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TOP TEN MOVIES OF 2015

By Jeff Burk

It’s that time again – my favorite movies of 2015! But if you want to see what I liked previous years, check out these links:

2000-2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014

Wow, 2015 was an amazing year for movies. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a hard time narrowing down to ten favorite films. This was a year that genre films ruled – horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and action all got amazing contributions to their field.

After an extremely weak showing in 2014, horror bounced back this year. While art-horror family dramas are still receiving all the buzz (I’m looking at you, GOODNIGHT, MOMMY) there was plenty of weirdo, gory, and transgressive movies being released in the underground. Hell, there were so many that I didn’t even get to see everything I wanted to this year (namely a ton of underground Japanese movies that I wasn’t aware of until the end of the year).

Mainstream mass release movies were also bit by the genre bug this year with MAD MAX, THE AVENGERS, and STAR WARS dominating the box office and best-of lists (but none of those movies are on my top ten). It’s hard to miss the fact that those three movies are all sequels. I frequently hear people bemoan the number of sequels and remakes released and that “there’s no new ideas.”  In reality, there’s plenty of original and great movies coming out – you just have to look for them/actually watch them. I was very pleased when I realized that my top ten list doesn’t have a single sequel or remake.

In terms of original filmmaking, 2015 may have been the best year of the 10’s thus far.

Enough buildup, let’s get to the list!

HONORABLE MENTIONS OF 2015: THE VOICES, IT FOLLOWS, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, CAM GIRLZ, EX MACHINA, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3, ATTACK ON TITAN, UNFRIENDED, THE VISIT, and DEEP DARK.

All those movies listed above are worth checking out – there was just so much good shit this year! But I had to have favorites, and here they are:

10: CHAPPIE (Neill Blomkamp, United States)

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We got two sci-fi movies this year that dealt with the concept of artificial intelligence. EX MACHINA was the critical darling and I get why – it’s technically excellent. But I preferred CHAPPIE. While EM stuck to one aspect of A.I. to explore it fully, CHAPPIE gloriously throws everything against the wall and doesn’t give a shit if it sticks – family, religion, government, law, personal responsibility, and tons more weighty topics are hit one after another in a movie over-flowing with ideas and passion.

Plus, Die Antwood playing the main characters was the most inspired casting of any film this year.

9: EVERLY (Joe Lynch, United States)

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Joe Lynch (KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM) finally returns and this time he has a movie that he actually had full control of! Salma Hayek plays a prostitute (Everly) who is targeted by the Yakuza after they discover she has been working with the police. What follows is ninety minutes of pure blood-soaked chaos.  Lynch shows what a creative mind can do with a relatively low budget and amazingly sets almost the entire move in one room and hallway. The limited sets and claustrophobic feeling only add to the desperation as Everly fights off wave after wave of attackers.

In a year in which female stars in action movies got a lot of attention, EVERLY went sadly beneath most viewers’ radar. Fuck Furiosa. Fuck Rey. Everly was the most badass woman on the silver screen this year.

8: CLOWN (Jon Watts, United States/Canada)

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I love movies like this, an absolutely ridiculous premise but played deathly serious. The movie is about a man who puts on a demon-possessed clown costume and now he is turning into a clown/demon with a taste for children. As absurd as that sounds, the movie never goes for laughs and instead embraces the surreal terror of the situation. This was the surprise body-horror hit of the year for me. If you dig twisted shit like early Cronenberg, TUSK, or the HUMAN CENTIPEDE series – you need to check this out.

Plus, the entire movie is about killing children. Which I always argue we need more of in film.

7: CALL ME LUCKY (Bobcat Goldthwait, United States)

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Who would have thought that a documentary made by Bobcat Goldthwait about stand-up comedian Barry Crimmins would be the darkest film of the year. The movie starts off as a documentary about a comedian but then the viewer finds out about a violent rape Crimmins suffered as a child. The documentary shifts then into the story of Crimmins being one of the first people to begin to expose the predatory online practices of pedophiles.

By the end of this movie you will be furious at law enforcement, organized religion, and internet providers that all “allowed” more children to become victims. This is powerful, disturbing, and, yet by the end, strangely life-affirming.

Goldthwait has been proving himself over recent years to be one of the most interesting working filmmakers out there (GOD BLESS AMERICA, WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, and SLEEPING DOGS LIE) and this is his best, and heaviest, yet.

6: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (Matthew Vaughn, United States/United Kingdom)

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From the wonderfully crass and over-the-top combination of Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar (that gave up the glorious KICK-ASS series) comes another ultra-violent destruction of genre tropes. This time they set their eyes on James Bond and other spy movies. They ramp up the sexism, nationalism, and violence of the spy genre to eleven to create a vicious satire pointing out how fucked-up those movies are. Crass, irreverent, and gleefully nihilistic – if more spy movies were like this, I might actually care about the genre.

And the church fight was one of the best scenes in any movie this year.

5: WE ARE STILL HERE (Ted Geoghegan, United States)

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This was a wonderful horror shocker that seemed to come out of nowhere. A haunted house story with some very, very gory surprises. I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling things but I haven’t seen a movie in many years that invoked so much of the feel of the 70’s and 80’s Italian horror. Nightmare logic, surreal villains, and vicious violence made this the best straight-up horror film of the year.

It feels so much like a lost Fulci film. Seriously, what else do I need to say?

4: DUDE BRO PARTY MASSACRE III (Tomm Jacobsen, Michael Rousselet, and Jon Salmon, United States)

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From the people behind 5-Second Films comes the greatest slasher parody of all-time. Presenting itself as a lost movie from the 80’s, this movie hilariously deconstructs and gender-flips every trope from the era to create movie where you truly have no idea what will happen from minute to minute.

I could go on and on about the creative brilliance on display here but that would take away from the film’s many surprises. If you like stupidly clever, low-budget trash (think Troma and Astron-6), you’ll love this movie.

3: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, New Zealand) 

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Considering that this movie is practically on everyone’s top ten of the year list, I don’t have much to add to the conversation. Other than the fact that there’s a reason this was on everyone’s list – it’s easily the funniest movie of the year. If, somehow, you haven’t heard of this vampire mockumentary, unfuck that and watch the trailer below.

2: YAKUZA APOCALYPSE (Takashi Miike, Japan

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Takashi Miike (ICHI: THE KILLER, HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, DEAD OR ALIVE, and many more) finally returns to his weirdo cult roots and gives us a film packed with vampires, martial arts, and the world’s greatest terrorist wearing a full-body frog costume. This is a special type of movie for a special type of person – most people would HATE this movie. But if you’re like me and enjoy absurdism, nonsensical violence, and scenes over-flowing with pure weird, you’ll find a lot to love here.

1: SPRING (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, United States)

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Here we are, my favorite movie of the year and it’s a romance. Seriously.

SPRING is the second film from the genius writer/director pair that gave us RESOLUTION (which is one of my favorite horror movies of the past few years) and they have returned with a film that is truly something special and completely unique. Combing romance with pure Lovecraftian cosmic horror in a manner that neither genre overwhelms the other was a balancing act that should be impossible but, somehow, SPRING nails it.

I wish I could tell you more but it is really best to go into this movie blind. Great acting, amazing cinematography, gorgeous sets, and a fantastic script made this into the standout of the year for me.

Between RESOLUTION and now SPRING, Benson and Moorhead are at the top of my list of new horror filmmakers to keep an eye on.

WHAT AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016

ABATTOIR (Darren Lynn Bousman, United States)

I’m a sucker for a good haunted house movie and ABATTOIR has one of the most original spins on the concept that I’ve ever heard. It’s about someone who “makes” a haunted house by taking rooms from other houses that were the scenes of violent crimes and assembling them together into a new house. It’s such a simple and brilliant idea. There’s no release date yet but I’m hoping I don’t have to wait too long to see it.

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So that’s my list for 2015. Agree? Think I’m full of shit? Let me know in the comments.

And before everyone starts asking, I didn’t like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (yep, there are people that didn’t like that movie) and I didn’t see STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (I’m more of STAR TREK and DOCTOR WHO kinda guy).


The JEFF ATTACKS Podcast

Deadite Press head editor, Jeff Burk (Shatnerquake, Super Giant Monster Time, Cripple Wolf, and Shatnerquest), has started a new podcast about weirdo artists, strange creators, bizarre performers, and shit he thinks is cool.

The first five episodes are now live and feature interviews with Andrew Goldfarb, MP Johnson,.Pedro Proença, and Veronica Chaos.

Readings from Cameron Pierce, Rios De La Luz, J David Osborne, Matthew T. Granberry, and Nathan Carson.

Plus music from The Slow Poisoner, Anti-Venöm, Mandy De Sandra, The Stupid Stupid Henchmen, and the world premiere of a brand new song from Night Gaunts!

Go check it out!

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Wonderland Book Award – Final Ballot 2015

Preliminary voting has ended and the final ballot has been determined. Here are the nominations for this year’s Wonderland Book Awards:

BEST NOVEL 
American Monster by J.S. Breukelaar
Dodgeball High by Bradley Sands
Dungeons & Drag Queens by M.P. Johnson
Hungry Bug by Carlton Mellick III
Pus Junkies by Shane McKenzie

BEST COLLECTION
I Like Turtles: The Collected Flashes of G. Arthur Brown
 by G. Arthur Brown
I’ll Fuck Anything that Moves and Stephen Hawking by Violet LeVoit
Misery Death and Everything Depressing by C.V. Hunt
Murder Stories for your Brain Piece by Kevin Strange
Stranger Danger by Kevin Strange and Danger Slater

We’d like to give honorable mentions to the titles that came close to placing on the final ballot. These titles are:
The Last Horror Novel In The History of the World by Brian Allen Carr, Hell’s Waiting Room by C.V Hunt, Hearers of the Constant Hum by William Pauley III, Our Blood In Its Blind Circuit by J. David OsborneCreep House by Andersen Prunty and Paramourn by John Edward Lawson.

Voting ends October 31st. Only BizarroCon attendees are eligible to vote. Send your votes (one per category) to bizarrocon@gmail.com.

The Wonderland Book Awards for excellence in Bizarro Fiction are presented annually at BizarroCon in Portland, OR.
To register for BizarroCon 2015 please visit http://bizarrocon.com/registration/


Show Me Your Shelves: Jeff Burk

Jeff Burk was one of the first people I met outside of Facebook that quickly joined my “if you don’t like this person, you’re an asshole” list. I’ve talked books, beer, and horror with Jeff and it’s always been great. I’ve also talked about piracy, politics, the ins and outs of publishing, and even black pus and being tortured by bed bugs, and Jeff has always been cool, honest, and charismatic. Oh, and then there’s the fact that he’s one of the first bizarro authors I read and a man whose work I still dig immensely. So yeah, if you dislike Jeff, there’s something wrong with you. Here’s what he had to say about books, his shelves, his mast…er, his cat, and some upcoming books(!).

GI: Who are you and what role do books play in your life?

JB: I am Jeff Burk. I am the author of SHATNERQUAKE, SUPER GIANT MONSTER TIME, CRIPPLE WOLF, and SHATNERQUEST. I’ve also done a shit tone of short stories, interviews and essays. In addition, I am the head editor of Deadite Press and I do editorial work for Eraserhead Press.

I am a full-time writer and editor – so it is no exaggeration to say that books are my entire life and my life depends on them. Not only are they a personal passion, they are how I pay all my bills and feed my cat.

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GI: You know a lot of authors, so picking favorites will be hard, but I’m gonna ask you anyway: apocalypse is here and you can only take Squishy and five books. Which five make the cut?

This is super hard but I think I can do it.

1: THE INVISIBLES OMMIBUS by Grant Morrison and various artists – My favorite long-form comic book. It’s a super-psychedelic, anarchist adventure comic and I have a super nice hard-cover edition that contains every issue ever published. It’s basically the comic book world’s version of Jodorowsky’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN.

2: ZOMBIES: ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HUNGRY DEAD edited by John Skipp – my all-time favorite horror anthology. It used to be, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD (also edited by John Skipp), but his more recent zombie collection blew the original away (in my opinion). From classic atmospheric tales to hardcore horror, this has it all, plus shit tons of zombies.

3: THE WAY OF THE TAROT by Alejandro Jodorowsky – I find Tarot cards fascinating and my favorite book on the subject was written by the brilliant Alejandro Jodorowsky (of EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN). Not only is it the best, most insightful, work ever done on the cards, it’s also a wonderful spiritual guide to life.

4: ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FILMMAKING I LEARNED FROM THE TOXIC AVENGER by Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn – Part history of Troma Studios (the oldest independent film studio in the world), part how-to-guide for DIY filmmaking, and part feel good guide to living an artistic life. I love this book. Nothing else gets me hyped up to go out and make art of my own. Plus, my copy is signed to me from Kaufman himself.

5: HOWARD THE DUCK OMMIBUS by Steve Gerber and various artists – there’s no harder book to recommend to people than the original comic of Howard the Duck. Sadly, George Lucas’ film has completely destroyed the reputation of one of the most brilliant, funny, and insightful comics ever written. This features the most brutally honest depiction of depression that I’ve ever come across (seriously) and is my go to read for when I feel down and just need the idea that someone else understands.

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GI: Where can I get some decent tacos in Portland? How does it feel to be a human paintbrush?

JB: For good tacos, just hit up any taco cart – of which there are dozens of them spread out all over the city. They are cheap and delicious. Or you could just come over to my house while Garrett Cook and I are having a cook out – we make some pretty kick-ass food and tacos are easy for the menu.

Being a human paintbrush is pretty awesome. You can make great artwork without having to do any work. (In case you are not aware, the brilliant Alan M. Clark, who has done covers for Eraserhead and Deadite Press, has done painting demonstrations using my dreadlocks as the brushes. He’s even painted a portrait of me using only the hair attached to my head).

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GI: You obviously love horror, but your own work is more bizarro/fun/weird/funny than blood/black pus/tentacles. Why is that?

JB: While horror is my true love and I can never get enough sadistic violence and gore – my natural writing inclinations do not go that way. What comes easiest to me (and what readers seems to like) is silly sci-fi stories with lots of action.

However, I have finally started work on my first straight-forward horror novel. And it will be fucking nasty (in all the best ways).

GI: What’s your latest book about and why should we run and get it?

My latest book came out over a year ago – SHATNERQUEST. Rather than pimp that, I rather talk about the three books I have in the works. Who knows, you might be seeing them soon.

HOMOBOMB – a tragic love story about a bomb that is attracted to other bombs when it is supposed to be attracted to people and buildings.

LORD OF THE LARPERS – a rewrite of LORD OF THE FLIES but with live-action role-players in the roles of the characters. The villains will be Civil War re-enactors led by “Robert E. Lee.”

A SNUFF FILM IN A HAUNTED HOUSE – my first straight-up horror novel. It’s about…well, the title kinda tells you.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth, Hungry Darkness, and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias


Flash Fiction Friday: Talk Nice to Me

by Eric LaRocca

The soles of his custom-made patent leather Oxfords click anxiously on the tiled floor of the doctor’s exam room. Jonathan McCoy can scarcely contain his delight. His hand rests on his wife’s thigh as he sits beside her, rubbing her leg, his fingers occasionally harassing the hem of her flower-print skirt. She doesn’t seem to mind. Her concentration is focused on the male practitioner, maybe 5’9 and gowned in a knee-length white coat. He stands beside the screen and points to the MRI scan of her brain glorified on the wall. Jonathan notices Colleen’s eyes water as the practitioner speaks and animatedly gestures to the monitor.

The highlighted photograph looks like a fileted jellyfish; a small round nugget of silvery whiteness, perhaps the size of a moth, noticeably lines the periphery of the organ. Jonathan’s ears do not seem to register the doctor’s words as his mouth moves, instead silence blaring between the openings of his lips; infrequently his auditory system records the word “malignant.” He catches the words: “atypical,” “surgery,” “chemotherapy,” and “futile” as well. His entire body loosens with joy; one instrument of his anatomy in particular seems to harden with enthusiasm, imagining her body’s throbbing kernel of discomfort. He thinks of deleting his online handle, cyst_licker_69, from the frequently visited chatrooms.

He reaches for Colleen’s hand and her grip is weak. Biting his lip, anxious for her attention, Jonathan unfortunately goes wanting. He admires her head – her perfect head – and studies the arrangement of hair, neatly pulled back in a bun. The stiffness in his trousers toughens as he imagines a small and orderly arranged aperture ventilating her left temple and advertising her cerebrum. The very idea of the integrity of her head’s organ spoiled by a minute knob of tissue only excites his growing erection more. Her cranium seems to bloat with the prospect of unlimited variations of sexuality.

She does not say much during the car ride back to the apartment on the Upper West Side. Only a few grunts and one word answers regarding her headache. She has always been one to talk to herself. But, not today. The silence is unbearable for Jonathan. He notices how the corners of her eyes collect water and her mascara clots in thick lumps.

Talk nice to me,” he hears in an unfamiliarly feminine voice.

He turns and the door to the bathroom closes, Colleen on the other side.

“Did you say something?” he asks.

Jonathan hears nothing other than the vehement arguing of taxi cab horns outside down on 73rd Street. The toilet flushes and Colleen opens the door.

“Don’t you have to be back down at the office?” she says, passing by him.

He loosens his tie, flexing his esophagus. “They can wait.”

Jonathan observes Colleen as she sits at the edge of the bed and kicks off her heels. He notices her flagrant preoccupation with reviewing his leather wallet resting on the nightstand, more importantly the small circular indentation pressing outward along the fold that’s about the size of his wedding band. She turns and he’s too late to hide his naked finger, undressed from several nightly meetings with bald women who hide small round secrets in their breasts and brains. Sometimes men as well, who keep similar unrevealed truths in their rectums.

“Don’t let me keep you,” she says.

He gently approaches her. “You don’t mind if I stay, do you?”

Colleen says nothing.

Jonathan sits beside her, mouth parting with the intent of words but eventually merely eliminating an exhalation. His hands are awkward and tremble, unsure where to begin. He rests one on her shoulder and she turns from him. He leans closer, pressing his lips against the nape of her neck, and drawing in her scent through his nostrils.

Talk nice to me,” he hears again.

“I will,” he moans, running his mouth along the extent her collar.

Colleen turns, seemingly bewildered. “What–?”

Jonathan’s mouth is far too preoccupied with her ear to offer an answer. His hands are already beneath her skirt and playfully teasing the knots of pubic hair. He presses his mouth to her face and frenziedly pecks her cheek, forehead, and lips. Dragging down her panties, he tours his finger around her frowning womanhood, brings his thumb to his nose, and violently inhales the dampness of her musk. She rakes her head back on the cushions, making soft cooing noises, visibly enthralled with the pleasure and yet thoughtful to discourage herself to indulge completely in the activity. He unzips his trousers and holds his erection with both hands, envisioning the small lump in her brain quivering the way her clitoris does under correct stimulation. Although he expects she might, she does very little to oppose him as he mounts her. He massages her nose and forehead with the length of his shaft, his appliance finally reaching her temple. His entire body shudders on the brink of orgasm.

Talk nice to me,” he hears again; this time the disembodied voice as fine and as trill as a whistle.

It’s then that he notices the left side of her cranium bloat exaggeratedly as though a balloon were expanding from the inside of her skull. Although nothing can discourage Jonathan from concluding the extent of his pleasure, his senses otherwise impaired by the ecstasy of satisfaction are perceptive enough to appreciate Colleen’s anguish as a portion of her head continues to swell.

“Wait–!” she sobs, her voice trembling with panic as she squirms beneath the heaviness of his body.

Colleen heaves Jonathan off of her and sprints from the bed to the washroom, occasionally scowling in unadulterated agony, the intense pressure of cranial inflation observably unbearable and remarkable in its profoundness. Jonathan rushes after her, grabbing and pulling at her dress. She screams, sobbing, as she catches the embellished nature of her distended skull in the bathroom mirror. Jonathan throws his naked body at her and she swings both arms at him, shouting until hoarse. She turns again to admire the deformity and her footing is unbalanced. She cries out and her wildly thrashing arms go limp as her head slams against the rim of the toilet. Her body is still, head draining redness all over the tiled floor. Jonathan turns her over and admires the vent perverted along the side of her head. Cartilage and puffy tumefaction bulge furiously from the yawning maw. Most notably ornamenting the rubbery looking matter is a bulbous wad of otherwise unnatural distension. Jonathan’s penis has not weakened in its stiffness; in fact, it’s harder than ever as he lovingly admires the tumor in its glistening brilliance. Shutting his eyes, he guides his quivering manhood into the outlet and begins to massage the plump tissue already lubricated with blood.

His entire body palpitates in euphoria as his pelvis rocks back and forth against the side of her head, the wetness of blood dripping from her hair occasionally tickling the sensitivity of his testicles. As he strokes his erection against the tumor one final time, the duct of his urethra opens and violently launches fat buttery globs of cream all over the exposed colorless tissue and splintered bone. He moans as he strokes the last of the discharge from his tube, smearing it in the grooves of her unprotected brain matter.

Suddenly, he hears it again.

Talk nice to me.

His eyes return to the tumor, three times larger in size than when previously observed, drenched in blood and wet ribbons of ejaculate.

“What–?”

He feels foolish speaking as his holds his sagging erection in one hand.

The tumor stirs in its place with a jellied gurgle. Its voice is infant-like. “Will you talk nice to me?”

Jonathan lowers his head, bringing his hands closer to the shiny fat wad of material. The growth seems to twitch excitedly at the anticipation of his touch.

“She talked nice to me,” it says, wiggling in the pulp of exposed oily material. “She was sweet to me. She can’t take care of me now, though. But you can. Right?”

Its impish articulation curls as though genuinely hopeful Jonathan might.

He holds out his hand and the clump slides from the channel of brain matter right into his open palm. It squirms gleefully as he holds it and carries it toward the bed where he rests it on a small pillow. The tumor wriggles, giggling merrily as it rolls onto the cushion.

“You have to talk to me,” it demands. “If you don’t, my cells will weaken and I’ll die. If you talk, I’ll give you whatever you want.”

“What – what should I say?” Jonathan stammers.

“Tell me a story,” it says. “Anything you like.”

Jonathan opens his mouth and says whatever comes to his mind. He speaks for hours and hours on end; the tumor merely sits, listens, and occasionally chuckles, bouncing with laughter.

In the morning, Jonathan wakes to a putrid smell drifting from the bathroom. All that is left on the cushion is a small ringlet of blood and semen detailing where the tiny growth had once been. It’s nowhere to be found. Jonathan’s nostrils flare again at the reminder of his dead wife. He cannot be bothered with that now.

He swallows an aspirin.

Nothing seems to soothe the intense pressure within his head. It feels as though his brain might explode.

He brings his hand to his ear and his fingers are wet with small beads of blood. His canal feels loosened, enflamed with redness, as though something has just crawled inside.

—–

Eric LaRocca is a writer and long-time admirer of the grotesque and the bizarre. Although only 21 years old, he has had the privilege of having some of his short fiction published in several magazines in the US and the UK such as Dark Moon Digest, Massacre Magazine, Sanitarium, and The Horror Zine. He has also been featured in anthologies such as Of Devils and Deviants: An Anthology of Erotic Horror (Crowded Quarantine Publications). He currently studies at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT.


Why The Human Centipede 3 Might Be Smarter and More Interesting Than the Book You’re Writing and What You Can Do About It

by Garrett Cook

A lot of people told me it would be a bad idea to write a blog post using The Human Centipede 3 to dispense writing advice. So I sewed them together. It’s clearly something that’s done nowadays. Sewing human beings together anus to mouth? Pretty commonplace. Nobody told me I shouldn’t do this. That was a joke. But anyway, you probably think an article full of writing advice using this series is perverse, stupid and a waste of time. The Human Centipede looks like a poo joke that has gone on way too long and should be probably have been shut down…well, three films ago. In certain ways, the film’s writer and director Tom Six would agree with you. Making a movie about a human centipede is, as an idea, about as viable as making an actual human centipede.

Thing is, I saw The Human Centipede 3 and it surprised me a lot. The Human Centipede 3 might be better than the book you’re working on right now. It might be smarter, funnier and more thoughtful. It might have more compelling characters. It might have more tenable and interesting central themes. It might be braver, more intense and more “fun” (everyone’s idea of fun is different. If this makes you projectile vomit, you ain’t havin’ fun). I’m not saying your book is garbage or obsessed with scatology or that it would be better if it was but this film has some lessons to teach.

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It doesn’t matter what a protagonist is up to, you should be rooting for them

The first thing I noticed about The Human Centipede 3 is that you apparently have nobody to root for. The film is set in a prison, whose warden, Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) is like the maniacal lovechild of Charlie Sheen and The Red Skull, with some Boss Hogg thrown in for good measure. He’s a screaming, violent, torture obsessed, clitoris eating (yes, literally that) creep. There is nothing admirable or beautiful about this man. He is one of the most fearsome monsters our penal system could possibly create.

But his longsuffering accountant (played by Laurence Harvey) has a vision and a mission. The film begins with him showing the warden the first two films in the franchise and telling him he has an idea. You know what this character’s idea is. You should be inwardly squirming. Or maybe, if you’re watching this movie to see a Human Centipede (as opposed to watching it to hear the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby) then you’re excited. You watch this character constantly hassled, neglected, shouted at and turned down. He becomes an underdog determined to refine a system that he believes is flawed and disgusting. When you see the warden cause a great deal of carnage and torture, you can see that he certainly is.

The film makes you feel sad for this man. It makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with this warden and it makes you angry that he is not listening to the idea that will change everything. The power to change the world the viewer is inhabiting now falls on the shoulders of this character, who openly displays compassion for the boss’ sexually exploited secretary, who is telling him that torture doesn’t work and is trying to encourage some modicum of stability and sanity. And all this poor, tortured, misunderstood and sensitive creatures wants is a chance to prove himself by sewing several hundred people together ass to mouth.

Wait, what? Are you actually feeling bad for and sitting around waiting for the triumph of a guy who wants to sew several hundred people together ass to mouth? This man has all the traits of a feel good underdog hero. He is beleaguered, he is surrounded by evil people, he is working to change an oppressive system and he needs to reach someone to be heard. This guy is Nikolai Tesla, a man with a dream of a better future who is being stomped on by a corrupt system. He is shouted down so many times for so long, that it doesn’t matter anymore what it is that he has to say, he has become somehow sympathetic.

Characters we love are people we follow the gates of Hell. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is a womanizing drunk firmly entrenched in the military/industrial complex who is trying to save the world with killer robots and a semilegal suit of armor that fires bursts of energy. Enid of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World is a jaded, cruel, narcissistic, condescending antisocial teen who is twice as mean as any of the people around her and yet she has become a role model and hero to many disenfranchised young women. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana is a guy who we end up feeling for and hoping that he’ll clean up his life and come out on top…even though he deals cocaine and chopped up a guy with a chainsaw that one time. Hell, Bill Moseley and Sid Haig as Otis Driftwood and Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects have enough charisma and defiant revolutionary rhetoric that we watch them maim, rape and murder people for two minutes and some of us somehow hope they’ll come out alive. How much can your characters be forgiven for? Will we be curious and sympathetic as they go through their lives on the page? Showing a crooked system, normalized violence and a very identifiable feeling of powerlessness and unimportance makes Bennett someone who you almost root for. Have you done enough to make your characters fascinating and sympathetic or do they fall short? Tom Six had an extremely tough job in getting you to feel for Bennett. That takes skill.

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It Explores a Theme From Several Angles

I must admit, I was not a fan of this franchise before seeing the third one. I felt as if the theme of the films was “Some dude is building a human centipede. Stay the hell away from that guy.” Thing is, The Human Centipede 3 makes one of the franchise’s central themes clear as day. The film begins with the credits of the second film and the accountant showing the warden the films and claiming to have an idea. As I said, it is very clear what the idea is and where he got it. Tom Sixx is taking on a certain level of culpability or else questioning how culpable he is. Either way, he is exploring the culpability of artists for the effects on the viewer.

The first film in the franchise is about the beginning of a bad idea. A mad scientist comes up with the idea to build a human centipede, just as its creator Tom Six has. The centipede is built and the results are disastrous. A bad idea instituted causes harm to the community. But what happens when the bad idea spreads beyond the head of the sicko who has it? What could happen now that Six has released the first work on the public?

Well, the second film addresses this question. Larry, the viewer has become obsessed with the film. In the grim, abusive circumstances of his life, he has decided that building a human centipede is his only chance at power and respect. The bad idea exists and the bad idea has become virulent. He acts upon it, luring an actress from the first film into becoming a part of this centipede. The idea has become a horrible reality. The second film questions the consequences of unleashing a piece of art on the public, creating a scenario where film violence becomes real violence but only in an actually violent circumstance. This is a pretty solid statement about film violence’s effects on our lives. The movie does not suggest violence occurs in a vacuum or that it’s completely harmless to see film violence.

The third brings up what happens when the idea of instituted violence comes into contact with the public, and even further, how a bad idea gets instituted in the large scale. Forget about doing it once, The Human Centipede 3 posits that it could be done hundreds of times to hundreds of people. The third film shows an environment where people encounter the possibility of doing that thing they saw in the movie. The first film does not inherently suggest that you can build a human centipede if you’re not an insane scientist. The second film says “nope, bad ideas can effect anyone.” When we accuse the human centipede of being a bad idea, Tom Six says “no shit, a human centipede is a bad idea.” He even slyly hints at it being a bad idea through the warden and the prisoners in the prison around it.

The prisoners in the third film are disgusted by the film, just as the warden is. Six is indicating and admitting “yes, it is a perfectly valid, sane response to be disgusted by this idea. It is a bad idea.” But wait…doesn’t the willingness to explore this bad idea, to go through with it so thoroughly and to examine its potential show that maybe this piece isn’t about human centipedes at all and that maybe this lack of intelligence, this lack of reverence and this lack of vision that critics and viewers have accused Six of might be a lot less well founded than it seems?

The painting below, The Treachery of Images is by the surrealist Rene Magritte. It makes a statement that on the surface seems apocryphal. It says that this is not a pipe. Some of you look at it and think “of course this is a goddamn pipe. What are you, stupid?” But when you step away and reconsider the statement, you realize that Magritte is right. This is no pipe. Try lighting it and smoking it. What? You can’t? That’s because this is the image of a pipe. To say The Human Centipede is about Human Centipedes would be to light and smoke Magritte’s pipe. As I have reiterated, the films show the process of hermeneutic movement using a very concrete example of a virulent idea and exploring it to the terminus of it, exploring it further than it probably should be explored. Tom Six even shows up in the third film saying he wants to see the surgery performed. Why? Because this must be seen through to the bitter end, even if it makes Six puke.

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When you look at the complexity of your own work, you cannot pretend to exist in a world that does not have narrative mad science like this. We cannot brag about skateboards in times of jetpacks. Tom Six made three films about the idea of creating a human centipede. Burroughs said that language was a virus from outer space and across three films, Tom Six showed us this virus incubating and spreading to the populace. While the execution may look flawed in the live action Ren and Stimpy denouement to the trilogy, the intricacy of the undertaking cannot be overlooked. Nor can the commercial viability of these explorations.

Does your book take its content and examine the themes and ideas behind it as boldly and interestingly as it can? You can tell a story that says that violence is bad or you can wave violence into your narrative and constantly reveal the problematics of violence. You can do as Burgess and Kubrick do with A Clockwork Orange and show the temptation and the decision-making process behind violence instead of simply lecturing your reader on the ugliness of this behavior. The Human Centipede ambitiously encodes its message in its walls and structure across three gory and insane films. Stories like this call out artists to be this smart and daring, regardless of consequence.

Examine how you tell your story and think about how you can weave the messages and themes into the structure and imagery instead of just into the plot and dialogue. This takes “show don’t tell” to a whole new level.

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It Evokes A Response

Audacity and quality are not necessarily one and the same. Plenty of transgressive art will fall short aesthetically and intellectually. Just because music is loud doesn’t make it cool. Just because there are tits and gore doesn’t make you edgy. But when a certain level of visceral response occurs, you have to look into what pissed people off. Critics giving out a number of zero star reviews to a piece that is not clearly Dude Where’s My Car 2 or a remake of Breakin’ should be a giant semaphore flag that shit is going down that bears paying attention to. When we see zero star reviews from disgust and confusion, that’s a trail to sniff down.

When audiences first encountered Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou, things were thrown at the screen, raw outrage conquered the theaters. The outraged prisoners in The Human Centipede 3 were not unlike the crowd who encountered Bunuel and Dali’s surrealist masterpiece. The director Pasolini was killed in the street for his transgressive films and in your face homosexuality. Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead and the Exorcist all turned stomachs. While the turned stomachs, critical revulsion and utter contempt for The Human Centipede movies does not insure their merit, they do beg a question.

Do people care this much about what you’re doing? Carlton Mellick’s book The Baby Jesus Butt Plug riled up an angry mob on The Blaze last year. It was not the first angry mob, it was not the last. Christians were calling for a boycott because it was being taught in a class, used as an example of the excesses of the left wing intellectuals. The fact that something could be grotesque and blasphemous and yet used as a teaching tool evoked a natural revulsion in these people. The grotesque is supposed to just be there for perverts to jerk off to or idiots to spit mouths full of Big Mac at as they guffaw at their computer screen. It is not supposed to be studied, dissected or understood. It is not supposed to have themes, it’s just supposed to make people feel grossed out. Right? Right?

The combination of smart and grotesque will always evoke a response. The fact the brain and the viscera can be engaged and at odds is a problem for critics and a lot of viewers and a conflict that does not resolve itself simply and cleanly. As I said, it is not a guarantee of merit but it is certainly evidence a piece shouldn’t be ignored and discarded. Something that can invoke that much hate and revulsion without being propaganda for something hateful and repulsive must be hitting some kind of nerve or must be using something repulsive to show you the inherent repulsiveness of an idea, a process or a condition of society.

So, before you stop and judge a grotesque for fulfilling the purpose of grotesquerie, you should stop and make the inquiry of your own art. Does your erotica make people cum? If the answer’s no, why the fuck not? Does your horror boil people’s blood and elevate their heart rates? If no, then why the fuck not? Does your weirdness stretch people’s perception and confuse them? If no, then why the fuck not? Carlton Mellick, Bunuel and Tom Six didn’t hold back or question the conviction behind the idea or worry that it would be too weird or too sexy or too intense. They flat out fucking did it. Before judging those who have churned stomachs or confused critics, ask “do I have this much conviction in my story?”

Sew some motherfuckers together. You’ll be glad you did.

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Garrett Cook is the Wonderland Award winning author of TIME PIMP, JIMMY PLUSH: TEDDY BEAR DETECTIVE, MURDERLAND, ARCHELON RANCH, and numerous short stories and non-fiction pieces. 


Wonderland Book Award Preliminary Voting Begins Now

Voting for the Wonderland Book Award preliminary ballot begins now for the Best Bizarro Novel and Best Bizarro Collection of 2014. Please send your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place votes in the Novel and Collection categories to bizarrocon@gmail.com with the subject line “Wonderland Book Award Preliminary Ballot.” Preliminary voting ends July 31st.
NOTE TO AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS: Please do not solicit or campaign for votes.

NOVELS/NOVELLAS

Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich by David Agranoff

Deep Blue by Brian Auspice

The Fairy Princess of Trains by Christopher Boyle

American Monster by J.S. Breukelaar

The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr

Day of the Milkman by S.T. Cartledge

Leprechaun in the Hood: The Musical: A Novel by Adam Cesare, Shane McKenzie, and Cameron Pierce

Superghost by Scott Cole

Musclebound Mario by Kevin L. Donihe

The Bikings by P.A. Douglas

Captain K and the Bearded Man Boy by P.A. Douglas

King Dollar by Andre Duza

Repo Shark by Cody Goodfellow

Naked Friends by Justin Grimbol

I, Slutbot by Mykle Hansen

Zombie Park by Kent Hill

Hell’s Waiting Room by C.V. Hunt

Dungeons & Drag Queens by MP Johnson

Journey to Abortosphere by Kirk Jones

Long Lost Dog of It by Michael Kazepis

The Last Projector by David James Keaton

Terence, Mephisto, and Viscera Eyes by Chris Kelso

Atmospheres by Jon Konrath

Pax Titanus by Tom Lucas

Pus Junkies by Shane McKenzie

Toilet Baby by Shane McKenzie

Hungry Bug by Carlton Mellick III

Sweet Story by Carlton Mellick III

The Tick People by Carlton Mellick III

Pink Planet by Jon R. Meyers

Hamsterdamned! By Adam Millard

The Human Santapede by Adam Millard

Vinyl Destination by Adam Millard

Green Lights by Kyle Muntz

Hearers of the Constant Hum by William Pauley III

Dodgeball High by Bradley Sands

The Fun We’ve Had by Michael J Seidlinger

Mother of a Machine Gun by Michael J Seidlinger

Bigfoot Cop by Kevin Shamel

Slaughtertown Circus by K.M. Tepe

Big Trouble in Little Ass by Wol-vriey

The Fly Queen by Wol-vriey

A Lightbulb’s Lament by Grant Wamack

The Farrowing by Jesse Wheeler

Douglass: The Lost Biography by D. Harlan Wilson

Freud: The Penultimate Biography by D. Harlan Wilson

Hitler: The Terminal Biography by D. Harlan Wilson

COLLECTIONS

I Like Turtles by G. Arthur Brown

Misery and Death and Everything Depressing by C.V. Hunt

Flamingos in the Ashtray by Zoltan Komor

Paramourn by John Edward Lawson

I’ll Fuck Anything That Moves…And Stephen Hawking by Violet LeVoit

Our Blood in its Blind Circuit by J. David Osborne

Demons in the TV by Christoph Paul

Creep House by Anderson Prunty

Murder Stories for Your Brain Piece by Kevin Strange

Stranger Danger by Kevin Strange and Danger Slater

The Filing Cabinet of Doom by Madeleine Swann

Goddamn Electric Nights by William Pauley III

Junkyard Exotic by Grant Wamack


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