It’s the most gruesome day in the week… #TerrorTuesday! Please do not panic… but SCREAM! Scream for your lives!!! We’re going to the animals this week with Terror is a Man, a 1958 fright film from the Philippines. It concerns a mad scientist (of corpse ;)) whose ghastly, island-based eXXXperiments transform a panther into a fantastical Panther Man. Guess he’s a Carolina fan.#GOPANTHERS!! #KEEPPOUNDING!! 😉 You savvy ho-rror ho-unds may notice a certain resemblance to ho-rror classic The Island of Dr. Moreau. While it’s not an official retelling of the story, it’s a kreepy kewl take on the basic concept. It’s moody, spooky, and has a PURRRfect cat-creep. The only thing that’s missing is Marlon Brando and his Mini-Me. Take a trip to Blood Island below:
So what happens when these two tit-ans of awesome get together?
Pure, unadulterated madness.
Yes, dear freaks… back in 1981, Harry and Giger collaborated in a big, bad way. Harry wanted to take an “alien” approach to her debut album, so she hired the Swedish mad genius to conjure up a nightmarish work o’ art for the cover. The result is Harry lookin’ a great deal like a Cenobite… Yup, nothing creepy about that.
That’s certainly kookoo… at least, Harry thought so. So much so that she named the album KooKoo after seeing Giger’s work.
In addition to the album cover, Giger also designed and directed two videos for Harry: Backfired and Now I You Know You. The former looks like the world’s most disturbing magic show, with Giger doing the ol’ sword box trick on Harry. As for the latter, it’s pure Giger. For that video, Giger (xeno)morphed Harry into an otherworldly creature through body paint. I don’t know about you creeps, but I kinda wish Alien: Covenant looked like this.
(Submitted by , bc you can’t spell “erotic” without “eric”, #amirite??? 😉 Thanks, Kinky Ho-miebot! 🙂 xoxo)
Featuring: Robert De Niro, Harry Canyon – voice by Richard Romanus, Tommy Pistol, Misty Stone, Bill Bailey, Eric John, Angela Jones & Bruce Willis.
Taxi Driver (1976)
A mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, while attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Heavy Metal (1981)
A glowing green orb – which embodies ultimate evil – terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.
Taxi Driver: A XXX Parody (2011)
It’s more of a serious porn remake than a parody that’s intended to make you laugh.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit the scene in 1974, it was huge. There was nothing quite like it to say the least. No other horror movie had presented itself in that way, so the imitators were sure to follow, although none of them would really come close. In 1980, Motel Hell would come pretty close, but just misses the mark and not in a bad way. In fact, Tobe Hooper (the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was originally slated to direct. Whereas TCM is dark and grisly, Motel Hell has a whole lot of charm and is quite a lot of fun… you know, for a movie about kidnapping/abducting, murder and cannibalism. As much as I love TCM, you can’t say the same thing, simply because it’s not meant to be.
Motel Hell actually feels more like a cash-in of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, which wouldn’t happen for another five years. It’s odd that a film that didn’t intend on parodying the original TCM ended up blending horror and comedy decently that TCM2 would later also do. However, I don’t feel that Motel Hell is quite as dark as TCM2, not to take anything away from it still being a good film. In fact, Motel Hell was supposed to be much more dark with more violence and gore and included much more disturbing moments in the film, like a bestiality scene. There’s something the TCM films never had. In the end, the tone was lightened, the gore was used sparingly and what we got was still a fairly humorous and entertaining horror comedy armed with one of the best taglines, “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters!” An obvious nod at the cannibalism in the movie, but a hint at what Farmer Vincent puts in his famous smoked meats, unbeknownst to his customers.
Along with his sister Ida, Farmer Vincent (played by legendary Rory Calhoun) run the Motel Hello – which for fun acts as the title card as the “o” in “Hello” flickers dimly – where they don’t seem to get a whole lot of customers. I guess that’s okay since they are able to keep up their farm and… well now I am just thinking about how weird having a farm and a hotel next to each other is. This is getting into Eaten Alive territory, another Tobe Hooper film. You think all those bills would be stacking up, but it seems like Vincent’s famous smoked meat is so famous, people come around from all over the place just to get a taste of his smoked meat.
For those of you wondering, yes, that pun was intentional.
But what’s in those meats that makes them taste so damn good? Well, nothing but the finest ingredient… people! Vincent and Ida set traps to snare their victims, slicing their vocal cords (so they can no longer scream), plant them up to their chins in soil in a secret garden and feed them nothing but the finest feed, even if they aren’t the finest specimens. Like, would you ever think a balding, doughy health inspector who is nosing around the farm would be tasty? Vincent sure does. How about a drug addled metal group called ‘Ivan and The Terribles,’ one of which happens to be Cheers’ John Ratzenberger? He’s only in a couple scenes and I can’t remember if he even has a line of dialogue, but blink and you could miss him. Or a swinging couple that can’t sense danger when it’s literally tying them up and drugging them. Yeah, farm life is good for Vincent. Nothing quite like waking up and being your own boss, smoking your meat and having others from all over want to savor it.
Okay, I’ll stop with all the meat smoking puns. Anywho, Vincent’s life is about the change (not to make this sound like a wacky romantic comedy, but it kinda is) when a cute victim named Terry survives one of his traps. While being nursed back to health, she understandably has some questions, like “where is my boyfriend?” Vincent informs her along with the Sheriff, Bruce, who just happens to be his dimwitted brother, that he buried the body, so everyone should move on and forget about it. And that’s exactly what happens. Terry just seems to accept it and starts to fall more and more for Vincent while Bruce is falling for Terry. Oh boy, love triangles! Except, this is kinda like a hillbilly one, so you know at some point somebody will be pointing a shotgun at somebody.
Let’s talk about Bruce for a moment. Bruce is the comedic relief in a film that is about half comedy, so needless to say that he’s probably gonna get under your skin at some point. He also comes off as possessive and stalker-ish when it comes to Terry and I know, it’s supposed to be cute and charming, but when he’s forcing himself onto her and trying to make out with her while she screams and begs for him to stop, it’s kinda hard to want to support your lead.
Rejecting Bruce and growing closer with Vincent, even Ida begins to grow jealous of her, even going as far as attempting to drown her. She’s saved by Vincent which pretty much guarantees him a ticket to Bone City, but Vincent suggests that they should be married first and she agrees. Clearly this upsets Bruce so much that he actually goes and does actual cop stuff, like investigate the scene of the accident, even though it’s, like, days or weeks later. Hey, better late than never. Meanwhile, Vincent and Ida are immediately drugging Terry so that she passes out, allowing them to get to work. So, do they plan on doing this to her every night, because it’s going to get suspicious sooner or later, right? Luckily, Vincent plans on showing her the ancient art of smoking meat, a skill that is sure to come in handy on their honeymoon. If she doesn’t go along with it, at least they can always cook her too. Unless Bruce can stop them in time and I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t have faith in him.
Look, it all boils down to a gnarly chainsaw fight between Bruce and Farmer Vincent who is wearing a giant pig’s head. The movie is awesome just for this iconic scene alone, but luckily it’s very entertaining throughout the entire movie and Farmer Vincent is a likable character even if he isn’t doing the right thing, even if he believes he is. He’s a well developed enough of a character that you kinda follow along with him, which is a good thing, because this is his movie. You spend some time with the other characters, but not enough to get to know them outside of the single trait they are given. Except Bruce who comes off as a bumbling buffoon pervert.
However, I can’t say the same about the horror aspect. It’s a film about turning people into food and yet it’s not scary. Hell, it seems like it’s barely the trappings. Even films like Blood Diner explore (or in that case, exploit) the idea of cannibalism and make it visceral, somewhat painful and gory. In Motel Hell, the characters kinda mention it here and there, although occasionally some human carcasses or limbs can be seen. I don’t know if they were hoping it would have the same impact that Quint’s speech from Jaws would have, but the horror element in this film seems a little lackluster. Same can be said about most of the humor and being a horror comedy, like Evil Dead 2 and Blood Diner, they could have really explored using the splat-stick angle (after all, we are talking about people becoming smoked meat), but the film shies away from that as well.
I still like the film, quite a bit actually. I think it’s an honest attempt at a horror comedy and although I don’t think it’s the best example nor does it reach its potential in either genre, it still does both well. A few years ago, Scream Factory released a newly restored Blu-ray that looks fantastic and comes with enough special features to cram your meathole, like Audio Commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by filmmaker Dave Parker, The Making of MOTEL HELL featuring interviews with director Kevin Connor, producers/writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe and actor Marc Silver, Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at MOTEL HELL’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith, Another Head on the Chopping Block: An interview with actor Paul Linke, From Glamour to Gore: An interview with actress Rosanne Katon, as well as a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. It also was given some great new artwork.
It’s an idea that was fully realized, but once the studio thought it would be too weird, they backed down and what you get is a watered down version of that vision, but at least that still entertaining. Especially that chainsaw fight.
Ho-wdy, Kinky Homies! Last night, I watched the most bodacious of film sequels…
That’s f-right, eXXXcellent Ho-(rror Dudes! I revisited the Stygian nightmare fuel that is Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. And boy, is it strange! It’s loaded with creepy bunnies… …Killer Robots…
…The Devil himself…
…German Expressionist-Like Family Reunions…
…References to classic British cinema…
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
…and bitchin’ “rap” tunes.
Yes, my darklings… Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is a delicious buffet table of radical ’90s weirdness (one we may get back to very soon ;)), and it gave us the seXXXiest Grim Reaper in the hereafter.
And modest, too!
When they say “bald is beautiful”, they’re clearly talkin’ ’bout his scythe-wieldin’ hunk!
First of all, the man takes his board games DEADly serious, like everyone should! (CLUE ain’t no laugin’ matter, son!!!! ;))
Secondly, he’s got killer rhymes! Raise the roof, you adorableAngel of Death, you…
Third(ly? :)) he’s clearly an Ingmar Bergman fan…
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Fourth(-ly? -ily? ;)), he’s frenemies with THE MOTHERFREAKIN’ CRYPTKEEPER! I mean, besides Arnold Schwarzenegger and the EC Ghoulunatics, who else has had the ho-nor of sharing the spotlight with Ol’ Crypty!? Why this happened, I will never know. But it’s pure magic nonetheless!
Last but not least, he bares a striking resemblance to Demon Knight star William Sadler, and if he ain’t an example of Manly Meatiness, I don’t know who is! 🙂 Party on, Grim! You make death feel so alive!!!! 😉 xoxo
It’s a beautiful, spooky silhouette puppet film by Richard Mansfield, based on the short story by Amelia B. Edwards. Narrated with a 7:45 running time.
A young man is lost in the snow, with thoughts he’ll die. He then meets an old man that takes him into his house. The old man tells him the depressing story of his life (we don’t hear), and then another tragic tale about a coach.
Just another Monster Movie Monday here at Kinky Horror, and this one’s a real clas-sick. We’re going all the way back to 1932 disturb the dead and resurrect… White Zombie!
White Zombie is a personal favorite o’ mine and is one of the finest fright flicks to rise from the public domain. It stars Bela “Bringing SeXXXy Drac” Lugosi as Murder Legendre, who is certainly no traditional bokor, but knows how to get the dead movin’. He’s hired by Charles Beaumont (not the Twilight Zone one) to work his wicked witchcraft, although, he knows, it’s strictly taboo. Ol’ Charlie wants him to make the beautiful Madeline his wife, so Murder makes her a zombie! However, Charlie soon learns that trusting a man called “Murder” who controls zombies may not have been the smartest move…
The film is often cited as the first zombie film ever made, but don’t eXXXpect much flesh-eatin’ goodness. What makes this film a true nightmare is its bizarro, hypnotic atmosphere. Sure, it lacks gore, but it’s still pretty darn spoopy! This film puts you in a terrifying trance, as if you were under the control of Murder himself. Speaking of that ghoul, Lugosi’s deliberately stilted performance is brilliantly weird and from a realm different from our own. Murder is certainly not the most endearing of Lugosi roles, but its definitely one of the creepiest. Oh, Murder… we love that voodoo that you do so well… 🙂
Fall under the spell and watch White Zombie below:
P.S-. A little-known rock band named themselves after this movie… I hope those kids go places. 😉
It’s another fang-tastic day, so we’re talkin’ about Barnabas Collins, the groovy vampire from TV’s Dark Shadows! Before Edward sparkled in the sun, Johnathan Frid as Barnabas Collins was the heartless heartthrob who broke the hearts of teen ghouls everywhere. For monster kids, he was koolest korpse on the small scream.
When Barnabas ruled the night, they plastered his undead mug on just about everything… board games, joke books, toys, comic, and Horror Heads!
What were the Ho-rror Heads, you ask? Well, the Ho-rror Heads were probably the weirdest and most awesome thing to come out the popularity of Dark Shadows… besides the time Barnabas met Bozo the Clown. (True story!! :))
These strange little doll heads were like the unholy love-child of Madballs and carnival punks. They came in Barnabas (‘natch), Quentin the Werewolf, and… a witch. That last one’s a bit odd because the witch in the line is a generic Halloween witch and not Angelique, the main witch on Dark Shadows. But I guess it doesn’t matter which witch is which… 😉
For pure Dark Shadows awesome, check out the commercial below:
(Before we get started , I’d like it noted for the record that I LOVE MR. JEFF FAHEY!!! 🙂
Now that that my shameless fangirling needs have been appeased, I’m happy to also let you know that this review was submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
I believe the ‘90s had an extravagant way of overblowing technology in movies more than any other era in film. Sure, the ‘70s and ‘80s brought us some far out movies in terms of where they figured technology would go, but look at films like Alien where it’s very lo-fi. Or how about War Games that when you think it about isn’t as farfetched as it may seem. Even the show Max Headroom predicted quite a few things as crazy as that was amidst all its New Coke slinging. It seemed like movies were showing the progression of computers, from controlling ships to how we interact and communicate in the world to becoming a part of a livable cyber-world and while the examples I listed were fairly spot on in predicting the future, most films seemed to miss the idea. Or they were just having fun.
Something that films have yet to portray accurately – or at least non-unintentionally hysterical – is hacking and virtual reality. These were crazes that were taking the country by storm and being portrayed in the stupidest possible way in media. They were often shown as what old people thought young people thought could be marketed as cool; some kid with socks on his arms, neon colored hair and a ‘tude mashing on his keyboard while spitting made up cyber-jumbo, often pitted against “the man.” See films like Hackers or Game Over (a 2003 movie which uses 35 minutes of Sega CD footage as part of the story, I’m not kidding), but every now and then something would come along and take the material a little more seriously and while still being farfetched, it managed to walk a fine line of believability.
1992’s The Lawnmower Man was such a film, even though I think it’s much better looked upon now then when it was upon its initial release.The virtual reality popularity was at its highest, spawning dozens of movies and TV shows, like the underrated VR.5. Sure, the special effects were bad and the idea of VR never lived up to the hype and the fad died faster than the Lambada craze. Outside of film, the idea of virtual reality was never fully realized, but in cinema… it would change your life, become weaponized (somehow) make you god and would take over the world! Hey, at the time it seemed possible, probably because nobody really understood it or just how unimpressively limp it was. Still, some rather cool ideas came out of it. For example, I never thought I’d see a monkey in a bad Robocop costume.
Seriously. That’s how The Lawnmower Man begins. With a chimp doing some bad Robocop cosplay. Well, there is a reason behind it, so it’s not just something random for the sake of being stupid. A pre-Bond and pre-Mrs. Doubtfire Pierce Brosnan stars as Dr. Lawrence Angelo who is using virtual reality to make chimps smarter, because SCIENCE! Of course, the evil corporation (they are always evil, scheming evil plans to do something evil with your well intentioned creation) Virtual Space Industries – or VSI – wants to use it at a weapon and mixed with the chemicals they’ve been feeding it, the chimp goes ape shit (pun totally intended), steals a gun, guns down a guard and escapes. Now, let’s back up for a second here. VSI wants to use monkey soldiers. They are actually training chimps in virtual reality for use in combat. Now, I want you to think about this and then picture a hundreds of chimps dropping out of choppers or parachuting into combat and mowing down the enemy. Holy shit… this is how Planet of the Apes starts. I never thought the guy from Dante’s Peak would be the cause.
So much wild and weird stuff is happening at once and it’s only going to derail from here, so I’m gonna do my best to stay focused. This isn’t the best movie for someone with ADD to try and explain. It also doesn’t help that there’s a bunch of pretty colors and ‘90s computer graphics mixed with some pretty stupid dialogue. Paying attention to what the hell is going on in the plot was hard enough, now I have to try and not laugh at what I’m seeing and hearing.
The chimp eventually ends up finding and befriending Jobe (Jeff Fahey), a simple man who mows lawns. Hence, The Lawnmower Man. Unfortunately for Jobe, his friendship with the chimp is ended when VSI finds and guns down the primate shortly thereafter, but Dr. Angelo takes note of the surprisingly good looking and buff handicapped man and realizes that he mows his lawn. Wow, what a coincidence, huh? Dr. Angelo entices Jobe with the promise of video games that can make him smarter, so long as Father Francis, Jobe’s caretaker, agrees. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to mind, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his lashing Jobe repeatedly with a belt. It’s a minor subplot, but a subplot nonetheless. I should also point out that although this isn’t taken out of the Stephen King story of the same name, but it is a Stephen King cliche that it follows; misunderstood sad sack who is tormented and picked on until he acquires super-powers and gets revenge.
The reason I’m only now bringing up that this was based on a Stephen King novel is because, well, it’s not. Aside from the name and the character being a lawnmower man, this has nothing to do with Stephen King’s story. In fact, Stephen King sued to have his name taking off the film and all promotional material during the film’s release and won.
Dr. Angelo begins with smaller, interactive quizzes and puzzles with Jobe, building him up to some good ol’ VR racing/action games with his neighbor, young Peter who would later move to a shady NYC neighborhood and have an unhealthy obsession with Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks. Jobe is quickly getting the hang of things, much to Dr. Angelo’s surprise, even more so when Jobe is showing signs of rapid intelligent growth. Jobe is much smarter now, able to comprehend complicated math equations, any event in world history and to not dress like a country version of a Good Guys doll. One might say he is learning too fast and Dr. Angelo is becoming concerned, but luckily a sultry woman in need of her fluids getting checked, Marnie (played by one of the sexiest creatures on this planet, Near Dark’s Jenny Wright) distracts Jobe with mowing her lawn… and I mean that in both ways. She lays the sexual innuendos on so thick, it’s like biscuit batter. Not a very subtle approach, but then again she still thinks Jobe is mentally challenged. Wait, so why is she hitting on him?
Meanwhile, The Shop (another Stephen King reference) led by a giant head on a TV screen of Dean Norris sends someone to babysit Dr. Angelo and swaps out the improved chemicals he’s been giving Jobe with the old ones that made the monkey crazy to expedite results. Soon, things escalate and Jobe realizes that he now harnesses the power of telekinesis and telepathy and quickly becomes more overwhelmed by his powers and his learning speed. This starts to send him spiraling down a dark path, no longer having content for humans, because of the atrocities they’ve caused and with his newfound powers, sets out on a course of revenge. He even gears up in a sweet VR cyber suit, so at this point it’s almost like a superhero flick, which makes sense seeing as how Jobe’s character was obsessed with comic books. Becoming too powerful for this mortal realm, he decides it’s time to infiltrate the cyber world to take over the world! After all, they didn’t spend all this money on CG for nothing.
I’m sure everyone remembers all the promos on TV and especially in print of the cyber-Jobe. I remember seeing that image of his golden face against that blue, honeycombed patterned background. Advertisement for this movie was everywhere and they were expecting this thing to be huge. On a ten million dollar budget, the film only did about three times as much which wasn’t as much as the studio had expected it to make. Combine that with mixed to negative reviews, the film just kinda came and went. The virtual reality craze was on its way out seeing as how technology just wasn’t quite there and the way it was portrayed in media was now seen as a joke, The Lawnmower Man just went away. It did get a direct to video sequel in 1996, The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (retitled to The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe’s War for home video), but it was pretty much hated by everyone and still is. Personally, I fucking love it. It’s one of those ‘so bad, it’s good’ films.
What blows my mind is that Hollywood is still trying to make this movie. Not The Lawnmower Man, but the idea itself of a being becoming so intelligent that it wants to rule the world via computers. Transcendence comes to mind and shades of Lucy as well. It’s a recycled plot that for whatever reason people aren’t really interested in. I think it’s because The Lawnmower Man, as absolutely silly as it is once you think about it, did it really damn well. Sure, it’s not only taking the name from a Stephen King story, but similar plot elements with other various Stephen King stories. Not only that, the basic idea of a simple man becoming more intelligent through the use of technology is the premise of the novel Flowers for Algernon. In essence, you could say The Lawnmower Man is mish mash of cyber-punk with Stephen King tropes. And to be honest, I think it’s fantastic for that. Directed by Brett Leonard (who also directed to paranormal/zombie flick The Dead Pit) took various ideas and materials and wanted to make something that mixed the then trendy cyber-punk idea with various horror elements, like slasher and the idea of a ghost in the machine or a being becoming too powerful to control.
I have to also hand it to all of the actors involved for really selling what is pretty much an atrocious idea and making it work. Normally, this sort of film would have terrible special effects (well, worse than the ones on screen, even though they looked fairly decent for 1992) and littered with technobabble jargon, but all of that stuff is reserved. The use of VR footage is mostly scarce until the climax and Dr. Angelo talks like a normal human being instead of some “hip” hacker type of character just spitting out nonsense dialogue. Jeff Fahey even manages to make Jobe sympathetic, even when he begins to become too smart for himself and goes on a killing spree, but my favorite performance by far is Jenny Wright, because we get to see her boobs. I don’t care if that’s immature, she’s beautiful and so is her body. I’ve always had the hots for her.
The Lawnmower Man is finally available on Blu-ray, both the theatrical and the director’s cut on a 2-disc set thanks to your pals at Scream Factory. Disc one features the theatrical cut, which is also a 4K scan from the original interpositive and has a new look at the film called Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man, featuring interviews with co-writer/director Brett Leonard, actor Jeff Fahey, editor Alan Baumgarten, make-up effects artist Michael Deak and special effects coordinator Frank Ceglia. Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett (writer and producer) provide an audio commentary and you can find some deleted scenes as well as the original EPK, some edited animated sequences and of course, the trailer and TV spots. Disc two is where you’ll find the director’s cut (which is also a 4K scan from the interpositive with additional “Director’s Cut” footage from the original camera negative) alongside another audio commentary from Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett, concept art, BTS and productions stills, as well as some storyboard comparisons. Needless to say, you get a lot of bang for your buck, but for me, just having both cuts of the film looking as freaking beautiful as they do here is worth it alone.
I absolutely adore The Lawnmower Man and that might have something to do with my fondness for the way the media sees computer hacking, gaming and technology. It brings back good nostalgic feelings and it’s worth some chuckles, but this film also takes itself very seriously and gets kinda dark at moments. Even though the idea of the movie is silly, it never once leads you to believe this is a joke and maintains a relatively good balance of taking place in the real world. Hopefully Scream Factory will release Jobe’s War in the near future.
Showtime’s American Gods is a leisurely stroll through a dream. It dazzles, delights, and confuses the viewer, but its story unfold at a mummy’s pace. Much of the series involves road trips and I suspect that was the point: the journey is much more fulfilling than the destination. Every episode is brimming with disturbing beauty and faerie story detours that are fantastical in every meaning of that word, but the primary story often feels like a skeleton to hang such fancies on. It could be said that the story doesn’t even really kick off until its first season finale, and that the entire season was essentially a prelude to what lies ahead. In that way, it’s easy to see why many would frustrated by the series. For me, it was very much a journey worth taking.
American Gods is based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same title. It’s an incredibly strange book and I adore it for that reason. Showrunners Bryan Fuller (developer of Hannibal, creator of Pushing Up Daisies) and Michael Green (writer on Alien: Covenant, writer/producer Heroes) are certainly no strangers to bizarre material. What they have crafted is a work that is faithful to the spirit and strangeness of Gaiman’s novel, if not its story. That’s not to say that their series isn’t recognizable as American Gods, but it’s certainly no word-for-word retelling. For those unfamiliar with the material, the central premise is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people believe in them and immigrants have brought with them their deities and sprites. As humanity’s faith in such beings wanes, New Gods have been born: figures who represent society’s obsession with modern forms media, transportation, technology, and other such concepts. At the center of this world of gods and monsters is Shadow Moon, a recently released convict who has lost everything that matters to him, including his wife. With nothing left, he accepts a job as the bodyguard of an enigmatic conman, known as Mr. Wednesday. In no time at all, Shadow finds himself involved in a conflict between the Old Gods and the New Gods. The world of American Gods is not far removed from our own in many ways, and completely alien in others. It’s a realm that has everything ours has to offer, but where belief is powerful enough to give life to legends. Anything a person can think of can potentially exist within this world, which gives many opportunities for truly magical imagery. And the series takes full advantage of it. Some of it is gruesome, some of it is weird, and some of it is gorgeous. But all of it is fantastic. In fact, it’s some of the most spectacular imagery I’ve seen for a television show in some time. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking, and the visual effects are a magician’s feat.
Like the book, American Gods takes many detours from its main plot. Though it’s easy to see why this would annoy the heck out of some viewers, most of these detours are pretty darn groovy. There’s one episode that’s mostly dedicated to the tale of an 18th-century Irishwoman (Cornish in the book) that really doesn’t further the conflict of the Old Gods and New Gods, but it makes this universe all the richer. When the series pauses to tell short stories, it feels more like an anthology than an epic. I certainly didn’t mind these diversions.
On paper, the cast seems exceptional. In execution, it’s pure perfection. Ricky Whittle’s Shadow and Ian McShane’s Mr. Wednesday play off of each other in marvelous fashion. As far as I’m concerned, McShane is Mr. Wednesday. Gillian Anderson is delightful as Media, wearing the guise of a new pop culture icon in each of her appearances. (Any show that has Dana Scully doing a David Bowie impression is fine by me!! ;)) Orlando Jones is wildly charismatic as the trickster Mr. Nancy and Yetide Badaki’s Bilquis says a lot with very little dialogue. As always, Crispin Glover is sensational as the mysterious Mr. World.
Perhaps the most surprising and delightful aspect of the first season is the inclusion of a new subplot with leprechaun Mad Sweeney and walking corpse Laura Moon, played by Pablo Schreiber and Emily Browning respectively. Both characters have been expanded far beyond their book counterparts. With Sweeney given a longer lifespan and Laura given more personality and backstory than just a dead wife, the pair very nearly steal the entire show away from the main characters. Their insult-laden repartee and unusual chemistry are nothing short of brilliant. If the series has outdone Gaiman in any regard, it’s in the handling of Laura and Sweeney.
All in all, the first season of American Gods is one heck of road trip. If one doesn’t mind frequent stops and detours, the series is superb fantasy. Gaiman’s magnificent novel is done great justice, and even improved upon in some regards. It’s very episodic, but most of its diversions are strong in their own way. We’ll have to wait to see if the second season stays in this direction, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if it did. American Gods is truly divine.