The horror, the horror…

I’m not talking about the economy, nor am I talking about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (nor am I talking, by extension, about Apocalypse Now!).  I’m talking about some of the books I’ve been reading recently.

Book Reviews:

“Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre”, by H.P. Lovecraft – Super scary stories from the master. The Rats in the Walls is about a guy who finds a whole hidden netherworld underneath his house. Pickman’s Model is about an artist who paints scary subjects. In The Vault is about a night spent trapped in a tomb with a zombie. The Music of Erich Zann is, like Pickman’s Model, about demonic inspiration. The Whisperer in Darkness is one of the longest stories, and it is about a guy who takes up correspondence with a man who’s interested in hidden forces in the forest. Things take a turn for the worse, but he nonetheless accepts an invitation to be driven into the middle of nowhere to spend a night in an isolated house in the middle of a haunted forest. And then he finds out that… things are not as they would appear! Classic stories such as The Dunwich Horror and The Call of Cthulhu are in the book and have to be read to be believed, but probably the best story is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which talks of a man who out of curiosity visits the town of Innsmouth, about which no good things have ever been said. It is haunted by mysterious cult creatures and sea demons, or so the legends say, and he goes there by himself to find out first hand whether there’s truth to the rumours or not. Of course there is, and he has to escape the town. You’d think that the story would end there, but it doesn’t and it just gets more interesting. Slow-moving as all Lovecraft’s stories are, this one is still a marvel to read. It was the basis of the films Cthulhu and Dagon, of which I understand the latter is the better one.

“Twilight,” by Stephenie Meyer – Well, it’s such a sensation, I really had to read it. Keeping in mind that it is a romance aimed at high school teenagers, I have to say that the book really isn’t very good and I do find its appeal quite astonishing. It’s about mopey Bella Swan who falls in love with Edward Cullen, the handsome, glamorour white knight/vampire. Yes, he’s a good vampire, he and his friends really don’t want to hurt anybody. Bella seems like the kind of mopey person I definitely wouldn’t want to hang out with if I knew her. Almost nothing happens in the book, except Bella has one wonderful thing after another happen to her. A vein of extreme danger is finally introduced at a vampire baseball game (?!?!) quite late in the book, and then everybody’s in crisis mode. There is a clever plot twist, and then there is a final confrontation which… Bella can’t report because she passed out. Yes, that’s right – this book without any sex in it also doesn’t have any violence either. That should make the parents happy, right? Vampires, but no sex or violence. Sheesh. Something that’s not mentioned is how these vampires, who don’t age, seem to have been condemned to high school for eternity and go over their lessons again and again as they move from school to school to hide their identities. Diabolic. To compare with Harry Potter, it is much easier to understand the appeal of those young adult books to teens and adults alike – they introduce great characters, there’s a fascinating backstory, each book offers a few major revelations about the backstory, and there’s a lot of action. I can’t say the same for Meyers’ book. She also has an irritating habit of constantly describing Edward as laughing, holding back laughter, surpressing a laugh, etc. The book does provide a few interesting point, such as the introduction of the Jacob Black character, who is a Native American and whose people know a thing or two about the vampire race and their enemies, the werewolves. The version of Twilight I read also has the first chapter of the second book in the series, New Moon. Although it starts of in sickening fashion with Bella being treated to a series of fantastic birthday presents from her new family, despite her protestations that she doesn’t want ANY presents at all, ever (snooty little hussy), and she’s of course annoyed that they ignored her wishes and went all out to treat her to something special – how dare they!?! But the chapter does end with a pretty amazing moment of suspense that, I suppose, might actually draw me into reading New Moon. Eventually.

CD/DVD Reviews:

White Zombie, “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” - Finally, we get a chance to hear all those early White Zombie albums that have been out of print for decades, plus some DVD fun thrown in as well. Four CDs and a DVD of videos and live shows, there’s also a booklet with some Rob Zombie illustrations, plus pictures of the band from the early days of 1985. Guitarists never lasted it seems, until the God of Thunder 12-in of 1989 when they got Jay Yuenger. The first EP Gods on Voodoo Moon had another drummer, but Ivan DePrume joined on the Pig Heaven single and stayed until La Sexorcista in 1992 (the last album had a different drummer). Otherwise it’s Rob and Sean Yseault throughout. Often considered the hottest female bassist in rock ‘n’ roll, she doesn’t look so great in the early pictures (and now she’s been displaced by Melissa AufDerMaur anyway). The music is fat and gnarly, heavy and slow, without much of the boogie stomp you get on La Sexorcista. Certainly none of the over-the-top production values of Astro-Creep: 2000 and the other singles from around that time, all of which are here (I Am Hell, I’m Your Boogieman, Feed The Gods, Children of the Grave, The One, and Ratfinks Suicide Tanks and Cannibal Girls). The one-off songs are all great, except maybe for The One (from the lousy Escape From LA soundtrack). Of the early albums, Gods of Voodoo Moon is probably the best, it’s sort of Cramps-like rock ‘n’ roll, quite straight forward. Rob howls Will Shatter from Flipper or some other sort of snotty punk rock, like early Butthole Surfers. Hey, it was 1985! Pig Heaven is more “musical,” with a nice guitar intro and some groovy bass and drums before Rob starts yelling in a high monotone. Psycho-Head Blowout is a trippy Sonic Youth-like effort that stomps quite heavily once it gets going, and Rob sings in a high-pitched sneer. Kurt Cobain supposedly revered this album, and you can hear parts of Nirvana in the opening track “Eighty Eight.” The band seems to like long instrumental intros before Rob kicks in. Soul-Crusher from 1987 opens with a zombie movie soundbite, shades of the over-use of dialogue clips on La Sexorcista, but the album isn’t very much fun. Make Them Die Slowly, while it’s a great title, isn’t a good album. It was the last before Jay Yuenger joined. The God of Thunder 12-inch is more like it, three songs including the title track KISS cover which is a lot of good fun. Love Razor and Disaster Blaster 2 are booth good tracks, and then that leads into the infamous La Sexorcista: Devil Music, Vol. 1 and Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head. I won’t bother to mention anything about these albums since they are already well known. The DVD has both videos and live music. The videos are mostly good fun, although they are inevitable very bouncy and move around a lot while the band grimaces. Black Sunshine is good, with its Iggy Pop cameo, and Feed The Gods is good raunchy fun. Welcome to Planet Motherfucker is good grainy black ‘n’ white stage footage, while Thunder Kiss ’65 rocks in the desert with go-go dancers. The live clips are generally good fun, and you often see the set-opener with three members playing the intro to a song before Rob comes flying out. He moves constantly spinning around and freaking out. Outrageous. I Am Hell is one of the better clips, since it’s done on MTV so the cameras are all on and have good angles. The early sets have the best energy, even if the quality is a bit dodgy. When the band plays a festival in Germany in 1995, Rob seems a bit pooped and doesn’t bother with all of the lyrics for Thunderkiss ’65. I notice he likes to say at the end of sets “see ya later, alligator – bye bye.” Makes me wonder which obscure TV show that was originally from. Welcome to Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag filmed near the end of their career, on August 1996, is a very cool, lively version in front of a huge crowd, but the disc ends with a half-hearted version of Creature Of The Wheel, recorded in January of the same year; although the band is into it, Rob doesn’t look like he’s trying, and at one point he even lies on the stage for a while. The DVD contains a few easter eggs, including an alternate version of Thunderkiss ’65, as well as the whole original White Zombie movie starring Bela Legosi. I’ve seen the film, but I don’t remember it too well – may have to watch it again.

Comments are closed.