Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

It wasn’t well attended on this cold Sunday afternoon, the kind of gray day where the sky spits tiny drops of freezing moisture, not sleet, not big enough to be rain, but just enough to accumulate and to add to discomfort.  I wouldn’t blame people for staying home, especially with children who could catch cold — as, if I don’t watch out, could I.  But inside the theater once things got going the screen was a splash of browns and yellows, reds and bright yellow-greens, tinges of purple.  Blues for night scenes too — this was about a journey of children, Tito, his brave girl friend Sara, in search for his missing father and, ultimately, courage for himself.

As the IU Cinema blurb explains:  Tito is a shy 10-year-old boy who lives with his mother.  Suddenly, an unusual epidemic starts to spread, making people sick whenever they get scared.  Tito quickly discovers that the cure is somehow related to his missing father’s research on bird song.  He embarks on a journey to save the world from the epidemic with his friends.  Tito’s search for the antidote becomes a quest for his missing father and for his own identity.  In Portuguese with English subtitles.

One reviewer, I forget which — Rotten Tomatoes?  IMDb? — made the comment that in terms of plot the film could have been anime, but he’s glad that it was instead done in a more earthy cartooning style, sketchy in places but rich in colors and texture as if an oil painting, as well as that Sara got to wear skirts below her knees.  Well, some of that’s mine, too.  As for the birds, we’re given to know that birds have long warned of coming disasters, fires, storms, things to be scared of.  In Tito’s case the birds are pigeons which, as one homeless person on a bus tells us, get no respect.  But they have hung around people for a long time, and if one could talk to them. . . .

Not giving overly much away, fear comes in part from isolation, but people are at their best working together, in flocks like birds.  So brotherhood isn’t a bad thing to practice, perhaps a message for our present times.  And there’s even a swipe at over-zealous capitalism which may exploit fear as a way to make money.  These aren’t profound things, TITO AND THE BIRDS being, after all, a film for children, but it made for a well spent afternoon.  Afterward I went downtown to the library, as I often do, the weather still cold but a few degrees above freezing now, enough to have melted whatever ice might have been on the sidewalks.  Then after that, walking back across the campus on my way home, I heard other birds calling, a blackness above of crows flying to their roosts for the night, and it looked very much like some scenes in the movie.


And now for something completely different.  Or, well, different at least, a recasting of an interview of . . . *moi* . . . by Rushelle Dillon (cf. October 22 2017) in a video format, or part of it anyway.  The title is “Video Refresh:  James Dorr Interview” by Stuart Conover and it’s on HORRORTREE.COM.  Or, to let the poster speak for himself:  A Sample of our interview with James Dorr by Ruschelle Dillon.  In the interview, he has a lot of fun details on his take on the writing process.  If you delve into the full interview there are a lot of playful details on his life on top of that!  . . .  This is a new format that we’re playing around with for articles, interviews, and potentially Trembling With Fear.  Please let us know if this is something that you’d like to see more of!

For more, press here (yes, it is kind of fun)!  And there’s also a link if you wish to read the whole interview as it had been originally posted.

Then a quick word on the two Kickstarters we followed earlier this month.  The ITTY BITTY WRITING SPACE one (see February 3, January 29) will be over this Thursday, February 21, so there’s not much time left if you’re tempted to participate.  The other for Gehenna and Hinnom Books (see February 1), with as of now a few extra prizes added, will end just past the close of the month, on Saturday March 2.  Links to both can be found in their posts on the dates just noted.

We may remember, on August 29, a thoughtful and interesting review list of “43 Underrated Films from the Darker Side of Cinema You’ve Probably Never Seen — A Gehenna Post Article” by C.P. Dunphey* via GEHENNAANDHINNOM, his blog on WordPress.  Now five months later comes another feature, this one even more ambitious, the opener of a four-part “Top 100 Films & Television Series You Didn’t Know Were Lovecraftian.”  Or to introduce it in his own words, [a]s the first part of our “Lovecraft in Film” series, we will be exploring 25 films that, while not direct adaptations, are inspired either partially or greatly by Lovecraft’s fiction.  Prepare for madness as we embark into the unknown.  These films are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER.  And beyond which there may not be too much to say:  the degree of influence will sometimes be obvious, sometimes more subtle, the films themselves ranging from the Japanese UZUMAKI (SPIRAL) to THE HAUNTED PALACE, with stops in between for CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, even UNDER THE SKIN in a negative way . . . but Dunphey himself will explain the connections, which may be seen by pressing here.

*Not to mention C.P. Dunphey himself for YEAR’S BEST BODY HORROR 2017 ANTHOLOGY, with my story “Flesh,” as well as much support for my novel-in-stories TOMBS (cf. July 22, et al.).

Friday’s street mail brought my copy of RE-TERRIFIED, with my story “Gas” (see July 10), fourth and last of Pole to Publishing’s all-reprint “Re-Imagined” series.  Previous titles were RE-LAUNCH, RE-ENCHANT, and RE-QUEST (cf. December 29, et al), each of which also includes a story by me.  The titles also suggest the book themes, the first science fiction, the next two fantasy, and finally horror or, to let the back cover blurb tell it:  Vengeful undead.  Demons.  Hungry Rats.  These creatures and more haunt city streets, unlit hallways, deep space, and the corners of your imagination in RE-TERRIFY.

My story, “Gas,” originally published in the Winter 1994-95 EULOGY, falls into the “unlit hallways” category and was inspired by the basement of Indiana University’s Chemistry Building.  But it has chemicals in it too, and not always used for the nicest of purposes.  To find out more about this and seventeen other stories, one can check out the publisher’s page for RE-TERRIFY by pressing here.

‘Crow and Rat’ by James Dorr is a mesmerisingly unusual love story with a dark edge, post-apocalyptic urban myth feel.
Yes, they’re at it again, those two malcontents Rat and Crow, byblows from the world depicted in TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH.  But their story was in a different book, HUMANAGERIE (see December 16, October 28, 3, et al.), published in the UK by Eibonvale Press.  And so the above came in Saturday’s email from HUMANAGERIE Editors Allen Ashley and Sarah Doyle:  Some of you may have seen this on social media, but I’m getting in touch because I thought people might like to read this wonderful review of our beastly book, written by renowned poet, critic and publisher, Sarah James, for Abegail Morley’s Poetry Shed.  Such a detailed and sensitive reading is really heartening; Allen and I are so pleased to see you all recognised and appreciated.  To see it all for yourself, press here.
Also a second, more eclectic review appeared about a month ago on the blog RAMEAU’S NEPHEW by nullimmortalis, which can be seen here.  This takes an impressionistic approach and doesn’t necessarily cover the the book’s entire contents, but “Crow and Rat” is there, as seventh in the listed items.  Of interest as well is a link in that item to a review of the BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY JOURNAL, October 2014, and another story — which does appear in my novel-in-stories, TOMBS, incidentally — “Flute and Harp.”
(From the DVD)  From master storyteller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER, an otherworldly fairy tale set against the backdrop of Cold War America circa 1962.  In the hidden, high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation.  Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.  Rounding out the case are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkens, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Doug Jones.  
Thursday “at the movies” we watched the Swedish film BORDER (for which see below, January 11) with its description in part as [b]lending supernatural folklore and contemporary social issues, the film explores themes of tribalism, racism, and fear of the “other.”  So last night, Friday, I made it a point to watch THE SHAPE OF WATER on DVD, a film cut in part from the same thematic cloth, but with another theme as well that permeates both films:  that of loneliness.  Both films’ protagonists are themselves in some part “the other” and, in both instances, come up against a recognized non-human creature of folklore and find within themselves an affinity.  But what does that then say about them?  The “other,” the “different,” does like then attract like?
Weirdly there’s a bit of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” to THE SHAPE OF WATER as well, with some role reversal, not to mention CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.  Posters, the DVD cover itself, make no bones that here the “other” will be a merman or similar creature.  But here there is magic too, hinted at in the very beginning, then demonstrated a little bit in the film’s final third (in contrast to BORDER where the creature itself is finally identified — here it’s obvious as soon as we see him) which sets us up for a magic-assisted, surprisingly happy ending.  And it is a good film, even if as mermaids go I did like the Polish film THE LURE better (see December 27, April 25 2017 — in fairness though THE LURE does have vampires, as well as music), and for del Toro I don’t think it quite matches PAN’S LABYRINTH either.  But especially when seen with BORDER as a curtain raiser, THE SHAPE OF WATER makes for part of a great double feature!

“Holy crap, what am I watching?”

So said the IU Cinema docent, describing her initial reaction, in introducing Thursday night’s showing of the Swedish film GRANS.  There is, in fact, a lot of “what’s going on here?” to wonder about although, having used elements of folklore and fairylore at times in my own writing, when the main reveal came about two thirds of the way through, I was able to nod and think, okay, and consider how the threads had been wound together.  It is rather neat, though others may be taken more by surprise — some at the showing even laughed, in perhaps a nervous sort of way.  And in certain ways, the border-grans-132198film is even ugly — it isn’t one I’m overly anxious to see again — but it is one that I recommend watching, especially for those of us into dark fantasy/horror, though I wouldn’t call it a horror film either.  More like just . . . different.

Or, ending by quoting the catalog blurb:  It is a safe assumption to say you have never seen a film quite like BORDER.  Tina (Eva Melander) is a customs officer who has the keen ability to literally smell guilt, fear, and fury seeping off of some travelers.  When she encounters a mysterious man with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.  The film is adapted by Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbassi from a short story by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also created the lonely vampire classic LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.  Blending supernatural folklore and contemporary social issues, the film explores themes of tribalism, racism, and fear of the “other.”  The film has been referred to as a genre-bending cross between an X-Men film and a Nordic noir crime drama.  In Swedish with English subtitles.  Contains mature content, including graphic nudity, sexual violence, strong language, and violent imagery.

We may recall AbeBooks which seems to have sales about every month (see December 21, et al.), but here’s one for a change from Amazon, and for the rarely discounted THE TEARS OF ISIS.  But there is one catch, that when one adds Amazon’s usual price for shipping, the total isisnewstill comes to more than the marked list price of $12.95.

But wait!  TEARS is also on a special deal until January 31 where, when ordering, even if one is not on Amazon Prime there is a special box that can be checked to get shipping free.  And with that the price for THE TEARS OF ISIS is less than ten dollars — at $9.64 (well, also plus tax, Amazon’s getting picky about that) which isn’t a bad deal at all.  So, if interested, just click on its picture in the center column and don’t forget to scroll down to the section on shipping options, but best do it now while it’s on your mind or at least before the end of the month.*

*Barnes and Noble, it might be noted, also has THE TEARS OF ISIS on a slight discount, at $12.30, and also right now with “qualification” for free shipping so, even if not as good a deal right now, it still pays to shop around.  More can be found here.

Enter 2019:  Wednesday the first mammoth royalty, then today, Friday, the first new year’s author copy received.  This one is the third in Pole to Pole Publishing’s “Re-Imagined” reprint anthology series, RE-QUEST:  DARK FANTASY STORIES OF QUESTS & SEARCHES (see December 29, June 1, et al.).  Old gods outwitted by heroes.  Magical weapons that bring good and evil.  Dragons winging over the city or walking upon the earth.  A wizard witnessing endless battles. . . .

My story is next to last in the contents, “The Blade of Gudrin,” a tale of a young woman who resembles the local goddess and who knows how to use a knife if she has to, harking back to 1993 in the Spring SPACE AND TIME.  This is followed by the oldest reprint in the book, “Gods of the North” by Robert E. Howard from FANTASY FAN magazine in 1934.  For these and fourteen more preceding stories one may start one’s own new year’s reading by pressing here.

The haunted house import from Japan centers on a possessed residence that literally gobbles up its doomed visitors.  A group of school girls unwittingly enter a haunted house of horrors.  Demonic possession, reanimated body parts out for blood, and downright bonkers fun house effects ensue.  Fun fact:  studio execs in Japan originally planned to produce a movie like JAWS.  Yet when director and producer Nobuhiko Obayashi discussed the pitch with his young daughter, she revealed her own childhood fears — which were far more twisted and inventive than a rehashed shark movie.  Thus, HAUSU was born.

Thus quoting from number 3 of “11 Scariest Haunted House Movies to Freak You Out in Your Own Home” by Jessica Ferri, courtesy of THE-LINE-UP.COM, and reason enough to check out the whole list by pressing here.  Yes, there are “the usual suspects,” PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, but other good films are on the list too, like the Spanish film THE ORPHANAGE and THE OTHERS.  One caveat, though, the links under each listing inviting you to WATCH IT NOW aren’t links to the movies or even to trailers, but rather to Amazon’s rental site.  But you can always go from there to their actual movie site and get an idea of what prices are if you want to buy the DVD.

Also, re. HAUSU, I highly recommend it, but do realize it’s a little . . . different.  Or to quote myself (cf. below, October 31 2015 — yes, I posted a review when the IU Cinema screened it for Halloween three years back), [i]t’s an “evil house” movie, but with a big difference.  This one combines the expected tropes with a weird undercurrent of surrealism, including cartoons, a demon cat, telegraphed punches — all clearly intentional — even slapstick humor in a tale of seven schoolgirls’ summer outing at the home of one of the girls’ maiden aunt.  An aunt she hadn’t seen since her grandmother’s funeral years in the past.  And in my opinion, HAUSU alone is an excellent film to ring in the new year, a year perhaps destined to be marked with its own surrealism.

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