Survival of the Fittest for Movie Genres

People often complain that movies are never like the book. The movie cuts too much or adds unneeded scenes. Most of this is due to the fact that people don’t understand that movies are alive. Yes, alive. At least in the sense of survival of the fittest.

Movies are created by producers who pump money into an idea. The producers aren’t parents, yearning for their filmic offspring to go onto glory. Awards and accolades are added benefits. No, movie producers want one simple thing: to make money.

Viewed from this perceptive, books adapted into movies make sense. The goal isn’t to transform the vision of the text to film. (The director or the actors or screenwriters might strive for that.) No, producers only want to transform the readers of the book into watchers of the movie. If that means they have to adhere to the story, fine. But mostly, movie producers take liberties because the readers will still flock to the film and see it.

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Why this long tirade about books and films? Mostly the Hobbit. I love the book, but wasn’t wowed by the film. I understand all the additions and changes as it made its way toward film. Ultimately did the film make money? Yes. Will more like it be made? Yes. It’s like evolution in film. If a certain type of film makes money, then more will be made.

Parker Movie Free

Another adaptation is Parker with Jason Statham. The original book, written by Donald E. Westlake, is nothing like the film. (For a more in depth view of the book, check out the Weekly Rot.) The protagonist is unlikable and repugnant. However, the genre of action-movies states that the led be likable and somewhat honorable. Thus the Statham Parker says: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it.” There’s little to distinguish this film from the many other Statham action films.

Parker was expected to make money by following the genre formula, yet in this one fumbled.

In the future, when you complain about movie adaptations, consider this: If people refused to see it, then that genre would wither and die.

Tim Kane

A Stumble of Zombies: Collective Nouns for Monsters

One of my favorite books that I read to my daughter (I’m stealing it the first chance I get) is A Dignity of Dragons by by Jacqueline Ogburn and Nicoletta Ceccoli.

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What this book does is address the much needed names for collective nouns of mythical creatures. What the heck is a collective noun? Well, back in the nineteenth century, Victorians got awful bored with out any television or internet. They played a game where they thought up clever names for groups of animals. The idea was to get a name that encompassed the spirit of the animal. Some of my favorites are a crash of rhinos or a flamboyance of flamingos. Get the idea?

Jacqueline Ogburn came up with all sorts of collective nouns for mythical creatures, like: a bolt of hippogriffs, a splash of mermaids, and a dazzlement of Quetzalcoatls. I wanted to continue this trend, only with creatures from horror. Specifically classic monsters. Here’s what I came up with.

  • a stumble of zombies
  • a coffin of vampires
  • a howling of werewolves
  • a bolt of Frankensteins*
  • a tanna of mummies**
  • a caldron of wiches
  • a clang hunchbacks
  • an ectoplasm of phantoms
  • a haunting of ghosts
  • a glow of will-o-whisps
  • a bottle of djinn***
  • a trample of kaiju****
  • a decapitation of headless horsemen
  • a tinker of gremlins
  • a hunger of ghouls
  • a husk of scarecrows
  • a marrow of skeletons
  • a translucence of invisible men
  • a beaker of mad scientists
  • a lever of henchmen
  • a scream of victims
  • a probe of aliens
  • a circuit of robots

If you can think of any to add to the list (no serial killers or the suck, just classic monsters) then add to the comments below.

Tim Kane

*Yes I know that the doctor is actually Frankenstein, but in the sequel it called the Bride of Frankenstein, and she’s intended for the monster, so… Let’s just settle on Frank as the monster’s name.

** Tanna leaves were a device introduced in the later mummy movies as a way of controlling the creature.

*** I know lamps are more common, but a lamp of djinn sounds weird.

**** This is the name for the giant Japanese monsters like Godzilla and Mothra. Go ahead, check out the wiki site.

5 Best Scenes of Drunkeness from Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Sure, as a fan of horror, everyone’s getting plastered. Yet turn to fantasy, sci-fi, or superheroes and debauchery is more limited. When I picked these scenes, I tried to choose ones that resonated with me. A scene of drunkenness that glued itself so hard to my brain, I could never wipe it clean (unlike most nights drinking). Where possible, I included a link to the YouTube clip of the scene. Just click on the picture.

1 Superman III

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First let me say that I saw this movie nine times in the theater. I’m not saying it was a good movie. Only that I had a lot of spare time as a twelve-year-old with a bike. I think the writers were trying for a sort of Bizarro. Only in this version, Richard Pryor (playing computer genius Gus Gorman) tries to recreate kryptonite but one ingredient is unknown.  Since it’s the 80s, he has a pack of cigarettes and enters “tar” as the final ingredient. When exposed to this tar kryptonite, it turns Supe nasty and evil (this the drinking binge).

2 Iron Man 2

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I couldn’t find any pics of the best scenes, where Tony Stark is dancing with hotties or blasting water melons. Lets just say it’s what we expect most people would do with super powers.

3 Princess Bride

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By far one of my most favorite movies. This scene takes some explaining (although if you haven’t seen the movie, stop everything and go and rent it now). Inigo, a famous swordsman, has failed to defeat the Man in Black, so he gets himself rip roaring drunk. The real fun begins when the local police, headed by his pal Fezzik come across him. Fezzik nourishes Inigo back to health by repeatedly dunking his head in water.

4 Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

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I often replay the drinking game between Gimli and Legolas. The dwarf pounds beer after beer, while the elf only gets tingly in his fingers.

5 Star Trek (J. J. Abrams remake)

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Why is this my first choice. Well, I wish I could have found a movie clip, but it’s such a great scene. Chris Pine (as James T. Kirk) simultaneously flirts with Uhura, insults some aggressive bar folk, and gets his butt kicked. Here’s how the lines went down:

Lt. Nyota Uhura: I’m impressed. For a moment there, I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals.
James T. Kirk: Well, not only.
Burly Cadet #1: This townie isn’t bothering you, right?
Lt. Nyota Uhura: Oh, beyond belief, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
James T. Kirk: You could handle me, if that’s an invitation.
Burly Cadet #1: Hey, you better mind your manners.
James T. Kirk: Oh relax, cupcake, it was a joke.
Burly Cadet #1: Hey, farm-boy, maybe you can’t count, but there are four of us and one of you.
James T. Kirk: So, get two more guys and then it’ll be an even fight.

What are your favorite drunken scenes from sci-fi, fantasy, or superhero movies? Comment below.

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 4: Die Vampire Die

We all want vampires dead, but what to do when it’s the middle of night and there are no stakes nearby? Why, reach for a sock, of course.

By far the most common method to off a vampire is with a stake. Van Helsing uses it, why shouldn’t you? However, you don’t always have to chop up grandma’s antique chair. A needle also works. Romanians believe (present tense, mind you) that a needle inserted into the navel will kill a vampire. Why the navel? That’s where the second heart lies. It has to have a second one, because the first one went kaput when the person died. The second heart is what keeps the vampire alive after death.

Vampire blood was so evil that any person who came in contact with it would become insane. Therefore during staking, an animal hide was placed over the body. Vampires were seen as squishy blood balloons, so this form of protection helped minimize splatter.

Click on the picture to bring up the YouTube clip.

Steven Weber (playing Jonathan Harker) could have used a bib in Mel Brooks’s “Dracula Dead and Loving It.” Click on the picture to bring up the YouTube clip.

A consecrated bullet would kill a vampire, but not in the way you think. Shoot it through the coffin. One reason for this might be that it spoiled the coffin and gave the vampire no place to rest. A version of this can be seen in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula where they ruin the vampire’s coffin but placing holy wafers in the dirt. The idea that sunlight can kill vampires is an invention of film. In Poland and Prussia, the creatures can hunt the living from noon till midnight. Even Bram Stoker’s Dracula could function in daylight.

1943 Son of Dracula played by Lon Chaney Jr. just before sunlight strikes him.

1943 Son of Dracula played by Lon Chaney Jr. just before sunlight strikes him.

The first film to have a vampire to die by sunlight is Son of Dracula with Lon Chaney Jr. as the vampire. The rays of dawn strike his body and he fades from sight. A few months later, Return of the Vampire showed Bela Lugosi (playing a vampire called Armand Tesla) succumb to sunlight. Though this isn’t really fair, as he was simultaneously being staked by his werewolf servant. The film did depict the first image of a vampire melting in the sun.

The first face melting of a vampire in sunlight (or from staking, who's to say).

The first face melting of a vampire in sunlight (or from staking, who’s to say).

If you suspected that your kin were a vampire the solution was simple. Dig up the body, dismember, burn to a crisp and drink the ashes. A pretty hefty cure if you ask me. Boiling oil was another method to destroy the undead.

Vampires were considered terribly OCD (counting knots or grains of rice). The final method of demise plays off this weakness. Steal the vampire’s left sock (I’m assuming this is the evil one with the Latin name for left being sinister). Then fill it with rocks and toss it into a river or other running water. The creature will go after it (possibly crying, “Who took my sock.”) and the moving water will be its downfall. Moving water was long believe to destroy vampires.

That’s it. Now you know all there is about how keep vampires out. If, however you’re yearning for a midnight nibbling, you know not to take the guy’s sock. He needs that.

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 3: Undead Bondage

In this segment learn how carpets, oil or a bowl of cold water can keep a vampire in his place.

This segment of vampire aprotopaics deals with constraint or restrictive measures. The goal is to make sure the undead cannot move or leave its grave. The most obvious implement were ropes. In some areas of Eastern Europe the knees were bound or the whole body tightly tied with rope. Finally, binding the corpse in a carpet completely immobilized it, thus preventing the vampire from rising from the dead.

Sharp items, meant to injure or weaken the vampire were also common. Many corpses were buried with knives or the more infamous sickle (possible the reason we associate death with a sickle). Usually the sharp item was positioned to cause damage to the undead. With the sickle, it was placed over the neck so that if the vampire should rise, he would slice off his head.

A 19th century image of the reaper

A 19th century image of the reaper

In Morocco steel, iron, or silver daggers were left in the grave while the Slavs used hairpins. Thorns also did the job, though being much smaller, these were inserted in key points: under the tongue or in the navel. Some corpses were bound with thorny briars. On possible reason for this was to keep the body from swelling (a key sign of vampirism). In Eastern Prussia, a bowl of cold water was placed under the boards were the corpse lay in rest. Additionally, tin spoon were laid on top to weigh the body down.

Explorer VI:Vampire ForensicsNGC US- Ep Code: 4816

In 2006, a team excavated a mass grave from the 16th century in Venice. They discovered a skeleton with a brick jammed between it’s teeth. Possibly another restraint to keep the vampire from attacking.

Iron has always been though to repel evil. In Romania, iron forks were sometimes stabbed into the heart, eyes, and breast of the deceased while the Bulgarians drove a red-hot poker through the heart. Boiling oil, poured around the grave, was believed to prevent the vampire form leaving. So too, bowls of of excrement and poison.

Sometimes just ignoring a vampire was enough to protect yourself. In Romanian lore, it was believed that vampires could only ask a question one time. The superstition arose that you should only answer someone if they call upon you three times. If you answer a vampire’s request, then he will have power over you.

In Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me Mustafa (played by Will Ferrel) must be asked a question three time for him to answer it. Not really a vampire, but it sprang to mind. Click the picture for a link to the scene on YouTube.

In “Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me” Mustafa (played by Will Ferrel) must be asked a question three time for him to answer it. Not really a vampire, but it sprang to mind. Click the picture for a link to the scene on YouTube.

In the final segment, we explore ways to destroy the vampire, including but not limited to drinking ashes, a needle, and a sock (yes, a sock).

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 2: Back Off Foul Beast

We all want vampires to stay away. Who knew that lemons, clocks, and tar would do the trick.

There are many ways to counter a vampire using natural substances. Most repel the undead, keeping the creature at bay. The most common is garlic, but what fun is that. I dare say any vampire worth his fangs knows to keep away from that stuff. Let’s delve.

Lemons placed in the mouth of the corpse would dispose of Saxon vampires. The acidic properties (just like the strong smell of garlic) may be the reason for using this fruit. Likewise, the strong odor of tar would repel the undead. People would apply it to doors in the shape of a cross. Another item stuffed in the deceased mouth was wool. My guess is the prickly quality of the sheep’s hair would discourage the vampire.

Various types of wood had repellant qualities. In addition to carving stakes, juniper was kept in the house to keep the undead out. Like wool, this plant has sharp, needle-like leaves. Holly also keeps the vampires away with it’s pointy leaves. Millet, in addition to catering to the obsessive counting tendencies of vampires, could also repel them. It was rubbed on the face of the corpse.

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Blood bread was another tradition that provided protection in Poland. The blood of the corpse was mixed with dough and made into a bread. Partaking of the bread kept the vampire away. In Pomerania the blood was mixed with brandy and drunk.

I found this recipe for blood bread.

I found this recipe for blood bread. This uses cow’s blood. Click on the picture to check it out.

According to folklore in Europe, stopping the clock at the time of a person’s death will protect you from that person rising as a vampire. It puts the vampire in a sort of suspended animation. Also, placing a candle, a coin, and a towel in the corpse’s hand will keep it from rising as a vampire.

Iron is a common repellant for many magical creatures. However, you can protect against a vampire by simply keeping iron implements in by your bed. Scissors were common, but anything iron would do. Placing iron objects in the coffin kept the vampire from leaving the coffin.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

The Telegraph reported that a skeleton was found in Bulgaria with an iron bar in his chest.

Need fires were used all over Europe in plague times. All other fires in the town needed to be snuffed out. Then huge bonfires were lighted. Typically livestock were marched between the fires to imbue protection. Similarly this could provide protection against disease and vampirism.

Salt was another another excellent deterrent as it had the ability to preserve meats. People carried salt at night to ward off evil creatures or throw it over their left shoulder to blind whatever might be sneaking up behind (goes with the spilled salt superstition). Salt sprinkled around a cradle would protect the infant. In Romania, a woman who ate no salt in pregnancy would curse her child with vampirism.

In the next segment, we’ll look into ways to tying down your vampire, including, but not limited to: carpets, needles, and ignoring the undead.

Tim Kane

Vampire Apotropaics Part 1: How to Pacify Your Vampire

Learn how knots, dead dogs, and excrement can deter a vampire.

As a lover of all things vampire, my wife purchased me The Element Encyclopedia of Vampires. As I strolled through the expansive volume, I noticed that despite it’s generous supply of information, some details were scattered. I was immediately drawn to Aprotropaics. This is a term coming from the Greek word apotropai, which is something that averts evil.

This is four part series summarizing the four ways to combat evil (specifically vampires): Pacificaiton, Countering, Restraint, and Lethal Aprotropaics.

The goal with pacification was to remove the vampire’s urge to kill or drink blood. Generally this meant feeding the vampire something else to quell his thirst. This is old school vampire lore (non of that Twilight stuff). The kind of stuff Romanians still believe in.

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I discovered this with an article about vampires on the loose in Serbia. The date was December 1, 2012. Drinks are left on the grave of a deceased man, in the village of Zarozje, near the Serbian town of Bajina Basta

People thought the world of the dead was similar to that of the living. That means eating. All sorts of food were left in the grave to prevent that person from rising as a vampire. Seeds were common. In Germany alone, folk used to bury or scatter poppy seeds, mustard seeds, oats, linen seeds or carrot seeds. Some of this is related to eating, but it also went back to the believe that vampires were seriously OCD.

Many beliefs in vampirism (Eastern European and Chinese) felt that the undead were compelled to count. Therefore if there were seeds in the grave or sprinkled outside, the creature would have to count them all before rising. Now you might think this a task that could be accomplished in a day or so. Oh no. The Kashubs (in Poland) surmised that a vampire could only count a seed a year, thus keeping him busy for centuries.

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Miniature Vile of mothers of millions seeds, dirt and moss. I found this on Etsy by chillerwhale

Although not strictly food, knots were also used as a delaying tactic. The obsessive vampire would stop to count all the knots (or possibly untie the knots). Nets were often buried with corpses to provide them with years of entrainment.

The Macedonian Folklore by G.F. Abbot (1903) a story tells of how a hunter lured a vampire with a pile of millet grains. The vampire was so obsessed with counting that it didn’t resist when the hunter nailed him to the wall.

The OCD aspect of vampires is highly underused. This reminds me of an excellent episode (Bad Blood) on the X-Files where the FBI agent Mulder pacifies a vampire by strewing sunflower seeds. The vampire, aware of his own compulsion, states, “Ooo, I’m going to get you when I’m done.” This gives time for the agent to escape.

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he's a vampire).

A pizza boy attacks agent Mulder. His shoes are also untied (a sign that he’s a vampire).

A similar practice to pacify vampires was to lay a dead dog or cat on your doorstep. Yeah, I know. A bit macabre. The idea was that the undead must count all the hairs on the animal. I’m not sure how long you could pull off this particular protection. Seems a last minute thing to me.

My favorite pacification technique came with the belief in holes. In Eastern Europe, people thought vampires exited the grave via holes in the ground. In Bulgaria villagers would place bowls of excrement near grave holes (and you thought the dead dog was bad). The vampire would eat the excrement. I’m guessing this has to do with the undead being a foul and smelly creature. In any event, the vampire was sated and no longer longed for blood.

Finally, a pacification technique that works well with humans was wine. To keep a corpse happy, Romanians bury it with a bottle of wine. After six weeks, the bottle was dug up and drunk with relatives as a form of protection. Sort of the hair of the dog that bit you. One step further was to bury the dead with whiskey, believing that the vampire would become too drunk to find its way home and drink the blood of its relatives.

This is a detail of a work of art called 126 Whiskey Bottles by Tara Cooper

This is a detail of a work of art called “126 Whiskey Bottles” by Tara Cooper

On the next post, we’ll tackle countering apotropaics like garlic, lemons, and tar.

Tim Kane