Archive for the Halloween Category

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner
In the late 80s Chevy Chase bought the rights to a 1987 thriller novel about an invisible man in order to turn it into a vehicle for himself. After several years of development hell in which the director changed at least twice and the tone of the movie switched from thriller to comedy and back to thriller, Chevy finally got John Carpenter to direct and the result was the 1992 comedic adventure, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

Memoirs poster

The chaotic development of this movie was somewhat chronicled by Carpenter himself in an interview published in Starlog #177.  It’s interesting the iterations that this movie finally went through, check out that article in the link to see what Carpenter had to say about directing this movie.

I’d seen this movie back when it first hit VHS.  I remember it in theaters at the time, but I didn’t see it because I was not really a Chevy Chase fan.  He was kind of in the middle of a phase in his career in which he was playing smug douchebags (see Funny Farm, Nothing But Trouble, Deal of the Century and even Fletch Lives which is nearly unwatchable).  So when it finally hit VHS, I rented it and gave it a shot.  However, at the time I don’t remember liking it very much and thinking Chase was once again playing the smug D-bag who’s better and smarter than everyone else.

When I watched it for this review, I did it reluctantly, but I was curious to see if my previous thoughts were correct.  And they were not.  Chevy is actually mostly toned down in this movie.  He’s goofy and endearing much the same way he was in the original Fletch.  And Daryl Hannah is just adorable and sexy all wrapped up in one amazing package.  The villain, I forgot, is the great Sam Neill who does NOT get enough play in movies today (Check out Daybreakers if you doubt my sincerity in that statement).  This would be about 2 years before Neill would play Dr Grant in the first Jurassic Park movie.  Other notable actors in this movie are the awesome Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky and the first big screen appearance of Patricia Heaton.

memoirs02

The setup of the movie is basically the same as the book. A guy, Nick Halloway (Chase) is trapped in an experimental process that goes wrong and is turned invisible. He comes to the attention of a shady government group led by David Jenkins (Neill) who does everything he can to capture Halloway.

However, while those story points are the same, the details have changed tremendously. For instance, Daryl Hannah’s Alice meets Nick before he turns invisible whereas in the book Alice doesn’t meet him until the last half of the book and has never actually seen him. Plus, the action takes place in and around San Francisco whereas in the book everything took place, for the most part, in New York City. In fact, I’d say New York City is a major character in the book as Nick knows the city pretty well and uses it to hide from the shady government agency.

But I’m here to review the movie as a whole, and not as an adaptation of the book. And, as a whole, the movie is enjoyable. Despite the changes from the book, I felt the movie was entertaining and the effects were actually pretty good. They even recreated invisible stunts from the book like vomiting and you get to see Nick smoke and covered in rain. Nice little effects that add up within the movie.  The only negative I can place at the movie’s feet is the fact that the “memoirs” part of the story is essentially dropped not even half way through the movie.  I liked Chevy’s narration and it helped remind me how much I also liked it (and Chevy) in the original Fletch.  But, alas, it doesn’t last.

Something else I liked in the movie included a scene in which Nick is wearing the same outfit as the Claude Rains Invisible Man including the goggles, the robe with the checkered lapels and even an ascot.

invisible_man_compare

That was a nice touch by Carpenter.  This is a completely different movie than you’d expect from John Carpenter who’d just directed They Live four years before and had taken an extended break due to production difficulties on that movie.  Two years after directing this movie he’d take Sam Neill and film an adaptation of Lovecraft’s In the Mouth of Madness. Also two years later Chevy Chase would top line Cops and Robersons with Jack Palance.

So while this movie may not have burned up the box office, it’s actually a fun little adventure movie.  Give it a shot if you haven’t.  And if it’s been a few years, I say give it another spin, I think you’ll like it.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) – H.F. Saint

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

In 1987, H.F. Saint would write his first and only book, the sci-fi thriller, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

memoirs of an invisible man

It’s essentially a more modern, comedic take on HG Wells’ classic story.  The book had great success after it was first published and subsequently Saint would receive an unusually high sum for the movie rights in the early 90s.  This lead to Saint deciding he would rather retire than write a sequel that potentially wouldn’t live up to his first book.

Like most everyone else, I was aware of the 1992 Chevy Chase movie of the same name, but not that it was based on a previous book.  I have thoughts on that movie that I’ll reveal in a separate review, and, consequently, I was a little reluctant to start the book because of those thoughts about the movie.  But I sucked it up for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015.

So, the plot.  Essentially, like I said, this is a new, more modern take on the concept of the invisible man.  Nick Halloway is an investment banker.  He travels with his sometimes gal pal Anne to a scientific demonstration at MicroMagnetics Labs and becomes caught in a massive explosion and wakes up several hours later completely invisible.  While sealing off the area, a shady government agency discovers that Nick survived the explosion, and is invisible, so they do everything they can to capture him.  Now Nick must stay one step ahead of his pursuers led doggedly by Colonel David Jenkins who seems to be several steps ahead of Nick who only narrowly escapes being caught on several occasions.  Can Nick keep from getting captured and becoming a lab rat/covert government agent for the rest of his life?  He’ll certainly try.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

The book, to put it bluntly, is pretty damn awesome.  Luckily, I haven’t watched the movie since it was in the theater, so I went into this book mostly blind.  The events take a while to setup.  It’s about 60 pages before the lab explosion.  It’s over 100 pages before Nick escapes the labs of MicroMagnetics and goes on the run on the streets of New York.  Throughout this book HF Saint really dives into explaining the unique problems Halloway encounters because he’s invisible.  Not just the physical stuff like seeing through your eyelids, watching your food digest and walking without any visual body references.   Most of this stuff gets mentioned briefly in the original HG Wells book as well as the Universal Invisible Man movie.  No, it’s living on the streets as an invisible man where Saint really digs in.

How would Nick find a place to sleep?  Sneak into one of the many Manhattan men’s clubs?  Or vacant apartments?  What about food?  How do you walk the crowded streets of New York without bumping into other people and revealing yourself?  How do you shed your previous identity and acquire a new one when you are invisible and can’t provide ID or show up to meet anyone?  There are lots of problems Nick has to overcome which would be hard enough even without a determined government agency out to capture you at all costs.

The book has periods of Nick living rogue within New York and how his whole “system” works (how he acquires places to live, food and learning about the nature of his invisibility).  And then the government agency finds him and we have quick, thrilling periods where Nick is all of a sudden forced to drop everything and go on the run again.  It’s a roller coaster ride and one I thoroughly enjoyed which had me guessing and anticipating how it was going to end.

Another thing I like about this book is the way it’s setup.  It’s written by the main character sometime in the future.  He’s relating the events of the book to us as they happened in the past (like the title states, it’s a “memoir”).  This allows the book to drop small hints about how things turn out in the future.  Now that the book is over, I wish HF Saint would have continued with Nick Halloway’s adventures.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Hollow Man (2000)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies with tags , , , , , , , on October 9, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Today I’m going to look at another more modern take on the concept of the invisible man.  Let’s check out The Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon and directed by Paul Verhoeven.

hollow_man_

It was released in 2000 and had a great supporting cast including Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens and William Devane.

I remember seeing this movie in the theater fifteen years ago. For some reason I remember it being an early screening a week or so before the wide release. Sometimes movies would come and play early at one of my theaters in Birmingham as sort of a promotional/press screening and “regular people” could get any extra seats they couldn’t give away. But I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened. Regardless, I saw this in the theater in 2000.

vlcsnap-00102

From that initial viewing, I remember liking some of the concepts of the movie and the special effects but being underwhelmed by the movie as a whole. I haven’t watched this movie since that day in the theater, so I decided to rewatch it and review it for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.

The movie is pretty good. It’s a mostly closed set environment. The scientists all interact in an underground lab. Once or twice you are taken to the surface, but 90% of the action is in the underground lab. Kevin Bacon plays Sebastian Caine, the head of a team of scientists working on achieving invisibility.  The team has successfully turned a gorilla invisible, but the issue they seem to be having is turning the gorilla back visible.

vlcsnap-00103

Early on Bacon has a breakthrough and figures out how to possibly make the re-visibility formula work. So they test it on the invisible gorilla.  And it works.  But Bacon being the smug, a-hole, glory loving scientist he is decides to test the entire process on himself.  And that’s where the fun begins.

Bacon is pretty great as Caine who sees himself as a cross between Einstein and Elvis Presley.  He plays the total creepy, smug, d-bag to perfection.  Elisabeth Shue is his colleague and former flame.  James Brolin is another scientist on the team who is currently with Elisabeth Shue.  And therein creates the love triangle.  There are several other scientists/murder victims that inhabit this lab as well.

Like I said, this movie is mostly executed well.  Bacon, even though he’s not seen through most of the movie, believably shows Caine’s slow decent into madness from being invisible for too long.  The other actors play against him realistically unlike the actors in Star Wars Episode I against Jar Jar Binks which was only the year before.  But the shining star in this movie are the effects.  The invisible effects are amazing and they still hold up very well considering they are a decade and a half old.  I’m willing to bet that the visual effects in the 1999 The Mummy movie were what convinced the filmmakers that this movie could be made.  There are several times where Bacon’s invisible man looks like the mummy in that movie.

Some good moments:

vlcsnap-00104
At this moment in the movie, the team is fresh off turning the gorilla visible again. They are celebrating and Caine asks Shue’s character if she wishes they could turn back the clock, essentially asking if she wishes they were back together. Shue says the line, “I’d say that kind of time travel doesn’t exist.” I assume that has to be a slight nod to her small roles in Back to the Future Part II and Part III.

hollow_man_1
Like I said, the effects are pretty great. The transition to invisibility involves each layer of the body disappearing one step at a time, like you’re slowly peeling away the layers of an onion. Lots of data modeling had to be done before hand to make this work as effectively as it does.  This “layered invisibility” was also done in the Batman Unseen comic.

vlcsnap-00110 vlcsnap-00111
Here is where the title comes from.  Instead of wearing bandages and goggles like Claude Rains, Bacon and the scientists have a latex mold of his head created so he can walk around visible to everyone.  This “mask” creates a “hollow shell” look that is very creepy and effective.

vlcsnap-00112
The few times he actually leaves the lab Bacon wears more familiar “invisible man” garb.

hollow_man_2 vlcsnap-00113
There are several scenes in the movie where the environment makes Bacon visible. Things like fire hydrant foam, smoke and water will reveal his body. It looks great and it’s used effectively throughout the movie.

So, overall, a pretty good movie. Similar in some respects to other “stalker in a confined space” type movies but the concept of the killer being invisible sets it a little bit apart.  And the phenomenal effects just make the movie that much more real and creepy.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Sherlock Holmes vs The Invisible Man (1989)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

In 1989, Eternity Comics released a four issue Sherlock Holmes mini-series called a A Case of Blind Fear.

Sherlock Holmes ACBF 01 Sherlock Holmes ACBF 02

The comic was written by Martin Powell and drawn by Seppo Makinen.  I actually bought this off the rack in 1989 mostly because I was and still am a big Sherlock Holmes fan.  It has sat unread in my collection since then.  I don’t think I even realized until fairly recently while doing invisible man research for AWESOME-tober-fest that this comic was a Holmes vs invisible man story.  But when I saw the cover online, I remembered that I had it in my collection and went to dig it up.   Now I’ve finally read it.  Twenty-six years later (!).

I thought the premise would be Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery involving an invisible man.  But it turned out to be a little different and a bit more complex than that.  I expected something along the lines of Batman Unseen where Sherlock Holmes was solving the mystery of some murders by a man that had somehow discovered invisibility.  What is actually going on here is more of a retelling of the HG Wells novel, but inserting Sherlock Holmes and Watson into the story.   But it’s even more than that.

Case of Blind Fear TPB

Within the story the main invisible man character is Griffin, the main character from the original HG Wells novel.  However, he has a history with Watson.  Griffin knows Watson from their time in the military together.  Griffin apparently saved his life.  This connection causes a change to the story in that when Griffin is in trouble, he calls on Watson and calls in the favor to hide from the authorities.  All of this causes deviations from the original HG Wells novel, as it should.

It’s really interesting how Powell takes the events in Wells novel and changes them to accommodate for the appearance of Watson and Holmes who are brought in almost organically and don’t feel “shoe horned” in just to get a story out of it.  This comic is actually a pretty good read especially if you have already read the Wells novel.  And even with the deviations, there are still some very familiar touchstones within the comic.  Griffin still goes to the Coach and Horses Inn to find rooms.  And he’s eventually kicked out for non-payment.  There’s an invisible cat at one point which in the novel Griffin was experimenting on a cat with the invisibility serum.  So even though Powell changed many of the events in the novel, he keeps many of the same events and places in this new story.  But maybe used in a different way.  I like that.

Seppo Art 01 Seppo Art 02

Also, Seppo Makinen’s art is really good.  I’m not a huge fan of black and white comics.  When I read Eastman and Laird’s original 80s Teenage Mutant Turtles comics from Mirage I read the newly colorized versions from IDW.  But these pages were nicely rendered and looked great.

Overall, it’s a nicely packaged, well written Sherlock story that uses the framework of HG Wells’ Invisible Man novel very well.  However, I do have a fear that if you haven’t read the original novel, then you may miss a lot of this subtext and in that case I’m not sure how this story will come over.  The story’s strengths could quickly turn into its greatest weakness.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Nobody by Jeff Lemire (2009)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

The Nobody is the first graphic novel for Jeff Lemire. It was published by Vertigo in 2009.

the_nobody_000

The whole comic is sort of a re-imagining of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man novel. The setting is changed from the English countryside to a small town in what I presume is the New England area of America.  We have this drifter named Griffen, covered in bandages and wearing goggles, mosey into the tiny fishing town of Large Mouth and by just being there he causes a stir.

People speculate about why he has bandages and he generally becomes the gossip around town.  Griffen winds up befriending the town sheriff’s daughter, Vickie.  They strike up a platonic friendship that sort of grounds the book.  Soon, a few strange occurrences happen around town and all of a sudden everyone wants to blame the weird bandaged drifter.  Queue town mob and frantic search for the truth.

the_nobody_030 the_nobody_108

I’m a fan of Jeff Lemire, especially as a writer. He’s written a lot for DC including being heavily involved in the New 52 including the titles Superboy, Justice League Dark and Animal Man. He has a quirky, dark style that I kind of enjoy so when I discovered that he had written a re-telling of The Invisible Man for Vertigo, I had to check it out. And to be honest, the only reason I found it was because I was doing The Invisible Man for AWESOME-tober-fest. So, thank you for the billionth time AWESOME-tober-fest.

The story is quirky but endearing.  It’s slow moving but fun.  It’s light until the very end when it gets a bit dark with a great “sort of” twist ending.  The artwork perfectly reflects the tone of the story.  Stark blacks and whites, tons of shadows with accents in blue and simple yet oddly complex drawings and page layouts.  This whole comic is quirky and odd but in a perfect way.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it’s fun to see the slight parallels to the source novel, but make no mistake, it certainly goes it’s own way in a pretty cool story that I’m glad I discovered for this Halloween.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Universal’s The Invisible Man (1933)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

Yesterday I discussed ground zero for invisibility in pop culture, HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.  And if that book is ground zero, then Universal’s 1933 movie adaptation of that book would be ground one.  Second only to Wells’ book in influence on popular culture.  And, as a huge fan of the Universal Monsters series, it’s a little embarrassing that I’ve never watched Universal’s The Invisible Man with Claude Rains.  It’s high time I rectified that.

Invisible Man

Released in 1933, this movie has quite the pedigree. It’s directed by James Whale who also directed the first two Universal Frankenstein movies as well as Howard Hughes’ Hells Angels.  It starred Claude Rains who, while making his American theatrical debut, would go on to star in classic movies like Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia and Mr Smith Goes to Washington.  It was a fairly popular movie that would spawn at least 4 sequels with varying successful degrees of connection to this original movie.  Rains would return for none of them.

I’m not sure why I never watched this movie before now.  I’m well aware of the Wells’ novel and this movie based on that novel starring Claude Rains.  I’ve even seen several more modern invisible man movies like Memoirs of an Invisible Man with Chevy Chase and Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.  I’m just not sure why I never went back to this movie like I did with Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man.

So, now that I’ve seen it, let’s take a look at the movie.

vlcsnap-00052 vlcsnap-00056

It was kind of funny to see the “We Do Our Part” NRA title card pop up after the classic Universal bi-plane logo.  Different times, my friends.

vlcsnap-00057

The movie is pretty good. Nicely directed and looks pretty awesome but that’s not to be surprised since…well, James Whale. Claude Rains in his American feature film debut is pretty great as Griffin.  It’s easy to see why he was picked to play the lead.

The movie itself begins “en media res” with Griffin already turned invisible and sequestering himself into a hotel room in a secluded town.  Rains spends 99% of this movie completely covered in bandages or completely invisible.

vlcsnap-00085 vlcsnap-00079

The only thing we have to carry Rains’ performance, like I said, is his voice.  And it totally works.  His very deliberate way of speaking and the way his voice carries does everything to give the viewer what it needs for his performance.  And it’s especially effective the further into the movie you get and the more insane Griffin becomes.  His insane cackle is a thing to behold.

The movie was gorgeously dressed.  The set pieces were huge and very finely detailed.  From the hotel room and bar, to the cush offices of Rains’ former lab to the home of Gloria Stuart.  There is so much movie set “eye candy” to look at it almost distracts from the movie.  And I want Rains’ pimp smoking jacket in the above picture.  I wonder if he got to take that home.

Not much of the supporting cast lit me on fire. The main female lead is Gloria Stuart who is probably best known for playing “Old Rose” in James Cameron’s Titanic.  She is almost a non-entity in this movie, however.  We also get Una O’Conner who is a veteran character actor from the 30s-40s who would also appear in Bride of Frankenstein and The Adventures of Robin Hood.  She plays the wife of the innkeeper who shrilly shrieks her way through the first 20 minutes of the movie.  We also get a small, uncredited appearance by John Carradine who would go on to appear in several Universal Monsters pictures like Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.  He actually portrayed Dracula in the last two as well as the non-Universal Billy the Kid versus Dracula from 1966.

As for the invisible effects, they hold up pretty well, actually.  You can see some of the composite shots where they’ve placed footage of Rains disrobing in front of a black screen and superimposed it against the regular scene, but it’s honestly not that bad.  Some of the other physical effects, like footprints in the snow are actually very artfully done.

vlcsnap-00083

So, this is clearly identified as an adaptation of HG Wells’ novel, The Invisible Man.  So how does it hold up as an adaptation?  There are several differences between the two.  Some in character traits and motivations.  I tried not to dwell on it too much and let Claude Rains just take me away.  But the events of the movie closely follow the novel.  Certain scenes are removed and certain characters are changed or modified.  Like I said, though, I tried not to dwell on the differences and let the movie stand on its own.

I’d definitely recommend this movie. If only for Rains’ superb vocal performance and watching an invisible man slowly go insane. It was a really good watch and I’m glad I finally marked this one off my list.  My only regret is that Hammer Studios never got around to making their own version of The Invisible Man.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: What Was It? A Mystery (1859) by Fitz-James O’brien

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest banner

And we are off! So, I had planned on beginning AWESOME-tober-fest 2015 on October 1, but I got excited and I’ve decided to start one day early. Today. So, enjoy everyone, my discussion of all things invisible man begins NOW.

Usually with any discussion of invisible men, ground zero is assumed to be HG Wells’ 1897 story, The Invisible Man. And yes, that is probably the most important work on invisibility to date. And yes, I am going to review that book (check back tomorrow). However, Wells’ story wasn’t the first to feature invisibility, or an invisible man.

harpers-weekly

In 1859 Harper’s Weekly published a short story by Fitz-James O’Brien titled What Was It? A Mystery.  O’Brien is considered to be one of the forerunners of science fiction.  And this particular short story is considered one of the earliest known uses of invisibility.  It predated HG Wells’ story by nearly 40 years.

I was doing research on invisibility for this month and discovered an anthology from the 70s that included stories about invisibility.  It was called Invisible Men and it’s edited by Basil Davenport.

invisible-men-anthology

I looked through the list of stories included. There is one from Wells himself, but not the titular Invisible Man.  It’s another story entitled The New Accelerator. O’Brien’s short story was also included. Doing a little more research I discovered the history behind O’Brien and this particular story and decided that I should give it a read.

It’s a very interesting and atmospheric story.  It’s based in an old apartment building and features several of the renters.  One of them is attacked by an unseen force one evening.  The unseen force is captured and tied to the bed.  The renters try to figure out what it is and even take a plaster cast of it.  But the invisible being dies before they can discover what it is.  That’s the long and short of it.

It’s structure is very similar to a lot of Lovecraft’s early stuff.  The story is told by a narrator from the present who is relating events that happened in the past.  The events are never really fully explained and it leaves you with an uneasy, creepy feeling.  Another similar story that comes to mind is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short and creepy The Ring of Thoth as well as Lovecraft’s Out of the Aeons.

And that is What Was It? A Mystery, one of the first uses of invisibility in literary fiction.  It was a fun and interesting read.  Especially to set the table for the movies and books to come this month.


2015 banner
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.