Archive for the ‘Spike’ Tag

Spike, Captain Kirk & Me at Dragon Con!   Leave a comment

dragoncon-marsters

James Marsters, best known as Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, still has plenty of attitude.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

For the first time, last weekend I attended Dragon Con, the nation’s premier science fiction and fantasy convention, in costume – decked out in a Zorro outfit. Posing with other attendees in wild getups was fun, but the highlight was getting to see two of my favorite genre stars in the flesh.

I never  before paid for a photo with the former star of a TV series. Not only did it seem like clingy celebrity worship — plus a waste of money — I always felt embarrassed for fading screen idols reduced to scraping by on $20 a pop. But when I spotted James Marsters, who played bleached blond cockney vampire Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I couldn’t resist. Not because I especially wanted a memento, but just for the opportunity to tell him face-to-face what a smashing job he did on the show. As I told the actor, he took viewers on a wonderful journey, deftly pulling off comedy, drama – even singing in the famous musical episode.

dragoncon-heroes

Marsters gave my Zorro costume a thumbs up.

Marsters modestly responded that the writers “gave me such wonderful stuff to work with.” Which is certainly true. The arc of the character, who goes from villainous Billy Idol from hell to love-struck romantic hero, was one of the best ever written for the tube. Still a consummate actor, Marsters managed to make every fan on line feel like they shared a “moment” with him. (He complimented me on my “cool costume.”) Some of his legion of female admirers may have been a bit disappointed, though. A card on the table politely informed them that there should be no requests for “kissing, hugging or biting.”

shatner-dragoncon-bedst

Thousands packed a ballroom to hear TV legend William Shatner.

Later, in a giant ballroom filled to capacity, I got to see my boyhood hero Captain Kirk himself speak. Bouncing around the stage buoyantly, the actor’s energy and mental agility belied his 85 years. It was a striking – and welcome – contrast to the classic Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years,” in which a mysterious disease causes Kirk to age rapidly, and he goes senile!

kirk-aging

Aging decades in just hours, Kirk shows signs of dementia.

A voracious reader, who chatted excitedly about the latest book he’d read on the intelligence of birds, Shatner proved himself far from the vapid egotist some see him as (an image spoofed hilariously by Tim Allen in the movie Galaxy Quest.) Shatner got deep as he recounted his discussion with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking for a science documentary. Surprisingly, when given an opportunity to ask Shatner a question, the genius posed the same superficial one any elementary school kid would: What was your favorite episode? The truth, the actor admitted, was that he recalls few details from the show in which he appeared 50 years ago.

star-trek-episode

In an episode titled “Let That Be Your Last Battleground,” race hatred destroys a civilization — and even Kirk can’t fix it.

“I barely remember what hotel I woke up in this morning,” he joked. The star did say that in general what intrigued him were the episodes built around “big ideas.” In particular, he cited the one featuring a pair of aliens from the same planet, who hate each other because one is white on the right side and black on the left, the other just the reverse. Even when I watched it as a kid, the message about racial tolerance seemed heavy handed. The duo hail from “the southern part of the galaxy,” Spock informed the captain. But I guess in the 1960s, when TV’s first interracial kiss was shocking to viewers, you had to pound people over the head.

judgment-at-nuremberg

Playing a young Army officer, Shatner helps Spencer Tracy prosecute Nazi leaders in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Asked about his experience as a young actor in Judgment in Nuremberg (1961), he recalled how the director sat the cast down and screened for them death camp footage of corpses being mowed into a trench by a bulldozer. He still wonders how humans can be capable of such bestial behavior, yet also incredible nobility and self-sacrifice. (That duality was, of course, the subject of another memorable episode, in which Kirk is split into a good half and evil half, due to a transporter malfunction.)

shatner-barbary-coast

Bill played a master of disguise on TV’s short-lived Barbary Coast.

But the former starship skipper was mostly funny. Asked about the short-lived 1975 series The Barbary Coast, in which he played a master of disguise, he reenacted the grueling experience of being made up as three different characters every day, often with elaborate prosthetics. It was such a pain in the butt that even though it was his first gig on the air since Star Trek ended nearly a decade earlier, “When it was cancelled after 13 weeks, I was glad!”

shatner-twilight-zone-airplane

“Stewardess!” Bill finds the skies not so friendly in this classic Twilight Zone episode.

In a famous Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” Shatner played an airline passenger recovering from a nervous breakdown, who keeps spotting a gremlin on the wing. He frantically tries to alert the flight crew, but naturally no one believes him. The TV legend revealed that when he flew with his children, they invariably made him prank stewardesses. They’d buzz for one, and when she came over, he’d turn from the window, making “the face.”

Mock Shatner for “overacting,” all you want. I maintain he’s way underrated. As is often the case with good performances, it seems like the actor is simply playing himself. But before being cast as the swaggering, self-assured, macho Kirk, he was best known for portraying weak or neurotic characters like the one described above. He wasn’t typecast.  What holds up best, as you watch the original series today, are those mind-blowing ideas, and Shatner’s performance. As he once said in an interview, he’s always been a storyteller, and you can see him reinforce the plot, note by note in each scene, with his acting choices. Experiencing what a splendid raconteur he is was a great reminder of this.

Still, I’m not above poking fun at Shatner’s acting style, as anyone knows who’s seen my impression.

Below are some more of my favorite Dragon Con moments:

dragcon-me-clown

Plenty of time to clown around at the convention.

dragoncon-hands

Cute and creepy, you’ve got to hand it to her.

dragoncon-harley

The convention was heavily populated by Harley Quinns, like this one in the parade.

dragoncon-me-harley

This Harley didn’t really put much effort into makeup — but who cares?

dragoncon-nurses

Not every female attendee at Dragon Con found me irresistible.

dragoncon-monsterfight

The highlight of the convention for my son was this brawl between Godzilla and a T-rex, cheered on by Star Wars bounty hunters.

dragoncon-slavegirl

As usual, oodles of scantily clad ladies roamed the convention.

dragoncon-fester

Bright idea for costumes: Uncle Fester and Wednesday.

dragon-warrior

A formidable alien warrior — except maybe for his weapon.

What Lies Beneath “Cabin in the Woods” ?   Leave a comment

RULE No. 1: Never visit a remote cabin with no cell phone reception. Rule No. 2: Never go in the basement. Curt (Chris Hemsworth) and his pals commit horror no-nos.

By C. Michael Forsyth

Ever wonder why characters in horror movies choose the worst possible time and place to have sex? Why they descend into the pitch-black basement of a house that’s obviously haunted? Split up so they can be picked off one by one? All these questions and just about every other you’ve asked yourself while munching popcorn are answered in The Cabin in the Woods.

Produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Cabin in the Woods is a tour de force that works as a horror film, workplace comedy and genre-demolishing satire. It’s Westworld meets Wrong Turn meets Evil Dead, to mention just three of the innumerable movies to which it plays loving homage and/or gleefully skewers.

In the movie, five young college students fitting neatly into recognizable types vacation in an isolated cabin where horrific events begin to unfold. Unbeknownst to them, everything is being orchestrated by a cadre of puppet masters in a vast underground complex. The staff includes managers, technicians, accountants, maintenance workers and even geeky interns. (I don’t consider all this a spoiler since it’s revealed within the first three minutes — if you didn’t already figure it out from the trailer).

MONSTERS, INC. Horror is all in a day's work for company guys and gal Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker & Bradley Whitford.

The film derives much of its humor from the high jinks of these Dilbert-type drones. At one point, the bored-out-of-their-skulls staffers organize a betting pool on what horror the hapless vacationers will face first. En route to the cabin, the students ignore the cryptic warnings of a creepy old gas station attendant. When the guy later calls in to report, the staff puts him on speaker phone and giggle as he continues to drone on ominously.

WHO watches the watchers? Holden (Jesse Williams) happens upon a one-way mirror as Dana AKA The Virgin (Kristen Connolly) strips.

The concept is thought-provoking. What we generally think of as stereotypes – the Virgin, the Whore, the Jock, the Brain, the Comic Relief — are elevated to archetypes. It’s the best deconstruction of the horror genre since Scream, on a level that would impress Bruno Bettleheim, the celebrated analyst of fairytales.

RULE No. 3: Never allow yourself to be trapped in a siege situation.

Some critics describe the movie as an allegory for the process of filmmaking itself. How can you argue? The staffers even call their mysterious boss “The Director.” Beneath that layer of meaning, there’s also a wry commentary about our surveillance society. Marty, the wisecracking pothead paranoiac and “The Fool” of the group, points out that “Society isn’t falling apart, it’s coming together.” As he puts it, the “cracks are filling in” as technology devours privacy and living off the grid becomes increasingly impossible.

DUMBED DOWN: Jules (Anna Hutchinson) shows poor judgement after going blonde.

Tropes of the horror genre are simultaneously observed and lampooned. Sexy pre-med student Jules (Anna Hutchison) has just dyed her hair blonde when the story begins and it’s later revealed that a chemical secretly placed in the dye makes Jules, AKA “The Whore” act stupid.

While not likely to make you quiver in fear, the movie meets the basic requirements of a horror film: Suspense, characters you root for, formidable dangers and enough gore to satisfy fans of traditional horror flicks.

POTHEAD Marty (Fran Kranz) wields an unlikely weapon.

Brawny Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) delivers a winning performance as Curt, the brave Jock. Fran Kranz earns plenty of chuckles as Marty, the Fool. He fills the position Shaggy did in Scooby Doo and looks the part as well. But the real stars here are Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins as the world-weary managers of the operation. Whitford, best known for his role as White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on TV’s The West Wing sends up his in-control, seen-it-all image with obvious relish. And Jenkins, looking like a worn-out NASA engineer, is even more droll and cynical than he was as the disembodied dad in HBO’s Six Feet Under.

The climax of the film is in keeping with its blend of humor and horror — way, way over the top, in a good way.

SPEAKING OF JOSS WHEDON…

HORROR and comedy were perfectly blended in Joss Whedon's TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

No one mixes comedy and horror better than Joss Whedon, as I’m learning right now as I watch TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time on Netflix. Somehow I managed to miss the series when it debuted in the late ’90s. I’m blown away by how good it is – one of the handful of TV series, along with Highlander, that is far superior to the film that inspired it.

The playfulness is pure joy. In the episode I saw last night, Xander believes Willow has turned into a vampire and thrusts a crucifix in her face. When she fails to recoil, he shakes it like a flashlight that might need its batteries jiggled.

WHEN Angel was good he was good and when he was bad, he was very, very bad.


But drama is equally well handled. The brilliant storytelling is displayed when Buffy loses her virginity to good-guy vampire Angel. Following convention, love might cure him of vampirism. Instead, in an inversion of Beauty and the Beast, he becomes evil, his soul ejected from his body. In the hands of a less talented writer, the next scene would be Angel bursting into Buffy’s room, fangs bared. Instead he simply acts like a jerk, humiliating her by showing her the night of passion meant nothing to him. Far more sadistic. And, since this is an experience many a young woman will recognize, it helps to ground the series in reality, keeping it a coming of age story as well as a butt-kicking action/adventure show. The more you watch Buffy, the worse Twilight looks by comparison.

The intensely dramatic and horrific is always leavened by wit. In the episode in which fellow vampire slayer Kendra dies tragically she first gives Buffy her “lucky stake” — which she has nicknamed “Mr. Pointy.” In the same episode Buffy’s watcher Giles sheepishly admits that he’s been using the crystal orb that can restore Angel’s soul as a paperweight.

BOYFRIEND PROBLEMS weren't the only things Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) had to worry about.

I’m only midway through Season 3 and have already met so many wonderful characters, most memorably Spike, the cockney vampire with the Billy Idol hair and penchant for puppy love. By turns terrifying and laughable, James Marsters is absolutely magnetic in the role. (He won the poll of Sexiest Male Screen Vampire on this site by a landslide). Speaking recently to a publisher who uses Marsters for a lot of audio books, I was surprised to learn the star isn’t even English!

Spike (James Marsters) is the bloodsucking blond British punk you love to hate in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

I love how characters are allowed to evolve. A pitfall of many series is that characters remain exactly as originally written and are unaffected by the events that befall them. Most infamously Dana Scully in X Files, who is skeptical of werewolves even after battling vampires.

DROPPING his English reserve, Giles became a father figure to Buffy.


Buffy’s mentor Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) could have been a thankless role: a character like Bosley in Charlie’s Angels who does little more than provide exposition then step out of the way to let the girls swing into action. Instead, he develops a tender father-daughter relationship with Buffy that is the backbone of the series. He’s allowed to have romances. And the shy British librarian is not above opening a jar of good old English whup ass to save Buffy’s bum from time to time.

ANY role in which you get to wear an eye patch ain't all bad. Nicholas Brendon as Xander.

In fact there are no thankless roles in Whedon’s world. Xander, initially merely a goofball, becomes an increasingly heroic figure, always willing to charge into battle though lacking any special powers. This “geek” eventually gets to kiss almost every girl on the show. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce (Alexis Denisof), who briefly assumes the role of Buffy’s watcher and is even stuffier than Giles, is insufferable. And rich-bitch Cordelia is intractably airheaded. Yet even they get a chance to evolve into heroes themselves in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

ANNOYING Wesley and Cordelia developed into interesting characters in the spin-off series Angel.

Though the show premiered nearly 15 years ago, it doesn’t seem dated – you barely notice that the teens don’t text. Some aspects of high school are universal. You will always have good girls, snobs, class clowns and nerds. As in Cabin in the Woods, there are some archetypes that just don’t die. Or sometimes die violently.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

C. Michael Forsyth, the author of this article, has written a critically acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast. Plans for a major motion picture are now in the works!

To check out Hour of the Beast visit Amazon.com or save $4 by clicking HERE. The Kindle version is just $7 and the eBook is a mere $5.

SEXIEST SCREEN VAMPIRE POLL   2 comments

By C. Michael Forsyth

Vampires make perfect boyfriends, as we all know from “True Blood” and “Twilight.” But which male screen bloodsucker is the sexiest of all time?

Take a gander at these candidates, then vote in the poll below.

Johnny Depp breathes new death into Dark Shadows as Barnabas Collins.


SPEAKING OF VAMPIRES…

*********************************************************************************************************

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.

%d bloggers like this: