Monthly Archives: October 2014

Storyline: Speeches, Speeches Everywhere

“Revenge?” Kirin repeated, “What for?”

“You said my book was terrible,” Zoey Redbird replied. Kirin rubbed her temples.

“You try to gaslight me because I didn’t like your book. Yeah, that sounds like you.” She sighed. “Well, what’re you gonna do?” Zoey bit her lip.

“I hadn’t thought that far, actually. Usually, this is the point where the goddess Nyx intervenes on my behalf,” she said. Kirin laughed to herself. “What? Why are you laughing. You’re supposed to be scared,” Zoey whined. Kirin shook her head.

“It’s nothing, at least, nothing you’d understand,” she said. She strutted past the shocked Zoey and down the stairs with her head held high.

“Uh, Kirin, why are you patronizing the superpowered vampyre? On the list of bad ideas, that’s up there with flaming shark juggling or  taunting C’thulhu, or juggling flaming sharks while taunting C’thulhu,”  Textbox muttered furiously. They entered the living room through the adjoining kitchen.

“It’s okay, Textbox. I got this,” she said.

“Wait!” Zoey called from upstairs.

“Let’s just hope she doesn’t call your bluff,” he whispered. Kirin nodded. Zoey ran into the room.

“Zoey, do you know why I don’t like you?” she asked. Zoey pushed a stray lock of black hair from her face.

“Probably because you’re just jealous,” she replied. Kirin shook her head. When she spoke, her voice was dangerously calm and she enunciated every word carefully.

“Nope, not in the slightest. It’s because of your wasted potential. You had every chance to be a hero and a decent person, and every time you blew it. For example, in your world, there is obvious and understandable tension between humans and vampyres. As the one chosen by your Goddess and the only one in history to have the powers of all five of the Planeteers, you could have been the bridge between the two races. Instead, you immediately forget that you were once human and decide that vampyres were always superior. The plot of your book is just petty and pointless high school drama that is one big rips off of Mean Girls. In the climax, you do nothing when you know something’s wrong and then you have the gall to blame someone else for your failure to act. You pretend that you’re better than the school queen bee, but you do nothing but insult everyone that isn’t in your little clique. Even when you had the chance to be kind to the outcasts you pretend to be the champions of, you just insult the way they look. You’re nothing but a hypocrite and a bully. I even wrote a  three part blog post on how reprehensible a character you are, and still felt like it wasn’t enough to capture how much I hated you.” Her tone, which had grown impassioned, softened.  “But maybe that’s the thing. Maybe you’re not not Zoey at all. Maybe you’re just a manifestation of my own hatred, and if I let it go, you’ll go.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. A small smile crossed her face. When she opened them, Zoey was still standing there. She shrugged and said, “It was worth a shot.”

“Oh, don’t pretend you’re so perfect, little miss unicorn,” Zoey countered. “You’re just as bad as I am. What do you do every time something pops up in your house? You run to your room and write, trying to ignore the problem. You make fun of other people’s works even though you have accomplished nothing. You make fun Textbox even though you know he’s just a part of a broken man’s shattered psyche–“

“Hey, leave me out of this,” Textbox whined.

“And worst of all, you have in your possession a book that can save your world, and you’ve done nothing with it. Do you know why I keep writing “incomplete” everywhere?” Zoey asked. The wind began to pick up inside the room.

“You though it would scare me?” Kirin guessed. She slowly backed up against the cluttered kitchen counter.

“No, it’s because your little world makes no sense. You claim to have parents, siblings, friends, and school, but in the past year, only a few people have been to your house. You and your house don’t even make sense. What kind of house has bulletproof windows? Why are there so many weapons here? Where did you learn to use them? How did you have end up with a portal to other universes in your basement? Where do you live? Where are your parents when all this weird stuff is going on?” As Zoey spoke, the ground shook. Kirin’s hand clasped around the spine of a blanket wrapped book.

“You’re right,” she said and unwrapped the book, “I have been mean to Textbox, my world doesn’t make any sense, and I have the chance to save my world literally in my hands, so what the heck? Why not try it out?”  Zoey gasped at the sight of the ancient tome. Kirin opened the book and immediately felt it pulsate and burn in her hands. The power of the book seemed to course through her veins.

“Kirin, are you insane?” Textbox yelled.

“Just a little bit,” she replied. Her voice reverberated throughout the living room. “But I also know you’re not really Zoey. You’re too clever by half. Zoey is too oblivious to point any of that out. So, before I send you to the great whatever, what are you and what do you really want?” Zoey chuckled, morphing into a shadow. Her voice lost her whiny edge and was little more than a growl.

“You don’t want to know what I am, for your mind cannot–” the shadow began but Kirin cut her off.

“If you say that my mind cannot comprehend you or your goal, I’ve heard it before and the last time it happened, it turned out that his real motive was stupid. So either tell me what you really want or I’ll just send you there right now.”

“I am death, destroyer of worlds, an eldrich abomination beyond your comprehension and–” Shadow Zoey began again.

“No you’re not. If you were, I’d be dead already or insane. So, once again, what are you?” Kirin was growing irritated. Shadow Zoey sighed.

“Fine. I was sent here as a harbinger and to scout out this world, but could not escape this house. I was awaiting orders,” she explained. Kirin furrowed her brows.

“Harbinger? Of what?” she asked.

Maybe it’s Santa? Or a Celestial? Or a Celestial Santa?” Textbox suggested. Kirin took one hand from the book to rub her temples. Shadow Zoey flashed them a smug grin.

“Why should I tell you?” she asked. Kirin arched an eyebrow.

“Klaatu Barada Nikto…” she chanted. Shadow Zoey cringed.

“I don’t know, okay? All I know is that it is big, bad, and it sent me here. Please, you have to believe me,” she begged. Kirin sighed.

“Groovy,” Textbox muttered.

“Fine. Come with me,” she said. The two walked to the basement. With a word, Kirin pushed the away the heavy bookcase covering the inter-dimensional portal. She turned to Shadow Zoey. “After you.”

“What?” Zoey’s face was puzzled.

“Go, and never return,” she simply said. Shadow Zoey hesitated. “I said go. I won’t ask again, so either go now, or I learn what this book can really do.”

“Fine. I’m going. I’m going,” Zoey muttered. She walked through the portal. Almost on instinct, Kirin muttered a spell. The wall glowed. When it stopped glowing, she threw herself against it. The wall did not yield.

“Hey, I did it!” she exclaimed as she dropped the book.

“What did’ya do?” Textbox asked. Kirin felt a sudden wave of dizziness and sat down.

“I managed to close the portal. It shouldn’t bother us anymore,” she explained as she rubbed her burned hands.

How’d you know to do that?” he asked. Kirin shrugged and stared at the book on the floor.

“I dunno. When I was holding that book, it just–I don’t know–whispered to me. I know it sounds weird, but–” her voice trailed away.

“Kirin, I came from a universe of superheroes, vampire cows, and talking ducks. Heck, I’m the disembodied voice in the head of one of those heroes. Weird is relative. Now, who’s up for The Gorgeous and the Graceful?” Kirin stood up.

“Always up for our Soap,” she replied. They made their way upstairs. “You think they’ll finally find out whether Emily’s baby is really Kincaid’s?”

“I figured it was an alien pod creature myself.” The two turned on the TV.

“That doesn’t even make any sense. When have aliens ever been on the show?”

“Now’s as good a time as any,” Textbox replied. Kirin sighed.

“I honestly wouldn’t put it past the writers,” she rescinded. The book, lying forgotten in the basement, glowed slightly, and the image of Kirin etched itself into the cover page.

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Peeping Tom (1960)

peeping tom

Hello, I’m a unicorn. The 1960 film, Peeping Tom, like Psycho that came out that same year, is considered a lesser known precursor to the slasher genre. Unlike Psycho, which was well received from the start, this movie generated a lot of controversy from critics. It generated so much controversy, in fact, that the director, Michael Powell was driven out of the business. It has since been lauded as a masterpiece of film making, becoming a favorite of Martin Scorsese and Roger Ebert.

The plot follows Mark, a mild mannered yet disturbed man who feels the compulsion to film everything about his life and the ending of others. His voyeuristic tendencies stem from the fact that his scientist father would film every moment of his childhood and experiment on him. His father’s experiments in fear causes Mark to become obsessed with capturing it perfectly on film. To accomplish this, he makes his own snuff films, preying on the women he photographs and films in his day job. He also owns an apartment building and develops a crush on one of the tenants, Helen.

What makes this film so great is the way Carl Boehm plays Mark, our titular peeping Tom. He straddles the line of creepy and sympathetic in such a way that you root for him and Helen about a third of the time, pity him a sixth of the time, and spend the rest of the time terrified of what he’ll do next. In a way, he reminds me of a combination of the Erik from the Phantom of the Opera and Norman Bates. He’s a psychotic killer with parent issues that comes off as awkward but sweet to the love interest.  He’s the type of character that, in a story with a more romantic edge, would be romanticized because he may be a compulsive murderer, but he’d never hurt our female protagonist, so it’s okay that he’s a murderer. That, my friends, is a trope I’ll complain about on another day, because thankfully it doesn’t happen here. His relationship with Helen does serve to humanize him, but it also makes their interactions much creepier. When we first meet Helen, the audience knows he’s already killed at least once, and it ramps up the tension because we have no idea how he will react to her. His awkwardness around her and other women makes him both terrifying and somewhat endearing.

This movie is one of the earliest examples of the slasher genre, setting up many of the conventions. It begins with the an opening kill girl and the kill done from the point of view of the killer. The killer uses an unconventional weapon. He has severe parental issues and a thing about sexuality and the expression of it. He goes after promiscuous blondes while letting the more innocent and brunette final girl live. While Peeping Tom isn’t the first to use these tropes, it still is considered one of the building blocks of the genre.

Overall, this is definitely worth hunting down. It’s a well acted, beautifully shot, and genuinely suspenseful proto-slasher movie that’s genuinely worth hunting down. It journeys into the mindset of voyeurism while turning the audience into voyeurs themselves. It’s a shame that, at the time, it was reviled by critics and audiences, but thankfully, it is beginning to get the attention it deserves. So what are you waiting for? Watch it now!

Image belongs to its owner.

“Hey Kirin, it’s happening again,” Textbox called from downstairs. Kirin put down her computer.

“What is it this time?” As soon as she stepped out of her room, the lights began flickering on and off. Kirin rolled her eyes and pulled out an iron knife. “Look, we did this dance last year. Is this going to be a regular thing now?” she asked the entity in the house.

“That depends,” Textbox said, “do you think the writer will get sick of the same shtick every October?” Kirin opened her mouth to retort, but was cut short by a crash coming from the guest bathroom. She entered slowly, holding her knife at the ready. The mirror had cracked, and the cracks formed the word “incomplete”. Kirin chuckled to herself. She sensed the entity lurking in the corners of her vision.

“Seven years bad luck. Looks like it’ll start now.” She threw the knife across the room, lodging it in the wall above the bathtub. The entity yelped.

“What are you, James Bond?”  Textbox groaned. Kirin pulled out the knife.

“I thought it sounded cool,” she said sheepishly. “Now c’mon, whatever’s in here can’t have gone too far.” She left the bathroom. Entering the hall, she cupped her hands around her lips and shouted, “I know you’re there. Come out and no one gets hurt.” From the shadows emerged a girl with long, dark hair. On her forehead was a crescent moon tattoo. She crossed her arms and grinned triumphantly.  Kirin lowered her knife and asked, “Who are you?”  The girl looked slightly disappointed.

“You don’t recognize me?” The girl pouted. Kirin shrugged.

“Should I?” she asked, lowering her knife.

“But I’m your worst enemy,” she whined. Kirin shook her head.

“Still not ringing any bells. Textbox?”

“Nope. Wait, maybe she’s from the future, or the past, or maybe an alternate timeline. Or, she could just be nuttier than me, which, believe me, is pretty impressive because I’m nuttier than squirrel poo…” Textbox rambled. The girl stamped her foot.

“I’m not crazy, you stupid cow,” she yelled, “I’m Zoey Redbird.” Kirin’s jaw dropped.

“You’re joking, right? Zoey Redbird’s just a character from a terrible book series. You can’t be her. She isn’t real,” she said. Textbox cleared his throat.

“What am I, chopped liver?”

 “Right. Sorry, Textbox,” she said sheepishly. Turning back to Zoey, she asked, “So, what do you want?” Zoey grinned. The ground shook underfoot.

“Revenge.”

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Showcase Presents House of Mystery Volume one

Hello, I’m a unicorn.Well, it’s that time of the year again. It’s the time when the leaves change color, the air gets cooler, and I break the spine-tingling stories best read under the covers. And to start it off, let’s go back to the time of the Comic’s Code Authority and meet Cain, the able caretaker of the House of Mystery. If you have read the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Cain should look very familiar. If you haven’t read Sandman, what are you sitting here for? Go out and read that masterpiece.

Showcase Presents House of Mystery Volume One collects the first twenty-one issues of this horror anthology. It tells chilling tales of witches, ghosts, and instant karma, just add water. These stories range from chilling and tragic, to unintentionally silly. I would be here all day if I was to talk about every single one the stories, so here are a few of my favorites in no particular order.

Devil’s Doorway: Phillip Warren, a family man and a student of the occult purchases a mysterious mirror in an auction. His daughter soon discovers that the doorway is actually a portal, and let’s just say that whatever is on the other side isn’t exactly Heaven.

Mask of the Red Fox: A man becomes obsessed with hunting and killing a beautiful red fox, unaware, of course that the fox is actually his wife. (This isn’t a spoiler, it’s explicitly said on the first page.) Even though I’ve heard many variations of the story (usually with the wife as a werewolf) I never get tired of it. It’s just a classic tale of be careful what you wish for.

Eye of the Basilisk:  A basilisk is a mythological creature born from a chicken’s egg hatched from under a toad. It’s often drawn as a giant snake or a snake/chicken hybrid and looking into its eyes can kill you. If that doesn’t kill you, the venom will. It is said that a single drop of basilisk venom is enough to poison a well for one hundred years. Only a rooster’s crow or a weasel can kill it. Mythology is weird. In this story, a basilisk is plaguing an ancient kingdom, and all but one man is unable to defeat it. This is one of the few tales that delves into fantasy and it is a fun, if predictable vignette.

Sir Greeley’s Revenge: Against the wishes of his sister and nephew, Sir Greely, a kind English gentleman takes in an orphaned boy named Tim. He discovers that the boy is a piano prodigy, and, after his death, he puts in his will that Tim will inherit Greeley’s fortune if he plays a concert flawlessly. The niece and nephew scheme to ruin Tim’s concert, so with the help of Sir Greeley, Tim must outfox the two. This is one of most heartwarming stories in the collection and one of my personal favorites.

The Wondrous Witches Cauldron: Imagine for a moment that you were capable of granting wealth and fame to the people you worked for, but you have no way of telling them that you were responsible for their good fortune. Such is the tragedy of the witch’s cauldron, a sentient pot that brings luck to every one of its owners, but since they don’t realize that the pot is what causes their luck, they carelessly discard it. To me, being trapped in your own body, unable to tell others that you are alive and awake when they throw you to your doom, is one of the most terrifying things possible.

Nightmare: A lonely little girl named Judy befriends the god Pan. As the two play together, she starts getting sicker and sicker. She eventually travels to his world to play. She is allowed to play anywhere as long as she doesn’t go through strange door. I think you can guess what she decides to do while her friend is asleep. This is my absolute favorite story out of the whole collection. It’s sweet and tragic, especially the perfect ending.

This is but a taste of the stories in this huge volume, and I didn’t even get into the comic strips and short stories featured . While some of the stories can be a bit predictable and silly, every one is a fun read. So what are you waiting for? Hunt down a copy and read it now.

Kirin put on a pair of gloves. Carefully removing the book from the blanket she had covered used to cover it, she placed the book on the kitchen counter. She examined the dark leather binding, taking careful note of every detail in the gilding. Slowly, almost reverently, she lifted the cover.

“Hey, what’cha doing?” Textbox asked. Kirin jumped, slamming the cover shut. Her face flushed. She looked over to Textbox, who had once again possessed her old stuffed Ninja Turtle.

“Nothing.” She didn’t make eye contact with the doll. Textbox sighed.

“That’s the guiltiest “nothing” I have ever heard. If you’re really so curious, just open the freaking book. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen. Except maybe you accidentally call C’thulhu, have your eyes melt out of your face, you destroy the world, or maybe you just go guano insane. Then again, you’re already halfway there anyway, but–” Kirin groaned.

“Alright. I get it. I won’t look at the book, but if there’s a chance that I can stop whatever potential future me has said would happen, shouldn’t I take it?” She blanket back around the book.

“Sure, when there’s someone around that can make sure none of us do anything stupid like read it out loud or something.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I mean–” She was cut short by the lights going out. After a moment, they went back on. Kirin gasped. On the opposite wall, written in in a strange, reddish brown substance was the word “Incomplete.”

“Is-is that blood?”  Textbox whisperedKirin and Textbox examined the wall. She sniffed, and recognizing the aroma, she laughed. “What? What is it?” Textbox asked. Kirin, on a whim, removed some of the substance with her finger and licked it. “Ew, ew, ew, ew! That is so gross!” 

Kirin laughed even harder, to a point where she was practically hysterical. “Chocolate sauce,” she choked out. “It’s chocolate sauce!” She went to the refrigerator and pulled out an empty bottle of Hershey’s chocolate.  Textbox started laughing.

“Chocolate sauce? What kind of self respecting home invader uses chocolate sauce to scare people?” The two laughed like madmen. The shadow, which now had a form, stamped her foot in frustration.

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The Boxtrolls

Hello, I’m a unicorn. The Boxtrolls is a movie that manages to feel fresh even though it is somewhat cliched. We all know the story: a town believes that a group creatures is dangerous and evil, but they’re really just misunderstood and it’s up to a boy who has lived among them and a spoiled rich girl to prove to the adults that they’re wrong. It’s a pretty standard plot. What makes it so interesting is the execution. The stop motion animation is just plain gorgeous and sets a nice spooky tone for the entire film. The environment is so beautiful that I found myself noticing many of the lovely details put in the clothes and in the background. The setting was a character in and of itself, with a nice Victorian steampunk vine. The eponymous Boxtrolls were adorable and the boy protagonist, Eggs, was likable. The girl protagonist, Winnie, has her moments of likability, but, especially in the beginning, she comes off as an irritating know it all. She got better, but there were moments where I just wished she’d be quiet. Her father is even worse though. He’s the archetypal parent who never listens, but they take it to the extreme. He’s obsessed with cheese for reasons not adequately explained in the movie and cares more about his white hat than his own daughter. There is a moment where the villain threatens Winnie and he actually hesitates to give up his hat in order to save his only daughter. This is that point where the running gag pushed him into extremely unsympathetic territory.

The best characters, though, were the villains. Archibald Snatcher is both creepy and hilarious. Sometimes it could be hard to make out what he was saying, but when he was comprehensible, he was downright threatening. He was threatening, at least, until he does something completely ridiculous such as the hilarious cheese tasting scenes. My two absolute favorite characters were his underlings, Mr. Trout and Mr. Pickles. Their running gag is that they believe they’re actually the good guys, and it’s the funniest gag in the movie. Aside from the gorgeous animation, the villains were truly the strongest aspects of the film.

Overall, this movie is fantastic. While Winnie and her dad might get irritating, the movie is still fantastic. The plot is creative, the animation is beyond wonderful, the heroes are fun, the voice acting is great, and the villains, great Hera, the villains. It’s worth watching just for them. So what are you waiting for? Watch it now!

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