Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Every word you may have read about this relatively short, exceedingly funny and astonishingly perfect game is true. I would never have imagined that my favorite game of the year would be a physics based first person puzzle game, but it's so much more and does everything right from the difficulty curve to the character and feel of its environments and its brilliant antagonist.
Also: When was the last time a game rewarded you for winning with cake and a song (that still keeps me grinning and happily giggling when I think about it)?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart

I've never really seen the point of calling a piece of music "timeless". Doesn't this usually stand for some kind of regression into a mythical golden past that never existed? Should artists strive for not talking about the times in which they are living?
But, some albums, like Linda Thompson's brilliant new Versatile Heart, are shooting for another type of timelessness - talking about things that don't change and being sad and angry about the immobility of the world; though also talking about the things that change and shouldn't.
Which of course makes Versatile Heart a very timely record.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hercules at the Center of the Earth aka Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

Well, sometimes it seems to be rather pointless to rave about the beauty of Mario Bava's work, when there are people like Tim Lucas around, who can do that so much better (and much more insightful, I fear).

And the suggestion that, if you only want to watch one peplum in your life, it should be this one.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Surprising as it may seem, the only Friday the 13th movie I've seen before was Freddy vs Jason, not really a way to endear a franchise to me, and the reviews of the series plus my not exactly burning with love for the Slasher sub-genre didn't make the matter of watching more of it pressing.
But sometimes you actually want to see young, stupid people being killed with pointy objects, so it was inevitable that I would some day see another Friday. Luckily, I'm not in a very masochistic mood these days, so I decided to watch what is usually considered the best (sometimes "the only watchable") of the series.
And good Ft13P2 certainly is. The plot is of course more or less non-existent (camp counselors on a camp counseling course in a counseling camp are counseled killed by a wood dwelling psychopath with camp and mother issues), but there is a certain drive and style to the proceedings, even an interest in details. Not only can we actually see the killer transporting one of the corpses, but also some of the hoariest clichés of the genre are actually set up properly. You know that car? We learn early on in the film that it has the tendency to not start even on a normal day, so we're not that annoyed when it doesn't start later on either.
Also, there is the best Final Girl sequence I have ever seen, good enough to recommend the movie even if the rest was as unwatchable as its atrocious last two minutes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Dear Killer (1971)

This fine film strides the line between giallo and more conventional mystery, but in a very entertaining way. Highlights: A mustachioed(!) George Hilton playing a cop(!!), a Morricone soundtrack of his usual quality, some really great photography.
Not a work of genius, but an all-around nice piece of genre film.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ye Gods

(Warning: Not safe for any work that I know of!)

Django (1966)

Poor Sergio Corbucci was always standing in the shadow of that other Sergio, who happened to be at his best when making western too. And I can see why. Corbucci's films always looked a lot cheaper, not necessarily in a bad way, but in the kind of way mainstream critics can't cope with: sound stages that look like sound stages, plots that aren't stolen from Kurosawa, instead from the B-western next door, women that are a little more complex than Leone's rape fodder, actual compassion for human beings. And show me an ending more heartbreaking and heartbroken than that of Il Grande Silencio.
I think in Corbucci's greater compassion with his characters lies their higher emotional resonance for me: Where Leone's (and of course he was a great director who made great movies) characters are more or less part of the scenery, Corbucci's are (slightly cardboardy) people. And I never cry for shrubs.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

EM aka Embalming (1999)

You possibly know Shinji Aoyama as the director of art house films like Eureka, which won't prepare you for EM in the slightest. It's a kind of unholy union of art house/thriller/mystery film, with a plot containing illegal organ trade, stolen heads, embalming, the possibility of eternal existence, multiple personality disorder, conspiracies, father complexes, weird sects, human experiments, and everything else you could possibly think of, written by a Japanese Ross Macdonald on speed, but directed by Shinji Aoyama (with an unexpected sense of humor) on Valium.
If this sounds confusing, you haven't seen the actual film, which throws at least one mad idea per minute at you, all the while trying to stay ponderous, slow and meditative. Aoyama's way of concentrating his shots on weird, seemingly non-intuitive details doesn't make the plot any clearer, instead producing a unique moodiness.

Darlings of the day:
"We'll be disgraced if we display his body without his head."

"Everyone seems to have been totally brain-fucked!"


are these people who are telling me Umberto Lenzi's gialli are as watchable as his cop movies, and not as crappy as anything else he ever directed?
And why are they lying to me?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bay of Blood (1971)

If you are a friend of fully sympathetic, heroic characters in your movies, you have come to the right film. Bay of Blood features a cast of sociopathic killers, who mutilate each other with pointy, sharp and blunt objects as easy and unconcerned as I brew myself another cup of tea.
Director Mario Bava never even makes one of the characters the protagonist, instead opting to leave the viewer more than a little disoriented by the tempo in which potential protagonists die or turn out to be amoral murderers (mostly both). This tactic, along with the grotesquely beautiful visuals and the goriest violence of 1971, give the proceedings a strange feeling of abstraction and an nearly overwhelming off-ness.
All this might sound a little off-putting, but I sat in front of the monitor transfixed and a little uncomfortable by the cynicism of the whole thing, not wanting the movie to end as fast as it does.

(And by the way: Bay of Blood looks in part like the most stylish slasher movie ever made, just nearly ten years too early and graced with some of the genre conventions of the giallo.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Your Inner European is Dutch!

Open minded and tolerant.
You're up for just about anything.

Why is it that the first really enlightening review of this game can be found on a RPG "fan" site

instead of one of the professional game review sites?

The Witcher

This really makes me want to play this for the narrative.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sometimes it's hard to lose your money

or The Mis-Adventures of someone who stupidly tried to buy a fucking comic book.

As everybody knows Scott Pilgrim is one of the best comics being produced right now. Sadly, it's being published by Oni Press, from now on known as Do-not-want-your-stinkin'-money Press. Seemingly, there are supply problems with the book, but, thought I, stupidly, Amazon Germany sells every comic TPB imaginable. Oops, but not this one.
But there are quite a few Amazon shops that do. Oops again, only theoretically, in practice, the thing is sold out everywhere. I mean hey, it came out last week, what did I expect?
Hm, what about (second only to Amazon in quantity of import books in Germany)? Nope, sold out, not known when a new edition will appear. Swell.
But hey, most small book publishers, like Subterranean Press or Small Beer Press are more than happy to sell their books directly. A Small comic publisher surely won't be any different. So I look for the Oni Press site. Which actually has a web shop. Which only ships to the US and Canada, because international shipping is "not viable". Obviously.

And thus (what a surprise) my wish to buy Scott Pilgrim or actually anything published by Oni Press evaporated.

A one free word of advice to everyone who publishes anything: If someone wants to pay money for the things you produce, make it as easy as possible to buy them. Oh, my economics teacher would be so proud!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Drifting Classroom Vol. 8

Alright, I think it's best to cite the calm and sane words of Kazuo Umezu's manga itself: "I'm your God now!" "And the explosion made an earthquake and that's why we traveled in time!" "Mother...!" "I can't bear the thought of finding my mom's body!" "He must have died of shock from seeing us!" "It's a volcano!...It's going to erupt!" "There may be a way to stop this volcano! I'll call on my mother!"

So, business as mad and exclamation-heavy as usual for our survivors, just a little bit more so. If Umezu keeps this up for the rest of the series, it can only end in the Earth exploding as a giant exclamation mark, only to be eaten by hero kid Sho's mum.

I said it once and I'll say it again

Happy Birthday !

*hugs* *cuddles* *loves*

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Signalman (1976)

Another of the great ghost story shorts of the BBC. Everybody should know the story, so I won't recap it. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, look here)
It has the same virtues as A Warning to the Curious: A tight script, a sense for the creepiness of landscapes, very good acting (especially by Denholm Elliott) and the always lovable tendency of not pulling its punches.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Santo vs the Martian Invasion (1967)

To keep my theme of watching only the most high brow of movies intact, I watched a Mexican wrestler movie, starring El Santo, idol of the masses, himself.
The Martians are finally fed up with us - war, the atomic bomb, bad music and whatnot. The only solution: to pacify our planet and unite mankind under a peaceful world government. The obvious way to do this: attack Mexico with a mighty army of eight. And if one is already here, one could do worse than collect a few especially high evolved specimens for ones intergalactic zoo the betterment of the human race.
There is only one (okay, personally, I can see probably one or ten more) problem with this plan: Mexican national hero El Santo is the most perfect specimen of them all, and knows how to use an auto-destruct-lever.

This is both one of the silliest and most entertaining adventures of everyone's favorite wrestler, charmingly naive and just very, very entertaining.

Darlings of the Day:
"We now return control of your television set to you."

"Why do we frighten them, when our bodies are more perfectly evolved than their own?"
"It is all in the mind..."

"Because of their extraordinary intelligence, they emit ultra high frequency vibrations in moments of great emotion or tension."

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Giant Claw (1957)

This ranks among the funniest comedies I have ever seen. What do you mean, it's not a comedy?
The Giant Claw actually is meant to be very, very serious, but the story about a flying chicken from an anti-matter universe attacking the world aka the USA is just gloriously silly and graced with the most exquisite ineptly written dialogue one could possibly wish for. To make it even more beautiful the acting is even more wooden and unnatural than is to be expected in this kind of movie.
And then there's the monster:

Giant Chickens All-Out Attack

Ah, it is a thing of beauty.

Darlings of the Day:
"An electronics engineer. A radar officer. A mathematician and systems analyst. A radar operator. A couple of plotters. People doing a job. Well. Efficiently. Serious. Having fun. Doing a job. Situation: normal. For the moment."

"That bird is extra-terrestrial. It comes from outer space, from some God-forsaken anti-matter galaxy millions and millions of light years from the Earth. No other explanation is possible."

"Panic, terror and horror! No corner of the Earth was spared the terror of looking up into god’s blue sky and seeing: not peace and security, but the feathered nightmare on wings!"

"Will it work, Mitch?"
"I don’t know. I honestly haven’t the faintest, foggiest idea. It’s one of those cockeyed concepts that you pull down out of Cloud Eight somewhere in sheer desperation!"

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lake of Dracula aka The Bloodthirsty Eyes (1971)

By the same director and very much in the same style as The Bloodthirsty Roses, but a lot more plodding and a little less moody. Still, it's interesting and at times very beautifully composed.
And I may have said it before, but I really love when something familiar (in this case the European, especially Italian gothic, horror movie style) is both reflected and defamiliarized by a different perspective.
(See also the take on Christian mythology in something like Angel Sanctuary),

Well, well, well

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Demons (1985)

Gloriously stupid Eighties gore orgy produced by Dario Argento, directed by Lamberto Bava and scripted by Argento, Bava and Dardano Sacchetti, triplicating the nonsensicality.
People in West Berlin are invited to the sneak preview of a horror movie. Soon the events in the movie are mirrored in the cinema and people start to turn into demons. Green, yellow and red fluids gush, squirt and drip in a very Italian style. After much screaming, running around and dying follows one of the absolute high points of my movie watching career/one of the silliest things you'll ever see:

This late in the movie most of the cast has been ripped to pieces or demonized, but Hero Guy and Hero Gal prevail. To be more exact, they jump on a motorcycle (as found in most cinema foyers) and kill demons left and right with a samurai sword (guess where they found it?), defying gravity and common sense by riding over the cinema's seats while the soundtrack lets the appropriate Bad Heavy Metal blare. It's really glorious in its own brain-damaged way.
Obviously the only way to top this would be a helicopter crashing right through the ceiling. Guess what happens?
And the movie still isn't over...But I won't spoil the precious moments that made me cry with laughter.

A masterpiece of idiotic fun. Plus: Putrescence.

Darling of the Day:
"Welcome aboard! There are more weapons on the floor."

The Hazing (2004)

So, what's worse than a Direct to DVD horror movie? A Direct to DVD horror "comedy". Especially this one.
Stupid sorority pledges have to go into spoooooky house, get killed, film over, viewer bored out of his mind. Bad jokes killed too many brain cells. Own jokes not better anymore. Grammar damaged even more than usual. Gah.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why I love Okkervil River

The President's Dead

The president's dead, the radio said,
Dear friends, is it not so horrible?
A shot through my heart, like a knife right through bread,
The newspaper said the president's dead.

The sea doesn't dry and the sky doesn't split,
But friends it just seems so wrong, don't it?
A shot from the crowd, and a shot in the head,
The president's lying on the tarmac dead.

He's lying face down with his black-dressed agents
Guns drawn running around and the early Obit's
Say he was a good man, you can't argue with that
Not today you can't, not now you can't.

In the media tent where they spin and they slant,
They just foam the mouth and they chant at the bit,
Those bloodsuckers can wait until those vulture's cool in,
The newscaster said, "The President's dead."

Let's imagine the way, let's say 30 years in,
How somebody will say, "What you were doing when...?"
On a beautiful day, I was waking up and
I was lying in bed with my girlfriend
And the eggs on the plate, and the bacon hissin'
And the coffee was great, there was spring on the wind.

If you don't live through a day for the littlest things,
And the littlest ways made you feel you were blessed
If you died right then, well you know you'd be missed,
But there's no better state to cease to exist
And you wouldn't feel sad, and you wouldn't resist
Cause you knew what you had, and were thankful for it

In your own little way, I'm a small quiet man
I've got no wars to win, I don't have a big plan
But I love my new place, and I love my old friends
And I scrimp and save, and one day I'll have kids.

I can truthfully say that my day was like that,
'Til the radio playing on the stand by the bed
Fired out this report and in 3 words they said,
Like 3 shots to my head,
The President's Dead.

Monday, November 12, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Ferrous Ring

Well implemented, original, some nice interface experiments, but I didn't care for it at all. I'm always ranting about things not being ambiguous enough - it seems sometimes a game can be too ambiguous for me to enjoy it.
The longer I played the game, the more obscure puzzles and worldbuilding got, until it reached a point where I had a hard time imagining how someone could play through it without the walkthrough mode.

Zodiac (2007)

How exactly did David Fincher get a major studio to produce this film?
It has no action, no dramatic arc in the usual sense, no oscar-baiting melodrama, but oozes a completely unusual dry weirdness. The whole movie stays absolutely clear, open, matter-of-fact, but feels cryptic, puzzling and slightly disorienting and, at the moment, I haven't got a clue why this is so.
So, for the time being, I'll have to call it an unexplainably great film and shut up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

La Noche De Los Mil Gatos (1972)

Mexican pseudo-giallo schlock that has to be seen to be believed. It absolutely defies human powers of description.
But at least, I will spoil the moral of the story: If you are a serial killer/mad scientist, do not feed your victims to a cage full of sweet purring kittens, lest they one day will eat you.

A Warning to the Curious (1972)

After reading Sarah Monette's wonderful collection The Bone Key (about which I will hopefully write something more or less coherent in the future), that does some great things to/with the M.R. James model of ghost story, I had to find an adequate follow-up. Should I read James' stories again? Already did it this year. So I settled on a BBC "Ghost Story for Christmas" adaptation of one of his stories.
I'm always surprised and delighted how minimalist and concentrated these (short) TV dramas look to the modern eye: There's no slack, no useless secondary plots, no shocks just to keep the story interesting. Instead, one finds a knowledge of the usage of landscape, of short, but sharp moments of characterization, of horror that increases from feelings of uneasiness to dread. Of course some of these virtues can be explained by the low budget of TV movies - there just wasn't enough money for effects or action, but they are virtues all the same.

An e-text of the story can be found here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Frailty (2001)

Yes, I know, many genre-savvy people love this film, and if the final act would be as atmospheric and clever as those that come before, I would most certainly be one of them. But, this being an American movie of the early 21st century, we obviously need a plot twist, or even better, two, never mind that the first ruins the film and the second is just taking the piss.
And if  this wasn't enough Frailty is another victim of the terrible compulsion of too many western movies of the last fifteen years to overexplain everything, to treat the viewer as too moronic to interpret what's happening for herself, the absolute refusal to leave anything ambiguous.
But I'm ranting.

I can haz LOLcatz

Try this It's idiotic, but fun.
You could do worse than trying it with your own site.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Theatre of Blood (1973)

I think I have already mentioned my love for Vincent Price? In this violently entertaining film by Douglas Hickox Price plays the improbable named Shakespearean over-actor Edward Lionheart, performing a murder spree among the London theater critics community. And he has perfectly sound reasons for doing so, as he had been denied the previous year's Critics' award. Things like this can not be tolerated, so one after the other the critics are killed off in ways inspired by old Will, "protected" by the most inefficient police force in the world of film, Scotland Yard.
All this is as silly as it sounds, until you are starting to understand that Price uses a highly unlikely kind of theatrical subtlety by hamming it up, while playing someone who can't understand that he actually is hamming it up, this way creating something I like to call "method hamming".

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


the Bats were/are pretty great.

Shallow Ground (2004)

Another positive surprise. This time around my aversion to plot synopses is fully justified by a nearly nonsensical, but surprising and sometimes even original plot.
The direction is a little schizophrenic. On one hand director Sheldon Wilson seems to know all tricks of the horror and suspense trade, on the other he doesn't always know how to use them subtly. Still there are enough memorable moments to satisfy and as for the plot not making any fucking sense: My watching of bad movies for nearly two decades now has made me impervious to silly little things like logic. (Thanks a bunch, Lucio!)
I could have done without the last fifteen seconds, though.

Darling of the Day:
"This doesn't make sense."
"These are not sensible times, Jack."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Uninvited (2003)

This South Korean film has some of the trappings of my beloved Asian ghost stories, but uses the supernatural mainly as metaphor and amplifier of its themes.Something I normally abhor, mostly because only very few directors are able to do this without losing all emotional effect. In The Uninvited it works perfectly. To heartbreaking effect.
So if you are in the mood to be depressed by a film about loneliness and the boundless ability of us humans to lie to ourselves, as well as our equally boundless inability to face the truth without breaking, I can highly recommend it.
And yes, it is a recommendation. 

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Woman in Black (1989)

A very traditional, very effective, very British ghost story. If you are inclined to like things like that, this could become one of your favorite films.
I was pleasantly surprised how creepy a film can be even when it is filmed in a conservative made for UK TV style, if the script is good enough. And the script is by Nigel Kneale.

IF Comp 2007: Varkana

An interesting effort in mood and worldbuilding heavy IF, only marred by small bugs and a very weak end game: The info dump finale that explains the story seems to belong to a different game and only works by throwing the worst concepts of the whole game (oh, sure, the book of poetry is the cure for an astral traveler...) at the player. It seems rushed.
The slow, exploration heavy earlier parts of the game make it very much worth your time though.

Mulberry Street (2006)

After wading through tripe like Hatchet and Frostbiten this ultra low budget apocalyptic horror film nearly restores my faith in American horror.
This time the end of the world is caused by a zombierattifying/wererattifying (yes, I know these words don't exist. So what?) plague.
We are watching the struggle of the tenants of a run down apartment building to survive the apocalypse. The film is surprisingly effective and every horror movie that does not feature white middle class teenage protagonists is very much appreciated in the House in R'lyeh.
Of course there are problems: Director Jim Mickle's efforts to hide his small budget behind color filters and a non-stop moving camera are not always successful; the monster make up looks not like much etc, but the film has an old fashioned b-movie sort of drive and grit where too many of its contemporaries only have a misguided sense of humor and gore.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

This is so unfair

free dating sites

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

    * dead (3x)
    * sex (2x)
    * kill (1x)

Shit, I really have to try harder.

IF Comp 2007: Orevore Courier

You are playing as the security officer of a special cargo transport having a very bad day with the arrival of zombies and pirates on his ship. The nature of your cargo and your inability to leave your security console don't make your work any easier, either.
Usually I dislike the kind of game that only consists of a handful of interconnected puzzles, but Orevore Courier is much too tightly designed and much too charming to dislike any part of it - except for the difficulty of the puzzle(s) perhaps. In this case though less difficult would also mean less fun.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Black Candles (1980)

How it was possible for someone just seven years after making Vampyres - one of the most interesting European horror movies of the Seventies - to already have sunk as low as this satanists softcore epic is nearly inexplicable.
Of course, there were rapidly shrinking possibilities for the films of people like director Jose Ramon Larraz to actually find an audience, but this neither explains the absence of visual inventiveness nor the presence of goat sex.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

Is there a better way to spend your Halloween evening than watching this gloriously bizarre horror comedy with beloved nuanced over-actor Vincent Price in one of his finest roles as an organist and doctor of theology taking biblical vengeance on the doctors of medicine he makes responsible for his wife's death?

IF Comp 2007: Act of Murder

Very neat randomized murder mystery. Of course a less randomized game could have a much deeper story, but most of the time, the game feels well constructed instead of random.
The stories themselves are quite fun, even if you are not the greatest admirer of the British land house style of crime writing. Me, I'm normally more of a noir/hardboiled kind of guy, and was very pleased with the game anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2007

IF Comp: Wish

Ah, one of the time honored "slightly surrealist fantasy and real world life running parallel to each other" games. Sadly, the fantasy part isn't original (or all that surreal) at all and the real world part tries awfully hard to be a sappy story with an uplifting moral, but only succeeds in irritating me. As Emily Short already asked in her review: What kind of moral is this supposed to be - if you wish really hard, your grandfather won't die? And it isn't exactly a good idea to have protagonist Sarah's grandfather have his breakdown because she is riding on his shoulders.
Do I really need to say that the fantasy and real world part only have a very tenuous relation to each other?
Implementation and language are quite bare, although far from bad.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


So, what do you get when you mix polar night, teenie horror, a mad geneticist and a pretty darn unfunny vampire comedy? This Swedish mess that repeats every cliché and everything else that is and was stupid about horror movies.
As a bonus we are also served with the kind of laziness most horror comedies since Scream seem to be proud of.
"The way our characters act doesn't need to make sense. It's ironic, you see?" "There's no need to do something interesting, because we are using the clichés ironically."
The plot doesn't need description. If I use the words "cliché", "vampire pills" and "party" the genre-o-matic-screenwriting machine will come up with exactly what is going to happen here.
The only good thing that comes to mind about Frostbiten is that it really hasn't got anything to do with 30 Days of Night (the comic). The bad thing about that? I wouldn't be ranting if it did.
The less said about it the better.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Invisible Invaders (1959)

Unfairly overlooked gem of the American alien invasion cycle of the Fifties.
Not only are the aliens (budget-sensibly) invisible, but also able to possess the corpses of the recently deceased, using them as their army. And do these walking dead look and move like George Romero zombies in Night of the Living Dead! It's a thing of beauty.
The film is surprisingly tight, with the usual gigantic plot holes, but more believable (I nearly said mature) character arcs and subliminal leftist tendencies.

Darling of the Day:
"The dead will kill the living! And the people of earth will cease to exist."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

IF Comp 2007: My Name is Jack Mills

Again a perfectly solid, but not very interesting entry.
This time you play a hardboiled detective trying to get a stolen coin back. There's really nothing fundamentally wrong with the game or the implementation of what there is. The problem is that there is not that much to see or do. The game is just too short, the puzzles too obvious and the plot too straightforward to really make an impression.


And it's all 's fault!

Write down six things that make me happy, then tag six other people to do the same.

1.) Spending time with one of the few people I actually like spending time with.

2.) The moment when the weather starts to change from oppressive heat to oh-so-beautiful cold. Also: Fog! Snow!

3.) Making someone smile.

4.) The moment in every form of art/media/trash when the author just stops doing what is expected of her and enters a zone of chance and strangeness and/or weirdness. For example in most books of Thomas Pynchon, when Pynchon has told so many versions of the same story that you as reader only have the choice to believe all or none of them; the way Dario Argento in Inferno/Horror Infernal again and again decides against "telling a story" and for just showing us things; the moment music leaves its obvious structure and becomes more physical by it.

5.) Willful absurdity. Sometimes unwilling absurdity.

6.) Spending time in the mind space of another person, be it by book, film, music, video game, blog entry. Or actual human contact. *gasps*

Some people

moan about the length of two of the songs on the (lovely) new Neil Young album. These are the kind of people who would bemoan the extent of the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Lord Bellwater's Secret

Competent one room game in which you play a Victorian era groom who unravels a (not very surprising) mystery. Nothing earth-shattering, but an all around solid entry.
More innovative puzzles and a little more originality storywise would have made this good instead of solid. 

Monday, October 22, 2007

IF Comp: Fox, Fowl and Feed

So this is a inoffensively written, decently implemented variation of an old, old puzzle. Yes, that puzzle. As such it really isn't bad and much more polished than many other entries of the Comp.
But there is nothing here that shows any ambition and nothing that makes me care about it in the least.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vampire Circus

Late period Hammer films (like late period Shaw Brothers films) were in a strange state: Sometimes desperately trying to get away from their old gothic style, but seemingly unable to make completely contemporary looking or feeling movies. Most of them ramped up the sex, gore and weirdness, some, like Vampire Circus reached the much coveted (by me) unreality of a dream. Very much like continental European movies had done for years.
Some of the most competent villagers I have seen in this kind of film destroy the local child-killing, wife-seducing vampire count (every village and small town had one once, if gothic horror is to be believed) and his castle, the latter surprisingly not by throwing their torches at stone walls, but with gunpowder. Of course the count curses the villagers.
Fifteen years later the town/village/who knows is stricken by a mysterious disease and quarantined by their charming neighbors. The blockade notwithstanding "The Circus of Night" arrives in town, and even more people begin to die.

This is probably the most surreal Hammer film. It plays fast and loose with concepts like logic and plot, replacing them with strangeness and pretty colors, which almost always is the way to go in horror movies.
Only the finale is a letdown. It hinges too much on non-stupid people acting like complete idiots - even for my tastes. Still very much recommended.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

IF Comp: In The Mind Of The Master

Your enjoyment of In the Mind of the Master will depend on two things: Do you like pieces that are more (slightly branching) interactive short stories? Do you enjoy games with a kind of pulp sensibility?
If you, like me, do, you will probably enjoy this quite a bit.
You are playing a master of disguise going by the (humble) moniker of The Master (not to be confused with the Dr.Who villain) and...have to find the rest out for yourself.
The implementation is solid, if not terribly polished; the writing is solid to good. I found most of the triggers in the game to be more or less self-evident, and if one situation should prove to seem unsolvable, there is always the possibility to restart and choose another branch, short as the game is.

Oh, and one thing I found in more than one reaction to the piece I really don't get at all: Why was the typo (or is it?) in a central scene, where the word "me" is used instead of "you" sooo terribly confusing? Only one version does actually make sense, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

IF Comp 2007: A Matter of Importance

Damn, there are still entries I do like. I nearly started to think I was turning into a cranky old curmudgeon.
The story in short: You are a member of a (non-medieval) Thieves' Guild somewhat fallen out of favor. Your last chance to rehabilitate yourself is to pull something great. Or so the game tells us.
This piece is the final proof that you can have some totally unclued and unfair puzzles in your game and still make it fun to play, if your writing has character, charm and actually funny humor, sometimes of a gleefully absurd sort.
And not all of the puzzles are unclued, I found the second half of the game quite doable without looking at the (thankfully built-in) hints.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Deadline Enchanter

I didn't expect to stop playing a competition entry just after reading the instructions, but:

You really expect me to play something with ABOUT texts written as pseudo-intellectual metaphorical drivel like this!?
Sorry, no. (Plus: the truth as ribcage metaphor is terrible).

"To skeptics that require justification of this tale, on account that it might be deemed a "fantasy," let they be reminded that although this might at its heart be a fiction (in that it is not really happening to you), the truth, like a ribcage, encases and armors that heart. The story's marrow is as real as the streets of The City.

I have been forced to knit my quilt of paths illicitly, without the true blessing of the families. I have, as the Mundanes say, taken liberties. The cypher engines herein are kitbashed, not part of the official retinue of the gnomic machine-parse. Therefore, I have been forced to cloak this implementation--and its distribution--through unlicensed abaci, portable units not at all connected with the giant coeur-augmenters of my kin, and optimized for use with Mundane interpreters.

For this I would like to thank many people who, for obvious reasons, I cannot name. Those people are not figments, either.

Consequences of this brazen lack of licensure will have to be sorted by historians, if they choose to care."

Monday, October 15, 2007

IF Comp 2007: The Chinese Room

A totally unashamed puzzle fest that teaches a bit of philosophy. Sounds good, doesn't it. And it is really good: well written, more interesting, whimsical puzzles than you could ask for.
But even a good game is not necessarily a game I like to play. My problem is that I find the narrative tone of the game incredibly smug and patronizing, as if the authors think I'm their twelve year old son, who has to be lectured incessantly.
So the game is very much not for me.
I would recommend to everyone to give it a try anyway. It is quite possible that the tone of the game won't bother you at all. 

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I usually don't post (or read much) poetry,

but this one I found by accident and have to share:

'Dirge Without Music'

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,--but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, --
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave,
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

IF Comp 2007: Adventure XT

-Don't you a color scheme that hurts my eyes (green on green!?)
-Don't use the most clichéd of cliché plots
-Don't describe a million things no one can interact with
-Don't use a terrible homebrew parser
-Especially don't use error messages containing the words "Huh?" and "What?"
-Don't use senseless restrictions. (I need a glass bottle to drink water from a fountain!?)
-Implement a "talk" verb if there are people in your game
-Don't use the word "stand" for everything. "To the east stands a small shop." sounds silly.
-If you let us enter a church, why don't you let us pray or loot the altar (preferably both)
-Don't torture me with pseudo-RPG auto-fights

If you don't take into account any of the above, don't be surprised if I quit your game very early.


is pretty much what I believe about culture, but better written:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Packrat

Oh great, another "parodic" game. You are playing the usual kleptomaniac adventurer, trying to save a sleeping princess etc.
It seems no one ever taught the game the difference between a joke and an annoyance. How else to explain how your interaction with the game plays out after you triggered the protagonists kleptomania:

Great Hall: north end
Here the table ends humbly at the High Throne, on which are seated the unconscious monarchs.

You can see a western window, an eastern window and a kitchen boy here.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>x boy
The poor lad must have just opened the great window when he pitched forward onto the stone sill in this cursed slumber. Twenty years of snow and rain have fallen on his shivering body.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>eat boy
(first taking the kitchen boy)
I don't suppose the kitchen boy would care for that.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

>x throne
High. Gold. Very. The High Throne backs against the northern wall.

You vainly attempt to purloin the high throne.
You vainly attempt to purloin the western window.
You vainly attempt to purloin the eastern window.

Doing this after every turn stops being funny very, very soon. And, not to put too fine a point on it, does not entice me to play for more than fifteen minutes.
And the writing is not as funny as it thinks it is.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Ghost of the Fireflies

This is the first thing you read after the instructions:

In the ancient forest, Atsuta Jingu
The bloodied, mangled body of Jesus of Nazareth sits by the road here, stabbing
himself with thorns from his blood-soaked crown. 'Why? Yeshua! WHHHYYYYY??!!'
he moans bitterly. You pay him no mind, for he is a fool, lost in the shadows
of a forlorn world. The forest stretches for miles to the east, shimmering in
the hallowed darkness with a kind of perverted, magical ecstacy.
Obvious Exits: < north east >
An ancient hellhound named Raiythius is here. He has yellow eyes and an
uncertain past.
You halt your walk and stop abruptly. 'Hello, dog...what are you doing in
this forest? It is I, Camphora.'
Raiythius gazes at you intently before bowing.
'My name is Raiythius,' he says to you. You are surprised that he can even
'I am not a dog. I am a hellhound from Aichi Prefecture. This is the land of
the magical, the mystical...and the forlorn. I will be your spiritual guide
in this adventure.'

Well, this is by far the best thing by Paul Panks I have tried to play, which doesn't mean it's good of course, but bad in a very interesting way. By playing you enter an utterly incoherent and incongruent world of not very deeply understood Japanese myth and whacked on the head American Christianity mixed with a friendly portion of D&D, which never ceases to amaze and delight in its total ridiculousness, while always keeping to an Ed Woodian sense of total honesty and earnestness of the author. 
That's the good part.
The bad part is the terrible RPG and fight system, the idiotic parser (and no, that I am able to define my own synonyms does not make the parser any better), and the atrocious puzzles.
The writing is obviously not very good at all, but quite interesting in its strangeness and actually a few levels above some other games that have been inflicted on me by the comp.
Much more entertaining than expected.

IF Comp 2007: Press [Escape] To Save

Hello sloppiness, long time no see.



In a dark room.
If only you found the light switch.  It must be on the wall somewhere.  You feel weak.

>x wall
You can't see any such thing.

>x man
Just a hardcore jailrat.  A burly muscular man with tattoos all over his arm, he's a man in his middle forties you're guessing.  He seems like the easily offended type.

>talk to man

The creature is asleep.

You grab your head in anguish.  "NO NO NO!" you scream.  "I'm going to be hanged tomorrow!"

"Man, you're annoying, kid.  You said hanged tomorrow?  I'm glad its not going to me until these three weeks are over.  I bet somebody will bail me out by then." He smiles fiendishly. "Now, tell me who you are kid."

Select an Option below:

1: "Why do you want to know?"
2: "My name is inferior to yours mister."
3: "My name is Danny."
4: "My name is Jimmy."

Type in number:   1

"Why do you want to know?"you ask.

"So I may call you easily.  You know a servant can't be called slave . . . Oh yah, I'll call you slave from now on.  With me, Jimmy, being the master."

"What do you mean?" you question confusingly.

"Well, you know, any person that enters my rest has to play by my rules."  He chuckles sarcastically. "I mean obey my rules."  His smile disappears.

"So, I have to obey you?"


"And what happens if I don't?" you challenge.

"Bad things, my boy.  Bad things...".  He squints his eyes.  You wince back in fear.

Well, at least the author is trying.

Monday, October 8, 2007

IF Comp 2007: A Fine Day For Reaping

A pretty good, silly (in a good way) puzzle game. You're playing the Grim Reaper, trying to reap five problematic souls in a (generous) time limit.
The reaper's trials and tribulations are quite funny, if not very original. The same can be said of the puzzles. The puzzle solutions on the other hand reach from the (relatively) obvious to the grotesquely convoluted, but are never too troubling, given that most problems can be solved in more than one way.
What makes the game "pretty good" instead of "good" are some of the usual implementation problems: Mostly underdeveloped NPCs and (quite grating in the Kenya section) room descriptions that contain actions. This is especially annoying when the acting character is already dead...
And of course we have some of the more unhelpful error messages in the competition: "read notes" - "You can't read the notices!" - well, I actually can, but only by examining them; "wear uniform" - "You can't wear the military uniform!" - well, I actually can, just not here and now, and so on
So, as I said, pretty good, but more polish would have been nice. 

Sunday, October 7, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Eduard the Seminarist

I don't want to sound cranky, but why bother writing a text based game if you don't want to write descriptions or implement anything? Why write a text based game without telling the player at least a little about what the game is supposed to be about or what the protagonist plans to do?
This way, I awake in my (very empty) dormitory room in the middle of the night (of course without being told who I am or what I want or where I am or, you know, anything), get up, enter the next room, open a cupboard with a book I can't read (because it would tell me too much about the game *groans*) and clothes I can't take or wear, am not allowed to go upstairs, go outside, meet a guard I can't talk to, who confiscates the unreadable  book while losing an old newspaper (which I take and can actually read -it contains about one sentence), go back inside, go downstairs, find a gym with a climbable rope (and of course nothing else of interest) go west into a shed, which is of course pitch black, and, asking myself why I should bother, quit.

IF Comp 2007: The Lost Dimension & Vampyre Cross

The Lost Dimension

One of these unholy crosses between IF and RPG that never seem to work, especially in a case like this, with no story, barely understandable writing, a cluttered GUI and a pseudo-RPG combat system that consists of incredibly deep tactical decisions like "Do I attack or don't I attack".
Surprisingly, crossing a bad RPG with a bad adventure game still leaves a bad game.

Vampyre Cross

Not having a C64 emulator installed and not wanting to install one, I have to pass here. Which would be terribly unfair, if there weren't two other games by Mr. Panks in the competition.

IF Comp 2007: Lost Pig

This is a classical dungeon romp in a small, but interesting environment with some very satisfying puzzles. Also, it is the very funny adventure of a not very bright orc named Grunk and his search for a lost pig.
The game graces us with room descriptions like this:

Gnome Room
This look like room for little person. It have bed that too little for Grunk. It have trunk that too little for Grunk. It have desk that too little for Grunk. Desk have stool that too little for Grunk. Room have doorway to east and west too, but them not so little. That good, because if doorway too little for Grunk, not know how Grunk get back out of room.

Gnome sit at desk with tool and strange helmet thing.

On top of shelf there ball (that make light).

On top of desk there little box (full of tool) and strange helmet.

Gnome scrape tool against side of helmet.

and never breaks character.
The score system seems to be broken, as I never got any points for catching the pig or finding the exit of the shrine, and the full score list in the end only gave me my score total of 3, but didn't list what I got the points for. Speaking to other characters sometimes gives half a dozen "Programming Errors". They don't seem to break anything  else, though.
Highly amusing and recommended.

IF Comp 2007: Beneath: a Transformation

This seems to be the comp of games inspired by my favorite pulp writers. Now playing: Robert E. Howard.
It being inspired by the Bran Mak Morn stories is the best thing I can say about this game, though. The writing is alright, if missing mood, but the design is puzzling, to say the least: There is no direction whatsoever on what I am supposed to achieve and the ways to achieve it (which I learned from the integrated walkthrough) don't make any sense at all. Why exactly am I buying this dog? Oh, of course, so that he can dig a hole in another room to give me a hook I don't know I need. Why am I buying this owl? Oh, of course, so that it can fly away and...Well, as I said, the only way to make sense of this is by reading the author's mind (or his walkthrough).
The rest of my patience got tested by a very spotty implementation: You can't pet your dog, you can't buy something with "buy xxx", but have to give each coin to the seller separately, you get a meaningful description of something by trying to take it, but no by examining it, you have to play the old inventory juggling game between your inventory and a paper bag and so on.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

IF Comp 2007: My Mind's Mishmash

Apart from the title, which seems to threaten a highly "ironic" and "artful" kind of game, this is just great.
Obviously partially inspired by Japanese Mecha Anime, but with some twists very much of its own, it contains interesting puzzles and is written in a dense style that uses just as many words as necessary, but shows enough detail to keep the player interested.
I'm especially impressed by the clever use of technical gadgets and the great sense of pacing.
And I can't find many faults, except for some misleading error messages that make some puzzles slightly more difficult than they need to be. One or two synonymous verbs would do the trick.
Still, there is so much else to like about the game. The way the player gets glimpses of the history of the world by watching...the way so much back story is hinted at, instead of blared out in expository dialogue. And so on.

IF Comp 2007: Gathered in Darkness

What starts out a little clunky turns out to be a nice, if not spectacular pulpy semi-Lovecraftian text adventure. The prose is serviceable, with some typos and a little grammar trouble, but nothing too distracting. Plot and structure make it seem like a modest Call of Cthulhu scenario made interactive. The puzzles are sensible too (again), but a little on the conservative side.
Flaws are sometimes (and only sometimes) spotty implementation (why can I open a desk drawer not with "open drawer", but only with "open desk"? -could actually be a problem of the QUEST interpreter for all I know), and the "gameyness" of the thing, leading to moments of clunky exposition and reducing any feelings of creepiness.
And the writing sometimes falls into moments like this:

The beam of your flashlight catches the bag just in time for you to see his eyes, like boiled eggs, droop casually from their sockets and begin to float like little clipper ships in the pool of blood that has been steadily collecting in the bottom of the sack.

Seeing that it is the author's first piece of IF, I still expect good things of future projects. I'm looking forward to playing the full (longer) version after the comp.

The TV season and me

Aren't you just dying to know what I think about various new and returning shows? I thought so.

You know what?

Oh great, it's Quantum Leap without heart, minds or the slightest interest in the problems the protagonist is supposed to solve. Which leads to the question why the producers think he should solve them at all.
What the show is interested in are the private problems of some rich guy who randomly jumps back in time and returns to puzzled looks of his family and boss and every stupid soap opera cliché known to man. Yes, it bored me terribly.
As an aside: I would very much like to see a show about someone who goes back in time to fuck up people's lives or, you know, do something interesting for a change.

Bionic Woman
And lo! It happened that the television gods saw fit to create a show that fills the hole in my heart Alias left there.
So we have: A great cast, a show that is not as stupid as it seems, but not as clever as it would like to be, surprisingly good action scenes, lots of fun, plot holes the size of Mount Everest and Katee Sackhoff gleefully chewing scenery as gleefully scenery-chewing half-bad person.
I like it much more than I ought to.

Well, Ray Wise as the devil is quite a casting coup. But the rest of the show is terminally dull in its strained way of trying to be !wacky! and !funny! and !quirky!, without ever rising above !stupid!.
The rest of the cast could get hit by a meteorite for all I care.

Heroes Season 2
I really thought they would fuck this up royally, but to my delight they didn't. There are flaws (including the most stupid gangsters the world has ever seen), plot holes and strained bits, but the character arcs are delightful, sometimes even clever and the plot gets going nicely.
Even the "Hiro in Old Japan" storyline gets the House in R'lyeh Seal of Approval, although "Japan" does not look like Japan at all and we all should know the story of Cyrano de Bergerac by now.
Plus: Cliffhangers!

Supernatural Season 3
I thought to myself: "Why not give this a try again?" and surprising enough, I kinda had fun watching it. Rhythm and texture of the dialogue are pretty great, actually, there's lots of (TV-)gruesome violence and even some stabs at subtlety.
I think if the main actors wouldn't look like Neanderthals permanently puzzled by a very difficult algebra problem (like adding one and one), I would actually call this great. As it stands it is still good enough to watch.

Dexter Season 2
The perfect show. It's funny, creepy, surprising and you never know what the show is going to throw at you next. And how great is a show written that can get you to the point where you think that a serial killer's inability to kill is a problem, instead of something good.
Oh, and Michael C. Hall is the best actor on TV right now, period.

IF Comp 2007: Across the Stars

Oh, thank the gods, a good game! A nicely written SF game about pirate attacks and the protag's stranding on an alien planet.It is quite traditional in a good way, with fair and clean designed puzzles, deep implementation and a lot of things one can miss if one isn't observant.
Yes, the story could probably be deeper, but there is nothing wrong with a game just trying to let the player have a good time.
Plus: Shiny feelies and as much hints as one may need or want.

There are only two flaws in the implementation: Firstly the verb "activate" should have been implemented. Secondly you can encounter a game breaking bug - if you use the detonator and just wait it out instead of moving into another room, some error messages appear, the landscape doesn't change as needed and you are stuck.

IF Comp 2007: The Immortal

Highlander FanFic IF in space.
Typos and missing words galore, or to speak the slightly ill-advised metaphorical vernacular the game sometimes falls into: Contains as many typos as there are gray pebbles on a beach. Prose is permanently on the edge of purpleness and seems sloppy.
What's a dias?
Obviously the helmet of a spacesuit is not part of the spacesuit. You have to take each off separately.
Thought bubbles. Neat.
The punctuation is even more eccentric than my own.
Really stupid death scenes. The game seems not too sure if it is a melodrama or a bad comedy. A little consistency in tone would go a long way to make this interesting.
And again, lots of unimplemented scenery, but not as much as in RM. But enough so that it makes puzzles more difficult than necessary. And there should be nothing like this:


Transport Pad
It is a Transport Pad. You need access to use it.

>x pad
You can't see any such thing.

Writing seems to get sloppier as the game gets longer. Scratch that: Everything is getting sloppier.
"Use" as an important verb!? Not since Scott Adams.
Some possibly game breaking bugs; things can very easily be done out of order.
The puzzles don't really make a lot of sense.
Another sin: Learning by dying.  If there is also a maze, I'm going to quit at once.
Wouldn't it be nice if walkthrough and game would actually fit?
Oh, great another bug. The game doesn't seem to be finishable, and it's really not good enough to go out of my way to try anymore.

Friday, October 5, 2007

IF Comp 2007: Slap That Fish

As the title says you are slapping around fish. It's as well written as the premise allows, but gets tedious very fast. How often can you type "slap fish", "hit fish", "rest" etc without getting bored?
After the tedium come the puzzle-like fights against bigger fish, which aren't that much more interesting.
At least it's a cute idea and well implemented. Now it only needs to become entertaining.

IF Comp 2007: Reconciling Mother

So, I decided to judge in the annual Interactive Fiction Competition and keep my notes here.
This was the first game I tried.

This is supposed to be some Lovecraftian romp. Ah, it's even set on the campus of Miskatonic University!
Tragically, it's not very good.
There's much walking through nearly empty rooms, and reading of nearly understandable descriptions. It would be nice if any scenery would be implemented at all. In this state, interaction works something like this:

Snow Cave South Fork

You travel a long time in this cave only to reach a dead end. Near the end, you see an ice sculpture.

>x sculpture
You come upon a large ice sculpture. It is of a complex and polymorphic shape. It reminds you of a belly dancer. She is holding a large brass key with a pick-ax on one end and a chandelier on the other. There is a river of bats flowing out of her mouth. Each bat is wearing glasses and has a symbol from the atomic table of elements on its back. The river of bats flows into a giant orifice. Its rim is lined with tiny palm trees.

>x key
The word “key” is not necessary in this story.

(If this was an accidental misspelling, you can correct it by typing OOPS followed by the corrected word now. Any time the story points out an unknown word, you can correct a misspelling using OOPS as your next command.)

>x brass
The word “brass” is not necessary in this story.

>x ax
The word “ax” is not necessary in this story.

>x bats
The word “bats” is not necessary in this story.

>x pick-ax
The word “pick-ax” is not necessary in this story.

Nope, I haven't got a clue either how this statue is supposed to look. And I am not entering any orifices here.
Oh, instant death rooms (with a slight warning, but still not excusable in this century).

And this is the point where I quit:

Receptionist Area

You are facing a small office with pictures of children and horses on the walls. There is a lamp in the corner. Go East to return to the lobby. There is a faint whiff of perfume in the air.

You see a Receptionist Desk here.

The Receptionist Monica is standing here.

>greet monica
Hmmm, why hello there good looking. My name is Monica and I must say that I am pleased to meet you. I am the receptionist here. She pauses for a moment. Takes long, slow sip from her drink. She picks up her pen and asks you to sign in.

>sign in
The story doesn’t understand that command.

>take pen
The word “pen” is not necessary in this story.

>x desk
The desk has a dozen red roses in a vase on it. There is a pad of pink stationary on the desk. This is what the letterhead reads. Whatever Monica wants, she gets. There is also an image of a lipstick kiss on the letterhead.

>ask monica about roses
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about science
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about scientists
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about university
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask monica about herself
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

>ask her about reception
The Receptionist Monica does not respond.

On watching silent movies and early sound films

While re-watching Nosferatu and Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Gray something occurred to me: Most of the difficulties we modern viewers of films so early in the evolution of the art have will dissolve into nothing, if we just correct our expectations. If we stop looking for a portray of nature and "real life" (realism) and instead try to experience these films like dreams, we can find the most beautiful and terrible things.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris

Most things I wrote about the second part of Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy apply to Revenge of Iris as well. So just a few observations.
It's very strange that the kaiju eiga that strive to be as realistic as possible are also the ones that makes the heaviest use of mysticistic poppycock. Mysticistic poppycock with a strict internal logic, though.
Every film that relies so heavily on its female characters to solve problems gets very special ideological brownie points (sometimes also called "my undying love").

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Read this:

Oh, how much I like this mode of mock documentary writing.

EDIT: And it is really very funny.

Monday, October 1, 2007


These are the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise what you started but couldn't finish, and strike through what you couldn't stand. The numbers after each one are the number of LT users who used the tag of that book.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One hundred years of solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
The Silmarillion (104)
Life of Pi : a novel (94)
The name of the rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A tale of two cities (80)
The brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
War and peace (78)
Vanity fair (74)
The time traveler's wife (73)
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The kite runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great expectations (70)
American gods (68)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
Atlas shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West (65)
The Canterbury tales (64)
The historian : a novel (63)
A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
Love in the time of cholera (62)
Brave new world (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59)
A clockwork orange (59)
Anansi boys (58)
The once and future king (57)
The grapes of wrath (57)
The poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & demons (56)
The inferno (56)
The satanic verses (55)
Sense and sensibility (55)
The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
To the lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's travels (53)
Les misérables (53)
The corrections (53)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay (52)
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
Dune (51)
The prince (51)
The sound and the fury (51)
Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
The god of small things (51)
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A confederacy of dunces (50)
A short history of nearly everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The unbearable lightness of being (49)
Beloved (49)
Slaughterhouse-five (49)
The scarlet letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
The mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
Cloud atlas (47)
The confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger abbey (46)
The catcher in the rye (46)
On the road (46)
The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (45)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values (45)
The Aeneid (45)
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's rainbow (44)
The Hobbit (44)
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (44)
White teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The three musketeers (44)


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nemuri Kyoshiro 2 (1993)

The second part of the late Eighties/early Nineties TV incarnation of Sleepy Eyes Of Death. Identical dialogue, but no charismatic lead to speak it, direction that does not try to do anything with what little budget is there and a total joylessness and lack of madness in everything are keeping the film many levels below the Sixties version.
Could be a good cure for insomnia, though.

Rise: Blood Hunter

Sometimes films can still surprise me in a pleasant way. Rise is a revenge flick with vampires and does most things very right and equally well: The pacing is great, most set pieces are well thought out and there's no bad actor to be found. The film even delivers friendly doses of sleaze and the blackest of humor.
The story itself (Lucy Liu is raped and killed by vampires, rises from the dead and hunts down her killers) is obviously not very original, but director Sebastian Gutierrez (who also directed the overlooked She Creature) injects enough twists into the body of the genre (sorry) to keep me satisfied (see also: verve & style).
I was also surprised and happy to see that Gutierrez does his best to show us Liu as not much less monstrous than her killers. The scene in which she picks up some poor hitchhiking sod and feeds on him is especially effective, making clear that our heroine is neither innocent nor nice nor honest to herself.

Darling of the Day:
"We could do this the easy way...But where would be the fun in that."

Friday, September 28, 2007

28 Weeks Later

Have you by chance seen any post-apocalyptic zombie films? Then there's really no reason to waste your time on this.

Oh, and would it really be such a bother to mix the ingredients of the genre at least a little bit differently?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sunshine (2007)

Another part of the series "House of Unmet Expectations", only this time it's a very pleasant surprise. I was expecting a sluggish movie with a nonsensical last third, but what I got was the best science fiction film in years.
The movie stands in the glorious (but nearly completely unmined on film) tradition of explorative hard SF, like the better moments of Arthur C. Clarke, although with a much less concrete idea of transcendence. Still, there is a real sense of wonder and awe about nature/the universe. The main theme of the film is the relation of individuals to this awe - an interpretation that makes the last third of the movie much less senseless and market-driven as some would have you think. And thinking actually is what is expected of you as viewer. The tendency to spell out what you have to feel and think in every given second of a movie that can make many films with a message terribly grating is completely missing. You'll be getting as much or as little out of Sunshine as you are willing to put into.
Also, this is a very beautiful to look at, tight thriller, even including some obvious (and very uncomfortable) riffs on Tom Godwin's classic but despicable story The Cold Equations.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Living Coffin

I very much wanted to like this film, but except for very few atmospheric shots near the beginning, there's not much to like here.
It's a cross between the kind of western in which the hero's horse is billed just slightly below the hero himself and Mexican gothic horror, made hardly watchable by an extremely unmysterious mystery plot and the never helpful tendency to explain everything supernatural away with stupid "natural explanations". Things like that drain the fun out of everything.
And as if this wasn't bad enough, the movie we have to endure a hero so clean-cut that a typical Gene Autry character would be a decadent monstrosity next to him and the kind of OCR (Odious Comic Relief, for the uninitiated) that just isn't excusable. Further features are sloooooow paaaaaaciiiiing and some sub-standard action scenes (even for 1958). So it isn't much as a serious movie and most of the time just not trashy enough to be funny.
Big exception and personal favorite is when our hero waddles into a swamp and is rescued by a well thrown rope. Thrown by his horse, that is.
Fortunately there are better movies about the Weeping/Crying Woman to see. 

Darling of the Day (so early in the film that you are still looking forward to nice gothic horror):
"The unburied wander through the dark forests and the only way to get them away from the house where they died is piercing a clock with a knife on the hour of their dead."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bloodthirsty Roses/Evil of Dracula

I don't know much about Japanese horror pre-Ringu, but what I know, I like. And what's not to like in a dream-like, very European feeling (Italian contemporary gothic) vampire movie, with some neat little twists to the standard lore and as much mood as possible? The main difference between this and comparable Italian movies is the faster pace, which makes for a nice change. The film's aesthetic reminds me of Mario Bava in its emphasis on color and its (quite hypnotic) sense of lightning. So, I haven't the slightest clue where it stands in the evolution of Japanese horror, but it's great.

Darling of the Day:
"It's like a dream. Nobody would believe you."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gojira (1954) (Japanese Cut)

There's not much that hasn't been said or written about this film, so I'm keeping it even shorter than usual. What hits me when watching Gojira (and make no mistake, the film packs quite a punch) is the sense of sadness and bitterness that permeates most of it. A sadness that does not have its roots in the lost war, but in the trauma of the bomb and the mirror the war held up in the face of the Japanese (and the German) people, showing something monstrous that most people in both countries tried to forget as fast as possible. But films like this want us to remember.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


So this is supposed to be the New Hope Of American Horror?
Well, at least it isn't torture porn or a hopeless try to reach the glory of the Seventies or a dumbed down remake of a superior film (American or Japanese).
But what it is is only a jokey cross of slasher clichés and Eighties gore, without any sense of timing, tension or mood or the slightest bit of originality. Borderline racism, by the book plotting (you know exactly who is going to die at which point of the movie, if you have seen more than one other slasher), and shoddy, unimaginative monster make-up don't help to make this watchable. There is not a single idea to be found, not to speak of new ideas.
I don't get what the part of horror fandom that sings its praises sees here. The slow-mo blood spurting? My, how impressive.

Yakuza Zombie

The beautiful, beautiful title promises lots of stupid fun, the actual film delivers even more: A loving, slightly parodic homage to Kinji Fukasaku's jitsuroku movies, including riffs on trademark scenes and themes, and a justly byzantine plot. While the humor is actually funny.
Oh, and there's a zombie, who stands in for the misused and betrayed yakuza and comes back from the grave only to get misused and betrayed again, but, being a zombie and quite hard to kill, this time at least gets his vengeance.
The whole beautiful, surprisingly ungory (he's not a flesh eater, you see) mess is carried by the palpable enthusiasm of all participants. The film projects so much fun that the flimsy production values don't matter at all.
How much a novice to yakuza movies will get out of this is anybody's guess, though.

Darlings of the day:
"Yokohama has lost, the Giants are doing well and we can't have a funeral. We're the laughing stock."

"Hon, do you know what they call me?"
"A bad luck fuck. Every man who sleeps with me gets killed. You're so brave."
"I like it."


I helped a woman get her soul back from an American tourist who photographed it away. To do this I persuaded the guy to let me take a photo of him with his own camera and directed him right into a security zone and the loving arms of airport security.
Adventure games are still the most pleasing way to be a sociopath.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Witch from Nepal

A collaboration between director Ching Siu Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story) and young Chow Yun-Fat has to brilliant, doesn't it? Well not exactly. "Watchable" is the term that really comes to mind.
Chow plays the fantastically named Joe, who inherits the mystical powers of a murdered Nepalese demi-god/king, as well as his pupil, Sheila-the-not-very-Nepalese-sounding-or-looking and his archenemy Meowing, Shaggy Haired Nameless Guy.
Of course Joe has a girlfriend. Of course Joe beds his new pupil anyway. Of course, Sheila sacrifices herself, so that the cheating bastard can stay with his girlfriend. Of course girlfriend wants him back. And of course Joe fights Kitty Evil Guy to avenge his killed pupil/lover/human shield.
Fortunately, the movie has some very special guest stars: A bunch of Italian Zombies, brightening the mood for about ten minutes. And the showdown is not bad at all.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Body Jumper

If the goal in unleashing this thing on unsuspecting friends of crap movies like me was to rehabilitate American teen horror comedies as "terrible, but not as soul crushing as Body Jumper" I can only congratulate on a job well done.
It's somewhat surprising to find a film that features even more annoying teenagers, even more tasteless and unfunny jokes and even more disinterested direction than its American counterparts, but here it is, and I have lived through it. Barely.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gamera 2 - Attack of (the) Legion

How Shusuke Kaneko went from making the greatest kaiju movies since the invention of latex to the abyss of boredom that are the Death Note films is one of the more disturbing mysteries of my movie watching experience.
Gamera 2 is just wonderful and surprisingly exciting: Evil Plant/Insect Monsters from Outer Space attack. The flying turtle and the Japanese Defense Forces fight them. Who will survive?
And survival actually is uncertain in Kaneko's kaiju. Unlike in older kaiju (let's ignore the Daimajin series as an historical aberration) there is a visible and obvious body count that plays an important part in Kaneko's strategy of taking the story and its social dimensions as realistic and straight as possible. He even goes as far as making the pseudo-scientific babble much more real world scientific than usual. This kaiju is a real Science Fiction film.
And, as always, there are moments that remind me of other movies, especially the great giant ant attack of the Fifties, Them.
The philosophical streak and obsession with real world detail in the script even brings to mind Nigel Kneale, if he had ever made a kaiju.
But no kaiju can be good without strong monster battles. Not surprisingly, Kaneko knows exactly how to film them. Seldom do giant monsters feel as big as here and seldom are their fights so visceral and bloody.

If there is any appearance of respectability to destroy left for me, now is the time to do it: I can see quite an obvious way for a religious interpretation of the movie where Gamera is Jesus (both dying and being resurrected) and Legion (yes, the film uses that bible passage to name it) the devil, slugging it out until the devil is destroyed by the bright light of god filtered through Gamera. Fortunately for atheists like me, one does not have to read Gamera 2 that way.

Darlings of the Day:
"The pod is in flower."
"A flower? What color?"
"I didn't ask. We're going to blow it up."

"We were beaten the moment it flowered."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

R'lyeh rising

Found here:

Silver (1999)

I'm always sad when I have to join the choir of people calling a film boring, but boring is what this movie is.
Although it does start so promising: Silver is the story of a woman whose parents are killed by a group of yakuza (including Leatherface's Japanese twin). To seek vengeance, she learns karate and trains as an FBI agent to become ready to go undercover as a pro-wrestler and search for the killers.
The killers we never hear a single word about again. Instead, she hunts down and kills a yakuza boss/dominatrix. Then follow twenty minutes of something supposedly meant as character development and...It just drags on.
What's really disappointing is that the script contains enough of the elements that director Takashi Miike normally loves to film, starting with not always healthy sexual practices and ending with a wee bit of ultraviolence, it's just that he doesn't seem to care at all. Neither does this viewer.

Darlings of the Day
"...since you'll now have the chance to use the skills you learned both in the FBI and as a Women's World Champion Karate master."

"Let's see how bad I can rip your rectum."


Mateys, t'day be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
If ye don't ken pirates, landlubbers, look:

An' play:


Edit: Oi, and walk th' plank here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jens Lekman, Night Falls over Kortedala

The first music thingie I write here, and it's about a #1 record. A Swedish #1 to be clear, but still - how mainstream can I get?
In a better world, Lekman would be The King of Pop worldwide, his straight faced and straight laced sounding voice standing in stark contrast to the soul-infused sweetness (infectiousness?) of the music.
Sweet as it sounds most of time, there is another contrast to hear that keeps Lekman's music far above the usual clever retro pop: The contrast between the instruments that (at least sound) played "live" and the sampled parts is more classic Hip Hop than Whitebread Pop. And, thinking about it, the samples' musical sources seem to be more often than not black music, while Lekman sounds as "white" as possible.

Reminds me a little of Jimi Tenor's experiments in Scandinavian modern Soul.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Say Yes

Oh, it's one of 'em murderous hitchhikers again, only this time, he's from South Korea.
Well, usually very reliable Patrick Galloway more or less raves about the qualities of Say Yes in his book Asia Shock, but I don't see very much to rave about here. Sure, it's well acted, slick like every single South Korean film I've seen, nicely paced, brutal etc, but it doesn't get to me at all. Most of the time I felt myself watching in abstract appreciation mode. "Oh, that's supposed to be creepy". "This is a very disturbing face Hitchie makes there". "Ah, a sudden and brutal outburst of unpredictable violence". Immersion? Not so much.
The original Hitcher is still the Evil Hitchhiker Movie of choice.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things I don't want to read in reviews again, ever

  • This is not for everyone.
    You don't say, sweetheart. Next thing you're going to tell me is people have different tastes.
  • The characters are deeply flawed. (usually said as if there was something wrong with it)
    Obviously, the reviewer's world is only filled with perfect people like himself.
  • The characters are unsympathetic.
    Of course we want to read only about characters we like. As long as they're not interesting.
  • The evil author uses big words and complicated sentences.
    Now the author wants me to read carefully, too!
  • Many things remain unexplained and stay ambiguous.
    It's getting even worse. The author doesn't take me by the hand! She expects me to think and have my own opinions!
  • I need three pages of exposition! I don't understand anything that is only implied!
    Just shut up Critic, will you!


Most excellent

Favorite web horror host Count Gore De Vol has something very special on his show this week: Wrestling Women vs The Aztec Mummy.
If you have never seen a Mexican wrestling movie before, this is a great start.
Click here, you know you want to.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bohachi: Clan of the Forgotten Eight

What a sad world this would be if Teruo Ishii hadn't been born. One of the craziest - if not the craziest - directors of Japanese exploitation movies, he always showed as much style and humor as madness.
Bohachi is a mixture of chambara and Ishii's patented ero guro style. Tetsuro Tamba plays the psychopathic assassin Shiro, who is hired by the Bohachi clan, a kind of prostitution monopolist. The clan's boss (proudly wearing the biggest, purplest circles under his eyes) instructs Shiro to kill the competition. Shiro does, and while we are watching his progress marks of picturesquely spurting blood and low-but-far-flying body parts, we also get to see breasts, torture, breasts, naked fighting, very black teeth, breasts, ropes, the most striking colors and breasts.
The mood of the picture is as bizarre as one could wish for; the grand finale, an opium-drenched orgy that transforms into an epic and completely over the top, color-drenched fight scene, is worth the price of admission alone.

Darlings of the Day:
"Driving spikes between the nails and flesh...How will she cry?"

"The sex with a woman with Syphilis can be fun."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Mission (1999)

One of Johnnie To's best films. Crams a surprising amount of character, humor, intelligence and action into just 84 minutes.
Plot: Five gangsters play bodyguards for a triad boss. One of them makes a fatal mistake. Will friendship or honor prevail?
My favorite scene is the very slow shoot-out in the middle of the picture, the exact opposite of the usual hyper-kinetic Hong Kong action, but oh so suspenseful. Precision beats speed. At least in this movie.

1. Go to
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.
4. Post the top ten results.

1.Business Systems Analyst
2.Industrial-Organizational Psychologist  
3.Foreign Service Officer 
6.Political Aide  
7.Database Developer  
8.Web Developer 
9.Computer Programmer
10.Customer Service Representative

Actually, I wouldn't want to be buried in most of these.


How many video games lead one to watching art house movies? Well, Stalker - Shadow of Chernobyl does. I could gush about it, but that is what British journalist Jim Rossignol was born for. I'm limiting myself to the Russian movie that inspired parts of the game. I tried to watch it some years ago, but was incredibly bored. Today, after years of desensitization by every damn kind of movie, it seems hypnotic, interesting, a little slow and incredibly annoying to me.
Hypnotic and interesting is the film's sense for the uncanniness of industrial ruin(s), its mood of decay, sadness and a kind of awe.
What annoys me is its tendency to treat its characters as symbols instead of people and (getting stronger and more annoying as the film progresses) the by now classically Christian whining about "intellectuals" who "think they understand everything", "have no belief" and so on and eulogistic talk about the intrinsic worthiness of sorrow and unhappiness.
As someone who has been quite unhappy for not insignificant parts of his life my reaction to this is: Fuck you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Karanlik Sular

Well, a Turkish supernatural Dario Argento meets Jess Franco meets strange religious overtones in an art house jamboree. In other words: Very interesting to look at, but leaves me completely bewildered.

Sleepy Eyes of Death 12: Castle Menagerie

Sadly, the last part of the series. At first I was a little disappointed with this outing, as it seemed like a relatively conventional tale of Nemuri stoically trying to ignore a palace intrigue, which is very nice, but not the apocalyptic closing point I was hoping for. Until, a little over half its running time over, the film suddenly goes mad, never recovering its obviously fake posture of sanity again. So this turned out to be an appropriate ending.

"Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the men I have killed. Please tell me when and where I killed him."

"I want to bind your arms and legs and play with you until I kill you." (Somebody loves you, Nemuri Kyoshiro)

"I can cut your womb in a second."

Sleepy Eyes of Death 11: The Human Tarantula

The last time the world ended in snow, this time it's fire. Apart from their happy abandonment of realism, Nemuri Kiyoshi's adventures ten and eleven haven't that much too do with each other.
This part revels in erotically charged violence and psycho-sexual perversion like Poe and Freud meeting for a bottle of sake.
Favorite set piece: Nemuri and evil shogun's daughter consummate their very special love in a house full of freshly slaughtered corpses right in front of a crucified woman.  

Darlings of the Day:
"A 19 year old boy isn't as much fun to torture and kill as a man like me."

"I'm too used to this kind of woman's body. Don't you have anything for me?"

"'For my nation and people.' It makes my hair stand on end."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sleepy Eyes of Death 10 - Hell is a Woman

Not the slightest clue what the title's supposed to mean.
It is the beginning of winter, especially in the hearts of the characters in this film. Most of the time it plays like a dark and very old legend, with protagonists who seem to know or at least suspect in what kind of legend they are acting and which roles they have to play, giving the story a feeling of unreality, as if everyone was caught in a half life. However, there are outbursts of strangeness and kinetic violence, when the literal fog lifts only to reveal things we don't really want to see. Ichikawa's Nemuri Kiyoshi walks through the movie more like a force of misfortune and grim justice than a human, in the end dissolving into the snow.

More Darlings of the Day:
"I can hold you if you want. Or I can fall asleep."

"It sounds beautiful. But death is never beautiful. It's rather painful. You have to struggle with pain until death comes."

"I've never killed anyone who wanted to be killed."

Sleepy Eyes of Death 8 - The Sword That Saved Edo & Sleepy Eyes of Death 9 - Trail of Traps

Sleepy Eyes 8
s private film theory fragment 763: The chambara genre can be divided into to sub-genres, the serious chambara and the damn outrageous chambara.
This one is (unusual for the Adventures of Nemuri Kyoshiro) a serious chambara by Kenji Misumi. It is a nice mystery story with our hero playing the role of the detective, fighting a conspiracy that could destroy Edo. We learn that technology can be destructive and that high ideals often lead to terrible deeds.

Sleepy Eyes 9
Speaking of damn outrageous chambaras... Here we have a perfectly great and perfectly mad example of the sub-genre. Nemuri Kyoshiro (Ichikawa) travels to Kyoto, protecting a woman in possession of a golden statuette of the Madonna against a satanist cult, meeting a freak show of bizarre people (sharpshooting killer nuns!), leaving no weird sentence unuttered and no person alive. Kazuo Ikehiro directs as if there was nothing strange going on at all, automatically winning my undying admiration.

Darlings of the Day:
"However, you should know that I am not a moral person. You can trust me on this because I, myself, am telling you."

"I see women as sexual objects."
"Oh my."

"I like to sleep with women. But not enough to kill somebody."

"Being treated with poison tea is not my favorite thing."

"The last person in the world he saw was me. What an unlucky man he was!"

"Welcoming me with guns instead of crystal rosaries. How very bizarre!"