Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Strange High House in the Mist

Driving up and down the country for the festive season has once again allowed me time to listen to audio readings of HP Lovecraft's work. I really do like his The Strange High House in the Mist - one of his more weird tales and rather less connected to the mythos that is Lovecraft's most famous creation. After (re)discovering a story I like to listen to the excellent banter-laden discussions of it on Alas, it seems I am rather alone in thinking Mist is a good story - most tend to find it rather turgid and badly written.

In brief, the tale is about the conversion of a skeptic - a philosopher in this case. Thomas Olney ignores the warngings of his neighbours in his new home of Kingsport and decided to visit a strange house perched precariously on a clifftop. He encounters the denizen of the decrepit abode and lots more besides. The story is replete with visions of the old sea gods, their strange aquatic minions and hints at the eon-spanning history of the ocean. I love the descriptions of the weird, old house and the hints of how magical Kingsport is, with inhabitants like the Terrible Old Man and Granny Orne.

The HP Podcraft show linked to a web comic for Mist by artist Jason Thompson. I really like Thompson's vision of Kingsport. He's managed to imbue the town with a lot of well-observed little touches, like the odd statues in the Terrible Old Man's garden, and the plethora of flora which coats many of the town's buildings. The house on the cliff is great too, with an amazing panel showing Olney entering a weird, nautical-themed Elizabethan interior. I do like his panel layout as well, with the constant raking angles hinting at the pitching of a ship, or perhaps the skewing of reality.

You can read the full text of Mist here, listen to the HP Podcraft discussion here, and see Jason Thompson's excellent web comic here.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The unquestionable genius of Kung Fury

Kung Fury is a Kickstarter project which must be funded for the good of mankind. It's a movie homage to that well known 80s cinema genre of action/cop/time-travel/viking/kung-fu/dinosaur flicks. Yes, that genre.

There's a definite hint of Kavinsky in the treatment of the logo and the soundtrack, and I love the use of shitty 80s computers for the time travel sequence.

"I'll hack you back in time... just like a time machine."

UPDATE: Laser Unicorns, the outfit who are behind this production, have just announced that the Kickstarter reached its target in less than 24 hours!  Clearly everyone hates kung-fu Nazi leaders...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Attenborough's Jurassic Park

Today it was announced the Sir David Attenborough is backing a British project dubbed "Jurassic Park". Because there are no negative connotations with that name. Whatsoever.

The naturalist's brother, actor Richard Attenborough, played the eccentric millionaire Hammond in Spielberg's movie, so David's involvement will bring even more weight. Actually it doesn't sound as dangerous as the concept for the fictional park. It seems the tourist attraction, based in what has been dubbed the Jurassic Coastline because of the plethora of specimens which have been found there, will feature fossils and possibly animatronic dinosaurs. Like a kind of Cretacious West World. Oh, wait a minute...

Joking aside, it would be great to celebrate Britain's contribution to paleontology and I'd love to see a well-though-out visitor centre. I've spent a lot of time in Lyme Regis (home to Mary Anning, who found a famous ichthyosaur specimen in the nineteenth century) and some of the museums look increasingly dated by today's standards. Also, Renzo Piano, designer of the London Shard building, is on the project to and is already concepting a glass domed edifice, which sounds pretty cool.

A photo I took a few years ago of the 'Jurassic Coastline' near to the proposed site of the visitor centre. The constant erosion of the land means new fossil-rich rocks are being constantly exposed, revealing specimens.

One of Lyme Regis' dinosaur museums. Check out the mural on the back wall - it's almost photo-realistic.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Signalman

I am discovering the joys of living in a Victorian terrace house in winter. It's freezing and I spend a lot of time under several blankets watching DVDs and exploring occult film and TV from the 70s. This led me to the excellent 1976 BBC adaption of Dickens' The Signalman.

The short story concerns a nascent friendship between a traveller and a railway signalman in Victorian England. After a chance meeting the traveler learns that his new companion has a profound dread of an impending but ill-defined catastrophe. The film is a masterful example of how to build tension. Lighting, sound and excellent dialogue all augment the wonderful pacing which leads to a terrifying climax.

This television play is a stark reminder of how reliant modern film makers seem to be on effects in order to instill horror. The availability of good quality CGI and prosthetics has led to a decline in atmospheric and implied horror and the rise of the ultra-visceral. It seems that producers fear that, unless it's all on the screen, audiences simply won't be satisfied. Nowhere is this more evident than in the BBC's latest cash-cow - Doctor Who. I love the 'old' stories for their weirdness and the inventive ways they managed to layer science fiction elements on to rather mundane locations. The new episodes are crammed with effects, extraterrestrial locations and aliens and it seems every story is about saving the universe. As a result I find them rather flat and devoid of the quirkiness of their predecessors.

Check out the full version of The Signalman below. If you like it, do watch the utterly terrifying Whistle and I'll Come to You, another landmark in BBC ghost stories.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Kilian Eng does Stargate

I blogged some years ago about the talented illustrator Kilian Eng. I've been following his work over the years and he's just knocked it out of the park with his latest effort - a poster for my beloved Stargate.

The image will apparently be on offer as a print from Evil Tender.

Eng also did an amazing poster for the recently released documentary on Jodorowsky's Dune, which is equally stunning.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sad Stonewash

Sad Stonewash is a video project by Luke Wyatt which explores the dirty underbelly of VHS-to-VHS copying. Wyatt uses obsolete analogue technology to force corruption into VHS footage, which he then further manipulates and cuts to music.

“I select video to appropriate based on its mood resonance or compositional zing. My VCR gets beat up with a size 13 docksider until it makes errors and the VHS tape spits up on itself. While digitizing the video I induce the computer to make mistakes by not telling it the truth about the data it is ingesting. I isolate the mistakes I like best, outline them, and send them back to my VCR, resuming the docksider attack, repeating this process until things attain an anti-sheen, losing any crisp edge, as if they had always belonged together. I then arrange the images in an order that must appear equally inevitable.” 

I love the way his process is both manual, and metaphysical. He is searching for hidden meaning buried in old data using brutal techniques which, by the sounds of things, test his equipment to the point of destruction. I suspect the results he attains as the decks spit out their last, artifact-clogged images are the most pure and truthful and are ejaculated in a Ballard-ian act of violent forced-obsolescence.

 Via Sci-fi-o-Rama