Friday, November 30, 2012

1

The Walking Dead SO FAR


 Warning: There will be spoilers. Obvi.

Being in prison and having an unplanned pregnancy would suck in itself but add a zombie apocalypse to the mix and the situation is enough to make you wish you were dead. Season three of AMC's The Walking Dead premiered back in October and has been pushing the envelope at lightening speed, relentlessly killing off major characters and shocking audiences along the way. The pace hasn't slowed since its start and by the looks of this Sunday's mid-season finale, it doesn't appear to have plans to do so.

A lot has happened this season to make audience's feel uneasy and unsure of their favorite characters and those character's fates. The season opened with Rick and the gang finding the prison, months after the last season ended. The group cleared out the zombies and took the prison as their refuge, leaving viewers to believe that the survivors would be safe. Four episodes in and showrunner, Glen Mazzara, kicked us all in the gut by proving that no one is safe, not even early on in the season.

The first episode in, my favorite character, Hershel, got bit and had his leg amputated with an axe. The old man's life was questionable but luckily, he pulled through. In the midst of his amputation, Rick and the others met the prisoners that were hiding inside. Right away, Rick questions their intentions and his hesitations were right--two of them tried to kill him and take the prison for themselves.

What the prisoners didn't know was that Rick was newly reformed. He had just killed his best friend and he realized that he needed to change the way he acted and thought about people in their new world. The prisoners also failed to see the machete in Rick's hand which he used to mercilessly kill one of them. When the other prisoner fled, Rick chased after him and locked the helpless guy out to be zombie food.

When the prisoner begged Rick to let him back in, Rick stated, perfectly, "You better run."

BOOM. And then I fell deeply in love.

It was in that very moment where audiences realized just how much Rick had changed and how far he was willing to go to protect his people. He became a bonafide badass. A ruthless, sexy, southern (British) badass. Oh, and for the Lori haters--he hated her too, and actually made her feel like shit for everything she had done.

Rick wasn't the only noticeably different character; a few other survivors had changed as well, actually becoming likeable and relevant. Carl, the stupid child always getting himself into trouble and doing things like causing Dale's death, had stepped up and become useful to the group, running off to do productive errands for them and actually shooting up zombies.

He had also become considerably more horny and so had Beth, because the two constantly exchange creepy glances. Gah! He's 12, Beth. Even in an apocalypse, that is pathetic and illegal. And disgusting. He probably doesn't have ball hair yet, girl!

Speaking of horny, umm CAROL. Carol's hair still hasn't grown (and neither has body hair on any of the women) but she has become quite the flirt with the equally dirty-looking, Daryl. And, T-Dog actually spoke and had interesting things to say as well!

Things were just heating up between Lori and Rick as the two came to terms with their relationship when zombies overrun the prison and force Lori into labor. Lori gets separated with Carl and Maggie and when they realize something is wrong with the baby, Lori orders Maggie to cut her open. C-Sections in the apocalypse also look like no fun.

After having her uterus and lower belly cut open, Lori died, but not before telling Carl to stay good and Maggie to shoot her when she turns into a walker. As much as I despised Lori and her actions throughout the series, the moment where she breaks down and begs Carl not to let the world destroy him, completely destroyed me. It was a heartbreaking scene and in my opinion, she was taken far too early in the season, especially when her relationship with Rick was becoming a lot more interesting.

Meanwhile, as Carl watched his mom die, and inevitably shoots her, T-Dog practically hands himself over to walkers so that Carol can escape, dying as a hero, just as he was becoming an interesting character.

In the midst of this catastrophe, audiences are introduced to the Governor residing in the seemingly perfect town of Woodbury. Andrea and Michonne are captured and taken to the town where everyone is functioning as if the world were still normal, because there are men with guns--one of them is Merle--overlooking the gates of the town, ready to shoot down any danger that comes close.

The women are hesitant to this unknown place, more so Michonne than Andrea, and the Governor does his best to make them feel welcome...and never want to leave. The Governor appears as a stable and kind gentleman, but behind closed doors we realize he is fucking nuts.

The Governor keeps fish tanks full of heads of all the people he has killed and he also keeps his zombie daughter chained up in his house. But, don't worry--he brushes her hair and still embraces her, as a father should. He's only doing what's best. Right.

He presents himself as understanding and gentle when in actuality he is very manipulative and vindictive. In Woodbury, he has absolute power and power can make one feel above the law and unstoppable. Everyone is fooled by his facade, except Michonne, who leaves Woodbury and is chased off by Merle and the rest of the Governor's henchmen.

While hiding, Michonne witnesses Merle run into Glenn and Maggie on a supplies run, and after they refuse to take him to where they are staying--so he can reunite with his brother, Daryl--Merle shoots at them and manages to hold Maggie at knife point, forcing Glenn to do whatever Merle says.

The couple are taken to Woodbury where they are interrogated, beaten, and humiliated by the Governor and Merle. During all of this, Michonne finds the prison and informs Rick and the group what has happened. Trusting her, the gang set out to save their kidnapped friends.

The last episode before Sunday's finale ends with Rick's group finding Woodbury, waiting to attack, as the Governor plans to send his men out in search of the prison. The music that plays in the background sets the atmosphere perfectly, building up the tension and excitement for what is to come.

This season, particularly the last episode, has reminded me of 1985's Day of the Dead. Everything from the music, the people, and the situation, are all reminiscent of the Romero classic that changed the way audiences looked at zombies.

For one, in TWD there is a character performing tests on the walkers, trying to figure out if a person's personality is still in tact once they turn. The character is comparable to the doctor in Day of the Dead who performed the experiments on Bub, the zombie that could actually think. Of course, the outcome of Day carried on into Land of the Dead, where zombies could think, feel, and work together--just like humans. It will be interesting to see how the optimistic character in TWD plays out and if things are actually discovered about the walkers, as was discovered in Day of the Dead.

Comparisons aside, this season of TWD has been intense, and it's difficult to predict what will happen in the upcoming episodes. The group is becoming smaller and smaller and all of their morals are being tested, constantly. Even Glenn has changed, morphing from the weak and timid individual into the loyal, strong-minded character that he is now. Although he does care about Maggie, I got the impression that he would have let the Governor kill her in order to protect the location of his group.

Daryl has changed a lot as well, completely welcoming the group with open arms and accepting them as his new family. My prediction is that he will come face to face with Merle (obviously) and will have to choose whose side to take. He will choose Rick's side and the two brothers will fight to the death.

Speaking of choosing sides, Andrea has become involved with the Governor and she doesn't want to run anymore. She has a stable place in Woodbury and she actually agrees with some of the things that are being done there. Andrea will stay in Woodbury and she will fight for them, rather than Rick's group once they are reunited.

Everything is up in the air at this point because it has been proven early on in the season that anything can happen. The mid-season finale looks like it's going to be exciting and fun--and probably a bloodbath. It will be interesting to see where the season goes after this.

What are thoughts on the season so far? Are you excited for this Sunday's finale?



2

Mandy's Morgue Turns One!


Last week Mandy's Morgue of Horror celebrated its first anniversary! Friday, November 23 marked a whole year since I started my horror blog; a year full of fun interviews (Adam Green!), interesting face-eating top stories, amazing interaction with the horror community, and so much more! I know that I haven't been blogging as much lately--I'm in grad school and have very little time--but I wanted to thank all of the people who still read, tweet, and email me about my writing.

Look who else shares my birthday:
HE'S ALIIIIVE! In 1887, Frankenstein's monster, Boris Karloff was born

Friday, November 9, 2012

5

The Final Girl of Horror Journalism




I recently had to write a paper (I'm in grad school now, woot woot!) and Rue Morgue's Monica S. Kuebler was kind enough to answer a few questions for me--around  her busiest time of the year--Halloween. The topic of my paper is obviously horror-related, which is why I decided to post it for all of you to read. Enjoy! 



When one thinks of horror and women, they probably don’t praise the genre for its feministic messages and portrayal of females. The immediate thought for most is of the screaming, helpless victim who falls prey to the villain time and time again; in whatever scenario the horror industry chooses to put them in next. However, jumping to the conclusion that women are just eye candy in horror would be wrong because women’s roles in the genre are much more important than what audiences see at first glance. 

Most horror films—specifically slashers—follow a formula; a formula that includes the ever-popular, Final Girl, who begins as a fragile girl and slowly grows into a strong woman, as she faces her demons along her mythological journey and becomes fully empowered. In the horror magazine domain, the industry appears to be a man’s world with very few female journalists. Managing Editor of Rue Morgue magazine, Monica S. Kuebler, has proved to be the quintessential “final girl” of horror publishing, paving the way for female journalists in the future.

The horror genre is viewed as a male-centered world and magazine readership in the genre adds to that assertion. Rue Morgue, one of the top horror publications, has a readership of 60% male versus 40% female while its competitor, Fangoria, has a male readership of 79% and a female readership of only 21%. Statistics show that the genre is more popular among men and when looking closely at the two magazines, it is apparent that more men are writing about horror than females.

At Rue Morgue, there are twenty-three male editors and writers and only three permanent women on staff, one of whom is Monica Kuebler. Kuebler’s story of landing her position with the magazine and making a full career out of the genre she loves resembles the slasher-film trophy, the Final Girl, due to her determination and dedication to succeeding at her goals. The horror fan happened to be at the right place during the right time—Halloween—and met Rue Morgue’s then-Editor-in-Chief, Rodrigo Gudino. Their chance encounter set off a domino effect in Kuebler’s life, and she soon became the magazine’s managing editor.
Reflecting on her start with Rue Morgue, Kuebler explains, “I met Rodrigo, Rue Morgue’s founder, in the fall of 2002 when I go-go danced at one of the magazine’s early Halloween parties. I mentioned to him that I was also a writer, and as it turned out the mag had a column in need of one, so he gave me a shot.”

She continued, “I freelanced for about a year, then a full-time position opened up, so I applied. I was initially brought on board in an assistant editor slash office admin capacity, but I began to write more and took every opportunity I could to learn more about the editorial process and editing itself, and eventually moved up to Associate Editor and then Managing Editor.”

Her Cinderella story of trying and actually succeeding at getting a position in the genre she’s passionate about only brightens from there. Although her position can sometimes be mundane—assigning and chasing copy, arranging interviews for writers, writing, editing, and finding review materials from distributors— Kuebler can’t complain. She insists that she loves her job, explaining, “I get to be submerged in a genre I love day in and day out. It’s the kind of job you look forward to going to. It’s exciting and challenging and fun, even though it can be very hard work at times and occasionally demands some very long hours.”

Kuebler describes the close-knit group of people on staff as family and praises her position at the magazine for all of the opportunities it has given her. Before Rue Morgue, Kuebler started a small press called Burning Effigy and after becoming full-time staff at the magazine, her company expanded. She explains the benefits of working with the magazine, “I’ve gotten to travel and meet most of my horror idols and influences over the years, which is pretty amazing. It’s also given me some wonderful industry connections that have helped my press, Burning Effigy, as well as myself as a fiction writer when Bleeder kicked off early this year. I’ve also gotten to appear in documentaries and have been asked to contribute to books as a result. It’s helped open up many doors.”

Although her position as Managing Editor has been positive, Kuebler is one of few women writing for the magazine. She insists that her gender has never had an effect on her job or the stories she has written and says that Rue Morgue is very open to female writers. If anything, her gender gives her an advantage because staff at the magazine is always interested in the female voice in horror. Kuebler says, “I’ve never felt like I’ve had to prove myself on any other level than the same one as my colleagues and no one has ever suggested otherwise to me either. In fact, we’re always looking for new female writers to contribute to the magazine, a diversity of voices is something that we really want, but the reality is that the majority of the resume’s and pitches we receive are from men.”

There isn’t a specific reason as to why females shy away from the horror genre or writing for horror magazines, but Kuebler justifies the lack of gender diversity on staff as a reaction to the genre itself. She explains, “Horror is an often brutal, visceral genre and that will never appeal to certain types of women (or men, for that matter). But I think there’s much less of a stigma now about being horror nerd or sci fi geek – for both sexes – now than there was in the past. Some of the biggest blockbusters and hit TV series are genre these days; it’s all gone mainstream. And the more mainstream it becomes, the less an interest in it will be seen as “weird” by the general public.”

Kuebler’s reasoning isn’t completely farfetched and in recent years, horror films have become more of a staple for women than men. According to a 2009 Entertainment Weekly article, film industries are gearing their horror films specifically toward women because they are the individuals who stay loyal to the genre. Women are increasingly being shown positively in horror, and Head of Dimension Films, Bob Weinstein, explains to EW, “The appeal is in watching women in jeopardy and, most importantly, fighting back.”

Statistics prove that women audiences are making horror movies thrive. EW found that in 2002, 60% of the audiences for the box-office hit, The Ring, were female. In 2004, 65% of females helped The Grudge become a success while 51% showed up for 2005’s opening of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Before horror-themed television network, FEARnet, launched in 2006, they performed a case study and found that a majority of individuals interested in a horror network were female instead of male. This information shows that women enjoy watching horror but it does not explain why they don’t want to write for it.

Kuebler believes that people have a misconception about horror publishing and they assume it’s an industry strictly for men. She says, “Perhaps there is some mistaken perception that the industry is a still some sort of closed-off boys’ club, and the idea of that scares some women  away, but that’s really not how it is, at least in my experience.” She went on to say that she is seeing more female interns at Rue Morgue but very few are actually submitting material and resumes to be staff or contributors at the magazine.

Although there are few female newcomers at Rue Morgue, there have been influential women in the past. In 2002, magazine founder and then Editor-in-Chief Gudino handed his position over to Jovanka Vukovic, who remained as Editor-in-Chief until 2009. Vukovic explained how she became involved with the magazine in an interview with website Fear Zone, stating, “I had known Rodrigo [Gudino] for a long time and would travel to conventions with the Rue Crew, working the booth. I was working as a digital effects artist at the time but was a lifelong horror fan. One day it occurred to me there weren't enough women writing for Rue Morgue so I approached him about writing. I figured it was something I could do while my machine rendered FX shots. I wrote a review, which he nearly published verbatim, then he assigned me a secondary cover story, then, shortly thereafter, he sat me down and said ‘What would you think about taking over Rue Morgue?’”

Vukovic had no prior journalism experience at the time but agreed to join the magazine as Managing Editor, where Gudino trained her for two years. After she learned the core values of the magazine and how to run it, Vukovic was given the Editor-in-Chief position, where she stayed until 2009, when she left to pursue her career in writing books and directing horror features.

After Vukovic left Rue Morgue, then Managing Editor, Dave Alexander, took her place and Kuebler took his spot. If she stays with the magazine long enough, she can eventually surpass Alexander and become Editor-in-Chief. Responding to her future plans with the magazine, Kuebler says, “I’ve always said I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s challenging and fun. In many ways, it really is a dream job and it’s hard to walk away from something like that.”

While Kuebler continues her important role at the horror magazine, upcoming female journalists are making their way through the ranks. The magazine’s online editor and contributing writer is April Snellings while its copyeditor is Claire Horsnell. Currently, there are three female interns who may one day become contributors or magazine staff and to that, Kuebler advises, “Keep writing and honing your talents, and don’t be afraid to get in touch with us and pitch stories.”

When I spoke to Rue Morgue founder, Gudino, he explained that he receives many submissions from women; however, finding the right person for the magazine is difficult, explaining, “Rue Morgue has always had a strong female readership and to this day I have a lot of submissions from women, but talented writers—and editors and designers—are hard to come by, no matter what their gender.”

Kuebler happens to be one of the few females that meet Gudino’s standards for the magazine. She explains that the only thing that would make her leave her dream job would be to pursue a career in fiction, stating, “When I do [leave the magazine], I hope it’s to write young adult genre novels full time. That’s a bit of a big dream, I know, but I always tell myself that once upon a time working at Rue Morgue was just a big dream too”

1

Scare Yourself Skinny


Now when someone gives you grief for constantly watching horror movies, you can simply explain to them that you are tying to lose weight.That's right--watching horror movies can help you burn up to 113 calories, which The University of Westminster in the U.K. discovered during their recent case study.

According to The Telegraph, the study was funded by the film servive, LOVEFiLM, and along with researchers from the Univeristy, 10 subjects were monitored while indulging in some of the genre's best films. The small test group were monitored for heart rate, pulse, oxygen intake, and carbon dioxide output.

The study showed that when the subjects watched horror films, their adrenaline increased and their appetite decreased, essentially killing calories. Dr. Richard Mackenzie, senior lecturer and specialist in cell metabolism and physiology at Westminister told The Telegraph, "As the pulse quickens and blood pumps around the body faster, the body experiences a surge in adrenaline...It is this release of fast acting adrenaline, produced during short bursts of intense stress, which is known to lower the appetite, increase the Basal Metabolic Rate and ultimately burn a higher level of calories."

 The biggest calorie burners were The Shining and Jaws. The top 10 calorie-burning horror films featured in the study are listed below:

1. The Shining: 184 calories
2. Jaws: 161 calories
3. The Exorcist: 158 calories
4. Alien: 152 calories
5. Saw: 133 calories
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street: 118 calories
7. Paranormal Activity: 111 calories
8. The Blair Witch Project: 105 calories
9. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 107 calories
10. [Rec]: 101 calories

You can add to your pure laziness by reassuring yourself that you are actually working out while watching horror movies, lounging on the couch with a bag of chips. Hmmm, maybe this is just a ploy from the U.K to keep us Americans super lazy--like we actually needed a reason.

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