Archive for June, 2012

VOW (6/27/2012): Suffocation – Cataclysmic Purification

Posted in VOWS on June 30, 2012 by Peter S

The music Video-Of-the-Week for this upcoming July 4th holiday is “Cataclysmic Purification” by Suffocation. I thought with the fireworks and all, some good old explosive Death metal was in order. Suffocation is one of the forefather-bands of the modern Tech-Death movement and the guys deserve every ounce of credit for consistenly creating strong music that is faithful to their specific and unique “sound”.

Perhaps the best way to describe “Cataclysmic Purification” is: great song, great video. There are scenes of the band members playing in an old industrial building and there are quick shots of animation that are reminiscent of some of the animation in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. In fact, “Cataclysmic Purification” is like a gory version of “Goodbye Blue Sky” (my favorite moment in “The Wall”). You could also describe the animation as the type of thing that investigators would find in a serial killer’s notebook from high school.

Enjoy, have a happy fourth (U.S. readers), and click the link below!

Suffocation video for “Cataclysmic Purification”

Your Friend,


VOW (06/20/2012): Huntress – Eight of Swords

Posted in VOWS on June 23, 2012 by Peter S

This week, the video that’s been on my mind is “Eight of Swords” by Huntress. It’s a fantasy-inspired video that’s chock full of Pagan imagery and earthy visuals that are reminiscent of sword-and-sorcery films. Before I go on, I just want to stop and say that “Huntress” is a great band name. Isn’t it? It’s one of those names you wish you thought of when you were scrawling dozens of flaccid names on the back of your electric bill envelope.

One reason I chose this video is because the music is actually enhanced by the visual content. On its own, the song is a solid, straightforward mix of Power, Black, and Pagan metal that is based upon the natural minor, or Aeolian, scale. If you’re not familiar with the musical terms, the song has an Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, or old-Metallica type of sound to it. “Eight of Swords” is a really good song, but I tend to lean more towards the tonalities used in Death metal. So, I think the creators did a really good job with the video because it did “sell” me on the song.

Along with the visuals, I do want to mention lead singer Jill Janus. Her vocals have a distinct quality which is sort of a combination of Kimberly Goss and Dirty Harry, with a pinch of Angela Gossow. She goes from clean vocals, to a slight raspiness, and occasionally delves into piercing shrieks that accent the intensity of the music. In short, she one of the most interesting female vocalists that I have heard in a while. And in case you were wondering, the answer is yes. You will enjoy looking at her. What are you waiting for? Click the link below!

Huntress video for “Eight of Swords”

Your Friend,


Review of “The Innkeepers”

Posted in Movie reviews on June 23, 2012 by Peter S

  Sara Paxton and Pat Healy (photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing)

As a horror fan, I have to admit that sometimes I don’t know what I want. There, I said it. Feels good to get that off my chest. Often, I hear myself saying that movies in the 1980s were fun, movies in the 1970s were intelligent, remakes are unbelievably annoying, and everything made from 2000-present is mediocre. Those are generalizations that I use to express frustration, but I am reasonable enough to know that when I say those things, I may be full-of-it. I do like some modern horror films and, realistically, there are good and bad films (also overrated films) in every decade, from independent and major studios. So, where does that leave me? What is it that I want in a horror film? Also, what is my point?

Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that the frustration I often feel, as a horror fan, stems from the fact that I am looking for something that is interesting or engaging. I am looking for something that is unique and that stirs some type of reaction within me. You could see how that makes it difficult to say exactly what I want in a horror film. In past decades, I could say that I liked a specific sub-genre of horror, such as slasher films. But these days, that no longer applies. It’s gotten to the point where I take every film on an individual basis. I may or may not like a film and I feel no obligation to any subgenre, studio, director, or “rave reviews” from other critics. My final statement on this matter is: I watch what I want and I like what I like. If it’s interesting, I will be happy. Now, on to the review.

I feel that I needed that explanation because Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” is a good example of what I want in horror. The film is a traditional haunting story that centers on a girl and guy who work at an old, Victorian type of inn. The two are also amateur paranormal investigators (with the video cameras, audio recorders, etc) and they are looking to get some footage before the inn closes for good, in the next few days. They decide to investigate a legend about a woman who mysteriously died at the inn, years ago. Along the way, they both have some strange experiences and it gets even stranger when a semi-retired actress, who is into spiritual healing, comes to stay the night. As the story unfolds, the three of them find out if the inn is really haunted or if it’s just collective paranoia.

When I said that “The Innkeepers” is a traditional haunting story, I meant that it is similar to a literary type of haunting story. Something in the vein of Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”. Film-wise, I think it’s a throwback to the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. What this means is that most of the film is a build-up of suspense and most of the conflict and action takes place in the last 20-30 minutes. Some call it a “slow burn” type of film and Ti West is known for this style of filmmaking.

Before I go on, I do want to say that I am a fan of Ti West. I really liked “The House of the Devil”, “The Roost” has a certain charm to it, and I actually liked what he did with “Cabin Fever 2”. He always delivers a well-developed story, he crafts intelligent and fresh dialogue, he creates interesting non-stereotypical characters, and he seems to have some reverence/respect for the horror-works of the past.

But, the thing I enjoy most about West’s films is his realism. Not pessimism, realism. In a way I consider him to be the anti- John Hughes because his characters don’t have all of their dreams come true and don’t always win in the end. However, they do learn something about themselves and they develop as human beings. Don’t get me wrong, I love John Hughes but his films are fantasy depictions of human interaction – similar to what Frank Capra depicted in his films. Actually, there’s a funny scene in an episode of “Cheers” where the gang is watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Norm says something like, “trust me. when you’re in trouble with the bank people do not come running over with money”. Ti West is that realistic voice of Norm Peterson. West explores common human experiences of success and failure, in a very likeable way. Again, he is not dark and depressing, he is realistic.

That realism is present in “The Innkeepers”, but unfortunately, the film didn’t totally satisfy me. My problem with the film is that it took a little too long to “get going” and I started to lose interest. Overall, it was a well-crafted and intelligent film but it lacked the basic component of a horror film: horror. I don’t mean gore, blood, zombies, and masked killers. I mean the horrifying thing that should be the basis of a horror film. In this case, it was the ghost of the woman who died at the inn. “The Innkeepers” kept hinting at the ghost, had a great build-up up to it, and did have a couple of ghost scenes, but it wasn’t enough. Overall, I don’t think that the “payoff” was equivalent to the wait.

For that reason, the film was very frustrating. I was really looking forward to it and it was one of those films that I wanted to like more than I actually did. It just needed a little more – just a little more – ghost content and it would have been a fulfilling experience. It’s also frustrating because 85% of the film was outstanding. Here’s a rundown of the positives: all of the acting was excellent; the dialogue was superb because it was very realistic; the characters were incredibly well-developed, each had strengths and weaknesses, each was going through some sort of transition in their lives, and each went through a “changing” moment; the setting of the inn was perfect; the special effects and look of the ghost were exciting and unique; and lastly, the story was very strong and well thought-out. If just a little more heat was added to the slow-burn, the film would have been closer to 100% outstanding.

Despite my opinion, “The Innkeepers” is still a better film than the majority of current horror films. I just wanted more from it. However, it did give me most of what I am looking for in a horror film. West is one of my favorite modern horror filmmakers and it is possible that he may be the one who comes out with that genre-changing horror flick. As horror fans, we’re all chasing that dragon.

Review and Quick Byte by Peter Syslo

VOW (6/11/2012): Cannibal Corpse – Encased in Concrete

Posted in VOWS on June 13, 2012 by Peter S

This week, I bring you the Cannibal Corpse video for “Encased in Concrete”, off of their latest album “Torture”. I chose this video because the visuals go hand-in-hand with the power, darkness, and machine-like nature of the band’s music. I say machine-like, because it’s amazes me that five guys can play with such rhythmic precision. Together, they sound like a finely-tuned engine and that is one reason (among many) that Cannibal Corpse is one of my favorite bands.

In the video, there are scenes of a tied-up man who is being covered with wet concrete. Those scenes illustrate the meaning of the song, which is nice, but what I really like about this video is the environment that surrounds the band. There are quick shots of spiked metal machinery, fire, walls in what looks like an old farmhouse, and a huge scary looking tree (the antithesis of the tree-of-life?  tree-of-death?). In a way, it’s like the band is playing in Leatherface’s front yard and this fits extremely well with the music… which, incidently, is like a vicious three-minute auditory beating. Incredible. Hit the link below to watch it.

Cannibal Corpse video for “Encased in Concrete”

Your Friend,


VOW (6/4/2012): Opeth – The Devil’s Orchard

Posted in VOWS on June 5, 2012 by Peter S

This week, I’m highlighting Opeth’s video for “The Devil’s Orchard”, from their 2011 album “Heritage”. What can I say? The creators of this video achieved that perfect combination of music and film.

Let me take a moment to explain. If I heard this song first, without seeing the video, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much. Opeth made quite a departure from their old death-prog sound to a new straightforward, progressive sound – with clean vocals. It’s still great music, but the new sound really isn’t my cup of tea.

However, my initial exposure to the song was when I watched the video… and I instantly loved the music. In this case, the video actually makes the song better and I believe that goes for the video too. On its own, the video would be good, but the music makes it great. In a nutshell, the video makes the song better and the song makes the video better, or – for you Gestaltists out there – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I will even go as far to say that this is one of the best music videos that I have ever seen. It has a lot of dark psychedelic imagery that is reminiscent of 1970s, European occult films. Also, the music is very much in the style of 1970s prog, so its a perfect fit. Click the link below, sit back, enjoy, and slip into an altered state of consciousness – go ahead, you work hard and you deserve it!

Opeth video for “The Devil’s Orchard”

Your Friend,


Review of “American Horror Story”: The Best Show on Television?

Posted in Movie reviews on June 5, 2012 by Peter S

From the moment I heard that Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Nip Tuck”, was doing a full-on horror series for the FX Network, I thanked the old gods and I patiently awaited the October 2011 premiere. I was a fan of the consistently exploitative “Nip/Tuck” and one of the reasons I liked that series was the underlying “horror” that it contained. Specifically, the horrific parts of it dealt with the lengths people that would go to, all in the pursuit of beauty.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I heard that “American Horror Story” was going to be a haunted-house type of story. After 15 years-or-so of bland “haunting” films and a slew of ghost-themed television shows, I really wasn’t in the mood for yet another one. But, my skepticism was put to rest because Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck, and the fantastic cast of AHS managed to craft a fresh and engaging show that surpassed all my expectations. Aside from a few shows (like “Dexter”) on the premium channels,  I think that AHS is currently the best show on television.

At this point, most people have heard something or other about the series, so I am not going to discuss every detail of it. Though, I will say that the show is based upon a combination of horror films, urban legends, and real-life killings. For example, the larger “haunted-house” story is interspersed with things like the Richard Speck nurse-killings, the Black Dahlia mystery, and a version of the old Bloody Mary mirror ritual – to name a few. No, it’s nothing new but I feel that the familiarity of the content actually works in the show’s favor.

That leads me to my next point: the strength of AHS lies mainly in the style and execution. Because it has a very familiar foundation, I feel that the series can easily unfold and venture into unpredictable areas. Basically, it has a blank canvas so there are no limits for the visuals, characters, and other aspects of the show. The creators really built upon the traditional, archetypal haunting story and in the process successfully rebooted a tired horror sub-genre. It is vibrant, complex, textured, and focuses on every little detail – from the seductive charm of the creepy Victorian house right down to the inspired and unusual musical cues. Contrary to the “American” in the title, I feel that the show is actually done in more of a European or Asian style. And you know what? It is actually better than most American horror films that I have seen over the past 15 years.

One of the best things about AHS is that it dares to go into the territory of “scary” subject matter, where most people feel uncomfortable. A few examples of the “scary” subject matter are: a school-shooter; an appearance-oriented, dramatic, politically-incorrect, baby boomer who is an abusive Joan Crawford type; a drug-addicted doctor who performs abortions in the basement of the house; a kidnapped and dismembered baby; and a cheating man who burns his wife and kids alive. All of the characters in the series have some hidden “horror” in their life that is eating away at them and destroying all of the people around them. The truly “scary” part is that things like the aforemtioned happen in real life – in some neighborhood, in some household, behind closed doors.

In fact, a recurring theme of the series is: keeping up the appearance of normality, just for the sake of appearance, is one of the most destructive things in life. AHS certainly tears off every aspect of “appearance”, jumps right in, and gets to the truth.  The whole point of the show, I feel, is the comparison between the horror of fiction and the horror of reality. In a thought-provoking, yet subtle way, the series poses the following question: “What is more scary, ghost and haunted houses or the things that go on in real life, in the newspaper headlines?”

After all is said and done, I really don’t have any criticism of the show. It’s as perfect as a television series can get and it sets the quality bar very high. For the second season, I understand that the series is going to take place in a whole new setting (some type of institution on the east coast). Also, some of the same actors will be returning but they won’t be playing the same characters. Essentially, it is a new story with some of the same actors. Yes, it seemed a little odd to me at first – and risky – but I think the creators can pull it off.

To recap, “American Horror Story” is an intelligent, shocking, honest, scary, and entertaining series that is addictive and very fulfilling. For a cable television show, the creators and FX took a lot of chances and I am very happy for that. Along with the “uncomfortable” subject matter, there is a strong sexual component (heterosexual, homosexual, fetishes) which definitely makes it an adult-oriented series. As with “Nip/Tuck”, kudos to the FX network for airing the series and not apologizing for it. My only complaint is that I wanted a little more resolution and explanation (some, not all) of the first season. But, I guess that could also be a compliment because the show always left me wanting more.


Review and Quick Byte by Peter Syslo