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Friday the 13th and the Darkside Tour II: Highway of Horror!

Published March 15, 2015 by vfdpixie

For my Friday the 13th festivities, I went to The Darkside Tour II: Highway of Horror V.I.P. Elle Canada Man Event to celebrated the latest works of two Canadian horror authors.  It was an intimate affair where a small audience got to listen to a couple of guys talk about writing.  You might pass them on the street, perhaps pushing strollers or carrying a six-pack of beer; two regular guys who happen to write the most disturbing things.  Those regular guys are best-selling, award-winning authors Nick Cutter (a pseudonym for Craig Davidson) and Andrew Pyper, and they spent the evening talking about their latest books, inspirations, and horror.  Hosted by Elle Canada’s Features Editor Aliyah Shamser, it proved to be a fun, insightful night.

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My autographed copies!

 

Nick Cutter’s first book, The Troop, made me physically cringe as I read it.  The story about a boy scout camping trip that goes horribly wrong after a man dies at their cabin was equally heart-wrenching and gruesome, in fact, I don’t think I’ve read such graphically described scenes in a long time.  Cutter was modest but spoke with a heart-felt eloquence about horror to open the event, telling us that to him, “fears are like fingerprints”; unique to each person and that it is “profoundly un-grippable”, living invisibly behind the written word.  He lauded the likes of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson as sources of inspiration, particularly King’s Salem’s Lot for creating an incredible sense of dread.  Cutter described himself as a sort of mechanic, taking apart fears and building his own engine, but at the same time, not re-inventing the wheel because there are some things, like isolation, that will always scare us.  Another key element for him is to make sure the reader ultimately cares about the characters in order to fully realize the horror in the story.  His new novel, The Deep, broached the subject of loss-loss of memory and of loved ones- as characters battle a strange plague, and is essentially about the main character dealing with the loss of his son amidst the horror.

For Pyper, horror is deeply personal, and like an attraction, inexplicable and organic.  He got my attention after I read and reviewed the Demonologist where a man races to save his daughter from a demon.  I couldn’t put it down, because as Cutter mentioned before, I cared about those characters.  I followed by reading The Killing Circle, a creeping, slow-build of a story about a would-be writer who ends up in a writing workshop leading to obsession, mystery and murder, so I was thrilled to hear of his next book, The Damned.  In this latest horror read, a twin whose near-death experience resulted in hauntings by his dead sister for years, has to face her vengeful spirit when he finally finds love.  Pyper’s inspiration came from books about the afterlife and near death experiences, but his interests lay in the “boiler room” instead of the “penthouse”, namely, Hell.  He thought about what his underworld would look like, and wanted it to be based in realism, so he placed his characters in Detroit which to him, had many similarities to Dante’s Inferno.  He also created a unique, character-driven way to illustrate Heaven and Hell.  Add his fascination for the relationship between twins, and he found he had pieced together a patchwork of sorts that became the novel.

Nick Cutter (left) and Andrew Pyper discussing horror.

Nick Cutter (left) and Andrew Pyper discussing horror.

During the question and answer segment, they shared their thoughts about being called a horror writer, and whether they have had a lifelong love of horror.  For Cutter, his parents were just happy he was reading, so he started reading mostly “inappropriate” things for kids, like Stephen King, but horror was his first love.  He embraced being called a horror writer because he felt the genre has always been marginalized, and he would never run from that title because horror is a fundamental part of his life (Hear, hear! I resisted a “Whoot!” and a fist-pump when he said this).  Pyper read a variety of fiction, but he was surprised by the amount of emotion involved with horror and how investing in the stories brought thrills.  Pyper never really thought of the title “horror writer”, he just wrote.  He too would embrace the title but really didn’t care about what category he fit into.  I love this because Pyper, who earned an M.A. in English Literature and a Law degree, defied the status quo by ending up doing what he loved, and obviously what he was meant to do.

They also talked about how fear changes with age.  Fear for one’s own well-being changes with the addition of children, and for both writers it became a fear of their kids and loved ones coming to any harm. When asked why horror seemed to become more shameful as we age, Pyper aptly described how he felt culture generated a social hierarchy in regards to what people read, and ultimately a fear of enjoying yourself; and Cutter added that there should be no shame for what you enjoy, that they as writers, and their audience, should never apologize for what they do.

I got a chance to ask Cutter about a particular scene in The Troop, where characters kill a turtle because they are starving.  It is probably one of the most disturbing passages I have ever read, so much so that I had to hug my cat after reading it.  My impression of Cutter after I read that scene was of pure admiration, so I asked him how he mustered up the courage to write it.  He told me that he had actually gotten a lot of flack for it and was accused online of hating animals.  As a horror writer, he wanted to explore what would break him, and as an animal lover and owner of 2 cats, this was it.  He had to imagine what it would be like for two hungry kids on the brink.  I applaud him for going to the darkest places and writing such memorable, gut-wrenching scenes.

Pyper was grateful for the support of his readers and meeting him was super exciting for me and a check off of my bucket list.  For him this book launch seemed bittersweet as he mentioned in a tweet earlier that day and at the event, The Damned was the first book his parents weren’t there to see as they had passed before it was published.  For those of us who have had to bury our parents, some before their time, it is a thought that will strike you during moments of accomplishment, and makes the things you do and strive for so much more important.

Both writers were engaging, down-to-earth, and so funny they had the audience in stitches with descriptions of the tour, their unique fans, the writing process and their surprise at success.  They were lovely to meet and grateful for all their fans, colleagues, family and friends who came out, and I highly suggest you add them to your reading list.  Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for my reviews on their latest books.

If you missed this event don’t fret!  Check out the links below to see their next appearances and events, as well their bios!

http://darksidetour.ca/

The next event at the Toronto Public Library will be on April 2, 2015 and it’s free!!

http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMEVT184403&R=EVT184403

 

http://www.craigdavidson.net/

http://www.andrewpyper.com/

http://www.simonandschuster.ca/

 

Face Off Season 8 Episode 9: Face Off’s Miss Intergalactic Pageant!

Published March 12, 2015 by vfdpixie

This week, the artists had a cool Foundation Challenge.  They all headed to Long Beach where they found models and bowls of coloured powder.  They had to create a colourful makeup inspired by the Hindu Spring festival of Holi using only their hands.  Dealing with a windy beach, the artists ended up as covered by the powder as their models, but had a blast creating finger-painted and splashed up makeups.  Their judges were the team coaches, and they picked blindly, based on the makeup only.  The winner was Stephanie!  Coach Rayce liked how she transitioned blue and orange and the way it looked in terms of lighting.  Her prize was immunity which made her really happy since she was in the bottom last week, and this win kept her safe.

For the Spotlight Challenge, they had to create their own alien beauty pageant contestant to participate in Face Off’s Miss Intergalactic Pageant.  Their advisor this time was Miss Universe 2013, Gabriela Isler.  She told them that the presentation of the makeup was important and also to make sure the look exuded a friendly attitude.  The artists chose from different galaxies named on pageant sashes which were draped on dress forms.  The winner of the pageant would have a full-page spread in Entertainment Weekly, and their guest judge was senior writer for the magazine Darren Franich, so they were really excited to get started.

Emily picked the Pinwheel Galaxy.  Her concept involved an asymmetrical dress and a pinwheel wig.   She made foam tubing swirls for the dress and just had fun with her design, adding day-glo paint and glitter on her model’s skin.  I loved the colours, but the judges thought the mouth looked slightly injured.  Darren thought the character did tell a story however, and Emily was safe this week.

Ben got the Andromeda Galaxy.  He created an alien with three points on her head and used a four piece mold for the cowl to get a sleeker prosthetic.  His edges were great but it was a lot of work ahead of him as he scrambled to get his three-pointed eye mask on.  I thought the face was too flat in terms of colour or lack there of, and the judges thought some of the details looked stuck on.  Although Neville liked the chin, he also felt it looked like a 60’s Japanese superhero, and they all thought the texture and colour could have pulled it together but something was missing.  He was in the bottom looks.

Logan created a contestant from the Comet Galaxy.  His concept was a beautiful face and chaos in the back.  This put him out of his comfort zone.  The face wasn’t looking right to him, so he worked on subtleties, and created a beautiful alien that the judges thought was brave and original.  Stephanie had the Tadpole Galaxy and designed an alien with a tail feature.  The colours were cool, but Glenn thought it looked like a microwaved peep, and the back and front didn’t quite work together.  They were both safe.

Julian worked on the Whirlpool Galaxy.  He came up with an elongated head and a green colour scheme.  His cowl was indented, so he had to use a foam patch to fix it.  He had also never done a beauty makeup before, so Coach Laura helped him out with it.  He was worried, but the judges loved it.  They thought it was simple and effective with a beautiful face shape, and balanced alien beauty.  Ve liked the eye makeup and balanced cheekbones.  His stellar use of forms got him into tops looks.  (I would just like to add that I thought she looked like a beautiful brussels sprout.  There I said it.  That’s why I’m not a judge on this show).

Kelly picked the Sombrero Galaxy.   Her concept was an amphibious alien that hid from the hot suns of the galaxy.  She at first wanted multiple eyes, but Coach Anthony helped her realize that it would look too spider-like.  She started to panic and felt lost.  They came up with tentacles instead that would wrap around into an updo.  She had a lot of work with the tentacles so they would look defined, and in the end, it was not what she wanted.  The judges thought it was too busy with no focal point, and even though the sculpt was nice, it looked like a mask.  She was in the bottom looks.

Darla got the Sculptor Galaxy.  She wanted a spiral shape at the back of the head, but after consulting with Coach Laura, she moved them to the side of the head as it would be more symmetrical and beautiful.  After she fixed a minor crease in the nose, her makeup was just amazing!  She is finally showing her talent!  The judges thought it was gorgeous and the beauty makeup widened the face to make it pretty.  Darren thought it was glamorous in and old Hollywood way, calling it a space Norma Desmond.  Her classy, elegant and stunning makeup put her in the top looks.

Adam created an alien from the Cigar Galaxy.  He designed a crested head and wanted old Hollywood elegance as well.  He had a lot of appliances to put on the model, and in last looks, he came up with a great way to cool down hot glue with just air from the airbrush.  I loved the head and the judges thought it was a brave design with shapes they had never seen before.  Ve thought it was elegant from the side, and Darren liked the lava and rock look that carried onto the model’s cheeks.  He was in top looks.

The winner was Darla!!!  Yay!!! I was so happy!  Her alien would be in Entertainment Weekly because of Darla’s flawless makeup and application.  Kelly was the one going home.  The judges felt the rough paint and placement of details showed that she struggled to put things together.  I was sad to see her go but she has a lot of confidence and she is amazing, so she’ll get noticed for sure.

Team Tally:

Team Anthony: Ben (yikes!)

Team Laura:  Darla, Julian, Emily and Stephanie

Team Rayce:  Logan and Adam

Face Off Season 8 Episode 8: Stylish and Deadly in the World of Clive Barker

Published March 4, 2015 by vfdpixie

This episode had me champing at the bit when I heard about the inspiration.  The artists headed to the historic Sunset Strip club, the Whisky-a-Go-Go, where bands like The Doors, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones have played.  It was there that McKenzie revealed their next challenge, inspired by the legendary Clive Barker!!!  She told them that he redefined the silent and destructive iconic horror villain like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers by making a stylish, eloquent and elegant one in Pinhead. He sent them a video message where he told them that he went to punk clubs for inspiration to create demons and wanted to see something different from the artists; to marry cutting edge fashion and images that are startling and terrifying.

I remember reading Clive Barker novels as a teenager, and marvelling at the richness of his worlds.  Hellraiser remains one of my top five horror movies, and Pinhead is so iconic he is known around the world.  I actually have my own Lemarchand’s Box (it sits next to my golden Dalek).  I couldn’t wait to see what the contestants came up with!

The artists were to choose from several models wearing avant-garde outfits to create a stylish and intelligent horror villain.  The models stayed with them as they designed their concepts, and the guest judge on the reveal stage would be the V.P. of Seraphim Films, Clive Barker’s production company, Mark Alan Miller.

Emily chose the model with a feather vest and gold chain mail skirt.  She created a fallen angel cursed with a cage on his head.  She was inspired by old school string art to create a really cool cage effect on the character’s large triangular head.  That string cage, or webbing as she called it, started to fall apart when she applied it to the model, so in a split second decision, she added feathers instead.   Her villain was really cool with a great iridescent paint job.  The judges liked the paint too, and Ve loved the silhouette.  Neville thought it was iconic and memorable, and even though it didn’t fit the Clive Barker world to Mark Alan, he thought it was extraordinary.  She was in top looks.

Stephanie hit a major road block this episode.  The purple cape, gold dress and golden dangling accessories could not inspire a concept, and Coach Laura tried to help her hash it out.  Mr. Westmore even gave her some suggestions, like adding hooks in the character’s skin and encouraged her to “go for it”.  She was really embarrassed that she had nothing to show him, and frustrated to tears, deciding to just work out the concept the first day and sculpt on the next.  She came up with a seer that had peeling skin and a partially destroyed face, but had to sculpt and mold in one day.  She was really behind and painted with different techniques furiously to hide some lifting around the eyes.  She could only hope to be safe.  The judges thought her sculpt was non-specific and not conducive to the model’s face because she didn’t incorporate her nose and jaw line.  Because her concept was compromised by indecision, she was in the bottom.

Ben’s model wore a silver tutu, a black leather corset and stark white jacket.  He decided to create a demonic fetish model with a black leather corset skull-cap.  He took a lot of time sculpting his cowl, and he ended up being behind with his painting.  He would have to do a beauty makeup in last looks.  His character was really unique.  She had a truly avant-garde, minimalistic look.  The judges loved that the shapes tied into the wardrobe, especially the leather skull, which I thought was super clean-looking.  You could tell he really perfected that detail.  Mark Alan liked the story and the corrupted porcelain doll look, and Glenn loved the head detail and felt it was a brilliant and daring combo.  He was in top looks.

Darla took on a demon.  I really like her, and she has obvious talent, but I think she is losing her stride.  Her character wore a motorcycle inspired leather jacket and pants, so she went with a post-apocalyptic look.  She had a stretched out skin concept that didn’t work, so Coach Laura helped her with that.  The judges thought the character looked like an alien, and I thought the paint was a little flat but she was safe.  I’m glad because I know she can do something amazing-she just needs a boost.

Jamie had a model in a leather and mesh outfit with a whip and created a scorned, black widow type character who lured and killed men.  Coach Anthony helped her with the sculpt to make it more in tune with the Clive Barker universe, and hash out some spider details.  He was worried about the skin texture looking too realistic, and her painting went south when she had trouble matching tones.  The end result was a flat paint job, and the judges noticed it too.  Ve thought it didn’t look like skin, and that it was more alien and less Clive Barker.  Neville thought it looked like a Klingon or Borg character, and the mouth and chin looked like it was melted wax.  She was in the bottom.

Julian’s model wore a gold studded tuxedo-like jacket, an intricate amulet and carried a scythe.  His character would be a demon that killed those who wore the cursed amulet.  Mr. Westmore suggested he sculpt something into the head so that it read more horror than human, so he paid attention to the critique and created a second mouth running along the top of the demon’s head.  He took his time with his sculpt as well, ready to risk time for perfection.  Julian put in black mesh in the eye area of his face piece to hide the model’s eyes, and his character impressed the judges.  Glenn thought it worked within the Barker world and Ve gave it a 15 1/2 out of 10 for creepiness.  Mark Alan liked the jaw line, and Neville thought it was good, but not next generation Clive Barker (I agreed).  Because his character was terrifying up close, sophisticated and intelligent, Julian was in top looks.

Adam created a resurrected South American goddess who killed by gilding her victims.  her outfit was gold, orange and very regal looking.  He had a large cowl in 2 pieces so he took his time molding it, only to have it crack.  He used plumber’s epoxy to fix it, and thankfully, it came out well.  With Coach Rayce’s help, his goddess looked great on the reveal stage.  The judges thought it was original, and would have liked to have seen more gold highlights, but he was safe.

Kelly worked on a vivid green mermaid dress with her model.  Her concept was a woman obsessed with plastic surgery who cut herself, and had a mask to cover the damage.  Mr. Westmore suggested blood dripping from the mouth, and she also created a futuristic surgical fetish mask from vaccuform.  She ran into a problem when her face prosthetic had a bad second skin, making it look shredded, but Coach Anthony told her to go with it as it could work with the character’s mutilation.  It turned out really well, with a bloody, creepy mess of a woman.  The judges thought she was disgusting and sexy.  Mark Alan thought it was sex and violence, and could see the character in an upcoming Clive Barker comic anthology.  The mask was avant-garde, and Ve liked that it was disturbing and the contrasting colours of her red hair and green dress.  She was in the top looks for the story of her perfectly suited character to the challenge.

Working with a quilted vest that looked like a cobra’s hood, Logan created a snake charmer who was a killer immune to snake venom.  He put grids on the character’s arms to catalogue the venoms.  He used a wax based clay to create the sculpt for the arms, and started with the arm application because it was very delicate.  He wanted a sickly look for the “charmer”, and he succeeded.  It was a cool character, and the judges liked how he handled the cheekbones.  He was safe.

The winner was Ben.  His character incorporated pleasure and pain, grace and the grotesque and used a high concept with high fashion.  She was what the challenge asked for:  a glimpse into a future world of Clive Barker.  The person going home was Jamie.  She couldn’t pull her ideas together this week.  I was so bummed because I liked her and hoped she would come up and slay with her talents.  I know she will go on to do well in the industry especially because of her great talent and calm attitude.

Team Tally:

Team Laura:  Darla, Julian, Emily and Stephanie

Team Rayce:  Adam and Logan

Team Anthony:  Kelly and Ben

 

Pixie’s Cabin Fever!

Published March 2, 2015 by vfdpixie

So once again I find myself unemployed and isolated.  This horribly cold winter and my job search has kept me indoors, inactive and a little insane, truth be told.  Case in point:  a knock on my apartment door last week prompted me to tip-toe barefoot, Mission Impossible style, to the peep-hole of my front door.  Who was this intruder, this interloper who dared to knock at my door, bypassing our lame security buzz code system?!! I saw a small being, hobbit-like, hover by my door, and I heard what sounded like a photo being taken.  That was beyond weird.  Was it a serial killer taking a trophy photo of their victim’s front door? Was it the Tall Man’s minion, come to take me to another dimension? I wasn’t about to find out and crept slowly away from the door.  When my sister came home, she announced that there was a jumbo box of cat litter left at our door.  My interloper was the delivery hobbit from Walmart, and the photo was probably them scanning their delivery.

Lack of human contact and a schedule, believing your cats can read your mind, plus the ridiculous amounts of snow and cold weather alerts have contributed to this pixie’s descent into Cuckoo Land.  After that delivery incident, I started to think about all the isolation horror films where characters-mostly employed-start to lose it out in space or the elements; battling aliens, themselves and unseen threats.  I thought I would do a Cabin Fever post about my brothers and sisters in arms sacrificing themselves, mostly at work, as they fight various terrors or their own mental states (I will however, make a note of  putting these jobs in my “circular file” as I look for gainful employment, for obvious reasons).

My top film for this sort of mayhem is of course, John Carpenter’s The Thing.  A research team minding their own business out in the Antarctic, is infiltrated by a voracious alien life form that hitches a ride in a cute dog on the run.  Imagine being out there in the cold, maybe more than a touch bored,  only to have your solitude disrupted by an alien threat.  That kind of excitement I can do without!

 

 

Alien is the next film on this list.  A crew on their way back to Earth after their space mission makes a stop due to a potential distress signal where they find a heap of alien trouble awaiting them.  So basically, this lot was on their way home from work only to have another assignment thrown at them and end up being violated by an alien.  Talk about your contractual obligations.  Sheesh!

 

 

Black Mountain Side, inspired by The Thing, is about another set of researchers on the brink of discovering a ground breaking archeological find on an isolated snowy mountain range.  When they start to have psychological problems, things become deadly.  Once again, researchers doing boring researchy things in the middle of nowhere are at the mercy of an unknown threat.

 

 

Mr. Jones is my next pick.  A filmmaker and his girlfriend move to the woods so he can work on a nature documentary and they end up becoming obsessed with a reclusive artist who creates disturbing sculptures. This film got mixed reviews, but I liked it.  A case of recluse vs. recluse, it’s basically a story of one artist seeking the solace of nature interrupting another artist’s solitude and paying the supernatural consequences.  Note to self:  artists who live in the backwoods do so for a reason.

 

 

The Corridor deals with a boy’s weekend deep in a winter wonderland.  Some high school friends try to reconnect years after one of them has had a mental breakdown.  They enjoy a laddish night of drinking and re-establish their footing with one another until an anomaly in the forest sends them into a spiral of violent psychosis.  This time no one is working, merely trying to relax with their friends and they end up getting scalped, among other nasty things.

 

 

To round it all up, I’ll give Mother Nature the final word, because she going to have it whether we like it or not.  The Day After Tomorrow, which sounds like my West Indian uncle’s promise to return a drill, kicks our butts with some hard-core, extreme and devastating weather.  When a paleoclimatologist warns against a catastrophic event caused by global warming, he is at first ignored, but when the snow hits the fan, he races to save his son and other survivors as North America hightails it to Mexico.  While we are not near this type of disaster (yet), it sure as heck feels like Spring has tapped out this year.

 

The moral of this post?  Well, I’m still not answering my door if you haven’t been invited over, but I will take heed when heading out to an isolated cabin in the winter or deep space, maybe just get some fresh air to clear my head and go for a walk in a highly populated area with a decent coffee shop instead, and perhaps apply for a more, um, “people person” job…

 

 

 

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