for the cause.  But I do like to see like-minded individuals come together, especially if it means working together on a passion project like this. Great things can happen when people of  a similar mind-set come together, and this could be one of those moments.

In the end, it’s your call to make, but the signs are there. It’s at least worth mulling over. At the very least, you’ll make Slash a very happy man. And really, who doesn’t want that?

Either way, best of luck with the hunt. And continued success with all that “perfect life that we all envy over here oh-so very much” thing, too.

Sincerely,

Ron McKenzie

 

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Jen & Sylvia Soska, with KILL CRAZY NYMPHOS ATTACK co-creator, Daniel Way.                Who also wrote DEADPOOL. So yeah, add THAT to the checklist.