Batman: The Killing Joke

btkj*Warning: I have not read the graphic novel this is based on. I know, I lose all of my geek points for not having read all of the Alan Moore. I’m okay with that. If you want comparisons between the movie and the book, go to someone else better versed. I’m just here to talk about the movie right now.*

 

So, The Killing Joke, amiright? I’ve heard about the graphic novel for decades. Hell, I remember wishing I had the money to buy it when the series was first published. Alas, I never did. It’s supposed to be super amazing though, and I really love Jedi Joker.

 

Before we get into my highly important opinion, though, let’s do the whole synopsis gag. The Joker has escaped from double-A. Again. This time, he’s going after inspector Gordon as his way to get at Batman. Specifically, he goes after Gordon’s daughter, aka Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. I don’t really know how much to give away, since the big surprises here were dropped in a book that came out before I was a teenager. Spoilers might show up in the forthcoming.

 

First off, Jedi Joker was great, as always. I never quite got the adoration of Kevin Conway’s Batman, but at least he doesn’t do that stupid growling thing that every batman has done since Keaton. Tara Strong was a bit too all over the place for me, but I think that had as much to do with the writing as with her performance.

 

As far as the story goes, I can see where much of the hubbub comes from. This is the one that really focuses on the similarities between Batman and the Joker (something that has never shown up in the myriad movie versions of big J, which makes me incredibly sad). Also, we finally get a back story for the clown prince. That’s kinda nice, if you hate mystery. It does present us with a solid picture of two incredibly, fundamentally broken men who leave nothing but destruction in their wake and it ends on a quite chilling note. I had a good time watching it.

 

But it has its problems.

 

Yup, people are (rightly) complaining about the portrayal of Babs here. She’s flighty and driven entirely by her emotions (women… right fellas? Wink wink nudge nudge puke). Worse, she exists entirely to provide the impetus for the character arcs of Gordon and Wayne and to show how mean and bad the Joker is. It made me sad that she is reduced to that when we start off with a 20 minute setup that seems to tell us we will be watching her story. However, that’s kinda what Moore does with women. They never seem to exist for any reason besides furthering the stories of the men. He isn’t the only one, but he does it a whole hell of a lot. Still, if the writers of this version were going to vere from the source material anywhere, that would have been the place to do it.

 

What surprises me is that I haven’t heard as many complaints about the portrayal of the Joker. Yeah, his “one bad day” speech falls pretty well in line with him and his desire to show that everyone else is just like him. Where the writer’s lost me early on was throwing him into the whole “all bad guys are rapists” trope. Maybe it’s just me, but rape has never seemed to be Joker’s bag. He always seemed to be more about upsetting the apple cart, displaying the lack of control we all have in the chaos of the world, not exerting control over others. Especially not in the form of sexual dominance. Even if Barbara was written lazily, at least the writers were consistent with her characterization. But, bad guys be rapin’. Right, fellas?

 

If we didn’t already have hero movies that explored the idea of how messed up someone would have to be to want to place themselves as the sole arbiter of justice in the night, the themes explored in The Killing Joke would hit much harder. We have those, though. Shit, have you seen Super? Fucking hell, that movie is bonkers. By the way, I do realize that the Moore likely paved the way for those films but I also realize that I could just go back to that series if I want to see the progression into modern super hero lore.

 

Poster Art: It’s an image almost directly from the movie that echoes the cover of the original graphic novel. It also doesn’t tell you much of anything about the story or even carry much of a punch on it’s own. Sure, if you already know the scene this ties to, then maybe you feel something. It just doesn’t do much for me.


RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE (Grindhouse), by CV Hunt

RHSSo, there’s this guy. Nick Graves. Nick is a bit of a jerk. He hates his wife, but when her surprise pregnancy derails his plan to divorce her, he decides to move them both far from friends, family and anything they know. That’ll show her. Too bad he didn’t look into the neighbors a bit closer as everyone he meets seems to act very strange and they have their own plans for him.

 

Let’s be straight here: this is not a book for most of you. It’s chock full of violent sexuality and more than a fair bit of dead fetus. Normally, I’d call that a spoiler, but the cover has a wire hanger worked into the pentagram and little fetuses line the edges. You knew what you were walking into the moment you picked it up.

 

For those that have been longing for a bit of the old Hardcore in their horror in a time that seems overrun with tentacles and sighs, Hunt will prove a gift. Purple putrescent people pieces abound within these pages. There’s violence and dismemberment and sex galore. Sometimes, the three slide across each other.

 

Hunt’s prose is lean and mean and aims straight for the gut. There isn’t much poetry to it, but I don’t think that was what she was going for here. I felt some kinship to Bentley Little (one of the authors she dedicates the book to) at times, especially with her ability to have me tearing pages at such a rapid pace while absolutely despising the person I was reading about.

 

As an interesting departure from typical hardcore horror, the violence is not so much sexualized as the sex is violenc-ized (that’s a word, right?). There’s nothing sexy about any of the sex presented here. It’s ugly and harsh and a bit grotesque at times. This is the sex of power politics, not pleasure. The violence seems more of an extension of that ethos that an end of its own. It’s also worth noting that this violence is perpetrated by women and upon men, instead of the far too often used other way around.

 

However, there isn’t much more than that to this yarn. The only character we really get to know, Nick Graves, is a one-note douche. I felt pulverized with the intensity of his asshole for pretty much the whole thing. He never changes, nor does anyone else. The Satanists are evil Satanist women and the guys are horny. Oh, there is that one girl who is just kinda bitchy. I would have preferred a bit more meat with all the flesh on display. I think I’ve also reached a point where cartoony rape doesn’t even offend me anymore. I just find it boring.

 

Where you sit with it at this point is on you.

 

Cover Art: On first glance, it seems like just the simplicity one would expect from a grimoire, with that basic block writing and simple pentagram against a plain black field. A closer gaze nets you the realization of the hanger in the pentagram and an even closer look reveals the slightly less black fetuses curled in upon themselves along the edging*. Nice touches by Brandon Duncan.

*Admittedly, those fetuses show up very well on the picture here, but they are a bit more discrete on the actual cover of the physical book.

 


PAPER TIGERS (dark house), by Damien Angelica Walters

paper tigersIf you’ve read my review of Damien’s collection (Sing Me Your Scars), you know I’m a bit of a fan. If you haven’t, then it’s worth noting that I was underscoring the point a bit there. Just a smidge. Unsurprisingly, I was hugely excited when I found out she had a novel coming out. Giddy may have been the word I used when I found it on my doorstep. Of course, those that read the previous review know why that can come across a bit off.

 

Anyways, Paper Tigers follows Allison, a survivor of a fire whose body was badly burnt. So badly burnt that she feels shunned by society. Alone in her house, save for visits from her mother, she lives primarily through old photo albums of others. However, the new one purchased seems to hold something different in store for her. A promise of a potential return to her old life and her old self. The question, as it always is in these cases, is whether or not it is worth the price demanded of her.

 

Superficially, we have a ghost story. Or maybe a haunted item story. Or a modified Monkey’s Paw. Look, whatever we are dealing with is not as clear cut as it initially seems, which is great. Besides, like in all really good ghost stories, the ghosts carried within the character are the truly interesting ones anyways.  Here, we have the ghosts of a former life and the dreams of the future that were scorched as badly as Allison’s flesh. Possibly more so.

 

It is the anchoring in the human, in the humane, that makes Walters’ work stand out. Much of this tale is spent in the mundane details of her life, everyday actions that have become tense, horrifying ordeals. The physical and emotional pain that have overrun this woman’s life become as intimate as our own heartbeat and that is before the man waiting between the pages begins to unravel what little she has remaining to herself.

 

As a straight up ghost story, this moves well, punches in all the sweetspots and settles into a comfortable spot beside the personal, quiet horror of Matheson’s better works. If that is all (and not a small meal, to be sure) you want, then feel free to stop here and buy the damn thing. You’ll be happy. However, if you want fast action, gore and screaming sex, then you came to the wrong house in the first place.

 

However, I feel like there is more than that broiling beneath the surface. I’ll try my best to avoid getting too spoilery from here on out, but take this as your warning.

 

Beneath the gauzy film of plastic, amid the chemical reactions and collected molecules of silver oxide that clump together to form the larger picture, is a story of addiction. Not just the Selby-ian tragedy of addiction, but the whys and the hows and the wheretofors of it from the inside out. What the hope of a return to mythical normality can do to a person trapped in their own mind, nothing more than a ghost themselves. That alone would make this pretty fucking cool, but Walters doesn’t stop there.

 

What makes her fiction so powerful, to me, is not just the light she shines on the horrors that surround us in everyday life, the consistent peacemeal removal of our humanity, but also in the hope for a way out that sings quietly in the corner of each tale. Where the aforementioned Selby showed us the pits we dig for ourselves, she throws down a rope to pull ourselves out. We see this same journey with Allison and, with her, can see a potential light for so many who find themselves mired in the depths of their own pits. The climb is not easy, and it includes several slides back down through the muck, but it is possible.

 

That said, I have an issue with the very end. To me, it ends up undermining much that was built before it and devolving into a lame endcredits spook. I wanted more than that and she seemed to be building to something that could have been abjectly skull shatteringly genius. While it is still very good, I was left a little disappointed.

 

All told, Paper Tigers is a damn good yarn centered around a solidly developed character with plenty of meat and bone to dig through beneath the skin. I just have a tough time not looking at what I wanted it to be.

 

Cover art:

The cover is a bit of a mess to muddle through and comes across very confusing from the outset.  Upon reading, it becomes clear that this is the face of our dear protagonist, hidden behind hair that removes her completely. I’m not sure about the flowers and vines that wrap around her. Either way, it feels like a bit too much to give a solid feel for the story held behind it.

 

There is an interior piece, though, that intrigues me much more. An old grandfather clock, its face cracked and broken, licked by flames and wispy tendrils of smoke and crowned with three animal skulls. It bears just the right balance of gothic and menace with a direct connection tot eh events of the story that doesn’t spell it all out for you. I think I would have liked that better for the cover.


Familiar Spirits (Orphyte), ed. Donald J. Bingle

familiar spiritsIt seems like, when you mention ghost stories these days, most people picture old, drafty Victorian manses echoing with the soft calls of lost souls who mostly seem to cry out for revenge. While those have their place, they aren’t the kind I grew up with. The ones I learned, mostly at the foot of my mother tended to work more as a gateway to the history of the place and, most importantly, the people who lived there. Any rattling chains or slamming doors or even that one with the stones being chucked at anyone on the balcony came secondary to that.

I only bring it up because that is the type of ghost stories we are dealing with in Familiar Spirits. Yes, the vengeful dead do make some appearances and there are plenty of drafty old houses within these pages. Still, no matter how many skeletal hands creep along spines, they come back to the stories of the people that were and the ways in which their lost past brushes up against our present. Such things are more than all right by me.

Take, for instance, opener “The Cold Earth”, by Sarah Hans. It could very easily be taken as a simple tale of gravebound revenge but, instead of focusing on exacting payment for wrongs of the past, shows a victim of that past working to prevent it from happening to others in the future. Lynne Handy’s “Green Lady”, quite similarly, presents a situation where the ghostly apparition and the shrouded history it represents points the narrator towards a more hopeful life for herself. Also, kudos must be given for how well Lynne pulls off the stiff, unflappable air of old British while presenting a clearly modern sensibility of character.

It was Wren Roberts, though, who really stuck a knife in me a twisted that bastard. “What Happened at the Lake” is more nihilistic and cold than I have been preferring my fiction lately. However, it presents a painfully honest picture of the slow, constant edging in of depression, like a tide inching its way up the shore until it has covered you completely. The sense of grief, guilt and inability to find a way to continue is overwhelming. Yep, I wept openly while reading this one.

Admittedly, the first half is much stronger than the second half. Kate Johnson’s “The New Girl” feels like romance for the vast majority of the story before taking what feels like an abrupt and cheap jump into horror. The ghastly ghostly aspect of the “Legend of the Sea Captain,” by Ric Waters, is left unexplained and unaddressed in any manner, robbing it of any real sense of import or effect. Finally, while I loved how Jean Rabe used the dialect in closer “Cold-nosed and Cold-Hearted” to give it a comforting, folksy feel and the bit about the boy with his burden just about did me in, the whole seemed a bit too rambling and lacking in focus for my taste.

If what you are looking for are traditional lace-strewn gothic ghost stories, you likely will not be happy here. On the other hand, if you want short, powerful tales that delve into that ephemeral linking of the dead past to the living present, there are some damn good tales for you.

Cover Art: Taken on its own, the grainy image of the iris-less girl at the gate is a haunting one that evokes a solid sense of the eerie. However, the traditional Gothic aesthetic does not fit the feel of most of the stories within the anthology.

 

 


HONEYSPIDERS, by Honeyspiders

honeyspidersI’ve been a fan of the various bands of the brothers Harrison for years. Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ve got that shitty recording of Wormwood somewhere on my phone. They’ve changed a lot over the years, but they’ve been a staple Cincy music to me, regardless of which band they appear in. Are you shocked that I was a bit full of ye olde squee when a new record from the new incarnation came out?

 

In short form, anyone liked the Banderas material will be happy. It isn’t exactly the same, but moves in much the same manner. You don’t need to bother reading further, just buy it. If you want more SC style stuff, you really should have moved on with your life by now. Everything that follows is for those who don’t know what the hell I was just talking about.

 

For the rest of you:

 

If the Harrison’s do one thing right, it’s a sense of sleazy sexuality. Damn, does that ever come across here. These songs slink and slide, lagourous and lube-coated through the dark, sweaty cavities of your body into those dank crevaces of cranial meat. There’s a sense, in listening, that you should probably seek out a free clinic in the morning but it’s hard to care much about that when you’re moaning along. Opener “Underneath the Claws” establishes the mood well, but “New Blooms”, especially, nails that 3am-groping-in-a-bar-bathroom-stall vibe with a sweet ass seventies style keyboard solo that slammed that final nail in.

 

If you like your rock a bit more riotous, loud and fist-pumpy, they’ve got you covered there as well. “Royal Blood” shakes, swings and shouts with not one fuck given and “Guillotines” kicks doors off of hinges and pisses in the bushes. These are some fun fucking songs here.

 

The hexagon interludes were an unexpected, but pleasant surprise. These soft, atmospheric shorts reminded me quite a bit of one these boys put on an old Skin Curtain release way back when and filled me full of warm, gushy nostalgia. For anyone else, I’m not sure how much they accomplish for the record as a whole besides working as a bit of a palette cleanser. Another surprise came in Magdalene, which is a hug style and mood shift from what I’ve come to expect from them. It’s wistful, almost wishful and dreamy with the usual swagger and pomp put aside for sweetness and emotionality. This determination to continually move forward is part of why I like their music so much.

 

If you want a simplified comparison to someone else, I guess the thick bass, fuzzy-ass guitars and sense of groove bring to mind a laudanum fueled Black Keys infused with some Jagger swagger and an intense love of Nick Cave. At the same time, I don’t really feel that description does them justice.

 

Cover Art: I like the simplicity, warping the image just enough to give it a sense of age and eeriness. I especially dug the two-tone red and green shift, just because it reminds me of old 3d images and films. The sugarskull mask (by Robyn Roth) feels a bit too hipster for my tastes, especially with the twirled moustachios, and it doesn’t really bear any connection to the lyrical or sonic content of the album, though.

 

Download the whole shebang for $6 on their bandcamp site.

Reviewed by Anton Cancre


Black Christmas, by Two Inch Winky

black ChristmasDo you hate Christmas songs? I hate those damn things. Maybe it was too many years working in retail and hearing the same five frigging songs over and over again from mid-October through December. Maybe I’m just insufferable and bitter. Maybe it’s just that the majority of existing ones suck reindeer balls.  But, hark, here lies something for those who want more guitars, yelling and significantly more fuck-you’s than the standard fair.

 

Black Christmas is a collection of 17 hardcore songs from Cincinnati legends (at least to the 100 people who know who the fuck they are) Two Inch Winky that put the black marker X back in Xmas. Every fucking one is loud, fast, abrasive and more than a bit silly. Either you are already downloading this, or it isn’t for you. There isn’t much wiggle room here.

 

Yep, it’s punk. Don’t expect too much more than the usual three cord bounce and shake.  Structure doesn’t get complicated at any point. Hell, most of the songs just repeat the same line over and over again. Subject range from Krampus, shitting the Christmas Tree, the working conditions of elves and Lemmy Kilmister. At the same time, the longest one clocks in at just over two minutes. What the hell do you expect?

 

As for me and mine, the walls of our humble abode will be crumbling under the crushing sonic assault while we down whiskey, beer and the pot cookies Santa didn’t eat.

 

Oh, did I mention that you can get the whole thing for free here?

 

reviewed by Anton Cancre


For Exposure (Apex), by Jason Sizemore

for-exposure_cvr002smWho the fuck really wants to read the memoirs of this man? Focused on the ten year life of his small press, no less. Really? If everyone thinks they can and should be a writer, at least half of those people think they can and do run an independent press. Hell, I’ve done it. And poorly, I might add. What makes THIS GUY so damn important?

 

You see, For Exposure follows the adventures and misadventures of one Jason Sizemore, a humble occasionally self-described hillbilly from Kentucky, and the building of the Apex empire. There are trials, there are tribulations, there are anecdotes galore. Yes, of course there are the requisite yarns of drunken debauchery. He also gives friends, colleagues and those who are portentially wronged an opportunity to correct anything he may have gotten wrong via rebuttals, something I have never seen in a memoir before.

 

To me, memoirs stand on or collapse under the voice of the writer more than the actual events and anyone who has spoken to Sizemore will tell you how much force that quiet, silky tone can carry. Hell, I couldn’t help but hear that slight slowly slipping every word quietly in the back of my head while I read it. He doesn’t bother trying to distance himself here and it honestly felt like I was hanging out at a bar with him rather than reading the words on a page.

 

The stories themselves are enlightening and encouraging as well as highly entertaining. You won’t see the details of haggling price points on contracts or how to correctly format poetry for ereaders but you do get anecdotes about writers such as Brian Keene, Monica Valentinelli, Maurice Broaddus and that “glitterbomb of cuteness” known as Alethea Kontis. And you’ll find out Jason’s three superpowers, that his dad may or may not have experienced an alien encounter that resulted in his personal possession by an alien force and that he has a signed photo of Thong Girl. There is also a bit about ham that is disconcerting, to say the least.

 

What really made this one stand out, though, was the rebuttals. Given some of the aforementioned drunken debauchery and fights with kidney stones, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jason is periodically fuzzy on some of the details. So, Valentinelli tells us what exactly the warm liquid falling on Sizemore was and Sarah Harvey details her fights with the ER secretary in the hospital of the damned. Geoffrey Girard takes the cake with his lurid and hallucinatory retelling of the legend of the Apex party of ultimate awesomeness.

 

To answer those remarkably dickish questions I asked at the start: It depends on what you are looking for. If you want an authoritative how-to guide on starting and running your own indie press, you won’t be happy. For me, the completely subjective nature of a guy sharing his own experiences in publishing and what he learned from them worked, especially since he never portrays himself as the grand master of all knowledge in the field. In a time when publishing seems like such an easy thing to do, this book stands as a solid reminder that it still requires not just determination and business acumen but also a willingness to roll with some truly bizarre shit.

 

buy it directly from Apex here.

 

Cover Art:

The unflappable Justin Stewart, who features in several of the anecdotes within the book, has created an intriguing play on the apex logo. Fuzzy, out of focus, double exposed and stained out the wazoo on the one side while much crisper and significantly messier on the other (all about that splat, baby). It could be read as a visual history of the company, if one were inclined to such overreadings. Which I am.


Chimera (Orbit), by Mira Grant

chimera*I have no pity for those who have not read the preceding stories (Parasite and Symbiont) in the Parasitology series. There will likely be spoilers for those books below. There WILL be an assumption that you have read them. If you haven’t, then please do so. There are handy reviews here and here if it helps in the decision.*

 

The broken doors are open and all hell has broken loose. Sherman, that insufferable, self-important douchebag has put his own tailor-made tapeworms (fresh from the skull of our humble narrator) into the public water supply. Sal has secured the freedom of her friends, but at the cost of her own. Here she lies, in the violent womb of USAMRIID’s San Francisco installation, surrounded by guards who want her dead and a father who sees her as nothing more than a monster. Meanwhile, the few human survivors have been rounded up into refugee ghettos, the candy factory has been compromised and the future does not look bright for either the humans or the tapeworms.

 

I’ve spread enough squee over Mira’s ability to develop characters and rich, powerful problems with no easy solution. Look back at those other reviews I linked if you want to see it again. In that sense, Chimera is more of the same.

 

The difference that Chimera brings us is closure. A sense that the journey is done and I feeling that it has meant something. Granted, just as was the case with Grant’s Newsflesh series, we do not get a clean summation of every issue and the world is not all right by the time the last page ahs turned. This is a woman whose fiction tends to turn on major paradigm shifts that do not simply fall back into a semblance of normality. But, we do get to see the summation of Sal’s journey through all of this and that is what kept me hanging on anyways.

 

Just like the previous books, you can hop in, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride and have a damn good time. Yet, dorks like myself that overthink everything will find plenty to mull and argue with each other over.

 

Beneath the surface, this series deals with a multitude of issues: transgender identity, abuse, the assumption of power positions, the politics of dominance and the far too grand for me to wrap my brain around idea of what exactly it is that makes personhood over humanity. It deals with all of these issues in a complex, painful manner where there are not only no simple solutions, but often no solutions at all, just people flailing in the dark, hoping to stumble on a brief patch of light. It’s beautiful.

 

Even those concepts are dwarfed beneath the overriding metaphor of the series: that weird period of life between adolescence and adulthood. The necessary realization that you are more than the pieces of genetic material that formed your birth. That you are more than what you have been taught. That you are more than the experiences that have built your life. That those things can all combine to be more and that you should use them but also cast them aside in becoming the person only you are. It’s also about how goddam terrifying that process is and how mother fucking beautiful.

 

Whether you call her Mira Grant or Seanan McGuire, it’s becoming incredibly clear that she is a growing force in creating Literature that deserves every bit of that capitalized L while it kicks every bit of my ass.

 

Cover Art: How many times do I have to whine and complain before everyone credits their cover artists? Luckily, Mira Grant has informed me that the artist is Lauren Panepinto. Yay for credit where credit is due. I guess it makes sense that she wasn’t listed with the copyright info, as she is the art director for Orbit.

 

As with the other two books, the image here is simple and effective. I like that all three have a common central image that is processed in different ways that reflect the individual part of the story they present, while maintaining a sense of wholeness to all three. This one is even colder than the other two, though and all of them would make me think first of Michael Crichton, which is not a flattering comparison by any means.

 

reviewed by Anton Cancre

 


Goodnight Mommy (Ich Seh, Ich Seh)

goodnight-mommyFirst off: fuck you, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes for your synopsis of this film. “Kids play in a cornfield. Mom has bandages. Kids are afraid mom is not mom.” Adequately describes the first five minutes of the movie. Maybe. The rest of it was mostly me yelling “What the fuck?” at my tv. Goodnight Mommy, by far, the most German movie I have seen since The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary. We’re talking what-Michael-Bay-films-are-to-American-summer-blockbusters levels of stereotypical Germanity here.

 

I’ll try to do better with the synopsis. There are creepy twins. Mom’s face is covered in bandages. Their house is out in the middle of nowhere. Mom is acting strange; eating roaches and locking the kids in their room and occasionally kinda-sorta choking one of them when she isn’t taking naked walks in the woods kind of strange. The twins aren’t all that stable, either; cat-pickling, dumping bugs on dear old mum and plotting in the dark are not the hallmarks of good little boys. Then stuff happens involving tape, the red cross, magnifying glasses, masks and fly strips.

 

The writer/director team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz do a hell of a job of creating unease right off the bat with this film. It has all of the creepy bases hit. Twins: check. Creepy ass homemade mask: check. Woman dehumanized through surgical gauze: check. Huge, isolated house in the country: double check. Access to a corn field and a giant, oddly symmetrical forest: checkity-check-check. Maybe it is my unfamiliarity with the German language, but the dialogue feels like it is delivered very flat and distant, giving the whole thing an eerie, dreamlike quality even before things get strange. Then, when the shit really hits the fan, they show a hell of a talent at ratcheting up tension, slowly and smoothly with the right tugs on just the right nerves to make me uncomfortable.

 

Again, the language proves an issue for me when it comes to judging performances, but the kids (played by Lukas and Elias Swarz-what kind of maniac names the characters the same as the actors?) do their stoic syncopation damn well. Suzanne Wuest, as the unnamed mother, carries her unhinged frailty quite nicely, too. With such a small, intimate film, it could easily have fallen apart but those three keep everything feeling honest amid the crazy.

 

The story itself runs into some potential continuity problems. The first third does not quite sync with what occurs in the last two-thirds. It could be that we are meant to experience the point of view of a specific character and that this POV is a warped one. It could also be that Franz and Fiala had some creepy shit in mind that didn’t exactly gel with the overall story they were telling and they didn’t care. I need to watch it a few more times to decide which I think is true, but my brain can’t handle that right now. Also, there is an intended surprise that you should see coming damn near from the start, if you’ve ever watched movies before.

 

Overall, Goodnight Mommy is a solid, creepy as hell experience that can get a bit rough at times (super glue, man, that stuff is no joke). I can’t say I had a good time with it, but it messed with my head and freaked me out a bit, which is a rare occurrence any more. This duo definitely has my attention. I have to pull an obnoxious hipster move and say that I like the German original title better (roughly translates to I See, I See), which is much more enigmatic and brings to the fore the question of subjective observation. Goodnight Mommy is just a bit too on the nose and silly for my tastes.

 

Poster/cover art:

The red wash is a bit too much. For such a grim and serious film, something more subtle really should have been used. Besides, those boys look freaky enough on their own. They don’t really need the help. I do, however, like the focus it brings to the eyes, especially given the original title. For the most part, though, ignore this lame bullshit cover. The movie poster I show here is much better.

 

Reviewed by Anton Cancre


Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome, by Alethea Kontis and Janet K Lee

DiaryThe following is the dialog I imagined in my head when I decided to write this one up.

You: “Are you really reviewing a children’s book?”

Me: “First off, fuck you. I’ll do what I want. Also, yeah. Kinda. I mean, children’s is kinda widgy of a description when it comes to our dear Princess Alethea. Besides, it’s really damn cool. I promise.”

 

Sorry, I had to get that out of my brain before pretending to be serious while talking about the illustrated diary entries of a garden gnome’s adventures in angry science, wherein a sock monkey kidnaps a fairy and everything kinda sorta sprouts rabbit ears. Well, lookie there, I just summaried. We can move onto the review proper now.

 

The market for this book is pretty simple and self-explanatory: three year olds who are super into Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog and the new plastic pink flamingo. That’s a demographic, right? So maybe it is a bit more complicated than that. Let’s resimplify: The story is simple and a tad silly, pulled off in short, punchy chunks. Did you really expect anything else from She Who is Glitter Incarnate?

 

Janet Lee’s accompanying artwork is more detailed than I expected, while holding onto the flouncy-bouncy attitude of the story. I especially got a kick out of the backgrounds, that look kinda like contact paper. There’s also a surprising amount of pathos and joy reflected in what seem like simple faces. The fairy on the cover is more than a bit heart-breaking. Kudos for that, Ms. Lee.

 

Bottom line: adult dorks into angry science, steampunk, blatant Joss Whedon adoration, fairies and ninja sock monkeys or just weird, fun stories will have a good time. My first thought was a comparison to It’s Okay to Be A Zombie, with more focus on story. Unlike that book, though, there is nothing blatantly problematic for any little kiddies you may have in your life (barring, perhaps, a small issue with a blue jay that made me weep a bit). The price is a bit high, but you’re paying for the art as much as for the words and pretty pictures don’t come cheap.

 

Now, someone tell me how to find that handy guide on How to be Ninja (100% more!).

Buy it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble here.