Listen here, if you dare!
As I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!
Listen to the episode here!
Last week I found myself in the enviable position of being in the house alone during the day with a bunch of work to do on my laptop and the television unoccupied by children demanding to watch the same two episodes of Bubble Guppies on repeat. So, like anyone who hasn’t been able to stay up past 11 on a week night in recent memory, I decided to watch three movies in a row all on Amazon Prime! Continue reading Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club
Oh my goodness, you guys. Nightmare Weekend has got to be the most bonkers movie I’ve seen in a good long while. Maybe that’s because it’s the ONLY credit to screenwriter George Faget-Benard’s name or that director Henri Sala mainly seemed to deal in French erotica or the fact that it deals with, well, everything, but Nightmare Weekend is that rare movie that tries to do too much, fails, but still manages to entertain.
You probably want to know what the movie is about. I’ll try to let you know, but there are a surprising number of characters in this movie and far too many of them are brunettes who look very similar. I also don’t remember any of their names and apparently neither does anyone else who’s watched the movie.
So there’s this college girl whose dad is a scientist working on some kind of super computer. She leaves school to visit her pops. At the same time, dad’s assistant (she’s evil) invites one of the daughter’s friends and two others to a seemingly different house to test the computer on (they don’t cross paths until towards the end of the film, so unless it’s an enormous house…your guess is as good as mine). Somehow these tests include taking seemingly innocuous items like a watch and turning them into metal balls that can be programmed to attack various people Phantasm-style. Instead of drilling into the victims, though, they either fly right down the throat or…hide somewhere so they get consumed. If you’re wondering how something like this could cure people, as the assistant claims early on, you’re as confused as I was.
Sound crazy? We’re just getting started. The main girl wants to date this guy in town so she talks to her computer about the best way to get his attention. You’re thinking, “But computers couldn’t do anything cool like that in the 80s!” And you’d be right if it wasn’t for George. George is the girl’s computer, a TV inserted into what looks like a princess castle set from The Land of Make-Believe in Mr. Rogers Neighborhood that can play rudimentary computer games and display text. Oh, that’s right, there’s also a green-haired hand puppet who she communicates with who is basically the interface for the system. No I’m not making this up, I promise. Here’s proof.
You’ve got to wrap your mind around this whole George thing pretty early on, even before the main killings start, so it’s a lot. George can also talk with the dad’s system. There’s one scene where the main character is playing a game in her room, but inadvertently controlling someone’s car in the real world. BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT! It’s about the balls that turn people into crazies who lick spiders, claw people during sex and drown in nearby water.
There are so many crazy parts of this movie! The college girls make it seem like being a scientist is like the best, most respected and wealthiest job in the whole world! George! The arachnophobe practically Frenching a Tarantula! Everyone at the bar! The alcoholic chauffeur! That scene where — I think — two people are getting down in a limo while the driver is trying to fix the tire, the passengers are on a picnic just a few feet away and a random guy on a motorcycle is standing…somewhere nearby dancing to his radio shirtless. You really have to see it all to believe it. I’m still processing it all and should probably watch it again. You know, for science.
Nightmare Weekend was a French film shot in Florida in which all the dialogue was eventually dubbed, which explains some of the off-kilter-ness on display. It also probably explains why Troma decided to distribute this one. There’s a Blu-ray version of the film from Vinegar Syndrome, but I streamed it on Amazon Prime. It’s pretty dark at times so you can’t always see what’s happening, something that’s not helped by the fact that the end of the movie bounces from day to night far too quickly. Still, if you like all-out craziness, then give this one a watch.
Oh and for what it’s worth, as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time at the computer, I’d fully support a system like George. I’d much rather talk to a weird, animated hand puppet than type everything out or talk to Siri.
It’s vampire week here on UnitedMonkee! Let’s kick things off with one of their all-time biggest enemies, Buffy The Vampire Slayer! Like most of the internet, I loved the series (yes, even the first season). Even so, when Dark Horse first announced they were continuing the show’s adventures with Season 8, I was a bit skeptical, even though series creator Joss Whedon was acting as executive producer of the whole thing. See, back in the day, I bought a ton of Buffy comics from Dark Horse until I realized that they were just kind of filling in holes and playing with the mostly un-chronicled summers. Later on I picked up the Buffy Omnibus volumes and read in the intro that that was part of the whole deal because they didn’t want the comics to step on the toes of the show. As a reader, though, I got a bit bored reading about Season Three characters when Season Four was in full swing, but that’s old water under an old, far more crankier bridge.
The timing thing was obviously no longer an issue with the show being off the air. And, adding to the “good” column, Whedon would have an unlimited budget to work with and some of the best names in comics, TV and film like Brian K. Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson and Karl Moline.
Really, there was no chance I wasn’t going to start reading this book because I was working at Wizard at the time and free comics were everywhere. Like my fellow Buffy fans in the office, we got to reading and really enjoyed it. I might have been a little taken aback by the whole idea of this army of Slayers working around the world S.H.I.E.L.D.-style, but once I got used to it, I was all in. Continue reading Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray
Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson, James Raiz & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #206-213
About this time last month I made my way through Greg Rucka’s first three Wonder Woman books. It took me a little while to get the next volume from the library, but I finally did and had a ridiculously good time reading through it and the final two volumes of his run.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Rucka’s working on a longform comics story with this run and I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve read when it comes to this character. He not only had a solid take on the character, but also developed a variety of obstacles in his first few issues that all came to fruition as the series edged closer to its Infinite Crisis/One Year Later-mandated conclusion.
As you might be able to tell from this book’s title, the major obstacle this time around is the resurrected Medousa, the snake-headed Gorgon who turns people into stone if she makes direct eye contact with them (even via cameras). Medousa not only attacks Wonder Woman at the White House, but also turns the son of one of her staffers into stone before challenging her to a knock down, drag out battle for the entire world to see. In the process of defeating the inhuman monster, Diana blinds herself with hair-snake venom. The rest of this volume finds her dealing with her new condition, including a variety of tests from her teammates in the JLA.
Meanwhile, Dr. Psycho’s still causing trouble, Cheetah returns, the goddesses arrange to take over Olympus from Zeus and the United States is particularly worried about Paradise Island to the point where they won’t move their warships away.
Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka with Geoff Johns, drawn by Drew Johnson, Justiniano, Rags Morales & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #214-217, Flash #219
Land Of The Dead kicks off with a crossover with Flash that establishes a relationship between Diana’s longtime villain Cheetah and the Scarlet Speedster’s nemesis Zoom. These two baddies would go on to become a big part of Infinite Crisis as members of the Secret Society, specifically and the group that attacked and murdered most of the Freedom Fighters.
After that, though, the book circles back around to deal with its own problems, specifically Diana, Wonder Girl and Ferdinand traveling to Hell for Athena. This might be the shortest book in the bunch, but it does allow Diana to fix a few of her bigger problems. This is definitely SPOILER territory, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want anything ruined. First, Diana did all this so she could bring her staffer’s son back to the land of the living. Second, she gets her vision back because Athena’s so impressed with this selfless decision. Also, Wonder Girl discovers that her dad is Zeus, which was a mystery floating around since Geoff Johns relaunched Teen Titans and seemed to be hinting that it was actually Ares.
One of the interesting elements that Rucka played with in this book is comparing Diana in all her righteous, fair-headed glory to the machinations and overall pettiness of the gods themselves. This aspect is showcased in this volume, especially given Diana’s desire to fix a problem she saw herself as the source of and do the right thing by the people she cares about.
Wonder Woman: Mission’s End (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Cliff Richards, Rags Morales, David Lopez, Ron Randall, Tom Derenick, Georges Jeanty & Karl Kerschl
Collects Wonder Woman #218-226
This is it folks, the one where everything comes to a head! We find out the truth about Jonah (the entryway character from the first volume), Diana fights a brainwashed Superman and does what she thinks is right to stop him, she goes on trial and an army of OMACs attack Paradise Island.
Alright, so let’s break this down. More SPOILERS ahead for the next two paragraphs. As it turns out, Jonah was a Checkmate spy. I don’t remember there being any indications of this up until the previous book, but that’s where that is. Rucka also wrote the OMAC tie-in mini as well as the Checkmate comic, so maybe there’s more of that character in those books that I’m forgetting.
When Wonder Woman fought Superman it was because former Justice League backer and Blue Beetle murderer Max Lord was controlling the most powerful person on the planet with relative ease. As Lord went on about how he’d never stop coming back to take over Superman, Wonder Woman believed him and snapped his neck, which just so happened to be broadcast everywhere. From there, she turned herself in, intending to go on trial, but that all got scuttled by the OMACs attacking Paradise Island. Their leader, Brother Eye was all bent out of shape because Wonder Woman killed Lord and made her public enemy number one. A massive battle ensued that only concluded when Athena decided to leave that plane of existence and take all of the Amazons — save Diana — with her.
It’s interesting looking back at this run as a whole because, for the most part, it was a Wonder Woman story that would occasionally cross over with other characters when it made sense. But, as it wrapped up, this was fully a DCU story. Infinite Crisis rewrote some chapters in the DC book and Rucka was one of the architects involved at the time. I had forgotten some of the timeframe going into this, so that was something of a surprise, but overall I think it was all handled really well.
Above I mentioned that all of the balls Rucka got rolling felt like they were well paid off in this series, but that’s not entirely true. I realized while going back through these books for this post that Veronica Cale wound up a bit on the backburner. I think she’s a super interesting character, but probably got pushed to the side as the more major players revved up towards the series’ finale. She does show up in 52, though, which might help fill in some of the questions I have about her character.
Anyway, aside from a bit of a rushed feel at the end and the fact that I wish Drew Johnson had drawn the entire series — the multiple changes in artist per volume in these last three books is kinda crazy — I’d give this entire run of comics a huge, enthusiastic thumbs up. This is what a great example, not only of a fantastic Wonder Woman comic, but a long form sequential storytelling work that shows how solidly a writer can use the long game when plotting out his work.
Five Fists Of Science (Image)
Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Steven Sanders
A few weeks back, when writing about a trio of Marvel minis from the mid 2000s, I mentioned an intended shelf cleaning project before moving. I pulled a series of trades out of my collection to re-read and see if they continue to earn shelf space. Here’s two more of those reviews.
I scored this copy of Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders’ Image Comics OGN The Five Fists Of Science back in my early Wizard days. If there was a free trade sitting around, I was likely to grab it and give it a read, especially if it had a strange or interesting concept. And this book definitely fits the bill.
Five Fists revolves around Mark Twain teaming up with his good friend Nikola Tesla and his one-handed assistant Timothy Boone to create a giant, robotic war machine that can be sold to every nation on Earth to ensure peace (the ol’ mutually assured destruction concept). They join forces with Baroness Bertha Von Suttner who introduces them to all the right people. Meanwhile, a group including J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi are erecting a building to help bring demons into our realm. See what I meant when I said “strange” and “interesting?”
The book features a nice mix of historical characters, many of them who were quite eccentric even when not dealing with demons and robots, with made-up ones to tell the kind of story you’re just not going to get anywhere else. Though, for what it’s worth, I do think this would make a ridiculously fun movie int he vein of the Sherlock Holmes films. Anyway, Fraction did a great job of make this story fun, exciting, strange and adventurous, which gets the thumbs up in my book. My only complaint is that Sanders’ art comes through a bit muddy. I’m not sure if this was a printing, inking or coloring problem, but there were a few pages here and there that were difficult to parse. It’s possible this has been change in the new printing (linked above), but I don’t know for sure as I have the one from 2006. All in all though, I had a great time revisiting this book and will be keeping it in the collection. If you’re looking for something to pass to a friend who’s into science, this is definitely on the list of passable materials.
Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities Volume 1 (Dark Horse)
Written by Eric Powell, drawn by Kyle Hotz
Collects Billy The Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities #1-4
Another Wizard acquisition, Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities comes from Goon creator Eric Powell and artist Kyle Hotz. I believe this was the first book written by Powell that I actually read as it wound up taking me years to get around to The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition Volume 1.
This book finds a freak show owner approaching Billy the Kid, who’s supposed to be dead, and offering him a job accompanying some of his performers on a mission to Europe to recover a Gollum’s heart. Said performers include the Alligator Man, the Tattooed Woman, the Wolf Boy, Watta the Wild Man and the Miniature Boy. As it turns out, the artifact is currently in the possession of another character thought long-dead: Dr. Frankenstein, who has gotten even crazier in his experiments.
One of the most impressive elements of a book like this is how Powell sucked me into the story and got me to like these characters so quickly. I mean, you’re dealing with just four issues and yet, every time someone had a nice moment I smiled and every time someone wound up on the wrong side of a monster, I felt bad. That’s just darn good yarn-weaving, right there.
Hotz deserves a lot of the credit for that as well. He does an amazing job of conveying emotion, terror, humor and action all while rendering these fantastical and monstrous looking characters. To my mind, he’s got a Kelley Jones vibe (who I love), but with his own unique, sometimes grotesque style. He and Powell not only made a fun comic I’ll be holding onto, but also two more volumes I want to check out.
The fist time I saw Night Of The Creeps was at a Manly Movie Mamajama with the Wizard gang several years back. As it happens, that’s also how I saw another Fred Dekker film, Monster Squad, for the first time. The other two films in that particular triple feature were Night Of the Comet and Nightbreed (still the only time I’ve ever seen that one). As it turns out, I remembered the least about Creeps because, as I watched this movie on Netflix in the past few weeks (it took me several viewings to finish because I take care of two very active children all day), most of the film was a surprise. Let’s blame that more on the length of time between viewings and not the presumed gallons of beer I probably drank that night.
The movie kicks off with some strange looking aliens fighting over a canister that gets knocked out the ship and heads towards Earth back in 1959. The canister lands in front of an escaped mental patient, infects him with its worminess and leads to him hacking up some kids with an axe. Flashforward to the 80s and we’re introduced to college students Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall), the young stars of the film. Chris wants to get with a girl named Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) who’s dating the head of the D-bag fraternity, so they rush. They’re then tasked with finding a dead body, so they sneak into a nearby morgue (overseen by David Paymer!) where they find the body from the beginning of the movie in suspended animation. They get him out of there and wind up unleashing the worm-like aliens on their college campus. Enter wise cracking, jaded detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who was the cop who found the maniac in the first place back in the 50s.
I mentioned above how this film took me several watches to get through. Most of that is because of the kids, but there was also a bit of a barrier for me as I tried to get into this film. I think that boils down to the film’s tone, specifically in regards to Atkins’ character. I’ve become a huge fan of that guy’s work, thanks mostly to Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch, but I just couldn’t get into his catch-phrase spouting wannabe hardboiled detective in this movie. He says “Thrill me,” so many times and it never once sounds like the kind of thing this guy would actually say.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed Lively and Marshall as the two geeky college students. They have a very realistic relationship that reminded me of the kind of thing seen more in the raunchy 80s comedies that you all know I’m a fan of. These young actors are very believable and I like the ways they got to express their characters as the story progressed. And, how can you not love a film that ends on the night of a fraternity formal with a boy in a tux and a girl in a fancy dress wielding shotguns and flamethrowers?
At the end of the day, I really want to like this movie because it mixes that great 80s comedy set-up with some pretty high quality horror special effects. It’s really too bad that Dekker — who also wrote the screenplay — decided to turn Atkins, who can handle a ton of levels even in fairly odd movies like this, into such a corny, one-note character. Just imagine if he was able to play this a little closer to Daniel Challis from Season.
It’s kind of interesting timing that I watched this Dekker film not only after he was announced as the helmer of the new Predator movie writte by Shane Black. These guys wrote Monster Squad together which is a real classic, so I’m excited to see what they can do all these years later.
After reading Sin City: Booze, Broads and Bullets, I figured I’d stick with some my shelf for further reading selections and decided it’s time to give one of my favorite comics of all time another read. Like a lot of the more progressive comics I love, I discovered Grant Morrison’s Animal Man while interning or working at Wizard. I’d read a few Morrison comics before that, specifically JLA, but hadn’t gotten into his crazier stuff. Morrison has a reputation as being weird for weird’s sake, but I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, some of his stuff is just bonkers, but as far as I’m concerned he’s just trying to go to new places in the medium. I totally get it if that’s not for you, especially if you were a big time Animal Man fan before this run which took the character and did a lot of crazy stuff with him, but I dig it.
The run follows the adventures of Buddy Baker, a man who can copy the abilities of any animal in his immediate vicinity after an alien spaceship blew up in his face. At least, that’s how it works in the beginning. Buddy’s married, has two kids and doesn’t bother with a secret identity. He also develops into a vegetarian concerned with animal rights, which makes sense when you consider his power set.
The first four issues of the series mainly focus on Animal Man trying to figure out why B’Wanna Beast is running around making disturbing animal hybrids and wrecking STAR Labs facilities. These four issues really set the stage for the series as a whole in some respects. We see the relationship between Buddy and his wife Ellen which is super realistic and one of the best superhero relationships around. Meanwhile, Morrison puts Animal Man through some standard superhero paces — fighting another hero, meeting Superman, etc. — but he puts a different spin on them. Buddy can and does throw down, but he soon finds out that it’s not the only way to solve a problem which definitely carries throughout the series.
After that initial arc, we’re treated to a series of killer single issues. #5 takes a meta approach to Looney Tunes cartoons, #6 is one of (if not THE) best Invasion tie-in, #7 finds Buddy dealing with an old villain called The Red Mask, #8 has Mirror Master invading Buddy and Ellen’s home and #9 brings in Martian Manhunter and the JLI tech team to secure the house. #5-7 are actually three of my all time favorite single issues stories because of the unique ways they look at the material and superheroes in general.
On a quick note, I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but there’s a crowd-scene skater kid in #2 with an Anthrax T-shirt and then an issue or two later we find out that the scientists were experimenting with the drug of the same name. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but reading so many Morrison comics with little hints and nods like this have primed me to look for those kinds of connections which makes for a fun reading experience. I also noticed that Ellen’s drawing a spaceship heading towards a planet in #1 that I assume refers to something, but can’t figure out what. I thought it might have been from Invasion, but that doesn’t check out.
One of the major aspects of Morrison’s run that a lot of people talk about is the meta nature of the story which ends with Animal Man actually meeting his writer, Morrison. The first volume doesn’t get into those ideas hardly at all, though #5 does prime that pump to an extent. All of that really starts coming to the surface in Origin Of Species which finds Buddy meeting the aliens who actually created him. Meanwhile, Dr. Hightwater and Psycho Pirate first enter the story, two characters who continue to break the fourth wall, revealing that some of these characters know that they are actually comic book characters. We also start seeing scenes that will make a lot more sense at the end of the next volume.
On the superhero side of things, Animal Man keeps meeting more heroesincluding Vixen, who he has a lot more in common with than just powers. A lot of this material was revisited in Dwayne McDuffie’s Justice League Of America volume called Second Coming. There’s also a pretty moving issue featuring future Aquaman co-star Dolphin and a few of the Sea Devils trying to put a stop to a gross dolphin killing ritual in Denmark. The abused animal stuff gets offset by a fun adventure with the Justice League Europe before getting back into some pretty awful things done to apes.
It’s interesting looking back at these comics from the 80s that tackled some of the real world’s horrors, especially as perpetrated on animals. These are the kinds of things you might have seen on Dateline or 20/20, but they weren’t in your comics until Morrison and creators like him went out on a limb with a potentially off-putting social perspective. They might be too in-your-face for some people and I don’t agree with everything presented in the issues, but I appreciate and respect him for going there and DC for allowing him to do these crazy things with their characters. At the same time I get that some readers just want to read about superheroes punching each other, so this probably isn’t the best comic for them.
And then things get really weird. Buddy and Highwater take peyote in the desert. Characters die. Villains help heroes. Costumes change. Revenge is had. Time is traveled. Limbo is visited. And Grant Morrison has a chat with Animal Man. I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, but I will say that this comic is both one of my favorite regular-guy-as-superhero stories as well as the best commentary-on-comics books around. The whole last conversation between Buddy and Grant should be required reading for everyone who gets bent out of shape about their favorite characters getting turned into something they don’t like. In addition to all that it’s a wonderfully plotted, long-form story that has end-of-run elements seeded going way back. Plus, above all else, it actually makes me feel things when I read it, even this second time around.
The beauty of a story like this is that it came at a time when DC Comics was allowing their creators to not only take risks with long-lasting characters, but also tell wild stories that hadn’t been done before (at least in Corporate Comics). Basically, Morrison was allowed to tell the story he wanted to tell while utilizing elements of the larger universe when they made sense. Characters weren’t just showing up to show up or boost sales, but because they made sense. Heck, Morrison got to take this idea to even crazier levels by using The Psycho Pirate and Limbo as ways to play around with pre-Crisis and alternate reality versions of the DC characters.
A lot of people have noticed connections between Morrison’s DC works. There’s quite a few to be found in these pages. First off, Animal Man is the first place he wrote the Justice League specifically characters like Superman and Martian Manhunter who he would go on to pen later on. More obviously, he created this new version of Animal Man and then returned to the character with 52 almost two decades later. Morrison also dealt with multiple realities and whatnot in Final Crisis and Superman Beyond, which also featured Limbo, Merry Man and Ace The Bat Hound all of which appear in these books.
I enjoyed reading Animal Man so much this time around that I decided to do a long-term read/re-read of his other DC Comics work I have in my collection. I don’t have Arkham Asylum, Batman: Gothic or the third and fourth JLA deluxe books but I’ve got just about everything else. I’m not only looking forward to enjoying those stories again, but also getting a better feel for the connections.