Artist Profile: Eric Stanton (1926 — 1999)

Born and raised in New York City, Eric Stanton was 12 years old when he was quarantined because of Scarlet Fever.  During this time, he started to draw out of boredom.  After a stint in the Navy, Stanton attended the Cartoonists and Illustrators School and found work as a freelance artist.  Between 1963 and 1966, Stanton painted over a 100 paperback book covers.  His covers typically featured strong women dominating weak men.

Below are a few examples of Stanton’s work as a paperback cover artist.

Quick Review: The Master (dir. by Paul T. Anderson)

If I had a choice between watching the worst of Paul T. Anderson’s films and the best of Paul W.S. Anderson’s films, P.T. would win just about every time. Unless of course it’s about Event Horizon. I love that film, but that’s for a different review.

Sometimes, you walk into a movie expecting one thing, and are given something completely different. I decided to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master on a whim. It is as amazing as it is strange. Most of the movies I’ve seen lately have been event based, but it was nice to catch a film that seemed more character driven. The film’s protagonist, Freddy Quell is as unorthodox as they come, and I wouldn’t be shocked in the least to see Joaquin Phoenix get some major recognition for this. It’s not without it’s problems, though I’d see it again in a heartbeat.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not terribly qualified for a movie like this – it’s very “art house”, much like Refn’s Drive and Von Trier’s Melancholia (one of which I own and the other I love). A lot of it for me felt like the story wasn’t really going anywhere, though I loved the character interactions. Reviewing a film like this requires a bit more depth and understanding of cinema on a whole than what I currently have. For me,  there are moments where it almost feels like Anderson said..”Well, they did this…” with someone asking him “And then…?” right after every new point. By the time you’re done with the film, you may ask yourself just what it was you just saw (or what was the point of it, more or less). Then again, I had a similar feeling with the first half of Melancholia and adore that film because of it’s second half. What rescues The Master are the performances, particularly Phoenix’s, that help raise the movie when it threatens to sputter. This, along with the cinematography, really adds to things. The film is beautiful, especially when viewed in the 70MM format. There are some great wide-angle shots, the framing is sweet and the focus is brilliant considering you’re not watching a digital presentation. That’s at least what I took from it, visually. Anderson can make a film look beautiful.

If you can catch a 70MM showing, definitely try to do so.

Okay, that’s sweet, but what is the movie about? 

The Master is basically the story of Freddy Quell, a former Naval officer who doesn’t quite walk a straight road. He has a penchant for two things – an explosive temper and the ability to make moonshine out just about any liquid. From his first line, one gets the idea that something is just a little off with him, and it confused me a little in the opening scenes. I guess what I expected was a little different from what I got. Watching someone compulsively masturbate on a beach will do that to you.

Freddy, who finds himself in some odd jobs and situations, stumbles his way onto a boat and finds himself the next morning the guest of one Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a group that follow a movement called “The Cause”. Dodd asks Freddy to stay and make more of his special brew. This becomes the start of a journey for both individuals. Freddy comes to find that Dodd is quite the interesting person, being invited to have his entourage stay with different friends and share with them the way he’s found to improve upon the human condition. There is a beautiful 10 minute question and answer auditing session between Dodd and Quell that’s a great example of the acting and focus in the film. Everyone seemed to go all out with their performances, which comes to no surprise given how well There Will Be Blood turned out. Amy Adams also has a good role as Dodd’s wife, supporting him through his plans in a number of ways. Having worked with Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the past, they seem to have some great chemistry together. Much of what she did was a little shocking for me, but she handled her scenes very well.

In trying to save Freddy from himself and his reckless ways, The Master doesn’t quite lead the audience where they think it’ll go. Not that it has to, mind you. However, if you’re walking into the film expecting something grand by the end of the film, you may find yourself somewhat disappointed. At least, my audience didn’t seem to voice a lot of good words for the story, though most of what I did hear was praise for the actors. I loved it, but it was just started to lose me in the last 15 minutes. However, the performances are such a standout that you really can’t ignore the film. I’m almost certain that come awards time, The Master will be in the mix.

A Horror Quickie With Lisa Marie: Slaughter High (dir by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, and Peter Litten)

Before I left on my vacation, I watched several free horror movies on Fearnet.  The majority of those films were worth exactly what I paid for them but, occasionally, I came across a film that was worth a quarter or two more.  One of those fifty cent films was Slaughter High.

Though it was obviously made a few years earlier, Slaughter High was released in 1986 and was a part of the whole mid-80s slasher cycle.  Like many of the films in this cycle, Slaughter High opens with a high school prank gone wrong.  Poor Marty (Simon Scuddamore) is the victim of an incredibly cruel April Fool’s Day prank that ends with him totally naked and being dunked in a toilet by a group of 8 students who are surprisingly sadistic.  Of course, part of that sadism could have something to do with the fact that they all appear to be in their 30s, yet they’re still students in high school.  A coach (who appears to be the only teacher in the entire school) happens to come across the students tormenting Marty and he punishes them by ordering them to go to the gym and start doing push ups.

“This is all Marty’s fault!” one of the 8 sadists exclaims.

So, naturally, they play yet another prank on poor Marty.  This prank involves Marty smoking a poisoned joint and then accidentally spilling a jug of acid on his face.  As his tormenters watch, a seriously disfigured Marty is taken out of the school on a stretcher.

Exactly ten years later, the 8 sadists (who have now all graduated) get an invitation to attend a reunion at the old high school.  When they arrive, they discover that 1) they’re the only ones who have been invited and 2) the high school has been abandoned and is on the verge of collapsing.  Now, you might think that this might lead at least one of them to remember that it’s been exactly 10 years since they totally destroyed Marty’s face and life but you would be wrong.  Instead, the group decides to break into the old school and spend the night.

You can probably guess how well that works out.  Even as our guests discover that random pictures of Marty have been posted throughout the school, none of them suspects that something bad might be about to happen.  In fact, it’s not until one of them drinks a beer that’s been spiked with acid that it occurs to any of them that they might not be alone…

Slaughter High is something of a surprise, a low-budget horror film that works exactly because it doesn’t make any sense.  Nobody in this film acts like a logical (or halfway intelligent) human being and that — along with a genuinely creepy setting, a camera that never stops prowling through the dark corridors of that dilapidated school, and some surprisingly brutal death scenes — all comes together to create a narrative that feels more and more dream-like as the story continues.  Narrative logic is ignored in favor of nightmarish imagery and the end result is a slasher film that seems to be directly descended from Lucio Fulci’s Beyond trilogy.

It’s hard to talk about Slaughter High without talking about the film’s ending and it’s impossible to talk about that ending without spoiling the entire film.  So, I’ll just say that Slaughter High has two endings.  One concludes the action at the school and then, a few minutes later, there’s a twist ending that concludes the film as a whole.  Just on the basis of a few online reviews that I’ve read, the “twist ending” is something that people either love or they hate.  Myself, I felt that the film’s first ending would have been a perfect place to end things but, at the same time, the twist didn’t bother me.  If nothing else, it nicely complimented the entire film’s lack of narrative logic.

A sad sidenote: Simon Scuddamore, who plays Marty here, never made another film because he apparently killed himself a few weeks after filming his role.  On another odd casting note, Caroline Munro plays one of Marty’s high school tormentors despite being in her mid-30s at the time.

October Music Series: Myllärit – Tunteellinen Valssi

I’m going to keep it fairly friendly for these first few entries before I delve into the darker side of the scene. Today’s feature song is Tunteellinen Valssi by Karelian folk band Myllärit, appearing on their 1999 release In the Light of the White Night. Though this is the only album I have by them, the band have been around for quite some time. They first formed in 1992, and they have since released seven albums.

I am not particularly good at tracing older musical styles, and I don’t know if there’s any sort of precedent for waltzes in Finnish/Karelian tradition, but Tunteellinen Valssi and the album as a whole keep the instrumentation fairly local. In the Light of the White Night consists of a wide range of styles which nevertheless all fall within the broader category I’ve come to associate with Karelian folk. Unlike Poropetra, Myllärit have no ties to the metal scene to the best of my knowledge. I can only speak for one album, but from what I’ve read I gather they stick pretty consistently to traditional folk forms.

I think the majority of their songs are sung in Finnish, but their Finnish Wikipedia entry (yay Google Translate) claims that they also sing in Ingrian, a Finnic language only spoken by about 500 people in the Ingria region just south of Karelia. It always excites me to see modern folk and metal bands doing their part to preserve fading linguistic and cultural traditions.

Trailer: The Road (dir. by Yam Laranas)

With each passing year we get more and more quality genre films coming out of the rest of the world. I’m not one of those people who thinks Hollywood has run out of ideas and/or rehashing the same thing over and over. For every piece of crap that Hollywood releases there’s a gem or two in the mix. I have a feeling that a small independently made film that came out of the Philippines in 2011 would get the Hollywood remake because of the buzz it’s been getting since it has made it’s way into the US.

The Road is the latest film from Filipino horror filmmaker Yam Laranas and it’s a psychological/supernatural horror film that takes one of the more well-known ghost story types (the story of the haunted stretch of road) and gives it some fresh new infusion of ideas. It’s definitely one of the better horror films to come out of the Philippines film industry (a film industry that has always done some good low-budget  and indie horror films over the decades).

The film is finally getting a release in the US market through festivals and Video-On-Demand. It’s definitely one film I plan on watching before the month is through to see what all the buzz and hype about it is all about.