Goth Chick News: Welcome to Fantasy/Horror Island…

Thursday, November 14th, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Fantasy Island-small

If you’re not familiar with the fairly cheesy but no less iconic television series Fantasy Island (1977-1984), you immediately need to find it on your favorite streaming service and watch a few episodes. I found at least a few of the 286 installments for free on YouTube and those should be enough to hook you as well as give you the context for the most awesome news since Elsa got drunk and crapped up Chicago with 4 inches of snow.

The storyline was fairly simple. The incredibly wealthy and mysterious Mr. Roarke, played perfectly by the exotically-accented Ricardo Montalban, has a tropical island. In each episode he hosts several guests who have come there to live out their most secret fantasies. Mr. Roarke and his rather adorable but equally creepy sidekick “Tattoo” played by Hervé Villechaize, magically transport each guest into their fantasy where they routinely learn a hard lesson / get their comeuppance / get their heart’s desire, etc, etc.

Now, even my grade-school self who was obsessed with this show, wondered why these fantasies were always so G-rated, even if they sometimes bordered on scary. Like most kids I had stumbled across and snuck looks at verboten material and understood in a small way that the dark recesses of the human imagination were far murkier than finally showing up the high school cheerleader who was always more popular than you, by become a millionaire business woman. In college, Fantasy Island occasionally cropped up in discussion as we mulled over what would actually go on if a place like this really existed. And having run across the show on late night reruns, my adult self immediately wondered why some enterprising film maker had never explored that exact question. I figured there had to be some legal hang up somewhere.

And now this.

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Tor.com on Six-Guns and Strange Shooters

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Territory Emma Bull-small Dust Devil Blu Ray-small Jonah Hex Face Ful of Violence-small

It’s been a very good year for science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy, and overall I am content. But, you know, I’m never totally content, because really, what’s the point of that? This year my crankiness originates from a near total lack of Weird Westerns. It’s like the genre dried up and blew away in the wind in 2019.

At least there are a few Weird West books, movies and comics to fall back on. Earlier this year at Tor.com Theresa DeLucci shared her picks of some of the best in Six-Guns and Strange Shooters: A Weird West Primer, and she managed to point out more than a few I haven’t tried yet, including Emma Bull’s fantasy retelling of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Territory, and the 1990 film Dust Devil. And she reminded me I need to read more Jonah Hex. Here’s what she said about everyone’s favorite creepy gunslinger.

Forget the terrible movie. (You know Josh Brolin wishes he could.) The original 1977 DC comic is considered one of the first popular representations of the Weird West. The bounty hunter marked by a demon’s brand seeks out the West’s worst and also, sometimes, less earthly quarry. He also sometimes time travels and gets into a gun-fight with a T-Rex. Jonah Hex‘s best and creepiest run was written by east Texan horror master Joe R. Lansdale and come highly recommended.

Theresa also showcases The Etched City by K.J. Bishop, the Golgotha novels by R. S. Belcher, the great Deadlands: Reloaded RPG, and much more. Check out her article here.

See all our coverage of the best of the Weird West here.


Mindhunter: A Bloodless Noir about Serial Killers

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 | Posted by Mick Gall

Mindhunter2poster-small

All genres have their tropes that get returned to again and again. Historians write about the Civil War and World War II and the Civil War; singers write about breakups. For crime shows, serial killers represent the genre’s bottomless well. Netflix’s Mindhunter seeks to explore that vein as deeply as possible, and in the process creates television’s quietest noir.

FBI Special Agents Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) are the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, which gave birth to the idea of “profiling” serial killers. Tench and Ford crisscross the country, interviewing serial killers with the intent of developing tools that will allow for the developing of psychological fingerprints of these compulsive killers, as an aid to capturing them. Fascinating and thoughtful, the series is significantly quieter than other cop shows. Mindhunter jettisons the foot chases and gunfights, and focuses on the agents interviewing serial killers

Mindhunter is based on the book of the same name by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Again, lesser cop shows pay lip service to the idea of “getting into the sick bastard’s head,” usually followed by some leap of logic that leads to the cops catching the killer. In Mindhunter, the interviews are the big centerpieces of most episodes. They’re great exercises in text and subtext, with the agents asking about thoughts and processes of the killers. The challenge of the show, and the reward for the patient viewer, is the agents discussing the interviews afterwards. They debate if the answers given were sincere, if the killer was being truthful, or misinterpreting things, or just outright lying. While fascinating, the interviews carry their own frustrating ambiguity.

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I Admit, I’m Intrigued

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

The Witcher USA

Good morning, Readers!

So, the main trailer and release date for Netflix’s new nerd acquisition, The Witcher, dropped a fortnight or so ago. Knowing that I streamed the lengthy final game (and its DLCs) in the trilogy not all that long ago and had a good time with it, a number of my friends directed me towards the trailer when it dropped. I may have also had and voiced opinions about the news that Netflix acquired the rites to The Witcher, and then had more opinions when Henry Cavill was announced in the titular role.

A few things to note about me and my opinions. They’re horribly ill-informed. My experience with The Witcher is the third game (The Wild Hunt). That’s it. If you’re curious about how I felt about the game, you can check out my review on Chalgyrs here. I’ve not read the books on which the game was based, though I do plan to (should I make it a thing to do, and then share my thoughts here, do you think?). I don’t have as strong an emotional attachment to the world, the characters or the story as I might have had I read (presuming I enjoyed them) the books, or even had followed the games from the first.

But about the Netflix series….

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Goth Chick News: Count(ing) Dracula – There’s Always Room for One More

Thursday, October 31st, 2019 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Every Night is Halloween

First off, being today is the holiday around which the entire Goth Chick News year revolves, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! The Black Gate offices are positively awash in cobwebs and black candles, while the adult beverage maker is blending at top speed. It’s causing a brown out in the executive suite but is also serving to drown out John O shouting about not being able to hear his Robots of Gotham audio book. Black Gate photog Chris Z, who is wearing a Devil’s Rejects tee shirt with his kilt and army boots, is hosting a screening of Zombeavers for the interns, and the whole place smells like Fireball whiskey and pumpkin spice.

And never mind it’s snowing in Chicago…

So, before I head out to the Uber for my 24-hour bacchanalia of decadence marking October 31st, I had to take the time to give you this one tib bit of (hopefully) good news.

As you may or may not be aware, Dracula has headlined no less than 61 films since Mr. Stoker first introduced him to us in 1897. There has literally been a Dracula for all times and cultures, appearing on the big screen and small, and telling us about the children of the night in literally dozens of languages. But today we get a glimpse into the fanged-one’s spiritual homecoming. Though the vampire made his home in Transylvania, Dracula as a character was born in Cruden Bay, Scotland rooting his literary origins firmly in the U.K. and it is from London where he is once again being reborn.

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Of Phibes and Androbots I Sing

Saturday, October 12th, 2019 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

phibes 5Phibes 4Dr. Phibes is far more than the evocation of the great thriller characters of its creator’s childhood; he is a character that stands proudly alongside Dracula, Moriarty, Nikola, Fu Manchu, Fantomas, and Mabuse as an equal in inventiveness and execution. William Goldstein, as screenwriter and novelist, created an immortal as only the best storytellers do. Phibes is a character who transcends his era, defines his own archetype, and is firmly established in his own mythology to pass from one generation, century, and millenium to the next. The best news for fans is The Master’s work continues with the fifth and latest book in the ongoing series, The Androbots – Book I of The Dr. Phibes Manifest.

Those who have read the first four books in the series or, at the very least, my other Black Gate articles covering these titles, are aware there is a significant tonal difference between the two Vincent Price Dr. Phibes films of the early 1970s and William Goldstein’s novels. The books retain the films’ eccentricities, but are far more tragic than comedic. I do revere the two AIP releases. Director Robert Fuest and his production crew imbued both pictures with a sardonic touch that allowed Vincent Price and several of his co-stars to turn in subdued performance that carefully balance extreme bursts of horror, tragedy, and comedy. One never knows quite what to expect as one scene ends and the next begins when watching the films.

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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – Thoughts

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

The_Dark_Crystal_1982 Film_Poster 2

This was almost my entire childhood.

Good morning, Readers!

I grew up on The Dark Crystal. In my house, it shared a VCR tape with The Secret of NIMH. Or was it a Beta Max cassette? I can’t really remember, save that we had both players in the house. That’s not the point. The point is, I grew up watching The Dark Crystal. It was one of the favorite movies of my childhood. I remember being so invested in Jen and Kyra, terrified of the Garthim, and utterly petrified of the Chamberlain, whose terrible whimper became a signal for immediate danger.

I credit this movie for my love of all things dark fantasy, because it was incredibly dark. With the name Jim Henson attached, one might be forgiven in thinking it is a light, friendly tale designed for young children. While I would recommend it for children, as a matter of personal philosophy, The Muppets it is not. It is a dark story with frightening events that led to more than one nightmare (incidentally, having rewatched it as an adult, I found the story still excellent, the puppetry breathtaking, but the narration so thoroughly irritating. It’s still watchable for me, as long as I fast forward through the narration).

When I heard Netflix was “remaking” The Dark Crystal, my eyes rolled skywards and I cursed under my breath. Not only was The Dark Crystal perfectly fine as it is, but there are so many original stories, or even adaptations of original stories that deserve attention. Whhyyyyyyyyyyyyy must studios constantly remake things that already exist? I resolved to never watch it. Until I saw the trailer.

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part Two

Saturday, September 28th, 2019 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

NightOfTheLivingDead 1968

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

dawn of the dead 1978

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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Day of the Dead (1985)

“Yeah, they’re dead. They’re all messed up.”  — George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (original 1968)

Oh, How Those Zombies Have Evolved, Devolved and Decayed!

This ends a two-post series (Part One here) on The Walking Dead. The first post concluded with the observation that TWD has a mysterious lack of “zombie” vocabulary.

To my knowledge, George A Romero invented the flesh-eating zombie genre. Before him there were films like White Zombie, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Zombies of Mora Tau — films I saw as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, and all of them deal with more traditional, Haitian-voodoo zombies. After the original Night of the Living Dead, filmmakers such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci jumped into the zombie arena. Then came a host of spin-offs, take-offs, remakes, reboots and rip-offs.

I always thought George Romero never used the word zombie in his Living Dead films. But after binge-watching all six of his living dead films, I learned a few things. In Night of the Living Dead, the Dead are referred to as cannibals and ghouls. In Dawn of the Dead, the character of Peter (Ken Foree) calls them zombies; the end credits list four actors under the heading, LEAD ZOMBIES. The characters in Day of the Dead call the Dead everything but zombies. By the time Romero got around to filming Land of the Dead, the zombie genre had exploded like a Walker’s head after being hit by a shotgun blast. In this film, the Dead are called Stenches, although one character refers to them as Walkers. Dennis Hopper calls them zombies in one scene. In Diary of the Dead, which I consider Romero’s best, and was basically a reboot of the series, no one knows what’s going on, and the Living Dead are referred to as “the Dead.” In his final film, Survival of the Dead, the word zombie is used a couple of times. Tom Savini’s fairly decent 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, with a new screenplay by George Romero, went back to the basics and did not use zombie as a term for the Living Dead.

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9 Seasons of Hell on Earth: Some Thoughts About The Walking Dead, Part One

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

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I chose to finally write about The Walking Dead after nine seasons because of the departure of a major character, which changed the whole dynamic of the series, turning it into a different direction (Season 10 broadcasts Oct 6, 2019). For fans of the show, much of what is in this article is me stating the obvious. I know many people who have stopped watching the show after various seasons, for one reason or another. I also know people who have never watched TWD and never will, and some who have just started watching. There may be some hints and clues about certain things, but there are no real spoilers here. This article is about how the show affects me, personally.

Someone on Facebook commented that they stopped watching simply because the show is so sad, even depressing. True. This is not a comedy. There’s a lot of sorrow and sadness in almost every episode, a veritable trail of tears. Sometimes the grief on an actor’s face is enough to get to me. There are powerful emotions here: both love and hate, as well as fear and horror in the eyes of the characters; there’s also plenty of heart and soul poured into these scenes, which the cast so effectively conveys. As a relative told me when we were discussing the series over the Labor Day weekend, “My heart has been ripped out over and over again by what happens to these characters. I feel their pain, I feel their grief and I mourn with them.” I agree with her. I’ve gotten caught up in the lives and deaths of these characters. So please, bear with me.

Although I’ve read only a handful of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, I’ve been a fan of the television series since episode one, and still remain a fan. I’m not a mad puppy because the show’s producers and writers made some changes which aren’t part of Kirkman’s mythos. Certain characters that had been killed in the graphic novels became so popular on the TV show that the producers decided to keep them around. Other popular characters were killed off on the show and, as most writers know, characters and plot twists often demand to be heard and made.

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Fantasia 2019: Final Thoughts

Thursday, September 26th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

BalloonYesterday I posted my last full review of a film from the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival. Today, then, a post looking back at this year’s Fantasia. First, as always, my profound thanks to everyone who puts the festival together. And thanks as well to the audiences, who give the festival a reason for being. Special thanks to everyone I watched movies with, everyone I waited in line with, and everyone who I talked with and hung out with during Fantasia 2019.

This year was a bit odd for me, in that for the first week or even two I felt that while I was watching a lot of very solid feature films I was nevertheless missing a certain sense of surprise; a feeling I normally have at Fantasia of being blindsided by a movie, or a set of movies one after another. This may have simply been a function of what films I happened to see, or a subjective impression caused by some minor health issue (chronic fatigue takes many forms). Certainly that sense of mild shock did set in before too long. But it came from an unexpected place. What struck me as most impressive about the festival this year were not features but the short films.

It has been observed that the relation of short film to long film is more-or-less that of the short prose story to the novel. The short format is capable of powerful work, condensing narrative into terse, elliptical, allusive flashes. Artists often work at that length before embarking on longer stories, sometimes to hone their craft, sometimes to build a name, sometimes because they love the form. But audiences tend to prefer immersion in a longer story. In any case, while there are a number of outlets for prose short stories, short film rarely gets the same kind of exposure.

There are exceptions. It’s perfectly fair to talk about TV episodes as short film, for example. But one of the strengths of a good short is the way it can build a world very quickly, establishing as much as we need to know about character and telling a story with them in just a few minutes. So I want to write for a moment about a film I saw this year that I haven’t yet covered: “Balloon,” by Shin Hyun-woo.

Every year Fantasia has several blocks of animated shorts for children that play at the McCord Museum of Canadian History, not far from the main Fantasia theatres. I have two young nieces, and saw two blocks of those films this year. Plans for coverage here from age-appropriate reviewers fell through, but I have to say as an adult viewer that I was generally impressed by the craft I saw in these shorts.

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