Monday, August 28, 2006


This is weird.
Sometimes my Yahoo Briefcase links work, sometimes they don't.
Why is that?

ON EDIT: The only stable urls I'm allowed are from my Yahoo/Geocities webspace. 15 megs is what they're giving me. How generous of them.

When I signed up for Rogers Cable internet, I asked if I could beef up my webspace allotment. They said "No, but you get 100 free megs of storage in your Yahoo Briefcase account! Any files you like!"

How does this help me if they reset my files' destination urls every two days?
All it amounts to is a virtual (and hacker-prone) data storage dump.
Isn't that what backup disks are for?

I even offered Rogers money to boost my limit. They actually said no.
That's some real good business savvy there guys.

So I'm hunting for a cheap web host. Ten bucks a month is about standard, isn't it?
Any suggestions?

Wait... this can't be right...

Equinox has finally made it out on DVD.
I think that's great.
Too bad I rewatched the damned thing.

Have you ever seen a few snippets of something as a kid, and then sorta "filled in the gaps" as the years went by?
That seems to be the regrettable case with Equinox and I.

A little background: the t.v. I originally watched this movie on was a miniscule black and white model with a slowly decaying picture tube that stretched everything at the top of the screen. Newscasters looked like grotesque egg-headed aliens. For years I just assumed David Brinkley was a hydrocephalic.

So basically, my impressions of this film were plenty distorted from the get-go.
Throw in a warehouse full of pharmaceuticals, add about a score of intervening years and you've got a sure-fire recipe for gross misremembrance.

Plot-wise, what I remember happening was this: four young friends are trapped on an island. Their hair and casual hippie-lite attire suggest an era somewhere between '70 and '74. Among them are a scrappy blonde not unlike Marilyn Burns, a fiesty little brunette sexpot, and two affable Hardy Boy-types, capable and courageous, but at this point way out of their depth. This island, it seems, won't let them leave. It constantly messes with their sense of direction, so that they keep ending up at the same cliff outcropping, and ahead lies a dark and foreboding tunnel...

Eventually, as night falls, they bicker, become separated, and finally succumb to the diabolical forces which surround them. As dawn breaks, only the blonde girl is left with her life and sanity still intact.
But she's not safe. Something is hunting her through the trees...

The final scene is an astonishing aerial POV shot, with leathery bat-wings in the foreground flapping almost lazily, as the "thing" knifes through the branches and swoops down towards her. She manages one last desperate sprint for the safety of a sunlit glade, but like a fieldmouse before a falcon, she is caught up in the talons of a far more malign and infinitely superior predator.
The hideous gargoyle-like beast tears into the girl's tender flesh. All she can do is scream.
End of movie.

Now,if someone had come up to me last week and said "So what's this 'Equinox' movie about?"
I would have told them exactly what I have just described to you. With perfect sincerity and just about verbatim.

And I would have been dead fucking wrong.
What's the old saying?

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.

Possibly the case, here.

Anyway, since the actual movie is, in fact, far less scary that your average I Dream of Jeannie episode, I'll get right to the trivia and bonus materials.

Trivia item #1- Frank Bonner plays one of the four teens in this movie.
Yes. That Frank Bonner. Herb Tarlek from WKRP.

Trivia item #2- Fritz Leiber, an extremely talented and influential American fantasy-fiction writer and longtime correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft, played Professor Waterman in this film. And despite having a perfectly good speaking voice, they had all his lines dubbed by someone else.

Trivia item #3- The film started shooting in the mid-sixties, but when it was finally picked up for distribution in 1970, everyone had to come back for re-shoots. You'll notice how the hairstyles and sideburns change drastically in the movie. That's why.

Trivia item #4- This was a student film. The writers, effects guys and director were practically zygotes when this thing began production. (Hell, they were still drinking cherry coke and reading Famous Monsters!) Almost all of them have gone on to do some groundbreaking and award-winning work in Hollywood. Best of all, they're still plenty young enough to enjoy it!

Trivia item #5- This may be something only I find funny, but at one point in the movie Frank Bonner's character turns to his friend and says "Would you just relax? Like, just maintain."

Bonus: Forry Ackerman introduces this film! I was so happy to see him still kicking around, that I actually got a little verklempt...
Man, I used to love Famous Monsters of Filmland, and still have two or three cardboard boxes full of back issues down in storage.

So, that was Equinox.
Maybe you really can't go home again.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Underworld 2 : Stuntman to the Rescue!

So while I quite enjoyed the first Underworld movie, this one felt a little thin.
It wasn't bad, but it could have been so much better.

For one thing, Len Wiseman has colour-timed this sequel to death.
Seriously, enough with the all-cerulean picture palette! They could have called this one "Return to the Blue Lagoon".

Also missing is the whole war-between-the-races angle. Besides a few minutes of Lycan-slaughter at the start of the movie, werewolves and vampires rarely cross paths in this outing. In fact, the only real action not featuring Selene (who spends most of her time batting around human soldiers) involves Speedman's hybrid-beast, a winged super-vamp and a giant white Proto-wolf who only briefly gets his claws dirty at the end.

Sure, tie that in with an all-but immortal Clan patriarch, and it all sounds very epic. But from an adrenal point of view, it doesn't quite deliver.
Not as well as the first one, anyway.

Now for the compensation package...

On the special features/featurettes menu, you can scroll down to "The War Rages On" and get an eyeful of the real star of the movie:
I give you Brad Martin.

This guy has been in everything.
Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Daredevil, Batman...the list is longer than my arm.
And what a smoking hottie.

Plus, there's this:

Okay sure, lots of straight guys stand like that (remember Heath Ledger's SAG awards appearance?), it doesn't necessarily mean anything, but a guy can dream, right?

Brad's witty and laid-back style is evident in the feature commentary too.
He was joined by Wiseman, editor Nicholas De Toth, and designer Patrick Tatopoulos.
Not only did he supervise all the stuntwork for the movie, but he directed a ton of second-unit stuff too.
Including this scene:

He mentions having to digitally remove Scott Speedman's penis here.

I guess so. If you study this picture properly, you'll realize that there's no way a penis can't exist in this composition. Gravity pretty much dictates it. (The audience is led to wonder if the quadrupedal physiology of the lycanthrope has somehow affected masculine genital declension.)
And then Brad discreetly drops the subject, failing to mention how intensive the penis removal process became. (Whether it was an extensive, costly affair, or merely a cheap digital wipe.)
Completists like myself are left dangling...

Later, during his featurette interview, Brad says "werewolves".


But he pronounces it "werewoofs". Werewoofs.
Oh, man, could you just eat this guy up or what?

Anyway, I just heard they have announced Underworld 3. Some sort of prequel not featuring Kate Beckinsale or Scott Speedman. Ordinarily, that would be sad news. The Underworld universe without those two doesn't sound terribly interesting.
But trust me, if I find out Brad Martin is going to be part of this?
I'm so behind it.

Behold the spazmoticon.

While I'm in review mode, I might as well mention some recent (and some slightly older) samplings. Most of these were direct-to-video releases, so don't be alarmed if you've never heard of half of them.

In a heartfelt ripoff homage to Buzz's signature skully icon, I am hereby unveiling the spazmoticon.

Go ahead and pet him, he won't bite.
(Actually, he can sense fear, so Automatonophobics beware!)

Anyway, I shall now present my musings - in no particular order - on some horror-themed DVDs I have rented over the last few months.

Boo- You gotta hand it to a movie that calls itself "Boo". For sheer chutzpah, it ranks right up there with Pffft! and the Liz Taylor bomb Boom!.

But despite some supernaturally awful performances from fully half the cast, this thing actually gets pretty good and stays that way for the last two acts.
Reviewers have suggested that it borrows too heavily from 2001's Session 9, but I thought it played more along the lines of classic eighties fare like Hooper's The Funhouse or even The Changeling.
One fairly inventive device the movie features is the graphic consequences of spiritual possession. Characters who are unlucky enough to get infected by one of the asylum's nastier spectres begin to "fall apart" in some spectacular and surprising ways.
The only cast member with any star wattage is the redoubtable Dee Wallace Stone, in a very effective, Betsy Palmer-like cameo.

Overall, a worthy timewaster.

Creep- A middling Franke Potente vehicle involving a subterranean ghoul in the London Tube system.
Potente doesn't seem know what to do with the material here, and the audience fares little better. The sadistic titular freak could easily be one of the crawlers from "The Descent" with incrementally tidier table manners.
Sadly, in this case, one malajusted mutant does not a movie make.

Shallow Ground- Now this one I sorta liked. It's a small, oddball, woodsy thriller about a serial killer and a naked, blood-covered mystery boy, played by Tobey Maguire's Spiderman stand-in Rocky Marquette. Check him out in the featurette interviews. He's adorable. Even with clothes on.

Continuing in the woody vein we have 2001's Cookers.
Not a badly acted film at all, considering the level of jacked-up paranoia the three central characters have to convincingly dramatize in their roles as strung-out meth addicts.
Brad Hunt is particularly notable here, channeling Johnny Depp and Skeet Ulrich simutaneously. He even throws in some vintage Jack Nicholson as his character really starts to lose his shit.
Unfortunately, the plot is far too threadbare to offer much in the way of a satisfying (or sensible) conclusion.

Our paranoid-in-a-rural-farmhouse theme continues with Dead Birds.
There are some truly chilling moments in this flick, the actors are solid, and many of them you've actually heard of (Jeepers Creepers 2 star Nicki Aycox, Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit and Henry Thomas from E.T.(!)).

As a dedicated Lovecrafter, I admired the way director Alex Turner and writer Simon Barrett evoked some of the more effective entries from the HPL canon, most notably "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward".

From the grim pall of Dead Birds we move straight into the gag-littered foyer of 2004's zombie flick Dead and Breakfast. Played entirely for laughs, this movie's real charm is in the commentary track. Apparently there is a softball team in Hollywood consisting entirely of B and C listed young actors. One day, between brewskies and strikeouts, they decided to finance a little indie horror flick starring every single one of their friends. And frankly, what's wrong with that? Watch for the bar scene with Vince Ventresca "hooking up" with a local hayseed. Priceless.

Undead- "Dead and Breakfast" often gets unfairly compared to the brilliant "Shaun of the Dead", however "Undead" is the real contender here. Whether you consider it cheeky homage or extended Aussie in-joke, don't judge this thing until you get a load of the aliens. (Yes, infectious cannibalistic zombies are merely the appetizers here.)

Watch the scene where one character pilots a cropduster through a sky full of eerily suspended zombie victims. The sequence is not only surprisingly high-concept, it's quite breathtaking in its own daffy way.

More reviews to come...

Darkness Mauls : The Descent

So. The Descent.
I met Damian and his new girlfriend at the theatre.
Damian has been a friend, co-worker and movie-buddy of mine for eight or nine years now, but I had yet to meet his new girlfriend, Jen. I had glimpsed a girl in the mall where she was supposed to work, but I wasn't sure if it was her, so I never ventured to introduce myself.

She turned out to be much cuter and thinner than the girl I had mistaken for her.
(Not that I am a body-fascist or anything, but still.)
She was a nice surprise.

We went in for the Saturday matinee, and the theatre was mostly empty.
Damian sat between us, as is the usual seating alignment for third-wheel social arrangements like this, and we sort of chatted back and forth a little bit.
I think Jen was more nervous meeting me than I was meeting her though, which I found sweet and endearing.

Lately Damian and I have been drifting out of each other's orbit, which is also common for single friends to do when one of them hooks up with a new love interest.

Whether she was conscious of this or not, I don't know, but she was awfully generous, and let Damian and I do some overdue catching-up. (Damian is the laziest emailer in the history of cyberspace. Jen actually had to physically type out his last message to me.)

So, right -- the movie.
This thing has been generating stellar writeups for a while now.
It's actually available on DVD in the U.K.

You can read Buzz's review at Camp Blood here.
And Rich's take on it at fourfour here.

I don't have much to add, as I also enjoyed the movie thoroughly.
Maybe just a couple of points.

Claustrophobia. Now, I've seen all manner of films that take place in cramped settings and it's never bothered me. The set of Das Boot seemed quite cozy to me. Newt's series of rabbit-warrens and hidey-holes in Aliens made me a little jealous.

If anything, I might have considered myself a claustrophile. As a kid, I used to jam my closet full of stuffed animals, shut the door, and then burrow underneath them. (Yeah, a whole separate set of neurosis, there.)

The point is, the spelunking scenes in The Descent singlehandedly spoiled everthing I ever liked about small spaces.
It was that hard to watch.

"Who would ever voluntarily engage in this activity?" I asked myself, squirming frantically in my suddenly cramped-seeming seat.

And this is the genius of the movie. Thematically, it harkens to the genesis of Jaws, which was a true-life account of several shark-attacks in New Jersey during the early part of the twentieth century. Back then, people had just started to swim for recreation, and it's assumed that as a result, sharks were suddenly introduced to a brand new food source.

The theme of adventurous humans wandering blithely into unknown territorial depths and paying the ultimate penalty is the critical leitmotiv in both of these films.

When the characters split up, it's not a lazy plot conceit, it's a necessary act of self-preservation on behalf of the characters. As the group splinters into wandering singles and duos, they are each represented by different light sources.
One group uses a yellow glow-stick, another is illumiated by purple flares, and other characters are bathed in the eerie green glow of a night-vision camera.
It serves as a neat shorthand for their identities, given the cinematographic challenge of differentiating each character in a pitch-black setting.

There is talk that the North American cut is inferior to the original, but don't let that get you worried. As Buzz so aptly puts it: "(the Euro version) ended with a period, while this version ends with a question-mark".
So not a big deal overall.
(And Damian and Jen squirmed rewardingly throughout.)

The Descent truly blew me away. And like most inventive, novel, fright flicks, it seems to be doing poorly at the box office.
Buy the DVD. Pet it, love it, own it.
It's a fun ride in the worst sense.
Or maybe an awful ride in the best sense.
Either way, it was easily the most affecting horror movie Damian and I have seen in ages.

Maybe I should invite his girlfriend along more often...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Final ISP resolution

Well first, some background on my connection history.

1997- Hooked up to the internet! Yay! I bought a 14.4 k modem at FutureShop (sort of a quaint anachronism, right there) and signed up with a small Internet company called Golden Triangle Online.

1999- Friend of mine built me a new tower with a Pentium chip (oooh!) and an internal modem capable of an astonishing 56 bps.

July 2002- Got a brand new Gateway, with all the bells and whistles.

August 2002- Upgraded to a DSL connection.

November 2002 - The fun begins.
And by fun I mean not so much.

What happened that winter would repeat itself from fall to spring every year till this May, when I finally threw in the towel.

As the outside temperatures began to fall, my link light on the modem would start to flicker. I couldn't do anything while the light was flickering. Not connect, not check emails, not surf...nada.
This flickering would last about fifteen seconds every two or three minutes.
All the time. For six months until about April or May. Then I would have a solid connection for the spring and summer until fall rolled around.

The tech-help guys at Golden Triangle (all of whom I would come to know on an intimate basis) went through the usual suggestions: "Check your filters, unhook your modem and let it cycle down, try your modem at someone else's house," etc.
The whole house was the same. Every phone jack that my modem was connected to did the same thing. Intermittent connectivity.

So naturally, I assumed it was a faulty modem.
I traded in my Speedtouch and asked for something better.
The girl at the front desk declined to give me a better/newer model, even though she had proudly bragged that they carry several makes of reliable "market-brand" modems. Well, okay. I'll try this replacement. It came in its own packaging with the shrink-wrap all neatly sealed, so I'm fairly certain she didn't just go into the back room and stuff my old one into a new box.

But the troubles persisted through 2004.
Then '05, and '06. It was getting utterly ridiculous.

The tech guys put me onto Bell. They issued trouble ticket after trouble ticket, and Bell service guys came and went. Nobody would admit to any line trouble.
My theory of line-freezing was repeatedly shot down.

Then something odd happened. My desk-lamp burned out one day, and after I had changed the bulb, the phone rang. I had set the lamp near the modem, and when I returned -- lo and behold -- the link light was solid! I could surf again!
Mind you, I dared not touch my lamp, and I couldn't use it to read in bed anymore, but what did I care? I was connected!

This happy turn of events lasted for a few months until I very stupidly went back to Golden (now called "Execulink") and told them my story.
They said "Oh, those modems were never much good anyway."

Ok, well, can I maybe try a good one this time? I've been a very good boy customer, and wouldn't mind putting my lamp back where it belongs...

After some griping and nonsense about rental fees (I didn't rent mine, I bought it)and warnings about not being eligible for warrantee coverage, I took home a brand new (so they said) G-Net modem.

It got worse. This was March of this year, and it was very mild.
The ambient temperature in my room was a comfortable seventy degrees.
But now, I could only surf for between one and three minutes before the link switch started doing its strobe-light impression. And the worst of it was I had to turn it off and leave it for half an hour before attempting to connect again!

Finally the Execulink people, who were all the while insinuating it was Bell's problem, just advised me to switch to cable.

So in May, totally defeated and dumbfounded, I did just that.
Since hooking up with Rogers Cable I've never had a single interruption.

End of story? Not quite.

Last month Execulink called and told me that if I wanted to keep my old email and webspace (which I was using) to come in and pay them to keep all that going. Fine, I thought. So I paid them thirty bucks to keep my site up for the next six months, and retain my old email.

A week later they sent me a bill for three hundred dollars.

I was fairly convinced that it had to be a mistake, but when I went in there they said that I hadn't gone through the proper cancellation channels, and "just like cable" I was obligated to pay for their service whether I was using it or not.

"Excuse me, dear." Said I, through clenched teeth.
"There's one thing wrong with your analogy: You weren't providing me with a service I could use!

I took this little snot (same one who gave me grief about replacing their malfunctioning modems) to task for a good ten minutes until she scurried into a back office and brought out a manager.

This girl had far less bad attitude, but potentially more business savvy. So I bit back some of my bile, and explained everything patiently, to let her know that I wasn't some deadbeat trying to weasel out of payment.

We stood there looking at my account, and my complaint records, and the dozen or so trouble-tickets that had gone unresolved, and my inability to connect in slightly chilly weather, and finally I think she saw my point of view.

Mind you, she tried every tactic to prove my financial obligation, even throwing that "just like cable" thing out again, but my constant refrain was "How can you charge for a service I wasn't able to receive, and how could I know to cancel said service when I have no way of knowing whether I'm still connected to it?"

I told her that frankly, given that a week before, they had told me to pay if I wanted to keep my webspace and old email active, I found the whole situation suspicious and underhanded.

I also pointed out that if, as she had mentioned, their standard practice is to suspend service after one month of non-payment, why was I being billed for three months of (non)service?

That had her over the proverbial barrel, and she finally agreed to speak to the billing department first thing in the morning.

I walked out of there still fuming, but confident that I had argued my case as well as could be expected.

The next day, she told me that because I was still receiving their email service, I was obligated to pay (as she puts it) "Umm...between forty and fifty dollars?"

"Alright, fine." I said.
"Send me a bill with the exact amount."

I wasn't thrilled, but I was satisfied.
Fair enough, I thought after I hung up.
Take your fifty and fuck off.

That was two weeks ago.
I still haven't gotten that bill...

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I'm finally going to see "The Descent" this afternoon, and I remain
utterly unspoiled!

Thank you artistically vague t.v. spots.
Thank you spoiler-sensitive horror-bloggers.

Review (and shamefully overdue technical update) immediately pending...