In this week’s episode, I talk with Vanessa Blakeslee about E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel as my copy of it crumbled and dissolved. I defend the honor of Henry James at great length from both Forster and Vanessa.
In this week’s episode, I talk with Vanessa Blakeslee about E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel as my copy of it crumbled and dissolved. I defend the honor of Henry James at great length from both Forster and Vanessa.
The Curator of Schlock #232 by Jeff Shuster
As Above So Below
Your Curator of Schlock got dragged to see Solo.
If I’ve learned anything from horror maestro, Lucio Fulci, it’s that are seven cursed gateways in seven cursed places. Where do these seven gateways lead? Straight to hell of course. And don’t expect a return trip. If urban legends are any indication of the truth, one of these gateways lies deep within the catacombs in Paris, France. Tonight’s feature sends us on a journey to hell in the form of yet another found footage horror movie, 2014’s As Above So Below from director John Erik Dowdle.
The focus of this fake documentary is Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks), a beautiful, young English archaeologist with two masters and a PhD. She’s also fluent in six langauges and has a black belt in Krav Maga. In other words, she’s Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider. . They decided to put Lara Croft in a horror movie…unofficially and it’s kind of neat. Let’s follow a Renaissance woman as she uncovers the horrors that lie beneath the catacombs in Paris. It gives the movie a pulp feel that I wholeheartedly approve of.
Scarlett wishes to learn about alchemy by finding the legendary philosopher’s stone, renowned for its ability to turn lead into gold in addition to granting immortality to those who can uncover its secrets. She discovers the Rose key, a kind of Rosetta stone, in a collapsing cave in Iran. Arriving in Paris, she learns of the location of the philosopher’s stone. It’s buried deep within the catacombs of Paris. Enlisting the aid of her cameraman, Benji (Edwin Hodge), her ex-boyfriend, George (Ben Feldman of Mad Men fame), and a trio of Parisian catacomb explorers, they enter the catacombs after evading the local police who don’t want people going down there.
We kind of have that in this country with the whole urban exploration movement. Heck, there are people who make sport of exploring abandoned shopping malls. But do you know what those places don’t have that the catacombs do have? Satanic cults with the mad chanting, hungry rats, and piles and piles of bones that scrape into you as you squeeze through narrow tunnels while trying to get past the ceiling that’s coming down on your head. And if you make it through all that, there’s still the whole gateway to hell thing that you might want to be concerned with.
Here’s a thought: if you run into a long thought dead friend that disappeared in the catacombs months ago, maybe you shouldn’t ignore how strange he’s acting or follow his lead on where to go. Maybe you shouldn’t follow your tenacious ex-girlfriend into the dark pits of the unknown no matter how pretty she is. I don’t care if she’s promising you honor and glory and more wealth than you can imagine. It’s not worth going through an entrance above which an inscription reads, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
I know. I know. It’s all just mumbo jumbo voodoo horseshit. Just keep an eye out for those hooded monks with deformed faces because they’re not monks.
And they’re gonna bite your ass!
An Interview with Brendan Hay, Producer & Writer of “Harvey Street Kids”
By Chuck Cannini
After his animated show about cave people, Dawn of the Croods, finished its final season on Netflix, Brendan Hay teamed up with DreamWorks Animation again to create Harvey Street Kids. Based on classic characters from the old Harvey comics, Harvey Street Kidsbrings a simple premise about kids who live on a block, very much in the same vein as many early ‘90s cartoons, such as Doug, Hey Arnold!, and Ed, Edd, and Eddy. Brendan Hay also worked on The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and Robot Chicken, as well as wrote the graphic novel Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge. I had the opportunity to speak with Brendan about the behind-the-scenes of Harvey Street Kids, some recommendations for writers, and the writing life.
The Drunken Odyssey: Was there anything you did not accomplish with Croodsthat you wish you had?
Brendan Hay: In that last season we got our weird pie in the sky dreams of doing a baby musical or an episode about the invention of God. I’m sure we could have come up with more stories, but on the other hand it also felt really nice to have a solid resolution that hooks our series up to the feature [film].
TDO: Will you have a hand in the sequel to the film in 2020?
BH: I would have happily taken a hand, but I always kind of knew it wasn’t going to happen. For better or worse, in animation, features and TV are two worlds that don’t cross over too much.
TDO: What would you like people to know about Harvey Street Kids?
BH: One is depending on where you are generationally. We are a throwback to a simpler cartoon. We’re a show that feels very much of the moment, but there is a certain nostalgia infused into it. Aliki Theofilopoulos, the supervising producer and show runner on this, and I keep saying that [the show is] about how childhood feels. Hopefully, some adults can connect to that. Also, as I tried to do with Croodsand will try to do again, we try to be a smart show. We try to make sure we have jokes for all ages. Growing up, I always loved Rocky and Bullwinkle. Watching that show, I would be like here’s a joke that I’m going to have to, at that time, go to a library and open a book to find out. Like, who is Omar Khayyam? I would actually end up researching it and enjoying the show and joke more. For kids, there’s that. For adults, they don’t need the research. They’ll get the idea and they’ll be fine.
TDO: The main characters – Audrey, Dot, and Lotta – are based on characters from Harvey Comics. Did you or your team add anything new to the characters?
BH: Yes and no. We tried to make sure that whatever we’re adding is based on the heart of who the character was originally. Our best example probably being Lotta [voiced by Lauren Lapkus]: in the old comics, she is a kind of character who just has an outsized love and enthusiasm for things. She also is very big and very strong by comparison to the other kids. It was amazing how pretty much all the old stories were about how Lotta gets hungry and eats crazy amounts of food. Well, we’re not going to do that. It feels weird reducing her to that. But to take that and make it more like a hunger for life and a hunger for experiences and fun, and keeping that same kind of bright, positive attitude – someone who just wants to try to love and embrace everything – that still feels like it’s still very true to who she is, but we’re not limiting it to the fact that she eats a lot of food.
TDO: Did you or your team contribute your own childhood experiences to the show?
BH: Little details, like we have a sibling relationship that comes in a little later in the series. That’s based on one of our writer’s sibling rivalries in her own life. Our writers and directors and board artists all are bringing a lot of their own childhoods and lives into this show. It’s kind of a fun, cathartic process for us. I remember reading that Freaks and Geeks, when they put that room together, Paul Feig had everybody involved write down three of their most embarrassing teenage stories. They were all shared anonymously, but just to generate ideas. We’re dealing with characters who are more around the age of ten. We didn’t have to go as far as Feig, but it was just us all diving into our childhoods. As we went on, it’s a very collaborative show in general. Everyone on the crew’s childhoods became a part of the show.
TDO: Whose idea was Harvey Street Kids? At what point did you become involved in the project?
BH: There’s one executive, her name’s Beth Cannon, and this show was her idea for a very long time. She saw the potential in these old characters that DreamWorks owned the rights to that were just going untapped. She saw this great idea: a female-driven comedy. She reached out to a whole lot of different people to find the right take. There’s a writer / animator named Emily Brundige. She had a really strong take on the characters and how to put this all together. So she put together a bible for what our series became. She left the project before I came on. So when I came in, they already had this great idea. Here is this great-looking world and there are these great ideas for characters. We then just got to take them and play with them and create stories.
TDO: What is an average day like for you working on a show like this?
BH: The days vary. When I started a few years ago, especially if you’re the show runner / producer, it’s mostly writing. Early on it was just a lot of talking with the writers, generating story ideas. We were still trying to define who everybody is and what their voices were, and what are the types of jokes that we do. I’ll be there to break the story initially, then I will read the draft that they put together. By the end of it, it’s mostly producing. I think the metaphor we keep using is plate spinning. I come in, sit down with the writers for 20-30 minutes to talk about the story they’re working on. I give them my notes, my feedback, and they work off that. Then I’ll jump into watching a storyboard pitch or an animatic screening and give my notes on that. Then I’ll jump out to a record with our voice cast; I also have to be a voice director on this show. Then we’re doing postproduction, so we might be going over sound effects or music spotting. It’s just basically checking in on every department, giving notes, keep that plate spinning, and make sure there isn’t a pileup at any one point on that process, on anybody’s process, that’s going to back up the whole show. A lot of writing ends up done at home. At night, I’ll finally take a pass at an outline. It’s usually when I’m not in the office just because the office is usually split between every other department.
TDO: What is your writing process?
BH: There are two different ways, especially in TV. There’s group writing and then there’s where I do it myself. When I have to write I like to brainstorm while I drive. I just put on my phone’s microphone feature. I just talk out all the possible permutations or ideas and it’s kind of like free-associating what might work. I jot down my notes from that, then I’ll pitch that to the writer’s room. We talk about things that work or don’t work. We use Dan Harmon’s story circle method. For the actual writing process, I’m very much somebody who needs to figure out ways to cut out distractions. I like either doing “writing sprints,” where I’m only going to work for thirty minutes or an hour. That helps me stay super focused and not go on social media or stuff like that. I also started using this app called Focus At Will, which finds instruments that accompanies you and your writing or your personality. It’s suppose to help you cut down distractions. I also like writing in public. Weirdly, it chains me to focus. So I’m big on writing in a coffee house or a restaurant. If people are going to be watching me, I don’t mind them seeing me, but I don’t want them to see me on Facebook.
TDO: When I talk to young and/or aspiring writers I often hear about “the struggle.” They talk about the industry as though it’s beyond their reach. For animation, do you think these younglings have all they need to create works of their own? Is it accessible?
BH: They can … with some caveats to that. It depends on what kind of work you want to do. The plus side now is that I think the tools are there to do it yourself, especially for animation. If you can draw at all or create any kind of moving figures in art and then use a flash animation program that’s relatively simple to use from your own home, you can absolutely create your own short to help sell your own idea. Thank God for being now able to shoot a comedy short or a dramatic short or whatever you want on your phone! Post it online! Get it out there! I think it’s better to create something and get it out there than to just while away on one script in a filing cabinet and never share it with the world. Between those two options, when you’re trying to break in, just keep trying your own things. Create your own shorts. Create your own scenes. There are radio plays, there are podcasts – I think those are a really good way to go.
TDO: And if they want to break into the industry?
BH: I will say for anybody who wants to break in as a writer – the TV side of things at all, animation included – it is possible to break in through production. Not that those jobs are easy to find, but they’re slightly easier than finding writing jobs. Production is a good way because then you also learn more about the process, meet people in the specific industry you want, and just work your way up through that. Look for those internships and production gigs and know that it’s not going to mean that you’re writing. You might have five years where you’re just kind of toiling in the trenches on other stuff, but you’ll be learning that whole time and meeting people who will help you get to the next spot that you want to get to. Try to get one of those production jobs. Once you get that production job and realize you’re not doing a terrible job at it – six months, nine moths down the road – let everybody there know what you want to do is write. Try to talk to the writers and ask for their advice. Let everybody know that if they have a writing assistant gig or any opportunity, start letting them know that you’re interested. And if they think you’re really showing your chops and you’re a good PA, they’ll let you know. That’s basically what worked for me.
TDO: Anything of note that you’re reading right now?
BH: Still loving all of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga and Paper Girls. Two comics I definitely want to recommend are Image Comic’s The Fix by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber and Dark Horse’s Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire. The Fix is a really fun crime comic if you like the movies of Shane Black at all. Black Hammer– I’ve only read the first volume of that so far – is really moving and sweet and sad but interesting take on superheroes and superhero comics. Another Image Comic: Curse Words by Ryan Browne and Charles Soule. Curse Wordsis super fun. Just ridiculous if you ever want … I don’t know how to describe that one … magical comedy action? It’s just a wonderfully weird little book. On the book front, I’ve been on a humungous music bio kick lately. The one I’m currently reading is off to a really good start. It’s called Meet Me in the Bathroomby Lizy Goodman, which is an oral history of New York’s rock scene in the early 2000s. It’s just a fun deep dive on a whole lot of bands, some that I love and some bands that I didn’t even really know about. It’s a really fun look at the scene at that time. My favorite that I read over the past year – and I’ve read four or five – was the biography called Trouble Boysby Bob Mehr, the book about the band called The Replacements. I thought I had done a deep-dive into that band before, but in this book every other page had something I had never known. So just the depth of the access of history that Mehr gets into with that band really impressed me.
TDO: How about animation?
BH: More than anything: Bob’s Burgers. That show remains the one constant of anything I watch on TV. Recently, I was just watching some Craig of the Creekon Cartoon Network, which is a really charming new show. I’m really enjoying the characters on that. And DreamWorks – I’ll support my own company – they’re doing some nice work.
TDO: Where else can followers look for more information about Harvey Street Kids?
BH: The first thirteen episodes will launch on June 29th. I think in that whole lead up until then, go to the Harvey Street Kids Facebook page. There have already been a few extra clips released. We’ll have more and more stuff coming out in the lead up to the 29th. If you really like the show, follow Aliki [Theofilopoulos] and me on Twitter.
Chuck Cannini grew up on a diet of animation, including Disney classics, Pokémon, and Ed, Edd, and Eddy. One day, he had to choose between a new episode of Dragon Ball Z and his first middle school dance. Years later, after he graduated with a B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment, he realized he should have chose the former.
Buzzed Books #62 by Stephanie Porven
Kelle Groom’s Spill
Kelle Groom’s Spill begs to be read by candlelight in a dark room. Groom’s poems, many of which are narrative, read as almost autobiographical in their expression of her speaker’s struggle with fears that prey on all of us at some point in our lives: fear of aging, of losing loved ones, and most notably, fear of losing memories. The collection focuses on the speaker grappling with grief and regret as the result of experiencing such losses, but it also offers readers joys that pierce through everyday experiences. The speaker pauses to listen to how words rolled off the tongue of the man working the meat counter at a grocery store, to consider the shiny gold teeth of a stranger after he crashed into her car on the freeway. Such moments contrast well with the raw imagery and heart- wrenching references to memory loss which Groom disperses throughout this collection.
Many poems throughout Spill focus on vivid images of physical pain. Readers are given their first glimpse of this theme in the book’s opening poem through the lines, “If someone must saw open / my chest I want all this light to be what spills out” (“The Lost Museum”). As the collection goes on, a shift occurs in how physical pain is brought about. The speaker goes from imagining situations where others could hurt her to reflecting on how she, and other people mentioned in a few of her poems, can self-harm amid emotional struggle. We are given images of the speaker holding a lighter under her arm until her skin blisters, of a beekeeper who uses a bee’s stinger to repeatedly stab his own arm, paralyzed from an injury.
While Groom’s poems take readers through mystical and domestic settings, her speaker seems to find the most comfort from her emotional struggles when she’s immersed in nature, wandering through a moonlit forest or walking along where the ocean meets the shore. The poem “St. Petersburg” alludes to this idea through the lines, “Put me to sleep in a forest / where trees / steadied me.” The speaker’s yearning for nature is also echoed throughout the collection when she reflects on examples of how nature attempts to break through that which is artificial, abandoned, or dead. To Groom, even the act of newly-hatched sea turtles squeezing through wire fencing that someone wrapped around their nest evokes a sense of sacredness.
Of all the references to fear, the speaker’s fear of losing her memory seems to be the most dominant. Groom’s speaker worries she’ll one day forget joyful memories she shared with loved ones both living and dead: “I forget everything / all the time” and “maybe we had done all / this before & forgotten” (“Train Poem #1” and“Train Poem #2”).
The grief of her son’s death leaves the speaker unable to move from room to room in her own home without feeling burdened by memory. Groom’s use of unexpected line breaks and blank space adds to this idea of grief as a physically and emotionally draining experience that can leave one longing for rest:
…Unable to move More than once, I’d let
myself go into the image of disappearing—dune, ocean, horizon line—
and closed it like a door Somewhere I have to lay it down.
(“The Great Nebula of Orion”)
Spill is a masterfully written collection of poems that reminds readers that to lament is human. Through her poetry, Groom urges readers to let go of the weight of their memories, acknowledge their fears, and recognize flickers of joy amidst the shadows . She tells us we are not alone in our weariness. She encourages us to abandon the losses we carry like boulders in our hearts so that we might wander along our own tumultuous shores listening to our own memories breaking, spilling over to meet us.
Stephanie Porven is a proofreader by day and poet by night who earned her MFA at the University of Central Florida. Her current interests include re-reading a few of her favorite classical myths, tending to the ivy on her back patio, and attempting to convince her fiancé to adopt a dog. Her work has appeared in Hypertrophic Literary, The Hamilton Stone Review, Peacock Journal, and other online literary magazines.
Pensive Prowler #20 by Dmetri Kakmi
Notes from a Writers’ Residency
I’m at Zvona i Nari (Bells and Pomegranates), a writers’ residency in Croatia’s Istrian coast, to finish my novel. I’ve been struggling with this story for two years and I haven’t been able to get the better of it. It’s turned into bit of a millstone actually.
What I need, I told myself, is solid time to focus on one thing and not be distracted by everyday necessities. A residency will allow me to dedicate my energies to being a writer, setting aside a length of time to immerse myself in the act of writing and to concentrate on one thing. I was curious to see how I’d go with that and what the results might be, for the writing and to my own sense of self.
So here I am, happily ensconced in a self-contained two-story, two-bedroom house for a month. For free. It’s an ideal situation. Liznjan is on a promontory surrounded by pristine coastline on one side and pine forests on the other. It’s quiet and there are few distractions. Perfect for work.
My work station is on the front porch, overlooking a garden of oleander and fruit trees. At midday, I prepare lunch in the kitchen to the tune of St Martin’s church bells, the most unmelodious clanging you’re likely to hear this side of hell. Siesta is at the height of the day’s heat. Though warm and welcoming, my hosts Natalija Grgorinic and Ognjen Raden leave me alone, respecting the fact that I am here to work but making sure I know they are there should I crave companionship.
Despite jet lag, I finished the novel at the end of the first week. The beast I had been wrestling with for two years was beaten. I couldn’t believe it. Now I could dedicate the next three weeks to cutting and refining. At 126,000 words, it is too long.
That night I cooked moussaka and celebrated the occasion in the garden with Natalija and Ognjen. Natalija is small, fine boned with pale skin and penetrating eyes that brighten when she speaks. Ognjen is a tall, broad fellow with dark-brown hair, a ready smile and a devilish goatee. They’re in their early forties and have a ten-year-old son called Ljubomir, who plays the rozenica, a traditional wind instrument that evokes either wild mountain music or geese fighting to the death. Take your pick.
Writers in their own right, Natalija and Ognjen are serious-minded with a strong social conscience. You know you’re in a socialist household when there’s a picture of a tractor on the kitchen wall.
By the time my friend Cam Rogers came to stay for ten days at the end of the second week, I was busy killing my darlings with a gusto and glee that surprised even me.
Even so, I welcomed the company. When Cam and I sat down for our first coffee in the garden, I realised I hadn’t spoken much in two weeks. Turned inwards during that time, my voice was husky and strained. I could barely speak or put a thought together. It brought to the fore a vital ingredient to the writing process.
Solitary contemplation is important. There is no TV here. I don’t read newspapers and I don’t scavenge online news. For two whole weeks I did something that is unthinkable in Melbourne. I walked around the property or through the pine forest, thinking about the novel at the exclusion of all else. Perhaps for the first time since I began writing it, I was completely immersed in the world of the story and living with the characters day and night. I went to bed with them and I awoke with them. This allowed me to enter the mood, the rhythm and pace of the story, in ways I hadn’t before.
This continued to be the case when Cam arrived, but it had been intensive when I was alone. Still, I was glad to go off at the end of the day with Cam and grab an Ozujsko beer or an Aperol Spritz at Kalahari bar, conveniently located on a nearby beach.
Compared to regulated life in Australia, Croatia is pretty wild. I love being in a country where people smoke in open-air bars and restaurants, ride bicycles without helmets and use mobiles while driving. The nanny state hasn’t come here yet.
The contrasts are wilder still. The half-naked, drunken sybarites at Kalahari bar are a mere three minutes down the road from a sweet chapel called Our Lady of Kuje. When I looked it up on Google translate, turns out Kuje means ‘bitch’ in Croatian. A friend said it connotes ‘mischief’ in Finnish. So goodness knows what goes on in that chapel after dark.
Inappropriate behaviour can’t be ruled out. One Sunday, Cam and I joined Natalija and Ognjen at a religious ceremony to the chapel. It was fascinating to follow the devout as they held aloft a statue of the Virgin, chanting along the way and bringing traffic to a halt. During mass under bosky trees, we snuck inside and were astonished by the interior.
It’s built on the foundations of a Roman villa. A metre below the contemporary floor level is the original floor mosaic under protective glass.
A more impressive Roman mosaic can be found in Pula, at one end of a busy car park. It was discovered while people cleaned up after the bombardments of World War II. It’s now two metres below the current street level, in the open and behind bars for its protection.
In the town square there’s a beautifully preserved Temple of Augustus and not five minutes away a statue of James Joyce enjoys a coffee outside a cafe while staring at a triumphal arch that dates to 27 BC. Apparently the great Irish man lived in Pula briefly and hated it, but that hasn’t stopped locals from making a buck off him. Nor was I surprised to learn that Dante Aligheri visited these shores while writing the Divine Comedy.
As always when you travel, it’s thrilling to look through the ages into worlds that are almost incomprehensible today. Moreover, the palimpsest, the layers of lives and cultures, made me appreciate the complex layering and interleaving of stories and how important it is to make the various strata transparent, like glass floors through which narrative can travel unhindered and offer a wider, deeper perspective.
Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.
75. Paul Kafno’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (2005)
Normally, dear readers, cute middlebrow approaches to Shakespeare fill my heart with hate, so I was aggravated when a friend of mine just gave me a copy of The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
The good news is that the trio of performers—Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor—are actually wickedly funny, and surprisingly good actors when they stop joking, though they seldom stop joking. The play is a meta-theatrical presentation in which there is both a fairly decent sense of history as well as a sense of how the themes of the play seem timely now. These actors have clearly lived with Shakespeare’s texts awhile, and can treat them with loving familiarity and the odd doses of contempt.
There are 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, and thankfully Long, Martin, and Tichenor don’t plow through them one by one. There are a lot of very broad strokes. In some ways, they definitely cheat to get to all 37. I can’t offer more summary than that without spoiling the fun of this show, and—unlike the films of Baz Luhrman or Michael Almereyda—The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)is worth not spoiling.
Their costumes—vaguely Elizabethan clothes over Chuck Taylor All-Stars—convey the spirit of the show. There is a bouncy sense that knowledge and understanding are relative, even though they know and understand plenty.
My only complaint is that I want to see them also do Shakespeare straight, in a different show. They are that good. Though if I could stick them into a Shakespeare comedy, they might go insane, which would also be good. These gents have won over a jaded knave such as myself. They’d probably do the same for you, if you’re my friend.
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.
On this week’s program, The Drunken Odyssey enjoys perhaps its final Bloomsday live show, and its perhaps final visit to The Gallery at Avalon Island.
The Curator of Schlock #231 by Jeff Shuster
The Last Exorcism Part II
Nope. There’s no sequel when something is the last of anything!
I’m sorry, but if we can get The Last Exorcism Part II, we can get The Last Starfighter Part II. I’ve been waiting over three decades for a follow-up. I want see Alex Rogan face off against the maniacal Xur once and for all. Maybe we’ll even see a resurgence of the Ko-Dan Armada.
How about that? Looks like The Last Starfighter was turned into an off-Broadway musical back in 2004. I’d rather see that than Hamilton. I’m just saying.
Tonight’s movie is 2013’s The Last Exorcism Part II from Ed Gass-Donnelly. The enticing Amazon description states, “The evil force is back with horrific plans.” Huh? When did the evil force leave? The Last Exorcism ended with a satanic cult pulling a demon named Abalam out from a pregnant Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) and then tossing said baby demon into a bonfire where the flames caused it to grow into a GIANT DEMON. Reverend Marcus gets burned alive and the satanic cult butchers his camera crew.
I assumed that the demon then proceeded to create hell on Earth or maybe he got a cushy job over at Lucasfilm. Regardless, Abalam didn’t go anywhere. He was made flesh and doing damage out in the world.
The Last Exorcism Part II forgets all of that. Abalam is non-corporeal again and stalking an amnestic Nell. She ends up being taken in at a home for wayward girls run by Frank Merie (Muse Watson), a therapist who doesn’t believe in demons. He even convinces Nell to reconsider the whole religion thing. Nell is enjoying her new life with the other wayward girls, especially since the girl’s home is located right in the middle of New Orleans. Party time! Seriously, you can hear jazz music being played live at four in the morning in the Big Easy! I’ve been there.
I wish I could be a wayward girl living in New Orleans.
Things are going well until strange things start a brewing. While Nell is working at a chambermaid at a local hotel, she hears Reverend Marcus trying to warn her about Abalam through an old radio. A boy she’s interested in calls the house, but all she hears on the other line is a crying baby. She keeps seeing her dad, and I can’t tell if he’s real or a ghost.
He warns her that Abalam wants to join with her and then he’ll be unstoppable or some such doomsday mumbo jumbo. I think one of the other wayward girls, Gwen (Julia Garner), is also possessed by Abalam because her eyes keep going all black and she keeps smiling a wicked smile.
All is not lost. A secret society known as the Order of the Right Hand wants to kill Abalam by transferring his essence into a chicken and then killing the chicken. Sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo voodoo horseshit to me.
The ceremony goes awry.
Abalam joins with Nell and she goes on a killing spree.
The movie ends with New Orleans being torched by hellfire. Now you don’t have to watch the movie.
On this week’s program, Julian Chambliss returns to the secret headquarters of TDO so we could share notes about the first season of the new television show of Black Lightning, and consider the context of the classic comic book from the 1970s.
Check out this hysterical assist from Superman!
Compare Tobias Whale on the CW show (Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III) and his considerably different look in the original comics.
The Curator of Schlock #230 by Jeff Shuster
The Last Exorcism
The Citizen Kane of found footage demonic possession movies.
So I’m on the Interweb and take notice of an upcoming motion picture called Death Kiss? The title sounds familiar. It stars Daniel Baldwin and some actor I’ve never heard of, a Robert Bronzi. Still, the name Robert Bronzi reminds me of another actor celebrated at this establishment. And then I watch the trailer. Daniel Baldwin is playing some kind of shock jock radio host, keeps talking about how someone needs to deliver the “Kiss of Death” to the criminals terrorizing our society. Out from the shadows steps a man:
I am crying tears of joy. Everything’s come full circle now. We’ve come home, folks.
Anyway, back to Satan Month. This week’s feature is 2010’s The Last Exorcism from director Daniel Stamm. Now, the first thing you’ll notice is that this looks like a real documentary. It’s professionally shot. The camera doesn’t shake all over the place. There’s no zooming in and out unlike some other found footage movies that will never be mentioned on this blog again. The movie centers around a skeptical preacher named Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) and a teenage girl named Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) who may or may not have the devil inside her.
Here’s where I’m at with horror movies. I’m ecstatic when they’re great, but those are rare. Many are good and I’m fine with good. And even a bad horror movie is better than watching Young Adam or The English Patient. The Last Exorcism is a good horror movie and good is good enough.
What makes it good is the best horror movie protagonist I’ve seen since Ash from the Evil Dead films, Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a preacher from the Louisiana Bible Belt. Reverend Marcus started preaching the good word when he was a boy, groomed by his father. Reverend Marcus is an exorcist, but there’s just one problem: he doesn’t believe in demons anymore. When he reads a news story about a young autistic boy who gets suffocated to death during an exorcism, he decides it’s time to expose exorcism for the fraud that it is.
With a documentary crew in tow, he heads to the backwoods of Louisiana, interviewing yokels about the Satanic cults and UFO sightings. We laugh at the rubes, but maybe we shouldn’t. Reverend Marcus has been summoned to the Sweetzer farm, where a teenage girl named Nell is supposedly possessed by a demon named Abalam. With his linen suit and Jimmy Swaggart swagger, he convinces her God-fearing father, Louis, to let him perform an exorcism on Nell, emphasis on perform since it is a performance.
Reverend Marcus has an exorcism kit complete with an MP3 player filled with demon sound effects, a crucifix that emits smoke with the press of a button, and other instruments of fakery. A shaky bed and an avalanche of quotes from The Exorcist, and presto, Reverend Marcus has convinced Nell and her family that she’s no longer possessed. But that isn’t where the movie ends. Nell starts to act really strange, drawing pictures of Reverend Marcus on fire and the camera crew hacked to pieces. Oh, and then Nell mutilates the family cat. The cameraman wants to leave, but not one listens to him. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say that fire and brimstone may be involved.