Archive for October, 2009

tqp-logo-readyLadies and gents, welcome to the final of our four secret initiatives trotted out over the last couple months: Burn Down Bloody Twilight, a new novel from Jeff Holland, co-writer of Threat Quality Press.

Burn Down Bloody Twilight is an action-adventure, a fairy-tale for adults, and a western playing in the fantasy sandbox. It’s about people destroying their home in order to save it, and confronting their own gloomy pasts in the process.

More to the point: it’s a book with a lot of swashbuckling, hard drinking, sword fighting, zombie killing, and zippy dialogue – in other words, all the things I wanted to read in a book? I put in a book.

Let’s let the back-cover blurb do the heavy lifting:

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The Secret History of Science Fiction

Posted: October 29, 2009 in reviews
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As promised!  If you want to keep up with Friend of Threat Quality Chris Hsiang’s excellent science fiction reviews, you’re welcome to just keep a half an eye on Threat Quality Press, as we’re alway pleased to link to them:

Tachyon Publications has a new anthology out calledThe Secret History of Science Fiction. It centers around a subject that has sparked countless debates and rants among Science Fiction fans. And no, it’s not River Tam vs. James T. Kirk.

Read more!

I am fighting a losing battle with horror movies, because ultimately I find ideas a lot scarier than images. And horror movies (and the devoted FX people who work on them) tend to focus on the visuals.

But while individually, these movies – particularly those in a sci-fi/horror vein – often lack in the story area, the visuals carry an overarching theme: DO NOT SCREW AROUND WITH SCIENCE. (more…)

A Hierarchy of Monsters

Posted: October 28, 2009 in Braak
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Over at io9, they’re doing another one of those “who would win?” voting contests, this time between classic horror monsters.  This is, obviously, madness–the general population is ignorant as to the nature and danger of assorted monsters, and consequently their opinions on the potency of those monsters is suspect.  This is evidenced by the very first competition:  “Zombie versus Mummy,” in which Zombies won by about 30%.

This is nonsense, and it needs to be rectified.  I am going to explain the order that the monsters go in, so that it can be settled.  In the future, if your children ask you, “Who would win in a fight?  The Mummy or the Wolf-Man?” please refer them to this list, as it will save a lot of time.

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So what is it that disturbs you, Holland?

Well, going down the checklist, let’s see…

End of the LineSubways after nightfall scare me. Nothing amplifies the feeling of being utterly alone and vulnerable like a subway platform around midnight. Look in either direction and you can see there’s no one there to help you. Look at the empty tracks and you know there’s no fast escape. Add to that the nagging feeling that there are underground threats you can’t prepare for – mole people, giant spiders, meth-addled hobos, whatever.

Fundamentalist Christian Cults scare me. The glazed eyes, the dowdy uniform dress, the vacant smiles… but ultimately, what unnerves me is the possibility that they believe more than I don’t. That their fanaticism is more powerful in some way than good ol’ fashioned logic.

The Apocalypse scares me. Not, like, “Mad Max” apocalypse – though not really something I’d like to live through either – but the Biblical Revelation of the End of Days. You’re reading some pleasant series of parables explaining why you should do right by your fellow man and then BAM! Turns out apparently part of being Christian is also getting involved in some epic battle against horrible demons and shit.

That makeup effect where the skin starts growing over a person’s eyes and mouth. Freaks me right the hell out.

Getting stabbed. Not that there are a lot of ways I would like to be violently assaulted, end of the line 2but…knives are definitely in the top two of ways I would not.

So. If the 2007 horror movie End of the Line features dark subway tunnels, lunatic  fundamentalists, the Capital-A Apocalypse, the gross mouth-thing, AND a whole buncha pretty gruesome stabbings…why is it…uhm…agonizingly awful?

Turns out, there are two things that can kill what should be sure-fire horror: Terrible acting, and French-Canadians.

When writer-director-producer-I’m-sure-he’s-got-a-cameo-on-screen-somewhere Maurice Devereaux was typing out his script, I’m sure he thought he was writing absolute gold. A fundamentalist cult decides to “purify” – in the stabby sense – isolated subway passengers because they believe the Apocalypse is about to happen (and oh crap they might be right!)? Where could that possibly go wrong?

At about the casting stage, I’d imagine. This movie boasts the absolute best in no-name, no-experience Canadian (and Finnish!) actors, who have two ranges – screaming, and delivering already awkward lines in the most halting of ways. Except for one gloriously hammy actor, whose enthusiastic scene-chewing drives a truck through the gaping plot hole of how exactly a face-licking, rape-happy psychotic got to be a lieutenant in a chaste Christian organization.

I’m being charitable here – the problems probably started with the script, which features two favorite pet peeves of mine: saying the name of the movie several times (yes, “End of the line” does have both a literal and figurative meaning, good of you to notice, repeatedly!), and one bit character telling the lead point-blank what her only defining characteristic is (“tough cookie,” though again, we’re being charitable).

The final lesson: Web sites devoted to movies that premiere at horror film fests and then shoot straight to DVD are remarkably generous with their good notices.

The Drowning City and Fantasy Naming

Posted: October 26, 2009 in Braak
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When I was a kid, the teachers at my high school made bets about how many fantasy names I’d have in my head by the time I finished college.  The numbers were up there.  A thousand, maybe?  I read a lot of fantasy novels and, until recently, never had any trouble keeping track of names.

UNTIL RECENTLY, when I realized I’m fucking old.

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david_spade1Apparently David Spade needs money.

A lot of money. And QUICKLY. I can only assume that he placed a lot of bad bets at the dog track – a LOT of bad bets (never pick a dog named “Lasty” for the win, kids) – and his loan shark is deeply interested in hearing how Spade might squeal when he’s not doing it to be funny.

How else can anyone explain Spade reenacting a scene from Tommy Boy for DirecTV, complete with dead Chris Farley?

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Drag 1Your enjoyment of Drag Me to Hell will largely play towards how much you like Sam Raimi movies, and whether you have any particular aversion to Justin Long.

The Raimi issue: Tonally, it’s not nearly as “adult” or invested in its mood as a Simple Plan or The Gift; nor is it as knowingly goofy as the Evil Dead and Darkman movies. But it’s far more sleek and confident than the rambling, bulky Spider-Man movies, and it also avoids the odd choice those movies made of casting bit actors who can’t act.

As for Justin Long: Well, I like him. And here he plays a remarkably supportive boyfriend, which is a nice change of pace from the usual “dick boyfriend” usually featured in horror movies (looking at you, Xander Berkeley in Candyman). So.

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I never would have guessed that the funniest mad-scientist flick I would watch this weekend altered states 4wouldn’t be Bride of Re-Animator. No, that honor belongs to Altered States, a movie so hilariously awful that it has made me retroactively reconsider my love of writer Paddy Chayefsky’s previous effort, Network.

The first half hour (because this is not a seriously recommended movie, there will be spoilers) is devoted to scenes that are usually, RIGHTLY, glossed over with a few lines of exposition. Instead of a throwaway line like “Oh, they’re getting divorced,” we get to see how (cold, dickish…well, “William-Hurt-ish,” really) William Hurt and Blair Brown meet, get married and drift apart. Instead of “This psychotropic serum came from a Mexican mushroom ritual I sat in on,” we get to see Hurt travel to Mexico, meet with a guide, talk about what he may experience, then watch him take part in the ritual, then watch his hallucination at ludicrously extended length.

For my money, though, the best “Tell, don’t show, and then hell, let’s show!” moment comes when a post-coital Hurt launches into a long and bizarrely personal story (for a first date) about how his dad’s death from cancer caused his lapsed Catholicism – right before the next scene, where a sensory deprivation tank-induced hallucination drives all this home with bulldozer subtlety.

Then the plot actually starts.

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Still On Reviews

Posted: October 21, 2009 in Braak
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It’s tricky for me, once I start thinking about a thing, to stop thinking about a thing.  Probably because I never reach any actual conclusions, and this hinders my ability to establish closure on subjects.  But I was talking about reviewing on Monday, and there are a couple of things I still want to have some words about.  Specifically, I want to go back to utility reviews, and how they’ve been affected by Amazon.

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