“The Invisible Man”: The Dudebro Who Wasn’t There

Invisible Man!

She seeks him here, she seeks him there, she seeks that rascal everywhere!

I wasn’t instantly sold on writer/director Leigh Whannell’s revival of The Invisible Man. I saw the Claude Rains version over forty years ago on late-night TV, courtesy of our local horror-host Sammy Terry, but I’ve never revisited it since. I’d seen none of Whannell’s films to date, though Upgrade is on my to-do list. When this was first announced years ago as an entry in Universal’s “Dark Universe” plan to imitate Marvel’s success at interlocking products, I scoffed and moved on. I assumed the eventual results would be a muddled waste of time.

Two developments in its favor convinced me to give it a try: Elizabeth Moss, who was always great on Mad Men and deeply disturbing in Jordan Peele’s Us; and unusually positive word-of-mouth. Horror films aren’t an easy sell for me, but the glowing reviews weren’t the usual fans raving about super awesome epic kills. The trailer telegraphed some of the zeitgeist-eriffic themes at play, and yet I was curious to know more.

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“Doctor Sleep”: Terms of Psychic Warfare

Doctor Sleep!

“After that night, I could never watch The Tonight Show again.”

I read The Shining during my big Stephen King phase back in high school. devouring nearly all his books from Carrie up through Gerald’s Game. I’ve run across Stanley Kubrick’s version countless times in TV reruns over the years and I think I’ve seen the entire film, but never in one uninterrupted, sequential sitting….though I did catch the 2013 documentary Room 237, which tabulated conspiracy theories about Kubrick’s deep, dark, double-secret meanings with which the film was allegedly fraught if you paid more attention to the backgrounds than to the actors.

Decades later, King returned to the remains of the Torrance family with the sequel novel Doctor Sleep, which I haven’t read. The sequel film it inspired from writer/director Mike Flanagan (Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) was escorted surreptitiously into theaters in the middle of an unusually packed November release schedule, then quietly ushered out the back doors, as if it were trying to escape the spotlight before Jack Nicholson came after it with an ax. As we prepare to trudge defensively into this long weekend in which internet folks will be slap-fighting over sequels that cling slavishly to their 40-year-old progenitors, why not pause and pay respects to a sequel that struck a dexterous balance between old confections and new directions.

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“IT Chapter 2”: That Previous Evil Clown Movie Before the Next Evil Clown Movie

IT CHAPTER 2!

No, I am not ready to let go our our Dragon Con 2019 memories or souvenirs yet, thanks for asking.

My Stephen King phase lasted from roughly 1986 to 1993, and began when a late-night cable viewing of Christine spooked me so much that I checked out the novel from my junior high school’s library. Having consumed that, I resolved to catch ’em all. To an extent I inherited the fixation from my mom, whose all-time favorite novel is The Stand. I proceeded to read every novel from Carrie through Gerald’s Game, skipping only The Dark Tower series because the first one was impossible to find when my King spree began. (Drifting away from King’s work wasn’t his fault exactly. 1993 was among my darkest years.)

Though I do have my favorites among them, I have a particularly fond memory of the It reading experience. I sat down one evening with the 1000-page paperback edition and proceeded to devour the first 500 in one go. At 6 a.m. my grandma got up for breakfast and was quite surprised to see I hadn’t gone to bed yet. I haven’t done that in ages and would dearly love to have the free time and concentration power to devote to any task for that many hours in a row at my age. I blame the internet.

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Our HorrorHound Indianapolis 2019 Photo Album

Patrick Wilson!

Patrick Wilson and me, posing for a TV Guide ad for our new CBS procedural dramedy.

Saturday marked our fifth trip to HorrorHound Indy, an annual Indianapolis convention in honor of the scary, bloody, icky, haunting, stabbing, disturbing, black-garbed aspects of pop culture. The folks at HorrorHound Magazine orchestrate the festivities so loyal fans of the murderous and the macabre can enjoy a themed geek space of their own apart from Star Wars and Star Trek and whatnot. (Well, mostly.) As we’ve gotten older and more puritanical, our touchpoints with horror, terror, and gross-outs have dwindled in number compared to the average attendee, but the intersections between their guest list and our favorite worlds continue to delight and surprise and draw us back into their waiting wings.

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Our Dark Summertime Binge: Hulu’s “Light as a Feather”

Light as a Feather!

Once again McKenna (Liana Liberato) faces DEATH FROM ABOVE! OR AT LEAST SCARINESS!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: with weeks to go till vacation and no pressing obligations, my wife Anne and I have been bingeing a few different shows together, while I’ve done some additional grim watching on the side. Certainly not through careful planning on our part, each of the shows has had their own depressing and/or tragic aspects. As I wrote at the time, Veronica Mars season 4 fit right in once we finished the finale. The Netflix documelodrama The Last Czars couldn’t help but depress with its take on Russia’s traumatic early-20th-century history, though it would prove the most unintentionally funny show we’ve seen in ages about war, revolution, murder, and gloomy orgies.

Meanwhile on Hulu, I caught a supernatural thriller in its second season that was easily the youngest-skewing show I watched this summer, possibly this year. But I had a pretty good reason.

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“Us”: Revenge of the Duality of Man

Lupita Nyong'o!

Now I’m imagining a do-over of 12 Years a Slave in which this version of Lupita Nyong’o turns Michael Fassbender into so much whittling scrap.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: once upon a time in 2002 I once spent most of a museum walk expounding at length on how virtually every piece of art in front of me, no matter how abstract or realistic or kitschy or modern, could in some way be deconstructed into a metaphor for the Duality of Man. It’s not hard. Take a thing, figure out a way to chop it into two warring halves like you’re Karnak of the Inhumans teaching a philosophy class, and presto. You’ve just written some tenth-grader’s literature report. It was fun till I began annoying myself and possibly our friends.

Leave it to Jordan Peele to follow up his Best Picture nominee Get Out with an unofficial adaptation of my blathering seventeen years later as the raging box office smash Us. It’s about time someone better than me did this.

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Our HorrorHound Cincinnati 2019 Last-Minute Photo Parade

chibi-Devil's Rejects!

Say hi to Chibi-Captain Spaudling and Chibi-Otis B. Driftwood from Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.

Convention season is here again!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last year we attended our first HorrorHound Cincinnati, an annual convention in honor of the scary, icky, disturbing, stabby, psychotropic aspects of pop culture. The folks at HorrorHound Magazine orchestrate the festivities so loyal fans of the deadly and the dead can enjoy a themed geek space of their own apart from Star Wars and Star Trek and whatnot. (Well, mostly.) We’ve attended four of the same company’s HorrorHound Indy shows in our own hometown because, even though horror isn’t a primary focus for our entertainment habits, their overseers have a flair for assembling a top-notch guest list filled with actors we’ve seen in a lot of great works throughout our lives…and who also just so happen to have one or more Halloween-apropos movies or TV shows among their IMDb credits.

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Our HorrorHound Cincinnati 2018 Photo Mini-Parade

C. Thomas Howell!

For our Gen-X pals out there: C. Thomas Howell kicks off our 2018 convention season in style.

This weekend my wife Anne and I attended our first HorrorHound Cincinnati, an annual convention in honor of the spooky, bloody, gross, unsettling, slashing, nightmare-inducing, id-tastical aspects of pop culture. The folks at HorrorHound Magazine orchestrate the festivities so loyal fans of the murderous and the macabre can enjoy a themed geek space of their own apart from Star Wars and Star Trek and whatnot. (Well, mostly.) We’ve attended four of the same company’s last five HorrorHound Indy shows in our own hometown because, even though we’ve detached from much the genre as we’ve gotten older and finickier, their showrunners have a flair for assembling a top-notch guest list filled with actors we’ve seen in a lot of great works throughout our lives…and who also happened to have one or more scary movies or TV shows on their resumé. Win-win.

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Our HorrorHound Indy 2017 Photo Parade

Sean Astin!

After the destruction of the One Ring, Samwise Gamgee enjoyed an extravagant victory tour and vaudeville revue.

Saturday marked our fourth trip to HorrorHound Indy, an annual Indianapolis convention in honor of the scary, bloody, icky, haunting, stabbing, disturbing, black-garbed aspects of pop culture. The folks at HorrorHound Magazine orchestrate the festivities so loyal fans of the murderous and the macabre can enjoy a themed geek space of their own apart from Star Wars and Star Trek and whatnot. (Well, mostly.) As we’ve gotten older and more puritanical, our touchpoints with horror, terror, and gross-outs have dwindled in number compared to the average attendee, but the intersections between their guest list and our favorite worlds continue to delight and surprise and draw us back into their waiting wings.

Exhibit A: this year’s reunion of three cast members from The Goonies, which they’ve ruled is sufficiently spooky and/or contains enough human skeletons to be on-topic. You might remember Mikey, the asthmatic yet fearless leader who guided our heroes through convoluted clues, deadly booby traps, and the clutches of the wicked Fratelli family to find hidden pirate treasure and give someone in Hollywood the idea to go make National Treasure someday. I saw The Goonies in theaters when I was 13, a year younger than Mikey. Little did I know he would grow up to be Sean Astin — underdog football winner, savior of Middle-Earth, and sidekick to Encino Man. Bonus points to the esteemed Mr. Astin for very nearly guessing my age, and not just because I look it more than ever.

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The 60-Minute Speed-Conventioning Challenge

Lance Henriksen!

We had an idea in mind of how today would go. A small Indianapolis convention had brought in a handful of actors of varying levels of fame and importance. In my mind one of the biggest was Lance Henriksen — Bishop from Aliens and Alien³, one of several cops from The Terminator, star of the X-Files spinoff Millennium, costar of the southern-vampire cult classic Near Dark, and other stuff I’m forgetting. With a geek resumé like that, I anticipated waiting a few hours or more for the chance to say hi.

VIPs could enter the con at 10 a.m. When the general public was ushered in promptly at 11, we were third in his line. That seemed wrong. If we had known how quickly we’d finish the rest of my to-do list, maybe we would’ve taken a closer look at the photo, noticed his blinking, and asked humbly for a retake. Who knew.

Right this way for photos and a super-short convention round-up!

How Far Would You Go to Meet Willie from “V”?

My wife has always been a big fan of the 1983 TV miniseries V and its 1984 sequel, V: the Final Battle. She could take or leave the short-lived series that followed, and she had no interest in sampling the recent failed reboot.

Veterans of V are an extreme rarity at local geek conventions. Until tonight she’d only met its star, Marc Singer, several years ago at a Trek con that was generous enough to incorporate other sci-fi universes. While it was interesting for us to see the original Beastmaster up close, he was never her favorite V character. Whenever she waxes nostalgic about the show, her narrative sooner or later turns to the subplot of Willie, the humble alien Visitor who would betray his race, join the human resistance, provide comic relief, and lend the show some much-appreciated heart. He may not have been a he-man like Singer, but I’ll admit he stood out in every episode I saw when she introduced me to their world.

This weekend that particular actor is in town, headlining a convention that’s been around for a few years. We’ve never attended it before because its primary focus really isn’t our thing. After weeks of hemming and hawing over whether or not this was a suitable idea for us, ultimately we had to ask ourselves: how many other chances will she have to meet him?

It’s in that spirit, after no small amount of deliberation, that we endured wretched construction traffic and the world’s ickiest dealer booths to grant her not-dying wish of meeting the man who brought Willie to life.

Many of you know him better for his movie work, including one specific character ten thousand times more well-known than Willie.

Robert Englund, HorrorHound Indy 2013

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