I’ve been a fan of Rob Zombie ever since I heard Thunder Kiss ’65 back in the grunge days of 1992. Hell, when my girls were born, I used to rock them to sleep to White Zombie. And believe it or not, they fell asleep like little angels while he channeled Blade Runner and chanted he was More Human Than Human.
When he made his directorial debut with House of 1000 Corpses, I was the first in line. I knew the backstory in getting that movie made (Hollywood nightmare), and even though it was choppy and strange, I dug it. When he unleashed The Devil’s Rejects on the world, I knew he had arrived. That was one sick, twisted flick. And I still attest that his hillbilly horror take on the Halloween movies would be appreciated even more if they weren’t remakes of a legendary franchise.
When I first heard about The Lords of Salem, I jumped out of my skin, itching to plug myself into Zombie’s distorted view on witches in Salem. It stars, of course, his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, as a Salem DJ called Heidi who shares the airwaves with Dawn of the Dead’s own Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips (who could double for Rob Zombie). One of the things I love most about Zombie is his knowledge of the horror and 70′s exploitation genres and devotion to the stars who helped build them. This time around, he employs Dee Wallace (The Howling, The Hills Have Eyes), Judy Geeson (It Happened One Night) and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a trio of sisters with something nefarious on their minds. It also stars Meg Foster as a beyond filthy, evil witch from centuries past. I met her last year at a horror con and thought she was the sweetest person on earth. I couldn’t believe what I saw on the screen was the same woman!
Here’s the premise : A mysterious vinyl album shows up at the radio station one night. When it’s played on the air, various women around Salem become entranced, having visions of pornographic witchly ceremonies in the 1600s. There’s a strong tie between Heidi and the man responsible for the Salem With Trials and the girl is about to go on an acid trip through hell to find out what it all means.
I came ouf of The Lords of Salem with my head spinning. The imagery here is graphic high-strangeness, and at times, unsettling. It has a very 70′s B movie pastiche and will leave you feeling like you just double-downed on acid.
At times, the narrative felt a little disjointed and Sheri Moon’s performance, finally not playing a murderous psychotic or stripper, is a little better than I thought it would be, but not strong enough to give her character the gravitas it needed. It’s not a scary movie, per se, but it does provide enough fuel for many nightmares to come. If a Rob Zombie song could weave itself to life, this is exactly what it would look and sound like.
I think most people are going to have a hard time wrapping their heads around this one. It’s great for me, but too odd for normal folk. And that’s just fine. The day Rob Zombie makes a movie for the masses, ala crap like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, I’m catching the next comet to the far reaches of space. Humanity will have lost all meaning for me.
You need to go into it not expecting it to be a major feature cranked out by the Hollywood hit – I mean schlock – machine. Picture yourself in the back of a car at a dirty drive-in and enjoy.
As a dude who collected comics as a kid and has a Captain America tattoo, I was happier than a Mississippi leg hound on hump day when AMC announced its new show, Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men. It’s a brilliant idea to keep all us comic geeks tuned in after we get our Walking Dead fix.
Naturally, the Monster Men had to give our take on the show. I promise you, this is the funniest, best episode yet. And if you don’t like it, well, you’re probably way cooler than us.
I’d also like to take some time out to thank some wonderful folks who have been supportive of me and my book over the past few months : Diana Navarro, Annaliesje & Pink Kitty Paranormal, Anthony Ventarola, Tobi Delacruz, Tom Wolstencroft, Aniko Caremean and the mainstays of the Westchester Writers Round Table, Shai, Rod, Casey, Robert, Jackie , Ellen and everyone who has ever gone to at least one gathering. I couldn’t do this without all of you and so many more!
And now, on with the show!
I am so happy to have one of my favorite authors guest blog today, W.D. Gagliani. Readers are devoted to his werewolf books, a delicious combination of crime noir, sexy werewolves (yeah, you heard right) and good old fashioned blood and guts. You may have read some of them (Wolf’s Bluff, Wolf’s Trap and Wolf’s Gambit just to name a few), and if you haven’t, do so now! His latest book, Wolf’s Edge, is now out through Samhain Publishing. The cool part about being one of the Samhain gang with him is that I’ve gotten to know him as more than just this dude who writes books that I buy, and I’m beginning to suspect he may be my brother from another mother. Enough of my babbling, let the Wolf Man tell you how he came to be…
My parents took me to see Midnight Cowboy when I was about eleven.
Why, you may ask? Well, either they couldn’t afford a sitter (which was very possible) or my dad thought it was actually a cowboy movie. English was his second language, so he might have misunderstood. And it really wasn’t the kind of movie he would have chosen. At least, I don’t think so. But the thing is, when the plot became clear, he didn’t hustle us out of the drive-in theater to save my young eyes from the evils of “bad images.”
Nope, we stayed to the sad and bitter end. I learned about a side of life (and New York) I hadn’t known existed. My eyes recorded everything they saw.
I think I was a seventh grader when my parents took me to see The Godfather. I was the only kid in my parochial school class to see that movie, R-rating and all. I was older and didn’t need a sitter, but still pretty young and they took me anyway. You know what, I didn’t become a wiseguy. But I did immediately start to read the novels of Mario Puzo, and an endless series of nonfiction Mafia books like The Valachi Papers and Mafia, USA, while still in high school. My parents were also responsible for me seeing Serpico, and then I was off on reading the book, as well as other gritty Seventies cop books like The Super Cops and The Blue Knight.
I remember the ultra violence of The Wild Bunch. Yup, my folks didn’t bat an eye when those people bought it in glorious color and slo-mo. Add to that list movies like The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Straw Dogs (I guess we were a Peckinpah family), and such violent fare as The Anderson Tapes (Sean Connery as a thief, trying to ditch his Bond image). You know what? I went to read any books on which those movies were based, and when I couldn’t or they hadn’t been based on a novel, I sought out “just like ____” recommendations. My folks took me to the original Death Wish. And yes, I think they also took me to A Clockwork Orange, though I might have been too young to remember it. There wasn’t a spaghetti western I didn’t see on the big screen – I still think of them as the film noir of the western genre. There were horror movies, too: The Other, The Oblong Box, The Omen, The Exorcist. Eventually, my parents and I would watch just about every major ABC Movie of the Week: The Norliss Tapes, The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, When Michael Calls, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Satan’s School for Girls, A Cold Night’s Death, Gargoyles, Duel… need I say more? If some don’t stand up today, be certain that they were rather effective for an impressionable kid who was already writing monster stories for school projects.
Oddball movies, too, led me to oddball books, and thank God for it. The Sterile Cuckoo, Little Big Man (made me a Thomas Berger fan for years and years), The Graduate (I still consider this my favorite movie) sent me to Charles Webb’s novel, which could be used as a scriptwriting textbook. The Seventies produced a lot of oddball movies. I think 1965 to 1979 may have been the best film era, because, on the whole, movies were made that were damned near uncategorizable. Some of the best oddball movies I saw in high school, as part of a progressive English program that showed movies on a big screen to all English classes and encouraged adventurous teachers to create writing assignments. I can still list the eclectic line-up I was thrilled to watch as part of my school day: David and Lisa, A Thousand Clowns, Harold and Maude (another favorite to this day), The Brothers Karamazov, The List of Adrian Messenger, Doctor Zhivago, and many more.
So what does this column about writing have to do with all these movies?
We are like sponges, especially when young and impressionable. We may not all want to admit it, but writers of thrillers and horror can very well be inspired and influenced by anything, and we are. In my case, I can thank my exceedingly liberal parents (considering they weren’t even born in the U.S.) for never censoring my viewing and reading habits. Well, there was this period in which my dad decided I was reading too many Hardy Boys books and banned them (which only led to a free-flowing black market operation). But all those movies they allowed me and even encouraged me to see, even if by mistake, turned out to be essential in making a solid foundation for a writer.
Movies led me to books – Bronson in Cold Sweat led me to Richard Matheson, Roger Corman led me to a million great things, Goldfinger led me to Ian Fleming and the British thriller authors I still revere). My desire to mix genres in my books and stories can probably be traced right back to the strange mélange of movies and books I consumed almost without restraint as a kid. I count myself lucky to have had parents who, despite the typical parental flaws I might have enumerated, never, ever tried to clap their hands over my eyes or ears. They never tried to “protect” me from the world and its imagery, or from history, or from the seedier side of life as portrayed in movies like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Klute, The Last Picture Show, Five Easy Pieces, Adam at 6 A.M., and so many more. These were the days of the Middle East (the Six-Day War happened about the time I learned to speak English), the Vietnam War on the television news, and more upheaval than I can even remember. Yet all these movies made sure that a curious kid writer would want to explore strange, dark, and never safe themes in his stories.
Movies and books are truly the basis of my entire writing career. In all the good ways, they inspired me to imitate what I saw and read. And they challenged me to learn about things I’d never seen, or would have seen, if the folks hadn’t for some inexplicable reason felt I could handle even the strangest, offbeat subjects.
Thanks, Mom and Dad. I think I owe you more than I realized.
You can follow W.D. Gagliani and get all the latest news on his website at www.wdgagliani.com or follow him on Twitter at @WDGagliani. And by all means, pick up your copy of Wolf’s Edge today!