Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Night of the Demon

My obsession with all things occult and satanic led me to re-watch this 1957 British horror. I recalled that it was a weaker cousin to such classics as The Devil Rides Out and Blood on Satan's Claw and I was right. The story generally nips along but gets bogged down in places. Its troubled production history no doubt contributes to the occasional meanderings.

The plot is based on the classic short story by master-of-shivers MR James. As befits its short form, James' tale is far less complex than the film and focuses on a small number of male protagonists. The story of a nefarious cult-leader issuing occult equivalents of Treasure Island's black spots was padded out by the studio, most notably with a romantic sub plot. A sticking point in the production was the debate about whether to make it explicit that the killings are the work of a summoned demon, or more open to interpretation. The former was eventually chosen, probably to put the movie more firmly in the 'horror' bracket than as a harder-to-market occult thriller. I have no problem with the decision, only the way the demon is rendered. The smoky start to his manifestation is good, but when the actual beastie appears his animation is rather lacking.

The film is a good romp for a Sunday afternoon, but doesn't quite live up to its potential. Writers like my beloved Nigel Kneale do a much better job of building the suspense, usually by relating old legends and using evocative locations. There are nods to both techniques in Night of the Demon but they're brief and the adaption relies too much on melodrama.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Boleskine House

Built in the late 18th century by Archibald Fraser, Boleskine House would have likely remained a pleasant but unremarkable property on the banks of Loch Ness had it not been chosen by The Great Beast as a haunt from which to summon demons. The resident in question is, of course, Aliester Crowley. He occupied the pile from 1899 - 1913.

He claimed to have chosen the building for several reasons, though it's not clear how many of them are a product of Crowley's overactive imagination. He considered its architecture and layout to be favourable to the summoning of spirits. It fulfilled the need for a building with "...a door opening to the north from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered with fine river sand. This ends in a "lodge" where the spirits may congregate." Thus Crowley felt that the building occupied some special place in the cosmic order; he considered the "Magical East" of certain systems to be somewhere around Boleskine. There are even rumours of a secret tunnel linking Boleskin house to a nearby graveyard close to the waters of Loch Ness which was an ideal location for sacred rites. Certainly the secluded site must have offered practical benefits.

Regardless of how many of the colourful myths about Boleskine are true, what is certain is that the building now occupies a special place in our folklore. It was owned from the early 1970s until 1991 by Led Zeppelin guitarist and Aleister Crowley enthusiast, Jimmy Page. In this interview he claims some of the spirits raised by his predecessor still walked the corridors (or, in the case of the severed head, rolled down them).

I was especially excited to discover the floorplan shown below. I find such schematics endlessly fascinating - they are at one abstracted representations of 3D space and a product of how the human mind conceptualises enclosed volumes.

Photos from here, here

Monday, 13 August 2012

Antony and the Johnsons - Cut the World

A strange and surreal video starring Willem Defoe and Carice van Houten.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sober by Tool

Brothers Quay-esque animation goodness.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Yves Behar's Ouya

Within eight hours of going on Kickstarter the hackable, $99, Android-powered Ouya console made its $950k target. Pledges continued to pour in and the project closed recently with a whopping $8.5m promised. Everyone loves an underdog and the Ouya's clever campaign (fronted by charismatic project founder Julie Uhrman) has played on this notion.

One of the sharpest weapons in her arsenal is that she's employed the amazing Yves Behar (who I blogged about recently) to design the thing. Behar has certainly had to work within some pretty tight confines, not least of which is the low price-point of the device. His work on the $100 laptop project will prove invaluable.

What's really interesting is that in many of his interviews about the Ouya he gives equal airtime to the design of the UI as he does to the the physical console and controller. As consoles have evolved from being single-purpose game machines to media hubs, so the UI has to be capable of allowing users to wrangle these features. Miniaturisation means that consoles are now almost invisible - the Ouya is no larger than a hefty apple. Thus the UI is what people will spend most time looking at, rather than the box that it links to.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Montmartre Cemetery

Located in the North of the city Montmartre Cemetery is one of several large burial grounds towards the edges of central Paris. These outer interments are the result of the 1786 edict that no more bodies could be buried within the city limits of the day due to the hazards the corpses posed to public health. During the French Revolution of 1789–1799 various stone quarries were used as mass graves and the abandoned gypsum quarry in Montmartre was later designated on official necropolis. Its past life as a working quarry explains one of the cemetery's most unusual features - it has a main road running through it (now on a viaduct). The necropolis is the final resting place of many creatives who lived in the colourful district of the city, including one of my favorite composers, Berloiz, and the painter Degas.

I first visited the cemetery during my trip to Paris earlier this year. I was struck by how peaceful an island it is in an otherwise busy district of the French capital. The viaduct (a wonderful Steampunk affair of iron and rivets) adds to the sense that visitors are in a depression that is somehow separated from the surrounding city. Indeed, the Eastern edge of the cemetery undulates and gives the impression that one is in a valley of the dead.

The architecture of the tombs is very inspiring. Many resemble tiny Gothic cathedrals and are undoubtedly the home to ghouls and ghasts who know the value of a sinister-looking haunt. I made friends with a rather suspicious cat who, I suspect, was unsure if I was a spectre or simply a curious tourist.

Cockneys vs. Zombies trailer

"Piss off you muppets!"


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Thierry Mugler's 'Chimere' dress

Adriana Sklenarikova wears the Chimere dress with and articulated gold body made from scales, feathers, horsehair and embroidered rhinestones.

Mugler was born in 1948 and shot to fame in the 80s as an internationally recognized fashion designer. As well as his career in haute couture one of his lasting accolades is that he created the famous black dress worn by Demi Moore in the movie Indecent Proposal. His brand was revitalized in 2010 when the designer Nicola Formichetti (most famous for working with Lady Gaga) became creative director.

I. Want. That. Dress.