Category Archives: Work life

Hanging out with suspension artists at the KC Villain Arts Tattoo Convention

The Enigma pulls off a blindfolded stunt with a live chainsaw. (Photo from www.theenigmalive.com).

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I normally would not have considered going to a tattoo convention. Although I enjoy well-executed tattoos on other people, I have zero tattoos and have no intention of getting any. Likewise, I am minimally pierced with no plans to get additional piercings. That said, I’m glad I went to the 3rd Annual Kansas City Tattoo Convention by Villain Arts.

A victim of the volcanic eruption at Pompeii: The Exhibit.

What made this trip great for me was the quality of live performances, along with local sightseeing. Because I seek out morbid attractions, I attended Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Union Station. Of course the fate of the the ancient city was gruesome, but the glimpse into the daily lives of Pompeii’s inhabitants was fascinating and more technologically advanced than one would expect. Although the exhibit is no longer in Kansas City, I highly recommend seeing it at its next location.

At the tattoo convention itself, it was very cool to meet The Enigma, whom I immediately recognized from a popular episode of The X-Files. The Enigma’s live performance combined stand-up comedy with gross-out stunts, along with sideshow staples such as sword-swallowing. He best describes his own act by observing that stage magicians make the audience ask “how?,” whereas sideshow artists like himself make audiences ask “why?'”. I should also mention that he is an utter sweetheart in person.

Burlesque artist Marlo Marquise. Photo by Gary Heller.

But the most shocking things happened during the late night performances, starting with burlesque artist Marlo Marquise, who combined a striptease act with stunts similar to those performed by The Enigma earlier in the day. But then she went a few steps beyond his performance by balancing on machetes and piercing her own skin with metal skewers. Her other acts include fire-eating,  a “burlesque on hooks” suspension act, and balancing on a staircase of machetes. You can watch clips of her performances at her website (NSFW).

After Marlo’s performance, there was a series of “suspension acts,” by three different women, one of whom had never tried it before. Although I had seen videos of suspension on TV, it was entirely different seeing such performances live. I’m not ordinarily a squeamish person. After all, I’ve assisted in dozens of autopsies, served victims of violent crime in emergency rooms, and once worked for a funeral home. But for some reason, I initially found seeing these women hanging from hooks in their skin to be disturbing. I feared their skin would rip, causing them to fall from a significant height. It also looked incredibly painful. Yet, the performers appeared to be having fun.

Marlo balances on a staircase of machetes, from her Youtube page.

The following day, I talked to some of the performers about what it is like to be suspended, and their answers made me more comfortable with the idea of trying it someday myself. But don’t take my word for it. I’m happy to announce that our next podcast guest will be Marlo Marquise herself! She will be discussing her unique stage performance and clearing up misconceptions about suspension art. In the meantime, read this article from The Atlantic to learn more about the 5,000-year-old art.

 

In Her Skin: women hurting women

Naughty me, I’ve abandoned posting for a few days, yet there are still so many women-directed horror films to discuss!

In the last week, My Horrific Life podcast cohost Todd and I saw The Love Witch  at the Alamo Drafthouse; I got bogged down in spring cleaning (anyone know how to get bloodstains out of an antique wool rug?); and I caught The Belko Experiment, which doesn’t fit this month’s theme, but it worth your time despite the mixed reviews. Some have referred to The Belko Experiment as a Trumpian satire, but that’s just the liberal lamestream fake news media talking. To be precise, the manner in which characters are selected to die is more like watching Paul Ryan and GOP House members trying to balance the budget by cutting existing programs. Hint: people over 60 are selected to die first.

Getting back to women’s horror films, Shudder made things easy for me by featuring their own collection of women-directed films. I was almost hesitant to cover In Her Skin  (a.k.a. I Am You, directed by), because it’s debatable if it even qualifies as a true horror film. As some Shudder users described it, it’s mostly just sad. But the subject matter is horribly fascinating. I have more than a decade’s experience serving victims of violent crime and stalking. Because most of this work was specifically with victims of sexual and domestic violence, the victims were almost always women and the perpetrators almost always men. In some of my former agencies, it was taboo to even admit that women could be stalkers or domestic abusers. Yet, I had never been as in much physical danger as when working with some of those women, who themselves had served time for violent offenses. Sadly, it was not entirely unusual for these clients to threaten staff members with weapons. Contrary to what MRA crybabies may claim, women are not equally or more violent than men, but when women are perpetrators, their crimes should not be minimized.

When women are discussed as stalkers, it is usually in the context of erotomania. Just think of David Letterman’s stalker. Rarely can one find discussion of women stalking women, although there is an excellent and insightful article by Charlotte Shane about online harassment. Some of the concepts discussed in Shane’s article are pertinent to the film, particularly the tendency of women who stalk other women to view intimacy with the target as a means to acquire the target’s desired traits, whereas a more rational person would merely emulate their hero’s positive habits or lifestyle.

In Her Skin is based based on the book Perfect Victim: A chilling account of a bizarre and callous murder (coauthored by the victim’s mother under a pseudonym), which in turn was based on the true story of 19-year-old misfit Caroline Robertson who murdered beautiful 15-year-old dance student Rachel Barber. Why? Roberton was obsessed with and envious of Barber’s “perfection,” and believed that she could assume Barber’s identity by murdering her. Robertson was released from prison in 2015, after 16 years of incarceration. Robertson was diagnosed with a personality disorder and had an exaggeratedly negative view of herself and her physical appearance.

A representation of Robertson’s twisted self-image

The film adaptation was somewhat slow and plodding, but maintained my interest because of its basis in real events. Sam Neill stands out as Robertson’s long-suffering father, who acknowledges to the police that his daughter has always been strange. The film doesn’t provide much backstory about Robertson’s estrangement from her father, aside from a massively uncomfortable scene in which she strips naked in front of him and rants about her physical imperfections. One gets the impression that this incident was only one of many similar incidents contributing to the rift. Having not read Perfect Victim, nor the actual case files, I can’t comment as to whether this event actually occurred, but it is an effective moment in the film.

Review: Understanding Necrophilia

For this edition of Scary Scholarly Saturday, we are going to look at the anthology Understanding Necrophilia: A Global Multidisciplinary Approach, edited by Drs. Lee Mellor, Anil Aggrawal, and Eric Hickey. I’ll admit upfront that I’m biased in my review, because I authored the chapter “Objects of Desire: Necroeroticism in Mainstream Pornography.” I won’t go into detail about my own chapter (you can read the supplemental material here), other than to say that I did my best to ensure that I was the villain this anthology deserved. I’m so pleased and honored that my first print publication is in a collection alongside chapters by those listed above, as well as other personal heroes including Katherine Ramsland, Michael Stone, Louis B. Schlesinger, and my BFF Cody Charette.

In my (biased) opinion, there are no bad chapters in this book. Furthermore, this book is truly the first of its type, due to its multidisciplinary approach to the subject of necrophilia, which tends to be under-studied and under-reported. Many of us presented new research findings, or furthered existing discourse on the subject. I can’t discuss all of the chapters in depth, but will cover a few highlights.

Chapters are grouped by discipline and subject matter, including historical and legal issues, cultural aspects (including depictions in literature and popular culture), etiological models, forensic investigations and treatment, and case studies.

*In “A Wider Shade of Pale” and “Mincing Words,” Lee Mellor examines paraphilias associated with necrophilia. The most important being that he finally lays to rest (pun intended) the idiotic term “necrosadism,” which  has been used to describe acts of piqcuerism and mutilation committed against corpses, and replaces it with a far superior term, “necromutilophilia.”

*In “Laws Pertaining to Necrophilia in the United States,” Dr. Cody Charette conducted a thorough examination of individual state laws un the U.S., debunking some often-misreported laws in the process. It is true that some states have no laws on the books against necrophilia. What I found interesting was the fact that a handful of states have laws containing gendered language that would theoretically allow female necrophiliacs to operate without fear of prosecution.

*Necrosurrealist artist David Gough was commissioned to create a new portrait for this anthology. The resulting piece, Putrefying Venus, is quite stunning.

*Jens Foell and Christopher Patrick discuss brain imaging data of paraphiliacs in “A Neuroscientific Perspective on Morbid Paraphilias.” Unfortunately, there are no brain imaging studies of necrophiliacs specifically, but the authors present a thoughtful discussion of how the existing research applies.

*Anil Aggrawal revisits his proposed typologies of necrophilia, previously outlined in his book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects, another book worth reading. I expect his typology to become essential in discussions of necrophilia.

Lastly, I want to point out that Understanding Necrophilia isn’t just a collection of academics and professionals dissecting necrophilia from the outside. This anthology also features an essay by a self-proclaimed necrophile. As a side note though, in my personal observation, successful academics and professionals don’t necessarily stand at a distance from any perversion, if you get my meaning. More than a few of us understand perversions from the inside looking out. But the gesture of including such an essay is unique and further sets this book apart from typical academic anthologies. Understanding Necrophilia further departs from the typical academic publication in that it embraces the fringes of pop culture by its inclusion of a chapter co-authored by Robert Rhine, the creator of Girls and Corpses Magazine.

 

“Objects of Desire” Supplemental Content Now Online

 

_Hustler Dec 1988 necrophiliacs

Cartoon in Hustler (December 1988, p. 108)

As the publication for Understanding Necrophilia swiftly approaches, I decided to publish the supplemental material for my chapter “Objects of Desire” at http://myhorrificlife.com/necrophilia-chapter. If possible, I will expand the image gallery at a later date. Once the anthology becomes available, I will post a review of the other authors’ contributions and a link with information about where to order the book.Needless to say, I am very excited to finally see my research in print.

Review: The Green Inferno

 

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Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno finally got a theatrical release today. As a fan of Roth’s earlier films Cabin Fever and Hostel, I felt he was long overdue to direct another feature film. As in Hostel, Roth once again explores themes of entitled Americans traveling abroad without a proper understanding of the culture or of the risks involved. This time, a group of student activists are captured and brutalized by the same South American tribe they wanted to save.

Those who have followed prerelease news about The Green Inferno know that it’s inspired by films such as Cannibal Holocaust, and that influence is apparent with some modifications. Most notably, Roth eschewed  scenes of rape and onscreen animal abuse (real or simulated). I found the non-simulated killing of animals in Cannibal Holocaust to be that film’s biggest flaw, so didn’t find its absence in The Green Inferno to be a loss. Roth’s redux of the sub-genre still has plenty of cringe-inducing moments, including a scene in which a screaming activist has his eyes gouged out onscreen, and is then dismembered alive before finally being decapitated. Subsequent scenes of the cannibals flaying and preparing his flesh to eat also prove to be sufficiently nauseating.

Like its predecessors, The Green Inferno depicts the the culture of the first-world colonialists to be just as barbaric as that of the cannibal tribe. But where Roth’s re-interpretation truly shines is in his caustic commentary on modern activism. And it’s one that has personal relevance to me. Had I not spent 15 years of professional and volunteer work in various activist groups and non-profits, I would have found this film to be far too cynical. I’ve seen truly amazing work by people who have a genuine passion to make a difference. And I’ve also met a handful of…the other type. While a detailed description of these experiences would merit a separate post, suffice it to say that I’ve worked with racist “feminists” and smug faux-hippies who took home six-figure incomes while paying full-time direct service staff $17K per year. I’m convinced that most of these activists just wanted the PR or to reassure themselves of their own worth. Some of these unwholesome  exploited workers who were sincere about making a difference, sometime putting those workers’ lives at risk, sometimes endangering the people they purported to serve, and in the process perpetuating the original problem in the process.

Roth created two particularly rotten pseudo-activists, and if there is one complaint I have about this film, it’s the fact that these two characters didn’t receive an appropriate onscreen comeuppance. (Some of my favorite aspects of Hostel were its gleeful revenge scenes and general philosophy of instinct karma.) It’s an interesting choice given the graphic deaths of some of the more likable characters. The Green Inferno is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Roth’s earlier work.

 

The Green Inferno is now available on Blu-ray and DVD: