quick cultural roundup


Jeff VanderMeer, "Southern Reach" trilogy. VanderMeer wrote an intro to a Thomas Ligotti book where he discussed "working through Lovecraft," implying that big boy writers like Ligotti and VanderMeer had done that. VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" books, especially the first two, grab the reader but these are no "Colour Out of Space" because they substitute indecisiveness for ambiguous atmosphere. Is VanderMeer's version of Tarkovsky's "The Zone" evil, or not? With Lovecraft you know what you are dealing with even if the particulars aren't clear. Pardon the cynicism, but you don't get a three book contract with Farrar Straus and Giroux if you believe what lies below is darkness.

John Ajvide Lindqvist, F. Paul Wilson. As an antidote to VanderMeer's "highbrowing" of horror tropes, check out these two authors. Lindqvist wrote Let the Right One In and became that rare writer allowed to script his own property for the film version. The book is good, as is his Handling the Undead. F. Paul Wilson wrote The Keep and dislikes Michael Mann's movie version (one might disagree). Wilson has two series going, "pure" horror stories and a rollicking run of horror-adventure stories featuring the character Repairman Jack. In 2012, the two sets of books came together in an apocalyptic finale titled Nightworld. Both arcs are recommended -- FPW injects Lovecraftian ambiguity by having humanity's "Ally" be as indifferent to our fates as the beasties boiling up out of pits in the earth.


Monte Hellman films. Hellman lensed The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind back-to-back in the Utah desert, in his Corman days (mid-1960s). Jack Nicholson acts in both and wrote the Whirlwind script. Both are masterful films, though Shooting is marred by a confused ending (Wikipedia and Danny Peary's Cult Movies disagree on what happened at the end). This is the bleakest, most beautiful country you will see, populated by hard people doing hard tasks for no apparent reason. Two Lane Blacktop's themes of alienation were well in place in these "lost" films. Even earlier in his Corman period, Hellman handled second-unit chores for Creature from the Haunted Sea, a wild and crazy time capsule starring Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne as a ridiculous secret agent. Hellman's contributions include a gorgeously-shot sequence where the gun moll sings a "lounge"-type song on the deck of a yacht, with the sea heaving dreamily all around her, and incongruously slips the movie's title into the lyrics.