Archive for October, 2015

The Babadook

October 31, 2015

Scary stories are a lot of fun but they definitely stick with you. To this day two scary stories are burned into my brain since they were told to me in the dark of the night. When I was little my dad used to tell me and my brothers about Ambrose the One-Armed Indian. We were especially told about this character when we went out west to visit Arizona. As un-politically correct as it may sound now, this man roamed the nation looking for revenge for some slight against him. The other story I remember vividly is a reading of a horrible story that research tells me was probably Leiningen Versus the Ants. We heard the story around the bonfire at Camp Shohola and while it is an optimistic story it does involve a human being nearly killed by a swarm of ants. I shiver just thinking about it but I also cherish those moments.

I wanted the last movie I did this Halloween to be something well known and something big and flashy. The Babadook got a lot of buzz when it came out but I didn’t catch it at the time. This was actually fighting a long-held tradition of not watching what everybody else thinks is cool. Also, to give you a little peek behind the curtain, this is the movie I watched last. I also knew absolutely nothing about the movie and I don’t recognize a single person involved. I’ve never quite seen an Australian horror film either though I’m sure I’ve seen a Canadian one even if I can’t name it.  The thing is, as much hype as there was, I think people really undersold it.  Of course, these things are subjective.

Let’s get this out of the way, children are very, very creepy. At least, they have great potential to be creepy. I’m not talking about the overdone trope of painting them in white and giving them a long, oily wig either. I’m talking about normal, everyday kids. The average little kid has problems because their language system is still evolving and terrible things come out of their mouths. Also, like drunk adults, everything is a good idea even the things we know are the worst ideas. The kid in this movie is like that. He’s an unfiltered, chaotic mess and you have to feel for his poor mother. Still, I’m told there are both pros and cons to parenthood and he must have good days, right?

It becomes clearer as the movie continues it becomes clearer and clearer that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator. The mother is under a lot of pressure with her job, crazy kid and strained family relations. She’s also suffering from insomnia, anxiety and depression even before things get real. You have to ask yourself if she is hallucinating or if there really is a Babadook after her. The story starts slow as if it is a family drama movie instead but slowly we are driven into the spookier parts of the story. I’ll let you make your own assumptions about whether it’s real as you watch it. However, just thinking that it might be in her head is just as frightening to me as a real monster.

Frankly, the movie was hard to watch but in the best way. The movie is uncomfortable and frightening in just the right spots and pushed just the right buttons. This is a great horror movie but for the love of anything good, please don’t let children see it. Also, if you’re a parent (especially a single parent) and you’re sensitive to scary/emotional things you might want to give this one a pass. Everybody else? Have at it. Happy Halloween.


House (1986)

October 31, 2015

We have little to no control over where and when horror finds us. The horror in our past is hard to overcome. Sometimes I think back to the scariest moments of my life and I can hardly imagine how I got through them and I’m just an ordinary guy. There are people who go through hell on Earth just to live another day and they have that burned into their memory forever. I can’t imagine being a soldier in a war where I was in real danger. I never saw a dead person outside of a funeral. Still, I can understand the true horror of trying to live today with the memories of true horror. The emotional baggage we carry around can be more terrifying than any ghost story. Of course, this movie is a ghost story too.

Thankfully, even with the heavy subject matter, there’s a lot of humor in this movie. It’s an interesting style of humor too. It’s quirky and light sometimes when the mood should be heavy or scary. Sometimes it actually makes the moment scarier in a very surreal way. The people in the story don’t act exactly as they should and while it’s sort of funny, it gave me sort of an alien feeling as well. Of course, there were was plenty of funny stuff too. I was reminded of a mix of movies like Airplane and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s a strange kind of humor that mixes reality with unreality almost seamlessly.

The movie gradually gets weirder as it goes on. It starts off quirky with a side of strange but slowly the horror elements start to take over. We’re dealing with ghosts in this one but they’re some of the most crafty ghosts I’ve ever seen. Like the ghosts in the Shining, the house knows about every single moment of the main character’s life. Also, the ghosts actively mess with the character’s mind, a mind of a vietnam vet. He’s also a writer and I know from experience how much a vivid imagination can mess with your mind all on its own. The movie spends much of its time bouncing between vivid flashbacks and hauntings in the present. The sometimes jarring transitions help you get into the head of somebody who’s not quite well but seems oddly at ease with being in that condition.

William Katt stars as Roger Cobb, a horror writer in a horror movie a cliche that Stephen King practically invented. He has just the right energy to pull the character off without getting too corny or too heavy. He’s joined by George Wendt who plays Roger’s pushy next door neighbor Harold who seems to have forgotten a lot about human tact. Cobb is haunted by his past and strange creatures who are hard to explain. It becomes clear that Cobb is a man with issues. Issues that go beyond being haunted by ghosts and he goes against obstacles that are hard to explain without spoiling the movie.

I don’t want to spoil the movie. It’s a weird little thing as the director, Steve Miner, was fresh off of Friday the 13th parts II and III. The idea for it came from Fred Dekker who wrote Monster Squad but it was fleshed out by first time screenwriter Ethan Wiley. Apparently all three of them were best friends inspired by Twilight Zone: The Movie and it definitely shows. The movie paces out similar to horror anthology segments like Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt. I would suggest you check this movie out if you’re into an offbeat horror movie that’s as funny as it is weird.

Maniac Cop

October 31, 2015

When I was in college, my brother took a trip to Thailand. When he returned to the United States he presented everyone with gifts and the gift he gave me was Maniac Cop 2. Unfortunately, the movie was in Region 3 since it was bought in Asia and I couldn’t play it on anything I could get my hands on. I always regretted that. My brother had no idea that the DVD wouldn’t work and somewhere in my travels I lost it. It’s probably a lot easier to watch it now, Region 3 or not. Still, the movie intrigued me and he bought it for me because it had Bruce Campbell in it and he knew I was a huge fan of the Evil Dead series.

Over the years I continued to be a fan of the Evil Dead but also a fan of Bruce himself. He seems to love all of the fans of schlocky horror and is really good at poking fun at himself. He finally achieved more mainstream success when he got a main role in Burn Notice. So, yes, Bruce Campbell attracted me to finally checking this movie out. However, it also includes three other notable actors in it as well. Tom Atkins is arguably the lead protagonist of the movie and you may know him from my favorite movie from the Halloween franchise (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch). Richard Roundtree makes a prominent appearance, an interesting break from all of his Shaft movies. Finally we have Robert Z’Dar whose strange bone structure is easily recognizable especially in movies like Soultaker (easily one of my favorite MST3K episodes).

I should probably mention the elephant in the room. This movie is about a man dressed as a police officer murdering people. Lately this has become a frighteningly commonplace news item to see an officer of the law killing a suspect or innocent person with excessive force. Of course, this isn’t a new thing. All of us alive at the time remember the Rodney King beating and the riots that ensued. Before that there was the excessive force employed against the civil rights movement in the sixties. There have been many other instances of a person with a badge overstepping the boundaries and injuring or murdering somebody. Obviously, this movie draws on that fear we feel when we see a cop car or a police officer in public even though we have done nothing wrong. I’m glad that the protagonists are also cops which helps remind us that their are good guys out there too.

The movie is actually far from a cheap eighties afair that I thought it would be. They actually poured quite a bit of money into it and the effects and cinematography are top notch for a horror film. The movie has a similar feel to movies like Death Wish and Wolfen. A lot of movies back then had a dark, grainy quality that worked with horror movies like this. One year later Batman would be released but this movie feels like it’s from the late seventies instead. New York is shown as indifferent, paranoid and angry especially when it comes to police officers. It’s not an optimistic film nor does it have any sunny characters. Even Bruce Campbell is without his trademark quips.

This was a movie about a police officer, back from the dead to kill the innocent and those who wronged him. Easy comparisons could be made to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers but this killer is far more intelligent. By keeping the villain silent and shooting him beautifully, they were able to keep him mysterious and menacing until the end of the movie. I definitely recommend checking this one out as it has a lot of good, suspenseful fun.

(Check back here at noon for the next movie!)

Top 11 Horror Movie Connections

October 30, 2015

So, I whipped this up because I love imagining what’s beyond the limits of a film. I readily admit that this is barely researched. I also admit that I know there’s a simpler story for a lot of these examples. I also admit that these were fun to write. These are the top eleven horror movie connections with greater story implications.

11 Xenomorph Skull (Predator 2)

Alright, we start with a well-known easter egg in the background of the lesser-liked sequel to a great, yet cheesy Schwarzenegger film. This crossover is actually happened so it’s not the most exciting on the list to me. However, back when Predator 2 was released it took a quick eye to pick this out. It was casual confirmation that the two awesome franchises might share the same world. It opened up a lot of possibilities where we could have (and still could see) some awesome stuff. An interesting side note: the xenomorph skull looks an awful lot like the xenomorphs in Alien and Aliens which are set centuries after Predator 2. Does this mean that there were no advances in xenomorph evolution for centuries? Considering that xenomorphs use other species as incubators, they must have some dominant genes. Maybe, they’re a genetically manufactured species?

10 Max Schreck (Batman Returns, Shadow of the Vampire)

Batman Returns is a pretty good Batman movie (Catwoman is great though) and it has some very memorable characters. You have your Batman, your Penguin, your Catwoman (rowr!) and you have the corporate villain who doesn’t really have a comic book counterpart. Max Schreck is the tycoon who isn’t above manipulation, fraud and even murder to earn money. He’s pretty much an unrepentant evil monster who easily out-evils the other two villains put together. The thing is, he started out with the last name Schreck and his parents called him Max. Max Schreck is a little known film actor who worked in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Of course, the one movie of his you might have a snowball’s chance in Hell of knowing is Nosferatu in which he plays the vampiric Graf Orlok. Not only that but in Shadow of the Vampire, a fictional telling of the making of Nosferatu, it’s revealed that Schreck himself was a vampire. Am I saying that Max Schreck (Batman Begins) is a vampire? Well, definitely figuratively as a sort of financial vampire. A bit of a stretch but it makes me smile.

9 Bachman (Sons of Anarchy)

Alright, Sons of Anarchy isn’t a horror movie or even a horror television show. Instead it was a long-running show about a motorcycle club’s politics and crimes and the personal lives of the members. It’s a great show (at least as far as I am in it) but it definitely has its dark moments. Without giving away too much, during Season Three of the show a couple of main characters need a body to completely disappear. They call in a guy they know and a character played by Stephen King shows up and claims that his name is Bachman and that he is a cleaner. He plays his scenes pretty low key but there’s definitely a creep factor to his lines and delivery. So, “Richard Bachman” is an alias that King has used freely to publish a few of his books (The Regulators for example). What if Sons of Anarchy’s Bachman is supposed to be Stephen King? What if that’s what he does in his spare time? He travels around and makes bodies disappear for some extra cash but mostly for the fun of it.


8 Midwich Elementary (Silent Hill, Village of the Damned)

Village of the Damned is a B Horror movie where weird albino children appear who have psychic death powers that they use to hold adults hostage and get what they want. It capitalizes on how creepy kids can be without even trying. It takes place in the Midwich, England and therefore the creepy kids all attend Midwich Elementary as the adults try to figure out how to survive their predicament. In the Silent Hill video game series (and the first movie) characters encounter a Midwich Elementary where the kids of Silent Hill attend school apparently. It’s situated on Midwich Road but I would still think it would be called Silent Hill Elementary because it’s in Silent Hill. Of course, many places in America are named after places in England but I have a more fun theory. What if the supernatural forces that swirl through Silent Hill were attracted the residual psychic resonance of Midwich Elementary. What if the town wanted to possess such power and somehow transported the school to Silent Hill and then cannibalized it to create its own school?

Chalk Door
7 The Chalk Portal (Beetlejuice, Pan’s Labyrinth)

In Beetlejuice, Barbara and Adam Maitland find a spell to access the Netherworld. The spell has them draw a door and knock three times and the wall opens to expose a portal to a world beyond our own. The book they get their spell from is readable by mortals who aren’t deceased and later in the film a spell is even successfully performed by a mortal man. Granted, the spell that is used isn’t the chalk door spell but there’s nothing to say it couldn’t be done by a mortal. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the main character Ofelia is given magic chalk by a seriously untrustworthy faun who instructs her to use it to form a door. She does and is transported to a dark, twisted version of a faery lair of sorts in order to further her weird faery scavenger hunt. (Seriously, just go watch the movie. It’s amazing.) It’s almost the same dang spell! It involves the drawing of something in chalk that ritual makes real. It’s almost like the spell relies on the user’s imagination to work. Could these two spellbooks overlap? It’s interesting to think about.

6 “Deadites and Evil Molesting Tree” (Cabin in the Woods)

Cabin in the Woods is an interesting dark comedy/horror movie because it tears horror movies apart while paying so much tribute to them. I could sit here and list dozens of little homages to a lot of horror franchises that range from subtle to brilliant. However, the main thing about these homages and easter eggs is that most of them look like knockoffs of the originals. They’re close but no cigar. Early in the movie, when certain characters are cataloguing supernatural threats, you actually see the words “Deadites” and “Angry Molesting Tree” very close together. These are very specific words that only relate to one movie which is Evil Dead 2 (basically a gorier remake of Evil Dead). Deadites are practically a registered trademark of the Evil Dead movie and video game series and the Angry Molesting Tree is a pretty infamous part of the second movie. What I’m saying is that those words really don’t apply to anything else. Now, I don’t want to give away the premise of an awesome movie by saying this but could “they” be responsible for the events of Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2?

5 Striped Shirt (Nightmare Before Christmas, The Addams Family)

In the Addams Family movie from 1991, there’s a very clear art direction which includes brilliant costumes that fit the tone of the movie exactly. One of the prominent costume pieces is Pugsley’s shirt which is a distinctive black and white horizontal striped shirt. The actor playing Pugsley is a young man and is more than a bit chubby, mostly as a visual counterpoint to his thin sister Wednesday. In The Nightmare Before Christmas, there is a little zombie boy who participates in all of the shenanigans of the movie as one of many good-hearted yet misunderstood characters. He wears a shirt with black and white horizontal stripes and he is pretty portly himself. Granted, he’s a little more plump than Pugsley but he’s dead and sometimes dead bodies bloat. If anyone on Earth would have access to Halloweentown, it would probably end up being the Addams Family. So is the dead little boy Pugsley? I don’t think so but they may have shared some fashion tips. Alternately, Pugsley may have shipped some hand-me-downs to Halloweentown.

Chucky4 “Chucky on Crack” (Leprechaun in the Hood)

This next one is just a little bit of evidence but the idea excited me too much to put it lower on the list. I am a sucker for both the Leprechaun and Child’s Play franchises. In Leprechaun in the Hood (Leprechaun 5), two gang members are startled by their first meeting with the Leprechaun. (As we probably all would be). One of them calls the Leprechaun “Chucky on Crack”, not being familiar with the little demon in front of them. There are many similarities between Chucky and the Leprechaun. They’re both vertically challenged and they both rely on ancient magics. Chucky is fueled by Voodoo magic which somehow keeps his little doll body mobile and able to swing melee weapons. The Leprechaun relies on some sort of ancient Irish magic of his own which allows him to basically break reality. Maybe, just maybe, these gang members called him “Chucky on Crack” because Chucky is a well known urban legend. I want a Chucky vs. Leprechaun movie so bad.

Santa Mira3 Santa Mira (Halloween 3, Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

I have a soft spot in my heart for Halloween 3: Season of the Witch mostly because it’s a good movie but also because a lot of people don’t like it. One of the most eerie parts of Halloween 3 is how ordinary people are replaced by unfeeling automatons who serve Silver Shamrock with undying loyalty. This all took place in the town of Santa Mira, California which was also the site of another famous horror movie. Invasion of the Body Snatchers features Santa Mira getting slowly taken over by aliens who replace human beings with emotionless copies. Both plots are only discovered because one man infiltrates the situation and flees to warn the world. It’s definitely too much similarity to simply be a coincidence. Imagine you’re Conal Cochran and you need guards for your big, magical terrorist plot. You think of androids and then you do your research about the Body Snatchers incident. Maybe you get a hold of info from Body Snatcher technology and you use it to perfect your android copy technology in the same town the original incident it went down.

2 Necronomicon (Jason Goes to Hell)

The Necronomicon was an important object and an intesely detailed prop created for the Evil Dead series. In Army of Darkness we see it in great detail in a time lapse sequence that explains exactly what it is. It’s a book written in blood and bound in human skin and it contains information and dark spells relating to the deadites and the great magical force of the Evil Dead. Somehow such an important book often finds itself lost and in clear sight of people who could stumble onto its evil. First a cabin and now strewn among a whole lot of other magical items in a Friday the 13th movie. Among the many items in the Voorhees house, the Necronomicon is clearly visible as not many books have a face with a gaping mouth on them. This is another one that needs no speculation because the prop was confirmed by Sam Raimi. Later, in the comic books, Ash has to ride to the rescue to take out Jason and Freddy when Freddy gets a hold of the Necronomicon.

Freddy's Claw
1 Freddy’s Claw in Evil Dead 2

Speaking of unmistakeable props, Freddy Kruegger is a vicious killer/dream demon who takes out his victims in very creative ways. However, one of the most iconic parts of Freddy’s image is that unique clawed glove that has drawn the blood of so many teen victims. In Evil Dead 2 you can pretty easily spot Freddy’s glove hanging in the barn. Ash apparently doesn’t notice it but it is a clear sign that Freddy has entered his world. Now, I’ve already covered how Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash became a thing when it was published in the comic books. However, there’s something else in play here. In New Nightmare we are introduced to the concept that Freddy Kruegger is a real dream demon originally from our world aka the world you’re sitting in right now. He was only tamed by making movies about him which trapped him in the film world where he harmlessly killed fictional characters. What if, between Nightmare movies, they desperately wrote Freddy into Evil Dead 2 to keep him at bay for a little while?

Media Update 10/29/2015

October 29, 2015

Tremors 5: Bloodline

I have watched all of the Tremors movies to date so it was only natural that I had to watch Tremors 5, if only to complete the set. It’s actually a pretty good set of B-movies. The first one is kind of like Jaws with giant earthworms instead of a shark. I think they did a pretty good job throughout the series of setting out pretty clear rules for the monsters and their extraterrestrial biology. Pretty quickly Michael Gross took over the series with a rotating list of young annoying guys. It actually worked pretty well. This is the first Tremors movie in over a decade which is not really a good sign. Michael Gross was in good shape but the movie just seemed a little off its game. I can’t even blame Jamie Kennedy for this one though since he wasn’t nearly as bad as he has been in the past. Maybe it was that they changed the rules of the monsters or maybe it was that they ruined the pacing and comic timing a bit. I’m not really sure but it’s still a watchable B-movie.

Crimson Peak

I went an saw this before gaming last Saturday, getting up early for a Saturday so that I could drive down to Columbia. I had been looking forward to the movie since just the title was announced more than a year ago. I love Guillermo del Toro’s work and I eagerly follow news about him and everything he plans on doing. I don’t even want to count how many times I’ve seen Hellboy. I didn’t know what to expect going in and I was a little sleepy and cold going in. I shouldn’t have doubted. I went in expecting a ghost story and instead got something more akin to The Turn of the Screw or The Woman in Black (the stage version). I absolutely loved it and I won’t say another word because I want people to see it.


I was looking today for something not horror that would fit the Halloween theme of this post and Netflix provided me with a show that I had wanted to check out. Legends was a show that they advertised the hell out of ahead of time. Most of the advertisements touted that Sean Bean would not be killed. Sean Bean is an awesome actor but unfortunately (and sometimes fortunately) his characters have a high rate of dying on screen. The show follows an FBI undercover agent who operates several “legends” which are criminal identities he can slip into. Sean Bean is excellent at it and his work is on par with the kind of stuff that Dollhouse did. He basically plays several characters through the course of the show and pulls it off very well. The rest of the cast is really good as well, giving him all the support he needs. Definitely check it out if you have the time.

Spooky Links fo the Week:
(All the links are short films this week!)
Local 58 – Weather Service
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 5 (New!!)
Monster Problems
The Witchboard
The Rattler

Updates of the Week
– Watched the Shining again, the good one
– Two more movies to review
– Remember: Three movies will be reviewed on Halloween
– I wish I had premium cable so I could watch Ash vs. Evil Dead
– I love Halloween so much (but not the Michael Myers movie really)
– This weekend is the annual Fright Night viewing
– Also the annual Nightmare Before Christmas viewing
– The real horror is the Republican Debate though

The Satanic Rites of Dracula

October 28, 2015

I was born in the early eighties so I was just a little kid during the great Satanic Panic of the eighties. First and foremost was the McMartin Preschool affair where employees were falsely accused of Satanic ritual abuse (SRA). The charges were trumped up and borne of paranoia and only fed heavily by the coached testimony of preschool kids. However, worry over Satan has been around for a long, long time before the eighties. In the seventies the players of Dungeons and Dragons were painted as Satanists and many other people were marked by similar witch hunts (including actual witch hunts). As far as I know, most (if not all) victims of these investigations have not been guilty of Satan worship. Even the Church of Satan doesn’t actually worship the biblical Satan. Still, we fear that somebody is out there actually worshipping evil and using an evil figure as a template for their life.

Count Dracula is a well known horror character modeled after Vlad Tepes, a brutal ruler whose evil deeds were probably a bit exaggerated after his death. Bram Stoker combined Vlad’s history with existing vampire mythology and formed the basis for vampires in fiction from then on. Pretty much every vampire since has shared some traits with those laid out in Stoker’s novel. Universal Pictures was the first to officially cover the Dracula story and therefore had a massive impact on how people imagine Dracula looked. Since Stoker never correctly copyrighted his work, pretty much anybody could make a Dracula movie especially after his widow had passed away. In the fifties British film company Hammer Films made a string of horror movies starring Dracula, going well beyond the Stoker’s original story for the Count.

One of the reasons that I chose this movie to review was because of Christopher Lee who plays Dracula. Sir Christopher Lee died this year and I wanted to honor him because I am a huge fan of his. This was my first time seeing him in the role and he did not disappoint. He is a mostly silent, steely eyed Dracula who looks both unstoppable and undeniable. There is a force of will behind his performance that makes him incredibly imposing. Of course, he’s opposed by Peter Cushing who plays Van Helsing, a descendant of original vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. Cushing is a very intense man. He plays a very determined man who wishes to protect his family by ending a centuries old feud. He is an expert of the occult but he is aided by his granddaughter (Joanna Lumley!?) and Special Branch.

I confess I haven’t watched the rest of the series but they introduce a lot of new elements into the Dracula story with this chapter. Dracula can apparently be reincarnated which explains why he keeps coming back but the spell must be cast by a loyal follower. Dracula co-opts a Satanic cult to find followers and to protect his interests. These cult members are not vampires and merely human servants who have entered the 20th century by using guns and computers. Part of Dracula’s plan includes manufacturing a bioweapon from the bubonic plague which is a new one on me. Still, he also relies on some old standbys of his by posing as a wealthy human, amassing a collection of “brides” and using hypnosis to subdue his victims.

The soundtrack is suitably dramatic but interestingly it’s a little dated and full of brass instruments whereas usually stringed instruments are more common in horror. It’s an English production so they aren’t afraid to use people who aren’t traditionally attractive. The acting is enjoyably subtle until the perfect moment for it not to be. The plot is surprisingly complex but easy enough to follow. It’s cheesy but just the right amount of cheesy for it still to be a little scary. If you’re looking for some light Halloween entertainment I would suggest searching this one out.

Aftershocks: Demon Days Pt. 5

October 27, 2015

Aftershocks 2

Two figures appeared from the shadows under a dead tree on a hilltop not far from the school. The first figure was dwarven with red hair and lots of facial scars. The second figure had slicked-back blond hair and a long leather coat. They both looked agitated and disappointed but the blond one was especially frustrated.

“Charles.” The blond one said. He was tall and mostly human-shaped but way too pale to pass for anybody normal.

“William.” The short one said. He was a cruel mockery of the human form, his body parts exaggerated in all the wrong places. He was more like a doll than a real person.

“The attack failed, Charles,” William said, beginning to pace in the moonlight. His face twisted itself up into a demonic form.

“Relax, William. There’s plenty of time to get the job done.”

“I wanted to get my hands dirty. Specifically, I wanted to get them bloody.” William said with a sneer on his face.

“We both will. Soon.”

“Sooner now that Ley is back in the fire,” William said with a shiver. That wasn’t a fate he would have wished even for that asshole.

“Yeah, that’s true. Speaking of, we should probably get back and report.”

“Right. Back down below we both go.”

The duo slipped back into the shadows. The smell of sulfur drifted out on the night air.

* * *

Principal Wood sat patiently behind his desk, his arms folded. He had driven the girls home the night before but had called them to his office as soon as he could the next morning. Lydia had given him the vaguest of excuses for breaking into the gym but she could tell he wasn’t buying it. Nancy had not been any help, preferring to stay silent, but Lydia couldn’t blame her. Even now Nancy was reserved and wore a blank, closed off expression. Her arms were hugged tight to her body and she was staring at an empty corner of the room. Lydia wished that the two of them could have talked more but the Principal had interrupted that. At least Rob had disappeared at some point.

“I’m serious. I want an explanation from both of you.” Principal wood said and he leaned in slightly.

“I promise you wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” Lydia said with a shrug. “Just give us detention.”

“Ms. Brewster. Believe me when I tell you that I have seen plenty of strange things. I might surprise you with how much I believe.” Wood said with the faintest little smile.

Lydia felt like his eyes were looking straight through her. The two of them stared at each other over the desk. Maybe he would believe her. Maybe she didn’t have to stumble through this alone with her best friend and a ten-year-old kid who might never show up again. Adults never seemed to believe or, like her father and mother, tried to pretend that it wasn’t real with drugs and therapy. She had communed with ghosts and nearly married what was apparently a really important demon.

“Like what?” Lydia asked.

“Like I smelled a lot of sulfur in that gym before I turned the ventilation fans on. Was it demons?”

Lydia’s eyes went wide and she could feel Nancy suddenly come to life next to her. “Wait, how did you know!?” Nancy nearly shouted.

The Principal laughed a deep, satisfied laugh. “I’m not one of them if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve just fought a couple of them through the years.” He said and Nancy started to respond but Lydia silenced her by putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Maybe it was demons. Maybe we’re not ready to talk.” Lydia said, trying to keep her face neutral.

“I can help you but only if you can trust me enough to talk to me. If it was demons, the school is still standing and they’re no longer there. That might mean I have you to thank. I don’t really see the need to give you detention. However, if you were to show up after school anyway, maybe we could discuss the matter a little further. I just want to help you girls out.”

Lydia smiled and looked over at Nancy who gave a half-hearted little smile. “Maybe that will happen,” Lydia said. “But don’t hold your breath. Come on, Nancy. We have to get to class.”

Before the girls could get through the door, Principal Wood spoke up. “Be careful, ladies. I’ve seen what happens when a young woman goes up against a demon alone.”

Lydia pushed Nancy through the door and smirked without turning. “Yeah, we win.”

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

October 26, 2015

Older horror films are interesting animals in the zoo where horror movies are kept in this analogy. They come from a land where the movie’s full credits could be played over the film’s opening without disturbing the audience or taking too long. Since effects were limited, they couldn’t rely on all of the trickery used in today’s horror films. Their effects seem hokey and lame now that we can do such amazing things with decades of practical effect experience and cutting edge computer effects. It was a simpler time to be sure but it also caused horror movies to be more psychological. Sure, they had their gimmicks back then too but more often than not they relied more on what you couldn’t see then what you could.

Today’s film was made 44 years ago and it was operating with a much smaller toolbox than filmmakers have available today. It’s not a straight horror film as it has a lot of comedy elements to it as well without being a straight parody. Of course, it has two things that just aren’t used as much in today’s horror that serve it very well. The first is that it is very bizarre. It spends a lot of time (especially in the early parts) being strange without explaining itself. I like that. I want to be confused sometimes. It teaches me to sit back and not try so hard and let a movie just take me to the destination it means to take me to. The other thing that this movie has that can’t ever be used today is Vincent Price. Vincent Price was a horror legend, seemingly born with the voice and mannerisms to be creepy but strangely loveable.

The movie follows a bunch of detectives trying to solve the murders of several doctors. The murders were all done in inventive and outlandish ways by the title character for reasons that are not explained at first. The title character is weirdly amazing because Phibes is an amazing killer who is easily twenty steps ahead of the police. He’s also way smarter than his bumbling victims who fall easily to his strangely elaborate traps. There’s no explanation on why the deaths are elaborate but they are based on the ten plagues that Moses brought upon Egypt. I personally love horror stories with themed deaths though usually they’re deaths based on the victim and not on a set mythology. Strangely, despite having a rabbi character in the movie, it changes two of the plagues and their order.

The movie gets a lot of use out of art deco design which, I’m pretty sure, you don’t see in a lot of horror films. The colors all seem a little more vivid than they should be and a lot of scenes feel more like a stage play than a movie. It gives the movie an otherworldly feel that is a little unnerving but also strangely pleasing. The villain is mostly silent and lets the police following him deliver the exposition. The camera work is excellent as they used every trick in the book to tell a very interesting story. In fact, the scene of the second kill wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the amazing camera tricks they used. Every shot is framed expertly and not a second is wasted in the editing. Beyond that, the sound really does a lot of the heavy lifting as the music and sound effects sometimes give way to perfect, uncomfortable silence. They did a lot of brilliant painting with sound that worked incredibly well.

Sometimes I’m a sucker for these old, simple movies from a long gone era. This one is a mystery that the audience knows the answer to within fifteen minutes while it takes the police the rest of the movie to figure out. It’s a somewhat campy but interesting take on horror movies that’s hard not to like. Parts of it might seem a little dated but I maintain that most of it is as timeless as Hitchcock.  It’s actually a little bit poetic and strangely sweet in its own way. It should also make people who are not fans of gore happy as it is mostly bloodless and relies instead on creepier deaths that are a bit more psychological. I suggest this (and the sequel) to any horror fan who hasn’t seen it yet. You have to respect your horror ancestors.

Burke and Hare

October 23, 2015

Dignity in death is an interesting concept that has developed in humanity through the ages. Most of us care about what happens to our body after we leave it. The body is part of our identity when we’re alive so any unnatural harm to it, beyond the ravages of time and nature, is unthinkable. We want the bodies of our loved ones treated with respect and love and delivered to fire or earth by whatever custom each culture has designed. Beyond that, dead bodies are scary and disgusting. They are dealt with in secret and only rarely displayed in public and then hidden away forever. It’s one of the many things we put out of sight so that it’s out of mind and we can move forward. What lovely concepts to set up a comedy script.

Back in the late 1820’s the medical profession was exploding. People were very interested in anatomy and how we were put together. Doctors and unruly students crowded into surgical theaters and watched as famous doctors gave lectures and demonstrations on anatomy with real bodies. Those bodies had to come from somewhere but at the time the only legal source was condemned criminals, sentenced to death and dissection. Of course, that was the only legal source. In stepped William Burke and William Hare who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to get bodies the hard way. To put it plainly, they were willing to murder in order to sell the bodies and their actions led to the Anatomy Act years later which would give researchers better sources for bodies.

I bet you didn’t think you were getting a history lesson today, huh? Well, that true story isn’t the only reason I was attracted to this movie. Simon Pegg’s smiling face is on the cover. Pegg is great as usual, a master of comic timing with a very expressive/confused face. He’s paired with Andy Serkis who you may know as the voice and body work of Gollum and various other computer generated characters. He works really well with Pegg and the two develop a pleasant rhythm that makes them strangely likeable. They are joined by Tim Curry, Tom Wilkinson, Isla Fisher and Hugh Bonneville who are all hilarious in their own way. There’s plenty of other minor roles who are straight men/women or even more ridiculous than the main characters. The movie is directed by John Landis who has an eye for dark comedy.

The movie is set in Scotland (as the real story was) and a little placard lets us know right away that they’re not going to be religious about sticking to the facts. I always prefer this when watching historical movies so that the movie ends up being a tidy and interesting story. If I want a story that’s one hundred percent honest I can research it after the movie and be educated. Anyway, the main characters are bumbling idiots who are down on their luck but mean well enough. I mean, it’s dark humor so neither of them are saints but they’re not the wicked men Burke and Hare probably were.

The movie ends up being kind of a mix of a pinch of a comedy of manners, a lot of zany farce and some sweet love story. All of that with dead bodies, murder and 1800’s surgery. The movie clips along at such a pace that it was past half over before I realized it. The comedy is certainly dark but I found myself laughing out loud a lot despite the gore. There were plenty of great historical references slid into the story and that’s aside from the real story of Burke, Hare and Knox. I wasn’t prepared for the excellent Shakespeare references and parallels but, as a huge Shakespeare fan, I welcomed it heartily. It was kind of the perfect marriage of Landis’ American talents and a healthy dose of British comedy. I definitely suggest you see it if you think you can stomach the dead bodies.

Media Update 10/22/2015

October 22, 2015

The Martian

So I first heard of this movie (and book) when I saw a poster in the lobby of the now closed down Rotunda Theater. Matt Damon in a space suit, looks pretty cool. I vaguely remembered seeing some buzz online about the book so I said something to my Dad. My Dad ended up reading the book and telling me a little about it but not enough to really spoil anything. We saw the movie this week and it was great. I just had a big smile on my face through out a lot of the movie. The cast is phenomenal with Matt Damon, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and so many more. The movie just clicks along from the very start with great pacing, direction, beautiful cinematography, acting and pretty much everything else. Hell. it almost felt real at times and although my suspension of disbelief is super strong, that’s still high praise. Go check it out.

American Horror Story: Hotel

Next up, I was sitting around after work and I mentioned to my mother that I needed to watch some Halloween stuff for my blog. I meant movie reviews for the remainder of the month but she had something else in mind. She had heard about the hype of American Horror Story and saw that I had episode one of Season 5 on DVR. Each season is a contained story so she wasn’t missing anything by checking out the new season first. Having seen bits and pieces of seasons 1 and 3 I asked if she was sure that’s what she wanted to watch. We started it up and right away the art direction and cinematography were both beautfiul. However, pretty quickly the madness started and my mom was repulsed by how over the top the show is. The show really is like a non-stop train wreck. Everything is morbid and gory but you can’t look away. We watched the whole first episode which is about vampires in haunted hotel or something. It was good but we both said that was the last episode we would watch. It’s just too much.

Last Week Tonight

I mentioned how much I love the Daily Show. It’s a show that is funny while being surprisingly informative for a comedy show. The host of Last Week Tonight (John Oliver) got his start as a correspondent on the Daily Show. When Jon Stewart took a three month hiatus, Oliver took over as host. This led to him getting a show of his own that I originally thought would be like the Daily Show. It ended up being like the Daily Show in that it is a comedy show that focuses on the news and has a social conscience. However, it’s a lot more laser-focused than the Daily Show as it focuses on one issue and researches the hell out of it. By focusing on an issue he can refer to multiple stories to create a sort of thirty minute essay on how we should be better as a species. I love the show and I watch it every Monday morning.

Cool Links of the Week:

Longbox of the Damned: Puppet Master #1 – 3
Kryst the Conqueror – Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Even Stevphen – Halloween
Werewolves! – Starring Felicia Day, Mark Fischbach and Kate Miccuci
Weekly Thoughts and Updates:

– The latest Star Wars trailer made me smile. “Chewie, we’re home.”
– I just found out that there’s actually a Doctor Who ripoff starring Peter Cushing
– I saw a trailer for another stupid haunted doll movie
– I already finished iZombie Season 1
– I finished The Flash season 2 and man it was good
– If you’ve been living under a rock, yesterday was Oct 21, 2015
– It was heavy, Doc.

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