Would Somebody Make a Decent Vampire Movie, Please?

Civilizer

So here’s something I didn’t see coming at all – the zombie long tail.  After the good Romero movies petered out, ushering in a decades-long drought of cultural indifference, Danny Boyle made 28 Days Later in 2002.  The great lurch leap forward in that movie?  Sprinter zombies.  Definitely why I liked that movie so much – Romero’s movies are cool (assuming you can push all that annoying sociological subtext out of your head and just enjoy the claustrophobic terror and matter-of-fact gore), but I always had this problem: I’m not afraid of a movie monster that I can literally stroll away from.  When Michael Myers is on your ass, you will carjack a pregnant lady just so you can take her wheels and speed away.  People in the Halloween movies are jumping out of third story windows just to stay one step ahead.  Romero’s zombies, on the other hand, couldn’t run down a dehydrated tortoise.  I’m sitting there watching these movies, and the protagonists are worried about how they’ll get away, and I’m thinking, “Hey, here’s an idea – why not a light jog down the street?”  I always thought that one of those movies should have ended with helicopter shot of a big group of old people making a dramatic, 3 mile per hour getaway on their Rascals, a lumbering mass of zombies giving futile chase.  The 28 Days Later zombies are a decomposing horse of an entirely different color (putrescent green, if you’re scoring at home) – in the Danny Boyle zombie apocalypse, the only survivors are Jamaica’s 4 x 100 relay team.

As always happens in Hollywood, something made money, prompting producers to strike upon the genius idea to make more movies (wait…for…it) about that thing.  But to give credit where credit’s due, we got some pretty good stuff for the next couple years, with the wave seemingly cresting with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake.  That movie kicked ass, and if you don’t think so, then you’re one of those people who sees Katherine Heigl movies on the first weekend.  And we can’t forget Shaun of the Dead, though I prefer my horror pure and unadulterated rather than cut by a bunch of yuks, clever and satisfying yuks though they may be.

The Great Aughts Zombie Revival really should have started to short out after Shaun.  Usually parody is the first symptom of the exhaustion of public interest (I know…then 2008’s “Superhero Movie” should have heralded the end of the superhero genre, but clearly it hasn’t.  The rule doesn’t apply because nobody except paid focus groups saw that movie, effectively neutering any impact it had.  Also, it was not a “parody” so much as a “shitty movie”).  But the Revival didn’t short out…just when it looked like it was about to thanks to the disappointing Land of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later comes out and gets things kick-started again.  At this point, something truly surprising happened – instead of just taking for granted the fact that Americans will pretty much watch anything with zombies in it and churning out derivative film after derivative film, we actually get several more years of good zombie moviesSo not only does the Zombie Revival far outlive its cultural expiration date in terms of sheer production, it also does so in terms of the quality of its content.  [Now is the point in the post where you’re probably expecting me to make some sort of half-assed pun drawing a parallel between the seemingly unkillable zombie genre and the zombies themselves.  Well, I’m not going to.]

Don't pitch a fit about where I put "Dead Island." Nobody would have noticed that game if it wasn't for the trailer.

I’m certainly not complaining – my life was significantly enriched by the Bill Murray cameo in Zombieland.  But this is all a long-winded way of saying, what the hell man.  Zombies put it back together for a 10+ year run, so where’s my Vampire Decade?

Please don’t start in on me about all the money that a certain “vampire” franchise has made over the last several years as proof that we are living in a vampiric renaissance – let me just tell you, if you think you’re on “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob,” think again.  You’re on Team You Should Be Embarrassed to Go Out in Public.  What we’re getting now are not vampires.  These are vampires:

You'll notice none of these guys are wearing a henley

Gary Oldman there on the far right might have been guilty of some narratively dull flights of romantic longing, but that’s ok.  Know why that’s ok?  Because Dracula, like the guy with the piranha mouth on the far left and effin’ Valek next to him, is a predatory satanic ghoul, a creature who is entirely dead inside, whose soul has long since been displaced by a spiritual and existential void which can only be filled by a deluge of human blood, but is empty once again much too soon, this eternal emptiness shaping the vile undead monster into a thing driven by an all-consuming, single-minded craving for blood and for murder.

And they’re nowhere to be found.  Instead, we’ve got this nearly uninterrupted run of barista vampires.  To be fair, it’s harder to get vampires right.  You have to write dialogue for them, and I think that’s where the scriptwriters go astray.  They assume that because a figure in their script can talk, they have to turn it into a “character.”  It has to have contemplative, revealing thoughts.  It has to have feelings.  It must have an inner life.  And that…is so…stupid.  You try and humanize vampires in an attempt to make them more interesting, and you utterly, irretrievably blow it.  Vampires are inherently interesting because they’re vampires.  They sleep in coffins filled with the earth of their ancestral homeland, they arise in the night to suck the blood of the living for sustenance, they can turn into a bat, a wolf, a rat, they can exercise telepathic mind control.  A dominant feature of their lore, more than any other monster, is that they are willingly, enthusiastically allied with evil – their very existence is an affront to the Christian God, making their narrative antagonism in any story inherently interesting in a culture such as ours!  And yet everybody writing a show today goes “Eh, screw that.  What if they gazed wistfully out their window for hours at a time, bemoaning their lonely, dark existence while they listen to Arcade Fire?”

Diarists, maybe. Vampires, certainly not. Nice scarf.

If this is what I can expect from here on out, then the return of the vamp was over before it began.  Even when you take the genre out of the tween milieu and do something in a more mature setting, you get a contrived, boring, flat bunch of melodrama that a real vampire would never be a party to.  Remember The Gates?  I love Rhona Mitra, but seriously.  That show sucked (I don’t mean to use that as an easy pun.  That’s just the only appropriate word.  It sucked.)  You like a chillingly scenic eastern European castle, shrouded in mist and surrounded by howling wolves?  Tough shit, here’s a gated community full of witches, werewolves, and vampires!  Watch them juggle the vagaries of everyday life with the challenges of their secret occult lifestyles!  They’re kind of just like us! True Blood is the same story, just more boobs.  The vampire in “John Carpenter’s Vampires” is named “Valek.”  In True Blood, it’s “Bill Compton.”  Wow.  I don’t know why the zombie grabbed all the best writing talent, but it did, and the vampires got all the ones who are still stewing over the fact that their Dawson’s Creek spec scripts were rejected.  It’s a shame.  A damn shame.  The television and cinematic landscape is all the poorer for its lack of night stalking and neck biting.  Oh, and did you see Daybreakers? The vampires wore suits and ties and worked in a fancy office building. It was like watching a dimly-lit 90 minute Charles Schwab commercial. You never knew if the vampires were going to bite somebody, or starting talking up a Roth IRA.
All of this is just a long-winded way of saying, read “American Vampire.”
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RIP, Peter Steele

Thanks especially for "Black No. 1," "Todd's Ship Gods," and "Pyretta Blaze"

I hate the weepy, maudlin tributes that follow the death of a celebrity, usually from people who have never met the person.  So all I’m going to say is this:  Peter Steele, your music was awesome.  Hail and Farewell.

I Never Knew Using Simple Household Items Was So Fraught With Danger

walter-2  Civilizer

Well it’s wintertime, and I assume that means that this blog post is reaching most of you from your hospital beds, as the frigid outside temperatures have forced you to  throw caution to the wind and, in a desperate attempt to warm yourselves, try to operate a blanket.  Up until now, I would have carelessly assumed that you’re all capable of using such an apparently infernal device, and I suppose I need to apologize for being so callous.  I had no idea that some of these tassled monstrosities can turn into straitjackets that would confound Houdini himself.  Thank God the people at Snuggie clued me in.  

Indeed.  How many times have I been caught between a ringing telephone rock and an urgent need to cover every exposed square inch of me in a blanket hard place?  Do I answer the phone?  What if it’s a family emergency?  But then again, what if it’s just the increasingly desperate New York Times begging me to subscribe to the print edition?  Then I’ve shifted my body position, thus causing irreparable blanket slippage, for no good goddamn reason!  More than once, I’ve frozen up like a Bomb-Pop when faced with just such a choice.  And here I thought I was the only one.  Well apparently not, as we’ve bought more than 3 million of these things.  

My sorry ass hasn’t been bailed out of such a harrowing household situation since the Get-A-Grip was introduced.  I forget when this hit the market, but I’m pretty sure it’s inventor was a guy named Jesus H. Christ.

I thought that slipping like a Warner Brother’s cartoon character on a banana peel every time I exited the shower was an embarrassing ritual that only I was going through.  But thanks to Get-A-Grip, I know it isn’t true…there’s a strapping, vital young man with muscles almost as big as mine making the same wacky “Oh shit!” face, right there at the 4 second mark!  And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve destroyed perfectly good tile by ramming it with an 8 inch drill bit after watching “This Old House” and getting it in my head to try and install a handle myself.  

I think it’s safe to say, especially now that we’re all down on the American capitalist system, that it’s products that save us from our own clumsy idiocy that make us the best f**king economy in the world.  You know what they’re doing in bombed-out cesspools like Venezuela when they have to chop vegetables?  Slicing their fingers to bloody ribbons like the poor woman who failed to buy a Chop Wizard, that’s what:

Not us though, man.  Not even the dreaded onion, the dirty bomb of the vegetable kingdom, can make us flee the kitchen.  Just throw one of those things in the Chop Wizard, and BAM!  Chopped onion with nary a teardrop to be seen.  Is it just me, or did President Obama really screw up naming Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary instead of this man:

billy-mays

Nothing subprime about this guy

 

Yeah, Maybe We All Overreacted Juuuuust A Touch

 Civilizer

It’s been a popular lament amongst the nation’s columnists and talking heads that these past 7 and a half years have been a long strange trip – we suffer a catastrophic terrorist attack in two major cities on the same day, manage to blow all of the international goodwill engendered by that terrorist attack, the Vice President basically sets up a shadow government and does all kinds of shit with everything from intelligence agencies to land use laws, the nation’s first MBA president and his party’s Congress spend so recklessly that our military and budget are stretched too thin, the dollar plummeted in value, and then a bunch of greedy Wharton bastards on Wall Street did something weird with mortgages and in so doing launched a bowling ball from a sling right into the economy’s balls, leaving it on its knees and gasping pathetically.

And I can’t say I entirely disagree, but there was one thing, one incident that scared me when it happened and never really stopped scaring me, and I had to actively force myself to just not think about it anymore.  Because you can fix an economy.  You can fix Iraq (right?).  You can reconstitute the military.  Cheney has to leave so you can, uh…fix all that stuff that he did (right??).  But when you find that your country is mobilized not by a faltering economy, not by the war in Iraq, not by a Vice President committing what are probably impeachable offenses, but a half-second clip of boob during the Super Bowl halftime show, man, how the hell can you reasonably expect all that stuff will get done?

 

 

 

Did your kids see this?  Sorry, they’re gay terrorists now.

 

 

 

I can’t really think of anything else that made the entire country just look stupid.  People like to act like Iraq was this catastrophic blunder, but let’s not forget that for all the talk of Cheney and his orcs “stovepiping” intelligence and Rumsfeld’s idiotic “modern army” occupation plan, Saddam Hussein had a track record of exactly the stuff we used as a justification for war.  It’s not like we framed Nelson Mandela. 

But the way we absolutely went out of our minds when Janet Jackson’s breast popped out, the rest of the world must have looked at us like “What are they, a bunch of 10 year-olds?  Puritanical 10-year olds?”  Usually I’m the first guy to throw a star-spangled middle finger at the international community, but when they’re mocking us with good reason, man, that’s embarrassing.  And that whole Super Bowl fiasco gave them plenty of good reason.

That’s why I feel all warm inside about the ruling that came down yesterday from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals that reversed the indecency penalty levied against CBS by the Federal Communications Commission.  Don’t get me wrong – if I had kids, I’m sure I wouldn’t be thrilled about trying to watch a game with them where men beat the living hell out of each other and get paid salaries that exceed those of teachers, firemen, and most doctors and have the purity of the moment ruined when Janet Jackson’s boob goes rogue.  But I was pretty pissed when the country failed to act even a little adult about it, and the media acted like it was a newsworthy event on the order of the Kennedy assassination, and then the FCC treated CBS like they ran a 30-minute NAMBLA infomercial instead of a Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake duet.

So thank you, Third Circuit Court of Appeals, for restoring just a little of my faith in our public institutions.  And especially for using some of my favorite scolding words, “arbitrary and capricious,” when doing so.

Pardon My Drool

 King Civilizer

Death Magnetic album cover’s out! 

Get it?!  It’s magnetic filings, pulling together in the shape of a coffin, which is where you go after death!  Metal!

What Are Surrogates For, Again?

 Civilizer

“Surrogates.”  Anybody remember when these people became indispensable to the election cycle?  Anybody?  I seem to recall a time when a candidate was running for office, and he or she was all you really heard from.  Maybe there was a spokesman, the coffee-swilling guy wearing an iffy suit who acted as campaign manager, but that was it.  Other politicians would toss in some criticism or some platitudes from the sidelines, but election coverage was basically an anchor saying “And here is Governor Clinton giving a speech on health care,” and they’d play a clip (that one probably laden with STD-related information), and there might be some analysis.  That would be it – anchor, clip, talking head.  Now, when I turn on MSNBC, CNN, whatever, it’s like I’m watching “Where Are They Now, Politics Edition.”  Gee, I wonder what Geraldine Ferraro’s been up to…hey, there she is!  Wesley Clark, wonder if he’s still really into sweaters…hey, he’s on TV talking about Obama!  “Reverend” Jesse Jackson, last time I heard from him he was fathering babies out of wedlock…well shit, there’s Jesse!  (And I guess he’s really into projecting, because why else would a serial philanderer want to cut an as-far-as-we-know faithful family man’s balls off?)

Can anybody out there in the political arena explain to me the benefit of surrogates?  I’m assuming they are to act as proxies, getting in front of a camera and spouting a candidate’s message when the candidate himself or herself can’t be there because they’re in front of a different camera.  All right – then tell me if this concept sounds like a good idea:  take a person who is somehow engaged in politics, peripherally (an academic, business person, etc) or directly (another elected official or a former elected official), give them some talking points, and put them on live TV.  Keep in mind this person doesn’t work for the candidate, probably doesn’t entirely agree with the candidate, has been involved in national politics for several years which means they probably have a rather large ego, and is probably, at least in part, acting as a surrogate to raise his or her own profile, even if it’s at the expense of the candidate.  Certainly, nothing can go wrong there!

The only time you hear about a surrogate is when they biff it, go off script, and say something that embarrasses the candidate.  Otherwise, they’re wasted air.  Jesse Jackson wasn’t getting much attention as an Obama surrogate until he casually remarked that he’d like to castrate the guy he is supporting.  Wesley Clark was bopping along just fine until he said that John McCain’s POW experience isn’t necessarily presidential experience.  No one remembered Phil Gramm even existed until he piped up with this “mental recession/nation of whiners” clunker.  Samantha Power wrote a critically acclaimed book about a sorta-important topic (genocide), and no one paid a lick of attention to her until she called Hillary Clinton a “monster.” 

Does having a bunch of surrogates line up behind you really mean anything?  If you’re on the fence about a candidate, does Geraldine Ferraro casting her lot with Clinton make up your mind?  These aren’t people who can persuade by force of personality – if they were, they’d be running themselves (or in Ferraro’s case, they wouldn’t get creamed in the general).  They’re people who might have a few things to say about a given issue, but not a one among them is really going to pull votes.  Probably the only surefire surrogate from that respect would be Jesus, and that guy had a bad habit of speaking his mind when falling in line would have made his life a lot easier.  Good at staying on message, though.

It Is Named

 King Civilizer

Metallica has released the album title for their please-God-be-better-than-St. Anger follow-up to St. Anger:

This is huge news here on All Things In Their Place.  And so far, it sounds, mercifully, MUCH better than St. Anger.