Archive for October, 2021

Dead Ringers (1988)

October 31, 2021

When I was very young, I once heard the story of the doppelganger. I remember it clearly because it was on one of several trips my family made to Busch Gardens Williamsburg which was one of my favorite places. Areas of the park were themed to different European nations. One of the rides was a ferry boat that you could peacefully ride on the river that ran through the park. It must have taken off from the German part of the park because I remember getting on a boat called “Doppelganger”. I am not a ride person so I was happy to be on a peaceful little trip with the mist of the river cooling me down. Then the ship’s driver started to explain the name of the boat. He told of the doppelganger, a mysterious ghostly mirror image each person has that is somewhere out in the world. That doppelganger has many different purposes in folklore but none of it is good. When I met my first pair of identical twins, it was much less scary.

I have always been creeped out by medical stuff. I have been scared of doctors since I can remember and have only been able to contain that terror rather than make that fear go away. A lot of it comes from being a sickly child and dealing with all of the tests that came with a mysterious respiratory problem. I also quickly developed an intense fear of needles which was probably related to all of the tests as well. Looking back, I think I still got off light. When I think about having to deal with a gynecologist, I cringe a bit. I have heard so many horror stories from friends, acquaintances, and strangers about that particular corner of the medical profession. I can imagine why. That branch is so invasive in a very intimate location on and in the body that is not quite built to be exposed to cold, clinical treatment. I can see why there is so much horror involved in that part of a woman’s body.

The first thing I noticed was the offbeat, creepy tone that the movie has from the start. We meet our main characters and they are immediately strange and offputting. This comes from the acting skill of Jeremy Irons who has a lot of chemistry with himself. He is both an asshole and a kind man, both archetypes of doctors. He does such a good job of playing two different characters while at the same time making it hard to figure out which is which until they open their mouth. His acting in this is absolutely superb. Geneviève Bujold is great as the woman who comes between them, a clever and tough actress. The three of them weave together a very intricate psychological story.

This being a David Cronenberg film, one would expect tons of gross body horror and gore. This movie is a bit tamer compared to some of Cronenberg’s more intense pieces. Still, there are definitely moments of that terrifying mind at work. For example, the surgery scenes are not gory but are definitely unsettling and alien. Part of that comes from custom-made medical tools that are made to look scary. I was not sure how many of the tools were real and how many were fictional. There were also a few moments of traditional Cronenbergian visual horror that were definitely startling. The costume design in the medical office looks alien as well. It carries on this whole idea of two people far smarter than the rest of the human race.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was deeply unsettling without being gory which felt fresh. The psychological horror having to do with one’s identity was so deep and horrible that it was hard to bear at certain times. Jeremy Irons did so well in this role that I am surprised there was not an Oscar nomination for him. I recommend this movie.


The Rules of the Spell in Child’s Play

October 31, 2021

I thought I would lay out the rules of the first 3 Child’s Play movies for Chucky’s magic spell that started off the whole franchise. The rules continually change and evolve as the franchise continues but I thought I would start with the first three.

The magic used is specifically stated to be Voodoo. Charles Lee Ray was a disciple of John Bishop, a voodoo priest once known as “Doctor Death”. The chant used specifically invokes the loa of Damballa. It is viewed as an abomination of the faith and an unacceptable act in voodoo.

The text of the chant is specifically “Ade due damballa. Give me the power I beg of you. Secoise entienne mais pois de morte. Morteisma lieu de vocuier de mieu vochette. Endonline pour de boisette damballa! Secoise entienne mais pois de morte. Endelieu pour de boisette damballa!!! (x4)”

For the purposes of this article:
“Lost Soul” refers to the soul of the person who casts the spell to transfer their soul.
“Form” refers to the inanimate object the Lost Soul is possessing

Unspoken Rule 1: The Lost Soul can manipulate the shape and properties of the Form to some degree.

Source: All three movies. Chucky can move his face and speak in a manner unintended by Good Guy Dolls. He is somehow able to project his voice from life from his doll body. He is also able to utilize the doll’s original voice chip technology to trigger the original voice lines for camouflage purposes. He also has the proportionate strength of an adult human man in doll form. He can also still operate parts of his body when separated.

Spoken Rule 1: The Lost Soul that possesesses the Form must transfer his soul into a human body or risk getting trapped in the Form forever.

Source: In Child’s Play, Chucky’s voodoo teacher John tells him this directly.

Reiterated by Andy as he talks to his therapist in Child’s Play 2. He tells his therapist that Chucky told him there was a time limit and if he did not succeed, he would be trapped in the doll forever. Also reiterated by Chucky to Kyle later in Child’s Play 2.

Spoken Rule 2: The Form that the Lost Soul possesses slowly turns “human” and the Lost Soul can no longer transfer into another form.

Source: In Child’s Play, Chucky’s voodoo teacher John tells him this directly.

Reiterated by Chucky near the end of Child’s Play 2 when the transfer fails, causing him to realize the time limit has passed. This sends Chucky into a berzerker rage. During the franchise we see Chucky bleed seemingly human blood and his insides are replaced with realistic gore.

Reiterated again in the third movie when Chucky once again bleeds when injured.

Spoken Rule 2a: The time limit for the Form turning human starts over if the Form is “killed” and rebuilt.

Source: Chucky in Child’s Play 2 when he gets a nosebleed after being thrown down the stairs by Andy’s foster father. He says “I’m turning human again!”

Spoken Rule 3: The Lost Soul can be only be transferred to the first human that learns the identity of the Lost Soul.

Reiterated by Andy as he talks to his therapist in Child’s Play 2. He tells his therapist that he was the first person to learn that Chucky was actually Charles Lee Ray. That marked him for soul transferrence.

Reiterated again by Chucky when he meets Ronald in Child’s Play 3 and is talking to himself. He chooses to tell Ronald his identity and make him the new target.

Unspoken Rule #2: If the form that one is inhabiting is destroyed, pieces can be replaced. If these new pieces are attached to a possessed piece, the new pieces are possessed.

Shown at the beginning of Child’s Play 2. We witness in detail the toy factory laboratory technicians rebuilding the burned husk of Chucky after he was shot and burned at the end of Child’s Play. We see him being stripped down to a metal exoskeleton before all external parts are replaced as good as new. He then takes control of the whole of the doll again.

This is reiterated at the beginning of Child’s Play 3 when Chucky’s blood (from his messy death at the end of 2) is mixed in with melted plastic to make a new doll.

So, we see that the way that Chucky is beaten in each movie makes sense. Wait until he becomes “human” and vulnerable and then kill him.

Horror Movie Poster Project Pt. 5

October 30, 2021

This week’s theme is “Creepypastas”

Chastity Bites (2013)

October 29, 2021

Elizabeth Bathory has long been associated with vampires. She was a Hungarian noblewoman alive in the fifteen hundreds. We already know how eastern Europe is already heavily associated with vampire legends. She grew up in a castle and lived in comparative luxury as she was the niece of the King of Poland (who was also a prince of Transylvania of all places). One of the first tales that seems to connect her with vampirism came when she was a child. Apparently, she suffered from seizures as a child which was known as “falling sickness” and the folk remedy was to smear blood of the unaflicted on the victim’s mouth. Therefore, she actually did taste human blood if that story is to be believed. Perhaps tales like these are what expanded into vampires who need human blood to survive.

There are a lot of legends that surround Bathory when she got older. She was apparently particularly brutal, torturing and killing many of her fellow Hungarians. It is hard to differentiate from rumor and actual history as history is written with a particular slant. What is known is that a Lutheran minister complained to the crown and the King was eventually forced to investigate one of the nobles of his land. Investigators took testimony from over 300 sources. Testimony stated that Elizabeth Bathory had started her reign of terror by torturing young preteen girls who had been sent to her to learn courtly etiquette. Needles, hot tongs, ice water, honey and ants, and other methods. People said she bathed in the blood of virgin girls. Investigation later revealed that the testimonies may have been false and obtained through coercion and/or torture. It may have been a plan to divest her of her Estate and divide it up.

The first thing I noticed was the fun and campy acting. The movie immediately strikes a particular tone somewhere between DEBS and Heathers. The protagonist of the movie is played by the brilliant Allison Scagliotti. She plays a spunky young feminist high schooler with aspirations of being a reporter. Louise Griffiths is wicked as the abstinence counselor “Liz Batho”. She is so delightful, akin to Chris Sarandon in Fright Night. Amy Okuda, Sarah Stouffer, Lindsey Morgan, and Chloe Crampton are so good as the popular girls. Francia Racia is fun as the best friend who gets in way over her head. The rest of the cast does a great job of being so sunny and perky that it is creepy.

I really like the cinematography. Most of it reads as a good television show, everything is shot tight and clear but with just a hint of shadow in a lot of scenes. The kill sequences are done largely through POV or are shot in a manic fashion that made me a bit anxious as I watched but they kept it light as a horror comedy. The gore is actually fairly light but it is a vampire movie so of course there is dark crimson, beautiful blood. There are some really interesting special effects at points in the story that definitely caught me off guard. There are some interesting camera tricks to ratchet up the weird vibe of the movie. I really liked the settings. Many did not seem like traditional horror like sterile high school hallways and normal suburban homes. Some of them are way more traditional like a spooky manor.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a clever modern adaptation of the Bathory legends with a really fun cast. Scagliotti and Griffiths are particularly electric on screen and have a really good dynamic. I was not sold on the sex comedy part of it but it did not go too far and was played completely for laughs. It was a pretty tight little horror comedy movie. I recommend this movie.

Media Update 10/28/21

October 28, 2021


I had heard about this movie but I had never gotten around to watching it. It could have been an absolute sensation in the horror community if they had played it silly but instead it is funny because of how straight they play it. This is the story of a high society family that gets attacked by nature itself, out for revenge. A young Sam Elliott plays an average joe freelance photographer who gets caught up in the chaos. Ray Milland plays the self-centered patriarch of the family. Joan Van Ark plays the only family member with any common sense or kindness. The movie is absolutely ridiculous and funny but I am not sure whether that was actually intended. It is a long and poorly paced movie but I still liked it because it was so silly. I am not sure they were making such an “eat the rich” kind of movie at the time but that is how it comes off now. I recommend this movie.

Black Sheep

I had heard of this movie through a bunch of streamers that I watch. I like New Zealand horror a lot so I was excited for a good Kiwi horror comedy. It helps that the goofy special effects are done by Peter Jackson’s buddies over at Weta Workshop. This is the story of when the sheep at a farm start going after the humans for food. A lot of the horror and comedy comes from those effects but a lot of it also comes from stars Nick Fenton and Danielle Mason. They have such good chemistry together. Tammy Davis plays a lovably loutish farmhand and provides plenty of comic relief. The movie is crazy, chaotic, and funny but also pretty creepy with all of the body horror. I recommend this movie.

Tammy and the T-Rex

I had heard of this movie previously as an exceptionally gory but fun movie. The story here is a young teen is killed but his brain is put in a robot body which he uses to take revenge on his bullies. Denise Richards plays the titular Tammy, a soft-hearted girl mixed up with a bad guy while wanting the good boy. Paul Walker plays the guy who gets turned into the T-Rex. Theo Forsett plays the lovably flamboyant black friend who was all over the place around the eighties and nineties. The rest of the cast plays it perfectly campy. All of the campy humor does a lot to lighten all of the brutal gore that fills the movie. I mean, there is a lot of gory blood and guts but it is kept relatively cartoony. I recommend this movie.

Music of the Week:

Halestorm – Back From The Dead

Siouxsie The Banshees – Halloween

FAUN – Halloween

Nick Lutsko – Spirit Halloween Planet

Mashup of the Day:

Titus Jones – Inferno of Scary Skeletons & Bad Rats

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “When Animals Attack”
I watched Blood Theater (RiffTrax version)

Dave Made a Maze (2017)

October 27, 2021

When my brothers and I were kids, we definitely built a lot of pillow and blanket forts. When you are small enough to do so (and I was tiny) it feels so good to climb into a cozy little makeshift world of your own. A fort was always a great place for great bursts of imagination. My brothers and I often had different interests but sometimes we united in this one thing. Of course, this was not solely for pillow forts. Any playground equipment became a centralized place for imaginary adventures. We could also roughouse more on the playground. Pillow forts were cozier. It was always easy for my friends and I to create our own worlds out of very little physical matter. One person would declare something to be real and everybody else would have to “yes and” it and continue. This is something that I have carried forward into my adult life. First with theater, then with writing, and again with tabletop gaming. Worldbuilding is so much fun but it can get out of control quickly.

Just now, I remembered a fundraiser that my school held when I was a tiny tot. The day was called the Quaker Quick Quint. I am not sure whether “quint” is actually the word to use but it was a day of foot races for kids and adults. However, one year somebody built a huge maze out of cardboard boxes. I vividly remember crawling in that maze on my hands and knees. Mazes can be great fun and are good tools to teach kids perserverance and navigation skills. The problem with a maze is that once you start and keep exploring, you have to finish one way or another. I have heard countless stories of people in seasonal corn mazes who are just completely physically and emotionally exhausted after a period of time in the maze. That is one of the elements in probably the most well-known maze movie, Labyrinth. When you have no idea where you are going, it is hard to know when and where the end is.

The first thing I noticed was the animation in the opening sequence was interesting and immediately set the movie apart from other fantasy horror movies. That animation carries forward in a way as the actors basically walk around a practical animated set. The whole thing feels very surreal as we see everyday materials become insane creations. The special effects are not realistic looking but that does not make them less terrifying. In fact, they feel even more terrifying. The maze is a character in itself as it constantly moves and reacts to everything. Sometimes it even taunts the characters. The set design really plays with perspective and the camera actively messes with you. There are some really fun sequences done with puppets, what looks like stop motion, and other forms of animation.

The actors are so good at portraying the perfect mix of quirky comedy coupled with astonished horror. The star of the movie is undoubtedly Meera Rohit Kumbhani who does a really great job of being the terrified but determined girlfriend while still keeping an air of humor. Nick Thune plays the titular character, a loveable goofball and daydreamer. Adam Busch plays the quirky comic relief sidekick character. The funny thing about the cast is that I felt in my bones that I had seen them before but I have not watched any of thier previous projects. They all need to be going places and soon. The acting was part of what made this movie great and they all deserve credit.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was seriously one of the best movies I have seen all year. It is not your traditional horror movie but it definitely has a lot of horror elements mixed in with the fantasy and comedy. Kudos to Bill Watterson and Steven Sears for creating a hugely imaginative movie. I hope they all do well in the future. Bonus: all of the cardboard was fished out of recycling dumpsters and was returned back to those dumpsters. I recommend this movie.

The Cleansing Hour (2019)

October 25, 2021

The Horror genre has a long and storied history. It was probably born from telling scary stories around the fire which graduated to acting them out. Most likely just as old is the practice of faking the supernatural for profit. While other kids listened with rapt attention to ghost stories and believed them true, I was also reading some different stories. From a young age I idolized Houdini because he fought these frauds at every turn. Those who would profit from gullibility and vulnerability irked him and they have always irked me. He battled mediums, psychics, fairies, and so much more. Many took up his standard when he died (95 years ago this Sunday). People like the Amazing Randi, Penn and Teller, and other skeptics have kept the torch burning. Still, the practice continues. Tape traders mistook badly recorded horror movies as real. Fake psychics continue to litter television and the publishing world. It is good to be skeptical of what you see. I still enjoy the stories but know that it is not real.

While I am not religious, I will rarely pass up on a good possession story. One of the horror tropes that scares me the most is the loss of self. I am not talking loss of identity which is a common psychological problem and also a financial one. I am talking about an outside force driving out or taking over your consciousness. Our bodies are definitely part of our sense of self but, as most of us learned in kindergarten, that is only the cover of our book. Our mind is what really makes us who we are. It is the seat of our intellect, imagination, memory, aspirations, and awareness. When a demon moves in, they often either erase their host’s consciousness or lock it away. Both are scary but the latter involves having to witness somebody else using your body and identity as you watch helpless. It makes me shudder.

The first thing I noticed were the great production values. There is an immediate feast for the senses when it comes to special effects. Blood, flame, and such good makeup effects. The makeup effects are particularly awesome. I absolutely loved how gross yet interesting it all was. There were moments that I could not have imagined that happened. The lighting effects are great which, as long time readers know, is very important to me. The light and shadow they play with is especially interesting because a lot of the movie deals with film sets. Film sets are inherently kind of creepy because they are points of light surrounded by darkness. A horror set is like a professional haunt in miniature, rigged with dark lighting and special effects.

Ryan Guzman is really great as the arrogant actor who is always chasing the next high, the next social media buzz. He is incredibly charismatic but also really east to hate. Kyle Gallner is perfect as the happy go lucky best friend, the backstage gopher who offers a lot of the comic relief but also heart. Alex Angelis is so damned good at playing a possessed person and it looks like she had a lot of fun doing it. The physical acting is really awesome and terrifying. It is always interesting to me to watch human bodies in horror act in unnatural ways. The actors are really good at acting animalistic, like an insect, like things we could only imagine. Similar to the spider walk in the Exorcist, where a human becomes unpredictable and thus terrifying. The rest of the ensemble is really good at portraying a fly by night Internet film crew, a family that obviously formed over time.

Overall, I loved this movie. It moved at a breakneck pace from the start and never let up. Their was a lot of great tension and legitimate scares. The movie took no prisoners and definitely surprised me with some twists, turns, and shocking moments. It also had a sense of humor about itself without being a real comedy.

The Horror Movie Poster Project Pt. 4

October 23, 2021

This week’s theme is “Horror Adaptations of Children’s Books”

Street Trash (1987)

October 22, 2021

I feel like our society is predisposed and trained to hate and fear the homeless. We are conditioned to think that these people are lazy or otherwise stubbornly refusing to play within the system like the rest of us. The upper class, the government, and corporations encourage this division for many reasons. Most of those reasons are about control over both groups. As I got older, I volunteered at soup kitchens and spoke to people who worked in healthcare for the homeless, I realized the truth. People are people. There are thousands of reasons that a person could become homeless especially in our uncaring capitalist society. Homeless people are discarded and reviled by the system because they cannot play by the rules or refuse to. As a kid, it was easy to be scared of the homeless because they were portrayed as humans gone feral. They were “dangerous to go near” or would “only spend money they were given on booze” as if they were animals and not human beings that can make choices.

The “splatter” subgenre of humor is highlighted by a focus on gore and graphic violence. The term was coined by horror legend George Romero as a way to describe his movie Dawn of the Dead (which I still need to see). The idea is to illustrate how frail the human body is while telling a horror story. This is a tricky subgenre because it is connected to a minefield of other subgenres if you are discerning about your gory stories. I appreciate the more humorous slapstick side of the splatter subgenre. Adding a comic tone makes the excessive blood more ridiculous and cartoony and allows me to lean in to it more. It does not focus on the suffering of the victim as much as it focuses on the ludicrous nature of the act itself. I have reviewed a couple of movies that could be called splatter films: Braindead and Terrifier immediately come to mind. The other fork in the splatter path is one I shy away from. It is often known as “torture porn” and focuses more on the suffering and hopelessness of the victim. Movies like A Serbian Film, Human Centipede, or anything by Eli Roth do not draw my interest.

The first thing I noticed was how gritty the movie is. I am not just talking about the urban setting, I am talking about the colors as well. Although they are vibrant, everything looks kind of dirty. This is not a bad thing. The violence and gore is indeed over the top but, as is my preference, it is done with a maniacal and cartoony vibe. It is disgusting but the edge is taken off by the comedy. The effects are absolutely crazy ridiculous with human beings melting and transforming in minutes. Sure there is some good old-fashioned red blood but there are all sorts of other neon fluids to behold. The prosthetic body horror designs are really fun and feel very similar to Braindead or Reanimator.

There is a definite road warrior vibe to the homeless in this film that I quite enjoy. It gives them more character and agency than just “they’re homeless”. The cast is a real ensemble, working together as we jump from scene to scene. In some ways, the non-horror parts reminded me a bit of Do The Right Thing. You quickly get a real sense of the neighborhood and all of the cartoonish characters in it. Mike Lackey plays a likable hippie hobo and is arguably the hero of the film. Vic Noto plays the psychopathic villain and is a delight. Bill Chepil plays the hardass cop and is impossible to like. Few people in the movie are good guys, but they are enjoyable to watch. That is except for the rape scene. I should warn you about the rape scene.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It was dumb, goofy, and weird but it knew exactly what it is. Sure some of the stuff about Vietnam and mental illness did not age well but they were blips in an otherwise fun time. Looking at it like a fantasy world instead of our world helps. The movie does not ever pause to take itself seriously and I followed suit. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, though. I recommend this movie if you have a strong stomach and enjoy twisted humor.

Media Update 10/21/21

October 21, 2021

The Omen (1976)

This movie had been on my list for a while or at least it would have been if I realized that I had not seen it yet. I did see the 2006 remake. This is the classic story of a husband and wife who realize that their child is the antichrist. The movie is great in that it has some memorable crazy moments but a lot of its strengths are in the more subtle moments of mystery that pervade the movie. Gregory Peck leads the movie as the well-meaning but oblivious father. Lee Remick plays the worried mother. Harvey Stephens is really good as the child actor who plays the legendary Damien. The key is that they use the boy sparingly. Billie Whitelaw is great as a very sinister character. The movie’s strengths are in its atmosphere of dread. I recommend this movie.

Wicker Man (1973)

I had heard great things about this movie and I had seen and laughed at the Nicholas Cage remake so it was time to watch the original. I am not so sure that this movie was for me. I would not classify this as horror. I would classify it as mystery mixed with a musical. Christopher Lee put in a great performance as the magnetic and charming Lord Summerisle. Edward Woodward is perfectly insufferable as the main character, a pushy cop. The rest of the characters are mostly in the background of the story and are very good at acting weird and polite. There were moments of the movie that I really liked but others that felt slow or unnecessary to me. I would not recommend this movie.

The Hitcher (1986)

I had thought of this week’s theme and, as usual, I was searching around for a third movie to fit the bill. I stumbled upon this movie and saw that it was denounced by Siskel and Ebert, I had to check it out. The movie has a simple, straightforward plot which is not a point against it. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a simple horror movie. The movie is carried by Rutger Hauer’s intensity as the titular character. He is so good at being creepy. C. Thomas Howell is great at being the good boy who gets terrorized. The movie is full of a lot of dread and I liked it. The movie is a rare “road horror” movie but the genre makes sense. This movie is dark but there is playfulness to it. Not exactly humor but a definite playfulness.

Music of the Week:

The Sixth Chamber – Sarcophagus

Trail Of Blood – The Serpent Of Old

Poppy – I Disagree

Billie Eilish – you should see me in a crown

Mashup of the Week:

DJ Schmolli – Cold As Superbeast Prometheus

This week’s theme is “Not the Remake, the Original”
I watched a lot of YouTube and Twitch

Scary Studies

Horror is fascinating.

The Hidden Message

klaatu barada nikto

Panorama of the Mountains

Liam Sullivan's Ideas and Reflections

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No Hate Only Snootboops

As Told By Carly

The Ramblings of a Geek Girl

Beyond the Flow

A Survivor's Philosophy of Life

Silvia Writes

Life is a story. Might as well write it.

The Bloggess

Like Mother Teresa, only better.

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For lovers of reading, crime writing, crime fiction

DMing with Charisma

Because DMing is a Perform Check

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