Archive for December, 2012

Here’s my annual video holiday greeting for family and friends. It features my imitation of Jimmy Stewart doing a scene from “Pulp Fiction.” In the world I inhabit, that concept makes perfect sense.

I suppose there’s really no need to add to the countless multitude of sarcastic comments floating around on the Internet, alluding to the improbability of the world ending tomorrow from this supposed Mayan prophecy. I’ll just reiterate something I’ve asserted all along. If the Mayan astrologers really could predict the future, they would have come out with something more practical. Like: “When the white people show up, kill them before they make it back to their boats.”

ExorcistI recently re-watched The Exorcist from 1973 for the umpteenth time. I still think it’s one of the greatest horror movies ever.

And it’s more than just a great horror movie. Beyond the more disturbing and startling elements of the film, it works as a deeply nuanced exploration of the nature of evil and faith.

That being said, something occurred to me for the first time during the most recent viewing. I watched the two priests carrying out the actual exorcism rite at the movie’s climax. And I thought: They don’t seem to be very … good at this.

I should say right here that there will be some spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go out and see it. Then come back and read the rest of this posting.

Everybody seen the movie now? We’re all on the same page? Good.

Now, I’ll admit I’m no expert on exorcism. But if the Catholic Church did indeed use that particular rite for centuries, I’d hope it would at least work a little better. Or if the rite does work, are these guys doing something wrong?

Just to review, Father Merrin and Father Karras represent the forces of holiness there to do battle with evil incarnate in the form of the possessed Regan. How does that work out? Well, Regan spends a bunch of time f**king with them. Then Father Merrin dies of a heart attack. Karras tells the demon to come into him. When it does, he jumps through a window and kills himself.

So yeah, the demon is dispatched by the end. But two of God’s lean, mean fightin’ machines DID kind of get their asses kicked by a 12-year-old girl.

Maybe I’m being unduly harsh here. The priests were brave and noble and self-sacrificing and all. Still, think of it this way.

You’ve got a raccoon in your attic and you call a wildlife removal service. They send over two guys. In the course of doing battle with the raccoon, one of them dies of a heart attack because it’s too much of a strain. The other’s method is getting the raccoon to clamp its jaws on him and then throwing himself out your window, killing both himself and the raccoon in the process. And probably taking a significant chunk out of your security deposit.

You’d probably feel bad for the two guys who got killed, and admire their dedication to their work. At the same time, you’re probably not going to call that particular wildlife removal service again.

I’m surprised the first scene of Exorcist II didn’t show Regan’s mother on the phone saying: “Hello? Presbyterians? Yeah … the last guys didn’t work out so good.”

pinsA homicidal maniac is killing strippers!

Technically, yeah, that’s the main plot point of Jessica McHugh’s very good novel Pins. But it doesn’t convey the feel of the book, or its considerable appeal.

If that’s all you knew about the Pins, you might go in expecting nothing but a pulpy horror novel – especially since publisher Post Mortem Press specializes in (quality) speculative fiction and horror.

And yes, the book does have its horrifying moments, particularly during a harrowing sequence at the end.

But much of the book is more of an authentic, unexpectedly poignant portrayal of young women going through the aimless years of their early 20s.

McHugh does a good job capturing both the fun and the low-level anxiety of that age. Her protagonist, Birdie, senses she should probably be doing more with her life than getting high and hanging out. Yet she’s in no particular hurry, since getting high and hanging out is pretty nice for the time being.

Birdie is a smart but unambitious young woman who’s aware that men find her attractive, but still haunted by an benevolently domineering beauty queen mother and memories of being fat when she was a child.

Disenchanted with her career options, which seem to consist of little more than telemarketing or waitressing, she takes a job at a strip club called Pins. (The name comes from both the bowling alley housed there, and British slang for a pair of legs.) (more…)

nerd2Well, it’s happened again. Week after week, two blog entries I’ve written get the most views.

This one deals with a bizarre conspiracy theory about coded messages from FEMA on the backs of road signs. I used it to explore a hypothesis of mine regarding the nature of conspiracy theories, which is that they’re essentially the result of a pattern recognition impulse gone haywire.

But this one gets by far the most views. In it, I examine the way that one’s values can change gradually over a span of decades, to a point where popular entertainment once regarded as innocuous can later seem offensive. As an example, I cite the movie “Revenge of the Nerds,” which features ostensibly sympathetic characters engaging in exploitative behavior toward women such as surreptitiously taking topless photos of cheerleaders with hidden cameras.

And week after week, according to the metrics helpfully provided by Word Press, variations of two search terms garner the most views on this blog: “FEMA road signs conspiracy” and “topless cheerleaders.” (more…)

Robert Smith

Back in October, I reviewed Robert Ford’s highly entertaining crime-thriller-meets-supernatural-fiction novella Samson and Denial, available from Thunderstorm Books. Check out that review here.

Mr. Ford agreed to do an interview with Chamber of the Bizarre. Yaaay! So here goes:

Is this your debut novel?

Samson and Denial is my debut novella and I can’t thank Paul Goblirsch at Thunderstorm Books enough for the opportunity to publish with him. As any writer does, I’ve got a couple trunk novels that thankfully haven’t seen the light of day. I co-wrote two novels years ago with a woman I met at a former job and they got great feedback from publishers at the time but I don’t think she had enough fire in her and we parted ways. Samson and Denial was the first thing beyond a short story that I’d tackled and completed all on my own.

Where did the idea come from?

Every writer has their quirks on the process and mine tends to be getting titles before anything else. I used to take long road trips about once a month to visit my parents (I live in Pennsylvania and at the time they had moved to West Virginia). It was a six hour road trip and while my family fell asleep, my mind was left to drift and muse in its playground. On one of these trips the title Samson and Denial came to me. As it tends to work for me, the title came and I had to figure out what in the hell the story was behind it. Almost directly on the heels of the title, as I was driving, the opening lines came to me: “My name is Samson Gallows. You don’t know me but we’ve met.” (more…)