THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Carlette Norwood

The Last KnockThe phenomenal Carlette Norwood is a podcaster, narrator, writer, and filmmaker, among other amazing ventures. Her latest project is the radio-like serial “The Burbs” – a weekly horror spectacle beginning October 1, 2015 that will bring you terror in intimate form. Find out what may have been haunting her, and how the show took shape…

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS go to: @MichaelFrostChi @TheresaSnyder19 @EmilieFlory @Mel_McBoutin @AnnThraxx @Theladyphantom @RealJillyG @deadgoodscreen1 @palkodesigns @VicsMovieDen @1Brandonwyse @CurtisSchurer @noelpershinger

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Interview with Author Ron Shaw

The Last KnockTonight, we not only have the man behind the entertaining “The Ron Shaw Show” podcast, but he’s also the author of ghostly tales. With a degree in English Literature, he served Atlanta as a police officer. Enjoy the ever engaging and tangential Ron Shaw – and try to keep up!

This episode’s SCREAM OUTS: @Annie_Acorn @JoeEliseon @ChristinaPBooks @sccart1 @Susanjeanricci @KEdwinFritz @palkodesigns @1Brandonwyse

 

Become Your Dream

IMG_0161My beautiful, intelligent, and talented wife, Ally Bishop, bought this photograph for me after her annual Christmas trip to New York City. When she gave it to me, she cried. She knew that I had one hell of a creatively busy 2014 with far too many demanding projects: two short films (TIGERS IN THE SOUP and CASE #5930), a presentation on horror for the MAPACA Fall Conference, a couple of short stories and screenplays, a weekly podcast, blogposts, and much more, among teaching fulltime at Kutztown University. But the biggest project of all was my novel, “Bloodletting.” It wasn’t so much that I’d worked on my hard-boiled crime thriller for a couple of years to make it as perfect as possible, or that the idea had been stuck in my head since my early twenties. But I’d finally achieved that dream I had at age sixteen to publish a novel.

When she originally handed me the photo, I imagined myself in my own Chuck Ts looking down at the sidewalk, seeing the words, and conjuring a wry smile in triumph. However, I was never really a fan of dreams. After all, dreams are just that: something in the psyche to keep us alive and hopeful, though the probability of them coming to fruition is slim to none. For instance, I dreamed of walking with dinosaurs once, and unless they’re part of an advanced alien species ready to visit Earth, that dream probably won’t come true. Instead, I set goals for myself: something viable and tangible I could achieve.

But publishing a novel had always been a dream of mine in lieu of a goal. It was something I wanted to do because I loved to write and hoped to entertain others with my stories. But becoming a “wordsmith” took time. I listened to my teachers from kindergarten to graduate school. I read works on craft, joined writing groups, took part in workshops, and submitted stories for publication – usually to have them rejected. However, I improved my skills and moved forward, and ultimately listened to my editor, the great Gerald Baude, to bring “Bloodletting” to life in grand fashion. Yet, I once read about an author who won and award, and when she asked if there was anyone she wanted to thank, she yelled, “Me!” in all her narcissistic and narrow-minded fashion. Yes, she went on to explain how the book was her idea and how she put the work in, and blah, blah, blah.

Sure, that author’s correct. When a writer creates, we only have our minds to fall back on, and we must produce the work ourselves. But if it isn’t for those who support us, professional or otherwise, from the authors who came before us or the books on craft that guided us, we most likely wouldn’t get that far. As a young man watching the Indianapolis 500 on television, I remember hearing a winning driver talk like a king: “we” did this, and “we” accomplished that. Sure, he drove the car, but without sponsors, he wouldn’t have a ride – and if it weren’t for his pit crew, hell, the car wouldn’t move at all. Maybe this is why I take the time to read the acknowledgements section to every book I read.

“Bloodletting” came about because of all the experts I consulted about police procedure and morgues, to reservoir water and private investigations. My one colleague at Kutztown said I did more research for my novel than she had for her dissertation. I doubt that – but I did take my novel just as seriously as any research project.

It may be a long time since I was sixteen, but “Bloodletting” has finally allowed me to deliver on that dream I had as a sixteen year old – to make it a goal and make it real. The book is out thanks to Booktrope, who even created their new “Edge” imprint to accommodate the content, and people can buy it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook or paperback, if they wish.

I’m not sure what 2015 will bring for me, but I know other creative filmmakers and authors who have dreams and goals they want to achieve – and who have supported me in my Crash Palace venture, as well as my THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast. So here’s to some of the people you need to watch for in the coming year, because their support has been amazing, and they will all do great things:

Ally Bishop will have two, if not three, erotic novels on the way, starting with “Inside the Lines” from Barkless Dog Press. (Twitter: @upgradestory – http://www.upgradeyourstory.com/)

Jonny Numb will co-host THE LAST KNOCK and write movie reviews, but a few of his short stories are on the way. (Twitter: @JonnyNumb – http://numbviews.livejournal.com/)

Emilie Flory searches for a distributor and a producer to bring her enticing horror film TRAUMA DOLLS to life. (Twitter: @EmilieFlory – http://www.iconelabelpictures.com/)

David Paul Baker will unleash his long awaited crime series “Crime Lord” to the world. (Twitter: @davidpbaker – http://www.crimelordseries.com/)

Oklahoma Ward and Nikki Alonso are working on the sequel to their successful horror/sci-fi film CRAWL OR DIE. (Twitter: @OklahomaWard @nicolemalonso – http://www.crawlordietrilogy.com/)

Latashia Figueroa’s penning a new novel to complement her “This Way Darkness” collection of three short horrors. (Twitter: @LatashFigueroa – http://latashiafigueroa-author.com/)

SG Lee’s “Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising” will lead to more horror novels and stories with great cliffhangers. (Twitter: sg_lee_horror – http://sgleehorror.blogspot.com/)

Owen McCuen will easily secure more acting and voiceover work due to his tremendous talent. (Twitter: @OwenMcCuenQuest – http://www.owenmccuen.com/)

Time to Back Out Productions, who made LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW and the feature DESOLATION, will work on their new film LOOK. (Twitter @TTBOProductions – http://www.ttbop.com/)

Fay Simon’s novels, “Shadow Bender” and “Behind the Mirror”, are on their way to becoming screenplays. (Twitter: @theladyphantom – http://novelsbyfaysimon.homestead.com/Home.html)

Bleeding Critic’s intimate stories will continue to terrify and disturb. (Twitter: @BleedingFilms – https://www.youtube.com/user/bleedingcritic)

Ron Shaw’s “The Ron Shaw Show” will entertain listeners as his novels will delight readers. (Twitter: @RonGizmo – http://artistfirst.com/ronshaw.htm)

Jason Edward Davis will unleash more of his excellent modern impressionist art on the masses. (Twitter: @loveandmonsters – http://jasonedwarddavis.com/)

Promote Horror will promote horror writers and independent filmmakers like no one else. (Twitter: @promotehorror – http://www.promotehorror.com/)

SV Bell’s comics, metal art, and BlackFlag TV will rock the world from the printed page to Roku. (Twitter: @svbell – http://www.blackflag.tv/index.php)

The Keeper will not only bring us horror stories and screenplays, but introspective pieces as well. (Twitter: @RiversofGrue – http://riversofgrue.com/)

Vic from Vic’s Movie Den will bring us more insightful movie reviews thanks to his writing prowess. (Twitter: @VicsMovieDen – http://vicsmovieden.com/)

Dave Koenig’s awesome art and graphics work will continue to attract fans. (Twitter: @AFiendOnFilm – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUxZz6r6H0YpQJAFdDQn1lw?feature=mhee)

Carlette Norwood’s podcast “Lette’s Chat” will knock us out as it always does. (Twitter: @LettesChat – https://www.facebook.com/carlettenchat)

Jill Gibson will continue to write wonderful poems and powerful short stories. (Twitter: @RealJillyG – http://crimsonquintessence.com/)

Charles Chessler’s photographs will continue to inspire, just like his “Become the Dream” image has done for me. (Twitter: @cchesslerphoto – http://www.charleschesslerphotography.com/)

And on, and on…

Maybe none of us know what drives us or what the end goal is, but there’s no doubt the passion’s there, and it burns bright.

Publishing a novel had been my life’s goal. Although I have more ideas and more creative projects from screenplays to movies – and even more books – it’s a joy, if not a relief, to know I finally honored that dream.

I hope you honor yours.

Note: Kind souls have requested the link to Bloodletting, which is now available at low prices in paperback or all ebook platforms from Barnes & Noble, and Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=prystauk&sprefix=prystauk%2Caps%2C270

(Photo from Charles Chessler Photography as shot in my homestead.)

Crash Analysis Support Team: Randy Brzoska’s “Kid in Play” (Part III)

Children as Antagonists

            So far we’ve discussed children primarily as victims, protagonists, or glorified wake-wood-movie-poster-hammer-films-dvd-coverMacguffins. And we’ve discovered that due to the inherent traits of Innocence and Agency they fulfill those roles nicely. “But,” I can hear you saying, “that creepy kid from next door is looking at me again. Aren’t children also scary? Don’t a lot of horror movies feature creepy kids like my neighbor?” The answer is: of course! I’m so glad you brought it up. And also, close your blinds.

Let’s face it. Whether you’re a parent or non-parent, children can be nightmarish anxiety-inducers. You see, on the surface we see children as innocent and harmless and life-affirming. However, dig a little deeper and you expose a dark undercurrent of subtextual angst we associate with children that lurks down in murky depths of our psyche. Things adults don’t like to talk about in polite conversation.  The reason we harbor this anxiety can be articulated partially via the following subheadings.

 

  1. 1.     Children are ‘THE OTHER’: Even for parents, children can be difficult to understand. They are inarticulate. They’re selfish. They don’t play by the same rules adults do. They are receptive and open and easily manipulated. They are of us, but not us; little strangers we allow into our worlds. Sometimes they can behave in ways that are downright alien or sociopathic. In short, they’re hard for an adult to relate to. To complicate matters, they can turn on a dime and rebel, betray you, and antagonize you. They can be hurtful and cruel…on purpose. And their cruelty is at once incisive and honest. Deep down we know our claim to authority is tenuous at best. A child’s cruelty cuts to the quick because we fear it might reveal this about ourselves. And unlike adults, the impulsive little imps don’t bother to soften their words or worry about the consequences of what they say.

 

  1. Children are constant reminders of our own mortality:  “Make no mistake about why babies are here,” Jerry Seinfeld famously says. “They are here to replace us.” We laugh at the joke not because it is absurd, but because we recognize the truth in it. A new generation ascends to power only in the wake of the previous generations’ decline. Our children will usurp our authority and become OUR caregivers when we are old. In short, children are walking monuments to the fact that we are on the way out and our foothold in this world is temporary.

 

  1. 3.     Interacting with children can reveal our worst selves: Yes, children can bring out the best in us: charity, sweetness, good will, self-sacrifice. But, as any parent can tell you, dealing with kids is tough. You have to protect them from the outside world and themselves. They’re vulnerable, unwise, rash, and helpless. They need the help of adults. But, jeezus, they take that help kicking and screaming. They fight you, annoy you, and cry for no reason. Your self-restraint and emotional control are sorely tested. You want, quite literally, to strangle them. And a lot of people crack under the pressure. Look at the number of kids every year that are beaten, neglected, and killed by their own parents every year. Children need adults to take the high moral ground or they die or get hurt. An adult failing to do so steps into an abyss of guilt and self-loathing. Few things are more terrifying for a parent than a child dying while under their care.

 

So, to sum up, children make perfect antagonists because we can so easily project our own insecurities onto them, and that fact, along with our protective instincts toward them plus overriding moral and social imperatives to keep them from harm (and regard them as ‘harmless’), makes them wonderful ‘stealth’ villains–disguised by our own psychological baggage.

When a child IS revealed to be a monster, it tends to create an acute cognitive dissonance. And our first response tends to be denial. It simply cannot be so! Even as danger is plainly staring him or her in the face (or coming after them with a garden trowel), the actor[i] fails to adhere to the laws of self-preservation because their moral and psychological imperatives are asking them to act in opposition to them. Surely we’re not to harm a child! Surely it cannot be true that it intends me harm! And if I do harm or kill this child, what then? How do I live with myself? Is harming a child worth compromising my moral integrity? Perhaps there is some other way, some other explanation…

And then, of course, it is too late.

We know this sense of denial exists because we see it all of the time. Parents and caregivers deny their kids engage in substance abuse. They deny their kids’ self-destructive impulses exist. They deny their children’s sexuality is anything but aberrant or non-existent. And they deny their children are capable of violence or harm or deceit. But deep down we all know these things are facts of children’s lives because we WERE kids and we know what we were like. But we CHOOSE to remember or not remember particular things in particular ways. And we CHOOSE to not acknowledge those facets of childhood that don’t fit in with our preconceived idealization of it. Acknowledging them is disturbing.

This denial is what makes the parents’ inaction so believable in We Need to Talk About Kevin and what makes Christine Penmark’s realizations so awful and compelling in The Bad Seed. It explains why so many adults underreact when faced with a child’s malfeasance.

There are, of course, those who see children solely via the negative subtexts. The cynical people who believe that all children are up to no good. The sorts that cross the street when a group of children draws near and who gleefully espouse zero-tolerance school policies. The abusers and totalitarians who treat children like miniature adults. People, in short, who wear their fear of children on their shirtsleeves. For those people, child villains confirm what they already believe.

The truth is that kids, like adults, are neither angels nor demons, but human. Child monsters force us to confront this reality. They illustrate our failure to engage with children as complex emotional beings and point out that we need to understand them as a human whole rather than as generalizations based on our own assumptions.

That said, here are some films that get child monsters right:

  1. Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
  2. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
  3. The Bad Seed (1956)
  4. Wake Wood (2010)
  5. Come Out and Play (2012)
  6. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  7. Let the Right One In (2008)
  8. It’s Alive! (1974)
  9. Village of the Damned (1960)
  10. The Children (2008)

(Photo from The Wolfman Cometh.)

 

 

 



[i] We’ll define ‘actor’ here as any participant in a given situation or story, not necessarily a thespian.

Crash Reports: My 1,600th Horror

Okay, this one actually happened about two weeks ago when I watched Stuart Gordon’s WikipedPitTHE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1991), starring Lance Henriksen, Jeffrey Combs, and Oliver Reed. I appreciated the story, Henriksen’s imploding character in one hardcore performance, Combs’s understated yet poignant delivery of someone following orders, and the truths surrounding witch burning in Europe (paying off Executioners to be strangled before dying in fire, or being burned because a woman was a midwife).

Otherwise, the best in that last one hundred turned out to be Brandon Cronenberg’s atmospheric and intriguing ANTIVIRAL (Canada, 2012). A definite must see for those horror fans who prefer fine wine over unfiltered wood alcohol. Sadly, once again, I had to slosh through a lot of damn garbage to find that one grand elixir.

But there is hope. David Paul Baker is filming a horror right now. The director’s commitment to a quality production never ceases to amaze (you can find out more at http://www.cityofsinworld.com/). Oklahoma Ward will soon release CRAWL BITCH CRAWL to the world, and I have no doubt it will live up to its amazing trailer. Hell, the trailer alone is worth salivating over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SORghlKYoAw. It’s clear, just like Baker, that Ward knows what the hell he’s doing in regard to cinematography, as well as creating atmosphere and suspense as he gets the best from his actors. And though it will take a while, you can follow the campaign for Z*CON, by another great filmmaker, Michael Dougherty, at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/z-con-a-zombie-film-set-in-a-comic-con – where your donation to the movie making cause actually benefits charity.

I salute every independent filmmaker busting their ass to make a movie, but please do your damnedest to deliver something of quality. Take pride in your work. We have enough drek to contend with. Thankfully, people like Baker, Ward, Dougherty, and others, are out there taking their time to do it right.

I hope you follow those who raise the bar.

Crash Analysis: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (Italy/USA, 1964) – My 1,500th Horror Movie

Isolation and hopelessness leads to suicide by vampire

Waiting to die

Writer Richard Matheson thought the Grand Guignol, Vincent Price was miscast for the   the-last-man-on-earth-movie-poster-1964-1020144093 role of Dr. Robert Morgan, but the actor captured the essence of a man with truly nothing to live for, which mirrored his role as THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER’s (1960) patriarch.

This classic tale “I am Legend” tale from Matheson, who has been writing stories and scripts for nearly sixty years, including many beloved “The Twilight Zone” episodes, and much more, deals with isolation like few films do.

What THE LAST MAN ON EARTH brings us is, supposedly, the only man left alive on our little blue ball after a virus turns people into a bizarro vampire-zombie hybrid – they’re slow and hungry for blood, but have intelligence. And we enter the story three years after the fact to find Morgan in his decrepit home, counting down the days. He has coffee and orange juice, then he’s off to stake any vamps he can find in the city around him, and hurls their bodies into a fiery pit, once dug long ago to burn victims who had perished from the plague. Morgan, as one can imagine, is forlorn and mentally destitute. After all, he’s lost everyone and everything to the plague. There’s nothing left – except that internal fire for survival. But the days are taking its toll, and that fire has become a fading coal.

Morgan’s biggest mistake is residing in the same home he once shared with his wife and daughter. Granted, one may want such a daily reminder, as if a last bastion to normalcy and comfort, but after time, the longing for a past that will never return must tear down the psychological walls. And it’s not as if the Morgan household looks like it once did. The house is a shambles, and Morgan sleeps on the couch on the first floor. Debris blocks the stairs to the second – and thinly boarded windows keep him a hair’s breath away from the vampires that taunt him each night – including old friends like, Ben Cortman (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart).

Cortman once worked with Morgan at a local lab, where a dedicated team struggled like mad to find a cure. Interestingly, as bodies fell and society collapsed, none of the scientists tried to see how their own blood stood up to the virus. If they had done so, they would have discovered Morgan’s immunity, and could have created antibodies to save the planet.

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

Morgan ultimately discovers that he’s not alone, however, and soon meets up with a human-vampire half-breed, Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia). Morgan saves her from slipping into full vampirism by sharing his blood – but her friends, all male it seems, don’t want to hear about a possible cure. Instead, the hunter becomes the hunted, and the men go after Morgan to bring him down for good. Otherwise, the good doctor might stake them while they’re sleeping. Why it took them three years to launch an attack against one man is beyond logic.

Regardless, Morgan’s had it, and stands tall, calling the group “Freaks!” before they take him out with bullets and iron spears. Sure, he could’ve fought better, even smarter, but what’s the point? No one had answered his daily radio calls, and one can take so much fear and loneliness. In effect, this was the suicide he couldn’t pull off himself. Morgan had to go down fighting, maybe as Morgan wish he had long ago.

After all, if Morgan had really wanted to live, he would’ve setup camp somewhere other than his homestead. He had the pick of office buildings to live higher up for protection (even though he’d have to climb stairs). He could’ve created an impenetrable compound and lived in luxury. Instead, he lived in dirt and squalor, as if punishing himself for not saving his family and the world. Talk about survivor’s guilt.

***** END OF SPOILER *****

The disease, however, is interesting. At first, people feel run down, then they go blind, then they die, only to rise up, and see again. Why the blindness? Is it to avoid visually witnessing their demise? Talk about a sick and cold-hearted disease. One can’t imagine the fear, especially when one knows what’s coming next. Horrific for certain.

Director Ubaldo Ragona did a pretty decent job, considering this was his third film out of four (and one is a documentary). Giorgio Giovannini’s set design was fine, but there was many a missed opportunity in presenting a world of true dystopia. For instance, the grass had been cut – everywhere. And no, Morgan didn’t roll around on a riding mower as he hunted vamps during the day. Additionally, Morgan even found a dead human or two on the streets. After three years, they would not have been so pristine.

Matheson’s disturbing tale of pure loneliness in the face of calamity has been retold since, most famously in 1971 with Charlton Heston in THE OMEGA MAN, which seems to be the best received, and most loved, of the trio. The third, is the extremely disappointing I AM LEGEND (2007) with Will Smith. The first act amazed, the second faltered, and the final sequence was as hokey and ill conceived as it was ludicrous.

For all its faults, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is strong, and the black-and-white film adds to the drab factor that reigns supreme to showcase Dr. Morgan’s plight. Vincent Price delivers a solid and tortured performance, though not as strong as it could have been. However, the movie relies on the notion of being the sole survivor of an entire species, that’s enough to give any socially connected person chills.

What is your favorite of the notable threesome?

2.5 out of 5 stars

(Photo from Movie Poster Shop.)

Crash Analysis: RABIES (Israel, 2010)

Israel’s first horror – and not their last 

Different people all victims of circumstance and bad timing

Apparently, Israel’s first horror, RABIES (“Kalevet” is the Hebrew title) was such a success in its native land that more are on the way.

As for this venture, the writer/director team of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado certainly captured an element of suspense and tension, as well as idiosyncratic dialogue, sadly lost in many horrors that focus more on visuals (aka gore) instead of a good story. However, this does not mean the tale was flawless.

This low budget story is comprised of several different groups of characters that due to circumstance, become intertwined with each other, which proves not to be a good thing by any means.

An ensemble film, we follow the characters as they work their way in and out of trouble, and in and out of a forest. Not an easy task when entrapment, kidnapping, murder, sexual abuse, assault, maiming and more are on the menu. Why is it called RABIES? That is one of the movies many mysteries, however, I have seen references that state kalevet also means rage. Although that may fit the movie better, Keshales and Papushado may have had another idea. In the movie, most of the characters are non-violent yet turn to violence when, once again, circumstance dictates otherwise. The directorial team may have focused on RABIES because of the notion that violence begets violence. If one is bitten by a rabid animal and bites another, the virus spreads exponentially. This is the case here, but this is also where the duo trip themselves up.

For the bulk of the film, we are in an area with our core group of characters, but late in the third act, as the story and violence reaches its zenith, one character escapes this isolated area and makes it home, while another tries to hitch a ride with a family. It may have served the movie best to have all the characters remain in that “infected” region of forest. Granted, we can suppose the characters that freed themselves will spread the “disease” elsewhere, but this is never implied.

A couple of other problems involve the police (Lior Ashkenasi and Danny Geva). As we often see in movies of this ilk, one cop is a major handful and a half-a-frequency off, and the other is far too easygoing to prevent his partner from becoming batshit crazy. Those two characters were the most stock of the bunch with Mikey (Ran Danker) and Pini (Ofer Shecter), as the clean-cut college boys, coming in a close second.

As for the acting, it was first-rate and no one missed a beat. The standouts were Ashkenasi as off-the-rails Danny the cop, Geva as his hesitant partner, spunky and independent Ania Bukstein as Adi, Yael Grobglas as Shir and Menashe Noy as Menashe. This does not mean any of the other actors faltered, but the aforementioned had that extra-special something. Hopefully, we’ll see more of them in the future. Some in the American market may see that as a bit farfetched, but Israel has also given us the exhilarating Natalie Portman, Chaim Topol of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF fame (both stage and screen), and Daliah Lavi, known by most horror fans as Nevenka in cult favorite THE WHIP AND THE BODY (Italy/France, 1963).

Visual effects and make-up were solid for the most part, and Guy Raz’s photography was wonderful – and this was his first film. To further enhance the technical aspects of the movie, Keshales and Papushado took to editing as well and did a masterful job, though they have one too many fadeouts.

If you like grit and suspense with solid characters, a bit of gore and some sex appeal, this will certainly fit the bill.

It’s a shame the story didn’t remain self-contained, or that we didn’t witness the violence spilling over beyond the forest like the spread of rabies, but this movie is certainly worth a look.

3 out of 5 stars