Saturday, December 25, 2010


If that doesn't give you the warm fuzzies then God help you, I don't know what will. But is this season of festivity and giving really about love and kindness? Have we forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? And by true meaning, I am, of course, referring to;


For the love of God and all that is holy, HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT KRAMPUS?!?!.

Sure, when most people think of Christmas the first image that comes to mind is kindly old Saint Nick breaking and entering into our households in the name of tasty, tasty commercialism. But the real ringleader in this circus is his friend, the demon Krampus. Let's face it, there are things, much, much, much worse than getting friggin' COAL for being naughty.

Good 'ol Krampus likes to beat Naughty Children with Rusty chains and then stuff them in his sack. I don't know where Krampus takes the little Hell spawns, and quite frankly, I don't want to.

So ladies and gentlemen, as you sit down to your happy Christmas activities this year, just take a moment and remember the sage advice of our good friend Stephen Colbert.

Krampus knows when you've been naughty, knows when you've been nice,


Happy Christmas Dears and Darlings!

Spooky Pie

Monday, December 20, 2010

Haunted (novel) - 2005

Some of you may, or may not, know that I basically heart Chuck Palahniuk more than what probably lies in the realm of human decency.

Sure, sometimes I have a hard time remembering how to spell his last name, and yes there is the matter of that pesky little restraining order (I kid, I kid). But in short, I pretty much devour every book of his as soon as I can get my mitts on it.

However, I was somewhat resistant to reading Haunted for awhile. This is largely because instead of being just one large storyline, it breaks off into sub stories told by each of the characters. And, generally speaking, I don't usually go for 'anthology' type books, mostly because I like to have the entire novel to get to know the characters, get a feel for them. When it's a bunch of short stories I usually feel like the individual tale ends before I have gotten anywhere in the neighborhood of giving a good, and honest, damn about the characters.

Well, a pox on me for being such a ridiculous ninny! Why I thought good 'ol Chuck would fail me this time, when he never has in the past, I don't know. I'm a silly bitch.

So the essential idea of Haunted is this;
Seventeen people sign up for a three month Writer's Retreat. They are to be completely cut off from the outside world during that time, and are told that this will be the time to write the masterpiece of their career.

No real names are allowed, and everyone is allowed only one suitcase. In theory, none of the participants are in any real danger, the only real trouble is that no one is allowed to leave before the three months is up, and the retreat is below ground and remote enough that escape is highly unlikely.

The real trouble comes from the seventeen writer's realization that rather then create their own master works, they are going to gain a fortune telling their story to the outside world. Of how they were held captive, tortured, forced to survive without heat or food.

None of this is actually inflicted on the writers by the people organizing the retreat. It's the writers themselves who become their own villains, even though, for the sake of the story, they have painted the organizer and his assistant as their villains and captors. So it really isn't that surprising when the writers begin to die off one by one, and with each one who bites the dust the others don't mourn; they just discuss how they will have to split the royalties in fewer directions.

On the side of the core narrative of the goings on in the retreat, as told by an unnamed narrator. Each character has a side story, and each story has to deal with what dark secret drew them to hideout in the retreat.

As the title would suggest, each of the writers is, in fact, Haunted.

Throughout the course of the book comparisons keep being drawn between this little group of writers, shut off from the outside world, and the Villa Dioda. For those of you not in the know, this is where Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Pollidori holed up; this resulted in the writings of both Frankenstein and The Vampyre. And it's an easy enough comparison to draw, and, more than likely, since it is Palahniuk who gives us this parallel, that this was in fact what inspired him to write Haunted.

However, this is really not the comparison that most came to mind for me whilst I was reading this novel. Throughout the whole thing I could not help but be reminded of Jean-Paul Sarte's No Exit, and it's chilling, most infamous line:

Hell is other people.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sarte's work, No Exit is about three completely unrelated people who die and end up locked in a room together. After a bit they realize that they are in Hell and each one speculates on who is the torturer and what torment they will receive. It soon becomes evident that there isn't a torturer, it's just the three of them, locked in a room together, for all of eternity. The only torment stems from the way they treat each other. Which leads to the one character's realization that "Hell is other people".

And, considering that all the harm that comes to the players of Haunted comes from themselves, is it any wonder that No Exit was the first thing that came to mind? I didn't think so.

Do I recommend Haunted, yes, but NOT IF YOU HAVE A WEAK STOMACH. This novel is really quite grisly at points, considering one of the short stories called Guts, Palahniuk read aloud and reportedly has had multiple faint from listening to it. Also it was a story controversial enough that it got a Highschool teacher sacked for having his students read it.

So really, bare that in mind, and I don't even think that it's the most disturbing part of the book. HOWEVER if that is something that you can get past it's a GREAT book, not my favorite of his works, but still pretty damn amazing in this girl's opinion.

Okay, so there you have it.

Kisses and hugs.

Spooky Pie

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peeping Tom (1960)

Well, ladies and jelly-spoons, today's offering is a bit of an oldie, but it's like what they say about re-runs; "If you haven't seen it before, then it's new to you".

So, I will grudgingly admit that this girl didn't even know of this film's existence until about a year and a half ago, but I guess that shouldn't be so surprising, considering the sort of reception 'Peeping Tom' got when it was released caused it to get relocated to the status of 'cult film'.

Sure, by today's standards, 'Peeping Tom' is about as disturbing as moldy pudding, but this was England in 1960, stiff upper lip and what have you, through that lense its understandable that at the time it was considered pretty much the filthiest thing ever.

I'm not going to say that there aren't themes in 'Peeping Tom' that even by today's standards aren't a bit risque, but in our modern age of films like 'Hostel', 'The Hills have eyes', and Hell, even 'Silence of the Lambs', this film is shot in such a tasteful fashion that you almost can forget that there are some deeply warped psychological themes at work here. Almost.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Much to my disappointment, the lead of this film is not, actually, named Tom. I guess that would have been to kitsch, but whatever. His name is Mark Lewis (I still think that is should have been Tom), he works as a 'scene puller' for a movie studio. I don't know tons about making movies, but as far as I could tell its got to do with setting the optimal scene up so all the camera man has to do is press the button. Mark also works part time taking erotic pictures for small newspaper store.

A little odd, but meh.

Anyway, Mark is a pretty quiet unassuming kind of a guy. Except for the fact that he likes to murder prostitutes with his tripod, whilst filming their expressions as they bite it.

But, you know, who doesn't ...

He also spends almost every night in his little home theater re-watching his snuff films. This is pretty much the extent of his social interaction until one night when he comes home from a long night of staking prosies and runs into his downstairs neighbor Helen.

She's having a party for his 21st (yeah, right, 21st) birthday. She tries to get him to come join the party, but, being the socially awkward thing he is, Mark declines and scurries upstairs to his apartment.

Now too long after this Helen traipses upstairs with a slice of cake and wiggles her way into his apartment, and his home theater. Once inside she pretty well browbeats Mark into showing her one of his little films. A bit pushy, but hey, some people like forthright broads.

Mark has enough common sense to not show her one of his 'stabby-stabby' productions, and instead pulls out a reel that introduces us to the undercurrent of the film that is possibly even more disturbing then the obvious one of Voyeurism.

The film that Mark shows Helen is one of him as a little boy that his father took. Apparently, Daddy was a psychiatrist, and a pretty warped one at that. His main focus was studying the effect of fear on people, specifically children. So he experimented on his own son, and filmed the results. We aren't shown what, exactly, the old man did to young Mark, but leaving it to the viewer's imagination lets us assume the worst possible.

And so lays our groundwork for Mark as a serial killer; his fascination with viewing everything through the lens of a camera, and his further fixation on fear. The only thing not surprising about this whole thing is that Mark doesn't have Daddy's bones under the floorboards or something.

Despite the fact that any sane person would have taken their fashionable taffeta party dress and ran like hell, this actually sparks a sort of romantic relationship between Helen and Mark.

Go figure.

Their little romance is pushed a long by the fact that Helen is writing a Children's book about a child with a magical camera, and she wants Mark to collaborate with he for the pictures of the book. He agrees, giddily, even.

While on one hand he is having a sort of sweet, childish, romance with Helen, he is still making his snuff films on the side. Adorable, right?

Early on in their courtship, Helen's blind mother's "spidey senses" go off about Mark, and despite her warning her daughter against him, Helen goes along merrily with her beloved serial killer.

But when one of Mark's victims for the sake of cinema is high profile enough that it gets a full on investigation going, Mark starts to lose his cool a bit, and enter into a downward spiral, eventually leading to the film's conclusion.

Okay, the plot is a little simple, but if you are able to get beyond that, 'Peeping Tom' is a psychological goldmine.

Voyeurism is definitely the prevailing theme in this film, and its done quite cleverly if you're willing to give it a good look.

The opening of the film is shown entirely as though you are looking through the lens of Mark's camera. This makes the viewer, the audience, into the predator. Stalking the first victim from the street, up to her loft, and closing in on her face as she is killed in a way that makes you feel like you're even hovering over this woman, and delivering the final blow yourself.

In this sense its a commentary on society and its desire to look at the grisly/uncomfortable. 'Peeping Tom' is just an analysis on mankind's need to stop and stare at car wrecks. Ironically, the same public that loudly denounced 'Peeping Tom' as "nauseating" and "vile", are the same people who slow down to look at a freeway accident, with no intention of helping the people involved.

Mark is just one person made into an analogy for the majority of mankind.

And another thing is, beyond the fact that, yes, Mark is totally a cold-blooded serial killer, he is still a character that you feel sympathetic towards. The way he acts with Helen is so charming its ridiculous, he becomes a little boy around her. Especially when you take into account that this was a guy who didn't really get to have a childhood thanks to dear old dad.

I will admit, that at first I had trouble with Mark as a lead. Mainly because through all of it I felt like I was watching Graham Norton's deranged uncle.

tell me you don't see it

But once I got past that, he was kind of endearing. But then again, I've been known to sympathize with the protagonist anti-hero in these types of things.

Right, so, should probably wrap this up because I'm running out of things to say that won't be just long rambling nonsense. So let's tie this up here.

Is 'Peeping Tom' worth watching? I think so. I can see how it is considered a classic, and I also see how it can be seen as a compliment to Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho'. No, I don't think it's for everyone, and I'm pretty sure that by today's standards it's too slow moving for a lot of people. And it's not a gore fest by any stretch of the imagination, in fact the murders are very subtle. At the heart of it, 'Peeping Tom' as actually a quite sensitive movie, and I think that if most of the critics who slammed it took a closer look at it, they would see that it actually a quiet, repressed, almost heartbreaking portrait of a psychologically damaged little boy trapped in the guise of a grown man.

So until next time my darlings,
Love and kisses!

Spooky Pie