September 21, 2012

Why it Kicks Ass: Attic Clowns by Jeremy C. Shipp!

Clowns never really were
funny, weren't they?
Keeping in touch with my horror roots, I decided some time ago to rekindle my fondness of evil clowns. The original obsession with this type of monster had nothing to do with Stephen King's iconic translation of the theme; I just don't like clowns. I don't get them. Honestly, why would anyone think that children would like to see some guy in oversized dungarees with a parody of a human face... for a face! How can this be anything BUT horrifying to any kid? Therefore, in my view all clowns are evil, even the ones that cry.

So, coming back to my original point. Lately I've been seeing a lot about this writer who apparently ran off four (4!) volumes of clown horror stories. Not wanting to run the chance of encountering a 'too much of a good thing' sort of situation, I just ordered the first volume from RedRumHorror (again with the Stephen King, see?)

The book contains 13 stories (of course) of varying lengths, but all of them deal with clowns and/or attics, although the whole gamma of horror creatures makes an appearance (living soap men, for example). Now, here's the kicker: none of them actually deal with clowns in the traditional sense! AND THAT'S JUST WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT THEM!

At this point I'd like to remind you that the 'Why it Kicks Ass' section of Floating Robes is NOT a review section. I'd just like to explain why I think this book kicks the proverbial ass.

Having said that, none of the stories are actually horror, none will give you nightmares unless you're like me and have an inborn fear of going crazy. The clowns in the stories are often representations of fears, personas, complexes or other psychological phenomana in the mind of the protagonist. Jeremy C. Shipp created with this a map, if you will, of the dark side of the human mind! With evil clowns!

For example, take the story of the man stuck in the attic with a dead clown (called A Quivering Gray Fog). There's a hole in the floor which leads to Hell. And there are a bunch of photographs on the desk which depict the same photograph. Every night, our protagonist takes a photo of the photo. On the original we'll probably see why he's here and what is going on, but by now the photo of the photo of the photo is so far removed from the original that it's hard to figure out. Well, without giving away the plot, the solution involves an underling demon who feasts on human feet.

Without getting to pretentious (or maybe it's too late) the man obviously feels guilty about something and the dead body probably has something to do with it. He feels he's halfway down to Hell and furiously tries to find out what he did wrong and why he's there. The story eminates an array of loneliness, guilt and confusion with not only redemption at the end, but also an overwhelming sense of human foolishness.

As you can tell, the stories are mostly bizarre and weird and certainly not for people who like to hang on to horror in the traditional sense. There'll be a lot of people who 'just don't get it'. But to anyone with an interest in psychology (like all horror writers should have, I'm sure), the stories are just great!

Mr. Shipp's style is terse and almost without any adjectives which makes the stories even more tense and gloomy than they would be otherwise. An ironic sense of humour surrounds most of the stories although I never found myself laughing out loud. Reading the book puts the reader in a strange mood, though, and I found it hard to shake the type of thinking that this kind of writing instills in the reader. Even now, long after I've read the book, I still think about it, much like I do with some of the classics I used to read when I was younger. I guess that means that Mr. Shipp has created some sort of post-modern clown punk horror classic or something!

Okay, so now he's got me rambling about it. If you haven't read the book and are into some weird stuff, go buy it. If you like your vampires sparkling, please forego this one. If you've read the book and 'just didn't get it', re-read it and remember 'It's all in your head!'


Mr. Shipp's Blog
To the Book!

September 18, 2012

WTF Movie of the Week: Attack the Block!

Intergalactic tooth-paste had some unforeseen drawbacks...
So, well, here we are... I'm going to come straight out and say it: I LIKED IT. I know it's not the most popular opinion (I'll explain why later), but I did. Usually I would now go on and give you an insightful overview of the development of the characters, the intellectual merits or the wonderful photography, BUT this movie has none of that. It doesn't seem to bother with all that jazz, or at the very least, it plays it down to the point it's easily ignored. And maybe that's for the best.

The story opens with a couple of hoodlums mugging a young nurse on her way home. These are not nice guys, the writers are telling us, and they're right. Now, if you think these hoodlums will, in the course of the movie, will experience some Joycean epiphany which will redeem them for the rest of their lives, it ain't going to happen.

Soon after the mugging they find a strange, hound-like creature, kill it, and take it with them to the block where they live. We soon learn that the group is into low-level dealing of marihuana and especially the leader, Moses (John Boyega), wants to work his way up in this sleazy world.
But pretty soon the block is under siege from strange, dark aliens with glowing teeth. All sounds pretty corny, eh?

What follows is an 80-minute slugfest in which the hoodlums try to defend their block of appartment buildings from the besieging aliens with mostly humourous results. We get to know a lot of the other tenants of this building and the associations they keep. Nick Frost and the rick kid hooked on pot, the screaming girls and the nurse they mugged earlier who somehow ended up in the same block. And although there is the obvious tension between them, they all have to work together to beat the aliens.

So, here goes. What most people would expect is that the hoodlums, faced with this horrible new enemy, will mend their wicked ways and lead productive lives from now on. But instead, they attack the aliens with the same arrogance and ferocity they do everything else. There is no message here and maybe that's just as well. It's just enjoyable fun with a slight throw-back to the 80's monster movies. The fact that the aliens are not visible except for horrific, glowing teeth, is a great move by the director. It is an hommage to movies from a time when monsters could not be made so realistic (Cat People, anyone?).

The big question that dawns on me as I read the bad reviews is why people would expect an epiphany or a message from a movie that is clearly made for entertainment purposes and not for it's Oscar potential. Because the heroes are not obvious heroes like we see nowadays? Because it deals with problem kids in a problem area of London? I found it more refreshing than disturbing, but that's just me.

The same goes for the comparison between this and Shaun of the Dead. Why would you compare the two? Because they're both English? Because both have Nick Frost in it? If you want more of the charismatic duo of Frost and Pegg please watch Hot Fuzz and Paul and be done with it. Both are excellent!

Leave Attack the Block for what it is, a wonderfully written action-sci/fi-horror movie with good performances and some funny bits.

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