State of the Art
A diary of horror in Australia
First Appeared in Tabula Rasa#3: April - June, 1994
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You're one microscopic cog
It's strange how these things happen. Pretty much nothing at all interesting happened in April, then in May we got inundated, and June slacked off a little. But let's see. Of most interest to local fandom, Bloodsongs issue 1 was brought to the attention of Mr Dickie and Co who gave it a restricted category 1A rating, on account of Rob Hood's The Autopsy. Unfortunately, sales-generating contro-versy did not ensue, and issue 2 has a less hard-core appearance (but the layout's improved immensely) and we've liked what we've read of it thus far. Censorship also took a bite out of R-rated computer games -- banning them in NSW. Why? On the other side of the fence (and the world) Mary Whitehouse, famed founder of the Festival of Light -- a virulent fundamentalist organisation dedicated to censorship -- stood down at the age of 83. It was not known if the Festival would survive without her.
In his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed
By his red right hand
Red Right Hand
Pleased to meet you Lloyd, hope you guess my name
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
And a voice that stinks of death, and vanilla
Do You Love Me (Part II)
Well, I'm glad we're not slaves to petty morality
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown
In town were Peter Greenaway for the release of The Baby of Mācon and Ken Russell as a guest of the Sydney Film Festival, who conducted a hilarious interview and screened The Devils. This festival also featured a sneak preview (for Australian audiences) of A Nightmare Before Christmas (bit pointless, but we liked it). Other film festivals included one dedicated to Early Hitchcock (from 1929-44) and, slightly more modern, Manga Manga Manga featuring Wicked City and the banning of Legend of the Overfiend (despite it being readily available for purchase on video). At a slightly different Film Festival, Quentin Tarantino made us all very proud when his film Pulp Fiction won the Palme D'Or.
Sort of in town but not really, we got the chance to ring Stephen King over June. This was to publicise the paperback release of Nightmares and Dreamscapes and it turned out our 'very own horror story' was simply the introduction to the anthology divided into quarters.
And following up from last ish, Edvard Munch's The Scream was recovered by authorities in a hotel room. But it still didn't look particularly happy.
Should we dive into Gossip-column mode and mention Drew Barrymore got married? Probably not (and it would just be bitchy to say it only lasted a week or two).
Silliest horror title in the universe goes to Simon Maginn's first novel Sheep, which is apparently quite good, and speaking of silly, we notice Whitley Streiber is back (?) in the fiction section with his latest The Forbidden Zone. More interesting perhaps, Tanith Lee seems to have had a recent run, including A Personal Darkness (great cover!), the sequel to Dark Dance, as well as a collection, Nightshades, and Jonathan Carroll, a much recommended author, produced From the Teeth of Angels. James Herbert fans got a taste or two with James Herbert's Dark Places (with Paul Berkshire), sort of a photo-shoot of his inspirations, and a graphic novel The City -- actually a follow-up to The Rats. Kim Newman has been busy and The Quorum is out in hardback, and Graham Masterton has Night Plague. Brian Lumley fans (anyone, anyone?) got Return of the Deep Ones and other Mythos Tales. Cthulhu mythos, that is.
A biography of Roald Dahl was written by Jeremy Treglown, imaginatively titled Roald Dahl: A Biography. As with a lot of biographies these days (Enid Blyton even got the treatment recently) the author in question is paraded as less than virtuous. What do you expect guys? Sheesh! Also two more film encyclopedias hit the market with Fangoria's Best Horror Films and Cult Horror Films, by Welch Evermar. More novel references, guys.
And speaking of films, we got some interesting ones. But first, two that should have been interesting, new films from George Romero and David Cronenberg, two of our favourite directors. Um, what happened? The Dark Half was more a Stephen King adaption than a Romero movie, and suffered the usual fate -- it simply never sustained suspense. M Butterfly. Well, bits of it looked like classic Cronenberg, but it certainly wasn't his normal fare (it's his only film bar The Dead Zone he didn't have a writing credit for). It was well made, and your editors are split over whether it worked for what it was trying to be -- both a political and sexual doubletake. The Crying Game it wasn't.
Hoyts in town made an interesting move by playing non-commercially viable horror films in late night sessions. This is a good idea that should be supported, but when the film is Leprechaun you can start wondering why you should bother. We're sure Tanith Lee and Neil Jordan could do it well -- but this was neither (and it still made money in the States). Now for some good news: The Baby of Mācon is in the ultra-violent (and rich) style of Peter Greenaway's previous The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, combined with his most accessible script yet. Not exactly pleasant, but a great little film. Just as stylish (in a completely different way), Peter Weir's Fearless opened and, as we've said before, we like it.
Quite a number of films appeared that weren't quite in the genre but contained elements of interest. Firstly a documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, directed by Nick Broomfield, explored the hazy region of commercialism in crime (a variation on Mācon's theme, in fact). Also we noticed that the first ever Teenage Slashee, Jamie Lee Curtis, was on the other side of the knife in Mother's Boys, otherwise simply a thriller. New material appeared from Winona Ryder (x2), William Friedkin (a basketball movie?), John Landis (a Beverley Hills Cop movie?), Sam Neill, Jodie Foster, and that nice young fellow in Lair of the White Worm is doing well.
And hitting the video scene, we come to probably the biggest event of the quarter. Mick Garris (of Sleepwalkers -- King said he liked the original cut) directs The Stand for American TV, and exactly three weeks after the first episode was screened it was in our shops. Somebody moved fast (you've got to, to watch the six hours on overnight rental). And, we really liked it. On the down side, the shorts for it were a bit sad, it didn't really capture the book's scope or power, and Randall Flagg spent too much time in rather tacky morphing and not enough portraying the shiftless old and evil Walken' Dude (who appears in no less than three of King's realities). On the up side it was great fun to watch, did a remarkable job of capturing the essence of the book's plot and many characters, and contained some nifty little performances, most notably from Rob Lowe. Molly Ringwald was the only disappointment and Jamey Sheridan's Flagg was by no means a bad job (now Jeff Goldblum would have been very interesting). If nothing else, it didn't drag, and for six continuous hours that's not bad.
Most of the video releases we've mentioned in previous issues, and include Hellraiser III and Jason Goes to Hell. We should include Bad Lieutenant, with its combination of Abel Ferrara and Harvey Keitel, and a cover that (only) consisted of 'Confronting Explicit Graphic Obscene'. We wish we'd seen it... we're trying, honest.
However we did see Tobe Hooper's Night Terrors, renamed from the American Nightmare, with Robert Englund as the Marquis de Sade. Basically this movie's main shortcoming was an attempt to portray extreme decadence and perversion whilst retaining an 'MA' rating, coming off showing pretty much nothing at all. The only really interesting shot was the naked guy on a horse. Ouch. And, why was a de Sade plot set mostly in Egypt, and what were the Gnostics doing? At least Mr Englund was enjoying himself.
We were enjoying ourselves during one of the several Tromas to be released, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, written and directed by Dan Hoskins (the others were sequels to Class of Nuke 'Em High). Just think, CCiZt had more people and probably more money that Night of the Living Dead. Romero it wasn't, but it was by no means an insult to the intelligence. Good harmless fun (heh heh).
Once again the airwaves provided the occasional nugget among the dross, rewarding a closer perusal of the guides than we usually give. Non-movies included a series called Growing Rich, about three girls being tempted by the devil in a small English village, a documentary on horror movies hosted by George Hamilton and one of the Lifesense series of nature documentaries -- Human Life. To explain: it was all about little critters that eat humans, or at least bits of them. You just had to see the bed bugs. A documentary on pathology started a nice Friday the 13th's viewing on SBS, continuing with Terror in the Crypt (with Christopher Lee) and Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead.
There were fifteen other movies we noticed as being of interest, including Tourist Trap (Stephen King's favourite low-budget movie, at least in '82, and it was a bit lethargic but had some great imagery), Graveyard Shift, the original Little Shop of Horrors and the claustrophobic masterpiece Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Also shown was Sherlock Holmes and the Last Vampire, a most uneven production, featuring Jeremy Brett (the best ever Holmes) who looked more vampiric than the dead dude. After mentioning Forever Knight last issue, we were somewhat disconcerted to find it only lasted three eps (on our screens at least), replaced by what has been described as a Baywatch-type police show. Channel Nine says it will return, but can't say when. However The X-Files improved steadily to a peak of three superb episodes in a row and then fell back to its normal brilliantly-directed, reasonably-written standard. The three in question were Beyond the Sea, Gender Bender and Lazarus.
Beatrix Christian had both Faust's House and Blue Murder performed recently. The first was staged at the Australian Museum, and seemed to involve Mephostopheles bitching behind Faust's back. The latter was described as A Contemporary Gothic Peepshow, and was actually staged at a theatre. As was One Man (Steven Berkoff in fact), who included an adaption of Poe's The Tell-tale Heart in his three-part show, and also the reappearance of the Sydney Dance Company's Beauty and the Beast, a nice little Gothic.
While we can't comment on the heavier side of music (or the lighter, really, for that matter) we can mention three offerings of interest. Advice for Young People was on an album by Material, narrated by William S. Burroughs (the narration at least was originally on his own album Spare Ass Any). Alice Cooper released his twenty fifth album, The Last Temptation, along with a comic by Neil Gaiman. The album has some good stuff on it (notably Lost in America) but isn't as strong as some earlier material. And, not The Stand's soundtrack, but sounding like it should have been, Nick Cave released his best ever album Let Love In. Every track's a winner and a sinner, check it out.
In the strange, dimly-lit world of collectibles (Kyla gives me a strange look), Topps released a set of Universal Monster Cards, complete with interesting information and somewhat flat art-work. And since we're here we might as well mention that Sandman and The Crow both got their own set as well.
Remember that ad about the shooting of street kids last year? Now see the sequel -- but only on certain channels after 9 pm -- street kids hunted down by (fluffy) wolves. It's a powerful image and the charity was very pleased with it, but complaints were received that it was disturbing. WHICH WAS THE WHOLE FUCKING IDEA!!! Also somebody was advertising men's wear by reproducing the opening credits of Reservoir Dogs. Weird.