lördag 9 januari 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around -- Again Reading "The Eyes of the Dragon"

Flagg had been reading from this book -- which was bound in human skin -- for a thousand years and had gotten through only a quarter of it. To read too long of this book, written on the high, distant, Plains of Leng by a madman named Alhazred, was to risk madness.  

And so, finally, I've once again read my first ever Stephen King novel! It was Christmas Eve in the year of 1988 that I got The Eyes of the Dragon (1987), the hardback's Swedish title the exact translation Drakens ögon. In my childhood and early adolescence I wasn't much of a bookworm, though I was considerably thoughtful and quite. Earlier in the 80s my mother became deeply concerned about my only reading comics like Tomahawk and Phantom, while not being interested in those numerous "children and youth book series" (aside from Olov Svedelid's historical adventures, of which I read a lot, though) she always bought me during the summer holidays.

She then found out that our fourth grade teacher used to read to us children from a book by Lloyd Alexander, the first in the pentalogy, Chronicles of Prydain. Before I had been able to complete the rest of the books about Taran and his many adventures my mother hade gotten hold of a very beautiful, illustrated copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit which I to this very day have kept accessible in my bookcase. After reading about Bilbo I went on to his the Fellowship of the Ring and its trilogy. After this personal endeavor the interest in literature once again faltered; I was not interested anymore with Alexander's work, nor was I able to continue reading Tolkien; The Silmarillion easily took care of that. But then, one white christmas (or was it?), I looked at a dustjacket with an angry, fire breathing dragon printed on it. This how it all began...

The Eyes of the Dragon is not the usual Stephen King novel. It's not about ordinary people in Castle Rock, Maine having to confront the strange nightmares of reality or the supernatural horrors of hauntings, plagues, monsters, vampires and aliens. This is more of a fairy tale, with the characteristics of SKs witty and mature style of writing. The story (dedicated to his then twelve-year-old daughter, Naomi), while not being childish in any way, is not as frightful and dark as some other of his books: It centers on the struggle between good and bad in the land of Delain where the old king Roland is murdered with dragon sand by the hands of his own wizard Flagg (we do know all about HIM, don't we?) who plans to turn the whole kingdom inte ultimate blood and ruin. He frames the would-be king, the older son Peter, for the murder and puts the younger son, Thomas, on the throne as his throne puppet. Now, nobody can stop the ancient magician from fulfilling his plan... However, imprisoned for life 300 feet above ground in The Needle, Peter has a plan to escape -- it includes his childhood doll's house and thousands of royal napikins...

Though I did not find this book quite as inspiring and exciting as the first time, more than 20 years ago, I still thought it worthwile buying it again, reading it in the original language; since I already rediscovered so many King novels, I believed that I should have a try at this one also. The Eyes of the Dragon is not a perfect piece of art, by any standards, but it is a very good tale of fantasy for adolescents and young adults which is both entertaining and intelligent in its creation. What I loved about it, this time around, was the way I recalled the first time meeting all those certain attributes, so typical of Stephen King, that I had learned so much to love. By the way, all those fine sketches by Palladini from the Swedish hardcover edition were also present in the adequate paperback edition I recently read. Very nice, indeed!

Yes, dim -- that was really the best word for it, although others sometimes came to mind: ghostly, transparent, unobtrusive. Invisibility was out of his reach, but by first eating a pizzle [the penis of a bull]and then reciting a number of spells, it was possible to become dim. 

torsdag 7 januari 2010

Along Came The Little Spider And Its Lambs... Il nido del ragno

Professor Alan Whitmore is sent to Budapest in order to investigate the problems with a colleague working on a secret project. There he, quite literally, gets caught in the web of a viscious and ghastly spider god worshipping cult. Does it sound funny-hardy-har-har to you? On the contrary, Il nido del ragno (Spider Labyrinth, 1988) is a very well crafted horror film by a man named Gianfranco Giagni, during the last days of truly worthy Italian film making in many ways.

It's reminiscent of the old masterpieces by the likes of Bava and Argento, particularly in the way it's filmed with colours of red, blue, green and yellow; also the setting in an Eastern European capital provides the viewer with an engaging sense of gothic aura that makes the film even more beguiling. While being relatively artsy in its demeanor, Spider Labyrinth is neither idle, nor anemic: Early on we're confronted with a beautiful, young lady that spellbinds our hero in a notably suggestive and sensuous way; Professor Whitmore is furthermore confronted with a spider-like woman that he has to defeat and kill, for a purpose that is ultimately not known to him. Most of the strange and bizarre "humanoid arachnids" in the story are fearsome to behold, especially the earlier mentioned, red-haired woman with her yellowish fangs, demented countenance, shrieking cries and custom gluey spider-web saliva.

There are at least three scenes in the film that are especially prominent, in my opinion: The first is the murder of a young girl in a hall filled with white sheats, the killing a clear stab toward the Argento-esque; however, more so in the way another character crashes through a large window. The third scene is the pinnacle of the grotesque, a true piece of Grand Guignol madness -- the birth of the Spider God (John Carpenter fashion) from the dried-out husk of a small child's corpse -- its ghoulish special effects leaving Sergio Stivaletti guilty as charged.

Though not being short of violence and gore, the psychological factors of Il nido del ragno noteworthy ingredient: Aside from the mesmerizing young woman, her horrid companions and the story's allusions to the broken minds of Dario Argento, there is Alan Whitmore's horrifying experience of his childhood, being locked in a dark room along with a large, bristly spider -- a nightmarish experience that follows him and serves as a sign of foreboding throughout the film.

It's a bit strange why Spider Labyrinth has not yet seen the light of day in the DVD format. A good transfer from original source material should not be hard to find somewhere out there. The question is where and when to find people that could be interested in buying the copyright for this title that for long so long has been an unforgivingly neglected achievement.

tisdag 5 januari 2010

The Orphanage ... No, not the one in Mexico... or Norway... or Sweden...

It is not very often I buy  DVD films at RRP but last time I did it was at the local Hemmakväll store when I got hold of Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In)... This time I ordered Swede Daniel Lehmussaari's The House of Orphans (2009), distributed by Dark Disc's own company Sick Films. I watched it yesterday night and you know what you're going to get and it was exactly got...

Once, in the 1800s, there was an orphanage headed by two respected citizens, a brutish man and a woman with quite a talent for casting spells of black magic. Behind the polished facade the children are brutalized and beaten and even killed by the couple, all in the process of selling them into a life of forced labour and prostitution. However, when the two culprits are exposed they are executed and their orphanage burnt down... but not, of course, until the horrible woman has been able to put a terrible curse on the community.

Then, another house is built upon the ruins of the old orphanage... and more than hundred years later, in present time, a father and his family buy the house -- but there's something evil hidden away in the basement of their new dream house...

Usually with these projects, there are a handful of happy, enthusiastic amateur performers with varying talent in acting and ability speaking the English language. All this is perfectly all right and ultimately more enjoyable than having a professional crew of native speakers or letting the actors speak Swedish while subtitling in English. What makes it a bit of a let down is -- 1) the way the director so blatantly wants the story to take place in The States that he put in a few frames of the New York skyline, right in the middle of our Swedish roadsigns -- and 2) how the film tends to have too much dialogue; the way the characters always speak every scene takes away a great deal of atmosphere and suspense (but I'm certain this film is not the only one of its kind suffering from this...)

On the positive side though, there is the unmistakable feeling of what's always called "the love of the art" (and suchlike comments...), shared with all the actors and crew members. And there is a lot to love in here: It's the usual, dedicated handiwork from the entertaining and spontaneous acting to the crafty, bloodspattering gore and the token cgi-effects. All right, it's not a very good movie by some standards. But it's fun and games in many ways -- trashy, goofy fun! I've seen School Night Massacre (before its fame turned it into Death Academy *lol*), but I believe House of Orphans is the better film of the two. Hence, I would love to buy and see yet another movie from this infamous guy Lehmussaari in the future.

Speaking of  "the love of the art" I cannot refrain from revealing my memories of the very first, genuine Swedish B-movie I ever saw. It was some years ago now and it was in the local theatre I had the pleasure of relishing the one and only Camp SlaughterFor me it's still the best work of this kind of movies that's been made in Sweden; but, then again, I don't have a lot of experience in the field and yet not as many titles under my belt to actually be able to make such a claim... Despite this, I have to be true to myself, so there you are. I even wrote a small review on Camp Slaughter at the old Darkdisc.com site, in the old days... and if I remember correctly I took some liberties in both the personal taste and real facts department. See if I have a copy of that essay hidden away somewhere on the harddrive ;-)

lördag 2 januari 2010

A Haunted House -- Couldn't it have stayed that way?

When I re-read James Herbert's Haunted (1988) I figured I would read a few more of his novels once again. At this time I'd forgotten why I suddenly stopped reading him, but I'm certain it was after reading The Fog (1975) a few years back. Inspired by the mention of his The Dark (1980) in the afterword of Campbell's masterly crafted The Hungry Moon I bought a reasonably good copy of this book and was thus positively certain I'd have a great read during the holidays.

It started out well: The protagonist is a well known and respected "ghost hunter" though he does his very best to debunk every possible fraudulent hauntings and hoax mediums. Trapped in his own interpretation of the sciences of the supernatural, he is a man that believes modern techniques and equipment can explain almost every strange or occult ocurrence anywhere. Yet there is a dark, secret sorrow in his life, and when he is hired to investigate an old house that's harboured macabre séances and rituals he unwittingly finds himself a pawn in a struggle for the dark powers of evil (as a physical entity) to wreak havoc on the world of both dead and living. Our hero is wittness to a horrible massacre that is the starting point to a wave of horrible acts of suicide and murder. But this is just the beginning; when, finally, the house is demolished, the evil and its dark shadow is set free to turn all people in its way into bloodthirsty, murdering zombies...

Yes, the beginning is quite promissing, indeed: The visions, possessions and the violent acts of murder are protrayed in a manner that combines gore and viscera with enough ghostly ambiance. In this way we have a young, aspiring writer that does not pull any punches, while still showing us his talents for creating the nightmarish atmosphere of our human minds... But... Then it starts going haywire (or is it just me losing all interest in the story?). Anyhow, I started to remember why I got fed up with reading The Fog and realised it was all the rampaging, mad zombie-like people that tried to outdo themself in nastiness -- I guess I just got bored... as with The Dark, I'm sad to say...

I know I've really liked James Herbert before, and I liked his writing recently in Haunted. I also remember enjoying The Rats, Shrine, The Magic Cottage and The Ghosts of Sleath, too. I guess I have to really figure out which ones of his works I would like to read throughout. The thing is perhaps to get a book that sticks to either the straight ghost stories or the blood and gut macabre activities of man or beast -- not any combination of both elements: "Go between, crush like a grape..."

New Blog!

I've been in quite a bit of a winter herbination lately... But I figured, since I long ago changed languages I might as well change blogs too ... So, now I've started a new entry in my attempts in mastering cyberspace at:

I guess it will mainly be about the same things as before, but who knows what might be in store in the future... See you -- hopefully!? ;-D

Another Rip Van Winkle: So long 2009. Long live the New Year 2010... Right! ;-)

Toughening out the Christmas Holidays and the Old Year 2009 by means of a few novels, a cocktail of onions and garlic, and last (but not least, mind you) a few shots of good liquor ... I will now start the new year, 2010, by negotiating the new blog with a few words on the recent books I've read:

The Dead Zone (1979) is the early Stephen King story of a young man who suffers from a terrible car accident and, against all odds, wakes and recovers from more than four years of lying comatose. A happy moment for him and his parents, no? Well, our hero soon wishes he hadn't awoken from his sleep: His girlfriend is since long married, his mother has become a religious zealot, and he has required a highly developed extrasensory perception that will change many lives, for better or for worse... And then there's the "Dead Zone", of course... You know all the rest.

I read The Dead Zone in Swedish the first time and last, precisely 21 years ago. I remembered the basics, but knew I had forgotten quite a lot, as expected. This is one of SK's better achievements, hidden away behind such behemoth old works as It, The Stand and The Shining. It's a very engaging, thought-provoking and quite a slow-moving novel that has a great deal of interesting, complex characters. It's funny how I long ago had an oral presentation on this book in my Swedish Class at the gymnasium in the very town I'm now living. I also remember asking some teachers and other adults if they'd heard of Stephen King and thus, reasonably often, receiving the answer: "No, I don't know much of him, but I've read The Dead Zone..."

Double zero. The House wins...