The Woman in Black (2012)

October 21, 2014


I recently watched The Woman in Black.  I actually started my usual method of riffing comments as they pop into my head but that plan died about three minutes in.  I’m not saying that this movie is unriffable but it just seemed wrong after a while.  This movie was too well done to really make fun of.  I was actually really looking forward to seeing this movie because way back in the day I actually designed lights, sound and helped build the set for a stage production of The Woman in Black.  (Most long time readers won’t remember this)

I realized that I never really talked about the rest of that experience.  Like any writer/artist I shudder when I look back at my old stuff and that was a full six years ago.  I was having a lot of fun playing with a new digital camera and I was genuinely impressed with what we were doing.  I continued to work on the show and it was an amazing production even if I was usually pretty frazzled back when I worked at Tri-State Actors Theater.

The show was very intense work and I fell into my usual ten to thirteen hour work days followed by sleeping late.   I built sets and hung and pointed lights in the late morning until the evenings.  The set was pretty much just a giant false proscenium with a black scrim stretched across it.  The structure was mammoth and it took three people to rig it to the ceiling with the cable and fittings we had picked.   The lighting was dark and subtle and a great fit for a dark, gloomy horror story.  I was really proud of all of that work because I had never done any work in horror before.

These long days originally left me doing all of the sound work in the middle of the night in my tiny, cold room that I rented in the back of a framing shop.  In retrospect, I probably should have seen a lot of parallels between my late night, solitary work and the work Arthur Kipps was doing.  Eventually, doing this work at night started to take its toll.  Finding horrible recordings and building sound cues like “Horse and Child Drowning in Swamp” in the middle of the night started to make me a little crazy.  I had to switch to doing the sound work in the morning and do the lighting work late at night instead.  My psyche thanked me for it.  Eventually we built a rich soundscape and true horror includes plenty of sound cues.

So after all of that, how did the movie stack up?  I really liked it.  Daniel Radcliffe plays a complex version of Arthur Kipps and gets a lot of mileage with very little dialogue.  He has come leaps and bounds from his time in Dumbledore’s Army and has really grown up.   The rest of the cast is spot on with a special nod to Ciaran Hinds who gives an especially moving performance.  The voice overs for the title character were well done and held the right amount of grief to the point of insanity.

The story is a rough one to get through and I forgot how much it terrified me.  I would warn those who are parents that any version of this story is going to be especially rough on you.  The terror is mixed so much with tragedy, sympathy and deep, dark emotions related to being a parent.  Themes include untimely death, revenge, grief, guilt, isolation and depression which are all incredibly heavy.  The story is told in a straight forward manner in the movie with very little actual dialogue.  The stage version has a framing device which actually adds a terrifying little twist but the story can do without it.

A little ways into the film I thought there was going to be too many jump scares and not enough real horror.  Jump scares are nice for startling the audience and jangling their nerves but it is startling, not terrifying.  The jump scares in this film are far more psychological and logical and pretty much none of them are the standard “Cat Scare” which have become so overdone in horror.  The movie can actually be really relentless and my heart was pounding pretty hard in parts.  The filmmakers obviously took a lot of care to go for a more literary horror than we’ve seen in bad horror movies in the past.  Hooking us like fish, ratcheting up the tension and letting us go and then reeling us back into terror until finally we realize there’s no escape.

One of the things that I liked so much about the movie was the attention to detail.  The production design was very intricate and most of the effects seemed to be practical instead of digital.  I am not putting down CGI effects because a bad practical special effect can look just as hokey as a bad CGI one.  This movie blended everything together pretty seamlessly but, as I well know, it can be easier to cover up flaws in the dark.

I would freely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone who enjoys horror movies and does not have a heart condition.   I don’t know what I want to review next but it probably won’t be Victorian Horror.  Probably.

Leprechaun 3

October 18, 2014

I really wanted to review this one because I recently finished reading Warwick Davis’ autobiography.   When Warwick Davis originally took the role of the Leprechaun because he had tax debt up to his eyeballs.  He managed to make the role memorable and really started to enjoy himself.   When he talked to Ron Howard about taking the role, Ron’s advice was: “Whatever you do, don’t do more than one.”  Warwick ended up doing six of these films to which Ron Howard replied: “Well, my kids like them so whatever they like can’t be too bad.”

So without further ado, sit back as I enjoy another holiday classic!

“I love rhyming villains.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for rhymes.  I love Etrigan in DC Comics and various other villains who speak in rhyme.  When I was way younger I used to think that poetry had to rhyme and enjoyed searching out the best ones.  One Easter I even wrote a whole scavenger hunt for children in rhyming couplets.  It was a lot of fun but a lot of work so I appreciate the hard work it takes to get the Leprechaun rhyming correctly.

“Another Leprechaun film where I instantly want the protagonist to die.  Wow, even more than Jennifer Aniston.”

I absolutely hated Jennifer Aniston’s character in the original within seconds.  They did a really job making her totally unlikeable and they do the same for the protagonists in this film.  I guess the point is that the heroes are supposed to learn a lesson.  I think it instead allows me to feel good about them suffering.  I really enjoyed watching these people suffer.

“The Lucky Shamrock Casino?  OK, I’ll allow it.”

For this movie, the writer (or somebody high up) created a fictional casino that is somewhere on the Las Vegas strip.  They name it the Lucky Shamrock which I am actually surprised never existed.  Yeah, it’s a cheap gag but it makes a lot of sense in the movie’s logic.  The outside looks cheap and the inside looks pretty cheap so it all matches up.  Also, they could set the thing in their fictional casino and not involve any of the actual name casinos on the strip.  Things were probably simpler that way.

“There seems to be a Daffy Duck thing going on.”

The Leprechaun spends much of the movie mugging and cracking jokes and engaging in slapstick and wordplay.  This follows from the first two movies but goes to ridiculous extremes in number three and only gets worse as the series progresses.  It is actually not a bad thing as most of the enjoyment of the Leprechaun films is watching the Leprechaun be the zany, evil thing that he is.  It’s similar to the Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play films.

“The ‘overbearing’ boss is more likeable than his put upon employee.”

In fact, all of the so-called villains were more likeable and better characters than the white meat protagonists.  It certainly didn’t hurt that their IQs seemed to be leaps and bounds above the protagonists.  The mobsters, the sleazy boss, the scheming employee and the arrogant magician.  They were all actually pretty good but they had good actors portraying them.  Well, good actors by horror movie standards.

“They’re making this shit up as they go along!”

A hallmark of the Leprechaun series is that in each of the movies, they add new rules and facets to the mythos.  Suddenly the Leprechaun can’t stand iron or later on he can’t stand a special medallion.  His powers only increase each movie and he becomes more and more of a threat.  He also becomes more sadistic.  Again, kind of like Freddy Krueger.

“There’s actually a plot in this horror movie.  What?”

They really don’t need to include plots to teach the heroes a big lesson.  I’m fine with mayhem being incited and the big bad chasing the heroes around for over an hour. In this one, they eventually merge all of the plots into the main plot and the movie actually gets cooking.   It’s really not a horror movie until the heroes are fleeing in terror, right?

“This went into a weird place. Where’s the Leprechaun?”

The Leprechaun disappears for way too long so that all the other characters can do funny stuff and have conflict.  It’s kind of useless padding but it does make me want them all to get mowed down so that’s an added bonus.  They were too likeable anyway.  They kind of make up for the Leprechaun not doing anything by showing clips of him on the Las Vegas strip

“Wow, it finally got really creepy. Awesome.”

They start to bring out some of my worst fears and some legitimately creepy stuff.  Killer sex robots, body transmogrification, mind control and bondage all make an appearance.  It takes a while but the movie moves from Warner Brothers cartoon to humorous horror film.  The thing is, the first part puts you off your guard by being so purposefully lame.

“Important: When the villain summons you somewhere, you have to go there.”

It’s been said a million times but the heroes in horror movies are complete idiots.  It’s a time honored tradition to yell with frustration as they hide when they should run or any number of stupid choices.  If they made correct decisions they probably wouldn’t be too bothered by the Leprechaun or the myriad other villains.  They would be in Los Angeles doing whatever young people did at the time.  Oh, one of them was supposed to go to college.  Never addressed again.  Thanks movie.

All in all I would recommend this movie.   Sure it has its flaws but I have seen way worse.  Warwick Davis is really fun to watch despite his cheesiness or maybe because of it.   This movie is chock full of cheese and goofiness but sometimes that’s exactly what I wanted.   Next time I’ll try to review something more terrifying and not just funny/creepy.

More Halloween Memories

October 17, 2014

I have other memories of Halloween that involve Grace Methodist Church.  I don’t want it to come off like I hate Grace or any other church.  I decided during Senior year of High School that church and religion is not for me.  I will keep all of the opinions I have of the church to myself at the moment.  I don’t want to ruffle any feathers or get into any arguments.  I spent a lot of time in Youth Group as soon as I got old enough.  I attended almost every fundraiser and event during my tour of duty.  There were car washes, movie nights, Easter egg hunt preparations and way too much acolyte duty.  At least I got to set things on fire for a while.

Anyway, as soon as I was too old to trick or treat, I spent every Halloween with the Youth Group.  It sounds kind of weird now but we would all grab our sleeping bags and spend the night in the church.  We wouldn’t sleep in the sanctuary itself but we would sleep in one of the multitude of sitting rooms in the maze-like structure.  We watched horror movies, ate candy and pizza (not necessarily in that order) and probably drank too much soda.  It was at one of these sleep overs that I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for the first time and I remember cackling as the girls jumped and squealed.  It’s easy to be brave when somebody else is terrified.

All of that was very fun and to this day I always make sure I have a scary movie or two on hand when the night of the 31st rolls around.  The real attraction of a church sleepover was our game of tag.  Everywhere but the sanctuary was fair game which left what I could only call a labyrinth.  There were three floors at least three stairwells, two elevators and dozens of interconnected classrooms.  The goal was for one person to journey into the structure and find every single person.  The first one to be caught would be it the next round.  Oh and we turned off every single light leaving only emergency ghost lights.

These games of tag were the most terrifying events that I have ever experienced although that may be amplified through a nostalgic lens.  I remember crouching in the darkness and trying to listen out for the approach of footsteps while trying to silence the blood pumping hard through my temples and slow my breathing.  The goal was to avoid the person who was it and get back to “home base” without getting caught.  Eventually one of my best friends figured out that you could lie down on the floor next to the wall in the dark and remain silent to avoid detection.  The person who was it would pass right by you while your heart nearly pounded its way out of your chest.

I was lucky.  Our Youth Group was actually pretty secular and id a lot of things that would probably be frowned on these days.  We had a lot of very spooky Halloweens engaging in Hunger Games-esque escapades and scaring the living crap out of each other.  Exactly what teens should be doing on Halloween.

Dean Wyatt

October 16, 2014

This is yet another tabletop rpg character that I’ve created for a relatively new campaign.  Our characters have been flung into the past to avert an apocalypse that our characters died in.  So we play modern characters in a fantasy setting.

*                          *                               *

Dean Wyatt grew up like any other boy in the United States.  He went to school and hated it, he played video games, watched television and played outside when his parents decided he had done the first two too much.  Baseball was the neighborhood game and so that’s what Dean was stuck with.  It wasn’t so bad.  In fact, it was pretty fun most of the time.  His dad, Harrison, was the owner and sole detective of Diamond Investigations.  His mom, Quinn, was the company secretary.  All that meant was that the food and shelter was provided by snapping pictures of infidelity, finding missing persons and other minor feats of investigation.  It wasn’t Sam Spade or anything but it was a living.

When Dean dropped out of college, his father was quick to take him into the business while Dean went the community college route.  During this time, Dean learned everything he could from his father mostly by driving his dad around on the job.  When he graduated from community college, he quit the business even though his dad was sure Dean had a knack for the job.  After months of striking out on his own, tragedy struck when Dean’s mother called.  Dad’s body had been found in an alleyway beaten to death.

Dean felt guilty for leaving the business and abandoning his family.  He took control of Diamond Investigations and picked up the caseload with a vengeance.  He started to spend all of his time out in the field.  He couldn’t really sleep well anyway and when he did, he often dreamed of conversations with his father.  Eventually he started to see his father everywhere he went during waking hours.  He started to doubt that his father had ever died as he desperately embraced the belief in his father’s mysterious survival.  This belief was reinforced by discovering that magic is real and the belief that his father is tied up in this whole business with the Unconquered sun.

Now he travels with the other Solar Exalted under the dubious leadership of Tina.  So far things seem to be going alright even though the group has been caught out of their element numerous times.  He hopes that completing the mission for the Unconquered Sun will reunite him with his family.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling Episode 11

October 15, 2014

State of the Programming Address

Since I only have access to my DVR on the weekends, I fell behind on watching the WWE product.  Since their programming is more or less live, it really must be watched weekly to keep up with it.  I guess I could binge watch the programs but watching the main roster is about 5 hours a week and that takes up a lot of viewing time.  Besides, I had gotten a lot of pleasure out of live tweeting Monday Night Raw and loved experiencing events along with everybody else.  I have to avoid spoilers like crazy which I have done pretty unsuccessfully.  This also puts me behind on listening to my favorite pro-wrestling podcast: The Rough House (NSFW use headphones)

At the height of my Sports Entertainment watching habits I watched nine hours per week.  On Monday I watched WWE Raw (3 hours).  On Thursday I watched both NXT (1 hour)  and TNA Impact (2 hours).  On Friday I watched WWE Smackdown (2 hours).  On Saturday I watched ROH Television (1 hour).  If I ever wanted to watch anything but wrestling then I was going to have to cut back.  I sadly cut ROH and Smackdown out which brings me down to 5 hours with fast forwarding through commercials which is more manageable.  Tack on the monthly Pay Per View event and you have 23 hours a month.

I have kept up with TNA Impact and some of you in the know might be wondering why.  The show has been on Spike TV and no matter what they do, they have never risen above a 1.0 rating.  At certain points they have had Hulk Hogan, Sting, Ric Flair and ton of old legends and young talents involved.  Unfortunately they hire people like Vince Russo and allow people like Dixie Carter to have creative imput.  Spike TV has finally had enough and will be pulling the plug at the end of the year (Merry Christmas!).  The product is alternately horrible and great and lately it has picked up quality not unlike Angel Season 5.  World Championship Wrestling lost their TV time on TNT and died out in 2001.  WWF lost their deal with USA in the nineties and ended up thriving.  Either way, I’m intensely interested to see how it shakes down.

Being behind can definitely feel daunting and I feel disconnected from something I really love to experience.  In the meantime I have been scratching the sports entertainment itch by discovering Insane Championship Wrestling on Youtube.  ICW is hardcore Scottish wrestling promotion operating out of Glasgow.  As such, there is a huge amount of Scottish wrestlers with a smattering of English, Irish and Welsh performers too.  The promotion feels rebellious and fun and is definitely worth a watch.  Two little warnings:  Some people have trouble with foreign accents but I happen to love the Scottish accent and I have experience deciphering it.  Also, here is quite a bit of blood and violence and one of the commentators tends to be pretty intense i.e. “I hate him!  Give me a coat hanger and a time machine!”

As stated in a previous post, I want to branch out and occasionally try to watch other promotions.  I want to get my hands on some CZW footage as I hear rave reviews of Dean Ambrose’s time there.  I want to check out AAA and EMLL as they are pretty well known as the top Mexican promotions.  I have tried a little bit of Japanese promotions but the language barrier has been tough.  I really wish there was either an English dub or subtitles.  There probably is and I just have not found it.   I want to watch more MCW and support Maryland performers and shows.  I want to watch promotions that I’m not even aware of yet.

Most of all, I want to relax on my couch and binge watch Monday Night Raw and NXT but I guess I’ll have to wait for the weekend.

A Halloween Memory

October 13, 2014

I vividly remember a Halloween when I was a really young kid growing up in Roland Park in Baltimore, Maryland.  The sidewalk in front of our house seemed to stretch on forever in those days and for all intents and purposes it did.  Trick or treating started with walking down to the sidewalk and turning right and going south.  We would swing back towards the north end of our neighborhood later in the evening before we got too whiny and frustrated.  I don’t remember what I was dressed as.  In those days my mother made every Halloween costume I wore and they were usually superheroes.  So imagine I was Batman, Superman or a Ninja Turtle (Donatello 4 Life) or something or other.  Yes, I did say this was a vivid memory and yes I do know what that word means.

This particular Halloween, we walked to the end of our walk and through the iron gate and hung a right.  I think my brother took off running and for some reason I wanted him to wait up for our group.  It was Halloween and I had heard all the legends behind the night and I knew that it was not just Candy Night.  This was All Hallow’s Eve the day before All Saint’s Day and it was a night to be wary of.  Evil spirits prowled from the shadows and looked for victims but they would leave anyone wearing a costume alone.  Of course, this was a kid who believed in leprechauns when he attended Pre-K at Boys Latin.

The point is that if evil spirits prowled the night, then they had to be ruled by Satan.  In my tiny little world, there were only three forces: Heaven, Hell and Humanity.   As progressive as it was, Grace Methodist Church had kind of drummed that into me.  So I figured that if I was going to fool the evil spirits then “Stop in the name of the Lord!” was not going to work out.  So I yelled out “Stop in the name of the Devil!”.   To this day, I can’t remember who yelled at me but I don’t think it was either my mom or my dad.  It could have been a neighbor or my grandmother but  I can’t say for sure.  Regardless of who it is, I got scolded for taking the Devil’s name in vain.

The scolding terrified me, I remember that much.  I was not scared of being in trouble with whoever scolded me or being in trouble in general.  I was suddenly afraid that I had invoked Satan and that he could be coming for me.  After that day, the Devil became He Who Shall Not Be Named for a long, long time.  I became very superstitious about somehow invoking demons and the Devil which somehow also figured into the placement of my arms while I was sleeping.  I was terrified by bullshit for way too long because somebody else actually believed that you can summon an extra-dimensional, evil-alligned creature with mere words.  This altered my world view for a long time and led to a lot of anxiety.

These days I don’t believe in any of it.  I’ll gladly sing along to any Satanic Death Metal song that catches my fancy and I love reading all types of mythology about demons.  I’m not stuck in the box that Christian Mythology put me in anymore.  It allowed me to embrace even more facets of Halloween and spooky mythology.  Although I carry all of the minor scars of that one event and the subsequent anxiety, I think it’s made me happier in the long run.

The Key Pt 4

October 7, 2014

After twenty minutes of confused tears, Robin lifted her forehead from the table.  She wiped her cheeks dry on her sleeves.  She did not dare look at her tattoos for fear that they were still moving around.  She walked around the bar and checked each door and shut off the lights.  She didn’t know if the other her had counted out the register but after a moment’s thought she decided she really did not care.  At least she discovered her share of the tips stuffed in her cleavage.  She never stored things there but did not look a gift horse in the mouth.

She walked out onto the street and the lighting just felt really off as if everything was either too dim or a slightly different color.  If she told anybody about this night, they would lock her up and throw away the key.  She carefully walked along a seam in the sidewalk for a moment to test if she was still drunk.  It looked like she was walking a straight line but how would she know?  She decided to chance it and started to fumble for her keys.  She thought this was the perfect time for a mugging but once again, she did not care.

Finally, she located her keys and opened the door of her crappy little car.  The car started on the second and a half try and she started towards home.  At these wee hours of the night, there was no traffic to slow her down or get in the way of her possibly intoxicated mind.  It felt weird stopping at all of the red lights when nobody was around.  These days you had to assume a traffic camera at almost every intersection.

She turned up the classic rock station to fill the silent void of the dead of night.  She tried not to think too much about the term ‘the dead of night’ either.  She changed stations rapidly when commercials started to come on.  How could they try and sell her things when she was in this state of mind?  Top 40 pop music hits started to fill the car.  She did not usually like that kind of music but the beat was catchy and anything was better than silence or her own thoughts.  Or worse, somebody else’s thoughts.

She pulled up to the outside of her apartment building and cringed as the hubcap scraped and ground against the curb.  She thought for sure that she had woken the neighborhood but when she shut the car off there was that chilling silence again.  It felt like a pregnant silence, full of the stored potential of the future.  As far as Robin was concerned, nothing more needed to happen at the moment.

She stumbled out of the car and then stumbled up the stairs to the apartment she shared with her roommate.  She spent what felt like fifteen minutes finding her key on the ring.  She marveled at how all of the keys looked alike at night.  The door opened and the apartment was completely dark.  Annabella must not have come home yet.  She walked into the apartment and spotted a flickering light out of the corner of her eye.  That was the hallway to their shared bathroom.  She headed for the hallway and when she turned the corner she stopped and stared.  All of the little hairs on her arm stood on end.

Kneeling in a pool of blinking fluorescent light, there was a young girl with pigtails with her head bowed.  The girl was motionless and immediately all of those alarm bells went off in Robin’s head.  It was like the Beetleman all over again and she was still not sure what had happened there.  She started to back out of the hallway.  She did not need any more adventures or surprises.  Just as she was almost out of range of the light, the girl looked up.
The movement was as if she was a marionette and she had been pulled upright by her strings.  Her face was a doll’s face.  There was really no other way to describe it.  The puppet girl’s face was hard like porcelain or vinyl and was painted just like a child’s doll.  The happy smile was painted on too perfect and looked frightening in the flickering white light.  They sat for what seemed like eons and stared at each other.  Finally, Robin started to back up towards the door.  She glanced in the mirror Annabella had insisted on placing in the hallway and cursed her other self.  Somehow this was Other Robin’s fault.

“Don’t go.” A voice said from within the perfect veneer of the puppet girl’s face.
Robin jumped at the sound and hurried faster, turning away from the little puppet.  Why was this creepy little girl in her house?  Why was she a puppet?  There were too many questions and never any real answers.  She hurried to the door but could not bring her tired legs to a run.

“Help me.” The puppet girl muttered, lips probably not moving.  Robin could not bring herself to turn around and check if the perfect lips moved.  She had a feeling they would not and did not want to witness it.  “Help me.” It said again.

Robin could not wait anymore and fled from the apartment, slamming the door behind her.  In a flash she was behind the steering wheel of her car again and thankfully it started on the first turn of the key.  Tires screeched as she accelerated hard and headed toward her friend Stephanie’s house.

Halloween 2014

October 1, 2014

It is now officially October so, of course, I start to think a lot about Halloween.  The haunted houses and trails and mazes are opening to the public to scare the bejeezus out of them and pumpkins are showing up at grocery stores that are already flooded with candy.  All over the country people are sewing the finishing touches on their costumes and getting ready for all of the festivities.  I’m going to continue to get into the spirit myself as the days of this month continue to tick by.

Here in West Virginia, October came in rough and spooky with a huge thunderstorm big enough to force Brad and Janet to stop off at a creepy old house.  Of course, I sort of celebrate Halloween year round I just don’t advertise it.  I love most horror movies and I love the design of fake haunted houses and the lore of “real” haunted houses.  I love the imagery and the wicked, high energy feeling that I get when I know that Halloween is approaching.  True, I don’t really go to parties and I haven’t dressed up in years but I’m not into that stuff year around either.

If you read my blog (and you are right now. Hello!) then you will be seeing Halloween stuff throughout the month.  You may have already seen my review of Clownhouse but there are plenty of scary movies that I want to see and review.  It will depend on what I can easily get my hands on but I definitely have a wish list.  I usually skew towards the horror movies with a comic edge to them but some on my list are more dark and traditionally scary.

I will be continuing work on The Key, my own little ongoing horror serial.  I have yet to comment on The Key because I believe the posts should go by without comment.  The central theme of The Key is the struggle for control.  The thing that scares me the most in horror is the loss of one’s self or one’s self control.  When I read Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin I was absolutely terrified by Grant Morrison’s Professor Pyg and his dollotrons.  A villain who transforms people into disfigured, mindless servants and the process is irreversible.  I shudder to even think about it now.

The other thing I am trying to do with the Key is to write an atypical protagonist.  A heroine who does not want to be part of her own story and regularly tries to check out of it.  Like Alice Hardy in Friday the 13th she only saves the day when she is forced to.  I really don’t want to talk too much about it because I feel like it takes the mystery out of the story.  I love writing it because it feels so different and exciting.

Other than that, I don’t know what may come but I’m getting excited.

Questing

September 28, 2014

As you can see, this is a little story snippet from my Untitled Fantasy Project. I’m still exploring the world and discovering the mythos on the spot.  It will be an interesting world to explore either in writing or if I ever run an RPG campaign in it.

*                                *                          *

Lao crawled out of the weather-beaten tent slowly on his hands and knees, he had never mastered the low crouch that was a slightly more dignified way to exit.  The sunlight hit his eyes like the savage thing that it was and he cringed and blinked and covered his eyes for a moment.   The moment stretched on until he heard Allendra clearing her throat and he drew his hands away from his face slowly.  There she was, sitting by the fire and giving him that same disapproving look she gave him every morning.  Thankfully she was still blurry so it had less impact which was always nice.

“I told you not to stay awake so long reading.” She said as she thrust a bowl of something tan and sludge-like into his hands.

He grunted and nodded and mumbled something about being sorry before starting to eat.  Everything started to come into focus as he got some warmth and food into his belly.  The first thing he noticed was Allendra’s golden hair blowing in the breeze and the second thing he noticed was that she had already put her armor on.  He knew that somewhere behind her back, her sword floated invisible and ready for action.

They were in the hills of northwest Altiria not far from Glassare Lake.  He could barely see the starting point of their journey, the Grand Spire of Cammarata, far in the distance.  The Lake of the Ancient Frost was definitely another marker.  In the lore, they said that the lake was left over from a massive magical ice storm a long time ago.  It was still a point of pilgrimage for people who took the spirit of ice into their souls.  If they were going to find a clue there, they would picking over ground covered by thousands of young people from year to year.

“It’s about time you got up.  Where are we going?  Which way is the map telling you?”  Allendra asked impatiently.  She would not sit down but Lao had rarely seen her rest so he was not surprised.

“It’s not that simple.  The map is written in three languages and one of them is almost dead.  The map referes to markers we’ve seen along the way.  You know, like the mark of the Fallen Soldier.” Lao explained.  He could tell by Allendra’s frown that it was not satisfactory.

“Yeah. I remember all of the symbols.  I am not just here to swing a sword.”

“And my sisters are Swords of the Throne and they taught me everything they know.” Lao said with a smirk, shovelling more of the gruel into his mouth.

“I never say that.  Who have you been talking to.” She was giving him a vaguely threatening but curious look.  It was important to be careful here.

He took the last bite of the gruel and started to scrape the bowl out as he chewed.  This was definitely not a stalling tactic.  Stalling could be dangerous against a woman like Allendra.  Sure she was charged by the crown with protectcing him but it was always better to err on the side of caution.  So this was definitely not a stalling tactic.  This was a moment to diffuse the tension and besides he belly was still grumbling.

“I studied up on you.  That’s what I do.  I study.  Information on you is freely available especially in a place like Cammarata where rumors are more abundant than water.”  He answered, depositing the mostly clean bowl and spoon into her pack.  She insisted on carrying the heavier pack which was just fine by him.  He was a city boy used to his lonely little library study and all of this walking was hard enough on him.

“Well, I guess that makes sense.  Zoe and Mabella are really famous and people are bound to run their mouths.  You’re not one of those people, right Lao?”  She gave him another pointed look and he could see the rising sun glint off of her armor.  Lao had been swallowing down half a jug of water and it was hard not to choke on it when she looked at him like that.

“Of course not.  I just make it my job to learn everything I can.  How else am I going to quantify our strengths and weaknesses out here?”

Allendra harrumphed. “You’re the weakness out here.  The sun’s already up and you’re barely mobile.”  She started to break down the tent as they talked.

“That’s only because I spent most of the night studying that map and the fourth and fifth symbols.  What’s your hurry?  I know I wish I was back in my comfortable bed but this is an epic quest, right?  We may be the first people ever to walk this path.”

“So far it’s been pretty tame, Lao.  So far it’s been a lot of walking.  I have trained my soul to fight evil and injustice and so far we have just been walking here and there through the countryside.”   She rolled up the tent and tied it to her pack.

“If this artifact is as important as I think it is, then other people might be coming after us.  If they get the map, they could tip the balance of the peace.”

“All the better for us to get going then.  If we’re going to save the world then we had better get there first. Right?” Allendra said as she shouldered her pack.

“You’re right.  We’re heading to the Lake of the Ancient Frost.  We’re going to find something that nobody has ever seen before.”

Allendra smiled and started walking toward the lake. “I like that confidence.”

Clownhouse (1989)

September 25, 2014

So it looks like it’s time to start the Halloween festivities early and the first stop on this year’s tour is the Clownhouse.  Hope you brought a change of underwear.

“I’m hoping for Killer Klowns but I’ll probably get Halloween Part 5.”

I really like cheesy horror movies with horrible effects and horrible writing.  I don’t like gross out horror movies or torture porn movies.   Killer Klowns from Outer Space is definitely a standout among all of the horror movies that I have seen.  It was cheesy but it scared the crap out of me when I first saw it.  On the other hand, I never liked Michael Myers.  It was drawn out with no humor and just seemed pointless to watch if you’ve already seen the Friday the 13th movies.  Once again, Halloween 3 is the only one I like.

“My brothers and I were assholes to each other when we grew up but this is ridiculous.”

A lot of the time when we were growing up my brothers and I could sometimes be utter dicks to each other and even got into some heated wrestling matches or outright fights.  Still, when the chips were down we begrudgingly backed each other up.  I would have never squealed on either of my brothers for wetting the bed or mocked a phobia.  Still, the dynamic is actually pretty believable given the kids ages even though I like to think I was a lot nicer to my younger brothers when I became a teenager.

“Aw man, I was hoping for a supernatural clown movie.  Basically Fright Night with Clowns.”

Fright Night is another great, cheesy horror movie with just enough thrills to make you shiver but enough comedy to let you go home happy.  Looking back I don’t know why I expected this to be a supernatural clown horror movie.  I was probably spoiled by Pennywise, Killer Klowns and Poltergeist.

“Eleven minutes in and the protagonist finally speaks after being in at least four or five conversations.”

The film seems to follow the youngest brother who already has a fear of clowns from a previous encounter.  The film begins with his nightmare and the camera seems to follow him the most.  However, he remains stubbornly silent for a good chunk of the movie.  He is really good at looking terrified though which he does often.  Most of the lines in the movie go to the oldest brother who is an asshole.

“The Scary Fortuneteller has a dead eye and looks kind of like Hatchetface.”

I’m pretty sure she added nothing to the film although there’s a chance it could pay off later.  She was not very scary even if fortunetelling is a real skill in horror movies.  The great part was that she reminded me of Mona “Hatchetface” Malnorowski which is fun.  It wasn’t Kim McGuire, though, I checked.  Still, great face for an old fortuneteller.

“Clowns are inherently creepy.”

They make a big deal of making the lead clown Cheezo act really creepy during their performance.  They don’t linger much on the other clowns but they’re not much better.  Something about the exaggerated movements and facial expressions and the unnaturalness of the face paint, I guess.  I started to wonder if the killers had already taken over the clowns’ identities.

“Ok Horror movie, you’re not supposed to evoke sympathy.  I’m not used to this.”

I suffer a lot from anxiety in public and especially anytime when I feel like I might be the center of attention or close to it.  If I was late to church as a teenager I would just not go rather than walk in and feel the stares of everybody around me.  I imagine that basically having a nervous breakdown due to being simultaneously confronted by clowns and public disgrace would have broken me permanently.  So I sympathize with the main character who is understandably distraught.

“You made me like the clowns before you kill them.  Thanks.”

The actors who portrayed the clowns are really, really good at being scary.  However, when we see them briefly during their downtime they are really fun to watch.  The lead clown is basically Ron Perlman with grease paint halfway removed from his face.  I honestly would have watched a movie about being in the circus starring these three clowns.  Too bad.  They must die.

“Kid terrified by clowns attracts killer clowns.”

Seriously, it must be like when you’re allergic to cats and all the cats want to say hello to you.   It doesn’t help that they take turns telling killer clown scary stories to further summon the villains.  Hurray for horror movie tropes!

“This movie is cliche city!”

The hero utters the phrase ‘We’ll be right back.’ several times.  A character keeps singing a song called ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ which later comes out of a radio.  The protagonist spots the killers and when he tries to show his brothers they’re gone.  A character utters the line ‘Is someone in here?’ in a dark room.   Still, there’s a lot of fairly inventive stuff in the movie as well that I won’t spoil.  It just makes me roll my eyes but I guess it’s in a good way.

“So much good pantomime in this.  I’m starting to get legitimately creeped out.”

Great choice making the killers absolutely silent.  It could have ruined everything if they all acted like the Joker or Freddy Krueger.  Or it could have been awesome.  I guess we’ll never know.   The soundtrack adds a lot with semi-distorted circus music that makes my blood pressure spike a bit.

“Wow. Didn’t see that coming.”

I won’t spoil it but holy shit.  This just got real.  Oh wait, never mind no it didn’t.  Still, this is actually a great little horror movie.

“Shit did get real.”

Yeah, I tend to drop off from commenting somewhere in the last third of a movie if it’s any good.  It’s so easy to get sucked into a good movie.

All in all I would recommend this little horror movie to any of my fellow horror fans.  The movie gave me goosebumps but was just lighthearted enough that it wasn’t one note.  The child actors aren’t ridiculously awful and in fact show flashes of brilliance and actually help carry the film.  As I mentioned, the pantomime is really, really good and what is usually done for laughs ends up being legitimately scary.  In fact, they get a lot of their scares by appropriating comedy routines and twisting them into horror.  Of course, without the soundtrack this movie would not have been half as scary.   I watched the whole thing on Youtube so I know you can too.


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