SCP: Special Containment Procedures

 Hi! Welcome to my new obsession!

The shared world of SCP has been around for about ten years now, but I’m just now hearing about it, and I’m kinda mad about that. SCP is a shared world anthology series, not unlike Wikipedia, about an organization somewhat like the Men in Black, that does all of the above for paranormal events, people, places, monsters, objects, and any other things that may potentially harm humanity, are just plain weird, or anomalous.

SCP is old enough  that you can spend weeks reading about the different events, protocols, and monsters of this universe, some of which are truly terrifying, some of which are deeply funny, and some of which are just cute. Anyone can contribute (once you’ve done your research) usually in the form of stories about the organization’s encounters with the weird, dangerous, and/or paranormal. Strictly speaking, there isn’t any canon, and writers are free to reference other characters, events, and  monsters in their own works. Some of these works take the form of personal narratives, fictional stories, biographies, and internal memos of the various anomolies.

For those of you have a little trouble with the written word, there is a huge trough of videos about SCP on YouTube, some of which are audio versions  of  the more famous and popular encounters, some are examinations of various creatures, and artifacts, and explorations of events and places.

For a quick rundown of the past ten years, including stories about experiments, first encounters, and biographies of the hundreds of creatures, beings, places, artifacts, and events, you can visit the following Wiki:

SCP Foundation

 

What is the SCP Foundation?

Most of the things featured, in this shared world, are about monsters, (and y’all know I love monsters), but there are also quite a number of benign objects, and a few downright cute ones, which are often classified not just according to their level of danger to humanity, but how much, or how little, procedure is involved in containing them.

I spent the entire weekend watching videos about the different creatures, places, and events of the SCP, from the funniest (a company that that will get a regular, plain, ol’ llama out to you immediately, no matter where in the world you are), to the most terrifying, ( a god-like creature, that is  set to destroy the world, after the breaking of seven chains, six of which have already broken), to the cutest, (a small orange blob that loves to be tickled, and might be the savior of humanity! ), to just the oddball, (a vending machine that can dispense almost any beverage that can be imagined, a shower curtain that kills you with your worst fear, and a company that specializes in selling dinosaur meat.)

 

There are a number of different  “object” classes, and the site is also used as a guide, for writers who wish to contribute to this shared world experience:

Safe

Safe-class SCPs are anomalies that are easily and safely contained. This is often due to the fact that the Foundation has researched the SCP well enough that containment does not require significant resources or that the anomalies require a specific and conscious activation or trigger. Classifying an SCP as Safe, however, does not mean that handling or activating it does not pose a threat.

For a complete list of Safe-class articles on the site, click here.

Euclid

Euclid-class SCPs are anomalies that require more resources to contain completely or where containment isn’t always reliable. Usually this is because the SCP is insufficiently understood or inherently unpredictable. Euclid is the Object Class with the greatest scope, and it’s usually a safe bet that an SCP will be this class if it doesn’t easily fall into any of the other standard Object Classes.

As a note, any SCP that’s autonomoussentient and/or sapient is generally classified as Euclid, due to the inherent unpredictability of an object that can act or think on its own.

For a complete list of Euclid-class articles on the site, click here.

Keter

Keter-class SCPs are anomalies that are exceedingly difficult to contain consistently or reliably, with containment procedures often being extensive and complex. The Foundation often can’t contain these SCPs well due to not having a solid understanding of the anomaly, or lacking the technology to properly contain or counter it. A Keter SCP does not mean the SCP is dangerous, just that it is simply very difficult or costly to contain.

For a complete list of Keter-class articles on the site, click here.

Thaumiel

Thaumiel-class SCPs are anomalies that the Foundation specifically uses to contain other SCPs. Even the mere existence of Thaumiel-class objects is classified at the highest levels of the Foundation and their locations, functions, and current status are known to few Foundation personnel outside of the O5 Council.

 

Most of the contained creatures and artifacts do not have names, only numbers, but same have both. Some of the more famous SCPs are The Shy Guy, The Flesh That Hates, and The Blood Pool, which are some of the more horrific “things” the organization keeps a watch over.

 

The  top five most terrifying SCP encounters:

 

There are also a number of security clearance levels with D and E being the lowest.

Class D personnel are expendable personnel used to handle extremely hazardous anomalies and are not allowed to come into contact with Class A or Class B personnel. Class D personnel are typically drawn worldwide from the ranks of prison inmates convicted of violent crimes, especially those on death row. In times of duress, Protocol 12 may be enacted, which allows recruitment from other sources — such as political prisoners, refugee populations, and other civilian sources — that can be transferred into Foundation custody under plausibly deniable circumstances. Class D personnel are to be given regular mandatory psychiatric evaluations and are to be administered an amnestic of at least Class B strength or terminated at the end of the month at the discretion of on-site security or medical staff. In the event of a catastrophic site event, Class D personnel are to be terminated immediately except as deemed necessary by on-site security personnel.

 

There are a few channels on YouTube that explore and chronicle these creatures and events. For those of you who are not interested in being scared, there’s something here for you too, as there are a number of deeply funny SCPs out there. There are several different classes of SCP. The less strange and horrible ones are  classified as SAFE. If you’re not a fan of horror, try to steer clear of anything labeled Keter, or Euclid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Terrifying Books For Halloween

Here’s a really good collection of unconventional books to read for Halloween. So pick one up, (or all of them), and prepare to be frightened. Best time to read them? Halloween night of course.

Image result for reading gifs

 

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

You might remember these books from your childhood. I remember reading the first of these in elementary school and being scared out of what wits I’d managed to scrape together at age eight. The other two books in the series are less scary, but Gammell’s drawings  were always deliciously disturbing, and I loved them. Is this series just as effective when reading it as an adult? Yes!

Image result for scary stories book

 

The Institute – Stephen King

Image result for psychic kids gifs

 

This is a horror novel for people who don’t like horror novels. I just finished this about a couple of weeks ago. While it started off kind of slow, and King really needs to stop writing any Black people into any of his books, until he can write us to sound like regular fucking people, I ultimately found it very satisfying. This is a story for people who think the Harry Potter universe wasn’t dark enough. In fact, this book slaps that universe in the face, kicks it a few times, and then electrocutes its gonads.  In other words, its got a lot of unpalatable stuff in it, including the (bloodless) torture of children. I listened to the audio-book version of this and some parts were hard to get through, and had I been reading it instead of listening to it, I probably would have put the book down and not finished it. What I can say, in King’s favor, is that the torture isn’t  gratuitous, and does serve the plot.

I don’t usually like the endings of King’s books, although I’m okay with the journey to get there, (I prefer his shorter stuff), but this had a nicely bittersweet ending, that made everything that came before it worth crawling through, and I appreciated it. The kids really did come across sounding and acting  like kids, too. Despite his complete inability to make Black people sound like, ya know, people, he really is pretty good at writing White people who are not men. The lead character is compassionate, smart as fuck, and brave, so that helped, too.

Warning for torture of children.

Image result for the institute

 

 

Mystery Walk – Robert McCammon

This book is from waaay back in the 80s, and is a great Halloween read, as its one of the few pantshittingly scary books I remember fondly. McCammon writes dark Historical mysteries now, so a lot of people aren’t as aware of his Horror past, as perhaps they should be. He didn’t ever quite rise to the level of King, but his grand novel, Swan Song, is right at the top of apocalyptic fiction along with The Stand, as it should be.

Mystery Walk is about a young man’s journey to adulthood, after he finds out that he has inherited the ability to not only see and speak to ghosts, but he can lay them to rest by consuming their pain. There’s also another character with the same ability that is a dark reflection of him. The book builds up to their eventual confrontation, with one using his abilities for evil and gain, and being manipulated by a demon, while the other, having resisted the demon’s temptations, tries to save him.

Image result for mystery walk

 

God’s Demon – Wayne D. Barlowe

This is another one of those journeys through Hell books. I have a whole collection of these. I love strong imagery in a book, and Wayne Barlowe, being an artist (who has done at least two illustrated books on this subject) is a master craftsmen. But its not just the images that grab you here, its the characters too, from the  repentant Lilith, to the foot soldiers of the demons major, Hell isn’t just made up of damned souls, and the unredeemable, as Sargatanas, one of Hell’s most powerful Fallen, fights a war to prove that he actually belongs back at God’s side, again.

Image result for gods demon

 

FantasticLand

Image result for fantasticland

Okay, I got this book from NetGalley because the plot sounded like it might be funny. I thought it was going to be a satire about Disneyland or something.

This book was not funny.

This book was harrowing, but in a good way. I felt like I had been on a serious journey after I read this. Its not like the other books on this list, in that all the monsters here, are entirely human.

You might get the same idea that its a comedy or satire, as the basic plot is a  bunch of  young people get trapped in an amusement park called FantasticLand, during a hurricane, and over the next couple of weeks, all civility breaks down, as they start to hoard food, break into different tribes, and factions, and begin  warring against each other. In the meantime, they are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, and the resultant flooding.

This is told in reports and interviews after the event. with the people who were involved, various rescue workers, and the media. So its an excellent use of the World War Z format, and unlike the Lord of the Flies book, there are plenty of women, there’s a lot more death, and some very clear reasons behind why everyone starts behaving the way they do, that’s beyond people just being stupid or bad. The book has a lot more depth than I expected, and is a more realistic depiction of how something like it could occur. What’s interesting is that even though the reason why the events happened were pretty clear, the public is still massively puzzled about why it happened.

I can;t praise this book enough, even though it was really hard to get through.

Warning for off-screen rape, and lots of ultra-violence.

Image result for fantasticland

 

Nocturnes –  John Connolly

This is an excellent collection for Halloween, and one of my favorite anthologies. All of the stories here are straight up horror, ,and very well done. From Mr. Pettinger’s Demon, to the Inkpot Monkey,  with many of the stories consisting of people dealing with different types of demons, both real and imaginary. There are also a couple of really good monster stories, The Wakeford Abyss, and The Man From the Second Fifteen. It also includes a less horrific, but still pretty dark Charlie Parker story, The Reflecting Eye.

“Children go missing, lovers are lost, creatures emerge from below the ground and demons lurk in the shadows as Connolly, clearly having the time of his life, does his best to scare the wits out of his readers.”

 —Gold Coast Bulletin (Australia)

 

I also want to rec the sequel, Nocturnes II, Night Music, with its long form short stories, The Caxton Library, which is not horror, but still lots of fun, and The Fractured Atlas, which is deeply disturbing in a Lovecraftian sort of way. There’s also a fun Sherlockian story, where he meets the man who authored him. The sequel has fewer stories, but The Fractured Atlas more than makes up for the lack of scare in the other stories. Other stories of note are The Lamia, which is not about a vampire at all, and The Children of Dr. Lyall, where two men break into a house, and get trapped in alternate dimensions.

 

Image result for connolly nocturnes

 

 

We Are Where The Nightmares Go – C. Robert Cargill

The first story in this collection is one of the most unique zombie stories I’ve ever read. Cargill has this thing, where he can take a well worn trope, like zombies or ghosts, or even Indigenous mythology, and pull out some truly interesting stories, that are not like any other types of those stories. In The Town That Wasn’t Anymore, an entire town is so haunted, that most of its citizens are  afraid to go out at night. There’s a Sin Eater and a Soul Thief’s Son, and the title story is an Anti- Alice in Wonderland tale, as a  little girl goes through a doorway under her bed, and finds herself in a very dark world.

Image result for we are where the nightmares go

 

 

The Haunted forest Tour – Jeff Strand

If a horror novel can be classified as Pulp, than this is it. I thought it was great, horrific, trashy fun, as a magical forest takes over several acres in America, when it pops out of thin air. The forest just happens to be haunted by every sort of monster that has ever inhabited a horror novel. The whole thing has a very Cabin in the Woods feel to it, right down to its  premise.

This is a story that’s best listened to rather than read. I did both, and the narrator for the audio-book does an excellent job of capturing the incredulity of the characters, and  the horribleness of the monsters.

Image result for haunted forest tour

 

 

The Wide Carnivorous Sky – John Langan

Most of the stories in this collection would best be described as haunting. The first two stories are zombie stories but there is less of a focus on gore, and like any good zombie story, more of a focus on how the end of the world affects the survivors. The title story is, very probably, one of the scariest vampire stories I’ve ever read, not because the vampire is so frightening, although yes it is scary as fuck, but because of the mood. There is a feeling of dread in it that heavily reminds me of The Thing ,as a bunch of afghan vets deal, not just with the aftermath of the war, but the PTSD from encountering the vampire.

The Wide Carnivorous Sky is an excellent story to read on Halloween night.

You will be scaredt!

Image result for wide carnivorous sky

 

 

The Scarlet Gospels – Clive Barker

If you’re a fan of Hellraiser, this chronicles what happened after the events of the second film, Pinhead’s journey across Cenobite Hell, and  his attempts to gain more power.  This is also good book for  fans of Harry D’amour from Barker’s The Last Illusion, as he travels to Hell to rescue a friend who gets caught up in Pinhead’s machinations, and their eventual confrontation.

This was a deeply satisfying book, but then Barker has always been able to capture me through the vivid imagery he presents, and the depth of his characters. I don’t remember many of the plot details but that is one of the dangers of reading a Barker book.

Warning for torture and rape scenes.

Image result for scarlet gospels

 

 

US (2019) Jordan Peele

Here’s a nice after Christmas treat.

The trailer for Jordan Peele’s new movie just dropped. What a beautiful Christmas present this was!

I watched this trailer, and I am shooketh! This looks genuinely terrifying!

Seriously, Peele’s been a comedian for years, and he’s been holding out on us. I love the cast for this movie, Lupita Nyongo, and Winston Duke, both fresh off of Black Panther. I expect this to be scary, and I expect it to have as much depth as his first movie, Get Out.

https://ew.com/trailers/2018/12/25/us-movie-trailer-jordan-peele/

Jordan says this is not a home invasion movie, it’s not about race, and it involves a new mythology that he’s invented about “The Tethered”. As you can see a lot of it takes place well into the next day, and once again, we get to see Lupita kicking some ass.

Things To Notice:

* That opening song. I Got 5 On It by Luniz was the song from my youth, too. It came out during my college years. I didn’t know I knew the lyrics to this song, and quite frankly the backbeat was always creepy to me, but that’s not something you say to your friends when they jammin’. (And Yes, it is about drugs.)

*The entire family is dark skinned, especially the mother and daughter. The usual dynamic, especially for mainstream movies, is to cast the father as dark skinned, and all the women in the family as several shades lighter, but here, the entire family has the same skin tone, which is something refreshing that people are noticing. It may seem an insignificant detail but those of us who are darker than than a paper bag tend to notice things like that.

*The shoutout to Howard University

*It appears as if the little boy may be on the spectrum. He is wearing a little red devil mask on his head when we first see him, and his mom talks him through the song in the car. Those are the kinds of little things one does when a family member has sensory issues.

*Bunnies!

*People have noticed at least one parallel scene between Lupita’s character, and the main character’s single tear scene from Get Out.

Jordan says having a Black family was incidental, because it’s not something that’s really been done before, and I’d have to agree, because a lot of family style horror movies involve White suburban families dealing with some disruption to their lifestyle, with the status quo being restored by the end of the movie, through their efforts. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty common one.

Honestly, there really aren’t enough PoC in the horror genre, this is refreshing for that reason alone, and this kind of thing is honestly why we need them, to inject some fresh ideas into a genre that’s been coasting for too long on the kinds of things, made primarily by white men, that only seem to scare teenagers – torture porn, jump scares, ghost stories, and possession plots. (Having a Black cast isn’t unheard of, it’s just not especially common.)

Not that the men who almost entirely run this genre don’t have some good ideas from time to time, (It Follows, Poltergeist, two of the films cited by Peele as being significant enough that they was required viewing for the adult cast), but so much of this genre is not anything to get really excited about, beyond the occasional tentpole film like Halloween. The same way the J-Horror craze injected some new material into the genre, Black and Brown people will too, so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that will see more women and PoC filmmakers in this genre.

I want to get back to a time when Horror had something interesting to say about the world, it’s people, anything really. Far too much of the genre has nothing to say from either a political or social standpoint, that isn’t abjectly negative about humanity, or just nihilistic. It will be interesting to see where Jordan Peele takes this story, and what meaning it will have on a wider scale, if any.

13 Great Comic Books For Halloween

I stopped reading superhero comic books, a little while back, and went back to my roots. When I first starting reading grownup books, I started by reading Horror novels by Stephen King,  and comics like Eerie, and Creepy. I never completely got away from them over the years, but when I gave up superheroes (because of the paucity of storylines, and the hot mess of continuities that is Marvel and DC), I  started reading the work of individual writers, and following different artists I like, which led me back to reading horror comics again.

Here are some great comic books to read for Halloween. I’ve read all of these except the Honorable Mentions.

 

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

Related image

 

Arkham Asylum: A Serious  House on Serious Earth  by Grant Morrison

This is one of my all-time favorite Batman books. If you ever wanted to know what being inside Arkham Asylum must be like, this should give you a pretty good idea why the criminals keep trying to escape. But this isn’t your typical Batman chases down some insanity through Gotham. No, Batman has to journey into the heart of the asylum, where he not only confronts his greatest opponents, but the inner workings of his own psyche. Naturally, it’s the Joker who asks the most important  question: Why isn’t he in there with them?

The artist is actually Dave McKean, but I think you can see a pattern forming, in that I like either cutsie, or painterly, styles of art.

Image result for arkham asylum serious

 

The Nocturnals (The Gunwitch) by Dan Brereton

I was intrigued by the  illustrations for this series long before I’d ever heard it was a comic book.That first image was of The Gunwitch, and I loved that name so much, that I went on an all out search for more of it, and came across The Nocturnals. Essentially, this is a Halloween superhero team, with the various members having superpowers based on being supernatural creatures. The Gunwitch is the former bodyguard of the young lady holding the stuffy, with the pumpkin purse, named Evening Horror.  The art is funky and colorful and, despite the presence of sexy women, this is safe  for juveniles.

Image result for the nocturnals comic books

 

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin

This is similar to The Nocturnals in theme. I discovered this comic in an anthology series about Halloween, about a group of neighborhood dogs, (and one cat), who fight the various monsters that keep invading their territories. My favorite part is the relationship between the various pooches, who are all brave and  good doggos. It’s not all sweetness and light though, because the stakes are very real, and sometimes the dogs get killed. It’s safe enough for pre-teens because there is very little gore, but not okay for small kids.

Image result for beasts of burden comic books

http://deadshirt.net/2014/03/11/hellhounds-and-scaredy-cats-why-beasts-of-burden-is-the-best-horror-comic-youre-not-reading/

 

Constantine Hellbalzer: All His Engines by Mike Carey

I would definitely consider myself a Constantine fan, as I’ve read most of the graphic novels. Not all, but most, and I do have some favorite storylines. This is a particular favorite of mine, because apparently all you have to do is throw in an old Aztec god, and I’m in. The art is exceptionally well done, very detailed, and disgusting, and very, very effective. In this one, Constantine manages to find his way  to Los Angeles, investigating why his best friend’s grandchild has fallen into a coma, only to find its a trap meant just for him, in a war between an ancient god, and a demon wannabe.

Image result for all his engines hellblazer

 

 

Spiral/Uzumaki by Junji Ito

This is one of those comics that has no gore, but nevertheless, haunts you long after you’ve finished the story. A curse causes the people in a small Japanese town to become obsessed with spirals to the point where they begin physically  transforming into spirals. If you like geographical horror, like the movie Annihilation, this is a great spooky story for Halloween.

Related image

 

Enormous by Tim Daniel

The earth has been taken over by gigantic monsters. In the first story, Ellen Grace tries to get some orphaned children to a safe place, after the death of her mother, and the destruction of most of Arizona.

You know how much I love monsters, and the art for this series is truly spectacular, with full color paintings. It also has a female lead, ala Ellen Ripley. This is a pretty graphic and harrowing adventure story about not just physically surviving, but surviving emotionally. This is a comic you read in small sips.

Related image

 

 

Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse by Ben Templesmith

I mentioned this series some time ago. I love horror-comedy mashups, and this is Ben Templesmith knocking it out of the park, with the hilarious, and terrifying stories of Wormwood, a tiny little worm inhabiting a rotting corpse, which  has not stopped him from living up to his responsibilities of  drinking, cussing, and saving the world from the interdimensional, Cthulhu-like horrors, waiting to destroy the Earth.

Image result for wormwood gentleman corpse

 

The Goon Series by Eric Powell

For those of you who like monsters, but don’t like being scared, here’s some  humorous horror from Eric Powell. Think Ash vs. The Evil Dead, (and everything else), including mad scientists, zombies, Cthulhu, and femme fatales, set in the forties. The Goon usually wins by punching things, and when that doesn’t work, his loudmouthed partner will offer to shoot it. Don’t let the artistic style fool you. These books are nice and gory, but that’s okay, because they’re also deeply, deeply silly.

Related image

 

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

I knew about the original backstory of the Swamp Thing because I read the comics when I was a little  kid, but when Alan Moore began his run in the 80s, he turned all of that on its head, and created one of the best story arcs for any character in the DC universe. Moore was aided in this endeavor by the  artists Bernie Wrightson, Steve Veitch, John Totleben, and Steve Bissette. (Please read the 1984 story “The Anatomy Lesson” if you want to be emotionally devastated.)

Image result for alan moores swamp thing

 

Shaolin Cowboy by Geof Darrow

I was first introduced to the art of Geof Darrow in the book HardBoiled. A book with almost no dialogue, but plenty, and I mean plenty, of art. His work is so incredibly detailed, it’s ridiculous.  I went on to read Big Guy and Rusty (Who remembers that cartoon, but me?), and this crazed adventure here, Shaolin Cowboy, about the supernatural adventures of a Shaolin monk, in a techno alternate future America. Once again, there’s no dialogue to speak about, but you will spend hours staring intently at the pages trying to parse every detail, and it will be worth it, because Darrow likes to add lots of easter eggs to his work. It’s fun without  that anxiety producing gameshow feeling of  having to search for Waldo.

Image result for shaolin cowboy

 

 

Criminal Macabre by Steve Niles

Criminal Macabre is like if Ash from The Evil Dead had been born with the psychic ability to see the supernatural world, and tried unsuccessfully to suppress that power with a ton of booze and drugs. This series is deeply funny, mostly due to Cal McDonald’s ability to wisecrack, in even the most dire situations. This man takes so many drugs, it’s a wonder he’s able to stand up straight most of the time, often walking into fights drunk, high, or both, yet still somehow managing to prevail. And for those of you who consider comic books a little  too juvenile for your taste, there is a nice, fat, prose anthology of Cal’s adventures called Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories. The prose version isn’t as funny as the comics but the plots are just as ridiculous.

Image result for criminal macabre

Related image

 

Hellboy and B.P.R.D Series by Mike Mignola

I’m a long time Hellboy fan. Some of the love is at least partly due to the artistic style of Mike Mignola. If your only knowledge of Hellboy is through the two Guillermo Del Toro movies, then I urge you to check out the comic books, graphic, and prose novels, which are deeper than the films, and if possible, even more dark and moody. The biggest difference between the style of the movies and the books is tone. There’s not as much color or  humor in the books. If you’re looking for fun and funny, this ain’t necessarily it.

Image result for hellboy comics

https://nerdist.com/hellboy-rise-blood-queen-comics-history/

 

 

Honorable Mentions or What I’m About to Start Reading Soon

Aliens Salvation by Dave Gibbons

I actually haven’t read a whole lot of books in the Alien franchise. It doesn’t mean I don’t like the series. It mostly means I’m  too chickenshit to consume a steady diet of them.

Image result for aliens salvation

 

Beautiful Darkness by Fabian Vehlmann

This story about tiny mutated people living in and around the rotting body of a little girl abandoned in the woods, sounds suitably horrific and yes, very, very strange.

Image result for beautiful darkness

 

Gyo by Junji Ito

I’m told that the actual title of this book is called Death Stench and has something to do with people dying horribly from intestinal gas. This should resonate with anyone like me who is lactose intolerant and has ever made the mistake of drinking dairy products.

Image result for gyo ito

 

Hillbilly by Eric Powell

Since I love the midwestern horror stories of Manly Wade Wellman, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like this other series by Eric Powell, about a Hillbilly guardian who fights monsters, in the hills of Appalachia, accompanied by his friend, a giant bear.

Image result for hillbilly eric powell

 

Neonomicon by Alan Moore

I heard that this book was deeply frightening, about two government detectives stumbling across a supernatural mystery. It’s written by Alan Moore, so I trust that assessment.

Related image

 

Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs

Another monster book, about a couple who decide to spend their honeymoon hunting bizarre natural monsters. It sounds really cute, and I hope it’s not too scary for me.

Image result for safari honeymoon

 

A Quiet Place Review

Mom managed to talk me into going to see this movie, which I had no plans to see, at the theater. I didn’t want to see it, not because I thought it was going to be bad, (I was really intrigued by it), but because sometimes my anxiety likes to ramp itself up, and I can’t leave the theater. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, or pause a disc, but its a lot harder to call time out in public. I told her this, but she really wanted to see it, and it really did look good, so we agreed that I could hold her hand if I got too scared.

I loved it, actually. I love scary movies, but usually only only watch them when I can control my reaction to them. I didn’t get too scared, though. There were a couple of moments where I was white knuckling it a bit, because I really did like the characters, and empathized with them. One of the ways of controlling my anxiety is telling myself is that its okay, I’m not actually in any danger, and this is what I’m supposed to be feeling during such scenes. This is a process that may, or may not, work for you in public, but I have many, many years of practice at managing such this.

Image result for a quiet place gifs

 

Also, one of the reasons I didn’t get too worked up is because the movie isn’t exactly what I expected. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, I don’t give a fly what a movie’s rating is on that site, but in this case, I understand why it’s rated so high, and I see why people are crazy about it. It really is very good, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting more bombast, more jump scares, lots of monsters, but the writers did more interesting things.

If you’re going to see this for the monster, or for gore, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s not much of either, beyond the occasional blink and you’ll miss it shot. You do get a good look at the monster eventually, but  the monsters are not the focus of the movie. Like the movie Alien, the focus is the relationships between the characters, and how they’re dealing with a horrific situation.

Related image

The Earth has experienced some kind of alien invasion, most of humanity has been killed, and the ones left alive mostly live underground, and can’t make any noise, or the aliens, which operate solely on sound waves, (they don’t have eyes) will attack them. The aliens are extremely fast and brutal, with long legs, and giant claws. They don’t eat their victims it seems. They just kill them. I think they just dislike noise. I had the impression that they view loud noises as some sort of attack, rather than as a source of food.

The movie follows a family with a deaf daughter, and a hearing son, who are navigating this world with its new set of rules. They go barefoot, along sand trails that have been set down by the father, to the places they most often frequent. They use American Sign Language to communicate. They wear headphones to listen to anything. They live above ground during the day because the father has been working to perfect a radio system to communicate with any other people.

Related image

Most of this information you can get from paying close attention to what’s happening on the screen. There’s no sound for most of the movies running time, so there’s plenty of time to concentrate, and if you don’t like to read movies…too bad.. you’re to see this movie anyway, and like it!

The terror comes from the logistics of living in a world in which the slightest sound you make could get you killed. When you think about it, human beings are made up of nothing but noise. It seems to be our primary superpower, and kids and babies are noise personified. Getting above a certain decibel level attracts the monsters, and just because you hunker down and get quiet doesn’t mean necessarily mean they go away. There are work-arounds to be had, though. For example, natural sounds like running water, wind, storms, etc.do not attract them, and if you’re near something that’s a natural sound, that’s louder than whatever noise you’re making, you’re mostly safe. I enjoyed watching some of the father’s clever ideas of living within the rules.

Image result for a quiet place gifs

The movie is mostly about this family, their relationships, how they feel about what’s happening and how they navigate this world. The parents are genuinely in love, they love their kids deeply, and most of the film’s tension arises from their need to keep their children safe, and past guilts. At the beginning of the movie something horrible happens that the daughter spends the rest of the movie blaming herself for, and believing her father blames her and hates her for, too. Meanwhile, the mother also blames herself for it, and the son is just terrified of living in this world, in general.

I loved Emily Blunt here. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and she really carries the emotionalism in this movie. The rest of the cast is good too, especially the little actress who plays the daughter. I really enjoyed her performance, although I could’ve done without the “kids wander off on their own” plot points. A lot of the plot points are predictable too, but the acting is so well done, you’re not particularly bothered by that. And the movie is just beautiful to look at. The country landscape is lush and green and…quiet.

Image result for a quiet place gifs

There were a few things I noticed that I had questions about, and a lot of things you can infer from the information onscreen. I understand why cities would have been abandoned. And we witness that any animal that makes noise will be attacked, not just human beings, which implies that most of Earth’s ground animals were probably killed. We can still see that there are some birds left, and that would make some sense.

My biggest problem was the ending, which was only disappointing in the sense that I wanted more of it. I wanted to see a big boss battle at the end. I wanted a little bit more closure. But I get why the movie ended the way it did. You get to tell your own ending and the one I made up was a happy one, that fits the last image we see.

The Terror TV Series

I’ve been fascinated by Arctic environments since I first watched the 1956 verson of The Thing (with James Arness) when I was a kid. And it wasn’t just The Thing, there was another movie called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, that combined Arctic environments with dinosaurs rampaging through a city, that I got a real kick out of, too.

A few years ago, I’d never read any of Dan Simmons books, although he was on my radar because he is one of the top horror writers in the industry. I hadn’t read them, not because he’s a bad writer,he’s a most excellent writer, I just never had the time, and he writes some real doorstoppers. But I couldn’t resist the plot of The Terror, about an old school Arctic expedition that goes horribly wrong. It features a mysterious monster, some serious levels of  hardship, starvation, and  possibly some cannibalism.

I love the book.  It’s one of my top favorites of the past 20 years, so imagine my joy when I found out they were making a TV show about it, and it’s on AMC, which means the creators can remain faithful  to the plot of the book, which also involves an element of the supernatural, and some graphic deaths. It definitely classifies as horror. I hope it blows up as much as The Walking Dead did, too.

This week, the first trailer was released. The show airs right at the end of TWD’s season in March, which will be here in no time, so I’m very excited. I just want to hype this up a bit, in case you guys hadn’t heard of it yet.

 

 

It also looks very faithful to the plot of the book, and seems to have captured that feeling of dread, that seems to be a requirement of y movie set in a cold climate.It’s based on a true story in the sense that it has many events from that have actually happened in such expeditions.

For those of you worried about problematic issues, I can’t recall any from the book There is a young Indigenous woman, but in the book she comes to no harm, and if the creators keep that truthfulness to the book, she won’t on the show.

I’ll review the pilot episode when it airs.

10 More Scary Short Films

Here are ten more very short horror films to watch for Halloween. I had to watch a lot of really boring, and in some cases really bad movies to pick these ten gems. There are a bunch of these all over Youtube, so I just sorted through, picking my favorites. Some of these are genuinely scary, and others… not so much:

Close Before Midnight

I’m still not sure what to think of this one. Is it funny or just terrifying? Is it both?

 

 

The Moonlight Man

The main character is none too bright, but this was actually pretty scary.

 

The Other Lily

This one actually scared the bejeebus out of me because I had no idea where it was headed, and the animation is appropriately frightening.

 

 

The Hambuster

You’re gonna fall on the floor laughing at this one, and then probably throw up. Its disgusting!

 

 

Horror Short Film

This was genuinely scary.

 

 

Who’s Hungry?

This one is cute, disgusting, and funny. I had no idea where it was really going  either. (Warning for children being eaten by a giant.)

 

 

I Heard That Too

I first heard of this in a two line short story which was really creepy. This movie is just as effective.

 

Dead Friends

This one was funny, sweet, and disgusting. Skip it if you don’t want to see accidental animal mutilation.

 

 

Killer Kart

This one is almost as ridiculous as the movie, “Rubber”, and if you haven’t seen that one, it’s hilariously surreal, and you should check it out. This is gory, so I warred between feeling disgusted, and laughing my ass off, two feelings which are not necessarily compatible:

 

Nightfall

I thought I’d end on a funny note. This one just tickled the hell out of me. I totally identified with the little girl in this film.

The Mist Vs. Nightworld: Writing the Supernatural Apocalypse II

I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as  struck by the similarities,  as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.

Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) ,  was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)

In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by  monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are  allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.

In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different  monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.

First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists,  tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.

Second, you are going to  need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off,  or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.

You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic  critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t  quite terrifying enough,I guess.

Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.

At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.

At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.

Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean,  or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.

Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting  from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.

Intrepid – fearless, unafraid, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, bold, daring, gallant, audacious, adventurous, heroic, dynamic, spirited, indomitable;

I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things,  like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and  even some indomitable behavior.

Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.

In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although,  I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.

In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty  blond  White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.

And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though,  they never seem to make it to the being intrepid  part of the story.

There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not  required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who  just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world  is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.

Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.

Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the  literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino.  You can break the rules and have there be at least one  woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added,  preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.

Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will  lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.

And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and  that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.

The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.

Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared  people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.

Nightworld  fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from  previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.

And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.

Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.

Gruesomely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kong: Skull Island

First of all this review contains lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t seen  the movie, you know the drill.

 I had no plans to go see this movie. Not to say I wasn’t intrigued. I love giant monsters as much as the next person,  but I had a choice between Get Out, Logan, and Kong, and I had chose Logan. I’ve since seen both of those movies, thanks to friends with more money than me, who enjoy my company. I still hadn’t planned to see Kong. 

Well, Mom had other plans. She saw the trailer, and because it hit all the check marks for her entertainment, we were gonna be seeing it. 

Big guns! Check.

 Monsters! Check. 

Samuel L Jackson! Check.

I had read some  reviews, which seemed neither bad nor good, and I had the impression it would be sort of like Apocalypse Now with monsters. I was, and was not wrong.  It was very entertaining, mostly as a war movie with monsters, than a straight up monster movie. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and it’s got more than a few parallels with that movie.

Me, Mom, and two of the little tikes; my niece, The Potato and her baby sister, who we like to call Lil’ Momma, had a girls day out. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time between amusing Lil Momma with treats, hugging her when she got scared, and being scared shitless myself. There’s a reason I don’t see too many scary movies in a theatre. I can’t turn them off, and walk out.

But it was still a helluva lot of fun too, and not exactly what I thought it would be. Most of the tropes of King Kong movies were neatly, and deliberately, subverted.There was a lot more talking but that was okay because most of it was setup for the action scenes. It’s not a very deep film. Well, it didn’t have a deep message in it,  but I think y’all should know that King Kong movies (and those Planet of the Ape films) have always had a deep meaning for Black Americans. We always found subtext in them. This movie manages to neatly set aside that subtext, which in itself ends up creating subtext. 

The year is 1974 and the US had just made the decision to pull out of Vietnam. Jacksons character is depressed and enraged by this, which informs his motivation for the rest of the movie. Hiddlestons character is set adrift and looking for adventure. Goodman’s character is considered something of a crackpot conspiracy theorist with his Hollow Earth, and Lost World beliefs. Him and his partner, played by Corey Hawkins, have been petitioning the government to fund an expedition to search for one of these lost worlds. They’re finally granted permission and have to assemble their crew. Tom Hiddleston is a bland, but brave hero, who didn’t really stand out to me, very much. Samuel Jackson plays the Colonel, for whom Kong becomes his white whale, after Kong nearly kills his entire team. Brie Larson is a photographer along for the ride. I barely know who she is, as there ain’t any white actresses, under 45, whose careers I pay any attention to. She wasn’t bad though, and the movie didn’t do with her what I was afraid it would do, which was fetishize the awesome purity of her blonde whiteness to Kong. There’s another woman in the movie. She’s Asian. She and Brie’s character don’t say so much as a hello to each other. It’s almost like they’re in separate movies. 

Kong does form an attachment to Brie’s character, but not because of her looks ,which is how the director sidesteps the subtext black people see in these movies. Kong likes her because of something she does, and he approves of. At no point do the Natives try to sacrifice her to him, and the rest of the crew don’t spend all their time rescuing her. Tom Hiddleston’s character does so, but only because he likes her, and she’s very brave. At one point he asks her to do a very dangerous thing, to save their lives, and she successfully carries it off. He’s not protecting her because he thinks of her as a delicate woman, and the only person who mentions her femininity at all, is Reilly’s character, and he sounds ridiculous, when he does. 

The writers neatly sidestep the native issues by having there be no Natives. The people on the island are the leftover crew members from a Japanese ship that crashed on the island and became trapped there. They’re fierce but not mindlessly hostile, and appear to have developed their own peaceful culture. Storms have caused a lot of crashes there, so there are a lot of shipwrecks lying about.  There’s a giant wall on the island, but it’s not there to keep Kong out, just the hostile wildlife at bay, and  it turns out his job is protecting the people.  Since the rest of Kong’s family were killed by the island wildlife, he’s seemingly adopted these trapped humans as his clan. Make no mistake, Kong is the star of this movie. He is the lead character, and the protagonist, and survives to the end.

 John C. Reilly’s character is the most fun and memorable character in the movie, and I loved him right away. I’ve found that I enjoy movies a lot more if I can attach myself to a particular character and just follow that character through the plot. His character gives a lot of exposition, but it doesn’t feel like speechifying, when he does it, which is a testament to how good Mr. Reilly is, as an actor. We see his plane crash on the island at the beginning of the movie. His Japanese opponent also crashes his plane, and the two immediately commence to fighting, but are interrupted by Kong. After that they stop and become friends. Kong just has that effect on people. Later, Reilly’s character gets a sweet and happy ending when he’s reunited with his family. He’d been trapped on the island since 1944, and acts exactly the way a person would, after having been separated from a life they missed, for nearly thirty years.

Kong’s motivations are also explained in the movie. He’s a guy who likes everything peaceful and quiet, because when the military expedition starts dropping bombs on the landscape, to track the islands depth, he becomes enraged, and makes short work of all of the helicopters. They were disturbing the peace. So what’s funny is that all of the usual Kong tropes are in this movie but under completely different contexts, with Kong fighting helicopters, or wrapped in chains, or rescuing the blonde damsel. You can tell the writers gave it some thought, playing with our expectations, and knowledge of other Kong movies. The end result of all this is you end up rooting for Kong, as the hero of this movie, rather than the human characters.

Kong is set up as the protector of the island (and possibly the world) from some dinosaur-like creatures, that come out of the Hollow Earth, having been awakened by the bombings. There’s some little ones, and one giant one, with skull-like heads, full of teeth, slithering around on two legs. They’re fast, powerful, and will eat anything, even Kong. He spends a not inconsiderable amount of time fighting these nasty fuckers all over the landscape. He spends a lot of the movie fighting something. At one point he fights a giant octopus, and then eats it. 

There are other monstrous creatures on the island. Some pterosaur like creatures, that like to gang up on a person and carry them off, like in the Riddick movie called Pitch Black. There’s a giant spider naturally, and also what we hilariously figured out was a giant walking stick, and just about as bright. The Potato and I guessed this because it looked like a cross between Groot, and a small Ent, from Lord of the Rings. It scared the shit outta my Mom, when she saw it, even though it’s harmless.  My favorites were the house sized Water Buffalo, because I thought they were dumb but  cute, and more importantly, non- hostile. 

Brie’s  character wins Kongs fondness, when he finds her trying to save one of the big dumb brutes, who is  trapped under a helicopter wing, and he helps her out. He likes her because she was trying to save one of the creatures he has decided to protect, and even allows her to get close enough to touch his face. It’s  telling that his closeness to her never directly endangers him. On the other hand, her proximity to Kong, puts her in danger from the skull dinosaurs. Later, she saves his life, by standing between him and a bullet from the colonel’s gun, after Kong has been hobbled, by being set on fire with napalm. The military is the bad guys in this movie, and Kong kills them indiscriminately. So if you feel some kind of way about the military, you might want to  skip this movie. They’re not totally evil, but they’re not the heroes.
During a significant portion of the movie, everyone has to ride upriver in a hastily thrown together plane/boat combo, and that, and the helicopter intro when they arrive at the island, is what lends it that Apocalypse Now feeling. But I liked the movie a lot and didn’t mind the parallels. I was expecting at some point to be insulted or offended by something in the movie, but the writers were careful to sidestep all the major issues that my Mom and I usually have with Kong movies. Unfortunately, that also took away any depth. That’s okay. The movie makes  up for this lack with a great deal of spectacle. 

Now, I have since seen Godzilla Resurgence, and I heard rumors that both of these movies were being setup for a future sequel,  where Kong and Godzilla would be fighting each other. If that’s true you could watch the setup in this movie, where Kong is being put forth as a good guy protector to the Japanese people, or whatever group of people survive to the sequel. The Kong in this movie is said to be an adolescent who hasn’t reached his full height, and like Godzilla, he’s already as tall as an office building. So the reason Kong looks bigger than ever is because of this future plan for a franchise, of some kind. In Godzilla Resurgence, Godzilla is definitely a bad monster who, sort of randomly, destroys parts of Japan, for no fucking reason. I’ll be reviewing that movie later this Summer. But keep in mind, if these two characters meet, there will be blood.

After a certain age, I stopped watching Godzilla movies, but I did enjoy the remakes, and I liked this movie okay. I’m not sure I’ll enjoy a sequel where these two characters fight, although after watching  the fight scenes in Kong, I anticipate that Kong will win.

Bite (2016)

 

Image result for bite movie

I was trying to  review some of the lesser known horror movies that caught my eye,  that I felt were worth watching this Halloween.

This is a 2016, transformation horror movie by Canadian Director Chad Archibald.

Bite is definitely for people who don’t want to watch torture porn but can stomach lots and lots of goop. The special effects in this movie seem to consist of almost nothing but goop. The plot is nothing remarkable, consisting pretty much of girl gets bitten by a strange bug, and turns into a monster.

Image result for bite movie

On some level , I think the filmmakers are trying to evoke the specter of body horror films like Cronenberg’s  1986, The Fly, but this film doesn’t reach that level. It does have an underwritten theme about the horrors of pregnancy but it doesn’t reach the thematic levels of Cronenberg’s 1975 film, The Brood, either. It has a cast consisting almost entirely of women but isn’t as frightening as The Descent.

This isn’t a great film. Its never going to be a classic, but it is worth looking at just for the spectacle.

Casey is in Costa Rica with her two best friends, Jill and Kirsten, celebrating her impending wedding to Jared when, as per formula, they decide to get off the tourist trail and  go swimming in a remote location. Casey gets bitten by some strange insect. She seems alright but later she passes out. Its all downhill from that point.

Image result for bite movie

When Casey gets back home, she starts developing some strange urges and appetites, but doesn’t pay much heed to them as she’s distracted by other anxieties, such as her upcoming wedding, her bitchy mother-in-law, frenemy Jill, and Jared’s insistence that she will start popping out babies as soon as they’re married. What kind of man brings his future wife a baby’s highchair, as a wedding gift? All of this is only exacerbated by Casey having recurring dreams  of vomiting up tiny eggs all over her apartment.

The movie has some echoes of It Follows in that it features yet another  pretty White girl,  frightened of what her future might hold, and the existential angst around birth and death.  Just once I’d like to see what one of these movies might say about a young  WoC’s existential crisis.

The first part of the movie, where you get to know the characters goes on almost too long. So long that it  starts to be a bore because none of her friends or family have enough personality to be that interesting and the acting is a little dodgy, too.

Image result for bite movie

But the movie starts to reach its high point after Casey actually starts vomiting up thousands of eggs, instead of just dreaming it, until every surface in her apartment is covered in them. By the time Jill (the nice friend) comes to check on her absence, her apartment is coated in goo, egg sacs, and webbing. Nevertheless, Jill just waltzes her dumbass right in, and this is how you know your’e not dealing with normal human behavior from the other characters, because anyone else would’ve run screaming. Jill, naturally, pays the ultimate price for her stupidity.

As per formula, people keep wandering into  the apartment looking for Casey, so that by the end of the movie she’s managed to catch everybody who was giving her grief earlier.

Image result for bite movie

The movie does set itself up for a kind of sequel as the eggs start hatching, producing more of the weird insects that bit Casey, and getting into the outside world.

As I said, this isn’t a bad film. Its definitely worth seeing but its never going to be considered a great movie. It does continue the grand ol’ tradition of body horror spectacle, though, and will tide you over until you can watch that television re-run of The Fly.

Review: Red Right Hand – Levi Black

Charlie is set upon by three large skinless dogs in her house, but is saved by a man in a living black coat, who calls himself The Crawling Chaos. He also claims that Charlie is a descendant of Lovecraft, that her boyfriend is a descendant of cultists who worship the Old Gods, which makes him  susceptible to being mentally enslaved by the bad guy.  Mr. Chaos mentally takes Charlie’s boyfriend, Daniel, hostage and tasks her to complete one job for him, after which he’ll set her, and Daniel, free.

I’d like to tell you how this book ended but I didn’t finish it. I simply couldn’t read any further. This book contains every annoying trope that made me stop reading Paranormal YA novels, which featured snarky young,  White women,  who reluctantly become heroes.

 

Who this book is aimed at:

Young women aged 16- 30

Who love lots of gore and horror movies, or just think that kind of stuff is edgy

Who are independent living with possible boyfriends

Women who consider Twilight to be a little light reading

Who love Anne Rice but wishes there was more blood in it

Who are new fans of H.P. Lovecraft

Who have taken up Martial Arts as a hobby

Women who consider themselves spunky and/or snarky

 

Why I didn’t care for this book:

I am none of the above.

I hated Twilight. For me those books weren’t worth reading. I mostly tried to pretend they didn’t exist.

I liked Anne Rice, when I was a teenager. I’m pretty much over her now.

I’m not actually a Lovecraft fan, although I have read a Helluva lot of Lovecraftian type fiction. I am not new at it.

I’m considerably older than thirty and hence had no patience for the voice of the primary character in this book. It was just annoying to me.

I feel like this books was heavily over-written. Its’ certainly over-descriptive. I like description. Its not a bad thing. It is a bad thing when there is waaay too much of it. It reads like that friend who is deeply enthusiastic about some subject, about which you don’t care, but they refuse to shut up.

There was a moment of tension when Charlie was first attacked by the dogs mentioned on the book flap, but I’m an old hand at horror novels, and this wasn’t particularly scary for me. If you’re an experienced Horror reader, this may not be the book for you.

 

This book is great for younger readers who are much less jaded than me. It gets 3/5 stars because a good effort was made to be scary. I’m just not the audience for it.

 

The Blob (1958) vs The Blob (1988)

So, I’ve been putting off this post because I’d have to watch both movies again. I’m okay with watching the remake, even though I’m still scared and disgusted by it. What I wasn’t prepared for was my reaction to the original film, which frankly just creeped the screaming heebee jeebies out f me, and I was reluctant to watch it again!

So here’s what I did, in the interests of bringing you guys  quality film comparisons: The original movie is  available on Youtube, so I watched snippets of the parts I wanted to talk about, and went to Wikipedia for the rest of it. How does that sound?

The original film is mostly famous for starring Steve McQueen, in his first movie role. None of the other actors are even memorable. The remake, made exactly thirty years later, stars Shawnee Smith, who was never seen or heard from afterwards, and Kevin Dillon, who we wish we hadn’t heard from afterwards. The trailers lead you to believe that several handsome white dudes are the stars of the movie, but those are misleading.

12.07-blob2

The remake was released in 1988, and directed by Chuck Russell, who went on to make Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, a most excellent Freddy movie, and Eraser, a mediocre film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

You have to admit that a formless creature that eats people alive is a very unique monster for the fifties, which mostly seem to be stuck in giant insect mode. Giant grasshoppers, spiders, ants, seemed to be the thing. I’d love to have been a witness to the brainstorming sessions that figured out the rules for this creature. This movie is also unique in that radiation isn’t given as a reason for its existence. There’s no explanation for the monster beyond “it fell out of the sky”.

A lot of the differences, from the original to the remake, involve  plot and characters, including a 2.0 upgrade on the blob’s eating techniques. It’s depicted as a giant stomach that’s a hungrier, and much, much faster, alpha predator, that actively pursues its food. Whether you prefer the slow insidious blob, in the original, or the faster, fit-active blob, is mostly a matter of preference. Its like  fast vs. slow zombies. How would you prefer to be eaten? Quickly or slowly? The first film is a lot simpler in plot and the characters themselves aren’t as complicated. There are still mostly the same types of characters in each movie: the pretty girl, the bad boy, the hero type boy, doing pretty much the same things they did in the original film, but they’ve been padded out with extra information.

TheBlob1988-Still2

Women and girls have bigger roles in the remake, which just furthers my argument that at some point after the eighties, Hollywood devolved when it came to its depictions of women. (Hollywood never had a chance to devolve regarding WoC because we were never featured anyway.) There were a lot of movies, horror movies in particular, that had a lot of strong female characters in them. I would say that was largely because of the influence of  tent-pole films like Alien and Halloween.

One of the biggest differences between the films, and something that every reviewer of the time kept pointing out, was that the guys you think are going to be the fine upstanding heroes of the movie, Paul and his best friend, get eaten by the blob in the first thirty minutes. In the original you know  Steve McQueen’s character, conveniently named Steve, is going to be the hero from the moment you see him and I like how the remake turned that idea on its head.

The setup is pretty clear. Paul is the captain of the football team, who asks Meg, a cheerleader, for a date. (I actually liked Meg because unlike Jane,  in the original film, she has a personality, and I liked her quirky looks). Meg gets a lot of screentime. Meg, Paul and Brian (the local thug), are the teenagers who witness the fall of the meteorite and the blob’s attack on its first victim, a homeless man who, for reasons known only to alcoholics and God, decides to poke it with a stick. That was mistake number one.

poke

The original movie is entirely in keeping with the tradition of teenagers who see something, and say something, but aren’t believed by the local authorities. In the remake the teenagers never really get a chance to tell any of the adults. Meg attempts to tell the sheriff what happened to Paul, but he, and his deputy, would rather believe that Brian, the local ne’er do well, is responsible for cutting off Paul’s arm, the only thing the blob left behind.

Most of the original plot is kept intact for the first thirty minutes, until Paul gets killed, after which you think that Brian, played by Kevin Dillon, with a mullet (which is how you could tell someone was bad news, back in the eighties),is going to be the one to step up and do some hero-ing to defeat the blob. Surprise! He doesn’t do that. Instead he makes a clear case for getting the Hell out of Dodge, and tries to persuade Meg to come with him, but Meg has a family she cares about, so that conversation is vert short.

After throwing the viewers sideways with the deaths of, not just Paul, but his problematic (possibly rapist) best friend, the movie turns into an entirely new animal, with the introduction of sinister government agencies, and corrupt military officials, trying to quarantine the town. Its strongly hinted that the American government created the blob to use against the Russians, but weren’t expecting the blob to be the result, which if you ask me, is an astonishingly stupid idea, but okay. There’s also a laconic sheriff that you think might end up being heroic but he  gets eaten, too. There’s also a creepy priest who, pretty much, remains creepy for the entirety of the film.

00281770_medium

The original film keeps up the scariness to a point, mainly by upping the creepiness factor. The blob is slow and insidious, quietly creeping up on its victims. The movie but bogs down somewhat in the middle, with the addition of  the  local bad boys, and some drag racing. The new film mostly jettisons the character’s extracurricular activities, and moves pretty quickly to set them all up in situations where they can be eaten, or chased by the blob.

Paul and Meg get chased in a diner, where the blob traps them in the walk-in freezer, and the blob attacks the movie theater. While the theater attack is the main set piece of the original, the remake kicks it into high gear, by having the blob rampage through the streets of the town, grabbing up citizens with its tentacles and attacking the town hall, where everyone has taken refuge.

Actually, one could make the argument that the entire remake is one huge, glorious, set piece – for the blob.  We get a lot of very graphic scenes of people being  attacked, and eaten, by  the blob, using beautiful practical  effects that still hold up to scrutiny today. The movie is full of indelible imagery. Two of the most memorable: Paul’s death in the doctors office at the opening of the movie; a diner scene where  a fully grown man gets pulled, head first, into a kitchen sink’s pipes; and a huge office building sized version of the blob, that flies up out of the sewers, and flattens Main Street. There are numerous scenes of the blob frantically chasing after various people: Meg and Brian at the diner, Meg and her brother at the theater, and everybody, in the middle of downtown Arborville.

The original film doesn’t even try to give an explanation of what the blob is. The only authorities present are the town sheriff and his deputy. The remake ups the ante on the gore factor, (because that was how remakes worked in the 80’s) by making the blob faster, slitherier, and more potent than the original. In the original it looks like a bag of snot. The remake turns it into a giant, drippy, stomach. Its almost sentient, as it has incredible timing, seeming to wait for opportune moments in which to attack certain people, namely the stars of the movie.

In the original movie, the more people the blob ate, the larger it grew and the redder the blob became, which was an interesting detail. In the remake, it just gets larger and more potent, having only to brush against a person for someone to be incapacitated, so we get a lot of effects shots of half eaten, moaning victims, in the theater, and streets.

blob-movie-remake

In the original, the townsfolk save themselves, through a bit of cheesy, kum ba ya, spunkiness, but when the government authorities show up in the remake, led by the slimy Dr. Meddows, (played by Joe Seneca, who is most famous as Willie Brown from Crossroads) they only muck things up, making everything more convenient for the blob, by rounding everyone up into one huge smorgasbord, at the town hall.

The  remake isn’t a short film, but it is economical. Everything that happens in the first thirty to forty minutes is set up for the last third of it. The ending is feminine friendly, having Meg  save the day, by exploding a snow making truck loaded with liquid nitrogen canisters. It does remain unexplained where Meg learned the bomb rigging skills with which to blow up the nitrogen canisters,  or where she learned how to use a machine gun, but the sight of Shawnee Smith, standing atop an overturned truck, firing into the blob, and screaming like Rambo, gave me life.

MV5BMzIwMGI2ZWUtOGNmMC00ODE0LThhNzQtYzM1MTVkYzU1MWMxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQzOTg1MDM@._V1_

I think I may have mentioned before how sentient snot, that eats people, is one of greatest fears. I should never have watched the original movie as a child. Of course, it would all have been undone anyway, after having watched the Japanese version of The Blob, titled The H-Men, and released one year later in 1959. The H-Men is a pretty effective scare too, involving gangsters, police, and irradiated human beings, who have been turned into sentient slime.(Yeah, okay! That just sounds disgusting!) I think the worst part of this movie is that the monsters were once people and may not actually be malicious.

I’d do a review of The H-Men but I’m too scared to watch it again. I made the mistake of watching a re-run of this move late one night,  a year ago, thinking I could handle it. I couldn’t. I slept with the lights on for days afterwards – and  hadn’t even finished the movie!

fq.2009.63.2.14-fu02 (1)

Its really hard for me to pick which of these movie I prefer. (There’s definitely a part of me that wishes neither of them had been made, as  I’d have had fewer nightmares over the years, starring this particular type of monster.)

Ya’ know what? I’m not going to choose either movie. Which movie you believe is better is, like the fast and slow zombies question, entirely a matter of which one you think is more effective. For me both movies,and both monsters are equally terrifying  for different reasons, but the 1988 version isn’t a bad film, at all. It does exactly what its supposed to do as a remake. Up the gore quotient, fix minor problems  of the original (like giving its characters likable personalities), and scare the bejeebus out of the film-goer.

Which one do you think is better? Let me know in the comments!

The Monster: It Follows (2014)

There have been a lot of words written about this movie. About how great it is, how its the scariest thing since sliced bologna (which is delicious and horrible, btw), about its sense of timelessness. I’m going to discuss the monster, the demon that infects people through sexual activity, and what is it’s meaning to the main character. These ideas are not set in stone, this is just me speculating about  the events in the film. I just think its too easy to think of the demon infection as a form of STD, or that the film is only about sex. It is about sex, but the underlying theme of the film is much deeper.I think it’s  about the inevitability of death, and the various anxieties that young people have about being alive.

A conventionally pretty blonde girl, Jay, is infected with the curse from a  young man named Jeff (aka. Hugh), when they have sex. She is cursed to be followed by a demon that will eventually kill her. It can look like anyone, but she’s the only one who can see it.  Although the sex between them is consensual, the aftermath is filmed like a kidnapping and rape scene (which is not  graphic). Jeff ties her to a wheelchair in a carpark, where they await the monster’s arrival. While they do that, Jeff lays out the ground rules about what will be happening to her. How Jeff came by these rules is unclear, but  he still doesn’t make for the most reliable of narrators.

image

Jeff dumps Jay on the street outside her house, where she is found by her sister Kelly, and her neighbors: Yara, a friend of Kelly, and Paul, a childhood friend who has a serious crush on Jay. There’s also her neighbor Greg, a handsome young man,  who lives across the street, and loves to wash his car. (Jay once slept with him in high school.) Paul, Kelly, and Yara were sitting on the porch playing Old Maid, (the point of which is to get rid of the Old Maid card by secretly getting someone else to accept it. You lose the game if you die holding that card.) Given the subject matter of the film, this is not a coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that Yara is reading excerpts from Doestoevsky’s The Idiot for the rest of the movie. The only passages she seems interested in reading out loud are the ones about dealing with the inevitability of death ,which is also not coincidental, considering the book itself isn’t actually about death.

image

There are  mild sexual relationships between all the characters, which I believe informs a lot of the film, and has some bearing on the movie’s monster. For example Yara expresses some mild jealousy over how pretty Jay is to Kelly, who agrees. Jay was Paul’s first kiss, after which he kissed her sister, Kelly. Its well acknowledged by everyone that Paul has a crush on Jay, though  she doesn’t seem unduly bothered by it. She truly must not be because the demon never appears to her as Paul. Although Kelly and Yara relentlessly tease Paul for it, he is good-natured about their teasing, and the four of them get along well. There is also the little neighbor boy, who appears to be maybe thirteen or fourteen, who regularly spies on Jay while she swims in her backyard pool. Jay knows about “some” of his spying, and at one point good naturedly calls out that she can see him watching her.

Jay’s world appears very boring, without any  great amount of tension or drama between her and anyone else, but I think what this movie proves is that Jay’s world is full of a great number of deep seated terrors. Some of these are  the conventional fears of pretty young women everywhere, and some of them are unique to Jay. I think the monster is an expression of some, if not all, of these fears. Essentially its an id monster.

The first time Jay sees the demon, is just after her infection by Jeff in the carpark. It appears in the form of a naked young woman. It is unclear if Jeff is seeing something different from what she is seeing, however. I think it appears as whatever fears it can glean from its victims minds. Either that, or Jay  is simply having a very bad nightmare, where the monster chasing her, always looks like something she’s secretly afraid of. I think the naked young woman represents Jay. She just had sex, she’s drugged, groggy, deeply afraid, cold and half naked, in an abandoned carpark. I think the demon shows up as a generic fear of being naked and vulnerable in public, (much like any anxiety dream where you show up at school missing your pants.)  Later, as the demon becomes more attuned to Jay’s mental state, it appears as much more specific fears.

The next day, Jay is examining herself in her bathroom. She doesn’t know that the neighbor boy is sitting on the roof and spying on her through the window. As a pretty blond girl, she knows that people look at her all the time, but this is one of the few instances where she is being gazed upon and doesn’t know it. Her privacy is being violated, not just by the neighbor, but by the filmgoer.

image

The second time Jay sees the demon, things get a bit more specific. The monster becomes more detailed in its terrorizing of her as the movie progresses. As Jay attends school the next day, she sees (there are lots of window shots in this movie,windows are symbolic),  an old woman, slowly walking towards her. Although the woman is wearing nothing more than an old hospital gown and slippers, Jay’s reaction to her is entirely out of proportion to her appearance. To anyone else, the appearance of such a person at school would be puzzling, maybe even disturbing, or laughable, but Jay is seriously frightened to the point where she runs out of class. Note: during that scene, the teacher is reading an excerpt from “The Love Song of J. Albert Prufrock”, a poem about a man who is getting older, while he  dithers on about some important thing he was supposed to have done earlier in his life.

The monster (the old woman/the old maid) may be symbolizing Jay’s fear of getting old and not having accomplished what she set out to do in life. It is obvious that Jay is attending some kind of community college, so  she may not even have in mind what she wants to do with her future. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in her future either.  Earlier, on one of her dates with Jeff, she played a game with him called Changing Places, where the objective is to pick a person from the crowd and have  your partner guess who you chose. Jeff chooses a small boy, and when she questions Jeff about his choice, tells  Jeff that he is only twenty-one and has his whole life ahead of him. Jay could just as easily be discussing herself but she allows Jeff to humorously sidestep the seriousness of her question.

Jay, in a panic, goes to see Kelly and Jeff, at their job. She’s having some difficulty explaining why she was so frightened, because her fear doesn’t make any sense to them, or her. Paul promises to spend the night and make sure nothing weird happens, even though Kelly roughly teases him for it.

image

I do have to make note of the fact that whenever the  characters are talking in Jay’s house, there’s usually an old movie playing. Even the background dialogue of the movies they’re watching is something that will play into the later plot of the film. For example, before her date with Hugh, Jay stops to speak to her three friends sprawled on the living room couch, watching what I think is Forbidden Planet which is about an invisible entity terrorizing a space station, that appears to be made  of electricity, and hates water. This movie playing in the background isn’t a coincidence either. Everything in the movie, from the soullessly downbeat, electronic synth music, to the background conversations between seemingly unimportant characters, and the camera moves themselves, has a purpose. Clocking in at a quick ninety minutes, nothing in the film is wasted. The film seems longer than it is because it’s so dense with meaning and imagery.

Later that night, Jay sees the demon for the third time, and this instance is much more disturbing, and more specific, in its iteration. Hearing glass breaking, Paul checks to see what happened but can find no one. When Jay goes to check, she finds a girl in her kitchen, who looks as if she’d  recently been raped and brutalized. Her hair and clothing is wet, torn and dirty. She is wearing a single sock, a torn red bra, and appears to be urinating on herself (as  brutal rape can sometimes cause incontinence). She is partially nude and her arms appear to be tied behind her back, while her face appears bruised. She is very obviously a victim of violence. Its impossible to name any pretty young woman for whom rape is not one of the great fears of life. It certainly appears to be one of Jay’s great fears.

Jay panics and runs screaming from this encounter, as well. Once again, she is completely unable to explain what she saw, or why she’s so scared, while Paul and Kelly both insist that there is no one else in the house. When Yara attempts to enter the room, she is followed by an extraordinarily tall man. This is also not a coincidence. The director says he tried to find the tallest person he could for that particular scene. This may mean that one of Jay’s great fears is growing big, (i.e. getting fat).  Jay runs away again, biking to a nearby park, where she can see all around.

image

Kelly ,Yara, Paul and now Greg, catch up to her and its at this point she decides to  go on the offensive. She needs to understand what’s happening, and the only person who can explain it, is Jeff. It turns out that Jeff isn’t his real name. His real name is Hugh, which the friends find out, when they investigate the house he rented in town. He left behind some personal objects, along with porn magazines, which lead some reviewers to speculate that Hugh was a rapist and that was how he got infected, when he raped the girl who gave it to him, but I reject that idea. I think the demon can only be passed on by the willing. I don’t think you can pass it on to someone who doesn’t accept sex with you. Its why Hugh goes through such pains to woo Jay, over several dates, and then carefully explains things to her afterward. She needs to know what’s happening to her, because the longer she stays alive, the longer he can stay alive.

The porn magazines are not a coincidence either. Earlier, when Jay confessed to Paul she was having trouble sleeping , the two of them reminisce about finding some porn magazines,  when they were children. When their mothers caught them with the books, spread out on the front porch, they each got the sex education talk, the next day. The movie is suffused with seemingly innocent sexual conversations, and even those conversations that are not about sex, pertain to the characters and plot, in other ways. It is during this same conversation that we learn about the sexual history between Jay, Kelly, and Paul.

The windows of Hugh’s abandoned house are strung with tin cans, to alert Hugh, if anything tries to get inside. The movie is especially terrifying because the creature isn’t dumb. It has a certain level of sly cunning. One of its tactics for reaching its prey, if they are indoors, is to break a window and slither its way inside, as it did at Jay’s house.

They find out Hugh’s real name, and address, by visiting his high school. One of the more interesting parts of the movie is when the camera does long panning shots of whatever environment Jay happens to be in. The viewer spends that time warily looking for the creature. In some sense we have become like Jay. We have been infected too, since we can see it. Constantly on our guard against the creature’s appearance. In some scenes, the demon can be spotted slowly walking in the background, but since it can look like anyone, it may take several viewings to spot it. While visiting the school, the demon can be spotted,twice, slowly walking towards the school, and then Greg’s car, in the form of Jay’s friend Yara. What makes these scenes especially frightening is we can see that the real Yara is in the car with Kelly and Paul.

still-of-maika-monroe-lili-sepe-and-daniel-zovatto-in-it-follows-2014-large-picture

The group visits Hugh’s house, and the door is answered by his mother.  The only parents we see in the movie are mothers.  In fact there are no adult males at all in the film. They are all entirely absent. It would be easy to believe that they are all at work, except there are little clues that make me think that most of these teens fathers, if they’re mentioned at all, are dead. We never see Paul’s or Yara’s parents. In fact, Yara spends the entire movie at Jay’s house. Even Greg’s father is absent, although we see Greg’s mother a couple of times in the movie.

The conversation with Hugh is unhelpful. He doesn’t have any more to tell them than what he first told Jay, other than he can still see it, even though its not after him. He urges Jay to pass it on to someone else. Greg is indignant and blustering with Hugh. He wants to protect Jay. You start to get the sense that Jay is something of a hot commodity. Both Greg and Paul would love to sleep with her and this would be a great excuse to talk her into it.

image

Greg takes everyone out to his father’s lake house. This is the only  time that anyone’s father is mentioned. We don’t know if  Greg’s father is dead, just that he’s gone. The fourth time Jay sees the creature, it attacks her on the beach. It’s a quiet scene so the viewer sits, breathlessly, waiting for the creature to appear in the background. It walks up behind Jay in the last form we saw, Yara, and grabs her hair. This is the first time when anyone other than Jay can see a manifestation of the creature. Except for Greg, who conveniently chose that moment to go pee in the bushes. All Greg can see is people running and yelling. Paul is the only one who has the presence of mind to attack it by hitting it with a chair. The creature releases Jay and hits Paul, knocking him backward. This is  our first real evidence that the creature is an actual physical thing, just invisible. Every other time the creature interacted with physical objects, it happened off screen. So anyone can be harmed by it, but if they can’t see it, the creature is not interested in hurting them.

The day before, Greg took Jay out to teach her to shoot,  and then hid the gun in the boathouse. Jay and the others run to the boathouse where she retrieves the weapon and shoots at the Yara creature. As I said, earlier, Yara expressed some mild jealousy about Jay, and I think the creature takes Yara’s form because Jay knows about that, and has some anxiety about other girls being jealous of her prettiness. She seems to have no problem shooting at what appears to be her friend, so there may be some suppressed hostility there. The longer the demon stays mentally attuned to Jay, it starts taking  forms that are specific to Jay’s personal  life. Just like in dreams, where the images represent things, and people, that are specific to you. Only in Jay’s case the nightmare is made manifest.

The bullets stop the demon, but the effect is only temporary, as it gets up and continues its approach, attacking the door of the boathouse after Jay locks it. Greg insists that no one is there. He can’t see anything and thinks that his guests have damaged the door. The next time Jay sees the demon, it has changed form again, as it crawls through the broken door. This time it looks like the neighbor boy who is always spying on her. Even though she was good natured about it, Jay may still have some anxiety about his watching her. Its possible Jay may have some general anxiety about being stared at,  made manifest in the form of the neighbor who constantly spies on her. Or that she has some latent desire to hurt him for always watching her.

The_Entity_in_one_of_it's_forms

As Jay exits the boathouse, the demon follows and switches form to that of her sister, Kelly. Now, we have to talk about Kelly for a moment. Throughout this entire ordeal, Kelly’s behavior has been exemplary and truly admirable. Although she’s the younger of the two, you can tell she really  loves and cares deeply for Jay. She has been kind, loving and supportive, saying and doing all the right things during Jay’s  panic attacks. She repeatedly states that she loves Jay, that she worries about her, and that she’s scared too. She never attacks, scoffs, or attempts to minimize Jay’s fear. She wants to help her sister, and to do that she needs to know what’s happening, and what Jay is seeing. At one point, Jay accuses her of not believing her, but Kelly shrugs that off. That’s not important. What’s  important to her is that her sister is in pain and she wants to help, no matter what. Kelly sticks by her side throughout the rest of the movie, even going so far as to move into her room at night to  make Jay feel better.

That the demon takes Kelly’s form may be an indication that all is not well in their relationship. Jay may have some freeform anxieties about whether or not Kelly actually loves her, or is jealous of her. She may think that Kelly doesn’t believe her and is just humoring her. Jay doesn’t appear to have any friends other than these three, or four people, and Yara seems more Kelly’s friend than Jay’s. Jay may be jealous of their friendship and scared of her feelings about it. During the movie it  becomes obvious that Kelly also has a crush on Greg, and Jay may feel threatened by that as well.

It-Follows-Each-Other-1

Fleeing in Greg’s car causes Jay to have an accident, where she passes out. Waking in the hospital she discovers she has a broken arm, and is terrified that the demon is walking toward her in the hospital. This is interesting. The demon is always stalking its victim, but the only time we ever see it get close to them, is during the day. The perfect time for it to attack would be when they’re at their most vulnerable, but that’s not what happens. During the movie Jay falls asleep or passes out but the creature never attacks then. It’s a possibility that it can only track its prey when they’re awake. When they’re asleep, maybe it can’t mentally feel them. But that’s just my speculation.

Jay decides to pass it to Greg while she’s in the hospital. Greg is more than happy to sleep with Jay. He makes it clear, he doesn’t believe in the demon, for one moment, and over the next few days, Greg sees no sign of it. I think the reason it takes so long to find Greg is that it’s harder for it to tune into his mind. Greg is the usual, cocky, self assured, handsome guy. He’s seems pretty laid back, with few insecurities, so the creature may have difficulty latching onto any of his fears. What anxieties he does have, he seems honest about, unlike Jay’s  fears, which she keeps a secret, even from herself.

Several nights later, Jay sees the demon approach Greg’s house in the form of Greg . I think it takes Greg’s form for Jay’s  benefit. The only person who can see it is Jay, and Greg was the last person she slept with. I think Greg’s safety is her most immediate and loudest fear, which is why it takes this form, when Jay sees it break into Greg’s house, through a window. She runs over to warn Greg but is unsuccessful, as the demon takes the form of Greg’s mother and gains entrance to his room, pausing just long enough to give Jay a significant look, as if to warn her that it hasn’t forgotten her. It seems  like the demon found one of Gregs anxieties after all. It’s still unclear exactly how Greg dies, as it happens off screen. When Jay looks into the room, she can see the demon straddling Greg, as if it were having sex with him, but both of them are fully clothed, and Greg is already dead.

screenshot-56

Jay runs from the house, with the demon, now back in its Greg form, hot on her trail. She drives far into the woods and exhaustedly falls asleep on the roof of her car. The next morning, she spies a lake and three young men on a boat. She swims out to the boat and has sex with at least one of them. I say at least one, because to pass it on, she only needs to sleep with one of them, but it’s unclear if she slept with all of them. Having very deliberately passed on the demon, she heads home and barricades herself in her room, where Paul finds her and tries to persuade her to sleep with him. I think she refuses Paul because she’s aware of how badly he wants her, and she’s reluctant to get him killed. She is already full of guilt over whichever of the young men on the boat will die, and is still grieving over Greg.

Paul is the only person thinking outside the box in this film. On the beach, he was the only one to attack the demon, and now he comes up with the idea of electrocuting the demon in water. Since Jay’s  backyard pool has been destroyed, possibly by Jay or the demon, it can’t be used. Much has been made of how stupid Paul’s plan is, even by the director, but you have to remember, the movie operates on dream logic. It’s not supposed to make sense. Just like in dreams, it  has its own logic particular to the dream, and nothing will be explained to the viewer.  It’s also a callback to the movie they were all watching in Jay’s  living room earlier in the movie.

image

Jay and the others take a carload of electrical objects to the public pool and wait for the demon to appear. This is its last iteration and it takes the form of Jay’s  and Kelly’s father. Some people have theorized that their father may  left them because he was guilty of molesting one of the girls. When Kelly asks what Jay sees, Jays response is, “I don’t wanna tell you.” I disagree with this theory. It think their father recently died, possibly in the past few months. A recent death could also explains all of the character’s  lackluster approach to living, at the beginning of the film, and everyone’s flattened emotional effect. This also explains why Jay and Kelly’s mom drinks so much. Every time weve seen their mother she has a liquor bottle, or glass of alcohol, nearby. The family may be in mourning. It appears as Jay’s  father because he represents Jay’s  biggest, and greatest fear, the fear of sudden and  unexpected death.

The demon does appear to be reluctant to enter the water with Jay. It’s unclear why. Is it because water is Jay’s safe place? Will the water harm it? Will it be weaker? When the creature decides to throw the electrical objects at Jay, rather than get in the water, Paul forces it in, by shooting it with the gun he stole from Greg’s boathouse. Once again, the demon is only temporarily incapacitated as it struggles to pull Jay to the bottom of the pool, but Paul shoots it several times. When Jay climbs out, and looks back, all she can see is a spreading bloom of blood in the pool.

Jay decides to sleep with Paul after this. It’s unclear if they believe the demon is destroyed, or if Jay is simply being cautious, and making sure at least one other person can see it. Yara gets in one last reading about death from her novel, while lying in the hospital, recovering from an accidental shot by Paul, during the pool skirmish. Later, we see Paul driving by prostitutes. It is strongly implied that he may have passed it on to one, but this isn’t something made clear.

image

The movie ends with Paul and Jay, walking slowly down the street, holding hands. Their love doesn’t seem genuine, although Paul seems quite happy. The viewer can see a figure slowly walking towards them, in the background. My theory is that the demon isn’t dead and that the two of them will continue passing it back and forth each time they have sex. On the other hand the demon may not be able to focus on just one of them long enough to kill them, or a monogamous relationship keeps it from killing its prey. But again that’s just my speculation.

Here are some links to reviews, speculation and interviews about it Follows:

http://geektyrant.com/news/the-ending-of-the-horror-film-it-follows-explained-by-director

It Follows exists out of time in a paranoid nightmare

*This person rightfully brings up the constant water motifs in the film along with several other things I missed and some other speculations about the monster. Water is indeed a very important factor , per the the lakes, faucets, pools, and rain, but as of yet, I’ve seen no explanations or fan theories for its meaning.

http://www.backofthecerealbox.com/2015/03/it-follows-FAQ.html

*I found this article to be especially informative. No, I haven’t actually listened to the film’s commentary myself but this was fun to read.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/18-things-we-learned-from-the-it-follows-commentary-3a4c39261ceb#.keyz9mz23

ETA: The first version of the entity, that Jay sees, appears in the form of Hughe’s mother. It’s the reason she looks so shocked when Hughe’s mom answers the door.

The second to last version of the entity we see, is the naked man on the roof. It’s not her father, becasue we see her father last and he’s fully clothed. This man is larger and naked, but I haven’t yet figured out the significance of this character to Jay.  This is also the only time we ever see the creature stationary. (Just like in dreams, there appear to be certain rules, until those rules are broken. One of the rules we’ve seen is that the monster keeps moving, until it doesn’t. )  What’s more interesting, and chilling, is that it’s on the roof, seeking another way into the house, via the window, since Jay has blocked all the doors, and it may have gotten that idea from the neighbor boy, who had climbed the roof to peer at Jay in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepy Hollow: Incident at Stone Manor


There are a lot of aspects of this episode I thoroughly enjoyed and a few I had no patience with. I love how Ichabod and the others refuse to give up on the idea that Abbie is alive and must be saved. In fact, Ichabod is  desperate to save her and will do almost anything to get it done.

I’m not averse to a relationship between Ichabod and Abbie. I’m a lot more comfortable now with the two of them expressing their devotion to each other, now that Katrina is gone. I just think it’s a bit soon after her loss. On the other hand, it is a long time coming. I think Ichabod was dealing with his feelings for Abbie long before Katrina died.

image

We’re back with Abbie, picking up where the last episode left off. It’s been awhile because we can see that her hair has gone back to its natural state. I hope she keeps it that way. I like it. It seems like  her isolation is making her  stir crazy but actually it’s pretty common for people who spend a lot of time alone to amuse themselves by talking out loud. The problem comes when they can’t stop doing it.

The show highlights Abbie’s resourcefulness, which I enjoyed. She’s smart enough to make fire, and create a chess game, but there’s no Wilson, no night time, no other life forms, and she doesn’t seem to need food or drink, so life is very, very boring.

Jenny, Joe, and Ichabod hit on the idea of sending Ichabod’s astral form to look for her. I like the way this team is working. I’ve got some drawbacks with the addition of Sophie, just like Jenny seems to. I hope she’s on the up and up and not just a bad guy in disguise.

image

Ichabod is successful in finding Abbie, who has  been missing him terribly. Since he’s non-corporeal, he can’t effect the environment, but he can keep her company and talk through ideas with her, to help her find an escape.

Pandora and her boyfriend, The Hidden One, wish to come out of hiding and take over the world. My eyeballs were rolling fast and deep at their level of reasoning for that. They really don’t have any lofty goals. Be evil and try to take over the world seems to be it. The only way they could accomplish such a thing would be to plunge the world into a new Dark Ages of some kind, because on their own, they’re like those Trailer Park couples who plan to be rich some day. The Hidden One can lift castles out of the ground so maybe he could try a job in construction.

Pandora sends her astral form to see Abbie in the Catacombs. She can’t do anything to Abbie, so mostly succeeds in pissing Abbie off enough, to destroy the little stone she came to get. Angry about that, she severs Ichabod’s astral cord. But it’s cool. Abbie is smart enough to figure things out.

Earlier, during one of her walking tours, she discovered Betsy Ross’ sword stuck in a pile of rocks and figures out how Betsy managed to escape. She ends up saving herself and Ichabod, and that’s some beautiful shit, if you ask me.

Back with our ‘Vaders of the story, the Hidden One is pining for his lost position,  and upset that his power-stone is broken, thanks to his girlfriend. He seems more than happy to take Pandora’s life energy for himself, and leave her laying on the ground in a weakened state, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when you follow power hungry, narcissistic, wanna-be despots. They’re happy to use you for their own ends because that’s  what you’re there for.

Maybe Pandora will get a clue, change her mind, and turn on him. I actually want to like her, but she’s fallen in with a bad crowd, so  I despair for her future. She’ll probably suffer whatever fate he’s going to suffer when he’s defeated.

image

Simultaneously, we get to watch Joe, Jenny and Sophie use their big brains to defeat one of the monsters, who has shown up early to Pandoras summoning, a gargoyle from a French church, restored to Sleepy Hollow, brick by brick, whose history I remember from Art School. This time I was totally squicked out by the monster. I hate inanimate objects with a mind of their own and was hoping, when I first saw the gargoyles, that they wouldn’t be doing any extracurricular activities.

Jenny and Joe want to do things the long way around, using spells and books and stuff. They do a pretty good spoof of Ichabod and Abbie’s methods of crime solving and that got a good laugh out of me. Sophie comes up with the more pragmatic approach of using construction equipment, and who doesn’t want to kill a gargoyle, by covering it in concrete, which is all kinds of awesome.

One monster down, about bajillion more to go, maybe.

The Scooby Gang return to The Archives, just in time for Jenny’s happy reunion with Abbie, and to wake up Ichabod.

This ain’t one of my favorite episodes but it’s alright. I liked seeing Abbie’s return because what kind of show is it without her snarking on Ichabod. I have to give a letter grade slightly below last week’s episode because there were a few moments that felt “by the numbers” and Jenny had a couple of “Afterschool Special” speeches, that I had no patience for. Also, the villains need better reasons to be villainous, other than liking being evil.

Otherwise, it’s not a bad episode. I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the show will never be as good as that first season, but we what have now is close enough, and I can live with close enough.

 

Geeking Out About: Cabin in the Woods (2011)

 

I’ve finally gotten around to watching this movie all the way through, from the beginning, and I loved it. It’s definitely entered the pantheon of my favorite horror movies.

I initially didn’t pay much attention to it, not because I don’t trust Joss Whedon, who is the producer of this movie, but because the trailers had me thinking I knew what I was going to be in for, and I’m sick to death of cookie-cutter horror movies. Based on the trailers, I thought  I had a pretty good bead on what the movie was about. Boy! was I wrong.

From the opening credits and the first five minutes, I thought I knew what this movie was  about. I was so wrong. After an hour, I thought I had a pretty good idea what was going on, but had no idea why. I didn’t find out why until the last thirty minutes, and then it all made perfect, but insane, sense.

If you are a horror movie fan, this movie is hilarious because you will recognize every horror film trope ever filmed. It’s like watching a movie based on horror Easter Eggs. The movie perfectly explains why all horror movies have the same ten little Indians motif of young people being killed off in isolated locations, (a horror movie trope that I am heartily sick to death of), why there are always five or more and why they’re always stereotypes: a whore, a fool, an athlete, a  scholar, and a virgin.

image

On the surface, the movie does seem pretty comedic, and it’s billed as a comedy, although not like any monster comedy I’ve watched, and by the end, it’s a lot less funny. The characters do all of the required stupid shit that young people do in such movies, like running out into the woods to have sex after reading passages from that forbidden book in the basement.

Most of the humor is in spotting the next horror movie reference and in having your expectations upended. The interstitial moments involve a group of office workers celebrating the death and destruction of the people that appear on the many movie screens in their offices, which I found puzzling at first. Later, I found that part of the movie to be the most fascinating and  I kind of wish someone would make an entire movie entirely centered on the day to day of these people’s job.

This movie is very, very meta. Think “Scream” level meta. It’s is very self aware.

Also, if you’re a fan of horror movies, you will spend the last thirty minutes playing spot the monster, and probably yelling stuff at your TV, like WHOA! or WHEW! Every kind of monster you have ever seen in a movie, and a few you haven’t, in a giant, crazy, smackdown free-for-all. Giant snakes, Hellraisers, mutant bats, zombies, Japanese ghost girls, and since this is Joss Whedon, some ballerina action. There’s even a mer-man. Whoa, not pretty!

image.jpeg

The funniest moment in the movie is when nine Japanese schoolgirls, trapped in a room with one of those Ju-On ghostsgirls, triumph by singing her into the shape of a happy frog. (Don’t even  try to understand what the Hell I just said, just go watch the movie.)

I would watch an entire movie based just on the last thirty minutes of this one!

image

And no, Cabin in the Woods does not stint on the gore. My only drawback was that some of the scenes are too dark to see clearly and the trailers don’t give you any clue about what you’re walking into with this movie. The trailers are a drawback to getting people to initially watch it, but then the “not knowing” is the point, I guess.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting was caring about the characters. Whedon and the director do such a good job of fleshing out these characters, that even knowing the huge stakes involved, I was still rooting for them. I wanted them to live even though it would’ve been pointless.

Why yes, there are a few Whedon alumni  present. Amy Acker from Angel and Tom Lenk of Buffy fame, make an appearance. Thor…I mean Chris Hemsworth, is also present, and the trope that he is going to be the hero of this movie and save the day, especially after his little “I’m going to save everybody” speech, is neatly turned on its head.

I want to say the movie was a lot of fun and yeah, I was laughing, at first.  But the longer I watched, the more tragic it became, and by the end I realized the movie was telling me that cheering for the monsters to win in these type of films is perfectly understandable and a good thing because its necessary.  It also makes you little better than the office workers who are doing just that, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t found them to be unlikeable, and hated identifying with their depravity.

There is a massive amount of death in this film (and if you’ve watched the movie, you know there’s more to come after it’s over). I couldn’t actually root for anybody in this movie. Not the monsters who are utterly necessary to the plot, and not the office workers, who kind of deserve to die because they know exactly what’s going on. They’re  sort of  monstrous, too.

I kind of wanted everyone to win, although for purposes of the plot, it’s simply not possible and that’s the genius of this movie. Somebody in this movie, either the monsters I cheered in other films, or the  characters I actually liked, (the fool and the virgin), have got to lose for the plot to make sense.

image

 

Oh and keep a look out for a surprise cameo at the end of the film. I won’t tell you who, but I promise, you will squeee! with delight. Really, the only person missing from this movie was Lance Henriksen. I’m guessing he was busy at the time.

There’s not a movie in the world  that cannot be elevated by simply adding Lance Henriksen, even though Cabin in the Woods needs none.