My reading/reviewing year is really getting off to an excruciatingly, abysmal slow start. I blame my Netflix addiction that includes a recent binge viMy reading/reviewing year is really getting off to an excruciatingly, abysmal slow start. I blame my Netflix addiction that includes a recent binge viewing of The Shield (from which I'm still recovering). In November, I became obsessed with Sarah Koenig's Serial podcast and literally lost weeks. Archer is back in full throttle splendor -- "We need a minute Captain Shit Nuts!" -- soon to be followed by the return of Season 3 of The Americans on the 28th.
Throw in work, sleep, eating, alcohol consumption and Words With Friends, and it's no wonder I've fallen way behind.
I don't have a real penchant towards reading about serial killers. I don't even like them in my movies usually. However, like most things, there are exceptions. One of my favorite films of all time is David Fincher's Zodiac (2007). It's an incredible movie that takes a cold case with a million moving pieces that went unsolved for decades and distills it down into this cerebral and frightening coherent narrative about obsession and loss of self. To this day, the Zodiac killer remains unidentified and the lingering torment and regret laid on the shoulders of the men who chased him in vain cannot be underestimated.
The Green River Killer was another notorious serial killer who almost got away. Gary Ridgway was eventually convicted of murdering 49 women but it's believed his kill count is much higher. The Green River murders began in 1982 and hit their peak in 1984. However, Ridgway would not be identified and arrested until 2001 thanks to DNA evidence.
The lead investigator for The Green River Killer was a man by the name of Tom Jensen. When the Green River Task Force was eventually disbanded, Jensen became the sole investigator. It was a case that would continue to haunt and obsess him right up until the day of Ridgway's arrest. It's a story that Jensen's son wants to tell, an intimate look at his father's entanglement with evil and desperation, frustration and determination.
I never would have believed this story could be contained in the black and white panels of a 200 page graphic novel. But contained it is. Jensen's version is a remarkable example of gritty police procedural balanced with a son's touching tribute to a father he obviously respects and cherishes deeply. The storytelling is sharp and rhythmic, bouncing back and forth from past to present in a seamless montage of events that is impressive. There are hardly any visual or textual clues to orient the reader in time; nevertheless, I was rarely left wondering 'where' and 'when' in the story I was.
This is one graphic novel that packs an emotional wallop. Not just because of the subject matter, but for the way in which the story is told....more
I always feel guilty when I snag a book from NetGalley and don't love it. But hey -- impartial reviewing and honest reader response is what we all cra I always feel guilty when I snag a book from NetGalley and don't love it. But hey -- impartial reviewing and honest reader response is what we all crave, right? So I get over that guilt pretty quickly.
Adam Rockoff has a great idea here. While my real passion is to watch horror movies (not read about them) every once in a while a book like this sneaks past my defenses with a come hither look I can't resist. That's what this book did with its great cover and catchy (if wordy) title.
Essentially what Rockoff is attempting to do here (and largely fails) is what Stephen King accomplished decades ago with flair and brilliance in his nonfiction study of the horror genre Danse Macabre. What did I want this Christmas season? What do I long for keenly every year that passes? A goddamn, updated sequel! Get on that Uncle Stevie, before it's too late!
King's masterpiece covers horror in all its manifestations in print, and on the big and small screens. Rockoff narrows his focus to just the movies, and that would be enough if it had been a wide view of horror on the big screen, but Rockoff's kink is the slasher / exploitation films (the subtitle for this book should have been my first clue).
Rockoff has already written a book about the rise of the slasher film called Going to Pieces -- heh, cute title -- and without having read it, I'm left with a sneaking suspicion that this follow-up book treads a lot of the same ground. In The Horror of it All Rockoff has a major rant against Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for a special edition episode of their show Sneak Previews aired in 1980 in which the film critics lambast these "slasher" flicks as a dangerous and despicable trend in film both demeaning and dangerous to women (these men are so high up on their high horse here I can't imagine they can still see the ground). Don't get me wrong -- I love Roger Ebert, he remains one of my favorite film critics -- but boy, was he mostly a fuss bucket when it came to horror movies in general. It wasn't his genre of choice and it showed in many of his prejudicial (and often undeserved) negative reviews of some great movies.
Rockoff is justified in tearing a strip off these two men in an instance where they show complete ignorance about a genre and its fans. Neither Siskel or Ebert appear to have actually sat through any of these movies they are so quick to dismiss as sleazy and misogynist. They show no awareness of "the Final Girl" who often survives to slay the "monster" herself, as well as suffering from the common misconception that it's only women killed in slasher films. Quite the contrary; studies show men are just as likely to die violent deaths on screen in horror movies as their female counterparts.
But I get it. As a fan of the genre since before I could tie my own shoes, I've come up against that kind of prejudice many, many times. Horror is a genre where the consumer is attacked as often as the content itself. Understanding the appeal factor of horror is difficult for some people to accept, people who will look at you with a wary expression as they ask "how can you read/watch that stuff"? As if we should be ashamed, as if we are somehow mentally warped or our moral compass dangerously askew. Don't worry, it isn't. Horror appeals to many of us for very solid, rational, non-psychopathic reasons, I swear. And it appeals just as equally to men as it does women. And that doesn't make the men misogynists, or the women failed feminists.
But I digress. Back to Rockoff. His goal here is to really champion for the slasher films and the deranged and disturbing pushing all the boundaries it can possibly think of exploitation films. And I wouldn't have had a problem with that. But it gets a bit repetitive and tiresome and a lot of the movies he winds up talking about are pretty obscure if you're not a complete and utter fanatic for everything underground and out of print (I'm not).
In his introduction, Rockoff promises to approach horror in a very personal essay, knitting together his experiences of the genre using memoir as a lens. I love that idea. I love hearing about people's personal reactions to movies or what was going on in their lives when. One of my favorites of these sorts of anecdotes came from my own mother. She was dating my father at the time of the theatrical release of The Exorcist.
It was a date movie for them (these are my genes). They had to park the car at the very back of the mall parking lot. When the movie let out after 11pm the mall was closed and the parking lot was almost empty. They walked to the dark, abandoned hinterland of the lot to their car. When my mother went to open the passenger door (this was 1970's Newfoundland - people rarely locked their car doors) a giant looming shadow of a man sat up in the back seat and groaned. My mother screamed. My father cursed (and probably shit himself). Turns out that while they were watching the movie, this guy stumbled out of the bar drunk and crawled into my parents car to pass out mistaking the car as belonging to his friend.
Rockoff has a few personal stories like this, humorous and charming, but not nearly enough of them. He can't help but slip into the film school analysis voice, reviewing and critiquing. Too much of the book's contents feel like grad school essays, a little pompous and righteous. In an effort to "legitimize" horror and testify to its importance and validity, Rockoff comes off sounding like a bit of a haughty dick.
Then there's some sections that just don't work at all, and their inclusion confounds me. Case in point -- in Chapter 5 "Sounds of the Devil" Rockoff talks about the (un)natural marriage of heavy metal music to horror movies. The two go together like PB&J in some ways, in other ways it's a misfit experiment gone awry. He raises a few interesting points and then inexplicably goes right off the reservation with a blow-by-blow account of the time in 1985 Tipper Gore helped found the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and brought the fight to Washington in the hopes of compelling the music industry to adopt a voluntary rating system warning of the explicit lyrics destined to corrupt and warp innocent children.
If you've made it to the end of this lengthy, rambling review I thank you. You are a good sport and too kind. I didn't hate this book but it failed to really engage me or entertain. I don't recommend it; instead, pop some popcorn, turn out the lights and cue up your favorite scary movie.
It seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discovIt seems I'm always late to these things. Humans of New York had long existed as a blog with tens of thousands of loyal followers by the time I discovered this book. It was a thrilling discovery all the same, and better late than never as the saying goes.
When I found out about the book I checked out the blog immediately starting about 10:30 at night. At 2 am I was still riveted. I literally could not stop looking. It's since become one of my newer addictions/obsessions. It appeals to the people watcher in me, to the girl who truly believes the right picture can be worth a thousand words, and the small town Canadian who imagines New York City as the epicenter of all that is gritty, inspiring, crazy and authentically human.
I think HONY is an inspired project by a beautiful mind. History told through the photographic lens has always been one of our most powerful, evocative mediums since its invention. I also love that Stanton has tried to put these photographs into some sort of context by the very human questions he asks of his subjects (and the illuminating -- sometimes heart-wrenching -- answers he receives).
If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, I want my copy of HONY to keep me tethered in some fundamental way to my human life and what it means to be human. ...more
This is one creepy-ass unsolved mystery, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexpl This is one creepy-ass unsolved mystery, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the inexplicable deaths of nine experienced hikers is one of those strange but true tales that leaves a person shuddering from the heebie-jeebies.
Remote and inhospitable Ural Mountains, Russia. February 1959.
A group of nine university students -- 7 men, 2 women -- set up their tent for the evening.
The experienced hikers begin the ritual of settling in for the night ahead, removing packs and boots and outer layers of clothing.
The stove in the middle of the large canvas tent remains unlit. Whatever happens next, occurs before the evening meal.
For reasons unknown to this day, all nine hikers suddenly abandon their tent and go running out into the frigid night improperly clothed and in sock feet. So desperate were they to get away, some of the hikers cut their way out of the back of the tent rather than go out the front.
When the bodies are later recovered some have died from hypothermia, others are found in a deep ravine with violent injuries such as crushed ribs, fractured skull, and one of the hikers is missing her tongue.
What force or event could have possibly compelled nine seasoned hikers to all lose their shit at the same time and act in such an erratic and life-threatening manner? To leave the sanctuary of their tent and flee into the frozen night barely dressed to certain death?
It has been established that it was no avalanche. So what else does that leave?
Over the years, theories have abounded, from the plausible and sane to the completely nutty. Donnie Eichar goes on a quest halfway around the world to retrace the steps of the Dyatlov group searching for the truth of what happened that night. In his quest he meets some colorful Russian characters, including a tenth member of the Dyatlov group who turned back at the last minute, a decision that saved his life.
This book is really three narratives woven together -- 1) the Dyatlov Incident pieced together from photos and journals the doomed hikers painstakingly kept along the way 2) the search and rescue which followed and 3) Eichar's trips to Russia and his own trek to Dead Mountain.
As I followed in the hikers' footsteps, reading their journal entries, seeing their smiling faces in the photographs, I couldn't help become emotional for the horror I knew was waiting for them. It's a story that's as sad as it is unsettling.
After three years of research and exhaustive interviews, Eichar is able to put forth an interesting theory about what exactly happened that night, one that certainly has more substance than UFO's or the Abominable Snowman. Yet, it's still only a theory. The maddening, pull your hair out aspect of this story is that we will probably never know what happened that night. It is a secret that the young hikers took to their untimely and tragic graves.
Photo: Yuri Yudin hugging Lyudmila Dubinina as he prepares to leave the group because of illness, as Igor Dyatlov looks on smiling
Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination and in a flood of material that's been released to cash in reflect, honor and exam Today marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination and in a flood of material that's been released to cash in reflect, honor and examine a pivotal moment in history, LIFE magazine's retrospective coffee table book stands out. It is a beautiful piece of work, thoughtfully put together, a must have for the average history buff and JFK afficionados alike.
The best part for me is the inclusion of a full reprint of LIFE's November 29, 1963 issue (which sold on newsstands for 25 cents!) I poured over every page of this thing, including the ads (which made me think of Mad Men -- all those ads for cigarettes and cars, how could I not?) Reading it really is a form of time travel. Fantastic.