Action Horror From The Orient

I love horror. It’s no surprise, of course, but what a lot of people don’t know is that not all great horror movies come from the United States. We have Latin horror in the form of such movies as Alucarda (1978), Cronos (1994) and most recently Amat Escalante’s 2016 movie The Untamed. Over in Brazil, they have Desaparecidos (2011) and let us not forget Canada with Ginger Snaps (2000), Shivers (1975) or anything by David Cronenberg. Europe has horror covered with more releases than I can number coming from England, France and Belgium, even South African cinema chimes in with sweet flicks like Eternity (2010) and The Demon (1981). And don’t even get me started on my favorite horror type; the Giallo from Italy. What I am trying to say is horror has come out of every continent on this ball of dirt and will continue to be made because wherever there is fear, someone will make it into a movie. And this is just films. Literature is another story altogether!

Which brings me to this weekend. I saw a few flicks from the Asian side of horror and it reminded me of when I first encountered far east action. It was in the form of Manga, Anime and Kung Fu films.

Growing up in Southern California, I had friends that came from many different cultures and backgrounds. One friend turned me on to Japanese Manga comics. Akira was the first taste of both Japanese manga and anime I consumed. It blew my mind and I was hooked. Soon followed Vampire Hunter D, Ghost In The Shell, Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, and many, many more.

One that I loved the most was Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s Ninja Scroll (1993  JP, 1995 U.S.)

Ninja Scroll 1993

Ninja Scroll had it all; Horror, ninjas, Action, ninjas, boobs, ninjas, blood and guts violence, ninjas… I was 12 and through another friend, I was able to watch the original Japanese release with no subs or dubs. As frustrating as that was to decipher what was going on, the imagery stuck with me until the U.S. release in 1995. Thanks to the magic of subtitles and dubs, I could finally understand what it was all about, and boy, it didn’t disappoint. Ninja Scroll is the story of Jubei Kibagami, an out of work, wandering ronin, who happens to come by a woman being raped by one of the eight devils of Kimon. Jubei saves her and kills the devil, thus propelling his fate to fight and destroy all the devils. Jubei’s character immediately bonded with me. Him, a wandering warrior, just trying to keep to himself, and me, a lonely teenager just trying to survive. And deep down inside, we were both good guys whether we liked it or not.

 

After Ninja Scroll, I turned my attention to Kung Fu flicks courtesy of my local VHS rental store called Star Videos. The owner, Rene, would let me rent horror flicks for free in exchange for reordering the tapes. One day he got in some tapes from China. They were old Kung Fu films from the 70’s. Rene had me sort them together with the horror flicks because Rene knew what was up. He was a rad dude. And that was the start of it. After some years, I went back to Star Video. Rene was going out of business so I bought all the Kung Fu Tapes for a buck each And before you knew it, I was 22 and had amassed quite a collection of VHS Kung Foolery (not to mention horror). Eventually, not long after, I got dvd’s from China, that had two or three flicks on it apiece. I was in heaven. Kung Fu films are badass. Take the above Ninja Scroll formula of Horror, ninja, action, ninja, and superkick it in the face with Kung Fu and you get a perfect entertainment mix. Every Friday, for many years and occasionally now, I would hold Kung Fu Fridays and play such hits as; Hell’s Wind Staff (1979), Unbeaten 28 (1980), Five Deadly Venoms (1978) and 3 Evil Masters (1980). Of course, I love Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee movies, but those were more commercial… I wanted the dirty, bloody stuff and Fu flick houses such as Shaw Bros. and Golden Harvest studios delivered it way back in the 70’s. And while I missed the Kung Fu crazy here in America by more than a decade, I was glad that every Fu flick only cost me around a dollar to procure.

Black-Magic

Why do I mention Kung Fu films, anime and manga when this article is supposed to be about horror in the orient? Well, that kind of answers the question in and of itself. In the far east, horror is a part of the everyday fabric of society. So naturally, it permeated everything; comics, films, martial arts. Sure, they had monsters, slashers, and aliens, but it was also alongside kick-ass ninjas and sky flying zen masters. Such classics as Black Magic (China 1975) where we have Kung Fu battling necromancers,  or House (Japan 1975), which was the inspiration for the first Resident Evil game, gave an exciting tutorial and a well-trotted path for today’s horror filmmakers. Current Chinese horror films like Vampire Cleanup Department (2017) and The Sleep Curse (2017) are rapidly getting released and the Japanese have been doing it right since the 70’s and have never stopped. The future of Asian horror is only getting better as Netflix, Hulu and my favorite Shudder, are starting to stream these wonderful, international classics into new homes and new hearts. If you have a chance, please seek these films out. If you can’t find them on streams, many are on youtube and can be watched for free. There are even reddit exchanges for rare and hard to find films.
Of course, I can’t possibly cover all the great releases from the far east in this one article because I’d be leaving out some of the best; Korean horror, Indonesian, Philippian, and a plethora of other countries. Another article for another time.
Enjoy and catch you all later.

 

Ok, I Get It…

Life finds a way to push us where it wants. Some say we even have free will. While that may be true to an extent, we ain’t in control, that’s for sure. Here’s an example: You get a new job. Your dream job, in fact. You are clicking along, clocking in early, producing above and beyond what you should and then eight days later, BAM, you are let go.
What happened in that scenario?

Life happened.

The person did everything right. He kept to himself and went with the flow. But guess what? We can still lose even if we did everything right. Or did we lose? Maybe that’s not where we belong, so life puts us where we need to be.

The above story happened to me. I’m the guy in the example. But instead of it happening once, it has happened numerous times. More times than I care to admit. Maybe it’s where I live, the geographic locale, the political climate, the herd mentality. I don’t know. But what I do know is when I start to get the tingles, the Deja Vu, I know I’m on the right track in life. And that feeling seems to happen right when I am about to have a major shift in my life. It happened earlier this month and I have a feeling it won’t be the last time. What’s this all mean, you’re saying? Well, I am back to writing. I can’t get away from it and boy did I try.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I love writing. I have a burning desire to write. I have written for money. I have written for free. The process of it all, the highs and the lows are welcome. Rejection letters are nothing but a badge of honor, a war medal, a sign I have been in the trenches with the grunts and survived. One time, my friend Trent Zelazny showed me a picture of all his rejection letters (before email!) and I shit you not, it filled up the entire floor. It was inspiring. I caught fire that day when I saw my friends failures laid bare for all to see. What a treasure. A writers life and I wanted it. But there is something you have to understand about me; I like to try everything once. And while I have done a lot in my short thirty-six years on this earth (37 in September, yikes!), I have always had trouble sticking to one thing. I have always wanted to be the dedicated type. I am envious of those that stick to something for the entirety of their lives. I’m not there yet, but it’s too late to turn back now… I am in this writing thing for the long haul. I know I am not alone in this, so maybe you’ll understand. I have been a musician, a composer, bandleader, released an album, played on albums, I’ve been published and even published work on my own. I have also, at various points in my life, been a tattoo artist, a caretaker, a warehouse worker, a computer repairman, an IT guy, a librarian, a music teacher and an English tutor. I was even a president of and started a chess club and many other accomplishments and occupations. In retrospect, I have been fortunate enough to do these things and I am grateful. But the few things that have stuck with me and never seem to let me go are writing and music.

So I get it. You can stop hinting at me, Life. I am now back to it. Back to writing. Back in the trenches. Back to hell. When Tom Piccirilli (Miss you, man!) wrote his how-to writing book aptly titled Welcome To Hell: A Working Guide For The Beginning Writer, he wasn’t lying.  Writing can destroy you if you let it. But like a hot girlfriend who is crazy, I just can’t let her go (you get what I’m trying to say!). You learn to love it, learn to live with it and eventually it becomes all you ever wanted to do or be. Because if you don’t write, you die.

You get my drift.

To quote the poet Anne Sexton: “Writing is fucking hard!”

To quote Charles Bukowski: “Find what you love and let it kill you.”
Both quotes are relevant and real. Take them for what you will. I know I did.

To sum up this ranty post, I have several novels that need to be finished up and sent out. I have even more short stories that need to find some markets. I have Killercon (click the link!) in Austin coming up in a month, where I will finally fulfill a six-year promise to someone.

Hope they still want the novel.

Guess we will see.

And If all goes well there, you will be the first to hear about it. Now back to the pages because this shit isn’t gonna write itself.
See you later, Aligator.