The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Horrors

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Joaquín Cociña & Cristóbal León The Wolf House, 2021
‘Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León descend into the psychologically disturbing world of a child escaped from religious fanatics in their feature-length film The Wolf House. Layered with audio of unsettling voices and the quiet mutterings of a young girl, the grotesque animation seamlessly blends horror and documentary as it recounts some of the tragedies of the Colonia Dignidad, the post-World War II colony that was established by Germans and Chileans under the dictatorial rule of General Augusto Pinochet. Founded in 1961, the isolated area was infamous for torture, internment, and murder, and The Wolf House showcases its impact on a child who takes refuge in a strange house.’

 

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Martin Abasi Phiri Casket II, 1996
Casket II was made out of metal fluorescent light tube holders. They were welded into a full-sized casket with a proper window and a lid that could be opened for viewing the face of a corpse. In the casket, Martin Phiri cast his own face and placed it wrapped in a white cloth just as a funeral parlor prepares a body for burial. He touched it up with some oil paint to achieve the real complexion of a dead body. Since Phiri was an accomplished portrait painter in oils, it was not difficult for him to create a realistic self-portrait. The casket was accompanied by a video of mourners, mostly footage Phiri had captured at funerals for relatives. It showed women moving past the casket, looking down into it in the local body-viewing custom. Among them was his wife bursting in to tears. With this work, Phiri had in effect made his wife a widow, a taboo within the moralistic beliefs of Zambia’s collective ethnic communities. Even in a post-modernist context, the work crossed the line of accepted societal norms, deconstructing cultural stereotypes. Asked about why he had created the work, Phiri would simply answer: “I wanted to see how I would look in a coffin and how people would mourn me.”’

 

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Andrea Mastrovito Night of The Living Dead, 2021
‘Andrea Mastrovito is an Italian multimedia artist and filmmaker based in New York who communicates with his audience through the reinvention of drawing. In “I Am Not Legend”, Mastrovito recreated George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead” using a new screenplay composed entirely of quotes from famous books, films, and other sources.’

 

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Carrie Reichardt Pinky and Perky, 2014
‘Art that can be appreciated by the visually impaired that can be touched, heard and smelled. Anyone fondling Pinky and Perky sight unseen, however, is likely to leap back in shock. The piece has two startlingly realistic latex pigs heads, flaunted as breasts by an antique tailor’s dummy – though the artist has also offered to model them herself for special occasions.’

 

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Herschell Gordon Lewis Color Me Blood Red, 1965
Color Me Blood Red is a 1965 splatter film written and directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis about a psychotic painter who murders people and uses their blood as paint.’

 

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Oleg Vdovenko MAKING OFF, 2019
‘Oleg Vdovenko is a Russian artist who creates nightmarishly realistic horror illustrations and videos. Besides his prints and videos, the successful artist is currently working on a first-person horror game titled ILL. under Team Clout. ‘

 

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Tomoo Gokita Various, 2008 – 2015
‘You can do incredible violence with a painting, with a stroke you can mutilate. The horror film and the painter implement similar meat. […] Watch a body be melted, a face cleaved. A flower erupts a deformity or berries, it’s difficult to tell, something the horror film cannot do: a painting’s wayward stroke contains an ambiguity that is interpretable.’

 

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Sarah Sitkin BODYSUITS, 2018
‘The Bodysuits are modeled after real people, using unbelievable precision to present a hyperrealistic representation of human bodies, in an effort to intentionally subvert boundaries and privacy to provoke recognition in the shared human experience. Visitors are invited to wear the suits, and in doing so, emphasize, confront, and reevaluate the judgement they hold towards others’ bodies and their own.’

 

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Heike Kabisch frothing, you and I, 2019
‘Last summer, at Berlin’s Chert Lüdde, a show by German artist Heike Kabisch was comprised of sculptures of headless bodies, mingled with plastic bags and shredded paper, on filthy mattresses under reddish light – a sort of crepuscular, fearful makeout scene seemingly tugged up from some dank, pained substratum of the mind.’

 

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Hugh Hayden Hedges, 2019.
Sculpted wood, lumber, hardware, mirror and carpet

 

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Agnieszka Smoczyńska The Lure, 2015
‘Polish stylish dark fantasy synth-pop musical with grotesque elements belonging to the body horror genre.’

 

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Mary Ellen Mark Halloween, South Bronx H.E.L.P. Shelter, New York, 1993
Gelatin silver print

 

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Wong Ping Crumbling Earwax, 2022
‘Three machines shoot ping pong balls to the gigantic copper-made ear sculpture in the center of the space. Every single ball that bounces back creates a religious bell-like sound. Balls that fail to pass through the earhole represent the words that I could barely listen to. Rocks are crumbling, and my murmurs from the video leak out from the basement. There, a single ping pong machine repeatedly shoots at a wall. Balls that touch the ground become earwax. The echoes of their bounces create tinnitus.’

Watch an excerpt here

 

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Alex Ayed Untitled (Kercha), 2018
‘An enormous lump of green olive oil soap, shaped into a man’s sturdy legs morphing into a kind of twisting giant reaching for the low-slung ceiling. The work was later moved into storage and eventually broken down and used by a caretaker to bathe.’

 

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Stefan Koidl The Children, 2017- 2021
‘Stefan Koidl is a freelance illustrator and Krampus mask carver living in Hallein, Austria. The artist was interested in drawing monsters, undead and ghosts since childhood, but professionally engaged in their favorite business just four years ago.’

 

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Monica Cook Milk Tooth, 2016
‘The narrative of “Milk Tooth” unfolds on split screens, with one side chronicling the efforts of a male humanoid (Valentino) to reach and revive the object of his affections, the female figure (Tish) on the other screen. She has gone into a deep slumber after sacrificing a pig-like creature in order to retrieve from one of the ears of corn in its belly a new silver tooth for Valentino. To repay the gesture, he washes Tish’s feet in a basin of milk extracted from the udders of a cow corpse that she brings back to life. A half-maternal, half-sexual exchange of milky fluids between Tish and Valentino results in the laying of a fertilized egg.’

 

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Joël Andrianomearisoa There Might Be No Other Place In The World As Good As Where I’m Going To Take You, 2020
‘So the pieces are just a proposal to… I don’t know, I’m inviting you to go somewhere, but the idea of going somewhere, it’s actually there is no destination and I’m insisting on this idea that there is no geography. But the real geography is actually our body and the other person. It’s why I did this labyrinth made with the different fabrics, different levels, different types of fabric – some of them are very transparent, some of them are some patterns – but I just invite you to work through and to experiment a different emotion.’

 

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Fábio Magalhãe O Grande Corpo, 2008
‘By exposing the viewer to images of brutalized body parts, Magalhães is also asking the viewer to question what it means to be human. He has divested the human body from its imposed religious, psychological, historical, and personal significance to question what makes our existence different from any other animal if all we are is the same flesh and bone?’

 

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Fermata Arts Foundation Brentwood, no. 24, 2013
‘The house isn’t a murderer’s lair, a horror set, or a Hellmouth. In fact, it’s a work of art by Fermata Arts Foundation, founded in 2008 by artist Nikolay Synkov, who says that its mission is “to aid in the preservation of peace” through “the synthesis of art, architecture, philosophy and poetry.” Synkov, who designed and lived in the house, had a lofty vision for his work. Synkov describes himself as a devotee of painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky, and cites the introduction of Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” as an inspiration for “Brentwood, no. 24.” “Every work of art is the child of its age and, in many cases, the mother of our emotions,” the introduction begins. Perhaps that’s the reason the place looks like a uterus with problems. Like many artists, it appears that Synkov is unappreciated in his own time. According to Zillow, the Brentwood house was listed at $1.4 million dollars in March 2013, and by September 2016 it was down to $339,900.’

 

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Malcolm Le Grice Horror Film 1, 1971
‘This performance was first presented in 1971. It involves three 16mm projectors, each with a short loop of full-screen, changing colours. They are projected onto the same screen – the centre image large and the two side images smaller and superimposed into the centre of the larger screen. The performance is concerned with the presence of the body and its complex colour shadows. The action begins with touching the screen and – passing through the space of the audience – it ends at the projectors. The action is timed to an audio tape of breathing. Though improvised in detail to fit the particular time and place, the action follows a consistent pattern that has changed little since the first performance.’

 

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Jack Warne Rtapte, 2021
‘These abstract paintings come to life when you scan them with your phone, and it takes you to a nightmarish jolting image and noises more at home in a horror movie. It’s all very intense and unsettling in this creative take on painting, which is based on the artist’s own experience of growing up with a hereditary disease that causes blindness.’

See it in action here

 

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Susanne M. Winterling TEMPERATE. under your skin, nano carriers through the web, 2021
‘A fluorescent bacterium is the protagonist of Susanne M. Winterling’s installation TEMPERATE. Visitors meet the glowing bacterium in an exhibition room heated to body temperature. The bacterium, equipped with a nanobackpack filled with therapeutic agents, is making its way through tissue, just like in a video game. Inspired by, among other things, pathbreaking research in biomedical technology, which for years has worked to develop drug-loaded nanocarriers, Winterling effects a radical change in perspective on nano-organisms. These entities that are invisible to the naked eye are the stars of TEMPERATE: Magnified many times over and larger than the exhibition visitors, the luminescent bacterium is moving across two monumental projection surfaces.’

 

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Patricia Larocque Various, 2020 – 2021
‘Patricia Larocque is a Canadian embroidery artists currently struggling in Lyon, France. She works from her home studio which is really just her kitchen table let’s be real. She currently enjoys creating anxiety ridden patches that are close to life representations of herself and her daily life.’

 

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Erik & Nils Petter Sinking, 2016
‘When passersby noticed the face of a child submerged beneath the water in Mälmo, Sweden, they thought he had drowned, and called the authorities. After a number of such calls, the police realized the child in the water was actually a cardboard cutout, sunken in place by artists Erik Vestman and Nils Petter (who hadn’t bothered to seek official permission for the installation.) The little boy’s face was mounted to plywood with floatation devices beneath it. The artists wore wetsuits and snorkels to drop the lines that hold it in place; it lasted about a week.’

 

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Miwa Yanagi Fairy Tales, 2004 – 2005
‘Miwa Yanagi focuses on the relationship between young girls and older women. As a point of departure, she starts with the often gruesome, violent and cruel European versions of tales by the Brothers Grimm. Etched into our collective memories, the photographer’s images examine and twist the mythologies further using masks, wigs, mixed race models and female children dressed as older women.’

 

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Mike Heynes SCHLOCK! HORROR! Death of a B-Movie Empire, 2005
‘Heynes has described the ostensible intent of objects as the source of their repulsion. Rather than being gruesome in themselves, cheap horror movies’ attempts to scare and disgust, knowingly tacky yet relishing in the reactions they can elicit, are what make them so creepy.’

 

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Agata Kus ALEKSANDER (after Fanny and Alexander), 2015
oil on canvas

 

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Vinyl terror & horror Studiomix, 2012
‘Cut up and mistreated records looping and creaking from dust and sloppy treatment. Pick-up`s being pushed disrespectfully over grooves. Records spinning backwards and forwards while played from multible pick-ups simultaniously. Meanwhile the lady in stilletoes just keep onwalking down the stairs. Repetitive arrangements, dark sounds, neck breaking mixes, film-amateur sound effects, scratches, quieks, vinyls, terror and horror.’

 

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Alejandro Almanza Pereda Horror Vacui, 2017
‘The series’ title, ‘horror vacui’ – ‘fear or dislike of empty spaces’ – refers to a traditional visual technique of filling a pictorial plane’s negative space with detail. The installation sets an idyllic view of nature against the corrosive and relentless process of humans shaping geography to their will. It also points to the covering up of history, the translation of values across time, and changes in taste, from the once-aspirational hand-crafted painting to the concrete that – although once employed for its inexpensiveness and ease of construction – is used today within contemporary, minimal ‘design’ interiors at a high cost. Perhaps this too will fade.’

 

 

 

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Hananuma Masakichi Untitled, 1884
‘When Japanese artist Hananuma Masakichi found out that he was dying of tuberculosis in 1885, he did what any of us would do in that situation: He created a perfect replica of his body to leave to the woman he loved. Masakichi worked in a room full of adjustable mirrors to document and sculpt every inch of his body, right down to the veins and the pores, using between 2,000 and 5,000 little strips of dark wood joined together with pegs, glue and dovetail joints. No seams can be seen, even with a magnifying glass. In order to make his duplicate as accurate as possible, Masakichi began pulling out his own hair, and that includes the pubes, and nails and stuck them at the same points on the sculpture, going as far as to drill tiny holes on its surface to represent the exact pores he’d just grabbed the little hairs from. He even pulled out his own teeth and put them on his double. And then, after all that effort, the tuberculosis didn’t even have the decency to kill him: Instead, his girlfriend left him and he died 10 years later, broke, unhappy and toothless.’

 

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Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen Broken Telephone, 2021
Broken telephone is a site-specific sound installation created for the red warehouse. Fragments of impressions from the harbor transform into a fictional abstract narrative told through objects, actions and sound. Here, stories about the harbor, both the fictional ones based on scrap, deck tracks, etc., and stories from the harbor’s users, are woven in and out of each other. The speakers appear as distinctive characters, each with their aesthetic expression and personality. Sound waves through the installation, distorted step by step. In interplay with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a fishing rod, they play the familiar whispering game, where all recognizability seeps out and new meanings emerge.’

 

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Aleksandra Waliszewska Various, 2012 – 2018
‘I have a billion paints, a trillion art albums, and a hoarding problem. I start a new painting almost every day, but it’s hard for me to describe my process more closely. What I do originates mostly from my fascination with the art of the past. Art has only become worse and worse. Despite this hopeless situation, I still paint, so the audience can at least find something new and interesting in my work,” she said. “Usually, though they’re disappointed.’

 

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Matthew Day Jackson Me, dead at … , 2009 – 2011
‘Burning on the stake, wrapped up, high in the treetops or fed to the birds: Like a mantra, Matthew Day Jackson stages his death year after year, always according to a different funeral rite. The reason is his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, which made the artist contemplate his mortality since 2006. This drastic finding instigates Day Jackson’s exceptional occupation with the disintegration of his body.’


Me, dead at 35


Me, dead at 36


Me, dead at 37

 

 

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p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi!!! I thought so, ha ha. Thanks, it wasn’t bloodless, but it got done. For the home haunt in the film, we have a particular haunt sketched out in the script, but, until we find the house location and how it’s organised inside, we can’t settle on anything. So it’s pretty open. We just want it to look handmade and on a household budget. Zac and I will be in LA for Halloween, so we’re going to do a tour of home haunts with our production designer so he can see what they’re like — the designer we’re thinking of working with has designed a professional haunted attraction but doesn’t know home haunts very well — and tell him what we like/want. We have some motifs we want to use but in terms of the decorations and decor, it’s still rather open at the moment. And of course it’ll depend on what’s available and what we can afford. Eek, then the gorilla suit was refrigerated, let’s say. Yuck, that’s horrible. Our heat is going back up later this week. I hope love went in your place yesterday, but I’m fearing he didn’t. So, how boring was it? Love removing the song ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ from every human’s memory and especially from Bob Dylan’s so he’ll never write it, G. ** Jack Skelley, Yep, me too, maestro. It was a blast seeing and confabbing with you, duh. ** Misanthrope, Yeah, I mean, I love the dead Paul McCartney conspiracy stuff and Elvis is still alive and even reptilian shapeshifters but the pea-brained paranoia-based stuff is too embarrassing. Presumably you’re post-ro today, yes? I’m glad it was breezy, assuming you weren’t in agony and just being all stiff upper lipped. My weekend was … I don’t even remember, so presumably okay. ** Russ Healy, Hi, Russ. Well, if you’re ever in the mood, I would give ‘Face/Off’ a try. It’s pretty awesome, and the deadly duo are as doable on the acting front as they could be. Thanks about ‘Wrong’. Well, thanks to Diarmuid Hester since I had nothing to do with it other than a few conversations I had with him. Oh, sorry, I’ve been completely brain-maxxed-out until just the other day by intensive fundraising fort Zac’s and my new film and my email was a victim. I’ll go find the email today. Thanks, and sorry for the delay. Happy week ahead! ** _Black_Acrylic, Woo is the big dumb action film Zeus, I think. Happy about Leeds’s good start. And about your phone transcending its original purpose. ** Mieze, Hi! I totally agree, and, hm, a slogan, yes, it needs a good slogan. Sloganeering is an art, so … Our weekend was pretty temperate, thanks, I guess, to Switzerland’s winds. But the heat will be creeping higher with every day that passes this week, so I wish luck supreme to us both. Love, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you for the nuggets. ‘A House is Not A Home’ is a sublime song. ** l@rst, I so agree with you, buddy. ** Bill, Hi. I can’t say it was smooth, but I survived, and my forehead has a large new wrinkle. There are people who always insist on imagining that deep things must exist in things that are great enough on their surface as to make one realise that so-called ‘depth’ is just a bad habit. Or something. It’s all about good bone structure. Obvious, but it’s true. Doughy beauty is a ticking time bomb. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, trust your meds, I guess? Or your doctor, I guess? ‘Paycheck’ and ‘Windtalkers’ are not good. ‘Red Cliff’ was something of a comeback. I like the razzle dazzle aspects of Woo’s ‘Mission Impossible’, but, post-‘Face/Off’ he’s been pretty dreary. And now he’s remaking ‘The Killer’, which is just the stupidest idea ever. Wtf. Yeah, that kind of theory is fun galore. ** Okay. It’s a day for of horrors of this and that and the other kind for you today. See you tomorrow.

7 Comments

  1. Dominik

    Hi!!

    I always love your thematic posts, but this collection turned out especially great! The first Stefan Koidl piece is one of my favorites. And Sarah Sitkin’s Bodysuits are intriguing too. I’d really love to try them on. Thank you, thank you!

    Uh, I’m sorry about the not-so-bloodless stitch removal. I hope it’s all good now, healing up nice and fast.

    Yeah, this makes total sense – about the haunted house. Sounds like you have a pretty solid idea of what you want, and you’ll pick the details based on what’s available and manageable. Do you have specific home haunts you definitely want to show your production designer?

    Let’s just say that yesterday’s family visit was not something I’d like to repeat in the next 10–20 years, haha.

    Is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” one of those songs for you? May I ask love to remove “Forever Young” from the universe as well? Love asking Ryan Murphy to make the next season of “American Horror Story” as terrifying as Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León’s “The Wolf House,” Od.

  2. Billy

    Great post, one of my favourites. At one point in the first heatwave (for how long are we going to keep up this affectation of calling them heatwaves before we just admit we live in a hell of our own making and just call it ‘the heat’?) I was so underslept I started seeing shadowy figures on my vision (apparently its a thing, though whether they’re satanic taunters or dehydration, well who knows. No point being woo-woo and damned) so this post brought all that deeply scary shit back up. Great fun though, the wolf House thing, the Mastrovito and the Kus especially. Hope you’re triumphing everywhere x

  3. Gus Cali Girls

    Hi Dennis,

    Thanks as always for your posts! I’m visiting Melbourne right now for their international film festival (through some writing work I did years back I got a free pass for the whole thing) and I’ve been thinking of you with some of the screenings! I saw the new Lav Diaz film ‘History of Ha’ which I thought was quite interesting. It has some strange editing choices, but I really liked it and it was the first of his I’ve seen, and I thought you might enjoy since it’s about a ventriloquist who feels so hopeless he stops speaking and only talks through/as his puppet.

    I saw a video essay by this really great young English filmmaker Charlie Shackleton called ‘Afterlight’ that’s made up entirely of scenes with actors who’ve now died. He’s using massive amounts of archival material, but constructs a narrative out of these short clips that piece together in a way that reminded me quite a bit of your gif novels. I’d recommend you seek it out, but it’s a bit difficult since, as the work is about impermanence, it only exists on a single 35mm print.

    I just came back from a screening of Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s ‘Evolution’ today since their playing all her films as part of the festival. I’ve only seen ‘Innocence’ which I really liked but this one really blew my mind, I loved it so much. Have you seen it?

    Also loved you posting ‘Autonomy’ by Boy Harsher the other day, it’s been stuck in my head since it came out, such a sweet song.

    Hope you’re doing well, and sorry if this message is a bit rambling – I’ve been burning the candle at both ends a bit seeing all these movies and partying with friends so I’m a bit scatterbrained, writing this drunk and hungry in my sublet bed at 1am.

    As always, sending my best,
    Gus

  4. _Black_Acrylic

    So many great previously unseen Horrors today, so thank you for these! I remember John Waters being a particular fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis and a YouTube viewing of Color Me Blood Red seems a great place to start.

    Here at the East Leeds Recovery Hub I don’t have any access to Netflix right now, but my Anarcho-Punk friend Chris via Facebook recommends this new series Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 about the infamous event. I’m long over any festival attendance myself, so I do have a fondness for “festival hell” documentaries these days.

  5. Bill

    Gorgeous gallery today, Dennis. You probably know I’m a huge fan of The Wolf House. Those Yanagi photos are so creepy. I’m hanging with an interesting houseguest, will spend more time with this tomorrow…

    Bill

  6. Russ Healy

    Grande horreurs! Great post. I love the way you find really cool, obscure media and art. I used to love H G Lewis’ films (still do; it’s been awhile). They were best seen in a drive-in movie theater. I’m going to watch “The Wolf House.” No rush about the email – I’m sure you are busy. I understand busy! When you get to it I’d be curious if you have a thought or two about the paper. I will take your suggestion and watch “Face Off.” It’s an interesting premise, for sure. Take care, and thanks.

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