Thursday, January 26, 2017


This Sound Attack was inspired by listening to Maiden's Number Of The Beast, particularly the album closer "Hallowed Be Thy Name", a seven minute epic about a prisoner about to be hanged. It's one of Maiden's greatest songs and a live staple (I saw it performed in Charlotte NC a few years ago-it's an incredibly powerful moment in a set that's full of powerful moments). I immediately thought of Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds' "Mercy Seat" and there you go, a new Sound Attack is born, featuring songs about the condemned. Expect multiple Johnny Cash songs, by the way. He recorded more than a few!
For the record, I oppose the death penalty and I don't believe these songs to be in anyway endorsing the practice. There is much horror and drama to be found in the stories of the condemned and these artists (along with several others I didn't include) do a great job of giving voice to the voiceless. This set closes with a beautiful Tom Waits track (also recorded by Johnny Cash) that isn't necessarily from the perspective of a condemned man, but at least a wayward pilgrim that has arrived at that last train station.
Iron Maiden..."Hallowed Be Thy Name"
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds..."The Mercy Seat"
Johnny Cash..."The Mercy Seat"
Black 47..."Sam Hall"
Johnny Cash..."Sam Hall"
Bruce Springsteen..."Dead Man Walking"
Metallica..."Ride The Lightning"
Pine Valley Cosmonauts..."25 Minutes To Go"
Johnny Cash..."25 Minutes To Go"
Puerto Muerto..."Hangman's Song"
Tom Waits..."Down There By The Train"

Thursday, January 12, 2017


It's great to have Albert Muller return once more to Stranger With Friction! Last time he was here he contributed to our filmography series with the excellent and in depth piece on John Carpenter in the 80s. You can find more of Albert over at Daily Grindhouse and you can follow him on Twitter @aj_macready ...and you should!

"It's lonely being a cannibal," a character says late in Antonia Bird's 1999 RAVENOUS. "Cold, too," he could have added, for the players in the story we see unfold are surrounded by one unforgiving Mother of Nature that would have no compunctions about ending their lives in a particularly miserable fashion -- if they didn't get eaten first.

You see, RAVENOUS follows one Captain John Boyd (the great Guy Pearce) who has been sent to a
remote Sierra Nevada outpost during the Mexican-American War of the mid-1800s, ostensibly a hero but known to his superiors (and us) as a coward. His destination, Fort Spencer, is a place just like other soldiers like him; fuck-ups, basically. The supporting cast handling these roles is just excellent, from Jeffrey Jones as the nominal leader to Neal McDonough as the way-too-into-being-a-soldier Reich (with special attention being paid to the resident weirdoes Jeremy Davies & David Arquette, playing characters they more or less own a patent on). Boyd settles in as best he can among the outcasts in the middle of nowhere when screenwriter Ted Griffin (creator of TERRIERS, a show I will regret being canceled until I shuffle loose this mortal coil) springs his inciting incident upon us: a starving man close to death staggers into the camp. Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle, superb as ever) tells the men a story that sounds suspiciously similar to what we nowadays refer to as The Donner Party; a small group of settlers traveling the wilderness were stranded, began to starve, and resorted to cannibalism to survive. Upon hearing that there may yet be survivors, the unit gears up on a rescue mission, Colqhoun leading the way to the cave of horrors where his people did unspeakable things to survive -- or WAS it only to survive? Did some of them fall prey to an awful hunger, one the film introduces by having a Native American character tell the legend of the Wendigo; essentially the idea is that a man who eats the flesh of another absorbs that man's strength and power. RAVENOUS uses this idea as a jumping off point of sorts that takes your typical cannibal fare into something resembling vampire territory, and damn if it isn't entertaining for an audience who loves this sort of thing.

First off: it's most important, when discussing RAVENOUS, to acknowledge the tone of the film. One would think it'd be blatantly, almost comically obvious from the two quotes the movie literally begins with before we ever see a frame of footage but apparently some don't quite get where the flick is coming from. RAVENOUS is, at heart, a horribly dark comedy that at times approaches satire. There's an element of Manifest Destiny examined as a metaphor of a burgeouning country's insatiable appetite for growth and the like, but it's only touched upon so much. Mostly, the flick is content to illustrate the jet-black humor in Griffin's script, and does a fantastic job of it. 

Rather than film on location in the forests and mountains of California, RAVENOUS was shot in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and let me tell you, that shit looks seriously cold. Snow covered mountains surround Fort Spencer and blanket the ground in a dirty white, the actors' cheeks burn red throughout roughly 65% of the film, and overall it just looks like a miserable place to be. No fun at all, is what I'm saying, and that's BEFORE motherfuckers start getting served for dinner. The isolation the characters experience only serves to further the ability of the story to go to some pretty insane places and is ultimately highly effective. As stated before, the cast is comprised of some fairly heavy-hitting character actors and they are all fantastic in their roles, with special mention being made of leads Pearce and Carlyle. Carlyle tears into his role with gusto and is clearly having a ball chewing the scenery as joyfully as he does co-stars and does both with equal aplomb. Pearce has the more difficult role, as it's almost entirely internal in nature (in fact, the man goes almost 20 minutes of screentime before he ever utters a complete sentence); I've seen some criticize his performance for being too bland but I don't think that's the case at all. Boyd isn't a cipher that we in the audience project things upon -- even if he does represent our terror/disgust/revulsion at the events that occur -- rather, this is a man being consumed by inner demons that he is struggling to overcome, one not given to loud proclamations or speeches. The conflicts he experiences play out upon his face, and Pearce does his usual remarkable job of expressing that with skill and subtlety.

I'm a big fan of this one, and have been ever since I was lucky enough to catch it when it played in
theaters (it still kinda blows my mind that such a strange and decidedly non-mainstream story with such unpleasant and violent goings-on was financed and released by a major American studio). It's almost gleefully gory in spots, which warms this horror fan's dark little heart, and fully hilarious in others. Again, the sort of humor in this flick is "I laughed, realized how sick what I was laughing at is, and then laughed again at the whole wrongness of it" and it fits the story like a glove. The score by Damon Albarn (of the band Blur) and Michael Nyman is as odd and unique as the rest of the flick, especially a horror flick, but it's utterly stellar (which it would need to be, considering how much attention it calls to itself) and very memorable, helping to give RAVENOUS its own, quite distinct identity. Griffin's script is a real treat for genre fans looking for something different -- even if some of his more outlandish elements, such as the villain racing through treetops as he chases his prey were cut before filming. The haunting vibe throughout is peppered with atmospheric moments that come close to some sort of psycho Gothic Western hybrid ambience, and the effect it has on me is palpable.

To sum up: RAVENOUS is by turns creepy as fuck, violent as hell, and funny as shit. There are definitely worse films to warm yourself up by campfire on those chilly nights, and I can't recommend it more highly to the discerning horror fan. If you haven't seen it, you really should.

Monday, January 2, 2017


Very honored to have Anya Novak aka @BookishPlinko as our first guest writer of 2017! You can read more of Anya's great work at Daily Grindhouse, Horror Writers, 100 Scenes, and 52 Weeks Of Horror. We continue our series Dead Of Winter with one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations, Misery. This is a hell of a good piece and I enjoyed the hell out of reading it and I hope you do to, fiends! When I was adding the trailer at the end, I'll be damned if I didn't get the chills all over again! Get your snuggies and your whiskey spiked cocoa, kids!-TM

We are human. Humanity’s greatest need is for contact; we crave touch and acknowledgment from others. We crave proximity to others. So it stands to reason that one of the most basic fears of man is to be separated from others. Isolation is one of the most crucial elements in most horror stories. It confines the characters to an inescapable area and forces confrontation with the villain. We’ve seen it in some of the most iconic horror films: The Thing; The Shining; Alien. One of the more overlooked films featuring isolation, however, is Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of the bestselling Stephen King novel, Misery.

Famed historical romance writer Paul Sheldon has just finished his latest manuscript (his first “true”
work of literature after years of writing about a sappy character named Misery), and he begins the long drive home from his Colorado hideaway when he crashes his car during a nasty blizzard. Paul has dire injuries, but is rescued by a former nurse who happens to be Paul’s “number one fan”. She brings Paul back to her remote homestead in the mountains. After learning that Sheldon has killed off her beloved heroine Misery, she holds him prisoner at her home until he brings her back in a new novel. Bad things happen.

In a twist to the classic Gothic heroine, Paul Sheldon is a passive damsel in distress who is largely the subject of Annie Wilkes’ cruelty. In both book and film, Annie outmatches Paul in weight and (due to his debilitated state) strength. A bird with clipped wings, he is at the mercy of her manic mood swings, which can and do turn on a dime. One day she’s cooking gourmet meals, the next she’s literally bringing the hammer down on him.

Isolation has multiple angles in Misery. In the beginning of the film, Paul is in a sort of self-imposed exile, one that many creatives are familiar with. His isolation is voluntary; he prefers the solitude and his writing process benefits as a result. Once his manuscript is finished and he ends up in the care of Annie, however, that isolation became applied by force. Interestingly enough, isolation can be beneficial, when voluntary. According to Mark Conliff in his essay “On Isolation”:

“Isolation produces devastating consequences for many people, leading to lifelong emotional problems and difficulty in relationships with others. Conversely, the condition can move others toward extraordinary creativity and innovation as a result of having been forced to rely solely on their own minds as a source for meaning. As one might suspect, these two sides of the coin are not mutually exclusive; many people experience both positive and negative effects of isolation, deriving inspiration from it while at the same time feeling hurt and disturbed. Obviously, not all who feel isolated are literally alone, and not all who are alone are isolated.”

When in retreat at his Colorado hotel hideout, Paul had none of the usual distractions and thus had
optimal writing conditions to create. A closed-off environment worked for him. When Annie kept him trapped at her cabin the isolation had the opposite effect; he was in fear for his life. On top of voluntary versus involuntary isolation, Paul’s forced confinement was environmental, at a snowed-in cabin. He was also isolated physically; first in the car crash, then when Annie hobbles him. After the crash, his segregation is no longer by choice. Annie has cut off all means of communication, and no one knows of his whereabouts. He needs contact, but can’t get it. Paired with Annie’s erratic behavior and her obsession with Paul and Misery, the danger is heightened. It becomes clear to Paul that, given enough time and the right motivation, Annie would kill him, and no one would ever find out. With great isolation comes great peril; it’s a great way to build tension.

Mentally, Annie forced him to confront an inner conflict he’s been having since before the crash: Paul aspires to write “real” art, but will his fans allow it? Will the public allow it? Paul has nowhere to go but into his own mind. It is here that Misery shines, both in print and on screen. Psychological horror and isolation have long been thematic bosom buddies, and it’s clear why: they’re perfectly complementary. Cinematic victims of psychological torment are either alienated or they separate themselves from the pack. Protagonists who find themselves in isolated settings become paranoid and start to turn on each other or themselves. It’s a theme that Stephen King has explored in multiple works of his, including Gerald’s Game, The Shining and Under The Dome. King understands one of man’s greatest fears, and one of the horror genre’s greatest tools to swing down upon the collective ankles of movie audiences: being alone.

So naturally, I’m recommending that you watch or re-visit Misery by yourself for the best possible movie experience. Self-segregate. Wait until it’s miserably cold outside, so you won’t be interrupted by cock-a-doody sheriffs looking for a missing person. Turn off your phone so your dirty birdie agent can’t get in touch with you. Get comfy and wrap yourself in a blanket; you won’t be going anywhere for a while. Perhaps after a couple of hours with your number one fan, you’ll finally get the inspiration to finish that great work of art you’ve been mulling around in your head.
-Anya Novak