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Johnny Compton Posts

“It’s a Robot” – An Underrated Twist

Alien is a masterfully constructed horror film about unknown and escalating threats. Escalation of danger is one of my favorite things to see in a story, whether it takes place in a single scene (Spielberg executes this wonderfully in the opening of Raiders and in the first T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park), or over the course of the entire work. Alien is an exceptional example of the nature of the threat becoming steadily worse over the course of the film.

In many other stories–many of which I love–the animal, monster, demon, killer, etc. is completely or largely known from the beginning of the story, or even before that. Even if you hadn’t read the novel beforehand, the poster and previews for Jaws would let you know that the threat is a massive great white shark. Despite not seeing the shark for much of the movie, the only true and slight unknown is just how big the shark is, which we effectively learn when we hear of its “bite radius,” even before we get our first glimpse of it. READ MORE

My Interview with Sapphire Sandalo

More than enough time has passed for me to share this here–an interview I was very fortunate to have with Sapphire Sandalo, creator of the popular “Something Scary” YouTube series / podcast, who has since progressed to the podcast “Stories with Sapphire.” Her podcast is fantastic, her generosity and thoughtfulness are outstanding, and she’d have to kick my mom down the stairs for me to ever stop appreciating her for giving me an opportunity to share some thoughts I have on race and horror. Here’s a link to her site where you can listen to the interview. READ MORE

Movie Review: TRILOGY OF TERROR

As someone who’s fascinated by how popular horror was in the 70’s, I’ve long wanted to take a deep dive into the television horror movies of the era. It’s one thing for horror to have been a hit at the cinemas and bookstores, but TV is the ostensibly “safer” and more “family friendly” entertainment guest you invite into your home1 It brought you the programming you watched in your living room with the spouse and kiddos. Shows often intended to make you laugh, sometimes intended to make you think, and other times, especially in the extended wake of the success of Rosemary’s Baby, meant to frighten you. READ MORE

Movie Review: IMPETIGORE

I’ve only seen two Indonesian horror flicks, so I can’t fairly comment on the overall health and quality of the region’s horror industry. Especially considering how much I truly enjoyed both films. It would be like watching Halloween and Alien as your first two American horror movies and immediately declaring, “This country never makes a bad horror movie! They can’t miss.”

So I have to rein in my praise for Impetigore slightly. Only slightly. This movie is a bit of a banger. It has some of everything. To open, it features a tense slasher / thriller sequence involving a violent man and a woman–our protagonist, Maya–and a toll booth. Later the movie will feature ghosts, a decidedly decrepit and spooky house with its very own and entirely too-populated graveyard, secret-keeping murderous villagers, curses and sacrifices and rituals and more. It’s packed with so much, yet doesn’t feel crammed with all of this content. Somehow there’s sufficient room for it all. It’s quite an achievement. READ MORE

Some Advice on Writing Advice: Elmore Leonard’s Rules

Elmore Leonard was one of the greats. I own and love Out of SightKillshot, Get Shorty, Mr. MajestykValdez is Coming and a few more. He’s one of the writers I wish I could write like, but my propensity for wordiness often precludes it. He is still an inspiration and a titan.

He has a list of “10 Rules for Good Writing” that you can find pretty easily online. Like other writing advice lists, it is considered fairly unassailable by some. Understandably, at least on the surface. Advice from a legend is priceless. Strangely, though, his rules do not align with the content his ten favorite books. I haven’t read every single one of the books on that second list, but the ones I have read tell me that several of his favorite books–per his official website–contain things that flout the “rules.” READ MORE

Movie Review: RED CATS IN A GLASS MAZE (aka EYEBALL)

Nobody can title a horror movie like a 70’s Italian, except maybe a 70’s Spaniard. Twitch of the Death NerveSeven Notes in BlackThe Bird With Crystal PlummageA Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, The House of the Laughing Windows, on and on. While much lower on the notability list, Red Cats in a Glass Maze is pretty high on the rankings of “best ‘unusual’ horror movie titles,” particularly when compared to its alternate, American title, Eyeball.

That simpler, decidedly less metaphorical and less interesting title does reference the goings-on in the film, at least. A killer in a red rain coat is stabbing out an eyeball here and there while killing young American women during a bus tour of Spain. I imagine you’re already thinking, “Wait, during a bus tour? Do all of these killings take place over a short period of time on the bus somehow? Because as absurd as that would be, it would still be less ridiculous than if they were to continue the city-to-city tour after the first murder, much less after the second, third, and fourth.” Well, if you’re up for watching this movie, I hope you’re prepared to turn your brain and its reserve power off, because they do indeed continue the tour. READ MORE

Movie Review: ST. AGATHA

Darren Lynn Bousman directed the last of the even slightly defensible Saw films. He directed Repo! The Genetic Opera, among the last competently made, critically dismissed but sincerely defended cult films to be released. 1. He directed Abbatoir, a film that is almost impossibly disappointing considering its premise.2 He is the director of the eventually forthcoming Spiral, the Saw revival that unexpectedly stars and is spearheaded by Chris Rock. He’s worked steadily for fifteen years, and depending on how you feel about Repo!, has made at most one really good film in that time3. READ MORE

Movie Review: MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU

Good horror movies understand and respect gravity. Okay, this isn’t a hard and fast rule by which to judge all horror films, I’m sure there are some great ones that don’t have any respect for gravity. But watching May the Devil Take You brought this to mind.

By gravity I don’t mean “dignity or sobriety of bearing,” which is somehow the 1a definition on merriam-webster.com. I mean weight and “a fundamental physical force that is responsible for interactions which occur because of mass between particles,” the 2 and 3a definitions, respectively. The fact that certain things are heavy. Human bodies, for instance. If one should begin to levitate due to supernatural forces, it should still look like gravity has some influence over it, not like it’s paper on the wind. READ MORE

Movie Review: AURORA

Aurora is a particular kind of letdown. Its excellent premise and relevancy to a specific national event means it isn’t something you can just run back and do-over in a couple of years to get it right. If a future Filipino director wants to try his or her hand at this, it might have to be one from their next generation of filmmakers.

About that premise: Aurora is the name of the film and of a wrecked ship that sits ominously off the coast for most of the film. Based on the Doña Paz disaster–the deadliest peacetime maritime accident in history, and by a considerable margin–the Aurora‘s wreck causes considerable death and suffering. More than you might initially suspect, in fact, unless you’re like me and you’re already fairly familiar with the Doña Paz and how it managed such a heavy death toll. In that case the film’s ultimate “revelation” won’t be much of a revelation at all. And I say that as a man living half a world away. I imagine for Filipino audiences it must have been even less surprising. READ MORE

Movie Review: BULLET HEAD

Sometimes your creative eyes are bigger than your imagination’s stomach. Sometimes your attempt to pack multiple interesting ideas into one story results in you failing to fully develop any single idea into the best story it can be. That’s largely how I feel about Bullet Head, a watch made worthwhile due to its cast and its promise, but that I can’t really recommend because it seems to leave so much on the table.

The general premise is strong: three cons pull a heist that results in them getting locked in a building with a super-vicious, desperate dog, a poor mastiff abused and trained to kill. As “trapped with the monster” setups go, it’s different enough to draw you in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prove quite as intense as you’d think. READ MORE