The American Hero

Superman is an interesting character.

I know; that’s not a popular idea. Superman, for me and a lot of people, is The Superhero. He has every power that he could possibly have: flight, super strength, freeze breath, laser eyes, great hair. He holds all life sacred. He does not use his powers to alter humanity’s way of life, no matter how much he may or may not disagree with it. He stands for Truth and Justice and he…does…not…bend from those morals.

This does not make for a compelling character. The reader or viewer or listener (just in case you’re a huge fan of Superman audiobooks, I guess), wants a hero with flaws. They want someone who doubts and second guesses and makes mistakes. This is true in all fiction. If the central character if flawless and is an indestructible being of unimaginable power, the reader is bored at Page One.

However, whether or not you think a writer can tell a good story with Superman isn’t the point today. The point is what Superman says about us. Superman is as American as cowboys, jazz and baseball. Like America, he is the biggest, most powerful guy on the block. His strength is uncontested and his reach is unlimited.

The difference between Superman and America is as clear as the difference between the Ideal and the Real. The wonderful thing about this character is that he has the power to split the world in two. He could rule this planet with an iron (Steel) fist. There is nothing on this planet that could stop him. Instead, against all odds, he helps old people and saves cats from trees. He is an uncorruptible, unstoppable force. He is goodness personified.

America, once it took up the mantle of a global superpower, does not have the same track record. Our country has interfered in the affairs of other nations; not to their benefit, not to correct some wrongdoing or to right some terrible wrong. It has been about money or unfounded paranoia or because of some stupid, political morass that our country has involved itself.

We have wrecked countries over communism, a political system that was so flawed it annihilated itself. We have decimated populations to protect oil fields, which lead to enraged populations that struck back in vicious, terrible ways that caused us to reciprocate in like-mind.

Superman is how we wish America was. He is the ideal for the nation. He is how our country, our government, should be. When people ask for help, Superman responds. If a building was on fire, Superman would save everyone inside. And then he would probably rebuild the building for good measure. He would not make sure that his contractor friends got the job to rebuild and allow them to use shoddy and questionable materials to save a buck and turn a quick profit.

He would not charge into a situation where he was not wanted. He does not impose his will and then leave the situation worse than how he found it. He does only what he can be reasonably expected to do and what he does do, he does because he can and because it is righteous that he uses his might and influence to make things better.

Superman is interesting, he is fascinating, because he represents how everyone in a position of power or authority should be and rarely is. He has ultimate power and he would just as soon use it to talk a young woman out of killing herself as he would fight the Villain of the Week. He is what we should all aspire to be and, while that does not always make for interesting reading, it is sometimes important to be reminded of what we can be.

-D-

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Happy Halloween

It’s Halloween, the beginning of the best part of the year. There used to be a time, in my younger, more morbid days, that I considered Halloween to be my favorite holiday. I’d watch horror movies while coated in liquid latex wounds, quietly humming the theme to Friday the 13th.

But now, I see Halloween in a more subdued role; it’s the gateway to the season. It’s a season that starts October 1st and ends January 1st. It’s a season that celebrates family, giving, gratitude and staying warm as we turn a corner into dark winter. It’s our charge into the cold, our defiance of the how truly miserable February is no matter where you live.

First we start by conquering our fears. We dress up like heroes and monsters and run  laughing into the night eating way too much candy. We banish our fears, become our own worst monsters and say to Hell with the things that go bump in the night.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

The season is just getting started.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Hillside Cannibals and Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

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I am disappointed to end this day on a low note, but that’s how it is. I am not a huge fan of Dogfish Head, but I decided I’d give them one more shot, in the spirit of the season. The problem isn’t so much with the brewery as it is with brown ales. I don’t like brown ales. I don’t like brown ales when they’re wearing the mask of pumpkin seasoning either. If you like Dogfish Head ales, you’ll probably like this. Me? Not so much.

 

And, on top of that, I didn’t really enjoy Hillside Cannibals either. It was a mean spirited little flick that didn’t do much in the way of scaring or anything else. It didn’t try and get you to care about the few characters it didn’t murder straight off the bat and it didn’t really invest much time in the villains either.

I spent a large amount of time flipping through things on my phone while pointless, meaningless violence played out on the screen. The few times I decided to pay attention, I discovered that the people in charge of making sure the plot made sense were on vacation.

Assuming you had a character hellbent on dispensing vengeance and he knew what he was in for; would you equip him with one hand gun and a machete? In his shoes, I’d pack a goddamn arsenal and I sure as hell wouldn’t let myself get caught in five minutes and dispatched just as quickly!

It was the most polished, well put together and best acted movie I’ve seen all day and it was, without a doubt, the worst. It could not follow through on its basic premise, could not deliver on the savagery it implied and it was not scary. It was not horror.

All in all, I’d say there must be chart that describes the failure of a budget to deliver on a movie’s premise. The higher the budget, the greater the disappointment and the angrier I am.

Stay away from these middle of the road flick. Go lower or go higher, but never stray too close to the middle of the road.

This is -D-, concluding his great Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and still ready and rarin’ to go for October 31st.

Boo.

-D-

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Monday Halloween Movie Marathon and Beer: Alice in Murderland and Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

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Like before, let’s start off with my review of the beer, Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin. I smell cinnamon.  I taste cinnamon.  This is a cinnamon beer. There’s not much in the way of pumpkins here. I’m not sure what cinnamon has to do with pumpkins aside from pumpin pie, but, at least in the eyes of brewers, pumpkin flavor has become irrevocably linked with cinnamon. This is not as watery as some other beers that rely so heavily on cinnamon and is a pretty solid beer through and through. It’s just disappointing that they rely so heavily on a spice that is only tangentially related to pumpkins.

Alice in Murderland is a movie I started off hating and ended up liking because of its plucky charm. It’s one of those low budget horror movies that relies heavily on treading that fine line between black comedy and horror. It tries to be funny and it tries to be sca2ry and, in all honesty, it doesn’t do either one very well. It’s not scary or gorey enough to count as horror. The kill scenes are lackluster and most everything happens off camera. And it’s just not that funny, though there are moments that are humorous.

There are a few moments where the acting rises above what it should; Malerie Grady, Kelly Kula and Heath Butler all manage to make the most of it and the ending was what it was because Miss Grady just went balls to the walls crazy with her laughter. Kula brought home some truly intense moments of sadism and Butler was poignantly ditzy and actually provoked an emotion in me beyond wry cynicism.  Those three managed to bring enough to the table to ensure that I wouldn’t just write off Murderland.

Also, what event is Alice in Murderland supposed to be based on? I don’t really want to research it. Someone just tell me.

The beer and the movie were perfectly matched here. It’s time for our third and final filmbrew.

I can’t wait.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon and Beer: Cryptic Plasm and Imperial Pumking

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First, let’s talk about the Imperial Pumking, before we jump into the movie. Pumking is one of my favorite pumpkin ales, a fact I forgot before I opened the bottle. I has a strong pumpkin flavors and does not rely so heavily on cinnamon flavoring as other pumpkin ales do. In fact, I would be hard pressed to identify any cinnamon flavoring at all in this beer. There are far less spices utilized and it relies far more on single, strong flavor notes.

There is a very nutty flavor and aroma, with a very crisp and clear bitter bite as its finish. All in all, this is one of my favorite pumpkin ales and I’m glad I remembered that.

Five…pumpkins…or something.

Onto the movie!

Morbid Vision Films is a local film company that specializes in exceedingly gory horror films. In fact, right on the back of the box it states that no CGI was used in the making of the movie, a hallmark that I wish big budget horror films would use as well. There is nothing that shakes you free of an illusion than noticeable CGI. Do as many effects as possible practically and you will get away with far more.

Crytpic Plasm (which, technically, has not been released yet. The copy I have is a pre-release) follows two guys as they film weird and unusual happenstances in Massachusetts/New England. There are lake monsters, exorcisms, dimensional rifts and more. And there is a lot of blood. More blood than in Kill Bill. There is broad swathes of blood everywhere in this movie and it is in such impressive quantities that I became concerned that they had sapped the fake blood resources of North America.

Instead of focusing on a single mystery, they go out of their way to throw their intrepid crytpozoologist filmmakers into numerous situations before things really take a turn for the worst. There are hair, teeth and eyeballs flying everywhere and I’d have to say that I haven’t seen better low budget special effects in a long time.

Also, on another note, the acting in Morbid Vision Films movies tends to be of higher quality than other studios. It’s not winning any Oscars, but they’re more believable and less obvious than a lot of other indie horror flicks I’ve watched in the past. On the whole, they’re a pretty well rounded group of filmmakers.

Their movies, the few I’ve seen, are reminiscent of Fulci movies; extremely over the top and to the walls extreme with the amount of gore they feature. While Cryptic Plasm is a little more staid and restrained than their more extreme creation (Banned in Germany!), it does not fail to deliver.

If you’re a fan of low budget horror, check this one out, if only for the effects. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for more of the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And, of course, beer.

-D-

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Halloween Monday Movie Marathon (And Beer)

Two things have converged to create what will be my finest blog moment:

1.I have Monday off from work.

2. I just got back from Rock and Shock.’

After the convention yesterday, I was struck hard by the desire to really get some Halloween celebrating in. I knew that I had to do something and something big in order to truly express my love for this holiday. And I also knew I had to do it fast. If I waited, the spirit could leave me and I would have done nothing and we would be well on our way to Thanksgiving.

So I hatched a plan. There are two things I do every year around October: Pumpkin beer reviews and horror movie reviews. So far, I’ve only done one beer review and that was back in September.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t reviewed any movies in months.

Now, I’m going to kill two birds with one stone:

It’s the Halloween Monday Movie Marathon! And beer!

I’m going to watch three, low-budget, independently made horror movies and, AT THE SAME TIME, drink three pumpkin ales.

I’ll pair a beer with each movie and I’ll post the reviews soon as the credits start rolling. Two of the beers are ones I’ve reviewed in the past and I’m going to be revisiting them. The third is brand new and never before been tried. I’ll also not have seen any of the movies I’m about to see, but one of them I just bought yesterday from the very people who made it. Excitement.

I’ll be posting each review once the credits roll, so come back throughout the day for more content in one day than there has been all month!

I’ll also be updating my twitter throughout the day. That’s right: I’m live blogging.

So, if you’re home today, like me, and you want some Halloween cheer, like me, then sit back and relax as I watch movies, eat cold cut sandwiches and enjoy pumpkin ales.

-D-

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Rock and Shock 2013

I have to say that up until today, my Halloween spirit was lacking. I haven’t been watching scary movies. I haven’t been eating more than my usual share of fun sized Snickers bars. I haven’t been reveling in my usual Halloween activities. October has just been steadily and speedily been moving along and the whole damn month was about to slip on by without me doing a single thing about it.

Things had gone horribly awry somewhere.

But, today, something happened. something truly magical:

I went to Rock and Shock.

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For those that don’t know, Rock and Shock is a convention and concert series that is held every October in Worcester, Massachusetts. I haven’t really done anything with the rocking part of the equation. I’m there for the shocking. Last year was my first time there and I was impressed by the sheer number of vendors, celebrity guests and horror fans that were there.

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There is merchandise from every horror franchise you can think of: action figures, posters, beer koozies, coasters, shot glasses, post cards, lampshades, throw rugs, pillows, replicas, props, bootlegged DVDs showing the hit movie Jason versus Leatherface. If you’re looking for a piece of memorabilia from your favorite horror movie, this is the place to get it.

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And let’s say you don’t want things directly related to Jason or Freddy? They have things for you too. There are artists selling posters of their striking and macabre work. There are writers from small publishing houses and larger publishing houses. There are tattoo artists, taxidermists, animal shelters, jewelers and flask makers, make-up designers, mask makers; anything and anyone that might have something to do with those things that go bump in the night. They’re all there.

And then there are the celebrities. Kane Hodder, Gunnar Hansen, Robert Englund, Jason Mewes, Jack Ketchum; people directly related to the industry that keeps creating more scares.

I went from not feeling Halloween at all to feeling reinvigorated.

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Aside from the things I bought, the most important thing is that I got to wander around at will with a large group of people who share my niche interest. I got to talk to a local filmmaker about the movies they’re making, one of which was even banned in Germany. I chatted at an artist about Friday the 13th before walking off with a poster I hadn’t paid for. Gunnar Hansen quote Dylan Thomas at me. It reminded me about why I enjoy horror, Halloween and all this scary stuff. It’s about exciting, scary, terrifying art and the people who love to make it.  It’s about being able to connect with people who get it and love it as much as you do.

It’s about enjoying being scared.

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It’s also about Jason Voorhees action figures.

Tomorrow, I have something grand planned. I dunno if I’ll be able to pull it off, but I’m going to try. I’m going to try to do my damnedest to make up for the time I let slip by and give Halloween the attention it deserves in one big, bang.

See you tomorrow.

-D-

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