“Masters” of Horror, Indeed

I’ve been cruising through some horror offerings lately, some written, some viewed. During my vacation, as I previously blogged, my beloved spouse indulged my horrific whims with movies and permissive blind-eyeing. So, one of the things I wanted to check out was an old series on Showtime (I think) called Masters of Horror.

MastersofhorrorIt aired back in 2005, and brought together 13 masters of the horror genre who directed a one-hour short film. I’ve seen two so far: Deer Woman and Sick Girl.

Either one is enough to turn me off the series for good.

John Landis did great with An American Werewolf in London, but his entry to the Masters of Horror episode was a disaster. It was boring, comical and not at all what I’d hoped. It did have a beautiful topless woman, though, and I have to say, even that couldn’t save it.

Sick Girl is a lesbian-commentary piece about being different for most of its run. At the end it actually becomes a predictable and laughable body-horror entry, and again, the topless shots (of a fairly mediocre-looking actress) didn’t help. In the end, it fell flat and was a bit ridiculous. Oh, and predictable.

Now, I don’t want to give up on this series just yet. The whole reason I started watching it in the first place was because of a discovery I made last month that a horror comic from the 1970s (I think) was the basis for one of the episodes. It’s called Jenifer, and from what I can see they stayed relatively true to the original story. It was only about ten pages long originally, so we’ll see how they choose to fill the space.

If that one is disappointing, I quit. On to something else. I’ve seen a lot of good movies and read some interesting stories, but you can’t win ‘em all.

If anyone’s seen Jenifer, no comment-spoilers please. Unless it’s really bad. Then please save me from myself.

Hope you all had a good weekend!

Sweeps Week

csi Yeah, must be sweeps week on TV.

How do I know?  Well, the surest sign was the spanning of a story across three different shows in the CSI franchise.  All three of them are having the same story cross over between the three shows over three nights.  Miss a night, you miss the story.  Don’t like the show?  Tough.  Take it like a man and watch anyway.

It’s not a new trick.  I remember comic books doing this most of my life.  As far back as I can remember, comic books ran a single story arc across multiple titles.  Sometimes they’d unify the continuity of the titles.  For instance, Spider-Man had no fewer than three titles back when I first recall reading them.  But none of them were consistent in continuity, so when something came across all three titles, the writers had to huddle up and make the story make sense for the title and where it occurred in their time line.  In the 1990s, things got flat ridiculous.  And when you kill off a character?  Well, that creates mayhem, ala Superman and its multiple titles, circa something like 1992.

But with three separate shows on the same network in the same franchise, nothing has to be so dramatic or difficult.  I’m sure the coordination of the writing is challenging.  I did notice, however, the association of the three franchises with one another did nothing to elevate the suck-factor of the first episode.  (My wife and I stopped watching the Miami version of this show because it became … well, sucky.)  So having the characters cross over didn’t help the show at all; it still sucked.

But it’s all right.  It never helped the comics the way they wanted it to, but maybe it will help the CSI franchise.  It certainly hooked my wife.  She’s watching it right now, as I type this, and there are two more on tap.

What cheap TV tricks do your shows use to keep you tuned in, engaged, involved in the show?  Which ones really burn you up?  Which are you fond of?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

The Good Wife

julianna margulies I’m interrupting my current series on blog stuff (mostly negative stuff, if you haven’t noticed) to talk about a TV show I saw last night.

I was actually just surfing channels when it came on, but it caught my attention right out of the gate and held me throughout the hour.  It had interesting characters, an interesting backstory, a sound plot (I mean, you know … for TV), and was acted well.  Overall, a very good show.

The Good Wife aired on CBS at 10 p.m. (9 CT), starring Chris Noth and Julianna Margulies. The basic premise is, a Chicago state’s attorney is caught with a hooker and the video tape is exposed to the media, destroying his career.  He’s charged with abuse of office and imprisoned.  (That’s the fantasy part of TV at work – that a Chicago politician would actually serve time for committing an act of abuse of office.)  To recover her life, she’s gotten a job as a junior associate with a large law firm, and her first case is a pro bono case which is being picked up from a previous trial which ended in a hung jury.

The story was interesting, and the way the backstory was delivered was masterful. The writers didn’t hammer home a bunch of it through information dumps of any kind, like the usual “sitting in a bar with the one person who accepts you as you are sharing histories” scenes so typical of television. It came through things said along the course of the show, through very natural dialog, and through the opening scene which set the stage for the show.

I haven’t been impressed with anything Julianna Margulies has done with her career since she left ER years and years ago, but I have to admit, she did a great job of showing the uncertain, finding-her-footing lawyer returning to the industry and courtroom and being thrown to the wolves after fifteen years away from it.  She’s stumbling along on this case with instructions from a senior partner to continue the previous defense because it caused a deadlock before.

Through the course of the story we learn her character is still married to the politician, though she hasn’t forgiven him for his transgression(s), and the mother-in-law is offering daycare services to her tween/teen children while she’s working.  In addition, she’s facing a judge in the trial who hated her husband, shows a definite bias against her during trial (creating the tension the audience needs to rally behind the MC, of course) and another junior associate in her office who is competing for the same job (there’s one opening, two associates, and a decision is to be made in six months on who will be retained).  Top it off with an assistant, shared between her and her competitor, who doesn’t give her the time of day because the other junior associate is “hogging her” and you have a great bit of tension and conflict built into this woman’s uphill struggle.

I thought the show was well-written, and I don’t say that lightly.  I scrutinize TV shows horribly and closely, looking for flaws and trite techniques which are tired and hackneyed.  Let me tell you, in general, I don’t have to look very long or hard to see them.  But this one?  Pretty well-handled; I was a little impressed.

There are nice touches and subtleties throughout the show, which I can only hope will continue over the course of the show.  The writing had a couple of moments of deus ex machina, but not as many as you’d find with most other TV shows.  I completely enjoyed this one, and recommend it.

At least, for this episode.  We’ll see how it goes from there.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

What If …

… you just snapped?snappedlogo

I’ve been watching a show on Oxygen called SnappedMy love and I have an affinity for true crime shows which present cases in compelling, interesting ways.  Our all-time favorite is City Confidential, on A&E.  But we’ve lost touch with it, if it’s even still on.

We also used to enjoy American Justice, another A&E program.

Now, though, I’ve been smitten with Snapped. The show is much more serious-minded than City Confidential, but it still presents its cases in interesting, storytelling fashion.  While the narrator uses a newscaster sort of cadence, she also has just the right touch of creepiness to her voice to make the narrative compelling.

Yesterday morning, several episodes aired.  The show is aired in two formats: a sixty-minute version and a half-hour version.  In the morning they aired four or six half-hour episodes, and I sat through most of them with my coffee and breakfast.  In a couple of the cases, the women (the killers are almost always women on the show) tried to blame their children for their crimes.  In one case the son was guilty of the crime but was paid by his mother to do it.  In another, the mother said during the trial she was only doing what any good mother would do, helping her daughter clean up the crime scene and get rid of the body.  The body was the husband/father.

I know people are sick, and in general this wouldn’t surprise me, except it’s demonstrative of how different some people’s views of parenting are from mine.

So, what if the unthinkable happened?

You come home from work or shopping.  You open the door to your house and your nostrils are assaulted by the metallic smell of congealing blood.  You call out, but no one answers.  You pad across the foyer, into the living room.  There, a horrific sight greets you.

Your spouse, face down on the carpet, in a pool of coagulating, brown-red blood seeping into the carpet.  Your child is in a fetal position in the corner, crying hysterically, rocking.

With red, puffy eyes rimmed in horror and shock, she says “I killed dad/mom.”

What do you do?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

The Best of the Lot

Cover of

This past weekend, I had opportunity to watch a new(er – 2004) TV version (well, new to me anyway) of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot.  It stars Rob Lowe (who was also in the TV mini-series production of The Stand with Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald), Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Samantha Mathis, and Andre Braugher (who was also in the recent theatrical version of The Mist).

I was prepared to be disappointed.  The 1979 version (with David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin [remember James at 15?], Bonnie Bedelia and Fred Willard) and and this one were both made-for-TV movies which spanned two nights, but this one was re-aired in a single four-hour showing.  (Love it.)  I recorded it and sat down to watch it late one night while my beloved sat in bed to read.

Now, it’s probably been about twenty-five years since I’ve read King’s book.  I saw the movie first.  But the book was different.  In 1979, Kurt Barlow is a blue-faced, lanky, tall version of Nosferatu (played by Reggie Nalder) in a black dress.  Scary?  Oh yeah.  True to the story?  Not so much.

In this version, Kurt Barlow is played by Rutger Hauer.  A more perfect choice for the role couldn’t have been made.  He did a magnificent job, and as near I can remember, did a great job of recreating Barlow from King’s tale.

Certain elements of the story have been updated for more current times – for example, cell phones weren’t around in 1975 when King published Lot originally, or in 1979 when the first version was filmed.  Certain aspects of the story were adjusted, probably for the sake of isolating the story to the confines of the time slot allowed.  Such decisions must always be made, but a lot of times they hurt the story.  This time they didn’t, I thought.

The vampires are real vampires.  They don’t sparkle, they’re not quick-witted over-sexed rich people with shoulder-length hair and silk clothing.  They’re not homosexual, or sexual at all unless it will get them fed, as far as I can tell.  They’re just vampires … creepy, scary, treacherous, conniving, hungry … and proliferating.  Rapidly.

The story’s about a town who, through inherent evil built into the very fabric of a house high on an overlooking hill, unwittingly invites into it’s midst a vampire and his human, if somewhat enhanced, attendant.  One by one, starting with children (who present easy prey for a vampire … or any other predator unfortunately), the town is converted to vampires by the sinister and largely invisible Barlow and his growing minions.  In the end, the protagonist must face both his childhood-ingrained fear of the town and its haunted mansion, and the vampire Barlow and his increasing army of undead.

It’s a gripping story, and this version did an amazing job of showing the slow but steady influx of the monsters, with the town dying from beneath its denizens in geometric acceleration.  This version of the movie, I thought, was well-done.  The classic vampire stories play into the creatures.  The heroes are not altruistic, but have their own reasons and agendas for stopping Barlow.  They’re broken people, flawed, and for the most part, well-acted.

The variances from the book may not all have been necessary, but in the end, they worked very well.  The 1979 version was good; I enjoyed it a lot, and it was scary.  Both excelled in their telling of the tale, I thought, and I balk at saying one’s better than the other.  This one was a great successor to a great movie to me, and it showed horror as I truly feel it should be.  Not gore-laden and blood-dripping, so much, but just evocative of deep fears and flesh-crawling … well, horror.

If you haven’t seen it – and it’s five years old already so I’m pretty sure I’m the last person on the planet not to – it’s worth the time.  I give it an “A”.  Not an “A+” because some of the CGI could’ve been better, but overall, not bad at all.  And I was the more impressed because of what I’ve seen in the horror genre lately.

If you get a chance to check it out, I recommend it.  Highly.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.