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by Bill Gibron

26 Aug 2010

The movies are full of evil - and no, we aren’t talking about the collective works of Shawn Levy, Andy Fickman, and/or Harald Zwart. With a Good Book riddled with rights and wrongs and a long standing tradition of reinventing such noble vs. nasty narratives for various medias, it’s no wonder that entertainment celebrates the miscreant. A viable villain is far more fun to watch than a washed out white bread hero and through a detailed portrayal of the depraved we often find ourselves vicariously experiencing a life we’d never dare live. Of course, there are times when the wicked depicted bites back, when the actions and individuals are so corrupt that they haunt us like ghosts. In those uneasy moments, it’s clear that something Satanic must be behind their motives, less we see them as nothing more than inhuman monsters made by man himself. 

In that regard, here are ten examples of onscreen individuals who channel a kind of unhinged, unimaginable horribleness from the moment the first scene unfolds. They aren’t cannibalistic doctors or deformed clown-faced criminals. Those members of the malfeasant are too obvious in their approach. No, the characters here are corrupt in ways that go beyond the thrill kill basics, leaving your typical murderer or marauder sniffing their diabolic dust. There’s no denying that Hannibal Lector, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or Texas Chainsaw‘s Leatherface are terrifying, time honored fiends. But by digging a little deeper into the Devil’s handbook, by looking outside the standard slice and dice creep show, you see that Hell rises up in subtle, sometimes surreal mannerisms. No one is questioning how crooked the following are. It’s how they react when Beelzebub makes the call that singles them out among their baneful brethren, beginning with:

by Bill Gibron

23 Aug 2010

During a pivotal point in the introduction to the upcoming found footage fright film The Last Exorcism, con man evangelist Cotton Marcus makes a startling summation:  “If you believe in God,” he chides, “then you have to believe in Satan.” Logically he’s 100% right. Without evil, there is no good, without damnation, there is no salvation. It’s the foundation of organized religion, with or without the fundamentalist freak-outs. It should be no surprise then that both the Devil and his Heavenly betters fair equally poorly in the eyes of Hollywood. While no mainstream movie has taken Christian theology seriously, either as mythos or moviemaking conceit, the same can also be said for the Fallen One’s unholy hellspawn.

Indeed, the Dark One is almost exclusively reserved for the horror genre, a realm unrealistic in its dogmatic dealings. True, there are those times when the underworld is referenced in a less slice and dice manner, but for the most part, people associate the cloven hoof with the creepshow, and dare go no further. It’s interesting - Cecil B. DeMille can go overboard bringing questionably cast Biblical epics to life, but rarely, if ever, is the Devil part of his doings. Even Mr. Malfeasant Malapropism himself, Mel Gibson, barely give Moloch his/her due with his/her depiction in The Passion of the Christ. No, God gets all the glory while his supposedly as powerful lower half languishes in torment, taking in all the souls unsaved or unsanctified.

by Bill Gibron

23 Aug 2010

As the Summer slowly sinks into the approaching autumnal colors of the Fall, as the lackluster popcorn efforts of Hollywood May through August get swept under cinema seats in order to make way for the more important Award Season’s offerings, SE&L has decided to celebrate the arrival of the Eli Roth produced The Last Exorcism with a week of Devil-oriented delights. First, we will look at how Hollywood drops the ball when it comes to pure depictions of good and evil. Then Ken Russell’s masterpiece, The Devils, will be discussed. Next, we will focus on the various cinematic swipes at Satan - both pro and con - before looking at the horrific (or hilarious) acts said imp has caused motion picture personalities to entertain/endure. It all winds up with a look at Exorcism and its found footage frightmare facets. So sit back, get out your copy of The Black Bible and cozy up with a demon or two. It’s 666 Week, and the Mark of the Beast is everywhere!

Monday - Giving the Devil His Due?
Tuesday - Like Touching the Dead: Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’
Wednesday - Aw Hell: 20 Famous/Infamous Cinematic Satans
Thursday - The Devil Made Them Do It
Friday - ‘The Last Exorcism’ Is True Horror Movie Horror

by Bill Gibron

28 Jul 2010

So, he saunters into Comic Con, that once formidable fortress of geek love, and announces his next project post-Hobbit. Yes, nerd nation is overly depressed by the announcement a few months back that ongoing financial issues with co-rights holder MGM is forcing one of their favorite filmmakers out of the planned two-prequel adaption of the Tolkein treasure. Yes, they are a little appeased when they hear - perhaps a tad too gun-jumpingly, that Peter Jackson will “probably” take over (note from ‘Derek’ to one Harry Knowles: “not so fast…”). Still, what many amongst the great undate-able were wondering is what, exactly, would Guillermo Del Toro do next? What project called his name so loudly that he had to leave New Zealand and zoom right back to the loving arms of Hollywood? Apparently, it’s an adaptation of Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride.

Let’s just let that concept sink in for a moment…

Yep, old good guy Guillermo, a Mexican maverick schooled in the ways of Dan Curtis’ Night Stalker and Universal/Hammer horrors, has returned from what was more or less a sure thing to tread in the territory that Eddie Murphy already soiled some seven years ago. Initially reports had him doing the multi-hypen thing - adapt, produce, write, and direct. Now, apparently cooler Latino heads have prevailed and Mr. Hellboy is only functioning behind the scenes. Still, it seems unconscionably dumb to hang your future fortunes on the House of Mouse and their franchise adaptations. So far, only Pirates of the Caribbean shows any commercial legs. Attempts at bringing Mission to Mars, the aforementioned spook show, and the recent reprehensible Sorcerer’s Apprentice revamp have all failed rather spectacularly.

by Bill Gibron

7 Jul 2010

How do you go from “the next Spielberg” to a critical joke in the span of a single decade? How, exactly, do you squander all the cinematic goodwill you’ve built up over the course of some stellar motion pictures to produce what many consider to be back-to-back-to-back bombs? It’s an intriguing set of questions, one that the subject would probably scoff at as nothing more than the irrational ‘hating’ of a fetishized fanboy nation.  But the fact remains that M Night Shyamalan is now the owner of another aesthetic flop. While The Last Airbender may make enough money to see Paramount past its obvious critical drubbing (it was based on a wildly popular animated kids show, after all), what’s clear is that its director is no longer in control of his muse.

In fact, many are starting to call him a one trick pony, and a couple of caveats aside, it looks like an accurate label. Sure, Unbreakable still has its devoted following, and Signs is an intriguing (if narratively manipulative and front-loaded) look at an alien invasion from a single farm’s perspective, the rest of Shyamalan’s creative cannon is crappy, at best. The Village took an already hackneyed idea and let it destroy an otherwise effective fairy tale and the Lady in the Water wasn’t going to work no matter which studio allowed its maker complete carte blanche. And then there was the laughably bad horror film The Happening, a movie that Shyamalan actually referred to as the “scariest” thing he had ever done. If he was referencing how undeniably awful it was/is, he had a point.

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