Song of the Day: Goblins’ Dance (by Ensiferum)


Ensiferum’s self-titled debut in January 2001 was a prophetic landmark in metal, and I remember the feeling I got when I first heard it, probably about a year later. It wasn’t groundbreaking in its originality. No, I’d heard music like it before, here and there, scattered throughout my earliest mp3 collections. Blind Guardian and Rhapsody (of Fire), with their epic folk-infused triumphal marches and war cries, Thyrfing, with their stomp-along anthems to some Nordic specter, that peculiar absurdity Finntroll, so difficult to describe at the time… these bands had all been brought to my attention before Ensiferum.

I did not perceive at the time a common thread connecting them all. I was just frantically whipping my 28.8 kilobit per second modem headfirst into a musical fog, oblivious as it began to coalesce around me. Napster was dead, and with it passed my inclination to only pirate the most popular metal and grunge’s dying embers. Audiogalaxy was the new center of musical civilization, and with it came enlightenment. You didn’t just type in what you wanted and download it. You discussed it in chatrooms. You discussed it in forums. You carried the discussions over to more general-purpose forums. The internet became more united among music enthusiasts than it has ever been before or since.

Thus it was that 2001 served as a landmark year for me. I would look up Blind Guardian, and an hour later (well, this was 2001, so more like a day later) I would be enjoying Elvenking’s To Oak Woods Bestowed demo, Within Temptation’s Mother Earth, Therion’s Deggial… I didn’t know that these were all relatively new releases, I couldn’t categorize them into genres, and I had no real means of becoming informed about the bands save word of mouth (like anyone had heard of Wikipedia or Google back then). All I knew, or at least thought I knew, was that certain people had an incredible aptitude for finding and recommending music I would consistently love. I had not yet recognized the phenomenon at work here–the significance of the fact that all of this music was appearing at around the same time.

It must have been around the end of 2001 that I stumbled upon Ensiferum. By then I had heard dozens, maybe a hundred non-mainstream metal bands that I loved, and I was starting to pick up on their common themes, but I hadn’t fully put my finger on it. Then I saw this album cover, heard this song, and went “Ah ha! This is viking metal.” It might not be the precise term I would use today, and it might sound rather trivial, but at the time it was a sort of epiphany. This was the amalgamation of all of the metal Audiogalaxy had offered me under one roof. All of the amazing new things going on between about 1996 and 2001 suddenly took form as a conscious whole; Ensiferum was a glorious sign of things to come, heralding a new age of metal.

“From the three ascending moons,
moonshine was spilling onto the ground.
Gruesome trophies were all around,
in the halls of the Goblin King.
Now the victory is ours!
Let us dance the dance of immortals!”

Happy Halloween!

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Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing in December?


Last month, at this time, we asked you which four films you were most looking forward to seeing in the month of November.  The results are in and it appears that October is going to be all about A Dangerous Method, Twilight, Pirahna 3DD, Hugo, Melancholia, and J. Edgar.  Thank you to everyone who voted.

Here’s December’s poll.  As always, you can vote for up to four films and write-ins are accepted.  So, let us know — which films are you looking forward to seeing in December?

Horror Film Review: White Zombie (dir. by Victor Halperin)


Happy Halloween!

For my final public domain horror film of this wonderful month, allow me to present to you 1932’s White Zombie.  Starring (and completely dominated) by Bela Lugosi, White Zombie is considered by many to be the first true zombie film.  Watching this film today is an interesting experience if just because these aren’t the zombies that we’re used to.  These are Pre-Romero, old school zombies.  These are Serpent and the Rainbow zombies.  Some of the acting in White Zombie (to be charitable) pretty bad but no matter.  The film’s visuals have a hypnotic, dream-like quality to them and it’s a truly important piece of horror film history.

Trailers For Halloween, Part 3


Happy October 31st!  In honor of one of the greatest months ever, here’s part three of my special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.  Enjoy!

1) House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Apparently, this film is being remade by Johnny Depp and Tim Burton.

2) Night of Dark Shadows (1971)

And then, of course, there was a sequel. 

3) Children Shouldn’t Pay With Dead Things (1972)

I agree!

4) Don’t Look In The Basement (1972)

In the best grindhouse tradition, the first part of this trailer is made up of scenes from Last House On The Left.  On another note, one of the benefits of living in north Texas is that we don’t have to deal with basements and all the icky little things that tend to live in basements.

5) The Crater Lake Monster (1977)

Wow, this looks bad.  But I just love the way the guy narrating the trailer tries to convince us otherwise.

6) Phantasm (1979)

Everyone always seems to freak out when I admit that I haven’t seen this movie yet.  I do own it on DVD, however and someday, I will watch it.  Promise!

Happy Halloween!

Something Horrific That Was Found On YouTube: The 1987 Max Headroom Incident


This is something that I came across on YouTube about a year ago.  Apparently, way back in 1987, person unknown managed to hijack the signal of Chicago television station.  The end result can be viewed below.

Personally, I find this video to be … well, disturbing.  And kinda scary, though not as scary as this one time in Arkansas when I was walking along these train tracks and I nearly placed my foot right into the middle of the mushy, maggot-ridden remains of a dog that had apparently been hit by a train.  (Agck!  Now, that was scary….)  I also find it kinda sad that somebody went through all the trouble to hijack a television signal (which I assume is not easy) and this is why they did it.

Anyway, Halloween seems to be the perfect time to share this video.  Not only does it feature a guy in a mask but it’s also one of those mysterious events that make Halloween a holiday worth celebrating.  So, without further jibber jabbering on my part, here is the 1987 Max Headroom Incident:

Quickie Horror Review: Horror Express (dir. Eugenio Martin)


In some places it’s already Halloween but here on the West Coast it is still a few more hours til the best night of the year arrives.

There was one film when I was really young which scared the hell out of me and when I think about it now I have to say that it probably will still cause me to lose hours of sleep over it. It’s a horror/sci-fi film from Spain and released in 1972. Horror Express was directed by Spanish filmmaker Eugenio Martin and starred two titans of the gothic horror scene of the 60’s and 70’s in Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It also starred Telly Savalas in quite the creepy and sadistic role as a Cossack captain.

When the film was made the horror genre scene was still hanging onto the gothic  aesthetics of the very popular Hammer Films which dominated the genre from the 60’s and into the early 70’s. While the Herschel Gordon Lewis bloodsplatter exploitation films and Romero’s own Night of the Living Dead was the beginning of the move to more violent and gory films that would see it’s gain strength in the 70’s this film from Spain was unique in that it tried to do have that Hammer Films look in addition to some gory work (though still tame to what would arrive years later).

Horror Express was all about a Transsiberian express train on the way back to Europe with some Russian royalty on-board and a particular anthropological find stored on-board the baggage car. The scientist who found the specimen was played by Christopher Lee with Peter Cushing his colleague and fellow researcher. Through Lee’s character Saxton trying vainly to keep the finding secret from everyone the specimen suddenly becomes aware and soon begins the wreak deadly havoc on the passengers on-board.

The film shares some clear similarities to the Joseph W. Campbell, Jr. scifi novella Who Goes There? which also was the direct inspiration for John Carpenter’s The Thing a decade later. One thing about this film which remained terrifying was how it treated the victims of the entity that awoke from within the specimen. I would say that the zombie-like state the dead victims returned in makes for some of the more terrifying images from horror films during the early 70’s that didn’t rely too much on gore and extreme violence. It’s these scenes of the white-eyed zombies shambling from train car to train car as they’re being controlled by entity that struck me as one of the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen. It didn’t help that I was 8 years-old at the time. But even now decades later I still get a strong, visceral reaction to that scene whenever I get an urge to re-watch Horror Express.

It’s a horror/sci-fi film which has lapsed into public domain and thus makes it easy for anyone who don’t want to spend some money to buy the DVD release. It’s a fitting fillm to help usher in 2011’s Halloween and it’s also one of the last great gothic horror films of the era before the arrival of the Wes Craven’s, John Carpenter’s and Tobe Hooper’s.

Review: The Walking Dead S2E3 “Save the Last One”


“Got bit. Fever hit. World turned to shit. Might as well quit.” — note from unnamed hanged man turned zombie

[some spoilers within]

The first two episodes of the newest season of The Walking Dead sees Rick and his group of survivors on the move after the events at the CDC which ended season 1. Their convoy to reach what they think as the safe haven of the US Army base at Fort Benning doesn’t get them very far as they come across traffic snarl of abandoned vehicles and wrecks on the main highway. Its during these first two episodes that the group begins to show signs of cracks in the group dynamic which could lead to a permanent splintering of factions. It doesn’t help that two young kids in the group have either gone missing or gets accidentally shot by a deer hunter’s bullet.

We also meet a new group of survivors in the form of the Greene family led by it’s country vet doctor in Hershel Greene, his eldest daughter Maggie, their ranch hand Otis and a few others. Its from the Greene farm that the previous spent most of it’s time though it did show some choice scenes back at the RV and the group searching for Sophia in the forest. We see another cliffhanger end the second episode with Shane and his new partner in Otis as they make their way to the local high school where a FEMA camp had been set up as a refugee center before it became overrun. While they got the necessary supplies needed to save Carl they soon find themselves besieged by a horde of zombies with just a security gate and a lose bolt keeping them at bay.

“Save the Last One” marks the third episode of this 13-episode season 2. Except for a brief pre-credits scene of Shane shaving his head and looking intensely at his reflection off of a steamed up bathroom mirror, the episode takes up right after the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. Shane and Otis are running through the hallways of the high school they’ve gone into for safety only to have the zombies outside chasing in after them. This part of the episode is just one of four parallel subplots which includes Daryl and Andrea continuing into the night in their search for Sophia in the woods, Dale and Carol back in the RV and the rest of the group over at the Greene farm waiting to see if Carl will get the necessary he needs to survive.

The decision to cover all four threads in this episode was an interesting decision which doesn’t pay off for all. It would be the Shane and Otis section which would get the most action during the episode, but it would be at the Greene farm that we get some soul searching from the Grimes about whether its the best if Carl was just to die if just to save him the horror of having to try and survive in a world where something is always around the corner to tear into him. Andrea and Daryl has a conversation during their search that sounds just as similar though not as depressing and downbeat as Rick and Lori with theirs. We get more personal musings about faith, God and the need to live instead of just surviving.

Some of these dialogue-heavy scenes work like the ones between Andrea and Daryl. With each passing episode Reedus continues to make Daryl Dixon a well-rounded character beyond the racist redneck his initial introduction made him out to be. His Daryl shows much more than just being a badass in the show but also one who is more observant about those around him than he lets on. He sees how much Andrea is still hurting from Amy’s death from season 1 and understands the feeling of just ending it all though he doesn’t see it as the best option. The same goes with how Rick still remains optimistic about the world as it stands now and gives a wonderful speech to Lori about why Carl should have the chance to live instead of letting him die. Both Rick and Daryl seem to have much more in common than we realize though they each go about their optimistic viewpoint in their own particular way.

“Save the Last One” weaves too many concurrent subplots that at times they break some of the stronger scenes between Andrea and Daryl and those between Rick and Lori. Then there’s Shane and Otis in their attempt to escape the horde of zombies after them as they try to make it back to the Greene farm with their medical supplies. the episode tonight could easily have saved some of the scenes with Carol and Dale for the next episode since it looks like Sophia will remain missing. But all in all, tonight’s episode still moved the series forward despite the series still remaining static in terms of location for the group. While it didn’t hit on every note the show did bring up some of the more interesting themes from the comic book.

Despite the episode tonight having been uneven due to the juggling of several subplots to the main story it was fully redeemed by the ending which did a major deviate from the comic book source material and do so in a truly shocking way. I understand why the character in question made the decision that he made, but it still was one that sends this particular character past through the looking glass, shattering it and coming out changed on the other side and most likely not for the better. Plus, it was quite ballsy of Kirkman and the rest of the show’s writer to take out a character sooner than expected if one followed the book. If any episode really hammered in the point that the show will be going very far off the beaten path created by the comic book source material then it would be this one. “Save the Last One” is definitely one of the episodes in this show’s brief span, so far, that will be talked about for months to come.

Notes

  • It’s interesting to note that both Andrea and Dale has so far been written quite differently for the show than in the comic book. Will the writers continue to make them different from their comic book counterparts or will they gradually work them into finally becoming the characters fans ended up loving.
  • So far, the rules as to who can and who doesn’t become a zombie has remained vague outside of the survivors thinking it’s a virus transmitted by bites and injuries caused directly by the zombies. The comic book followed the Romero rules that any sort of death will result in the body returning to life as zombie as long as the brain is intact.
  • The episode being set mostly at night really made some of the scenes at the high school and at the RV look very dark that at times it was hard difficult to figure out what was going on.
  • Glenn got a bit more screen time in this episode and his interaction with Maggie Greene was good to see as these two would become quite integral in the group moving forward.
  • Lauren Cohan also got a bit more time during the episode to help flesh out her character as someone who seemed more well-adjusted to the new world than either Lori, Andrea or Carol. Though after finding out what had happened to one of her and her family’s oldest friends showed that deep down she’s as damaged by the zombie apocalypse as the other ladies.
  • I’m all for Sophia being found alive and all, but this season has put too much energy on this particular part of the storyline for far too long. They need to figure out a way to end this part of the show’s second season soon and do so in a way that makes sense or it would’ve been a wasted exercise in storytelling that took up almost a third of the season if not more.
  • Even with the episode set at night with minimal lighting the zombie make-up effects by co-executive producer Greg Nicotero and his band of make-up wizards at KNB EFX remain one of the highlight’s of the show. Example in point: legless zombie in the high school gym.
  • It’s been awhile since we’ve seen someone shown getting torn apart by zombies on this series, but tonight did a great job at showing how savage and brutal a death at the hands of a horde of zombies could be especially if the person in question being torn apart was still alive to experience it.
  • Some may think the season has been slow-going so far, but I like how it’s not all action. If there was ever one thing which always made zombie apocalypse stories very fun to read and watch is how they don’t just show gore and death, but also explore some heavy themes and ideas about faith, living versus survival and whether allowing the most helpless to remain surviving in such a terrifying world is such a good idea to begin with.
  • The episode’s title definitely played on the idea of saving the last bullet. Whether the episode means saving it for oneself as the final option out or to use it for a darker purpose to continue surviving would be up to the each individual to decide.