Archive for the ‘fantasy’ category

“The Terror” is Coming!

March 19, 2018

I love creepy stuff, and there’s so little of it that’s done really well!  For this reason, I’m really looking forward to The Terror, an upcoming horror series on the AMC network. Based on a novel by Dan Simmons and the ill-fated real life Franklin Expedition, The Terror looks like wonderful stuff indeed.  

Incorporating elements of the movies The Thing with Alien and the rich period atmospherics and fine acting of the Penny Dreadful tv series, The Terror has it all.  It kind of combines a real-life historical event, the Franklin Expedition, with a horror/fantasy overlay. This kind of thing has been done in a lot of sci fi/alternative history fiction, and has lately been seen in films like Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter.

Now the ill-fated Franklin Expedition was real stuff which was kicked off in 1845 when the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror left England in search of a segment of the Northwest Passage, a kind of 19th century wormhole which it was felt would convey trade to the Orient.  The vessels, advanced for their day, became hopelessly ice-locked in the Canadian Arctic, forcing their crews to abandon ship and walk in search of a settlement.  They faced slow and miserable deaths from exposure, starvation, and lead poisoning caused by their badly-canned food.  All 129 souls on board the ships died from their ordeal.

In the television horror drama, the Royal Navy expedition instead of finding the Northwest Passage discovers a cunning, monstrous gothic-style predator who stalks the crew in a game of survival which could impact the region and its indigenous people forever.  For a tale of frozen wastes, sailing ships, and Arctic monsters I’m booking passage on The Terror for sure!


Dragons vs. The Frozen Dead!

August 24, 2017

 

Noteworthy:  It was Dragons vs. Zombies  on a recent episode of the HBO series Game of Thrones.  Just when things were looking hopeless for virtuous character Jon Snow and his small band of seasoned fighters under siege by thousands of White Walkers (kind of like frozen dead), it was three great dragons to the rescue, spewing flames and causing the walking dead to combust merrily, a rout and a slaughter.  This is the kind of spectacle that makes for great television, about as good as it gets…

…but wait!  Things take a twist when the demonic leader of the White Walkers is able to peg a lance into one dragon, slaying it and later resurrecting it as a kind of zombie ice dragon ready to do his bidding.  The series finale of Game of Thrones should be truly epic…

Puppy Monkey Baby…

February 21, 2016

Some things nature never intended, and even the mad Dr. Moreau created by H.G. Wells would have shied away from.  The PuppyMonkeyBaby created by Mountain Dew and first airing on Super Bowl 50 is one such thing…

…a CGI mishmash creation, the bizarre/disturbing/hilarious creature melds the head of a pug dog with the body and tail of a monkey and the lower extremities of a human infant.  In the commercial, it enters with the advertised product, dances into the presence of three guys watching television, licks the face of one of them, and dances off again, all the while repeating its own name.  This is to promote Mountain Dew’s Jumpstart, a mix of the drink, juice, and caffeine.

People tend to either love or hate PuppyMonkeyBaby, which may cross the line between cute and horrifying. Perhaps it could be worked into an episode of the X-Files or Mountain Monsters (they probably couldn’t catch it). In the current American presidential election year, the strange and the outrageous have become rather commonplace,however…

The Beasts of “Thrones”

July 26, 2015

 

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There are many reasons to watch HBO’s Game of  Thrones, including the superb acting, the complex plotting and character development, and the rich medieval settings inspired by European history.  Animal life as depicted in the series includes both present day and extinct species as well as fantasy creatures, some of which serve the human characters.  We are shown both dire wolves and dragons, for example, in continuing episodes.   An obedient dire wolf like Ghost can keep you safe from just about any hazard you might encounter in the wilderness, and an army with dragons in service is capable of laying waste to a castle.

Beyond such creature features we are introduced to the concept of a warg or skin-shifter, who is a person capable of slipping mentally into the mind of an animal and dominating that beast, making it do their bidding and seeing through its eyes.  Think mental dominance, kind of like Andy McGee’s character in Firestarter or the Jedi knights of Star Wars, but with an added remote viewing component.  It’s handy, for example, to slip into the mind of a bird for aerial surveys of the enemy’s location, and causing wolves to attack foes is also a useful skill.  Being a warg might be a nice power to have if you can’t actually shapeshift.

All in all, getting into Game of Thrones is a journey worthy of your time if you have any taste for medieval fantasy epics, and you can access past seasons on the “on demand” feature of cable services or pay per episode through Amazon.  I’d recommend starting the series at the beginning and working your way sequentially through to avoid feeling hopelessly confused should you jump in mid-stream.  Author George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire upon which the series is based is also quite a read…

The Phantom Forever!

January 10, 2015

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I’ve always had a soft spot for the Phantom, also known as “The Ghost Who Walks,” and “The Man Who Cannot Die ”  A lesser known rather retro comic hero who was kind of a Batman of the jungle, the Phantom (alias Kit Walker) usually fought crime and evil in the company of his white horse, Hero, and his trained wolf, Devil…all while wearing a skin-tight purple suit rather well!  Not that many guys can wear purple and pull it off without looking like Prince, especially in the jungle where Tarzan was probably better attired for the climate. The Phantom was the first comic hero to wear such an outfit, however, as well as the mask which fails to reveal the underlying pupils.

Now the sea may have belonged to Aquaman, but the Phantom ruled the jungle rather well, which was admittedly strange for a white guy wearing purple. The Phantom pulled it off, however, having a cool heritage with an ancestry going back several centuries to 1536 when pirates caused the shipwreck of the original Phantom. The current-day Phantom was then actually the latest in a long succession (21) of dudes in purple, the previous generations of which were all tidily buried in the Skull Cave, kind of the Wayne Manor of the franchise.  The Phantom line kind of traded on the reputation of their supposed immortality, wearing a skull ring without being Goth about it; said ring left a skull imprint upon those slugged by it. The Phantom otherwise has no superpowers, but is simply a superb athlete, marksman, and martial artist who can get along with the pygmy poison people…

Now the Phantom legend and lore is far more extensive than this, but suffice it to say that it managed to be both cornball and cool at the same time, a strange mix of yet oddly appealing elements that not surprisingly has never translated terribly well to either film or the small screen. Originally created by Lee Falk in 1936, efforts to re-make the character have been less than successful but will continue in 2015.  I hope that the “Guardian of the Eastern Dark” continues to be “rough on roughnecks” (old jungle saying)…

 

“Penny Dreadful” is Dreadfully Good!

July 1, 2014

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If you have a taste for horror that’s complex, intelligently written, and well-acted you might find Showtime’s series “Penny Dreadful” a real gem! The title of the series hails from sensational serialized British literary entertainment of the 19th century that was pitched to working-class males, each installment of which cost a penny.

Now before your eyes glaze over, this framework unites classic literary horror characters of the 19th century, such as Victor Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Dorian Grey, and others all updated and re-imagined in refreshing ways. Victor Frankenstein, for example (pictured), is portrayed as a young man, vital, intellectual, and with knowledge and capabilities light years ahead of the Victorian times.  His creations (yes, there is more than one “monster”) are not mute, shuffling brutes, but rather agile and articulate if socially impaired creatures who read and learn, grow, and suffer angst; they wander about London.  We are really starting to like the second-generation “Proteus” when the first-born unexpectedly appears to rip him apart.  Characters not presented in classic literature are also introduced, such as the dark and formidable Vanessa Ives, an at times demonically possessed medium and clairvoyant who reminds me of Wednesday Addams as she might have been in adulthood; a seance scene featuring her is absolutely incredible. Timothy Dalton, who has taken a turn as James Bond, portrays Sir Malcom, the leader of a group of Victorian-era “ghostbusters” including Dr. Frankenstein who are trying to retrieve his one daughter from a particularly nasty group of vampires.  Each team member has a unique skill set; these characters could do Mountain Monsters, and actually catch and subdue something!

It’s all wild stuff played seriously, and the series isn’t for the squeamish or the young as there is violence, blood, occasional nudity, and adult themes. The Victorian setting is recreated lavishly and with attention to detail; this is upper-level television, even if death and the supernatural as art. – – What furry elements are there is all of this? Well, in the last episode of the first season that has just concluded, one character when his back is hard pressed to the wall by bounty hunters about to drag him off in chains is revealed to be a werewolf!  I won’t reveal which character so as not to spoil the surprise for those who have yet to view the series or the episode, each of which has a dramatic twist of some kind you probably won’t see coming.  

With a dynamite ensemble cast and an underlying idea that hasn’t been visited since The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, this series is great for those who like psychological thrillers and dark horror.  Catch it on Showtime, or view it on Xfinity On Demand…

Aliens and Dinosaurs?!

April 12, 2014

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Pseudoscience seldom gets stranger than when it postulates interactions between aliens and dinosaurs, so hang on, folks, ’cause we’re off to the races!  The viewpoints represented here are as drawn from the Ancient Aliens series, and I hasten to add that such viewpoints do not necessarily represent my own, I do, however, find them entertaining, as I do most science fiction and horror fantasies.

Oddball archaeology and paleontology findings are drawn upon to support the notion that not all dinosaurs suffered a mass extinction about 65 million years ago, with some surviving to be known by ancient humans including the Mayans. The fabled ruined city of Angkor Wat in Northern Cambodia, for example, shows in one relief carving (above) what appears to be a stegosaurus. The carving is not of fossilized skeletal remains, but rather of a fleshed-out, living specimen.  In Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas, human footprints were found alongside dinosaur tracks in the same strata layer.  A collection of carved stones was also found in 1961 in Peru that supposedly depicts dinosaur-human encounters.  

Then in contrast to the notion of dinosaurs surviving into the age of man, the same episode presented the idea that perhaps extraterrestrials directed that infamous asteroid to the Yucatan Peninsula, making the dino demise not an extinction but an extermination event.  Aliens, it was wildly speculated, wanted giant reptiles out of the way so that they could then seed the Earth with smaller creatures generated by their otherworldly genetic manipulations which would in turn lead to humans. If you don’t buy the notion of an asteroid impact triggering global climatic changes too extreme for saurian life, you may wish to consider the alternate proposal advanced that the aliens deployed a nuclear weapon, as iridium has been found in sediment layer from 65 million years ago. 

We thank you for joining us on this flight of fantasy.  Please return your seat backs to their upright position, and thank you for flying Foxsylvania!