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Arnzen's Weird Newsletter
+++ Vol. 3.01, Mar 10, 2005 +++
Mashing the Monster
Blather. Wince. Repeat.
Mashing the Monsters
Freddy vs. Jason was just the tip of the blade. Today's horror movie audiences are going to be stabbed in the eyes again and again with new mix-and-match horror icon flicks like Alien vs. Predator or Van Helsing until the genre gets smart again.
I don't mind a good monster mash, but the stuff I'm seeing on the screen lately is more like a boxing match than a graveyard bash. These types of stories are nothing new – in fact, the formula has been warmed over for eighty years or more. After the 1930s, Hollywood was smart to capitalize on the success of Universal Studios' Dracula and Frankenstein very early in the game, culminating in such campy hits as House of Dracula, or Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. Back then, too, they were smart enough to know the story was irrelevant and that the whole affair was a glorified conceit – they typically went for the laughs rather than any pretense toward seriousness. And while it's true that today's monster mash is still nothing more than an excuse to return some famously fun monsters to the big screen, I think they're making a huge mistake by taking the “vs.” in their titles way too seriously and packaging them as some sort of combat or science-fiction film. You get the sense watching these pictures that the special effects crew is still playing with army men when they're not programming CGI.
Hollywood movies try to maximize their profits, so they tend to blur genres together to get as many different audience personalities into the theater as possible. Every big studio production is a sort of “mash” in its own right. This explains why a movie like Van Helsing comes across as an action/mystery/adventure/horror/love story for kids (though it doesn't necessarily explain why the writing was so bad). But a real monster mash is a genre film tried and true because it appeals exclusively to a genre-savvy audience who knows these characters well.
Besides, as a film genre, horror is more than a century old and there's plenty of material out there they could put to better use than, say, the Predator, which, while a good commando flick, was merely an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle and not a famous monster horror movie by any measure. There are lots of monster mashes I'd like to see. Some of them could even make good comedy stories. For example, just off the top of my head…
Regan (The Exorcist) vs. Damien (The Omen)
It's evil against evil when the antichrist incarnate battles the rebellious demon Pazuzu. The day care center will never be the same!
The Hand vs. Thing Addams
An arm wrestling match unlike anything you've ever seen. I can see the final shot now: one of them, popping up from out of a grave. But which one is it?
Hannibal Lector vs. The Mummy
Is mummy meat too dry or is it simply cured? And how will Lector match his literary wit with a creature who speaks only in grunts and hieroglyphics?
Chucky (Child's Play) vs. Fats (Magic)
Some ungodly is bound to happen when these two smart alecks are in the same room: Who's the dummy now, big boy?
Young Frankenstein Meets Dracula, Dead and Loving It
Watch good horror comedy battle bad in this opaque attempt to resurrect Mel Brooks' career.
The Green Slime vs. The Blob
Hot gelatin on gelatin action! Let's see, red plus green equals…um…viscous terror!
Norman Bates vs. Norman Bates
Watch Anthony Perkins try to slice Vince Vaughn trying to slice Anthony Perkins. Schizo slashers in the shower!
Okay, so I can only think of silly examples, but that's what monster mashes should be: silly fun. They're charming in the nostalgic way that old friends are, even if they're dripping with evil. A good monster mash reminds us of what we love about the movies of the past, not what we dig about the technologies and fixations of the present. And they're ultimately about the characters, not the big screen fireworks. Bring them back from the dead with some decency, Hollywood!
Mrs. Pac Monster
Fans of Jeff Strand will really dig “Grave Robber.” In this quirky Frankenstein-Meets-Pac Man game by Sam Bellman, you play a lonely scientist who's out to create the perfect woman. You race around a graveyard, digging up body parts and dodging mindless zombies, all while doing the “Monster Mash.” It's not easy…I haven't been able to survive it yet. But it's addictive and hilarious.
Sam Bellman's game portfolio: http://www.utterlysuperb.com/
Grave Robbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary): http://www.jeffstrand.com
in your skull
like a fork resting
inside the crust
of a half-eaten pie
the claw catches light,
as polished chrome clean
as your smile
and I regret both
the choice of my grip
and the bite not taken
Long Horn, Big Shaggy: A Fistful of Brain
One of the most gleefully scatological and outrageously clever novellas I've read in a while is “Long Horn, Big Shaggy,” by Steve Vernon, recently published by Black Death Books. How can you not like a spaghetti western horror story whose subtitle says “A Tale of Wild West Terror and Reanimated Buffalo”? That's right: it's a zombie buffalo story. But there's so much more to this tale than undead livestock. The book opens with a man trying to put down his fallen stolen horse, with shots coming at him from every direction (for something like 1800 words of splatstick gunfire hijynx) and even though he inevitably gets hit in the head, opening it open “like a can of peaches” and splattering “a fistful of brains” across the dust, you know he'll be back from the dead to seek revenge. Vernon's novella starts off funny and the gallops like, well, like an undead stallion into sheer hilarity. You encounter ghosts and villains and more in this melting pot cannibal stew of Wild West mythology and campy b-movie gore.
It's a silly premise, sure, and a story like this would be a mess if it weren't for the sure-fisted delivery of Vernon's prose, which both keeps the humor churning and the body parts flying along the way. The tale also gets more and more interesting as the plot develops, though you have to be willing to keep your 3D b-movie glasses on while you read. The cowpoke dialect of his characters are so spot on you can smell the chewing tobacco on their breath. One of them – a severed, crawling head that pulls itself along by champing its own jawbone, searching for food – is impossibly hilarious but quite effective, it turns out, for a viewpoint character. I found myself wondering “Well how in tarnation is he going to top THAT?” as I moved from chapter to chapter, and Vernon somehow managed to do it. He's got the gift. This is a book that could have been a movie – because it's obviously saturated with cinematic influence – and yet, I think it works as a book and would fail miserably if it were actually turned into cinematic fair. You be the judge.
If you've got a taste for over-the-top gross-out stories in the campy mode of the Evil Dead movies, this is definitely a book you should look into. “Long Horn, Big Shaggy” is a quick read, coming in at about 100 pages. For ordering details, visit the publisher's website. For a photo of the goofy stuffed buffalo Vernon made, visit his. (And look elsewhere in this issue for a discount coupon on this title!)
Separated at Birth
For your next movie night, rent:
Basket Case (1982)
The Dark Half (1993)
+ Describe an invented mental illness in scientific language, as though an entry in the DSM-IV. For structure, visit http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html
+ Lovingly describe an over-the-top imaginary weapon, as though writing the sales pitch that appears in a mail order catalog. For inspiration, try
+ Write an encyclopedia entry about an infamous (but fictional) massacre. For a model, pick your favorite at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres
Instigation is a WEEKLY department in Hellnotes newsletter: http://www.hellnotes.com
You can also buy collections of prompts for chump change at The Sickolodeon:
Congratulations to subscriber Terrie Leigh Relf, whose instigation-inspired story, “At the Ophthalmologist's Office,” was recently published in FlashShot (
flashshot.tripod.com/). If you publish or post something instigated by this department, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll mention it here!
+ 100 ELECTRONIC JOLTS
100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories is now available in digital form from the good folks at Fictionwise.com for under 5 bucks. In fact, it shot straight to the #1 horror bestseller on their site! E-books are perfect for reading on a PDA or the computer screen. Fictionwise is a great e-book distributor for science-fiction, fantasy and horror titles; you can even buy some of my short stories there for as little as 49 cents. (Look for a juicy Fictionwise discount coupon elsewhere in this issue!)
+ PLAYING DEAD
The mock-up for the cover of my next novel, Play Dead, is available on the publisher's website if you'd like to take a peek. It looks just like something taken out of the story, which involves a group of pathological gamblers who play a game of poker with photographs of their murder victims. Play Dead is currently scheduled for release this August 2005 from Raw Dog Screaming Press in hardcover and novelty “sculpture”-bound editions (as part of their hot “Grim Grimoire” line), along with a custom-designed deck of scary playing cards. I can't think of any cooler book production, ever.
+ HORROR HOLD 'EM
Raw Dog is also celebrating the release of my next novel by sponsoring the “Play Dead Charity Poker Showdown” at World Horror Convention this coming April, where celebrity authors will battle each other at Texas Hold 'Em with winnings going to the charity of their choice. I'll be fighting childhood illiteracy by playing for in2books.org (check them out if you're feeling charitable!). I'll be sitting on panel discussions and giving a reading at World Horror Con, too. If you're attending the convention, say hello and rub some good luck on me!
+ DEATH COMES TO LIVE JOURNAL
I learned that The Goreletter weblog is getting resyndicated on the Live Journal network. If you're an LJ User, try adding it to your friends/community lists for easy access and to spread the word to your bizarre acquaintances.
+ BRAM STOKER AWARD PRELIMINARY BALLOT
The preliminary ballot for this year's Bram Stoker Award has been released online by the Horror Writer's Association. Check out the ballot online to see what today's professional horror writers think you should be reading from last year. And what a year it was. I'm happy to report that The Goreletter is on it (for the Alternative Forms catagory, once again) and 100 Jolts is a contender in the Fiction Collection category, as well. The final ballot is released in a month or so; after another round of voting, winners will be announced in June. In the mean time, many humble thanks for this great recognition, HWA! http://www.horror.org/
“These Things Could Save Your Life”
Gallery of Stick Figure Warning Signs
DIY Office Shivs
It actually pays to scroll this far down.
NEW FICTIONWISE ARNZEN EXCLUSIVE
Enter the info below at check out and receive 20% off any Arnzen e-book titles in your shopping cart at Fictionwise.com: Coupon Code: Arnzen2005. One time only. Expires 4/30/2005.
NEW SHOCKLINES BARGAIN
Our favorite bookstore is knocking $2 off of Steve Vernon's Long Horn, Big Shaggy for all Goreletter subscribers. Until May 10th, visit shocklines.com and enter coupon code GORESHAG when you check out, to stake your claim.
THREE GREAT OFFERS FROM FAIRWOOD PRESS
The publisher of my chapbook, Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems, has three great new deals for you. Subscribe to their magazine, Talebones, and get a free issue (either a back issue, or the first issue of the subscription – your choice). Order Tom Piccirilli's great new limited hardcover poetry collection, Waiting My Turn to Go Under the Knife – normally $27.95 – for just $20.96, postage paid (that's a 25% discount)! Or buy any other Fairwood Press product (like, say, the Gorelets chapbook) and get a free issue of Talebones. I don't believe you'll find an offer this good anywhere else. Take advantage of it asap! To claim your discount, mention the code “GORELETTER” when you pay thru www.paypal.com (to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) or on the check you send in the mail to: Patrick Swenson, c/o Fairwood Press, 5203 Quincy Ave SE, Auburn, WA 98092. You won't be disappointed. For the full catalogue, visit: http://www.fairwoodpress.com
FLESH & BLOOD DISCOUNT
Get all available back issues of Flesh & Blood magazine for 20% off. Free shipping and handling on all purchases. Please send payment made out to Jack Fisher with a note mentioning the “Goreletter discount” to: Jack Fisher, 121 Joseph St., Bayville, NJ 08721
DISCOUNT ON DARKNESS
Dark Discoveries magazine is offering an exclusive discount to all Goreletter subscribers. Save 25% on subscriptions or single copies. That's 4 issues for $14.99 or single issues for $4.50 instead of $5.99 (shipping is free!). You can pay thru PayPal (to: email@example.com ) or see the publisher's website for details on where to send a snail mail payment. Use code GOREDISC in your order to claim the coupon. http://www.darkdiscoveries.com
I got a lot of feedback after the last issue – your e-mail is much appreciated! I'm still working up new ideas to integrate into this third volume of The Goreletter, so if you've got ideas feel free to run them past me.
One note I got seemed very worthy of passing along: Zombie Aid is seeking undead stories for charity. If interested, check out:
All material in The Goreletter is © 2005 Michael A. Arnzen, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward the entire contents as a whole, without alterations or excisions. Direct links to articles in the archives or the weblog are permitted and encouraged. For reprint permissions of individual pieces, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winner of the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Alternative Forms from the Horror Writers Association: http://www.horror.org/stokers.htm
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With apologies to latitude 53,41667, longitude 27,91667.
Help spread the strange. Forward this issue to your weirdest friend!
He's Scratching at Your Window
“We look at death through the cheap-glazed windows of the flesh, and believe him the monster which the flawed and cracked glass represents him.” – James Russell Lowell (died 1891)
Goreletter 3 Contest: Mash Your Own Monster CONTEST: MASH YOUR OWN MONSTER
To celebrate the 3rd Volume of the The Goreletter (launched today), I'm hosting a new contest. Give it a try!
Invent a wacky Monster Mash, based on characters from actual horror films (not books or videogames). Give it a title and a slugline…even include a brief summary of the plot, if you like (keep it under 50 words please). Send only one. I'll publish all submissions in the next issue of The Goreletter – and give my top two favorites (subjectively chosen) free prizes!
Top prize: a $10 BitPass gift card, a signed cover flat from Grave Markings (1994) and an autographed copy of Fluid Mosaic or Gorelets (your choice).
2nd Place: a $5 BitPass gift card and a signed cover flat from Grave Markings (1994)
3rd Place: a $3 BitPass gift card
A “bitpass” is a micropayment gift certificate. See The Sickolodeon for more information:
gorelets.com/premium/ or visit BitPass.com
Send your entry to email@example.com with the subject line “MY MASH” by Midnight, April 1st. You must be a subscriber to the newsletter edition of The Goreletter to win. Late arrivals may be published, but ineligible for prizes. I'll announce winners in the next issue of The Goreletter!
– Michael Arnzen
* Due to the temporary nature of internet URLs, some websites mentioned in back issues of the Goreletter may no longer be live, or may also point to unscrupulous web servers. I will denote these with overstrikes as I discover them, but if you encounter a dead, changed or unscrupulous link, please feel free to inform me.
* “Boo Coupons” are expired in all but the current issue.
* If you are seeking a particular book by Arnzen mentioned in The Goreletter, try http://gorelets.com/books/
* Arnzen's blog is now located at http://gorelets.com/blog/ Visit it for breaking news and extras not appearing in The Goreletter.
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