Friday, 31 October 2014

Cosmic Horror Cast-A-Thon Links


So about three weeks ago, I decided to try running the Cosmic Horror Cast-A-Thon for Halloween in which I rallied together a group of bloggers in a desperate struggle to save the world. Unfortunately I didn't get enough people and we failed to stop the Old Ones from awakening which means the world is doomed. Madness and terror shall reign on this day. An era of fear is dawning, and now all shall tremble before the might of the Great Old Ones. Ia Azathoth!

Only three brave souls had the courage to even try and assemble a team to tackle the old ones, but their efforts have sadly proved to be in vain.

Roman J. Martell tried to take on Nyarlathotep, and assembled quite a team in doing so. He got two respected law enforcement officers with invaluable skills and a fine selection of scientists.

Wendell Ottley stood up to that infamous Black Ram of the Woods with a Thousand Young herself, Shub-Niggurath. He assembled a team of several brave men and women ready to die for humanity. He had leaders willing to take the risks, a man with first-hand experience of eldritch horrors, and two courageous individuals willing to keep fighting to their last breaths.

That just leaves me. I chose to seek out the legendary Old One that is Cthulhu. My team had the best group of people I could assemble to prepare for his inevitable rising. I had a guy to help us deal with the cultists, researchers, a coordinator to keep us updated at all times, and even a cave diver I had hoped could get us through the ancient city of R'lyeh.

I had hoped more people would participate, but thanks goes out to all two of those who did. You made a brave and daring effort to keep our world going on just a little longer.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

So What is the Deal With Soviet Montage Cinema Anyway?



That was certainly a question I was asking about a week ago. At first glance after sitting through the less than pleasant experience of Vsevelod Pudovkin's Mother I was left wondering what was so special about this obscure but crucial part of film history. It didn't seem to be a whole lot different from what people like Griffith were doing at the time, but it turned out I had to look a little deeper. While it was technically the work of several different people working simultaneously on different projects, they all built on what came before in more ways than one.

The whole history of film can be looked at as different people building up on each other's accomplishments over periods of time. It starts with the old-fashioned magic lanterns. One day Edward Muybridge figured out how to record a live action by using multiple cameras at once, followed by Étienne-Jules Marey coming along and figuring out how to combine all the cameras into one machine and Thomas Edison figuring out how to record images onto celluloid. The Lumière brothers come along and begin exhibiting their recordings of everyday activities which in turn inspired Georges Méliès to come along and begin experimenting with early editing techniques. Porter came along and experimented with slightly more advanced techniques and other filmmakers followed suit. Then D.W. Griffith, himself a director of shorts, went on to make his ambitious feature Birth of a Nation.

It can also be seen in other forms too, another big one being the different movements that affected many films on a technical level. German Expressionism, for instance, was a movement that didn't last very long and had barely a handful of films that few people wanted to see but still became a strong influence on other filmmakers. In fact, old fashioned Hollywood film noir owes something to the German Expressionist movement, something probably helped by the fact that a lot of Expressionist directors later went on to use their skills in Hollywood.

Soviet Montage is a bit of both, technical in what was discovered during its time but also a movement in that it contained a several different people. Many of these were young filmmakers who were inspired by Hollywood films and fascinated by the then-revolutionary idea of continuity editing which was (and still is) employed in the majority of American films. Putting it simply Griffith was the man who pioneered the idea of using edits to create continuity , and to an extent that is used in Soviet productions, but these pioneers took it one step further.

Though Russian films did exist at the time, they had to make due in large part with imports. I won't get into the complicated politics surrounding it but the local films produced at the time were largely filmed plays. The camera would be placed at point with an entire scene happening in a single shot, much like the films of Méliès. Due to the political turmoil affecting society film stock was hard to come by, and a lot of early filmmakers had to resort to recording on used film and editing imported movies. However these early projects did allow the groundwork to be set for major Russian productions.

One of the most famous Russian filmmakers of the time was Lev Kuleshov, a filmmaker who conducted a series of experiments in which he attempted to see what effects he could achieve through different types of editing. The one that is best remembered resulted in the "Kuleshov effect" and worked quite simply. The film consisted of a still image of a man's face, which would then be cut together with different images such as a bowl of soup, a dead child, and an attractive woman. I'm not entirely sure if this is the original print or a later filmmaker experimenting with the same technique, but either way it should give you an idea:


The result of this experiment was to see what emotions were generated by the audience. They found that the man seemed to express hunger when looking at the soup and sadness when looking at the coffin. The best part? It was the same face every time. The actor gave off a blank expression but when juxtaposed with other images viewers began to project their images onto the film. This experiment revealed two things about editing. First, it could be used not just as a way to establish continuity but also to create emotion where there was none previously. Second, it could create the illusion of space that doesn't exist; in this case audiences assumed that the man was in the same location as the various things he was supposedly looking at.

Kuleshov's experiment was a major stepping stone, but it was another man by the name of Sergei Eisenstein who would take it to the next level. It's not hard to see Eisenstein's influence on later artists. In fact you don't even have to look at his films, just seeing photographs of him shows you just how much he may have inspired other people and not even just filmmakers. There's actually several photographs where he bears a remarkable resemblance to the character of Henry Spencer in David Lynch's Eraserhead.

Even Kate Bush might owe a bit to Soviet Montage

What Eisenstein did is a whole other story, though. Kuleshov worked out how editing can be used to generate an emotional response from the viewer, but Eisenstein realized it went a little bit deeper. He developed a theory that he could piece together two contrasting images with very different meanings to create a third, brand new meaning that did not previously exist. By doing this, he could create emotions through editing alone.

At the time, this process was known as "montage", which can be a bit jarring to viewers familiar with its more modern usage. However, is that not what contemporary montages ultimately aim to achieve? The "gearing up" montages you see in action movies or the training sequences in martial arts films essentially do the same thing, if on a smaller scale. In those cases, they use editing to excite the viewer. In that sense, many modern Hollywood productions owe a great deal to these old Soviet Montage films.

So ultimately, the big question is why it was the Russians who worked this out? Why not Hollywood (where they that had already been using continuity editing for some time) or Germany (which ironically, despite being more or less bankrupt after World War I, had one of the most successful film industries in the world)? The answer has to do with the messages often found in these old movies.

One of the key factors, perhaps the most important influence on Soviet Montage Cinema, was the circumstances that motivated its filmmakers. Russia was in a state of political turmoil, having just come out of a revolution. Vladimir Lenin had noble intentions but his means were somewhat questionable, and the result was a violent bloodbath that ended with the slaughter of not just the Tsar but also his entire family (and before you bring it up, the urban legend about his youngest daughter Anastasia escaping the massacre has been officially debunked). This led to a period of chaos as the Russian people struggled to rebuild, unfortunately making way for Joseph Stalin to come into power and make things even worse.


Propaganda was a key factor in driving the success of the revolution. The famous story of Grigori Rasputin being shot, stabbed, poisoned, and drowned only to later be found to have died of hypothermia while trying to claw his way out of the ice never happened. In actuality, Rasputin was only shot once and died instantly. The numerous failed assassination attempts were made up to make him seem less human and thus generate support for the revolution, and it worked so well that it was accepted as fact for decades before the original autopsy report was discovered.

The problem of course was that Russia was a very isolated community. Lenin wanted to appeal to the masses, but many people proved harder to reach than others. Film turned out to be an effective technique for promoting the ideology of the revolution. Even after it was over, the creation of propaganda films served not necessarily to support the revolution, but to justify it to the population. Though anti-Tzar films were not the only things produced in Russia at the time, they were at the forefront of their film industry.

While I wasn't particularly keen on this one film, Pudovkin's Mother is a great example of this ideology being reflected. This film takes on an approach reminiscent of the World War II combat films Hollywood would later produce, with themes of sacrifice. The Tzar's army is treated as inhuman and anonymous, with a group of characters bonding together. In this case it is the titular Mother gradually coming to join the common people in the struggle. In the end the Tzar's troops emerge victorious, but the film ends with the apparent intention of inspiring the viewer to take up arms and ensure that these people did not die in vain.


More effectively is Eisenstein's surprisingly good Battleship Potemkin, which creates an allegory for the struggles of the common people by scaling it down to a single battleship crew. This film was inspired by a real event (though I can't verify with certainly how close it is to what really happened), but represents the plight of the Russian people in the form of the mistreatment of the crew at the hands of their officers. One crew member then rallies the crew together and start a mutiny after which point they begin to inspire the people around them, beginning with the civilians in a nearby port and ultimately other ships in the Russian navy.


Curiously enough, Battleship Potemkin has no one true protagonist. It has several different characters who are given a degree of notability, but for the most part it is the collective proletariat masses that are cast as one protagonist. This is fitting to the ideas Lenin hoped to promote, as he aimed to unite the common people and to end the oppression of the bourgeois. Naturally, Eisenstein applies his techniques effectively with the intent to create this sense of anger and ultimately triumph as the brave men of the Potemkin set the way for a brighter future.

Much like Birth of a Nation, it isn't always easy to agree with what the ideologies that are promoted by these films. Personally, I can't begin to make a judgement call on whether the Russian Revolution was ultimately justified, seeing as my knowledge of the period is extremely limited. Still, the significance of these films cannot ultimately be denied. The period of montage brought out a number of filmmakers besides the ones I've referred to in this article, all of whom contributed something. Ultimately they took Griffith's continuity editing in directions he never would have imagined. Even after the movement ended in the 1930's, echoes of Soviet Montage can still be found in modern filmmaking, including mainstream Hollywood films.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Action Heroines Should Not Wear Heels


As great as the first Dirty Harry film was, the general lack of female characters in general but more specifically female cops can seem jarring to a modern viewer. It took two crappy sequels before a female cop was finally introduced in The Enforcer. This could have been done well, with the relationship between Kate Moore and Harry Callahan being a very emotional one as he has to grow to respect her. Of course they botched it all up and instead gave her a lame death scene that added nothing to the story (seriously, they could have cut it out entirely without changing anything) and just served as one of many things hastily thrown into the already extremely rushed and disappointing climax for the sake of drama.

Of course, even if you can overlook the film's problems, perhaps the character of Inspector Kate Moore isn't that bad after all, or perhaps she could have been. The film apparently wanted us them to become equals by the end, but that whole aspect is arguably made redundant when Harry won't even let her put on some practical clothes. One thing I've learned about cops is that you should never, ever  put one in a dress and high heels while on duty under any circumstances, and of course they do exactly that in The Enforcer. Was this a thing the San Francisco police did in 1976? Why does Harry get to wear pants and shoes for his chase scenes but his co-star has to stumble around because the producers never thought about getting her a more practical wardrobe? This was the 70's, it's not like there were laws against women wearing pants.


The sad thing is that this isn't the only occurrence. Sometimes it can be more forgivable, as in North by Northwest (where aside from being a time period situation, Eve probably didn't expect to be climbing over Mt. Rushmore and the impracticality of her shoes does play into the action) but even today it's something of an unfortunate trend for women. Even in more modern films, while action heroines might omit the dress they still get put into high-heeled boots the director apparently thought looked better.

If you ask me, nobody should ever have to wear high-heeled shoes at all. I haven't a clue who thought they would be a good idea but they are extremely impractical footwear for all occasions. Despite this being common knowledge today many filmmakers still seem to insist on putting girls into high heels regardless of how practical they might be, especially action heroines. Apparently it is only because they think it makes them look better, even though the heroine would look perfectly fine without them.

To provide a straight forward example, it seems every rendition of Catwoman gives her heels for no apparent reason. This is a character who regularly has to sneak around dark city streets and climb along rooftops and yet not a single cinematic treatment has given her practical footwear. Even Nolan's take on the character still puts her in high heels (though admittedly the idea of them being designed to work as spikes does sound kinda cool).


Really, it seems the only reason filmmakers continue to pursue this trend even today is because they somehow have it in their head that it makes action heroines seem more attractive. They've already stripped the dresses that were common in older action movies so why keep the heels? Now I won't claim that female characters shouldn't be physically attractive, but are the heels really necessary to make that happen?

As a case in point, Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider films is an action heroine who usually dresses in ways appropriate to the situation. She's still an attractive figure (as you can expect with Angelina Jolie being cast) but they don't try to oversexualize her. You could argue that she does expose herself, though mainly in environments and in ways that are practical to her situations, but she certainly doesn't wear high heels. The first film even makes a joke out of it at the very end when Lara's butler drops a whole bunch of dishes in shock on seeing her in a dress.


Lara is unfortunately one of a few exceptions to the rule, along with a few other characters such as Ellen Ripley in Aliens and Sarah Connor in the Terminator films. Unfortunately a lot of action movies seem to be more concerned with ensuring their heroines are attractive than in actually giving them something fitting to their situation. You don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone being given impractical gear when they star in their manly action films (although in some cases they are every bit as exposed, if not even moreso), so why put women in the high heels instead of letting them have the cool boots used by the guys?

That is not what I meant when I asked for a strong female firefighter!

This is sadly something that seems to have persisted in modern media. Even Marvel, despite otherwise being very good about incorporating strong female characters, is guilty of using high heels inappropriately. So many times when watching action films I find myself remarking "and that is why women should not wear high heels". Now being a guy I don't have a lot of experience, but based on what I've seen I would not recommend high heels for a person of either gender in any circumstance, especially if you're an action hero.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Rambo II: This Time It's Not Rambo 1



So I've never been particularly inclined to look at any Sylvester Stallone movies, and with good reason. After all the guy's got a reputation for making terrible action movies and not being really hard to understand. While I can sympathize with the reasons why he has that distinct voice (his lower jaw is partially paralyzed) I just don't think he's really that good an actor, as I found out today in my action cinema class when we had to watch Rambo: First Blood Part II.

I had low expectations even before going in, but the whole movie was pretty bad even by the standards I was setting. Half the time it was impossible to understand the dialogue, and not just Stallone's. The rest of the cast was okay but really we were obviously supposed to be following his character of Rambo despite him having no real depth or personality. He was just a guy with a lot of weapons and not much motivation.

It was also insanely jarring how inconsistent the action was. In the insanely contrived scene where Rambo's female partner gets killed, she is shot multiple times and dies soon after, and yet the same people cannot shoot a man standing at exactly the same range and every bit as visible. This is a cliché that has often been mercilessly parodied, commonly known as the "Stormtrooper effect" (so named for its infamous use in the Star Wars franchise, which ironically could have gotten around the problem if they'd just stated that the force was protecting the heroes). This was apparently quite popular in the 80's but that doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially when the bad guys are supposedly trained soldiers.

None of the characters ever seemed to have much in the way of depth at all, certainly not enough for me to care about any of them. The bad guys had no real motivation, Rambo is just a maniac with a gun, and did that one POW even get a name? If he did I don't remember it being brought up. Also I swear that guy got shot at least twice during the climax despite being okay at the end.

Come to think of it that's another thing, none of these POW's we're supposed to be concerned for have any personality at all. There's no real reason we should be concerned for their safety because we don't know any of them. They're just a bunch of shirtless guys and so when one or two get shot there isn't much emotion to be felt.


The only character I really had any interest in was Co (Julia Nickson). She was actually an interesting character and a strong female character in one of these films. She got to wield a machine gun for a while, a few action scenes, and even got to save Rambo's life. This film had an actual action girl in it, so how do the filmmakers mess it up? By killing her off way too early and forcing us to spend the rest of the film with a bunch of uninteresting shirtless men of course. I think I get what they were trying to go for, making the bad guys seem more ruthless and giving Rambo more motivation (as if the torture scene earlier and him being left for dead by his own people wasn't enough) but it was a lame and horrendously contrived scene that came straight out of nowhere and made the conversation immediately before completely pointless.

Now I'll confess, I still haven't seen the first Rambo film, but this one is a waste of time. Even the action scenes couldn't keep me going. I understand Sylvester Stallone has a physical deformity that inhibits his speech, but even if I could understand what he was saying I don't think he'd be a very good actor.


When it comes to action movie stars, I'll take Schwarzenegger any day. His action movies are fun and sometimes actually have a point to them. Stallone on the other hand is a guy I don't feel particularly inclined to see any more of. I've been told that Rocky is alright but beyond that I'm certainly not (willingly) checking out any more of the Rambo films or any of his later work. Rambo: First Blood Part II is a dull, pointless, and boring action movie that I would strongly recommend avoiding at all costs.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Thursday Movie Picks Meme: Vampire Movies


This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is Vampire movies. This is an interesting challenge, since I'll confess I've never been a huge fan of them myself. I've often considered them to be a bit overrated as a horror monster (and the whole Twilight craze certainly didn't help), but they can be done well when put into the right hands. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still a pretty awesome show with some great vampires in it (though it probably helped that there were other monsters as well). I'll also confess I still have yet to actually see any of the Dracula films.

Let's begin:

Nosferatu (1922)


About what I was saying earlier about not having seen any of the Dracula films, let me rephrase. I haven't actually seen any of the authorized films. The first adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel was one that was made without permission as part of the short-lived German expressionist period. In fact it was almost lost forever because Stoker's wife was so angry about the unauthorized production that she sued the filmmakers and demanded all copies be destroyed. The only reason it survives today is because one copy managed to stay hidden and wasn't found again until long after. By modern standards it can come off as a bit cheesy (Count Orlok looks kinda silly nowadays and not very intimidating), but as far as I'm aware this was basically the first vampire film.

Vampires (1998)


Have you ever wondered what The Lost Boys might look like if you made it for adults and mixed in elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and old westerns? No? Well, too bad because that's what John Carpenter gave us in the late 90's... and it's a lot of fun. The vampires here are treated a bit different from your standard ones in that they do have act somewhat like zombies (being bit even once by one in this continuity causes you to transform into one yourself) and a lot of the traditional elements such as crosses and garlic don't work. The only solid way to kill one is to expose it to sunlight (staking them in the heard does work, but it's not as reliable a method).

Underworld (2005)


We've got two on this list where the vampire is the antagonist. Let's bring up one where the vampire is the hero. Underworld isn't the greatest of vampire films but it is an enjoyable little action flick with some exciting stunts and chase scenes. Kate Beckinsale makes a pretty good heroine and it's always good to see a tough girl who can kick butt. It's hardly a masterpiece but if you can keep an open mind it is a little bit of fun.

Cosmic Horror Cast-A-Thon


Last week I started the Cosmic Horror Cast-A-Thon in which I invited fellow bloggers to come and put together a team of investigators to save the world. Unfortunately nobody's responded yet and we've only got nine days left before the Old Ones awaken leaving madness and terror in their wake. In a desperate bid to help prevent that, I'd better get my team together.


So first I'm supposed to pick and Old One to pit my team against. I'm going to take the most obvious one and save the other, perhaps more interesting ones for other contributors to tackle.


Old One: Cthulhu

 


Investigative Team

Jack Crow (Vampires, 1998)- Team Leader/muscle


If there is a tough guy who has any idea how to deal with the paranormal, it's Jack Crow. He's got a pile of guns and gadgets specifically designed for taking out vampires. While this might not be effective against the Old Ones, he is resourceful enough to find weaknesses his team could take advantage of weaknesses, not to mention he should be able to hold his own against an army of cultists. Seeing as they have a habit of quietly murdering anyone who finds out too much about Cthulhu, someone who can keep your back is a valuable asset to the team. In addition to all that, he's also got leadership skills and knows how to keep people organized under pressure.

R.J. Macready (The Thing, 1982)- Co-Leader/Pilot


Another tough guy with leadership skills, which could very well come in handy if anything were to happen to Jack Crow. To add to that he's also a qualified helicopter pilot, which means he has the additional benefit of being able to get his team where they need to go efficiently. Let's not forget that he has experience in dealing with otherworldly horrors himself, and seeing as the last thing he faced was one that turned his colleagues against each other through sheer paranoia, Cthulhu should seem like a cakewalk at least in theory. 

Ellen Ripley (Alien, 1979)- Expert


Let me sum it up as simply as possible: she doesn't give up. She fought the same horrifying monsters three times in a row and even suicide couldn't stop her from coming back to face them again. That's how determined she is when faced with these nameless otherworldly beings. Now when confronted with something terrifying enough to make the Xenomorphs seem friendly, why wouldn't she be want to do something about it? Heck, if anyone's going to live long enough to make a brave last stand against Cthulhu it's going to be her, and... well... let's just say she's got better odds than most.

Juno (The Descent, 2005)- Explorer


So before we can face Cthulhu, the team will have to navigate the lost city of R'lyeh. That would seem straight forward enough if not for the fact the place is filled to the brim with non-euclidean geometry. It just so happens that Juno is an experienced cave diver, a profession that requires one to be able to navigate tunnels of shapes and sizes that are not always predictable. Naturally, if anyone can figure out how to handle the unpredictable nature of structures that defy physics with out-of-the-box-thinking, it's her.

Stevie Wayne (The Fog, 1980)- Coordinator


Well, we already have leadership for the front, but what about in the back. After all, with a mess like this that could take our investigators around the world, somebody's got to co-ordinate everything. That's where Stevie Wayne comes in. Based out of her lighthouse she can keep track of the team's progress and also listen out for any updates that could give the investigators clues about how to find Cthulhu and stop him from destroying the world.

Theo (The Haunting, 1963)- Psychic


If she is indeed a psychic, as is suggested but not confirmed in The Haunting, she would be a valuable asset to the team. She could observe things nobody else could because of her abilities, such as the thoughts and dreams of others around her and perhaps even take the time to observe how people seem to be affected psychologically by the rising of Cthulhu even before he actually awakens. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ms. 45 and the Urban Vigilantes



This is a film that I might never have heard of if not for a chance mention in one of my textbooks and one I might have forgotten about if not for my innate curiosity and an unprecedented intrigue that came with learning about a major trend in 1970's action films, specifically the "urban vigilante" idea, also known as an "urban western". Typically the way these films work is they combine the classical western hero with the street and back alley settings prevalent in film noir and gangster pictures of the 1940's and 1950's.

Usually the way they work is that you have an anti-hero protagonist who is torn between two worlds. Much as the classical western hero is caught between the "civilized" world and the "savage" wilderness, the urban western hero (or in this case, heroine) is in between both the law and the crooks. They're typically civilians, as is the case for this film along with other films such as the Death Wish series featuring Charles Bronson. Other times they are rogue cops, a role made famous by Dirty Harry, or even crooks themselves as seen with Snake Plissken in Escape From New York.

In any case, they are a character who sees themselves as above the law. They find the police are too much of a hindrance for justice, and decide to take matters into their own hands. Dirty Harry continues to pursue Scorpio long after he is taken off the case and Snake Plissken screws over the ungrateful President by destroying the tape he was supposed to retrieve for him (and that was in the first movie, don't get me started on what he does in Escape From L.A.). There are even echoes of this phenomenon in more contemporary works such as Christopher Nolan's Batman films.

The movie we watched in class was Dirty Harry, and a lot of the focus was on that along with Death Wish. Escape From New York was one I only later concluded fit into the "urban vigilante" trend based on what I'd learned. One thing it didn't take me long to notice was that the vigilante character was usually a man, so naturally when the chapter on the urban vigilante films in my textbook referred to one with a female lead I became curious. That was my introduction to Ms. 45, also known as Angel of Vengeance. I eventually decided to pursue this movie and found a copy last week. I had some time during the weekend to watch it and it turned out also to be quite fitting for Halloween.

Thana (Zoë Lund) is a seamstress who happens to be mute. She happens to be living in 1980's Manhattan, a world where it is not easy being a woman, and even harder being a woman who can't talk. While walking home from work one day, she is helplessly abducted by a street punk (Abel Ferrara, the movie's director) who sexually assaults her. The experience of it happening once already leaves the poor heroine severely traumatized, but after getting home she encounters another punk trying to rob her apartment who also tries to rape her. This time Thana snaps and murders her attacker.

From then on, things are no longer the same. Thana starts to grow paranoid of every man she sees and the trauma of her experiences begin to bleed into her job as she starts to slip up more frequently. Most notably, she takes the gun off the punk she murders and begins carrying it around with her. Numerous men try to sexually harass her and subsequently meet their ends at the barrel of a 45 caliber pistol.

It's really a shame that Zoë Lund's career was cut short so early (she only went on to do five other features before dying of a drug overdose in 1999) because if this role was anything to go by she had extraordinary talent. She never so much as utters a single line at any point in the film, meaning she has to rely more or less purely on facial expression and body language to convey the emotions that come with her character's downward spiral. The fact that the emotion is purely visual makes her character stand out all the more from the rest of the cast (all of whom do talk). It gives her a lot more depth than it would to have her speak, but at the same time adds an enigmatic quality as we never learn her full backstory or why she has this disability.

I also liked the fact that unlike many other films both then and now Thana isn't glamorized or oversexualized, at least not as much. For most of the movie she looks like a very average young woman except when she is trying to make herself attractive to men in order to get close enough to kill them. By making her look like an everyday person, it makes the story of a civilian trying to take the law into her own hands all the more meaningful.


The rest of the cast is also pretty good. The interactions between Thana and the other characters are definitely believable, something not easy to pull off when you have to pretend your lead actress can't actually talk. There are two other major characters she interacts with: her landlady Mrs. Nasone and her boss Albert (Albert Sinkys), both of whom come into conflict with her over the changes in personality that come with her choice to become a vigilante while she simultaneously tries to keep them from finding out what she does during the night. She also has an emotional relationship with the other seamstresses, who are more or less the closest thing she has to friends and the only ones who really give her any kind of comfort.

Naturally for a film like this there's plenty of action to be found. Zoë Lund gets several scenes to herself where she gets to be tough and show off her newfound skills with a pistol. Even when she isn't pulling out her gun the film still manages to create tension. Knowing the protagonist just about every scene where she interacts with a man builds up a sense of tension because you know how paranoid she is and how she is very easily provoked into murder. Then of course there's the incredibly tense climax which I won't spoil for you.

I would strongly recommend Ms. 45 as a dark action film. It is an effective spin on the whole idea of the "urban vigilante", with a strong and indeed very memorable action heroine and plenty of tension. It's also a good movie to see in October, since while not an outright horror story it can be disturbing and even features a sub-plot surrounding a Halloween party. It was worth the thirty dollars I spent on it, and now I'm glad I kept up with the readings for that one course since otherwise I'd never have found out about this film. I don't know how easy it will be to find, but if you get the chance it is worth checking out


Saturday, 18 October 2014

October 2014 Blindspot Challenge: Re-Animator



I was supposed to do Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds for this month, but unfortunately I had some problems with the DVD. I got partway into the movie and suddenly it froze and began skipping. I couldn't move on without missing some crucial parts to the film and it seemed extremely unlikely that I would be able to find another copy before the end of the month (and even if I was, I can't be sure I'd have another opportunity to see it). Fortunately, I had a few other horror films in my drawer that could go in its place for October's, and one in particular struck me due to its source material.

I therefore have a confession to make. Despite being a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan and my endorsements of the HPLHS adaptations of his stories, I had never seen the cult classic Re-Animator before now. For that matter I have not actually seen any of Stuart Gordon's other Lovecraft adaptations such as Dagon, From Beyond, or the TV treatment of The Dreams in the Witch-House he did for Masters of Horror. I haven't even gotten around to reading the original Lovecraft serial on which this particular film was based, making this the first time with any of his work I've seen the movie before reading the story.

Herbert West–Reanimator as Lovecraft wrote it was supposedly a parody of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley's classic tale (which surprisingly enough, I have read not seen any film adaptations of, unless you count Young Frankenstein) was about a man who tries to scientifically engineer a process to revive the dead. The creature that results from these experiments is a grotesque entity that causes him to immediately regret his hard work. Lovecraft's story takes that concept up several notches by having a scientist reanimate multiple corpses. 

Though Lovecraft himself was not particularly fond of the story (he mainly wrote it for the money and had a lot of frustrating restrictions imposed on him), it does have something of a following with his fans. Maybe it's just because it's a little bit different from his usual horror, but whatever the case may be this is often one that fans will bring up. Naturally it appealed to Stuart Gordon, who given the path of his directorial career is clearly fond of Lovecraft's writing.

Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), is a brilliant but eccentric medical student based out of an institution in Switzerland, but he gets fired after he is caught performing unorthodox experiments on one of the staff. He moves to America and enrolls at Miskatonic University where he continues to develop his peculiar experiments after moving in with classmate Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). There he continues to experiment with a fluid he has developed capable of reanimating dead tissue. Things become difficult when Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson) voices opposition to West's experiments. Also thrown into the mix are Halsey's daughter Megan, who is engaged to Dan and gets mixed up in all of West's experiments, and a jerk by the name of Carl Hill (David Gale) who has made a career out of stealing credit for other people's accomplishments.

The whole thing has sort of a b-movie atmosphere, which has a strange kind of charm to it and actually does somewhat fit in with the original story (which was allegedly a parody of Frankenstein). The plot does get over the top and crazy at times, but when the film needs to it can be disturbing. You can naturally expect a lot of gore from a movie about reanimating corpses, and oddly enough the excessive amount of blood does make the appearances of the resurrected human cadavers a bit more disturbing.

Re-Animator is certainly an interesting experience for any major horror fan. It is a bit campy and over the top but it will keep you on the edge of your seat as you are taken through a bizarre sequence of events. It might seem a bit slow at first but once the bodies start rising it'll be a blast, and there is even a bit of emotion to be found in all of this. The main characters are rather likable but Herbert West himself is an especially interesting figure in the way he is driven by the passion of his discovery. I'm sorry I wasn't able to do The Birds as I originally planned, but this one worked alright as a substitute. Give it a watch, you won't regret it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

How Spectacle Conveys Narrative


There has always been a delicate relationship between narrative and spectacle on film. Many Hollywood movies struggle to balance a compelling story with special effects to create a spectacle. Some of the earliest films, such as those of Méliès, were made as almost pure spectacle. Later films would prefer to focus on telling a story. Sometimes, as is shown with the famous “biplane scene” in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, the spectacle is used as a driving force for the narrative.


While this scene is clearly meant to be a visual spectacle, it is created in such a way as to stand out in the mind of the viewer because it is an extremely pivotal moment in the story. The scene marks the beginning of several drastic changes, including the general tone of the narrative and in the character of Roger himself. This is set up through the scene’s deviation from the film’s previously established patterns.

This famous scene happens roughly at the mid-point in the film. The build up is simple enough: Roger is led to an isolated crossroads in the middle of open mid-western farmland. He has been told at this location he will be able to meet the man he has been confused with, George Kaplan, whom the audience already knows does not exist.

Instead of finding the agent, he is attacked by an unseen pilot in a biplane. A chase ensues in which Roger desperately tries to evade his attackers. The plane attempts to shoot him, run him down, and pour crop-dust all over him. Finally, Thornhill sees a passing gas truck, stands in front, and falls under it as soon as it stops. The plane crashes into the back of the truck and explodes, creating a spectacle of destruction.

This scene is a very famous cinematic moment that no doubt served as an influence on later action films such as Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet. Even the helicopter chase scene in From Russia With Love clearly took a few cues from this iconic sequence. Why is it such a great scene? Why did Alfred Hitchcock make the choices he did when putting this sequence of events together? That's what we will be discussing in this article.


As far as narrative goes, there is only one obvious function filled by this scene—giving Roger a reason to suspect he cannot trust Eve, the woman who sent him to this location. This end could have been accomplished by a much shorter scene. For instance, instead of a plane, Roger could have encountered a man he thinks is Kaplan who ties to kill him. A simple chase scene would have sufficed The scene as it was presented could have ended with Roger simply evading the plane instead of causing it to explode.

Simpler alternatives would have served the same narrative function and advanced the story but not have had the same impact on Roger’s character. Up until this point, Roger has been doing little more than attempting to run away from the villains, hoping to eventually find the man he is being confused for. After this scene, Roger starts to gain control over his situation, pursuing the antagonists himself and setting in motion the events that ultimately allow him to become Kaplan.

As a result, Roger becomes much more daring in the second half of the film. While in the first half, he simply runs away from the villains, the biplane scene marks the point where he realizes he must take more drastic measures to survive such as standing on a road in front of a moving truck and falling under it. The fact that the plane explodes shows how much of a risk he was taking. He could have easily been injured or even killed by the blast.

This scene is just the first of many creative and unusual methods Roger uses to get out of dangerous situations; he no longer simply runs away. The biplane scene marks the point in which Roger decides he is no longer going to tolerate the antagonists pursuing him and instead of simply trying to evade them instead decides to stand up for himself. As the film progresses, Roger goes on to do even more dangerous stunts, culminating in the climactic scene of him and Eve climbing down Mt. Rushmore’s face.

If the biplane scene had ended with him simply evading his attackers instead of outwitting them, Roger’s personality would not have changed from the first half of the film. His later actions would confuse the viewer. If Hitchcock had ended the biplane scene with Roger simply hitching a ride with a passing motorist and getting away from the airplane, he would simply be running away again, instead of taking a stand as is set up by this sequence. This change in character is vital to concluding the narrative. Without this particular scene the shift from an urban mystery to an espionage thriller would have been completely unexplained.

There is a very good reason Hitchcock would have wanted his scene to be a spectacle. Most of the film is extremely chaotic. Even before Thornhill is abducted, people are running around, pushing and shoving each other. One of the few calm moments of the film happens when Roger sneaks onto a train and meets Eve. Because this scene is so calm, it puts the viewer into a false sense of security. It seems as though Roger is safe from any danger. Him being attacked in such an unusual manner compared to earlier in the film is Hitchcock’s way of reminding the viewer that he is in fact still in trouble.

In addition, this scene also marks a very drastic change in tone to the overall narrative. The biplane scene marks a specific change in the tone of the story. The first half sees Roger trying to run from the antagonists, while the middle transitions the viewer into the events set off by this scene. The scene with the biplane marks the beginning of the second half, in which the narrative changes from being a chase film to more closely resembling an espionage thriller. This scene begins the transition and in turn leads directly into the final episode where Roger actually becomes a spy.

Another aspect that is worth noting is the jarring change of environment. The exotic locations used in older Hollywood films have often been used as a source of spectacle, but in this case Hitchcock opts for exactly the opposite. Instead of utilizing an impressive landscape, he chooses mid-western monotonous, flat, open fields . The spectacle is instead in the chase between Roger and the plane itself. The reason Hitchcock does not opt to include a more attractive environment is because he wants the viewers to focus purely on the central action.


Up until this point, the action has been set in populated urban environments. Roger has been pursued on foot through city streets, but here he is alone in the middle of open farmland. There are fewer places to hide, and almost no other people beyond the occasional passing motorist. The choice to use a biplane adds a layer of tension. The confrontation is obviously an unfair fight, thus alerting the viewer that Roger could be killed and creating a great sense of relief when he escapes.

Like the rest of the film, Hitchcock avoids crosscutting between Roger and the pilot chasing him, allowing the sudden arrival of the plane to startle the viewer. However, this remains the only scene in the movie where the antagonists are kept anonymous as they are never clearly visible inside the plane. This scene also marks the only point in the movie where Roger is directly responsible for anyone dying (you could argue that Mr. Townsend might not have had a knife in his back had Roger not tried to talk to him, but even that wasn't entirely his fault). By not allowing him or the audience to see the pilots, it eliminates the emotional repercussions that would otherwise come from him killing one, possibly two people.


North by Northwest has many memorable scenes, but Hitchcock has specifically crafted this particular moment so that it burns itself into the mind of the viewer. This scene is a pivotal moment in the film that marks a drastic shift in narrative tone and the main character’s role in the overall story. By creating this particular scene as a visual spectacle, Hitchcock forces the viewer to recognize these changes as they happen.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Why Can't Science Fiction Get Space Right?

I've previously discussed how science fiction often tends to botch up the whole science part with regards to terminology. There's a lot of things to know if you want to write good science fiction. Among other things, you should know what a galaxy is and you will need to be able to recognize the difference between a black hole and a wormhole. Trust me, you do not want to get those two very different things mixed up.

Still, there's a lot of things science fiction gets wrong and I think it's time to address some of these further facts. Let's begin with one of the most obvious problems, and that is the lack of microgravity. We've all seen so many films that feature this it would be far easier to list the films that actually do take the time to depict weightlessness. Unlike many errors, however, there actually is a practical reason for this particular one to be invoked. After all, science fiction movies are generally shot on Earth. It takes time and money to be able to produce convincing weightless effects. When you have a great director and a ginormous budget (as was the case for 2001: A Space Odyssey) you can produce some amazing effects, but otherwise the strings will be visible.


However, very rarely does this issue ever actually get addressed, and when it is, it's usually in little more than a character offhandedly mentioning "artificial gravity". No explanation is given for how this future technology is supposed to work. At present, there's really only two known ways artificial gravity could be generated, and neither one is usually shown to be at play. The first and less feasible option would be to have the ship moving at constant acceleration, which can temporarily create its own gravity (something like in the launch sequence from Conquest of Space). The second and far more plausible method would be to construct a centrifuge, like in 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Contrary to popular believe, there is in fact gravity in outer space. In fact, gravity is more or less the primary force that prevents all matter from being torn apart by the expansion of the universe itself. Ryan Stone was not so much floating as she was falling around the Earth's curvature. Gravity is also what keeps the moon in orbit around the Earth, the Earth in the orbit of the sun, and the sun in our galaxy. Putting it quite simply anything that contains matter exerts a gravitational force of some kind, the strength of which corresponds to the object's mass.

Now for an extremely frustrating one that very few movies ever seem to be able to get right. Space is a vacuum. We've all seen plenty of science fiction stories that involve great big space battles with lasers. Star Wars is especially guilty of this and it is really annoying. SOUND CANNOT TRAVEL THROUGH SPACE! There is no way that is possible. It's frustrating how few movies actually pay attention to this detail: Destination Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gravity being among the few exceptions.


While we're on the subject of Star Wars, I think it's worth bringing up how asteroid fields actually work compared to what we see in the movies. In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo tries to evade a number of pursuing Imperial ships by flying into an asteroid belt, leading C-3PO to claim "the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1". Actually it's not. Real asteroid fields are ridiculously easy to navigate. Generally there is a huge distance between the asteroids, so the only way you could crash into one is if you are an idiot or if your intention was to crash into one.


So here are yet more scientific concepts that science fiction can't seem to get right. For a genre called science fiction there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of... you know... science. No where is that clearer than in science fiction films about outer space, where the most basic facts are tossed out the window. Why is it that there seems to only be three major films that actually show space as silent that are each released decades apart (Destination Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gravity)?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Announcing the Cosmic Horror Cast-A-Thon


And this is just an approximation of what Azathoth might look like.

Long ago, the Old Ones ruled the domain we now control blindly. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. There are many ancient tomes that describe the wrath of these forgotten monstrosities, most famously the Necronomicon of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. These are beings so far above our capability to understand that we may not even glance upon them without being driven to pure and utter madness.

Now strange things are occurring. Men and women across the globe have reported strange dreams of non-euclidean horrors. Strange things have been seen and there is an odd break of madness in the air. It seems that the Old Ones are once again awakening, ready to claim the world that was once theirs. Humanity is doomed, and there is no chance that we can stop them, but perhaps we can delay the inevitable.

That's where you come in. Your job is to put together a team of investigators who may be able to find a way to prevent the end of all things for now, and you only have so much time to do it. At the top of the page, there is currently a clock that will time how long until the Old Ones awaken. You have until that clock reaches zero at One O'Clock in the morning of October 31. Good luck my dear friend. You're going to need it.

Rules

  1. Choose an Old One you wish to prevent from destroying our world. For those of you not familiar with Lovecraft, I'll provide a list below with some information on each and what little information is known about them.
  2. Select a group of horror movie characters you believe are cut out for the task of fighting the Old Ones. They don't have to actually be from a cosmic horror story, but they should have experience dealing with "horror" in some sense of the word. Because of the unpredictable nature of what we are dealing with, there is no limit on how many characters you can have in your party.
  3. With each character you choose, provide a few words explaining why you chose that character and what you think they can contribute to the investigation.
  4. There are no limits on how many players can go against a specific Old One, but if even one is not pursued by a single player, than you can say goodbye to everything you hold dear.


Old Ones

These are the Old Ones that we shall be facing against. Not much is known about any of them, but if any victory is to be accomplished, than all of them must be faced, though whether you'll have any form of success is another matter.

Azathoth


Not much is known about Azathoth, the mindless Daemon-Sultan who is said to writhe at the center of all existence. Supposedly he created all in the universe and will ultimately destroy it. For now he is kept under control by the mysterious piping and drumming of some mysterious creatures. Few have even so much as glimpsed his realm, and those who have are never the same. Only one first-hand account exists of a visit to his domain, written by a paranoid schizophrenic held at 1001, Queen St. West, Toronto. Though she was reluctant to go into detail, what she described was utter horror.

Cthulhu


Arguably the weakest of the Old Ones, though no less horrifying. Cthulhu is said to reside in the sunken city of R'lyeh, but one day when the stars are right he shall rise form the depths. Of all the monstrosities you may have to face, this is by far the simplest, but do not be fooled. Cthulhu is a force to be reckoned with, and even if you survive, so does the cult...

Ghatanothoa

This one might be the most difficult of all the Old Ones to face against on account of one particular fact that necessitated the omission of his image. It is said that any foolish being who dares to look at the form of Ghatanothoa will endure a fate worse than death. Their body will harden into a mummy-like form while their internal organs are perfectly preserved within. Until such a time as the brain is destroyed, the victim will remain in this state, fully conscious and aware of everything around them.

Nyarlathotep


Out of all the Old Ones, Nyarlathotep is the one who probably has the best understanding of humanity, but that doesn't mean you should try to reason with him. This is a sick, twisted maniacal figure, who loves to bend mankind to his own will. Worse still, he comes in many different forms. He has a massive variety of human avatars and thousands of others. Whatever you do never summon one particular avatar, a monstrous creature with a three-lobed eye known simply as "The Haunter in the Dark".

Shub-Niggurath


Ia Shub-Niggurath, the legendary "Black Ram of the Woods" or "Goat with a Thousand Young". Not much is known about her beyond rumors, although there are stories of strange creatures that are said to worship her. Ordinarily she is not someone you want to have anything to do with, nor are any of her thousand young.

Yog-Sothoth


Yog-Sothoth knows the gate, Yog-Sothoth is the gate, Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. He may be the most powerful being in the known universe (with only Azathoth for competition), Yog-Sothoth is a being who exists outside of space and time, he sees all and knows all that happens in the universe. This would not even be the first time he has tried to clear humanity from the Earth. Attempting to destroy him is futile, the best you can do is survive.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Infected by the Apocalypse



At first glance, John Carpenter's movies The Thing, Prince of Darkness, and In The Mouth of Madness seem unrelated outside of sharing the same director.  There is no story connection between them, or characters that cross from one film to the next. However, John Carpenter himself would eventually label these three movies as his "Apocalypse Trilogy". The connecting force is not one of story, but rather theme in that all three films deal with the end of the world.

All three films are horror stories that have been labelled as "Lovecraftian" due to their common themes of humanity facing its end at the hands of an otherworldly force beyond our capability to understand. In keeping to Lovecraft's ideas, the movies follow the rationale that mankind is a tiny, insignificant part of a vast cosmos that is at best indifferent to us. These are horrors beyond our control, beyond our understanding, and which could easily wipe us from existence. We can never truly defeat them, the best we can do is contain or delay it.

The theme that really seems to run through these movies, however, is one of infection. Though only The Thing features a literal virus (at least insofar as it infects on a cellular level), the horror is always treated like one, something that needs to be contained and prevented from spreading. The catch is that unlike a regular virus, this is not one that can be treated. Instead, the fear comes from a transformation that happens as a result exposure to the "infection". It becomes something to be avoided, which becomes increasingly difficult as the "virus" spreads to more people.


With The Thing, the concern comes from an alien organism that is capable of perfectly replicating the cells of any living thing that touches it. Its noted that, at least as far as anyone can tell, one cell of the Thing is all it takes to infect a human. That cell divides and begins assimilating other cells, which in turn divide and assimilate other cells, and so on until it has taken every part of your body. Once you are infected, there is no way to cure it. The trouble is that when you're in Antarctica and the only habitable environment is a tiny research station, it's going to be harder to avoid the people who are infected, especially when you don't know for sure who has been assimilated, who has not, and who is technically still human but in the process of being assimilated.

Prince of Darkness has a more sudden transformation that occurs from the infection. This time around, it is the green fluid (which it revealed to be alive, and the essence of Satan himself). Consuming the fluid results in almost instant death, with the corpse then being reanimated as its servant. You would think it would be easy to avoid drinking an ominous green fluid, but not when it is very good at taking you by surprise and the reanimated corpses make sure to prevent you from escaping.


With In the Mouth of Madness, it is a bit more ambiguous, and the infection is more metaphorical than literal (there is a radio broadcast at the end that refers to the "infected" but never states if they were infected with what we might think infected them). Instead, the "virus" (if you can call it that) is the popularity of Sutter Cane's writing. With every new reader Kane's power grows. Every person who reads Kane's book is driven to madness.


The point is that the infection is more than a simple virus that can be cured. When a person is infected, there is no going back. The victim of the infection is never the same once he or she is exposed. Instead, they fall under the control of a greater influence, becoming "assimilated" in a way (literally in the case of The Thing). With each infected person the power of the otherworldly force grows and becomes harder to resist.

As the thing grows, it becomes increasingly clear that the horror can never truly end, leading to the ambiguous endings of each film. In The Thing R.J. MacReady is eventually forced to face the fact that there is no way to stop the Thing that allows the remaining men to get out alive. The best thing they can do is contain the Thing, after which point a best case scenario is that they will freeze to death in the snow.

There is, however, one thing that adds a layer of unease to this grim final scene. The only other known survivor besides Mac is Childs, who had up to this point been gone long enough to have been assimilated. The one possible indication that he is human is the presence of an earring since the prequel established that the Thing couldn't replicate inorganic material, but who's to say it hasn't learned from its past errors by trying to replace objects it spits out whenever possible. Some argue that Childs is wearing a different-coloured jacket from earlier, although the lighting makes it hard to tell for sure.


Prince of Darkness sees the number of protagonists decreasing at an increasing rate as more and more people are infected by the green fluid and transformed into servants of the eldritch entity that threatens to destroy our world. What doesn't help is the fact that said entity has ensured the protagonists are unable to leave (attempting to do so results in death), making it march harder to evade their infected colleagues as they multiply.

With In the Mouth of Madness, it is a fear of insanity that comes from the popularity of Cane's writing. The book is promised to drive its readers insane. As the story progresses, characters become violent, and seemingly delusional, or is it Trent who has been the crazy one the whole time? As the infection of Cane's writing spreads, it becomes increasingly difficult to comprehend the difference between sanity and insanity.

So in each of these films, the fear comes not from the "infection" itself, but rather from the idea of being transformed by it. These are not merely stories of any old epidemics, but rather the idea of losing your humanity. The terror comes from the notion of becoming one of something else, something that is spreading rapidly. In that sense, they are not solely "cosmic horror" stories, but also stories about the fear of losing your own self to something you cannot control.




Friday, 10 October 2014

Twin Peaks is BACK!



I don't normally discuss television on this blog, but being the David Lynch fan I am, I had to share a few thoughts in light of the recent news that the cult TV series Twin Peaks is getting a revival. I first watched the show while I was in college about two years ago, and I quickly got hooked. It came as a huge shock when the series ended on its infamous cliffhanger, because I was so invested I wanted to see more. I wanted to know what happened to Cooper and all his friends.

Then one day by total chance I stumbled across an IMDB message board that led me to a Facebook page called Bring Back Twin Peaks to TV (now known as Twin Peaks Worldwide). It got me thinking about the idea of a Twin Peaks revival and where such a thing could go. Rumors were spreading for a while and certain actors were expressing interest. Finally, just a few days ago, I was on the IMDB home page and found an article announcing that a revival of Twin Peaks was in fact happening.

That's right. David Lynch and Mark Frost are actually continuing the story of Twin Peaks. This might just mean we'll finally get that long-desired closure. At the moment virtually nothing is known about what is planned for this proposed revival. All I know is that a few actors have expressed interest in returning, Lynch is on board with the project, and it's supposed to be ready by 2016. However, I believe that makes this a perfect opportunity to speculate on where the series could potentially go.

While I'm not 100% certain of who is returning, there are a few characters I can safely assume are not likely to be present in the new series. A few members of the cast have unfortunately died since the show aired. In particular, Jack Nance died in 1996 and Don S. Davis died in 2008. This means that it is unlikely we will be seeing the return of Pete Martell or Major Garland Briggs, at least not directly. In the case of Briggs, while he himself might not make an appearance, he did have a number of mysterious top secret cases that could still allow him to have an (admittedly indirect) impact on the story.


Seeing as it's been twenty-five years since the show aired, it stands to reason that there will be some changes in the cast. I would suspect it to be a mix of old familiar faces (although they will be much older now), and some new characters. There is one new character that was practically set up by the second season of Twin Peaks, and seems a logical addition to the cast. It was established at the end of Season 1 that the police secretary Lucy Moran was pregnant. The show ended before she actually gave birth but she was going to have a baby. 25 years later we could see that child, now grown up. I have a theory for where that aspect could go as well.

You see, I suspect that Lucy's child goes on to become a cop as well. I suspect that by the time this revival takes place, Sheriff Truman will have retired (though that won't stop him from being a major character) and either Andy or Hawk will have taken over the station. I can't quite decide which so I'm leaning towards the possibility that they'll both be running it together, with Lucy's daughter as their newest deputy.


Speaking of law enforcement, that leaves a few questions open about what's been going on in the FBI for the past 25 years. I suspect Gordon Cole might have retired by this point, so I'm not entirely sure if Lynch would be willing to reprise his role. He was always a lot of fun in the series so it would be nice if they could find a way to bring him back if only for one or two episodes.


The rest of the FBI cast will probably be shaken up a bit as well. I can't say I expect David Duchovny to come back as Denise Bryson. Albert Rosenfield might still be there, but there will probably be some new agents as well. I would half-expect maybe a female FBI agent being part of the new cast. It would be a nice change since despite the large number of strong female characters the series hasn't had very many women in law enforcement.

As far as other new characters goes, it would make sense for there to have been a few changes of staff at the Double R Diner. This means we might be seeing some new waitresses in the cast. I also suspect there might be some new criminals (though it would be nice to see a Canadian character who doesn't turn out to be evil for once). It also stands to reason that we'll be seeing some new residents in Twin Peaks with some new storylines but beyond that I could not begin to speculate.

I think it is also fair to expect that we will be seeing more of the Black Lodge. I'm not sure if it would look precisely the same, but presumably it will still have the distorted otherworldly vibe that made it such a memorable part of the original show. It would be nice to see Michael J. Anderson return as the strange "Man From Another Place", but I'd be open to seeing some new characters in here. Frank Silva died in 1995, but I would imagine BOB would still be part of the story. Several people have proposed the explanation that BOB takes on the form of his most recent host, meaning that in this case he could now be played by Ray Wise (Leland Palmer).


Adding a few more levels of curiosity, there are a few characters that died during the run of the show that I'm not sure we've heard the last of. Laura Palmer will likely return through the Black Lodge (in fact one of the main arguments for a revival happening right now was that she herself said "I'll see you again in 25 years" near the end of season 2). Also, it is worth mentioning that Sheryl Lee might just be the only actress on the show to have been killed off twice. She's already played two separate characters so what's to stop her doing a third? Admittedly if that did happen, the big question would be if she gets murdered again. It would be a nice change if she could actually survive for once.


There are a few other characters who could still come back despite having the slight problem of being dead. Ray Wise has expressed interest before, so he might still be able to show up in the black lodge as Leland Palmer (although there is also the theory that he could be cast as BOB). Apparently Walter Olkewitz is interested in returning as Jaques Renault, probably also through the Black Lodge. The show itself alluded the possibility that we haven't seen the last of Josie Packard, who in a haunting final shot is revealed to apparently be trapped in a wooden knob. This plot thread remains unresolved in the existing series, but I do think it could be addressed in this revival.

There was also the issue of Benjamin Horne. In the series 2 finale, Horne was stuck on the head and collapsed with blood on his face, but it was not clear if he was dead or just unconscious. Assuming he was unconscious and got medical aid, it would make sense that he is still running the Great Northern Hotel 25 years later. Perhaps his quest for redemption paid off and business is going even better for him now. Bobby Briggs was also starting to get into business and put his drug life behind him so maybe he's made some good progress, too.

Assuming Ben Horne died, then perhaps it is Audrey who has inherited the Great Northern Hotel. As a teenager, Audrey was always a little bit mischievous and did have a certain fondness for causing trouble, but she could have grown out of it by now. Alternatively, perhaps that just grew into a different kind of trouble and she's becoming much like her father was at the start of the series. She could be involved in a bunch of illegal and shady business.

Then again, she was very close to Agent Cooper, so perhaps she's in the middle, trying to be righteous as inspired by Cooper but also being clever like her dad. Yet another crazy idea for Audrey could eliminate the Great Northern Hotel entirely: seeing as she was very close to Cooper, maybe she was eventually inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement and herself join the FBI. Perhaps she became an FBI Agent hoping she could eventually find out what happened to Cooper after he suddenly started acting all weird.


But of course there is obviously one question everybody wants answered: what happened to Dale Cooper? The answer is quite simple. I still don't know. In the Season 2 finale, Cooper was apparently released from the Black Lodge, only for it to be revealed that he was actually possessed by BOB which in turn hinted at a less than pleasant fate for Annie. The movie Fire Walk With Me had a surreal moment when Annie shows up in Laura Palmer's bed covered in blood, and tells her "The Good Dale" is still trapped in the Lodge (we also see Cooper and Laura together there at the very end). This would imply that BOB is still running around in his body while the "real" Cooper we have come to know and love is still in the Black Lodge.


That seems a straight forward enough explanation for what happened at the end, but we still don't know what went on outside the Black Lodge. Obviously there is good reason to be concerned about the fact that a very likable and trustworthy man has been possessed by an evil entity bent on committing acts of violent murder. The big question is therefore whether there is any way Sheriff Truman could have found out what was going on and rescued Cooper from the lodge. Unfortunately if 25 years have passed, that means BOB could have done a lot of damage undetected. I just hope Cooper finds his way out.

I should clarify that this is all pure speculation. I have virtually nothing to go on as to how this revival will play out. I'm not even sure if this project is simply a one-off season meant to provide closure to his beloved series or if Lynch is actually trying to go all out and get it moving again (sort of like what happened with Doctor Who, only this time involving the original creators). Either way, we should be in for an exciting experience as we finally get to revisit his beloved fictional town.