Now that The Conjuring 2 is in theaters it has become the object of praise as well as critique. An article at iDigitalTimes offers the latter, particularly since the film is promoted as being "based on a true story," and that it involves the careers of notorious parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. (See my past critical interactions with the Warrens here, and this critical essay on the Warrens at Week in Weird.) An excerpt from the iDigitalTimes article:
By lashing itself to real life, The Conjuring 2 instead invites extratextual scrutiny and takes on the ugly, garish light of hagiography. By endlessly trumpeting its real-life basis, The Conjuring 2 cheapens its own accomplishments, spending the capital built with excellent writing and direction on real-life frauds and phonies who don’t deserve it.
This is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This story continues to capture our imaginations so many years after it was first conceived. For some insights as to why, enjoy this video featuring Leo Braudy, USC Professor in English, Art History and History. And don't forget to wish the Creature a happy anniversary.
Dangerous Minds has a piece that draws attention to the paintings used to introduce the stories in the television series Night Gallery. The essay includes a little background information, and images from several of the paintings, including the one above titled "Escape Route." All of the paintings can be seen at the Rod Serling's Night Gallery website.
A new documentary on practical effects is coming. It's called Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex. See the trailer above. Beyond the general subject matter that connects to my passions, for me, the initial quotes were priceless in connecting to the broader themes of this blog. Guillermo del Toro says, "“I think we need monsters to explain the world, because without them, we cannot explain our place in the universe." Alec Gillis rightly notes that "Every culture and religion has had their dark force and their evil entity."
One of the more striking full-sized memento moris of the era is the statue of René de Chalon, a French prince who died at 25 in the 1544 siege of Saint-Dizier. Known as a transi — for its depiction of human transience — the sculpture shows the prince's desiccated corpse holding his own heart aloft.
I recently came across two items that made me give new attention to Island of Lost Souls (1932). The first was a commentary on the film that involved John Landis, Rick Baker, and Bob Burns. Their discussion makes for an interesting take on a neglected classic horror film. The second was a series of news items that circulated and reported on current scientific experiments where animal-human hybrid embryos have been created in the search for the cure of disease. See NPR's reporting on this here. The idea of these hybrid experiments immediately brought to mind a line from Island of Lost Souls uttered by one of Dr. Moreau's creatures played by Bela Lugosi:
Have you forgotten the house of pain?
Sayer of the Law:
You! You made us in the house of pain! You made us... things! Not men! Not beasts! Part man... part beast! Things!
It is frightening when life imitates art in this fashion. But it provides interested readers with an opportunity to watch Island of Lost Souls, available for free on YouTube.
Camille D. G. Mustachio
Kaiju is a familiar trope in film and television that places giant monsters in direct conflict with fellow monsters and/or everyday citizens. While a larger-than-life creature that attacks Tokyo is likely the most familiar form of kaiju, additional iterations include apes, dragons, dinosaurs, and even robots. Kaiju as a genre has evolved along with cinema; technical developments no longer require men stomping around in rubber costumes as CGI enables bigger and more frightening monsters to haunt our screens. With a timeless kitsch quality, kaiju is solidly placed within our collective pop culture psyche. We seek to create an anthology of original essays that explores technical, thematic, mythological, cultural, and historical aspects of various kaiju.
Some potential topics may include:
*individual monsters including but not limited to Godzilla, Mothra, and Daimajin
*adaptation from page to screen
*American pop culture endurance
*development of film, television, comics, and gaming
Send abstracts of 200 words to email@example.com no later than Friday, July 1, 2016. Final articles of 5,000-6,000 words are to be MLA formatted (8th edition) with American English styles and spellings. Refrain from using images from Toho films.
"exhibition at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, 'Sympathy for the Devil: Satan, Sin, and the Underworld,' [that] traces Lucifer’s visual history, from his emergence in the Middle Ages as a horned, cloven-hoofed, foul-smelling, diabolical creature of the night to his denuded and largely ironic image today."
The Quartz link above features images of some of the artwork on display, and the Stanford link above includes a description of the exhibit.
I was pleased to find an article at The Federalist online that takes horror seriously as a genre that interacts significantly with social and cultural issues, including the moral and religious. The essay is "Inside Our National Zombie Nightmare Lurks The Politics Of Horror Fiction" by Marc Fitch. The title is somewhat misleading in that it interacts with horror and the monstrous beyond zombies. Nevertheless, the piece is worth a read for an overview of the topic.
Fan cultures have existed for decades and have produced their own versions and variations of expression as they drew upon pre-existing genre fiction elements. Star Trek is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Fan fiction production went on without the concern of the entities that owned the material. It was largely seen as harmless expressions of fan devotion, and it no doubt helped keep the material alive and contributed to the ongoing financial income of those that owned the copyrights to the materials as fan fiction pointed toward merchandise that could be purchased from the copyright holders.
Things have changed. Technology has leveled the playing field between fans and Hollywood studios. Now crowdfunding on the Internet enables fans to raise large amounts of money for use in fan fiction production, and film making technology for special effects available for amateurs rivals that of multi-million dollar budgets for big name studios. This has come to a head with Paramount Studios suing the makers of Star Trek: Anaxar. As NEWSWEEK reported:
Axanar’s budget and boasts may have been too much for Paramount and CBS, and in December, the two companies sued Axanar Productions, claiming that its work "infringe[s] Plaintiffs’ works by using innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes." The suit named the production company, studio head Alec Peters, and “Does 1-20,” an unnamed group that could expand to include personnel such as director Robert Meyer Burnett, an industry professional who had previously produced featurettes for CBS' Star Trek Blu-ray releases.
I appreciate Paramount's concerns over various copyright elements, but given the quality of the trailer for Axanar in contrast with J.J. Abrams' franchise reboot, in my view the studio's real fears are that this fan fiction effort has surpassed Paramount's own production efforts.