Archive for the Abandoned Buildings Category

Slashbacks\\ The Chernobyl Diaries\\

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by effingjro

Thanks to some night-vision glow and time-lapse photography, Oren Peli’s sleeper hit Paranormal Activity made it pretty much impossible to sleep in your own bed. He’s since produced several sequels, as well as the ABC eco-horror-fantasia The River, but Peli’s latest movie ditches the found-footage formula and tackles something with a bit more scope – the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat, evacuated in days following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The movie features a predictable cast of good-looking twentysomethings, including sometimes pop singer Jesse McCartney, he of the eternal babyface. The group is on the requisite post-collegiate European backpack journey, and when enterprising Paul proposes they skip Moscow and head to the Heart of Irradiated Darkness (Pripyat), it’s easy to sell them on a day of “extreme tourism.” See the trailer below:

True to the Peli gamebook, the trailer plays coy, but you can guess what these kids are up against. Mutants. Soviet mutants. In tone and subject matter, The Chernobyl Diaries recalls two predecessors that riff off Atomic Age anxieties and the perils of trailblazing tourism: Wes Craven’s 1977 The Hills Have Eyes (for added nuclear-testing rhetoric, see the 2006 remake) and Eli Roth’s 2005 Hostel

Craven’s dusty survivalist film strands an overconfident family in a New Mexico wasteland after Papa Carter takes a “short cut” on the way to California. Sure of their resources (they have a CB radio, and look how helpful that was in The Shining!) the Carters proceed to make every possible mistake and are slowly picked off by a predatory clan of inbreeds. The remake exposes the radiation poisoning that’s made the hill creeps so vicious (and ugly) – garnering sympathy for the mutants and condemning the Cold War ethos that would prompt scientists to sacrifice an entire town for nuclear testing. When protagonist Doug creeps through the derelict village, shots of mannequin children and tattered American flags tap the same ghost town pall that Diaries is sure to employ.

Roth’s Hostel is another primer on what not to do on your summer vacation. When three backpacking bros embark on a European journey, they make every ugly American stereotype a reality – waking locals in the middle of the night, getting kicked out of clubs, frequenting Amsterdam’s smoke shops and Red Light District, even wearing fanny packs. At first, this looks like a sex tourism jaunt, until the guys find themselves kidnapped and brought to a torture dungeon where their bodies are up for sale. Thanks to the backpackers’ bravado and Eastern Bloc meets Western blockhead frisson, Hostel carries much of the atmospheric DNA The Chernobyl Diaries riffs on.

Is The Chernobyl Diaries a mutant genre of its own – and if so, does it have legs? With a lineage of bloody vacations, nuclear aberrations and Cold War chills, Diaries isn’t exactly covering virgin territory. But where Hills and Hostel lay the gore on fast and thick, Peli’s film (directed by Brad Parker) will likely rely more on more measured pacing and obscure threats, ratcheting the tension and keeping audiences as clueless as those stranded Americans. In the interests of taxonomy, let’s call it a psycho-nuclear-Soviet-sojourn film. You tell me. Or hell, cut out the middle-mutant and go to Pripyat yourself.

Reading Rainbow: Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One”

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Authors, Critical Theory, In the News, Reading Rainbow, Role Models, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by effingjro

Zone One - Out October 18

Some books read like love letters to New York City: Joseph Mitchell’s Up In The Old Hotel, for example, and Joan Didion’s gut-wrenching essay: “Goodbye To All That.”

Zone One? It’s hate mail for the whole island. There is a lot of gut-wrenching, though.

James Maher's take on Chinatown post-apocalypse

Meet Mark Spitz – he’s managed to survive after most of the population has been reduced to mindless ‘skels,’ only because he is so exceptionally mediocre. A consistent B student, whether he studied or not. The member of the senior class “Most Likely Not To Be Named The Most Likely Anything.” That mediocrity grants him a longer lease on life than his parents, his girlfriends, than almost anyone he knew before the innard-chomping nightmare the survivors refer to as ‘Last Night.’

It’s a good name. For the survivors sweeping Zone One in southern Manhattan, the evening when the world went mad stays fresh in their minds. How can they escape it? Mark and the two other civilians in Omega Unit spend their days picking off the wasted victims of the disease – walking corpses who still sport haircuts copied from sitcom characters and bear passing resemblances to former gym teachers, girlfriends, relatives.

That’s the problem when the whole world’s gone skel – the victims still have some shadow memory: they frequent the same hang-outs, wear the same clothes, maintain the same piercings and haircuts and facial features (at least until the skin starts rotting away). In an interview with GQ, Whitehead sums it up: “The skels are ghosts, other people haunted by their pasts. I’ve certainly been stuck on certain periods and events in my life, so a skel is a statue dedicated to nostalgia.”

Each monster has its trope. With vampires it’s abusive lust, with werewolves it’s a split personality. Zombies come in mobs, and with mobs there is a mentality. The skels in Zone One invite contemplation, not as sad skin sacks, but as walking memories of the people they were, people who were always part-monster to begin with.

In 'Zone One,' the skels are incinerated, creating clouds of ash over the city. By inbrainstorm

Zone One didn’t have to be a zombie novel, but it’s a handy device to dissect the problems of the populace post-Empire, particularly in a city. As a new recruit to New York, there are certain lines that hit me in the gut. Spitz will pick off zombies and consider their former, waking lives – He wonders when they came to the city, bright-eyed and ambitious, and how they’d been forced to settle in the intervening years, crowding around cocktail bars and laughing too loudly in attempts to capture some Sex and the City fantasy. He thinks about the shut-ins who barricaded themselves against the coming plague, particularly “new recruits” like myself, who were too fresh to the city to develop the kind of support system that could have afforded them a means of escape.

It scares you. Scared me, at least, in a way blood-spurting zombie movies never have.

Formally, it’s excellent. Spitz falls through temporal trap doors constantly in the narrative, moving backwards to memories of ‘Last Night,’ the deaths of his parents, unexpected skel attacks, and then he snaps to at the last moment, when his life depends on it. The language is carefully chosen, and evokes spinal cords, joints and necrosis, even when describing entertainment systems and subways. And there’s humor, too, in the unlikeliest places. When Omega Team spots a few walkers in the distance, they try to tell if they’re human or skel. The deciding factor? They’re wearing ponchos. “Only a human cursed with the burden of free will would wear a poncho.”

Definitely pick up a copy on the 18th. Whether you’re a zombie fan or not, this book has a lot to say.

This Old House

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Advertisements, Films, Hotties, TEEVee with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by effingjro

American Horror Story premieres tonight at 10pm on FX, and let’s all pray to the gods of the F train that I make it home in time…

You may have noticed I have a thing for horror (see: The Woman In Black, The Prowler, a billion other things on this blog) and this show will try to make a case for serialized horror, versus something feature length. There aren’t many predecessors in this genre – the only one that comes to mind is Dark Shadows, a Gothic soap opera that aired on NBC in the late 60s/early 70s (that series is now being recast as a film, directed by Tim Burton, starring (surprise) Johnny Depp).

AHS follows an unfaithful psychiatrist and his wife and daughter as they move cross-country, mostly to try to repair the family after Daddy (Dylan McDermott) is caught cheating. The daughter is a especially awesome, as she sort of resembles Lydia from Beetle Juice. She smokes at school, and spits in the face of the girl who tries to stop her, and when the realtor mentions there was a murder suicide in their prospective home, she immediately replies “We’ll take it.” She’s like the ginger from Suburgatory with more Gothic bite. Here’s the 30-second spot they’ve been airing on TV.

The family ends up in a beautiful, sprawling house (yes, psychiatry pays well) with a bloody past. FX recently released the first five minutes of tonight’s episode. It doesn’t tell you much about the current family, but you get a sense of the creepiness that will be going on here. Hank Steuver of the Washington Post had this to say: “American Horror Story is one scream after another. So much creepy stuff happens in the first episode that viewers will be left asking: Can I possibly watch an entire series of this? Followed, of course, by a more obvious question: Why do they stay in that house?”

People in the horror genre are dumb! That’s why they stay put. Otherwise we’d have nothing to watch.

OK, enjoy the first five minutes.

To be honest, the scariest part for me was watching those boys vandalize irreplaceable light fixtures and stained glass. They had it coming.

Just to make sure you’re not missing the gay quotient here: The show is created and produced by the makers of Glee, and Zachary Quinto (is he or isn’t he?) has a recurring role as one half of the gay couple who formerly occupied the house – you know, the ones involved in the murder-suicide…

The answer: he is.

Better Homes and Gardens

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, ART, Authors, Found Item, Role Models, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 20, 2010 by effingjro

R.L. Stine turned me on to these crazy composite photos made by Jim Kazanjian. OK, he tweeted about it, but when has R.L. Stine ever steered me wrong? Check out more photos here.

Abandoned Amusement Park

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, ART, Films, Found Item, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2010 by effingjro

Gawker recently posted this captivating short video of a Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans that was closed shortly before Hurricane Katrina. Given that I consider Six Flags to be a fun, but very homogenized theme park conglomerate, I was pretty impressed with the pervasive quirky derelict creepiness in this place that’s only been abandoned for a few years. The filmmaker does some incredible pans across these post-apocalyptic landscapes (I particularly liked the “2012 is coming” graffiti). Generally I keep waiting for a zombie or a junkie squatter to jump out at me, but that never happens. It’s just six minutes of desolation.

Which is awesome. Props to Gawker for finding this and Teddy Smith for filming it. I would love to go here.

All Work, No Play

Posted in Abandoned Buildings, ART, Authors, Films, Man Appreciation Post, Photos, Rage Blackout, Reading Rainbow, Vintage, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by effingjro

You guys. The Shining is on TV right now.

Here’s a better shot of Jack’s typewriter:

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t happy to see he smokes Marlboro Reds.

Once upon a time I was in a writing class and we were reading Stephen King’s guide to writing, cleverly named: On Writing. Turns out he’s hardcore in terms of discipline: “Read and write four to six hours a day,” he says. “If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.”Sounds like ‘all work, no play’ is pretty much Mr. King’s mantra.

But here’s the thing, in this class, one of the students started hating on Stephen King. Hating on him hard. As in “I didn’t think the advice in this book was all that good. And it’s not like Stephen King is  exactly a literary genius.”

Whoa. Minor rage blackout there.

Now I’m not saying he’s the modern-day Homer, but Stephen King is not to be sniffed at. Dude has sold a LOT of books. Over 500 million. And you know what? They scare the crap out of me. I’ll never forget staying up until 4am my freshman year reading The Shining and getting too scared to go to the bathroom. I succeeded eventually, but  only after I stopped reading for a bit. I think King’s an easy target because he happens to be really commercially successful, but so was Dickens, and he’s aged pretty well.

Which is sort of what I said to that kid in my writing class. Except I probably was bitchier about it. My bad. I was on a big Stephen King kick at the time. I was moving through The Shining, Salem’s Lot, and Carrie at an alarming rate, plus I got a copy of Danse Macabre, another one of his non-fiction books, which deals with the horror genre and features a purple lumberjack on the cover.

I recommend it! At the time I hadn’t read a lot of authors King credits as big influences: peeps like H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson and Shirley Jackson. Since then I’ve gotten to like them all, which goes to show that if you want good book advice ask a writer.

This post wouldn’t be complete without another picture of Shelly Duvall. Joyce Carol Oates doppelganger and generally ugly actress.

And some iconic carpeting.


Posted in Abandoned Buildings, Found Item, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by effingjro

Who knows how I find what I find online. Actually I suppose I could explain to you how I found the Pod Village of San Zhi (it involved some circuitous exploration of DIY interior design, then a trip to Web Urbanist, which is fast becoming a new favorite site). Web Urbanist has a list of something like 13 ghost towns worldwide, but this one in Taiwan caught my eye because it’s technicolor and Mod and reminds me of Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Hotel in Tokyo (read about that here). But back to the Pod village…

It makes sense that they began construction on the complex in 1978, since it’s full of pop color and psychedelic lines. Too bad people started dying almost immediately during the construction, and locals and workers alike began attributing these deaths to bad luck, and maybe the bisection of an important dragon sculpture (the Taiwanese equivalent of building on an Indian burial ground?). Construction was scrapped around 1980, and no one ever lived there. Except squatters, and the angry dragon.

Unfortch they knocked it all down around 2008. So go find a hidden Pod Village of your own, let me know, and we’ll kick-start it in a psychedelic commune where everyone uses typewriters and no one defaces ancient statues.

Photos from My Several Worlds and Amazing Facts.


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