“Exterminate All Rational Thought”: The Horror, Tragedy, and Weirdness of Naked Lunch

That guy on the left… That’s Mugwump. He is the most normal thing in this movie.
Source: Austrian Film Museum

So, lately, I’ve been getting a lot of love from fans of Horror movies. And honestly, I’m glad. I’m one of them. I’ve discussed in the past why Horror is so important to art and society, so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan.

So today, in honor of our monster mash of new Field Operatives here at The Archive and the approaching Halloween (the holiday starts for me when the coffee shops break out the pumpkin spice), I’d like to share my love for one of my favorites in the genre; a psychedelic, drug-fueled, semi-biography turned Body Horror exploration into the symbiotic nature of creativity and addiction called Naked Lunch.

Now before anyone gets up in arms about me labeling this film based on the book of the same name by beat poet legend William S. Burroughs as Body Horror, let me explain my thinking.

Body Horror is defined by Collins English Dictionary as an entry in the horror genre, “… in which the main feature is the graphically depicted destruction or degeneration of a human body or bodies.” Firstly, this is absolutely a Horror film; its goal is to depict a terrifying situation and how our hero copes with it. Secondly, while no one gets mutilated (well, ALMOST no one), the imagery centers around people and objects morphing and mutating into psychotropic hallucinations that are unnervingly inhuman. In that regard, it’s not that much of a departure from director David Cronenberg’s other works – The Fly comes to mind in particular thanks to Naked Lunch‘s insect fixation.

So, why do I love this film? Well, it comes down to the goal of all horror – to depict the terrors and anxieties of the real world in an artistically exaggerated manner so as to make a social commentary on the topic. These terrors take multiple forms throughout the film as our hero – former exterminator turned writer William Lee (Peter Weller) – copes with addiction, guilt, and pressure to create. We can identify with many of these fears and they humanize his character more when you realize that he’s meant to be an analog for Burroughs himself.

Almost everything Lee experiences through a drug-induced haze happened to Burroughs including the murder of his wife (Burroughs accidentally shot his wife during a drunken game of William Tell), his adventures in the country of Interzone (Burroughs spent several months in the Tangier International Zone), getting advise from his fellow writers (Lee’s friends Hank and Martin are stand-ins for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), and his penchant for breaking out into improv routines during conversations (my favorite is the infamous ‘Talking Asshole’ routine).

There’s something creepily familiar to me about Lee/Burroughs and the joint nature of creativity and addiction. I’ve never done drugs before, but I can attest to the fact that writing is a lot like an addictive drug to me. It takes an infeasible amount of effort to come up with what I’ll say – to get my fix if we’re using the drug analogy. But, If I don’t get it in time, I start feeling lethargic, depressed, and even physically weak; like a junkie suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Basically, to sum up an essay of over 600 words into a single sentence, I like this movie because it’s a love letter to a great writer that I admire, has some of the most amazing special effects animatronics I’ve seen in film (courtesy of Jaime ‘Yes, THAT Jaime Hyneman‘ Hyneman in part), made me think, and because I – as a writer – identify with the notion of being in the grip of a deadly muse (she says mere minutes to midnight the night before publishing as she finishes her second cup of coffee during the writing/editing of this article).

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4 Warner Bros. Properties That I Want To See As Mortal Kombat DLC Characters

One of the nice things about being in my new apartment is the fact that I’ve been more active with my hobbies thanks to kicking the depression linked to my previous setting. Among those hobbies are, of course, video games and movies.

Last Month, the folks at Netherrealm Studios kept the proud tradition of adding new DLC Characters to the Mortal Kombat franchise from the available list of Warner Bros. Movies and properties by giving us the option to play as The Predator in Mortal Kombat X. And while he makes a nice fit, I can’t help but feel some other opportunities could be found with a little digging.

Basically, I’m saying that I won’t be happy until I can push Quan Chi’s head down into his colon while playing as…

Leatherface

Sure, we already have a silent, masked killer on the roster. But HE doesn’t have a chainsaw.
Source: Super Villain Wiki

You know, for being an iconic horror film, I’ve heard a lot of hate TowardsThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I imagine that’s mostly the hyper conservative crowd that can’t handle a horror film that’s ACTUALLY horrifying talking.

Regardless, the movie’s iconic killer Leatherface would be an obvious fit. The property is now owned Warner Bros., he’s a classic horror villain well known for brutally dispatching his victims, and he would be easily recognizable. Just code him in the next DLC, hand him a chainsaw and a meat mallet, and have him go to town.

And while we’re getting the obvious choices out of the way…

The Xenomorph

Bonus points if they have the stones to use the queen.
Source: Alien Species Wiki

 

Look, we have Predator, naturally Alien can’t be too far behind.

There’s actually a good reason why I want The Xenomorph as a playable character though; the lack of creative, inhuman designs in recent Mortal Kombat games.

I remember seeing characters like Goro, Kintaro, and Motaro for the first time and having my mind blown. These days, they seem to be playing it safe in terms of design. D’vorah is still surprisingly humanoid for a bug woman and even Milleena has been toned down a bit from her previous appearance. We could use a wholly inhuman monster in the roster.

Still, perhaps these last two are too obvious. There are more surprising options that could rock the community with the news. Options like…

Sweeney Todd

His ‘friends’ would be working overtime.
Source: FanPop

Ha! Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

It’s funny how most people don’t talk about this movie anymore. It’s arguably the last role that Johnny Depp did that you can call ‘good’ without qualifying that statement. What’s more, it’s a Warner Bros. owned horror film – making it a valid choice for DLC.

I feel that someone this unexpected could create a lot of buzz and make the game interesting; the lost soul of ‘The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ so consumed with vengeance that he’ll fight his way out of the netherrealm to get it.

Also, I’ve just really wanted to slowly slit Johnny Cage’s throat with a straight razor ever since I first saw him.

Guyver One

The fact that this exists proves I’m not alone in the universe.
Source: ultimate-savage.deviantart.com/

Okay, this one’s a bit complicated.

Before anyone asks, yes – the Bio-Booster Armor Guyver franchise was originally a manga published by Viz Media that was adapted into an anime published by Manga Entertainment. HOWEVER, New Line Cinema picked up the movie rights and released two films based on the franchise. And since Warner Bros. merged with them in 2008, it’s possible that they still have the rights.

“But Agent,” I hear you plea, “Weren’t those movies inconsistent and ham-fisted schlock that even lovers of bad movies have trouble stomaching? Why would you include that in a game like this?”

Well, I’m thinking of it as a chance for redemption. There’s nothing saying that they need to follow the note set by the films. This could be a chance to bring the character back to his sci-fi/action/horror roots. Plus, it would be a nice change up to see a hero in a DLC instead of a villian.

I only have one request; please go back to calling the kid in Guyver One Shō Fukamachi instead of Sean Barker. We really don’t need stuff like that in this day and age.

Horribly Good: The Importance of Horror and How To Do It Right

“Before I kill you, I’d like have a serious conversation about the importance of fear in human society…”
Source: Comic Vine

Summer has only just started and my mind is already on Halloween – mostly due to the happy news that my cousin is getting married on All Hallows Eve and everyone is going to be in full costume.

Of course, when my mind goes to Halloween, it also extends into thinking on horror stories. As such, I’ve been enjoying some campy horror films and playthroughs of horror-themed games and pondering the nature of the scariest form of entertainment.

You see, back in my day (or at least among my circle of childhood authorities), horror had a bad reputation owed to the quickly improving field of special effects in films making for more realistic violence and the stories becoming more brutal in their subject matter to compensate. This always struck me as an odd reaction that some people had. It left me asking, “Why are so offended by a horror story that manages to ACTUALLY be horrifying?”

Because, my beloved Field Operatives, that is the point of horror stories; to put a less than savory aspect of life on display and make you understand why you need to be afraid of and/or despise it.

Every good horror story, or at least the best remembered, works by making a monster out of a major aspect of daily life that the creator feels needs to change or a social issue that they feel needs addressing. For example, there are plenty of propaganda films from the Cold War era that attempted to be direct about “The Red Scare” taking over the world, but most were quickly forgotten at best and laughed off at worse. But do you know what story inspired by the fear of the loss of self in that era has survived the test of time? That’s right, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

All good horror stories employ this philosophical symbolism; Eraserhead‘s mutant baby and the fears of parenthood, The Cenobites from Hellraiser being the manifestations of human vices, Jason Voorhees and the debate on premarital sex, and so on.

Sadly, it’s this formula that also causes a lot of tension with detractors of the genre. These films have to hit very close to a cultural nerve to be effective – so close that they are often accused of being guilty of the very evils that they preach against. This was the case with the 1978 film Day of the Woman (better known as I Spit On Your Grave) which was meant to be an accusatory finger pointing at male chauvinism and rape culture but was criticized for being chauvinistic itself.

Of course, even the films and games that lack this sort of philosophical storytelling, though terrible for the most part, can still have some merit for the creator if not for the audience. Movies like Street Trash may just be a parade of melting bodies, but it was a chance for the creator to explore new special effects. Games like Five Nights at Freddy’s may just be a string of jump scares, but it was a successful experiment in using the Uncanny Valley effect to create unsettling character designs and audio.

So, if you’re an aspiring horror film/game maker, here’s my advice to you; find something you care about, something that you think is a serious problem in the world today, and build a Frankenstein Monster out of all of the worst parts of it to show your audience how terrible it is and make sure it stays in their minds for the rest of their lives. Not only will you create a memorable story, but it will be a story that helps guide your audience against the evil it represents.

Sharing the Love and the Screams with Screaming Soup!

For those of you who never thought you’d see a skeletal cowboy, a humanoid catfish, a werecoyote, and a native american toilet paper mummy riff on bad movies over their favorite drinks – here you go.
Source: screamingsoup.com

 

As those of you who follow on Facebook and Twitter know, I’ve been getting a lot of love lately and I try to give it back with my #ThursdayThanks posts. But I wanted to give a special thanks to someone with big aspirations whose work I really enjoyed.

Not long ago, I got a message on Twitter about a horror movie review show called Screaming Soup! that seemed interesting. Normally, I ignore these door-to-door tactics, but I decided to check it out on a whim to see what it was about. I was not disappointed with the results. So, to show my appreciation and spread awareness for a fellow enterprising creative talent on the ‘net, I’m going to give a constructive critique in as close to the style of the show as a literary medium will allow.

Screaming Soup! seems to get it’s name from the now canceled show Talk Soup that spun off into simply The Soup. Just as those shows recap and review talk shows and general pop culture respectively, Screaming Soup! does the same with B-grade horror and monster films.

So what sets this show apart from other horror and schlock film critics? How about the fact that it features an animated cast? In other words, imagine The Soup revamped for horror films with a format akin to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and hosted by Deadwest -a man that’s equal parts Ghost Rider, Jonah Hex, and Svengoolie. That’s Screaming Soup! in a nutshell.

Looking at the negatives of the show, or “the sours” as Deadwest would say, most of them fall on the show’s opening title sequence. Don’t get me wrong; the theme song is catchy as hell and I will catch myself headbanging to it if no one’s watching. But I do take some objections with it in some places.

For example, there’s one lyric in the theme that refers to “gay-ass monsters made of clay.” Really, dude? You’re using gay as an insult in 2015? I get that most of the humor of this show revolves around immature comedy that spoofs the man-childish glee of bad horror cinema, but there’s a fine line between immature and borderline insulting. I don’t think anyone involved with the show has a “God Hates Fags” sign in their closet, but it does make defending otherwise brilliant work that much more difficult.

Also, as awesome as the rest of the theme is, I feel it runs a bit too long. Episodes tend to run five to nine minutes and the title sequence takes up about a minute of it. If it was trimmed by half to make room for one or two more clever jokes and the lyrics were changed from “gay” to “lame”, I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest.

Those jokes are a good jumping-off platform to the good parts of the show – “the sweets” if we’re still using Deadwest’s terminology.

As stated, the humor is very similar to Space Ghost: Coast to Coast tinged slightly off-color to reflect the nature of the types of exploitation horror that tend to dominate the line up. Recurring gags of this nature include the “Pissing Time” clock that counts the seconds and minutes of time where nothing happens in the movie and you can safely run to the bathroom, the “Bogus Scares” counter that tracks the annoying jump scares, an end movie body count, and a “Tit Counter” that tallies up the number of times the actresses go topless.

Another awesome thing about this show is how well characterized the cast is despite having just one guy, one girl, and a text-to-speech program for one lady to do all the voices. Everyone comes together to bring color to the setting of the Howl Inn. From Deadwest’s lovable invisible specter girlfriend Mandy to the urban hipness of the blaksploitation throwback monster Eb’nstein to the house sad-sack and Creature from the Black Lagoon parody Catfish, all of them add character to the show and help to keep things fresh (Sidenote: my favorite character so far has to be Peyote; the werecoyote trucker).

I mentioned before that the episodes run significantly shorter than the average review show, but I feel that works to it’s benefit. Animation, even simple animation like this, takes a lot of time and effort and you need to cut corners where ever you can. Screaming Soup! takes advantage of shorter running times by cutting out the plot-point by plot-point analysis style of other shows and removing the spoilers that they would have contained as a result.

Now, I’m not in the business of rating the films, games, and shows I talk about like Deadwest. But if I were, I’d have to say that Screaming Soup! is a solid four out of five that, with a little polish, could become a five out of five in future seasons. It’s inventive enough to stand out as welcome addition to the world of online film critics. I recommend this show to fans of Count Jackula and Diamanda Hagan who want something new, want fewer spoilers, or are just looking for something to enjoy during their lunch break.

But what do I know? Like Deadwest himself, I also like Killer Tomatoes.