Monday, June 20, 2016

Short Fiction: The Tall Policeman



The Tall Policeman
By Void Munashii
*contains adult language*


1.
    Randeep Singh knew his doorbell was going to ring before it did; he had seen the man walking up through his security cameras. There was one thing that bothered him though: He had not seen exactly where the man came from.


    Actually, to be honest, there were a number of things that bothered him about the man about to ring the bell: He was a police officer, he was freakishly tall, and his uniform was blue instead of the black the local cops wore. All of these things set off Randeep’s internal alarms, but the fact that there was not a police car, or indeed any car parked in front of his house, was what had him mentally going over all of the places he had guns stashed.


    By the time the doorbell rang, Randeep was already standing on the other side of it, easily in reach of the shotgun hidden under the coats on the coatrack. He was afraid to answer the door. He had been waiting for this moment for years, for the moment when the government would come for him.


    The tall policeman knocked on the door authoritatively. “This is the police, I need you to open the door! We have been receiving some complaints from your neighbors!,” the tall policeman said in a voice just as authoritative as the knock.


2.
    The X-Files theme flowed from Martin’s mobile phone, letting him know that it was Randeep on the other end. They had met a decade ago at a comic convention, and, though they had been there for different reasons (Martin had been there looking for comics and toys, Randeep had been there looking to back up his theory that real space aliens would attend conventions because they could blend in with the cosplayers), they had hit it off. Martin tolerated Randeep’s eccentricities, and assumed that Randeep felt that he was giving the same courtesy to Martin.


    Martin snatched the phone off of the table and accepted the call, “Hey Ran, what’s up?”


    “I need you to come over. There is something I need to show you,” Randeep replied.


    “What?”


    “I cannot talk about it over an unsecured line,” Randeep answered, but Martin mouthed the words along with him, having heard this many, many times.


    Martin glanced at the clock, quarter past three, and then contemplated the forty-five minute drive out to Randeep’s place out past where civilization ended, “It’s kind of late, man. I have work tomorrow.”


    “This is important, Martin, I really need your help.”


    “You said that last time, man.”


    “I mean it this time. This is some really serious shit.”


    Randeep was not normally one for foul language. Martin did some mental math, figuring that if there was no traffic, and he did not stay for more than an hour or two, he would still be able to get to bed at a reasonable time, “Fine, but if this is about that kid down the road playing with his ‘spy drone’ again, I am going to make you eat your Art Bell picture.”


    
3.


    Martin had mixed feeling about going out to Randeep’s place. On one hand, Randeep had a nice chunk of land with no neighbors for a quarter mile in any direction, it had been part of a larger farm at one point in history, and Martin’s entire apartment could probably fit quite comfortably into the living room of Randeep’s house. On the other hand, the directions for getting there involved the phrase “turn off the paved road”, which was never a sign of a convenience.


    Randeep had explained that part of the reason he liked living out there was that no one could sneak up on him because their car would kick up dust that would be visible a soon as they started down the road towards him. Martin had never pointed out that someone approaching on foot through the fields behind the house would not kick up dust, nor would there be any in the rain; he knew better.


    By the time Martin’s dust-covered Ford Focus pulled into Randeep’s driveway, the short, skinny man was already there, pacing a short, tight course.


    “Okay, so what’s the big national secret this time? Did the Reptilons replace your mailman again?”


     “You tell jokes, Martin, I will make you eat those jokes this time!”


    Martin’s eyebrows raised. Randeep was really worked up this time; whatever he thought he had discovered had brought him to a plateau of mania that Martin had never seen before.


    “Alright, what is it?”


    “It is inside, come on!”


    The short, skinny, dark-haired man led the taller, pudgy, light-haired man up the walkway and onto the front porch.


    Before even getting to the door, an odor assaulted Martin’s nose. He was used to unusual smells in Randeep’s house from the unfamiliar spices the smaller man used in cooking, and while they often smelled odd, but ultimately tasted good, this smell was just bad, “Good God, Ran, what are you cooking in there?”


    “I am not cooking anything; it is what I wanted to show you.”


    “You’ve discovered an incredible smell?”


    Randeep lead Martin into the house. Martin glanced at the pictures in the front hall as he entered; they were some of Randeep’s most treasured possessions: framed pictures of him with Art Bell, Whitley Strieber, Linda Moulton Howe, and Stanton Friedman. Randeep had told him multiple times how he had met them at various conventions over the years, and Martin sort of figured that they were Randeep’s equivalent to meeting George Lucas and Stan Lee.


    The smell grew stronger as they entered the living room. Randeep stepped aside, giving Martin a clear view of a body on the carpet. It was lying facedown in a puddle of black liquid, and there was a ragged, black hole in the back of its dark blue shirt. Martin noticed that the body was wearing a black leather belt with compartments on it, and a holster.


     “Holy shit, Ran, did you shoot someone?” Martin starts to back towards the door, “You wanted to show me that you murdered someone?”


    “It is not a person, Martin.”


    “Is that a cop? Did you shoot a fucking cop?”


    “It is not a cop,” Randeep’s mania starts to even out, as if seeing Martin losing his cool calmed the smaller man down, “The police here wear black. It was a fake cop!”


    “So, what, it’s the NSA? CIA? Did you murder a government agent? Is that better somehow?”


    “It is an alien! Look at his blood.”


    “An alien?”


    “Yes!”


    “Randeep, and I say this as your friend, aliens aren’t real! All that Art-Bell-alien-abductions-conspiracy-theory stuff is just bullshit. I knew you bought into that stuff too much, but… you murdered someone, man!”


    “Not someone, something.”


    “Yeah, keep saying that; maybe they’ll just put you in a psych hospital for the rest of your life instead of lethal injection,” Martin said, having now backed his way into the entry hall.


    “If this was a policeman, then where is his car?”


    This caused Martin to stop; there hadn’t been any cars outside when he drove up, “Okay, yeah, maybe he wasn’t a real cop-”


    “He was not.”


    “-and he walked here for whatever reason, but you can’t just kill him.”


    “He teleported or something. I did not see him walking up. He came around the side of the house; out of the fields; I checked the cameras. It is as if he appeared out in the field.”


    “Did he attack you or something?”
    “He was going to… here, help me roll him over and I will show you.”


    Martin, much to his mind’s surprise, found himself walking over to the corpse. Without having any conscious control of his body, Martin was able to dedicate his higher brain functions to trying to figure out how much prison time he would be liable for in this, and figure out exactly why he was not driving away in his car while calling the police.


    The tall policeman was heavy, heavier than he should be by Martin’s estimation, and it really did take both of them to roll the man onto his back. This gave Martin a clear view of the dead man’s front.


    “Holy shit,” Martin screamed in a girlish pitch, and staggered back, tripping over the coffee table, and landing between it and the sofa, his head on the cushions. He scrambled up onto the sofa, nearly overturning the coffee table in his effort.


    It is not the shotgun-blast hole in the center of the tall policeman’s chest that had so disturbed Martin so, although he would normally be disturbed by that, but the small pair of multi-jointed arms to either side of the wound; arms that would have been obscured by the shirt. The skin on those arms was not the colour of any human flesh that Martin was familiar with either: it was a dark grey.


    Moving up to the tall policeman’s face, also skinned in grey flesh, revealed to Martin four glossy, orange eyes, and a mouth that was too large. The mouth was open, frozen in something that vaguely looked like an expression of surprise, and it exposed way too many teeth for Martin to be comfortable with.


    “What the fuck is that?”


    “I told you, it is an alien,” Randeep looks more than a little proud as he said this.


    “Why did you even let that into your house?”


    “It did not look like this when I let it in. It was wearing this,” Randeep plucked a pinkish, flesh-coloured scrap from the floor near the body, just beyond the edges of the black blood pool, and holds it up. It was a human face that looks like it has been sliced off of someone’s skull, but the back of it does not look bloody at all, “It is some sort of mask. It is how they blend in with us,” he tossed the mask down onto the coffee table.


    “Okay, so why call me? Why not call your MUFON people, or something?”


    “You are the only one I can trust with this. I am sure that any group I could go to for help has been infiltrated. No one can know about this.”


    “What do you mean no one can know? You finally have honest-to-God proof of aliens, and you don’t want to tell anyone? You’ve been looking for this your whole life.”


    “I never needed proof, and I do not want to disappear, thank you very much. I need you to help me take it out back and bury it.”


    “I am the first guy you think it when it comes to disposing of bodies?”


    “I have heard that a true friend will help you bury the body, and I consider you a true friend. I will owe you greatly for this.”


    “How did this even happen?”


    “The policeman came to my door, but I knew he was not a policeman because his uniform is the wrong colour, and also I had not seen him approach on my cameras. He just sort of appeared at the side of the house.


    “He asked to come in because of complaints from my neighbours, and I did not know what to do, so I let him in. He said something about this party not being loud enough, and music started playing from somewhere, and he ripped open his shirt and pulled off his face.”


    “Music? It wasn’t attacking you? It was a stripper! You shot and alien stripper!”


    “A stripper? Like it thought this was some sort of alien bachelorette party,” Randeep motioned to the large, decidedly un-party-like room around him.


    “Maybe this is what alien parties look like, I don’t know,” Martin suggested, “Okay, what do we do? Uh, first thing we need to do is move the body, we need to wrap it up.”


    “I can get a tarp.”


    “No, just get a boxcutter; we’ll wrap it in the carpet.”


    Martin cut a large rectangle of carpet around the body of the tall policeman, careful to make sure that all of the blood pool was included, and together the two of them managed to roll the body up in it like a space alien taquito.


    That is when they both noticed that the body’s black blood was still oozing through the carpet, so Randeep got a tarp from the basement anyway, and that re-wrapped the whole mess in that.


    By the time they dragged the body out of the house and into the field just past the edge of Randeep’s property line, the sun was going down and Martin’s hopes of getting to bed early were going down with it.


    It was late by the time they shoveled the last spade of dirt onto the body. The hole was not as deep as Martin would have liked, but neither he nor Randeep were particularly burly men, and the ground was hard and dry from a lack of recent rain.


    Filthy and exhausted, the two men collapsed onto the couch, looking at the patch of bare floorboard that was stained with the tall policeman’s blood.


    “What do I do about that?” Randeep asked, pointing to the stain.


    “That’s up to you man, disposing of alien corpses is one thing, but getting bloodstains out of wood is completely out of my league. I think you might just need to replace the floor.”


    “Yeah, that is a good idea.”


    “Damn it,” Martin cursed, “we forgot to bury the face,” he points to it lying on the coffee table.


    “I think I will keep that. Maybe I can figure out what it is made of.”


    “Oh, so that you want to ke-” Martin never finished that thought, as that was when the doorbell rang.


    The two men looked at each other, “ What do we do?” Randeep asked.


    “We answer it. I mean, it’s not like it’s going to be more alien policemen strippers, is it?”


    They approached the front door, Martin looking back to make sure the bloodstain would not be visible from the entry hall, which he knew it would not be since he had not seen it when he first entered either. There was nothing to be done for the smell though.


    On the front door stood a pair of men, tall men, freakishly tall men. They must have been twins, because they had identical faces; the face looked a little familiar to Martin, but Randeep recognized them at once. The smaller man’s face paled dramatically.


    “Hello?” one of the tall men called through the door, “We apologize for disturbing you so late, but we are looking for our employee. He was supposed to… entertain at a different location, and we think he may have come here mistakenly.”


    Martin suddenly realized why he did not recognize the face immediately: he had not seen it on a head before.


    “Well shit,” Martin cursed tiredly.



End



The challenge prompt for this story was "A very close, long time friend asks you to help them bury a body," but it is only one of the three scenarios that were available.


If you liked this story, head on over to Clever Fiction, and see what other people made of this challenge's prompts! Heck, even if you didn't like it, head over there anyway, and maybe you'll find something you like better.

Thanks for reading, and until we meet again: don't trust the darkness.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Resurrection...?

    *Lights flicker on, revealing a dusty, long abandoned room*

     Is anyone here? Well, in case anyone is reading this due to some long forgotten addition to their news aggregator: Hello, it has been quite awhile; thanks for waiting around.

     I'm going to be honest with you, it has been about a year and a half since I have written a story to completion, but that is about to change thanks to the folks at Clever Fiction. You see, those lovely folks have come out of their own cocoon with a new writing challenge, and that is just the sort of thing that gets me writing.

     There is one substantial change though: in the past they would host the stories on their site (You can read my old stories here if you have not read them), and now they require we host them ourselves. Imagine my pleasure to discover that this old place is still standing?

     So keep an eye on here, and in the next few days I will post my first new story in a long time. See you back here then!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Snow Globe

     What? A post? Yeah, well sort of. While I have not been going to movie screenings anymore (a combination of more people going to them making it more difficult to get passes, other responsibilities, and just needing more sleep have caused that), so I have not been writing reviews anymore, I have been writing.

     Most of what I work on now is for a site called Clever Fiction, I may have mentioned it before, but I am feeling too lazy to go back and look. In any case, you can check out the stories I've written there here.

     Recently they had a visual prompt of a bench in the snow. I would link to that post, but their site is having problems. The story I wrote for that prompt is called "Snow Globe", and I quite like it. However the story did not make it up on that site in its entirety. To rectify that I am going to post the whole story here.

     Enjoy.

 
Snow Globe
by Void Munashii (Visual Prompt)

The cold wind wakes me like a slap in the face. My eyes jerk open, and all I see is white. I think I've gone blind at first until I realize that I am in the middle of a snowy field. I look down at myself to confirm that I can see, but my eyes are greeted with a white winter coat, but I have black gloves on, and they stand out in contrast against the whiteness of everything else.

I take in my surroundings, trying to remember where I am and how I got here; trying to remember who I am. I'm sitting on a bench at the edge of a field like someone waiting at a bus stop. Dense trees surround the clearing. In the very center of the open space is a cabin with a trail of smoke rising from a metal pipe in its roof.

Something about that cabin makes me uneasy, but I don't know why.

I look around me for any signs of how I got here. There are no tracks in the snow, but it's also snowing, so if I've been here for any length of time they may have been covered up. It can't have been by car; there doesn't appear to be any gap in the trees wide enough to drive through.

Maybe I was hurt, and I made I this far and passed out? That would explain why I don't know how I got here, or who I am. I must had suffered a head injury. I feel around my head for a bump or a sore spot, but I don't find any. Drugs maybe, maybe I did drugs.

There's a dark blue backpack on the bench next to me, and I wonder if it will tell me who or where I am. I brush away the layer of snow that has landed on top of the bag, and unzip the top. Inside the bag there are three hardback books: “Pandemic” by Scott Sigler, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris, and “Bruce Aidell's Complete Book of Pork”. What the hell am I doing with a cookbook?

Digging past the books I find a package of white socks, a box of salt, a jar of garlic powder, and a manila envelope. I pull the envelope out, and open it. Inside there is a single thick piece of paper and a disc, although I don't know if it's a CD or a DVD. The piece of paper has a man's picture on it. Something about the man is familiar, but it doesn't connect to anything specific for me.

I put the items back in the envelope, and the envelope back in the bag. I dig around some more and find what looks like a sharpening stone, a container of antacids, and a box of matches. This doesn't make any sense. If I were going someplace snowy, why would I pack this assortment of crap?

Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe I am a drug user.

I zip the backpack closed, sling it onto my shoulder, and get up from the bench. My feet crunch in the snow, leaving deep footprints behind me as I head for the tree line. The trees are tight together, but there should be plenty enough space between them for a person to fit through.

I make my way to the tree line and stop. I've hit something. I put my hands out towards the trees, but something is stopping me from touching them. It feels like I am touching a glass wall.

I take the gloves off, stuffing them in my coat pocket, and touch the wall. I feel... nothing. It's not cold like glass would be, but it's not warm either. It doesn't feel like anything, but I cannot put my hands through it. I try pounding my fist against the barrier; it doesn't hurt, and it doesn't make any sort of noise.

I don't understand this. The snow seems to be passing through it, and when I blow on it, the vapour from my breath passes through easily enough, but I can't. I swing the backpack against it, and it bounces back like it hit something.

I don't know how to put it in words. It's like I am pushing against a solid wall while pushing against nothing. I can feel the presence of a hard, solid barrier, but I can't feel the surface of it.

There must be a gap or a break in it. I got in here somehow, right? If I can get in, then I can get out.

I start moving to my left, sliding my hand over the smooth yet non-existent surface that is keeping me from getting into the woods. I slog through the snow around the edge of the open space, my hand always inches from the trees, but never quite able to touch them.

There aren't any breaks. How can there not be a way through? I've gone far enough around the clearing now to be in front of the cabin, and still haven't found any way through.

“You may as well give up, son!” a voice comes to be on the wind.

I turn away from my invisible wall to see an old man sitting on the cabin's porch. He's wearing a red and black coat, a furry cap, and is smoking a pipe. He looks harmless, but something in me cringes all the same.

“You can't get out,” he calls to me, “Not like that anyhows.”

I swallow down my fear and call to the old man.

“Where am I?”

“What?” The old man yells back.

“Where am I? How did I get here?”

“You're gonna hafta come closer, son. My hearing's not what it was!”

He seems harmless enough; old certainly. I dismiss my unease as just a reaction to my situation. It seems like he might have some answers anyway.

I trudge across the snow, and step up onto the cabin's covered porch; the boards creak under my weight. I can see the old man better now, and he looks even older than I first thought; eighty at least. He's sitting in an old rocking chair. There's a table next to him with a metal ashtray and a hardback book; the dustcover has been removed so I can't see the title.

“You been checking that wall for a while now?” the old man asks, “I was tempted to let ya go all the way around if you didn't look over at me yourself, but I was thinking on goin' inside, and I didn't want to leave you out here.”

“Umm... thanks,” I say, running my hands through my hair to brush out the snow before it all melts.

“I once saw this one girl go all the way around twice before she finally decided to come talk to me. I find that as I grow older I lack the patience to let you kids do that though,” the old man shakily rises from the chair, “Lets head inside. It's nice and warm in there.”

The old man walks past me, and opens the cabin's door, a plain brown thing with four small windows set into it that creaks loudly as he forces the hinges to move. He enters the cabin and leaves the door open behind him, “Hurry up 'fore you let all the cold in,” he says as he strips off his coat.

The door takes a bit of pushing to get it to close, but it seals the cold out nicely. The inside of the cabin is quite warm thanks to the big stove near the center of it, and the heat makes my cheeks and ear burn from being in the cold outside. There is a large steaming pot on top of the stove.

“Get outta that wet coat before you drip all over my floor!” The old man orders, “You can hang it on the hooks there.

There are four hooks on the wall next to the door. The old man's coat is on one, and a blue coat of a similar style to my own is next to it. I hang my coat on one of the empty hooks, drop my backpack on the floor under it, and look around.

Three of the walls of the large room are hidden behind bookshelves, broken only by the windows and door. There is an easy chair and a shabby sofa with a coffee table facing the stove on one side and a small round kitchen table with three chairs on the other.

At the back of the room are a pair of doors. A bathroom probably, and maybe a bedroom or closet; I don't see a bed in here. Next to the doors is a sink, some cabinets, and a fridge that looks like it was old when the old man was young.

“Where am I?” I ask.

“Get right to the point, don't ya?” the man asks, stirring the steaming pot with a long handled spoon, “You haven't even introduced yourself yet, boy.”

“I'm sorry, but I don't know who I am.”

The old man laughs like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard, “No, of course you don't. No one who comes here does,” he puts the spoon down on a plate on the kitchen table and walks over to me. He leans in close to my ear, “Tell ya the truth, I don't know who I am either,” and he cackles again.

“Do you know where here is?” I ask.

“I call it the snow globe; snows here all the time,” the man says, “Been here a long time, I think. I bet you're hungry; there's a little stew left there if you want some. There're bowls by the sink.”

I realize that I am hungry. I see a dish strainer next to the sink with a pair of brown bowls and some utensils sitting in it. I take a bowl and a spoon, and go over to the stew pot, “Thank you,” I say to the old man as I spoon some of the meat and broth into the bowl.

“I'm happy to share,” the old man says, “Take a seat and enjoy.”

I sit at the table and begin to eat. The meat is kind of grayish, but it smells like beef. I wonder if I'll get food poisoning from eating meat that has gone off or something. I take a bite, and it tastes a little sweet; pork maybe.

“Finally!” the old man exclaims, “I've been waiting to read this! The first two were great.”

I turn and see that the old man is going through my backpack. He's looking at one of the books; It looks like the “Pandemic” one.

“Excuse me?” I say once I've swallowed.

“Ah! Salt! Thank God!” he says like I hadn't spoken, “And some new socks!”

“Excuse me, sir,” I say, rising from the table, “That's my bag; that's everything I have... I think.”

The old man looks at me, “I'm sorry, it's just been awhile, and I've been running out of some stuff. Like I said, that's the last of the stew there. Some vegetables woulda been nice this time though. It's not like I can grow my own here or anythin'”

“So there are other people here?” I ask, looking at the blue coat hung next to mine.

“Nope, jus' me an' you right now. I'm sure you'll be passin' on soon though,” the old man pulls out the manila envelope, “Here we go, lets find out who you are.”

The man crosses the room, and stoops down to open a cabinet at the bottom of one of the bookshelves. He pulls out a laptop computer, and comes over to place it on the kitchen table.

“I wouldn't keep this in there, you know, but that's where the plug socket is. What sorta idiot puts a plug socket in a cabinet?” he asks as he opens the computer's lid.

While the computer boots up, the old man slips the photo and the disc out of the envelope, “Handsome, aren't ya?” he asks, holding up the picture, “I bet you pulled the ladies, didn't ya? Or did you prefer guys?”

“I don't know.”

“Don't worry about it. I ain't here to judge ya; they done that already. Now lets see who you were.”

I don't like the way he phrased that.

The old man puts the disc into the computer, and uses the computer's touch pad to access it.

“Okay, so you were Anders Anderson,” he laughs at my name, “No wonder you ended up here with a name like that. I bet you got mocked somethin' fierce in school. Probably warped you bad.”

“That disc says who I am?”

“Yup. I wish they had these things when they put me here, at least then I'd know who I am and why I'm here.”

“Why am I here?”

“Lets see,” he reads the screen, “It seems you are a,” he pauses for effect, “murderer; shot up a shopping mall.”

“No,” I say. The idea repulses me.

“Yup, but that's pretty normal. Here, look for yourself, “he turns the laptop towards me, and the leaves the table, “Murder's what gets most people sent here. Rape occasionally. Makes we wonder what kind of a bastard I was.”

“How many people have been put here?” I ask.

“God, it must be a few hundred by now. I've got albums fulla your pictures. I expect they'll be sending on a new album soon. I hope they send some vegetables too.”

I can't look away from the computer. There's a mugshot of the man in the photo, of me, and a mass of text describing how I killed twenty-eight civilians and two police officers before I was captured.

“So if there have been hundreds of people like me here, where are they now?”

“They passed on, don't ya listen?” The old man replies, I can see him out of the corner of my eye; he's standing by the sink, “You'll be passing on shortly, and in a week or two they'll send me someone else.”

“You said that before,” I say, “'Passing on'. Where will I pass on to?”

“You see, I figure that I must have done something really awful,” he continues without replying to me, “because they want me to suffer; they want me to survive; it's why they keep sending folks like you to me. You kids pass on, while I remain.”

“Pass on to where?” I say, still looking at the computer. There are links in the document, and clicking on them opens pictures of dead, bloody bodies. One of the pictures is of a child clutching a bloodstained stuffed rabbit; half of the kid's head is missing.

“If I were a stronger man, a better man, I would just let myself go,” The old man starts moving towards me, “I tried, but it's so hard. One of these days I'll go though, and then one of you kids will take over for me. Until then... well, I just get so hungry.”

Hungry?

I turn in time to see the old man coming at me, the cleaver in his right hand raised above his head, ready to split mine.

He moves fast for an old man; very, very fast.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Adrift

Well hello there, sorry to have been such a stranger.

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, here (sort of), or now Google+, then you know that I have been a little stumped on my writing since finally finishing the second draft of my Typewriter Challenge story (tentatively titled "That Type of Adventure").

Last week I saw Cindy Schuerr post on Facebook about her entry in Clever Fiction's Weekly Challenge. The weekly challenge is sort of an Iron Chef for writers where you are given three concepts and have to write a flash piece using all of them.

Let me say that I suck at writing flash pieces. I'm not exactly as long-winded as Stephen King, but keeping it under 1000 words is not easy for me. Still, I took the challenge because I need to get writing, and keep writing, and I haven't been lately.

Last week's prompt was rain, sailboat, and shame, and while i struggled with this for a bit, finally inspiration came (although due to the limited space, the first image that came into my head was completely cut from the story) and I was off writing.

As I said, I am rather long winded, and the first draft came out to almost double the limit, so the next couple of days were spent cutting out anything that was not 100% vital to the story, and the result was "Adrift" a story set in the early days of the zombie apocalypse that served as the setting for "Mallville: A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse".

This week's entry, called "Family Supper" (which is not a zombie story, sorry), was a little easier as a result of the practice that last week served as, but I still spent a couple of days trimming and rewriting it down to the sub-1000 word mark.

As far as "Adrift" goes, there is a longer story there, and I have already started working on it, although if I do not finish it this month, it will be put on hold during November during NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and I have no idea what I'll be doing for NaNoWriMo yet, which is disturbing me a little.

Remember, don't trust the darkness. See you next time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Drive

Do you ever get the feeling that something is going well over your head, but you can't quite figure out what it is? That is how I feel after watching the new film from director Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”, based on the novel by James Sallis. This movie is getting fantastic reviews, it even won Best Director at Cannes, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why.

“Drive” is the story of, unsurprisingly, a driver (Ryan Gosling: “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), who, when he is not acting as a wheelman-for-hire, is a mechanic and a movie stunt driver. He's developed a bit of a crush on his next door neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”), whose ex-convict husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac: “Sucker Punch”), owes a great deal of protection money to some reputable businessmen.

In the interest of protecting Irene and her son, the Driver agrees to help Standard with a robbery that will put him even with his creditors. So along with a woman named Blanche (Christina Hendricks: “Mad Men”), they set out to do what should be a basic, low-level robbery. Naturally things go spectacularly wrong.

This sounds like an exciting film, right? Check out the trailer, it even looks exciting. It looks like it could be a heist movie, or perhaps a roaring rampage of revenge; hell, at the beginning it even seems like it is going to similar to “The Transporter”, but it's not. In fact, despite being called “Drive” very little driving actually goes on in it. A better title would probably have been “Awkward Silence”.

The movie tends to go like this. Dialog, awkward silence, more dialog, awkward silence, something exciting happens, awkward silence. I think that if you were to edit out all of the awkward silence, most of which is just Ryan Gosling staring off into space, you would be left with thirty, maybe forty minutes of movie. There were points early on in the film where I was seriously wondering if Gosling's character was trying to be broody, or if he was just slow-witted. Some of these awkward pauses went on so long that people in the audience started laughing at them.

Of course it wasn't just the silences that elicited laughter from the audience; by the end of the film the close-ups Driver's golden jacket with its embroidered scorpion started getting chuckles as well. Plus it's never a good sign when people are laughing at what seemed like they were supposed to be highly dramatic moments in the film too (the scene in the elevator in the trailer got the biggest laugh of the entire film).

Am I being a bit harsh? Well it may be justified, as this is the first screening I have attended in the three years I have been going to them where people actually got up and walked out. So if something in this film is going over my head, then it's going over the heads of a lot of other non-professional critics as well. There are moments where I can see the director's skill (the use of lighting in the elevator scene stood out for me), but a lot of the time I was left thinking “well, maybe this would make more sense if I had read the book first”.

It's not all bad though, as there are some shining moments in the film. These moments pretty much all involve Nino (Ron Perlman: “Hellboy”) and Bernie (Albert Brooks: “Lost in America”, “Defending Your Life”) as a pair of mobsters who are helping to finance the Driver's potential career as a race car driver (did I forget to mention the race car driver thing? Well, don't worry, it's not important).

Perlman is unfortunately only in a few scenes, but probably half of the swearing in the film comes from him. The role of a Jewish, pizzeria running mobster is not a perfect fit for him, but Nino is a joy to watch. Not only does it seem quite the rarity to even see him without some sort of make-up on, but I can't really recall him having many rolls where he even gets to curse.

As fun as Perlman is, the show-stealer has to be Albert Brooks. His scenes drop almost all of the awkward silence and replace it with sarcastic humor and violence. I don't think I have ever seen Brooks play anything as cold-blooded as Bernie Rose before, and I wish the movie had been more about him, and less about the Driver, because all of his scenes were genuinely interesting and entertaining.

At the risk of seeming like an unsophisticated plebeian for not liking what is clearly being regarded as some sort of masterpiece, I have to say that I did not like this film. It's not as if I don't enjoy the occasional deep, and possibly even slow film (I genuinely liked both “The Box” and “Blindness”), but this was just boring. It's slow, uneventful, and when something does happen it is over too fast, and we're back to awkward silences again. The trailer really does show off all of the film's best content, and sorry ladies, but Gosling doesn't even take off his shirt for you.

If you want to see an award winning film whose vision outstretches its grasp, and is chocked full of long, dramatic, awkward silence, then check this movie out. If you want to see an awesome action film about a driver, go rent “The Transporter”

“Drive” is in theaters now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy, Stupid, Love

In a summer full of wizards, robots, aliens, and superheroes, Hollywood knows that some people **cough**women**cough** want something a little softer, a little funnier, a little more romantic. Well, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is that movie... more or less. To be more exact it is another of the recent string of RomComs that are focusing more on the comedy than the romance, and this is very much to the film's benefit.

Lets see if I can briefly explain the relationships between the major players here. Cal (Steve Carell: “The Office”) and Emily (Julianne Moore: ”Blindness”) are a longtime married couple. Cal thinks things are fine until Emily reaveals that she has been having an affair with David (Kevin Bacon: “Stir of Echoes”), and wants a divorce. Cal is stunned, but it's not as if he's unloved as, unbeknownst to him, the babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) is in love with him. Unfortunately she's seventeen, and Cal and Emily's son., Robbie (Jonah Bobo: “Zathura”) is in love with her.

While wallowing in his sorrows, Cal meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling: “Blue Valentine”), a true player who takes pity on Cal, and decides to help him become more of a ladies man (or at least more of a man). Jacob is the very picture of confidence and swagger, seemingly able to get any woman he sets his sights on; any woman that is except Hannah (Emma Stone: ”Zombieland”, ”Easy A”), a young law student whose plans revolve around marrying her boyfriend, Richard (singer, Josh Groban).

Does all of that make sense? I hope so, because it actually gets a little more confusing as the film progresses.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a RomCom seemingly made with the knowledge that women are going to drag their men to these things anyway, so lets make them appeal to both genders. In fact so much time is spent in the film focusing on the interaction between Carell's awkward, middle-aged office drone and Gosling's slick, shallow player that this may all actually appeal a little bit more to men than women. Only a little though.

With a great cast and mostly good pacing, there's really only one big criticism I have about this film: The length. It's not so much that the film is about two hours long that is the problem, but that it climaxes (as far as the laughes go at least) a good thirty minutes before it ends. The last quarter of the film focuses on the more traditional feelings and relationships that one would expect from your average RomCom, and while this may appeal greatly to the core audience films like this target, for me this really took a lot of wind out of the picture's sails. This long eplilogue, with its confessions of love, and the moral of the story, drops what was a really good comedy up to that point down to just a, above average romantic comedy.

Not a great film, but as romantic comedies go this one is a little refreshing in that it will be easy for men to watch, and it does not go out of its way to portray Steve Carell's character as the bad guy in the situation, which is nice. It may not have superheroes or wizards, but what “Crazy, Stupid, Love” does have is a strong cast, a solid, emotional story for the stereotypical RomCom fan, and enough big laughs to keep everyone else from rolling their eyes too much.

“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is in theaters now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friends With Benefits

When I first saw the trailer for the new film “Friends with Benefits” I could help but think, “Haven't I see this movie already? It came out back in January and was called 'No Strings Attached' , and it was a confused mess.” That's right, two movies in the same year with the same sex-without-emotional-attachment concept both starring members of the cast of “That 70's Show”. “But hey,” I thought, “At least it will be fun to write a bad review of it.” Of course what I didn't know is that it was directed by Will Gluck (“Easy A”); had I known that I might have gone in with higher expectations.

Mila Kunis (“The Book of Eli”) plays Jamie, a corporate recruiter who is trying to lure Dylan (Justin Timberlake: “The Social Network”) to New York to interview for a position with GQ magazine. She manages to win him over, and he trades his Los Angeles life for a new home in New York.

Of course the only person that Dylan knows in New York, aside from his new employees, is Jamie, and seeing as neither of them have much luck with dating due to their various personality issues they begin to hang out regularly. After a night of drinking and watching a hilariously bad romantic comedy (starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones from ”I Love You, Man”) the discussion turns to sex as an activity instead of as an expression of emotion. The discussion quickly turns to an action, and the pair's emotion-free relationship begins.

“Friends With Benefits” wants to be to romantic comedies what the original “Scream” was to horror films; it completely takes the piss out of the genre while still being faithful to it. “No Strings Attached” sort of tried to do this by including ever RomCom trope ever into one film, and it ended up being a complete mess of a film, but this movie finds its focus and sticks with it. There are no zany best friends in this film, no beta couple, no jerkass trying to steal the heart of one of the main couple; it's just two people trying to be best friends who just happen to have sex with each other... a lot.

Of course the lack of wacky best friends and beta couples doesn't mean there is no supporting cast; there's a very strong one in fact. Through the course of the film we get to meet Jamie's mother (Patricia Clarkson: “Easy A”, Dylan's father (Richard Jenkins : “Six Feet Under”, “Hall Pass”), sister (Jenna Elfman: “Dharma and Greg), and nephew (Nolan Gould: “Modern Family”). Of course it would'nt be right to not mention who might be the funniest actor in the entire film: Woody Harrelson (”Zombieland”) as Tommy, GQ's manic sports editor.

There are also a lot of really fun cameos sprinkled throughout the film. Aside from Jason Segal and Rashida Jones, keep an eye our for appearances by Masi Oka (“Heroes”), Andy Samberg (”I Love You, Man”), Emma Stone (”Zombieland”, “Easy A”), and a very unusual appearance by Olympic athlete Shaun White.

While this movie is not ultimately as good as “Easy A”, it does manage to keep some of the fast-paced humour, as well as a loving willingness to mock its own genre. The movie's only real weakness is when they try to cram some conflict into the film. Even this stuff is entertaining, but it does not feel particularly natural, and it has a negative effect on the quality of the story.

At 109 minutes, “Friends With Benefits” is probably longer than it should be, but chances are that you'll be enjoying it enough to not notice. Its a fast, funny, crude movie that eschews Easy A's walking of the PG-13 boundaries for full-on R rated language and even a bit of nudity (and not all of it Justin Timberlake's arse). What it's not however is a must see. Compared to “No Strings Attached” it's an absolute masterpiece, but taken on its own it's nothing to get too excited about. I don't suggest paying full theater dollars for this, but it is certainly worth giving a rent.

“Friends With Benefits” is in theaters now.