Mandy – A Phantasmagoric Horror Masterpiece

Categories
Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Movie Reviews Scary Movies and Series

Panos Cosmatos creates love letters to cinema. His films are packed with references, flagrant horror conventions and meticulous pairings of sound and imagery to invoke a plethora of emotions, generally soaked in an 80’s styled neon-nightmare of color. The 2018 Horror movieMandy is no exception.

If this style was wholly evident in his 2010 directorial debut Beyond The Black Rainbow then it applies doubly for his following film, 2018’s phantasmagoric horror film masterpiece Mandy. By the time of his sophomore effort, Mandy, Cosmatos had truly found his feet. After witnessing the trailer for Mandy I couldn’t have been more sold. It seemed to scream:  “Yep, this is everything you’ve ever wanted from a film. Look, there’s even a chainsaw fight!”

Armed with a similar scale of plot to his first film (this time stemming from a marathon of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series) and a stellar cast including the likes of Andrea Risebrough and the legendary Nicholas Cage, whose horror credits range from cosmic horror to pure murderous rage is notable here. Mandy gives the impression of coming from a fantasy horror fever dream of uncanny nostalgia.

When a couple’s idyllic woodland existence is targeted by a psychotic pseudo-christian cult and shattered into cosmic terror, Red (Cage) sets out on a bloody rampage of revenge and crushed skulls. 

The film’s opening to King Crimson’s ‘Starless’ and a sweeping, grain-soaked shot over endless pine forests should send chills through any hyper-fan of the VHS age. Like Beyond The Black Rainbow, Mandy takes its time to tell its tale, though its ideas feel more fleshed out, its every frame feels more meticulously planned and its inspirational roots are worn as badges of honor. 

Mandy is dense with references; from the demonic bikers The Black Skulls appearing a combination of the cenobites from Hellraiser and a Mad Max-esque road gang to Bill Duke himself appearing to give Red some advice and arm him for his savage quest. The film’s ethos appears to be Heavy Metal (or love’s vengeance, if you like) against religion, or narcissism under religion’s guise, which may seem almost juvenile had it not been for the repeated self-aware references to rock and roll and heavy metal music throughout. (see: the film’s opening quote). 

Mandy Alternative horror movie poster featuring a man with an axe and another with a chainsaw

Music plays as big a part in Mandy as anything, boasting a rich and emotional score from Johan Johannson made all the more morbidly effective by his tragic passing not long after the film’s release. The score is an eclectic mix of heavy retro synth, moving orchestral passages and devastating guitar distortion from drone band Sunn 0)))’s Stephen O Malley which seems to have been written alongside the film’s creation to ensure their optimal convergence into a single cinematic force. 

To use such long, atmospheric takes to portray a story so devastating and emotionally charged requires acting talent. The entire cast of Mandy brings something new to the table, from Nicholas Cage’s halfway-point switch from content affection to savage insanity to Linus Roache’s seedy, delusional portrayal of Cult Leader Jeremiah Sands. It seems as though Cosmatos is content to roll the camera and just let the actors go with it, each scene feeling loosely organic alongside it’s detailed visual planning. Personally I rate this as Nicholas Cage’s best performance, and the one that solidified my place in the “Cage: good or bad?” argument. Though his balls-to-the wall approach is highly entertaining, it won’t be for everyone. 

Mandy is very ‘one man’s vision’ which does not necessarily equate to an accessible film. It’s a bold statement, even in structure where the films titles don’t even appear until around the halfway point, indicating that what you’ve just watched was a mere setup for the madness that is about to begin. 

Mandy is the story of a man who loses everything, allowing the darkness to fully envelop him into a world of brutally violent vengeance. It is a glorious leap from its predecessor and hopefully a preemptive look into a future of darkness from Panos Cosmatos’ mind. Beware the Black Skulls and remember: A psychotic drowns where the mystic swims.

Markus Crane Honorary Dream Eater Mask

Categories
Featured Lifestyle

As many of you might have heard legendary wrester Markus Crane of Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) passed away at the age of 33. He was famously known as a deathmatch specialist and was beloved by fellow wrestlers and fans alike.

GCW’s release about Markus remembers him with kind words and loss “With Sadness, GCW mourns the loss of Markus Crane. As a performer, Markus embodied the spirit of GCW. He was an underdog and an outlaw. He was fearless in the ring and determined to succeed against the odds.”

blank

His good friend and ring mask designer Adam Zigler was profoundly impacted by this and decided to create a replica mask in Markus’s honor. All profits to be donated to causes that Markus was supporting in his life.

Adam had this to say about Markus and the mask he originally designed for him to wrestle in.

“To say Markus Crane was one of my best friends would be an understatement.  He was closer to me and had more of a positive impact on my life than nearly anyone I have ever known.  After I finished SFX school and moved to Chicago in 2017, Markus was so excited to have me create custom ring-wear for him.  He was always my biggest supporter and loudest cheerleader.  The first mask he wanted was a mask inspired by a character from a video game he loved, but “more corpse-painty”.  Markus always had a way with words.  We always talked later of making copies of his mask he wore to the ring, which was originally casted in polyurethane resin so that way he could sell them to his fans, but we never were able to bring goal that to fruition.

Dream Easter Mask used by Markus Crane in his wrestling career
The Dream Eater Wresting Mask

In December 2019, Markus lost consciousness while on the way home from wrestling a show on the West Coast and was placed in a medically induced coma.  It was found that he had an infection that had made it’s way into the very bone of his skull, and even his brain.  A part of his skull was removed, and through his strength and willpower was able to make an incredible physical and mental recovery.  After having a metal plate surgically fused to his skull, Markus even fought his way back to the ring in April 2021 at an event in Tampa, Florida aptly titled “PLANET DEATH”.  It was when he found out about getting to perform at Planet Death that he asked me to create a new version of his mask that would be easier to travel with.  This new latex casting of the original mask is what he wore to the ring that day, and ultimately was what he wanted to have for his fans to purchase.

Markus spent a large portion of 2021 training for a full-time return to the ring.  In November 2021, Markus moved to his hometown to focus on his continued physical recovery, as well as his newfound sobriety and he was doing an amazing job.  Tragically however after complaining of a headache, Markus passed away in his sleep on December 26th, 2021.

I had a few messages after he passed asking if I would make copies of his mask for a few of his friends.  It was on Wednesday, December 29th that I was riding in the car when I had the idea to make this possible for his friends and fans and not feel exploitive of my friend, but instead to do it in a way that I can honor Markus and create something good.  It was at this exact moment of having this thought that I looked out the window of the car and saw I was passing “SWEET TOOTH DENTISTRY”.  I am not in the slightest religious, far from it, but I don’t want ignore the synchronicity if my friend is giving a sign.

For every mask of Markus’ that I sell, I’ll be donating a percentage of the profits to a charity of my choosing, but will always be a charity that supports a cause that Markus would have believed in.

For 2022, the profits will go to the Trevor Project.  The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ teens and young adults.  I am not affiliated with Trevor Project in any way, but I wholeheartedly believe in their mission and have researched them thoroughly.  If you do not wish to purchase a mask but still want to support The Trevor Project, you can find more information and donate at thetrevorproject.org.”

If you would like to support the cause or view the mask

Click below

Mary Shelley: How a Teenager Changed the Literary World

Categories
Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Women in Horror

Growing Up in a Literary Household

Born in London, England on August 30, 1797, as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin–Mary was the daughter of famed feminist Wollstonecraft as well as the philosopher and political writer William Godwin. Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft authored The Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, but she died shortly after Shelley was born, and consequently, they were never able to develop a relationship.

There is some warrant for seeing Mary Shelley as a reflection of her parents, for both mother and father were extraordinary. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, published the classic manifesto of sexual equality, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Her father, William Godwin, established his preeminence in radical British political thought with his Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) and won a permanent place in literary history with his novel Caleb Williams (1794), often considered the first English detective novel. The toast of radical social circles, the two were bound to meet. When they did, in the summer of 1796, an immediate mutual attraction began, and they were married on 29 March 1797. On 30 August of that year Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born. Complications from her birth resulted in her mother’s death 10 September.

Shelley and her older, half-sister Fanny Imlay (a child her mother had through an affair with a soldier), were raised by Shelley’s father William Godwin until he remarried in 1801. Shelley’s stepmother brought two of her own children into the marriage and she and Godwin would later have a son together. Although she provided Shelley with a mother figure, they were never exactly fond of each other–Mary Jane Clairmont would end up sending her own two daughters away to school, but decided that Shelley had no need of a formal education. Despite Mary Shelley’s lack of a true formal education, she educated herself through her father’s own extensive library and she could often be found reading by her mother’s grave.

As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to ‘write stories’.

Mary Shelly in The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft

Her First Publication

The Godwin household was no stranger to many distinguished people of the time, their household visitors included Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth; it’s no surprise that Shelley found a creative outlet in writing, as her escape from her often overtly challenging life at home was being able to delve into her imagination through daydreaming. Her first publication was a poem called, Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris which was made official through her father’s publishing company in 1807–stunningly showing her prowess as a writer at the young age of ten.

Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris

Illustration for Shelley's Poem
Illustration for Shelley’s Poem

John Bull, from England’s happy Isle,
Too Bold to dread mischance,
Resolv’d to leave his friends awhile,
And take a peep at France.

He nothing knew of French indeed,
And deem’d it jabb’ring stuff,
For English he could write and read,
And thought it quite enough.

Shrewd John to see, and not to prate,
To foreign parts would roam,
That he their wonders might relate,
When snug again at home.

Arriv’d at Paris with his dog,
Which he for safety muzzled,
The French flock’d round him, all agog,
And much poor John was puzzled.

The rest of the poem can be found at wikisource.org, as it is a work within the public domain.
Mounseer Nongtongpaw; or, The Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris

How a Teenager Changed the Literary World

Just five years after she published her first poem, during the summer of 1812, Mary blossomed into a young woman–one who resembled her late mother far too much for her step-mother to bear. It was for this reason that Mary Jane Godwin, Shelley’s step-mother, forced her to travel to Scotland to stay with an acquaintance of her father–William Baxter and his family. It was during this stay with Baxter’s family, that she found a sort of serenity in the daily domestic lifestyle and she returned the following year to recapture the bliss she had captured the year before. The two years in Scotland may have nurtured Mary’s literary imagination, but it also further isolated her from her much-loved father.

They were my eyry of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy. I wrote then—but in a most common-place style. It was beneath the trees belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered.

Preface to the single-volume, Standard Novels edition of Frankenstein in 1831

A Scandalous Affair & the Birth of a Monster

In 1814, Percy Bysshe Shelley, a poet under the tutelage of Mary’s father, but soon focused his attentions solely on Mary. She soon began a relationship with the still-married Percy Shelley; when she was nearly seventeen years old, the two ran off to England together, along with Mary’s stepsister Jane. Despite the close relationship she had with her father, Mary’s actions alienated her from them, who would go a long time before speaking to her again. The couple traveled through Europe for quite a time, struggling financially and facing the loss of their first child–a baby girl, who lived only for a few days–in 1815.

The summer of 1816, Mary and Percy were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron, and John Polidori–the story goes that the group were entertaining themselves on a tumultuously rainy day by reading ghost stories. It was this day that Lord Byron suggested that they make a game out of each creating their own horror story and see who could come up with the best one. This is how Mary began her work on what would become her most renowned novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus–so in many ways, when Mary began to write this infamous tale, she was showing off to what she considered her peers in the literary community.

Two Suicides & A Wedding

Late in 1816, Mary’s half-sister Fanny Imlay committed suicide and a short time later, Percy Shelley’s first wife also committed suicide by drowning herself. Instead of taking this time to mourn, Mary and Percy Shelley seized the opportunity to officially marry one another in December 1816. During their escapades in Europe, Mary Shelley published a travelogue entitled History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (1817), while continuing to work on the monster tale that she had begun in Switzerland.

When she finished her famous monster story, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, she did so anonymously in 1818. Since Percy Shelley wrote the introduction to the book, it was mistakenly believed that he was the author of the book, but as the novel continued to be a huge success, the Shelleys moved to Italy and Mary devoted herself heavily to her marriage which was rife with infidelity and heartache. Two more of the children that Mary birthed died and the only child they bore that survived to adulthood, Percy Florence Shelley, came about in 1819.

Later Years

The most devastating tragedy that affected Mary was when her husband drowned in a boating accident with a friend in the Gulf of Spezia, in 1822. She was made a widow at the young age of 24, but she continued to work diligently to support herself and her son. Despite having lived a full, scandalous and tragic life before she was even a quarter of a century old, Mary didn’t give up. After her husband died, she wrote several more novels, including Valperga (1823), as well as another science fiction tale The Last Man (1826). A devoted wife, even after her husband passed, she continued to promote his poetry to preserve his place in literary history, despite facing opposition from Percy’s father who had always disapproved of his son’s unorthodox lifestyle.

Death

Shelley continued to live until the age of 53–she passed away on February 1, 1851 from aggressive brain cancer and was buried at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth with the remains of her late husband’s cremated remains. Shortly after her death, her son Percy and daughter-in-law Jane had Shelley’s parents exhumed from St. Pancras Cemetery in London and had them place next to Mary Shelley within their family tomb.

Fact or Fiction?

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, but considering the traditions we maintain to this day–keeping cremated remains in urns on our mantles, as one example–what we know about what Mary did is actually not all that strange! After Percy Shelley’s remains were recovered from his boating accident, his remains were cremated–oddly enough, his heart refused to burn and it is speculated that this was due to a disease which slowly calcified his heart. Instead of burying Percy’s heart along with the rest of his cremated remains, she kept it as a valuable possession in a silken shroud and carried it with her wherever she went. It wasn’t until a year after her death that Percy’s petrified heart was found wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems Adonais. It was eventually buried in the family vault with their son, Percy Florence Shelley when he died in 1889. It was wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems, Adonais. The heart was eventually buried in the family vault with their son, Percy Florence Shelley, when he died in 1889.

Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Shelley (2017)
Mary Shelley (2017)

With the recent trend of classical authors having their tales told, it was about damn time that Shelley got the credit she deserved. Somehow it still took well over a century and a half for Shelley to be recognized on the big screen in a biographical sense, although the movie is rife with inconsistencies comparatively with how she has been historically represented. If taken at face value, however, it is an excellent movie–we highly recommend it if you’re a fan of Shelley at all–it is not at all within the genre of horror, despite her status as the famed mother of sci-fi horror fiction.

Index of Sources

Murphysboro Mud Monster – Urban Legend

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Deep in Southern Illinois coal country, along the banks of the Big Muddy River, sits the peaceful town of Murphysboro. Known for its natural beauty, fishing spots, and local wineries, Murphysboro also boasts one particularly infamous resident: The Big Muddy Monster, an eight-foot tall, slime-covered sasquatch. The Big Muddy Monster, also known as the Murphysboro Mud Monster, frightened local residents in the early 1970s, putting Murphysboro firmly on the map for North American cryptid enthusiasts.

Murphysboro Mud Monster History

The Murphysboro Mud Monster was first seen around midnight on June 25th, 1973. Randy Needham and Judy Johnson, two Murphysboro residents, were sitting in a parked car near the Big Muddy River when they heard a loud shriek coming from the woods. The next thing they knew, a tall, pale creature with fur caked in mud lumbered towards their car. The two left the scene, but reported the incident to the local police.

This was but the first of many unexplained sightings in the weeks to come. The experience of teenagers Randy Creath and Cheryl Ray, recorded in a police report, is particularly interesting. While sitting on their front porch around 10:00 the night of June 26th, Creath and Ray saw the creature not fifteen feet away. They described it as eight feet tall and approximately 300-350 pounds, with pale white fur, and smelling “foul, like river slime”. Again, the creature quickly departed, but Creath and Ray also reported their experience to the police.

More sightings would be reported in the days to come, prompting the local police to launch a 14-person manhunt. Footprints were found at the scenes of the encounters, along with a mysterious black sludge. Although the search did not locate the creature, local law enforcement had no doubts that the residents did see something. A sighting at a traveling carnival ten days later was the last reported sighting of the Murphysboro Mud Monster for many years. Just as mysteriously as it had appeared, the creature was gone.

Murphysboro Mud Monster Today

Big Muddy Monster aka the Murphysboro Mud Monster mural featuring a big foot in the town of Murphysboro

The Murphysboro Mud Monster has stayed alive in the years since these sightings, at least in the imagination of town locals and monster hunters nationwide. Another possible sighting was reported in the late 80s. In 2021, a documentary called Creature from Big Muddy was released that explored the story. The creature is even featured prominently on a new mural in Murphysboro! 

The Creature from Big Muddy Trailer

The story of the Murphysboro Mud Monster, like the best urban legends, has more questions than answers. What is the true identity of this tall, pale, smelly creature? Is it related to the similarly-described Sasquatch, seen by hundreds of Americans over the last century? Perhaps we will never know. What is unique about Big Muddy, however, is that its presence in Murphysboro was recorded by law enforcement at the time of the sightings, along with compelling evidence. This lends believability to the existence of the Murphysboro Mud Monster. As Sasquatch expert Harlan Sorkin stated at the time of the initial sightings, “The gorilla as we know it today was [unknown to many] until the early 1800’s. Can you imagine what people thought when they first saw it?”

Sources:

http://www.murphysboro.com/how_do_i/find/the_big_muddy_monster.php#outer-165 

https://www.nytimes.com/1973/11/01/archives/yetilike-monster-gives-staid-town-in-illinois-a-fright-halloween.html https://dailyyonder.com/illinois-town-welcomes-its-local-monster-on-main-street/2021/10/29/

Signup to our newsletter