Episode 367: A Discussion of Eudora Welty’s “Place in Fiction” with Vanessa Blakesklee!

Tags

, , ,

Episode 367 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, Vanessa Blakeslee and I discuss Eudora Welty’s “Place in Fiction” (1955).

John & Vanessa Flash 2.JPG

TEXTS DISCUSSED

The Eye of the Story

NOTES

This episode is sponsored by Scribophile.

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

*

Check out my adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

And check out Vanessa’s books, too.

Perfect_Conditions_Front_CoverJuventudTrain Shots


Episode 367 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

What’s Right About That Fan Petition to Rewrite Season 8 of Game of Thrones

What’s Right About That Fan Petition to Rewrite Season 8 of GoT

by John King

Probably like you, I’ve seen a lot of online posts that begin, “I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, but—” or “I stopped watching GoT, but—.” I am not going to summarize the show for those unfamiliar with it.

There is a fan petition for HBO to completely remake season 8 of Game of Thrones, and by the time this appears, more than a millions signatures will be on it.

Numerous of my social media friends have mocked the existence of such a petition. Fans are entitled snowflakes. Well, sure. They are fans. They are fanatical. They care a lot.

Fans do get out of hand, such as the nitwits who decided to Rick and Morty the shit out of a McDonald’s Rick and Morty publicity stunt. Those are idiots who don’t understand the show they are fans of.

The creator of the petition, however, is not shrieking from a McDonald’s countertop. This is the whole message of the petition:

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers when they have no source material (i.e. the books) to fall back on.

This series deserves a final season that makes sense.

Subvert my expectations and make it happen, HBO!

The phrase “woefully incompetent writers” can mean many things. I want to be more precise about why I think Game of Thrones has fallen apart in episodes 4 and 5 of Season 8: the contract with the viewer has been violated.

Each story begins with a premise that becomes a promise about what the story will be about.

If the Harry Potter series concluded with Malfoy or Dudley becoming the messianic wizard instead of Harry, the viewer has a right to feel like the writer did not live up to the story that was promised.

An arrogantly foolish slop-artist might say, “it is important for me as an artist to subvert your expectations.” What such writers (and I am looking at you Rian Johnson) overlook is that the subverted expectations should reveal interesting truths and still be relevant to the story that was promised rather than some rando shit.

Let’s grant that Daenerys Targaryen’s genocidal turn in the next-to-last episode of GoT can be accounted for. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss subverted our expectations, and maybe one wanted a morally loftier ending for the series, but plenty of foreshadowing was in place. Daenerys was harsh. Visually and emotionally, the scene when she decides to decimate the surrendered city didn’t seem to make sense, but in terms of the long arc of her story, maybe it could have if presented better.

The problem is that nearly all the surviving characters have become unrecognizable and nonsensical.

After the battle of Winterfell, Jon Snow—who doesn’t want the throne, who is a reluctant leader because he doesn’t believe in the commonplace attitudes of those in authority—gives a ceremonial funeral speech that is a boring boilerplate military speech of exactly the kind Hemingway mocked in A Farewell to Arms. John Snow has become what he hates without there being any motivation to do so. The set piece of the funeral needed a military oration. The queen who Jon Snow has bent the knee to has a subservient, non-speaking role in the funeral because she might have expressed real emotion and something surprising perhaps.

Before the battle of Winterfell, Tyrion Lannister, a master strategist, somehow doesn’t anticipate the strategic shortcoming of hiding in a crypt from an opponent who can raise and enlist the dead for his army. That didn’t appear on his decision tree. Peter Dinklage marveled at that bit of non-characterization.

Brienne of Tarth behaves like the most noble knight in the series, even though she was not officially a knight until episode 2 of season 8. She is tough and stoic, and does not have a lover because of her devotion to her duty, and her sense that if she adopts a publicly feminine role that her persona as a fighter would be even more challenged than it already is in this patriarchal trash-heap of a world.

Benioff and Weisshave her blubbering like a hysterical maiden when Jamie leaves her to go die with his sister. She becomes Sansa Stark in the early going of season 1 of GoT because women be crying, am I right?

Brienne-crying

Or maybe they just recorded Gwendolyn Christie after she read the script for that episode.

Jamie goes to die with his sister because she is his soulmate. Okay, maybe he reverts to his weird incest-y self.

Tyrion and Jamie hug and weep—they weep—before Jamie enters King’s Landing for the last time.

Arya Stark, a spooky mystical assassin who didn’t have a childhood due to the horrific world of Game of Thrones, gives up the revenge she planned since season 2, gives up on her mission a hundred yards from the destination because of a sentimental speech given by the Hound—the Hound!—who is himself on a revenge mission that he hasn’t thought much about for the entire series. Benioff and Weiss make Arya—the woman who slayed the Night King—the perfect innocent child running and crying from her life during the annihilation of King’s Landing because they needed an innocent POV character to show undergoing the trauma of war before she rides off on a symbolic white horse.

The nihilistic Hound experiences PTSD in battles, but he needed a more heroic arc tacked on apparently, and Arya needed to be redeemed in her innocence, even though her ability to outgrow her innocence was my favorite part of the series. She reverted to being a scared child. Making the Hound behave like the scared child would have subverted my expectations, but also been appropriate for his character.

The contract with the reader or viewer means that one cannot introduce a story as important and then say, “fuck it,” whatever, I can’t be bothered. We continue watching to find out what happens next. What happens next doesn’t have to be happy, but does need to matter.

In The Manchurian Candidate, there is a sleeper spy who is brainwashed, but will leap into his programmed action when triggered by the Russians.

Benioff and Weiss have treated most of the surviving characters of Game of Thrones like they were sleeper spies all along who, when triggered, would become like robots. Complex characters who deconstructed fantasy tropes disappeared into those exhausted tropes. They have become mostly meaningless puppets for the spectacles Benioff and Weiss have imagined.

Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Game of Thrones Fire

The million plus fans who signed the petition to redo season 8 of Game of Thrones are right to claim that a contract has been breached with “The Last of the Starks” and “The Bells.” A tacit contract with the viewer—these are who the characters were, and their stories will be other than random—is not really enforceable, but hopefully sends another cautionary message to creators to tell better stories.

Currently, Benioff and Weiss seem to be the writers for the next Star Wars film trilogy after The Rise of Skywalker. I hope that Lucasfilm will learn from its recent misstep of tossing out a contract with the viewer (what Kevin Smith called little fuck-you moments from Rian Johnson to J. J. Abrams’s story, and jeez there were a lot of them). A storyteller needs to love the characters in the story enough to remember who they are, and to see them and their potential, and not just the clichés that can wallpaper over something resembling a human being. Characters are more than icons to move carelessly about as their writers set these imaginative worlds on fire.

Telling a story can be difficult, but some people need to try harder. If for no other reason than the cast and crew are working so damned hard.


1flip

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.

The Curator of Schlock #273: Wake of Death

The Curator of Schlock #273 by Jeff Shuster

Wake of Death

Death, death, and more death. 

I’m not going to abbreviate his name. I know that seems to be the thing to abbreviate Jean-Claude Van Damme to J.C.V.D. or JCVD, but I refuse to do it. Jean-Claude Van Damme is human being, not an abbreviation. Is this jealousy, jealousy over the fact that you do not have as awesome a name as Jean-Claude Van Damme so you have to abbreviate it? Show some respect!

Or not.

Wake1

Tonight’s nonsense is 2004’s Wake of Death from director Philippe Martinez. Okay. It’s not that bad. If you like tales of violence and revenge, you’ll feel right at home. Jean-Claude Van Damme seemingly plays a bouncer named Ben Archer who is done working for the mob, making me think he did more for the mob than beating up unruly guests at fancy night clubs. Oh, and Ben Archer is from Marseille. That’s a town in France. This explains why Ben Archer has a French accent. He’s married to an American social worker named Cynthia (Lisa King). Together, they have a son named Nicholas (Pierre Marais).

INS intercepts a boat of Chinese migrants. Among them is a young Chinese girl named Kim (Valerie Tian) whose father murdered her mother and is also the head of the Triads. His name is Sun Quan (Simon Yam). Cynthia, the social worker, convinces Mac Hoggins (Danny Keoh), a high-ranking INS agent, to let her take Kim home with her. Archer gives Kim the chocolate mousse he was eating. It looks really good, but he had his mouth all over the spoon. That’s really gross. Get me a fresh spoon if you’re going to share your chocolate mousse with me.

Wake2

What else happens in this motion picture? Oh, yeah. Sun Quan slits Cynthia’s throat in a Chinese restaurant. His gang also shoots the owner, his wife, the cook, and the wait staff because…why not. It turns out Agent Hoggins, the INS agent, is crooked and helps Sun Quan sneak drugs over to the United States. Hoggins told him Cynthia was housing his daughter so he killed her. Archer shows up at the restaurant, shoots a bunch of gangsters, sees his dead wife, cradles her dead body in his arms, and weeps and weeps and weeps. I bet there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater during this scene.

Wake4

Naturally, it’s time for sweet revenge. Turns out Cynthia’s Uncle Max is a French mobster so Archer reaches out for his help. There’s a scene where Max and his goons have Hoggins tied up and proceed to drill him for information by using an actual drill. Even when they get the information they need, they keep drilling and drilling and drilling. Is this a Saw movie? This is not family friendly entertainment. Just shoot the guy when you’re done with him. Don’t go crazy with a drill.

Wake3 (1)

Let’s see.

We’ve got some car chases. A gas tanker explodes. There’s a shootout at the docks. The bad guy threatens the good guy’s son. Killing, killing, and more killing. Van Damme ends up on top.

And I’m at my word count.

Good night!


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #19: Trauma

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #19 by Drew Barth

Trauma

Comics can, and should, be a space in which a multitude of subject matters and issues should be tackled. Comics are a medium in which the blending of text and visuals can make for a story that is easily accessible to a wide range of readers and, as a result, can have a far-reaching influence on the audiences that do inevitably choose to pick a book up. Couple comic’s accessibility to readers as a medium with stories that handle heavier subject matters and creators have a way in which they are able to present works with lasting impact. Graphic novels in particular are incredibly well suited this task. I’ve mentioned my love for graphic novels and the work they do previously with Kelsey Wroten’s Cannonball, and I would like to continue my undying adoration for graphic novels with Guillaume Singelin’s PTSD.

PSTD_CASE_04a.indd

PTSD centers on Jun, a veteran from a recent war in an unnamed country. After returning home, Jun, and many of the other veterans who returned with her, are shunned throughout the unnamed city they have returned to. Almost all are homeless. Almost all are addicted to painkillers or are barely able to function due to starvation. The homeless vets huddle together when they can to trade stories of the past and to keep themselves safe from a city that does not want them there. Is it topical? Considering Singelin has been working on PTSD since at least 2015 when the book was first announced, it feels even more topical than it did four years ago.

PT2

There is a distinct feel to a book like PTSD and in what it aims to do. Just from the art alone we can see the more simplified character designs, the expansive color pallet, and the Kowloon Walled City-esque setting the story takes place in. All of the above elements blend together to create both a unique image for the book as well as a distinct tone. Singelin’s art throughout PTSD typifies what Scott McCloud brought up in Understanding Comics in regards to the balance between art and story. A graphic narrative with more simplified art is a story that will likely stick to a reader more than a work with much more realistic art. The reason being that our eyes will focus more on how a character looks more than what the character is saying. Singelin uses this idea to his advantage. Although the characters have an almost cartoon-like design, the trauma they go through is all too real.

PT4 

PTSD deals with its titular disorder with a clarity and insight that is only served by the art. Violent moments stand out as gruesome and carry a weight with them that has been missing from many other recent comic works due to their focus on the shock. Singelin knows what is shocking in PTSD and instead of treating violence like something to be fetishized—Jun is shunned from the rest of the homeless vets as a result of violent vigilante actions against local gangs. Where characters would parade around someone taking justice into their own hands, the response in the world of PTSD is very different. And the fact that all of these acts of violence—from the fights in the city streets to flashbacks of active combat—are rendered in Singelin’s particular style lends the weight to these moments that many other books miss. I remember everything that happens to Jun and still feel that pressure in my chest with how hard with scenes of her at her lowest impact. 

PT3 

 PTSD is a book about struggle and the violent lengths someone will go through for revenge or survival, but it is also a book laced with hope throughout. And the kind of hope Singelin is showing the reader isn’t the sanguine or sentimental. The hope in PTSD is something that the characters build throughout the story. A restaurant owner, Leona, hands out food to the homeless not as a means of simple charity, but because she is a kind person who wants to see people doing well. And that act of kindness evolves. Soon the same people Leona was serving are partnering with her to provide vegetables they’ve been growing in small gardens. Jun’s vigilante crusade against the city’s gangs ostracize her from the rest of the veteran population, but in her amassing of medical supplies from those same gangs she becomes the single point of medical care for the whole community. And I think that’s one of the greatest strengths of PTSD. Singelin shows us the struggle and the grasping at dirt and air for any kind of relief from the hell we’ve created for ourselves, but he also shows us an alternative. The world of PTSD is in no ways perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction where we can create something lasting for ourselves. And with this book, Singelin has created a story that lasts.

Get excited. Something better is coming.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 366: Mixtape #10: Purple Caverns of Shattered Memories

Episode 366 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 share my first mixtape in almost 2 years.

Mixtape 10.png

Happy writing. Let me know what you think below.

NOTES

Please buy me.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

Episode 366 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 #272: Universal Soldier

The Curator of Schlock #272 by Jeff Shuster

Universal Soldier

Jean-Claude Van Damme vs. Dolph Lundgren. What more could you possibly want? A good movie?

It looks like Disney has unveiled their full slate of movies until the year 2027. We’re getting a new Star Wars trilogy. Yay. Maybe this new trilogy won’t feature any characters drinking blue milk from the udders of a sea lion. We’ll be getting some good cuts of meat from the slaughtered carcass of 21st Century Fox. Among them are three Avatar sequels and remake of West Side Story?

Okay.

And I see a bunch of movies described as UNITLED DISNEY LIVE ACTION. Well, one of those untitled movies had better be TRON 3.

tron

Get your shit together, Disney.

US1

This week’s Van Damme feature is 1992’s Universal Soldier from director Roland Emmerich. I had avoided seeing this movie all these years. Keep in mind that I was young lad raised on those testosterone-fueled cinematic gems of the 1980s, those R-rated masterpieces that every boy in elementary school watched whether his parents allowed him to or not. The big stars were Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the time, I was more of an Arnold fan, but I watched films by both these action star titans.

US3

And then you had the lesser tier action stars, your Jean-Claude Van Damme and your Dolph Lundgren. But I never had anything against Dolph Lundgren. He was great as the villain in Rocky IV and I Come In Peace was a fun movie. I wasn’t a big Van Damme fan at the time, but covering his movies these past few years has revealed an action star with real screen presence. So I kept my fingers crossed as I streamed Universal Soldier off of Amazon, wondering if my younger self had been wrong to skip this one back in the day. He wasn’t wrong.

Universal Soldier is terrible. I mean it’s really bad. It’s a bad movie. I’m sorry. No. I don’t want to hear that it’s not that bad. It is that bad. Why is it bad? Because it is! Okay. I have to strengthen my argument. Universal Soldier begins in 1969 during the Vietnam War. Dolph Lundgren plays Sergeant Andrew Scott, a crazed soldier who likes to cut the ears from the heads of civilians. I’m not kidding. He even strings them up and wears them like a necklace. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Luc Deveraux, a good American soldier that doesn’t want to kill civilians. How do they explain the French accent? He’s from Louisiana of course.

US2

Anyway, Scott and Deveraux end up killing each other because Deveraux refuses to shoot a couple of Vietnamese women in the head. They’re put in body bags, but that’s not the end of the story. In 1992, the United States government unveils its Universal Soldier program: a team of elite super soldiers reanimated from the corpses of dead soldiers and programmed to obey with the use of chemicals. You can plug them full of holes and they’ll regenerate. The whole movie is trying to go for the Terminator vibe while also trying to assure the audience that it’s its own movie.

US4

Anyway, Deveraux and Scott gain back some of their memories. Deveraux goes on the lamb with a plucky reporter played by Ally Walker. The government keeps trying to track him down, shooting up diners and motels as Deveraux and the reporter make escape after escape. You get to see the bare bum of Jean-Claude Van Damme if that’s your thing. You also get to see Jean Claude Van-Damme eat a bunch of steak dinners and beat up some rednecks if that’s your thing. The final fight between Scott and Deveraux takes place on the Deveraux family farm at night, something more fitting for a thriller like The Boy Next Door rather than a high-octane action movie.

I wasn’t feeling this one.

I’m sorry.


Jeffrey Shuster 3

Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics are Trying to Break Your Heart #18: Got a Feeling So Complicated

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #18 by Drew Barth

Got a Feeling So Complicated

Last week, I mentioned some issues inherent in many Shonen series—from the ways in which the continuous powering up of characters only leads to ridiculous escalations to the weekly (rather than monthly) production schedule that makes constant character growth difficult. I also mused on whether or not there was a long-running Shonen series that found an interesting solution to these Shonen problems.

Let’s talk about Jojo.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure began in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1987 and centers around not the first protagonist we see, Johnathan Joestar, but rather the entire Joestar family bloodline. Creator Hirohiko Araki could focus on more characters, and give each member of the family his or her own arc that begins and ends without having to resort to exponentially more powerful villains to defeat every couple months as the main dramatic engine. Because of this, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventureis divided into— currently—eight different parts that focus on eight separate members of the Joestar family throughout history (and dimensions).

jojo5

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of those manga series that typified what a Shonen series is and what it could do with the genre. There are fights throughout the series—Shonen is still an action oriented genre—but through Araki’s almost boundless creativity, there is always something fresh to each conflict.

Take for example Part 1: Phantom Blood, which begins with the rivalry between Johnathan Joestar and his adopted brother, Dio Brando, in 1880. And to be clear and upfront about everything, Dio’s an asshole. He poisoned his own father, attempted to poison his adopted father, and burned Johnathan’s dog. If anyone you know talks about their admiration for Dio, be wary. And because Dio is an asshole, he becomes a vampire. Araki, however, treats vampires very differently in Jojo. Vampires don’t bite; they just shove their fingers into a person’s neck and suck out the blood like that. They also get eye lasers. “Bizarre” is in the title for a reason.

jojo1

The series continues with Joseph Joestar in the 1930s in Part 2: Battle Tendency while he fights ancient Aztec vampires named Cars, Wham, and AC/DC due to Araki’s love for western music.

Part 3: Stardust Crusadersfocuses on Jotaro Kujo going across the world to punch Dio (again) in his undead face.

Joseph Joestar’s illegitimate son, Josuke Higashikata, is the protagonist of Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakableand must stop a serial killer who looks suspiciously like David Bowie.

Giorno Giovanna (“gio gio” sounds like Jojo when spoken with an Italian accent) aims to take down the leader of the Italian mafia to keep kids from taking drugs in Part 5: Vento Auero.

Part 6: Stone Ocean follows Jolyne Cujoh as she attempts to stop a Dio (DIO!) obsessed priest from resetting the universe.

Johnny Joestar must collect pieces of Jesus scattered across America in a coast-to-coast horse race to keep the president from becoming too powerful in Part 7: Steel Ball Run (I’m not kidding).

And Part 8: JoJolionis a special case since that part is still being written and no one really has an idea what it’s about yet.

jojo8

Considering Jojo has been ongoing for over thirty years, there is quite a lot of history in the series. Luckily, many of the parts have been animated to ease a new reader into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. If you would like to read a good majority of the series, though, then that is a completely different issue. As newer series were being bought by US publishers and brought into bookstores here, Jojo was strangely left out for the vast majority of its lifetime. Only three parts of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure are available in English in the US legally: Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, and Stardust Crusaders.

For decades the only way to read Diamond is Unbreakable or Vento Auero was through fans buying Japanese copies, scanning them onto their computers, translating every single bit of dialogue and action, and putting them online, let’s sat extra-legally, for free. Many fans desperately wanted to read the rest of Jojo, but no US publisher wanted to publish anything past Stardust Crusaders.

jojo3

That lack of access is only beginning to change now. This Tuesday marked the official English release of Diamond is Unbreakable on the part’s twenty-seventh anniversary.

jojo7

For me, this is massive, since this is my absolute favorite part of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure due to the utter bizarreness of it even compared to the rest of the series. Do you want an antagonist who looks like David Bowie? We got that. Do you want rats with dart guns that melt things into gooey flesh piles? We got that. Do you want a break from the drama so the main characters can enjoy a nice meal at an Italian restaurant? That’s my favorite chapter. Do you want an alien? Because we got an alien.

What makes Diamond is Unbreakable so unique within Jojo and within Shonen in general is how much the series wants to do. Araki shows us action throughout, but he also gives us these quiet moments of being delinquents in school or visiting a local author to cheat them out of money. The characters are allowed to breathe and react and just do small things that don’t have any bearing on the overarching plot.

And that’s great. Because sometimes the reader just wants to take a breath. Sometimes the reader just wants to have fun. So finally, after twenty-seven years, I can show you how much fun Diamond is Unbreakablecan be and how great it is to hold this story in your hand for the first time.

Get excited. The Excitement is Unbreakable.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 365: Campbell McGrath!

Episode 365 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 talk with poet Campbell McGrath about his his new book, Nouns & Verbs, from a luminous lobby in Portland.

Campbell McGrath

Photo by Freesia McKee.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Nouns & Verbs

NOTES

Check out my previous interview with Campbell from 3 years ago, back on episode 203.

If a literary adventure might be your jam, please consider buying my exciting new novel.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover


Episode 365 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 #271: Death Warrant

The  Curator of Schlock #271 by Jeff Shuster

Death Warrant

Bring me a dream, Burke! Bring me a dream!

It’s May and that means it’s Jean-Claude Van Damme Month here at the Museum of Schlock. We’ll be taking a tour of his career from his early classics to his modern marvels. I remember covering Pound of Flesh last year, the one where Van Damme gets one of his kidneys stolen and goes on a mad spree to get it back. Let’s just say I have it on good authority that you’re not going to be getting up and running right after you’ve had a kidney removed. In fact, I’m pretty certain you’ll be laid up in bed, unable to walk for 24 hours. And don’t get me started on that catheter. Do you know what that is and where it’s inserted?

death1 (1)

Tonight’s movie is 1990’s Death Warrant from director Deran Sarafian. Also of note is the screenwriter, David S. Goyer. He would later go on to direct the Dark Knight trilogy. Goyer also directed the brilliant Blade Trinity. I’m kidding, of course. Interesting that this motion picture cost only 6 million to make wake, but made 48 million. Ah, the quaint 1990s before cinematic universes and 200 million dollar budgets. Back when a young man could look at that silver screen and imagine himself in that director’s chair one day. And then we got the pop culture abyss that gave us the  trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog movie and said young man realized he was better off living in the past.

Sonic1 (1)

Death Warrant begins with a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detective named Louis Burke (Jean-Claude Van Damme) tracking down a serial killer who goes by the nom de plume, The Sandman (Patrick Kilpatrick).  After confronting The Sandman in an abandoned warehouse, Burke plugs him full of holes. In other words, he gives The Sandman a lead shower. In other words, Burke pulls his gun out shoots the psycho serial killer many, many times. Burke did such a good job taking out The Sandman that he’s recruited into the Governor of California’s task force and asked to go undercover in Harrison State Prison, posing as an inmate to discover the reason behind a recent epidemic of murders in the prison.

Death2

The prisoners don’t take to kindly Burke upon his arrival even though he was sent there on a fake charge of armed robbery, a respectable crime amoung inmates. Cynthia Gibb plays state attorney Amanda Beckett and poses as Burke’s wife so she can feed him information she gathers on the outside. There’s a point in the movie where she employs the help of a teenage boy who keeps making innapropriate suggestions to her before asking her if she wants to watch Star Trek with him (which is also innapropriate). I think the nerd hacks into some prison database and Beckett figures out the corrupt prison warden is, naturally,  running an organ harvesting operation right out of the prison.

Death3

Things go from bad to worse when The Sandman is transferred to Harrison State Prison. He’s fully recovered from all those bullet wounds and ready to deliver some sweet revenge to Detective Burke. He lets all the prisoners know Burke is an undercover cop. They want his blood, as do the corrupt prison guards. The walls are closing in on Burke, but he’ll do some spin kicks, and that will make all the difference. Let’s just you don’t want to be standing in front of an open furnace when Van Damme delivers some sweet chin music to you.


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.