The cold hard fact is that creating a good werewolf story is difficult because the storyline is so structured: bitten by wolf; slow build to the full moon; transformation; rampage; and then (usually) death. It's not easy to insert an original narrative into the werewolf tale. Werewolves are animals -- savage beasts that growl, spit, and howl. Vampires, on the other hand, are suave, cultured, and wise with centuries of contemplation. As an actor which creature would you prefer to play?
But there is hope. A glimmer of hope, anyway.
There have been a handful of werewolf movies worthy of viewing. There’re not all gold mind you – but at least they aren’t rusty pieces of old scrap iron.
So for our weeklong horror celebration DaRK PaRTY presents the list of “Seven Werewolf Movies that Don’t Totally Suck.”
The Howling (1981)
Joe Dante’s film is the grandpappy of the modern werewolf movie and the first movie in the franchise most responsible for taking the werewolf genre into the gutter. But let’s stress the positive, shall we? First, the werewolves in “The Howling” are among the best on screen. They’re scary, savage, and completely creditable.
We even get a plot here. News anchorwoman investigating a murder stumbles onto a rogue werewolf. She journeys to “The Colony” (a coastal community in Northern California) with her husband and discovers that the rustic town is an outpost for werewolves.
Silver Nugget: All the werewolf characters are named after famous werewolf movie directors of the past.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
For a long time, “An American Werewolf in London” was the best werewolf movie ever made. It’s now second best. Two Americans are backpacking through the English moors and attacked by a werewolf. One is killed and the other, David, is mauled.
Waking up in a hospital, David falls for the nurse and ends up moving in with him. But as the full moon comes, David turns into a werewolf in what may be the best make-up transformation of man into wolf ever filmed.
Then he kills a lot of people.
The movie is a bit disjointed and can’t decide whether to be a comedy or a horror flick (so it’s both), but it’s a genuinely good movie despite being about werewolves.
Silver Nugget: David Naughton, the lead actor, was cast after director John Landis saw him in Dr. Pepper commercials.
Teen Wolf (1985)
When a Michael J. Fox comedy makes the list – you know werewolf movies are in trouble. But despite its overall blandness, “Teen Wolf” is kind of fun in a “Sixteen Candles” meets “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” kind of way.
Fox plays a high school nerd playing on a terrible basketball team. Then he starts changing and his dad informs him that he’s inherited his werewolf genes. Suddenly, Fox is the star basketball players and the most popular kid at school.
Silver Nugget: Fox was 24 when he starred in the movie.
Hollywood’s first attempt at a big budget werewolf flick and it flopped. This may be the most unsuccessful Jack Nicholson movie of all time – and it also has Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader. But this movie is pretty good nevertheless.
Nicholson plays a has-been literary editor at a publishing house. Just before he gets the boot in favor of his younger rival (Spader), he’s bitten by a wolf and starts his glorious transformation from milquetoast to werewolf. There’s more here about becoming middle-aged that werewolf mythology (which might be why the film didn’t do very well).
Silver Nugget: Sharon Stone turned down the Michelle Pfeiffer role.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Werewolf aficionados love “Ginger Snaps.” I’m lukewarm on it, but considering the competition – it makes the list. The movie, directed by John Fawcett, starts out with a lot of promise. Two attached-at-the-hip Goth sisters get their relationship challenged when the oldest, Ginger, is attacked by a werewolf.
The movie degenerates into a cliché ridden murder fest, but the strong performances of the cast make up for the poor writing and directing.
Silver Nugget: Lucy Lawless is the voice over the school’s PA system.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
The best werewolf movie ever made. Here it is. The tagline says it all: “Six Soldiers. Full Moon. No Chance.” Director Neil Marshall doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s making a B-movie horror flick. Instead he embraces it.
What we get is a squad of British soldiers trapped in a secluded cottage as they are relentlessly attacked by a pack of werewolves (actors in cool costumes and make-up) rather than CGI animation. The result is just great fun.
Silver Nugget: The character of Sgt. Harry G. Wells is named after author H.G. Wells, the favorite writer of Marshall.
“Underworld,” one can argue, is really a vampire flick. Hard to argue back because the main character is a vampire and most of the movie is told from a vampire’s point of view. But the premise of this ambitious and surprisingly effective film is the ongoing war between vampires and werewolves.
Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) is death dealer, a vampire who hunts werewolves, but when she falls for a werewolf, she needs to decide which side she’s really on. Lots of action and great werewolf effects.
Silver Nugget: The original pitch for the movies was a crafty “Romeo and Juliet between vampires and werewolves.”
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“Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to
please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time
when he would come.”
“`So there it is,’ he added. `And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be
telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give
you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any
fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.’”
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What defines a great cover song? DaRK PaRTY believes there are two crucial elements:
With that limited criteria as our guide, DaRK PaRTY presents the 10 Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.
All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)
Bob Dylan originally sang this one as a folk rocker, but Hendrix rescues it with some scathing electrical guitar work. It’s amazing that Dylan released the song in 1967 and by 1968 most people already considered it a Hendrix song. In fact, Dylan even liked the Hendrix version better and played it “heavier” in concert for years in tribute to Hendrix. This is a perfect example of an artist completely re-interpreting a song to make it better, yet still echoing the original.
I Fought the Law (The Clash)
Does anyone even remember that this song was originally done by the Crickets in 1965? Probably not because before the Clash’s version, the song was made popular by the Bobby Fuller Four (Bobby Fuller was found dead in his car the same day the song hit the Top 40). But for all purposes, the Clash have so thoroughly taken command of this song that it’s become one of about five tunes that people immediately connect with the band. It’s an outstanding cover because the Clash’s punk version is a better fit for the tune musically than the original rockabilly style or the Bobby Fuller Four version.
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (George Thorogood)
This was an old blues number by John Lee Hooker that George Thorogood and his Destroyers made into one of their signature songs (along with “Bad to the Bone). Thorogood takes Hooker’s insightful, introspective song and creates a party number out of it by ripping it pieces with his masterful slide guitar antics.
Red Red Wine (UB40)
How’s this for stretching the limits on a song? UB40 takes puffy pop standard by Neil Diamond and makes it into a rollicking reggae tune that became one of the defining songs of the 1980 retro-reggae scene. However, UB40 didn’t even know Neil Diamond wrote and recorded it until after “Red Red Wine” was a hit. The band thought the song belonged to another reggae band – Tony Tribe, which recorded it in 1969.
Respect (Aretha Franklin)
Otis Redding said all that needed to be said about Aretha’s version of his original. “I think the bitch stole my song.” That she did. Aretha added the “Sock it to me” line to the song (which is a sexual reference) and added a rocking bridge line to the tune.
Walk This Way (Run DMC)
This may be one of the most significant covers in history. By converting Aerosmith’s popular rock anthem into a rap song, Run DMC brought hip hop to the mainstream and rescued Aerosmith from the dustbin. Run-DMC stumbled upon the album, but had never heard of Aerosmith (in fact, they thought the name of the band was Toys in the Attic, the album with “Walk This Way” on it). Aerosmith was pretty much over and the song helped revive its career after the disastrous release of the band’s worst album “Done with Mirrors.”
Suspicious Minds (Fine Young Cannibals)
How is it possible to swipe a song from the King? Ask the Fine Young Cannibals who turned Elvis Presley’s last number one song before his death into one of the most popular songs of the alt-rock movement of the 1980s. This is a bouncy, guitar heavy tune that would have made the King proud.
Take Me to the River (Talking Heads)
I’ll never forgive the Talking Heads for taking the Modern Lover’s bass player, but they kind of make up for it with this fantastic cover of an Al Green tune. This is the song that put art rock band Talking Heads on the musical map. This slowed down, bass-heavy rendition of the original became the coda of urban cool and helped usher in the new wave movement in 1978.
You Really Got Me (Van Halen)
This song was the first hit for the Kinks and the first hit for Van Halen. Ray Davies of the Kinks said he liked the Van Halen version better and that the Kinks version was a prop airplane and the Van Halen version was a fighter jet. This song really encapsulates early Van Halen showing off Eddie Van Halen’s guitar mastery and lead singer David Lee Roth’s trademark squeals.
Ring of Fire (Social Distortion)
It’s difficult to unseat Johnny Cash from his own song – never mind pick him up and throw him to the ground. But that’s exactly what Social Distortion does to “Ring of Fire.” They punk it up and own it. The song, however, was really written by June Carter, who wrote it while driving around one night worried about Cash’s wild partying.
Think we blew it? Want to throw a cover song into the mix? Then use the comments section below to tell us what we missed and to add to the list.
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American workers are exhausted. Europeans and Australians enjoy four weeks of vacation mandated by their governments. In the United States, the average worker receives an average of eight days of vacation – a little over a week. Globalization and technology have made working 9 to 5 obsolete and result in longer hours and more days worked. In this type of hyper-competitive atmosphere, workers need to be protected – and this means making vacation time mandatory.
Well rested workers will increase productivity, create safer working conditions, lower stress related illness, and allow workers to send more time with their families. In our plan to mandate three weeks of vacation for every full-time worker in the U.S., small businesses will be eligible for tax cuts and subsidies to help pay for their workers to take time off. Workers will be encouraged to take the time off – but if they do not, they will be compensated for any vacation time leftover at the end of each year.
Maternity & Paternity Leave
There’s a lot of talk in America about valuing the family – but little action. Just like we lag behind the rest of the industrialized world in vacation time, we fall far short in providing time off for new parents.
In fact, there is no requirement in the United States for paid maternity (never mind paternity) leave of any kind. According to a recent study at Harvard University, out of 168 countries in the world, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. The U.S. enjoys the company of Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea as the only nations in the study that did not.
Industrial nations are unusually generous (or realistic) when it comes to advocating for parents to be with their children. Canadian women enjoy 14 months of paid maternity leave and in Sweden couples get 16 months of paid parental leave (at 80 percent of salary), according to a recent article in U.S. Today.
If the U.S. is serious about being family first – then we need to start with maternity and paternity leaves. Six weeks is hardly adequate for mothers, but it’s a starting point. This benefit (and the two weeks of paternity leave) will be compensated directly by the government at full pay. Companies will have the option to extend the benefit, of course. Under the plan, the amount of time will be reviewed for an increase every two years.
The average length of time it takes for an unemployed worker in 2005 to find a job is about 20 weeks. Unemployment benefits in the U.S. last an average of 24 weeks and that’s cutting it much too close – especially when you consider older workers who have a more difficult time finding work.
It’s a ridiculous notion that you can lose unemployment benefits while still actively looking for a job. Why do we want to burden workers with a ticking clock of anxiety as they search for a new job? Twelve months of full benefits is fair and allows people to adequate time to find a new job.
We want to make sure people don't fall into bankruptcy, enter into a spiral of debt, and lose their self-esteem like looking for work. Extended unemployment benefits ensure the dignity of all workers.
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“To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”
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It’s like a bad TV show – culled from a drug store paperback thriller.
The real crime is the lack of outrage from Americans. Jose Padilla was a punk – a gang member and criminal with a violent history. One wonders if it’s because he’s Hispanic and Muslim that few people care. How forgotten is Padilla? There's a web site dedicated to his cause that hasn't been updated since November, 2005. The bulletin board on the site has only 32 registered participants and there's been no activity on it for more than seven days.
No one in the United States should have to endure what Padilla has experienced. This isn’t Stalin’s Russia or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. This is supposed to be the greatest democracy in history – the United States of America.
Jailing citizens without charges and torturing them shouldn’t even be possible in the U.S.
How have we gotten to this point? A deeper question, however, is when is the Bush administration going to held accountable for these types of actions? Too many Americans agree with this president's actions and wrap themselves in the flag with justifications that torture saves innocent lives.
How unAmerican is that?
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In his book “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,” Journalist Carl Honore tried a simple experiment to help down-shift his life from the hyper-speeds of modern living. He decided to obey the speed limit. No more barreling down highways, weaving in and out of lanes, frantic to make it to appointments one or two minutes earlier than if he’d driven slowly and lawfully.
He found it nearly impossible to comply.
With much the same end goal as Honore, I decided to duplicate his experiment. How difficult could it really be to drive slower? I even went one better – I was going to give my fellow drivers the benefit the doubt. Rather than immediately assume the people in the cars next to me were all morons – I’d treat them with the respect and dignity they deserved.
I flamed out after a week – more frustrated than ever.
I’ve been conditioned to drive fast. Being from Massachusetts, reckless driving is hardwired into my DNA. As a former journalist working for a technology consultancy that moved at the speed of the Internet – speed was cultural. A way of life. Even when I focused on traveling at the legal limit, as soon as my mind started to wander, my foot hit the gas pedal and eventually I’d be bombing down the road again.
On those rare occasions when I succeeded in driving slowly, I was in agony. My car felt like it was strapped to a tortoise. I was plodding – stuck in quicksand. My fellow drivers – those impatient morons – despised me. The looks! The sneers and the one-finger salutes! The horn! People giving me the horn!
Better to die in a flaming wreck than be subjected to that.
Slowing down has proven to be more difficult than I imaged. I want to slow down and smell those damn roses. I know taking it down a notch will improve my health, reduce stress levels, and make me happier more patient person. In my quiet moments, I often fanaticize about moving to rural Maine, dropping out of the rat race all together.
I had lunch with a former colleague not long ago. He also works for a high technology company. We found that our work environments were amazingly similar.
The conversation then turned even more desperate.
We realized that our generation was truly an experiment in speed. We were working faster, longer, and under more intense pressure than our fathers and grandfathers. Could we maintain this speed for 10 more years? For 20 more years? Could our bodies handle it? Would we be dead from heart attacks or stokes long before the promise of retirement? Would cancer invade our weakened, rattled bodies and kill us before the age of 50?
We started to panic. I’m already addicted to coffee. I eat terribly, especially when traveling. My sleep is sometimes good, but other times I lie awake with my head sizzling and snapping like an electron tube. I’m tired all the time.
My former colleague already has high-blood pressure and a potbelly at the age 38. He finds himself extremely irritable, especially with his children. They move too slowly and he doesn’t seem to have the patience to deal with those low-gear speeds anymore.
And we keep getting pushed to go faster. Cell phones with email and video! iPods to watch movies and TV shows on the run! Headsets so we can be on the phone – all the time! Web-enbled this! Web-enabled that! Social networks! Web 2.0! Open source! Another goddamn password! More gizmos!
Faster, smaller, faster, smaller, faster…
Maybe it's time to try obeying the speed limit again -- before it's too late.
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“She would have no one stay with her, and shut herself up with the body, together with the howling dog. The animal howled continuously, standing at the foot of the bed, her head thrust toward her master, her tail held tightly between her legs. She did not stir, nor did the mother, who crouched over the body with her eye fixed steadily upon it, and wept great silent tears.”The mother and the dog play off of one another through the entire story. Widow and dog; dog and widow. They intertwine and at the end the dog becomes the widow’s instrument of death.
“The maddened beast dashed forward and seized his throat. The man put out his arms, clasped the dog, and rolled upon the ground. For a few minutes he writhed, beating the ground with his feet; then he remained motionless while Semillante nuzzled at his throat and tore it out in ribbons.”The story ends with the widow returning home. “That night she slept well.”
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