Recent Reviews for Blood Vice

Two recent reviews. I’m posting them here because, honestly, I like them. Also, I’m showing them off to my Grandmother. 

From Bitten by Books:

http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=14632

From Wicked Little Pixie:

http://wickedlilpixie.com/2010/01/28/blood-vice-keith-melton/

Also, I’m a little over 2/3rds done with the first round of edits on the sequel. Much of the time sink revolved around placement of certain key scenes in the second act of the narrative. I ended up using a Character/Scene Excel spreadsheet another author sent me. The spreadsheet really helped track the two separate plot arcs that merge in the third act.

Quarantine Vs Diary of the Dead

I recently watched two zombie/zombie-esque movies back to back and figured I’d discuss my reasons why I felt the film Quarantine came away the winner in a head-to-head match up.

First off, I much admire George Romero. Night of the Living Dead stands as one of my favorite horror movies of all time. The feel of the movie is brilliant–the creepy, claustrophobic horror of being trapped in a house, surrounded by increasing numbers of stupid but dismayingly resilient zombies as society breaks down outside. Also, the hero is a kick ass African-American, which was way ahead of its time. Dark. Complex. Serious themes and subtexts course through that movie, as well as Dawn of the Dead, which I also love. Those films are classics, and rightfully so. Romero deserves all the props in the world.

However, in Diary of the Dead I suspect the frame used across the span of the movie actually interferes with Romero’s (usually) more subtle social commentary. The frame, where Debra uses narration about the events occurring around the documentary, simply takes the themes of voyeurism and  the power and almost hypnotic influence of the camera and makes it annoyingly over-the-top. We have Debra explicitly explaining all of this to us throughout the film, killing all subtlety. Narration is seldom as powerful as watching the direct action/dialogue, and in Diary of the Dead it feels as if one is constantly hammered with these themes/ideas (interesting though they are, overkill is still overkill) until the viewer simply wants to mute Debra’s commentary. Cutting the narration would’ve made for a stronger film.

The effect of the internet on the reaction to the crisis is interesting. As things grow more chaotic, people turn to user uploaded videos and blogs for information on the true nature of the crisis, effectively side-stepping the mainstream media and government as their primary information sources. However, I’m not certain how long ISPs would function or even power would be available given the apocalyptic scope of the crisis. After all, someone has to get up and go to work at the power station every morning, and if the zombie apocalypse is going down, I’d probably call in sick that day.

An aside: the Amish guy was by far my favorite character. I would’ve prefered to follow him around for awhile. Great moral dilemma for pacifists–do reanimated corpses count? Would he kill a person who was infected and dying, but not yet succumbed, or always wait until they died and rose again to put them down? Though, I didn’t quite buy the Amish guy chucking pipe bombs (where would he get fuse, etc?) but some Amish do have rifles to hunt. Also, I’m not quite sure that rickety barn was up to spec. I’ve seen Amish barns. They are very well-built and they take a great deal of pride in them.  

The last thing I want to bitch about is the events at the end of the film.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT:

One of their friends (who is, quite frankly, an absolute tool unable to understand the basic concept that all zombies must die) hides the fact that he is bitten–a common trope–and dies, comes back as a zombie and chases a girl around in the forest, mirroring one of the first scenes of the film where the crew’s shooting a horror film. The scene is played largely for humor. I realize one of our themes throughout has been how the camera person remains behind the lens, passively filming events but not helping his fellow humans and the moral/social implications of this, but here, in this scene, it just comes off as stupid. Contrast this with an earlier scene where the cameraman is recharging his batteries in a hospital full of zombies where the scene comes off perfectly–tense, and conveying the subtext without bludgeoning the viewer with it.

The cameraman doesn’t help the girl being chased by the zombie, which leads to several stupid events. She knocks out the zombie instead of KILLING it (zombie survival 101–destroy zombies with extreme prejudice) and then takes off in the RV, effectively stranding all the rest of the survivors. Thanks, kid. Of course, our zombie gets back up and causes havoc because HE WASN’T KILLED. Couldn’t have seen that one coming.

END SPOILER

Okay, griping over. The movie is worth watching. There are some worthwhile scenes: the hospital, the Amish guy (sans pipe bomb, that is), rednecks playing a form of zombie pinata with guns, killing a zombie with acid to the head–a zombie kill I don’t believe I’d ever seen before.

Watch Diary of the Dead for these scenes, mute the commentary, ignore troubling little nits such as how the zombies in Debra’s house are curiously silent, even while eating, until they’re called upon in the script to pop out and surprise the audience. I mean, if you don’t notice a zombie behind the couch eating your dad when you first walk through the door–hell, the smell would be bad enough–then you have some serious problems with Attention to Detail.

Let’s move on to Quarantine. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. This is a remake of a Spanish film which is on my list to check out. Apparently it is superior to the Hollywood movie, which is too often the case.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the feel of the film–shot entirely from one camera POV–no film score and frequently without framing shots. The other actors/characters are often not acting directly to the camera and this all contributed to a feeling of the viewer thrown right into the middle of all the chaos. At one point, the camera is used to kill a zombie, smashing its head over and over again (yes, we all know would break the lens of any normal camera in Reality Land) which yields a strange, rather disturbing effect, as if the viewer were actively taking a part in the killing. This is a long stride further along the path of the first Friday the 13th film, where the 1st person POV kills caused something of a controversy about the violence, almost making the viewer complacent/participant in the murders.  The camera POV had the feel of either being there, i.e. the camera as a character, or playing a 1st person video game in survival horror mode.

Granted, in a zombie survival horror situation, the first thing I’d do would be chuck the camera and grab: A) a firearm B) a pick ax C) a baseball bat D) a full set of ginsu knives E) all of the above. So there is some suspension of belief required. The zombies are fast zombies–they run, they make noise, they are sometimes very strong, tossing people around/breaking handcuffs, other times a man can wrestle them down and break their necks–a logic flaw that distracted me more than once.

The opening scenes were relatively effective, if a bit too long, in introducing the characters and establishing a bit of camaraderie between the news crew and the firefighters. Things take off when the firefighters respond to a call and the movie never looks back.

What I liked best was the trapped feel once the CDC/military showed up and quarantined the house. This was all shot through the one camera POV, so it felt very ominous. The characters/viewers are only shown glimpses of the outside world, and at one point a sniper opens up on them when they’re trying to get out. Chaos spreads, things get dicey, people start to die. That’s the element of zombie movies I find most exciting and/or compelling. Diary of the Dead had it, but the documentary framework seemed to interfere rather than enhance it, while in Quarantine  this seemed to raise the claustrophobic effect, to make me feel “right there” experiencing things with the characters.

The imbeciles who made the trailer for the film gave away the ending by showing me a very effective shot/image which I kept waiting to see as the movie progressed. As time marched toward the end of the film it wasn’t hard to figure out just where that shot had to go, and thus, what had to happen. Good job, Movie Trailer Guys. You took something cool the poor screenwriter built toward for an entire movie and shoved it in our face during the preview. You must also eat pie for your main course, before the appetizers, right?

Also, we had some issues of gun control–as in, there is a second 9mm on the wounded cop and no one is using it, you stupid morons. The firefighter has a good time with his sledgehammer, but using the other pistol from the wounded cop would’ve seemed to take priority in my mind. Maybe I’m just weird.

Quarantine didn’t seem to stretch hard to say Important Things About Society, (other than Don’t Get Rabies) and which is why, in the end, it seemed to work better for me than Diary of the Dead.

All right, trailers for both movies:

Diary of the Dead

Quarantine (This trailer contains SPOILERS so be warned)

Updating Links

I’m in the process of updating links from this blog. If you’re not listed yet and we go way back, just hold on. You’ll get up there eventually. Or Ping me on Twitter and remind me.

But for now I have to get back to edits/revisions on the Blood Vice sequel.

Soda from the Ice Age Discovered as Polar Ice Caps Melt

Okay, that title might be a tad inaccurate.

This photo was actually taken by my good friend Craig when he was lost in the wilds of Alaska. Running out of water and desperate to dig a snow cave to find shelter from a snowstorm, he uncovered this pristine can of Mt. Dew as he tunneled through the snow and ice with his bare hands. The soda sustained him with its ambrosia like combination of caffeine and sugar until he was rescued the next day.

That can saved his life, my friends. True Story.

Actually, Craig has always transported cans of Mt. Dew to places we used to hike and set up shots in his photography series I like to call: Landscapes with Mt. Dew. I think the guy should be sponsored for his efforts, but hey, the things we do out of pure love.

Here’s another photo he took of Mt. Shasta seen from Mt. Ashland.

The Grinch Is A Christmas Ninja

I’m aware that Christmas has come and gone, and the last thing people want is to be reminded of the holiday war zone and all the post-traumatic stress associated with it. However, I was frantically trying to finish the sequel to Blood Vice in December, and blogging is seductively easy to put off. That said, I certainly am not patient enough to wait until next Christmas to post this, so I’ll just tack it on a week after 2009 ends. Yep, I just checked the needle on the World’s Care Meter. That bastard did not even twitch.

The Grinch is a Christmas Ninja. I’m talking about the Dr. Seuss version—the cartoon specifically—and not that horrid abomination of a remake that should’ve been staked through the heart and left out for the rats to ravage and the sun to rot.

Here’s the play by play on why the Grinch is a Glorious Evil Green Ninja.

Our movie opens with snow, appropriately setting the scene for some good old-fashioned Christmas crime spree shenanigans. The possibilities are wide open. Perhaps we’ll see something ala Reservoir Dogs, a Grinch caper gone awry and all we have left are the flaming pieces of a once beautiful plan. Perhaps we’ll see a heist scene similar to Ocean’s Eleven, or a hijacking straight from The Usual Suspects. Or…we could have saccharine voices singing in some kind of foreign language, which is practically the Next Best Thing.

The camera pans to a bunch of strangely shaped creatures engaged in full on pagan worship of an evergreen tree. As much as we might love them for this against-the-mainstream celebration of some kind of pseudo-Wicca, we are constantly reminded that THEY are the creatures singing that appalling song. Right away the brilliant script has given the audience its first major conflict. Do we love the tree worshipers for their sense of community and connection to nature? Or do we cheer the Grinch in his quest steal all their swag when they’re asleep, and do so because they’ve inflicted a version of aural warfare upon our innocent ears?

I say make ’em pay, but hey, that’s just me. My yearbook never said I was very nice.

Next up. The creatures, commonly known as Whos (short for: Who’s singing that atrocious song? yuk, yuk…Fine, I’ll stop), cut the tree down, and the audience watches in horror as our venerable symbol of eternal life and replenishment following winter frost is summarily executed. Damn you, Whos. Damn you.

The Whos drag the poor tree back to their Lair, and it is here we see the disturbing variation in Who stature. Some of those Whos are roughly six inches tall, making one wonder about Who mating rituals (those of you curious about Who prOn, it may be found here at: www.DontClickThisLinkEverOrEvenEyeSurgeryWontPurgeImages.cm)

and speculate on accidental Who crushing deaths.

That goddamn song…still playing.

The Whos decorate the murdered tree with random garbage. No wonder the Grinch hates these creatures. Song switches tempo. The Whos run amok with all kinds of alien weaponry. They string their entire town with tripwires and explosives. Yes, they fear the Grinch—as they should. However, we will soon see all their preparations will not stop a ninja.

More decorating ensues, violating every workplace safety rule on the planet. We also catch a glimpse of EVIL BABY WHO, the Capo di tutti capi (Boss of Bosses) for Whotown. Don’t worry. We’ll see her again later when the Grinch fights her with his poison katana, which, if I remember correctly, is the best part of the movie.

The Whos put Iron bars on their windows to keep out their enemies…probably Punk Yeti gangs on snowmobiles.

All right, now things get awesome because we finally meet the hero of our story. Long panning shot up the snow-swept, jagged peaks of The Mountain North of Whoville to focus on the pissed off mug of the Grinch. Of course he’s pissed. HE HAS TO LISTEN TO THAT SINGING! And it’s enough to provoke justifiable homicide. The Whos like Christmas. ALL of them like Christmas, meaning they have some kind of creepy hive mind–which I’d say was pretty damn Communist of them, except for the fact they so clearly revel in Christmas Capitalism. The Grinch is independent and a free thinker. Our Grinch says “Sit on this and rotate, Christmas! To Hell with your Crass Commercialism and Toy-of-the-Minute Frenzy.”

The Grinch eats a toothpick. Just because he’s a bad ass like that.

The narrator advances the hypothesis that the Grinch is a Bad Ass because he wears ill-fitting shoes. I expect to cut to commercial so the audience can be tempted with Adidas, Nike, and Reebok ads, but for some reason the studio missed this Golden Advertising Opportunity. Moving on. Apparently the Grinch is possessed by the same demon(s) who possessed the girl from the Exorcist, since he can rotate his head 360 degrees. Which is awesome.

However, the narrator then advances his favorite personal opinion—The Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small, leading to rampant circulatory problems. Since the Grinch doesn’t have health care, you can imagine he’s one mean rattlesnake due to an under-developed blood-pumping muscle.

The Grinch hates the Whos. Which is why we all love him and why he’s the hero of this sordid tale. We also learn the Grinch procrastinates until the day before Christmas to launch his attack, so in that way he’s exactly like me with Christmas shopping. Oh, Grinchy Grinch. Have my babies already, will ya?

About this time we meet his dog Max. A stand up guy—or stand up dog, if you prefer. Max used to do truck hijackings and armored car heists in New York before becoming a member of the Grinch’s crew. Sometimes he might seem a little timid, perhaps, but you’ll never find a better Get Away driver. He’s also been known to gore people with his horn just for looking at him wrong. So beware. It’s always the quiet ones.

Next scene: We learn precisely why All Whos Must Die!

First we see hordes of Who girls and boys looting Rome. Damn barbarians. Apparently they also violate every Noise Ordinance on the books while they’re at it. Do you hate them yet? Wait, there’s more. We’re treated to a list of some of their musical instruments. Apparently they allow children in motorized high chairs to play bass drums. As any parent who has given a young child a drum knows, these Whos MUST BE STOPPED!

The favorite sport of Whos is apparently a roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet, which, I grudgingly admit, actually sounds pretty cool.

Who houses are roughly the dimensions of a football stadium, since they tear around on their strange mobile musical instruments and never run into things like, oh, you know, WALLS.

The Whos are carnivorous. They slaughter poor defenseless Roast Beast grown in tiny pens for the Corporate Meat Industry. Obviously, when we were young and innocent at the start of this movie and believed the Whos were tree-huggers we were horribly misguided and completely wrong. Nicely played, Dr. Seuss. You have masterfully manipulated our preconceived notions of the Whos, and I applaud you.

Who Pudding closely resembles a monstrous tower of Jell-O with strange antennae sticking out on all sides. If I had a flamethrower, I’d charbroil that Who-Pudding until it stopped moving forever, leaving nothing but a smoking gelatin stain on the plate.

But then again, I don’t like gelatin desserts.

The Whos use highly inefficient waiters. They also walk on their tables. Is there no end to their uncouth barbarianism? And the French thought the Americans were bad…

Evil Baby Who is shown contemplating eating a human heart presented on a plate. Probably belonging to an ex-baby sitter who let her stay in a dirty diaper for an hour too long. That can leave a rash, you know.

More Who singing, and bells now. As Edgar Allen Poe said:

Oh, the bells, bells, bells!

What a tale their terror tells

Of Despair!

How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

You said it, Eddie. Those Whos know how to pour out the horror, damn them all to the ninth circle of Hell.

Also, Evil Baby Who apparently has no feet. She seems to be some kind of Lovecraftian worm. Cute, but secretly depraved.

Next shot: Max after a bong hit.

 

The Grinch is driven to action by the flagrant excesses and horrors of the Whos. For 53 years he’s endured their unfiltered malevolence and high-pitched cavorting. He nurtures his War Plan. Which gives way to the most singularly awesome Grinch face in the entire movie:

The Grinch also has red curtains—curtains which he’s forced to destroy in order to construct his Santa infiltration suit. This is a particularly poignant tragedy because it’s hard to come by pleasant décor in a cave atop a mountain, especially with the Whos controlling all trade, choking off the Grinch’s supply train. A green ninja can only take so much before he must wet the katana with blood and lick it clean with a pointy tongue.

And next we have one of the singularly most awesome things about this movie: the song You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. I’ve loved that song since I was a snot-nosed kid. It is full of eloquent imagery and lauds the finer aspects of the Grinch’s personality. Any character should feel honored to have so moving a theme song. Among other things, the Grinch is “cuddly as a cactus,” “charming as an eel,” a “bad banana with a greasy black peel,” has a heart described as “an empty hole.” And then, my friends, comes the most excruciatingly awesome line ever. “Your brain is full of spiders.” That line cannot be topped. How I lust after it—how I wish I had written it.

Rock on with your crazy bad self, Grinch.

However, we also learn the Grinch bears symptoms of leprosy and shouldn’t be touched with a 39 and a ½-foot pole. Anything 40 ft and up, though, you’re golden.

The Grinch makes his costume, because like all professional ninjas he can sew either flesh or fabric with a needle and thread. However, the Grinch also owns a sewing machine, and proceeds to sew his dog into the hem by mistake, but hey, we’ll blame industrial accidents on the Whos because we hate them so.

The Grinch converts his dog into a reindeer-unicorn-canine hybrid, takes out his laundry, and gets ready to go. At this point I would’ve suggested he just rain down artillery shells on Whoville, since the Grinch has superior field position and controls the high ground–or at least start an avalanche to purge the earth of the Whos–but alas, the Grinch is such a ninja he prefers to do his wet work close up, hands-on. Right after stealing back the slain evergreen tree and replanting it in a pristine Oregon forest where it will be surrounded by gently hooting Spotted Owls and peace and love and tranquility he will then turn his spidery thoughts to vengeance for all trees everywhere.

Or something like that.

Let me take a time out for an aside. Boris Karloff does the voice of the Grinch and Boris Karloff is the man. Enough said.

Back to our Crime of the Century. BDSM Grinch does a little whipping action on his unicorn-canine-reindeer and they descend toward Whoville exactly like the Charge of the Light Brigade except with fewer cannons and more comedic hijinks. Apparently it is possible to sled down a sheer cliff face. So kids, definitely try that at home. Just tell Mom and Dad you saw it on a Christmas Special.

Editor’s Note: Do not follow any advice dispensed on this blog. Doing so may result in permanent injury to person or property or cats.

The Whos don’t believe in gates, preferring to use landmines to keep out traveling salesmen, but the snow is too thick to set the mines off, so the Grinch rolls straight on in to the center of town. All the Whos are in bed, dreaming of the next day’s debaucheries, so the Grinch finally shows his ninjutsu skills, putting on his shinobi face and practicing the way of stealth. We are treated to a genuinely creepy shot of the Grinch’s hardcore assassin eyes staring out of the black depths of the fireplace and the audience either begins to fear for the lives of the Whos, or chortles with glee that the Hammer of Green Vengeance had begun to fall.

The Grinch is also capable of the awesome verb known as “grinched,” which apparently refers to pulling nails out of a mantle with a magnet and jacking a bunch of socks. I’m going to include the word “grinched” in my next manuscript and see whether my editor lets me get away with it. Grinched does sound like it might be a synonym for murder. Clipped, creased, whacked, “grinched.” Good stuff.

The Grinch knows serpentjutsu—the art of slithering through presents like a snake while smiling in a creepy way. This is a little known martial art with surprisingly few practitioners.

The Green shinobi proceeds to pinch ALL the presents and the awesome music kicks in again. Oh, did I say the “brain is full of spiders” line was The Best Ever? Let me modify that. This one is my newest favorite: “You have termites in your smile.” God, the poetry of that. The economy of language. I’m going to say that to the next corporate lobbyist I see slouching toward Washington D.C. to be born (which isn’t many, to be honest, since I reside on the other side of the country).

The Grinch continues his Grand Theft Auto version of Christmas, reenacting a scene from the classic vampire flick Nosferatu:

…and simulates sexual intercourse between a tree and a fireplace:

That’s not a Grinch kink thing, by the way. He’s actually showing the Whos what they can do with their singing and their rampantly hedonistic holiday.

…Until he’s caught out by Evil Baby Who, a creature that happens to coo like a dove. Do not be fooled. She is evil incarnate. She may have entered carrying a bomb—I can’t be sure.

She demands accounting—why’s he jacking their tree? Who is he working for? Where did he put the candy canes? Who killed Jimmy Hoffa? Why is he simulating sexual congress between the fireplace and a Christmas tree? Why?

The Grinch is pimptastic and tells lies like a politician on speed during an election year. Then the Grinch and Evil Baby Who engage in masterful Kung Fu Fighting until the Grinch manages, at great personal sacrifice, to lock Evil Baby Who back in her room. He steals the log so the Whos will freeze, steals the food so that even their mice will starve (although he does leave the hooks and wire on the wall, because that shit’s hard to get off). This is Total War, people, and it’s not pretty. He even steals the ice cubes. The guy is hardcore.

We are treated to a nail-biting escape back up the mountain as Max the super-enhanced canine-reindeer-unicorn hybrid pulls a sled with roughly seventy metric tons of swag, all while being enthusiastically whipped by the Grinch. Which is kind of over the top, if you think about it for too long…but I digress.

Unfortunately, it’s at this point the movie goes completely off the rails. Instead of gloating over his total victory and either selling all that loot on EBay or fencing it or even shoving it over the edge of the cliff, the Grinch is driven insane by more appalling Who singing and suffers a heart attack and dies. He’s replaced by a pod person clone mind-controlled surrogate who brings back all the stolen gear. The Whos promptly eat him for dinner instead of the Roast Beast to punish him for thwarting their Evil Baby Who and the hive mind. There is no Happily Ever After in Whoville and the horror, much like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is free to continue unabated.

You should’ve used the 155mm artillery, Grinch.

Just saying.

A side note: Max found work as a unicorn-reindeer-canine shifter in a spicy paranormal book series, so he at least earned a HEA.