Sunday, October 10, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Thing (1982, 2011, 1951)

The Thing
There are two movies in my mind that set the bar for Sci-Fi Horror.  The first is Alien (1979) and the second is 1982's The Thing.  Both use science fiction as a back-drop to tell a very claustrophobic monster story.  Both had fantastic directors.  Both also took us to a place of "not Star Wars, not ET."  

It is also the perfect juxtaposition of horror and SciFi from a Lovecraftian perspective.  While the origin of The Thing is drawn from the sci-fi/horror short story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr., the fingerprints of Lovecraft, and in particular "At The Mountains of Madness", are all over this. 

It also makes it a perfect tale for a BlackStar adventure. Maybe I'll tweak my "At the Planet of Madness" adventure a little more.

Tonight I watched John Carpenter's The Thing from 1982 for the first time in, well, I don't know how many years.  Since High School to be sure.  And then I decided to watch the 2011 remake of it.

The Thing 1982
The Thing (1982)

It has been so long since I have seen this I had forgotten about the space-ship at the beginning. For the time the special effects were amazing and frankly, I think they hold up well today.  Though the blood looks more like raspberry jelly.  My son works in a bakery now, I see a lot of raspberry jelly on clothes these days.

I remember watching this one back in 83 or 84 and I remembered I had come up with a very convoluted theory that this creature was a crashed Zygon from Doctor Who.  Fits with them crashing and being found under Loch Ness.  We would get almost this exact same story for Doctor Who in 2013 with Cold War, only at the North Pole not the south. 

The version I watched on Amazon Prime was in HD and it looked fantastic. It looked like it could have been filmed in 2020 to be honest.  It is making me look forward to seeing the Remake/Prequel made in 2011. 

The Thing 2011
The Thing (2011)

This one is a prequel/remake of the 1982 movie.  Even the starting title sequence is similar.  This time we deal with the Norwegians from the first movie.  Interesting way to start the movie, to be honest.  It has Mary Elizabeth Winstead in it and I am a fan, so I like that. It also has Kristofer Hivju, better known to us today as Tormund Giantsbane from Game of Thrones.  He is just as fantastic in this. 

I wish I had paid more attention when the 82 version was on to the Norwegian base, named "Thule",  to see if they were the same.  In truth, it more reminds me of the American one. The spaceship looks the same, but a lot larger.  I also am enjoying that some of the reasons for "dumb decisions" in the first movie get some sort of explanation here.  We even see where some of the damage comes from and an explanation of some of the remains.

The trouble with this movie is there is no new ground for it to cover; it is almost the exact same movie.  Though in this one, bits of the creature can break off and attack others. 

Like the 1982 we have two survivors and it is unknown whether or not they survive. 

The Thing from Another World 1951
The Thing from Another World (1951)

This is the original movie and the one that John Carpenter set to emulate.  Even the opening credits are similar. And WOW is it old.  Typically I steer clear of the 50s except on very rare occasions. 

The opening credits again look like the the 1982 version, or more to the point they all look like this one.

In this one the action is set at the North Pole, but largely the same story. Well...typical for the 1950s there has to be a romance angle. The movie also takes forever to get anywhere.

We get a better description of the creature. It is plant-like, but it still looks like a humanoid of some sort.

There is much less death in this one, no surprise, and the monster is not a shapeshifter at all. 

This one has a lot of survivors and then let the whole world know what happened.   It's funny. For a time full of Red Scare paranoia there is very little of any sort of paranoia in this movie, at least compared to the 1982 and 2011 versions.  

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It is easy to see the elements that all three movies have in common. Given that it gets remade about every 30 years we can expect to see a new Thing in 2041.

I still would love to work this into a BlackStar game somehow.  Either the discovery on Earth of this craft and pilot that leads to an investigation to its native world, or a getting to the native world and discovering a ship full of human specimens from over 100,000 years ago.  Though 100,000 years ago the Earth would have been populated by hominids like Homo ErectusHomo Floresiensis (the Hobbits), and Homo Sapien Neanderthalensis


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 19
First Time Views: 8.5

Saturday, October 9, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness (1992)

Tonight is a Horror Movie Challenge AND a Swords & Sorcery & Cinema Night.   Since it is also my H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest there is really only one movie that can fit the bill for all three themes. Is it Horror?  It's close enough.

Army of Darkness (1992) is just one of those movies I can keep coming back to and mine for more gold. 

Of course, I did Army of Darkness for this once before WAY back in the early days of this blog.

I have also done Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.  Not to mention all the coverage I have given the RPG with stats for KISS, Xena and Gabrielle, and even a Keep on the Borderlands conversion.

I would put it in my list of "Top Ten Gamer Movies." 

I suppose I should figure out what the other nine are.  Off the top of my head?  Highlander, Star Wars, Monty Python's Holy Grail, The Princess Bride, Heavy Metal, Excalibur, and some more.

Sounds like a future post really.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 16
First Time Views: 6.5

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.


October Horror Movie Challenge: Island of the Fishmen/Screamers (1979/1980) & Dagon (2001)

Screamers (1980)
I wanted to get in some Innsmouth action this October, but I wanted to get them in tonight.  Up first is Island of the Fishmen from 1979, but the version I found was Sreamers, the re-edit from 1980.

Screamers (1980)

While this one is sold as a "Lovecraftian" movie, the only thing it has going for it Lovecraft-wise is that the Fishmen of the title were once humans.  The movie is part "Dagon" with Innsmouth now closer to the Bermuda Triangle, and little bits of Atlantis, and The Island of Dr. Moreau and some bits of voodoo thrown in for good measure.  The movie does have Barbara Bach in it, so that is a nice plus. 

I can't help but get a strong Isle of Dread vibe from this. The creatures in this, the fishmen, look a lot like the Kuo-toa and Locathah from D&D. Even though neither of those creatures appears in the adventure. 

The plot works well for a Victorian-era game.

Dagon (2001)
Dagon (2001)

I watched this one back in 2010 but I was in a pretty bad mood.  I remember it now while rewatching it.  This is the problem I am running into, most of the movies out there I have already seen.  Though watching it again I recalled/noticed a few things.  The Innsmouth/Imboca people really have the Deep Ones look down. It is actually quite better than I remembered.  Also, Ezra Godden as our protagonist Paul looks a LOT like Jeffery Combs circa ReAnimator. Sounds like him too in many places.  Not a huge surprise since one of the producers is Brian Yuzna. If this had been made in the 80s or 90s then Combs would have been in it.  Likely this is because he was doing Star Trek Enterprise at the time. 

The movie is better than I remember.  Not great mind you, but still better. I am not sure I remembered Paul wearing a "Miskatonic" sweatshirt, but it is a nice touch. 

One thing is certain. If I ever run Isle of Dread again it is going to be more Dagon and less King Kong. 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 15
First Time Views: 6.5

Friday, October 8, 2021

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn

Sagarassi, Sea Witch of Krynn
It is not a stretch of the imagination to list Krynn as one of the top three D&D worlds behind Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms. Even my own favorite Mystara does not have the publication history behind it that Krynn and Dragonlance has.

So when collecting all the Witch Queens of D&D I wanted to be sure Krynn was represented.  

We do know Krynn has Witches or at least use of the word "witch."  The High Theocrat in Solace (Dragons of Autumn Twilight) calls Goldmoon, a true cleric, a witch.  This gets enough of a response and reaction that the locals know what a witch is. We know from the story of Jilani that villagers will burn suspected witches.  Hedge Witches were known to elves near Lord Soth's Dargaard Keep. 

The problem is that wizardry and magic in Krynn are very, very regulated.  There are the three main Towers of High Sorcery which cover Good (White), Neutral (Red), and Evil (Black).  Wizards, regardless of alignment do not step out of line. Even back in the AD&D1st ed days a wizard/magic-user never got past 20th level.  The entire second Dragonlance trilogy was all about Raistlin trying to get power beyond what was allowed. 

To find a magic-using character who would fit the description of "Witch Queen" I would need someone powerful and working outside of the established wizarding roles.  Anyone like that usually gets smacked down by the Gods of Krynn.  If possible I would also like to find someone that uses "witch" as a title.

There are a few that might fit the bill.  There is Weird Meggin, the old woman that a young Raistlin Majere first learned about magic. She had a grey wolf that could have been her familiar. She knew herbs and talked to trees.  She certainly "feels" like a witch, but everything we know about her I just wrote.  So not enough even for me.  There is the black-robe wizard Iolanthe, she calls herself a witch and has a lot of solid witchy qualities to her.  But a lot like Meggin, there is very little (though more) out there about her. Though I would like to find out more about her, to be honest. 

After searching and asking around I finally stumbled on a wizard who fits the bill.  Sagarassi, The Sea Witch.

Sagarassi, The Sea Witch

Not much is known about Sagarassi.  So little in fact it has taken me a while to collect this information. But here is what I have pieced together.  The best (ok only) primary source for my information is the AD&D 2nd Edition product Otherlands.  The rest comes from the Dragonlance Nexus and Dragonlance Fandom wikis. 

She was a Silvanesti Elf but was changed into a sea creature by the Sea Goddess Zeboim whom she worships.  Both Sagarassi and Zeboim are known as the "Sea Witch."  Sagarassi also serves Takhisis, the mother of Zebiom. 

She is not fond of humans.  Nor is she fond of her own sister, Daydra Stonecipher.  This relationship parallels the one between Zebiom and her twin brother Nuitari, who is the god of Evil Magic in Kyrnn. It is not much of a stretch of the imagination that Zebiom would want her magic-using disciple to go against the established rules of magic. Especially since Nuitari is regarded as Lawful Evil and Zebiom is Chaotic Evil. 

We know she is old. She waged a war undersea around 1320 PC (Prior to the Cataclysm), the Dragonlance books take place in 348 AC, making her over 1670 years old. Good thing she is an elf. 

She lives in an underwater tower called Khegar, also known as the Death Tower.  It is in the seas near Taladas.

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of KrynnSagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn

I have been using the present tense. But there is some speculation that she may have died in the last war with her sister.  Who is to say.  I am pulling together scraps of content to try to make a whole.

If I want to use her in my Mystara/Greyhawk games (and I do) I have to find some fixed points in time. Krynn, for various reasons, is removed from the other D&D worlds, but we can find a fixed point in time with The Wizards Three articles in Dragon.   We know that Dalamar met with Elminster and Mordenkainen in the post Legends time frame. With Raistlin "dying" in 383 AC We can put their meeting sometime after that.  We know from other sources (Wizards Three, Castle Spulzeer/Ravenloft) that this is about the same time as 1365 DR (Forgotten Realms) or 581 CY (Greyhawk).  

So. What does this all mean?  Well for me it means that if Sagrassi is still alive her age would be about 1,720 years old.  Fairly old for an elf, but maybe not so much for an elf/witch/"chosen" of a Goddess. At that age, I am going to say that Sagarassi is tired of fighting her sister and is looking for conquests outside of Krynn.

For this character, given her age and abilities, I am using my original rules for The Witch. I also struggled with my desire to make a very high level witch and the restriction Krynn puts on high-level magic users.  I figure that Sagarassi, as a witch, flies under the radar. I suppose in AD&D terms I could make her a 20th level Magic-user and 16th level evil cleric of Zeboim.  Or whatever the level limits were back then.  I personally ignored level limits.  While that would give me a passable Sagarassi that would fit the AD&D 1st RAW, and it would give me a witch, it would not give me a Witch.

Her Tradition is Sea Witch, something new I am working on.

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn
36th level Witch, Sea Witch Tradition*
Female Sea Elf, Chaotic Evil

Strength 13
Intelligence 20
Wisdom 18
Dexterity 15
Constitution 17
Charisma 20

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2
Dragon Breath 2
Rods, Staffs, Spells 2

Hit Points: 73
AC: 4

THAC0: 6

Occult Powers

Lesser: Familiar (Demonic eel)
Minor: Speak to plants/animals
Medial: Goddess Blessing
Greater: Control Weather
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Timeless Body

Spells
Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Inflict Minor Wounds, Message, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Bad Luck, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Darkness, Endure Elements, Far Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Moonstone**, Minor Fighting Prowess, Silver Tongue, Tattoo
2nd (9+3): Agony, Alter Self, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile, Suggestion
3rd (9+3): Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Lesser Strengthing Rite,  Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Toad Mind, Tongues, Witch Wail, Witch Writing, Imbue Witch Ball (Ritual)
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Animal Growth, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Fluid Mastery, Phantom Lacerations, Polymorph, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Drawing Done the Moon (Ritual)
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Song of Discord, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Eye Bite, Mass Agony, Mass Suggestion, Mislead, Moonbow, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Binding (Ritual), Gate (Ritual), Vision (Ritual)
8th (9): Damming Stare, Destroy Life, Discern Location, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Imprisonment (Ritual), Protection of the Goddess (Ritual)

**Sagarassi prepares a Moonstone on the high nights of Nuitari's "light." This allows her to use her moon-based spells even underwater.

All in all a fun build.  I need to work a bit more on what a "Sea Witch" is and come up with some more spells for it. 

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Color Out of Space (2010, 2019)

The Color Out of Space (2010)
Two different attempts at the same story.  One I have seen already and one that is new to me. 

The Color Out of Space (2010)

This one is a German film set in 1975. Part of the movie is in German. I was lamenting recently that I don't get to speak German enough, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.  

The movie is in Black & White, which is a neat touch I admit. It is a bit slow but very moody.  The b/w cinematography is used to great effect when the titular "color" reveals itself. 

The story is moved from the eerie woods of America's North East to the equally eerie woods of Germany's Black Forest. 

I have to admit, nothing is lost in the retelling in German. While the special effects are not great, they are used to great, well, effect. The CGI purple "color" against the black and white film could have been cheesy, but they make it work here.  Plus this is one time where CGI feeling out of place is perfectly fine, even expected.  

While it doesn't follow the letter of the story, it follows its spirit I feel.  It could have used a bit more editing though, some parts dig drag on longer than needed.  But really quite fun.


The Color Out of Space (2019)

The Color Out of Space (2019)

This is the Nick Cage one from a couple years ago and I watched last year. In fact almost last year to the day. 

I don't have much more to add, save I wanted to rewatch it for this Lovecraft film-fest and see how it compares to the 2010 version. 

While this one is far more polished and more explicit in it's horror I do feel maybe, maybe something is missing that the 2010 version was able to capture.  Of course I think the 2010 version gets closer to Lovecraft's style of storytelling of "show less, imagine more."

Though I stick to my original opinion of Nick Cage in this.






2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 13
First Time Views: 5.5

Thursday, October 7, 2021

No, 5e Devils are Not Misunderstood. But Alignment Is.

why is this Devil smiling?
Misunderstood?
It's October and one of my favorite things to talk about are devils, demons, and all sorts of fiends.

You know what I don't like talking about? Alignment.  

Why? It is boring and tedious and so many people get confused with what is written down in the rules and what they understand it to be, or not to be.  And frankly, the conversations are never very interesting. 

Conversations about alignment in the pages of Dragon actually predate The Dragon and go all the way back to The Strategic Review.  Very little new light has been shed on the topic ever since.

So alignment has largely been one of those things I give lip service to because pulling out would make a bunch of other things break.  Like the spells Detect Evil or Protection from Evil are just two examples.  There needs to be something in place so they work.  Swords with intelligence and ego. Other magic items on the small scale and the planes of existence on the larger scale.

Most of the other RPGs I play don't have alignment. D&D is the only holdout.

I am not saying I don't want universal Good or Evil, or even Law and Chaos, in my games.  I do.  I want my devils to be evil, or even better yet, Evil, with a capital E.  Demons? I want creatures that make the Devils go "whoa, hold on there dude."  But I also have creatures Beyond Good and Evil.  Not just in a Nietzscheian way, but in ways that are unmeasurable and unknowable by mortal kind.   

So when the "new" publisher (they have been publishing D&D for longer than the "old" publisher) wants to try something new like say "Unaligned" or "Typically Chaotic Evil" then I applaud the effort.  When they want to do something really interesting like remove monster alignment altogether my response is "interesting, tell me more..."

But of course, there are going to be those that freak out about it and claim ridiculous notions that "Devils are no longer evil."  This is of course a complete stretch of what the D&D 5 team, and Jeremey Crawford actually said.  Plus the examples given are NOT for all of D&D nor even for the upcoming 5.5 or 5r, though they could be.  In this case, these only apply to the optional adventure The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.  

Typically
My 2e books list them as Neutral

Still Chaotic Evil
Still Chaotic Evil, 100% of the time

Will we see some of these ideas in the upcoming D&D 5 update? Most certainly. Will we see them all in this exact manner? Maybe. 2024 is still a bit off and WotC has demonstrated they want to take in fan feedback and the editing process is a pain in the ass.  Tasha's Cauldron of Everything dropped alignments (and they were not missed) Witchlight brought them back.  So obviously they are still experimenting.

This is nothing new.  We saw this in the early days of AD&D 2nd Ed.

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

But let's say for the sake of argument they drop alignments from all monsters.  What does that mean?

In 5.5/5r it means monsters won't have an alignment.  

That is the absolute sum total of it.  It does not affect my Basic-era-B/X-OSE games.  It does not affect NIGHT SHIFT games. And you know what, it doesn't even affect my current D&D 5e games. 

They are not doing anything terribly new or innovative here. Even by adding "typically" to the alignment they are still only explicitly doing what we implicitly knew or at least did anyway.

Devils will still be evil. Demons will still be evil. Maybe, maybe there will be an odd Devil that seeks out redemption or maybe even understanding to the point where they are not evil anymore.  Or not.  I don't care about redeeming devils, I only care how quickly my player's characters can put the fiends down.  

Seriously though the only people online complaining about this are people who loudly and often will exclaim with pride that they "never bought any WotC D&D and never will."  Fine. Whatever. It's ok not to like the newest version of D&D.  It's fine to prefer older versions.  But if you complain every single time WotC does something with D&D I am going to assume your hobby isn't playing D&D but rather complaining about it.

I am reminded of the Chicken Littleing that went on last year about Oriental Adventures and the big pile of nothing that happened after.  

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unnamable (1988)

The Unnamable (1988)
I started watching 1988's The Unnamable tonight thinking for sure I had seen it.  Started it, couldn't remember it, then realized I had seen it.

The Unnamable (1988)

So there must be an unwritten rule that all modern adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft must take place in or around Miskatonic University and/or Arkham. After all, it makes good sense and if I were a filmmaker it is what I would do as well.  Of course, it doesn't mean you always have to do it.

Case in point there is almost more about M.U. here than there is about the titular monster/character here.  We get glimpses into the undergraduate life, the student body (and bodies), even people majoring in things other than medicine and the dark arts.  But all of this is just fluff for the main story.  Again a common problem, how to make a full-length movie out of a short story.

This one features Lovecraft's reoccurring protagonist Randolph Carter (this time played by Mark Kinsey Stephenson).

It is typical late 80s fare. Lots of gore. Lots of implied sexual antics.  

In this second viewing (or third, who knows) I can help but think Randolph Carter here is kind of a jerk. By the time he comes around to helping anyone half the cast is dead. Yeah, it's a horror flick people are going to die, but his laissez-faire attitude borders on sociopathic negligence rather than a cool distance.

I wanted to also watch The Unnamable II but I can't find it anywhere.  This is also a problem I am having with other Lovecraft-based flicks.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 11
First Time Views: 4.5