Okay, seriously…have you seen the new Kong? For starters though, i’ll admit it is kinda strange taking on a creature feature review outside of the Creature Features in Review series. However, as I had the gumption to finally watch the latest of Kong movies, Kong: Skull Island, I felt compelled to write down some of my thoughts regarding said movie. There are no spoilers here, per say. Kong holds not mystery that hasn’t already been shown in the many previews and trailers that came out prior to the movie’s release. So, I don’t feel bad talking about it. Continue Reading
Science without limits. Madness without end.
All proceeds from the purchase of this ebook will be donated to Doctors Without Borders / Medicins Sans Frontieres.
This is a warning. What you are about to read violates the boundaries of imagination, in a world where science breeds and breathes without restraint. A world very much like our own.
Within these shadowy corridors you will discover characters seeking retribution, understanding, power, a second chance at life—human stories of undiscovered species, government secrets, the horrors of parenthood, adolescence and bullying, envisioned through a warped lens of megalomania, suffering, and blind hubris. Curious inventors dabble with portals to alternate worlds, overzealous scientists and precocious children toy with living beings, offer medical marvels, and pick away at the thin veil of reality.
You can run. You can look away. But don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Witness our Dark Designs.
David Cronenberg, infamous director and storyteller of body-horror movies such as The Fly (1986), Shivers (1975), and Videodrome (1983), once said, “Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.” This statement of Cronenberg’s is a rather optimistic one. And not altogether inaccurate, we are after all trying to find ways to live in harmony and in doing so we must solve problems that arise to get there. But that’s not really the genesis of the purpose of mad scientist stories. The notion of “mad science” is self-explanatory, that there is something strange or “mad” in the unknown realities that surround us. Even today, quantum theorists are often seen as “mad” scientists, practitioners of metaphysics more than actual provable science. And in some ways, there’s some truth in that metaphysics and quantum mechanics often overlap, which brings us to one of the most exhilarating and equally terrifying aspects about science, that is, it’s never ending, always searching, constantly discovering something new, something previously unknown, beyond us. In part, our understanding of science; or more to point, our misunderstanding of science has become the inspiration over centuries for what has been deemed the quintessential “mad scientist.” Not for reasons given by Cronenberg above, that we are all in the same pursuit, but out of fear, fear bred from the unknown, and fear of what all these discovers, these advances, will bring us. And even more alarming, how far are we willing to go to achieve the impossible?
My first impression while surveying the history of “mad science” was that Victor Frankenstein, created by the imagination of a twenty-one-year-old Mary Shelley, was the first of the mad scientists to be conjured into the literary world. I was wrong. It was actually Dr. Faustus, written in 1604 by Christopher Marlowe, that should be credited as the first “mad scientist.” Dr. Faustus was perhaps more alchemical in nature than traditional science, but still the story serves as asking the proverbial question all mad scientist stories ask, “How far are we willing to go…?” Some of the more popular “mad scientists” who defied boundaries and terrified audiences with their audacity against “nature” include, Dr. Moreau, an H.G. Wells story penned in 1896, and Danforth & Dyer in “At the Mountains of Madness” by H. P. Lovecraft, published in 1931. These stories are typically told from the perspective of a layman looking into nightmarish worlds, boiled in a cauldron of obsession and forbidden knowledge. H.P. Lovecraft would go on to create a few more characters in this realm of unrestrained science with Dr. Herbert West, one of my personal favorites, and Charles Dexter Ward.
Growing up, the one “mad scientist” story that ignited my imagination and kept me glued to the edge of my seat was Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction epic Jurassic Park (1993). Even in my pubescent years, the memory still rings clear today, the duel realities of science, that in the wonder of watching a baby dino hatch or Dr. Grant’s first realization of what was going on as the Jeep drove through the part to the Visitor’s Center, first realizing that those massive tree trucks were moving and were not in fact trees, being held prisoner in a sort of child-like spell, and then suddenly seeing it all go wrong, demonstrated the dangers of unrestrained science, that even now the question of trust must be asked. Ian Malcolm, played by a black leather clad Jeff Goldblum, has one of the more illuminating statements in the film, a statement that has rung in the minds of audiences for over four-hundred years, when he says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Today, “mad scientist” stories have for the most part found themselves kicked to the kid’s corner, in such books as Meet the Creeps or Franny K. Stein. Sadly, there isn’t much being offered in way of adult entertainment. This was the prime motivation for raising the question to my Shadow Work Publishing cohorts of collaborating on a mad scientist anthology. While science continues to evolve and new discoveries are being made every day, the question posed in 1604 still remains relevant today, “How far are we willing to go” in the pursuit of said discover what consequences, if any, will we face? We landed on the title, Dark Designs, more or less on the alluring sinister quality, but not just that, also, as our quote says, “Science without limits. Madness without end,” there is a certain amount of ambiguity regarding science, that without limits perhaps we could possibly go “too far,” and in reaching such limits, madness is sure to follow. Here, as you turn the page, you’ll find yourself in a world without limits, where science breeds and breathes without restraint. You’ll walk these corridors with characters seeking retribution, understanding, revenge, and perhaps for some a second chance on life. These are human stories through the spyglass of mad science, of undiscovered insects, government secrets, horrors of parenthood, adolescence, and bullying, about curious inventors dabbling in portals to alternate worlds, of ambitious biologists and overzealous children tinkering with things they probably shouldn’t, and stories that stretch our understanding of the boundaries of life.
From Shadow Work Publishing, and the sixteen authors of which contributed to this charity anthology for Doctors Without Borders, thank you and bid you welcome our Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science.
You can get YOUR copy of Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science for $0.99!!!
It goes without saying, horror is a generally underrated genre in cinema. Who goes up for the Golden Globes? Not horror. Flicks like Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Les Miserables are typical contenders for the “Hollywood choice,” all the while excellent horror flicks are getting left out in the alley, searching in the dumpster out behind Roosevelt hotel for some leftover love and recognition. Sure, on occasion a few horror titles will sneak in an (less prestigious) Oscar, but these are typically awards for special effects and not for the screenplay, acting or directorial effort themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, its a good day when traditional effects gets some recognition, but giving a horror movie props for only the effects is like complementing a restaurant for their decor and not the food. And if the manager or chef only care what you think about all the cool stuff on their walls, then maybe you shouldn’t eat the food anyways.
The last horror movie that got its share of recognition was Silence of the Lambs (1991). For obvious reasons, there is no way I can talk trash about this amazing movie; It deserved every award. However, its now been over twenty-two years since Hannibal Lecter ate the hearts of adoring fans…i’ll say it again, twenty-two years… has there really been no horror movies worthy of Academy recognition since? Well..for long time fans of the genre, it comes at no surprise that horror gets so little attention from Hollywood. We accept that horror will never win a Golden Globe. Horror isn’t done to be artsy; horror is done to make a statement, to say something about the apple-cart, about society and the world we cope with. Horror is also done because we’re all a bunch of twisted individuals, nerds and geeks with our own system of appreciation and recognition, such as the Saturn Award (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and Spikes Scream (they canceled the awards for 2012 for unknown reasons and if they’ll be back for 2013 is still unclear) Yet, sometimes even in our own avenues for recognition, excellent horror still slips through the cracks.
Thank goodness for blogs and horror nerds! This statement isn’t just a bit of shameless self promotion, i’m also thinking about the many other horror nerd blogs on my reading list. Amateur reporting helps friends find those rare horror indies, the direct to DVD flicks we might have missed or have zero time to find for ourselves. Bloody Disgusting and IMDb have generated a few good lists on their sites, but I thought i’d throw in my two cents on the subject. Its rather reasonable to assume that a lot of folks do not have oodles of couch time to watch every single unknown horror movie. Its nauseating using what precious little time we have to watch something truly horrible. SO, let us nerds do the work for you! Trust me, we don’t mind. And the real benefit here is the more we share the more these underrated horror movies get print and press time. Thus far, looking at what a few other blogs have mentioned (I’d hate to repeat the same old underrated movies) and what, in my humble opinion, has been largely forgotten, I have generated the following six underrated horror movies. Enjoy!
1. Event Horizon (1997)
During the late summer of 1997, Event Horizon was received with general negativity. The movie that was pitched as “The Shinning in space,” was rushed during final cut, which unfortunately may have caused most of Event Horizon’s less desired qualities. However, despite the setback and first reception, Event Horizon has lazily found its way into the cult following circus. There seemed to be a wave of demonic inspired movies during the later years of the 90’s (a few others not included on my list: Fallen, The Devils Advocate, Sleepy Hallow, and In The Mouth of Madness) and Event Horizon held its ground as the only descent horror movie in space, followed only by Hellraiser: Bloodline, which I thought was rather good, despite what others have been saying (you cannot tell me the Twins-cenobite creation wasn’t the sickest creation to date!). Bottom Line: Event Horizon is a horror worth checking out. Its light on the science fiction, but heavy on the horror, blended with the perfect seasoning of actors.
2. Zodiac (2007)
Zodiac proves, for me at least, that not all horror has to be blood and guts and actions sequences. What really brings out the horror in Zodiac is how irrefutable the “based on a true story” this movie is. Other poltergeist or crime based flicks make the claim as based on a true story; however, we know without a doubt how real the zodiac killer was and still remains today, especially for the folks that had lived in the San Francisco Bay area during the 60’s and 70’s. One of the part of the movie, (a part critics cared little for) gave audiences a little taste of the longevity of the Zodiac case by prolonging the movie into a near three hour screening. Zodiac never made it to the acclaim of Silence of the Lambs, though it deserved the recognition. No, Mark Ruffalo did not outperform Sir Anthony Hopkins; Zodiac was just a solid movie with plenty of story and excellent acting. Bottom Line: Zodiac is great period piece to be sure and worth checking out, just make sure you’ve got the time and an extra-large bowl of popcorn.
3. Grave Encounters (2011)
One of the best horror mockumentaries you’ll ever watch, period. Grave Encounters was released back in 2011, but apparently no one bothered watching it. I didn’t even hear about it until sometime last year when it was released on Netflix streaming. And even then, I was a little apprehensive. The low-budget home video vibe is a risky venture, with so many horrible ones being put out there. Ever since Blair Witch let the cat out of the bag, (Cannibal Holocaust for an older generation) that these “documentaries” are not “real” per-say, audiences now know off the bat what they’re walking into. The trick is to make everything feel real, and Grave Encounters pulls this trick off perfectly! Things do move slow, which is a part of the anticipation. But when the crazy starts it doesn’t slow down. Bottom Line: if your not a fan of the “home video cam” look, you may still enjoy this one. If you enjoyed VHS or REC, you’ll definitely love this one.
4. Innkeepers (2011)
A couple of years ago there was a lot of positive talk about this movie going to theaters and then…nothing. Innkeepers simple disappeared from all internet blog chatter. I actually forgot all about wanting to watch this one until, just like Grave Encounters, it popped up on Netflix streaming. During the first 45 minutes or so, you’ll think your watching a spoof with all the light-hearted awkward moments with Claire and Luke, but when things turn serious, you’ll realize how good of a horror movie Innkeepers really is. Comedy and horror are two excellently paired emotions that must be captured just right or the entire production will feel thrown off. Innkeepers keeps the balance beautifully. An old fashion ghost story without feeling old fashion. Bottom Line: if you’re into ghost stories, you should most certainly check this one out.
5. Friday the 13th part 2 (1981)
You might be asking yourself: “how in the world does a Friday the 13th franchise movie make its way unto an underrated horror movie list?” Sure, you got me there. Friday the 13th part 2 should already be automatically endorsed and recognized because of its association as part 2 in a long history of Friday’s. However, even with that being said, part 2 in my opinion is the most ignored and underrated Friday addition in the series. Why? Some folks have complained about the production value. Or that it was rushed by greedy executives trying to cash in on the first film. But even with all its down sides, the movie is still amazing and a legendary foundation for the character Jason to build upon. The hockey masked killer we’ve all come to love hasn’t developed there yet, here with part 2 we’re seeing Jason at his most basic level, the old potato sack killing hillbilly everyone has forgotten he once was. With part 2, we get to see Jason at his roots and his awkward, near religious, obsession with his mother. Bottom Line: if your a fan of the series and still haven’t taken the time to watch this movie, shame on you! Watch it and see where it all began. See why Jason functions the way he does and a deeper look into the motivations behind why he kills.
6. Stake Land (2010)
Wow! Where the heck did this movie come from?!? I’ve seen Stake Land among the recently added horror movies on Netflix streaming and have been curious regarding watching it, but until last night, never gave it a chance. I haven’t really heard much about this one, the synopsis sounded interesting, but to be honest, the vampire genre has become kind of worn out, an old hat, as the saying goes. I’ve never been so glad to be so very wrong. Stake Land takes this tired vampire genre and gives it a fresh breath of life. The best part of Stake Land is how its really not so much about the vampires, its about the people surviving this new apocalyptic world. This way of storytelling is what made Romero zombie movies so much better than the others guys stuff. The characters in this new vampire tale are deep and believable, even the ones you end up hating. Stake Land also comes across as an excellent commentary on the social issues of the day, community, family, adolescence, religion, and war. Bottom Line: fantastic movie! Even if your tired of vampire movies, or creature features in general, this movie will not disappoint you or bore you. I’d love to see a zombie movie done the same way.
Well, there’s my list of underrated horror movies, each added for their own particular reasons. Though i’m sometimes a little disappointed in Hollywood for not giving horror its well deserved credit in their little award shows, I understand that the real folks keeping horror alive are the fans. Together we share our favorites and our thoughts on certain titles, shaping a standard while at the same time not creating unwanted restraints on, what is in my humble opinion, the best art form in cinema. The more we share with each other, the more we experience the genre we love. So, let your voice be heard and share here horror movies you think have been wrongly ignored or passed over.