Tag Archives: Kristopher Kelly

The good folks over at Bizarrocast have given the audio treatment to my short story, “The Night Light,” taken from my collection I Held My Breath as Long as I Could. 

If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, stop on by and have a listen. It’s also available on iTunes.

A very big thanks to Chris Boyle and Bizarrocast! This is the first for-pay sale of a story I’ve ever made.

Acceptance. It feels nice.

What a trailer! Probably one of the best trailers of all time. It took me a while to notice how they match the pitch of a scream to the alarm blast, which associates the sound so beautifully with a feeling of terror. Genius. A brilliant piece of marketing.

Too bad Prometheus the film is not as scary as its trailer, or any of the other pieces of well-crafted advertising shepherding audiences into the theater. It has moments, to be sure; it’s not a bad film. Visually, it’s breathtaking. There are countless drool-worthy shots to justify the price of admission all on their own.

Likewise, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender all add to the experience in a positive way. I wish I could say the same for Noomi Rapace, but I found her annoying and boring (certainly no Ellen Ripley), and when I ultimately choose not to rewatch this movie it will be because I didn’t care about her character and there is so much of her character to watch.

Which brings me to the point of this article, which is not really a review (and from here on out, be warned: I am going to give  away plenty of things about the film, so if you haven’t seen the film, you’ve been warned — here there be spoilers!). Prometheus is a flawed film, but it could’ve been improved by one small change:

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Sometimes it took weeks before he found another one that worked. He was a big man with plenty of scars. No one could ever look at his face and say he wasn’t terrifying, so he looked for the ones who would hate their own suspicions–the ones he could reassure with a smile.

Hold the door, please, he would say, coming up behind them as they entered their buildings, I know I look scary, but please don’t judge me. 

And then to strike the right sheepish note, a disarming awkwardness as they shared an elevator ride or moved up the stairs together. All it took was a flinch, just the right amount of defensive posturing, and he would keep walking, move past, up another flight of stairs, his quarry safely below, unlocking her door, ducking inside, closing him out.


Above, he would wait, longing, his breath quick. His need voracious. Such nights as those, he would need a boy–the filthy one with the chipped teeth the others kept for him in the place on Roosevelt Island. Then he’d sit with the other Deermen in the brown room with the green carpet. He would have ice cream with them. He would share some with the boy, but not too much.

“You don’t want to get fat,” he would say to him. “Do you?”

A few days later, he would try again. And sometimes, his quarry and he would be alone, and she would be calm, perfectly calm, unthreatening, and he would follow her all the way to the door, putting on his pink candy gloves, the fabric soft, pleasing, and he would pull out the polished wooden dowel. She would be unconscious before she could think to herself,  Should’ve known. 

Now he watched the woman sleep. She had a small child’s chair in her bedroom she seemed to use for her dirty gym clothes. He’d moved those aside. Pulled the chair up. Sat in it, made it minuscule, and watched her sleep on her bed.

His pink candy gloves hot on his knees.

A few moments later, he reached out and put one hand over her mouth, another around her throat, and squeezed. She woke up, biting at the gloves. He let her bite, thinking, Go. Go on. Eat. Eat. Eat. 

And beyond that, a high tide would come in of thoughts and emotions he could never tell anyone, the hidden self beneath the breaking skin. Beating against him like her fists.




Note: Walken Through Film is a series of reviews of Christopher Walken movies, looking at the films through the lens of extreme adoration of Christopher Walken. These reviews are designed to help people new to Walken understand Walken better and to help fellow Walken aficionados find the hidden gems in what can be at times a wild and unpredictable body of work. 

Search and Destroy

Budget: about $4,000,000. United States gross: less than $400,000. User rating on IMDB: 5.2. Rotten Tomatoes average: 33%.

So many people, all so very wrong.

“Yadda, yadda. Warden. BOOM!” 

How did a movie like Search and Destroy get made with this kind of cast? How did a movie with this kind of cast fall into such obscurity? This was the first film for visual artist-turned-director David Salle; it was also his last. A critical and commercial disaster, it stars Christopher Walken, Griffin Dunne, Dennis Hopper, Ethan Hawke, John Turturro, Illeana Douglas, Martin Scorsese, Rosanna Arquette, and Dan Hedaya.

Based on a play by Howard Korder and adapted for the screen by Michael Almereyda, the plot focuses on the downward spiral of struggling entrepreneur Martin Mirkheim (Dunne), who, deep in debt, decides to pursue the rights to a self-help manifesto / young man’s adventure story, Daniel Strong, written by Hopper’s Dr. Henry WaxlingMartin has no money to buy the rights, and to make money he teams up with Kim Ulander (Walken), a bored businessman looking for a way to spice up his life. Martin amuses Ulander–enough so that soon the two hatch a plan to go buy and sell some drugs.

And like Walken says in the film, “You can’t have an adventure without a gun.” 

The trouble with Martin is he didn’t realize he was in a Christopher Walken movie. Once Walken is involved, the movie blossoms into something violent and wonderful. Walken rips control of the narrative away from every other character, breaking through the film’s artifice as his character breaks away from his own soul-deadening desk job. The unshackled film turns dark and unpredictable, which is the whole point: Martin wants to make a film about a book arguing for a personal autonomy Martin isn’t brave enough to fully own–until Walken drags him through a journey harrowing enough for Martin to find strength within himself.

Walken at his best is a force of anarchistic escape from the hegemony and overwhelming dominance of the formulaic. He is freedom gone haywire, delivering every line as if it were the manifestation of an inner rebellion against all external requirements of plot or diction. He’s a force to be reckoned with in any film (his memorable turns in True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Annie Hall, and The Deer Hunter belie the paltry number of scenes he’s actually given), and often the best use of him as an actor is a film like Search and Destroy, where the purpose of his character is to derail the narrative and send us spinning into wilder terrain.

Watching Walken act, you see the total absurdity of life and a glimmer of a solution for how to survive it.  Sometimes, all it takes is a shot of him onstage making jokes about Charles Manson before doing an odd little tap-dance while Martin says to his date Marie (Illeana Douglas), “He’s my friend!” I know exactly how Martin feels.

“I’m enchanted by your optimism, and I hope all your dreams come true.” 

Surrounding Walken’s wonderful performance is a stellar supporting cast. Douglas is particularly fun as Marie, an insecure-but-cheerful writer of B-grade slasher films. Her description of brains erupting and cascading down the walls would’ve been worth it all by itself, but Marie also holds nothing back when it comes to describing her heroine lopping off a monster’s “penis claw” to a horrified Martin over a would-be romantic dinner.

Sigh. A girl after my own heart. I swooned a bit. I won’t lie.

Dennis Hopper also steals several scenes as Dr. Henry Waxling, the opportunistic, greedy author of the self-help book who now hosts a late-night talk show. His advice to a dreamy-eyed Martin who shows up wanting to secure the rights to his book: “Get some money, man! Go! Get MONEY!” His advice for people who find themselves talking to someone who is in desperate need of help: “Kick ’em really hard!”

The audience is treated throughout the film to brief scenes taken from Waxling’s book, featuring the ongoing development of Daniel Strong. Daniel Strong jumps off a watefall a boy, emerging from the pool at the bottom a triumphant man, arms upraised while music trumpets his jubilant transformation. Daniel Strong runs through the forest of doubt, undaunted. Daniel Strong tests himself against the power of a nude female. All of these scenes I found smart and funny and sharply done. Along with being one of the best unseen Walken films, Search and Destroy might well be one of the most underrated satires of the last twenty years.

So why did the film fail? Most viewers (and people who I’ve made to sit through the film over the years) seem to find Martin an unlikable protagonist. For me, he works in the same way William H. Macy’s character in Fargo works: I agonize over the character’s actions as he sinks lower and lower into a personal hell while identifying with his struggle to become a credible human who can break his own cycle of failure to succeed at something in life. Griffin Dunne’s performance is brave and torturous, yet incredibly compelling. Whatever else the film is, I don’t think it’s ever dull. There’s agony or wit in every shot.

The film’s look is often cheap, but also consistently inventive and stylish, albeit in a museum-installation sort of way. I wish it was available in a high-def, widescreen format, but it seems destined to be lost to the bargain bins of video stores everywhere, and that is a real shame. The film deserves better. I’ve watched it countless times, and most of the quotes and details I’ve included in this review were accurately pulled from memory. The film has depth and value for those willing to see it.

“Did you see that? I was READY!” 

Onto to the scoreboard!

Walken song and dance: Check! (One of my favorites that he’s ever done.)

Fun or Serious Walken? Super fun! Couldn’t be more fun!

Is it supposed to be his movie? No!

It is anyway? Yes!

A good film without him in it? Close, but not quite. Half point!

Final score: 3.5/5 Walken Points. Highly recommended for Walken fans; others will probably hate it, wrongly.

Seek out Search and Destroy. 

Q. “I’m getting some strange errors on the home page.”
A. “I only need to know one thing: where … they … are!” [makes shooting gesture]

Q. “Topher, you got a second? Got some stuff I need to talk to you about.”
A. “Is this gonna be a daily standup, sir, or another bug-hunt?”

Q. “Meredith from marketing has some ideas about the site.”
A. “Yeah? Why don’t you put her in charge?!”

Q. [approaching new computer] “Is this your new server? Niiiiice!”
A. “Get away from her, you bitch!”

Q. “Sooo, um … what do you think it would take to fix these problems?”
A. “I say we take off, nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

It really seemed like my horse was telling me he liked Beethoven, so, figuring what the hell, I went to the shed, dug out the ol’ Victrola, and set it up by the stable.

“Symphony or sonata?” I asked, flipping through dusty records in an old pine box. The horse just twitched its tail. I didn’t find that to be entirely scrutable, so I put on the 9th, because what the fuck, might as well start with the classics. I got it going, then went back to sit in my chair beside him and look down the field to the river.

There we sat, listening to the 9th while the day started. Sun was good, bright and warm. I put my hand up on the horse’s neck, gave it a solid pat because I was feeling better and better about this new and extraordinary friend of mine and the time we were spending with ol’ Ludwig. Marveled again at the feel of horsehair on horsehide–warm and complete beneath a hand with a real meant-to-be feel to it.

My horse let me know he was having a great time. I let him know I was, too. Pretty perfect way to spend a morning, we both agreed.

Later on, Mavis came by. “You listenin’ to Beethoven?” he asked.

“That we are,” I said.

“We? You mean, you and … you and your horse? You and your horse are listening to Beethoven?”

I pointed at the horse. “He likes it. Ask him.”

Mavis sort-of laughed, like he thought I was kidding, or making some joke. He ran his finger along the Victrola. “Where did you find this old thing?”

“In the shed. Don’t touch it,” I said, and the horse whinnied and shook its goddamned head right in Mavis’s direction. I couldn’t stop laughing about that. I couldn’t stop feeling like me and that horse, we were gonna be in it together, riding down the dust until all the sun was gone.

Well, Mavis took the hint and shuffled off. I heard he started calling me an asshole sometime after that. Might’ve asked him about it, but he stopped coming around, anyway.

Me? Shit, to this day I can’t listen to the fucking 9th–or anything else by ol’ Ludwig, for that matter. It still hurts, what happened later.

I still miss those mornings.

I still miss that horse.

The good news is the photo really does you justice. It accurately represents your default smile. Your other features are likewise not distorted. Kudos.

The bad news is we have taken a closer look at some of the specific claims you’ve made in this profile, and we feel it only fair to point out a few concerns w/r/t their validity.

The claims:

“I have a great sense of humor and love to laugh.”

If this statement is true, it is not borne out by your Netflix viewing history. Over the past 90 days, you have viewed only two comedies, both of which feature struggling cancer victims. While you might claim to find humor in the dramas you’ve watched, a hidden recording device we placed in the cactus beside your television has picked up nary a lone chuckle.

Likewise, a survey conducted at your workplace also found that you laugh at your coworkers’ jokes the least frequently of any of your coworkers, regardless of who is telling the joke. While you may love to laugh, it is clearly difficult for you, and you do not seem to seek it out, nor do you have a sense of humor describable as anything other than decidedly below average. The most common adjective used to describe you by your coworkers was “quiet.” Second-most common: “Nice.” No one ever mentioned your sense of humor. When asked about it, however, they would laugh.

“I enjoy long walks …”

We’ve averaged the length of the walks you take and found it to be 0.2 miles, or about two short city blocks. The longest walk you took over the past year was 1.2 miles, and you were reported to have complained about it. Your most common mode of transportation is a taxi, and when in groups, you always argue for taking some mode of transportation when walking is suggested. We suppose “enjoy” and “long” may have flexible meaning for you.

“… and spending time with my dog.”

Presuming you mean Charlie, your full-sized poodle, who you mostly ignore, this is unlikely. As far as time spent in your apartment goes, the bulk of your time is spent looking at your laptop screen (46%), followed by your television (31%) and food (16%). Your dog (0.7%) ranks below your bathroom shower curtain (3.3%) and toilet paper (1.4%). Most common command given to Charlie: “Charlie, lie down!”

“I wasn’t very popular in high school.”

We took a poll and conducted a thorough analysis of the yearbooks from your class. Out of the lists created by your former classmates, your name showed up the most among people remembered to be “popular.” Analysis of the yearbooks of you and all your classmates shows that you are in the 99th percentile when it comes to number of distinct signatures.

But that was overkill on our part, as you were also voted Prom Queen at your senior prom (could’ve been an ironic gesture, a la Stephen King’s Carrie, but probably was not, given the above evidence) and ‘Most Popular’ in your senior yearbook (ditto the last parenthetical).

“I love music.”

Number of times you have watched an entire musical performance without talking over at least 40% of it: 0.

Here is our suggestion for an edited, more accurate profile: “I have a below-average sense of humor and prefer to cry most nights. I don’t like walking, and most of the time my dog is an inconvenience to me. I like to browse the Web. Music is tolerable to me as long as I don’t have to pay too much attention to it. I was the most popular person in high school, and I am still very cute (see photo).”

You will not be alone for long.

Originally written for a contest on Janet Reid’s blog. Requirements were the five words above (allegiance, risk, choice, sequel, and destroy) and that it be 100-words-or-less. I lost. Winners and finalists here. My entry below (guessing that clunky second sentence knocked me out of contention, but I still contend it’s grammatically accurate).

* * *

She smelled like peppermint, like things sticky-wet, when we went to the room. Our shared allegiance to risk a dangerous choice led us to the door. Craving a fresh sequel to destroy our stale marriages, we moved with naïve excitement toward a second act we hoped would be better than the first.

We were drunk.

In front of the bed, she crossed her arms. Her dress dropped. I wanted to hit pause, spare us the disappointment of subsequent frames, the dimming of the flare of blinding promise.

But we fell predictably together and, later, slept unspooled in the usual gloom.