Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Thursday Thirteen: 13 Sequels

The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. The category this time around? 13 Sequels Worth a Damn.

1 - Revenge of the Creature (dir. Jack Arnold) - This movie adds the one thing to the mix that was missing in the original Creature from the Black Lagoon - John Agar. That said, the chemistry between the male and female leads isn't as strong as it is in the first film; while Creature... is still my favorite film, this one comes VERY close, and I've found that I can watch both of these movies back-to-back thanks to their running times, consistent directorial vision and 3D cinematography.

2 - Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (dir. Bruce Pittman) - This movie has absolutely nothing to do with the first film, essentially turning the Prom Night franchise into a supernatural slasher film (whereas the first film had no supernatural elements). Prom Night II takes a sort of Nightmare on Elm Street-lite approach with the killer dispatching her victims in their dreams, and Michael Ironside is in the film in a role that is delightfully atypical for him.

3 - The Revenge of Frankenstein (dir. Terence Fisher) - This is another movie that could easily be viewed immediately after its predecessor (The Curse of Frankenstein), and again, having the same director at the helm helps to make this happen. Peter Cushing's performance is as determined as the character of Dr. Frankenstein himself, which is fitting as this film made it clear that Hammer was interested in telling stories about Frankenstein the man as opposed to his monster(s).

4 - The Brides of Dracula (dir. Terence Fisher) - Brides... took a cue from The Revenge of Frankenstein in that rather than spotlighting the monster, in this case Dracula, it highlighted a man, in this case Van Helsing. Peter Cushing is one of the screen's best Van Helsings, and in this film, he not only delivers another solid performance, but, as the vampire hunter, he deals with these vampires in creative and inventive ways. (I love the final confrontation between Van Helsing and vampire in this film!)

5 - Wes Craven's New Nightmare (dir. Wes Craven) - Craven got meta before Scream. Growing up, my allegiance was more to Jason Voorhees than Freddy Krueger. I was aware of the Nightmare... films, but by the time I REALLY started to care about them, I was already into learning the behind-the-scenes stuff of movie-making, so I was less invested in the stories of the films and more invested in the hows and whys. New Nightmare fictionalized some of the hows and whys, and even though the conclusion falls a little flat, I still enjoy it quite a bit.

6 - Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (dir. John Carl Buechler) - Two words. Kane. Hodder. This was the first film that placed Hodder behind the hockey mask, and Jason Voorhees hasn't been the same since. No one played the character with such a raw sense of physical-ness before (or maybe even since!), and as sick as it might be to admit it, there's a reason why we cheer when Jason wraps the camper-filled sleeping bag around a tree.

7 - The Exorcist III (dir. William Peter Blatty) - Exorcist II: The Heretic failed on almost every level, but The Exorcist III is more than just a rebound. This is a smart horror film, and despite its shoehorn-ing into the Exorcist franchise, it delivers the goods with solid performances, spooky imagery and underrated direction.

8 - Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (dir. Sam Raimi) - Honestly, I've fallen out of the cult of Raimi a long time ago, but I still enjoy Evil Dead 2 for what it is. Is it a sequel? A remake? Whatever it is, make no mistake - I prefer the first film its true horror intentions and heart, but the wackiness and intentional campiness of Dead by Dawn can't be beat.

9 - Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (dir. Roy William Neill) - This was the first time Universal mixed their monster movies, and the result is a lot of fun, even if Karloff wasn't donning the Monster make-up. The film is especially respectful of the previous The Wolf Man (Curt Siodmak wrote both films), and establishes that these classic Universal monster films all take place in the same "world" without results that felt forced. And the resurrection scene at the beginning of the film? Fantastic.

10 - Phantasm II (dir. Don Coscarelli) - Phantasm II is to Phantasm as Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is to The Evil Dead. Sure, Mike is played by a different actor, and Jody is nowhere to be seen, but for the most part, this is film could be seen as a continuation, a sequel or a remake of the first film, and it works in any case. Reggie Bannister gets more screen time, and the hints of his badassery we saw in the first film blossom into full-on comic book hero proportions. The special effects are more refined, the score more realized, the look, the pacing . . . this is a solid entry in the Phantasm franchise despite the obvious Nightmare on Elm Street influence.

11 & 12 - Dawn of the Dead (the original) and Day of the Dead (the original) (dir. George A. Romero) - No-brainers. (No pun intended.)

13 - The Satanic Rites of Dracula (dir. Alan Gibson). Yes. Really. Look, I'm aware this film has some pacing issues. I'm aware Christopher-Lee-as-Dracula feels a bit tired in this film, but it's Lee and Cushing's final Hammer battle as Dracula and Van Helsing (even if it's the original Van Helsing's descendant). The plot? Dracula is tired of his existence and is ready to end things . . . by ending the world with bubonic plague variant. The script really needed more polish, and I understand all the criticisms aimed at this film, but 1) I've been on a fierce Hammer kick as of late, and, 2), we get to watch Cushing-as-Van-Helsing melt a small silver crucifix into a bullet mold in preparation to go after Drac.

(Have a suggestion for a future topic of The Thursday Thirteen? Email me at . . . )

Friday, January 7, 2011

Goals for 2011

Looking back, I was incredibly busy in 2010, and while I'm proud of some of the accomplishments I can claim, I know I fell short in other areas. I need to be more realistic; I need to be more specific. In the end, I need to remember that when it comes to MOST of my goals, I'm only accountable to myself, which makes the idea of goal-setting both incredibly easy AND incredibly scary. Who's going to know if I drop the ball? Just me . . . well, and anyone who reads my blog.

My goals for 2011 (I still like calling them "goals" instead of "resolutions" - thanks, Heather!)

Health. I was vague about this last year, and by not being more specific, I wonder if I allowed myself too much leeway. I am ashamed to say that I need to work off some weight, so I need to make a real effort to get some more gym-time in. I also could do a better job diet-wise, and starting next week, I'll be paying more attention to the calories-in-calories-out ratio. (I'm not saying I'll start this next week because I'm procrastinating; we're taking a mini-vacation at the end of this week and will be away from home base until next Wednesday. I need to be realistic and know that I won't be overly food-aware while away.)

Why do I need to be in better shape (besides the obvious)? I've got degenerative disc disease, and when I'm heavier, there's more stress placed on my back, and the three vertebrate that are already in bad shape are compressed even more than normal. In years past, I've had issues in which the discs press against the nerve stem, causing leg pain or leg drop, and I want to steer away from that as much as possible. Add to this a case of sleep apnea and a desire to be more active now while Bren and I are dipping into our middle age, and I know I need to make more time exercising/eating better/etc.

How will I accomplish this? I have access to a workout/mini-gym at work, and when we get back from our mini-vacation, I will either 1) stay after work at least three days a week to work out a bit, or, 2) start getting up early in the morning and going to the gym done the street for a workout before work. I haven't decided yet, but I'm committed to making this happen. I also will start watching the diet a bit more. I do fairly good throughout the day as it is; dinner usually crosses the daily caloric intake for me.

Podcasting. We moved to an every-other-week schedule for Mail Order Zombie in late-2010 (although we're still not quite there in that I've been releasing material every week despite claiming to go bi-weekly/bi-monthly/bi-whatever!). Mail Order Zombie will continue in 2011, and while I don't want to talk too much about MOZ here at Plan D, I do have some other podcasting commitments I need to keep. Almost one year ago, I started talking with a friend/fellow podcaster about submitting a segment to his show, and I have yet to get that started. I'd like to make that happen this year, but not at the expense of any Mail Order Zombie production. My plan is to start slowly on this project, and complete nearly all the segments before starting to send them in (if he's even still interested in them!). I just need to balance this podcast commitment with Mail Order Zombie.

Writing. This is the big one, and the area I need to be most successful in in 2011 if I'm going to consider the year a success. I may be guilty of putting too much pressure on myself, but I NEED to succeed here.

And in this case, publication=success.

I acknowledge this sounds a bit mercenary, but the goal is further publication. But I'm not going to get too ahead of myself - I need to create the content first!

I need to work more in the short-story-arena. I enjoy writing short stories, and I'd like to work harder at completing a few more (besides, I have some characters that need some fleshing out and all, and a short story seems as good a place as any to make this happen!). Let's get crazy and put a number out there . . . four short stories need to be complete and submitted by the end of 2011. That's one every three months. I think that's realistic. (And a lot more reasonable than the recent crazy idea I had in mid-December about completing a short story and submitting it to an anthology at the beginning of January! That didn't quite work out. BIG surprise.)

Speaking of unreasonable deadlines - I've set a deadline of March to complete my current novel-in-progress. I've written longer pieces before: in high school I spent most of my senior year working away at and completing a novel-length work (that no one will EVER see), and a few years ago, I "won" NaNoWriMo and finished a novel. However, I've always approached them from a "discovery writer" approach. This time, I'm building the novel from an outline, and I feel like things are working out. Once we get back from our vacation, I'll start moving material from the outline to the keyboard.

(I do have another couple of novel ideas bubbling around in my brain, but aside from notes being written down in a Moleskine, I need to focus on the one novel for now.)

I danced around talking about two non-fiction book projects by avoiding too many specifics, and I'm still going to do that, but these both need to be complete by year's end. If not, I may need to just set them aside and move on because if I haven't made them happen by the time December 31, 2011, comes along, they're just existing as anchors.

Other. More reading, more movie-watching, more diversification in my media-consumption.

Are these attainable goals? At first, I was worried. I started quantifying them, fleshing them out, giving them more weight by further solidifying them, and I thought that would feel more daunting, but the truth is I feel even more motivated now. I have a better game plan than I did last year, and I'm ready to move forward on making 2011 a success.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How'd I Do?

I'm going into this with as positive an attitude as possible. Last year, I set forth a number of goals (not resolutions!); I know I fell short. Rather than beat myself up, though, I want to look at these goals and try to figure out WHY I fell short, and keep this in mind when I set forth my 2011 goals in my next post.

Goal One - Maintain my bi-monthly column at Paperback Reader. This should be easy and a no-brainer; my "Papercut" column is part editorial, part critique, and I've got plenty of thoughts about the horror genre that I can put to virtual paper.

I did continue this until Paperback Reader went through a soft reboot of sorts. Eventually I pulled the plug on my "Papercut" column, however, for a number of different reasons (devoting my time to other projects being the foremost).

Goal Two - Non-fiction book project Number One. Yeah, yeah, I'm being purposefully vague here, and I will disclose more as I get closer to seeing this one completed . . . which, if I can keep my head down and nose to the grindstone (and that's the very last time that I, as a writer, will use that clich├ęd phrase), I can see being completed in three months time.

I got caught up on a lot of details of what the final product MIGHT look like and let this get in the way of my completing the project. In the end, I felt burnt out on this WIP (Work in Progress). (The good news is that I'm starting to get the jazz back, though!)

Goal Three - 2010 Novel Number One. I'm working through an old National Novel Writing Month novel I completed in 2006, expanding the text, changing the perspective and fleshing out the characters a bit more. I've started work on this already, and would like to see a finished draft by summer.

I trunked this novel.

Goal Four - 2010 Novel Number Two. This novel features a character that will appear in my contribution to the upcoming anthology Dark, scheduled to be released later this year. I'm as excited about this one as I am about 2010 Novel Number One, and look forward to learning a bit more about this great city in which I live(-ish - technically I don't live in Portland, OR, proper) as I hope to tie some of this novel into the history and geography of the Portland, OR, area. The goal for this is to see a first draft completed by the end of 2010.

This COULD have happened. In fact, it SHOULD have happened. And not to make too many excuses, but I'm going to blame my inability to make as much time for writing as I should have on this not happening. The character is still alive . . . in my mind, and while I realize this doesn't do anyone any good, I still have hope that I'll be getting him down on paper again sometime this year.

Goal Five - Non-fiction book project Number Two. This is a big one, with a lot of work to do and headway to make. I'm looking forward to tackling this as it's been bubbling around in my brain for at least a year now, and it's about damned time I throw those words down. More details as this project becomes more concrete.

This didn't happen. I discovered about a month or so ago that the research I'd been doing for this book project was exactly 50% of what it should have been. When I discovered this, I was slightly amused, slightly annoyed and slightly put off. An odd feeling over being overwhelmed hit me, and I haven't really focussed on this book-in-process since then.

Goal Six - As much short fiction writing as I can. There are some markets that have asked to see some of my work, and I can't let them down! Besides, I can always go back to a short story to keep the writing gears turning if any of my novel or non-fiction projects give me any grief.

I poked at some short stories, but didn't complete/submit anything.

Goal Seven - Not quite a fiction or non-fiction project, but there's still some writing involved, so there you go. I meant to complete this project in 2009, and I need to touch base with the collaborator with whom I was working, but I think this will be a fun project to get off the ground and shop around.

This was a complete . . . ummmm . . . incomplete project. The search for a collaborator became a stumbling block that I allowed myself to use as an excuse to move on to other projects.

I look at these old goals, and it would be easy for me to feel as if I didn't accomplish much. I have to remind myself that this isn't necessarily true. Mail Order Zombie grew quite a bit in 2010, and I funneled a lot of energy into my podcasting (including the Plan D: Countdown the Halloween podcast I produced in October). And I'm okay with that. I enjoy podcasting, and given the opportunity, I have two or three other podcasts I'd like to launch(!).

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I typically write the movie reviews I produce for Mail Order Zombie, and I'm guessing I produced around 100 movie reviews last year. I don't have a word count, but I am going to "count" that as writing, so I don't feel like I completely bottomed out in 2010 writing-wise.

There was also some travel that would have happened if it wasn't for Mail Order Zombie. I REALLY enjoy going to conventions, and look forward to some next year; now that I know what to expect in terms of what can happen at a con and everything we need to do at home before leaving for one, we can plan our trips a bit better.

Other commitments and issues certainly pulled me away from my writing this year as well. This year, I'll be sure to think about more than just my writing when setting my goals . . . which I'll write about later this week.