Sunday, December 16, 2012


The movie's a wonder - following Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant, one of cinema's greatest special effects) across Paris for nine different and increasingly abstract performance assignments, HOLY MOTORS registers both as pure cinematic thrills and a more personal, dialectic look at how digital forces are increasingly shaping our world. Director Leos Carax happily isn't a polemicist; indeed, in a film rife with references to the work of his countrymen (the episodes and interludes recall Feuillade, Renoir, Demy, Truffaut, Franju, and probably others - hell, Carax even references himself with a short sequel to Merde!, his segment of the omnibus film TOKYO!), the strident political diatribes of Godard are mercifully absent. What remains is a celebration of the possibilities of cinema, a potentiality undimmed (though certain, Carax reminds us, to be changed) by the prospects of a digital future. Like all great films, its surface pleasures are more than enough to hold our interest, but it contains multitudes and myriad deeper meanings that unfold and intensify as it lingers in the mind. Even the movie's melancholic moments seem to juice the exhilaration of it. It's one of the most gripping statements of total cinema I've ever experienced, and after seeing it twice I doubt I've exhausted it.

And fuck me if it doesn't look better in digital projection than 35mm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


A journalist travels to a faraway house, expecting to pick up some documents for an article on male sterilization. She finds that the lord of the house has a yen for imprisoning women, and many means of tortures (psychological and otherwise) at his disposal. But he soon finds that she's not quite all she seems, either.

If there's a finer, crazier, deeper film on the ongoing battle between men and women than this one, I need to see it. Balancing frank discourse with gorgeous visuals and mounting suspense (and more than a dash of knowing comedy - the final reckoning in a swimming pool is scored and shot like the showdown in a Western), director Piero Schivazappa (aided immeasurably by the confident performances of Philippe Leroy and Dagmar Lassander) turns a psychedelic and lurid genre piece into something smarter than anyone probably wanted it to be. The movie is rife with the gloriously bold sleaziness that makes late 60s/early 70s erotic cinema so refreshing. And yet there's intelligence at work here, as the film unpacks the baggage of the male id and ego (and the toll they take on women), counterbalancing it with soft (but ultimately dangerous) femininity.

It's braver and deeper (and a lot less predictable) than its contemporary counterparts - the basic storyline and themes manifest these days in tepid psycho-sleaze like CAPTIVITY and P2 or dreary work like the oeuvre of Neil LaBute. The accumulated years are evident in THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, but its remarkable how much intelligence it credits us with, even as it titillates our darker sides. Would that those intent on crafting another cinematic unpacking of the male id take a cue from this film instead of shallowly aping Cassavetes yet again.

(I'm grateful to the San Francisco Cult and Psychotronic Film Society for giving this thing another airing in 35mm. Yeoman's work, ladies & gentlemen.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Night in Silent Hill

I was going to go third party, I really was. California was always going to be solidly in Obama's corner, so I felt it would be useful to throw my presidential vote toward the Green Party. But then Donald Trump had to double down on his bullshit, offering a $5mil donation to charity if the President would release his college transcripts or somesuch, even going as far as to petulantly suggest that the President didn't want to support charity by ignoring the offer. (Obama was, of course, busy with other matters at the time.) Since I couldn't will, say, a giant spider to shit in Trump's mouth, I gave Obama my vote out of spite Tuesday morning.

But the day was tense. Though I had some reservations about Obama, I felt that a Romney presidency could hold some truly dire consequences, given his willingness to ascribe personhood to corporations (and deny it to gays and lesbians), his interest in privatizing disaster relief, his ever-shifting positions on just about any topic put in front of him, his brazen ability to lie in front of millions of people. I couldn't bear the prospect of sitting in front of the television listening to pundits blather as the decision drew near. So I headed to a suitably off-the-beaten-path destination.

I'm a soft touch for the Silent Hill games, though hardly a veteran. (In fact even now I'm stuck on the second nightmare sequence in Shattered Memories, which has been kicking my ass for days - no combat option? Really, Konami? Shit.) And though I only caught it on video, I found the first Silent Hill film an evocative translation of the games' story and aesthetics. And so Silent Hill: Revelation
, a 3D adaptation of the third (many say the best) in the video game series, was a film I couldn't miss.

The story follows Heather Mason, a young woman plagued by visions of her barely-remembered past, as she is drawn to the mysterious town of Silent Hill. Her search for her missing father draws her deep into the town's dark heart, where she's beset by ghoulish creatures and terrifying events that may well offer clues to her real identity.

The film (much like its predecessor, it must be said) is a wildly disjointed affair. It offers but rushes through exposition, too faithful to its source, perhaps, to make it truly cinematic. So heavily does it rely on knowledge of the previous film (or at least a basic familiarity with the series of games) that I imagine newcomers will be lost, and the action will be abstract at best to these viewers. And yet the abstraction does turn into a dreamlike labyrinth, with much of the beautiful/grotesque imagery and music of the series rendered lovingly, from the freakish modern dance gestures of the blind nurses to the ashen transformation from reality to Silent Hill's underworld (and a quiet transition back that's simply lovely). A willingness to lose oneself in such headlong, even clumsy, grotesquerie is a must, but it is rewarded by the film (which culminates in a weirdly moving about-face for one of the series' major menaces that took at least this casual but knowledgeable fan by pleasant surprise).

After the film I couldn't not check my messages. My girlfriend was elated. My fellow San Franciscans were overjoyed by Obama's imminent victory. My Twitter feed was exploding with some funny motherfuckers reporting a spectacular meltdown on FoxNews. Just as Heather Mason leaves Silent Hill to stride more confidently into the real world, so did I emerge into a joyous, warmly embracing night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October, Day Final

"Just a moment, Ladies and Gentlemen! Just a word before you go! We hope the memories of Dracula won't give you bad dreams, so a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight, and the lights have been turned out, and you are afraid to look behind the curtains, and you dread to see a face appear at the window...why just pull yourself together and remember that after all...


Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ten excellent things about Friday's performance, both the production and my experience of it. I write this doing no other research beyond that of my own memory - I have not looked to get a better grasp of what the opera is "about", and will not look to confirm my impressions until after this piece is done. But the piece, which is being revived and touched down in Berkeley this weekend (the second of only two US airings of the work), made a hell of an impression.

1. Having never been to Zellerbach Hall, I feared our seats on Right Tier would be far back. Happily, they landed us just 20 feet from stage right, where the show's five Knee Plays would be performed. (So called as they serve as joints between the larger acts, allowing commentary and short breathers while sets are changed.) These pieces, largely movement/text duos, were meticulously performed by Helga Davis and Kate Moran.

2. Philip Glass' score was throbbing, ever-evolving, often moving throughout. I can't imagine experiencing it separately from the performance - it's clearly a tight collaboration between Glass, choreographer Lucinda Childs, and director/designer Robert Wilson.

3. Wilson's incredible imagination creates stage pictures spun from Einstein's life and legacy that continue to speak to our history and imagination, The show hasn't dated in the slightest since its 70s premiere.

4. Powerful, evocative choreography by Lucinda Childs, whose dancers spin like mating atoms through two strong sections. But every actor is a powerful mover in his/her own way - to land on such repetitive action and dialogue so solidly and presently speaks to some superhuman stamina.

1. Gorgeous music during 2a, the trial section.

2. The night train duet, section 1b, unfolding in the light of a shifting moon is the most Gothic thing I've ever seen,

3. The second trial scene boasts an incredible reading of about four lines of text by Moran, going blithely from trial to prison through several costume pieces. It's an incredible display of performative control, and Moran brings a weird kind of heat to it. If she slipped up during her recitation (I can only imagine how exacting this kind of minimalism can be), I didn't notice.

4. Dear God, the sax solo... Glass' score churns and shifts evocatively throughout, but four-plus hours of grand minimalism threatens to wear on the audience. So smart and generous, then, to open Act 4 with a solo improvised over Glass' sonic fields. Andrew Sterman stepped up and delivered, in every conceivable way. Space flight was almost an afterthought. Almost.

5. Absurd as it may sound, what I found most thrilling during the mission control segment that climaxes the show was realizing that THE BAND WERE IN MISSION CONTROL.

6. And so happy to find a Knee Play closing the show, with a despondent Davis and Moran uncertain under the shadow of the atom bomb, with a kindly bus driver offering benediction and hope, as well as release from this sprawling, moving, precise yet human work.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October, Day 24

"We know not what the children may become."--Edward Counsel, Maxims

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October, Day 23 - The Living Years

Bigbaddrac's Twitter feed.

SEVEN BLADES AGAINST DRACULA (Spencer, 02) Harris makes a grand go of it, and there're fewer kids, but it just ain't canon without Peyton.

Toni Blackthorn's blog, The Bay of Angels.

I'm pretty sure I'd do just about anything anyone asked me if it would get Matthew Peyton back as Dracula.

Paul Affeldt's introductory remarks, FrightFreakFest screening of DRACULA, Rialto Theatre, Portland, Oregon.

Good evening, and thank you for having me here. I'm pleased to see so many of you here tonight, at a screening held on the occasion of my father's birthday. It would have meant a lot to him, and means a lot to the arts administrator you see standing before you.

At the time it was being made, this movie meant a lot of long hours for my dad, and many nights when he simply wasn't around. But it also meant an absence note signed by him to get me out of school to attend the movie's opening with him. It meant being subject to more gore and horror at a young age than some school boards would find appropriate, the kind of questionable call made by my father that I loved him for, and continue to love him for today. I'm pleased to see that some of you continue this proud tradition of lousy parenting, and offer a special hello to the children present in the audience tonight.

I've noticed that a lot of these events are held on the anniversary of a death, and I'm pleased that FrightFreakFest is celebrating my father's birthday, and by extension his life, and his work. I know that among the works that made him the most proud were his Dracula films with Matt Peyton, and though Matt no longer attends screenings of these particular films, he has told me that he's pleased that they still draw audiences, and I'm sure he'll be pleased to hear that so many of you came out on such a lovely afternoon to see this, his first work with the character, and with my father. If you're here for the first time, I hope you enjoy it.

And I hope the management will give me a minute to take my seat, so I can enjoy this movie with you. Thank you very much for coming.

To be concluded.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October, Day 21

The infant points past his father, to an empty corner of his bedroom. "Who's that guy?"

No one can tell what the fuck it is, but something translucent, leggy, and alive is twitching on the floor of the commuter train, causing a panic. The Chinese driver enters the train to investigate, sees the thing and, without a word, kicks it onto the subway platform, causing the commuters waiting there to scatter in sudden terror.

A woman helps her dear friend sorting through the house recently occupied by her now-deceased mother. There is no draft or other air displacement in the house, but for a moment both of them are overwhelmed by the sudden, unmistakable, and strong, scent of roses.

# # # # # # # # #

Despite my love of horror films and fantasy in general, I've walked this earth without ever once experiencing a parting of the curtain, a glance at the other side. I am grateful to (and perhaps somewhat envious of) the friends who have had these experiences, and hope they won't mind me sharing them here. Uncommon experiences now saved in my commonplace book.

October, Day 20

Friday, October 19, 2012


Bigbaddrac's Twitter feed.

THE RED RED BLOOD OF DRACULA (Spencer, 00) PeytonDracula presides over deco mansion and feeds on 12 kids. Shouldn't have ended the series.

Matthew Peyton's Diary.

The studio thought it wise to retire the character for a number of years, and I have to say I agreed a bit. To be honest I was quite surprised when they asked me back, but apparently I was their first call - the regime change hadn't quite happened yet, and they wanted to build on previous familiarity with the series. Ted was still under contract so he was back in as well.

They built a lovely house in the studio for it - if nothing else it was certainly the most visually striking film in the series. The director Renny Spencer built an incredible atmosphere, and he was quite good with us actors. The studio wanted a younger cast, and Renny jettisoned much of the script, letting the actors improvise some rather nice character details. The young lead, Jenna Clark, was awfully good - I thought she'd have a much more expansive career than she's had.

The final fight scene turned into a rather extended ballet choreographed by Jenna, Ted, and myself with Renny giving us space but giving some much-needed advice. We wound up dancing a somewhat tragic pas de deux as I disintegrated in the rising sun. Ted, as usual, topped himself, and if I do say so myself it was one of the loveliest moments in the series.

The response was greater than we could have hoped, and both the longtime fans and their children (which shows how old I was getting by this point) all seemed to enjoy it. RED RED BLOOD (and oh how I loved the juicy excess of that title) was a huge hit, and the studio took no convincing to greenlight a couple of more films. And I took no convincing to sign on for them.

But then Ted fucked everything up by dying.

...and the story continues here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Bigbaddrac's Twitter feed.

FIFTY GUNS AGAINST DRACULA (Ho, 95) PeytonDracula unleashes newschool moves in HK gun fu co-prod. It's every bit as awesome as you'd hope.

Matthew Peyton's Diary.

I'd been very impressed by the genre films I'd seen out of Hong Kong - very exciting filmmaking, powerful energy. When I was asked if I wanted to work on a Hong Kong co-production of a Dracula film I jumped at the chance. I'd never been to Hong Kong, and given that I was turning forty I though that I'd better do this movie now while I could still do at least some of the fight scenes!

They didn't blink at hiring Ted for the effects scenes. The crew worked faster and scrappier than I was used to, really, but Ted thrived in that environment. And the death scene was absolute genius, with Dracula getting blown up with a rocket launcher to expose his heart, which Shung Khan's hero could finally impale with the sacred dagger since it was trailing from my chest exposed on the floor. Of all of the deaths that Ted concocted for me that was probably my favorite. Never mind that it almost really killed me.

...and the story continues here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October, Day 16

Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention.

Nothing wrong with a man taking pleasure in his work. I won't deny my own personal desire to turn each sin against the sinner.

--Honestly, have you ever seen anything like this?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October, Day 14

Breaking ranks within the post-a-day celebration to bring good news. And a lovely short film.

Goodbuddy and occasional collaborator Bryan Enk is every bit the Dracula-fanatic as your proprietor, if not moreso. He began his filmmaking career in earnest with DRACULA and DRACULA RETURNS, a pair of shot-on-video student features that address and explode teh Dracula story (and its various iterations) with intelligence and verve.

Bryan has since stormed the festival circuit with collaborative partner Jessi Gotta - their work together has won awards at festivals across the country. They're in the midst of fundraising for META/STASIS, an ambitious sci-fi horror film that I hope you’ll join me in supporting. In the meantime, though, Bryan has resurrected his own Third Lows production banner and completed work on yet-another Dracula-related film, THE FINAL VOYAGE OF THE GOOD SHIP DEMETER, in collaboration with Steve Bishop (who acts the hell out of it) and Christiaan Koop. It’s well worth eight minutes of your time; please enjoy.

The Final Voyage of the Good Ship Demeter from Third Lows Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October, Day 13 - COUNT DRACULA

Toni Blackthorn's blog, The Bay of Angels.

Ooooh, I would have KILLED, KILLED to see this - a stage play spun from Stoker's DRACULA, with Matthew Peyton in the title role. Peyton, of course, paractically DEFINED the role in a series of British films, and played the character more often than any other actor. I think he had done the stage play intending to NOT play Fu Manchu in THE REVENGE SQUAD OF FU MANCHU, but then wound up playing FM anyway after COUNT DRACULA, um, prematurely closed. I'm not a person of theater or anything, but eight shows is awful early to close a summer run.

Turns out the play was closed when the rights holders got a little bit unamused by some of the changes made to the script, and ordered the show shut down. I'm trying to find what those changes might have been - since the play was directed by Ted Affeldt, who a quick imdb scan shows to be a special effects guy who worked on...shit, he worked on ALL of Matthew Peytons various Draculae, perhaps he tried to splash thing up a bit.

And lemme tell ya, I've read the script of the play and it coulda used some splashing up. There's some truly choice dialogue in it, and the play really juices up Dracula's one-man assault on England - I can only imagine what Peyton would have made of a truly delicious confrontation with Van Helsing in Act 2. But it’s very much a drawing room drama in the Olde English tradition with lots of scenes of people standing around and talking. And there's this big boxy command in the front of the play that says "No one shall make any changes in this play for the purpose of production." In other words, this is a MUSEUM PIECE, and you are going to make it the SAME MUSEUM PIECE if you're going to stage it.

So Peyton, Affeldt, somebody did something to piss these guys off. And given how stodgy they seem to be it may have been nothing. But what if it was something? All of which makes me very curious to know what the show was like, barring stealing a friend’s time machine to go back and see it. Which I really wanna do. Only I don’t have friends with time machines. Or friends. Wah.

Anyway, if you’re one of the lucky ones who got to see this thing, leave a comment, won’t you?, and lemme know how it was! I wanna know!

...and the story continues here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October, Day 11 - CASTLE DRACULA

Matthew Peyton's Diary.

DRACULA was a surprise hit, so they immediately put the sequel into the works. CASTLE DRACULA was going to be bigger and better. I noticed that even though I drew a bigger salary I had fewer lines, but I wasn't complaining. It was an easier film to do, until they brought back Ted, who observed that since they killed me with a stake to the heart in the last one they couldn't just do it again. So I got killed this time in direct sunlight, and any thought I had about the movie being easier than the first went right out. Ted wanted to make sure my whole body was bursting into flame, including my face. It took hours to prepare, and it was hard to stay focused on my own work in the moment. But I let the terror of all of these tubes on my body spitting fog inform my reaction, and in the end my scream at the end came off pretty spectacularly.

It was on that film that Ted and I truly bonded, if you will. Our conversations kept me comfortable despite all of the crap Ted was gluing to me, and I grew to appreciate both his artistry and his level of thought. Though it was just my luck he'd been assigned to CASTLE DRACULA, I made a point to make sure he was employed on all of the Dracula films I worked on. Little was I to know that he was only getting started killing me...

...and the story continues here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October, Day 10

"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociate knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October, Day 9


Extra Special.



We have just received intelligence that another child, missed last night, was only discovered late in the morning under a furze brush at the Shooter's Hill side of Hamsptead Heath, which is, perhaps, less frequented than other parts. It has the same tiny wound in the throat that has been noticed in the other cases. It was terribly weak, and looked quite emaciated. It too, when partially restored, had the common story to tell of being lured away by "the bloofer lady."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October, Day 8

Enter a PORTER. Knocking within.

Here's a knocking indeed! If a man were
porter of Hell Gate, he should have old turning the
key. Who's there, i' the name of Beelzebub?
Here's a farmer, that hang'd himself on th'expectation
of plenty. Come in time! Have napkins enow about you;
here you'll sweat for't.

(Knock.) Knock, knock! Who's there, in the other
devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale, who com-
mitted treason enough for God's sake, yet could
not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.

(Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith,
here's an English tailor come hither, for stealing
out of a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose. (Knock.) Knock, knock! Never
at quiet! What are you? But this place is too
cold for hell. I'll devil-porter it no further: I had
thought to have let in some of all professions that go
the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire. (Knock.)
Anon, anon!

I pray you, remember the porter.

October, Day 7

"So glad... glad...'re mine...

So glad, so glad you're mine."

Happy Birthday, D.