VENGEANCE IS MINE :: Why I love ELM STREET 2 (in three parts)

Very few movies scare me - at least, in the sense they're meant to scare.
The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project give me hyperawareness of things that go bump in the night. Fire In the Sky put me off alien abduction forever. Jacob's Ladder gives me second thoughts about death. Any supernatural scenario that can reach out and grab me in my own reality is the stuff that hits me at a weird angle. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this list is most likely the long & short of it; these are the movies that are strong enough & well-crafted enough to make me tense outside of the confines of their 90-120 mins.

I've endured depressing movies like I Spit On Your Grave and Martyrs that I don't care if I never see again.
I've stomached gore the likes of Audition and Bone Tomahawk that I wouldn't mind seeing again.
I've seen clever, campy, crappy, funny, moody, sexy, suspenseful, and anything else you can tack the suffix "-sploitation" onto. And then there's the far out stuff that keeps you working the rest of your life to fill in the voids with your own thoughts: The Shining, Eraserhead, The VVitch, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.

I'm of the understanding that many filmgoers have negative feelings against the second Elm Street movie, but that's not what this is about. I've shorthandedly addressed the defensive position once here before (and many times in real life), but no more (at least for the duration of this essay).

I've been dancing around it for years: it's survived three rounds of my Top 100, and it feels pretty locked in at this point. I very briefly told you about my earliest history with the movie, but I'll encapsulate it further: I'd seen Elm Street 1 & 2 at a very early age (a bit of math confirms that I musta been 3). Truth be told, the only things that stuck forever & ever was the opening bus ride sequence from Part 2. Only a couple of years away from riding a schoolbus myself, these images of terror would stay embedded under my fingernails and eyelids to this day...
And this is where we start to flip the bill a bit; it's not so much that the movie made me afraid to ride the bus, but how accurately the movie depicted what it was like to ride the bus: rocketing past the speed limit, the windows that won't slide down, the taunts from other passengers, and biggest of all, missing your stop due to the casual incompetence of the driver.
In this scene (like nearly all his scenes in this particular entry) Freddy Krueger's function is separate from those of the parade of 80s slashers; he's not concerned with a high body count, he's merely an indication of the existential crisis in which Jesse will find himself. It's no mistake that Freddy's the driver, shrouded in darkness, laughing maniacally (I mean, when is he not?). In this early sequence, Freddy's a warning sign - an early symptom of Jesse's "problem." And already he's scarier than he was in Part 1.

I'll keep my promise & not get defensive, but that doesn't limit me to some comparative weights & measures regarding the other Elm Street films. And the best & most important comparison is Freddy himself. Not just in his unique role of the antagonist in this picture (more on that later), but in terms of makeup and performance.
Anyone can witness the evolution of Robert's portrayal of the Springwood Slasher over the course of eight movies, and it was always a bit different from movie to movie. I'll forgo charting all the subtle nuances of each entry and say that, for my money, what he did with Freddy's Revenge was both more abstract and mean-spirited than what he'd done before or since. His brooding sadism and deliberately paced swagger suggest all the insidious motives of this story - even more than his unusually sparse dialogue and one-liners.

And the makeup compliments it - effectively.

I think what's most unnerving is that the more-excessive-than-usual use of facial prosthetics disguise the actor more than in any other entry. He's been given this pronounced bone structure around his eyes that makes him look constantly pissed off (which makes it that much more startling when he smiles). His teeth are bigger and more rotten this round, his eye color changed to red, and he's consistently covered in a layer of some kinda ooze. Not that we'd notice much of this: he's usually lit in ways that make his face look like an angry, slimy skull. The result is the shadowy demon he was meant to be in Part 1, and even still a bit closer in New Nightmare, but never as good as in this one.

The list of ways it differs from all the other films in the franchise is long - which is, I'm sure, why it's so divisive - but what that also adds up to is that it's different from most slasher fare, period, and it brings up tons of talking points, because these differences are notable not because they're different, but because they're better.

Regardless of anyone else who falls under the glove in Elm Street 2, the film's only victim is Jesse, and apart from the scenes when Freddy speaks through him, he's the only character Freddy interacts with. And his torment - unlike any traditional slasher - is verbal, psychological, psychosexual, and just overall manipulative.
Each new Elm Street movie introduced us to a new group of teenage caricatures living under the regime of the burned man who chases them in their dreams and stabs them with metal fingernails. Freddy's Revenge is not that, because as any competent sequel achieves, the 'hero' (Fred Krueger) has evolved. And because Freddy's basically a ghost who must abide by the rules of dream logic, this 'evolution' can go into weird, creative places. And this is the device that elevates it from 'great sequel' to 'great movie.'

For anyone who's interested, I'm sure there've been a handful books published on the subject of dreams in the past coupla centuries. There is sometimes common ground, but most often conflicting views in every aspect of this natural phenomenon: what they mean, where they come from, etc. Though most psychologists and analysts generally agree that stuff like trauma, repressed memories, fears, fantasies, insecurities, neuroses, and anything else we keep in our brain are certainly integral to their neurological makeup. So, outside of lying on a beach, watching Dick Cavett, or becoming the Wizard Master, the other movies (for the most part) are laughably superficial in utilizing this very rich subject matter. Freddy's Revenge is the complete opposite of this laziness; and by that measure you discover all these major differences in story structure, tone, gender roles, plot, and the supposed "rules" set forth by the first movie.

The biggest problem Elm Street kids have to deal with is Freddy Krueger. Jesse already has his own problems - most of them within himself. This poses the biggest question in the show: does Krueger take advantage of Jesse's insecurities, did he manifest from Jesse's supposed homosexuality, is he just a metaphorical figment of it, or is Jesse just the newest kid on the block, in the right place at the wrong time? I'm of the overzealous mind to believe that it's all of the above.
If dreams occur in the brain, then that's where the oft-mentioned 'dream world' must lie. And without an ounce of irony, I ask: does Freddy just hang out there in his off hours, waiting for folks to fall asleep? ...It's rhetorical, because I have to believe the answer is no. What Elm Street 2 suggests - accurately - is that one's thoughts & experiences during the waking hours not only contribute to the subject matter of their dreams, but that they carry all subconscious baggage with them all the time. That original mantra, "Don't fall asleep!"- established in the first movie - sets up a clever plot device for that movie. The second one just had a bigger, more logical scope: someone who can infiltrate your dreams could also pollute your mind, body, and soul - all hours of the day or night. And that's probably the major deviation from the original setup that left people upset & confused.

Either that or the gay stuff.

How many mainstream teenage Horror flicks have a controversial, sociological subtext? Most shit is pretty straightforward, and accepting A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 as an allegory for:

- coming out in the 1980s
- the struggle to fit in
- the confusion of self-acceptance

...seems to be met with the same resistance and ridicule as homosexuality itself. Any attention the movie's ever received regarding its sexual overtones has been for the purposes of mockery, or singled out as a flaw. There was an online poll some time ago that numerically ranked the "Gayest Horror Movies" ever produced, with Freddy's Revenge at the top of the list. My gripe is less about sensitivity and more about the ignorance surrounding the film. Defining a movie by measuring one particular aspect of its subject matter simply undermines any & all of its other achievements. Philadelphia may very well be the gayest Courtroom Drama ever made, but that's certainly not the first thing I take from it.
But I haven't broken my promise, because this isn't a defense. This is to state that plain fact that: yes, Freddy's Revenge is about grappling with one's own sexuality, and Freddy himself is a metaphor for the stigma, not the orientation itself. And I point this out not for the purposes of making an observation that many before me have already made, but to applaud a confrontationally abstract slasher movie. All of the Elm Street films had broad strokes of surrealism throughout (that's one of the reasons I prefer it over the other Horror franchises), but Part 2 clearly challenged audiences beyond their level of understanding. It's paced out like a psychological thriller, because that's what it is, and at its heart, so is the entire franchise. But as much as I enjoy the synth/metal laser light show that are the 'other' Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Part 2 is simply a darker, smarter, more serious approach. Seriously!

Any piece of art this vulnerable to analysis that produces wildly different interpretations across the board is certainly my kinda bag. But stuff like "themes" and "meanings" don't fully address the very simple reasons behind why it moves me.
Consider, for a moment, Mark Patton's performance beyond the overly-scrutinized 'feminine' screams & silly dance sequence. Better still, consider his character in realistic terms: scared, angry, confused, sleep deprived -- and he maintains this state with varying levels of intensity throughout the entire picture with a believability and a cleverness that you don't typically see in this genre. It's a juicy role that asks a lot of its actor, and he doesn't hold back.
And for better or worse, Mark's performance has always (understandably) overshadowed the more subtle approach of costar Kim Myers. She's given very little to say or do, but her character is maybe the most integral to this weird story, and she plays it that way. Sure the plot's focus is the male existential crisis (and then some), but that ends up requiring the strength and level-headedness of its female lead. And she needn't transform into a T2 Linda Hamilton to overcome this madness that's been put upon her; her 'battle' with Freddy consists mostly of patience and empathy, which, if you were paying attention, is all Jesse needed in his life. It was a logical ending to a movie full of metaphors and abstractions, though I feel like some folks felt ripped off. But that's the driving force of this installment; unlike the other Elm Street movies, we don't get that figurative "heads up" every time a character falls asleep, because the chaos occurs abruptly, and in the real world.

Or does it...?

The most fun and provocative sequence is Jesse's full-blown, literal metamorphosis into Freddy in Grady's bedroom. What we witness onscreen is Jesse's body torn apart as Freddy Krueger emerges from his chest. In any other film of this type, Jesse's body would be discarded as a pile of bloody skin and guts on the floor, but the revelation is that this incident was either a supernatural hallucination or merely a filmic analogy that we saw but Grady didn't.
Either scenario is pretty rad. The fx have a coupla rough edges but it's choreographed and edited with precision, and to my understanding, Grady's wounds were much more severe on the page.
But foam Mark Patton heads and MPAA cuts aside, the greatest moment in the entire film occurs during this scene: Freddy slowly rises into the frame like a jungle predator. In any other installment he'd crack wise at this moment and the tension would be thwarted, but instead, he gives the creepiest, most effective grin even put on celluloid. He casually places his trademark fedora onto his head and gives a subtle, ambiguous nod before he slowly makes his way across this teenage bedroom festooned with posters of Stray Cats and Limahl, claws out, no remorse. He is Nosferatu of the 1980s. He is Jaws on land. This is the sound and vision that all Freddy Krueger movies coulda been.

And as much as I love the kitsch & camp of the electronic keyboard and drum machine score of the other films, Christopher Young's traditional Monster Movie orchestral soundtrack gives Part 2 the weight and grandeur it deserves. Most of his music here is restrained and ominous like a black cloud on the horizon, mostly building towards the scene in Grady's room with a piece transparently titled "Chest-Burster" that is such a straightforward indication of suspense and terror that it should be taught in schools.

The other big set piece worth talking about is the decidedly underwhelming pool party massacre (which, again, supposedly fell under the knife of the ratings board). The execution's a little dry, but the concept is fucking tits! The 'fish outta water' gimmick is something I've always adored - the whole 'King Kong in New York' thing is fertile drama when it's done right.
Predator 2 was very satisfactory.
Jurassic Park 2 was mildly satisfactory.
Jason Takes Manhattan was not satisfactory.
Freddy's Revenge came right at the height of the slasher boom (in some countries, it even came out before Part 1), and for anyone who's endured any or all of the movies from that time, you know it was usually 75 minutes of stalking and 11 minutes of slashing. The idea of Freddy running wild through a crowd of prospective victims was an exhilarating refreshment. (Wes Craven hated it, so they musta done something right.) Even if it is poorly edited and light on the carnage, it's an awesome shock that punctuates the pace of the movie right in the right spot.

I like the dance scene. I like the stuff in the S&M bar with Schneider.
I like Clu Gulager and Hope Lange.
I like spotting the bright red objects precariously placed in nearly every frame (cans of New Coke are all over this thing).
I even like the 'demonic bird' stuff (even though I completely forget about it between viewings).
I like that it ends with a hissy Bing Crosby number that leaves the whole thing with a Shining flavor.
I like that it doesn't really tie in with the other films & that it could've been a standalone feature about demonic possession. Imagine that! Like Halloween III, had it been its own thing, not affiliated with a franchise, would it have a wider following? It's certainly stronger than any of the supernatural melodramas of that time - or any time.

In the end, I like the collective perception of the Freddy Krueger we have: the scary clown of the 80s, the spokesman of the Fangoria era, the Heavy Metal heavy of MTV, the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.
What became of the character as pop culture devoured him was a symbol for cartoon violence - which is an institution in its own right that's too fun to be ignored. Though I still make the argument that the jokey prankster who was prevalent in all the other films (Part 1 included) took a backseat to the menacing child molester of Part 2. For the sake of argument (which I didn't wanna do), peep this blurb from Fangoria's Best & Bloodiest Horror Video Guide from 1988:
"While the homophobic imagery is a perplexing, gratuitous addition, the films's elevation of Krueger from a loathsome child molester to a witty antihero is reprehensible. Robert Englund's characterization here is quite unlike the one Craven obtained; Freddy is not only brought out into the light, he's brought out of dreamland and into reality, which he can also control, and trades his former laconic venom for a series of one-liners ("You've got the body, I've got the brains!")."
As opposed to what? "No running in the hallway?" "I'm your boyfriend now?"

Robert Englund's always happy to point out the dirty little secret of the movie: this guy's attacking scantily-clad teenagers in their beds. The element of naughty is always beneath the surface.
Freddy's Revenge is a much less ambiguous (and thus, more chilling) depiction of a pedophiliac assault: he spends the entire picture grooming Jesse without ever pulling the trigger. This is the added dimension that was absent from the other movies; it's how the teen slasher with the bad puns and the "personality" generated t-shirts, Halloween costumes, and young fans - by sidestepping the icky stuff.
And I suppose therein lies the tradeoff: mouthwatering merchandise for more generic motion pictures. It's not a terrible deal - you know I love me some officially licensed Freddy products. And if that means we gotta watch him rap with the Fat Boys & play Nintendo with Breckin Meyer, then I will continue to accept this sugar-free serial killer.
And if I ever want a darker, scarier Freddy, I'll always have Freddy's Revenge.

- Paul



Welp! This is the one you've all been waiting for-- er, I've been waiting for. You'll take what I give you and like it.
Not that I've had to inflate the lists for previous seasons, but this one took some sweaty concentration, and many sacrifices were made. May they rock in peace.
Winters generally last about 18 months around these parts, so when it's time to switch over to sultry synths and headbangin' bliss, there's not a minute to waste. Everything's got bigger tits when the sun starts to burn, but to sample this lineup outta season would be a gross miscarriage of the art of music appreciation.
I could do a list of Summer Songs that would go on for days, but the following accomplishments are packaged heatwaves from end to end: sometimes by design, sometimes because I say so.
Be hot, listen, send nudes.

- Paul

Welcome to the Real World Mr. Mister (1985)
"Broken Wings" is my favorite song - if for no other reason (there really is no other reason) than it sounds like Summertime. And while no other tracks on the album reach this level of synth/bass euphoria, the Misters hold fast on rockin' guitars and sunny delights. "Kyrie" and "Is It Love" are the headbangin' hits, but "Run to Her" is the other moody masterpiece that keeps this bubblegum soft & chewy without losing its flavor.

An Innocent Man Billy Joel (1983)
My aunt used to do housework in the summer with this album when it was new-ish. So there's that.
This 1980s New York pop symphony about 1950s Motown is a love letter to dancing, dating, gambling, and romancing: stuff like "Keeping the Faith" and "The Longest Time" call attention to it as nostalgia, while "Uptown Girl" and "Tell Her About It" place you square in the Burroughs - playin' stickball, eatin' dogs, whistlin' at broads.

Tres Hombres ZZ Top (1973)
No ZZ Top record doesn't blast you in the face with a solar flare, but Tres Hombres may be the most relaxed, dry, Southwestern heat in their catalogue. Sloppy chili & warm brew saturate songs like "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" and "Waitin' For the Bus." And if you catch yourself listening to "La Grange," you'd better be in a bar, on a bike, or getting laid (or all three) -- don't lemme catch you in your Kia Sorento on your way to Whole Foods, pendejo.

Blizzard of Ozz Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
Summers at the beach, the amusement park, the arcade -- my entire life, the soundtrack to outdoor entertainment has been Ozzy - especially "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley." It was so ingrained that I eventually bought the album at the beach, so that deep cuts like "Goodbye to Romance" and "No Bone Movies" became the sound of off-hours leisure.
All aboard!

Beverly Hills Cop II (Soundtrack) Various Artists (1987)
One of the greatest soundtracks ever compiled, fer sure, but it may be the only album of various artists that maintains a ridiculously consistent vibe throughout - take your pick: "Love/Hate" by Pebbles, "Better Way" by James Ingram, "Be There" by Pointer Sisters, "Shakedown" by Bob Seger -- all excellent mood-setters for high-speed cement truck chases, volleyball at the Playboy Mansion, solving the Alphabet Crimes, or just watching titty movies on a poolside TV.

Flaming Pie Paul McCartney (1997)
Released in June on the 30th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's release -- and so, in my very condensed world, '97 was my summer of love, and this was the perfect soundtrack to it.
The guy's written some of the best love songs around, but this is a stripped, raw celebration of the union of two soulmates, and it smells like a sunset.
Dark jams like "Souvenir" and "The World Tonight" are strong enough for any season, but sermons like "Somedays" and "Heaven on a Sunday" are like a tribute to life - and that's what the whole season is all about.

Night Time, My Time Sky Ferreira (2013)
Like any time of year, Summer can be brutal. Unkind. Some would even say "cruel." Well, there's medicine for that, too! "I Blame Myself" and "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)" won't exactly cure the summertime blues, but, as they also say, it's easier to have these songs around.
But it's not all a gloomy Sky - "24 Hours" is like a diary entry detailing all the events leading up to a Manic Monday (and told in the same style).

Freddy's Greatest Hits The Elm Street Group (1987)
You can't stay home the whole time watching Freddy. But when life summons you out of the boiler room and into the fire, you can take Freddy with you!
Behold, one of the shiniest & most enjoyable product tie-ins of the 1980s... Let that sentence sink in.
Sure, Fred Krueger woulda been better suited to a metal album than a handful of underproduced golden oldie covers, but the original stuff - "Don't Sleep," "Dance, or Else," and especially the moody instrumental "Elm Street Dreams" absolutely fucking nail the aura of what Elm Street means to me.

Fun In Space Roger Taylor (1981)
On my list of Top 10 Queen songs, Roger Taylor is responsible for writing roughly 8-10 of them. So this, his first solo album, felt like an open invitation to me to get crazy. (Spin "Let's Get Crazy".)
The track list is populated with his usual flair for storytelling - usually with 80s post-Star Wars fascination with Science Fiction ("Future Management," "Magic is Loose"), all with old (and modern times) rock 'n roll.
This shoulda been the soundtrack to Flash Gordon.

Rock 'n Soul Part 1 Daryl Hall & John Oates (1983)
Yeah, yeah, it's a 'greatest hits,' I know. But it's way too pristine to be ignored. Besides, it's the first time "Say It Isn't So" appeared on a full-length album, so it's not a total cheat.
It's almost got everything: "Kiss On My List" and "Private Eyes" for the boardwalk days, and "I Can't Go For That" and "Maneater" for those 90mph nights.
All the blue-eyed soul you'd ever need to dance, sweat, and make-a your dreams come true.


TOYS ARE US : Spy Tech

Alright, playtime's over. No more esoteric meanderings about special blankies and imaginary friends. This is the real-deal-Power-Wheels, fully-liscenced, batteries-are-included series that we're bringing outta the closet and onto the parlor floor - front & center. These're the ones everyone's heard of - and if you haven't heard of 'em, you're gonna goddamn hear about 'em now.
These're the ones you could find in stores, and that's where we found them, brought them home, and devoured them with our hands and eyes. So let's see if we can take whatever imprinted sensations we've kept & turn them into words and sentences.

For this installment I wanna talk about Spy Tech: a massive line of gadgets and wizardry that, by the standards of any generation, were the clearest definition of the concept of a 'toy.' Every product did something, and whatever it did would blur the lines between science, magic, and imagination - all with a badass attitude.
If you're not already hip to it, Spy Tech (from Tyco) was a series of electronics and sometimes fashion accessories that empowered a kid to playact as a 'spy' (or the standard fictionalized caricature of one) with a very high degree of accuracy. I'm sure this derived from the days of secret decoder rings and invisible ink and anything else Cold War/earliest James Bond flicks created some childlike fascination for, and to a kid, that kinda stuff is timeless and works in any era.

While not a 007 fan (then or now), the word "spy" carries its own mystique for me; it was cooler sounding than ninja, assassin, or P.I., and, more than anything, the wardrobe was very attractive. For most of my childhood, I insisted on presenting myself in dress pants/shirt and tie, day-in day-out, so at a moment's notice if I needed to be a Dick Tracy villain, a Batman villain, a 'GoodFella,' or, of course, a spy, I was already dressed for the occasion.

And I think my only real exposure to the idea of spies was from Spy vs. Spy - and not even the comic strip, but the NES game on which it was based. The game itself was a maddening mess with a disorienting objective, but the cover of the box that held the game is the best visual example I can point to and say, "There, that's attractive & kinda the look I'm going for." I wished to God they'd just make a poster of it...

For a buncha spy gear, the advertising for Spy Tech wasn't exactly covert: I was pummeled at every commercial break by depictions of slightly older kids investigating shady adults with the use of microphones, black lights, night vision, cameras, lasers, and all other kindsa crazy shit that left me exclaiming, "Jesus Christ! These're toys that I could own?!" I musta been pretty vocal about it, because come Christmas morning 1990 I receive the largest singular-themed bounty anyone's ever seen.

Now, the punchline was that there was rarely an opportunity that presented itself that required the fullest potential of these otherwise neat devices, and trying to create my own believable scenarios that called for the use of a motion detector or a finger printing kit presented a challenge. I suppose, if anything, they were a sobering reminder that I was rarely met with any kinda danger or unsolved mysteries in my protected childhood universe.
But like any semi-only child with no real friends, you become adept to your imagination & take more pleasure in just playing with yourself...

Joking aside, the real accessories I'd wished they sold were the iconic fedora and trench coat (and maybe a shiny black revolver and one of those big, spherical bombs with the fuse on top), but I was realistic and grateful for the arsenal I'd amassed. I can barely remember what all the tools were or what they did (believe it or not, I only had a small percentage of the inventory), but the one I remember the most was the most practical: a working, reloadable picture camera. I don't recall how much use I got out of it, but it was a good household appliance for a child to possess. And combing through the ephemeral Bennett Media archives, I believe this photo to be the only surviving relic of my career as a spy:

Fun & nostalgic for the story behind it, though the Zapruder-aesthetic combined with the absence of any human subjects makes for a pretty creepy depiction of existential horror.

But hey, look! I went back to that location for the purpose of this post & did my best to recreate the angle on the very same spot:

The lighting and the time of year may be off, but the biggest upset of the past 30 years is the rape of the landscape. Which, as a point I recently brought up, you do any kinda time lapse comparison in a spot populated by people and it's hard to ignore the palpable malignancy of development and decay.
And with that, I'd like to think that this - this - was my primary goal as a spy: investigating and documenting the curious, brutal passage of time. After all, isn't that what we do at Bennett Media?

Mission: Possible. Objective: Accomplished.

- Paul


A Vacation From My Problems / The Quest For Cola Continues

We recently spent a weekend in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
Sure, that's not the typical type of news we post here, but there are a few pertinent points from this personal pleasure trip that actually fit in with the usual nonsense you find here.

Old Orchard has been a vacation destination of mine since the 80s, and like any other inhabited place on Earth, there's been development, there's been decay, and there's a handful of comforting constants that I look forward to - a major one being Palace Playland. It's one of the few (if only) arcades within my reach that still maintains what I think this kinda place should be: a row of skee-ball lanes, games that eat quarters, change machines with no change, colored strobes, concrete floors, and an ambient decibel level similar to Omaha Beach in '44.
Of course, within this nostalgic mainstay, the rules still apply: most of my go-to games are gone & have been replaced by mechanisms I don't know how to use.

However, there was one decadent addition the likes of which I have never seen: a 12-foot-tall LED Space Invaders monolith with two pilots' chairs equipped with double-fisted laser cannons, all of which continuously vibrate during gameplay. It was as intimidating as it was enticing - it costs each player a whole dollar for one short-lived credit, but in that brief adventure of intergalactic battle, Jess & I felt like Milhouse in the Maxell parody of entering his name into Bonestorm. This is an advance in gaming technology I can get behind; you can keep your receipts on all these new games and just spoon-feed some prednisone & methamphetamine to the classics, and Boom! you've just Super Shredder'd what was already cool into the kinda games we need. No need to change the platform or smooth-over the graphics; the challenge is still there, they just need to present them bigger & more erect, and people will come.

Alas, Space Invaders was not the greatest discovery I discovered.

Whenever I visit any town an adequate distance from my own, my only thought is, "What kinda soda they got here?" I learned a long time ago that many brands and flavors are regional, and in my extensive travels I've confirmed that. And I'd all but given up on this trip until moments before we left - we stopped into "Moby Dick Variety" to grab some presumably run-of-the-mill beverages for the ride home. And lo & behold, there they were, back in my life again: three flavors of Clearly Canadian mixed into the 'flavored water' cooler, where they sure-as-shit don't belong.
Now, I grabbed one of each while Jess picked up a small Poland Spring and a Calypso Strawberry Lemonade, and our total at the counter was $18 and change. And as the burly cashier tore up our receipt before we had a chance to inspect it, he overenthusiastically wished us a "fantastic day."
$18? I knew they were expensive back when I was suckin' 'em down in the early 90s, but this math was beyond me.

But I'm focusing on negatives here, and this is the real heart of the story now.
Upon arriving home, we did grocery shopping, because that's what you do after vacation. (Don't worry, this pedestrian domestic blandness is leading somewhere.) Here, on my very home turf, I racked up a few more tonic trophies that you need to know about: Berry Pepsi 8-pack, Mango Pepsi 8-pck, Dr. Pepper Dark Berry 20 oz., and RC Cola 2 liter.

So after some newly acquired dental discomfort and what can only be described as 'pregnancy bloat,' here's the rundown:

Clearly Canadian: I bought the three they had (because of their scarcity, and there are no bad flavors): Mountain Blackberry, Country Raspberry, and Orchard Peach.
Whenever I'm in a position to explain what they're like (which is often, as I've yet to meet anyone my age or younger who's tried it) I'd say it was like Sprite in a wide variety of flavors. I still stand by that parallel, though they're definitely not as sweet as I remember them being: either they changed the formula or my taste buds are shot. Or maybe both are happening at the same time...
Doesn't matter: the flavors & fizzy consistency still rock by equal measure, and God be praised they've stuck with the mad scientist glass bottles. Just as exciting (or maybe more so) is the endurance of the little fruit illustrations that provide a dazzling accent of color in the center of the bottle. Fruit art is one of the best thing about being alive on this planet, and it's good having Clearly Canadian around to remind us of that.

Fruity Pepsi: I skipped over the 'Lime' option this round because I don't much like lime-flavored stuff.
Here's the good news: the two I have tried are certainly groove approved. The Mango Pepsi tells no lies, while the Berry Pepsi - as good as it is - is a little puzzling. First of all, 'berry-flavored-anything' is a lazy stereotype that's plagued everything from cough syrup to lip gloss; a strawberry isn't exactly a cranberry, is it? And don't get me started on the snozzberries!
Berry Pepsi promises "a splash of blueberry," though there are little raspberries scattered all over the cans & packaging, so I don't know what the hell's going on here. I suppose if you think real hard about blueberries with each sip, you can fabricate their marketing into fruition. Either that or blueberries will appear and destroy us, so empty your heads!
The not-bad-but-not-quite-as-good news is that, like the Peach and Raspberry Coke, there's none of that familiar cola flavor to be enjoyed; the fruit flavor is just too damn sexy.

Dr. Pepper Dark Berry: Conversely, the Doctor has put out a few not-that-weird flavors over the past decade (Cherry, Cherry Vanilla), and the results have been that any & all iterations have tasted like unmodified Dr. Pepper. No "hint" of this or "splash" of that - just plain old Pepper. I always attributed this letdown to my own assessment that Dr. Pepper already tastes like a cherry vanilla beverage, and calling attention to it in the branding turned out to be psychologically impenetrable. So imagine my delight as they recently unveiled Dark Berry Dr. Pepper - ditching their traditional maroon packaging for a 'dark' blue (still unspecific on the 'berries,' but they've at least narrowed it down to the 'darker' ones...). Not that the new shade makes much difference in this particular scenario; the new flavor is a promotion for the next Marvel thing, and the label on my 20 oz. was corrupted by all kindsa graphs and typography that made my drink look like a Comcast menu. A far cry from the simplicity of Clearly Canadian.
The verdict? It tastes like Dr. Pepper.

RC Cola: Royal Crown isn't new, nor is it new to me, but it is unfairly rare in my territory - it'll pop up in a dollar store or a gas station, and the next week it'll be gone again, sometimes for years. It's because of this that I'm able to detect them in the most extreme peripheral manner in any establishment, and when I find one, it's a big deal.
It is very good: to the rest of you crackerjacks who can tell the difference between Coke & Pepsi but also understand the similarities, RC is the third in that series. Like the old, old jingle used to boast, "it's not too heavy and it's not too sweet" - that's accurate. It's a nice deviation from all the complexities and abrasiveness of C&P, and sometimes, we deserve that kinda break.

Summer Soda doesn't end here. There are still big things coming, so keep your mouths open...

- Paul


2000-2002 Celebrity Girl Crushes

     The beginning of the new millennium was the height of my teen sexuality. I had matured from girl-curious to boob droopy-face. Dicks were still way cool, in fact I lost my virginity to a boy, but girls were just as exciting.

     The problem was, I grew up in a very predominantly white and conservative corner of New Hampshire. We had one black kid and no one was outright gay. To say my neighborhood was repressed would be a kind understatement. I was aware of a few girls that were kissing-interested, but they were more interested in their Realms Events and LARPING. That did not turn me on. Nor should it turn anyone on...

     So, like most scared adolescent boys, I turned to drooling over sexy celebs. There are a few that stand out; ten in fact. Some I have a more cerebral approach to my crushing, but others...well, I was a horny teenager too, and not always thinking with my brain. 

And I would like to add, that I am VERY PROUD to be bisexual and be living in a country that legally recognizes the union between two people of the same sex. We don't have to keep our mouths shut anymore and hide in the dark. It's freeing. Well, sort of.

- Babes

10. Erika Christensen
She was phenomenal in Traffic, and when that tear fell down her cheek after she takes her first hit, I was over the moon. I am sucker for adorable chubby cheeks and crystal eyes.

9. Karen O
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs fucking rock harder than almost anything that sucked its way out of the 2000s. She put her entire body into her performance and always got very sweaty. That's very important.

8. Kirsten Dunst
Forget the early childhood crush on her from Interview with the Vampire, but I must have watched The Virgin Suicides a million times. She's beautiful, sensitive, and smokes like a champ. I actually had a still image of her from the movie on the top of my graduation cap. A sneaky "Hey, I'm a little queer."

7. Audrey Tautou
I'm not sure if anyone else notices that all of Amelie is shot to enhance her breasts and be a focal point. Definitely revisit if you wanna sneak a peak at a perfect pair. And her character is just so damn sweet. Girls are intimidating. They're mean and divisive. I crush on any girl that's genuinely nice.

6. Scarlett Johansson
Ghost World was the most important movie to me as a 17 year old. I was Enid. And boy did I wish I had a sultry sidekick like Rebecca. I watched the movie a million times and I thought every time that she was going to be a big star. Her scene with David Cross is still top 10 funniest for me. Funny is hot. I wish she did more funny...

5. Alyson Hannigan 
I grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Willow was always cool. She had a laid back earthy sense of style and loved to read. Reading is sexy if you didn't know. She does this smile where she curls her tongue under her teeth that always sent me over the edge.

4. Emily Watson
Watching her in Punch-Drunk Love, it was very easy to fall in love with her. She was always brightly and tightly dressed, had the most charming accent, and looked past her dearest-love's quirks. Isn't that something we all want in a soulmate?

3. Kate Hudson
This was above my bed for two years.

2. Katharine Isabelle 
Ginger Snaps was described to me as "a werewolf lesbian movie." SOLD. Of course my source was way off, but I really loved the movie anyway. She was completely hot, even with a tail.

1. Anna Paquin (for life)
Her character "Rogue" was always the lesbian that couldn't come out of the closet for me. She couldn't touch anyone without hurting them and that's exactly how I felt back then. But she dolled it up with a sexy streak in her hair and black satin gloves. I love her voice. I know that sounds weird. But the way she walks and talks turns me on. And then several years after X-Men, she came out as bi-sexual. Oh man. 


Summer Starter Pack 2019

Who knew this could be a series? And why the f not - we take summer pretty seriously in this institution, and it prompts many celebrations and rituals that border on the scale of Wicker Man.
While y'all spent the spring Avenging and Throne Gaming, we've been biding our time, waiting out the cold with Barry, Black Summer, and raising a little boy. But now it's time to put (most of) that aside and pull the pin on another season of sweat.
Yank it, like you're startin' a mower.

- Paul

Orange Vanilla Coke - Is that all there is? (Then let's keep dancing)

This was my Mueller Report - I'd waited so long and searched so many stores for this magic sugar - only to be somewhat let down (though, at the same time, getting exactly what I expected).
Vanilla Coke's alright. Sunkist is alright. Pet 'em together, and it's alright. I made it through a 12 pack and life is pretty much the same. I should've known: whenever stuff like this gets any kinda hype, it usually comes out the other end a little flat.

Quite the opposite of last year's magic potions - Georgia Peach and California Raspberry Coke - which both satisfied beyond expectation, yet received very little fanfare upon their arrival. Luckily (which is a sad, dangerous word) I'm still seeing them on the shelves where I shop, which, if I time it just right and Jesus loves me just enough, I may officially have a Summer soda for the first time ever!
So, the real premise of this movie is that this is the 'Second Annual Summer of Coke.'


Seemingly following in the footsteps of their superior, Pepsi has come out with their own line of fruity fructose - Berry, Lime, and Mango - and my teeth are aching to try them!
But in waaaay bigger, crazier news: as you've probably already heard, the great 80s crash & burn known as New Coke is being manufactured once again as a promotional tool for season 3 of Stranger Things. These cans of nostalgic failure are limited to something ridiculous like "less than 500,000" - which is enough of a threat to light a carbonated fire under my ass, so my guarantee to myself and to you is that I will not be left in the dark Upsidedown on this one. Stay very tuned...

THE EQUINOX - Damnation

Need some hot weather rock 'n roll that they don't play at home, in the car, or at the office? Try something new - like, really new: an entire album for those sunny days when you wanna add a little grey to your black & a little bang to your head.
You should remember we did the lyric video for "Stuck In a Web" a short time ago, and the album it's wrapped around will be a creepy good companion to our usual Summer Horror lineup; perfect for scarfing soul food at The Crave Inn and browsing comics with the Frog brothers.

Download the album here or get yourself some tangible media here. Pleasant dreams...

Linnea Quigley Movie Marathon(!)

Speaking of Summertime scares, pick a day (or more likely a weekend) to spend with the Queen of the Eye-Roll and the throaty Valley Girl sass.
Give the pizza dude a call and ask for the biggest pie they got (known in most parlors as a "Party Pizza"), secure a more-than-adequate amount of beverage (may we recommend forgoing any alcohol in favor of a name brand orange soda - heck, get some of that Orange Vanilla Coke) and obtain or rent or borrow or stream this stimulating filmography of carnage & carnality.
But don't overstep your bounds; films like Witchtrap, Return of the Living Dead, and especially Night of the Demons should be reserved for October. In the meantime, peep Murder Weapon, Creepazoids, Graduation Day, Nightmare Sisters, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama - no particular order, but definitely in succession.
If done correctly, you'll run outta 'za right before the end of the last feature, leaving you full of pepperoni and dreams.

Max Headroom - The Complete Series

We're breaking tradition by being untraditional; we've never seen the show, and we're electing it as a Summer series this year (which will psychologically solidify it as a staple of future Summers) because that's within our power.
Always felt a bit weird about not being well- or even mildly-versed in this icon of a decade; only through our awareness of 'Max Headroom the spokesperson' did we know him as a symbol of the time - which would be as unfair as only knowing ALF as a plush novelty, or "Frankie Say Relax" as just a t-shirt.
Good or bad, we'll be pleased to gain some additional knowledge of pop culture, which, in the pages of Bennett Media, is true wisdom.

Related Posts with Thumbnails