The Knoxville Horror Film Fest wrapped up its eighth year with a fascinating and diverse lineup, happily anchored by the invigorating re-examination of the Phantasm franchise. Some of the movies were overly dependent on politics or allegory to make their points, but overall, the Fest was well-programmed and a lot of fun.
In his third feature, Trash Fire, Richard E. Bates taps into very visceral discomfort and revulsion in so many ways that it’s disorienting, but uniquely, he largely does it with dialogue rather that with traditional scares or gore. At the same time, Bates mixes in an undercurrent of his particular brand of black humor to ensure that you’re laughing at the most inappropriate situations.
Though Westerns are generally not my thing (I consider the genre’s zenith to be 1988’s Young Guns, which is effectively an issue of Tiger Beat in Stetson hats), I was drawn to Martin Koolhoven’s Brimstone on the strength of the cast and early buzz that its extreme content would fit appropriately in TIFF’s audacious Midnight Madness programme, if not for its sprawling running time. In both cases, I wasn’t disappointed. Koolhoven’s script is as heartbreaking and well-acted as it is uncompromisingly brutal and terrifying, and his cast, led by Dakota Fanning and Guy Pearce, execute the difficult material perfectly.
When the best thing you can say about a film is that “it’s not quite as transphobic as people are saying”, you know that film has major issues.
Popshifter will be on a brief hiatus during the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs from September 8 through September 18.
We’ll see you after the Festival!
Another week, another beloved and peerless musician has left us. In case you’ve been on some sort of Luddite retreat, you’ve heard the news that Prince has passed away at age 57. There are far too many good articles contemplating his death online to list them all here, but you might enjoy this one, in which I ponder what it means to lose our heroes, “The Beautiful Ones U Always Seem 2 Lose.”
Here are two vastly different new releases you might want to check out: Cherry Red Records has released Tiny Tim: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-1970) about which Hanna writes the following:
Hearing a grown man do a believable Shirley Temple imitation is always a beautiful experience, and “Mickey the Monkey,” a song from the perspective of a monkey in a zoo providing his story to the child listener, seems almost a comment on Tiny Tim’s own position as a novelty performer: “While you’re watching me, I am watching you, too / You’re as funny to me as I am to you.”
On a totally different segment of the musical spectrum is Trágame Tierra, the long-awaited follow up to Big Black Delta’s self-titled debut. Why this record isn’t blowing up I cannot imagine. I’ve seen only two other reviews for it, and one of them is the most ghastly and insulting thing imaginable, on a website whose name rhymes with “Consequence of Sound.” Ignore that crap, and just read about how great this album is.
Unicorn Booty’s got some music news for you on this week’s NOW HEAR THIS, including the Afropunk festival lineup and more.
Game of Thrones fans are gearing up for the new season which starts tomorrow and at Everything Is Scary, Tim Ford discusses the most frightening characters on the show. None of them is Cersei Lannister. If vintage sitcoms are more your speed, you can check out the first two episodes of the TV or GTFO podcast, in which our own Sachin Hingoo teams up with Gary Heather to talk about Perfect Strangers and Hulk Hogan’s Thunder in Paradise.
Movies? You want movies? We got ‘em. Well, we have reviews, at least. Dump those copies of Bride of Re-Animator in the trash, but not before picking up Arrow Video’s glorious new reissue, which Tim Ford assures us is the definitive edition. Sachin reviews a couple of Hot Docs movies, the new ten-part film essay from Werner Herzog, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World and the more-horrifying-than-an-actual-horror film Tickled. Women In Hollywood has their always-welcome list of women-centric, directed, and written films for the week, including the fantastic High-Rise, which I’ll be reviewing next week.
Unicorn Booty is the best site you’re not reading, unless of course, you are already reading it, in which case, yay! The excellent “A Trans Person Explains What’s Really Behind Transphobic Bathroom Bills” does exactly what the title suggests, but there is oh so much more good stuff in there. There’s also a rundown of why Harriet Tubman should be on the US $20 bill as well as some huge developments in world LGBT politics.
Oh, and if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, by all means, do not read this creepy assessment of H.P. Lovecraft’s uber-creepy short story “The Festival” by Peter Counter on Everything Is Scary.
I think most of us are familiar with the “Wikipedia hole,” where you’ll go to the site to look something up and find yourself entangled in a long series of links to related-but-unrelated entries, only to forget what you came for in the first place. A rabbit hole like this is the only way I can describe Tickled, because it’s a documentary that begins with the most benign and banal of subjects and ends up as a three-continent-spanning pursuit of, well, I’m still not sure. The characters along the way have a Lynchian surrealness to them, never as repulsive and pitiable on the surface as they are under the skin, which is really saying something because some of them are pretty gross externally, too.
In Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, a ten-part essay film that’s as far-reaching and excessive as its title, Werner Herzog explains the Internet as though you’ve never heard of it. If I didn’t know any better, I could actually believe that Herzog never has. He approaches this sprawling, impossible-seeming project with the often childlike point of view of a complete outsider and, one might say, Luddite. This usually manifests itself in a funny way but it also allows Herzog an entry point that’s not bogged down with jargon and which never seems patronizing. In fact, it easily and readily walks the line between wonderment and revulsion.
You can’t kill us; we’re already undead.
At Popshifter, sometimes shit happens. And when it does, we soldier on.
We’re sad to lose one of our favorite writers, Laury Scarbro, this week. She’s just got too much going on in her non-Internet life and must take a hiatus.
We’re also sad to see another one of our fave writers take a hiatus: Jeffery X Martin has a new writing job (Yay! Congratulations!) that’s taking up most of his time these days and so he won’t be around as much as he used to.
These two departures mean that some of our content will be disappearing: the daily Today In Pop Culture column and our weekly recaps of Outsiders. I thought it best to let you know what was going on in case you wondered why they suddenly disappeared.
That said, if anyone would like to pick up the mantle of Today In Pop Culture or finish the rest of the season of Outsiders (four more episodes), I would gladly welcome your contributions.
And now, to the news!
Brad Henderson went to SXSW and all he got was a case of food poisoning. OK, he also saw some good movies, too, one of them being the Hicksploitation throwback My Father, Die. Not so good was recent home video release Intruders, which was a missed opportunity that I wish I had missed. You can always go back to 1977 and watch Count Dracula, the BBC production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Louis Jourdan, though, which I revisted in this month’s Frightful Flashback on Rue Morgue. You can also read my examination of the nature of evil as told through three different interpretations of witches on Everything Is Scary, those being Penny Dreadful, The Witch, and The Devils. By the way, happy one-year anniversary to Everything Is Scary where we do the responsible thing and contemplate the void every week.
The small screen is exploding these days! Besides new episodes of The Walking Dead, Broad City, and WGN’s Outsiders, Netflix has just premiered the second season of Daredevil, which Tim gives high marks, and Trailer Park Boys’ tenth season, which Tyler will be covering over the next week or so.
Whenever someone complains that there isn’t any good music these days, you just send them over to Popshifter, OK?
Besides the latest (and hopefully not the last) Iggy Pop album Post Pop Depression (which is awesome); there’s also Robbie Fulks’s Upland Stories, which Melissa describes as “exquisite;” West Of Here, the sophomore release from The Currys; and a trio of excellent—and very different—albums from women-fronted bands: Davina and the Vagabonds, Margo Price, and Bleached.
HHBTM has been putting out some quality music lately, including the punky Versus album from Eureka California and the retro yet timeless Crystal Café from Witching Waves. But if you enjoy “kick-ass, groove-heavy, instrumental synth-rock unit inspired by 1970s and ’80s horror movie soundtracks,” you might enjoy Wolfmen of Mars’ latest, DANGER! PERIL! THREAT!
Tim takes a look back at Sepultura’s Roots album, while I take a look forward at a couple of new videos: “Phantom Freighter” from the sci-fi, industrial-influenced Pop. 1280 and “Hey Girl (I Wanna Be Your Man)” from shoegazers Dirty Sidewalks.
Finally, Brian Baker chatted with actress Karen Allen at the recent Toronto ComiCon and she had some things to say about that upcoming Indiana Jones movie.
Until next week, Popshifter fans!
Backwoods movies, or “Hicksploitation” films, are some of the meanest and dirtiest to exist in the cinema world. Titles like Poor Pretty Eddie, Gator Bait, and Psycho From Texas are cruel and just fucked up in general, making you want to take a bath right after you watch them. These films are way more shocking than extreme torture or gore baths.
My Father, Die is one of these types of films. It’s not often we get a modern Hicksploitation flick that looks beautiful but is so filthy at the same time. Usually these films are gritty and raw-looking which involves you more in the atmosphere surrounding the movie.