Monday, July 30, 2012

Indie Horror Round-Up!

There are criticisms you could make of the Paranormal Activity franchise. I guess. I'm sure it's far from perfect but it gets so much right that I just don't care. It's like a good punk song in that respect. And like punk, it's birthed a legion of imitators. Some good, some that just don't get it - again, like punk.

The best of the lot is Grave Encounters, which not only borrows the found footage concept and ghostly goings on but takes the piss out of Ghost Hunters, the worst thing to happen to the Sc-Fi Channel besides renaming themselves "SyFy." It's supposed to be the final, un-aired episode of some knock-off ghost hunting show called, natrually, "Grave Encounters." We see a minute or so of previous episodes cobbled together, establishing it as the sort of spooky but safe fare so popular with credulous dolts and then it segues into this latest episode - spending the night in a haunted mental hospital.

Ding-ding-ding! Victim!

Like Paranormal Activity, this film does a good job of slowly building to the horror. You meet the characters - a not entirely unlikable lot - as they go about the usual pregame, interviewing locals and such about just how spooky the old place is. This is unedited, including lots of scenes of show MC Lance instructing the interviewees and a hilarious bit where they actually pay the latino landscaper to make up a ghost story, which he delivers as flatly as possible - "I saw a ghost. Over there. It was scary."

The behind-the-scenes, uh, scenes heavily imply this sort of "We don't really believe this stuff" attitude is SOP for ghost shows and our merry band of future victims are all excited about what a great show this'll be. They're less merry after some weird things happen but as it's only the usual self-opening door or two, it's still all fun and games.

Then the ghosts get mean. They shove one camera man down the stairs - he survives - and grope the token female, lifting her hair on camera. Then it goes from "Hey, this is kinda neat" to "Screw it, let's go" real fast. Though they can't go yet, the caretaker having locked them in for the night. So they wait it out and when morning comes...

Nothing. No caretaker. No daylight. They break down the front door and it just leads into another hallway. Forever. Good times.

A similar "found footage" PA knockoff, Skew dispenses with the ghosts and demons to make the camera itself the monster. Maybe. Three friends take a road trip to a wedding or something - it's never made all that clear and you won't care anyway. Along the way, total strangers caught by the camera appear for one brief moment with their features distorted. The characters naturally think nothing of this until said strangers start turning up dead soon after in more grissly and outlandish ways. I'm pretty sure the darkness blows a sheriff's brains out at one point.

And this guy was strangled by those cigarrettes.

Skew is actually a fun concept because it's left intentionally ambiguous whether or not the camera really is cursed like this. Only the one filming ever notices and he may not be all there, as subsequent rweinding and watching of the same scenes shows the distortion to be missing. Problem is, he and his two buddies - Greasy Bro and Token Chick - are just so goddamn boring. It makes what is actually some pretty sparse horror much more riveting... Because you so desperately want something to happen already. An okay effort but a cautionary tale on the dangers of making a film with your idiot friends.

8213: Gacy House attempts to one up this by not just presenting found footage of a haunting but a haunting by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Which seems like a good idea at first, before the movie starts. I've already explained how scene-setting is the most important factor of making these sorts of films work and the crew at Asylum Films utterly suck at it. Every time the camera goes wobbling through the not-so-dank basement or the forgettably common and well-lit hallways, it only serves to remind you that the house not only isn't scary but isn't much of anything. It doesn't help there's one scene where an Army photo is clearly visible on the wall behind one of the equally forgettable actors. An Army photo sporting the uniform that came out in 2005. In a house no one's been in since 1994.

VectorPress presents a montage of morons!

That's a laughably amateur mistake. I should know, I've been on enough amateur sets. And amateur really is the most polite thing I can say about the cast, who consist of interchangeable nothings, an old professor-type, a nerd who gets pantsed by Gacy's vengeful spectre, and some New Age airhead who looks like this is her first acting job outside Vivid Pictures. For which she tries to compensate  for by having the most ridiculous scenes - first she presents an "offering" of her fifteen-year-old nephew's shirt to Ghost Gacy. Jesus, why is America so chalk-full of pedophiles!? Later while wiggling her hippie sticks around like she's looking to dig a well, she gets ghots-bitten on the tit just so they can do a close-up. And then gets her shirt and bra pulled off during the climax because boobs. There's a thermal image of a fat man intended to be Gacy at one point but I just described the bulk of the special effects budget.

Megan is Missing ditches the supernatural shenanigans entirely, using new media - primarily webcams, news reports, and vlogs - to tell the old serial killer story. The problem is it's titular Megan is a teenager and teenagers are despicable. And while the movie agrees with this assessment, it goes out of its way to play things up exploitation style, rather than the mindless moronic evil that's so much more common. Megan, a vicious vixen dreamed up by some screenwriter who never touched a boob in high school, has her behavior excused by some ham-fisted abuse story in her background - that's mentioned all of once, as if they remembered "Oh right! We want the audience to sympathize with her!" And because on some level they realized it wasn't working, they include a respectable best friend named Ally who exists as a sump for bathos. There's really nothing else to her character, she's just constantly sweet and put upon by everyone else until the end when she's buried alive by the never identified guy who makes Megan go missing in the first place.

The one on the left is the one on the left.

It's a shame because - preachy as it is - the subject of serial killers trolling chatrooms is something worth discussing. And to it's credit, the film takes an unflinching look at just what these sorts do to their victims without devolving into Saw-style torture porn. If the lead up weren't so alarmist and two-dimensional, this would be a triumph. As it is, it's just a mess.

But still better than what may be the king of failed rip-offs, Episode 50. Without even the balls to plagiarize Paranormal Activity directly, this takes the haunted hospital concept from Grave Encounters and the lazy cinematography from Gacy House. Really, it starts out as found footage but frequently drifts into ordinary movie shots. It creates a sense of fakeness, which is the one thing you want to avoid in this genre even more than uninspiring assholes as your leads.

And it's proof of something I've suspected for a while - loudly religious Protestants just aren't creative. That's the driving force behind this flick, a rival film crew lead by a constantly grinning youth pastor type takes the other side of the hospital so they can capture proof of the supernatural and of Pastor Cheesedoodle's excorcisin' skillz. Which initial Grave Encounters knock-off crew has to help him with so they can find their faith or something. And then they go confront the "demon" - a big black guy - in front of the gates to hell which exist in the basement of some abandoned paper mill or something. Fucking Prods...

I couldn't find a picture of the Pastor, so here's his counterpart - Douche McTool.

So that's one win, two draws, and two losses. Lousy stats on their own but not half bad in the context of contemporary American film.

Friday, July 27, 2012


"Allahu Akbar!" shouted Yusuf as he depressed the plunger to his explosive vest -

And nothing happened.

All around him in the crowded Tel Aviv market, terrified shoppers and tourists stared in blank astonishment - still processing how close they'd come to death. All noise, even the rumble of cars and buses, had ceased at Yusuf's proclomation and no one seemed capable of restarting the buzz of everyday activity.

Yusuf himself couldn't quite believe it - Samir had promised he'd wired the vest properly! Yusuf had even watched him just that morning, both of them slick with sweat which they insisted to each other was from the hundred and five degree summer heat. Just like now - and the long bus ride over - Yusuf assured himself the heavy sweat slowly ruining his one and only suit didn't have anything to do with nerves -

A handbag caught him across the back of the head and he went crashing into a rack bootleg DVDs. The five foot old woman loomed over him, swinging again and again with her handbag while snarling in Hebrew. Yusuf had gained only a passing familiarity with the language - one of the reasosn he'd been forced out of University - but even he could recognize the expletives.

The rest of the people just continued to stare. A few started laughing - as much from shock as from the sight of the old Mizrahi wailing on the skinny Pal. A police officer managed to push his way through the crowd to see what all the commotion was about - and quickly shoved his way back the other way at the sight of Yusuf's explosive vest. Most of those present - mostly locals - followed his lead.

By the time he returned with more officers and a bomb technician, the old lady wheezed with every down-swing of her bag.

"Ma'am," a young officer said, hesitantly laying a hand on her shoulder. "Ma'am please, if you could -"

"Grraugh!" she bellowed with another swing, delivering a satisfying crack to Yusuf's nose.

It took three more officers to haul her away.

Once a safe distance had been cleared around Yusuf, the bomb technician lumbered up in that standard issue protective space suit. Yusuf looked up into the plexiglass face shield, feeling impotent and childish as the technician went to work, deftly dissassembling Samir's now obviously crude job. Yusuf almost felt the need to apologize to this gentleman - he certainly had better things to do today.

As the technician unbuckled the vest - and Yusuf shifted slightly to assist - he, or rather she, called to the other officers, "All clear!"

A woman! Yusuf's stomach tightened and he became intimately aware that through this entire ordeal he'd had a full bladder. That little issue hadn't seemed worth addressing in light of how he'd expected the day to go...

Now the officers closed in - looming over Yusuf and casting him into shadow. "Right, you have anything else on you?" one of them snapped. "Give it up now and things might go easy for you."

Yusuf shook his head. No, nothing else. Nothing at all.

Yusuf didn't resist as the officers lifted him to his feet - hands gently lifting at his armpits, as if he were a little boy. They didn't even bother with the flexcuffs - why should they? He was mostly harmless now.

The assembled officers lead him to a waiting police car. The crowd - still thick, despite the bomb technician - a woman! - only jeered a little. Only a few, "Hey, something go wrong?" "Having technical difficulties?" "Where are all the virgins, huh?"

The officers waved for people to shut it. Yusuf just hunched up his shoulders, hoping no one he knew might be in the crowd. Today had proved to be enough of a disgrace already. Damn Samir. Just God-fucking-damn Samir! - and Yusuf winced at the blasphemy. And his achingly full bladder...

"What's your name?" one of the officers asked as they drove him to the nearest station - no sirens of course, they had the decency not to draw anymore attention than necessary. "Hmm? You have a name, don't you?"

Yusuf didn't answer.

"Right then," the officer didn't seem all that put out. "You'll talk soon enough..."

"Did you rig the vest yourself?" asked the officer driving. "Hannah said the wires looked crossed every wrong way. Did you do it on your own or did you have help?"

Fucking Samir...

"I don't think he's talking yet."

"Fine, no skin off my balls."

"But maybe his!" Both officers had a good laugh at that.

With the sirens off they didn't draw much attention - but the drive took much too long. They sepnt close to twenty minutes behind a bus that couldn't decide whether it had too many stops or was on the verge of breaking down. Yusuf idly hoped for someone else - maybe even Samir - to martyr themselves - and take him along in the process! Exploded is exploded and he'd already tried to do it himself - that had to count for something with God. Maybe not the highest level of Paradise but certainly better than he would've had if he'd spent the rest of his life flunking out of University...

"Aw fuck!" the officer driving said as they pulled into the station - a news crew right at the front door!

"How'd they get here so fast?" asked the other officer. "We haven't anounced anything, have we?"

"Wait, they're Americans! I don't think they're here for you," he said over his shoulder to Yusuf.

Peering out the car window, Yusuf could see four people - a man impecably dressed for a casual look and three less impressive men toting cameras and microphones - milling about the front door of the police station. The well-dressed man, clearly the one in charge, waved his hands around with a woman's exaggerated gestures to direct the others.

"Fuck it, we'll take him in through the back."

"We can't. Remember the renovations?"

"Shit," he hissed.

The police car slid into an empty space in the lot. "We'll have to walk him in." Both officers turned to look at Yusuf - not so much with menace but with a tired superiority he remembered his aunts displaying when he was a child - "You promise to behave yourself? We don't particularly want to taze you in front of the cameras..."

Just like his aunts. "Yes, yes..." Yusuf mumbled.

"Bon!" said the driver with false cheeriness. He climbed out of the car first - quickly going round to his partners side so they could both manhandle Yusuf out.

The three of them approached the station, Yusuf between the two officers but still unrestrained. Hopefully they wouldn't draw much attention...

The boss of the news crew - clearly a reporter, judging by his professionaly sculpted hair - chettered rapidly. " - over there in shadows and shit! Do not compromise my fucking light, how many times do I have to tell you cocksuckers!? Fifteen years in this business a - the hell are you gawking at?"

One abused cameraman - a much browner hue than his boss, Yusuf noticed - gestured submissively to the procession.

The reporter rapidly composed himself - his back straightened, his chin raised, he stopped spitting when he talked - "Get the two kikes and the sand-monkey over my right. Okay? In five, four, three..."

He mouthed "two" and "one" and - "Israeli security forces struck another blow against terrorism today, capturing ten in a complex operation that may have saved thousands." Turning at precisely the moment Yusuf and the officers came within interview distance. "Gentlemen -"

"Get stuffed!"

"Goy cunt!"

The cameraman snickered at that. As Yusuf was rushed through the front door of the station, he could hear the reporter laying into his crew with words Yusuf didn't entirely understand but sounded offensive...

They hustled him into a poorly lit closet of a room - nothing but a table and two chairs under the solitary lightbulb. They left Yusuf there without a word, bolting the door from outside. Yusuf walked around the table and sat down - then immediately sprang back up to walk some more, a painful sloshing in his bladder. He paced once, twice, three times around the little room - God-fucking-dmaned Samir! Had he done it on purpose? Get Yusuf safely out of the picture to go after his sister? Samir likied thinking he was clever, that Yusuf didn't pick up on the little cues and longing glances - just because she was older and a doctor didn't mean Yusuf didn't have a brotherly duty to punch any lustful men in the balls!

Then why not let him explode? That would certainly free things up - but no, then Samir would never get any. "I helped your brother blow himself up!" was a lousy pick-up line. Better to say, "I stopped your brother from martyring himself and now he's safely being tortured by Mossad!"

Yusuf looked at the door - hands balled into fists, bladder all but pulsing inside - Torture! He hadn't counted on that. Hadn't counted on alot of things really...

He hadn't counted on failing his exams for one - well, his hopes weren't exactly high for Statistics but the rest! He knew his history and literature as well as anyone else! Better in fact! Why, he'd even tried his own hand at some literary pursuits and even been published - or was going to be, the editors kept promising him. Seven months of promises.

What would his mother think of him now? That's what lead to this in the first place - what would his mother hae to say about all these failing grades. "Oh Yusuf, you are such a gift to me! You are such a good, studious boy!" she'd gushed when he'd been excepted into University - two years and a lifetime ago. She'd rushed to tell everyone in the nieghborhood that Yusuf - her Yusuf! - was going to be educated and make something of himself. And then she'd see his most recent grades and likely throw herself from the roof.

Better to be a martyr - at least she culd still have pride in her son. Better to make something of himself the old fashioned way - the way all the old men playing dominos described - "Striking a blow at the zionist oppressors!" Not a doctor or a lawyer but much more dignified than a drop-out.

That's what Samir promised. "You're my friend, of course I'll help you - and I'll take care of Alia when you're gone." Of course, someone - an honorable man - had to watch after Alia back home. Even if she was already taking advanced plasement tests and had applied to Oxford and Georgetown, she was still just a girl. Samir would take good care of her, the cunt-sniffing asshole!

Yusuf bent over, desperately clamping down his muscles so as not to piss himself...

A deep, baritone laugh rumbled all through the surrounding walls. The drab cement seemed to swell and pulse with each throaty, "Haw! Haw! Haw!" - down into the floors, spreading right into the soles of Yusuf's feet, quivering up his legs and stabbing into his poor distended bladder, the sudden stab of pain and humiliation as he began to drip -

The door swung open. A young officer ducked in just long enough to let a bucket clatter to the floor.

Yusuf dragged the bucket into a corner and let loose a torrent of piss - only briefly worrying about whether or not this might be what the Zionists wanted...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One Nation Under God Excerpt: The Sanctity of Life

"And I'm telling you this is the end of the line!"

And that was final. Tori found herself thrown off the bus six blocks short of her stop. Damn idiot driver, making a pregnant woman walk all that way on her own. Tori'd found more and more dark jokes popping up in her mind of late...

After pointing her in the right direction, Crystal hadn't been much help. Tori had tracked the story of the phantom abortion clinic through a dozen different people through two schools outside of her own, every time assuring them "Oh yeah, it's for this project on, uh, something."

It paid off when she found a girl who wouldn't meet her, wouldn't talk on the phone, but was more than willing to instant message the whole story - after some dancing around. The first time Tori tried to contact her, she got bombarded with "you a cop" and "i dont know you" and some gibberish she couldn't hope to understand. She wound up blocked and having to log in under a different screen name. This time she started with that odd password she'd been told to use, "i herd u liek mudkips." Things went much more smoothly from there...

Turned out she'd been on the cheerleading squad at her school and had gotten knocked up by her boyfriend of the time. She freaked out, crying and terrified of being kicked out of school for breaking the pledge but someone - she wouldn't say it was her parents or maybe her coach but Tori had gotten the impression it was someone in authority who shouldn't have been into these sorts of things - someone had "connected" her with a "group" way out in some ghetto.

Yep, some ghetto was where the bus left her. Or as close to the ghetto as that driver had been willing to get. Every TV show screamed at her this was a bad idea, especially with the five hundred in cash stuffed deep in her pocket - she'd intentionally left nothing of real value in her purse - but the other screaming in her belly convinced her to press on. She knew she could only be weeks before it started to show and then the questions would come and then she'd be out on her ass and coming back here to make a living. And Josh would keep his scholarship.

The neighborhood was surprisingly quiet. She'd expected shouts, a little breaking glass, maybe even a few shouts of "Hey, white girl!" But nothing. More surprising was the fact she wasn't the only white girl around. The steps of the decrepit buildings were populated by a seemingly equal number of blacks and whites - even a few Hispanics! How they'd evaded the mass deportations from a few years ago she couldn't begin to guess. The INS had even shaken down her school with dogs and big beetle-looking men in riot gear, all for the one custodian.

Tori followed what appeared to be the posted bus route the driver had refused to continue down - he had insisted said route didn't exist, or at least not anymore. It brought her past a pawn shop and more liquor shops then she thought were legal on the same block but she seemed to be making progress. At least she hoped so. Every building looked like it was on the verge of being condemned and the street signs not obscured by graffiti were bent out at odd angles, leaving it anyone's guess exactly where she might now be walking.

She strained to remember the street names around this place. Not that she hadn't written them done, but she feared looking too much like an outsider here. So far she'd kept calm and disinterested enough to pass for a local, but if someone saw her looking at a map — or worse, asking directions... Although she could really use some help finding her way.

She looked around, seeing the same smattering of tired people as before. Some men, some women, all old and wrapped in clothes that looked in desperate need of washing... it occurred to her she hadn't seen many people her age. Where were the teenagers? Or even little kids? Every block had felt like the times Tori visited her grandmother in the nursing home before she died.

Not that old people couldn't be helpful but... Looking around again, Tori wondered if any of them would help. They might not be too fond of what she had planned - not that there was any way they could know - or could they?

No. No, of course not. That was just the hormone-fueled paranoia talking. The paranoia grounded in the very real punishments reserved for her if she got caught. Damn...

"Excuse me."

Tori had been so caught up wondering if the locals would be willing to help or let alone talk to her, she hadn't noticed one of them coming up to do just that.

"I said excuse me," she said again, a stout and middle-aged black woman with thick glasses. "But you seemed a little lost."

"Oh, well, I mean the bus..." Tori fumbled.

The woman rolled her eyes. "Left up by the mailbox, two blocks on the other side, down the stairs next to the Seven-Eleven."

And she was gone, shaking her head and muttering "More of 'em every day."

Tori watched her leave, absolutely confused. "What? I mean - huh?" What could that be about? She didn't seriously mean...

Some eyes now turned to focus on Tori. Tired and sad eyes from several porches and she thought she even saw some movement behind the barred windows. She'd drawn attention to herself — a terrifying thought for a solitary white girl in a ghetto with the sun fast setting, turning the sky and the whole world under it a boiling red. How could it still be so hot so close to winter!?

She took off towards the mailbox, much faster than she wanted people to see. The only thing worse than drawing attention, she suspected, would be showing fear. Not all that different from P.E.

Rounding the mailbox, Tori began to slow. Why did she think that woman knew what she was trying to find? She certainly didn't believe in psychics, and it couldn't be that common a destination — unless it was some strange white girl from out of town. Maybe the only time someone unfamiliar showed up it was for an abortion. The woman had said something about "more of them..."

She would know soon enough. The Seven-Eleven loomed into view, not much more than another glorified liquor store. Maybe she could get a slurpee afterward? And she felt the now familiar desire to laugh and vomit. Damn hormones. At the very least she hoped this would fix her sense of humor.

Down the stairs she found a door marked "Centurian Travel" and the hours listed "7 - 9 Or By Appointment." The woman thought she was looking for a bus?! That certainly made alot more sense but it left Tori off track and stranded in the sort of place she only ever saw before in cop shows. She fished her cell phone out - no, her parents got the bills. They'd ask why she was calling a cab company and Crystal had been insinuating she wouldn't lie for Tori anymore.

...Maybe they had a phone inside? Or at the very least knew the local cab company - which she didn't, something which in her continued panic to keep her parents completely in the dark had just then occurred to her.

Inside, she found an empty plastic bench and a tired looking black man in a stained shirt behind a counter. "Hi," she said, feeling even more awkward then when she'd been out on the street. "I was wondering if, that is -"

"You a cop?" he said.

"Huh?" Tori looked behind her, wondering if someone had come in behind her. "Um, no?"

"'Cause if you a cop, you have to tell me," the man pressed.

"Of course I'm not a cop!" What the hell could he be thinking? She couldn't look that much older...

He jerked his thumb towards a door marked "Staff Only." "Go on back, Bill take care of you."

"Um, thanks..." Tori wanted to think he knew exactly what she came for, just like the woman. If TV were anything to go on she was about to buy drugs, but TV hadn't proven very accurate so far considering she hadn't been mugged or murdered or raped... Unless that's what Bill planned to do.

Had she anything to fall back on, she never would have walked through the door but the thought of being kicked out of school - and likely kicked out of home - of raising Josh's screaming little hellspawn while working some crap job at Burger King...

Through the door was a dim hall snaking left. Following it, she came to an office with a much younger looking and alert black man sitting at a desk, reading a paper. He looked her up and down as she approached, "I'm guessing Arthur sent you back here for the right reason?"

"Oh, of course," Tori said. "I'm not a cop." She hoped it was funnier then it sounded.

Bill, she assumed, set the paper down. "No, you're much too young. But that's exactly what they'd do so why don't you tell me exactly what you came her for?"

It briefly occurred to Tori that he might be a cop. Still, she'd come this far... "I want an abortion."

"That's illegal," Bill said evenly. "Any doctor who performs it risks the death penalty if caught. Same goes for the woman - or young lady - who goes looking for one."

"I know," Tori said, her throat feeling tight.

Bill let the silence in the room hang for a while. Finally, in a disarmingly friendly manner, "Just so we're clear. It'll be five hundred, up front in cash."

Tori blinked, shocked to have finally made it so far. "Seriously?"

Bill was clearing off the desk, moving the phone and laptop to different drawers. "Prohibition always drives up the price." From another drawer, he came out with a plastic tarp which he spread over the desk and a box of latex gloves. "Don't let the location fool you, I actually am a doctor. Used to work ER before... well, before."

He turned to a file cabinet — a false file cabinet that swung open to display a contraption with a hose. He brought it over to the desk, which with the tarp began to resemble something like a hospital table — in the middle of a war zone. "Okay, drop trou and hop on up," Bill said, snapping on the gloves. "Oh, and cash first. If you please."

Tori fished the money out of her pocket, a great big wad of twenties. Putting a hand to her belt, she hesitated, "I'm not so sure -"

"First, I am a doctor so you've got nothing to worry about," Bill said, readying the vacuum-like contraption. "Second, you're not in much of a position to complain anyway." Pointing, "Pants off and on the table."

The one time she'd taken her pants off for a guy had been Josh - and this is what it lead to. Blushing furiously, she shucked the jeans and underwear and climbed onto the desk-now-operating table, trying very hard not to meet Bill's gaze.

"Now, this is going to be a quick dilation and evacuation," Bill explained while gently parting her legs. "You don't really need any anesthesia but if you'd like, I've got a bottle of vodka somewhere."

Tori shook her head, closing her eyes as two latex fingers probed her. It reminded her so much of her one time with Josh, except that had been less gentle and over pretty quickly. She soon felt the instruments where the fingers had briefly been and tensed up.

"Just relax," Bill ordered. "I'm dilating you first, then inserting the cannula. It won't be long after that."

Tori bit her lip, trying to relax all the muscles that had clenched up from her waist down. She managed to get most of her legs, but judging from the poking and prodding it wasn't enough. Bill was gentle but he was also just doing a job and seemed a little rushed.

"Alright, I'm applying the suction. This may feel a little weird."

Whatever he was using - she suspected it wasn't originally designed for something like this - sounded like an outboard motor. Tori didn't know if it was the suction, the other little tools now jammed inside her, or just the damn hormones but she had a sudden need to pee and vomit all at once. She reflexively tensed up again but it didn't seem to bother Bill.

After a few minutes of sucking noises and weird pressure, Bill announced, "All done!" He quickly withdrew the various instruments and threw Tori's jeans and underpants across her legs. "Normally you'd stick around for observation but those luxuries don't exist anymore," he said while packing up the equipment. "Be sure to check yourself for infection for the next week... Of course I can't give you anything so you'd need to come up with a good story to tell your GP."

Tori just nodded, feeling sicker than she ever had since this whole mess started — but relieved. So utterly relieved to have it gone! Pulling up her pants she had the brief, silly notion to never pull them down again ever, except maybe to pee. She cleared her throat, concentrating on sounding as even as possible, "Thanks."

Bill just nodded. He was emptying something out of the vacuum-looking contraption and into a black trash bag. Tori was sorry she'd looked. As she started to leave, Bill said, "Just use a condom next time. I don't like repeat customers."

Tori hurried back out. She passed by Arthur again without a word, which he didn't seem to mind. He was reading a three-month-old magazine with ragged edges. Although, as she pushed open the door to the outside, he called after her, "See you next time!"

She didn't know if he was serious or just having some fun. Did they really get that much repeat business? Everyone but her had known exactly where she needed to go and Tori couldn't think of any other explanation than they saw alot of well-to-do white girls coming to their neighborhood looking for an abortion. Did that mean this was regular? Or were there regulars? She found it funny in a twisted way, "Hey, Nicole! We were wondering when you'd come out here again!" "So good to see you again, Kristin!" "Right this way, Ms. Johnston!"

So maybe it wasn't the hormones that had been affecting her sense of humor.

She hadn't been inside long enough for the sun to completely set and Tori was taken completely off guard by the black van that suddenly came barreling down on her. If it hadn't stopped on its own, it would have surely hit her. She stumbled back in shock as half a dozen men loaded down in riot gear poured out and past her, straight for Centurion Travel. The last one stayed back, smashing her in the face with the butt of his gun and a shout of "On the fucking ground!"

The blow knocked Tori off her feet and sent her sprawling on the pavement. She coughed on what must have been a whole pint of blood and a tooth that had popped out and tumbled down her throat. She felt her hands being roughly cuffed behind her back while the man shouted, "You're under arrest, whore! Anything you say can be used against you, whore!"

He continued like that all the way through her rights, only stopping when he was drowned out by machine gun fire. It wasn't too long before the rest came back, dragging the ragged bodies of Bill and Arthur. "Got these godless fucks!" one of them declared, very pleased with himself.

Through her own blood and grime stained hair, Tori could make out a few locals peering down at her from their windows. A few kept looking but most quickly drew the blinds, even going so far as to turn out their lights. She wondered if anyone would call the police, or if they had and this was the result.

"Throw the jailbait in the van," one of them called. Tori was hauled off the ground and stood up, but her head was ringing too much for her legs to keep her steady. She wobbled and started to fall.

"Dumb bitch can't walk!" one of them laughed as she went crashing back to the ground.

"She's just faking!" cried another. "Wants us to carry her skank-ass!"

Tori distantly felt a hand grip the back of her hair, lifting her head and with a grunt of "I ain't got time for this," had her face slammed into asphalt and darkness.

Buy my vile, America-hating novel, One Nation Under God, and help me harvest more souls for my Dark Overlord!

"Souls! Yum!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fiend Excerpt: Barbary Nights

After being unceremoniously expelled from the Carribean, Tomás boards a ship he expects will take him back to Europe...

I awoke the next night after dreams of thunder crashing all around to find myself adrift in the ocean — clinging to a ragged hunk of wood. The remains of the ship and a few pieces of the crew floated all around me — along with a few barrels of food I can't eat. The poor rats sank straight to the bottom.

Maybe it was pirates — or it might have been that war you all were having with your British cousins — or a French ship that saw a British ship — or vice versa — and that was all the reason needed! I couldn't tell or care — this just meant I had much longer until I found another place to feed from... It was only a week or three between the islands and Europe and I must have made half the journey in that longboat already — right?

I drifted for longer than three weeks. No other ships came — nothing came swimming up to meet me — not even a seagull showed up to calm the Thirst! I must have been awakening every other night at one point judging by the arrangement of stars — but I've never been that good at navigating. My skin grew tight and dry — even while soaking in the Atlantic. I could feel my lips drawing back, forming a death grimace... My hair even turned gray...

By the time I washed up on the Barbary Coast, I looked every inch the hundred and something dead man I was.

The sun couldn't have been five from bursting out of the horizon as I staggered onto that Hellish beach. The surf ran up to a cracked and broken land before retreating. A boy was already out — fishing or just looking for anything edible the tide might produce. He was squawking at me in whatever language they spoke nearby. I ignored the strange words — snatching him and bringing his neck to my lips — Que demonios! How difficult it was! I was as weak as an ordinary man! I maintained enough of my wits not to kill him — though I suspect he was anemic the rest of his life.

The fresh blood reinvigorated me — enough at least to go looking for some place to sleep for the day. I could feel myself grow younger with every step — but not enough — at least not in this barren land. God or some other deity had formed it for centipedes and scorpions lost sailors — not men. And God knows what might happen to me if I was forced to live off scorpion blood...

As the sun rose — igniting all the world around me — I found I had nowhere to rest. For the first time I was compelled to walk on — outside my natural time! Doctor, you cannot begin to imagine how horrible it is — like drowning in boiling water! I may have spent some time just wandering in circles — I couldn't even raise my head to look through that blinding light. I felt the weight of Atlas on my shoulders and finally gave in — collapsing in that empty, dead land.

— And awoke to those centipedes and scorpions crawling on me — along with some other less identifiable vermin. Can't blame them for I must have smelled as dead as anything else — though at the time my reaction was more "Yeeuch!"

I leapt up — shaking them off in a violent fit! Taking stock of myself, I found a dozen or so little scars from where they'd been nibbling but was otherwise intact. At least they hadn't laid eggs in me...

That boy last night must have people nearby — I thought. I needed more — as always — and I wouldn't mind some place sheltered to spend the next day. But the night was silent — not a thump to be heard for miles. I began walking along that ugly beach — wondering how I'd come to such a fate. Just a year ago I'd been in the most beautiful part of the world with my beautiful Anna and a never-ending flow of hot blood...

Don't worry, Doctor — I won't be stooping to melodrama. But I was quite depressed at the time and being shipwrecked at the end of the world didn't help any. I walked all night with nothing but the surf for company until just over the hill I thought I heard the dull hum of sleeping men. Could have been a mirage — I'm still not sure if I can experience those — but I was willing to be disappointed and sprang across the sands! Closing on what soon appeared to be a camp near the beach with several longboats arrayed nearby!

It was my own personal Thanksgiving! Seven men — tall and fit and dead to the world! I moved from one to the other — feeding the Thirst like I hadn't since those now long ago nights in the Caribbean. I began to feel so good to have a proper meal in me I even began to differentiate between the heartbeats — and noticed one was much too rapid to be a sleeper.

Just off from the camp was a native — chained to a stake driven into the ground and staring at me with strange eyes. Really, one of the irises seemed to be leaking. I wondered briefly if I could leap over and snap his neck before he raised the alarm — but he was silent. Taking in the scene as it were. Being bound, I realized, he probably had no love for these men — all the better for me. I was surprised when he spoke.

"Help, please!" Badly accented Portuguese — a language I barely speak to begin with.

I raised a finger to my sealed lips — hoping he would understand. Some things are thankfully universal — he nodded vigorously and I slipped over. Now, these men I'd been feasting on would likely be fatigued at daybreak — but not enough to be incapable of finding wherever I laid to rest. But if I loosed their captive...

"Help, please!" he said again — quieter — almost just mouthing the words.

Without responding, I took the chains binding him and snapped them apart with a good yank. He smiled, nodding and blubbering something that might have been "Thank you!" I shushed him again and hurriedly pointed that he should go this way while I went that way. He nodded again and scampered off — almost as quiet as me.

Again, I could feel the sun boiling just below the horizon — Madre Maria Coño — was there no night in this cursed country!?

I fled far from the beach — desperately seeking some ground I might burrow into. That earth was hard as granite and I scraped apart my fingers digging but finally managed a shallow grave for myself — thank the stout men and their blood.

The next night I burst out — quickly shaking off the vermin that had collected — some in my ear! That's not pleasant. I neither hear nor smell any trace of those men but a strange irregular rhythm I recognized... And a stink of mad blood...

The native I'd rescued was nearby — watching. Damn, I would have to snap his neck anyway. I was all ready to rush over and do just that when he came scrambling up to me and dropped to his knees like I was the Pope Himself!

"Please, sir! Please give me — use me — um..." Through his babbling, I could faintly make out that he wanted a job.

"Yes! You Il Diablo Blanco! Great power and gold! I give myself to you!"

White Devil. Literally. He wanted to sell me his soul!

"I work hard, yes? You give me power and gold and, um..."

What else could a native of this blasted land desire? Donkey pelts maybe?

"...And little girls?"

Well, that answered my question. Or he was just a garden variety degenerate. Either could be useful. He might be able to point me towards some form of civilization and translate into the local hooting when we got there.

"Why not?" I said. "Stand up... and lead us to a decent bed!"

He was eager to please, this native. He smelled something foul and that eye of his made my skin crawl — but he couldn't be faulted for devotion. We managed to communicate in a rough third language — I never did learn his name. Something with a K.

I took to calling him Kinch — low and grasping, much like him. Don't misunderstand me, Doctor. I was quite fond of Kinch. He kept the bugs off me during the day.

And he knew just where the locals had set up proper homes — proper for them. Not even at my lowest as a bandit did I sleep in a mud hut.

"I say you big business, yes? You come to buy, to take across water?"

A slave trader. Actually quite clever. "Right, tell them to bring me fresh women — for inspection! We won't be taking any tonight." And we'd be making a run for it before the chief-type asked for payment.

"Little girls?" he asked.

"No, Kinch!" I snapped. "That comes later."

We pulled our little con on a dozen or so villages along the coast. They were all so used to selling their own to the white man they didn't think twice when one appeared in the middle of the night — even alone! — save for a wild-eyed one of their own and demanding fresh bodies. Kinch for his part never tired of serving — whether talking our way into a town or sweeping the vermin off while I slept. You know he actually ate some of them? Seems beetles and such were a delicacy in native land.

It was good for the circumstances — or my faculties may have been impaired at the time. Yes, that’s a distinct possibility — that savage blood left me in a queer mood. I'd been wearing the same clothes ever since I washed ashore — I didn't change my boots so much as leave them once they fell off in tatters — going barefoot everywhere like Kinch. Same for my shirt. I even began to shamble some — like the Hag or my untrained offspring in those early nights. With Kinch doing all the talking, I had a buffet paraded before me nearly every night. It made me fat and soft and sloppy.

Of course, Kinch never ceased to pester me about power and gold and "Little girls?" I'm not sure how little he meant but I wasn't about to indulge him. It might give him reason to slack. He had to keep struggling for any reward — like a good Catholic. In retrospect, I should have granted him some reprieve, then we might have avoided that one incident...

Halfway through one of my inspections, the great big chief and some of his boys came charging in — all riled about something. I saw they had Kinch — down on his knees with a nasty bruise across his face. "Kinch," I said, "What are they yapping about now?"

"So sorry, so sorry," he mewled. "I took little girls. Should have waited, yes? Give not take, yes?" Something like that. With Kinch it was always a third of a coherent thought.

The big chief was certainly angry at whatever Kinch had been doing with their little girls. I couldn't blame him but I couldn't care. He'd handed over three women for me and I probably wasn't any more tender than Kinch.

"He say you leave," Kinch explained. "You not welcome. Never come back!"

Now maybe it was the local blood — maybe the consequence of going so long outside civilization — but I had no patience that night for being told what to do by idiot savages. Who did this fat-headed chief think he was? I'm a fucking vampire! I'll go wherever I please! And I particularly liked all that easy blood — so I didn't give it much thought before driving my fist all the way through his skull.

Not even Kinch could talk us through this — he didn't try, bless him. I went swinging at the chiefs boys without hesitation and he — Kinch, that is —  took off running for the hills and whatever fate had in store. Best not to stick around when your boss is in a bloody mood.

Months of that savage blood did a number on me. The chief had insulted me — presuming to order me around like another of his slack-jawed locals — so his whole tribe was going to feel it! They tried to put up a fight but I was a well fed vampire with a full night ahead of me. Their strong men came apart like wet tissues in my hands! And no reason not to feed on something without a head, right?

It was my grief-fueled degeneracy of those final nights in the Caribbean — replayed as joy in slaughter. When the men were all scattered across the ground I turned to the women... Then the children... Bodies flung through the air... legless silhouettes in the moonlight... heads kicked about with gleeful abandon! It was Bohemia all over but without that small nagging fear of death!

I soon realized there was not a sound for miles. No cries, no screaming, no raising heartbeat of someone buried among the dead and hiding. Just a ragged howl like wolves in a well. I realized it was me — laughing like a maniac. A dumb maniac at that — with Kinch gone and the whole tribe cut to ribbons — I had no means to feed myself once the blood-high came down. I gathered some gourds — some animal skins they used for water — tried collecting what blood was left to save for traveling.

It all went putrid in one night.

Buy my novel, Fiend, so I can feed my cat!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

VectorPress Presents: Remedial Political Science

For too many years, much of the political debate among the nobodies in America has consisted of arguing over what The Government wants. Typically in shrill claims of "The Government wants this!" or "The Government doesn't want that!" If you ever find yourself offering such an argument, you should stop. Because you are being a goddamned idiot. The Government doesn't want anything because "The Government" is not a conscious entity.

There are people who want things of course. The people who run The Government want tax cuts, highballs, and more golf time. So they invest some of their inherited wealth in the people who think they run The Government. Those chuckleheads want to hold on to their phony baloney jobs, so they'll schmooze with the people who run The Government and act out for their respective voting blocs.

Now, you may choose to argue this point. If you're stupid. "But The Government wants to keep the Af-Pak war going!" or "The Government wants to regulate lady parts!" or "The Government wants my money! I don't understand the concept of taxation!" That last is what passes for conservative rhetoric these days and isn't worth debating. Ever. But the other two issues fit in with what I just said - schmoozing the right donors and acting out for the right voting blocs. The rest of conservative rhetoric is bare-knuckled misogyny so crusading against women enjoying sex without consequence is a sure ticket come November. As for all those wars - you ever wonder why construction of the B-2 bomber is spread over 48 states? Or why, when Afghanistan was an obvious waste to everyone, they suddenly discover "mineral deposits" all over that wasteland?

There's really no big conspiracy here. The people who make the decisions at the top are following dumb, venal agendas. Used to be idealists would sneak in and you'de get stuff like Medicare or labor laws but since Reagan everyone's socialized from an early age to put career and conspicuous consumption first. That doesn't allow for much progress, which would involve commitment and sacrifice - sometimes of said career!

And The People? Near as I can tell, The People just want childrens' stories and porn. It's not as far reaching but it's just as despicable.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Revolution Will Not be Televised - 'Cause it's Damned Dull

In a rare instance of justice in the world, Andre Malroux lost the Lit Nobel to Albert Camus. This is not because Camus is necessarily good, just that he is better than Malroux. Further, Camus is a common step on the way to real books for a few lucky souls and for this he has our respect, though not our love.

Malroux is who you read after Camus to appear different and who you continue to read if appearing different matters more to you than quality books. Because obscurity is really all Le Conditione Humaine (or Man's Fate for us anglophone churls) really has going for it. A shame, 'cause this is one golden subject - the failed Communist uprising in Shanghai. Hundreds killed, executed, or assassinated as a prelude to Mao's eventual triumph. A good "doomed cause" tale dragged down by overwriting and empty characters.

Of those characters, Malroux introduces us first to the revolutionaries - a politically correct mix of East and West who all talk like academic essays on meaning and other guff. One of them, the mixed-race Kyo, even talks that way to his girlfriend! And she does the same right back to him! When he turns back to take her with him while attempting to escape the city, what should've been a powerful scene falls with a dull thud as these two had no depth to speak of. They're all archetypes - fancy literary talk for hollow cliches bad writers rely on.

Except Marloux is not a bad wrieter. When dealing with other characters - all Western - he creates full people with depth and quirks and ambiguities that keep you interested. The best of all these is Clappique, the clown of the piece. A French expat and smuggler, he's always either drunk or trying to get drunk, usually with whatever floozy he happened to spot that night. That's good material on it's own but he's careening around Shanghai as it's breaking apart, making for an entertainingly madcap adventure.

Similarly another Frenchman, Ferral, is just as multi-layered despite being much stuffier than Clappique. He's trying to figure out some way of escaping Shanghai alive, or maybe sticking around and making good with whoever comes out on top. In fact it's the scene where he's playing a careful rhetorical game with a Chinese officer that the reason for Malroux's uneven characterization becomes apparent - he just don't get China. The book opens with revolutionary assassin Ch'en musing like a tiresome undergrad on... Hell, I don't even remember. But he's stabbing a guy while he does it, so it's existential. It's several chapters later, while Ferral is talking to that officer, that Malroux states why he couldn't write Ch'en as a human being - "...his inscrutable face... always looking for an angle..."

The Chinese are just too alien, so Malroux writes them as caricatures. Not to mock them but because he doesn't know how else to do it. Give him a Westerner and he's damned good - especially with how he builds up Ferral, complexities and all, just to have a tertiary mistress tear him down in a letter I'm quoting in full:

"Did you know, dear, that Persian women beat their husbands with their nailed slippers when they are angry? They are irresponsible. And then, of course, they afterwards return to everyday life, the life in which to weep with a man does not commit you, but in which to go to bed with him makes you his slave, the life in which one 'has' women. I am not a woman to be had, a stupid body in which you may find your pleasure by telling lies as to children and invalids. You know a good many things, dear, but you will probably die without its ever having occurred to you that a woman is also a human being. I have always met (perhaps I shall never meet any who are different, but so much the worse - you can't know how thoroughly I mean 'so much the worse!') men who have credited me with a certain amount of charm, who have gone to touching lengths to set off my follies, but who have never failed to go straight to their men-friends whenever it was a question of something really human (except of course to be consoled). I must have my whims, not only to please you, but even to make you listen when I speak; I want you to know what my charming folly is worth: it resembles your affection. If any unhappiness could have resulted from the hold you wanted to have on me, you would not even have noticed...

"I have met enough men to know how to regard a passing affair: nothing is without importance to a man the moment it involves his pride, and pleasure allows him to gratify it most quickly and most often. I refuse to be regarded as a body, just as you refuse to be regarded as a check-book. You act with me as the prostitutes do with you: 'Talk, but pay...' I am also that body which you want me to be wholly; I know it. It is not always easy for me to protect myself from the idea people have of me. Your presence brings me close to my body with disgust, as springtime brings me close to it with joy. Speaking of spring, have a good time with the birds. And, by the way, the next time do leave the electric switches alone.


Ferral retaliates by filling her suite with exotic birds and a kangaroo. That is good writing. Lyrical, passionate, and with it's philosophical ramblings woven so seamlessly into the character you don't even realize you're learning.Problem is, Malroux overdoes the good writing to make up for his sparse revolutionaries, turning the novel into an impenetrable lump of prose that not even these fun little snippets can recover.

That opening stabbing I mentioned? It lasts about four seconds - within the story - but takes nearly eight pages to get through because Ch'en, a caricature of a revolutionary, can't even wipe his ass without expounding at length on the relations between the worker and the state and the meaning to be found in death and blah blah blah. Later, when fellow revolutionaries Katov and Hemmelrich are taking counter-attack fire at the latter's home, everything is written so long and woodenly that you doze off without realizing Katov is captured and Hemmelrich's wife and kid just got crushed to death by falling masonry or something. Fast, bloody action slowed to the pace of some Manhattanite lit theory dweeb!

In fairness to Malroux, a lot of the dragging of the prose could be attributed to the translator. Brits always do lousy translations of Continental works because passion is entirely alien to the Brit consciousness. They can do grim and they can do satire, being a cruel and masochistic culture. But the passion of a revolutionary? Brits just ain't wired for that. It's why they still have a monarchy and it's also why this novel feels like the revolutionary spirit buried in so much high falouten droning.

Malroux could very well have intended this as a celebration of Marxism, making him a fool but at least an entertaining and sincere fool. As it is, the book reads like a second-hand account by someone who treats the subject with all due seriousness but just doesn't get it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tim Kreider is a Damned Idiot

How completely out of touch do you have to be to assume people are working 60 hours a week by choice!? That's what Tim Kreider of the Times had to say this week and the only explanation is he's so rich and pampered he's forgotten what desperate tastes like. If he ever did to begin with. Nepotism is the name of the game in American writing these days and without even Googling I feel safe to assume he got his job through family connections and sucking up in the right internships.

Matt Bors has a much better analysis of this piece of crap by piece of crap Kreider, but I need to sound off because this is something that just pisses me off. If you've ever been overworked, you know the only goddamn help offered in this country is shallow platitudes about how you need to "downshift" and take stock of what "really matters." Rent and groceries really fucking matter, and they're getting more expensive everyday. If you're like 99% of the country, work isn't something you do for fun. You do it for the goddamn paycheck!

But not Kreider, because he's either always been too well-off to worry about it or he's too stupid to make the connection. That latter does sound awfully likely - "Well sure, I worked a lot because I needed the money but all these other folks are just workaholics!"

You'd think someone so fucking stupid shouldn't get paid to be stupid publicly but you're not the New York Times.

But that word - workaholic - that's the most insidious case of victim blaming. In this country, if you're spending all damn day in the office it's just assumed you have a problem. It's not that you need to be there for any substantial reason, you're just "addicted" to the work. It's a brainwave that makes all the repugnant business practices of post-Reagen America - downsizing, unpaid overtime, slashed benefits - more palatable because hey, if you don't like it why don't you quit?

Tim Kreider is the same sort of Dixie dumbass who would say the slaves are working themselves to death while paying no mind to the whip-swinging overseer. And he gets paid for this bullshit because all you assholes still won't just admit you're getting screwed everyday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pay No Attention to the Manchild Behind the Curtain

If you've ever worked in IT, I feel for you. But I also hate you, because genuinely smart and competent people in the IT world are as rare as basic hygiene at Comic Con. In fact those two groups are quite similar, as we'll see shortly...

In the IT world, a systemic con has gone on for years that the technical skills weilded by developers verges on magic. Esoteric knowledge that allows one's wildest dreams to take digital shape! The truth of the matter is much more low and boring - writing code, of either web or database, is just a long and dull process. And that's even with gratoutious copy pasting.

Which makes up the vast majority of the development process. The second biggest block of time is devoted to printing things out and failing to make a plan of action, with the last bit of time devoted to hurreidly writing new code that takes a few rounds of testing to actually work. All of which is exacerbated by the average developer's crippling laziness, making it impossible to arrive before 11 in the morning and leaving the most pressing work until some time after 4 in the afternoon.

This isn't because the coding process itself is difficult - again, it's not in the slightest - but because the personalities that gravitate towards such a job are just plain dumb. If you ever thought a developer was speaking a different language from you, they were. A stupid language. The common developer has no comprehension of nuance, lateral thinking, or problem solving beyond the most linear basics. Their minds are as fetid ponds that need a good skimming.

And that's all well and good. Can't have everyone be a Nietzsche, else great thought would lose its distinction. The problem is, as anyone who's experienced these types can attest, is that they have a boundless sense of self-importance. When their code fails, as usual, they respond with disdain and condescenion to those pointing out their fuck ups. They feel justified in this stick-up-the-ass attitude because, like I said, everyone assumes the developer's job is something only a mental titan could fathom. Someone who can calculate the square root of Pi with just their noggin!

Bullshit. These people are just as dumb as you. Stop feeding into their ego fantasies and maybe they'll produce something that actually works.