Thursday, April 14, 2016

Right Hear, Right Now! Review of Boyfriend by Tegan and Sara

Holy shit, have you heard Boyfriend yet?

You know, Boyfriend, the first single released off Tegan and Sara's forthcoming eighth album, Love You to Death (#LY2D). No?

Well do yourself a favor and click play on the video below, have yourself a listen, then come back and we can talk about how amazing it is.

WOW, right? 

First reaction: Boyfriend is catchy as ALL HELL. It's a clap-along, sing-along, stadium-shaking pop anthem. It's fun, fun, FUN.

But Boyfriend is more than just a fun pop song, and it's so not the first amazingly awesome Tegan and Sara single. Remember Hell, the first single released from Sainthood? And who could forget Closer from Heartthrob?

[Time for a quick aside that will place Boyfriend within the larger context of Tegan and Sara's catalogue and also prove my credentials as a mega-fan.

Frozen was released as a single ahead of the release of their first album, Under Feet Like Ours. It's a damn good song, but it's not my favorite song from the album. That would be This is Everything.

The First was, appropriately, the first single for This Business of Art, and although it tends to stay in my favorite three songs of Tegan and Sara's second album, it has never been my ABSOLUTE favorite. That would be My Number.

Tegan and Sara's third album was If It Was You. Time Running was the album's first single. GREAT song, but not my favorite from the record. Living Room is, and I had the absolutely great fortune to see them perform it live in concert during the Sainthood tour. (*Fans self* Is it hot in here? That was something else, let me tell you!)

After If It Was You came So Jealous, and the single Walking With a Ghost. I'm no different than anyone else. I LOVE that song, but it's not my favorite from the album. My favorite song from So Jealous is the much poppier Speak Slow.

And then there came the album that first introduced me to Tegan and Sara: The Con. Back in Your Head and The Con were both released as singles for the album, and for the first time a single is my favorite song! That would be The Con. Not Back in Your Head, sorry.

Buuut! That didn't last long. Hell was Sainthood's single, but The Ocean is my favorite song from THAT album.

And then there was Heartthrob. Closer was the single. And OH. MY. GOD. That song. Everyone loved that song. Even Taylor Swift. She invited Tegan and Sara to perform Closer with her on her tour. (!!!) And, Closer is tied with Drove me Wild for favorite song of the album.]

Boyfriend is, like I said, really really fun. But it's more than that. It is beautifully and unabashedly true. Tegan and Sara have never shied away from telling the truth in their songs, but Boyfriend feels like a new level off honesty.

From the very beginning of their careers, Tegan and Sara have been openly gay. Their fans have always known it, the industry has always known it. Everyone's known. And they have recorded a lot of love songs over the span of seven albums, but the love interests of their songs have always been "you."

From Closer: All you dream lately/ is getting underneath me. All I dream lately/ is how to get you underneath me.

From And Darling: Creep up and tell me that you/ you love me more each time you look into my eyes

From Call it Off: Maybe I would have been something you'd be good at/ maybe you would have been something I'd be good at/ but now we'll never know.

Of course, the focus of Boyfriend is still "you." And like I said before, Tegan and Sara have never been shy about the fact that they're gay. But Boyfriend is their fist single that sounds so undeniably and unapologetically gay. Pitchfork called it unmistakably queer (in a review that also labeled it the best new track of the week). The brilliance of Boyfriend, though, is that it has heaps of queer cred wrapped in an obsessively catchy mainstream pop anthem.

And Tegan and Sara have released this gem at probably the perfect moment in history. Read the Buzzfeed article that called Boyfriend a right-to-reply from "the silent partners of 'I Kissed a Girl' or Demi Lovato's 'Cool for the Summer.'"

From Boyfriend: You call me up, like you want your best friend/ you turn me on, like you want your boyfriend/ but I don't wanna be your secret anymore.

Sara has said in interviews that Boyfriend is about the beginning of her current relationship, when her girlfriend was still in a relationship with a man and was keeping Sara a secret. Sara didn't want to be a secret anymore, and now she doesn't have to be--not in that relationship, and not in any sense.

And why should anyone? Gay marriage is now the law of the land in the United States. Like the title of that buzzfeed article asserts, the rest of the world has FINALLY caught up to Tegan and Sara. No more secrets, just awesome music.

And if there are going to be fun, catchy pop anthems about queer love triangles, let them be sung by proud, out lesbians. Not Demi Lovato or Katy Perry.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Top Ten Reads of 2015


Call this the blog that almost didn't happen.

 I kept track of all the books I read last year like a dutiful book blogger (I read 36 by-the-by), noting which could be candidates for my Top Ten list along the way. Then in late December I actually compiled the Top Ten list, intending to write and publish this post either just before or just after the New Year.

Heh. Heh.

Best intentions, right?

Oh well. Let's get down to it, shall we? I have the same rules as I had in previous years: all styles of books are fair game because I'm not a pretentious bitch, and only one book by any given author can make the list, because I like to make equal opportunity Top Ten lists. I already reviewed some of the books that made the cut this year, and when relevant I will link to those reviews. In years past I linked to each book's kindle page but I think I will cut that part out with this end-of-year literary list. I read both electronic and dead tree books (aka paperback) and I feel like linking to ebooks only might come across as preferential. 

I don't want to tell you how or what or why to read. That's not my business, so long as you actually fucking read. This is a literary world, after all. 

And now the Top Ten list:

(10) Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was one of the founding fathers of noir fiction. Phillip Marlowe, the fictional PI he created is the literary godfather to all who followed him. If you've never given noir a try, give THIS one a try. If you love modern hardboiled fiction but have never explored its predecessors, fucking do so now.

(Also, if you have an hour or so to kill and are possessed of a sense of humor and a love of a well-turned line, go look at @chandlerisms on twitter. The account tweets only lines from the master's books. Lots of fun.)

(9) Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This book was so, so, so much fun. It managed to somehow be both in love with technology and Luddite-ish at the same time. I don't want to say much else, except: read this fun, fun, fun book! And check out @penumbra on twitter.

(8) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

I didn't want to like this book, but I did. And I wrote about it here. 

(7) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My boyfriend Brandon and I both read this book early last year. It was phenomenal! Then we watched the movie. It was ok. Not phenomenal, but not horrible.

(6) The 8 by Katherine Neville

This was one of a short stack of paperbacks that Brandon pulled off one of his shelves and handed to me because he thought I might like them. And my fucking god was he right!! Holy intrigue! Reading this felt like reading one of Agatha Christie's political intrigue novels.

(5) Warning Signs by Stephen White

This was another book from Brandon's short stack. It was the last book I read in 2015 and I loved it so much that so far this year I've read three more books from the same series, and I am currently reading a fourth. Yep. Love me Stephen White.

(4) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Please believe me when I say that I am done fangirling all over John Green. But I couldn't honestly leave this book off my list. I didn't so much READ this book as I INHALED it, in a few short hours (spread over 2 days) after which I sobbed like a little bitch. 

Reading John Green novels turns me into an emo 17-year-old. Check out an old post I wrote about how John Green writes about young girls. 

(3) The Last Call by George Wier

George Wier is an author I discovered in 2015. I started with this book, The Last Call, which is the first in a series of noir mysteries set in my town: Austin Texas! I loved it so much that I went on to read three more books in the series, and I plan to read them all!

(2) To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Okay, so maybe I'm cheating a little by bundling both of Lee's books into one slot on my Top Ten list. Maybe, but I don't think so. If you buy the argument (and I do) that Watchman was the rediscovered first draft of Mockingbird, they can really be taken as different versions of the same story. Even if you don't buy that argument, Watchman is best appreciated in connection with Mockingbird.

I blogged about the pairing last summer. Take a look here. 

(1) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Full disclosure: my reading of The Great Gatsby in 2015 was my second read-through of this novel. Like most Americans it was required reading for me in high school. But high school me HATED this book. I found it by turns boring and pretentious. I walked away from Gatsby with the impression that in it Fitzgerald celebrated the excesses of the leisured elite. That really pissed me off.

Boy was high school me thick. I completely missed the point of Gatsby. This time around, with a number of years and a TON of life experience under my belt, I found I could not merely appreciate, but actually LOVE this book. I'm so glad I gave it a second try.

Broke & Hungry in Austin Part 2: The Hideout Pub

Well, ladies and gentlemen! We're fresh off the start of the second month of the year, and that can only mean one thing:

It's time for another edition of #BrokeAndHungryATX!!

Last month Brandon and I ventured to a Mexican restaurant for their happy hour with mediocre results. So this month we decided to go with the more traditional happy hour at a local pub. The difference between the two experiences was stark: night and day, even. I wanna get to the report card, but first, a brief description of The Hideout Pub. 

Check out their website. I love how they just declare: We're cheap so you don't have to be. 
Their website asks: "why pay a lot?" And I respond, "Why, indeed?" But cost is only one of the factors that #BrokeAndHungryATX looks at. 

So let's take a look at all of them!


The Hideout Pub doesn't lie when they say their happy hour prices are cheap. With well drinks at $2.50 each and $1.75 Lone Stars there's no reason you can't catch an inexpensve buzz in their cozy bunker. I certainly did. 

Food's another issue, though. They do have food specials for happy hour, but it seems like their big food special day is Wednesday, which didn't apply to us. I think the only special offered on the Tuesday we visited was $2 tacos. We didn't get those, though. We got their trio plate (tortilla chips with queso, salsa, and ranch dip and I added guacamole) and Brandon ordered a Hideout burger.

All told, between the two of us we had 2 well bourbons and 1 Lone Star, a $10 appetizer and a $12.50 burger. Our tab was $31.11, to which we added the $5 tip, bringing our total cost for the excursion to $36.11.

Hideout Pub's grade for COST: B


The Hideout Pub truly delivered on taste. The well bourbons were really good--not great, but for $2.50 I don't need great. The queso and guacamole were both good, and Brandon enjoyed his burger. All in all, more than adequate pub fare. Great quality for the cost.

Hideout Pub's grade for TASTE: A


The Hideout Pub has a seriously cute bunker-theme going on. The lighting is dim and there's wood and metal everywhere. Thematically, it's just exactly what you would think a grown-up secret hideaway should be. And it wasn't short on entertainment: there were multiple screens playing a diverse assortment of television and movies along with a well-stocked jukebox and dart boards and arcade games.

All that was missing was a stack of coloring books and a few boxes of crayons.

The clientele, at least on the day we visited, appeared to be mostly regulars and mostly folks around our age (30s-40s). The bartenders and wait staff seemed comfortable with everyone. It felt like a clubhouse: comfortable.

Hideout Pub's grade for ATMOSPHERE: A


If you've been following along so far, I think you should be able to guess the grade I've assigned to Hideout Pub for returnability. Come on, don't be thick. Good prices, yummy food and cozy atmosphere can only mean one thing.

Hideout Pub's grade for RETURNABILITY: A

Me & Brandon at the Hideout Pub

You can read Brandon's review of the pub here!
As always, please follow me and Brandon on twitter! I'm @LiteraryGrrrl and he's @HMMADNESS. We love to connect on social media and are always on the lookout for new happy hours to try, so if you have any suggestions tweet us!

Otherwise, see ya next month!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Broke & Hungry in Austin Part 1: Fonda San Miguel

Welcome to the inaugural post in this year-long blog series I'm affectionately calling "Broke and Hungry in Austin TX!"

This is a joint venture between me and my boyfriend Brandon (Read his take on #BrokeAndHungryATX here). Through this monthly blog series we get a regular date and a damn good excuse to explore more of the taverns, pubs, and restaurants that are all over our fair city! And YOU, dear Reader, get the pleasure of reading about our low-budget adventures!

How's THAT, huh? You're welcome.

So here's how it works: every month this year, on the first Tuesday, Brandon and I will hit up a different happy hour. Our goal? To see if we can eat and drink and be merry within our budget, which is $45. NOTE! At least $5 of that forty-five is earmarked for the tip, so for all intents and purposes our budget is really $40.

Doesn't sound that hard, huh? Have you had a date in Austin lately? I LOVE Austin, and one of my favorite things about this city is the truly remarkable variety of awesome bars and eateries, but they can be pricey. On the other hand, I know, I JUST KNOW, that there are low-cost gems to be found here. And our goal is to unearth some of these through this blog series.

Without further ado, let us get to Part 1 of this blog series, in which we explore FONDA SAN MIGUEL.

You will Fonda San Miguel at 2330 W. North Loop. It is renowned locally for its interior Mexican cuisine and all-night happy hour on Tuesday, which is what we sampled. During their happy hour, Fonda San Miguel offers wines and house margaritas for $5, and has a menu of appetizers sold at half price.

Me and Brandon each ordered a frozen house margarita, and got two appetizers to share: queso and chicken quesadillas.

Here's where I start grading. I will grade each happy hour that Brandon and I try on four criteria: cost, taste, atmosphere, and returnability. The meaning of cost, taste, and atmosphere should be obvious, but returnability may not be. What I mean by returnability is simply how I feel about our likelihood to return to the establishment, for another happy hour or whatever. This may have everything to do with one or another of the other criteria, or nothing at all. It's just a feeling.


Fonda San Miguel's happy hour fully lived up to its reputation as far as affordability. With 2 drinks and 2 appetizers, our bill totaled $23.50, to which we added the $5 tip, so we ultimately spent $28.50. Guys, that's not bad at all. Everyone who lives in Texas knows that it can be hard for two hungry people to even eat at Whataburger for less than that.

Fonda San Miguel's grade for Cost: A


I'm gonna be real with you. The margarita was just meh. Frankly, I was disappointed. Sure, I've had worse margaritas, and these weren't BAD, but c'mon! This is Texas. Bland margaritas shouldn't even be allowed. Leave the boring margaritas to the states without Latinos.

Boring margarita is boring.

The food was better than the margaritas, but still it was nothing exciting. Worse, the queso was the kind that's thick and stringy--think molten string cheese. I understand that that is a legit style of queso, but man is it hard to operate. You've gotta cut it up, and then scoop it onto the tortillas and it just wants to slide around. And then if you're me you wind up using your fingers like some low-class gringa.

Crazy-ass queso

Fonda San Miguel's grade for Taste: C


Where Fonda San Miguel's truly excels is in its atmosphere. Simply put, this was one of the absolute cutest restaurants I have ever set foot in. Quirky art adorns the walls; a giant statue of a dragon greets you as you walk in; subdued, colorful lights create a playfully intimate tone. What's better: the place is spotless. Even the bathroom is spotless.

Shana vs The Dragon

Fonda San Miguel's grade for Atmosphere: A


So far Fonda San Miguel has earned 2 As and a C. So what are its chances for a high grade in returnability? Not fucking likely. 

I realize that sounds bitchy, but I'm just being honest. The folks at Fonda San Miguel are doing their absolute best, and they're delivering on all their promises. The happy hour menu is very, very attractively priced. I just think this was a mismatch for Brandon and I. I don't think we're Fonda San Miguel people. 

But that's okay,  because we have the rest of the year to experiment with different happy hours around town! We'll figure out where we fit in!!

Fonda San Miguel's grade for Returnability: D

You're welcome to follow me on twitter: @LiteraryGrrrl Brandon is @HMMADNESS. We love to connect and make new friends! If you have suggestions for happy hours for us to try in future installments of #BrokeAndHungryATX leave a comment below or chat us up on Twitter!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Jessica Jones is my Spirit Animal

I'm giving this post a subtitle:
AKA Why it's so Important that Jeri Hogarth is an Evil Dyke.
Hang on! I can explain.

First, some business. This article will be discussing the new Netflix original series Jessica Jones, featuring the Marvel superhero of that name. On November 20 Netflix premiered the entire first season of the series, to widespread critical acclaim and endless fangirl slobbering (half of that mine.) 

There have been many, many, many good reviews and articles written about the series so far. This one does a good job discussing the show in relation to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the movies. This one is a beautifully done critical look at just the second episode of the season (I recommend keeping an eye on that blog and reading the articles on every episode). This is a powerful article all about how the show represents misogyny. I've read articles about how Jessica Jones discusses PTSD, why rape apologists need to watch the show (and what they can learn from it), and on and on and on.

Clearly, Jessica Jones is onto something.

This show means a lot of things to a lot of people. It means so very much to me. It's just so very brave in the way that it takes an unflinching look at a lot of very dark realities. But when I decided to write about the show, I thought I would focus on something Jessica Jones does quietly. Because in this particular instance, it's what isn't said that is so important.

I'm talking about Jeri Hogarth, of course.

The Jessica Jones character (and associated story) wasn't created for the Netflix series. She started as a comic book character, and, of course, the comic is where all the secondary characters first breathed life as well. Only some of the characters were a bit...tweaked...for the television show. When Jeri Hogarth was first conceived, his name was Jeryn Hogarth and he was a straight white male.

Why was Jeryn changed to Jeri for the netflix show? I don't know, and I don't care. What impresses me so much about the character, is the ways in which her different character traits are and aren't played up.

So let's take a moment and address Jeri Hogarth's character traits.

Aspects of Jeri Hogarth's character that are played up in the show:
  1. Cunning
  2. Narcissism
  3. Wealth & power
  4. Cutthroat lawyer-y-ness
  5. Intelligence
  6. Confidence
  7. Reluctant respect of Jessica Jones

Aspects of Jeri Hogarth's character that are NOT played up in the show:

  1. The fact that she's a lesbian

Seriously. Jeri Hogarth is a lesbian. Not only that, but during the season we see her having an affair with her secretary and dealing with the subsequent messy divorce from her wife. And despite all of that, the fact that she's a lesbian is not a topic of discussion. Her sexuality is not a plot in the storyline. How Jeri handles her business and her relationships is a plotline, but not the fact that she sleeps with women. Because why the fuck should it be?

It's 2015. Jeri Hogarth is not the first openly lesbian character in a TV show. But the writers of Jessica Jones managed to do something with this character that is so breathtaking and rare: they portrayed a powerful lesbian woman struggling with her personal life in a way that doesn't focus solely on the gender of her spouse.

 This is so important and so unusual that I want to make that point again, a different way:

Viewers of Jessica Jones watched Jeri Hogarth cheat on her wife, file for divorce, get attacked by her wife, and ultimately watch in horror as her mistress killed her wife, but the discussion was never about the fact that Wendy is a woman and has a vagina.

Ladies and gentleman, this is the way to write gay characters. As characters. Because when we see Jessica and Luke get it on, the discussion is about Jessica and Luke not about their genitals. That's fucking parity. And that's fucking beautiful.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Reading Jonathan Franzen, a Sort-Of Review of The Corrections

I'm always incredibly late to the party.

This year (2015) I finally read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, a book that came out in 2001 and immediately took the Literary world by storm.

I didn't wait 14 years to read the book because I hadn't heard of it. I was aware of it. Books that are as successful and highly praised as The Corrections are difficult to ignore.

In fact, I thought about The Corrections a little too much for a book I intended never to read. I picked it up countless times at book stores and libraries, fingering the pages, eyes roaming the cover, thinking "Maybe? No." Before putting it back down.

I just couldn't bring myself to read it. Why? Because of 2 things I had read about the book and its author: (1) The Corrections is a literary masterpiece, and (2) Jonathan Franzen is a pompous windbag.

I have no idea if Mr. Franzen is as much of a douchebag as twitter asserts. Just for fun, I suggest you google "why the internet hates Jonathan Franzen" and read some of the articles that come up.

What follows is a review of sorts. It's not so much a review of The Corrections itself as it is a review of my experience of reading a Jonathan Franzen novel. (Oh yes, I'm that self-involved.) In list form, because lists.

(1) The cover of The Corrections is a case study in the culture war between literary fiction and genre fiction.

You might think that the book's cover art is fairly simple and innocuous, but you would be wrong. The picture is of an American family sitting down to what is presumably a holiday meal. The family is white and probably at least middle class, as evidenced by the Sunday best that the two young boys you can see are reluctantly wearing.

(I'm comfortable assuming that this is a holiday meal because of the gorgeous turkey that is proudly presented by the matriarch of the depicted family. Turkeys are understood as the cultural centerpiece of American holiday meals, despite the fact that not every family chooses to have one.)

Book covers are designed to entice readers to buy the book. In order to do so, they attempt to create a feeling of kinship between the readers and the book, as well as the book's author. The symbolism used in the cover art, therefore, is not accidental.

JONATHAN FRANZEN is emblazoned across the top third of the cover, in larger typeface than The Corrections. The picture of the family-at-holiday-mealtime takes up less than 25% of the cover space, and is pushed down to the bottom of the cover.

Between the title of the novel and the picture is a blurb from the New York Review of Books:

"You will laugh, wince, groan, weep, leave the table and maybe the country, promise to never go home again, and be reminded of why you read serious fiction in the first place."

Where to begin?
Setting the author's name in larger typeface than the book title suggests that the author is a larger draw than the book itself, and thus more important. So, from the outset the reader is being told that Jonathan Franzen is a Super Important Dude.

Mr. Franzen's  name is so large on the cover that it dwarfs the picture beneath it. But that's not all. The position of his name in relation to the picture, as well as the size of his name in relation to the picture, are both meaningful and problematic:  unless you're white, middle class, and exclusively read literary fiction, in which case this cover just reinforces your pre-existing world views.

But I'm not talking to those people.

This cover associates Jonathan Franzen, as an author and public figure, with the middle class, middle class culture, and middle class ideals. But, since his name lords it over the rest of the cover art, it also elevates him above those very people and ideals. He is both of the privileged class and better than the privileged class, and from his vaunted position, he is qualified to judge the rest of the people in it.

The blurb from the New York Review of Books serves to assure the reader that he/she has a place at the holiday table. He/she is being told explicitly that "yes. You are one of us." The reader is acknowledged to have a background similar to those in the picture (and, presumably, to that of Jonathan Franzen himself). The holiday meal depicted on the cover is referred to as Home. This book, therefore, is being presented as a shared experience.

But it's not just The Corrections that is being shared. Also implied as shared between the readers of the novel and the book's author is the middle class American experience, and all that that includes: material comfort, stability, an above-average education that includes college, parents that probably don't love each other but probably also don't beat you, and boredom.

Oh, and Serious Fiction. Mr. Franzen writes Serious Fiction and his readers and cohorts exclusively read it.

There are others, of course, who aren't invited to Mr. Franzen's shared literary experience. Those who are too poor, maybe, or too uneducated, to read Serious Fiction. Who are they? Readers of genre fiction, of course. And I am one of those people.

Hence my long-time reluctance to pick up and actually read The Corrections.

(2) I absolutely fucking loved The Corrections

I so hate to admit this, after having so thoroughly dissected the book's disgustingly elitist cover art. But it's true. It will likely end up on my end-of-year top ten list.

(3) I will likely read Mr. Franzen's newest and even more controversial novel Purity. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

31 Days of Halloween: Hellraiser

Well, I finally fucking did it. I watched Hellraiser.

In my first blog post of this month-long series in which I reviewed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, I told you all about how my boyfriend Brandon (aka Horror Movie Madness) and I spend the month of October. For us, October is full horror movie immersion month. You see, I'm horror movie deficient, and Brandon has decided he will cure me of that. 

It's fun, and I super enjoy it, but long ago I told Brandon I only had one rule: no Hellraiser.

"I will not watch Hellraiser," I told him all those years ago. "Not in a box, not with a fox. Not on a train, and not in the rain."

Brandon, being a kind and loving boyfriend, agreed to my terms. But he was curious, so he asked why. I explained to him that many years ago, in circumstances I can't remember, I stumbled into a room in which someone was watching the movie. I caught ten to fifteen seconds of it, and it scarred me for life.

It was that fucking chattering Cenobite. I saw him grab a woman by the head and shove his fingers in her mouth. It looked to me like he was attempting to rip her jaw off, or perhaps he was miming forced oral sex. I couldn't really say for sure which, but it turned my stomach.

Anyhow, fast-forward to today. This is our third year of October horror-movie lessons. I've already conquered the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses. I've seen most of the eighties slasher flicks and the classic seventies religious-cult movies. I thought it was time that I climb Mount Hellraiser and get it out of my system.

Besides, I always thought it was a little weird that I've read (and enjoyed) many of Clive Barker's novels and couldn't bring myself to watch the movie adaptation of his story that he, himself, directed.

So I watched Hellraiser today. And this is my assessment.

It was good.

Ha! I have more to say than that, of course. But just right off the bat: Hellraiser was exactly as scary as I expected, but not to the point where I couldn't enjoy Clive Barker's story. The man is just as much a genius of the genre as Stephen King, and I wouldn't say that lightly.

There are only a handful of characters in Hellraiser: Larry, a remarried widow of considerable financial means that derive from an unspecified origin; Larry's new wife Julia, his brother Frank; and his daughter Kirsty.

It's revealed early in the movie that Frank is a philandering cad who may or may not live off his brother's money, and who slept with Julia on the eve of her marriage to Larry. Frank is also, not surprisingly, the person who hunts down the demon-raising puzzle box and summons the Cenobites. They variously torture and pleasure him, as is their wont, and banish him to Hell-with-a-capitol-H.

When Larry cuts his hand and bleeds on the floor of their family home, the blood somehow nourishes Frank, who begins to rematerialize in his earthly form. Frank then reaches out to Julia, telling her that if she feeds him the blood of more innocents he would come back to life all they way. Julia, recalling their one wild rendezvous, agrees to help.

Time out.

This entire movie is predicated on the fact that Larry is apparently so boring in bed that his wife would literally kill random innocent people in order to once again fuck her brother-in-law. Good God. How sad.  Poor Larry is surrounded by horrible people. Except for Kirsty. She is eventually the one to re-banish Uncle Douchebag Frank to Hell and drive away the Cenobites. Of course, she didn't do any of that soon enough to save her father's life, but, oh well.

This is a Clive Barker story, remember. There may be a simple plot line but that leaves plenty of room for art, however terrifying it may be, and for psychology. 

A common theme throughout most of Barker's stories is the conflation of pleasure and pain, disgust and desire. Those themes are found throughout the movie. There are images of sexually-titillating fingers-in-mouths in the clips of Julia and Frank's One Wild Night early in the movie, images that are twisted and recreated later when Kirsty accidentally summons the Cenobites and Chatterer grabs her head and shoves his fingers down her throat.

As much as that scene disturbed me years ago (and again today), I was impressed by how it sort of bookended the earlier scene. It's like it put a ghoulish period on the end of that sentence.

I'm glad I watched Hellraiser. But, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I don't think I'll be watching it again.

I will leave you with this image, because it is cute, and cute conquers scary.

For another take on Hellraiser, read what Brandon thought of it!