Monday, October 31, 2011

Back Off, SkinBag!

Faithful readers, I'm going to give you fair warning on this one: the images you're about to see are a little disturbing. If you have a weak stomach, a weak bladder or weak ankles, you may want to leave the room. Don't believe me? Fine, you've been warned. When I ran across this following product a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I didn't think it was real.

"What IS that?" you may be asking yourself. Well, I'll tell you. It's a laptop bag made out of HUMAN SKIN!!!!

Ok, so it isn't really human skin. But SkinBag, the company responsible for this monstrosity, is determined to make this synthetic material look and feel like human skin. Why? Well, this is how they explain it:

SkinBags are seamless body extensions made of synthetic skin and identifiable by
their wrinkled texture and organic appearance.

Like genuine external organs, the SkinBag bags incorporate our everyday
objects, anticipating the day when biology and digital will merge with pockets
for our electronic devices.

The TrackSuits give a new form of nudity to our social body. This second skin defines
the widened contours of the contemporary identities, including our clothes
and communication extensions of all kinds (money, keys, phones, organizers...).

As a carrier of mutation, the SkinBag symbolises the ambivalence between the basic
natural body, and the optimised prosthetic body.

The tactful alchemy of repulsion and attraction turns these sensual vehicles
into relational activators.

So, in other words, they're completely insane. Don't believe me? Wow, you really are an unbeliever today, aren't you? Well, here are a few of their other products, available on the SkinBag site:

"Smooth and moldable" Skin Blob Bean Bag: $2831
SkinBag Jacket: $849

Creepy Skinned Baby Head Bag: $708

Full Body Skin Suits: Subject to change according to market costs

SkinBag Toilet Paper - JUST FOR DECORATION!: Price unknown

SkinBag Wedding Dress: Price depends on measurements of the deeply disturbed bride.

Skin Burqa: $1274

Happy Halloween, faithful readers!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nine Film-caused Fears

Fear is an odd thing. I met someone the other day who had a fear of ketchup - not just a dislike of ketchup, mind you, a genuine phobia. It made me wonder about what causes fears and that led me to realize that many of the fears I have today are caused by something I saw in a movie or TV show. So, for this post I would like to talk about movie-created fears. I’m not talking about things like sharks, spiders or demonic possession - those things are all inherently scary. The kind of phobias I'm talking about are fears that people normally wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for things they’ve seen in movies. Things like. . .

  • Basements/Attics - If there's one place in your home that's haunted, it's probably the basement or the attic - at least, that's what movies want you to believe. We have been conditioned to believe that the highest and lowest points of our home are the creepiest. The scariest thing I've found in my basement so far is the occasional non-venomous spider and the most frightening thing in the attic is the possibility of inhaling fiberglass insulation. Yes, I still may run up the stairs when I leave the basement, but that's only the continuation of a childhood fear that pale, demonic children with black fingernails are going to grab my ankles - which was brought about because of a movie I saw on TV years ago.

  • Hockey Masks - I don't know anyone that is afraid of football helmets. Shin guards don't inspire fear and elbow pads don't make grown men tremble. However, because of the Friday the 13th series, the protective gear that hockey goalies used to wear on their face is forever associated with serial killers. An interesting fact is that Jason didn't even don his iconic mask until the third installment of the franchise, but he rarely goes without it these days. If you saw someone walking down a dark alley wearing one of these fiberglass masks, I can guarantee you would either quickly turn and walk the other way or wet yourself - and it's all because of movies.

  • Static on the Television - Truth be told, this film-created fear will probably soon be going away. Digital television signals have all but abolished a static signal on the TV, but, back in the day of analog television, it was a common occurrence. This "noise," as it is called in the nerd world is simply caused by electromagnetic signals prompted by cosmic microwave background radiation (duh!), but because of movies like Poltergeist and The Ring, static on the television makes us feel like something from the other side is trying to communicate with us or going to jump out of the TV and kill us. 

  • Showers - Showers have been a safe way of washing oneself since the times of the ancient Greeks. They didn't become commonplace until much later, but in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock took the safety and comfort of a nice, warm shower and stabbed it in the face. Since that time, showers have become a place of vulnerability, a place where you make a conscious effort to lock the door and a place where you constantly look over your shoulder to make sure no one is lurking behind the curtain. Semi-transparent shower curtains make this movie-created fear even more apparent. 

  • Motels - Speaking of Hitchcock, it used to be that a private, out-of-the-way motel off of the main road was a pleasant and welcome find. Nowadays, however, because of movies like Psycho, Vacancy and Identity, all these quaint establishments will get is a leery sideways glance as you hit the gas and speed on down the road to find a La Quinta Inn. In the past, people may have been worried about sleeping in dirty sheets or the occasional cockroach, but it is because of movies that solitary motels make us fear for our lives.

  • Summer Camps - Don't get me wrong, parents have always been concerned about sending their kids off to some random campground with a bunch of other kids. But there is a real difference between worrying your kid is going to get into mischief and worrying they are going to get impaled through the stomach with a fireplace poker. Movies like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp have made us believe that groups of youth gathered in the forest are a magnet for serial killers and monsters when, in fact, they're just a magnet for mosquitoes and minor misdemeanors.

  • Little Girls - Before movies and TV taught us otherwise, if we saw a little girl standing in a graveyard, crying, we would have run over to see what's wrong and tried to help. Additionally, the laugh of a little girl  used to brighten the room instead of bringing a chill to the air. But Hollywood has used the creepy little girl stereotype so often that people now assume any little girl in pigtails wearing an old-fashioned dress is a ghost or a demon. Don't believe the hype - I have a young daughter, and she's only evil 27% of the time.

  • Clowns - I put the blame for my fear of clowns (or "coulrophobia") squarely on the ruffled shoulders of Tim Curry, who's portrayal of the Stephen King character "Pennywise" haunted my nightmares for many years. Professional clown organizations have tried their best to fight against the Hollywood stereotype of these comic performers, but the influence of film and TV and their portrayal of evil clowns is much greater. Granted, there is something intrinsically unsettling about someone who has a permanent smile on their face, but most clowns are nice, personable people who just want to entertain kids and make a living - except for the ones who are serial killers (*cough*Pogo*cough*). 

  • Backseats of Cars - We've all seen that moment in a movie when the character gets into a car and thinks she is safe, only to have something large and evil pop up in the backseat. Because of this film trend, people tend to be afraid of the backseat of their car and may make cautious glances in the rear view mirror. However, if you think about it, backseats are highly visible locations. A quick glance though the windows as you're approaching the car will let you know if the ax murderer is really lurking back there, and most likely, he's not - he's waiting for you in the basement.

Now, before you faithful readers reply with a comment that says something like "CLOWNS ARE SCARY NO MATTER WHAT!!!", I want you to take a moment and trace back your fear for each of these items. I'll bet it originated with something media-related. Would you be really scared of any these things if it wasn't for movies and TV shows? Can you think of any other examples where Hollywood has taken something innocent and made it frightening? Do you have any other film-caused fears?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Till Undead Do You Part

Somehow it got out that I like zombies, so when these pictures came out in August, a number of faithful readers sent them my way. However, I felt that these were much better suited for an October post, so I patiently waited until now to put them on Slice of Fried Gold. Let's just say that Ben Lee, Juliana Park and Amanda Rynda are my new heroes. This is how you do engagement photos right!

It was just another day in Happy Engagement Photo Land.

Then, without warning, out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, a zombie (Jason Boesch) appeared on the horizon.

Juliana gasped in terror and Ben bore his teeth, attempting to show dominance to this intruding male.

Ben attempted to protect Juliana from Zombie Jason by punching her in the face.

But when the Zombie Jason began to attack Ben, Juliana fought to protect him.

Will Ben and Julia survive this zombie attack? Or will the zombie make this engagement shorter than a celebrity marriage? Well, you can find out by going to Amanda Rynda's blog and checking out the full story.

If only I had thought of this when I was engaged! Maybe I can talk my wife into re-doing our engagement photos. . .

Monday, October 10, 2011

Best Horror Movie Theme Songs

I'm a sucker for a soundtrack. The moment in Homeward Bound when ****spoiler alert**** Shadow finally comes over that hill ****end of spoiler**** probably wouldn't make me sob like a little child if it wasn't for the emotional soundtrack. Without a soundtrack, the training montages in Rocky would be less inspiring and more like an awkward series of grunts and yells. And without a soundtrack, horror movies would be about as frightening as one of the Twilight movies.

I kid. The Twilight series actually features pretty horrific acting. But while we've discussed horror movies before on Slice of Fried Gold, we've never really discussed horror movie music. . .UNTIL NOW!

Below are the theme songs that bring creepy images to mind, the ones that have become iconic and taken on a life of their own, the ones that, if they suddenly started playing while you were walking down a dark alley, might make you wet yourself. I have excluded some famous horror movie themes, such as:
 Nevertheless, here is my totally subjective list of the top ten best horror movie theme songs:

10. M ("In the Hall of the Mountain King") -  Edvard Grieg 

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" actually comes from Peer Gynt, which is a Norwegian play from the late 1800s. In the play, this song plays as the main character enters a realm of trolls and goblins. However, in the movie M, it is whistled by the main character whenever he is about to abduct and kill a child. It's actually one of the first times in film that a theme song has been associated with a character. This use of "leitmotif" (which is German for "milk mustache") would become a staple for future horror movies and it helped bring "In the Hall of the Mountain King" into the horror movie musical canon.

9. The Omen ("Ave Satani") - Jerry Goldsmith

I'll admit right now that I'm not a big fan of this movie, but the song is undeniably creepy. Gregorian chants always give me the shivers, but this one has a dark, sinister tone that crescendos into chaos. And then, when you realize that the Latin chants actually mean "Hail Satan," "Hail Anti-Christ" and "Elevate the body of Satan," that just makes the song even creepier. I wouldn't recommend playing this one at a Halloween party where children are present -- they may begin to convince other guests to jump off of the roof.

8. The Shining - Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind

As I was compiling this list of the best horror movie theme songs, I couldn't remember the music from The Shining. However, once I pulled up this song, it brought back a flood of creepy memories. This theme song was an adaptation of a song by Hector Berloiz, which was an adaptation of a 13th century hymn called "Dies Irae," which is Latin for "Yes, Latin is always creepy when its sung." This song has a great spooky-electric-organ feel and it is a great tune to play at a haunted house.

7. The Fog - John Carpenter

Not only was this film directed and co-written by John Carpenter, but he also composed the music. This theme song appropriately starts with a foghorn and then uses a fairly repetitive, yet effective, piano melody. It also has a familiar ticking percussion noise in the background, which worked quite well in another famous John Carpenter tune. Once again, this is a great theme song to play at a Halloween party because it is able to create a mood while staying in the background.

6. Signs - James Newton Howard

"But, The Former 786," you faithful readers are saying, "this song is WAY too new to be on a list of the best horror movie theme songs of all time!" Yes, it's a recent movie, but I was floored the first time I heard this music and it was shortly thereafter put on my Halloween playlist. It has a sharp, aggressive feel to it, reminiscent of the great scores from Hitchcock films. Whether you like Signs or not (illegal aliens are always a polarizing topic), this theme song deserves an objective listen.

5. Nightmare on Elm Street - Charles Bernstein

While many people only remember the infamous "1, 2, Freddy's coming for you. . ." rhyme sung by children in the film, the theme song of A Nightmare on Elm Street brings a certain, creepy feel to any room - especially a boiler room. This synthesized number has a new-age feel and features a strange, echoing drum, a ghostly voice and a high-pitched melody almost as piercing as Freddy's claws. You could almost fall asleep to this song, although I wouldn't recommend it.

4. The Exorcist ("Tubular Bells") - Mike Oldfield

Once more, I am not a fan of this movie, but this once innocuous tune has taken on a life of its own in the horror movie world. The theme for The Exorcist is actually only a small part of the whole "Tubular Bells" experience. "Tubular Bells, Part 1" actually runs 25 minutes and 58 seconds, and "Tubular Bells, Part 2" goes another 23:20. Apparently Warner Bros. wanted a "softer" score for this film, because they felt harsh music along with the harsh imagery on the screen would be too much for audiences.

3. Psycho ("The Murder") -  Bernard Herrmann

Speaking of harsh music, it doesn't get much more assaulting than this piece by Bernard Herrmann. Ok, technically, this isn't the "theme song" of Psycho, but it is, by far, the most recognizable music from the movie. Hitchcock himself said that much of the success of the film was due to Herrmann's work. The entire film score of Psycho could qualify for this list, but the screeching violins of "The Murder" are synonymous with psychotic behavior and showers. In fact, I can guarantee that almost every time someone is making a downward stabbing gesture with their arm, this music will be coming out of their mouth.

2. Jaws - John Williams 

Much like the whistling of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in M, whenever you begin to hear the alternating two-note pattern of the tuba, you know the shark is near. The slow, plotting tempo at the beginning quickens and builds into a complete fear frenzy. Perhaps this film is the reason I have an irrational fear of tuba players. Regardless, this film score launched John Williams into well-deserved stardom and it will forever be associated with sharks, shark attacks and anything lurking under the water.

1. Halloween - John Carpenter

This musical theme is not complicated or sophisticated, but, then again, neither is stabbing someone with a butcher knife. The Halloween theme features a simple haunting piano melody backed by sharp and quick percussion. This creepy theme song perfectly complements Michael Myers stalking, lurking and murdering actions. It's just John Carpenter and a keyboard, but it works. This is the kind of music I would not want to hear when walking down a dark alley. This is the kind of music that is perfect for any haunted house or Halloween party. Yes, in my totally subjective opinion, I feel that this is the best horror movie theme song.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trust Me, It'll Grow on You

The signs of autumn are all around us: there's a slight chill in the evening air, the leaves on the trees are changing colors, and the Slice of Fried Gold posts have become Halloween-themed. So let's get this party started! After all, we only have five Mondays to work with.

Today's post is a quick and dirty one (literally). I don't know how many of you saw the movie Contagion yet, but Warner Bros. took viral marketing to a whole new and disturbing level. Check it out:

Yup, that just happened. Much to the delight of science geeks everywhere, Warner Bros. hired a company called Lowe Roche to make a couple of giant petri dishes to promote their new movie. It's a very clever idea, but I wonder if it's going to spawn a string of copycat ads for other movies. Such as:
The possibilities are endless!

What promotional materials would you recommend for some upcoming movies, faithful readers?