This one’s about planning one last heist, on some other crim’s house, after they find something in the woods. I love the genre so it was fun to play with some of the tropes to build this d20 prompt table that would guide you through writing quite an interesting tale.
Here’s the official write up for it:
It’s time to plan a heist, a big one, and you have to beat everyone else to it. Word on the street is Ol’ Lockpin Jones found something buried out in the woods. They haven’t been seen outside their house in two weeks. Gums are moving, plans tossed around, hopes about money or treasure or…something else. You know terrible types are fixing to steal whatever it is, and Lockpin deserves it for the shit they’ve done to everyone in town, so you don’t feel bad about planning to be the first to relieve them of this strange prize so you can finally retire and get away somewhere nice.
The Heist on Foley Lane is a solo writing RPG that follows an aging criminal as they prepare one last heist…but they don’t know what this strange thing they’re stealing is.
Use the one page document to start your journal about wanting to pull off this last heist and leave town, but all the while dealing with 2 different mysteries. The prompt table will slowly guide you through weeks of everyday life alongside minor investigations and surprises, as well as interactions and opportunities to get your imagination and creativity cooking.
I was heavily inspired by a few crime stories and worlds that operate on the same plane of existence as the rest of us. Elmore Leonard’s people always feel grimy enough to probably live two towns over from us. I’m always chewing over Ed Brubaker’s work, especiaqlly his most recent RECKLESS books with Sean Phillips. I was also thinking about good dark Aussie crime like TWO HANDS and THE SQUARE and GETTIN’ SQUARE. That idea of criminal people just sitting around the suburbs trying to think their way out of problems intrigues, delights, and kinda horrifies me.
To play this game, you only need a d20, a d6, and the way and will to write out an awesome adventure.
These games are one-page pdfs, where you sit with some dice and a way to write and you slowly construct a story based around the set up and prompt table I’ve created.
This one allows you to craft a story where you explore your old home town, and discover the eldritch horror and secrets being barely kept beneath the surface. The prompt table has some really great little moments of exploration about the town, the people in it, and your own history as you slowly unravel what the hell has been bubbling under this town for so long, and why it took the life of you father recently.
I appreciate the people who have been sharing the link, and laying some coin down for this free game. Knowing these things land out there in the world is a joy, and it’s why I’ve already written the fourth entry into this collection – The Heist on Foley Lane [coming in late March].
Here’s the official info on the site:
You grew up in Kindred Rocks, building haunted memories with a smile, but left to finish your studies elsewhere and find your own life. Years later, you return to bury your father and move into the family home as you take his role as the town’s lighthouse keeper. But, alas, things in the hometown are just as strange as they ever were…
The Lighthouse at Kindred Rocks is a solo writing RPG that blends small town life with an investigation into eldritch secrets.
Use the one page document to start your journal about returning to your home town after your father’s death and then investigating 2 different mysteries. The prompt table will slowly guide you through weeks of everyday life alongside minor investigations and surprises, as well as interactions and opportunities to get your imagination and creativity cooking.
I was heavily inspired by just my aesthetic love of lighthouses, and the places that surround them. If I see a lighthouse on a trip, I’m gripped by the desire to go visit it, stare at it, see what’s around it. I can definitely draw a link between my love of eerie fiction and my childhood spent watching Australian TV icon ROUND THE TWIST, wherein a family moves to a small coastal town and lives in the lighthouse. I loved that show as a kid, and still do, because that setting just felt…boss. So I’m drawing from that deep childhood love, matched with the weird occult stylings of random stuff like: PAPER GIRLS by Cliff Chiang & Brian K Vaughan, China Mieville, FRIDAY by Marcos Martin & Ed Brubaker, maybe a little ROSEMARY’S BABY, and possibly even some of the “what is reality?” vibe of Philip K. Dick.
To play this game, you only need a d20, a d6, and the way and will to write out an awesome adventure.
This one is all about a mystical kung fu tournament where secen hidden islands send their best fighters to round robin out their talents and aggression to decide the next decade’s protector of the keys. It’s big awesome fun!
The whole thing was 100% percent inspired by my love of The Immortal Iron Fist by Aja/Fraction/Brubaker, and specifically The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven storyline. If you want fun in this tradition, you’re in the right place.
The one page pdf is free to download on the itch.io page, and I’d appreciate anyone sharing the link.
Okay, let’s go through a few things you might be thinking:
WHAT’S A SOLO WRITING ROLE PLAYING GAME?
Alright, a solo writing rpg is a “game” you can play by yourself, and by play I mean you end up writing something as you go through the game.
It’s usually a document with a set of prompts that get you to think about what your character does and what might happen along this story/journey that’s loosely laid out and then you fill in all the details – like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but each chapter isn’t written out with a choice at the end, you have to do the writing of each section, and we just help out with the choices/options of what comes next.
I’ve bought and read a whole bunch of them in the past year. Some are great, some are less great – usually it comes down to the general idea/genre/story, and then it’s the ability for the prompts to inspire creativity without being too guided, or too flat and vague.
The best ones create a chance to write a short entry every day where you follow your character through something interesting. The way I see it, if someone sat down with their notebook, pencil, and a d20 and just did one page a day, they’d come out of the process with a little stack of cool moments, ideas, pages, and their brain would be all the better for it. The world, too, if they decided to share it.
This one was created using the Second Guess System by Gamenomicon – which is utterly brilliant in construction – and inspired by their Hard Case game – a brilliant single page of construction and genre. I love that this model/structure was created, and then shared for free, and it really set my brain on fire. It’s about 5 minutes to read, and then you’re ready to go make something awesome!
WHAT’S WELCOME TO FARADAY ABOUT?
Welcome To Faraday is a suburban horror rpg where I position 3 mysteries, and you use this 1 page document to guide you through interactions and moments in your little town of Faraday to solve the mysteries, or not. I don’t provide the solutions, to be clear, you do that. All of the hard lifting is on the side of the player, I just provide the inspiration and general framework.
When thinking about this, I had the following things firmly in my mind: ‘Salem’s Lot, The ‘Burbs, Stranger Things, Suspiria, Home Sick Pilots, Kids with Bikes, and my own childhood in the 80s riding my BMX to the milk bar. This is the vibe, tone, and stuff I’m looking to also inspire.
A mash up of strange and surreal amongst the simplicity of suburban life. But the main horror element is decided by the player. I have set the mysteries, and the prompts, but you get to decide if it’s vampires, or aliens, or a sadistic megacorporation, or werewolves, or whatever you want. I wanted that flavour to be chosen by the player, but the setting and everything else is set up by me.
WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS?
I really want to teach creative writing with these, so I’ve been thinking about them a lot, studying them, and working out what I like best about them. Also, as a writer, I just love the creativity they inspire in my own brain.
I know I’m mostly writing comics, and I bang on enough about that, but I forget sometimes to mention how deeply I love writing of all kinds. I’ve written prose shorts, back up essays in comics, reviews, I edited a whole book of essays about Daredevil [it’s true], and I write a lot of D&D adventures I run at school and with my mates. As I fell further into these journaling games, it became another cog turning in my brain.
The perfect intersection between teaching these and playing these was to be creating these. The creation is just as creatively satisfying for me as playing one, and hopefully then other people get to play something new.
I am also 100% going to use this one in the coming semester’s Suburban Horror unit I’ll be teaching, so there was that motivation to create the exact tool I wanted/needed, also. That’s the reason why this exists and what pushed me the extra step to make this one specifically.
But even beyond that, I just like writing and creating stuff. This is how my brain works. So with no major script due on my desk, and a bit of time sitting at my table over a convention day, I put my brain to use on this.
I absolutely cannot wait to make more. I have some other genres and ideas I’m mentally sketching out and am dying to get to.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THIS?
You should go check the game out and download a copy.
The latest issue of my new series through Mad Cave Studios is in Previews magazine and ready to preorder through your LCS! Come see what Emmanuele Parascandolo and I have created with…
SPEED REPUBLIC #2
Illustrated by Emmanuele Parascandolo
Written by Ryan K Lindsay
Coloured by Michele Monte
Lettered by Joamette Gil
Edited by Chris Sanchez
Choose from one of these two covers!
The first issue lands on Feb 02, and this is later in March.
The comic is set in the future where Europoe has formed one nation state, united under the face of The Autocrat – a singular ruler who’s in it for himself, and the few he allows in his periphery. The rest of the nation is slipping into despair and ruin, slowly, painfully, with resources and opportunities few and far between. But once a year the Autocrat runs The Great Race, a kind of gumball rally style epic drive where one winner gets admission to the haven of the 1%.
Sebastian Valencia has entered the race because he’s got little other options left to him. His father is dying, his life very bland, and this is at least a glimmer of hope. Even if the survival rate for drivers is low due to the other racers, and maurauding street gangs, and just the landscape in general, this race is at least a chance for money and safety and life beyond the reach of your arm.
And so we set off on this race, and madness ensues. It’s as much The Running Man as it is Mad Max as it is Speed Racer as it is The Cannonball Run.
Here are some early reviews to help push you across the line to preorder our wild beauty:
Well at least it’ll be better than 2020, we cried into the night, before a few months of 2021, and then we just cried into our cereal.
It’s been an interesting year. We’d come out of Covid and lockdowns and the year started pretty cruisy. Where I live, we had zero cases for months on end and everything genuinely felt fairly back to normal. My teaching game was strong, I was reading plenty, and then Sami Kivela and I had EVERFROST launch at Black Mask and Sebastian Piriz and I had BLACK BEACON launch at Heavy Metal.
Things “looked” good.
Then the Delta variant swept across the nation, slowly but surely, and eventually invaded my ‘hood and we went into another lockdown. When that happens, my teaching load goes through the roof. It wasn’t as bad as 2020, but it was still pretty escalated. My comics kept coming out, I kept teaching, so there was nothing catastrophic.
Then I decided to change up my dayjob a little – I’ve moved from teaching little kids to now teaching English. It’s rad. But it’s taken a lot of mental load and prep to make the transition smoothly, especially as it happened as we came out of lockdown – a strange time to be doing anything, no less starting a new job at a new school.
It did mean I was ‘forced’ to do more reading, though.
I have no clue what 2022 has planned, but looking back on 2021, there’s a lot of good so I’ll spend this space celebrating some of that good stuff. Here goes…
As always, I manage to find awesome comics to read because people keep making pretty awesome comics.
My brain took in a Joe Hill Double Bill.
PLUNGE was one that stood out for it’s John Carpenter vibes and beautiful Stuart Immonen art. I dug the book, it’s a very fun ride, and does what it says on the tin with its 80s horror flick vibes.
I followed it months later with A BASKETFUL OF HEADS, which was one I didn’t know anything about, and I’ll be honest that the cover was giving me the wrong vibes for it. I thought it was some kind of eerie gothic slasher book, and it’s anything but – open it to find it’s another 80s throwback, maybe even late 70s, honestly, about a young woman defending herself against some escaped criminals, and she randomly uses this axe from a house display, and it’s a mystical blade that doesn’t cause death but instead life. So when she chops someone’s head off, it remains living.
A great premise, and a really enjoyable book!
My mate Paul Allor teamed with another mate Paul Tucker to create HOLLOW HEART and it really was something else to touch your heart. A brilliant tale of love and monsters and captivity. Seeing Paul write the kinds of emotional and esoteric stories I wish I could fills me with joy.
TRESPASSERS from Breena Bard was one my kids picked up, but I instantly devoured. A really fun middle grade romp about a forgotten mystery and some kids who think they’ve got the right thread on the sweater to pull. I really do love stories about kids investigating crimes. There’s just something about it as a kid I always loved, and as an adult it still fills me with joy and inspiration.
DAREDEVIL continues to be a comic I enjoy, but I gotta admit I’m getting lost in the monthly churn with it. There’s a chance I might transition to trades on this soon, as I have with most things, because my monthly buying and reading has gone to guano since these last two lockdowns, and I find myself constantly lost in where I am up to, or what’s been going on and for how long.
If this also means books need to pivot more towards graphic novels, well, I’m all for that, I guess. The more they make them, the more people will buy them when they come out, and then the more stores will sell them, and then we’ll better get into the habit of buying them, and around and around it will go. I hope.
Speaking of people buying graphic novels as they drop: RECKLESS from Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker dropped another 2 volumes this year. I read the first [which is the second volume] and it suitably kicked ass. I actually have but have not read the 3rd volume, as I’m holding it off as some kind of New Years treat, alongside a few other things, like NOVEMBER Vol. 4 from Elsa Charretier and Matt Fraction. I had to hustle through two different reporting periods, and then I’ve been reading stuff for next year, so these two are waiting for me and I cannot wait.
Transitioning to another Brubaker book, this time with Marcos Martin, I got myself straight into their collaboration with FRIDAY and found myself loving it more and more as each issue slowly wound its way around this very awesome mystery plot. This book is just the definition of beautiful, so I’m looking forward to more.
Did a cheeky run of rereading and ploughed through DOUBLE INDEMNITY by James M. Cain, FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley, THE GUNSLINGER by Stephen King, THE OLD MAN AND THE SEAS by Ernest Hemingway. All good and interesting reads.
I read THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O’Brien that’s a short story collection/exploration of the author’s time in Vietnam during the war and it’s a fascinating study. The circuitous way the stories are constructed and present certain key moments, it’s really quite beautifully done.
Benjamin Percy’s THRILL ME is a collection of his essays on fiction and it’s been instantly added to my mental curriculum list of things you should read if you want to be a writer. It takes a lot of his presentations and essays and makes them easy to digest, with examples, and a really strong and engaging authorial voice.
But it was WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje that captured me the most. This brilliant story about two kids after the war in Europe struggling to discover themselves, as well as the truth of their family, is a phenomenally well told narrative. The aspects of duality in life, the two sides we have, the truth we never know, the cause and the effect are all explored and brought to light [and hidden in the dark] in this really thoughtful and gripping read.
TED LASSO dropped a second season. Wherein the first looked at Ted slowly winning everyone over, this season went a whole new route – it’s basically just everyone on a journey to combat their inner demons, or sometimes the outer ones. A season of people trying to kick depression in the nethers sounds…ethereal, but it really built and built. It’s hard to compare against the brilliance and surprise of the first season, but I feel like this one stands alongside it as a perfect companion – not a clone, mined for similar but diminishing success, but a new step into something just as challenging and emotionally true as the first.
I really enjoyed WANDAVISION – a superhero show that kinda made you think. It was unlike most anything else from the MCU, and for that alone I was happy. I’ve watched them all, and found FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER to be fun, but that was about as far down as the show could dig, and LOKI was as charismatic as its lead, and WHAT IF…? definitely scratched an itch for me. Good to have one I could watch with the kids, too.
HAWKEYE was a little up and down, but Hailee Steinfeld really grows into the role for me. Yes, another quippy, snarky superhero, who knew?! But she’s so good in the role, I’m happy to see the entire Marvel film franchise end up in the hands of her, especially when paired with Yelena as their scenes in the show were absolute dynamite for chemistry. Give them the reins of the show alongside Captain Marvel, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Scarlet Witch, and Valkyrie, and whatever other younger heroes I’m forgetting, or they continue to amass.
ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING was a fun crime show whose premise and structure was really well put together. Getting to see Steve Martin, and Martin Short, both get decent roles to play and show they still know how to chew up some scenery was a delight.
Feel like I watched more, but specifics elude me.
MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES has to be movie of the year, right? I could watch it once a week and still find myself laughing my absolute ass off. So effortlessly constructed and genuinely funny as well as moving. Just a masterpiece of family cinema.
BO BURNHAM: INSIDE was a complete earworm of a show, but I thought it was just the right balance of poignant against the esoteric. I found myself genuinely captivated, which for something shot by one guy in his house is very impressive.
I can’t remember what else I saw this year…
I discovered THE KINGSLINGERS podcast, wherein two fellas started reading THE DARK TOWER books, but one has already read them all, and one is completely new to it. As they go through sections they discuss what the newbie thinks is happening and what certain things mean. It’s a great way to unpack certain elements, and was fun to listen to alongside my reread for the first novel, and then to listen to their thoughts on the second one because it’s probably still my favourite of the series.
They’ve moved onto other King works, so I’m going to listen to the ‘SALEM’S LOT eps while I reread that book this month.
I also discovered SMARTLESS where Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes interview random Hollywood guests and it’s a fun show. I usually get a solid laugh out of it each time.
It’s been a good year for fun stuff to enter my brain. Here’s to 2022 bringing more good entertainment vibes, as well as creative ones. Keep the brain spinning and swimming!
My next comic is on the horizon – SPEED REPUBLIC is set to launch in Feb 2022, and I am hugely excited for this to hit the stands at 100mph!
SPEED REPUBLIC is a 5 issue miniseries about an epic car race across the future nation state of Europe where the winner gets a safe future, but everyone else risks death and worse along the way.
Art by Emanuele Parascandolo
Colours by Michele Monte
Letters by Joamette Gil
Written by Ryan K Lindsay
Edited by Chris Sanchez
Published by Mad Cave Studios
This is a really fun story where I get to take our leading character, Seb Valencia, and put him through some pretty wild situations. I’m channeling THE LONG WALK by Richard Backman/Stephen King by way of considering how the Coen Brothers layer vignettes into a fine tapestry and in doing so a tale across Europe has unfolded that takes into account the future, what happens when someone has too much power, how people survive, why people survive, and just how weird we can all get if given enough space and desperation.
The book is available for preorder now through your local comic shop, and you should hit them up and tell them you want you want every issue of this set aside for you so you do not miss out. Every issue gets better until we land on very, very awesome final issue sequence. Here’s the preorder info:
We also have a video trailer that you need to see because there are many interesting little peeks into things that are coming in the series. Keep your eyes peeled, because we guarantee you’ll see things here that intrigue you, and will delight you on the page in a few months time.
I am really psyched, and genuinely honoured, to announce that the EVERFROST tpb lands in December with a Foreword written by one of my favourite modern writers Lonnie Nadler!
You can still preorder the trade collection of all 4 issues of EVERFROST at your LCS so it’s ready for you when it hits shelves in early December! Here is all the info you’ll need.
We got two lovely pages of erudition from Lonnie Nadler for this collection, and I asked him along for the ride because he’s someone I massively admire, but he also fit the sensibilities of this book perfectly. It’s a big sweeping sci fi epic told in very specific and formulated chunks across 4 issues. It’s got structure, and huge ideas, and meaning behind it all and that all made me think of Lonnie.
To recap the brilliant work Lonnie has done, which I’m sure you’ve read, let me go through my highlights!
Before any comics were made, I met Lonnie at the Seattle Sheraton in 2013 and he instantly stood out as a Good Bloke. That kind of introduction is something you always file away for later use. And so, later, in 2017, when I’d meet him again, it would be as I tabled at ECCC with Eric Zawadzki who was in the midst of producing THE DREGS with Lonnie and co-writer Zac Thompson [another Good Bloke].
Now, I loved THE DREGS, it’s this insanely smart and disgustingly beautiful homeless noir story that grabbed me by the collar and shook me awake with each issue. So, naturally, I was stoked to make time with Lonnie throughout that weekend to talk comics, movies, and life alongside some burgers or just the buzz of the showfloor.
Since then, Lonnie has continually ascended in comics opportunities and quality. Putting out a few more creator owned books eventually led to some Marvel opportunities for him and Zac, which they both ran with through some wild storylines, and the whole time I could see Lonnie putting meaning into his writing, wanting everything to matter and be quality and use comics as part of the story, not just the final delivery method.
It’s then that Lonnie wrote BLACK STARS ABOVE with Jenna Cha co-creating as artist, and the book absolutely floored me. It’s eerie and beautiful and such a delight for the brain to read. It might be Lonnie’s masterpiece, which says something as it stands atop an already hugely impressive career.
So, yes, when it came time to think of someone to write a Foreword for EVERFROST, there was only one name I thought of. Lonnie had already read the first few issues and given me some lovely feedback in am email, so I took my shot and was grateful he said yes.
The way I work with Forewords is I think of the one right person for the project and then I ask and hope. With every book I’ve written so far, I’ve asked just one person, and have usually been lucky enough to get them. If the book has no Foreword, it’s because that one person declined, or didn’t manage to make it in time. I was lucky enough to have Lonnie agree, and step up well before the deadline.
Thanks for choosing to preorder the tpb, indie comics are a small gig, and every single order matters, and tells stores that this book will sell, so then they’ll add another order for 1-2 for the shelf, particularly important as this lands right at the start of the holiday buying season. Thanks for telling your mates, or sharing my good word about the story, or for just being awesome. It is all appreciated.
EVERFROST the trade collection lands in December, preorder from your LCS today to get this epic sci fi tale from me, Sami Kivela, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell, and Dan Hill, all through Black Mask Studios!
This has been a year of me hyping EVERFROST, so it makes sense we’d close the year with a trade paperback release of the whole story in December.
If you are a trade waited, we got you covered — if you dug the issues, well, it’s just in time to buy a copy for a mate as a holiday season gift [I swear, more people need to give random comics as gifts – gifts aren’t about finding exactly what someone needs and filling that gap, they’re about finding something they didn’t know they needed and then expanding that pocket for them; normalise giving random things you *think* they’ll love].
Anyway, EVERFROST, our sci fi story of heartbreak and a big sword, is being collected in a tpb and it lands in stores everywhere in December and you need to preorder your copy now to ensure your store has one for you!
Written by Ryan K Lindsay
Illustrated by Sami Kivela
Coloured by Lauren Affe
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Edited by Dan Hill
Published by Black Mask Studios
I’m crazy excited about this story dropping in one book. I’ve worked so long on it, and I’ve loved it so deeply for that entire time, so getting it in its final form is going to be a heartwarming pleasure.
I’ll post more about it in the coming month – about our excellent reviews, and why the story is a banger, and the awesome Foreword we got written by an absolute genius – but for now, short and simple: tell your local comic shop you want a copy and prepare yourself to read and enjoy when it drops in december [or to not read but gift it like a boss]. Here are all the details you need!
ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD – this flick, it’s interesting and worth diving into. But I think that’s to pick it apart as much to celebrate it. I’ve found the more I’ve sat with the movie, the more I’ve had to discuss and discover, and that’s something I’ll always appreciate from a work of art. The more hours I get to sit with something, no matter what conclusions I come to, the more I feel happy for having engaged with that work. For me: the central binary relationship is captivating, the feeling that the final sequence is not real has had me thinking deeply for a minute.
Initial thoughts are: I definitely liked the movie, there’s plenty to love, but there are slices of it that just don’t gel with my brain. It feels longer than it needs to be, extended shots of people walking, driving, existing do a lot for mood and character, but at over two and a half hours, I couldn’t help but wish some had been trimmed, and I don’t think we’d have lost much in those cuts. Does the bloat ruin the flick? No. But it makes it feel like something else. Just a thought.
The main characters are both captivating, and each gets a chance to shine. DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, an aging Western star watching the world pass him by. There’s a whole sequence of him flubbing his lines and then coming back to shine that is genuinely beautiful. Watching his panic set in the moment he screws a line is so real, and in the end he’s elated to the point of tears when some tv director tells him he loved a take, and following on that some 8 year old also tells him it’s the best acting she’s ever seen, which is a very specific thing because she’s 8, how much acting has she really seen, and even though she’s precocious, what does she really know from quality? She’s most likely just regurgitating the world around her in a firm voice, as many precocious 8yo’s do, and she seems to at the start when she talks about needing to stay in character on set, even while not filming. But it’s this low level of acceptance that gets DiCaprio’s Dalton teary-eyed. That tells you everything you need to know about the character.
Then there’s Pitt’s stuntman, who is the opposite because he doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he only wants to stay with Dalton. He just wants to keep having this one connection, whereas Dalton wants to connect with the whole damn world, though you have to wonder if that’s true. It could just be Dalton wants to be “accepted.” It’s not art he’s seeking, it’s fame. Pitt’s central sequence might be his walk through the ranch where the Manson Family lives, and his determination to check that everything is alright. You have to wonder about his motives here. Does he really give a shit? Or is he genuinely worried that some old Hollywood guy is being taken advantage of? Does Pitt’s Booth worry about being taken advantage of because that’s how he felt with his wife, powerless? His wife who berated him, made him feel like less, and who it strongly seems he killed, and got away with the murder. What is Booth’s motivation except to see that people get their chance to shine. He’s not really about shining himself, he just lives with his dog, works behind the scenes for Dalton, but he wants the best for others, perhaps as he never got that for himself. Perhaps. His character arc feels a little more nebulous for me, he’s more a tool for Dalton’s arc of desperately wanting to feel accepted, to feel worthwhile through external validation. And, I guess, how hard that can be in a world, and an industry, where those external people, their metrics of success, and the whole social climate can continue to change.
As a recreation of a time period, Tarantino perfects every little moment. From the neon signs, to the dog food labels, to the ice maker, to the tape decks. He’s so steeped in nostalgia and wanting to recreate his formative years that it’s impressive, and immersive, but that’s not the story. And I think that’s where I fall over on his work sometimes. He’s so obsessed with not just “what’s cool” but what he absolutely “believes is cool” that he thinks everyone else will care. And it does work. Michael Madsen sipping a soda or milkshake or whatever it was in RESERVOIR DOGS works. The briefcase with the bright light works. The minutiae is his work. But it’s not the story. So I found myself looking past the set dressing and thinking about the two guys at the heart of this story, and I locked into the way Tarantino shows their tension and desperation on the screen, the way they clash with this world they find themselves in, and I can see how genius he is as a storyteller. He drags you into it all, and there are some truly masterful moments on the screen. But they aren’t the whole time, and perhaps that’s too much to ask.
I will say, for the final sequence, I think the story works best if you assume that whole violent nightmare is an acid-induced trip, and not real. SPOILERS: but Booth smokes an acid-dipped cigarette and comes home to trip out and feed his dog at Dalton’s house. Three of the Manson Family enter to kill whoever is in the house after Dalton screams at the group in the street because of their shitbox car. Booth goes on a one-man killing spree that’s exceptionally difficult to watch as the dog can crushes one woman’s nose, and then the dog attacks two of them viciously, while Booth grabs one by the hair and slams her head into every surface he can find.
There are a few things that lead me towards leaning on the side of this being a trip hallucination and not real:
Firstly, well, the Manson Family didn’t enter this house in real life, they went up the hill to the Polanski residence. But that’s pretty thin.
Secondly, Booth has his dog’s food in Dalton’s cabinet, and I just don’t get why he’d have it there. I’ve been told Booth housesits for Dalton, so he’s stay there, so he’d have food there, but I don’t quite know if I buy it. It feels like an inconsistency that’s large enough for me to wonder if Booth went home and then made up this violent fantasy to make himself feel better.
Thirdly, this fantasy completely fixes everything for both Booth and Dalton, very sweetly. Booth gets to use his physicality to help/save his friend, literally his job as a stunt double. Booth also no doubt sets himself up to maintain his connection with Dalton after this when the whole point of this drunken night was to say goodbye as Dalton wouldn’t be able to justify having him around anymore for money and marital constraints. Now, sure, they could have remained friends, pals, whatever, but it would have waned. With this bond, they’re forged for life as brothers of war *and* it raises Dalton’s profile, which means Booth in turn will probably get more work with him, too.
This fantasy also allows Dalton to fulfill his fantasy in that by surviving, and killing one of the family members, he’s invited up for drinks to the Polanski house. He’s finally being accepted by the new Hollywood, something he clearly desperately yearns for. So this fantasy wraps both of those character journeys up perfectly for them both.
Fourthly, why the hell would Dalton still have a working flamethrower from a movie he’d previously made? That seems like some bullshit macho made up thing a guy would want to believe, or would hope for, because it’s the most bad ass he’s ever seen his friend in the past and he wants to recreate that heroic moment because letely Dalton only seems to get roles as villains, not heroes.
Fifthly, the sequence is just so brutally violent to two women, and nowhere near as much to the man, and I can’t help but think that suits Booth’s particular flavour of masculinity as we’ve already seen that hated his wife deeply [enough to kill her with a harpoon gun?], and Kurt Russell’s wife, played by Zoe Bell, also hates him and gets him fired. He picks up the hitchhiker who’s clearly a sexual catfish there to lure him to a ranch full of women living a life of duping and manipulating men. Hell, even his best buddy is about to cut their relationship because he’s married some woman he met while filming in Italy. I think Booth isn’t a big fan of women, so him smashing some young hippie girl’s head to paste on every surface in the house check out as a fantasy he’d quite enjoy, especially deep in the acid-unlocked bowels of his brain. He even lets his buddy get into the action by torching the other woman alive in his pool.
And sixthly, this whole flick is a fairy tale, and, well, fairy tales are not true. Neither is this ending.
This is completely just a personal read, I’m not trying to state it as fact, but it was fun to analyse and dive into. If I ever rewatch this flick, it’ll be to further analyse this hypothesis from the start and see what kind of a case I could really build.
In the end, there’s plenty to dig about the flick, especially the acting, and I’m glad to have had something to really chew on for a week.
NOTE: an initial version of these thoughts appeared in my weekly newsletter – subscribe here.