Sunday, March 25, 2012

69, 10, 2

10 hours left from the time I type this on the Monolith/God that Crawls IndieGoGo campaign. $69 to go to the second bonus goal... get it done!

Someone over at has started a thread where they are talking about LotFP magic items and monsters. Some good stuff there so far, read it here.

Also, this monstrosity:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Funding... ... ... 100%

A week ago I thought I wasn't going to get anywhere near the goal, and now, awesome.

Thanks to those that have already put money up on the projects, thanks to those that helped publicize the projects. It feels good to not fail!

Two bonus goals:

If we hit $5500 then the Green Devil Face #5 that all contributors get will increase from 8 to 12 pages. With good stuff, no crappy filler.

If we hit $6000 I'll do an extra insert, 2 pages in color, for The God that Crawls. So many ideas, never enough money, you know?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

... and one last Monolith note for the day.

After discussion with the layout guy, the decision has been made to increase the page count for Monolith from 32 to 48.

It's one of those things where it's right on the edge... it could be crammed into 32 pages but we couldn't use very many visual cues to highlight information or make the different bits stand out.

We're going to take the extra space to make sure that the presentation is as effective as possible. And it's a weird one, so any help in communicating the concepts is most welcome.

Another Alfrey Poster Sample

I put up the fish yesterday, and thought I'd show you guys some of the ideas being thrown around for the people in the poster. Here's a prelim concept for what he's doing to Luna...

Aeron Alfrey Poster Art

The first presentable prelims for the Aeron Alfrey poster art (part of that IndieGoGo campaign you might have heard me mention... home stretch time) are in... here is an in-progress shot of the top of the poster, showing one of the beasties from the Monolith adventure:

That poster will be 594 × 841mm (approximately 23 × 33 inches) so lots of detail.

Hopefully I'll be able to show off some parts with the people before the campaign ends, but no guarantees there.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The God that Crawls: Rich Longmore Added to the Project!

The God that Crawls is going to be a split adventure/Early Modern rules supplement, and handling a lot of the art for the back half there will be Rich Longmore (aka the guy that did all the Carcosa art).

Awesome stuff coming. :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The God that Crawls Art Update + Monolith Playtest Results!

There's a full update today over on the IndieGoGo page, but just wanted to drop a couple notes here as well.

Playtests for The Monolith from beyond Space and Time went very well yesterday. (although almost 15 hours of describing physical and temporal anomalies was rather exhausting... boohoo my job is hard.) I've now played the adventure with five groups and the pattern is generally the same:

  • The players stumble upon "the solution" soon enough but nobody even considers that to actually be the solution. So they continue to explore and come up with plans (sometimes for hours of real time) that usually pull them further and deeper into a weird mess.
  • Atrocities are committed along the way. Once PCs encounter time and space as completely malleable constructs they lose inhibitions and respect for "the natural order." It's like Lovecraftian insanity in organic, rather than mechanical, form*. What at the beginning of the scenario is considered absolutely crazy is tried at the end just on the off chance it might work.
  • Things get awfully quiet and a little bit desperate when they realize that their final options are all kind of crap.
  • Things liven up afterward when they realize that it's the adventure's fault and it wasn't them just being too dumb to find the happy ending.
When it doesn't work like this, it's because the PC is OK with being an altered being and think that's better than the available alternative.

I don't know how the public at large will receive the adventure, but "eehh, same old shit" is not a criticism I'll be hearing often.

The God that Crawls is going to be a more familiar format of adventure, being focused on a dungeon, but with a great possibility of having a very unconventional structure. I'll be doing Google+ games for this hopefully in the next couple weeks. But take a look at a cool piece of Jason Rainville art from the adventure (which will be presented in a 210 × 550mm (about 8.25 × 21.5 inches) foldout on the reverse side of the maps):

* I recently received Trail of Cthulhu, Bookhounds of London, and Stealing Cthulhu. All are excellent, with Stealing Cthulhu in particular being exceptionally perceptive as a general resource for horror gaming and dissecting Lovecraft's stories for RPG scenario purposes. Bookhounds is a great concept. They are very useful non-system specific sourcebooks and idea mines...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Playtesting the Monolith... Friday!

I'll be running three games this Friday, all using Google+ hangouts.

7am, 8pm, and 2am (early Saturday, that one) Helsinki time. You figure out how that relates to your time.

One will be for 0 level characters, one for characters with 20,000xp, and one will be for 100th level characters. We'll see if this adventure really can be for levels 0-∞ as intended.

Slots are going fast (4 players per game).

Sign up here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Yes, more movies have been watched!


Yes, this is the Elisha Cuthbert movie. Actually I didn't watch more than 20 minutes of it, and that was only because I was amused that it was on TV just a few days after I watched and wrote up the other Girl Next Door movie. So no real grade because I didn't watch it, but the first 20 minutes were very, very dire.


The zombie apocalypse has happened, and US troops are pulling out of Africa. Unfortunately the evacuation was rushed and the plane goes down off the coast of West Africa. Three survivors make it to shore, and this is reduced to one survivor in short order. He eventually teams up with a local soldier who has abandoned his post manning a roadblock (where soldiers are shooting any who are injured) in order to find his son, who was taken away to a military base in the north after their village was overrun.

This is an ultra-purist zombie movie. No explanation for the zombies, they do not run (or parkour or other athletics like some shit-ass zombie movies lately like the Day of the Dead remake or Devil's Playground), bites are infectious, head-shot needed, etc. Big downer ending.

The movie is dreadfully slow-paced. The two buddies (who had been on opposite sides during the not-specified fighting that the US was there to do) basically drive a rickety pickup through the African wilderness, passing many, many, many, many zombies on the way. It's basically an apocalyptic vision of desolation with the gimmick being "It's in Africa!"

Not that the film is poorly done. The lead white guy's acting is kind of wooden (supposedly he had malaria during filming...), but honestly in this sort of movie that's hardly an issue. Everything looks top notch, most of what happens is credible, but...

It's just so damn slow. One of the people I watched the movie with, a self-professed zombie movie nut, fell asleep while watching. I think what they were going for was "constant menace" in their travels, as they can see NOTHING when it's dark, and during the day there are always a zombie or three visible as they travel. They are low on ammo, have no source of food or water, the only signs of civilization are abandoned villages, and of course there's a zombie apocalypse going on. But there just wasn't a lot of tension at all. And about the ending... it's like the entire movie was the water in the bathtub. When the movie ends, it's the final downward spiral, all this drudgery just reaching its inevitable conclusion as it all goes down the drain.

I'm all for depressing movies... or should I say, movies without happy endings. But I don't like these movies where "depressing" is achieved by long stretches of not a lot of stuff happening at all. I guess it's one technique to wear down the viewer though...

Also, when the zombies attack the African villages, it's a little too reminiscent of the village attack scene in Hell of the Living Dead (one of the true stinkers in zombie cinema history).

Grade: C

Nice try, the heart was in the right place, but in the end the adult mature zombie movie just wasn't that enjoyable to watch.


Yes, it's the 1985 vampire classic starring Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, and Stephen Geoffreys.

Basically, it's good fun in the tradition of the Hammer vampire movies (which are lovingly spoofed as McDowall plays "Peter Vincent" (Peter Cushing/Vincent Price, get it?), a former horror actor who now hosts a late-night creature feature program on TV). PG-13 rating in the US in 1985. 18 DVD rating in the UK today. *shakes head*

The story: Charlie and Amy are suburban whitebread all-american high schoolers. Charlie's something of a nerd, and during a makeout session he sees the new neighbors move in... with a coffin. Being a nosy son-of-a-gun, he witnesses the next-door vampire, fangs and all, about to attack a girl who turns up dead the next day.

But nobody believes him. Not his girlfriend, not his weirdo best friend "Evil Ed," and definitely not Peter Vincent, who he goes for to help.

There are few surprises in the movie (easy for me to say, I saw it when it came out), but it's an absolutely well-done and enthusiastic movie that hits all the right notes. Ragsdale (remember Herman's Head?) and Bearse (weird seeing Marcy from Married with Children as the vamped up - ha ha - love interest) are merely adequate but everyone else in the movie just owns the screen in ways that people just don't seem to do anymore. I think McDowall steals the show here, but Sarandon and Geoffreys are hot on his heels.

The best part of the movie is how natural the whole flow of the movie feels. Even the least developed of the characters have enough depth that their actions make sense rather than just existing to forward a movie plot. I can't say the movie is really scary as such, but Charlie draws a lot of sympathy as the guy in danger who absolutely nobody believes, and enough threats are followed through so we know the danger is real.

Grade: B

Still holds up after more than a quarter of a century.


The back-of-the-box copy sums it up well:

"With the spectre of the guillotine looming over him, young Blake (Dominic Monaghan) confides in visiting clergyman Father Duffy (Ron Perlman), recounting fifteen years of adventure in the resurrection trade. His tale leads from humble beginnings as a young boy stealing trinkets from corpses, to a partnership with seasoned ghoul Willie (Larry Fessenden) as they hunt creatures unwilling to accept their place in the ground."

It's a movie about graverobbing, and it's funny. It's funny in the way that RPG sessions are funny, in that the characters involved don't think it's funny at all, but those of us looking at the situation from outside the setting are pissing ourselves laughing at the improbable occurrences therein. It's really close to an Evil Dead 2 vibe and there's one amazingly inappropriate moment of completely insane over-the-top What-the-Fuckery that must be seen to be believed.

In fact, while watching it all I could think was "A graverobbing campaign book would rock. I could call it Gorehounds of London or something." (not likely, but I've had that name in my head ever since hearing about Bookhounds of London) The movie takes place in the 19th century but fashion aside it could just as easily be the 16th or 17th century... and I love how the supernatural is firmly established in the setting without changing the fact that this is the real world the story takes place in.

Bonus points for some outrageously awesome supporting characters - the too-clever-for-her-own-good apprentice, the sinister doctor, the rival graverobbers, the barkeep... and then the switch to animation for scene changes gives the whole thing an old Tales from the Crypt/EC Comics vibe.

Anyhow, the movie is awesome, Angus Scrimm is in it, the DVD has commentaries by both the directors and the two lead actors in character. Good stuff!

This kind of movie is exactly why I go on blind-buying spending sprees on Amazon. My life is better for having seen it.

Grade: A

Straight on the short list for "Recommended viewing to achieve the proper LotFP atmosphere."

Friday, March 9, 2012


I had a couple people over to watch this portion of the madness, and the movies were picked at random out of a bag of movies I have never seen before and don't know much about.


(not the Elisha Cuthbert movie)

Holy shit. Depressing, brutal movie about the mental, physical, and sexual abuse of a teen and pre-teen committed by their aunt and other kids (some younger, some older) in the neighborhood. The movie is all the more vicious because it's well-made and not properly a horror movie as most understand the term.

The film makes as the point of view character a 12 year old friend of the victims who is forced to watch what happens without being able to do anything about it. The movie does not present child abuse as entertainment; we're meant to feel sympathetic to the victims and feel outrage and shame for being helpless. By being forced to witness what goes on, The POV character (and therefore the viewer as well) is victimized alongside the primary target of abuse, a point driven home by the wraparound "adult thinks back about what he saw" segments which is what inspires all the "it's like a twisted Stand By Me!" comparisons you run across when reading about the movie (including from Stephen King, no less).

The most heartbreaking part of the movie was when the boy witness talking to his dad, fishing for advice without mentioning the situation, and the father giving in-most-cases good advice (basically mind your own business and don't interfere in other peoples' quarrels) that encourages his son to keep quiet about what he saw. The urge to scream TELL HIM!!!!!! at the screen was pretty overwhelming...

The most fucked-up wrong part of the movie... well... shit. Take your pick. The argument between the one brother wanting to know why he can't fuck his cousin like the other brother did, and their mom telling him it would be like incest if he screwed a girl freshly filled with his brother's "scum" was an all-time high/low in film for fucked-upedness, but the culmination of the torture just tops everything.

The torture itself isn't played for exploitation; just about every instance when it happens the camera focuses on the face of the victim and her pain and anguish (and the reactions of those watching) and not showing the actual injury being inflicted. We're with the victim, not the victimizer.

Based on Jack Ketchum's novel (him again! and not for the last time at GrindhouseFest...) inspired by a true story (the Sylvia Likens case, upon which the movie An American Crime was also based), which as I understand it isn't A Factual Telling of the Story but it isn't so far off to be complete hogwash.

Ketchum can sure write villains that inspire complete hatred. No "cool bad guys" from him that I've yet seen. (with source material like this, maybe that's not so hard...)

Why two production companies would want to tell the story of a girl who really was sexually tortured to death by her aunt (for months in real life, mercifully shorter in this movie), well... no justification is necessary but it's a hell of a coincidence for a 40 year old case to have two movies (this one featuring William Atherton and Blanche Baker, the other with Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, so not basement exploitation stuff) in the same year pour millions of dollars into presenting the story.

Grade: A

Not the kind of movie one *likes*, nor ever wants to see again, definitely not one to recommend that others should watch, but a movie as well-made and effective as this one deserves nothing less than top marks.


After the last movie we were all hoping for some lighter fare. Thankfully, we got it.

The Signal has two concepts:

One is the in-movie plot (or should I say backdrop to the plot). All mass communications - TV, radio, phones and cell phones - fail and are replaced with a weird interference. Being exposed to this interference causes one to lose grip on reality and become quite violent.

The other is the behind-the-camera idea: It's an Exquisite Corpse of a movie. There are three distinct segments, each written and directed by a different person.

The movie is, at the risk of sounding like a bought-and-paid-for movie reviewer looking to be quoted in an ad, a rollercoaster ride. Two things really stand out about the movie:

It has a non-linear storytelling method. We'll see a scene, and then switch to following another character and see what that character was doing during the scene we just saw. This happens a lot. It's not confusing or attempting to be clever, it's just following a few characters during the same period of time, in blocks of time rather than cutting back and forth.

It can switch tones on a dime. Especially in the second segment, we'll have the suspenseful "moving among the maniacs, will this person get away?" horror type stuff that suddenly turns into an over-the-top comedic farce (the guy who is oblivious to the breakdown of society and shows up for a party just hoping to get laid has to be seen to be believed) and then without warning just gets absolutely brutal (torture by industrial pest spray... not as humorous as it sounds). Skilled handling of the material there.

So what's the movie actually about? A woman wakes up in the bed of her lover, and needs to rush home because it's way late and her husband is going to suspect something. Her new guy here wants her to leave him. But she goes home... and things are already getting weird. The husband comes across as a jealous type (which is completely justified here - she IS cheating on him), but the movie gives us a skewed view of the relationship - it definitely shows the husband as the "bad guy" and the wife's lover as "the one she should be with," but with the husband the first real character to come under the influence of The Signal, who knows whether he really is a bad guy that the girl should leave or if she is just a capricious heartbreaker.

Things go to hell, she runs off to escape, other characters are introduced, her husband and her lover both are desperate to find her.

Probably the most fascinating bit of the movie is when it focuses on characters affected by The Signal. They aren't mindless violence zombies or anything - their perceptions are merely clouded by extraneous information and they have trouble processing the world. Induced mass schizophrenia, I suppose. They know they're having problems, they know everything's not right, but when they're pushed (and not necessarily very much), they lash out.

The most farcical portion of the movie features a couple of Signal-affected people with a couple not-Signal-affected people in a house, and the Signal-affected people keep mistaking the people present as their spouses. With hilarious results, until it's not hilarious anymore.

Eventually The Signal affects everyone to some degree or another (how do you avoid even passive contact with ALL ELECTRONIC MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS METHODS these days?) and things get quite confused at the end...

This is all great stuff. Highly recommended!

Grade: B

I saw this as a Lovecraftian sort of horror (an unexplained Something From Beyond intrudes on our civilization and it crashes in an orgy of bloodshed - but it's in the form of media rather than a tentacle monster...), but the core of the story is a woman and the men who love her.

... and apparently this was filmed in Atlanta. I lived there for 12 years and didn't notice... ay ay ay.


"The Office Meets Deliverance" is the pull quote on the DVD box... and... hmm. It'll give you the tone I guess, but that's not really what the movie is like.

A sales team (led by their manager, played by Tim "PERCY!" McInnerny) for Palisades Defense is headed for a lodge in Hungary for a weekend of team-building exercises. The crew is a bunch of misfits (The Office comparisons maybe aren't a million miles off) and nobody seems to really get along. A tree in the road causes the manager to call for a detour, but the local driver of the Palisades bus vehemently refuses and abandons them there at the fork in the road.

The team hikes to what they think is the wilderness lodge they're supposed to be staying in, but is in fact an old prison for Soviet war criminals. A location which has a history with Palisades Defense. And then the killing starts.

So this kind of falls into the "bad things happen in the country" genre, with a heaping helping of "Eastern Europe is like the Deep South USA, full of deranged maniacs" which I've seen in a few (Western) European movies. But it's not "rednecks in the woods," so the whole Deliverance comparison is just wrong.

I wonder about some of the characterization though. McInnerny is portrayed here as a complete incompetent and utter nob, given to spouting corporatespeak gibberish. Thing is, even if he is a goon, such a guy might in fact be an effective manager for a sales department as far as making sure the department runs smoothly and sells "defense technology" (read: WEAPONS OF WAR). He's an administrator, middle management, so who cares if he's an impersonable robot? The he absolutely falls apart in the middle of the woods when the blood starts flowing, well,

What makes this movie is not the (rather boring) setup or background, but the funny bits. Much of the time the humor is absolutely separated from the played-straight horror bits, but the few times it's not (trying to fit a co-worker's severed leg into the bus fridge is not easy to do) are great. Really the comedy is better than the suspense here, and perhaps the movie suffers for being watched immediately after The Signal which really moved between laugh-out-loud humor which fit right in with everything else, whereas this movie seemed to be "now we're doing some scary gore stuff, and now we're doing some comedy, and now..." It seemed much more artificial here.

Grade: C

The whole thing has a "been there, done that" feel to it, but it does keep a certain level of quality. The humor I think really works in spots but the whole premise is just a bit much and we really are meant to take a lot of it seriously. Not a waste of time to watch by any means, just not really something to go out of one's way to see. Oh, and as it turns out the cover of the DVD reveals the order in which people are killed.

Directed by Christopher Smith, who did the awesome Black Death movie and also did a couple other movies still in the to-watch bag...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Idea for Hit Points and Healing

Before rolling your first level hit points, roll a die (and add your Constitution modifier) equal to the hit dice of a Normal Man. Those are your "I have suffered actual injury!" hit points. When these are lost, you regain at the rate of d4 + Con modifier (minimum 1) per week.

(This also serves as a minimum for your total starting hit points - your roll based on class can not be less than this.)

Everything above that Normal Man roll? That's your "skill, luck, and plot immunity" hit points. These are regained at the rate of d4 + Cha or Wis modifier (minimum 1; choose whichever is considered the biggest dump stat in your campaign, or just whether you think "Force of Personality or Connectedness to the World would be more suitable - but since these aren't 'toughness' hit points Constitution is not to be used here!) per day. These hit points are always lost first.

Sure, that means 6 basic hit point Charlie is going to take a much longer time to heal if unaided than 1 basic hit point Pete, but then Charlie actually can survive much more physical punishment without expiring.

I guess that at low levels this will result in a lot more characters being "laid up" back in the safe area causing players to have a batch of characters if they don't want to just wait around for healing. "Joe the Fighter is going to be laid up for awhile after that goblin stabbed him, I guess I'll be using Bob the Cleric until Joe's healed up."

Or you can use this reasoning to make low level guys more kickass: rule that the class-determined hit dice are in ADDITION to the "Normal Man" hit dice, so in Moldvay your MU would start off with d4+d4 hp, the Fighter d4+d8, in LotFP a dwarf would start with d8 + d10, etc. Give that first level guy a small Hackmasterish kicker there.

Whatcha think?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Monolith from beyond Space and Time/The God that Crawls Updates

The updates over at the IndieGoGo campaign site have been speeding up, and thought I'd throw them up here as well. (Pledging gets you both adventures plus Green Devil Face #5... and although I don't have much to show you yet, that Alfrey poster is going to be something else!).

The God that Crawls Map Preview #1

The rough prelims for the God that Crawls maps have been completed. Here’s a teaser (small enough that All The Secrets aren’t given away!).

I think these maps are the most complex maps I’ve attempted. Carcosa and Weird New World may have had been on a grander scale, but each of these dungeon levels has dozens of connections going up and down, meaning lining them up and making sure the map works requires an attention to detail that “color this area dark blue to indicate climate” doesn’t – if Weird New World’s hex colors were off one hex nothing broke; if one of these stairs don’t line up the adventure is in trouble.

Funny that the cartographer (James Hazelett) immediately noted upon seeing my hand-drawn scans that this reminded him of the old Ultima dungeon maps. The influence is strong, as the Ultima IV-V era probably is as big an influence on my gaming as D&D.

Note that these are just the barest roughs just to make sure we have the connections and relationships between levels. The final maps will be full color with extensive keyed bits (room numbers of course, plus treasure locations, various physical abnormalities noted on the map, aids to keep all the stairs and ladders lined up) to aid the Ref in running the adventure. If all goes to plan (cross fingers), these bits which should be layered with every category of map element able to each be switched on/off in the PDF version.

Alfrey Poster Update #1

The Aeron Alfrey poster (for the Psychonaut and higher contributors) will be Monolith-related. Depending on space needs, the picture may appear within the Monolith itself, but the poster will be 16 times larger, so the detail will be far greater.

I’d hoped to have more to show you at this point, but this is LotFP and the schedule is a mocking bastard.

But a big step forward has been made: We’ve finally got pics that will be used for the characters in the piece.

As anyone who’s looked through the Grindhouse Edition knows, Alfrey uses photo manipulation as part of his work, and I wanted to make sure the faces used were familiar this time.

Luna (who has previously been the reference model for the snake demon on the LotFP box cover and Grindhouse medusa pics – I do believe this is her clothed debut for LotFP!) got into costume and took over 200 shots for the piece to give Aeron a good amount of material to work with. Here is but one sample…

The God that Crawls Cover Update

My idea for the cover was along the lines of some King Diamond album covers (Them, Voodoo), a bit of brooding menace showing a location important to the adventure without showing what happens during the adventure. I do that a lot, don’t I?

That said, we do still need some “spice” to make this Cover Art rather than just a picture, so the final version will be a bit peppier in a way that doesn’t compromise the basic idea.

The God that Crawls Art Update #1
The maps for The God that Crawls will be included in a full color four panel glossy foldout… and I couldn’t just let the other side be blank!

Here’s the prelim sketch for the back-of-the-map pic by Jason Rainville. Details will be changed, and it’ll be in color, but I was blown away and thought you guys should see this ASAP!

Monday, March 5, 2012

LotFP PDFs 25% off at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG

They're having their GM's Day sale (which lasts longer than a day for some reason...), and LotFP is participating!

Buy stuff here if you're so inclined...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

GrindhouseFest '12: HEAVY METAL, OFFSPRING


Yes, the classic 1981 animated anthology.

It's... not very good.

The Deal:

The Loc-Nar is a green glowing sphere which is the embodiment of all evil. It is brought home by an astronaut, it kills the astronaut, and then it goes all exposition on the astronaut's daughter. "Look deep into me and see how I have brought ruin to all that encounter me!" type stuff, and the movie is basically a series of stories that the daughter is seeing.

Supposedly the girl is the only one that can destroy the Loc-Nar, so why it spends time blabbing instead of just killing her like so many other people who were presumably not such great threats to it, I dunno.

And if the answer to an obvious question is "Because then there wouldn't be a movie," I'm thinking maybe there might not need to be a movie.

But there is an answer! "Well, watching each of the stories, this Loc-Nar thing behaves pretty nonsensically throughout, so what's one more bit of nonsense?

The GoodBad Stuff:

Hard to differentiate between the good and the bad, because this is just straight over the top and I have a feeling the things that I thought were dumb were the things that make the movie for others.

The wife notes: "Whoever made this movie has a thing for redheads with big tits."

I'm all for sex and redheads and big tits - in their proper place*. But the ridiculous amount of "girl strips and has really big jiggly cartoon tits and fucks somebody while spouting mind-numbingly bad dialogue" is kind of embarrassing. (not EVIL AND WOMAN-HATING, just dumb) Especially when you're sitting there watching it with your wife who doesn't have the background with or love for genre movies and doesn't let shit like this pass. I mean, it's cartoons, is anyone really getting turned on? If not, is there another point to it? Does it really serve the story being told? For the most part, no.
It's so obviously geared towards a stereotypical teenage boy's mindset, which is no problem, stereotypical teenage boys deserve their entertainment too. But I'm not a teenager watching this, and hilariously the movie is rated R so the audience you'd think it's for aren't really supposed to see it anyway. Rated R in the US anyway, the UK rates it at 15 which is better but still silly.

Note: I am of a mind that movie rating systems are a JOKE. Entertainment at its most juvenile, like Heavy Metal, like slasher movies with oversexed teenage victims, are FOR TEENAGERS, but the rating systems worldwide claim that these things are "adult" entertainment. "Rated R for 'The Film Board is a bunch of tightassed fuckwads'" I think.

Good example? Fright Night, the 80s version which is in the viewing pile, is rated 18 in the UK (where I bought the DVD from). Same as Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, Human Centipede, etc. Something's wrong with the system, worldwide. (I think I've mentioned that Little House on the Prairie DVDs in Finland are rated 18 because the company releasing the DVDs decided not to go through the ratings process and the default rating is the SUPER ADULT NAUGHTY CONTENT 18 rating. Seems I'm not the only one who thinks the rating system is useless.)


There's too much "rule of cool" going here and not a lot of coherence. I think the problem is with the framing of the movie. The whole Loc-Nar thing makes absolutely no sense both in how it deals with the child and the fact that it barely involved with many of the stories it shows, so what the hell? And you've got grittier war horror like the wonderful B17 segment sitting next to wanna-be hardboiled cab driver Harry Canyon (Luc Besson has to be a HUGE fan) with the planetary sword & sorcery style of Den (the one place where the easy big titted woman makes perfect sense), the comedic sci-fi of Captain Sternn and So Beautiful and Dangerous, and the epic final story Taarna. Nothing fits with anything else and the connecting story is lacking.

The Creepshow movies are the closest thing I can think of movie-wise to Heavy Metal, and those keep a consistent atmosphere going and so they work. The intro bit here indicates over-the-top sci-fi (astronaut/car thing) and horror (Loc-Nar disintegrating people and threatening the kid), but not one story that follows lives up to the combo, and any story that's got one doesn't have the other.

It's like the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts, because aside from the robot fucker/druggie binge story everything else feels right on its own.

Honestly you can make this movie 34234238462374283 times better by removing the Loc-Nar wraparound and making the connecting bits something like, I dunno, stoners telling each other about their favorite stories from Heavy Metal magazine, or maybe a role-playing group presenting various plots and stories, with everyone getting a turn behind the screen without changing a single thing from any of the stories (with the resulting "what's the deal with that green thing?" being an unaddressed mystery that the kinds of people who want to see a movie like Heavy Metal would love to speculate about).

The Grade: D

I never read Heavy Metal back in those days (my excuse: I WAS SIX). I've read some recent issues, and they're surely not comparable. But you can't say "It was a simpler time," because I know for a fact that there was GOOD STUFF in the world by 1981.



Written by Jack Ketchum (adapting his own novel)... I mention that because there's a lot of Ketchum stuff to come in GrindhouseFest '12.

The Deal:

There's a feral clan of people that wander around the northern Maine/Canada border region. They are cannibals. And here's a family that lives in the area, and they have houseguests. They're about to have houseguests they didn't invite.

"The Hills Have Eyes meets Wrong Turn!" would be about right. It tries to be more, but fails.

The Good Stuff:

I hope you like violence because that's where the movie shines. When this clan attacks, they're vicious. And even civilized people will become animalistic when they're pushed too far (I think "the message" of the movie is there, but whatever). The violence is nasty and not fun, with bits just happening without "dramatic" buildup. Since families are involved in a fight for survival, both civilized and barbaric pull no punches: children are targets and combatants, and babies aren't safe either.

I say this violence is "good" because it doesn't feel processed for easy audience digestion or titillation (for the most part, see "the bad" below) - it feels like this is what would happen if these people were put in this situation. It's not very glamorous, shit looks painful. The movie is about a fight for survival, so it's got to be a positive when the fight and the survival are damn well convincing!

When the clan attacks the first family, it's a big notice that this movie is playing for keeps and intends to burn itself into your brain but good. Very effective!

The feral clan is awesome. Led by The Woman (says the credits, and she completely steals the show here), they are frickin SCARY, moving silently, striking hard, but having a definite pecking order, goals, relationships within the clan, there's life here beyond randomly killing people. They aren't monsters, they're basically just cannibal cavemen trying to survive in a world utterly hostile to them. (their origin is covered briefly in the movie, they've lived like this for over 100 years, stealing babies to replentish their number, the authorities have tried to wipe them out before) They show enough "cultural" bits from this group that it really feels like there's a lot more depth to them than what's actually shown in the movie. Much much much superior than the bad guys in the aforementioned Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. In fact, it's the handling of the wild bunch (how many different wants can I say "feral clan" without saying "feral clan"?) that makes this movie worth anything. Had it been corny or one-dimensional we wouldn't have a watchable film.

Not that they're sympathetic or anything, but the depth is appreciated.

There's some other notable bits, like how the cop acts, and there's one guy in the movie who is the most unbelievable bastard, a real slimy piece of work that stands out amongst the carnage. Who needs barbaric cave dwellers when there are "civilized" folk like this guy around?

The most chilling part of the movie doesn't even have to do with the violence... one guy dies on the floor, watching his wife being attacked and not able to do anything about it. His life flashes before his eyes as he expires... now, the "life flashing before his eyes" part is made up of just things from the first half hour of the movie, but it again creates the illusion of greater depth. Totally worked.

The Bad:

There's not a lot of plot here. Things just happen. "Here's a family. Here's a family being attacked by another family, here's some chasing around, here's the cops on the trail, there are fights here and there, we get some betrayal and some people escape and roll credits.

On the one hand, it feels more genuine (like random assaults follow the rules of drama?), but on the other hand, we're kind of trained in movie watching land to have things fit together a little better. You could say this movie cuts out most of the filler that pads out other movies of its type (it's short at 76 minutes) but maybe it left out some necessary connective tissue as well? It made the movie feel rather disjointed and when it ends there's a sense of "that's it?" even though everything's covered. The beats feel off.

It's like a whole movie made about an extended wandering monster encounter, really.

One question: I get the whole "we need to steal babies to keep our numbers up." What I don't get is the "we are nomads that eat people!" If they live in a wild enough area to move around in without being detected, why eat people? Their own history (the last incident being within memory of at least two of the tribe) shows that when people find out about them, they lose. Steal the kids if you must (and these folk are real good at hiding), but why hunt and engage the enemy? This actually makes more sense in terms of Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hills Have Eyes, etc, where there is a hint of malice in the baddies - whereas these people are portrayed (with one exception noted next a paragraph) as simply primitive. But this story is a sequel to another that hasn't been filmed yet, and I guess if you watch The Empire Strikes Back before Star Wars things don't make much sense there either.

One very weak point is the torture scene back at the cave - that was definitely for the "benefit" of the audience rather than making any sense in the story. Putting appliances in your mouth to make your bites more gruesome? When it's already established that they are more than willing to take chunks out of people with just their teeth? huh? And the scene that makes "eating the girl out" rather literal seemed... unnecessary. The strength of the movie, really, is its credibility as a "this could maybe happen, possibly" sort of thing, and it just seemed somehow off that the clan would play with their food in this manner.

The Grade: C

The movie gave it a good honest try, but it simply fell short.

Bonus Sociology Conversation!

My wife noted that "there are a lot of American movies about cannibals living out in the countryside." (after I noted some British examples, we agreed to call it an Anglo thing). It's like the urban moviegoing (and moviemaking) population is scared to go outside. In Finland she says half the population goes and lives in the woods during their summer holiday, so the whole thing seems pretty alien to her. She thinks its sad that Americans would think of their fellow countrymen this way (even allowing for it being a gross exaggeration of a stereotype).

So what is with movies like this and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn and Hills Have Eyes and (related) Deliverance?

Anyway, GrindhouseFest '12 isn't the most exciting thing on Earth so far, and not inspiring. The most satisfying movie of the bunch so far has been Lake Placid 2 because that worked far above its pay grade. And that just happened to be on TV, it wasn't part of my big haul. How's damning is it when Lake Placid 2 is the brightest spot so far????
There are 18 more movies sitting on the pile and things have got to improve.


To come: Films by Lucky McKee, Christopher Smith, Wes Craven, Ti West, and others starring the likes of Peter Cushing, Robert Englund, Tim McInnerny, Pollyanna McIntosh, Dominic Monagham, Ron Perlman, Ingrid Pitt, Chris Sarandon, Angus Scrimm, and Tom Sizemore.

I think we'll be fine.

(* IN MY HANDS! Right?)

Friday, March 2, 2012


What is GrindhouseFest?

Jim decides that the boring old academic press history books he's been buying are great for creating satisfying background color and detail and not so great for inspiration for SUPERNATURAL HORROR! Also, all he's been watching lately are TV cop dramas (NCIS, CSI, New Tricks, Waking the Dead, Mentalist, etc etc etc) which don't exactly translate well to his creative endeavors.

So when Jim found out Amazon over here only had one copy of Vol 5 of the Nightshade CAS collection, he also noticed lots and lots of creepy movies were on sale CHEAP. He'd never heard of a lot of them, and most of the ones he's heard of, he knows nothing about. Whether they were excellent or crap, they'd be good inspiration. So he ordered OODLES OF THEM!

And I will talk about them in a sudden shift from third person to first.


This movie was crap. I knew it would be.

The Writer: David E. Kelley (a bunch of godawful TV shit that makes the world worse, but Picket Fences was fun)
The Director: Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II + Part III, House [the 80s movie], and the execreble 2008 Day of the Dead "remake")
The Stars: Bridget Fonda (the reason I wanted to see it! Sue me! Oh, and FLASHBACK LINDA!!!!), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr!), Oliver Platt (Randy Steckle!), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody is the only other thing I remember him doing??)

The Deal:

A giant crocodile (that is recognized within the movie as both extremely unusual but not supernaturally so - the "prehistoric" stuff on the DVD box isn't part of the deal in the movie) has taken up residence in a lake in Maine (!!) and a rather eclectic bunch takes the lead in dealing with it.

The Good Stuff:

"Part Mystery. Part Thriller. Parts Missing." is a cool tagline.

All of the "I hate you!" snark between the characters is amusing, and while they call it a "horror comedy" all the funny stuff happens when nobody's in any danger, so no harm no foul there. The group does remind me of RPG PCs in that they argue and cut each other down for absolutely no reason at all beyond the "I'm just playing my character!" excuse.

Betty White has had one role for well over a decade now: "Senile old bat who says inappropriate things for comedic effect." I have to admit, it never gets old.

The Bad:

This movie is dumber than a box of rocks. They couldn't figure out what kind of movie they were making... or, maybe they thought they were doing something clever and didn't realize their cleverness undermined the meat of the movie?

It's Jaws with a crocodile . That's the movie. The whole setup, from the diver that gets eaten at the beginning to the "fish out of water" (so to speak) lead character to the autopsy scene with a tooth... it's Jaws. Not very original, but that's not a problem. "Is it good/effective?" and "is it original?" are completely independent concerns.

But for the formula to work, one thing is necessary: the creature has to be a monster in deed as well as in name. It's got to kill people. It's got to be a threat.

What does Lake Placid do? It has half the main characters arguing to save the creature because it's a miracle of nature, to the point where the key tension at the end is not survival, not "who lives or dies?", it's entirely "Can we capture the poor creature and relocate it to a more suitable habitat instead of being forced to kill it?"

For that to work, the monster can't be all that bad. The shark in Jaws killed a teenage girl and a little boy. And that guy in the cove. And Quint, one of the main characters!

Who did the crocodile kill? Two meddling government workers whose deaths were well telegraphed (when that one deputy joined Our Heroes on the boat I was thinking "Who's this guy?" Then "aaahh, he's going to die, isn't he?" and two seconds later, CHOMP!) and a couple animals. And the croc taking down a bear was hardly as cool as we were meant to think.

But the central cast? SAFE! They make weak attempts to ratchet up the tension but does anyone really believe Oliver Platt was going to get bitten in half like some nameless schmoe?

(at least this crappy Andromeda Strain remake mini-series that's on TV as I type this had the balls to kill Ricky Shroeder, ya know?)

Yet all this soft shit has a few bits of real monster/horror movie gore in there. They don't shy away from showing the guy that's been bit in half. And the one guy's head goes CHOMP real well... (although the croc obviously doesn't like the taste of people since the severed parts of people eaten in the lake are repeatedly found on shore). It wants to be a monster movie, sometimes, but it's so compartmentalized and obvious it's can't even reach the high mark of "cheesy."

Also, HOW MANY GODDAMN TIMES CAN BRIDGET FONDA FALL INTO THE WATER IN ONE MOVIE? After the tenth or twentieth time it gets kind of old. And you'd think that at least once it could be as appealing as "Bridget Fonda gets all wet" leads one to hope.

The Grade: D

It could have been a trashy, ill-conceived monster movie and still have been fun. Instead, we got nuthin'. What should have been a monster hunt instead is some sort of eco-friendly animal gathering expedition with the backdrop of four people trying to out-snark each other. Whoop de fucking doo.

Gaming Inspiration: Not much here. "There's a 10HD Crocodile in the lake" is not much of an adventure hook and there's not much else here.

(BONUS COINCIDENCE! I wrote this review up two days ago, and checking the TV listings for yesterday... LAKE PLACID 2 WAS GOING TO BE ON TELEVISION! How awful could that be? Couldn't wait to find out. :D)


This was a made-for-TV movie (Sci Fi Channel, to let you know the level of movie we're discussing). But all is not lost, because THIS IS FINLAND so it's unrated DVD version of the movie on normal everyone-gets-it TV. WITH TITS!

The actors aren't famous (the only guy I recognized was Doug's supervisor from King of Queens, that's how bad it is, not counting Cloris Leachman filling in as Betty White's character from the first one's sister, so I guess there's that), and they aren't very good.

The special effects are embarrassingly bad (especially after part 1's work by Stan Winston). A commenter on IMDB said "They would have been better off using a guy in a crocodile costume," and it's true.

Honestly, the movie is bad by almost every standard.

Almost every standard. Not quite every standard.

On the "this is a trashy monster movie" standard it's pretty good. People die, even those that don't show up just to do so. There are Random Teenage Camper victims. Lots of bad-to-actually-amusing dialogue as the writers obviously knew they were writing crap so they could have some fun with it.

But there was some actual good stuff: Real "oh no will they die?" tension, and "oh no that one died, crap!" tension. In a bad movie sense, but really, this is Monster Movie 101 stuff that the bottom-of-the-barrel sequel got right and the Hollywood Theatrical Production didn't. There's even a moment of honest-to-god very cool badassery seen in this movie.

Oh, and THEY MAKE FUN OF THE "Ooohh let's SAVE it!" nonsense of the first movie.

No-name production crew with not a tenth of the budget or talent makes a better movie than Big Name Hollywood's part one and rubs their nose in it. Rock on.

Plus the character back-stories are MORE INTERESTING and MORE RELEVANT TO WHAT HAPPENS than those of Lake Placid part 1. "My boss who I was sleeping with is now screwing another one of my co-workers" may be more sophisticated than "I saved him from being mauled by a lion," but which background fits in more with a GIANT CROCODILE THAT EATS PEOPLE movie?

That's really got to hurt - you can almost (almost!) not blame B-listers-aspiring-to-be-A-listers for making a kinder, gentler monster movie, but to have inferior characterization than the hackwork made-for-Sci-Fi-Channel sequel? BRUTAL.

It's still not a good movie though. Its greatest achievement is highlighting just how bad Lake Placid 1 was.

But you'll smile while watching.

The Grade: C

Brilliantly shot, written, and executed.

Boring as fuck.

European art-house with a couple bits of brutality.

The plot: A child falls out a window and dies while its parents are fucking. They can't deal. The REALLY can't deal.

It all goes to hell... eventually. It feels like the whole movie is a slow (so very slow) burn to an explosive climax, but no, that would be interesting to watch. Even the "explosive climax" is rather devoid of tension and excitement.

The big EEWWWWW moment is the woman snipping off her own clit with scissors, but the way they shot it (in close-up) ruined the effect for me because the cut between the shot of the woman's real hoo-hoo and the special effect hoo-hoo that gets snipped is WAY TOO OBVIOUS. You need to make it seamless for such a shot to work, and since I was watching this expecting a horror movie (my fault, not the writer/director's), that was the "money shot" and it was worth about a dime.

By the time the Green Goblin strangles her, about the only thing to say is "IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME."

The Grade: F

Thursday, March 1, 2012

LotFP Art Challenge: March 2012!

I've been thinking about this for awhile. The LotFP Art Challenge!

At the start of every month, I'll throw out an idea, a concept. Artists that wish to participate will produce a piece based on that concept, and at the beginning of the next month all the entries will be posted here (linked back to the artist's site), with the "winner" (as selected by me) getting the top spot in the post.

Sometimes there will be a small prize, sometimes it will just be for fun.

Artists retain all rights to their work - this will not be for publication beyond this blog unless specified in that month's concept.

This time around I am looking for some art to put on the cover of Green Devil Face #5.

GDF #5 will be a freebie extra for the Monolith/God contributors for the crowdfunding campaign (we've hit 50% funding, YAY!), and also released as a $1 or so PDF. Not a "real" commercial product.

Previously I've used public domain art for the covers of Green Devil Face, but I thought it would be fun to deal with the living this time.

I need a black and white line drawing, 300dpi, about 14x14cm, that would fit with LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing (early 17th century fantasy/horror). No specific concept this time, just whatever the game inspires you to do.

Send it to with the subject "GDF#5 Cover." Only enter your own original work! Deadline March 31.

All entries will be posted here in early April with your name and a link to your site (include this info!).

One piece will be chosen for the cover of GDF#5, and by entering you agree that this is OK. You retain rights and simply grant me non-exclusive rights to use the piece for this one publication. You'll receive $25 plus a print and PDF copy of GDF#5.