Peanut Butter... and Jerry

Greetnorgz, Science Patrol cadets! I have no specific ideas and yet I still wanna do my weekly blog post, so this one's going to be freestyle, composed right in the box and full of anything that occurs to me to tell you about. Could be fun! Could be excruciatingly boring! Let's find out! Charge forth!

First, saw a great band Friday night, Ex-Supermodel, a.k.a. the Tuffskinz... or, as the venue called 'em, The Ex-Supermodels (or, I suppose, The Tuffskinz-es). It was great hearing covers of classic metal done in my tiny and almost-un-metal town, and was gratifying that the crowd seemed into it (especially the Motorhead!). Three Black Sabbath songs ("Fairies Wear Boots," "N.I.B.", and maybe the mightiest version of "War Pigs" I've ever heard live), a Motorhead song ("Ace of Spades," natch), a Metallica song ("Seek & Destroy," hellyeah!), a Judas Priest song ("Another Thing Comin'") and many other assorted hard-rockin' QueensofthestoneageAC/DCG'n'RKisstype stuffs like that-there. Next time you go also! Double plus good!

Good enough to keep me awake into the small hours (say, there's another somethin' to cover... that song feckin' rawks and is just massive-mighty) even though I'd spent most of the day on the highway goin' to Tupelo buyin' far too many cheap DVDs to still be considered any kind of saneperson. Most of which probably ain't that great, but at $3 or less, so what? It's stuff to review and it looks better than my cable. Wal-Mart was black-Fridaying stuff at $2 each (Young Frankenstein! I Am Legend! Fantastic 4! Last King of Scotland! Shoot 'em Up! Blow! Rock'n'Rolla! Michael Clayton! Blood Diamond! etc.) and then Dirt Cheap had a bunch of stuff for $1.50... most of it was History Channel/ A&E type stuff, but whenever I can find a whole season box set of damn-near-anything for $1.50 I consider that a score (whole seasons of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, AxMen, Tougher in Alaska, and Driving Force, plus a documentary on zombies). Then, BigLots had a shitload o' stuff for $3, lots of it unknown but worth a gamble, especially if you have the high-tolerance for junkshit-type movies that I do (The Watcher! Valentine! a whole season of the Jeff Foxworthy show! Hollow Man! Curse of the Golden Flower! Class of 1984! Cry_Wolf! Slither! Once Upon A Time in China 3! Rollercoaster! Mutiny on the Bounty! The Informer! Poison Ivy: The New Seduction! (which I fully expect to slurp massive trouser-teat, but it's got Jaime Pressly in it and I like me some Jaime Pressly for she is quite pretty and I would kiss her on the kneecap as the police dragged me away) And other such things). I am now like a squirrel with a storehouse of stuff to get me through the winter... but, the winter's about over and I'm too narcoleptic to actually watch anything, so, huh. So much for my plans.

The friend who went to Tupelo with me also brought me a home-burned DVD of an IFC show (my cable doesn't have IFC) which (he's right) is freakin' brilliant. It's called Food Party and it's kinda like an even-more-demented version of Pee Wee's Playhouse, but done in the form of a cooking show by a Vietnamese girl named Thu Tran. Most of the set appears to be made of cardboard and was painted by a schizophrenic on 'shrooms. There are lots of horrible puppets and "animated" segments involving cut-out pictures on sticks. The humor is extremely weird and twisted (such as a scene where Thu gives birth -- what appears to be melted strawberry yogurt falls from between her legs, she pushes, and a huge pie pops out... with a live kitten inside it). At one point Thu has to dive to the bottom of the sea, so she takes off all her clothes and her nudity is depicted by a flesh-colored body stocking with nipples drawn on it and a cat's face over the groin (get it? of course you do). And (referencing the title of this blogpost) she has a friend named "Peanut Butter Jerry." That's amazingly funny in and of itself just for the absurdity, but when you remember that she's Asian and they sometimes have a little trouble with R's and L's it gets even funnier. Peanut Butter Jerry's hair and beard are made of peanut butter. His shirt is also laden with it. I'd hate to be the actor in that costume, it looks extremely unpleasant. When she runs out of apples, she has to call her "dealer" who won't talk about it on the phone, and then she tries to get a special "White Tiger" apple that turns her into a raging hell-beast. Quotes such as "Birds are kind of dumb, look at all these wings I got from them" abound. It's all very strange.

Anyway, here's a few episodes from YouTube, and you can seek out others. I wouldn't watch these if you've recently taken any cough syrup or anything, for your sanity may never recover. And take off your pants before viewing, so you will not make da veevee in them by accident from der glee undt der laffink undt joy-makink mit der silliness and heeheehaha.

THE DEVIL teaches us how to cook eggs!

Funeral for a French Baguette. "Now I am dead! Ce'st la vie!" That's what I want on my tombstone, make a note of it.

Love overdramatically found and lost in the freezer, and why does Thu have so many firearms around the kitchen? Perhaps to guard against Yolk-O Oh No!

The story of rice porridge! (you've always wanted to know where that came from! and now you never will!)

Thu gets a visit from Jay-Z. I hate when that happens...

"I'm a benevolent giant magic egg!"

Anyway, I just finished reading For Whom The Bell Tolls and can assure you that Metallica's song serves as pretty good Cliff Notes (Cliff Burton, that is, ha ha ha, wheee, I just made that up!) so you don't have to read the book. But so you won't miss the best line of the book, here it is:

"I would like to swim ten leagues in a strong soup made from the cojones of all of them!"

Now I'm reading Stephen King's new book, The Big Damn Plastic Bubble That Took Over A Town And Why We Need To Talk About It For Over A Thousand Pages 'Cuz My Editor Is Intimidated 'Cuz I've Sold More Books Than Jesus So Who's Gonna Say No To Me, You Monkeyspanks, or something like that. So far it's okay but I've had to roll my eyes a few times at some of Steve's corniness. That fella's got his own set of twitches and mannerisms and I think we're all familiar with 'em by now. There's a character named "Big Jim."

Speaking of literature, why do they call it literature when it's fiction? Isn't that the exact wrong word? How can it be a "literary" work when it's figurative? None of it's literal, so... huh. Wuthering Heights - great literature - is not literary, in that it did not happen. And why do they call the Bible "the gospel" when it's the biggest pack o' lies goin'? Someone recently told me that one of their Christian friends (an adult grown-up person) had just spent a couple of sleepless nights pondering how Noah could manage to collect two of every animal and house them on one boat. That's so incredibly sad-yet-hilarious I'm conflicted as to what to think about it. My mocking shall have a sympathetic tinge to it.

Here's a fun thing that you can do if you just don't care: go up to people and ask, slyly, "Are YOU part of the CONSPIRACY?" When they ask "What conspiracy?", you wink and say, "Perfect!" Then hand them a peanut. They'll wonder about that incident for the rest of their damned lives.

Have I ever mentioned how fucking racist and idiotic my high school was? It was a private school which I went to 'cuz I wasn't in the district for the good local public school (which was MUCH better than my high school; when I got to college I had to play a lot of catch-up compared to other local kids) and would've had to go to some tiny very-backwoods school that just sucked instead. I was kind of a "gifted" kid, so my parents decided to send me to this private school instead. Most of the kids at that school were going there because (a) their conservative parents didn't want 'em going to school with anybody who wasn't white, and (b) they were all radicalized Baptist separatists who wanted to keep their kids away from any "secular" kids. And that's just a perfect environment for a kid with a "furriner" name who saw through the "God" hooey about the same time he figured out Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were bunk. Got knives pulled on me a couple times over that shit, and my hands still hurt when it gets cold 'cuz of untreated broken knuckles incurred in self-defense. Several teachers freely used the n-word in class and at least a couple times a year some teacher or coach would have us put our heads down and would ask who didn't know Christ and would lead us to him in prayer. Good times! Thank fuck-all-whatsis I got to finally graduate and put an amen to that noise. They still send me class-reunion notices, though. Ha ha ha! Funny.

Anyway, I was going through one of my old annuals (1983, pg. 7) and noticed this picture taken at one of the school's Halloween carnivals. Somebody thought this was a clever'n'funny'n'cute costume to wear to school, ha ha ha. And the school agreed to the extent that they printed this picture in the fuckin' annual. If you did this shit nowdays, you'd be on CNN and the whole country would be pissed off about it, but 1983 was different days, cuz.

Ain't dat some loverly? Just like a little snapshot from hell.

Here is by far the nastiest, most depraved, disgusting joke I've heard lately, delivered by Arthur Hinty on Doug Stanhope's "Unbookables" CD, Morbid Obscenity:

"I don't understand women's logic at all. You ask a girl if you can fuck her in the ass, and she says 'Ah, it's a reasonable request, but I'm gonna say no.' So next week you say, 'Hey, how 'bout if you just shit in your hand and jack me off with it?' And that's sick somehow!"

I'm not even proud of re-telling that one. I don't know why I did, other than maybe I wanted to spread the guilt around a little. Stanhope's got a new one out, From Across the Street, that I should have waiting for me in the mail tomorrow, or soon thereafter. Nothin' helps ya through the Christmas season like some new Stanhope material.

Does anybody ever get just one sclerosis? It's always multiple.

Ever get scabs on your nipples? I've actually had scabby nipples before, and it's not fun. When I was a kid I used to spend a couple weeks out of the year in Pensacola, Florida, and I'd "surf" by laying across inflatable canvas rafts, and it would abrade. Thus, scabby nipples. Which is a pretty good band name. For a bad band.

(That "Science Patrol" thing way back there, by the way, is 'cuz I've been watching a DVD of Ultraman episodes, which have titles like "Charge Forth, Science Patrol!" Their space-fella suits have neckties on 'em. Yikes.)


The Best Music of 2009 - My Top Twenty-Five...

Another year slips past, leaving us with meager + bare memories of the time that we've lost... until we turn to the best music that was released in 2009, which brings smiley-happy-time to all the world! Here's my personal list of the best music released this year. They're in roughly alfabetical order, since trying to rank them any further than "these are all really good" would be a total snoozefest for me + you both. So, here they are; go download or buy some stuff you ain't heard yet + know that it'll be good ('cuz Unca Igor dun tol'ya):

Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
- Lord of the Underground: Vishnu and the Magic Elixir

Evidently, Hawkwind + Pink Floyd got loaded together + had a baby. A rock orchestra baby. A Japanese rock orchestra baby... And that baby was midwifed + nursemaided by Sandy Bull... Rocking riffage, swirling + trippy synths, dronee-stylee, tribal drumming... now we now where Syd Barrett + Nik Turner are!


Bardo Pond - Peri

Yet another busy year for Bardo Pond! If you haven't heard em, think of them as the "you got Your peanut butter in my chocolate" genetic experiment gone awry that'd happen if Brundlefly stuck Jessamine + Sonic Youth into one of his wacky transporter pods... Lots of stony riffs, weird noises that could be synths or waaay treated guitars, he + she vox that float just under the music. In addition to Peri, which I see as kinda their "main" record of the year, BP also released three other following notable records:
Gazing at Shilla
Volume VII
Game Five and a Half
...as well as three super-freaky drone-laden side-projects:
Moon Phantoms - Moon Phantoms
Alumbrados - Monochord
Alasehir - Torment of the Metals
...(I'm always a sucker for alchemy-themed records...)


Baroness - Blue Record

Badass! Big powerful riffage that doesn't stay the same til boredom. Metal without being one-dimensional, with lots of nods to classic rock + early metal, and some more modern stoner metal stylings.

Caspian - Tertia

(At times quite heavy) instrumental post-rock, with walls of guitar sound that evoke prime My Bloody Valentine-era Kevin Shields; shimmering chords + tons of delay! The quiet passages are well-placed + provide great soft spots to build the songs back up from.


Cougar - Patriot

Instrumental post-rock, with clever drummage + intricate/delicate guitarwork that build + swell to immensities before resolving back down again. Extremely neat production, with extra crispy drums. The more I listen to this one, the more I love it; it's rapidly easing its way toward best album of the year... along with the new If These Trees Could Talk!


Dinosaur, Jr. - Farm

If at times it seems that J. Mascis' guitar solos are overabundant + superfluous to the songs, then it must be Tuesday + we must be listening to Dinosaur, Jr., with lots of heavy + beautiful guitar melodies + solos beefing up some clever pop songs. Somehow, 20 years after You're Living All Over Me + Bug, DJ's original lineup is still mining fertile ideas for new music, though the vein remains the same... And Mascis has possibly my favorite guitar tone, which is thick + grabs hold of ya!


Do Make Say Think - Other Truths

instrumental post-rock. this time, it's 4 tracks from DMST, each highlighting a different aspect of their music; you get some light + ethereal along with your cinematic + expansive. Best album of the year candidate...


Dysrhythmia - Psychic Maps

Instru-metal three-piece... I hear (the good kind of) influence from classic King Crimson, as well as lots of frantic metal riffage + thoughtful arrangements of some brutal tracks.


the Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Yet another highly anticipated release from one of the greatest bands ever. Can't hate on a single album they've put out in over 20 years, and this one's no exception. I haven't completely assimilated it all yet (there's a lot to take in), but I like. A lot. Even if it's not my favorite 'Lips record (yet... so far, that's still 1987's Oh My Gawd - the first 'Lips musicks to ever kiss my ears), it's still striking. This band continues to evolve with every release, staying frickin' neat-o the whole time!
If These Trees Could Talk - Above the Earth, Below the Sky

Instrumental post-rock that often leans toward heavy. Maybe my favorite record of the year. Hypnotic + cinematic!

Isis - Wavering Radiant (+ the Ephemeral EP)

Some vocals waft into range from time to time, but the more impactful moments of the new Isis releases (a full-length + an EP) come during the instrumental passages, which quickly shift from beautiful to ominous throughout. Powerful stuff.

Kylesa - Static Tensions

Tribal + brutal stoner metal band (from Georgia?) that weaves an unrelenting web of intricate guitar + basslines over powerful tom-heavy drumming. Great driving music!

Maserati - Passages

Kinda sounds like 90s Trans Am records, especially since this album contains some delicate post-rock, some overt Krautrock + Kraftwerk influences, some driving + moving moments. Broad + varying styles bump against each other, but without being too disparate to gel as a cohesive album.

Mastodon - Crack the Skye

Mastodon's series of concept albums continues with the aerocentric Crack the Skye. This one is much more musically diverse than previous Mastodon albums, with more than a few moments of sheer progrock shining through the metal. This isn't my favorite Mastodon release (that'd be Leviathan, just for the record), but it's still an awesome + mighty album.

Mooncake - Cast the Route

Instrumental post-rock. The only bad thing I can say about this is that, unlike previous Mooncake releases, this EP is a mere two songs, clocking in at under 20 minutes. Word is, they're from Russia; don't know, but I am glad for the internet - else I'd've never found out about em (same with the similar post-rockers Deepset, from Indonesia).
Nile - Those Whom the Gods Detest

Brutal + with a penchant for ancient Egyptian themes (+ scales, evidently). Metal as fuck. machinegun drums. gravelly grave-vocals. outstanding! The deathiest death metal of all... like, what if Dethklok was a real band... they'd be scared of Nile, thass what!


Pelican - What We All Come to Need

Huge + menacing, Pelican's music often evokes giant monsters + huge mechs wading into cities, destruction-bent. Looking forward to seeing this display of aural delicacy + brutality live when they come to the Birmingham area in December (esp cuz I misst em -with Isis!!!- during the summer)...

Russian Circles - Geneva

Heavy instrumental post-rock three-piece. Got to see em live in October + was blown away by their sound. Lots of textural guitars + thunderous basslines, tribal drumming, + clever songwriting.

Slayer - World Painted Blood

More new Slayer! This ain't as jaw-dropping as God Hates Us All was on first listen (it's up there for me right behind Reign in Blood), but is as solid as or even better than the more recent Christ Illusion. No surprises, but no disappointment, either. Lots of dive-bombing guitars, thunderous riffs (the bass is even mixd a bit louder, it seems), angry screeds... Yay!

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

Another excellent release from one of the most influential bands of the 1980s + 90s. Namecheckt by almost as many bands as have flat-out rippt them off, Sonic Youth has managed to maintain a solid presence in the scene for over 20 years now. This new record does a lot of the same stuff expected from the band: some twistd angular reworking of pop-stylee rock, some beautiful + unearthly sounding guitars, thumpy bass, poundy drums.

Like former labelmates Dinosaur, Jr., who're also on this list, SY hits with a new slab that evokes their classic SST records while still being fresh + relevant-sounding. How very cool that SY, Dinosaur, Jr., Slayer, and the Flaming Lips, all of whom had records in my top releases of the year lists in 1986/7 are all still represented + creating solid music after alla these years...

Sunn O))) - Monoliths and Dimensions

This record will sound best when played ridiculously loud. Through headphones. While loaded. And sitting in the dark. Beautiful, scary, huge, ominous... drone-thick, distortion-driven almost-ambient metal that is perfect lullaby music... next-gen volume + distortion experimentation that'd prob'ly well suit fans of the same from My Bloody Valentine, Sleep, Spectrum, E.A.R., etc... and they even sneak a little electric Miles Davis stylee in for good measure...

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

A supergroup comprised of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones... Lemme just say that this is waaaaay better than the reality show Supergroup with Anthrax's Scott Ian trying to stay reasonable + polite while faced with idiots like Sebastian Bach + Ted Nugent... This slab sounds a lot like one of the Desert Sessions records, so if you like those at all, y'know you'll enjoy this one!

Tortoise - Beacons of Ancestorship

I've already said my piece about this one when it came out [LINK]... An excellent + diverse group of songs + a swell bunch of guys. Go see their in-studio live set + interview with Chris Douridas from sometime this summer (8 July 2009, actually) on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic [LINK]. The Remixes 12" is also a neat little find, with a pair of kooky-wild DnB sides.


Valis - Dark Matter

Another slab of high-grade stoner metal from a group who had to check out, since their name is taken from the title of a classic super-paranoid Philip K. Dick novel... three albums in + they still do not disappoint!


J.G. Thirlwell - The Venture Bros. Soundtrack

WOW! All over the dial, from spaghetti western + classic spytones to retrofuturo + beyond. If you love the show, you need the soundtrack. If you don't love the show... fuck you, buddy, and the goat you rode in on!

Random movie reviews part 347 (collect 'em all)

No unifying theme, just whatever I felt like typing up out of the big-ass notebook of untyped-up stuff.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil (C, 2008) Hilarious-yet-touching documentary about determined, loveable loser metal band Anvil, who are still going despite no success since the early 80’s. Singer/guitarist Lips (known for playing his guitar with a vibrator) and his soul mate Robb Reiner formed a band at around 15, swore to never stop, and kept their vow despite the band holding them back in life and their tours and album releases basically disappointing them over and over again. Robb is a laid-back, steady kind of guy, anchoring the band, while Lips is an emotional maniac, making big plans that always fall through and throwing tantrums and testing Robb’s patience (which, fortunately for Lips, seems akin to Job’s). The more you see of this story the clearer it becomes that even though Lips is in his 50’s, he’s actually still 15 years old. He got bigger but he didn’t grow, and it’s both weirdly-charming and frustrating to everyone in his orbit. The band’s definitely not without talent (I used to be a big fan and still have their early stuff on vinyl) but they have a lot of tough luck and make some bad decisions due to their enthusiasm running over their common sense. The move’s funny and kind of a real-life Spinal Tap, but it’s also endearing and a portrait of a great enduring friendship, maybe even more than it’s a portrait of a band; the friendship’s certainly been more successful. Great documentary, and should be fascinating even to non-metalheads. For Anvil fans, it might be surprising to watch the legends working day jobs like driving trucks for a children’s catering service. As much of a drag as their career seems to be through most of it’s running time, you’ll be happy for them at the end. Hey, who doesn’t love an underdog?

Eye of the Devil (B&W, 1967) aka 13. Moody, atmospheric horror in which David Niven, heir to an ancient vineyard, has to return home to his ancestral estate to keep an appointment with fate. His wife (Deborah Kerr) and children show up against his wishes and discover that strange things are happening, involving a cult of robed Druid types and a pair of odd, emotionless blond twins. One is a boy (David Hemmings) who terrifies Kerr by shooting doves with arrows, and the other is a girl (Sharon Tate, who’s gorgeous to the point of cruelty) who has hypnotic powers. Tate changes a frog into a dove and almost talks Kerr into walking off a high parapet. Kerr becomes terrified by all the strange behavior and wants to escape the estate, and save her husband from sacrifice. The film is slow and artificial, but it’s very well-made (excellent black and white photography) and does evoke a good bit of creepiness despite a predictable and simple story. The main reason to seek it out, though, remains Sharon Tate. Jim Carroll told us “it’s too late to fall in love with Sharon Tate,” but you may not be able to help yourself. Damn. It’s unsettling watching her be so cold and evil (and so goddamn beautiful) knowing the tragic fate that was waiting for her. That provides whatever frisson Niven’s fictitious plight lacks.

Just some of Sharon's scenes edited together, but warning: the music they put over this is fucking awful Gwen Steffani gack, so the great visual side is almost made unbearable by the audio.

Watch the whole movie online starting here.

Flesh and the Spur, The (B&W, 1956) The print I saw on the Alpha DVD was sepia-toned black and white, but this was supposedly filmed in color. John Agar brings his bad-movie magic to this Western, and for just a second or two he’s even playing twins. When his brother (himself) is killed with his own gun by an escaped convict, Agar sets out to track down the killer, equipped with the twin of the fancy stolen revolver. On the way he saves an Indian girl from an outlaw and partners up with Mike Connors (still going by his college-basketball nickname, “Touch”), who’s on the shady side and isn’t to be trusted. They also join up with a snake oil salesman and his daughter. Connors gets in a bar fight using spurs as weapons, and Agar finds the stolen gun in the possession of a member of the notorious Checkers gang. After a big shoot-out with the gang, Indians attack and stake Agar’s Indian girlfriend out on an anthill. The surprise ending really isn’t such a big surprise at all. Unusual, kinda-slow Western with a bit of a sadistic edge and a sleazy feel to it without ever getting graphic.

Grace (C, 2009) A young expectant mother with strict vegan beliefs (she doesn’t even want her cat to kill rats) is injured in a car accident, and her baby dies inside her. She decides to carry it to term anyway and gives birth to a dead baby. By some horrible strength of will she brings the baby back to life and names her Grace. There’s something very seriously wrong with little Grace, though; she attracts flies and shows signs of decay, and she craves blood. The baby’s need for blood drives the mother’s desperation past her principles… WAY past. This is a really sick horror film but it’s actually more restrained than you’d think; the tone stays low-key and while it’s definitely blood, the gore isn’t gratuitous; the filmmakers seem to understand that when your subject matter is over the top to begin with, a less-is-more approach will be the most effective. It’s basically Bob Clark’s Deathdream with an infant substituting for the returned soldier, but it works, and the taboo of blood on an infant’s face (remember the freak-outs people once had at the end of Saga of The Draculas, or the notorious excised footage from Tombs of the Blind Dead?) still provides discomfort. Not particularly scary, but disturbing without being merely exploitative.

Hanging Woman, The (C, 1973) aka La Orgia De Los Muertos, Return of the Zombies, Beyond the Living Dead, Dracula The Terror of the Living Dead, Terror of the Living Dead, The Orgy of the Dead, Zombie 3: Return of the Living Dead. Serge (who looks a bit mod for the 1800’s) returns to claim a villa he’s inherited and learns all kinds of crazy things are going on in the village. As soon as he arrives he finds a woman hanging in the cemetery. She’s autopsied (pretty graphically) and her grey, stitched-up corpse becomes one of the insane local gravedigger’s (Paul Naschy) secret love objects. One of his female relatives is into witchcraft and raises a ghost during a séance. Meanwhile, a male relative has been experimenting with raising the death with electricity. There’s a lot of searching through crypts and the dead (which look really pale, creepy, and deader than most zombies) start to walk, and decapitations and other acts of violence are imminent. Despite moments of bone-headedness, this Spanish horror film has some good atmosphere and enough creepy movements to make it worth looking for. It remained pretty obscure despite being released on multiple video retitles.

Hell’s Angels (B&W with color sequences, 1930) Howard Hughes pulled out all the stops in this World War I air-war epic, making use of tinting and early color film for some sequences, and working out great special effects, plus taking some advantages of the pre-code state of the industry to push some sexual content envelopes and sneak in a few profanities and some surprising violence. At $3.8 million, it was the most expensive movie ever made ’til that time. Three buddies are drafted into the war, one on the German side even though his time at the University of Oxford has made him more sympathetic to the British than his own country. He’s made a bombardier on a zeppelin and tricks them into dropping their bombs in a lake instead of on Trafalgar Square. The other two are brothers fighting over the same girl (Jean Harlow in her first major role, and in her only color footage) who’s sluttish, but only one of them knows that. Their squadron’s getting whittled down from too many patrols and drawing nearly-suicidal missions. They get stuck flying (while drunk) a huge captured German bomber into enemy territory to take out a factory, and the massive battle that results is the showpiece of the film. It’s very intense and makes you wish the movie had spent more time on fight scenes (there are only two but both are outstanding), instead of the rather-stiff melodrama. Shots of pilots burning and dying in agony are pretty shocking even today, and Hughes used vintage war-surplus planes, so it’s close to the real thing (other than the ridiculously-tight machine gun bullet patterns). Three pilots died filming them, and Hughes himself crashed a plane doing a trick that stuntmen refused to carry out. Contains one of the most overwrought death scenes in cinema history, but overall a classic and a must for dogfight fans.

Some of the dogfight highlights somebody used to make a Manowar video. Pretty badass.

Lineup, The (B&W, 1958) Shipments of heroin are being smuggled into the country from the Orient, hidden inside statues, dolls, and the handles of knives and forks. Psychotic professional killer Eli Wallach (who is brilliant in this role) and his associate are trying to track down all the travelers who are bringing in the dope-laden merchandise so they can recover it all for their boss-no-one-ever-sees, The Man. The cops are trying to stop the flow of drugs and prevent Wallach from killing any more people. And that’s about all the plot you need for a great noir film, especially when Don Siegel’s directing; that’s more than enough for him to make a masterpiece. The DVD also features a funny and informative commentary track with Eddie Muller and James Elroy (who seems to be making a conscious effort to be politically incorrect; Elroy is a huge douche bag, but an amusing one). This was adapted from a TV series of the same name, but Siegel apparently dispensed with the TV aspects quickly.

Watch the whole thing online starting here.

Naked and Violent (C, 1970) aka America: So Naked, So Violent, America Cosi Nuda, Cosi Violenta. Exploitation maestro Sergio Martino deals himself into the mondo-movie sweepstakes with this indictment/exploration of America’s sleazy, violent, brutal superficiality. Scenes depict bums on the Bowery, hippies at a huge Stones concert, football, porn and strippers, druggies, racism (the condescension of the filmmakers here is really more racist than what they depict), a retracing of JFK’s death route, rednecks shooting hung-up rabbits, the patheticness of inflatable sex dolls, hitchhikers, hippies doing stupid rituals, Hari Krishnas, cops finding a suicide in the desert (man, did that look staged), drag races, the Amish, a black man being beaten by rednecks (almost certainly staged, since they’d never have allowed the crime to be filmed), an orgy of people wearing Halloween masks, preparation of a body for a funeral, body painting, the giant garbage dump of NYC, cockroach-eating hippies, bikers, war protestors (including a hippie getting his fingers cut off so he could never hold a rifle, which has got to be staged -- even hippies aren’t that stupid), a home for retarded children, and other stuff. Most of this is far too mundane to be “shockumentary” material, and the fact that the Italians found this all so weird and spectacular may say more about them than it does about us. Dreadfully boring and for mondo film completists only. The MYA DVD is typically shoddy, sporting a faded and battered print.

Razorback (C, 1984) People usually laugh when they hear this is a horror movie about a giant pig, until they get a look at the damn thing. It actually gave me a nightmare once. Some reporters researching kangaroo hunters in the Australian outback think the worst they have to deal with are some degenerate Mad Max-ish punks, but then a vicious boar as big as a minivan shows up and starts eating folks. When a reporter disappears, her husband goes to Australia to find out what happened to her, and after dealing with some psychotic local color and having visions while lost in the desert, he discovers his wife’s wedding ring in a boar turd. That’s a helluva way to have the news broken to you. Teaming up with a vengeful old boar-hunter whose grandson was also eaten by the beast, he’s set for a possibly dark fate. Stylish and underrated Aussie horror, kind of like a landlocked Jaws. Very gritty, with lots of dirt, mud, and derelict machinery for atmosphere. The Warner Brothers DVD-R is overpriced (like all of them are) but until they wise up enough to give it a legit silver-disc release, it’s worth seeking out.

Watch the whole thing online starting here.

Sick Girl (C, 2007) The “no thinking” light comes on early in this low budget (but still more budget than brains) horror film, when the titular heroine, Izzy (who looks like a poor man’s version of Ellen Page from Hard Candy) beats up a nun and pisses in her face in front of a busload of witnesses and her only punishment is to have to walk the rest of the way home. She also drives around with bloodied-up classmates in her trunk, and nobody notices. Izzy has an incestuous crush on her older brother, who’s serving in Iraq, and she’s very protective of her younger brother, who’s being picked on by bullies. She catches the three bullies and makes one kill the other two, then keeps the remaining jerk in the barn with a couple of other disliked classmates. She tortures them in various ways, putting bags of starving rats on their heads and worse. This doesn’t help her situation much even though the law remains oblivious to it all. The film isn’t badly made as indie horror goes (and the standards are very-goddamn-low right now), and somehow never manages to feel all that grim despite the subject matter, but never really becomes a comedy, either. Still, unless watching someone slice a guy’s dick off, jam it over a spike, and then rape a girl with it appeals to you somehow, there’s not much reason to look for this one, and far more reason to avoid it. Despite some talent it’s pretty much a look-at-my-chewed-up-food type of thing.

Sniper, The (B&W, 1952) Unusual and pretty shocking for its time film-noir/psycho flick in which a trouble guy (Arthur Franz) with misogynist frustrations goes on a killing spree with a rifle, targeting women. He’s driven by compulsions that he’s trying to fight (he tries contacting psychiatric help and writes “please stop me” letters to the cops, and even intentionally burns his hand on a stove in hopes that the emergency room personnel will think that’s weird and get him evaluated) but his rage (and apparently sexual desire, since the killings seem to be an erotic release for him) keeps building and getting out of control. Soon a serial rampage is under way, and the police (especially the department psychologist) are struggling to catch him and put an end to it. The film (directed by Edward Dymtryk) is extremely well-made and the killings are shocking even without gore; they’re sudden and violent and cleverly staged. The approach to the killer is surprising in that it’s sensitive without really being sympathetic; Franz is obviously a man who wants help yet is still monstrous, and he’s victimizing himself as well as his prey. One of the first movies to tackle serial killers seriously.

Tell me this ain't brutal:

Terminal Island (C, 1973) aka Knuckle Men. After the death penalty is abolished, California starts sentencing murderers to an island 40 miles off the coast, where prisoners (already declared legally dead by the state) roam free and unsupervised to do whatever they want to each other. The movie’s main claim to fame is that Tom Selleck is in the cast, playing a mercy-killer doctor who’s stoned on mimosa powder most of the time, but Barbara Leigh (who posed for many Vampirella magazine covers) was a bigger draw for me. There are only four women to the forty men on the island, and they’re used as slave labor as well as free whores, and also serve as something to fight over. A small group of outcast convicts capture the women and give them better treatment, which inspires a couple of the women to reveal their expertise in chemical warfare and make poison darts, gunpowder for grenades, and methods of inspiring bees to attack the genitals of mean fellas. They decide to use these skills to attack the bad-guy larger tribe, but unfortunately the leader of that bunch manages to get a shipment of assault rifles smuggled onto the island. Nobody said exploitation flicks had to have any plausibility to be good. The DVD is unfortunately a cut-for-TV print, complete with bleeped-out cuss words and a lot of nudity removed, but it’s worth watching anyway, and can usually be found cheap.

Trailer cut-up and rescored by somebody who thought they could improve on the original. They're pathetically wrong about that (nobody ever improves on classic trailers by adding their own dumbshit), but it's all I could find.


What I Think of NME’s “The Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade”

Now that the Aughts are almost up, slews of folks will be making best-ofs. Britain’s NME (New Music Express) has just come out with their “Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade” (http://www.nme.com/list/the-top-100-greatest-albums-of-the-decade/158049/page/1). Because I like lists, and because I like saying things, here are the albums upon which I can comment:

63. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven – Twenty-two-plus minutes of this album are known variously as “Storm,” “Gathering Storm,” or “The Gathering Storm” depending on where you find it. Whatever it’s called, it’s some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. The first nine minutes in particular create red-dust-apocalypse visions in my head that I somehow hold very, very dear.

62. Queens of the Stone Age, R – Easily one of the best rock records of the modern era. Sounds as rad today as it did in 2000. Should be much higher on this list.

61. The National, Alligator – Meh. I have friends who love this album and this band, but they leave me flat, and I don’t think they belong on a best-of.

60. Green Day, American Idiot – This album is so good it should be in the top five, if not number one outright. Especially perfect are the nine-minute “Jesus of Suburbia” and the temerity to close such a pounding, frenetic collection with the wistful “Whatsername.”

59. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America – An exceptional band and album.

57. Outkast, Stankonia – Should be much higher. “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean,” “Bombs Over Baghdad,” “Gasoline”……ridiculous.

19. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells and 18. The White Stripes, Elephant – I have no idea how NME wound up putting these two back to back, but it’s fitting, even though they should most certainly be in the top five. These are two of the most perfect rock albums ever made. Anyone who wants to write songs on guitar and sing them needs to study these two collections very carefully.

15. Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf – My list would have this album at number one. Brilliant title, brilliant between-songs radio schtick, frighteningly aggressive opening track (“You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”), corrosively sludgy guitar work, delish melodies, and the best goddamn drumming since the mighty John Bonham, rest his soul. Truly a perfect album.

14. Radiohead, Kid A – Should be in the top ten. Recall that this followed up their much-ballyhooed OK Computer, and instead of trying to recreate that album’s awesomeness, they just kept walking farther out into the weird, weird woods. It’s saying something that the record’s best song, “Treefingers,” has no guitar, bass, drums, or vocals.

12. At the Drive In, Relationship of Command – I got wind of ATDI too late: this album, their third, was also their last, though they splintered into Sparta and The Mars Volta. But what a way to go out. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything more assaultive than the opening track, “Arc Arsenal.” Every song kicks complete ass.

10. Radiohead, In Rainbows – Love it, though I think number ten is too high.

8. Interpol, Turn on the Bright Lights – Wow, wow, wow. This and the follow-up Antics are about as good as dour guitar rock gets, kind of like a Yankee Joy Division on meds that work just enough.

4. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not – The Monkeys' music is basic in many ways, but it’s also in a class by itself. This album is one of those that I just can’t imagine anyone NOT liking. If “Fake Tales of San Francisco” was the only song they’d ever released, they’d still be in this spot. Or at number one, which is where they surely could be. Incredible music.

3. Primal Scream, XTRMNTR – I’d say almost no one in the U.S. has heard of this album, and that’s their loss, because it’s weird and loud and furious and smart and scary. Scary? Yes. The synth squiggles on “Kill All Hippies” sound like a good horror soundtrack. The distorted guitar on “Accelerator” is not of this Earth but from a far fuzzier, hotter planet. As bad as Primal Scream’s earlier output can be – “Rocks Off” and “Movin’ On Up” are so stupid they practically drool – that’s how fantastic this album is.

1. The Strokes, Is This It – Um……really? Really, NME? I like this album a lot, but number one for the decade? No way. Top ten, sure, but not number one.

And then here are the ones from NME’s list about which I want to know more, and which I might actually buy:

90. Gallows, Orchestra of Wolves – If only for the album title alone.

80. Danger Mouse, The Grey Album – What a genius idea. Still never heard it.

79. Kings of Leon, Youth and Young Manhood – Another fab album title. I confess that I don’t like Only By the Night (other than “Sex on Fire”), but this one is supposedly terrific.

72. MIA, Kala and 50. MIA, Arular – Been wanting to get her albums for years.

36. Spiritualized, Let It Come Down – Their rep precedes them; their songs have somehow escaped me.

26. Dizzee Rascal, Boy in Da Corner – Oi!

16. The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come for Free – Oi! Oi!

And, predictably enough, here are some of my other favorite Aught albums. I won’t pretend that these selections should be part of some zeitgeist-affirming list – I just like this stuff.

Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills – “And perhaps at last / The song you sing will have meaning”

Elvis Costello, The Delivery Man – God, I wish he’d make more albums like this and stop dicking around in other genres. These songs are priceless.

Kanye West, The College Dropout and Late Registration – Kanye’s a giant prick, to be sure, but he’s also a lyricist and sampler par excellence. “Jesus Walks,” “Crack Music,” “Roses,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” and “Breathe In, Breathe Out” are as good as rap gets.

Probot, Probot – Even if Dave Grohl had put out a list-worthy album in the Oughts (One By One and In Your Honor disc 1 are good, though), this doom-metal tour de force would still be here. Dave wrote all the music and played nearly all the instruments, and then he got renowned (for their genres) singers to lend lyrics and vocals, and the result is one badass record that should shame all nü-metal douchebags into silence. If the first three tracks – "Centuries of Sin," "Red War," and "Shake Your Blood" (Lemmy!) – don't get your adrenaline pumping, you better get your affairs in order, son.

Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head, X&Y, Viva La Vida – It’s apparently uncool to like these guys, and I’d probably care about that if the music weren’t so goddamn good.

Wolfmother, Wolfmother – This album excited me like nothing I’d heard in a long time. Still does. The maximum riffage just after the floaty middle section in “White Unicorn” is like an aural dictionary entry for “electric rock music.”

Morrissey, You Are the Quarry – After six years' worth of consistently perfect music with the Smiths (who I still say will reunite someday), Morrissey has put out twenty-plus years of consistently great music on his own. I'd put this third behind Bona Drag (yes, I know it's a collection and not a proper album) and Vauxhall and I, but it's still everything anyone could ever want out of croony guitar pop.

Audioslave, Audioslave – Many of my musician buddies dislike this band because they’re not as good as their component parts, Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine minus Zack. I agree that they’re not as good as their antecedents, but you know what? Not much is, chief. Basically, anything with Tom Morello is going to kill.

Pete Yorn, musicforthemorningafter – What Ryan Adams wishes he could be.

The Darkness, Permission to Land – Most folks can’t get past that keening falsetto, and that’s a shame, because this album’s guitar riffs are stupendous. As sometimes are, amazingly enough, the lyrics: “I want to banish you from whence you came” proclaims the singer in the finely crafted double-entendre fest “Growing on Me.” Smart hard rock pretending to be stupid.

Various Artists, Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack – Perfect. Jai ho!

Weezer, Maladroit – Poor Weezer. When you start your career with two peerless classics, you’ve nowhere to go but down. And down they’ve gone on some releases, but not this one, which is basically a metal album. The first time I heard “Dope Nose,” I got heart palpitations.

Moby, 18 and Hotel – Lots of fellow Moby fans disagree with me on this, but I think 18 is one of Moby’s best albums, especially “We Are All Made of Stars,” “In This World,” “Fireworks,” and “Another Woman.” Hotel is just as good, and that’s only counting disc 1 – disc 2 is all ambient, and it’s breathtaking, softly shooting Moby into the realm of Brian Eno and Aphex Twin.

Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers – Probably the funnest album of the decade. If you got tired of and now can't stand "Stacy's Mom," it doesn't matter, because all the other songs are way better.

Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera – I could put any of their albums on this list, but SRO really is a monumental achievement: a two-disc (act) set that’s an oblique paean to the Lynyrd Skynyrd legend and a flawless conjuring of the 1970s Deep South. The guitar sound, three axes thick, will never be bested.


Read! And watch things! Do this now! Yeah!

Mixed bag of stuff today, and kinda brief ‘cuz I was busy with other stuff (such as reading For Whom The Bell Tolls, which I believe is based on a Metallica song!)

First, I finished a book I wanna recommend:

The Star Rover - Jack London (aka The Jacket)
If all the Jack London you’ve been exposed to are his dog stories, this philosophical/psychological/mystical head-trip may come as a bit of a surprise. An agronomy professor is sent to prison where he ends up in solitary confinement and is tortured by being tightly bound for days in an extreme version of a straightjacket, which squeezes him so hard his heart and lungs can barely work. Due to knowledge gained from coded, tapped-out conversations with his neighbors in solitary, he learns how to withstand the tortures by leaving his body, astrally projecting himself and revisiting past lives. These past lives are presented as a series of Robert E. Howard-style adventures (this book was a huge influence on Howard) in which he was a swordsman in France, a Robinson-Crusoe-type castaway on a desert island, a Viking visiting the Roman Empire during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, a sailor who lived with natives and married a Korean princess, a boy who was killed in a massacre by Mormons (London apparently hated Mormons if this section is any evidence), and myriad other pasts. Throughout it all his ability to withstand torture (and his refusal to confess to hiding dynamite that never existed but he was accused of smuggling into the prison) vexes San Quentin’s evil warden to extremes. Brilliant, un-put-down able philosophical novel whose only flaw is that the past-life sections (which are great in and of themselves) seem less interesting when compared to the happenings in the prison. London focuses on the story but deftly weaves in psychological theory (the mind-body dichotomy) and philosophy (the eternal interconnectedness of mankind). *** ½

Then a few movies I watched…

Cynic, The Rat, and the Fist, The (C, 1977) aka Il Cinico, L’infame, il Violento. I’m not certain who’s supposed to be who in this pseudo-sequel to Rome Armed To The Teeth, but the blondest guy in Italian cinema, Maurizio Merli, is a tough cop caught between warring mob bosses The Chinaman (a looking-much-different-than-usual Tomas Milian) and sadistic John Saxon. When Merli is targeted for a hit by the gangs, he’s wounded and the department decides to fake his death and send him on vacation. He’s not very good at vacationing, though, and his interference with mob activity soon clues them in that he’s still alive. They try to find time in their own violent squabbling to remedy that situation, but Merli just focuses on bringing them all down. More fist-and-gunfights than you can keep track of, amidst sicker scenes like leg-breakings and Saxon whacking golf balls at a guy’s face before siccing dogs on him, various women getting slapped around, and other nihilistic viciousness. Great, sought-after Italian crime title snuck out onto DVD as part of the cheap Mafia Kingpin Collection set.

King *@#!! Frat (C, 1979) aka King Frat, Delta House, Campus King. If you haven’t already guessed this, I have somewhat of a fondness for the really, really stupid. And so I giggled a lot at this Animal House wannabe, not because it’s funny (it ain’t), but because it’s so goddamn STUPID. In the opening, members of Pi Kappa Delta are riding around the campus at Yellowstream University (and if you don’t think that’s funny this movie’s sense of humor holds little for you) in a hearse, sticking their asses out the windows at anyone they see. Their Bluto-Blutarsky figure, named “Grossout” (who’s obviously over 40), farts at the university president, who promptly dies. (If this doesn’t delight you, just go ahead and watch something else because there is no hope). Just to be racially offensive, there’s an Indian (from the Kissawong tribe, tee-fuckin’-hee) in the frat named “Chief Latrine.” He does a lot of dances and speaks broken English. Grossout decides to win beer money for the frat by entering a farting contest, but he loses to a girl because he “draws mud.” And that’s considered the high point of the film. Other highlights include crashing the president’s funeral and blowing pot smoke through the church’s ventilation system to get everyone stoned, so they can steal his corpse… which they promptly put on a toilet, because this movie has no idea what to do with anyone or anything beyond something involving a toilet. Then there’s a costume party and they steal a rival frat’s statue (of a boy with a huge penis) and hide it from a bumbling cop who keeps opening closets full of beer cans. Then a guy in a gorilla suit gets stuck inside a girl during sex, and they try to get a virginal pledge laid (it‘s like they only remembered sex in the last half hour). Throughout it all, Grossout drools food on himself, belches, farts, and takes a dump every ten minutes, like that’s a Greek chorus for the narrative. The frat house is a masterpiece of filth, looking nastier than the worst truck-stop restroom in the universe. All the budget must’ve gone toward grime. Unless the digestive process is a source of great glee for you, the funniest thing about this film is that the people who made it thought this stuff would be funny. But, admittedly, that’s funny enough, because it’s such a brutal stillbirth that its failures become fascinating. This is such an embarrassing film that I wouldn’t be surprised if every member of the cast was in the Witness Protection Program now, although -- oddly enough -- John DiSanti, who played Grossout, went on to play the psycho in Eyes of a Stranger, where he was pretty creepy and didn’t pass gas once (at least not audibly). The oft-repeated bouncy theme song just emphasizes how moronic it all is and makes things a lot worse. Pretty entertaining for all the wrong reasons, so you may want to seek it out. Or you can skip it and fart for yourself and make your own sequel, which might be funnier.

Mahakaal (C, 1993) aka The Monster, Time of Death. If you like Nightmare on Elm Street but think it would be improved by lots of musical numbers and horrible, horrible comedy, the Ramsay brothers of Bollywood are all over it for ya. A series of nightmares are plaguing (and killing) Anita and her friends, dreams in which a knife-fingered-glove-wielding killer with a ravaged face (and a skaggy mullet that’s the only thing stopping him from looking just like Freddy) stalk them through basements. Most of the dreams are stolen whole cloth from Wes Craven’s original, and most of what the film originates is clumsily-stuffed in, unrelated bits with heroic college boys (and one bizarre, overly-obnoxious comedian named Johnny Lever who seems to be some weird mid-morph between “Beat It” era Michael Jackson and George Lopez; he‘s had a very prolific career in India, so maybe the humor just doesn‘t translate well) beating up thugs who are rude to girls, people going on picnics, and, of course, musical numbers involving songs with lyrics such as “I’m so lucky to have your love” repeated over and over until you wish to tear out your own liver so you can ram it down your gullet, suffocate, and expire into the peaceful death that doesn't include such songs. The Elm Street story is Hindu’ed up a bit by having the Freddy guy (called Shakaal) be a practitioner of black magic and use traditional Indian motifs (such as cobras) in his attacks. The special effects tend toward the simple and hokey and the gore is minor, but they do a lot of colorful lighting and smoke and tricked-out set design. They also throw in a possession angle, and, oddly enough, a guillotine. It’s wacky and silly but still about as imaginative as anything so totally derivative can get. Johnny Lever’s exaggerated “comedic” mannerisms are far creepier than the “scary” scenes could ever be. Some of the music used in Night of the Living Dead shows up at one point. Available on Mondo Macabro’s Bollywood Horror Collection Vol. 3.

Paranormal Activity
(C, 2009) It was about time for the next Blair Witch Project, and this is it; another simple concept with a “less is more” approach that effectively exploit’s the audience’s imagination for maximum impact. Filmed on a budget lower than Blair Witch and proving that all those “Pendulum Pictures” 50-pack movies have no excuse for sucking so bad, the whole film takes place in an apartment, with a brief early-morning foray into the back yard. An apartment is being plagued by poltergeist-like activity, the source of which appears to be a demonic presence that’s followed a girl since she was a child. Her boyfriend is overenthusiastic about getting as much of the activity on tape as he can, so he provokes the presence to increase its activity. It obliges him and they soon regret it. The film’s all shot from one camera, often stationary, and often while the actors are sleeping. Most of what happens is simple and subtle (doors moving, lights going on, sounds from other rooms) but intensity builds nicely and then stays constant. There is a slight over reliance on “jump scares,” but they work, and they movie also focuses on creepiness. It has a very good sense of what works and hits it pretty consistently. This movie made it to national theatres through word of mouth and people demanding it, so we’re lucky it got released. It makes me wish similar films like Ghostwatch, The Collingswood Story, and The St. Francisville Experiment (a lot of people hated that one but I liked it, so sue me) had also gotten that chance, even though Paranormal Activity is better than those. Audiences reported problems sleeping because the film scared them so badly. It didn’t affect me that strongly, but I still think it lived up to the hype, and definitely wasn’t a disappointment. There are two alternate endings; I like one of those a little better than the one they ended up using for the theatrical release (under Steven Spielberg’s recommendation).

Rome Armed To The Teeth (C, 1976) aka Roma A Mano Armata, Assault With A Deadly Weapon, Brutal Justice, Tough Ones. Franco-Nero-lookalike Maurizo Merli is a cop who’s frustrated by having to stick to the book while a crime wave is turning Rome into a slaughterhouse. Speaking of slaughterhouses, hunchbacked hoodlum Tomas Milian works in one, and Merli brings him in to beat information out of him, but he outsmarts them and has his gang terrorize witnesses. In a scene stolen from The Girl Hunters, Merli makes Milian swallow a bullet… which he saves after he craps it out and plans to shoot Merli with. Evil-faced Ivan Rassimov is also on hand to force his girlfriend to take heroin. Milian does all kinds of psychotic things, such as hijacking ambulances and provides plenty of excuses for fist fights, gun battles, and car chases. All the action eventually races past the plot a bit, but that’s not a bad thing in these kinds of films. Available as part of the low-budget Mafia Kingpin Collection DVD set, along with a related film, The Cynic, The Rat, and the Fist. Under the Assault With A Deadly Weapon Aquarius Releasing retitle (hosted by Sybil Danning), this one was a staple at skangier video stores on VHS; the skull-headed policeman on the cover usually got it shelved as a horror movie, even though it’s solidly in the Italian polezi genre.

Badass music score, too... check it out.


The Damp Basements of Heaven

I don't usually post my fiction here 'cuz some day I might wanna un-lazy myself enough to submit it to some magazine or something, but considering the horror short story market is shrinking like GG Allin's dick in an arctic breeze, and since we're lucky if we get an audience of a dozen here, anyway, I figured I'd put this story up for Halloween. Unfortunately, my computer's hard drive decided to go tits up and so I've been computer-less for a couple of weeks, hence this story and the other horror-movie-review post I'd intended didn't get done. But, better late than never, I guess. This thing isn't perfect and could probably stand some more revising (I have a tendency to overwrite and add when I should be trimming... just like Stephen King!), but hopefully I managed to make it scary enough. It ended up being kind of a dry run at - Signal 30 -, a horror novel I wrote that was also set in a storm drain. I have a weird fascination for urban exploration even though (or maybe because) I'm too chickenshit to actually do it. Anyway, enjoy the following fuckedupedness...



Dan couldn't quite remember if the aged-to-rubber pizza had been sitting on top of the television for one day or two, but he wished he hadn't eaten it before class. It combined badly with a blatant disregard for sleep, and he'd felt logy all day, almost nodding off during the geometry exam he'd just finished. So much for all that late-night studying he'd done. Studying, hell, when he got his grade back there’d be plenty of evidence that it hadn't been studying: staying up late getting into an old Judas Priest album he hadn't listened to since high school, that's all it had been. He'd intended to just use as background noise for his studying, but oh well. Dan supposed he was one of those "poor study habits" people they were always talking about on those come-to-this-seminar-and-we‘ll-fix-you fliers that were always showing up on the bulletin boards around campus. Maybe he should look into those next time, and too bad math teachers didn't give points for creativity.
It was more fun to shift the blame to the bad pizza and the lack of sleep, though. And maybe even more accurate, because the whole world seemed disoriented today. God was doing some funny math of his own.
Leaving the building, his own ghost startled him, walking in as he was walking out. The custodians must have just washed the glass door for the first time, because he couldn't remember ever seeing his reflection before. The ice from the encounter was just starting to settle inside when it was stirred up again as he almost tripped over some guy who was sitting on the steps, lost in his cell phone. "I told you Timbo was going to buy that propane grill," he was saying. "Cindy... Cindy, that boy didn't spend as much time flirting with his last girlfriend as he did at Sears, flirting with that thing." The guy - a bandana-wearing skate-punk-looking guy, the kind of guy who looked like he should hate cell phones - laughed too loudly, hopefully at something Cindy said and not his own faux-clever comment. Jerkoff. A punker with a cell phone was like a hippie with a gun : in-goddamn-sincere. Dan winced and dodged him.
As he passed a tree, the grass beneath it burst into flame, and Dan jumped again. Only a pair of cardinals, flapping at each other in a sunbeam. Probably a mating ritual. Fires of passion. Dan laughed at himself. Bad pizza, bad bad pizza. Must’ve had shrooms growing on it already to put him so far off-kilter.
A pretty girl, almost like a Barbie doll come to life, was coming toward him down the sidewalk with confident leggy strides, smiling about something. The smile made her look gorgeous but stupid, and Dan thought about reaching out and touching her, maybe even kissing her to see what would happen to the smile. Rock through a window effect, he bet. The good slap she'd give him might just wake him up, make him stop seeing ghosts and fire. She was terribly pretty, really, pretty enough to objectify, Dan thought and had to choke back laughter. Maybe that's why she was smiling; maybe she had a private joke going, too. Maybe about him jumping at cardinals, but he doubted it, since her sparkling turquoise eyes didn't even seem to pick him up. Too pretty for a guy like me to even be a blip on her radar, he thought, and felt less guilty about his objectification joke. Now who’s an object? If even that.
As she passed he got a stinging whiff of formaldehyde, instead of the fruity perfume he'd been expecting, and he missed a step. That was a buzzkill. Plastic, yeah, but was she embalmed? He looked back at her tight, high-riding little Hasbro ass working under her skirt.
Probably just come from a biology lab, he reasoned. She wasn't dead. Couldn’t get that kind of hip action with rigor mortis.
Another girl, cute from the back but too human to objectify, was trudging along in front of him, burdened by a book bag too large for her. She was wearing an army jacket and looked like a soldier marching away from battle, holding a compress to a head wound. But she was talking into it. Another cell phone. She couldn't even hear him coming. Good thing he didn't want to grab her, because he could, easily, stupid girl walking around in public with her guard more than down but actually gone, oblivious to everything around her. No, she was definitely no soldier. As Dan got closer he could overhear her conversation:
"So are you going over there later? I might. Probably going to be hot dogs, though. I don't think Timbo can afford steaks. I mean, I don't think he can really even afford the grill!"
Dan glanced back at the math building, saw the tiny shape of the skatepunk still sitting on the steps, cellphone to his head, waving one hand while he talked.
Pondering the odds, he looked back at the girl. I know your name is Cindy. Now I really feel like a stalker. I could abduct you and send ransom notes to this Timbo guy.
Nah. No good. Timbo spent all his money on that grill. At Sears! I even know it came from Sears. I know who your friends are. Instant crash-course in stalking. Wow.

Cindy’s hair was brown and very clean, shiny with products that made it look like the grain in polished wood. He could even smell her shampoo now, and he liked it, like candy flowers and fuck-me pheremone. He had to force himself not to stare at the back of her head because he was really starting to feel like a creep.
But when he looked away, there was a giant penis in the sky. A cloud, but a nearly perfect sculpture, so accurate that Dan was embarrassed that Cindy might see it. If she didn't notice it, the skatepunk across the grounds would alert her to it on the phone, the nasty bastard. Dan couldn't believe the realism of the thing, a big cumulocock, even trailing some cirrostratusemen into the sky's great blue womb. He thought about jumping ahead of Cindy and yelling, "Behold the coming of the lord! Boy, I hope that thing doesn't rain down our necks!" Then he could snatch away her cellphone, yell "Lose the bandanna and pull up your pants, you goof! Prepare to meet your maker! Or at least your maker's wang! Look in the sky!" and then hang up.
Dan couldn't stifle a laugh. He didn't want Cindy to hear and think he was crazy - she had pretty hair and a nice smell - so he quickly ducked into a little cluster of trees beside the engineering building. It would be a short cut to the parking lot, anyway, it was okay.
And that's where he saw the storm drain grate in the ground, and the eyes peering up at him through the bars.
They were a very light blue, bluer than eyes, really, as blue as the most faded jeans in the world, and in the stripe of sunlight wedging through the bars they stood out even more than the end of the cigarette the guy was smoking. Another stripe of sunlight showed the guy's short, moussed hair, blondish and bristled like thorns growing on his scalp. Dan stopped and stared but the guy quickly walked away under the ground, leaving only a wet echo and a hint of tobacco smoke to prove that Dan didn't just imagine the whole thing.
He rubbed his eyes and kept walking - Cindy might be watching him and think he was weird - and went quickly to his car. He wanted to go home, throw out whatever was left of that infernal pizza, and catch up on some serious sleep. He needed it.
His plan didn't go so well, though. Lying in bed, all he could think about was the guy he'd seen walking underground, wondering how he'd gotten there. Where did those tunnels go? He'd noticed storm drains all over campus and usually looked down into them as he walked past, just curious, but he’d never thought people could really get down there. Now he wanted to know everything about them, wanted to know where they went and what there was to see. They must link up all over campus, as many drains as he'd seen. That guy could have been walking across the same field as Dan and nobody would have even seen him because he was under the ground. In another parallel world.
He felt jealous and left out of a great secret.
If he got down there, I could get down there, too, Dan thought.
He lay there, trying to count the number of storm drains and gratings he'd seen on campus. Dozens, easily. He tried to mark their locations and connect them with lines, mapping out a huge underground web in his mind, picturing the sub-campus, wondering how that guy got in, wondering how many other people went exploring down there, and how often, and who they were. A sub-culture. Maybe they'd found shortcuts to class, private sidewalks they didn't have to share with the skatepunks and the Cindys and the formaldehyde Barbies, places they could laugh out loud at their private jokes without having to worry about anyone thinking they were crazy. They could get out from under God’s dick.
He could probably find a way in. There were probably lots of ways in. He'd just never thought about it. Who did?
He couldn't sleep. And he knew that he wouldn't be able to now. Once he got something in his head, he had to explore it fully. That's why he'd sat up last night listening to Screaming For Vengeance with his eyes closed and concentrating instead of studying his geometry. Now he was thinking hard, instead of sleeping.
He never did what he wanted, did he? That was the problem, that right there was the whole damn problem. While other people were having cookouts and such, he was always planning things that fell through.
He wanted to know what those storm drain tunnels were like. And, damn it all, he was going to find out.
First he hit the internet, running the name of his college and "storm drain tunnels" through several different search engines. He found plenty of websites on "urban exploration" and found out that there was, indeed, a subculture, organized clans of people who snuck into abandoned buildings, subways, steam tunnels, storm drains, and even old missile silos. But there was no info about the tunnels on his own campus. So much for living vicariously.
He lay down again and tried to talk himself out of it for another half hour, hoping sleep would just settle the whole argument for him, but sleep didn't come and the desire to go underground didn't go away, so he finally got up, got dressed, and grabbed a flashlight. He shoved a couple of extra batteries into his pocket, just in case.
The internet had given him tips on where to find entrances to storm drains, so he
set out, looking for any creeks or ditches. He knew there was a concrete trough running behind the residence halls, so he started there. The wind had emasculated the sky, but there were plenty of other clouds up there now, nothing-special shapes that made the concrete ditch look even lonelier. Campus ground crews didn't bother landscaping here, and the banks of the ditch were thick with weeds. Nobody came here, so he was already seeing things that most people never did. He was on the right track.
Opening into the ditch behind the school's physical plant was a dark rectangular opening, like a World War II pillbox. Below it was a swimming-pool-like basin of green water, bugs dancing above it. Dan studied it for a minute, then carefully walked around the bank, tucked his flashlight into his waistband, then lowered himself down onto the lip of concrete at the opening. He scraped his elbows a bit but managed not to fall into the green pond. The water looked capable of dissolving him, and he wondered if this was a storm drain at all, or some kind of outflow pipe from the local mortuary, where they poured dissolved cadavers.
"Stupid," Dan laughed to himself and crouched, shining the flashlight into the darkness. The floor and parts of the walls were stained algae-green, and drifts of blackened dead leaves and pinestraw were plastered here and there. A shallow stream of water ran down the middle. It smelled like a dirty tee-shirt, but not overpoweringly so.
Definitely a storm drain.
“Off I bravely go on my bad decision,“ he whispered, and went into the dark, stooping. The ceiling was low, but would get higher, Dan knew; the blue-eyed guy had been so far under that he wouldn't have been able to jump and grab the grate. Dan moved quickly, hoping to make some time before his neck started cricking up. Moving fast also helped him outrun his second thoughts; it was creepy down here, and if he was caught he would probably get expelled or at least humiliated. What would Cindy think of him then?
He wished he'd brought some company, but Dan didn't have any really good friends on campus, just classroom acquaintances and such. Certainly nobody he'd feel
safe asking on a crazy spelunking expedition. They'd just turn him down and think he was nuts and tell everybody else.
He hoped this would be worth it. How far had he gone already? He looked back and the sunlight he'd stepped in from looked about the size of a playing card. Not too far.
He kept going, listening to his own footsteps amplified and reverbed and moistened around him. It was monotony, endless. The sunlight behind him halved in size. He was deep in now. Far up the spider's ass, he thought, and snorted. The darkness snorted around him and he decided to try not to make any more noises.
The sound of his footsteps were changing subtly and the ceiling sloped upward, and the floor went gravelly. In front of him the tunnel took a curve and he followed it, leaving the sunlight behind completely now. The view was the same front and back, like being far out at sea.
In front of him, three rectangles of darkness were starting to make themselves clear on the outskirts of the flashlight beam, and he slowed down, a little unnerved. The tunnel forked into three openings at the end of a small triangular room. The floor here was muddy gravel and dead leaves and the wet-furred skeleton of what looked like a possum. Dan winced. He hoped he didn't meet any wildlife down here. He wasn't fond of possums or rats or raccoons, and it'd be dangerous to try to run from anything down here. There could even be bats; it was definitely cave-like.
He stood and rested a minute. The air was cool and smelled clean somehow, air that nobody'd been breathing. He felt calm now, and even turned off the flashlight for a minute to experience the total darkness.
A little of that went a long way. The darkness had a presence that pressed against him, and the pictures in his mind made him snap the light back on. He'd been able to feel the place breathing around him, and remembered reading about how the pressure in large underground spaces did work a little like respiration. He was a germ in the lungs of the campus! Grinning at the idea, he examined the three tunnels, trying to decide which to take.
They all looked dark and pretty much the same, but the leftmost one had some graffiti on the wall, so he decided on that one, since someone else had picked it first. Besides, he wanted to see what it said. Big green and blue spraypaint blobs spelled out “LUBMA." The B was backward, and the lettering was sloppy and nearly washed away. He didn't know what "lubma" meant, probably somebody's weird nickname. Maybe it was even LURMA or LURMH, or even LU8MB. Clever, writing something so indecipherable, just to make it stick in his mind. Dan didn't have a very high opinion of graffiti, but he supposed that vandalism was harmless in a storm drain. Messages up the spider's ass, just for the few brave enough to read.
The tunnel felt like a hallway in a castle somewhere, and he didn't even really feel underground. He could be down deep or high in the air; it was hard to tell. Nothing but concrete and darkness and cool air, no points of reference. He wondered where he was in relation to the campus above. Under a building? Crossing a street? Under a field? If the ground became clear would he be looking up Undead Barbie’s fetching little skirt?
The tunnel T'd out into two tunnels. He took the right one, and a winking smiley face sprayed on the wall conspired with his choice. Ahead some sunlight formed a pillar of dust, beaming down from a grate in the ceiling. He walked to it quickly and looked up, seeing only grass around the edges and a cloudy sky.
He couldn't tell where he was; it was disappointing.
He kept walking.
The tunnel forked again, one tunnel still smooth, the other looking older and lined with unfinished concrete, the ceiling a little lower but still not low enough to require stooping. Dan stayed on the smooth path, but it turned a corner and something loomed out of the darkness, ragged and filthy, and he caught his breath, creeping forward and
squinting as he played the flashlight over it. A big tree limb wedged between the walls, draped with dead leaves and plastic bags that had snagged there during floods. The floor past it sloped downward into shiny water. Some kind of lump was floating in it, and something smelled bad. He wondered if some other student had explored down here and died of a heart attack or a drug overdose and had gotten hung up in a flood and was still here, greenish with algae, half wet-rot, half mummified like a dog’s rawhide chew-toy.
It was a stupid idea, ridiculous and infuriating, and he frowned at himself. He wasn't going down that tunnel, anyway, not if he'd have to slog through stinking water. He backtracked and took the rougher tunnel instead.
This one seemed old, and sections of the wall looked like raw stone, as if they'd adapted a natural cave into their waterworks. They did that sometimes, he thought. Why not? Save some money. Let God earn his keep if he was going to shake his cock at you, he snorted. It also led downhill, and the loose gravel made walking treacherous, especially since he had to pick his way around puddles. His flashlight picked up more graffiti, this time not painted but instead carved into the chalky wall, crude little stick figures and a looping arrow with "GOING DOWN?" chipped into the wall next to it, smiley faces in the O's. A few yards later was a dropoff of two or three feet. Dan sighed and sat down, cutting off the flashlight to save the batteries. They were still new, and he had spares in his pocket, but he still wished he'd brought an extra flashlight. If he dropped this one and broke it, he was screwed. He really hadn't planned this well at all, and the sudden thought of getting stuck down here in the total darkness scared him.
He'd have to turn back soon, anyway. He was feeling really sleepy now and was tempted to find some place to lay down and nap, but the idea of sleeping down here - wherever here was - was disturbing. The darkness was too deep, and he felt strange, alone yet accompanied by something intangible, some crazy imaginary friend out to get him in trouble.
He reached for his wrist to check the time, but he'd forgotten to bring his watch. At least an hour had passed, he felt certain. Maybe two or three. It was hard to tell. The adrenalin rush of going into the tunnels had blurred into a sensory-deprivation numbness, a small grey world of close walls and stretching darkness and no sound but his own noises echoing back on him. It was hard to believe that this was part of the same planet as the world above; they seemed polar opposites. Yet this was the bowels of that. He was in the guts of the campus. Maybe being digested. He laughed, and the tunnels laughed with him, and he cut the light on again and lowered himself the few feet into the next passage. It was low and wide and had a muddy gravel floor, like a riverbed. Water was trickling along the floor, making patterns in the silt that pointed toward the center tunnel of another three-way fork.
Dan went the other way, stooping slightly, following the wide track. In a few minutes he stopped, thinking he heard something mixed in with the crunching of gravel underfoot. Water pouring in, ahead.
Two large tunnels forked away, both big enough to drive trucks through. The water sounds were coming from the one on the left, so he took it, even though it looked dirtier than the other. Large graffiti spraypainted on the wall greeted him with the promise that someone had been here before, someone who had weird ideas about sex, judging by the rather elaborate pictures. The artists, apparently, were someone called the "BLACKTOOTH TRIBE"; their logo ran in six-foot letters down the wall. He didn't like the sound of it, and the pictures bothered him. What did people do down here? Did this place serve as some weirdo nightclub for somebody?
After maybe fifty yards the tunnel opened out into a huge room, with fading daylight beaming in from gratings and vents high in the ceiling and walls, probably thirty feet up. From their placement, Dan guessed he was under one of the big parking lots on campus, and felt certain of it even though he couldn't hear cars driving around.
Most incredible of all, though, was the iron bridge. That stopped his breath and made him afraid to walk closer to it. It was narrow and thick with rust that filled the room with its bloody smell, and it traversed a huge pool of dark water. A large stream of water was gushing out of a big pipe high in the wall, splashing loudly into the pool, echoing wildly and keeping veins of reflected sunlight squirming all over the walls and ceiling. It was bright enough in here that the flashlight didn't have much effect, so he turned it off and sat down again.
He was bone-tired, and he was still going to have to back-track his way out of here. He wasn't sure he could find the way, all those forks, his memory sleep-numbed. It would probably be a lot easier to keep going and find another way out; a system this big would require dozens of outflow pipes. The concrete ditch he'd followed to find the first one had stretched on past the entrance, after all. Besides, he wanted to see where the blue-eyed guy had been.
The iron bridge was ominous, stretching across the water into darkness. It had probably been pretty ordinary when it was built, but rust and corrosion had re-sculpted it into an ornately-horrible gothic masterpiece. It looked to be over a century old, and Dan wondered how many impressive works of art had been constructed in the buried places where no one ever saw them. He couldn't believe he was seeing this thing, when very few people even knew it was down here. They drove above it every day, never suspecting.
Green watermarks high on the yellow tile walls showed that at times the water got deep enough in here to completely submerge the bridge, and the image of that massive thing being buried under swirling water was almost too much for Dan to stand. The pool of water was also bringing to mind scenes of Lon Chaney in the silent Phantom of the Opera, and he decided the whole expedition had been a really bad idea. He was scared.
The sound of gushing water folding and refolding off the walls was starting to cut into his brain, and he stood up and started carefully across the bridge. It groaned and clanged and rained rust into the foaming water below, but it held, no problem, too massive to be brought down by him, an ant on a twig. Still, he went across as quickly as he dared.
The tunnel beyond it was smaller, made of mossy brick of obvious great age, an older style of architecture. These must be original storm drain tunnels, added onto later when the campus grew larger. Some of the graffiti on the walls had become obscured with mildew and algae, but he could make out dates like 1972, 1954, 1951, 1968, 1986. Deep in, he found a message that read, "LOOK OUT FOR THE CLOWN!" Another hand, in magic marker, had written what looked like "he'll scratch you up his fingernails so long." On the floor was a set of Walkman headphones, split at the top, as if the wearer had taken a hatchet in the head. Stupid. They were flimsy things, broke easy. That's why more people used the little earbuds now.
Ominous as they were, Dan hoped the presence of these things meant that he was nearing an exit. Surely no one else had gone this far before from the place where he'd come in.
But the tunnel went on and on. Unobligingly, it forked, then forked again, funhouse teasing. Here and there were gratings in the ceilings, but often the tunnels trailed on in total darkness, and the flashlight was noticeably less bright now.
At one point, Dan emerged into a round brick room with a grating high above, and the sky past it was late twilight. And, worse, he could hear thunder rattling in the passages, and silver trails of water were coming in. Rain.
What if the tunnels flooded? And it would be harder to find a way out without sunlight making the exits stand out. He'd have to push himself. Forced march.
There were four openings into the round room, and he didn't even know which one he'd come in from anymore. The hours in the tunnels had given him a kind of white-line-fever and he felt disconnected, drunk, watching himself wander in the dark.
One tunnel had "Welcome Home!" written above it in white paint, possibly Liquid Paper. He took that tunnel, even though the bricks were black and looked burned. He remembered that in the late 19th century, there'd been a dorm that burned down, killing a lot of students, and he wondered if they'd recycled the bricks in some awful secret project. This tunnel wound around and even led down in a brief spiral. Silver spray paint read "HIDEOUS GHASTLY!" Dan wanted to turn back because downward didn't feel like it would lead out.
Strangely, he came to a metal door, grey paint bubbling off of it from rust underneath. Scratched in rust-fattened letters was "this is where it happened."
Dan pushed at the door, but it seemed locked. He banged on it, making horrible echoes, and finally itmoved a bit. It had just been rusted shut, not locked. It must lead to some old maintenance tunnel, maybe a civil defense shelter left from the Cold War days. There was no other reason for a door down here.
The door grated open a little, a little more, horrible crypt-breaking sounds, screeching like a tortured rat before it stuck fast. Dan sucked in air and squeezed through, covering himself with stinking rust, scraping his back raw on the bricks behind him.
He wouldn't be able to get out the same way.
No going back anymore. Committed.
The flashlight was a pitiful amber now, and Dan decided to swap out the batteries. He sat down and carefully opened the light and removed the batteries. He didn't like the complete darkness. It was too smooth, too fitting-in with his increasing panic. He could hear his heartbeat.
At least he hoped it was his... He remembered Lon Chaney, fumbled with the batteries. The others were hard to get out of his pocket, and he almost tore his pants. He couldn't remember which way they went in. He put them in nipple-end first and screwed the light together.
Click. Click-click.
Nothing. He opened it, reversed them.
Nothing again.
The spare batteries were dead.
So was he. Oh shit, oh fuck.
He reached too quickly for the other batteries and knocked one over, and it rolled. Dan sobbed, stuffed the other battery into the light, and carefully started feeling around for the other, crying and sniffling. The darkness joined him, sympathetic or maybe mocking.
The battery couldn't have gone far. Maybe somebody took it. Lon Chaney, with his mask off, grinning and pantomiming in his lonely madness, that’s what he’d see if he got the light back on. How’d you like my little joke? I’ve got a million of ‘em! I’ll show you more as the night wears on. We will laugh and laugh!
Minutes. More minutes. Slimy-gritty damp floor, and plenty of it.
Finally his fingers found the battery. It was in a small pool of water. Would that ruin it?
Dan gasped and sobbed. Around him a chorus of somethings gasped and sobbed with him. “Shut up!“ he said, and so did the echoes. He rubbed the battery on his pants and rubbed it in his shirt, hearing thunder and rain trailing into the tunnels around him. It was really raining out there now, serious storming. The TV was probably flashing with tornado warnings. Oh, TV, if only he could be watching TV right now. Even Phantom of the Opera would be welcome, on TV, not scary at all.
Coming from somewhere down the tunnels were the echos of a roaring, gushing river, and his blood felt like ice.
The battery finally felt dry and he stuffed it back into the flashlight and screwed it shut, clicked it.
It worked. A little brighter than before.
Dan began to run, breathing hard over the thunder and rain and roaring water.
A grinning face went past him, painted on the wall. The devil, he thought.
The words "RATS! STARS!"
Some letters that didn't look like English, or any other reasonable person’s language.
A scratched-and-chipped sentence: "I lost my hand down there, if you find it, give a holler!"
Something down a side tunnel stank mightily, stench rolling out on a wash of cold air, loud with wet death. He kept running, chasing the browning light on the walls, the blackness beyond. He fell and skinned himself up, but got up, limped on.
A pentagram was sprayed on the floor, mostly plastered over by slimy leaves, candle wax at its points. His steps were sloshing now, and the floor was slippery.
"LAMB ROOM" some graffiti read, with an arrow. Dan limped after it. On a bricked overhang someone wrote "Scalps may clog drains. Mind the drains!" Dan ducked under it and found himself in a huge room, an iron stairway leading down to a narrow strip of concrete with rapids on either side, foaming, roaring water. Part of a treatment plant? It was absurd. He couldn't make out the whole room because the flashlight was really dying now. He slapped it, and it strobed, showing that the little catwalk led to a tunnel in a tile wall, and then the light died completely, and wouldn't start again, even when he tried switching the batteries around. He yelped, and it echoed with the roaring water.
He started down the stairs and it sounded like someone else was coming down stairs at the other end; were there stairs there? He didn't know. He felt his way down, felt his way to the strip of concrete. He didn't dare walk it in the pitch blackness, so he got on his skinned hands and knees and started to crawl.
The river went by on either side of him, and lightning lit grates in the ceiling high above. Ridiculously a clear thought floated through his terror like a balloon: Poor Timbo's cookout was being ruined!
Dan laughed and multitudes joined him, calling to him from the tunnel ahead. He kept laughing. He couldn't help it. All he wanted was to be out of here.
Up there. Nothing better than up there. Nothing better than a ruined cookout above the ground. A long walk home through tornado weather, pure heaven!
There were walls around him now. He was in the tunnel. He stood up and walked, slowly, toeing for dropoffs around him. Somewhere behind him spillways opened up and a wash of chilly water overswept the catwalk and rushed behind him, knocking him down. He crawled in the water, screaming, finally struggling to his
feet and standing waist deep in it.
Thunder crackled and everything was lightning-lit in a grate directly above him. He could see old watermarks on the walls, high over his head. Past the grate was a trace of electric light, probably a utility pole. He was beside - and below, of course - a building.
Someone was up there, too. He could see them, leaning against the building.
"Help!" Dan yelled. "I'm stuck down here! I can't find the way out! Help! Get somebody!"
The shape stepped away from the building. Dan tried to jump for the grating, but it was at least two feet out of reach. Jumping made the water push him against the walls, so he stopped. The shape crouched over the grate and peered down into it, and hope flushed away the panic.
"Thank god! Help me! Get somebody to get me out of here! Please!"
The shape just kept looking. It moved around a little bit, then carefully leaning down to shield its face from the rain, it struck a lighter and lit a cigarette. In the flame, Dan saw spiky blondish hair, like thorns, and blue eyes, as blue as the most faded jeans in the world. They were squinted up with laughing.
Dan screamed, no words, just screaming.
And the shape stood up and walked away into the downpour while another surge of water broke through the spillway and carried Dan down the tunnel into the dark, away from the sound of the blue-eyed guy's laughter and the hint of tobacco smoke that were the only proof that he existed at all.


Copyright 2009 by me.