Thursday, February 19, 2009

Waiter, There's a Zombie in My Literature

Variety is reporting that Will Clark will direct PRIDE AND PREDATOR, a film that will pit Jane Austen's marriage-obsessed characters against a monster-alien of some sort. My favorite line from the piece comes from one of the film's producers, who says, "It felt like a fresh and funny way to blow apart the done-to-death Jane Austen genre by literally dropping this alien into the middle of a costume drama, where he stalks and slashes to horrific effect." Like, the stalk and slash formula isn't "done to death" too? It's unclear to me what sort of relationship this film has to Seth Grahame-Smith's soon-to-be released collaboration with Jane Austen, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. Is the "predator" in the title of the film an allusion to some kind of zombie, or are these projects unrelated?

Whatever the case, if Grahame-Smith can do it, why can't I? Thus, I now humbly offer my own collaboration with William Carlos Williams, a "zombied" revision of "This Is Just to Say":

This is Just to Say

I have released
the zombies
that were in
the basement

and which
you were probably
for the apocalypse

Forgive me
you were delicious
so tender
and so warm

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Southern Gothic" by Maggie Taylor

Last year, I had the pleasure of coming across Maggie Taylor's work in a gallery in Ybor City, Florida. While most of my memories of that trip lie under a heavy fog of absinthe, Taylor's images seared themselves into my consciousness. Recently, I have begun re-discovering "southern gothic" literature and film (Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING and SKELETON KEY being among my favorites), and this particular work from Smith came to mind. Visit the artist's web page for more.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pondering Dario Argento and MOTHER OF TEARS

In a recent posting on the Horror Hacker blog, Maitland McDonagh, the author of the brilliant BROKEN MIRRORS, BROKEN MINDS: THE DARK DREAMS OF DARIO ARGENTO, turns her attention back to the Argento canon to list her favorite films by the maestro. This posting, combined with Maitland's much-anticipated review of MOTHER OF TEARS in an upcoming issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG, offers compelling reasons why an updated edition of BROKEN MIRRORS, BROKEN MINDS would be most welcome. Published in 1991, my edition covers films up to TWO EVIL EYES, leaving out a sizable body of films that Argento went on to complete, including MOTHER OF TEARS, the controversial completion of the trilogy begun with SUSPIRIA and INFERNO.

I won't hazard a guess as to what McDonagh will say about MOTHER OF TEARS. In her book, she remarks on the "mind-boggling artificiality" of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, so we can only imagine what she will make of the trilogy's new film, wherein Argento takes that sense of artificiality in an entirely different direction. Part of what makes the first two films notable is how Argento delves into Jungian symbolism in a way that seems bent on shattering the traditional cinematic language of the horror film. MOTHER OF TEARS, on the other hand, feels at times like reversion to traditional storytelling, even incorporating an American aesthetic that we might attribute to a scheme to appeal to one of the largest movie market in the world, or perhaps it comes from the fact that Argento collaborated with Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch, two American screenwriters who specialize in horror films. Unlike SUSPIRIA, which leaves the viewer feeling like Suzy Banyan, helplessly trying to decode an array of symbols without a reliable system of reference, MOTHER OF TEARS seems bent on explaining everything, even making direct, reassuring connections to the other films.

Argento has always been a self-referential film-maker, going so far as to famously incorporate family members into his screen world, as he continues to do so here with Asia Argento. However, where Argento once welcomed us into the uneasy terrain of his own psyche, he now seems bent on giving us that psyche in easily marketable terms. Despite all this, I actually liked MOTHER OF TEARS, though I find it difficult to place it in the scheme of INFERNO or SUSPIRIA. The real trilogy on hand here seems to be the one he began with JENIFER, the first of his MASTERS OF HORROR entries, and continued with PELTS. He shot both of those films for American cable, and they both reflect a growing preoccupation with perverse sexuality, something he continues to explore in MOTHER OF TEARS. In short, we should perhaps think of those films as a group rather than try to find unsatisfying ways in which MOTHER OF TEARS continues the aesthetic of SUSPIRIA.

For what it's worth (and I know that ain't much), here is my own top ten Argento films:

10. Jenifer (not a popular choice, I know, but I loved seeing how Argento approached the adaptation of a comic book story)
9. Trauma (another unpopular choice, but I'm a sucker for crazy moms)
8. Phenomena
7. Sleepless
6. Inferno
5. Four Flies on Grey Velvet (and now we have a new dvd to look forward to!)
4. Opera
3. Tenebre
2. Suspiria
1. Deep Red

Feel free to post your own Argento top ten in the comments section.