Today’s Art (30th June 2018)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting (which also comes in a non-rainy version) was a vaguely cyberpunk-influenced painting that also gave me a chance to practice painting lighting in water (which was kind of inspired by the fact that I’d watched a film called “Hard Rain” at the time I was making this painting).

As usual, this painting (and the non-rainy version) is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Platforms” By C. A. Brown

Advertisements

Top Ten Articles – June 2018

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for me to compile my usual list of links to my ten favourite articles about making art, making comics, writing fiction etc… that I’ve posted here during the past month. As usual, I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

The quality of this month’s art/writing-based articles was slightly variable, mostly because I was also focusing on my “1990s film reviews” series too.

Although the next review in this series won’t appear until the 3rd July at the earliest (since I haven’t written a “Doom II” WAD review in a while and I’m also still sticking to my “don’t post reviews on consecutive days” rule), I am at least learning how to balance reviews and article-writing. Still, when I was getting used to it earlier this month, the quality of my “ordinary” articles dipped slightly.

Anyway, here are the lists. Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – June 2018:

– “Three Reasons Why The Monster Genre Is Brilliant
– “What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting
– “One Surprising Thing FPS Games Can Teach Us About Creativity – A Ramble
– “Three Basic Tips For Coming Up With Good Settings In The Horror Genre
– “Three Random Tips For Informal Creative Research
– “Three Tips For Making Rushed And/Or Uninspired Art Look Better
– “Two Basic Tips To Avoid Making “Bloated” Creative Works
– “Five Reasons Why Fictional Villains Are Such Interesting Characters
– “In Art, Style Matters As Much As (Or More Than) Substance – A Ramble
– “One Thing That The Romance Genre Does Differently To Most Other Genres

Honourable mentions:

– “How To Avoid Your “Inspired By..” Creative Works Turning Into Rip-Offs
– “Art Practice Works! – A Ramble

Today’s Art (29th June 2018)

Well, I was feeling more inspired than I expected although, for some reason, I felt inspired to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1980s-style rural pub.

Interestingly, this painting was originally going to have more of an “olde worlde” look to it, but I then decided to go for a look that was both warmly reassuring and eerily ominous at the same time.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Vintage Pub” By C. A. Brown

Review: “Mimic” (Film)

Well, for the next review in my “1990s Films” series, I thought that I’d take a look at yet another monster movie. But, before I begin, I should probably point out that this film review series will probably go on a brief hiatus until at least the 3rd July (due to other articles/reviews that I’ve got planned for the next few days).

Anyway, the next film from the 1990s I’ll be looking at is a Guillermo Del Toro film from 1997 called “Mimic”. This is one of those films that I watched on VHS during my mid-teens but haven’t re-watched since then. So, when I saw that second-hand DVDs of it were going cheap online, I decided to take another look at it.

So, let’s take a look at “Mimic”. Needless to say, this review contains SPOILERS. I should also point out that the film contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS too (although I don’t know if they’re fast or intense enough to be an issue).

“Mimic” begins in New York, where a mysterious and dangerous epidemic is spreading amongst the local children.

Two members of the CDC called Dr. Susan Tyler (played by Mira Sorvino) and Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), discover that the disease is being spread by cockroaches.

So, Dr. Tyler begins to genetically engineer a species of infertile hybrid insect called the “Judas Breed” which gives off an enzyme that causes the cockroaches’ metabolisms to speed up to a dangerous level. After releasing a swarm of these bugs into the New York subway, the cockroaches are eliminated and the spread of the disease is quickly stopped in it’s tracks.

Well, that was a short film! Huh? There’s more…

Three years later, a priest is murdered by a mysterious assailant – with the only witness being an autistic boy called Chuy who lives in the house across the street with his grandfather. Whilst the police investigate the murder (and some mysterious droppings found on the ceiling of the church), two children visit Dr. Tyler with a box containing an unusual insect that they’ve caught.

After some haggling, she agrees to pay them $10 for it and asks them to look for egg sacs belonging to the insect. But, when she opens the box, she finds that it is still alive and – after a brief scuffle – she manages to impale it on a dissection table.

Yay! Science!

A closer examination reveals that it’s a larger version of the Judas Breed that seems to be capable of reproduction. But, before she can examine the bug too closely, a mysterious person breaks into her lab and steals it.

However, a while later, a friend of Tyler’s lab assistant finds an even larger bug at a nearby sewage facility and, after performing an autopsy on it, the CDC scientists deduce that there is a colony of highly-evolved insects hiding in the subway tunnels beneath New York….

One of the first things that I will say about this film is that it’s probably one of the most “serious” monster movies that I’ve ever seen.

Whilst most monster movies are at least a little bit tongue-in-cheek, “Mimic” is a brooding, sombre, dark, grim and bleak horror film. Whilst it isn’t “jump out of your seat” frightening, the oppressive emotional tone, grim surroundings and creeping uneasiness of this film really set it apart from the average monster movie.

Yes, this isn’t one of those “fun” monster movies. It’s something a bit more gothic…

In addition to the rather dark themes within this film (such as the unintended side-effects of scientific research, children being harmed, horror lurking in plain sight etc…), the grim emotional tone is also compounded through some wonderfully gloomy lighting and lots of claustrophobic, old and dilapidated set design.

Even the scenes set during the day can often look at least slightly gloomy and/or ancient.

Seriously, the lighting here is wonderfully gloomy in only the way that a film from the 1990s can be. However, whilst this style of lighting is just something that looks really cool in other films, the almost constant use of this type of gothic lighting in “Mimic” quickly turns it from something beautiful into something much heavier, creepier and more oppressive. It really adds a lot to the grungy, grim atmosphere of the film.

Still, some of the lighting looks really beautiful.

But, despite the aesthetically pleasing orange/blue colour scheme that the film’s lighting uses, it still somehow looks really heavy and gothic.

The film’s story and pacing are also fairly good too. Although the film starts out with a number of story threads, they all gradually converge together fairly well as the film progresses. Likewise, although the film has a very slightly slower pace than you might expect from a monster movie, this fits in very well with the heavy, gothic and sombre atmosphere of the film. Best of all, at 101 minutes in length, this film is still just about short enough to remain focused and compelling throughout.

Likewise, the film’s characters are all really good. Many of the characters are somewhat understated and realistic, which really helps to immerse the audience into the events of the film.

In other words, it’s a horror movie where the main characters are sensible people.

Even when the main characters are confronted with the giant insects, they will often react to this in a realistic way (eg: hiding, planning, fighting only when absolutely necessary etc..). Even during the film’s two most dramatic action sequences, you really get the sense that Tyler and Mann are only resorting to such spectacular heroics because they genuinely think that they won’t survive (and either want to take the insects with them and/or protect the life of someone else).

Although the film’s main twist is probably at least vaguely well-known by now, it is still a surprisingly inventive – if far-fetched – one. Basically, due to their accelerated evolution, the bugs are now the size of humans. And, as both a protection and hunting mechanism, they have developed the ability to crudely mimic the appearance of humans by using a bony, skull-like mask that grows from two of their legs.

And, given how gloomy the film is, this disguise probably actually works.

As the title suggests, this theme of mimicry runs throughout the film – whether it is the fact that the geneticists try to mimic nature near the beginning of the film, or the fact that Chuy often tries to communicate with the giant bugs by mimicking their strange chattering noises (which, in turn, could be their attempt at imitating the cries of those they devour), or the fact that the main characters’ main defence against the giant insects is fooling them by using a scent gland from a dead insect etc..

This film is about the imperfections and dangers inherent in copying something you don’t understand (eg: Chuy thinks that the insects are friendly because he can “talk” with them, but he soon learns otherwise when his grandfather is devoured by one of them). This theme also evokes Freud’s concept of “The Uncanny” quite often too and this theme of imperfect copying is one of the things that really adds a lot of horror to the film.

The special effects in this film are surprisingly good, considering that it is a mid-budget film from a little over two decades ago. First of all, the pyrotechnics in one scene are absolutely spectacular.

So many explosions! I can’t believe it isn’t a Michael Bay film!

Plus, although there is an obvious CGI insect in one scene, many of the effects are gooey, slimy and/or grotesque practical effects. This really helps out a lot with the “gross out” elements of the film’s horror and it really helps to create the feeling that the characters are stepping into an alien-like insect colony when they venture into the stygian depths of New York’s abandoned subway tunnels.

Ah, good old 90s CGI – so wonderfully cartoonish.

Seriously, these practical effects look so much creepier!

And, yes, this film is filled with slime, gunge, gunk, ichor and sludge aplenty!

Musically, this film is reasonably good and, although I didn’t really notice the music that much, it certainly seemed to add to the film’s brooding, creepy and grim atmosphere.

All in all, this is a very well-made horror movie. It contains lots of thematic complexity, realistic characters, atmosphere and creepiness. It is a very unique and imaginative film that gets as much of it’s horror from the general atmosphere and emotional tone of the film as it does from the actual “monsters” in the film.

However, it isn’t really the kind of fun, cheesy monster movie that I really enjoy. Yes, it has a lot of artistic merit and it is very well-made, well-written and well-directed. But, it isn’t really “fun” in the way that a monster movie should be. Still, if you want a more “serious” example of the genre, then you can’t go wrong with “Mimic”.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four and half on artistic and narrative grounds. But, again, it isn’t a “fun” monster movie.

Today’s Art (28th June 2018)

Today’s digitally-edited painting (which also comes in a non-rainy version too) is a modern remake of an old painting of mine from 2016. I’d been meaning to remake this painting for a while, but I only eventually got around to it because I was feeling extremely uninspired.

Surprisingly, the modern remake actually turned out a lot better than I’d expected. Initially, I worried that it’d look worse than the old version from 2016, but I guess that I’ve learnt more about lighting, image editing and drawing than I thought I had.

As usual, this painting (and the non-rainy version too) is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“At Midnight (II)” By C. A. Brown

Three Reasons Why The Monster Genre Is Brilliant

Well, during one of my 1990s film reviews a few days ago, I was reminded of how much fun the monster genre is. Seriously, as horror sub-genres go, it’s certainly one of my favourites.

So, I thought that I’d list a few of the many reasons why the monster genre is such a fun, interesting and distinctive part of the horror genre.

1) Non-scary horror: Simply put, monsters aren’t scary. Like zombies and vampires, they don’t actually exist in real life.

What this means is that when you watch a monster movie or read a monster-themed horror novel, then you get to see all of the techniques, features and tropes of the horror genre (eg: suspense, gore, melodrama etc..) but without any of the lingering fear that accompanies more “realistic” or more psychological horror stories.

I’ve written about non-scary horror before, but some of the reasons why this is such a fun type of horror include the fact that it makes the audience feel like they’re really “tough” (since they’re experiencing something in the horror genre, but aren’t terrified by it) and the fact that it can often turn into an absolutely brilliant type of horror-themed comedy. After all, if you’re seeing all of the tropes and features of the horror genre in a context that isn’t scary, then they can come across as hilariously melodramatic.

In addition to this, the monster genre is also a “safe” way to experience something in the horror genre. One of the problems with more “serious” horror is that it can often leave you feeling nervous and/or miserable for hours or days afterwards. The monster genre has none of that. Even if a monster story ends with the monster eating the main characters or wiping out civilisation, then it’s still funny rather than scary because of the unrealistic silliness of it all. So, it’s a way to enjoy the horror genre without any negative emotional side-effects.

2) Disaster without the disaster: Another cool thing about the monster genre is that it allows the audience to experience all of the thrilling elements of the disaster genre, without any of the real-world “it could happen” seriousness that accompanies things in this genre.

Although some things in the monster genre are supposed to be metaphors for real-world threats (eg: Godzilla was originally meant to be a metaphor for the atom bomb), this subtext often doesn’t appear in the monster genre.

Even so, the monster genre has a lot in common with the disaster genre. Whether it is an intrepid band of survivors trying to survive against all odds, or a group of experts trying to contain a disease-like group of creatures or the military/emergency services doing their job in a spectacular way, the monster and disaster genres are very similar. But, since the monster genre involves hilariously unrealistic giant creatures, all of these elements become joyously thrilling rather than dramatically serious.

In addition to this, monster stories often end with the monster being defeated or scared away. Given that the news is often filled with terrible events that we have no control over, seeing a story where some kind of calamity or catastrophe is defeated through ingenuity, courage and/or strength can be fairly satisfying on an emotional level.

3) No pretentiousness: Yet another awesome thing about the monster genre is that it knows that it is meant to be silly fun. It isn’t trying to win awards or impress pretentious critics, it exists purely to entertain. And it is so much better as a result!

Because it isn’t looking for formal mainstream recognition, the monster genre has a lot more room to be inventive, silly and fun. It’s like American horror comics during the 1940s-50s or computer games during the 1990s. This generally results in a much more light-hearted tone, an emphasis on fun and a lot more creativity.

The low filming budgets and/or lack of bestseller status mean that works in the monster genre have to find more creative ways to intrigue or entertain the audience. It also means that they can be a bit more fun or light-hearted, since their target audience consists of fans of the genre.

This lack of pretentiousness also extends to a lack of obsession about celebrity too, which is very refreshing when compared to mainstream culture. Things in the monster genre will often be by lesser-known authors (with a dedicated fan-base) or they’ll include unknown actors and/or actors who are less famous than they used to be. And, in a world that is obsessed with fame, this can be extremely refreshing.

————

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂