Festival of Fiendishness: PAZUZU

The Swinging Seventies brought us plenty of pop culture goodness: we got “Marsha Marsha Marsha!” from the Brady Bunch; porn movies with intentional bow-chicka-wow-wow music; and the cinematic stylings of Pazuzu. I know what you’re thinking: Pa—who? Pa—what? Let me put it this way: you remember that little girl who got possessed and her head turned all the way around and she was projectile vomiting pea soup while cussing the priest out? The one who really needed her ass beat? Well the demon that possessed that girl was Pazuzu and this SOB is our villain for the day.

The Exorcist debuted on the big screen in 1973 and literally changed the motion picture industry. You remember the old Frankenstein and Dracula movies? The Mummy and Abbott & Costello Meets the Wolfman and shit? Remember how they just dropped away? Blame it on that gross little girl: The Exorcist came out and put two film studios completely out of business. Seriously. It is the first horror movie to win an Oscar. Impressive for one of the grossest and most frightening movies ever made.

On the off chance you haven’t seen this movie…or accidently stumbled on a documentary about it…or wondered why there is a collective cringe when people simply mention the movie, The Exorcist tells the story of a girl named Regan MacNeil, daughter of a famous actress, who experiences some increasingly disturbing psychological issues (from peeing on the floor at her mother’s party to crab walking down the stairs backward) and paranormal phenomena (shit moving by itself and flying around the house) before she finally becomes possessed—and I mean bed jumping up and down, talking backwards, words being pressed into her stomach FROM THE INSIDE—and they have to call in the priests. Now, some of you newbies might be thinking “but that’s Paranormal Activity/Emily Rose/Haunting in Connecticut!” To which I respond: shut up, junior, before I if I slap you through the screen. Grown ups are talking. This is some different shit.

Here’s why.

There are two priests in this movie: Father Merrin and Father Karras. Merrin is an older, grizzled priest who’s on the verge of death Karras is a younger priest who begins to doubt his faith as his mother dies. You put these two clowns in a room with a demon and all kinds of stuff happens. What makes this so incredible is the demon himself: Pazuzu has been possessing people around the world just to personally fuck with Father Merrin. Imagine that. A demon manipulating people, possessing them, ruining their lives, not so he can make their lives miserable, but so he can torment you in front of them. And he chose a priest, a demon warrior. What chance does the average individual have? Second, Pazuzu chooses to possess a little girl. Seriously, what are you gonna do with that? It’s a kid! You can’t beat on her or throw her out the window or hurt her in any way, and the demon lets you know that Regan is actually in there with him. It’s foul. And then he picks on the Doubting Thomas in the room and dogs the shit out of him, telling Your Mama jokes about his dead mom and then cursing him out in her voice.

And when it’s all over, both priests are dead (SPOILER!) and the little girl’s reputation is ruined, and a Pazuzu will go on to screw with another human being and start the process over somewhere else. It’s fucked up and Pazuzu does it because he can.

That one line is why he’s in the pantheon of awesome villains. Because he can. There’s not a whole lot more to be said.

Up next, the coldest computer you’ll ever know: HAL 9000. Say it ain’t so? I’m afraid I can’t do that, Dave.

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Festival of Fiendishness: GOLLUM

This cat really needs to go outside. Seriously.

Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy is today’s beautiful baddie and he’s not just a client, he’s the president of the This Is Why You Need to Put Down the Controller society. I’m talking to you, Xboxers, Playstationers, Wii Wiis. Look at my man: homie ain’t right.

For those of you who decided to leave your Dungeons & Dragons playing back in the 8th grade and, I don’t know, enter puberty and touch a girl with some confidence (until Game of Thrones came out and made fantasy cool AND sexy), Gollum is this freaky little dude horribly obsessed with a ring of invisibility. We first met him in The Hobbit where he was stuck underground by himself, eating raw fish and having a passionate affair with this ring he called “Precious.” No, this is not an episode of My Strange Addiction (but it oughta be). Bilbo Baggins tricks Gollum, snatches the ring and defeats the dragon, winning acclaim and armor and an invitation back to the Elves’ house for drinks. Gollum, on the other hand, is stuck in his little hole, Precious-less, and alone. Until the ring surfaces again.

Turns out this little trinket is the most powerful piece in a World of Warcraft-style battle for domination of Middle Earth (which is just outside Cleveland) sponsored by a really big eye named Sauron (and yes, geek squad, I am thoroughly aware that the Lord of the Rings—or LOTR for the uber-geek—precedes World of Warcraft by decades—this ain’t a history report. Put your wand down and stay focused.) The ring is more than just a ring of invisibility; it is a living thing that has an irrestible power of everything that comes in contact with it. It is the most powerful ring out there (even more powerful than that brilliant cut in the little blue box) and presses everyone around it toward insanity and destruction. It’s no little thing: it starts wars.

And Gollum had it all to himself.

He killed his homeboy over the ring without knowing what it was, just because he wanted it. Beat my man down with a rock to the skull. He loses everything that matters to him—his family, his friend, his hair, his skin tone—simply to be near the ring. His story reads like an episode of Intervention: all he wants in the ring, come hell or highwater. And even though it places him in a constant state of misery—it’s both extending his life and killing him at the same time—he not only can’t look away, he loves it.

When I first started this exploration of villains and what makes them awesome, I was looking at what we can learn from them as readers and writers. For Gollum, what makes him awesome is his commitment. Check it out: when Bilbo takes the ring from him, this cat spends YEARS—like 60 years—bitter and intent on getting his Precious back. 60 YEARS. For a ring. Not something that breathes or can talk back. A ring. But wait—there’s more! He actually spends the entire trilogy walking through a war determined to get his shit back just so he can have it. He’s like a walking J.G. Wentworth commercial: “It’s my ring and I want it now!” This cat chases folks into a dungeon that damn near kills the wizard, into the mountains populated with spiders the size of Volkswagens (and my man is barefoot, FYI), bites Frodo’s finger clean off to get his ring and, when it looks like the ring might be destroyed, Gollum does a Greg Louganis swan dive INTO A VOLCANO to save it. That is commitment.

Tomorrow, “the Power of Christ compels you!” We’re gonna look at the demon who turned Linda Blair into the creepiest girl EVER: Pazuzu.

Get It Out!

I’m a little bit of an Alien fan. Just a little, right? So it was with tremendous excitement that I sat my eager tail at the local Regal Cinema to check Ridley Scott’s latest masterpiece. I saw a lot of things in that movie—some of them I understood, some of them I have no freaking clue what the hell they were smoking—but the movie is essentially about getting things started.

It’s about the stuff Michael Fassbender holds on his finger and says ominously, “Big things have small beginnings.” It’s about black goo.

It’s about the catalyst. The thing that makes it all happen.

You might not know this but I write a little bit. And that little bit has fallen to a teeny tiny bit of late. More like a trickle of words. It felt like the rushing river of literary productivity that runs in my head had dried up, its surge stopped by psychological dams. I was stuck. I’ve said it before, I don’t believe in writer’s block—at least not with me—and godammit look at what happened. I got blocked. Mentally constipated. Nothing would move.

When I was a freshman in college, I ran into a little intestinal trouble. I developed an ulcer in my duodenum (a word The Boy brought home from Health class)—the place where your intestines come together. It hurt when I ate so I did the most logical thing my 17-year-old mind could conceive: I stopped eating. When I came home for Christmas break, I’d lost about 15-20 pounds. I’m not a big guy as it is, standing at an imposing 5 feet, 6 inches, and such a dramatic weight loss made me look like I had AIDS. Or was a crack addict.

Anyway, I go to see the doctor for tests to see what’s happening, right? Blood tests, CAT scans, the “let-me-feel-on-your-guts-til-it-hurts-and-you-wanna-slap-me” test. I also got some x-rays—actually enough x-rays that I would glow in the dark. And to make my insides look even more sexy for the camera, I had to drink radioactive barium. Have you ever had this stuff? It’s like liquid chalk.

So I drink the stuff, get my x-rays, go home while doctors try to figure out what happening inside. I must point out here that no one had the presence of mind to say, “Hey Chris, after you take this stuff, make sure you drink plenty of fluids.” That would have been helpful. See, a couple days later, I wake up and I REALLY gotta drop some kids off at the pool. I go to sit down and, like Yukon Cornelius in the Rudolph Christmas special—nothing. Got the leg shake and the one tear and no dice. Nothing’s moving. It had been a couple days since I went and I’m a little concerned. Talk to my mom about it and she recommends castor oil.

Castor oil? It’s 1990—didn’t castor oil go out of style with the Little Rascals? But I get it—if it works, it works. I take the stuff (almost vomit along the way) and my stomach starts bubbling and churning and cramping…nothing. NOTHING. And it hurts. Bad.

Godammit.

Have you ever had to go to the emergency room because you can’t shit? I have. And it is as spectacular as you imagine it to be.

We (and I say we because I’m a college student at the emergency room with my mom because I’m constipated) tell the nurses what the deal is and they respond with, “Oh, an enema is exactly what he needs!” Yeah, not so much. So if you’ve been keeping track, I had a couple days worth of food, radioactive barium, castor oil, and now some undefined number of ounces of water (I have no idea how much water goes into those things; I was a bit more focused on my increasingly dwindling ego!) Things are not feeling so hot. AND STILL NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

I get taken in the back and the nurse who drew the short straw comes in with rubber gloves and a bottle of topical Novocain. “What are you gonna do with that?” I say. She says, “Well, it has to come out.”

It came out. Bit by embarrassing bit. And once it got going, everything else just flowed. Or exploded. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Anyway, I brought that nurse a Christmas gift afterward.

Whether it’s the black goo, a swift kick in the ass, or a Novocain-covered rubber finger in it, you gotta get that shit out. Find the thing that makes it happen for you and tap into it, dig into it, whether it hurts or is embarrassing or disgusting. It’s in there; it has to come out. It has to come out. Look, you just got a front row seat to THE most embarrassing thing in my life—but if it gets you started, it’s worth it. And truth is, it got me started. And today, that’s what it’s all about.

I’m back on my shit (pun intended): the Festival continues tomorrow with the one guy who just couldn’t let things go: GOLLUM!

Festival of Fiendishness Day 6: DOOMSDAY

You probably think I’m a Superman fan, doncha? This is the third Superman villain I’ve looked at; must mean I have some affinity for the Man of Steel, huh? Not necessarily. I mean I don’t have anything against the Bulletproof Boy Scout—he just makes me feel bad. All strong and flying and looking good in that blue suit with that one perfect curl. The guy has no imperfections, right? Somebody has to bring him down to size, right?

Well, that somebody is today’s villain, Doomsday.

In the mid-90s some ballsy comic book writer from my home state of Minnesota came up with the idea that Superman needed to be knocked down a peg. That he needed to be taught a lesson in humility and vulnerability. And mortality. Supe needed to die. And the man to do it was a lil guy named Doomsday. Well, a big guy. With a really bad case of eczema.

Honestly, the whole idea is really screwed up. Seriously. And I like villains. Check this out: the being called Doomsday is a project—a weapon—created by a Kryptonian scientist some 250,000 years before Krypton exploded. This scientist, a dude named Bertron, was trying to create a perfect organism (like the aliens in Alien) so he took a baby, like a regular baby, and dropped him into Krypton’s prehistoric environment. Imagine taking a baby and just dropping it into the Jurassic era. It’s fucked up, right? That’s what this guy did. And, surprise, surprise, the baby becomes a Beggin Strip for whatever dinosaur is lumbering by. This is just the beginning. Bertron scoops up the remains of the baby, clones it and makes it stronger. Now, when the baby comes back, its immune to the thing that killed it. For the next 250,000 years, this little baby was repeatedly killed by a variety of means, coming back stronger and impervious to the thing that killed it.

Did you catch that? Doomsday has died thousands of times, only to be reborn. Stronger.

You can imagine he’s not a happy soul, right?

Doomsday learns how to adapt on his own, kills Bertron, escapes on a ship and kills the whole crew. He goes from planet to planet, wrecking shop, tearing up whatever he can. If he gets beat, no biggie, right? Comes back, $6 Million Dollar Man-style, better, stronger, faster, and beats the living daylights outta whatever took him. He goes to one planet, kills everyone, and the leaders transform themselves into a Voltron-style energy weapon that kills Doomsday. But they don’t trust it so they bind up his body, drop him in a metal tomb, and bury him in stone.

This MF gets out. And makes it to Earth.

How raw is Doomsday? On Earth, he beats the shit out of the entire Justice League (AKA low-budget Avengers. What can I say? I’m a Marvel guy…) and does it WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND HIS BACK! Literally. Well, Superman can’t have some no-name dude with crusty skin whopping on his people so he swoops in to help.

This does not end well. Superman is trying to save Metropolis. Doomsday is trying to kill everything that breathes and has a particular disdain for the Man of Steel. These cats literally beat one another to death. In front of the whole world.

Doomsday killed Superman.

I could go on. I could talk about the fact that after killing Superman, Doomsday was strapped to an asteroid and flung deep into space and he woke up anyway! Drifting through space, giggling about the whole thing. I could talk about how Doomsday came back, repeatedly, after being stranded at the End of Time (literally) or being blasted until only his bones remained. Doomsday is raw, unmitigated destruction for the sake of destruction. He’s an incredible villain because everything he does is because he can. And no one can stop him.

But that’s not what makes him awesome. Doomsday is awesome because he gave us this:

Festival of Fiendishness Day 5: MICHAEL MYERS

I’ve never really been a fan of the slasher flick. Aside from never being able to see myself in those situations, the entire thing seemed like too much work—killers would come up with newer and more inventive ways to kill stupid teenagers. They’re stupid, horny teenagers—how much effort do you really need to kill them? Crossbows and bear traps and razor gloves…I mean, come on! But there was one guy who figured it out, who kept it simple, stupid: the most straightforward cinematic serial killer ever—and today’s villain du jour—Michael Myers.

If you haven’t seen Halloween by now, I’m not giving you a spoiler alert, I’m passing out tardy slips. Study up, Poindexter, we’re going to school. Skip the Saw, Hills Have Eyes, Hostel, Human Centipede nonsense (though that last one is REALLY fucked up), Michael Myers is the pinnacle of the faceless slaughterer of frisky teenagers. He isn’t part of the genre; he is the genre. He started it. And he sets the bar pretty freaking high: the movie starts with this kid grabbing a butcher knife out the kitchen, going upstairs to watch his sister screw her boyfriend, then hacking her naked body to pieces while wearing a clown costume. The boy was 6. Six. That’s our introduction to Mike. This cat ain’t right.

The next time we see Mike, he’s busting out of the mental institution, stealing cars from his own therapist (who spends the entire movie ignoring police, trying to get his patient back), jacking truck drivers for jumpsuits. He heads back to Haddonfield, intent on killing Jamie Lee Curtis, and happens to off EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO CROSSES HIS PATH. Mike killed dogs, dug up his mother’s grave, strangled the cop’s daughter in the car. He dressed up like a ghost and pretended to be a girl’s boyfriend just so he could look at her naked before he killed her.

Mike has problems.

Like real problems. But Michael Myers is a G: he got stabbed in the neck with a knitting needle, stabbed in the eye with a coat hanger (Mommie Dearest would be furious! NO WIRE HANGERS!), took six shots to the chest and fell of the balcony. AND GOT UP AND WALKED AWAY. They had to stick him in a hospital room and blow it up and he still stomped his flaming ass down the hallway after Jamie. I’ve written about focus before but you gotta give Mike credit on this one—he was the original Terminator.

But here’s what I really like about Michael Myers: stripped down to his basic elements, he’s just a guy in a jumpsuit with a knife, chasing a girl for no reason at all. He has no face. He doesn’t run. He doesn’t say shit—in fact, he’s been in like 8 or 9 movies and has never said a word. You might get some heavy breathing, but Mike has nothing to say. Skip the Rob Zombie remake, go back to the source material. Michael Myers never says anything. To anybody.

Halloween came out in 1978. Less than 10 years after Manson and the Zodiac Killer. But those horrible things happened far away, right? In California somewhere, not the Midwest. Not Haddonfield, Illinois. Not in our backyards. We didn’t even have kids on milk cartons then. Halloween puts this horror right in our communities, chasing after the people who watch our children, killing the children of police officers. But what truly makes Michael Myers terrifying, what makes him one of the most incredible villains to grace the screen is there is no “why” to him. No rationale. You never know why he does what he does. He simply is. Like a tornado.

Michael Myers made fear a suburban reality and he did it with a William Shatner mask, a jumpsuit and a butcher knife. And that, my friends, is what makes him awesome.

Tomorrow, tomorrow we’ll look at the dude who stomped a mudhole in Superman’s red and blue tights: DOOMSDAY!

Festival of Fiendishness Day 4: GREEN GOBLIN

I’m back from my hiatus of inconsistency where I moved, got sick, tore up my knee (and today got an MRI in super sexy disposable shorts) and my lil Honey Badger turned 10. I had a couple things going on. And yeah, I missed a few posts (why you bringing up old shit?). But Here I Am To Save the Day! And give you your daily dose of deviousness with today’s installment: the Green Goblin.

You all know I’m a Spiderman fan, right? I dig ol Webhead—always have, always will (though I’m a little skeptical of this reboot that’s coming and REALLY not feeling the Lizard). The thing you have to remember about Spidey is that when he started, he was a kid. Peter Parker was a teenager and a socially inept one at that who got a taste of powers and decided to jump into the superhero fray. But he was a kid—that meant he was sloppy at his heroism, was horribly overwhelmed by the pushback from the Daily Bugle and the very citizens he tried to protect, and was woefully unprepared for the evil in his villains.

And he got the Green Goblin.

Whether you read the comics (and I know 8 of you did) or watched the movies, Norman Osborne is the head of Osborn Industries and the father of Peter Parker’s highschool classmate (and good friend in the movies), Harry Osborne. Osborne Industries makes a serum that makes you faster, stronger, smarter. Sounds fantastic and Norman gets a dose. Unfortunately, this serum comes with a couple teensy weensy side effects in the fine print: you become an insane villainous megalomaniac with multiple personalities and a snazzy green and purple suit (what’s up with the villains wearing green and purple? Green Goblin, Joker, Dr. Doom—is it an outfit? A uniform?)

Anyway, Gobby’s on the street with pumpkin bombs and razor-bat things and a shiny glider and causing mayhem and destruction. And here comes Spiderman. They do their usual cat-and-mouse, “curses, foiled again,” “damn I almost had him but he slipped away” dance and it makes for good comics. Until the Goblin takes things to another level. He screws up Spidey’s spider-sense, follows him, and SHOWS UP AT PETER PARKER’S HOUSE. Do you hear this? My man’s father is secretly a masked supervillain and he figures out who Peter Parker really is and shows up as the Green Goblin. This isn’t funny anymore. Now it’s personal.

But it gets better. Or worse. Depending on how you look at it.

Peter Parker is dating Gwen Stacy, right? That’s his college sweetheart. What does Normie do? Tracks her down, seduces her, gets her pregnant. Then, knowing that Peter and Gwen are dating and Norman Osborne tagging his woman is not humiliating enough, the Green Goblin has to humiliate Spiderman too. So he takes Gwen prisoner, drags her to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. And throws her off. You remember that scene in Spiderman (the movie) where a Willem Dafoe in a raggedy Green Goblin costume takes Mary Jane (played by raggedy Kirsten Dunst) to the bridge and tosses her off and Spiderman saves the day? Yeah, that shit didn’t actually happen. Instead, when Gobby throws Gwen off the bridge, Spidey does catch her with his webbing AND BREAKS HER NECK! He kills her! In the comic, the whiplash from being stopped so short by Spiderman’s web causes Gwen to die.

I don’t know about you but killing the person you’re trying to save doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in your super-heroing skills. Killing your girlfriend, well, that just puts Pete into Scott Petersen territory. Spidey cannot win. Yeah he goes on to be a pretty fantastic superhero but you know he’s scared of himself. Doesn’t trust his own capabilities. Lives the rest of his life looking over his shoulder—as both Peter Parker and Spiderman.

There is a saying you hear in every gangster movie: “It’s business; it isn’t personal.” This was some personal shit. The Green Goblin found Spidey’s girl, had an affair with, threw her off a bridge and had the hero kill her. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

And that, my friends, is why the Green Goblin is awesome. Tune in tomorrow for the scariest dude in a jumpsuit and the father of the slasher flick: Michael Myers!

Pursue Your Happyness

I have to interrupt my lil bout of villainy for an important public service, feel-good type of post. Yeah yeah, I know, it runs counter to my usual bad self but, sometimes, it has to be done. So here goes:

I learned a couple of things from Will Smith: that a poor kid from the ghetto with a winning smile and a bubblegum song about how his “Parents Don’t Understand” can leave his homeboy behind, move to Beverly Hills, and forge a lucrative movie career; that those G-Men is the nondescript black suits, white shirts, and boring ass cars are really the alien police; and that “if you want something, go get it. Period.”

Pursue your happyness.

In the based-on-a-true-story movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a single dad whose just trying to do the damn thing and take care of his son. His wife left him, unpaid parking tickets got his car towed and him arrested, and his only source of income is selling these unsellable bone scanning machines. Oh yeah, and the IRS takes all his money. FROM HIS ACCOUNT. Chris gets a spot in an unpaid internship (clad in a wife beater tank top and paint-covered pants) and does everything he can—from taking the bus to jacking taxis for their fares to sleeping in train stations and shelters—so he can complete the internship and POTENTIALLY win a full-time gig with Dean Witter (remember them? They’re Morgan Stanley now). Short of Seven Pounds, Will Smith only does feel-good movies; you can figure out how this ends.

My wife has always been a go-getter. Seriously. When we moved out to Colorado (leaving sunny Cleveland, Ohio (the land of dreams) in a Saturn Vue and a 5×10 U-Haul trailer with two kids and a dog), my wife found a job and was AT WORK in 2 DAYS. Interview, hire, start. 48 hours. Never seen anything like it. When she got fed with working for The Man, she started her own event planning company. And got good at it.

And this week, she became an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Now you might be thinking: dude, it’s just Disney vacations. Whoop-de-doo! I get that. But my wife LOVES Disney. I told you that. She LOVES Disney. Read no less than 12 Disney guides before we went to Disneyland for the first time. She searches for the hidden Mickeys in the parks and the resorts on the property. Wants to be Belle when she grows up. My wife is literally a Certified Mousejunkie.

And this is what makes her happy.

We have a million reasons why we don’t pursue that which makes us happy. Which feeds our souls. Which completes us. We find the practical, the realistic, the superficial, the ancillary, the financial—we are exceptionally creative when it comes to the rationale for why we shouldn’t do what we love and be the people we wish to be. And we shortchange ourselves in the process.

Our country is founded on the pursuit of that which makes us happy. It is your God-given right. You deserve it. I deserve it. And I am terribly proud of my wife: she figured it out.

And she is happy.

If you wanna book a Disney vacation (you know you do), you can check the Wife out at amanda@dreamfindertravel.net or on her Facebook page.

Gotta run, guys. The Honey Badger turns 10 today and is bringing all the attitude and ass that Tweendom inspires. I’ll be back to the badness tomorrow.

See ya!