Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Abandoned (2016)

I heard plenty of good things about The Abandoned before I saw it - most of which were comparisons to movies like Session 9 (which I LOVE) and House on Haunted Hill (remake),  so I was all-in when I finally sat down to watch it. 
Unfortunately to me,  it didn't seem to have the punch that those two previously mentioned films seemingly enjoyed.  I think what was the clincher for me was that there were essentially only two characters in the movie, and I didn't like either one.  The haunted building was nothing short of spectacular (I believe it was actually several sites and sets) but the story just didn't jump up and get me.

Previously known as The Confines (not any better, despite the mundane current title), The Abandoned gives us the story of "Streak" (Louisa Krause), a young woman with nothing to lose except a young daughter.  Trying to get her life back on track, Streak takes on a job as a night security guard at an aging apartment building that seems more suited to have grand balls and perhaps an Oscar party in.  It's immense, magnificent, and a whole lot of other adjectives I'll just refrain from mentioning.  Seems the building was never finished and so, like all ridiculously overpriced and underused buildings, it holds mysterious secrets, as well as perhaps a few ghosts.


Streak's partner (because apparently it takes two security guards to protect this abandoned site) is a most unlikable character. Cooper (Jason Patric, still looking pretty fine in his middle-age) is busy monitoring the numerous televisions with views all over the building.  These two will take turns patrolling the building  -for whatever reason- and watching over the entire site via these multiple monitors.   Sounds boring enough, and let me tell you - it is!  For the audience watching them watch, as well.

It is immediately clear that Cooper is a testy bastard, with ignorance and bitterness his two greatest gifts.  Even eventually showing us that he is wheelchair-bound garners no sympathy.  The guy is a blatant asshole, and when he is not pushing his snippy barbs Streak's way, he's scaring her with tales about rooms that were never finished that they are "forbidden" to seek out.   Streak has emotional and perhaps even mental issues that she is shown to be medicated for, and all the talk seems to get her worked up fairly fast.  The two bond for moments only, just a smidge at a time - talking about their daughters.  But most of the time it is sarcasm-central.

For the first half of the film though, there are enough creepy moments that I was kept entertained.  There's nothing like wandering around an empty building to make you hear and see things that (probably) aren't there.... When the two guards allow a homeless man to come inside out of a storm (against Cooper's better judgement), things amp up a bit when said bum goes missing from the room they allowed him to squat in.  As an audience, we are privy to the transient's location - as he and his Rottweiler (because every homeless dude has a purebred dog) wander around the bowels of the building, and it's obvious he was added to the story to provide a victim.  No spoilers, because it really is THAT obvious when they let him inside.

Because Streak is mentally unstable, we're left to wander if she is really hearing noises and seeing unusual sights when she is tasked with patrolling.  When the film starts we are told that the power has been going off and on in some sections of the building, which is a conspicuous hint that we're going to see electrical tricks.  The elevators sometimes work, sometimes not - and you know they aren't going to work when they are in dire need of working.  And like I said, they added the vagrant to the whole ball of wax for terribly obvious reasons.

 Streak and Cooper are linked with headsets and he seems to make her internal suffering even worse by talking her through certain areas and attempting to keep her out of the dreaded "forbidden areas" that she inevitably ends up in.  The director pulls out all the usual haunted house tropes, with creepy visuals and unsettling noises, but it doesn't work quite as effectively as say, Session 9.   The two leads do eventually band together to fight the dark forces at work, and only then do they become even slightly more tolerable.  I did find myself rooting for them as the final act brought forth truths they were forced to confront.  The ending has a much-needed surprise and though a bit contrived, seemed to fit perfectly with the rest of the film.

The Abandoned tries too hard to be straight-cut horror and in the process, just kind of falls into psychological melodrama.  It has all the right elements to be truly unsettling, but instead I found myself thinking (hoping!) that surely something would be lurking around the next corner...  It never was.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Intruders (2016) There's No Place Like Home. Especially When You Can't Leave....

Movies about home invasions always seem to catch my eye, so when I saw the trailer for "Intruders", my interest was piqued.  For some ungodly reason this film's title changed from the enigmatic "Shut In" to the hackneyed, stale current name. And the movie's tagline "They should have left her alone." pretty much gives everything you hadn't already guessed away.   Regardless, Intruders is a relatively good addition to the sub-genre, at least until the final act.

Anna (Beth Riesgraf) suffers from agoraphobia so intense even stepping onto her porch sends her into waves of anxiety.  She lives in a big ol' house with her only companion, her brother Conrad.  Unfortunately, he has his own medical condition to deal with...pancreatic cancer.  We're shown these tidbits right away, so that when Conrad inevitably dies, we know that Anna will have a lot of things to deal with in addition to grief.  

Without her brother as her link to the outside world, all she has is her family's lawyer who is trying to tie up final wishes, and the semi-charming Dan (Rory Culkin) who brings her food everyday from a meals-on-wheels type of program.  Anna and Dan form a friendship of sorts, so that when he sees her dealing with her sorrow, he's able to lend an ear and a bit of comfort.  He tries to convince her that now that the situation is changed, maybe she'd finally want to leave the house, try to make a new life for herself.  While Anna is utterly against the mere thought, she does feel a type of sympathy at Danny's dead-end job and offers him some of her family's money that she's been hiding away for years.  He politely refuses. But this will not be the end of that thought.

Because we were privy to a few short conversations at the beginning of the film, we know that Conrad wanted Anna to forgive their father, who apparently did something ghastly and reprehensible. Anna wasn't hearing any of it, so it's hard to imagine why she wouldn't want to leave the house in which these unmentionable things occurred, but Anna must have her reasons, right?


The day of Conrad's funeral, Anna prepares herself to venture outside, knowing that she needs to attend.  She lays out her clothes and even goes as far as to actually get dressed...but in the end she is just unable to get herself out the door - her anxiety is so palpable and SO distressing that it gives those of us with no fear of the outside world a little taste of the profound dread people with this condition must deal with. 
Anna instead wallows in self-pity by making some tea when she hears someone pulling into the driveway.  Peeking outside she realizes there are three men intent on breaking into her house, obviously thinking she would be at the funeral.  She hides, and they do gain entry by breaking the glass in a door, and just when you think she may be able to hide until they are gone, the tea kettle whistles.  Alerting the intruders that they are not alone, they quickly surmise that Anna must be in the house somewhere.  They seem to know who she is and that there is a sizable amount of cash somewhere that they want to get their hands on.  Even when Anna tries to make a run for it, she is crippled with fear and unable to save herself.  The trio of men find her and after a quick assessment realize she's not going anywhere.  But what they don't know is that neither are they.


Intruders has a great opening act, setting up the rest of the film by shedding light on Anna's emotional handicap that makes her unable to deal with not only her affliction, but reality.  She's been closed up in her house for ten years, since her father died, and those two facts intertwine for what may be a predictable yet still engaging story-line with more than a few surprises in store. 

 The trio of money-hungry trespassers (Jack Kesy, Joshua Mikel, and Martin Starr) are somewhat stereotypical criminals, with one being the "leader", one being the brute of the gang, and one is sympathetic to the victim and unsure of how far he wants to go.  That being said, they do a respectable job in their roles and the film loses nothing from their casting.

Admittedly, I think the last third of the movie loses some momentum and it's possible the writer(s) weren't quite sure how to give us the shock and awe ending we deserve, but Intruders is not overly long and the pace is kept going at a very acceptable rate.  The whole of the film is carried by Riesgraf, who in my opinion did a stellar job of projecting her fear onto the audience and was able to garner some serious sympathy for her condition.  All the more satisfying when the tables turn and our criminals realize Anna may be meek and damaged, but she's not afraid in her own home. And she's not leaving unless it's on HER terms. 

All in all, you could do a lot worse than checking out this newest addition to the home invasion sub-genre.  It's not breaking down barriers or throwing us any serious original content, but it is a 90 minute thriller that has solid acting including a very believable lead, some decent moments of gore and a house that has some tricks up its sleeve.  


But they still should have left the title alone - Shut In is so much better!



Monday, January 18, 2016

See ya later 2015! It's been fun.


2015 was a pretty decent year for horror, truth be told. A lot of really good films, a few that could even be considered great.  Some crap, as usual, made its way to our screens - but for what I saw, I was pleasantly surprised with what was offered. 

This is not your average "best-of 2015" list.  Because everyone does that, I tend to do something a little different.  This post mirrors my end-of-the-year posts of the past.... so here goes.

BEST HORROR EXPERIENCE OF 2015: 
 JAWS on the big screen. Last year's wrap up included a statement that the only film that could top my viewings of THE SHINING (2013) and PSYCHO (2014) on the big screen would be seeing JAWS.  Well....in honor of the 40th anniversary of the blockbuster, it was playing all over the US on theater screens, giving those who'd never seen the film (are there actually people out there who haven't seen it?) or anyone who was up for a re-visit a chance to watch Bruce wreak havoc on Amity Island.  This was my dream come true.  I was only 7 when it came out in 1975, so obviously I didn't see it then.  I've watched it countless times on Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS, plain ol' TV....but to see it in the way it was originally intended made my year.  (Only thing better this year for me was American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown in June. Actually, that was seriously the best day of my 47 years so far, bar none!)

It Follows
FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE (Besides seeing JAWS, obviously):  IT FOLLOWS.  I saw this in a theater completely alone.  No one else in the theater with me.  It was creepy as hell and if I hadn't been in the very back row, I'd have been looking behind me the entire time.  It was like a private screening. Unnerving and deliciously fun!

What We Do In The Shadows
MY FAVORITE FIFTEEN HORROR FILMS OF 2015: (in no particular order except my top five)

1) WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS - At the top of most of the "top-ten" lists that are already out there, this film is a charmingly hilarious 85 minute homage to vampire films.  I've watched it countless times already this year and every single time I have LOVED it.
2) CRIMSON PEAK - When I hear people complain about it not being "horror" enough, I want to pretty much punch them. This is gothic romantic horror.  Still a sub-genre.  And it had some really good horror elements. No film looked as beautiful as this one did this year.
3) IT FOLLOWS - Why are people divisive about this movie?  I'm not sure what people expected.  It is a classic creep-fest with a great score (the best of the year by far), boatloads of atmosphere and a strong female lead who is going places, mark my words. Horror fans are known to be violent critics, and I suppose when a movie is as hyped as this one was, there are some that will be bound to be disappointed.  Just don't count me in that group.  I loved it.
4) SPRING- This has been called, several times I might add, a "Linklater by way of Lovecraft" film. And I think that is a fair comparison.  I had no idea what to expect going in, which is the perfect way to experience this beautiful yet extremely unique horror film. One of my absolute faves of any year.
5) WE ARE STILL HERE - Fulci lives!  Well, he's at least stirring in his grave after this little beauty.  Subtle.
6) JURASSIC WORLD- Please don't try to tell me that dinosaurs eating people is not horror.  In what world is that NOT horror? Not Jurassic World, that's for sure.  The most fun I had all summer.
7) THE FINAL GIRLS - This self-aware throwback to the 80's camp-slasher flick has a lot of heart.  And a really good cast. It's not a perfect film by any stretch of the word, but it has some genuine humor and is a fun time.
8) VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH - An indie flick with the titular "In Search Of" monster front and center. Writer/director John Portanova brings us the tense atmosphere of the deeply wooded Pacific Northwest and throws in a good measure of family drama to keep things interesting.
9) GOODNIGHT MOMMY - While I may not have liked this one quite as much as others, there is no denying it is quite possibly the most unnerving movie from 2015.  It's a slow burn - but that ending! It more than makes up for any amount of waiting for something to happen. 
10) THE VISIT- Some may disagree that this film even belongs on a best-of list from last year, and I'm not saying this is a return to his "Sixth Sense" form, but The Visit is M. Night Shyamalan's best offering in at least a decade. Witty and unsettling (sometimes simultaneously), I really did find it one of the better contributions of 2015.
11) CREEP - Found footage films are something I usually veer away from, but one day I just happened upon this indie weird-fest and found myself oddly unable to stop watching it.  The entire running time is marked with abject dread....you just know something is going to happen....but when?  Take my word for it - it will happen.
12) DARK WAS THE NIGHT- Playing like an extended episode of The X-Files, this monster-of-the-week flick brings us a wendigo-type creature that we are lucky enough not to see for nearly the entire movie, allowing eerie atmosphere and mounting dread to give us chills. I didn't hear much about this one this year, but I couldn't leave it off my list.
13) BACKCOUNTRY - While no bear attack could possibly top the one in the DiCaprio vehicle, The Revenant, the one in this adventure-horror film had me outright cringing.  Animal attacks are always going to be scarier to me because THAT SHIT CAN HAPPEN! (Hence why JAWS is my favorite film.) A couple on a camping trip gets avoidably lost.  Simple concept. Maximum effect.
14) BONE TOMAHAWK - Boasting a fantastic cast headed up by Kurt Russell, this horror western, while probably overly-long, is a delightful example of how to merge genres. It also gives us one of the most gruesome deaths in a film this year- it's just cringe-worthy!
15)  ANGUISH - I recently caught this subtle indie and was blown away by Ryan Sympkins, just one of the strong female leads here. A teenager (Sympkins) already suffering with anxiety and multiple emotional issues starts to experience an increase in hallucinations and other instabilities - does she need to increase her already hefty medication regimen or is something a little more....supernatural going on?
16) EXTINCTION - Hard to believe Matthew Fox is on this list twice, but I've got to be honest when I say I liked this different take on the zombie apocalypse - partially because of Fox and his pre-teen co-star (Quinn McColgan) who brought enough family drama to the table here that it made more than tolerable something that would have otherwise been The Walking Dead meets The Descent meets 30 Days of Night.  I'm aware I could be alone in liking this one, but that's what makes the world go round...

Let Us Prey
ON THE FENCE IN 2015
1) LAST SHIFT - This one I actually did like as it had a boatload of atmosphere, taking place in a closed police station.  But it went so off the rails at the end!  It was like two separate movies.  I was really into it until about the last third.  At that point there was just too much thrown in visually that I expected the kitchen sink to show up. Why!?!
2) TALES OF HALLOWEEN - While I did enjoy this one also, it failed to capture my attention like Trick R Treat did back in 2007.  Perhaps there were just too many stories and not enough cohesion. This is a real negative point for me, I love anthologies but things like those ABC's of Death movies and ones like it - too much going on.  Not enough continuity.  The segments have got to be related and mold together somehow - otherwise we're just watching a bunch of unrelated shorts on YouTube on a random Tuesday afternoon.  I also have to admit the "funny" segments left me totally cold. Ugh. Someone in charge could benefit from seeing 1945's Dead of Night.)
3) LET US PREY  - Like Last Shift, we have another film that takes place in a creepy police station. This one benefits from having both Pollyanna McIntosh and Liam Cunningham in the lead roles, which is never a bad thing.  It did drag a little, and some of the Scottish accents were a little thick for we uneducated Americans...and I just felt a little bored by the end.

The Green Inferno
FOUR FILMS I FOUND TO BE PRETTY OVERRATED
1) THE GREEN INFERNO (After all that hype, all that waiting, it was really just Meh...  In all honesty, Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is vastly superior. If you can stomach the animal cruelty in that one, just see that one.) Yes, people eat other people.  But these days, that's just not enough.
2) THE BOY (I love a slow burn just like the next guy, maybe more...but nothing happened in this film. For minutes and minutes and minutes and.....days.... The ending was unnerving but not unexpected.  In my opinion, it was all a bit too nap-inducing.)
3) DARK SUMMER (Gotta be honest, this felt like a Chiller PG-13 flick for tweens.  Blah. So boring. Nothing...and I mean NOTHING...scary happens.  In other words:  move along...nothing to see here.)
4) A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT - Yes, I realize it is an art-house type film with loads of monotone atmosphere...but I just couldn't get into it! Maybe it's because I went into it thinking I HAD to like it because it had such great critical reviews.  I tried to watch it twice.  I guess it's just not for me. 

Poltergeist
SIX FILMS I'M PRETTY GLAD TO HAVE MISSED AND HAVE NO REAL INTENTION OF SEEING:
1) Poltergeist - No need for this remake in the least.
2) The Gallows - Seemed good in the trailer, failed miserably at the box office and with critics.
3) The Vatican Tapes - Apparently nothing sets this apart from any other religious dreck.
4) The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence - Let's hope Final means FINAL.
5) Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Plea to Paramount/Blumhouse: Please stop making these films.)
6) I Spit on Your Grave III:  Vengeance is Mine.  (seriously...? Just put on Ms. 45 and don't suffer through what I'm sure is pure dreck.)

Cooties
A DOZEN FILMS I MISSED SO I CAN'T CRITIQUE YET:
1) Krampus
2) The Editor
3) The Hallow
4) Cooties
5) Sinister 2
6) He Never Died
7) When Animals Dream
8) Deathgasm
9) Maggie
10) Hidden
11) Stung
12) Victor Frankenstein

The Lazarus Effect
BAD. JUST PLAIN BAD.
1) THE PYRAMID:  If you have seen As Above So Below, you needn't even bother with this one.  And AASB was one of my favorites last year.  This one seemed like a total rip-off of that one, with a horrible - and I mean HORRIBLE version of Anubis.  Just comedic, really.
2) THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH.  I am usually not one for sequels, but was hoping for the best with this one.  The original 1989 version of THE WOMAN IN BLACK is in my top five, all time faves. The remake wasn't too bad - saved by the actors if I'm being honest. So I should have known this one would be crap.  And it was. 
3) THE LAZARUS EFFECT.  The concept was unoriginal.  The acting was only marginally good (though Evan Peters is a joy to watch in anything). And the scares?  Not even remotely there.
4) INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3.  I think they can stop making these films any day now.  Please, go no farther with the further!


   

SIX UPCOMING FILMS I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016:
1) THE WITCH - My most anticipated film of the new year.  Don't let me down!
2) THE FOREST - This may not do well and is most likely crap, but I am terribly intrigued by the whole concept - the Aokigahara Forest in Japan just reeks dread. 
3) THE CONJURING: THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST - Because I am a sucker for both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.  And ghosts.
4) 31 - I'm also a sucker for genre super-fan Rob Zombie, because no matter what - he's got passion.
5) THE BOY - A different BOY than the one I already mentioned, this one involves Lauren Cohen (TWD) and a life-sized doll.  Bound to be terrifying, as I just can't stand dolls of any kind.
6) A MONSTER CALLS - Because well....Liam Neeson. And.....Sigourney Weaver.


Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz)
MY FAVORITE HORROR TV EXPERIENCES OF 2015: Another banner year in horror television brought so many great things my way - there was a lot to love. If I'm being honest though, American Horror Story Hotel left me completely cold.  I stopped watching after 4 episodes and haven't looked back.  But Bates Motel had a banner season in which the end of the season had Norman wearing his mother's housecoat, making pancakes for breakfast and talking in her voice.  Oh, and peeping on motel tenants and committing murder.  Can't wait for the new season of that one!  The Walking Dead had me on pins and needles waiting to see if Glenn was dead or not. That was just rude. Andl Penny Dreadful, in all its gothic goodness, brought us some more characters from classic literature to life and amped up the violence in season 2. 
But for sure, the best horror TV experience of 2015 is Ash Vs. Evil Dead!!  To bring back the iconic character of Ash Williams in his quest to rid the world of deadites just made any horror fan's entire decade.  To see it renewed for a second season? Icing on the cake.  It's outrageous and campy and fun and perfect as hell! Thanks Starz! Year made!


MY FAVORITE BOOKS I READ IN 2015:  Fiction: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King.  If I need to explain that, then you don't read enough. 
Non-fiction:  The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer's Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead - by Adam Rockoff.  Guess that title is as self-explanatory as the fiction title above.


FAVORITE GENRE MAGAZINE: Rue Morgue gets my number one spot again this year.  I don't think I need to reiterate that it is simply the classiest horror magazine out there with the most well-rounded content. I still love that they review books and music, which all mags don't do.


FAVORITE MOVIE SCORE IT FOLLOWS.  Electronic goodness at its best.  Evoking fear and atmosphere in every note. Composer Disasterpeace really nailed it!
Kudos also to John Carpenter's return to composing with Lost Themes.  Feels like it could be the score of any recent horror film.  More please.
I also really liked the score to Crimson Peak by Fernando Velázquez. Feels as old-school gothic as the film.

The Revenant
FAVORITE NON-HORROR FILM I SAW IN 2015:  It came out in the last week of the year (in order for Oscar contention I'm sure) and went wide the first week of January 2016.  THE REVENANT is a perfect film in nearly every way.  There are some nasty elements that border on horror, but it's an adventure/revenge film at its core.  Leonardo DiCaprio really needs to win the Oscar, dammit.

Random Year-End Awards:


*THE "I CAN'T BELIEVE I SAT THROUGH THE WHOLE MOVIE" AWARD:  As previously mentioned, The Pyramid

*THE "WHEN THE HELL IS THIS TITLE GOING TO GET CRITERION RELEASE?" AWARD:  Dead of Night (1945).  I'm still waiting.....................................

Bone Tomahawk
*BEST DEATH SCENE:  Hands down, Bone Tomahawk.  (Spoiler Alert!) Dude is scalped, has the bloody scalp jammed down his throat, and is then cut apart from the groin with a tomahawk while upside down.  Then they ate him.  Wow. Just wow.

*BLOODIEST MOVIE I SAW IN 2015:  Well, I guess it may have been The Green Inferno but my mind is a little fuzzy on that one.  Crimson Peak would have been the obvious choice but there wasn't as much blood as expected....well, at least not spilled.

The Gift
*FOUR FILMS THAT WERE SO MUCH BETTER THAN I EXPECTED:
1) Unfriended
2) Kristy
3) Ex Machina
4) The Gift

Ryan Simpkins in Anguish
SIX STELLAR FEMALE PERFORMANCES THIS YEAR:
1) Ryan Simpkins in Anguish
2) Nadia Hilker in Spring
3) Maika Monroe in It Follows
4) Eva Green in Penny Dreadful
5) Barbara Crampton in We Are Still Here
6) Pollyanna McIntosh in Let Us Prey

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring
SIX STELLAR MALE PERFORMANCES THIS YEAR:
1) Lou Taylor Pucci in Spring
2) Mark Duplass in Creep
3) Tom Hiddleston in Crimson Peak
4) Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead
5) Freddie Highmore in Bates Motel
6) Rory Kinnear in Penny Dreadful


*MOST CURIOUS TITLE OF HORROR FILM IN 2015 Sharknado 3: Oh HELL no! Now that's funny, I don't care who you are.

*THE "THEY'RE SPEAKING ENGLISH!" AWARDLet Us Prey.  God Bless the Scots but I can't understand them sometimes.

*THE "SOOO DIDN'T LIVE UP TO THE HYPE" AWARD:  The Green Inferno

*THE "I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL" AWARD:  First things first - I haven't heard that there is a sequel coming, but I'd be first in line for:  "What We Do In The Shadows 2:  Werewolves, Not Swearwolves!"

The Witch (February 2016)
*THE MOVIE I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016The Witch.  Hope I'm not disappointed!!

*THE "MOST UNNECESSARY SEQUEL AWARD:
With so many to choose from I'm going to draw out of a hat.  The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence gets my vote this year.  I think it's fairly obvious why.

*THE MOST UNNECESSARY REMAKE AWARD
:
Another obvious choice here:  Poltergeist.   Not sure who green-lighted this one but they need to be taken out back and shot.

Well that wraps up yet another year.  Goodbye 2015.  You've been good to us!  Here's hoping 2016 is even better!
Thanks for reading and sticking with us here at Fascination with Fear!!



Monday, December 14, 2015

3 CHRISTMAS BEASTS THAT AREN'T KRAMPUS‏!!

~by Marie Robinson

I can almost guarantee that all of you are familiar with Krampus by now. This evil, half-goat version of Santa Claus has become extremely popular over the last few years, and with the release of Michael Dougherty’s film,
Krampus, there isn’t a doubt that most of the North American population will be on a first-name basis with the Bavarian demon of legend. 

What you may not know is Krampus isn’t the only creature looking to wreak some wintry havoc, there are a few others I’ve found with similar ideals. Don’t get me wrong, I love Krampus, but he is getting all the limelight right now. Let’s take a look at some other demons of Christmas. 


Namahage 
It isn’t surprising to see Japan at the top of the list, as their folktales are equal if not more terrifying than the Germans’. Namahage are demonic ogres that dwell high up in the mountains—how they have come to live there varies by region. All year long they watch each household in the village and monitor the children’s’ behavior, keeping notes in a little book. 
These demons descend from their mountain homes not at Christmas, but on New Year’s Eve, where they stomp through the town in pairs toting knives and wooden pail. The Namahage have bright red or green skin and horrible twisted faces with protruding teeth and they wear traditional straw capes. They visit each house (except for those that have experienced death or illness in the past year) and pound on the door and tear through the house shouting as they “interview” the head of the household. The family must have food and saki prepared to serve to the monsters. The man of the house is questioned about the behavior of the children, and if they have been naughty, the Namahage tell them that they must take them away and begin to chase them around the house. The father then pleads with the monsters to let the children stay, and the little ones (who have probably all wet their pants by now) must promise to do better next year. 
This tradition is till acted out throughout Japan, but most famously in the town of Oga. They have a festival each year where men dress up as Namahage and beat drums and, naturally, terrorize children. 



Perchta 
This particular character in folklore goes by many names, and her stories vary vastly through regions and time. Rather than try and go into all of it and end up talking about things I don’t really know about, I’m going to stick to one version of the tale, which would, naturally, be the one that relates to Christmas. 
In Bavaria and Austria, Perchta is a woodland deity who comes out of her forest seclusion to enter the villages on the Twelve Nights of Christmas, and visit the houses to check on the children’s behavior. She can either appear as a beautiful woman robed in white, or an ugly old woman. Since this goddess was also believed to have overseen the spinning of flax, she was especially interested in the young girls of the house, checking to make sure they have spun their fair amount of wool and flax that year. If they had, they would receive a silver coin and be left in peace, if not—well, they were getting a lot more than spanking. Perchta would cut open the bad children’s bellies and rip out all of their intestines, replacing them with straw and rocks. 
There was, at one point in time, a cult who honored Perchta, and would leave offerings of food and drink out in hopes of wealth and prosperity. In the midwinter festivals in Austria, people dress in horrifying animalistic masks with horns and fangs, and are called the “Perchten”, and are meant to enter homes and drive out the evil spirits. 





Grýla
Grýla comes to us from Icelandic folklore, another one of my favorite cultures for being truly bizarre and terrifying. She is a Giantess who lives in the mountains with a strange cast of characters. She looks like any old hag with a scarf over her head, except she has hooves for feet and an ox’s tail.
Although she can sense bad children all-year-round, she only comes out around Christmas, when she descends to the villages to find naughty children to eat. Her favorite thing to do is make a nice big stew out of children, but she’ll gladly gobble them up raw.
Her sons are the Yule Lads, who are pretty much like two Santa’s who go around either distributing presents or rotted potatoes. Her pet is the Yule Cat, a monstrous black cat that stalks the snow-covered countryside and eating anyone who hasn’t gotten new clothes to wear on Christmas. And believe it or not, Grýla even has a husband! Although, it is her third husband.

If you have enjoyed learning about these creatures, fear not, there are even more evil Christmas monsters to haunt your holidays! Rather than stealing all of my ideas from another blog, I’d like to give it credit, for it seems to be a sort of encyclopedia for this very topic. For more beasts like these, visit the wonderful, but now unfortunately defunct, A Scary Little Christmas (https://scarylittlechristmas.wordpress.com/)! 

Happy holidays, and patiently await that blessed holiday when your naughty children fall prey to all kinds of merciful demons.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Octoberfest Five: Christine's 5 Comfort Horror Favorites

Here we are folks, the end of the Octoberfest Five and the most wonderful day of the year!  Happy Halloween, first and foremost!

When it comes down to choosing a movie to watch on Halloween, I admittedly make too much of the situation.  Do I want to go with an old classic; something I'm quite familiar with?  Or chance something entirely new which may end up tarnishing my holiday and leave me with a bad taste in my mouth?  It's a conundrum, and one I am still not sure of the answer to as I write this. 

It's Halloween every day at a horror fanatic's house.  The amount of horror I watch in one year is astounding. It has seen me through good days and bad - and it's mostly the latter when I mention the words "Comfort Horror".  When I've had a rough day at work or have to deal with issues I seemingly can't face that come up in daily life, quite often I reach for a horror film that I am utterly comfortable with - a movie that I've seen countless times and can depend on to take me away from all my troubles for a few hours.  One that epitomizes my love of the genre.  Comfort horror doesn't necessarily have to be your favorite films, though for many I can only assume they would be.  And I'm not going to lie - any time I notice Jaws or Psycho on TV I simply have to turn it on, that's a given.  That said, I'm not going to use those two in my list because they are too obvious.

These comfort films can change over the years, and I'll be the first to admit it's entirely redundant to watch a film so many times you can repeat all the lines - but I'll bet if you ask any horror fan (or any movie fan, for that matter!), there are films that just seem to speak to you....and make everything ok...if only for a little while. 

Here are five of mine:


FRIDAY THE 13TH
Friday the 13th  (1980) is at the top of my comfort horror list because I have a very special relationship with it.  It is probably the very first horror film I saw by myself.  Home, alone.  And I've loved it ever since.  Though the Friday series is no real friend of mine (I don't have much time for anything past Part 3, truth be told), the first film is one I will throw on at any given time to just take me back to when things were simpler. It's brainless, has silly jump scares and most of the acting leaves a lot to be desired.  But it's a nostalgic throwback that makes me feel better every single time I watch it!


HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES
So I bet a lot of people may be surprised by the inclusion of this ratty, lurid piece of celluloid.  As its subject matter surely wouldn't give anyone the warm fuzzies inside.  Rob Zombie's oversized music video-slash-movie is a real kickback to the grindhouse flicks of the 70's, with a string of obnoxious characters, loud music and loads of reprehensible violence.  Why do I like it so much? I've no idea.  But when I see it coming on late at night on a Friday after a crappy workweek, I'm so there.  Long live Dr. Satan!!


ALIEN
If I'd have made a list of comfort horror flicks ten years ago, I doubt Alien would have even made the cut.  I've always liked the film, but for some reason in the last five years I've grown utterly attached to the terrifying sci-fi opus.  I'm also one of those fans that love the first film so much more than Aliens.  SO much more.  Because I like my horror silent, stalking, and subtle.  The atmosphere in Alien is thick with palpable dread.  You can't get that from "action" horror.  Alien takes the concept of fear and just sticks it to you - full guns.  It is a contrast of lights and darks, from the bright lights of the dining area when Kane has his bloody fine gastric episode to the creepy darkness of the ventilation shafts where the creature hides.  It is purely and simply....perfect.  (In fact, I think I need to watch this right now....)


INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
It seems funny for me to be listing another sci-fi horror film, as I am honestly and truly not the biggest sci-fi fan.  I enjoy it, but straight-out horror is a little more "me".  That said, I freaking love Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Partly because of my Donald Sutherland love, and the other part due to the freaky nature of the storyline.  The acting really is top-notch here, and they manage to make "alien plants" so much more believable. And let's face it, those pod people are just downright grotesque when they are mutating.  It seems to be on television a great deal lately on the premium movie stations, so it's comforting to know I can just turn it on and chillax without having to pay a great deal of attention.  Or I could always throw in the DVD!


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Being from western Pennsylvania leads to a natural love of Romero's groundbreaking zombie film.  I live about 40 minutes from where is was filmed and have always gravitated towards it as comfort horror.  It's my favorite of the "dead" films and I adore the black and white grittiness of it.  I've watched it so many times I think even my hubby has it memorized.  Like Psycho and Jaws, I will always turn it on if I see it while surfing. I can sigh a sigh of relief when I see it on, as if an old friend has come over to make me feel better.  To me, it embodies the meaning of comfort horror.  It is probably the film I've watched the most on this list, and will no doubt keep that title for years to come.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Octoberfest Five: Marie's 5 "Comfort Horror" Favorites

~by Marie Robinson

One of my problems with horror is that it has a shelf-life. Meaning the more you watch a horror film, the less scary it gets and to me, loses its potency. I’ve watched The Shining so many times that I now hate it, so I try to avoid watching movies frequently so that this doesn’t happen.

Nostalgia is like a drug to me. I love the feeling I get when I am taken back to specific memories and times in my life. Movies can be great for this, so there are a few that I turn to when I want that warm and fuzzy feeling.

I may not bring out my “comfort horror” movies too often, but these are the ones I keep on hand for when I need them.


TALES FROM THE CRYPT
My first memory of watching Tales from the Crypt was in a funeral home, of all places. When my cousin and I were young we had to attend the funeral of some old relative we didn’t know. Rather than having us mingling with the mourners, they stuck us downstairs in what had to be a lounge or a break room or something, that had a big TV in it; and what, of all things, did my mother, or whoever (I can’t remember), put on the television? Well, you know
Not only is it not necessarily appropriate for children, but also we were also scared shitless sitting in the basement of a fucking mortuary! Of course, I fell in love that day, and made a friend for life in the ole Cryptkeeper.
I have every season of Tales and I watch it pretty frequently, preferably on dark, stormy nights, but also anytime I just want to relax. The Cryptkeeper’s shrill, dry cackle is my lullaby.


JEEPERS CREEPERS
I feel like this one comes up a lot on our lists, but it’s just so damn good! Sorry, not sorry. I did have it last year on my “guilty pleasures” list, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence in that past year, and I’m not ashamed anymore! I want to shout it to the world! I LOVE JEEPERS CREEPERS!


PET SEMATARY
I find myself coming back to this one pretty often; it’s just a great film to me! There are characters I love, and characters I HATE (but that’s a different list), and probably the scariest character of all time, Zelda!! Aaahhh!!!


SALEM'S LOT
Yes, another Stephen King, but he’s just so darn good! If it isn’t obvious to you I’m talking about the 1979 version. I put this movie on in the background sometimes when I need something suitably spooky. I love the imagery in this film; they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.


A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
 (ANY Nightmare on Elm Street film)
I’m being pretty general here, but Nightmare is my favorite horror franchise. The “quality” films in the series, in my opinion, are 1, 3, and 7 (New Nightmare), and the rest are cheesy 80’s schlock, but I love ‘em, and you don’t need any brainpower to watch them. They’re great for zoning out, and I genuinely enjoy them—okay, maybe not Freddy’s Revenge…

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Octoberfest Five: 5 Favorite Villains Of American Horror Story

by Marie Robinson

With the fifth season of American Horror Story under way, I’d like to revisit my five favorite villains from the previous seasons. What’s funny about AHS is that no character is truly good. Almost everyone in the show is a terrible person, but we love them because they are so deliciously evil. I started this out as a list of my favorite AHS characters, but I realized that all my “favorites” were the baddies… What can I say?

Oh yeah, and I would advise NOT reading this article if you aren’t familiar with the series, as there are SPOILERS!!!!

 
Dr. Oliver Thredson (Asylum)

Played by the amazing Zachary Quinto, Dr. Oliver Thredson is cool, collected, and dangerous. This renowned psychiatrist is brought in to Briarcliff to see if Kit Walker (Evan Peters), who is pinned as serial killer “Bloodyface”, is fit to see trial, or if he should be declared insane and forced to live out his days at the asylum.

The kind, understanding, and professional Dr. Thredson that Lana Winters (Sara Paulson) comes to know is all a carefully maintained façade, and poor Lana is forced to discover that he is the true Bloodyface. Thredson is a well-established murderer who has the most horrifying trait a serial killer can have: sanity. That means that there is no excuse for the depravity of this man. He’s a fucking psychiatrist, for god’s sake; he knows the ins and outs of people’s minds, and he sure as hell knows right from wrong. He is a cold-blooded killer with a passion for flesh.

I don’t know about you, but I did not see this one coming in the series. It wasn’t until Lana was in his house that I was like, “Oh, shit”. Part of this is great writing, but most of it is Quinto’s incredible performance. He is such a precise actor, and breathes life into his characters, even if they are people we don’t necessarily want alive. Not only was Quinto’s performance compelling, but Thredson’s character was complex, and is another character that can be filed away with fictional killers inspired by good ole Ed Gein. There’s a mix of other serial killers in there, as well, Ted Bundy being one that stuck out to me, but Bloodyface, and the man behind the moniker, will always stand out to me in a league of his own.


Marie Laveau (Coven)

Taking the name of a real historical figure, Marie Laveau (played by the badass and beautiful Angela Bassett) is the voodoo queen of New Orleans. While she is known to help people, it is either for her benefit, or for the price of loyalty. Beware to anyone who stands in her way or crosses her, for she has the power of black magic on her side.

Marie has many enemies, and most of her “friends” are dead or demonic. She has been alive for centuries, but at a terrible cost. She sold her soul to a Haitian God named Papa Legba, who keeps her in the realm of the living in return for soul of an innocent—usually an infant; she’s even offered up her own.

She and the tortuous Madam Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) have been at war ever since the latter killed Marie’s lover, Bastien. Ever since they have been exacting sinister revenge on one another, and not even death and dismemberment can end their historical feud.

I love a woman in power, and Marie Laveau is a queen, feared and respected. She is powerful, independent, lethal, and at times, even kind. I may not hold a grudge like Marie, but there are a few reasons to look up to her. And can we get Angela Bassett’s secret voodoo recipe to aging gracefully?


Constance Langdon (Murder House)

Tate gets enough love from troubled teens everywhere (just kidding I love him too), but in the question of nature vs. nurture; it’s a lose-lose with a mother like Constance (Jessica Lange). She is cold, unloving, and narcissistic enough to keep producing one fucked up child after the next. 

Her first was a poor deformed and mentally disabled creature named Beauregard (Sam Kinsey), who, despite being kind and friendly, was smothered to death because of his “repulsive” appearance. The second was Addie (Jamie Brewer), who graciously warns all away from the Murder House, but naturally to no avail. Constance is verbally abuse and manipulative to Addie, calling her a “pretty girl” when she’s good, and locking her in a room full of mirrors when she is bad. And then, of course, there’s Tate (Evan Peters); the murderous psychopath who stalked through the halls of his high school with a shotgun before committing suicide by force when confronted by a SWAT team.

Even though she probably fucked up all her kids with her perverse idea of parenting, she just can’t let ‘em go. That’s why she holds the “murder house” property across the street so dear. Well, it was once hers, but mainly why she covets it is because her children’s souls are trapped there, and so she may visit their ghosts whenever she gets that maternal itch.

Her final sin was seeking out and taking the only living twin born from her son’s rape of Vivien Harman (Connie Britton), which happens to be the freakin’ Antichrist. Of course.

Constance is that bitch you love to hate. She’s a snarky motherfucker who tells it like it is, and says what’s on everyone’s mind. She’s also a fucking train wreck that we just love to watch burn. The talents of Jessica Lange will sorely be missed in Season 5.


Sister Mary Eunice (Asylum)

Poor Sister Mary Eunice (Lily Rabe) started out as the sweetest, most innocent nun in all of Briarcliff. Until that time she got possessed by the devil. Now she is one bad mamma-jamma.

All joking aside, I think Lily Rabe’s transformation from one character to the next was seamless and totally convincing. Her character as the devil-inhabited nun quickly became one of my favorites. Especially because, even though it wasn’t her choice, she sort of got even with those who had abused and taken advantage of her as an innocent, like Sister Jude and Dr. Arden. It was hard to remember that there was a sweet little nun underneath that cool and confident demeanor; after all, Satan is the Master Deceiver, right? And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the devil is pretty cool.


Dandy Mott (Freak Show)

Freak Show has probably been my (and everyone else’s) least favorite season of AHS, but I do just LOVE the character of Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock). 

Wealthy and spoiled rotten, Dandy was raised by an overprotective but detached mother (Frances Conroy) who covers up her son’s homicidal habits. Dandy is possessive, manipulative, arrogant, and worst of all, charming. 

Dandy’s character fascinates me because I do think you can find a lot of complexity in him, but the main reason he’s on this list is I found him incredibly entertaining. I think he was the most exciting character in the season and Wittrock’s energy-driven performance was just a blast to watch. I’ll be looking forward to seeing him in other seasons.