Starring the Landscape: The Desert Has No Memory

In 1971, Universal Pictures released Duel, a film starring Dennis Weaver, and directed by, a not yet famous, Stephen Spielberg, from a story by Richard Matheson. In it, a businessman named, conveniently, David Mann, is pursued across the desert by a monstrous truck and the driver who insists on terrorizing him. Mann, who thinks himself a practical, but tough fellow, has to prove his masculinity, not just against the driver of the truck that menaces him for over half the movie, but against his aging vehicle, and the Mojave desert in which this drama unfolds.

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The hot, barren, landscape of the desert has often been used as a backdrop to tell stories of dramatic survival, proving one’s toughness, or realizing one’s humanity. Sometimes its about surviving the people in it, as everyone competes for the bare resources that can be found there. Unlike snowy environments, the desert’s wide-open terrain, with so few obstructions, is perfect for car chases, and creating a feeling of low grade anxiety, the sense that one could get lost in such isolation. The heat heightens a person’s fear, and desperation, creating a unique form of sweaty misery. The desert is for isolationists, the place people go when they want to separate themselves from other people, or to prove their rugged individualism, or in some cases, simply go mad.

In the Western storytelling tradition, the protagonist is the person who is trying to move forward, to progress, to accomplish a goal. The antagonist is whatever that person must struggle against to reach said goal. Through that process, the person undergoes change and/or growth. The desert is an environment that can often be filmed with a single protagonist, as in 2010’s 127 Hours, as a young hiker literally struggles against the environment that has trapped him, or as in the Mad Max franchise, a cast of thousands, and still get variations on these basic messages, because it’s the desert that is the ultimate antagonist.

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The desert tests the worthy, and this is nowhere better illustrated than in the Mad Max franchise, where human beings manage to scrounge a precarious living, several years after a global catastrophe. In Fury Road, when Max is captured by Immortan Joe’s Warboys, they treat him not as a person, but as a commodity, an object. Throughout the movie, while fighting Immortan Joe, his men, and the dry terrain in which their battle takes place, Max grows and changes, reasserting his humanity and proving to others that he is not a thing.

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The desert is home to the poor and isolated, with its lonely trailer parks, ghost towns, and abandoned and ramshackle houses. It’s a place where people go to get away from other human beings. Most Horror movies set in the desert, like those set in rural America, tend to focus on people as monsters, rather than creatures.

The kind of people who live in the desert are often equated with its predators, as they stalk, kill and feed on anyone they regard as intruders into their domain. They are sometimes mutated, and feral, as in the 1977 Wes Craven movie, The Hills Have Eyes, where a vacationing suburban family run afoul of a pack of cannibals who scrounge a living in the Nevada desert by eating those who pass through it. The movie pits family against family, as the Carters attempt to hold onto their humanity while fighting the inhumanity of the cannibals. And in 1987’s Near Dark, a family of vampires preys on desert wanderers, or the occasional lonely farmboy, who just happens to run afoul of the wrong girl of his dreams.

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The desert is vast and unforgiving, and its silence and isolation gives birth to much quieter horrors than trucks and cannibals, as all kinds of rotten secrets hide there, as in the 1975 movie, The Devil’s Rain, which stars William Shatner, as he tries to stop the leader of a Satanic cult from retrieving an artifact of great power. In the 2005 film, Wolf Creek, a young woman must try to survive the landscape, and the serial killer she and her family encounter while camping in the Australian outback, and in the 2017 Netflix movie, Cargo, a father is suffering from a zombie bite, while stranded in the outback, and must try to get his baby to safety before he succumbs to his wounds.

Desert wanderers are not always victims or innocents, and any people one finds wandering in the desert are best left to themselves, as the 1986 movie, The Hitcher, shows. When Jim Halsey picks up a hitchhiker in the Nevada desert, he finds he has picked up a serial killer who terrorizes him for the rest of the movie. It seems the desert is as great a place to be stalked and hunted as the jungle, since that is the plot of several desert set films, from 1995’s Nature of the Beast, which stars Lance Henriksen, to the 2001 Joy Ride, starring Paul Walker, where a group of teenagers is stalked by yet another truck driver across the arid landscape.

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Its best not to live in small towns situated in or near the desert, as they tend to attract monsters of all kinds including large and small desert dwelling insects. In the vast openness of the desert, creatures tend to grow in size to match, often aided by nuclear radiation. In the movie Them! from 1954, giant ants terrorize a desert town, after they are mutated by nuclear testing. A year later, another town experiences a giant spider invasion, caused by nuclear testing, in the 1955 movie Tarantula. Nuclear testing isn’t the only culprit for villainous desert bugs as they sometimes get mutated by chemical waste, such as in the 2002 horror comedy, Eight Legged Freaks, where the tiny town of Prosperity, Arizona gets attacked by the titular monsters, after a truckful of chemical waste, and a local spider farm, collide.

The smaller versions of these desert animals sometimes like to get in on the action, too, as in the 1977, Kingdom of the Spiders, starring William Shatner again, when tarantulas take their revenge against a small Arizona town that burned down one of their habitats. In the 1974 Phase IV, ants in the Arizona desert plan to take over the world, and make humans a part of their new hive mind, after a mysterious comet imbues them with greater intelligence.

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Sometimes other kinds of monsters come from under the ground, as the residents of a small Nevada town discover when an earthquake releases mutated cockroaches, that have the ability to start fires, and being eaten alive was something the residents of the tiny town of Perfection did not foresee after they are attacked by a pack of massive tunnel dwelling worms, that they name Grabboids. The townsfolk have to demonstrate just how self sufficient, and clever, they can be against an underground menace that can appear anywhere, and without warning, all while trying to escape across the barren landscape, to find safety in the next town.

In fact, the desert’s isolation ensures that all kinds of weirdnesses can be born there, and reach a certain level of maturity before they’re even discovered. The strangest thing to come out of the desert to prey on mankind is the sentient tire named Robert, from the 2010 Horror Comedy, Rubber. Robert rolls through the desert landscape telekinetically exploding any humans he encounters, while a choir of onlookers give commentary.

Despite the wealth of material in this post however, movies set in the desert aren’t that frequent. It’s a difficult landscape in which to shoot a film. The temperatures and sand can work against any filmmakers so making anything in such a place is a real feat, but there are a few filmmakers who feel that the sere dry heat and isolation of the desert is worth it. The desert landscape, just like it’s snowy cousin, the tundra, is the type of landscape that is great for showing human survival at the extremes.

Odd Things YouTube Recommended To Me

(Why???)

I have no idea why Youtube recommends certain types of videos to me. Sometimes it will recommend things to me from over ten years ago that are not based on anything I’ve been watching recently. I normally don’t search for music videos on Youtube, but I guess this was rec’d to me because of the music post I made before, with none of those videos having anything to do with this type of music, so there’s that…

Not that I don’t like this video. I just think it’s weird that it would recommend Indigenous Rock music, seemingly out of nowhere. I love the clothing (those coats are awesome!) and attitude though, although I’m not too impressed by the actual music. At least it’s upbeat. If this is your bag though, then go for it.

Okay, I was trying to find movies directed by George Plympton and I got nothing until several weeks later and this was Youtube’s answer. I liked this a lot (it’s deeply funny) but I wonder why it couldn’t have given me this video at the time I asked for it.

Plympton’s videos are always very silly and I enjoyed this one.

Just note, I think this video is incredibly funny, but I’m not sure why this was recommended to me at the time it was (a few weeks ago). Okay, I do search for animated shorts like this every year in October, but Halloween was months ago and I don’t recall asking for anything like this recently. There seems to be a significant lag time between what I ask for and what gets recommended. Or maybe the video simply didn’t exist back when I asked for something like it.

This one really resonated with me because there have been times when highly extroverted people latched onto me and determined that we were going to be friends regardless of what I wanted. Not that I didn’t appreciate their friendship but I do understand this lady’s predicament.

This is one of Denis Villeneuve’s weirdest films. I still don’t completely understand what’s going on here, but I enjoyed it, and it probably needs to be made into a movie. I do know why this was recommended to me though. It’s the interaction between requesting short horror films, watching all of the Bladerunner short films, and Villeneuve’s interviews.

I will unashamedly admit to watching cat videos, I generally enjoy most of them, and recently searched for some. So why Youtube decided to offer me tiny goat videos is a mystery. Not that these weren’t fun to watch (and now I want a dwarf goat). I don’t know how or why Youtube makes some choices, although I suspect a bunch of other people also watched cat videos and then searched for tiny goat videos and Youtube thought I might like some too.

For the record, I have never requested tiny goat videos.

Greatest Science Fiction Remixes

(That Are On my Playlist)

Extreme Ways – Moby (The Bourne Trilogy)

This trilogy features a series of increasingly odd remixes of its basic theme song.

Spybreak – The Propellerheads (James Bond)

I realize that it’s pushing it to call the James Bond series Science Fiction, but it does have elements of it, at least.

Saat Saat – Rayess Bek (Moon Knight)

This is just one of the modern Arabic pop songs I was exposed to while watching this series.

Ghost in the Shell – Kenji Kawai (Aoki Remix)

The live-action version of this anime was a hot mess, but I really liked the theme song. The original sounds much more introspective though.

Furious Angels – Rob Dougan (The Matrix)

You’ve got to remember this theme from the first two films. All of Dougan’s work is well worth listening to though.

While the Earth Sleeps – Peter Gabriel/Deep Forest (Strange Days)

Not a lot of people remember this movie. I remember that I didn’t care for it very much outside of it starring Angela Bassett, and this theme that plays over the end credits.

Doctor? – Orbital (Doctor Who)

I first heard this back in the 90s, although I feel like I may have heard it earlier than that, as there are several remixes of the series’ most popular theme.

Lost in Space – Apollo 440

I hated the movie but this is the theme I remember playing over the opening credits. I’m not a huge Apollo 440 fan, but I liked this song.

Look! Some New Trailers

So, there were a handful of new trailers last week. Will I watch any of these? I say I will but sometimes that turns out to just be a lie, and I fall asleep instead. But let’s talk about them anyway.

First Kill

With the cancelation of Batwoman, which I was starting to get into a little bit, the fans are excited about a new show featuring a Black woman in an wlw interracial relationship, and not just that, it’s got those Buffy/Vampire Diaries/star-crossed lovers vibes because one of the women is from a family of vampire hunters, and the woman she falls in love with is from a family of vampires!

This isn’t really my cup of tea, because teenagers and romance, but it looks really pretty and I can grasp why fans are very excited about it.

Westworld season 4

I am looking forward to this next season of Westworld, even though I didn’t entirely understand the last season. The plot has become somewhat convoluted, and I’m not quite sure what the goal of the show is now, so I’m gonna have to watch some explaining videos, or read some summations.

But this looks really intriguing and we’ll probably be introduced to some more theme parks this season, so I’ll be watching this one.

Love Death and Robots Season 3

I really enjoyed the last season, and the images for this new season look stunning. I know some people don’t Ike the comedy shorts but I love them, especially the ones from John Scalzi, so I’m looking forward to it this Friday, and I’ll be talking about it at some point.

I remember I had a couple of issues with the first season, but season 2 was much better, and I’m hoping for a better integration of the love and death part of the robot shorts.

Avatar 2

I do not want to GO see this, but I probably will end up in the theater looking at it, because my niece and nephew are very excited about it, and as their auntie it’s my job to spoil them terribly! I had issues with the plot of the first movie. It made me really angry and I’ve been angry about it ever since, so no matter how gorgeous it looks Im feeling some type of way about seeing it.

But make no mistake, this is an absolutely gorgeous looking film, no doubt about it. James Cameron has always been a top notch visualist, even if he falls flat on the storytelling, so that’s how I’m approaching this movie.

Men

I have done absolutely no research on this film, beyond watching the trailer, but it looks creepy and weird. I’ll probably catch this on some streaming service. I like the actress but can’t remember where I saw her, and I’m too lazy to look her up, but it is an A24 film, the same guys that brought us Get Out, and The Northman, so there’s that…

On the other hand I’ve liked Alex Garland’s other films. So even though it looks like a ghost story, and I’m not usually impressed by ghost stories, I’ll check this out.

And is it just me or all all the men in this movie wearing the same face?

Surprise me!

Firestarter

I remember the original movie and was not a fan. I read the book when I was a teenager and…nope. Still not a fan. I didn’t care for the actor who played Charlie’s dad in the film, (although I liked Charlie okay, and King’s description of her powers was pretty cool) but I have a strong aversion to watching people burn to death. Also I do not have AppleTv, so there’s that.

I know some people will be excited about this remake, but I thought the book was much better than the original movie, even though I haven’t read it since.

Mad God

This is going to be streaming on Shudder in June, so I will be there for it. This is a labor of love from Phil Tippet, and while you may not know his name, I know you’ve seen his work.

He’s done the special effects for most of Steven Spielberg’s movies for the past forty years, from Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park, while working on his stop motion masterpiece the entire time, using the skills of bunches of volunteers that he personally trained to realize his vision. I like movies that are strange and weird, so I’m excited to see what he’s done.

Strange Things Season 4

I wouldn’t call myself a Stranger Things fan (but then I don’t call myself a fan of lots of things, even though I consume them) but I did watch the last season, and understood most of it. This season doesn’t look quite as interesting, but I’m going to watch it if it doesn’t conflict with anything else I’m watching because I’ve grown to really like these characters, especially Eleven, and Lucas. It’s been really fun watching these kids grow up onscreen.

The Monster Files (Pt. 2): The New School

Here is part two of my non-comprehensive list of Monstrology, The New School, although some of these aren’t so much new as updates of some of the classic monsters. I mostly tried to stick with monsters from the late 20th century, from the 70s to now, so some monsters won’t get mentioned, like the tripods from the original War of the Worlds because it hails from the 1950s, and there is a notable atomic theme in there, and the updated remake doesn’t quite qualify as new because it’s just the same monster. However, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers gets mentioned in the new monster category even though the original film was released in the 50s, because each subsequent remake adopts new scientific knowledge about how the invasion might occur. If you’re looking for consistency, my mind isn’t the place to find it!

The criteria my brain used for making these lists was a broad combination of form and intent. There are monsters that have a very specific intent,(like possession, or mimicry) and some have the same intent of all the other monsters, just in an unusual form, so that means I have left out a lot of monstrous creatures from these lists. If you don’t see your favorite monster that doesn’t mean I didn’t like or didn’t know about it. It just means I ran out of room to mention it. Like I said, this isn’t a comprehensive list but there are a lot of my favorites.

The New School: Devourers

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These monsters are not regular animals grown to large size, like the ones in the 50s. They’re smaller, faster, and in some cases, slightly more intelligent than their kaiju brothers, which makes them capable of reaching into smaller, more intimate spaces, like people’s homes, to actively hunt their prey. I’m also going to add to this list the more human-like predators, like the rural-style cannibals that look more or less human but are often twisted and deformed because of environmental factors, and a few alien invaders. These aren’t the kind that lurk in caves, and lie underground and wait, on the off-chance, that some humans might drop in but we’ll talk about those in a minute. These are the kind that actively stalk and occasionally eat humans in broad daylight. They’re not shy or taking any chances about finding their next meal.

The poster children for this type of monster are the creatures from Tremors, released in 1990 and starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire. These monsters come from underground and hunt their prey through sound, meaning any vibrations made on the ground will attract their attention.They’re also pretty smart, learning from their fellow monster’s mistakes, which requires humans to be inventive in dispatching them. The characters in the film had the bright idea to call them Graboids, and the movie was so popular that it spawned an entire franchise of sequels, most of them starring Michael Gross (Yes, the guy from the Family Ties sitcom) as Burt Gummer, a crackpot survivalist. Not all of the movies are any good but all of them try their best to be as much fun as the original.

In the same vein is the 2012 movie Grabbers, which feels like a comedic cross between Aliens and Tremors. Set in Ireland, the movie pokes fun at Irish drinking habits because drunkenness makes humans taste bad. The heroes of the movie spend their time trying to keep the inhabitants of their small town drunk enough to save them from being eaten. In another alien invasion movie are the Quiet Place monsters, who don’t appear to eat people but nevertheless stalk and kill them in using the same method as the Graboids from Tremors, sound. It’s possible for the Quiet Place alien monsters to go into their own category but I decided they belong here because not all alien invasions are the same, and my brain slotted these here because these monsters seem to have no other motive. They’re not trying to take over the planet or replace humanity or anything. In fact, The Quiet Place monsters seemed to have landed on Earth by accident, unlike the Martians from War of the Worlds who came with a specific intent. But this does include the aliens from Pitch Black., though. Yeah, humans dropped into their environment by accident but they do actively hunt and eat people.

One of the newer popular monsters (popular in the last thirty years) is the Wendigo, a creature of Algonquin folklore, a gluttonous spirit that was once human but has been corrupted by cannibalism to always feed on human flesh. Normally this monster abides in forests and out-of-the-way places, as in the historical horror movie Ravenous, which deals with issues of colonialism, greed, and personal cowardice, as a group of American soldiers are possessed by the Wendigo. There are also a few of these films set in urban landscapes, like the 2021 film, Antlers, where a little boy is tasked to take care of his father and brother after they both become possessed after being bitten by one. The movie also addresses issues of poverty and child abuse.

Addressing cultural and social issues is kind of new thing too, at least since 1968s Night of the Living Dead, which set the stage for movies to be about more than just interpersonal relations. Before NOTLD, most Horror movies didn’t really discuss social issues like racism or domestic abuse, at least not much beyond anti-nuclear sentiment, or environmentalist issues, and seemed to focus almost entirely on the relationships between the characters.

There are also the modern-day cannibal mutants in the American Southwest, in The Hills Have Eyes. In some of these movies, the monsters are or were once human. We must also not forget the updated versions of vampires in movies like 30 Days of Night, and the highly infectious fast-moving modern zombies in movies like Train to Busan and 28 Days Later, and the deformed and infected zombies of the Resident Evil franchise. The sole purpose of a lot of these monsters is to devour people and that’s it. They are creatures with not much motive beyond procuring food.

The New School: Possessive Aliens and Parasites

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There is an entire class of monsters that just want to be us, because humans are a great place to hide, or sometimes breed.

These are the body snatchers, and the shape-shifting memory thieves and these type of monsters did not appear until the mid-20th century and are usually based on scientific principles. The original bodysnatchers were human body thieves who stole cadavers from cemeteries, to meet the demands of the nascent English medical establishment, during the 1800s, and there are a few of these type of films made in the early 20th century. Later on, the term bodysnatcher came to mean something very different, a living being, or organism, that uses live human bodies as hosts.

I know some of you are thinking 1979’s Alien, and yes, that is one of them, but this actually began in 1956, with the movie adaptation of Albert Finney’s horror scifi novel, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, in which infectious alien spores take over human bodies in a small California town. In the1978 remake, the spores would become more ambitious, taking over the city of San Francisco, then a military base in 1993, and eventually the entire world in 2007. Each remake gets updated with a new version of how the invasion and possession of the human body occurs.

In the original and 1978 versions, there are actual plant-like pods that grow imitations of human bodies, while in the 1993 movie Body Snatchers the possession of a human body takes the form of tentacles, and in the 2007 version, the possession occurs in the form of a contractable virus. The three early versions had human bodies be destroyed as the alien took over their consciousness, but in the last one, the bodies are not broken down to make a new plant-like body. In the new version the invason behaves like a virus that overwrites the mind of its host, so that it is possible for a person to be converted back to their original self, once the infection is destroyed.

Let’s not forget all of the many alien invasion movies that have a somewhat similar idea like 2018’s Annihilation,where a team of women are sent into a spreading patch of Earth that’s been taken over by an alien threat. There is 2019’s Assimilate, where a small town gets invaded by bodysnatcing aliens from a swamp, and 2013’s The World’s End, where humans get replaced with robot-like aliens during a pub crawl by some high school friends.

One of the most famous bodysnatching alien invasions films is John Carpenter’s gory 1982 remake of the 1951 movie,The Thing From Another World, which was based on John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There. Here, the alien consumes the entire person, after which it can mimic their form perfectly, with their knowledge and personality intact, thereby making it indistinguishable from the original person.

The Thing is notable because in the other body snatcher films, there is a noticeable emotional flattening that gives away the mimicry. Not so here. A mimicked person is completely indistinguishable from the person they were before, and there has been much argument among fans if a person knows if they are a Thing, and if so, are they truly dead. Unlike in 1979s Alien this isn’t a parasitic relationship, nor is it like some of the later versions of the bodysnatcher invasion where the human host isn’t destroyed, although The Thing’s invasion contains elements of the infection storyline. The human body is invaded and destroyed, with the person becoming another component of the alien mind, which possesses all of their knowledge and sense of self.

In Ridley Scott’s Alien, human bodies are used as incubators for alien young. Consuming humans isn’t the alien’s ultimate intent but I find it difficult to believe that the aliens don’t eat the leftovers. Many fans have likened this particular monster to Earth’s parasitic wasps, a creature which uses other insects as hosts for its young. Birthed from eggs this monster has a complicated three part lifecycle, which culminates in the implantation of yet another egg into a human body, and the eventual live birth of an alien, called appropriately enough, the chestburster.

As was said in the 1978 Invasion movie: Aliens don’t always need metal ships.

The New School: Possessive Ghosts and Demons

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These are possessive monsters too, the only differences are they’re usually supernatural in origin, are non-corporeal entities, and aren’t so much interested in becoming someone, so much as being alive again. They’re non-corporeal beings that, hating their non-corporeal state, are looking for a physical shell in which to exist.

Possession films are a genuinely new category appearing for the first time in the late 60s/ early 70s. The Exorcist, released in 1972 was based on the book by Wm. Peter Blatty who claims that it’s based on the real story of an exorcism performed by the Catholic Church, and this paved the way for an entire sub-genre of film, with hundreds of ripoffs, lookalikes, and related miscellanea. Almost any movie starring Satanic rituals and/or demonic possession can be traced back to it, and/or 1968s Rosemary’s Baby. To be sure movies with a demonic theme existed long before The Exorcist, but it was this movie that set the template for all the possession movies that came afterward, including comedies like The Evil Dead, which spawned its on sub-sub-category. In fact, The Exorcist was so influential that most of the body horror imagery of demonic possession and exorcism has not changed in over forty years.

The Exorcist was a deeply controversial film at the time and I suspect that it, and Rosemary’s Baby set the stage for the Satanic panic of the 80s, since people had been imbibing a steady diet of demonic films all throughout the 70s, and which were often about Satanic conspiracies in otherwise innocuous jobs and communities. Movies like 1975’s The Devil’s Rain, 1978’s The Omen, its sequel, and 1973’s Satan’s School for Girls were set in small towns, the world of politics, and private schools, positing the idea that people who worshipped Satan could be found anywhere and everywhere, and appear quite innocent. (Actually, there were a helluva lot of movies with Satan in their titles during the 70s, so there’s that.) During the Satanic Panic the police formed whole units dedicated to deciphering satanic symbols and people actually went to prison on Satanic conspiracy charges.

The Evil Dead movies spawned an entire sub genre of its own during the 80s about people being possessed by demons and going on killing sprees in movies like 1985s Demons, and The Night of the Demons from 1988.

I should include haunted house movies since there is a common theme of incorporeal beings inhabiting a physical structure, but it’s a little bit different since hauntings mostly occur against the will of the haunters. They just happen to be stuck in a place they can’t leave. Even though the trope is a classic, there aren’t a whole lot of these types of movies in Hollywood’s early history. There is the 1927 Cat and the Canary, a couple of movies in the 40s, namely Rebecca by Alfred Hitchcock, and 1959s House on haunted Hill. So although there can be spirits possessing a person in such movies as 1983s Amityville 3D: The Demon, it’s not quite the same thing, and Haunted Houses are a much older trope.

The New School: Cellar Dwellers

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These kinds of monsters are hidden in the out-of-the-way places where humans generally don’t make a home, like outer space, the desert, caves, sewers, and jungles. These monsters don’t normally go on the hunt for human beings unless they drop in uninvited. These are opportunistic predators that lie in wait, sometimes for centuries, for their prey to come to them. This is a relatively new sub-genre as there are only a handful of early films with this theme, like the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, and the 1959 Beast From Haunted Cave, in which a group of thieves flee into the jungle while being pursued by a giant spider creature.

I suppose one could add those Lost World-type movies, and even King Kong, but the primary goal of those type of movies is adventure. In Cellar Dweller films the primary goal of the monster is usually to eat people, or use them for some other reason, and there is a rich history of this type of film despite it having only really sprung up in the 80s, with movies about extra-large crocodiles, alligators, and various sea creatures coming out of the depths of wherever they were to terrorize. (Sea Creatures can be another sub-genre itself.)

Movies like Alligator from 1980 were based on the US urban legend that people were buying baby alligators as pets and flushing them into the sewers when they couldn’t take care of them. I am including movies where people are unsafe in watery conditions, with 1976’s Jaws setting the stage. These include all the Jaws ripoffs that have ever been made in its wake, like Lake Placid, Deep Star Six, Leviathan, Deep Rising, and the newest addition, Sea Fever. I didn’t include any of the Sharknado-style movies because I refuse to sit through one of those, and the point is humans usually have to encroach into the monster’s territory (the water), although according to such films, being on land is not a guarantee of safety either.

Cellar Dweller movies play on humanity’s innate claustrophobia, fear of the dark, and/or enclosed spaces that are not easily escaped. 1979s Alien set the stage by being the perfect Cellar Dweller movie with a group of people trapped in a spaceship while being picked off by a stealthy vicious creature. Since then there have been several standout movies of this sort, like the famous Descent films from 2005, where a group of women cave hikers are hunted by weird humanoid predators, and The Cave, where yet another group of cave explorers are hunted by some unnameable humanoid creatures. For some reason, there was a huge slate of these movies released in the early aughts. I’m not sure exactly what America was going through at that time but this was a very popular sub-genre.

And then we have the jungle dwellers, in movies like The Ritual where a Norse forest god menaces a group of hikers for the rather vague purpose of collecting worshipers. But there are also lots of reptiles grown to large size in the jungles, in movies like Anaconda, and Rogue Crocodile. I want to include some of the Predator films, since only one of those takes place in an urban environment. The rest are in the jungles and one is set in the Arctic, these are the kind of places that are just a little bit out of the way for a regular person, a person must actually travel to or through them. If you stick close to your urban home you may be able to avoid giant spiders, small spiders, small snakes, giant snakes, any monsters that live in lagoons, and giant rats that have grown to large size after eating The Food of the Gods.

My point is that by avoiding traveling to these places you may also avoid being eaten by jungle cannibals, killer shrews, and giant wasps and chickens. However, I cannot vouchsafe your safety if you live near a sewer system, or catacombs since things like demons, rat gods, giant roaches, regular size snakes, and other monsters are given access to your basements and toilets.

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls002119103/

The New School: Machines

Humans battling against murderous machines are almost a staple of the genre in movies like The Terminator and Maximum Overdrive, but I’m classifying them as new monsters because this particular horror of technology is relatively new (about mid 20th century) and because there have been so many of these movies in the latter half of the 20th century that killer machines have become their own subgenre of Scifi Horror.

Horror Scifi started with the golem-like Frankenstein and fears of the robot revolution of 1927s Metropolis, but updated movie-making techniques have moved us beyond techno-paranoia to full-on technophobia. The machines aren’t simply going to rebel. They’re going to kill us all. From movies like 1999s The Matrix to Ex-Machina, from the alien style Virus, to the futuristic Saturn 3, murderous robots are not simply content to win their freedom from human bondage, but wipe out specific human beings and sometimes humanity altogether. I wrote about this topic for Medium, where I discussed where the foundation of this particular fear might have sprung.

The Slave Rebellion Genre (by Lakitha Tolbert)

White Hollywood loves slave rebellion movies starring robots, but starring Black people, not so much.

New and Weird

Rubber movie Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com

This category is the repository for all those monsters where there is simply no real classification and sometimes not even a name. They don’t make up a sub-genre, and are often stand-alone, without a franchise or sometimes even a comprehensive theme. Some of them don’t seem much interested in eating people even though they are inimical to human life, because hating, and/or killing humans seems to be their primary objective. Personally, I blame Stephen King for this as he has made an entire career out of making innocuous items terrifying.

Outside of masquerading as an innocent-looking object many of them don’t usually lurk or sneak, often committing their murderous behavior right out in the open where the victims can see them. They’ve basically got no chill, and tend to be the kinds of objects that are not commonly associated with killing people, or even being considered animated, like dolls, rubber tires, plants, shopping carts, donuts, and tomatoes, as a result, many of these types of films fall into the comedy spectrum, like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and yes I did indeed watch the exceptionally stupid Attack of the Killer Donuts.

No, I’m not talking about haunted dolls that cause supernatural mischief. Those belong directly in the Supernatural genre. I mean creatures like Richard Matheson’s murderous doll from 1975’s Trilogy of Terror, 1988’s Chucky, and the cast of Demonic Toys from 1992. This category applies to inanimate objects that come to life and try to kill and/or eat human beings. Sometimes they stalk their prey, imitating the template of the slasher film and sometimes they like to be a little more stealthy, but most of these beings and creatures don’t get that no one is supposed to be seeing them.

This type of movie is sometimes one that is genuinely scary for me because I have a thing about inanimate objects, that aren’t supposed to be moving, moving! In Trilogy of Terror Karen Black plays a woman named Amelia who buys a doll that proceeds to hunt her through her apartment. It’s not so much that it’s a killer doll that scares me, so much that the little thing is small, sneaky, and frighteningly intelligent. He is also appropriately named “He Who Kills”. I consider myself reasonably intelligent so part of the fun, and terror, of watching this movie is figuring out how I would outsmart such a thing. Yeah, I think I could take him. Not that I would ever want to, but I think I could.

This category includes movies such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space from 1988, about …guess what? A murderous conjoined twin in 1982’s Basketcase, Society from 1989 is a new take on the rich consuming the poor, Zombeavers from 2014 is a new take on, well…zombies, in Street Trash, the monster is a deadly bottle of liquor that melts its imbibers into puddles of goo, and sometimes, well sometimes, the monster is one’s parents, like the cannibal parents from1989s Parents, 2018’s Mom and Dad, where kids have to survive against their suddenly murderous parents..oh hell! Killer parents, siblings, and grandparents can probably all be part of their own sub-sub-genre! (No, The Shining doesn’t count because that’s a Haunted House movie!) There are also a whole host of movies that feature randomly possessed childhood objects like Frosty the Snowman, The Gingerbread Man, and other food items like donuts and tomatoes.

There are also some rather unique monsters that haven’t really been copied anywhere else, like The Blob, both the 1956 version and its 1988 remake, and the highly unique The Stuff from 1985. There are insectile monsters, like the alien induced giant bugs from Love and Monsters, the folkloric Babadook, the science-based The Fly, The Yautja aliens from the Predator franchise, the Krites from the Critters movies, and technically speaking, the monsters from Gremlins are kind of unique, but it’s success did spawn a bunch of replicas like Ghoulies, and Trolls. I would also include comedies like the genetically engineered, zombie-like creatures, from the 2006 comedy, Black Sheep.

Sometimes it’s not so much the monster as the movie itself is just unique. Movies like the Final Destination franchise, in which the thematic purpose of Horror movies is made explicit because Death itself is the villain, as really all monsters, no matter what their form, are simply manifestations of death.

There are one-off movies like Cabin in the Woods, which features all the monsters and film tropes, as well as The Mist, with entirely unique creatures from another dimension, some of which kinda resemble the monsters of this one, and wholly unique Cosmic horror movies like From Beyond, about a machine that creates portals to a hell universe, and Event Horizon about people trapped on a Hellish ship. There are some interesting stand-alone films, like Pontypool, and the uniquely terrifying Birdbox.

This list also includes monsters for which there is simply no description because they are non-corporeal entities or simply remain unseen, and yet, they don’t necessarily have a supernatural origin, like the invisible monster from It Follows, the invisible rapist from the 1982 film, The Entity, and the nameless god-like creature from Children of the Corn, He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

Okay, this is obviously turning into Monster May! I have a couple more SCP posts coming up, and some mini reviews of things I’ve seen, like the new Dr. Strange movie, and a movie called Underground Monster, from China!

Abortion Resources and Information

This is for anyone who requires it: https://freethoughtblogs.com/oceanoxia/2022/05/06/tips-for-accessing-reproductive-healthcare-in-the-united-states/

liberaljane

📢 Abortion is still legal in the United States, but legality isn’t accessibility. ✨ Increasingly, more women and people are managing their abortions on their own without a doctor. There are a variety of reasons someone may choose to do so, including not being able to access in-clinic abortion care, cost, fear of safety or need for privacy.

✨ As we move closer to a post-Roe future, now is the time to educate yourself and your community about self-managed abortion with pills 💊 . The number of people turning to self-managed abortion is increasing, 📈 and knowledge about abortion can be empowering! 🍎 📚

📍Here’s what you need to know:

-It’s MEDICALLY safe and effective to take the abortion pills 💊(misoprostol and/or misoprostol+mifepristone) to end a pregnancy in the first 12 weeks without a clinic or doctor supervision.

-It’s LEGALLY risky ⚖️ – at least 20 people have been arrested for self-managing their care. ✨

📚 Here are some resources to explore & learn more (and accounts to follow!)

✨Step by step instructions and information about self-managed abortion with pills is available from Reproaction, the World Health Organization (YUP), and Aid Access.

✨ Plan C has a report card of online abortion pill retailers!

✨If someone needs help or has questions about how to use the abortion pills, they can contactWomen Help Women 💻

✨If someone has questions about their rights, they can call ☎️ If/When/How’s hotline atreprohelpline.org

✨If someone needs judgement free advice (or just needs an ear to listen!) they can call All-Options at 1-888-493-0092 ☎️

✨ Before you @ me, I wouldn’t be sharing if I didn’t think it was necessary. This is community harm reduction.

Quote from @abortion_embroidery on Instagram!

gayjewishmagneto

Self-Managed Abortion Is Medically Very Safe. But Is It Legally Safe? – Ms. Magazine

Article that gives more information over legality of self managed abortion. The actual statistic is that 21 people were prosecuted over 30 years and the few people who were convicted had their convictions overturned. I would encourage people to read the article for full context as it is not as legally risky as the above implies

gayjewishmagneto

kaijutegu

you don’t need to ask for jane anymore: a guide to coming to chicago for a safe, low-cost abortion

A lot of people in the US are super worried about the Supreme Court axing Roe v. Wade, but what they might not know is that some states have laws in place that will protect the right to reproductive choice and abortion if that happens. One of these states is the state of Illinois. In 2019, a law was passed that protects abortion rights within the state even if the federal right to an abortion falls. This means that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will still be a protected right in Illinois. Even before Roe, Chicago was a haven for safe abortions- you just called and asked for Jane.

Now, safe abortion access is the law of the land in IL, and there are several groups who can help you. This post is long, but I think it’s worthwhile. Even if you don’t read all the way through it, maybe save it for later. You or someone you know might need it. If you want to stop now, the TL;DR is this:

  1. f you’re a minor and you can’t tell your parents, get a waiver of notification
  1. from the IL Judicial Bypass program.
  2. Schedule your appointment.
  3. Contact abortion funds to get financial aid. Your home state might have s fund, and the Chicago Abortion Fund can help.
  4. Secure housing for the procedure through the Midwest Access Coalition or by talking to the intake staff at the clinic of your choice.

I’d like to start by saying that the closer to home you get your abortion, should you need one, the easier it will be for you… probably. It depends on your individual situation AND your safety. If I still lived in Indiana and I needed an abortion, I’d probably leave to get it done, even though there are abortion providers in Indiana, because Indiana is super hostile and there’s lots of clinic protestors- for example, when I was taking my GRE my senior year at Notre Dame, the testing center was in this little strip mall in Mishawaka next to Planned Parenthood. Despite the fact that the PP in Mishawaka does not provide abortions, there were protestors who yelled at me for going in there. I wasn’t even going to PP. I’d like to say that I said something devastatingly cool but I just ran in flustered. Point being: It really, really would have sucked if I was there for healthcare instead of a standardized test for graduate school. And that’s a very tame, mild situation! Real abortion clinic protests are often much more devastating! 

ANYWAYS. The less you have to travel, the easier things tend to be, if it’s safe to get an abortion where you are and if your state will have protected abortions if Roe is overturned.

The full and entire post can be found at Oceanoxia at Freethoughtblogs!

The Monster Files (Pt. 1): The Old School

I had a lot of fun making this list and classifying these monsters, although there are all types of classifications to be made and someone else’s list may be very different from this one.! This is just how my mind classifies certain Horror films.

I love monsters! I love watching the movies and talking about them, and I don’t need to wait for Halloween to do that if I don’t want to…

This isn’t a comprehensive or even academic list, btw. This is just a broad, general sort of list, and there were a few I had trouble assigning to a type, because some monsters simply defy description, and I guess that’s their point. Some of them I just threw in where I think they should show up. You’re probably going to have a different idea of where certain monsters go, for example, you may classify some of The Stalkers into another category.

You should argue about this among yourselves, and then let me know what consensus y’all reached.

Also, some of these monsters can fit into multiple categories anyway, because most of them do eat people, many of them lurk in isolated areas, and almost all of them can certainly be classified as animals of some kind, but I chose to put certain ones wherever, for reasons. For example, zombies can go under both Devourers and Classic Monsters, and I chose to put them under both.

The Classics: The Old School

Vampire GIF by hoppip - Find & Share on GIPHY

Y’all know these guys. They’ve been around forever, and there are about five bajillion movies and television shows that are all about their prehistory, history, present, and future. That’s right, we’re talking about vampires, werewolves, and zombies, although the modern versions of zombies are relatively new, compared to say, Frankenstein’s monster. Some of the earliest films in the horror genre were made during the silent film era, like Nosferatu from 1922, which bears little resemblance to the vampires we see today, and Dracula, which was released in 1931, starring Bela Lugosi, in which some of the vampire tropes were simply made up for that film, (but that is a fairly common occurrence). There is also the silent-era movie, The Vampire, from 1913, which starred one of the first female vampires and was taken from a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

Vampires can be used as a stand-in for a wide variety of issues. The original Dracula was a stand-in for sex, disease, and anti-immigrant hysteria of East Europeans into England. Since then, vampires have been a euphemism for sexually transmitted diseases, unmitigated consumption, wealthy patriarchy feeding on the proletariat, and elites fighting against extinction.

And then there are the scientific and natural vampires, that have nothing to do with the supernatural, as their condition of vampirehood is scientifically explained, like the advanced vampires from Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade 2, and the TV series The Strain, and the species of vampires featured in 30 Days of Night. Vampires even managed to make their way into outer space in movies like the 1985 Lifeforce. And finally, there are the parodies of vampires like 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and the brand new, What We Do in the Shadows, which can be seen on television and the big screen.

Van Helsing Gifs - Album on Imgur

The next classic monster would be the Werewolf, with the first movie about a man becoming a wolf, released in 1941, and starring Lon Chaney. Although Chaney, and his monster, went on to star in a bunch of team-up movies and parodies with other classic monsters, the werewolf never seemed to gain quite the same amount of popularity as the vampire, even though it too can be successfully used for allegorical storytelling. Typical themes associated with the werewolf are the ancestral curse, dark legacy, or hereditary disease.

There are long stretches of time when we don’t get any movies about werewolves, and no one seems to miss them. There was a brief spate of them in the ’80s, which made for a good handful of modern movies, like American Werewolf in London, with its themes of personal displacement, The Howling, which addressed sexual assault trauma, Dog Soldiers, which involved military corruption, Ginger Snaps discussed sexuality and young womanhood, and the Underworld franchise addressed themes of class and slavery, through a long-standing war between vampires and werewolves.

Return of the living dead 80er anos 80 GIF - Find on GIFER

And then there are Zombies. The ones we see today don’t have a lot of resemblance to the really old-school version. There are, at least, three types of them, and pretty much all they have in common is being dead. Some of the old-school classic zombies are based on the demonization of African pagan religions by Hollywood. In some of the Caribbean cultures, there is extensive folklore about bringing the dead back to life, to serve as slaves using magic. What a group of people consider horror is closely related to the culture, and the creation of zombie folklore in Caribbean cultures, served much the same purpose as the Japanese creation of Godzilla, in that it served to give voice to the cultural, and generational trauma of chattel slavery. Pre-Night of the Living Dead, most zombie movies had their basis in Hollywood’s racist depictions of African religions of the diaspora, with the exception of scientific zombies, like Frankenstein. Written by Mary Shelly in 1818, it’s about a scientist who resurrects a man from the pieced together bodies of the dead.

Today’s zombies are not based on religion and have a closer resemblance to scientific zombies, as they are sometimes caused by outside factors like viruses, meteors, or experimentation, and can be a stand-in for social issues, like consumerism or racism. Many modern zombies are the fast kind, that apparently do a lot of cardio, and there are now ironic, and self-referential, zombie parodies, starring people who’ve seen all the zombie movies that came before and mock the sub-genre.

There’s always a new zombie movie lurching about, and there are far too many to name, since the huge resurgence in zombie fiction that started in the late 90s and hasn’t let up yet, as people keep finding new twists, like the Historical zombies of 2016’s Pride Prejudice and Zombies, and Zack Snyder’s heist/zombie mashup, Army of the Dead. We now have several television series about them, and zombies have even moved onto the international stage, with some of the best stories produced in South Korea, like the historical zombie television epic, Kingdom, which was created by the writers of the movie Train to Busan, and movies like #Alive, and One Cut of the Dead.

https://asianmoviepulse.com/2019/03/30-asian-zombie-movies-that-are-worth-your-time/

The Classics/Slashers

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The Slasher movie had its heyday in the ’80s, but the ball really got rolling in 1960, after Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released to shocked audiences, and it set some of the conventions of the genre, like the spooky house, the surprised female victims, and the killer’s association with madness. Psycho spawned a slew of similar films about isolated houses, where crazed, knife welding, madmen lay in wait, although movies, like Don’t Look In the Basement, were usually called psychological thrillers.

After Psycho, other movies paved the way. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre used the same idea of the isolated, rural location that was seen in so many slasher movies of the 80s, and the 1978 Halloween, introduced the staple trope of The Final Girl, who fights the slasher and survives to the end of the movie, due to her sexual purity. All these movies led to what is now called The Golden Age of Slasher Movies, with Jason, Michael, And Freddy, slashing their way through nubile teenage girls, between 1978, and 1990. During the 80s, novel plot twists would be added, like the dream killings of Freddy Krueger, from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. This Golden Age also sparked a Conservative backlash based on concerns about violence in movies, which eventually led to the decline of such films by the 90s. Not that such films weren’t still being made, because there were always the low budget and direct to video movies, but the larger commercial sellers mostly fell by the wayside, as the teenagers, of the early 80s, grew into adulthood, and mostly lost interest.

In the 90s though, a new crop of teenagers spurred the creation of a wave of Slasher movies with ironic, meta-textual, and self-referential themes, like Scream, Halloween :H2O, and I Saw What You Did Last Summer, which existed mostly to highlight the various murders of stars like Jada Pinkett, Brandy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze, Drew Barrymore, and Courtney Cox, but this era was eventually supplanted by the genres next biggest darling, The Zombie film. This current era has produced the comedic version of the Slasher film, based on viewer’s knowledge of previous slasher movies, like Cabin in the Woods, Freaky, and the re-emergence of the Scream franchise.

The Classics/Kaiju

Kaiju Monster GIF - Kaiju Monster Attack - Discover & Share GIFs | Kaiju  monsters, Kaiju, Monster

Contrary to popular belief, Kaiju are pretty old school, and did not actually start with Toho Studios 1953 Godzilla. It sort of began with the 1933 King Kong, which had some influence on the making of Godzilla. Later in 1953, The Beast from 20,00 Fathoms was released, about a newly awakened dinosaur rampaging its way through the streets of New York. The Kaiju movie is distinct from your typical giant monster movie, in that it takes place during the modern age, the monster is mostly a metaphor for another real-world problem, and at some point, the monster must menace a city, although that is negotiable. Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear power and was Japan’s way of dealing with the trauma of the atomic bomb, and King Kong was a metaphor for the American enslavement of Africans, not because that was the intent of the creators, but because many of the movie’s viewers thought that allegory mapped neatly to the film’s plot.

Many of the American monsters of the 50s were nuclear metaphors, with regular animals, and insects becoming oversized because of atomic energy, like ants, locusts, rabbits, spiders, and in one spectacular case, an angry white woman, in Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. And then there is The Blob, which wasn’t so much about the fear of radiation as it was about science in general, and a response to American fears about the US space program.

There is a good, long history of movies about giant monsters tearing up cities, and Hollywood continued this fine tradition, by substituting fictional monsters, like the Ymir from 20 Million Miles to Earth, and the monster from Cloverfield, and the scientific man-made monsters, like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. We’ve even reached the stage of parody, in movies like Colossal, where a young woman finds out she is the avatar of a rampaging Kaiju and can control its actions, and we’ve also reached the “homage” stage, with a callback to the Japanese monster/robot battle movies of the 60s, with movies like Pacific Rim. I spoke about this in my Starring the Landscape series on cities, about how cities, mankind’s greatest artificial construction, and the theme of destruction by creatures that were irresponsibly created by mankind, or were a form of natural revenge.

There is room in the genre for all kinds of stories to be told, from Korea’s ecological horror movie, The Host, mysteries like the Cloverfield franchise, the old school science fiction of War of the Worlds, children’s comedies like Monsters Vs. Aliens, and the more contemplative, Monsters, from 2010, about an invasion of Earth by strange giant aliens, that much like the original War of the Worlds aliens, take no notice of humanity, at all.

The Classics: Animals

Garrett morris john belushi GIF - Find on GIFER

Outside of the gigantism suffered by regular animals, during the 1950s, which was usually caused by nuclear waste or bomb testing, there was the issue of their smaller cousins. In the 70s, a new type of horror arose, based on environmental fears, which spawned a great number of nature revenge films. In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which helped to launch the Environmental Movement in the US, which had so much influence, that it began to affect Pop-Cultural trends. Jaws was released in the Summer of 1975 and we were off to the races. What animal can kill human beings in the goriest fashion?!!

Hence the absolute glut of When Animals Attack films that were released between 1975, and 1984, like Food of the Gods, about rats grown to enormous size from eating a substance bubbling out of the ground, The Swarm, featuring Africanized killer bees, Squirm, about worms enraged by downed power lines. There were pirahna, sharks, frogs, spiders, dogs, bears, and every other animal got in on the action, in the 1977 film Day of the Animals, where hikers encounter hostile animals in a forest that had been poisoned by chemicals. I remember watching a lot of these movies when I was a kid, and while I did laugh at a lot of them, some of them were actually scary. I distinctly remember discussing the arrival of killer bees to America’s shores with my classmates and all of us were genuinely terrified at the thought. Well, they got here some time ago, and it hasn’t actually been as terrifying as the news media and the movies made it out to be.

And let’s not forget the prevalence of killer bear films, many of them clearly Jaws ripoffs, starting with Grizzly in 1976, and reaching the pinnacle in 1979, with the release of Prophecy, which checks off all the popular boxes for movies made in that interval, with a murderous bear-like creature, mutated by environmental waste from a logging company, tears apart random backpackers. We can still experience a little of this today, in the crop of grizzly horror films, like Into the Grizzly Maze, The Edge, The Revenant, Annihilation, BackCountry, and Grizzly Man.

Next up in Part 2: The New School!

I really enjoyed writing this but it was getting a bit long, so I decided to divide this list into pre-modern, and Modern. I said earlier that this isn’t a comprehensive list since there are some things that don’t make either list, like ghosts and haunted houses, a list of which is so massive, and so old, that it could go on The Classics list, or The New School list since those movies never stopped getting made. They simply kept updating themselves. I will talk about a few of them in part two.

New Trailers This Week

Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness

So me, my niece, nephew, and maybe their dad, have set a date to go see this movie. I think we’ll go see a matinee on Sunday after the release because they’re kids and I’m old, we have more energy during the day, are unlikely to unwillingly fall asleep, and we don’t wanna be up til 11:30 at night (although we probably will because EXCITEMENT is a helluva drug!)

I’m really looking forward to this because this is where the X-Men will be introduced into the MCU in the form of Professor X, played by who else, Patrick Stewart (who’s like a thousand years old, so I don’t know how many more Professor Xs he’s got left.) The Illuminati named in the movie is based on the comic books of the same name, and consist of Namor the Submariner who will probably be introduced here as well, along with Reed Richards Mr. Fantastic, and the Captain’s shield is probably being wielded by Peggy Carter as Captain Britain ( I think she’s called Captain Carter) from the animated What If…? series.

Now would be a good time to introduce a lot of characters from across the multiverse including The Inhumans” Black Bolt (since we have The Eternals), Magneto (since we have Professor X), and Doctor Doom. The Iron Man figure is either one of The Captains Marvel or Riri Williams as The Iron Maiden, and I hope it’s her because I do not believe Iron Man is making a cameo (but I could be wrong.) The movie is introducing us to the multidimensional barrier breaker America Chavez, one of the few Latina superheroes in the MCU.

With the intro of The Illuminati, fan theories are flying fast and loose about the existence of mutants like Wolverine, Magneto, and even Wanda, in the MCU.

Jurassic Park Dominion

Okay, even though I’m already cringing at some of this dialogue, I’m gonna see this anyway because I absolutely love movies like this. I love dinosaurs and I’ve been fascinated with “dinosaurs (and kaiju) in the modern world” movies and books since I was a little kid. It’s one of those things that’s great and horrifying at the same time. Can you imagine encountering a pack of Ankylosaurs while hiking, or being chased by some Raptors on your way to work? (I’m not talking about the sports team). (Although really, dinosaurs can’t possibly make Black Americans’ lives any more dangerous than they already are. I feel like we’d probably just cook out, like usual, and that Americans in general, would use dinosaurs as an excuse to just buy more guns.)

This trailer is hitting all the right notes, and I expect to be frightened, and thrilled, and suspensed, for two-plus hours. All of our favorite characters are here from the original movie, Ellie, Ian, and Alan, and it will be the first time we’ve seen them all together since that time, so I’m really looking forward to this, and I better not be disappointed, or somebody is going to receive a strongly worded letter (but probably just a rant on this blog!)

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre

I will probably will not go see this in the theater but it looks fun and funny. I’m glad to see Josh Hartnett making a return to a mainstream action movie because I missed him. He looks a little grizzled though. And I’m glad we’re starting to get more Action Comedy type movies. I mean I like the grim/dark-John Wick- Batman type movies but I prefer a good dose of fun and humor with gunfire.

I also like the trailer’s theme song. I’m a sucker for Dean Martin remixes.

Crimes of the Future

This is David Cronenberg’s latest mindbending/ body horror weirdness and I see he’s really going back to his roots here. He got away from it for a bit by making some modern-day crime movies, now I see he’s just going to blend his two favorite topics together, crime and body horror. I’m not seeing this in theaters, since this trailer looks horrifying enough. I can’t make heads or tails out of what’s going on in it, but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, it’s gonna be Squick-inducing!

The Peacemakers

Okay, I don’t know what to make of this one. It definitely looks weird enough to be interesting to me but is probably not playing at a theater near…anybody, really. I can wait until it streams somewhere. The special effects don’t look all that great but bad special effects don’t always stop me from watching something. I think this movie is meant to be funny although I didn’t laugh during this trailer. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything either because sometimes the movie is fine and the trailer just stank.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

It turns out that I actually think Pete Davidson is funny and this trailer looks hilarious. I get the impression that this movie was made by someone who gets wokeness, but doesn’t actually hate it. I won’t see this in the theater but I will rent it as soon as it streams. When I first saw this trailer my thoughts were that they definitely need an adult in this situation because these kids are completely ill-equipped to handle a serial killer.

Other films to watch for: Monstrous starring Christina Ricci, Joe Hill’s The Black Phone, an adaptation of one of his short stories, and Night Sky, starring Sissy Spacek.

Watching Moon Knight

Yeah, I’ve been watching the hell outta Moon Knight , and I got all the feels!

I’ve watched all of the MCU series except Loki, but the writing for these series is hitting some emotional notes in a lot of people. Suffice to say, when you’re watching them, have your tissues ready and make an appointment to see your Therapist soon because …dayyum!

Well, when the series is done, I want to talk about it, but I especially want to laud the performances…yes, that’s performances, of Oscar Isaac. I’ve loved every episode, not just for the Egyptian stuff, but on the pure strength of his acting chops. The man is phenomenal!

The special effects and music are superb. I’ve discovered two new Arabic artists since it’s start. The fight scenes are fantastic. I love the animal headed creatures, which you’d think would look ridiculous, but don’t. And the plot goes nowhere I thought it would.

There are only six episodes but episode five was emotionally devastating, and we’re gonna have to talk about it.

C ya laters ‘gators!

My Least Favorite Superhero Movies

There are so many superhero movies that have been made in the last thirty, forty, years that there are bound to be as many dislikes as there are likes, and here are a few. Some of these will be no surprise to some of you because it really seemed like the creators weren’t even trying to make a good movie, but I did have criteria. To make this list, they had to be movies I actually wasted time watching and hating, and not something I merely heard was bad. They had to be movies that I really, really, wanted to like, tried hard to like, and went into them thinking they would be likable, but walked out disappointed.

Catwoman

Look at that trailer! It looks like the shit doesn’t it?! I mean, I love Halle Berry and will watch anything she’s in, so I walked into this thinking it was just going to be a light, fun, take on the Catwoman mythos, but it was kinda silly, and not in a way that made me feel good. Some people enjoyed it, but when I find myself feeling embarrassed for a favorite actor, then that’s not a good movie for me.

I grew up watching the Eartha Kitt version of this character, who was campy, silly, and very sexy, so I get that there’s more than a little tongue in cheek with this movie version of her. That Halle was playing Catwoman was really the strongest point of the ads, and she was totally rocking that catsuit, but ultimately she didn’t hold a candle to the Batman Returns version played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who still has not been bettered as Catwoman, as far as I’m concerned. (I will compare her to yet another version in the new Batman film I just watched.)

And then there’s the plot. Like I said, I know there’s supposed to be an element of Camp involved, but not only is the plot kind of stupid, involving the use of poisonous makeup, there are more than a few cringey scenes of Halle Berry acting like a cat, and I just couldn’t watch any of that without laughing, and not the good kind of Eartha Kitt laughing, either. I don’t just want to blame Halle though, the other actors in the movie can catch some of this shade too! You’ve got Lambert Wilson, and Sharon Stone who act like they are in a business drama type of movie, and Benjamin Bratt, who mostly stands around looking utterly hapless, as Halle literally runs rings around him. He’s given nothing to do in the script beyond being pretty and flirting with Halle, which he does very well, but he cannot compete with the sheer sexiness of Berry, so his looks are wasted.

I tried really hard to like this movie, but when it was over, I tried to forget that I’d seen it, which is how I try to treat a lot of movies I don’t like.

Superman Returns

I wanted to be excited about this movie. I really wanted to like this movie, even love it really, but it was so ho-hum and bland that I get bored just thinking about it. The stand-out actors were Kevin Spacey (eww!) and Parker Posey, who always brings the madness of Parker Posey (no matter what role she’s playing), and Frank Langella, who turns in an unexpectedly funny performance. Perhaps he thought he was in some other film. I was all ready to get nostalgia’d back to my childhood viewing of the original Superman, but this movie just didn’t work for me.

The two worst actors in this movie were Kate Bosworth, who is quite possibly one of the least interesting Lois Lanes to ever be on a movie screen. She was so bad, I won’t watch Bosworth in anything else. And there’s Brandon Routh, who plays Superman in such a downbeat, low energy fashion, you just fall asleep whenever he’s onscreen. Not only are the two of them utterly bland in their standalone scenes, but they’re even worse when they’re together. I simply was not feeling the love. The two of them had less passion than a couple of garden mice!

I would watch an entire movie about the shenanigans of Posey and Spacey’s characters if I could get past looking at Spacey for any length of time (eww!), but this is what we got, a bland supercouple and some rapists (Yeah, there’s Bryan Singer, too).

Thor: The Dark World

It’s movies like this that make mainstream filmgoers hate superhero films. I mean, it’s bad, but it’s not quite bad enough for me to hate it. I mean, it looks great. It’s got some interesting scenes, but that’s not enough to make me like it. There’s just enough action and drama in it to make me keep looking at it, but I had no emotional investment, which is really sad because I actually enjoyed the first one which was a surprise to me, as I do not consider myself a Thor fan, even though I read the comic books as a kid. This movie is both too little, and paradoxically, too much, all at the same time, and I am puzzled as to how the creators managed to accomplish that. The movie does have a moment or two, and I always like Darcy’s energy no matter when and where she shows up. (She was especially fun in Wandavision. Note to self: Please stop calling this character Darcy Little Badger in your head. Darcy Little Badger is a whole nother person, and an author who looks nothing like this actress!!!) I found the Dark Elves totally uninteresting, and I was not invested in the plot. I did enjoy the end credits scene with the frost monster though!

I am not a huge Loki fan, but I still think this movie needed more Loki, not just because I enjoy looking at Tom Hiddleston but because the Thor movies seem to work best when they focus on the relationship between him and Thor, or just Thor and his dysfunctional family, in general. Those scenes I liked well enough. But none of that is enough to make me watch this movie again.

Blade: Trinity

Talking about some of these films is demoralizing. There is soooo much wrong with this movie, I don’t think I can cover it in a couple of paragraphs. Let’s start with my number one pet peeve, which is the depiction of Dracula in this movie. He gets played up by the other characters to such an incredible degree in this movie, especially by Ryan Renolds character, but the very first time he and the other badass of the movie encounter each other, what does Dracula do? He runs! He runs away!

The other characters are deeply annoying. The dialogue is just *sigh*. The director tries hard to add moments of humor, which fail. We spend an inordinate amount of time with Jessica Biel’s character Abigail Whistler. Why? Wesley Snipes turns in a lackluster performance and I found out that there was some bullshit happening on the set that he was displeased with, and after I saw the movie I get why he felt that way. (He was essentially side-charactered in his own movie, and when the movie bombed, the director tried to pin the blame on Snipes’ attitude, and claim he was being difficult on the set, which I have found out is the kind of thing directors do when they refuse to acknowledge that they f*cked up. *Note: It was actually Patton Oswalt who made the allegations.*) The fight scenes are a chaotically filmed mess and the inevitable smackdown between Blade and Dracula is filmed so poorly that it wasn’t worth the wait.

For example, there’s a blind woman and her son in the film, and it is heavily implied, but never actually shown or stated, that she and Abigail Whistler have a relationship. We are given nothing even remotely overt about either of them, but when the blind woman gets fridged, Whistlers’ reaction is entirely out of all proportion to anything that’s been shown between them. This is the laziest Bury Your Gays Trope ever put on film.

I really wanted to like this movie because I actually like David Goyer, who wrote the first two Blade films. He’s written some really good films since then, but has not, and should never, be allowed to direct another movie again.

*Sigh*

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1997)

This is another movie that had a lot of issues, questionable directing decisions, dodgy special effects, and even some plot choices. First up, I read the book on which this movie was based and it has some things in it that are well, “graphic” I guess is the word I can use. I mean it’s basically about a Victorian Superteam. All the characters are the same as in the movie but I guess since the creators in Holywood were firmly convinced that superhero movies were made for children, they took all the edge off the graphic novel and made it a PG-13 style movie when the book is everything but that.

The second is the use of the characters. In Alan Moore’s graphic novel the Invisible Man is a rapist and Dr. Hyde is a horrific-looking monster, and while Mina Murray (from Dracula) and Allan Quartermain are on the team, it is Mina who is the leader of it, not Alan. The creators of the film also had the idea that they couldn’t make Mina the leader of the team because “woman” and that they needed to cater to white guys by having both the primary lead and his co-lead be white guys (one of whom isn’t even on the team in any of the four books of the series.)

So, the two writers took all the blood and gore out, sidelined Mina in her own movie, which is weird because she’s one of the few characters that have actual superpowers in the film, and replaced her with two guys with guns, played by Sean Connery as Allan Quartermain and Shane West as Thomas Sawyer (Yeah, that’s Mark Twain’s Thomas Sawyer.)

Peta Wilson (Mina) was pretty cool as MIna and I wish she’d been allowed to play her role properly since she was the most interesting character in the movie. The second most interesting character, who had an entire section of the books devoted to his legacy, was Captain Nemo, played by Naseeruddin Shah, a very fine actor. I wanted to see more of him. Stewart Townsend (Dorian Gray) is a horrible actor who kept getting great roles. I actually liked Dorian the character, but I don’t hate really Stewart because he’s at least pretty. There are some great campy scenes between him and Mina that I thought were deeply entertaining, and I wish the creators had leaned into that more. Sean Connery looks like he would rather be somewhere, anywhere else, and Shane West is a nobody to me, but he keeps starring in films I have never watched, so somebody likes him.

I liked Captain Nemo’s submarine The Nautilus. It was awesome! Stupid, but awesome!

I mean, I guess the creators tried to make a good movie? I’m not sure. It was badly executed, and the plot made no sense, de-evolving into a hot mess at the end, only two of the characters were likable to me…I don’t actually hate this movie, but I sure as Hell don’t like it. I kept seeing what the movie could have been if the writers had simply gotten out of their own way, maybe.

Yeah, Imma stop thinking about this one now, cuz it makes my head hurt.

Elektra (2005)

This movie tried it. It really did. It tried hard to be interesting and exciting, and have a plot and character that mattered. I really wanted to like it because it was yet another attempt at a female superhero movie but it ultimately failed. I don’t even think the movie is bad, so much as unremarkable and at times incoherent. Now, remember, this was during the period when Hollywood only believed in the existence of Asian people unless they were whores or villains, and so we got a bland white woman as Elektra because Jennifer Garner was the woman everyone thought was sexy at that time, and all of the white people are the good guys, and all of the PoC are the villains because that’s how shit was before the MCU, I guess.

And it’s not that I didn’t like her. I did. She’s a very good actress and I watched her action-adventure television series in which she played a spy, (Alias), but she was either wholly inadequate for this particular role, or it was so badly written that her charms couldn’t save it. This was also during the time period when superhero movies were just not being taken seriously despite the existence of the Blade and Hellboy films! I don’t know how to feel about this movie other than disappointment, and this isn’t even hindsight disappointment. This is how much I disliked it at the time. I really wanted to like it, and I expected better because I liked Garner, and she showed impressive skills in using Elektra’s weapons of choice. I was bored by the plot which involved the little girl Elektra bonds with, the little girl’s father, multiple assassins, and a brief romantic thread.

This one gets another *Sigh*

Daredevil

I watched this movie two times. I’m trying really hard to remember what this movie was about and have no clue. I think Bullseye was in it but I’m not entirely sure. I have the vague memory of liking the first thirty minutes of the film, and I think Michael Clarke Duncan as The Kingpin was an inspired bit of casting as he was suitably terrifying. Ben Affleck is a much better actor now than he was at the time he made this movie, so I have no problem watching him portray Batman, but I had a problem with his version of Daredevil, who was pretty bland. I can’t even claim the movie was bad. I don’t remember enough of it to say that, although I do remember there is a good fight scene between Daredevil and Kingpin at the end of the movie, but Joey Pantoliano plays a reporter or something in this and he pretty much just plays himself in everything, and some parts of this movie were simply stupid.

I liked the first thirty minutes in which we see that Matt sleeps in a special chamber that keeps out noise and Ben Affleck shows us what it’s like to live as a blind lawyer in New York City. He was fully committed to this role and I appreciate that. That’s it. I don’t remember the plot. I didn’t even remember that Jennifer Garner had been in the film. She was on the poster! I think Bullseye might have been in it. I know Kingpin was present. I don’t remember why.

I mostly didn’t care for Affleck in this role. I don’t know how someone could mess up such a character, and though I really like Charlie Cox in the role, I can’t pinpoint what he’s doing that’s so very different from what Affleck did that I would like one, and not the other. Sometimes there’s no concrete reason for liking or disliking someone in a role. It all comes down to how you felt watching them, and I think that’s what’s going on here. I just didn’t like Ben Affleck very much at the time.

And now I like him okay as Batman. But he’s a much better actor than he was then so that’s a factor.

Hellboy (The Remix) (2017)

I remember being really enthusiastic to see this movie, and I really wanted to like it. Yeah, I really wanted to love it and I watched this exactly twice. Once because I was excited about it, and the second time, to try to understand what the f**k went wrong the first time because I had enormous disappoint! It’s a lot y’all! A lot went wrong.

Okay, I’m gonna need to make a whole post comparing this one to the original Hellboy movie, because wow! The only problems I didn’t have with this movie were David Harbour’s acting, and the visuals. His acting is acceptable and the movie looks gorgeous! The lighting, colors, set and creature design were all satisfactory except in a couple of places. A lot of this movie was just really pretty and even those times it wasn’t it was still worth looking at.

There is a lot going on in this movie and most of what’s happening is completely unnecessary. It’s basically just Hellboy moving from one setpiece from the comic books, to another setpiece, all of it very loosely tied together with the thinnest of threads and plot contrivances. There are scenes that are completely untied to the rest of the plot, and the plot is a lot. No seriously! I’m not gonna go over it because it’s not really possible to explain it. I did like some of the scenes, like Baba Yaga in her chicken-legged house, which was awesome, Hellboy riding a dragon during the apocalypse, and the kaiju-demon invasion at the end of the movie. There are parts of this movie that are beautifully shot, and even the less than pretty parts are worth looking at.

Guys, there are witches, trolls, changelings, Baba Yaga, demons, Excaliber, Merlin, Nimue, The Fae, some knights, giants, a wereleopard, ghosts, an apocalypse, the lady in the lake, Mexican vampires, wrestling, gunfire…really put any of those in any order and you got a movie, I guess. They could have removed at least a third of the characters from this movie and considerably tightened it up. It was like they were trying to cram in as much stuff from the comic books as possible just in case they weren’t going to be able to make another movie.

…there’s not gonna be another movie, ya’ll.

Also, my artistic arch-nemesis is in this movie: Milla Jovovich. I braved this movie despite her presence. I don’t care if she is an A-list actress, or how much other people love her, she’s got all of the acting capabilities of a stick of wood. I’m sure she’s an intelligent and nice lady, and I would love to sit down and have a drink with her because Milla herself seems an interesting person, but she cannot act. It’s sort of the opposite of that thing with the actress who plays Wanda. Wanda can go to jail, but her actress is great and I like her!

Honorable Mentions:

There are a few movies that didn’t make the list because I didn’t have time to write about them but 1997s Batman and Robin is one of them, and Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spiderman sequel…well I fell asleep on it, and woke up just in time to see Gwen Stacy die, which soured me on the whole movie. I don’t know if it’s any good, but I’m not in the mood to try it again. We can also include Superman 4, because …damn!

And then there’s this one:

Suicide Squad (2016)

Just as with the Favorite Superheroes list, you will notice that one movie is conspicuous by its absence: Suicide Squad. I left it off the top of this list for a reason.

It’s actually one of my favorite movies, but just like The Black Panther, it exists in a class by itself. This movie is too awful to go on the favorites list. I love it though, so I can’t put it in my top ten most disliked movies. I love the hell out of this wildly inconsistent mess of a movie. I can list everything I hate about it, and paradoxically, a few of those are things I loved about it, too. Yeah, Suicide Squad has to go into a category of its own. The top reasons why I love the hell out of this movie: Will Smith as Dead Shot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo! I liked seeing these characters onscreen, I liked a lot of the dialogue, I enjoyed spending time with the characters and I liked the relationships that were developed between most of them.

But the movie itself is pretty damn awful. I absolutely hated, hated, hated, the villain, and the less said of her, the better. I hated most of the other characters except for maybe four or five of them, and the plot made not one damn bit of sense. It’s not even a pretty film. It’s kind of dark and murky looking with the colors all washed out, and it tries too hard to be edgy and gritty, when it should have just fully embraced the utter ridiculousness of the story and characters. Jared Leto’s version of the Joker was very obviously created by an actor trying too damn hard to differentiate himself from the other, better, versions of the Joker and I would like nothing more than to set his version on fire, starting with his teeth.

And yet, I’ve watched this stupid movie multiple times, and I still love it. I will not classify it as a guilty pleasure. I don’t have any shame, or guilt about liking the movies I like.

Of note: The reboot by James Gunn, absolutely SLAPS!!!

Coming up: All-time favorite Superhero movies!

Fleeting Frustrations #13: Media Consumption As A Substitute For A Personality

This is so old. I don’t even remember when I finished the first draft. Anyway, it’s a rant and it reads like a rant. Sorry I can’t smooth down my edges this time. One of the wildest aspects of White Feminism ™ in fandom, media/pop culture criticism, etc… is the way these White Feminists™ – […]

Fleeting Frustrations #13: Media Consumption As A Substitute For A Personality — Stitch’s Media Mix

Reader Request Week 2022 #5: The Clawback of Rights in the USA

Nellie asks: I’d love to get your perspective specifically on the rash of anti-trans legislation getting pushed all over the US right now – Alabama just today passed their version, making it a felony to help someone transition under the age of 19, and there are a LOT of bills under consideration in other states…

Reader Request Week 2022 #5: The Clawback of Rights in the USA — Whatever

From one of my favorite Science Fiction authors: