Archive for October, 2008

There are no monsters in The Signal. There’s just us.

As zombies have come back into vogue, it’s become standard in movies to develop a new angle (“What if zombies were fast?”, etc.). When The Signal started off by infecting an entire city via a bizarre transmission through the TV, radio, and telephones, I thought, “OK, cute twist, being made zombies by our own technology.”

Then, ten minutes later I found myself quite proud of the movie for not using this as an explanation for zombies, but rather for a violent mass psychosis. This is different. As one character explains it:

“People going crazy in their head all over. At first, it’s just murder. The crazy, you know, kill anybody, everybody, each other, indiscriminate. It looks like chaos. But then I realize they’re thinking. Then I get really scared because it’s rational. They know what they’re doing. I mean, they think it makes sense, but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s different for everybody. Let me tell you, they are going to fucking murder the world.”

Suddenly we realize we’re not watching a “survive against monsters” movie. We’re watching what happens when everyone goes mad at the same time.



[A not-exactly-advance-per-se review by internationally-renowned book critic and nationally-renowned badass Chris Hsiang]

[This review appears in a slightly different form in Dispatches From the Border, the newsletter for Borderlands Books.]

At last, after all the waiting, it happens: the faint signals from an alien civilization have been detected. The whole planet is thrilled and inspired by the revelation: “We Are Not Alone!” The entire globe’s science and technology are kicked into high-gear, launching an expedition to their new-found neighbors. They convert an asteroid into a generation ark, fill it with the best and the brightest, and cast them off for the long voyage across the void. After many lonely decades the ship finally reaches that Little Blue Marble, stealthily inserts itself in orbit, and hunkers down to learn from the various entertainment and news broadcasts from the planet Earth.

A young couple is staying at a secluded family cabin after a wedding – and after a rebuffed proposal by the boyfriend. So things are…tense. They are made decidedly more tense when a silent, masked trio targets them for a terror campaign. They spend the entire night meticulously working the couple’s nerves with a series of physical and psychological attacks, until morning brings the inevitable confrontation.

“This isn’t a horror film,” says director Bryan Bertino of his movie, “It’s a terror film.” And he is absolutely right. The Strangers is a film entirely concerned with terrifying its audience, and in that sense, it’s very effective.


On Saturday night, I went to the 215 Literary Festival, where I got to see John Hodgman.  That’s right:  John Hodgman.  You’ll have to forgive me if I seem a little unusually enthusiastic about the idea, but it’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever met someone even remotely famous, much less a MINOR TELEVISION PERSONALITY, and frequent guest-star on THE DAILY SHOW.


Curse You, Warren Ellis!

Posted: October 24, 2008 in Braak
Tags: ,

Illimitable bastard Warren Ellis has, yet again, seen fit to thwart me.  Now available for purchase is his graphic novella, Aetheric Mechanics, a book that has basically exactly the same plot as my own novel, The Translated Man.  Only, because Warren Ellis is Warren Ellis, and I’m just me, he gets his zany ideas published almost as fast as he can think of them, and it’s going to be ten fucking years before I can even get a publisher to read mine.

I am making a list of things I hate about him.  When it is long enough, I will roll it up and beat him with it.

Jaime had suggested Dolls, a horror movie that scared her when she was young. And the premise – killer porcelain dolls – is one that easily gives me the willies.

(There was this show when I was little, “Tales from the Dark Side.” It was so scary to me, as a four-year-old, that the credits alone gave me nightmares. In particular was this quick-zoom up to the face of a porcelain doll, who opened her eyes right as the music vamped up. Scared the crap out of me.)

So I had a good feeling that Dolls would push those irrational-fear buttons I look for in horror movies.

It took me ten minutes to realize it was a comedy. It took me 20 (and IMDB) to realize it was horror-comedy by the guy who directed Re-Animator. And only after learning that did I decide to soldier on through another hour of vaudevillian acting, silly special effects, and a plot that went for cutesy fun (something about finding your inner child…or else!) when it had the potential for real scary moments.

As some of you may know, I have a habit of making fun of idiots, both here and in reality. Ordinarily, I make fun of relevant idiots–or, like Stephen Baldwin, at least idiots that have busy schedules. Every once in a while, though, I end up picking a fight with an idiot that apparently has nothing better to do than rise to the implicit challenge that I offer: “Just how fucking stupid are you?”

And, oh my, the writer and readers of the fascinating study in political dumbfuckery that I linked to earlier, Rosetta the Racist, did not disappoint.

[UPDATE:  It’s been pointed out to me that some commenters lack the courage of their convictions, and would prefer to continue to lurk behind their masks of anonymity.  I have obligingly removed their e-mail addresses from this post, which were included due to oversight.]