On Top of It #2: The Angel of Liquor at the Brooklyn Book Festival



On Top of It #2 by Lisa Martens

The Angel of Liquor at the Brooklyn Book Festival

This year marked the 10-year anniversary of the Brooklyn Book Festival. I love the festival; I volunteered last year, and have been behind the booth a couple times. So I went to the Brooklyn’s Book Festival with every intention of attending the panels and meeting new writers.

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Instead, I bought two books and went drinking with two friends at the Mexican restaurant across the street. My friend Isabelle actually referred to me as “the angel of liquor” because I spotted the word “tequila” through the awnings, courthouse buildings, white tents and trees.

image2My MFA friends were posting photos of the panels with all these really deep captions about what they had learned, all while I was comfortable flirting with the bartender/personal trainer who gave me a free jalapeño margarita.

I regret nothing.

Once we were sufficiently drunk, we returned to the festival. I found a book I had helped edit when I interned at Akashic (Tehran at Twilight, go buy it), chatted with one of my undergraduate professors (she told my Freshman composition class to have meaningless sex at least once, as she had in some party in the mountains), and then I felt like I had accomplished enough to go home.

When I recognize people and/or things, I feel oddly proud of myself.

The festival was all cut up due to the construction, and sadly only really lasted one day.

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Photo credit: instagram/ladyizzo

Honestly, the best part of the Brooklyn Book Festival was the series of free Bookend Events. It started with a Tumblr party at The Bell House. No books were involved in this event, unless you count the erotic novel I read while waiting on line. I requested “Fuckin’ Problems” and DJ Shiftee was kind enough to spin it.

On Friday, September 21, the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series really tugged at my heartstrings. The reading was held at St. Ann & Holy Trinity Church, so I felt kind of weird drinking in a house of God, but I got over it.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a rock star poet with a soft-spoken voice. She’s also a photographer. Check out her amazing hair over on her Instagram feed.

Oh, and her poetry made me want to rip out my heart and never have babies so I could never feel pain ever again.

Something like that.


Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #8: Romeo and Juliet (1968)


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The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #8 by John King

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film 3

Shakespeare in Love is a meta-narrative that simultaneously enacts Romeo and Juliet while imagining the story behind the play’s composition.

So it’s about time I reviewed a straightforward Romeo and Juliet, so let’s talk about Franco Zeffirelli’s version from 1968.

Romeo and Juliet poster

This is the only good cinematic R&J I know of, apart from Shakespeare in Love.

At the height of the psychedelic era, Zeffirelli went with a traditional setting: the early Renaissance, in a Verona that actually looks like an Italian city from that era.

While I am not against some Modern re-settings of the plays, and not even against anachronistically jumbling several eras, depending on the context, the psychology of Romeo and Juliet, in particular the psychology of Juliet, needs to be understood in a much more patriarchal world.

More on this later.

Romeo and Juliet fight

The male citizenry of Verona seem prone to violence, but that may be because everyone is wearing codpieces that are painfully tight.

The Codpieces of Romeo and Juliet

My late colleague, Kevin Crawford, once pointed out to me that Zeffirelli’s shrewdness in approaching the violence of this tragedy is to have most of it be realistically awkward and inept. Some of these men and boys might know how to fight, but outside the context of a duel, the result is farcical chaos that nevertheless causes havoc in the marketplace and town. Men’s fists are bent at the wrist as they try to pummel each other in close quarters in the mud, in their colorful, striped breeches. Terrified chickens and furniture get in the way.

The weird scope of the wretched melee of Act I is important, as it sets up the drama, and the heartwarming and heartbreaking turns of the back-to-back fights in Act III.

Oh, right. This is a love story.

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While a terrible Romeo can ruin any R&J, the litmus test of any production is the quality of its Juliet, because that is the most difficult part to pull off.

Juliet is smarter than Romeo, yet she “hath not seen the change of fourteen years.”

Romeo is a teenaged serial lovelorn seeker of unrequited love (emo before there was emo), a dope who can’t help falling psychotically in love with women–in fact, he was at the Capulet’s party to prove he could not find another woman more beautiful than Rosaline when he sees Juliet. Zeffirelli carefully shows Romeo watching Rosaline intently, the camera following her dancing–when Juliet is seen behind her, and the camera cannot look away from Olivia Hussey, I mean Juliet.

ROMEO AND JULIET, from left: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, 1968

According to IMDB, Hussey was only fifteen when working on this film; according to math, she was seventeen, or perhaps sixteen, or both, unless the film was made two years prior to its release.

Something about her–her costume, her poise, her youth mixed with such “change”–lets us believe that not only would Romeo find her so much more beautiful than the perfectly beautiful, Rosaline, but that his claim that she has ended his youthful, changeable longings might also be right.

But Olivia Hussey can act. As I said, Juliet is the toughest part, because she must withstand Romeo’s advances and negotiate his commitment to her, all while being dazed by her own feelings of love for him.

Her father seems reluctant to see her wed in Act I, but that changes after her cousin Tybalt’s murder by Romeo.

I remember reading Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade, and asking my teacher why Juliet didn’t just run away to be with Romeo when he was exiled from Verona. When they meet outside her balcony, she even tells Romeo that if they wed, “all my fortunes at thy foot I’ll lay / And follow thee my lord throughout the world.”

Eloping a few days after their secret wedding! Why is that not a better plan than elaborately faking a suicide?

Sure, the Friar is hoping to mend the feud between Montagues and Capulets, but who cares what he wants. Why did Juliet accede to this freakishly dangerous plan when her father threatens to disown her?

Dunno, my teacher said, as she tried to keep a student from smashing another student to death with his desk.

Bad things happen when you read Shakespeare’s plays without seeing them performed.

The answer is, of course, that Juliet cannot easily imagine that she can be a wife, but no longer be a Capulet–no longer be her father’s daughter. Once again, she isn’t yet fourteen.

Romeo and Juliet Kiss

Juliet trusts the priest, after the nurse betrays her, but swearing that heart and soul she thinks Juliet should marry the plan Paris because of her father’s wishes, and because a relationship with Romeo would be doomed. This after the nurse has been so complicit in her charge’s relationship with Romeo.

When Juliet awakes in the tomb next to Romeo’s corpse, the good Friar whines, “A greater power than we can contradict / Hath thwarted our intents.” Sure, blame God for making that horrible plan backfire.

I can have these observations about the psychodynamics of Romeo and Juliet because the movie is good rather than screamingly stupid (I am looking at you, Baz Luhrmann).

The cast includes Michael York (who you might know as Basil Exposition, Logan of Logan’s Run, or the Brian Roberts from Cabaret), Milo O’Shea, and Leonard Whiting as Romeo. Laurence Olivier visited the set and talked his way into the movie as the prologue, and other voices.

Often when directors stay especially traditional in setting, the effect is dusty boredom, but that isn’t at all the case with this Romeo and Juliet. It’s a gem.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 174: Vanessa Blakeslee!


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Episode 174 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview my occasional co-host Vanessa Blakeslee about her new novel, Juventud,

Photo by Ashley Inguanta.

Photo by Ashley Inguanta.

plus James Stewart III writes about how reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest changed his life.

James Stewart III



Infinite Jest


  • Come see Vanessa on book tour, including her upcoming appearance on October 18th in the Sunday Salon series with Orlando Ferrand, Anu Jindal, and Asali Solomon. The reading starts at 7 P.M. at Jimmy’s #43 at 43 E 7th Street, NY, NY.

Vanessa Blakeslee Book Tour

Episode 174 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #107: The Hills Have Eyes



The Curator of Schlock #107 by Jeff Shuster

The Hills Have Eyes

(Now that’s a scary title for a movie)

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Your Curator of Shock continues our celebration of the Maestro of Maniacs, Wes Craven! Tonight’s feature presentation is 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. To think, this movie came out a couple months after a little movie called Star Wars. I mention that for no reason in particular except that the country has Star Wars fever and there’s no reason why this blog shouldn’t be saturated with it. Let’s just say I’ve got a surprise for you Star Wars fans coming in November.

The Hills Have Eyes is a fun little film about a family on vacation who get attacked by a family of mutant cannibals.


Right off the bat, I’m getting very frustrated with this movie because they’re just way too many characters. It’s like watching The Fellowship of the Ring again. I guess you could argue that this movie is about two families. One is the Carters, an all-American family who have the same last name as the then-sitting President. The other family doesn’t have a name, but we’ll call them the Cannibals.

The patriarch of the Cannibal family is Papa Jupiter. I guess the US government was testing nukes nearby while his mother was pregnant and all that radiation made her give birth to a mutant cannibal. Now I don’t want to hear your hippie objections. The Cold War was still running strong and we had to show that bear in the woods that we meant business. If a few mutant cannibals got born as a result, so be it. We were a number of years off before Sylvester Stallone would end the Cold War for our great nation.


As for the Carter family, I’ll do my best run through the family members. We have old man Carter, a retired police officer with a bum ticker, his wife cooks hamburgers and screams at him while he’s driving so he’ll crash into a bush leaving them stranded in the middle a desert.


They have a daughter who’s played by Dee Wallace and her husband who’s played by Sonny Bono or a guy that looks like Sonny Bono. They have a baby daughter named Katie that Papa Jupiter will later refer to as “tenderloin,” but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are also a couple of teenagers named Bobby and Brenda and a couple of dogs named Beauty and Beast.


After the car accident, the Carter family decides to set up camp. Old man Carter heads back to a gas station run by a guy who kept warning them to “Stay on the main road!” Sonny Bono heads on out to an abandoned military base. I’m sure the two of them will be fine. The dogs go running off into the hills. Bobby finds Beauty gutted like a fish and gets spooked by one of the crazy men in the bushes. Bobby gets back to the camp, but keeps a tight lip on what happened to the dog. Yeah, maybe this is vital information that your family needs! They’ll be cannibal food regardless.


Five Things I Learned from The Hills Have Eyes

  1. Mutant are people too…No, they’re not. They’re mutants!
  2. Blueberry Frosted Mini Wheats are the cereal they serve in hell. Okay, I didn’t learn that from the movie, but they really are awful.
  3. If you kill Beauty, you’d best be sure to kill Beast because dog will seek revenge. I’m serious. He’s the most competent member of the Carter family.
  4. Casual wear from the 1970s looks terribly uncomfortable to wear.
  5. Never go outside when you hear a noise!


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

McMillan’s Codex #7: Skyrim


McMillan’s Codex #7 By C.T. McMillan


Norse mythology is the basis for our modern understanding of fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien might have written the book on fantasy, but it was the Poetic and Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson where he took inspiration. Few know elves, orks, and dwarves come from the Vikings, a culture vilified for their attacks on Christianity and unknown for their contributions to exploration and seafaring technology. Their legends are the most enduring and best represented in Bethesda Softworks’ Skyrim.

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As the fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim takes after traditional fantasy and in-series continuity, but barrows more from Norse mythology. From religion to minute details included for reference, everything can be traced back to the centuries old stories that inspired Tolkien. The name Skyrim is derived from Skrymir, the king of the Frost Giants. One of the enemies called Draugr are undead warriors that lived in their graves and guarded treasure. The game even adopts elements from Viking history for some of its story.

Players have a choice of whom they want be by tailoring their character in the traditional roleplaying sense. Skills level up according to how players fight and interact with the world. Using a great sword tempers their ability to perform decapitations, archery allows better shots, and casting spells opens up a chance to use more powerful magic. The open world of Skyrim and the ability to complete quests in a variety of ways allows players to adapt their skills to play how they want.

Though the Elder Scrolls games have an aesthetic of fantasy mixed with Medieval Europe, Skyrim took inspiration from farther north. The most obvious proof is in the region of the same name. Skyrim is mountainous and untamed with rolling plains and snow-covered tundra. The coast is sheeted in layers of ice incasing long forgotten dungeons while southward exists in perpetual autumn. The architecture is derived from traditional Norse structures with an artistic flair. In towns and cities stand long houses and stave churches with intricate designs and effigies carved into wood and stone. The many weapons and armor bear the Norse touch with great axes, swords with small hilts, and rounded shields adorned in complex knots and symbols. The accents of the characters and names are also Scandinavian in origin.

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The religion of the Elder Scrolls is a polytheistic faith of the Nine Divines, but Skyrim has its own belief system. Its pantheon is similar to the Divines in the same way as Greek and Roman mythology. Its concept of the afterlife, however, is a Valhalla equivalent called Sovngarde, a great hall where dead champions eat, drink, and fight for eternity. To earn a seat, men and women must not only be good and honorable in life, but a warrior with many battles to their name. This deification of violence and soldiers is consistent with the Viking way of thinking when it came to war. It is true they were marauders who killed children for fun, but when faced in an actual battle, the Norse people were as honorable as samurai.

The story of Skyrim is centered on dragons, a common motif in Norse mythology. The antagonist is a dragon called Alduin, the World Eater, who has returned after a 1000-year banishment to reassert control over the world. In Norse mythology, there are two prominent dragons: Nidhogg, the Corpse Eater, and Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent. Both are servants of Loki, the catalyst of Ragnarok, an apocalypse scenario where Jormungandr destroys the world and dies at the hands of Thor. The story of Skyrim is very similar as Alduin gathers an army of dragons that the protagonist must defeat.

The political system and history of Skyrim are reflective of the Vikings. Across the game world are a number of cities overseen by a jarl. Under the jarl are thanes, nobles of lower worth. Above the jarls is a king elected at a meeting of the jarls called a moot. One subplot involves a civil war between the High Elf ruled Imperials and the opposing Nords called Stormcloaks. The political schism has caused the jarls to take sides as the factions vie for control. Viking history features many instances of conflict as clans fought one another to supplant control over the whole. The dynamic between the Imperials and Stormcloaks is similar to the Christian encroachment on Scandinavia that brought the Viking Age to the end.

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True Norse mythology and the Vikings were under represented in videogames before Skyrim. From the war-worship to the aesthetic, the game pays respect to the long misunderstood peoples that once struck fear into the hearts of the innocent throughout Medieval Europe. Skyrim broke fantasy convention and portrayed its elements in an unfiltered light that speaks true to the source material. It is as much a good game as a celebration of Norse mythology and culture.


Charles McMillan

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.

On Top of It #1: The Cube



On Top of It #1 by Lisa Martens

The Cube

I live in half of a living room in Harlem. My room calls it “The Cube” or, more preciously, the “open-plan Japanese-style abode.”

The Cube is roped off by bookshelves and generic Chinese screens, like in massage rooms. Sometimes the room separators fall down, so I have piles of books that I use as curtains. Atop one stack: Jurassic Park, Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl, and Slavoj Zizek’s God in Pain.

The Cube

The above photo of the screens show the view of my cube from the kitchen. The photo with the bed, desk, and painting of a feminine man tied up shows my cube when it’s clean (a rarity).

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The first and only time I had sex in The Cube was when I first moved in and literally just owned a mattress on the floor. I hope I provided a classy experience for that gentleman.

I got a smaller bed for The Cube so I could fit a desk, which is where I am writing from right now.

I moved to New York ten years ago. I lived in Long Island, went to Long Island University, then switched to NYU, moved to Queens, then Hell’s Kitchen (where I also lived in a living room), then back to Long Island, then to Costa Rica for a few months, back to Queens, then Harlem, then Brooklyn, and now I’m back in Harlem. I briefly lived in my old office, on Governors Island, and in the architecture building of CCNY. I’ve been getting through this city as successfully as someone walking through the Grand Canyon on glass bottles.

I’m on top of it.

My short-term goals include working for cash. Keeping my loans out of default is also relatively important.

Getting consistently laid would be nice, but really I want the INEZ by Lelo, which is the Masarati of vibrators.

My ultimate hope is to get Instagram famous and then get a book deal and then fade into obscurity. I also aspire to wear boots all the time, even when naked.

Maybe I’ll adopt a kid or two one day.

Right now, I’m as stable as Wile E. Coyote wearing a jetpack (if he had student loans).

I’m on top of it.

See you next Monday.


12067174_10100962425284175_628850930_nLisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.

The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #7: Shakespeare in Love (1998)



The Rogue’s Guide to Shakespeare on Film #7 by John King

Shakespeare in Love

Rogues Guide to Shakes on Film

Sooner or later, we had to talk about Shakespeare in Love.


This is kind of the British version of a Hollywood-does-Shakespeare treatment.

Joseph Fiennes, brother to Ralph Fiennes, plays Shakespeare.


Rupert Everett plays the playright Philip Marlow. Judi Dench plays an imperious Queen Elizabeth.

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Simon Callow plays the Master of the Revels. Martin Clunes plays the actor Richard Burbage. Imelda Staunton plays the real-world equivalent of Juliet’s nurse. Colin Firth, who graduate students in my day pined over as Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, plays the monstrously-arrogant Lord Wessex.

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Tom Wilkinson plays Hugh Fennyman.

Geoffrey Rush, who is Australian, plays theatre-owner Philip Henslowe.


From Hollywood, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Viola De Lesseps, and Ben Affleck plays Ned Alleyn, actor extraordinaire.

The premise is that Shakespeare is a scattered genius who stole ideas and lines from the very atmosphere of London, and the plot of Romeo and Juliet from the love affair he was having at the time. For hardcore Shakespeareans, there is an abundance of inside jokes.

Of course, the entire film is an inside joke—the Elizabethan period is both worshipfully recreated and occasionally undercut by a postmodern understanding of history and psychology.

Tom Stoppard co-wrote Shakespeare in Love with Marc Norman, a mysterious television and film writer who wrote an episode of Mission Impossible in 1970, and directed three episodes of White Shadow. Marc Norman has a decade-long gap in his career from 1985 to 1995. In that mid-nineties return, he wrote the Geena Davis pirate-epic Cutthroat Island.

Cutthroat Island

Shakespeare in Love won the best picture Oscar for 1998. I like it anyway.

What I want to know is how Stoppard and Norman collaborated on the script. The idea that Shakespeare was not some absolute literary deity was put forth in Stoppard’s 1976 play, The Fifteen Minute Hamlet (filmed in 1995), and one is inclined to believe that Stoppard did most of the work. It is that witty, despite the occasional Hollywood flourish and old-fashioned mores that one might be inclined to assign to Norman.

Then again, if the thesis of Shakespeare in Love is correct, then perhaps Norman is responsible for much of what was good in the screenplay, and dignified and ennobled Stoppard’s contributions, whatever they are.

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The occasional Hollywood moments make the film seem momentarily trite, or too contrived, but the climax of the film, and the major moments of the film, manage to be compelling work.

And the acting is top-notch. Even the Americans perform well, including Ben Affleck. Especially Ben Affleck.

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If you have watched Romeo and Juliet lately (a good version, say Franco Zeffirelli’s, and not Baz fucking Luhrmann’s), then Shakespeare in Love is a fine film, better than many more serious, straightforward adaptations of the bard’s work.

The idea of Shakespeare being a horn-dog and a playwright capable of sublime affection is a dialectic that feels about right. And its thesis—that if we are imaginative enough, we can survive love—is an impressive one.



John King (Episode, well, all of them) holds a PhD in English from Purdue University, and an MFA from New York University. He has reviewed performances for Shakespeare Bulletin.

Episode 173: A Roundtable Discussion About Edgar Allan Poe


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Episode 173 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, we have a roundtable discussion of Edgar Allan Poe.


Present for this discussion were Jared Silvia,



Shawn Whittington,


Dianne Turgeon Richardson,


Matt Peters,


and Teege Braune,



Jared, put THAT damned knife away.


So you’re saying my thesis isn’t solid? Really?



Check out the sweet swag in The Drunken Odyssey‘s fundraiser here.

Tom Lucas Sporting a TDO T-shirt

Check out these Burrow Press events. Literary Death Match will be judged by Billy Collins.


Saturday October 3rd  |  Functionally Literate Presents:

Lowndes Shakespeare Center  |  812 E. Rollins Street
7pm  |  FREE  |  No ticket necessary.

Wednesday October 7th  |  Literary Death Match Presents:

Mad Cow Theatre  |  54 W. Church Street, 2nd Floor
Doors at 7pm  |  Show at 8pm
$12 pre-sale  |  $15 at the door.


Episode 173 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #106: The Last House on the Left

The Curator of Schlock #106 by Jeff Shuster

The Last House on the Left

The story is true…


 It’s October again, the time of year where your Curator of Schlock transforms into the Curator of Shock!

Cue the lightning strike!

With the recent passing of Wes Craven, your curator feels it’s his duty to pay tribute one of The Masters of Horror. Funny how he never directed an episode of Masters of Horror, that short lived Showtime anthology series where they’d get a different horror director to direct a “one hour movie.” I remember that one John McNaughton directed where this woman has sex with zombies. Really? I don’t mean to sound like a prude, but really?

Our first Wes Craven movie is The Last House on the Left. The movie starts out with the claim that the events being depicted are true. I remember when I first purchased The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on DVD back in 1998 (I’ve bought it 4 more times since), my mom flipped out saying, “How can you buy a movie that celebrates those people?” The people she was referring to were the Sawyer Family, a group of cannibals that terrorized Texas in the 1970s. The trailers for that film stated, “The Story is True.” My friend Emilio from Dallas swears they caught one of them and before they gave him the chair, Mr. Sawyer blurted out, “Bubba’s going to come for you. Bubba’s going to come for all of you.”

Of course, there never was a cannibalistic Sawyer family and there never was.

We don’t get cannibals in The Last House on the Left, instead having to settle for bunch of degenerate thieves, murderers, rapists, and pedophiles on the run from the law, the kind of criminal lowlifes Paul Kersey wouldn’t have wasted a second bullet on.


Come on, there’s one guy named Junior who croaks like a frog.


He’s also addicted to drugs, obviously. The other gang members are named Krug, Sadie, and Weasel.

The movie starts out with 17 year-old Mari Collingwood who’s going out to a concert with her friend, Phyllis. Before she heads out, her parents complain that she isn’t wearing a bra, and she retorts that the bras her mother wore back in the 1950s were shaped like torpedoes. The whole conversation made me very uncomfortable, a prelude of things to come. Mari and Phyllis try to score some weed before the rock concert, but their plan goes awry when that sadistic gang I mentioned earlier kidnaps them.


Bad things happen to Mari and Phyllis from here on out. It doesn’t end well for them, and we’re left to believe that this gang will get away with what they’ve done until they arrive at the house of Mari’s parents, who take them in for the night.


What will happen to the gang once Mari’s parents figure out what they did to their daughter? Let’s just say that Mari’s dad let’s his chainsaw do the talking.

Is this a sick movie? Yes. I remember hearing Joe Bob Briggs comment on how audiences back in the day shouted at the projectionist to turn the movie off. I wonder if the projectionist did. Is there a code projectionists live by?


Jeffrey Shuster 4

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

McMillan’s Codex #6: Bloodborne


McMillan’s Codex #6 By C.T. McMillan


It is not often cult authors like H.P. Lovecraft receive such a following in today’s world. His stories of cosmic horror and beings so incomprehensible they drive men insane have captivated young and old readers a like. Over the years entertainment media has used Lovecraft as an inspiration with varying degrees of success. The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness, Prometheus, and even Pacific Rim are good movie examples, while videogames struggle to embrace Lovecraft beyond clever references. Game director Hidetaka Miyazaki, however, took the challenge and made Bloodborne.

Bloodborne 1

Miyazaki is known for the Souls series, action RPGs renowned for their difficulty. Each game is a spiritual successor to the other, and Bloodborne is no different. Even the animations and story telling are the same, with the exception of its combat.   Bloodborne is a fast character action game with an emphasis on offense. The player is encouraged to attack due to the lack of a defensive option and you can only regain health by attacking. Along with the fast combat are aspects of role playing that allow you to level up and build a character suited to your play style by gaining points called blood echoes.

The world and its mechanics are designed around a combination of cosmic and body horror. As per Lovecraft, the world slowly goes insane and undergoes a transformation. A staple of body horror is what you cannot see is affecting you on the inside. In the story, a plague is turning people into monsters and forces unseen twist flesh into grotesque abominations. Mosquito-men hover on buzzing wings, human enemies suddenly sprout snakes from their heads, and animated piles of corpses drip and ooze grime as they crawl. It is implied the player is infected with the plague and sets out on a journey to find a cure.

Bloodborne can be enjoyed on aesthetics alone with its mix of gothic and Victorian styled architecture. Pointed spires atop cathedral-esque buildings reach into the perpetually night sky, streets and alleys fold in on each other as they descend deeper towards the depths, and statues line walkways and bridges. As the game progresses the aesthetic becomes as morphed and grotesque as the enemies. Statues turn into monstrous beings and on the walls of buildings effigies of people stare out in frozen horror as if absorbed by the masonry. The game’s tone is also reflective of the style. After men of science tamper with powers unknown, madness and plague consume the world on an apocalyptic scale. As a Hunter, it is your job to right the wrongs and expunge the monsters to bring light to the darkness.

Bloodborne 2

The religion of Bloodborne is very much inspired by the Cthulhu mythos. The gods, known as Great Ones, are inter-dimensional aliens whose influence is inescapable and omniscient. The Healing Church, the in-game ecclesia, worships the Great Ones and conducts experiments on ordinary people to be closer to them. The town in which they are located, Central Yharnam, is a parallel to Innsmouth, rife with crazed fanatics. In their pursuit of seeking their gods’ wisdom, disciples of the Church are driven mad and it is believed they might have caused the plague. The Hunters are a response to the Church and it is alleged they were created by the Great Ones to put a stop to their activities.

Some of the bosses bear a direct resemblance to Lovecraft’s infamous creatures. Ebrietas is similar to Yog-Sothoth, a mass of tentacles with wings and a bristled mouth that shows a portal to the cosmos. Throughout the game the protagonist gains an item called Madman’s Knowledge that when consumed, reveals giant multi-armed Amygdala monsters clinging to the game’s buildings. Amygdala has a lot in common with Cthulhu with its beard of tentacles on a face of many eyes. Mergo’s Wet Nurse is less obvious about its inspiration, wearing cloth over its body and arms. Its face is uncovered but invisible, creating a sense it is too otherworldly to comprehend.

Bloodborne 3

Bloodborne is a game Lovecraft fans will enjoy. Though no directly based on his work, it was certainly inspired. From the fully realized world of death and decay, to the slow encroaching madness that seeks to consume it, never has cosmic horror been faithfully applied in a videogame. Hidetaka Miyazaki knew better than anyone how to do Lovecraft right and exceeded all expectations. If you can adapt to the difficulty, it is worth getting used to dying few dozen times.


Charles McMillan

C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer.  He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.


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