Thursday, July 20, 2017


The loss of George A Romero this week is a staggering blow. As a director, he wasn't just a master of horror, he is the father of modern horror. After 1969's Night Of The Living Dead came out, horror cinema changed. His films The Crazies, Martin, Season Of The Witch, Dawn and Day of the Dead, Knightriders, Creepshow I and II, Two Evil Eyes, The Dark Half, and Monkey Shines are testament to his greatness. Some of his work is a bit uneven, he often struggled with budgets and getting distribution, but when the film arrived it did so through the vision and hard work of a man who never said die. Just days before his death we received news about his latest project, another zombie film, called Road of the Dead. It had been a long time since we had gotten a new Romero film, the last one being 2009's Survival of the Dead. Romero was no stranger to having film projects fall through, and in my opinion-and the opinion of a lot of fans-Romero never got the respect he absolutely deserved from the Hollywood establishment, despite a string of classic films that defined a genre and inspired generations of indie filmmakers.

I talked about discovering Romero's work back in "My Heroes Have Always Been Monsters Part 36" and the huge impact his Dead films had on my life as a kid trying to be a writer. At the annual Humanities Fest in 1992 I entered a short story called "Bios-Fear" that I "dead-icated" to Romero. It was, of course, a zombie story about people fleeing across the country trying to stay ahead of the zombie outbreak, many people escaping by plane to Hawaii, only to have zombies emerge from the ocean, marching on to the beach months later. I ripped off the ending from The Ghost Galleon, from the Blind Dead series, but the rest of the story was purely inspired by Romero's Dead films, I even named all the characters after actors from the three films. From that point there has always been a piece of Romero in everything I do. Cronenberg and Lynch may have had the biggest influence on me overall, but Romero was ground zero for everything I wanted to become. His spirit of independence and the heart and intelligence he infused into gory B-films, elevating them to pieces of art will always be something I lean on with every new story or book I write.

I never got to meet Romero, but his passing hurt really bad. It helped that day to be on Twitter interacting with others who were crushed by his death. We celebrated him and it was cathartic and I felt a little better at the end of the day. Hollywood may have churned out Happy Meal versions of his films instead of funding his vision, but his fans and friends knew how important he was. He was a giant who lifted others to heights they may not have achieved on their own. In these dire times we're going through right now, we could use a Romero flick to skewer our enemies and blow our minds with shocking visuals.

I woke up this morning and put on Dawn of the Dead. The film is still a striking masterpiece and a standard bearer of our genre. I've watched Dawn more than any other movie, in fact I'm going to watch it again tomorrow when I show it to my kids. I think it's an important enough film and they're old enough to handle it. I hope it moves them the same way it moved me. 

Peace and love to your spirit, George. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Based on the 1976 novel, The Space Vampires, by Colin Wilson, Lifeforce (1985)was the first of a three picture deal Tobe Hooper had signed with Canon Films. It was also the follow up to his Steven Spielberg collaboration Poltergeist (1982). Hooper had made a name for himself with the notorious 1973 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 77's Eaten Alive, and 81's The Funhouse. Poltergeist, despite it's PG rating was a phenomenal film that split the difference between Spielberg and Hooper's aesthetics, giving us the goriest, scariest kid friendly film I've ever seen. Hooper was next set to tackle the living dead Return Of The Living Dead, which would have been called Tobe Hooper's Return Of The Living Dead, but left the project when the Canon deal came through. Writer Dan O'Bannon (who wrote the screenplay and wrote Alien) was brought on to direct and was also tapped by Hooper to adapt The Space Vampires.

Though it was a critical and financial bomb at the time, Lifeforce is an ambitious film with a sturdy cast, really good, if not great speThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 as Hooper's most enjoyable film to watch. There are apparently some call backs to Hammer Films' Quatermass films, but I'm not familiar with those and can't speak to that, but I did catch some nods to Lifeforce in this summer's Universal The Mummy. Also, we've seen the idea of vampires from space before with Vampirella and Mario Bava's Planet Of The Vampires (which was one of the films that inspired O'Bannon's Alien). Lifeforce and Planet Of The Vampires would make an amazing double feature, by the way.
cial effects, and a truckload of memorable moments. For me, it's only second to

The story is about the space shuttle Churchill intercepting Haley's Comet to study it and discovering a 150 mile long spacecraft that's full of bat-like creatures and three pods each containing a nude humanoid, one female, two males. The pods are brought back on to the Churchill and thirty days later the Columbia is sent to rescue the Churchill which is drifting off course back to earth with no communications. The Columbia crew finds the ship gutted by fire with only the three pods remaining intact and bring them back to earth for study. As the original title suggests, space vampire wackiness ensues.

If you haven't seen Lifeforce, Scream Factory's Blu-ray is an absolute treat and I don't say that lightly. The colors and visual effects really pop in this restoration. As sci-fi horror flicks go, it tends to be a bit more bonkers than scary, but that just makes it more fun. O'Bannon's script is solid, and if anyone knows sci-fi horror, it's the guy that wrote frigging Alien! As a director, at least up to 93's Night Terrors, Hooper had been really solid and consistent, working in film and television. His filmography may not be as distinguished as John Carpenter's, but I think Hooper's less loved films, particularly Lifeforce and Invaders From Mars is due a reassessment. Even TCM2 tends to get some undue hate to this day.
Lifeforce stars Steven Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, and Patrick Stewart, but Mathilda May owns the film. Her bold, fully nude performance is without a doubt the centerpiece of the film. Her background in dance gave her the ability to move in a way that communicates both threat and allure. Lifeforce was her first feature and she barely spoke English, but you'd never know from her confident and commanding performance.

John Dykstra did the special effects, mixing puppetry, animation, and miniatures. Sometimes the Friday The 13th's Henry Mancini did the score with additional music from Michael Kamen (The Dead Zone, X-Men). I haven't read Wilson's novel, but apparently he hated the film. The Canon group was very excited about the project though and gave Hooper $25 million, in hopes of elevating the film above their usual low budget fare and getting the film taken seriously. Unfortunately, this wasn't meant to be as critics and fans didn't get it and didn't care and the film flopped, not even making back half its budget. But like Halloween III, Lifeforce is simply too good of a film to be relegated to the dustbin of history and has been kept alive by a steady cult following. Any flaws the film has are minor compared to its many strengths.  
effects look a bit dated, but no less charming and still beat out most CGI by a country mile.


Friday, July 7, 2017


By Tim Murr
Copyright Tim Murr/St Rooster Books 2017

The chemical orange of the streetlight bathed Thomas Street eerily. There was a mist hanging in in the air and the shadows were full of secrets. Alexandra was leaning back in a metal deck chair on her porch sipping coffee waiting for Dana to call back. Dana had said ten minutes, but it had been two hours. All the neighbors’ windows were dark and the only sound, save for an occasional passing car down on Main, was the Allen’s Labrador barking at the occasional wind knocking a tree branch against a bird house.

Alexandra had had her back to her house for too long and she was getting spooked. It was always the same emotional push and pull with this place. She worked nights and stayed up late even on her days off and loved her porch at night, but every time she would have to psych herself up to go back inside and go through the process of checking every room and every door, and every window. She hoped the anxiety was something that would pass after she was used to living on her own, but after six months it was still the same routine.

She checked her phone and decided Dana must have fallen asleep, which wasn’t unusual. All her friends had more conventional schedules, nine-to-five kinda lives. It was getting hard to even go out on the weekends, as everyone was getting older, landing in relationships, and just not having free time. Alexandra worked nights at county general ER and weirdly loved it. She was the only doctor on staff that showed up in a good mood. Somehow, working that shift with the drunk driving victims, bar brawlers, and crazies, she felt at ease and fully in control of her world. It was something her mother could never wrap her head around. Her mother had a private practice and was mortified that Alexandra insisted on night shifts.

“How are you going to have a life?”

“This is the life I’m happy with, mom.”

“You were always such a weird child…”

Alexandra sighed and turned her cup up, swallowing the last drop.

She was always the outsider, with every circle of friends, going back to grade school. A ship adrift in the night. She was rarely disliked, but people had a hard time getting a bead on her. This made her mysterious and interesting. She never felt like either of those things, instead she often felt bored and lonely.

Then a bird landed on the railing beside her. Noisily flapping the mist off its wings, as it came to an awkward landing. It was a large crow or raven, she was not sure what the difference was-it was just a big, black bird. It turned its head, looking right at her.

“Hey, bird. You lost?”

The bird stuck its neck out and cawed.

“I’ve got some bread, but you’ll probably fly away when I get up to get it.”

The bird cawed again and clumsily danced side to side.

“Ok, cool. You stay right there,” she said as she slowly got up, turning away to pick up her phone.

“Actually, I was hoping I could come in.”

Alexandra spun around at the voice and found, perched in the bird’s place on the railing, a woman in a long black cloak, the hood thrown back, revealing long, dark, brown hair.

“I didn’t mean to scare you, but I don’t think there was any way around that.”

“Oh, uh, you didn’t scare me, but, um, have you seen my bird friend?”

The woman smiled and gingerly stepped down from the railing.

“Transmutation takes a lot of focus and energy,” she said as she straightened up, showing obvious signs of pain.

Alexandra calmly processed her situation. She wasn’t exactly freaked out, which struck her as a pointless reaction to this surprising situation. Instead, she became almost calmly analytical about it; a bird just turned into a woman beside her, ok, next? The woman’s hair was wet, her eyes were cat-like, her lips were red, but too red, she was bleeding, the black cloak over a white blouse and a black knee-length skirt, and combat boots.

She reached out to steady herself on Alexandra’s chair, revealing a wide crimson stain under her right arm. Drops of blood began to spatter on the white boards of the porch.

“Oh, my god, you’re hurt. Come inside, I’m a doctor.”

The woman smiled as she accepted Alexandra’s arm for support.

“I know, I…was looking for a doctor or a nurse and I found you.”

“Why didn’t you go to the hospital, it’s not far away?”

“Because I’d be found. I’ll explain.”

“I’d appreciate that.”

Alexandra helped her out of the cloak and then to sit on the edge of the bath tub. She got out a first aid kit and a box of gauze while the woman took off her blouse. When Alexandra turned to her, she was shivering in a black strapless bra. A very thin woman, who did have a bit a bird-like appearance that covered an inner strength that was not to be trifled with. The dark eye make-up was a brilliant contrast against her pale skin. Alexandra quickly realized, though, that she wasn’t pale in a goth sort of way, but from blood loss and exhaustion.

Alexandra straddled the tub beside her and inspected the wound.

“Damn, girl.”

Half of the back of the bra was cut revealing the top of an eight-inch vertical slash that went to bone.

“I’m Claudia.”

“Claudia. That’s a name you don’t come across much these days. I’m Alexandra. What happened here?”

“I was attacked by six men.”

“Shit! Was this from a knife?”

“A hatchet, actually.”

“I’m going to undo you in the back, so hold the front if you’re self-conscious.”

“I’m fine. Go ahead.”

“Can you identify the men?”

“I know who they are.”

Alexandra treated some cotton balls with peroxide and gently started dabbing the wound. Claudia winced but stayed still.

“…And turning into a bird was how you got away?”

“Not right away. It takes energy and focus…I had to put some distance between me and them to find a quiet spot. Then I had to focus on finding someone who could help me. I’m very lucky you’re a night owl.”

“I’ll call the police as soon as I stop the bleeding. Then I’m taking you to the hospital. You’re going to need stitches and I’d feel better doing it there.”

“If you call the cops…”

“Hey. You’re safe. How far did you come?”

“From across town, but it took a while to find you, and they know how to track me. So as soon as you can stop the bleeding, I need to go.”

“No. I’m going to call the cops. I have a friend on the force. A detective, really bad ass. We’ll keep you safe and those assholes will go to jail.”

“They’ll kill any cop that comes for them. You don’t understand…this isn’t a normal situation. I’m a witch and they are a cult of necromancers. They need the left hand of a witch to resurrect a guy named Clive Cunningham.”

“Why is that name familiar?”

“He was a mass murderer. The Syracuse Slasher. He was murdered in prison back in the ‘90s.”

Alexandra made a thick roll of gauze, big enough to cover the wound and then reached for another roll to wrap around Claudia’s torso.

“Right. I watched the episode of American Killer about him. I have so many questions right now, I’m not sure where to begin…”

“I just dumped transmutation, witchcraft, and necromancy on your doorstep. I’d be worried if you didn’t have a couple inquiries…Cunningham claimed to be gathering supernatural strength from each victim. This cult believes he’ll be this unstoppable weapon for them.”

“Weapon for what?”

“Basically, a gang war between them and some other sorcerers.”

“Claudia, promise me one thing; when all this is over, explain all of it to me from the beginning and spare no details!”

Claudie smiled over her shoulder.


Alexandra made a nice tight wrap and clipped the gauze.

“Hang tight, I’ll give you a shirt.”

“Thank you, Alexandra. I’m sorry to have made all this on your life.”

Alexandra stopped half way out the door and turned.

“Oh, please. Helping people is my job…You know what’s funny though? None of this is terribly surprising. It’s almost like I’ve been waiting for this night all my life.”

“Maybe you and I have some connection in the past.”

“Let me get that shirt. Don’t move.”

In the bedroom, there was no overhead light. Alexandra had to walk halfway across the room to her nightstand to turn on the lamp. She had taken two steps in, when she saw movement outside her window. She froze in the dark and watched. There was a person there, fortunately she was hidden in the shadows. Then a chill ran up her spine when she realized that she didn’t remember locking the front door.

She grabbed the first t-shirt from the top of the drawer and ran back to the bathroom. She tossed it to Claudia and ran for the living room without a word. Claudia knew that she’d been found.

Once she reached the living room, Alexandra could see that the door was closed, but the deadbolt had not been turned. As she went for it, the door knob began to turn. Her blood ran cold and she threw her whole weight against the door as it began to open and quickly latched the door. Whoever was on the other side began rattling the knob, and throwing their shoulder into the door and then started trying to kick it open.

She held herself against the door and opened her phone and dialed 911.

While Alexandra talked to the operator, Claudia surveyed the house from the midway point between the living room and the kitchen. The house had too many weak spots, no time for warding spells, and there was almost definitely no gun in the house. She knew that any cops that showed up would be slaughtered, but they might create a chance for she and Alexandra to escape.

“Get away from the door, we’re too exposed out here. We need to barricade ourselves in a room we can defend.”

“There are some big knives on the kitchen counter!”

Claudia looked over her shoulder and saw the chunky wooden knife holder, with half a dozen handles sticking out. They grabbed two knives each and Claudia followed her down the hall, stopping to grab her cloak from the bathroom.

“We’ll use the spare room, there’s only one window to watch.”

As she closed the door, they could hear the front window being smashed. They quickly pushed the bookshelf in front of the door, followed by the treadmill. Alexandra kept trying to do it herself, afraid for the state of Claudia’s wound, but Claudia was determined, after all, Alexandra’s survival was now her responsibility.

They could hear footsteps at the other end of the house, but then they also heard sirens coming down the street. Claudia’s stomach sank. She’d seen these men slaughter a coven of senior witches before, the cops didn’t stand a chance.

Claudia closed her eyes and softly began to chant. Alexandra was watching out the window and looked back at her as Claudia’s fists began to glow. Claudia got into a fight stance and became still.

Three police cars came to a screeching stop in front of the house. There were five cops total that got out with guns drawn. Alexandra could see two men dressed in black suits and wearing skull masks come out on to the lawn to meet them.

“Get your hands up and slowly lay down on the ground!”

The men looked at each other and then one yelled ‘no!’ before rushing the officers.

There were footsteps right outside the door.

All five officers opened fire, but the men just danced around the bullets before leaping into the air and pouncing the cops like animals. Alexandra was fumbling to reopen her phone as the two men effortlessly ripped the officers to pieces.


“They’re killing them…they’re killing them-“

Two shoulders were banging against the door. Books began to fall from the shelf. Claudia stayed still.

“Oh god, they’re being-“

“Mam, slow down-“

“They’re in the house-“

The door cracked.

One officer stumbled halfway across the yard before one of the men pounced on him and ripped the skin off his face, while his friend beat another officer to death with a severed arm in each hand.

The book shelf tipped over and the other four pushed in.

Alexandra dropped her phone, on the verge of hyperventilating.

Claudia suddenly spun and threw her left fist into the closest man’s chest, blowing him backwards into two others. The fourth grabbed Claudia’s throat, but she jammed her thumbs into his eyes with a sickening, wet pop. The man screamed and threw his fists out wildly, hitting Claudia in the chest and the side of the head before she could get out of the way.

Alexandra rushed forward and sank one of the knives into his chest and he stumbled backwards over the treadmill and went still. The two that were knocked down were already back on their feet. Alexandra could see the one Claudia had hit was dying with his chest caved in.

There was a piercing scream outside and gun shots. Alexandra heard her elderly neighbor shrieking. She ran to the window, but couldn’t see anything. Something was on fire and the yard was full of smoke.

Claudia had her knives and was fighting off both men. Realizing this, Alexandra ran over trying to stab one of them, but he caught her wrist and punched her in the mouth. Taking advantage of the distraction, Claudia slit his throat. Blood sprayed the room. The last man lunged at Claudia, but got stabbed by both women instead.

They heard another gun shot and more yelling. It sounded like the whole neighborhood was awake now and under siege. There were more sirens coming their way, and Alexandra was afraid for them.

Claudia grabbed her arm.

“We have to run.”

The man Alexandra had stabbed was starting to rise and the one with his chest caved in coughed and sat up.

“Claudia, what the fuck?”

“Just run!”

At the end of the hall, they could see a police officer staggering around on the porch with his face beat in. One of the police cars was in flames. They could see shadows moving in the smoke. The man with the caved in chest staggered into the hall breathing hard, trying to say something.

“Back door.”

They rushed through the kitchen and whipped open the back door as a hail of gun fire rocked the neighborhood. Claudia spun and grabbed Alexandra.

“I am so sorry!”

Alexandra hugged her, taking care to avoid her wound.

“Be my best friend when this is over and we’ll call it even! Now shut up and run!”

Outside, they ran for the neighbors’ backyard, but as they reached the no man’s land between properties, they saw it. The two necromancers were descending on the fresh reinforcements. Another neighbor came forward with a shotgun, but before he could get a single shot off, he was knocked unconscious by the severed head of an officer, that was ripped off and thrown with inhuman force.

“How are they doing this,” Claudia gasped. “How have they gotten this strong..?”

Claudia pulled up the hood of the cloak and knelt.

“What are you doing?”

“Watch my back…”

The four necromancers from inside shamble into the backyard. Alexandra started looking for something heavy, when she heard a growl. A panther stepped between her and the necromancers.


The one that got stabbed in the chest stepped forward.

“Little witch…look at all the suffering you’re causing.”

Claudia growled.

“Fuck it then!” He roared as they ran at Claudia.

Claudia leapt, ripping flesh with her claws and teeth.

Alexandra considered running back inside for her car keys, but then a powerful hand had her by the neck and she was jerked from the ground. The two necromancers from the front had spotted them and moved like lightning. Alexandra kicked at the one who was choking her, but he just laughed. She tried to focus on Claudia, but she was suddenly slammed to the ground.

Claudia was able gut two of the necromancers before sinking her teeth into the head of the one with the caved in chest. She bit as hard as she could until his skull popped in her mouth. Then there was an explosion in the back of her head. She spun as one of them threw another punch and caught her in the eye. Another dug his fingers into her wound and ripped flesh. Then she was kicked, then punched, then bit, then stomped, then punched…her legs faltered as she took a kick to the side of the head.

Alexandra was forgotten. She staggered in a circle looking for anything-anything-to help Claudia. Then she saw it; her neighbors’ tool shed. She ran for it and thanked Christ out loud when the door wasn’t locked. She fumbled for a light switch, found it, and felt a wave of relief…

Claudia had reverted to her human form and laid helpless, bleeding in the grass as the six men stood over her laughing. The lead necromancer dropped to his knees, pulling a hunting knife from a holster on the back of his belt. Another one held her arm out.

“Stupid, little witch. I coulda done this clean with my hatchet. You can expect this to hurt a bit more and take a bit longer…”

Exhausted and weak, Claudia closed her eyes, hoping that at the very least Alexandra would escape. Then an engine roared to life. She opened her eyes as blood splashed her face.

Alexandra sank her neighbors’ chainsaw into the lead’s head and then swung it at the one holding Claudia’s arm, tearing his jaw half off. She then buried it into the belly of the one that had choked her. The two that had been gutted and the one with the crushed head were already reviving.

Claudia yelled, “cut their heads off!”

Alexandra didn’t hesitate and put the chainsaw’s blade through neck meat six times, tossing the heads a good distance from the bodies. Then she killed the engine and dropped down beside Claudia.

“Is it done?”

“We need to bury the heads somewhere, but that’s not urgent.”

“Ok, cool…I’ll just go get a bag and my car keys and then I’m taking you to the hospital. I’ll bury these assholes tomorrow.”

“You’re my new favorite person, Alexandra.”

“You’re pretty fucking cool too, Claudia.”



Wednesday, June 28, 2017


If you're a manga/anime fan, specifically of the long running DEVILMAN series, then you've got something to look forward to in the spring of 2018; Devilman Cry Baby will land three years after the Devilman Vs Cyborg 009 series of 2015. Netflix has released a teaser trailer. (above)

The animation style looks a bit different from past series and movies, but I'm intrigued none the less.
Devilman was created by Go Nagai and released in 1972 as a manga about a month before it
debuted as a 39 episode anime. It tells the story of a boy named Akira Fudo who donned the skull of an ancient demon and became a demon-hero that fights other demons. I haven't had the occasion to read the manga, but I've watched a lot of the anime over the years, some of which is pretty damn horrific in the violence department (check out Amon on YouTube). There's also a live action film, but I can't recommend it, as the CGI is pretty rough, somewhat on par with an episode of Power Rangers.  
If you're unfamiliar with Devilman, check out this clip from The Birth...

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


2002's Red Dragon is the second film based on Thomas Harris's 1981 novel of the same name. Michael Mann brought the story to big screen first in1986 as Manhunter, which producer Dino DeLaurentis was ultimately unhappy with. Manhunter is a stylish if dated thriller. It has all the hallmarks of Mann's best work and has a strong cult following. Red Dragon in comparison is much more faithful to the book, but a bit dry.

Directed by Brett Ratner and starring Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Fiennes, Mary Louise Parker, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and returning for his third outing as Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins, Red Dragon wraps up the Hopkins trilogy following '90's Silence Of The Lambs and '01's Hannibal. Ending the trilogy with a prequel creates a neat loop constantly feeding back into itself. Unfortunately it's the weakest of the three, suffering from being just too damn matter-of-fact.

Red Dragon begins with a prelude, showing us Lecter throwing a dinner party after a concert and afterwards getting a visit from Will Graham who has been getting help from Lecter in the Chesapeake Ripper case. During the visit, Graham realizes that he's made a mistake and Lecter himself is the Ripper. Lecter, one step ahead, tries to kill Graham, but is shot in the process. Jump ahead, FBI director Jack Crawford pays a now retired Graham a visit, seeking out help catching a serial killer dubbed The Tooth Fairy, because he's a biter. Graham, who had been seriously wounded by Lecter is reluctant, but he knows he can't sit on the side lines while innocent people die, so he comes out of retirement. It doesn't take him long before he realizes that the Tooth Fairy is going to be a very formidable adversary and time is running out before he chooses his next victims, so Graham turns to Lecter for help.

I'm completely at a loss to compare Red Dragon to Ratner's other films since the only other one I've seen is X-Men; Last Stand. Last Stand is, next to X-Men Origins; Wolverine, the worst X-Men sequel.  Red Dragon is such a different kind of film stylistic comparisons are pointless.

Even comparing Red Dragon to Manhunter or the Hannibal tv series seems pointless and that leaves us only the other two Hopkins films to hold it up to. Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, and Brett Ratner have little in common in style and taste and the three films all have a somewhat different flavor that compliments and contrasts at turns. Hopkins' performance and Ted Tally's scripts are the only consistent elements. Even reoccurring characters are re-cast. As I said,  Red Dragon is rather dry. Silence was engrossing as a character drama and race against time, Hannibal was more visceral and skirted the line between horror film and thriller more, and then Dragon is more literal, less stylish, but has moments that are no less harrowing than the first two. The problem with the film is that while Demme and Scott were able to find strength in their films' quiet moments, Ratner does not. While the film boasts an impressive cast, they lack the chemistry that can be found in every other adaptation of the Harris's material. It's an A-list cast in a B-list thriller. Had it come out before Silence it may have fared better, because it's not a bad film. Red Dragon has a lot going for it and doesn't lack tension and real scares. It's well worth watching for what it does right and is generally forgivable for the lulls.

Getting back to the casting, this is probably my biggest gripe about the movie. Edward Norton's take on Will Graham is almost too normal. Graham in the book is much more damaged and traumatized after his final encounter with Lecter and this greatly effects him through his pursuit of The Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon (Fiennes). William Peterson in Manhunter and Hugh Dancy in Hannibal the series nailed this. Norton did damaged much better in Fight Club. Harvey Keitel is another odd choice in casting as he a) doesn't do much and b) doesn't fill the shoes of Scott Glen who defined the role of FBI director Jack Crawford. Fiennes is excellent in the movie, but I could never get over the idea that Tom Noonan made so much more sense and embodied the Fairy/Dragon/Francis Dollarhyde so much better. Fiennes captures every aspect of the Fairy's personality, but his disfiguration is so slight that he just doesn't visually represent an outsider the way Noonan did. I know it's all about psychology, but for me I just can't shake Noonan, even when I read the book. (If you recall from the last part of the series, I had the same problem with Julianne Moore. This isn't a typical problem for me, as I can normally accept recasting in most franchises. For whatever reason, that's a huge sticking point for me with these, that's why I harp on it so much.)

Another problem Red Dragon suffers from has nothing to do with Ratner, the cast, or anything else in the film; looking back from 2017 it just all feels very redundant. We've seen this story adapted to the screen three times in less than 30 years now. To get the most out of the film one will have to watch it before seeing the other two adaptations, accept it on it's own outside of the rest of the franchise, or see it at a great distance from watching the others. Had a director like David Fincher or even Ben Affleck (think The Town or Gone Baby Gone) taken on the film and given the direction the kind of style and flare they bring, Red Dragon may have been able to hold it's own against Silence and Hannibal instead of being so pedestrian. Ultimately, though, as an adaptation it really is just a cash in on the popularity of Hopkins' portrayal, and he's hardly in the film, though his part is a bit beefed up from the book, though no where near to the extent of the TV series. I don't like to be so cynical, especially in regards to a film that's not that bad, but it just sits there, doesn't it?

Friday, June 23, 2017

new fiction; FLAYED SKIN

written by Tim Murr
Copyright 2017 St Rooster Books/Tim Murr

Abel was tied to a large stone table, hands and feet stretched to all four corners. He had been stripped nude and left in the dark for many hours. Someone had come into the room several minutes ago, but had remained in the dark and hadn’t said anything.
“Hey! Hey, mother fucker!” Abel shouted. “I’m a cop, fuck face! Untie me or your going to be in a world of shit!”
A large metal work light snapped on over his face. He shut his eyes shut tight, turning away. He peered through slitted eyelids, but couldn’t make out the figure moving around on the periphery of the darkness.
“What did I do to you, man? Huh? Did I arrest you or something?”
“It’s March,” came a voice from the dark.
“That’s why. It’s time.”
“Time for what?”
“To renew relationships with gods we have neglected.”
Abel’s captor came out of the darkness wearing skull face paint. He was nude except for a pair of boxer shorts and he’d painted symbols all over his body. The man held a long blade in his right hand and held it where Abel could see.
“Whoa, are off your meds? Guy, listen! Don’t do this! I can take care of you, ok? I can help!”
“I know you can, but I don’t think you understand how.”
“Tell me, ok? Talk to me. You don’t want to kill a cop!”
“I don’t care that you’re a cop. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m going to take your heart, then I’m going to wear your skin.”
Abel’s voice cracked, as he shouted, “no!”
“Be brave, man. You serve a higher purpose.”
The man plunged the knife into Abel’s chest, cracking bone. He chopped through roughly as Abel screamed and pleaded in agony. Then the man dipped his hand in and pulled Abel’s heart out and held it up to his face. Abel was speechless as he went into shock at the sight of his beating heart in the man’s hand. Darkness started to over take Abel as he slipped from this world and started to float through a dim tunnel going towards a light. There was someone approaching from the other side.
Abel couldn’t make out whom it was, as he was backlit, but he was big and lumbering. As they passed one another, Abel could see he was a hulking man with a skull like face, dressed in human flesh, and wearing gold jewelry. Abel reached out to touch him, but it was like touching smoke. Then the light enveloped Abel.
The man, who called himself a priest, spent hours carefully flaying Abel, to remove his skin in one piece. It was strenuous work that required much patience-which the priest had. Once done, he was able to hold up Abel’s skin to the light and put it on like long pajamas that were open in the back. To keep the skin suit on, the priest put on a homemade ceremonial belt, and leather cuffs on his wrists and ankles, and finally a leather choker. Once that was done, he pulled Abel’s head skin over his own and peered through Abel’s eyeholes. He opened his make up kit and started applying skull paint to Abel’s face, and drawing symbols down his chest.
He left the sacrificial chamber and climbed to the top of the buried pyramid and mounted the ladder, climbing to the hole in the basement. The windows were open in the basement and the sound of the city greeted him as he climbed out of the hole. He went into his little bedroom and admired his handiwork in the mirror.
Back in the pyramid, deep in the bowels, within the sacred chamber where the ancient deity had been left to rest, a large skeletal form adorned with dried human skins and silver and gold was bathed in light for the first time in centuries. The hulking man from the tunnel stood over the skeleton, satisfied that burial rites had been performed properly, then he departed to the sacrificial chamber to claim the meat left on the table for his use.
The priest climbed the steps to the sidewalk. His building was in the low part of town, parts of which were already being demolished for new glass and steel giants. The poor were being pressed into tighter and tighter places, as if commerce was trying to squeeze the blood right out of them. The priest pressed through the throngs of hungry, sick, exhausted, angry people. He laid hands on all he passed and promised a reckoning coming while walking toward the high town. When he came to the ten-foot tall chain link fence that kept the poor away from the rich, the priest pressed Abel’s skin against the steel, gripping it tightly.
Stretching into the clouds, the glass/steel monuments to arrogance shone brightly. Neon lights lined the bases at the street level and the roads were choked with extravagant cars from over seas, bought with blood money. The priest looked up and down and laughed. Some cops patrolling the fence took notice and came over, ready to get him off the fence with the butt of their rifles.
Then they saw all the people coming up from the alleys behind him.
The man from the tunnel dragged the skinless corpse of Able down to the burial chamber and presented the body to the dried out husk of his former body. With his last bit of strength he pushed his husk off the throne onto Abel’s body and waited.
The bloody flesh became nourishment to the husk and it began to move. The muscles started to re-grow, the beastly heart began to beat, empty sockets filled with yellow eyes. The dried skin filled out and tightened until they threatened to tear.
The people pushed against the gate and shouted profanity at the growing number of cops, who smirked from the safety of the right side of the fence.
“This fence,” the priest bellowed, “will fall! Your buildings will fall! You will be stripped of your skin and worn by the refuse of this world!”
A lieutenant came forward, wearing $200 mirrored sunglasses, despite the night. He walked right up to the priest, looking around dismissively.
“All right, buddy, get off the fence and send these people home. They’re your responsibility. If they get shot their blood is on your hands.”
“Fuuuck you, pig!” The priest spits.
The newly revived god climbed from the basement and saw the stream of people heading toward the mighty towers. Such sights he had never known, what marvels these little people have become since his imprisonment.
The lieutenant took his shades off and took a closer look at the priest, really seeing him for the first time.
“What…are you wearing..?”
The priest raised his arms and turned around so the lieutenant could really take him in, then he pulled at the left eyehole so there would be no confusion.
“I’m wearing one of you!”
The priest wagged Abel’s cock at the lieutenant.
“The skin of one of you, pig!”
The lieutenant pulled his side arm, unable to speak, his words choked with rage. The other officers raised their guns against the people behind the fence and waited for the go-ahead.
Then the people parted on either side of the priest, like the Red Sea, and something came through. The cops took an involuntary step back, half lowering their guns. It was nearly eight feet tall, covered in dried skins that flapped in the wind, jewels glimmering in the neon lights; it’s yellow eyes alive with unrestrained anger.
The priest stepped aside and bowed deeply. The old god slapped his hands on top of the fence and the cops began to fire. The god pushed the fence down on top of them and strode forward. People in designer suits were stepping out of their cars to get a better look at the commotion. A wave of fear rippled through the high town. The fence had fallen. The garbage people had come through.
 In the center of the high town, there was a square where the tallest, most beautiful and breathtaking engineering marvels reached further into the Heavens than anywhere else in the city. They were connected by a magnificent rose garden in the center, with marble pathways. It was filled with the intoxicating smells of a Brazilian steak house, a Japanese/Mexican fusion bistro, a five star French restaurant, and three award winning micro-brew bars. Between each of these were the absolute to-die-for shopping experiences, where men and women could purchase the latest fashions for all seasons, and all the glittering accessories and state of the art tech toys from Fendi, Samsung, Versace, Armani, Apple, Dior, NIKE, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci…
Twenty days since the rising, the only scent of cooked meat comes from the skinned and sacrificed residents of the high town that now feed the masses. Skinned bodies are hoisted up the sides of the skyscrapers, while others are stripped and laid on a sacrificial table from Restoration Hardware, where their heart is removed before their skins. The people gather to worship at theses sacrifices, wearing the skins of the cops that once bashed their faces in and sprayed them with mace and tear gas.
All around the high town, high rises are in flames, while burnt out BMWs, Audis, Porsches, and Lexus cars are stacked as totems and adorned with the severed heads. 
Follow me on Twitter @holyrooster


Thursday, June 15, 2017

new fiction; WOLF SPIDER

Copyright St Rooster Books/Tim Murr 2017

The rain had not brought relief from the heat, but instead made the night more uncomfortable. His clothes clung to his skin and it was impossible to sit still in the booth of the Waffle House. The restaurant sat just off I-40 in Newport TN and he’d been stopping in all hours of the night for weeks. He’d order meager meals and sip endless cups of coffee. Waiting for the end of the world.
Sometimes, he’d go into one of the rest stops between there and the North Carolina border-just to sit in one of the bathroom stalls and make himself vulnerable. He’d stay until his legs fell asleep and then get up to drive more. He haunted that stretch of I-40, seen by thousands of travelers, spoken to by few. He’d park his car at gas stations and truck stops and just stare through the windshield for hours.
He used to be called Johnny MacReady, but that was back when he had a life, a home, a wife. These days, he had a car and a bunch of cash, and all the time in the world. His sensible and affordable sedan that he’d picked out with his wife was dirty and worn out. The backseat littered with clothes and pictures. Evidence that he once existed in the traditional ways of everyday humans.
A few times a week, just before dawn, he’d take an exit that had the remnants of a long closed truck stop at the base of the hill. The vast parking lot was cracked and weedy and garbage strewn. The building was squat and dark under the skeleton of the sign. The windows were cracked or broken with several ‘no trespassing’ signs posted. He’d park by the road where the car had once broke down and let the sun come upon him from over the mountains.
This spot was the last place his wife had been alive. This was as far as the car had made it. Another mile and she would have been at a functioning gas station that was open twenty-four hours a day. Her fate, though, was to coast to a stop at this derelict truck stop at three in the morning. Cell phone reception was spotty at best and she had made no contact with anyone. The police found the car the next day, key in the ignition, purse on the passenger seat untouched, door open, and a little blood on the steering wheel. The man that used to be Johnny was called to come see the vehicle as a search was began. She was gone though and would never be found.
Her name had been Cassandra and she had been flesh and blood-kindness and warmth-funny and resourceful. Now she was a faded black and white photo on a bulletin board under the words ‘Have You Seen This Woman?’ She was in good company there, with Margaret Simmons, Iris Wayne, Sonja Johnson, Victoria Woods, Suzanne Nichols, Wanda Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Eaton, and a few others that had been taken from the board or covered up by the other posts. The posts went back years with no pattern in the timing, but had in common this stretch of I-40.
The man that used to be Johnny had, on occasion, seen a couple of other men, waiting and watching with that far off look that he had himself. He knew they each had known one of the women from those posters. He knew they were lonely, hurt, and haunted like him, but they all kept their distance and would eventually disappear into the dawns and not be seen again.
Before he took to the road, he had haunted his own home, leaving the phone off the hook and not answering the door. Sympathetic eyes and hugs were never going to bring her back. He searched the Internet while waiting for the cops to tell him nothing of substance, that’s when he found out about the other women. No one had officially connected the women’s disappearances, but the pattern was there, stretching back to at least 1989. They were spread too far apart, but they all bore a striking resemblance to one another. All the women who’d gone missing could practically be sisters. One anonymous widow pointed out that man behind all the disappearances has a clear type and is patient enough to wait for the right woman to come along under the right circumstances. He’s not sloppy or impulsive and bodies never turn up. The closest thing to a clue that was ever found was the sighting of a red pick up truck seen near one of the victim’s cars, but that was back in 1994.
The man that used to be Johnny didn’t particularly watch for red pick up trucks- that would be too easy. Instead, he watched for eyes. He knew there’d be a certain type. He didn’t know what type, but felt sure he would recognize it when he saw them.
The rain had been bad. Flash flood warnings were in effect for the greater Newport area. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed and visibility was poor. The big yellow Waffle House sign had glowed like a beacon of hope from the intestate and he’d parked the car as close to the door as possible. The place was nearly empty, just a few weary travelers waiting out the thunderstorm. The waitress was friendly, but distant in a pleasing way. She recognized the man, as he’d been in that very booth many times. She never pried into his life, because she found such a thing inappropriate.
He’d scanned the room upon entering and found no one out of place or of interest. There had been one blind spot though, a booth. He could tell it was occupied by a woman on her own, but she was obscured by a beefy, bald man in a dress shirt and tie who sat with a shorter, but no less beefy, bald man in a short sleeved button up shirt and a clip-on tie. The two of them dominated the room with their loud and gruff talk about territory, zone meetings, growth, and all the inept salesmen under their weary watch. They were unpleasant and rude and when they finally went to get back on the road, despite the ongoing down pour, there was a collective sigh of relief.
Once they were gone, the man had a clear view of the woman and his heart began to race. She had a pretty face, with round cheeks, and a bright smile. She had dark blonde hair, nice curves, and dressed comfortably in a t-shirt, knee length skirt and tennis shoes. She looked slightly too old to be a college student, she had no ring on her finger, and she was a dead ringer for Cassandra. No jewelry, no visible tattoos, little make up. She was engrossed in a book, absently picking from a plate of French fries. Occasionally she’d look out the window and check her phone. He figured she must be waiting for the storm to pass, but was in no hurry. A night owl, probably, as she didn’t look tired like the rest of the people here. He thought about how Cassandra would curl up with a book, how she would have an unwavering smile when she was really deep into it.
He, the man who used to be called Johnny, knew that he, the man who stole women from this stretch of I-40, would choose her. So he finished a fourth cup of coffee, paid, and ran to his car. He backed to far end of the parking lot near the entrance and sank down to give the appearance of sleeping if anyone were to look in on him.
The rain continued for another hour. There were little ponds across the parking lot and the drainage ditch running down the hill had become wild rapids. Every time lightning would strike the sky would become purple behind the black silhouette of the mountains.
After the rain had slacked to a drizzle, the woman got up and paid. He scanned the parking lot, but nothing moved. The cars were empty. He guessed which car was hers-the dark blue, sensible and affordable sedan. The alarm chirped on that very car as she came out the door, walking toward it. He wondered if it would happen here, or if he’d have to follow her for a while. She’d probably be safe in Knoxville or in North Carolina, depending on which way she was going. Her plates said Cook County, so she wasn’t likely local.
Her car was just off to the left of the building’s front corner. She walked casually and confidently, looking around for safety’s sake, but not afraid. Then something shifted in the darkness behind her as she went around the front of her car. He put his hand on the handle and got ready.
A round man with a bulbous head sunk into his shoulders crept out of the shadows. His arms were up and Johnny could see he had long spindly fingers. He walked with a strange gait that was almost a waddle. His face was obscured by darkness.
He slipped out of car, leaving the door open and quickly circled around them in a wide arc, staying out of eyesight. His heart was in throat as the man grabbed the woman from behind and started to pull her back to the shadows, but the man who used to be Johnny was already on top of him. He threw his arms around the man’s neck and yanked him back hard enough to throw all three of them off balance. The woman, who’d been unable to scream because of the hand over her mouth, broke free and bounced off the side of her car and sprawled out on the ground.
“Get inside! Call the police!”
She scrambled to her feet and ran headlong towards the door, falling once.
The man struggled under not-Johnny, trying to throw him off, but years of rage coursed through his body now as he wrenched the man’s neck, jerking him back and forth and finally slamming him on to the hood of that sensible and affordable sedan.
He let go of the neck and started raining fists down on the man’s head and back. The man tried to cover himself and crawl away, but not-Johnny began kicking him wildly and stomping on those weird, skinny, long legs, that didn’t look strong enough to hold up the fat torso.
The man was making pained, rasping noises between shrieks of pain. Not-Johnny took a step back and caught his breath, circling the man intending to kick him in the head. As he brought his right foot back for the blow, the man turned his head up to not-Johnny’s face and hissed.
The man once called Johnny went pale as the contents of his stomach rushed into his throat and the back of his mouth. The man had two massive black eyes that reflected the yellow sign behind not-Johnny’s head, but he had two more smaller black eyes on each cheek, and still two more medium sized ones in his forehead. Worst of all though, was the mouth; a wide vertical slit, and in the light, not-Johnny could see a spiral of razor like teeth down the pulsing, red cavern of his throat.
The man leapt to his feet with uncanny agility and bolted across the parking lot in a wild, serpentine path-his legs wide apart, moving in a half skip, half waddle-arms out-stretched, fingers wiggling manically.
He got his nerve back and chased the man. The man looked back with nothing in his eyes, just eternal voids. He was looking into the soul of his attacker, his pursuer, but that man was looking at the tractor-trailer that had just come down the off ramp. Not-Johnny came to a skidding stop as the man ran right into the path of the truck and exploded across the grill.

The truck came to a skidding stop in the middle of the road and it wasn’t long before sirens could be heard, screaming through the now still night.   
Murphy called me the punk rock Gandalf