Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Up from the Depths..."

It's been a while since I shared a Godzilla-oriented post.  I found this piece to be particularly awe-inspiring.  It's one you definitely need to click on and view in full-size to properly appreciate!

Yes, the title for this post is a reference to the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon...

Unfortunately I could not track down the name of the artist, otherwise I would gladly give them the credit...  I know he or she signed it, but I can't read the signature.  If anyone knows who the artist is, let me know so I can give them the due credit for this awesome image!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Music of John Carpenter

I decided to watch John Carpenter's "The Fog" again the other night.  It's probably my favorite Carpenter film aside from "The Thing".  You know me, I'm a sucker for a moody, creepy atmosphere and a good ghost story... And "The Fog" delivers both masterfully.  I ended up watching it once more the following night and realized yet again that not only is John Carpenter a brilliant director, but also an amazing composer.

Take a moment to appreciate the main theme for "The Fog"...

The music of the "The Fog" establishes an eerie mood throughout the film perfectly.  While the main theme allows Carpenter to flex his melodic muscle, the soundtrack really shines in the more subtle moments in which just a few chords are ominously played over and over.  "The Fog Rolls In" is a track that exemplifies this simple, but effective approach to music accompanying and enhancing the images on the screen.

Interestingly enough, Carpenter once admitted that earlier cuts of "The Fog" proved to not be "scary enough".  To correct this, the unsatisfied director ultimately ended up re-editing segments and shooting additional scenes to ramp up the tension (These included one of my favorite scenes, the montage of ghostly activity quietly menacing the sleeping town shortly after campfire sequence).  Carpenter also felt that the music was all wrong and ended up scrapping the original score for the film and replacing it completely.  It's abundantly apparent that he knew best... It's difficult to imagine a better soundtrack for the film!

Not long after watching "The Fog" I found myself looking up more of Carpenter's soundtrack work...

Revisiting the "Prince of Darkness" soundtrack also demonstrates the effectiveness of a stripped-down sound.

While I had never seen the film before, there are some great moments on the "In the Mouth of Madness" soundtrack...  The confusing opening, Metallica-esque track aside (and I'm saying that as a fan of the band). It's hard to believe that this was a score by Carpenter as most of the elements we associate with his soundtrack work (like the omnipresent synthesizer) are all but absent.  Being a fan of Lovecraftian Horror, "The Old Ones Return" really caught my eye (and then my ear).  It seems like I'm going to have to track down and watch this movie!

Of course, the most famous piece of Carpenter's music will always be the theme for "Halloween".  As I have discussed before, I'm not a huge fan of slasher films ("Halloween" is widely credited as being the first of this Horror sub-genre,by the way), but the main theme sets a great mood.

Earlier this year, I was excited to find that Carpenter was planning on releasing new music not associated with a particular film. The album is appropriately titled, "Lost Themes" as any of the tracks could easily accompany one of the director's early films.  

"Lost Themes" is full of great moments that evoke a sense of nostalgia... despite not being directly associated with any of Carpenter's movies. It's a triumphant return to form as Carpenter's trademark keyboard and synthesizer work (occasionally joined by other instruments as well) once again serve to paint an atmospheric sonic landscape.

It's unfortunate that we likely won't see Carpenter behind the camera again any time soon, but it's a comfort to know the visionary artist is still interested in expressing himself through a familiar medium...  Who knows what that might eventually lead to?  In the meantime, here's hoping to a follow-up to "Lost Themes"!  Keep up the good work Mr. Carpenter!


Bonus Track:  It's surprising to find that John Carpenter did not create the score for "The Thing".
The simple, but haunting main theme could easily be mistaken for a bare-bones, synthesizer-enhanced Carpenter creation.  Instead, composer Ennio Morricone was employed to compose music for the film.  Morricone said that he spent a lot of time listening to and absorbing the scores of John Carpenter's earlier films in order properly to emulate his style.  He was very successful!  So successful, in fact, that fans often joke that the score for "The Thing" is the best John Carpenter score he never wrote!  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mask-Fest 2015

As soon as we walked into the convention hall, we could smell the sweet, familiar aroma of latex.

"It smells like Halloween!" she said with a grin on her face and gripped my hand excitedly.

Thus began our journey into the wonderful world of Mask-Fest...


Mask-Fest is an off-shoot of the annual HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis.  This convention a celebration of all things horror-related.  Attendees are treated to vendors, celebrities, and droves of like-minded folks who share an appreciation for the genre.  Mask-Fest, meanwhile, is a convention devoted solely to Halloween masks and practical creature effects. 

For years I had very much wanted to attend this event, but busy schedules and budgetary constraints would simply not allow for it.  I kept up with the announcements for this year's Mask-Fest and was amazed that so many of my favorite artists were going to be in attendance.  I lamented the fact that, once again, it appeared that I would not be able to go.

But a few weeks ago my amazing wife surprised me with what I consider to be one of the best anniversary gifts of all time:  Tickets to Mask-Fest!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted with aisle upon aisle of Halloween masks and props.  The artistry on display was staggering.  These weren't the cheap masks one could pick up at a department store.  Each mask was meticulously sculpted, mold and cast, and then painted with painstaking attention to detail.  The mask-makers and creature designers in attendance were friendly and bursting with enthusiasm for their craft, eager to talk about their methods and upcoming projects.

Take a moment to appreciate an often overlooked skill attributed to mask-making...  The hair.  We were educated on the various methods of applying hair to creatures by one of the attending artists.  Typically on cheaper masks the hair is merely glued on in patches, but artists striving for realism will employ a different, more time-consuming technique called hair-punching.  This involves taking a few strands at a time and threading them through the latex.



I've been to a number of conventions over the years, but this was easily the best.  Kudos to the organizers, artists, and everyone else involved!

In short (too late): Mask-Fest was a blast!  I can't wait until next year!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Art of Bryan Fyffe

"Arkham House" by Bryan Fyffe

Amid the chaos that has been recently hindering my blogging I was able to enjoy a brief reprieve in Indianapolis at this year's Mask-Fest!  I'll be posting more on this event in the future, but I would like to take a moment to share with you the work of an amazing artist I met at this creepy convention.

As I prowled the aisles of Mask-Fest looking for the perfect mask, I was taken aback by some artwork (of the non-mask variety) I spotted in a small booth on the outer edge of the convention hall.  It was here that I had the great pleasure being introduced to work of Bryan Fyffe.   Heavy with ambiance and ethereal mood, yet vibrant with a colorful energy, I was instantly drawn to the above works, the Lovecraftian Arkham House and the somber Roots of Earth series (seen above).  Other works offered iconic precision and whimsical levity, such as Leviathan and the Haunt series (seen below)
Hailing from Missouri, Fyffe is a superbly talented artist who specializes in graphic design.  His enthusiasm was contagious as he talked proudly of his work.  I was particularly intrigued by the fact that he has recently found success doing commission work for Disney, providing promotional artwork for their Haunted Mansion attractions.  

If Fyffe's artwork tickles your fancy, I encourage you to check out his website where you can view more of his work and purchase prints.
Roots of Earth III by Bryan Fyffe