Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Antibirth (2016)

October 15, 2018

A lot of people are afraid of drugs. This is not an unfounded fear, at least in my opinion. I have researched a lot about opiate addiction and what I have read has frightened me. Without getting too personal, I know that drugs can take a hold on people and never let go. They can break your brain over time and cause erratic behavior. The Just Say No campaign and various 90s campaigns did a number on me. They convinced me that drugs could poison me and I could easily die from taking a single puff. The very nature of the black market nature of narcotics convinced me that they were right. The idea that any drugs could be cut with something poisonous and deadly kept me from taking any drugs when some of my friends were definitely smoking pot. Of course, my fears proved not to be totally ridiculous as reports of heroin cut with fentanyl killing people (as fentanyl is super deadly) have become widespread. As marijuana has become more accepted and legal, it has become safer to smoke and safer to get a hold of.

I think that some people do not like to admit it but pregnancy is a scary concept. Many hype it as a ‘beautiful event’ but I have seen it several times now and I have a different perspective. Of course, this perspective is as a male so take all of this with a grain of salt. When I left for college, my father told me that having sex with a woman was ‘an emotional, physical, and legal commitment’. There are many people who are scared of getting pregnant or getting somebody pregnant. Part of that is the financial commitment that follows but it is also the mental, physical, and emotional effects of raising a child. Before all of that, actually being pregnant involves so many medical issues. From my observations, people who are pregnant worry about each little thing that happens and how it might affect the baby. This is especially true of people who have planned to have children but have a history of miscarriages. Then there are the more existential fears of what will the child be when it comes out and what will they become? It is part of that general fear of the future.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting was in this. The movie stars Natasha Lyonne as a druggie slacker who gets into trouble. She really drops into her character and she was likable from the first second. I have known a few of these stoners and most of them are good people even though they lack ambition. She is friends with Chloe Sevigny who is fun in a sarcastic kind of way with a hard edge. Mark Webber exudes a paranoid air of menace as a drug dealer and pimp. Meg Tilly plays a kindly stranger who is a mystery from her first appearance. She has a quiet, subtle performance which is a great contrast to the rest of the cast. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos plays a really skeevy guy who is friends with Webber’s character. Neville Edwards plays an absolutely creepy character sort of in the grand tradition of Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. In addition, there are a lot of sufficiently creepy extras who add to the general sense of unease.

This one has a lot of practical effects, a lot of which are subtle at first. When things really get rocking, it was hard to maintain my cool with how crazy it gets. Still, they were some great effects. There are also a lot of really interesting flashbacks in the movie. The movie kind of flashes these images at the viewer (and the main character) and it is a really neat way to depict it. In most movies, the character would slowly remember whole scenes but that is not usually how we remember things after trauma. Of course, I should mention that this is definitely a body horror movie. A lot of stuff happens that evokes that nauseating horror of somebody’s body changing against their will. If that kind of thing bothers you, do not watch this movie. Another great element of the movie is the sound design. They picked some really great ambient music that makes even the most innocuous thing feel creepy and strange. A lot of stuff shown on television in the background is really trippy.

Overall, I really liked this movie even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable. Trippy and unsettling are definitely the two biggest keywords that I would use to describe the movie. Lyonne’s physical acting is among the best I have seen in a horror movie (or most movies in general). The effects used for the body horror are amazing and disgusting. The movie definitely went a lot of places that I was not expecting. One of the great things about doing these reviews is getting to see stuff that I could not have imagined and this movie had it in spades. I would recommend it but it is not for the squeamish.

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Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 2

October 13, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

While they were waiting for Rob, Lydia and Nancy had tried to do their best to research the problem. They had called a few people to see if they could separate fact from the rumors that had started to circulate. They found out which parents had died specifically and they had started to theorize what the actual plan was. The children were all going into the system but in the meantime, they were being held at a Social Services-sponsored group home. Without more information, neither of them had a clue what was going on. They were not even sure that the problem was supernatural in nature. There was definitely a killer on the loose, though.

Rob showed up at the bunker a bit later in the day, hanging his coat up near the door. He looked tired as he laid his magical blade across two pegs on the wall of the bunker. He took a deep breath and turned toward the girls.

“So,” he said. “People are getting murdered again.”

Nancy nodded. “A lot of them so far,” she said. “At least the kids got away. Do you have any ideas about what did this? Is it a demon again?”

“Slow down,” Rob said. He was a serious little kid and he looked sternly at Nancy’s frantic behavior. “I poked around little myself and yeah I think it’s demons.”

“What makes you think this is demons?” Lydia asked.

Rob pulled out his phone. “I found some stuff at one of the houses,” he said.

“You snuck into an active crime scene?” Lydia asked, her eyebrows rising up in surprise. “That’s a huge risk.”

“It’s not like we could flash a badge and pretend I’m FBI like my family does,” Rob said. “I’m too young for that. Nobody would buy that you two are law enforcement.”

“Thanks,” Lydia said with an edge of sarcasm. “I guess it’s fine as long as you didn’t get caught. People’s lives are on the line. What did you find?” Lydia was pragmatic and, although she was not much of a rule breaker, she recognized that the demons obviously did not care about rules.

Rob showed them the screen of his phone and the word ‘Playtime!” was written on the wall in a reddish brown liquid. The two girls had seen enough violence to know blood when they saw it. It still made them cringe and feel a little sick. “I found this written on the wall of the garage where one of the dads was found.”

“Oh geez,” Nancy said. “Why would somebody write that?”

“I have a theory but I wanted to check if the cops have uploaded the crime scene photos yet,” Rob said and moved toward his laptop.

“How?” Nancy asked.

“I have a backdoor into their server,” Rob said. “I installed it months ago to keep tabs.” He started to type on the computer.

Lydia took a deep breath. “I’m going to hold back my disapproval and just focus on how all the crimes you’re committing are saving lives.”

“It’s kind of a family tradition,” Sam said. “Look at these.” On screen there were a series of photos of similar writing on walls. Messages like ‘Friends til the end’, ‘Jack wuz here’, and ‘Wanna play?’ all written in blood. There were dozens and dozens of messages. “The messages are all written close to the ground like really close to the ground. That confirms my theory. The toys killed the parents.” He got up from the computer and headed toward the door.

The girls looked at each other and then back at Rob. “The toys?” Nancy asked.

“Are you alright?” Lydia asked. “Did you hit your head or something?”

“I’m fine,” Rob said and started fishing through the pockets of his coat. “I found something else at the house.” He pulled out a plastic container and walked into the interrogation room, the room where the three of them had officially become a team. He dumped the contents onto an elaborate symbol engraved on the table’s surface. The girls walked in to see what the fuss was about and saw a little sailor doll which looked kind of cute. Except that the doll was moving around by itself and its little hands were stained with blood.

“What the Hell?” Lydia said, joining Nancy in taking a step back from the creepy little doll.

“Exactly,” Rob said. “It’s possessed by a demon.” He turned toward the little demon sailor. “Tell us what happened.”

“Go f%9# yourself!” The little doll yelled. Despite its efforts to seem tough, it came off a little bit cute if creepy.

“I don’t think it’s going to talk to us, Rob,” Nancy said.

“Strange,” Lydia said. “We’ve killed quite a few of his kind so far.”

“You don’t scare me, lady, you’re a c&*7!” The little thing yelled at the top of its tiny lungs.

Lydia started to gather a fireball into her hand but Rob caught her wrist. “Hold that thought for a minute,” he said. “I have something they’re all afraid of.” He started to chant in what sounded a bit like Latin and the sailor started to scream and writhe in pain. “Talk and the pain stops!” He yelled at the demon. Nancy backed up a little further and hugged herself.

“Stop! Stop!” the demon screamed and Rob stopped chanting. “I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“Go ahead and talk then,” Lydia said.

“He told us to kill the parents but I was out of practice and I hung around too long and that’s why you caught me,” the demon said indignantly. “It just felt so good.” The demon sighed. “He’s going to be mad.”

“Who’s he?” Nancy asked. One could practically see her pulse speed up.

“Charles,” the doll said in a mocking voice. “What a loser.” Nancy started to relax and Lydia reached over to squeeze her hand gently.

“Where are the other demons?” Rob asked. “Where’s Charles?”

The doll hesitated, looking down. “I dunno,” it said but gave itself away by smirking.

Rob started to chant again. “Talk!” Nancy yelled, furious at this little creature for harming the children she cared for. Her eyes flashed inky black for a moment and the doll recoiled from that even as it was in pain from the chanting.

“Harbin’s Toys!” The doll yelled out. “43rd and York! Please!”

Rob tapped that into his phone and then nodded at Lydia who tossed the fireball onto the doll and the three of them watched it writhe as the flames consumed it. It melted before the flames got hot enough to actually burn it to cinders. Lydia extinguished the flame with a gesture and they all left the room. Rob sat down at the laptop and searched the address.

“It’s an abandoned toy store,” he said.

“Perfect for finding little murderous bodies to inhabit,” Lydia said.

“We have to stop them,” Nancy said. “Charles must die.”

“I’ll get the car,” Rob said.

The Void (2016)

October 12, 2018

I have never been comfortable in hospitals. I think that is a pretty common attitude to have and I would hazard a guess that I am not alone there. Part of my problem with hospitals comes from uncertainty. A lot of the time when you go to a hospital, a person’s fate is uncertain. Even with the best medicine, an injury or sickness is not always cured perfectly and even if it is it will ruin a person’s quality of life for some time. The thoughts that ring through my head are ‘what’s wrong with me?’ and ‘what will happen to me?’. Funnily enough, the other thing that scares me about hospitals is certainty. There have been many times when I have gone into a hospital knowing what I am in for. I have had the procedures explained to me ahead of time so now I know what is coming. Not much in a hospital is painless and most of it scares me. I am afraid of needles and surgery especially and I always have been. I get anxious as the date approaches and when it comes to the waiting room, I feel absolutely helpless and my skin crawls. I think far too much about what is about to happen and it drives me a bit crazy. However, I have gotten better at countering both fears over the years but I will probably always have them.

Cults and the horror genre have long been wedded together. The absolute devotion to a crazy idea is a frightening concept to most people. Cults often start from a positive place or with a positive idea that lures people in so that they can be controlled by a charismatic figure. For example, the Peoples Temple was started by Jim Jones to work to fix the issues of civil rights and mental health. It was based on communism and was established to escape the persecution of communists in the United States. He then cooked up false faith healing and started his ascent to a full-on crazy cult leader. Heaven’s Gate believed that they would be taken from Earth by aliens hiding behind a comet. In horror, cults are often in service to something demonic or something eldritch but always evil. (SPOILERS) The Satanic cult in Rosemary’s Baby wants to make sure the son of Satan is born. The cult in Silent Hill murder and torture people in service to a Sun God who grants them dark magic to help serve it. These cults are maniacal and vicious and unwavering in their faith. They are the dangerous place that all religion in the world can go if people are not careful and many cults are formed from some sort of organized religion.

Very early on, this movie takes on a very Lovecraftian feel (without the racism) and that is never a bad thing in a horror movie. That kind of horror is very existential and usually includes a lot of horror based on sanity and on body horror, two of the things that frighten me the most. The movie is specifically inspired by Lovecraft by way of Guillermo del Toro and his comments on his ill-fated Mountains of Madness adaptation. The movie is just crazy from the first scene until the last but it paces it really well. I have said it a million times but the pacing is so vital in a good horror movie and this movie has such a good rhythm. The movie kind of cycles between good ensemble acting, crazy stuff, and then weird interstitials. The ensemble is great, full of actual characters you would find in a hospital. I got the same feel from the characters as I got from movies like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. These are all just regular people who happened to be in the same place when horrible things start to happen.

The effects are definitely top notch especially for a movie that was crowdfunded. There is no CGI work (not that there is anything wrong with CGI) and everything is practical. People and things bleed buckets and it looks absolutely fantastic but also horrifying. We get to see gross, eldritch beings with very creative designs. It is really hard as more and more horror movies are made to keep things fresh and innovative but this movie definitely achieves it. Each scene managed to surprise me in the best ways as I was left really not knowing what was going to happen next. This was coupled with the absolutely beautiful set and production design of the movie. As I said earlier, hospitals are inherently creepy but they made it even better with some of the best horror lighting that I have seen. They did a lot with using normal ambient lighting in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways to hide or bring out certain details. It is definitely a master class on how to design a horror set.

Overall, I loved this movie although it really messed me up. As I have said before, body horror really disturbs me and there was plenty of it here. The movie also leaves a lot up to the viewer’s imagination, not spelling things out so that I could connect the dots with my imagination. That kind of story is really fun for me because I love making up horrible stories behind the story. In a movie with sanity slippage and body horror, that gets very interesting.

Media Update 10/11/18

October 11, 2018


Killjoy 2 (2002) and Killjoy 3 (2010)

These movies were so short (an hour and 15 minutes) that I decided to watch both of them. Killjoy 2 was similar to the original in that it was a cast of black people being stalked by a vengeance demon in the form of a clown. This time, he is stalking a group of juvenile delinquents out in the middle of nowhere. Some of the deaths were really creative and Killjoy was once again charismatic. The movie was hastily made and it shows but it was charming in its own way. Killjoy 3, on the other hand, was completely different. The movie adds to the lore of Killjoy and ups the production values tenfold (which is not saying much). The movie recasts Killjoy and Trent Haaga does a really good job. He feels like he is one part Beetlejuice, one part Heath Ledger’s Joker, and one part Hannibal Lecter. He is joined this time by three henchdemons chief among them is Victoria De Mare playing Batty Boop who is basically Harley Quinn in demon form. This time around he is mostly hunting dumb white college kids. I guess this is a sign of letting the franchise stretch but it felt a little like Candyman: Into the Suburbs at first. Still, I am excited about the snappier scripts and better effects going forward. There is also a lot more gore as the often bloodless deaths of the first two movies are long forgotten. I definitely recommend the third movie as it is campy and fun and you can give two a pass for the most part.


Bedeviled

I was drawn to this movie because the image on Netflix looked so interesting. The plot here is that a bunch of college kids is haunted by a demonic phone application that uses their worst fears against them. While it sounds lame on paper, I appreciated that the attempts at making the lore sound interesting. I also really appreciated the production values. Like I said, the Netflix image of Mr. Bedevil is as interesting in the actual movie and pretty creepy. I also really liked the feeling of helplessness in the movie. The acting was pretty typical on the victim side, as they were all the usual archetypes in these films. Except that they were all pretty likable and I feel like that makes horror movies scarier. Jordan Essoe as Mr. Bedevil was the clear standout of the movie. His sadistic, sarcastic yet cheerful voice was the thread that strung the whole movie together. He was entertaining and frightening at the same time which is obviously a combination that I really love. Also, using the victims worst fears is a tried and true mechanic that is usually a hit. It allows the writer/director to add various threats so the victims are not stalked by the main villain over and over. The movie is mostly bloodless so if that is an issue for you, this might be the movie for you. I recommend this one as well.


The Funhouse

Right up front, I have to say that I picked this movie mostly because of its reputation but I picked it this week because the DVD cover has a clown on it. There are actually no clowns in the movie. However, I feel like it follows the spirit of the theme because it revolves around a carnival. The movie displays the dark side of the sleazier traveling carnivals which are full of workers who have never been vetted or background checked. The main plot involves a carnival freak chasing four teens through a dark ride. The movie was written and directed by Tobe Hooper who I have written about before. He is most famous for creating the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As I watched this, I feel like that movie was something he wanted to work at improving. The Funhouse is very similar but it feels like it does a better job at being scary and making me care about the victims. Hooper did this movie instead of working on ET and I think he made the right choice. I mean, he worked with Spielberg anyway on a much better film (Poltergeist). Hooper is very creative and even when he ‘fails’, he comes up with something worth watching. What I also found interesting is that there is a B story which feels like something rare in horror. That story follows a little kid who sneaks into the carnival and gets scared out of his mind and kind of has a different moral from the main story. I definitely recommend this one as well as it was different and atmospheric.

Next Week’s Spooky Schedule:
October 15 – Antibirth (2016)

October 17 – Train to Busan (2016)

October 18 – Media Update – Halloween Sequel Week 2018

October 19 – The Innocents (1961)

October 20 – Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 3

Weekly Halloween Music:

Dorothy – Raise Hell

The Jasons – Ki-Ki-Ki-Kill That Girl

Belzebubs – Blackened Call

Angra – Black Widow’s Web

Stitched Up Heart – Frankenstein

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Killer Clowns”
– I finished Blacklist Season 5
– I watched more Iron Fist Season 2
– I watched more American Vandal Season 1
– I watched more of The Good Place Season 2
– I started Gotham Season 4

Deadly Friend (1986)

October 10, 2018

Wes Craven was seen as one of the kings of horror especially when I was a teenager because his popular movie Scream had come out when I was 14. I was never really a fan of the Scream franchise because I felt like the meta elements fell a little flat. Although, I should probably revisit the franchise at some point and give it another try. The reason that I keep coming back to Craven because he is the man who created Freddy Krueger, probably my favorite horror character ever. I have practically worshiped that character for a long, long time. He returned to that franchise to make my favorite of the Elm Street movies, The Dream Warriors. His movies often have the right mix of horror and corniness that make Halloween fun. With New Nightmare, he first introduced the self-aware horror movie that birthed a new sub-genre in horror. Part of his innovative approach comes from the fact that after he broke into the film business, he did not want to be known as a ‘horror guy’. He also earned bachelor degrees in English and psychology along with masters degrees in philosophy and writing in my hometown at Johns Hopkins University. On a side note, I applied to JHU to get a degree in writing but never went down that path. He poured all of that into exploring horror and also exploring reality itself in his films.

Biomechatronics is a new field that integrates the fields of biology, mechanics, electronics, robotics, and neuroscience. In the real world, this means replacing damaged parts of the human body with machine parts that do their best to act like the part they are replacing. The biggest examples are prosthetic limbs that act very much like the limbs they are replacing, making them act and look like biological parts. These parts interface with existing nervous or muscular systems in order to function correctly. These are obviously a great benefit for veterans and other people who need help with movement or other bodily functions. It is currently too expensive for most people to afford. In fiction, this kind of thing is not comforting, it is frightening. In a world where killer robots and sentient computer viruses are a thing, putting robot parts in your body is a bad idea. Earlier this year, I reviewed the newer movie Upgrade where the concept was explored in depth. Cyborg parts regularly malfunction, get hacked, gain sentience, or find other ways to start killing people. It makes sense. Also, people are already disturbed by surgery so the idea of having surgery and purposefully leaving something inside is easy horror fodder. On top of that, many people are justifiably afraid of new technology. It is easy to see how this is an interesting element for a horror movie.

One thing that makes this movie special is that it is the film debut of Kristy Swanson at age sixteen. She does such a great job here in a pretty demanding role for a campy eighties horror movie. She would later tussle with vampires but here she is an innocent girl who gets caught up in some pretty twisted stuff. She basically plays two different characters and she plays them well. She is joined by Matthew Labyorteaux, a well-meaning boy who is smart about science but maybe not so smart about life. It may be a stereotype but I have met many scientists who lack social graces and knowledge about life. Their robot friend is played by Charles Fleisher who was Roger Rabbit but he was also a key character in the Elm Street franchise. The movie plays with the idea that it is the adults in a kid’s life that are allowed to be the real monsters. Chief among them is Swanson’s father who is played by Richard Marcus. There is also Anne Ramsey (of Goonies fame) who plays an angry neighbor. The movie has a strong cast who do great making it scary even without the horror elements.

The effects are strong for an eighties horror movie. There is one awesome gore effect in the movie which is famous but there is some unique stuff as well. The robot BB is absolutely fantastically built. He looks even more advanced than Johnny Five from the Short Circuit franchise. Like Johnny, the robot is expressive and exhibits a personality even without Fleischer’s voice acting. The puppetry is definitely on par with just about anything I have seen. The time we spent with BB made me think of how good the pacing is in the movie. We spend a lot of time with the characters before the horror and science fiction elements start. It gives the movie more heart and gave me an opportunity to like the main characters before things got complicated. This movie more than any other of Craven’s movies embraced non-horror elements while still being ostensibly a horror movie. In fact, it was only made into a horror movie by studio meddling which pisses off Craven to this day. However, I think Craven is a bit too hard on it and I feel like the movie has scares but it also has heart.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was not exactly my normal fare when it comes to horror movies but it is kind of in a pretty small category. It has the same kind of feeling that I get from movies like Gremlins, Fright Night, Once Bitten, and Monster Squad. There is good camp but also genuine characters with fleshed out personalities. It is also rare to have likable protagonists in horror movies. I definitely recommend it for a more casual Halloween experience after watching some of the rougher films I tackle this year.

Terrifier (2017)

October 8, 2018

I have a long history of hating clowns, a rivalry that I really like to promote when I can. Clowns are scary entities largely because of their over the top appearance and the uncanny valley. As a young, mostly shy kid, I was the antithesis of in-your-face and I have never really liked anybody in my personal space. With my anxiety issues, that personal space always expanded far beyond what most people would consider reasonable. When I went to the circus or birthday parties, seeing these clowns getting up in kids’ business made me really nervous. I did not want to engage with a stranger and these strangers were paid to engage with kids so I did my best to avoid it. The same goes for mascots in stadiums and amusement parks. I would cringe and start to feel the beginnings of fight or flight and my heart would beat faster until the situation passed. I do not remember really having any interactions with clowns but I also did my best to avoid them. Born from social anxiety, that fear grew and to this day I still avoid them if I can. However, I will be eternally fascinated by their aesthetic.

Another part of why I always felt nervous around clowns is that they are often always silent. As somebody who was already nervous dealing with people, I think the idea of dealing with somebody who was not explaining themselves, In addition, when somebody is not talking, it is easy to feel that they are also not listening. Also, as I discussed a bit in The Neon Demon review, silence is inherently scary on its own. I am not a big fan of silence in general. Having grown up as a city boy, I was accustomed to sirens and traffic as my lullabies. My life had a constant soundtrack so whenever it was quiet, it signaled that something was wrong. Of course, that was eventually fixed somewhat by attending Quaker meeting and living out in the boonies for five years. However, when you are waiting for something bad to happen, there is nothing worse than silence. That is my theory on why the blood lab that I went to recently plays inane talk shows in their waiting room. It is hard to be too scared when there is so much inane noise going on.

I have seen quite a few slasher movies at this point so I have seen a lot of the variations. When something new is presented, I consume it eagerly. That was the case with this movie. On its surface, this is a simple concept and a simple plot. Art the Clown just really likes killing people and proceeds to do so. The movie plays on the usual fears of clowns that I highlighted above. Art is absolutely silent and that ended up being way more terrifying than I thought it would be. David Howard Thornton plays Art and he is obviously an actor’s actor. He brings style and art to what could have been a forgettable performance in a forgettable movie. Like I said, the actor stays absolutely silent throughout but he apparently had some training in mime because his movement tells such a story. He is at once scary, funny, and confusing as he glides silently through the movie. His makeup and design enhance this as they created something that you might see a horror cosplayer make but is also deeply unsettling. He uses the greasepaint and the prosthetics to his full advantage to create a fascinating picture in every frame he is in. When so many of my favorite horror villains have witty catchphrases, it was refreshing to see one who could do the same with just a look.

The effects in this movie were absolutely fantastic. Setting aside the aforementioned brilliant costuming, the rest of the effects are eye-catching. I was immediately amazed by the gore effects in this movie which are extensive. Everything looked practical and everything oozed and sprayed. It was very visceral but it was also so much blood that it felt unreal and it did not rattle me as much as I thought it would. It is basically the Deadpool effect where violence gets to a cartoonish level. Of course, maybe I have seen so many horror movies at this point that I am a little inured to the violence. Of course, part of it was that the violence was actually a relief. What really got me was the long periods between the kills where I had no idea what Art was going to do next or when he would pop up. The tension absolutely destroyed me for most of the movie and I felt like I never relaxed from start to finish. Part of that is that Art is just so blatant in his actions. There are jump scares, sure but that was not what made this one rattle me. It had a refreshing psychology to it.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It took a lot of old tropes and twisted them a bit to create something that felt fresh and new. I cringed at every death but I thought that it felt like it did new things with the genre. It should instantly make Art the Clown into a new horror icon. I have read that there is a previous movie that has Art in it and I will be checking that out as soon as possible. The movie was delightfully over the top in all of the best ways. It definitely reinvigorated me to finish this challenge I have set before myself once again. I recommend this but it is definitely not for those with weak stomachs.

Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 1

October 6, 2018

Aftershocks Playthings

Charles stepped into the back of the toy store and admired the blood stains on the walls and floor with glee. The only thing he regretted was that the deaths that had occurred in the storeroom were not his handiwork. He had been out of the game for far too long and he was ready to spill plenty of blood himself. He placed one of his small hands against a blood spatter on a shelf of toys and found that it was still wet. He reveled in the feel of blood on his flesh once again. He wondered if enough of it was wet that he did not need the blood he had brought with him. He shrugged and figured he might as well use the bucket he had gotten out of the taxi driver.

He dipped his finger into the bucket of blood repeatedly as he drew the pentagram on the floor. He was really more of a voodoo guy but this was how these things were done. He focused his will on the symbol and a little boy appeared in the middle of the pentagram but partially transparent. He looked impatient and annoyed which turned to complete disdain when he saw who summoned him.

“Oh,” the boy said. “It’s you.”

“Yeah yeah,” Charles said. “It’s me.” He liked being recognized but usually, that recognition brought unreasoning fear. “We haven’t actually met yet but we’ve both worked with sort of a similar theme.”

“I’m far more creative than you are,” the boy said, folding his arms over his chest. “The other yous are slightly smarter but still not as smart as I am.”

“And yet you failed once and haven’t done squat since,” Charles said. “Look, I have a different plan from those other mes and I need a power source to do it.”

“Why do you think I will help you?” the boy asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Look, I know this is a crapshoot,” Charles said. “You are plan C after things with Toulon and Hartwicke didn’t work out.”

“I’m so flattered,” the boy said.

“If you help me,” Charles said. “I’ll make sure to give you credit and when He hears how much you helped, he might let you out.”

“Then playtime could really begin again,” the boy said with a grin. He thought of the last time he had gotten to come out and play and the lives he had been able to take. Of course, Charles had been right when he had reminded him of his failure. That door was shut forever but new doors could always be opened.

Charles laughed his wild laugh, his red hair flinging all over the place as he tilted his head back. “Exactly! But for now, it’s my turn.”

“I suppose I can learn to share,” the boy said. “On one condition. You have to say the thing.”

Charles hesitated and sighed and nodded slowly, mentally filing away that he was being forced to say the phrase once again. “Give me the power. I beg of you!”

* * *

Lydia was in the bunker, which was where she was spending much of her summer. She had always been pale and unathletic so going out into the sunshine hardly sounded like fun to her. She much preferred to dive into Rob’s collection of arcane tomes to research the world of magic. As she read, she realized that she had only just dipped her toes in the world of magic and there was so much more to learn that it made her head spin. It was all so fascinating and she ended up spending whole days absorbed in reading book after book.

Nancy, on the other hand, could not stand to be cooped up for too long and reading about demons made her nervous. Twice she had displayed her father’s demonic powers but in the real world instead of the dream world and it dredged up too many shadows and fears inside of her. She spent most of her days in the sunshine as a camp counselor run out of their school. Laughing and playing with kids in the light lifted her spirits and seemed to bring her back to herself. Sometimes she came to the bunker and brought Lydia dinner or a DVD so they could have a movie night. This was why Lydia was startled when Nancy walked in before lunch one day in early July.

“Lyds!” She called out as she burst through the door. “It’s so terrible.”

“Nancy?” Lydia said, looking up from yet another book. “What are you doing here? What happened to summer camp?”

“People are dying, Lydia,” Nancy said, pacing back and forth. “It keeps finding us no matter what we do.”

Lydia stood and hugged her best friend. “Slow down, Nance,” she said. “You said something terrible happened?”

Nancy took a couple deep breaths and then started speaking again. “Summer camp was canceled today since the parents of three kids died last night.”

Lydia took a moment and thought about that. The two of them had experienced death and violence before both before and after they met. Nancy was excitable and all but she was frantic. Children were involved and the deaths had happened at night. Lydia was able to put two and two together and realized that Nancy must have been reminded of her father. She made sure to hold onto her friend’s shoulders and looked her in the eyes. She tried to make her voice as comforting as possible.

“Nancy,” she began. “I know what this sounds like. I know how much you like kids. We’re going to get to the bottom of this. We’re going to stop whatever is happening.”

Nancy nodded and she started to shake a little less. She started to calm down but still clung to her best friend. “Alright,” she said.

Lydia nodded reassuringly. “We are going to need to call Rob to get him in on this. All hands on deck, right?”

“I already called him on the way here,” Nancy said. “I left a voicemail for him.”

“Wow. That was probably an interesting message,” Lydia said.

“Oops,” Nancy said. “Yeah, let’s actually fill him in.”

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

October 5, 2018

I have had the misfortune of being in a car that broke down. In my teens, my parents had at least two cars that developed electrical problems and would shut down at traffic lights. Thankfully, I was able to get the car started again before the people behind me got too pissed. However, much later I was driving a Mazda that had been recovered from a police auction that had been wrecked once before. One day, the vehicle just died in traffic and I coasted off to the side of the street (thankfully) due to a faulty alternator. Coincidentally, the battery on my cell phone was dead too so I had to walk to get it handled. Even worse, I once completely totaled a car in a ditch up in Vermont and I stumbled my way to a pay phone to get help. The thrill of the thought of ‘I survived!’ was immediately replaced with ‘Now what do I do?’ while I was in shock. I cannot even imagine doing all of that in the dark. Both of my big events happened while the sun was still up so I was not scared of bad things happening. Also, both were at least relatively near civilization. If both of those things had not been true, I am sure I would have been scared as hell.

Many horror movies were written around using the rural citizens of the United States as villains. This has happened so much that I was easily able to find the term ‘hicksploitation’ on the Internet. Hick, of course, is the derogatory term for the uneducated rural people who exist far outside of urban centers. They make good horror movie villains because their world is so exotic to people who live in or near cities and towns. I grew up either in or very close to Baltimore City so whenever I ventured farther out, it was culture shock. How can they hunt in a world where I can walk to the grocery store? Why do they have to use a well when there are utilities? It was not a matter of rich vs. poor, I knew what city poor was. I did not grow up with people out in what is more or less the wilderness. Most people who go to movie theaters did not either. That is why we get movies like Wrong Turn, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, and a whole host of movies you probably have never heard of. We will forever fear what we do not understand and we will be anxious in environments we are not familiar with.

The movie is from the seventies and very much matches the look of films from that era. Think Texas Chainsaw Massacre mixed with a desert locale and you will start to imagine the right look for this movie. I cannot imagine ever driving through that landscape by choice and definitely not onto back roads. The movie is a brutal horror movie, which you would expect from the director, Wes Craven, who had already brought us Last House on the Left. Like that movie, the blood effects are almost too realistic in that they are shown sparingly. By that, I mean that when somebody is cut or shot, a geyser of blood does not erupt from them. They bleed slow and painfully which is scarier to me. The landscape is desolate and that adds to the desperation that runs through this movie. Like a lot of effective horror movies, the movie deals well with sound. If there was any music, I do not remember it but I remember the silence. The silence is eerie and then that silence begins to be punctuated by weird and horrible sounds and you start imagining things. There are two dogs in the film and their noises mix with the noises of the desert and of the family and it creates a tense soundscape.

The cast boils down to the Family, the antagonist weirdos, and the Carters, a family on vacation. The stars of the show are the Family as the antagonists in a horror film are the ones getting showcased. Papa Jupiter is the lead and is played by James Whitworth as basically, Jaws made into human form. His three sons are similar but all a little bit different. Mercury and Mars are very much like their dad but I was instantly fascinated by Pluto. Pluto is played by Michael Berryman and he is simultaneously goofy and menacing, like a homicidal Marty Feldman. Ruby, the only daughter, is played by Janus Blythe and she is vulnerable and lost. Of the Carters, I liked Bobby the most. He is played by Robert Houston and is the youngest male but he is brave and smart but far from perfect. I also liked Doug, played by Martin Speer, who is the levelheaded and likable goofball who is forced to take the lead. Also, Suze Lanier-Bramlett plays the young and shrill Brenda which normally would have annoyed me but her screaming performance worked really well here.

Overall, I really loved this movie more than I thought I was going to. I originally watched it because it is considered a classic and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. The movie is nothing like most of Wes Craven’s other movies that I have seen as it is straightforward and brutal more like Last House on the Left than the Elm Street movies. It lacked his usual surreal touch but sometimes that is not exactly a bad thing. The thought I had after the movie was over was that it felt like it came from a similar place as Spielberg’s Jaws.  Almost like a mix between Spielberg and Tobe Hooper.  Violence is combined with a lot of tension where you wait for something bad to happen and a lot of time is spent on the impact of the bad times.

Media Update 10/4/18

October 4, 2018


Graveyard Shift (1990)

I remember reading this one when I was living in New Jersey, finding it on the shelf of used books the theater I worked at kept for sale or for people to read while they waited for the house to open. It was a dark tale (as you would expect) but it was interesting enough. I kind of forgot about it until I watched this adaptation. The movie expands on the short story a bit, adding in more story and background and kind of fleshing everything out. A lot of the movie felt like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds but with rats instead of birds. The tension of humans being around so many fearless rats (an animal that usually skitters away in fear) was unnerving. Later, it takes on a more Lovecraftian feel. It also features a lot of people working on older industrial equipment which looks incredibly dangerous. While it is a fairly simple movie, I feel like they made it more memorable than the original story. Part of that is the corrupt factory owner played by Stephen Macht who brought a kind of simmering insanity to the role. Also, my boy Brad Dourif plays an unnamed exterminator who has some great monologues delivered as only Dourif could manage. The effects were great and just cheesy enough for this grim little tale. I recommend it as I think it deserves a much higher score than it got on Rotten Tomatoes.


1922 (2017)

This was adapted from a novella that I did not read nor did I even know it existed. Frankly, there are so many Stephen King books, collections, and novellas that it is hard to keep track much less keep up. It is a shame that King already had a book named Misery because that was such a key theme in this movie. The idea is that one wrong act can curse your life and lead to so many other immoral decisions. Doing something unspeakable can cloud your mind and, for lack of a better term, darken your soul. Everything you do comes back to that one act and it follows you around until you die especially if you keep it secret. This was so excellently paced as it relied on psychology instead of outright scares. Once again rats were used but in a more subtle but also more supernatural way. Thomas Jane plays the lead and also the villain of the movie and he is so good at it. He became this dark character who has reasons and justifications for everything he does but irony keeps biting him. The supporting cast is so good as well. Dylan Schmid was spot on as Jane’s nervous son who begins to have doubts about what they did. The production team painted such an ugly but captivating world around the characters and it helped draw me into the story. This was foreboding and creepy but it was also a sad movie. I definitely recommend this one as well.


Sometimes They Come Back (1991)

This is the goofiest of the movies on this list but it was fun all the same. This is adapted from another short story from Night Shift (the same as Graveyard Shift). This one is about a teacher who experienced a traumatic event that led to the death of four people including his brother when he was little. The fun part of the movie for me is that it was easy to wonder if actual supernatural stuff was happening for a little bit because of the psychological trauma. The movie starred Tim Matheson as the likable but rattled teacher. He played the PTSD-like symptoms well and it played well with nobody believing him. The villains, played by Matt Nolan, Robert Rusler, and Bentley Mitchum are creepy but kind of funny in a campy sort of way. One of my favorite parts is how they interact with their old buddy played by William Sanderson and how it shows how people grow up. This movie felt like it was approaching the same kind of idea that 1922 did but in a less dramatic way. It felt like more of a popcorn horror movie or a television movie. Still, I would recommend it for the weird story alone and the sinking feeling I got while watching it.

Next Week’s Halloween Spooktacular Schedule:

October 8 – Terrifier (2017)

October 10 – Deadly Friend (1986)

October 11 – Media Update – More Killer Clowns
Bedeviled Killjoy 2 The Funhouse

October 12 – The Void (2016)

October 13 – Aftershocks: Playthings Pt. 2

Halloween Music of the Week:
Ministry – Everyday Is Halloween

The Hellfreaks – Boogie Man

Black Moth – Blackbirds Fall

Teen Witch – Top That

Digital Daggers – The Devil Within

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Stephen King” or “Rats and the Undead”
– I watched more Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I finished Bojack Horseman Season 5
– I watched more Blacklist Season 5
– I watched more Iron First Season 2
– I watched more American Vandal Season 1
– I watched more The Good Place Season 2

The Neon Demon (2016)

October 3, 2018

I have never really been into fashion. Well, at least not in the way that people actually in the fashion industry. I like clothes well enough and I often imagine what characters I write are wearing. I admire the clothes of people I see both in real life and in fictional worlds. I particularly like dresses and three-piece suits. However, I have no idea what is trendy and that world is kind of intimidating to me. I cannot even imagine how people decide what the next big look is. I would be eternally afraid of falling on my face because I thought something looked cool and everybody else disagreed. I knew a lot of costume designers back in school and they were all quirky, weird, and exotic in the best ways. I remember there was this one girl who had dyed her hair jet black on one side and paper white on the other side. There was a perfect line down the middle. I have a very visual imagination so I often do think of these sorts of things when I design a character. However, I sometimes find it hard to express all of that. I have also never really pushed hard to develop those skills. I have many friends who are blessed with visual arts skills but that is mostly because they have worked at practicing them. I also think about how cutthroat that world is. When I talked to such people in college about the possibility of Broadway, I was told that somebody would have to die to open up a spot. That was pretty grim. I can only imagine what must happen to compete with the likes of Vera Wang or Tommy Hilfiger.

On top of all of that, I can only imagine the difficulties that many women go through. Women are held to a higher standard when it comes to being visually appealing. The fashion world has long been criticized for this sort of thing. Models are encouraged to starve and drug themselves to obtain and retain an impossibly ‘beautiful’ appearance. Then came the rise of cosmetic surgery where women were pressured into getting actual surgery to ‘improve’ their body’s beauty. When women have to be tortured, drugged, and sliced up in order to be deemed pretty, that sounds like a horror movie to me. The pressures to be perfect come from society and the origin of those pressures are from men. It is no secret that men have dominated society and have used cultural conventions to suppress and oppress women. Of course, men have also enlisted women to police themselves so that women criticize each other or use gossip to police ‘beauty’. This is an age-old method of control that has been used on pretty much any minority or protected class in history. These can be tough obstacles to overcome especially since they are not actually physical limitations but are instead almost purely psychological. This sort of conditioning starts at birth and continues pretty much forever. Slowly, we are starting to figure things out but we have a long way to go.

The first thing I noticed was the startling use of silence which feel like they were used to cause unease. The dialogue especially had me in suspense as I waited through pauses. Not the usual bad acting pauses but weird alien speech patterns that definitely made me anxious for what was going to happen. The music is full of modern tonal music that helps to ramp up the tension. The production values are awesome. Because the movie covers the world of fashion and modeling, they put a lot of work into making that world beautiful. However, because it is so beautiful, it also makes it look strange and unreal. That sort of bleeds into the rest of the scenes as they look almost too polished, too superficially pretty. Seeing such fragile beauty juxtaposed against the seedier sides of life makes the shadows all the darker. Then the ‘real’ world just seems to get as strange as the fake one. It had a very disorienting effect on me so much show that in one scene I literally yelled: “What the Fuck!?” Of course, there are plenty of the traditional horror elements like gore and violence. The effects are among the best that I have seen and they were very disturbing.

The movie stars Elle Fanning as a sixteen-year-old model freshly arrived in Los Angeles to start her modeling career. Of course, she is immediately correctly told (told not warned) that the industry is just waiting to consume her. She is portrayed as having such flawless good looks, the epitome of human perfection. A lot of the movie hangs on her portrayal of a naive young woman. However, she is not completely unaware as she mentions that she is modeling because it is her only marketable skill. Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcoate play models that have been around a little longer and they are excellent at being these crazy model harpies. However, one of the big things all of the male actors do is they treat the women with such active contempt and aggression that it is hard not to feel bad for even the less nice ones. The guys are really too good at showing this naked emotion of hunger and hate that I wanted to slap them. It literally made me scared and angry. This includes a small role from Keanu Reeves. A lot also has to be said about Jenna Malone who plays a makeup artist who befriends Fanning and her friendly performance somehow added to the tension I was feeling.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It was an unsettling thriller that left me feeling all clenched throughout. It showed the accurate portrayal of the way that men treat women in general and specifically how the fashion and modeling industry hurts women’s psyches. Nothing is off topic, drugs, beauty, plastic surgery, jealousy and so on. I would compare it most to Black Swan which had a similar take on the psychological damage and pressure that being a girl can provide. While there are elements of traditional horror, it is the psychological pressure and tension that really got to me.  I felt kind of sick after it but kind of in a good way.


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