Sunday, December 30, 2012

End of the year run-down: Goodbye 2012..(and Good Riddance!)

 2012 was really a mixed bag for me.
Personally, outside of horror my year was kind of distressing. And while I won't get into those boring details, I will say it caused me to have a very uneven year as far as entertainment goes. 

While I think I've finished some of the best books I've read in years,  I have to admit I think I may have seen more awful films than good ones, or at least less original ones.  Television was pretty damn good though, so it probably all evens out in the end.  And let's be frank, thank heavens it's THE END.
I'm ready for 2013, how about you?

One of the best things that happened in 2012 here at Fascination with Fear is the addition of a fresh new writer.  Due to life getting in the way more oft than not, I needed a bit of help to keep FWF from gathering dust bunnies. After a bit of poking and prodding around the interwebz, I was absolutely blessed with meeting someone who has become like a little sister to me - a kindred soul who has been kind enough to take a spot at my side and help me out more than words can say.  So to Marie I say a great big THANK YOU, and I hope that you lovely readers have enjoyed her stellar articles and posts over the course of the last several months!  Please, stick with us:  we have such sights to show you!

The Walking Dead
Best Horror Experience of 2012:  Hands down, The Walking Dead.  While there has been an unbelievable amount of horror this year, in particular on television, I have no choice but to single out this utterly fan-fucking-tastic trip through apocalyptic walker-land. The emotions displayed within the realm of this show are really far and above most other scripted television these days. AND IT'S A SHOW ABOUT ZOMBIES.  This. Is. Epic.

Coming in a lukewarm second would be True Blood.  I loved the Bill-Eric bromance this summer, and was happier than tits on a bull that Alcide showed off much as he did this year.  More of that, please.
I haven't been as big an advocate for American Horror Story as last year, but don't get me wrong - it's still one of my favorites. 

Favorite theater experienceSinister - I saw this on Halloween day, in a darkened theater, alone.  That made everything about it perfect, and the film itself was one of my favorites of 2012.  It really reeked atmosphere, had a terrific lead actor, and was truly chilling.

Eighteen Horror Purchases I'm Happy With:
*Absentia - Probably one of my favorite indie films, maybe ever. Just one of the creepiest little films I've seen in years.
*Lovely Molly  - Somewhat flawed with confusion at times but eerie and tense and right on the mark.
*Murder by Decree - A 1979 film with Christopher Plummer (one of my faves) starring as Sherlock Holmes investigating the Jack the Ripper case. A fellow horror pal recommended it - much appreciated!
*Alfred Hitchcock: Legacy of Suspense (2011) - A bargain DVD that includes some of Hitch's older flicks such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, The 39 Steps....among others.
*The Walking Dead: Complete Second Season - Goes without saying...
*The Woman in Black (2012) - While I still prefer the 1989 original version, I did like this one a lot. It still managed to capture the isolation of Eel Marsh House and the dread when the volatile title character appeared.
*Spider Baby - The 1964 (do we say) classic about one fucked-up family. A must see!

Event Horizon
*Event Horizon - Seriously one of the weirdest yet intriguing sci-fi films of the 90's, with a stellar cast.  Almost like Hellraiser in space.
*Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Funny enough, I didn't own this one till this past October. So glad it's finally on my shelf!
*Diabolique (Criterion) - The 1954 masterpiece of murder and suspense.  It's said Hitchcock was rather irked that he didn't get his hands on the classic novel first.  And this Criterion edition is superb.
*The Yellow Wallpaper (2012) - Though at times an uneven film, the heart of the story is unnerving, to say the least.
*Gosford Park - Robert Altman directed this period mystery starring some of Britain's best.
*Wendigo - I've been looking for this 2002 film on DVD for quite a while.  While not the most stellar film, there is something inherently spooky about a family spending time in the winter woods and happening upon a scary Native American myth that has apparently come to life. Little seen, but I like it loads.
*The Entity (1983) - While parts of this one don't hold up well nearly 30 years later, Barbara Hershey's performance is undeniably fantastic.
*Eden Lake - Because I love Michael Fassbender. Period.
*Jaws (1975) - Um, yes I have several editions of this, my favorite film, on both VHS and DVD, but hey - this is the just released Blu-Ray.  Never mind that I don't even own a Blu-Ray player yet...
*Prometheus - A Christmas gift from my astute hubby.  (Of course I did give him a list, but still....)
*Vertigo - Because my love for this film knows no bounds...

Seven favorite Netflix rentals this year:
*Excision - AnnaLynn McCord totally embodies the role of a misfit with a penchant for blood and sex fetishes.
*Grave Encounters - Generally I detest the found footage sub-genre, but this one really did light my fire and caused some actual chills.
*Trollhunter - Another film that used the shaky-cam to induce fear, I happened to enjoy this romp in the Norwegian woods. It never gets too serious, which is part of its charm.
*Martha Marcy May Marlene - Elizabeth Olsen is very good in this film that just goes to show cults are still alive and well and taking control.
*Rabies - Those Israeli's know how to make a horror film!  Who'd have thought???
*Dream Home - As opposed to Dream House, this one just rocked. Josie Ho was unreal. Watch this film!
*The Loved Ones - Just a seriously fun horror film that proves if someone asks you to the prom, just go. Take my word for it.

Dream House
Six "why the hell did I rent this?" rentals from Netflix -
*Beneath the Darkness - Just a god-awful piece of crap starring Dennis Quaid. Guess I should have known.
*The Woman - Everyone loved this. I did not. Matter of fact, I DISliked it, a lot. Just redundant and lame.
*Don't be Afraid of the Dark - Just not scary at all. Completely pointless remake. I cannot believe Guillermo del Toro wrote this screenplay and produced this lemon. Ugh.
*Dream House - Oh Daniel.  Really? All I can say is thank heavens you found your future wife while making this film or it would all be for naught.  Really, REALLY bad.
*Wrecked - I wish I could say I could give a valid opinion on this film, or understand just wtf was going on.  But I think I may have fallen asleep from boredom.

The Tall Man
Three "I wish I'd have rented this first so I'd have known not to buy it" purchases:
*The Tall Man - The new Mrs. Justin Timberlake in a massive fail with a great premise. I mean, who hasn't heard stories about "The Tall Man"?  See:  Slender Man. See: Marble Hornets. Please.
*The Cabin in the Woods - While I didn't dislike this one, I didn't love it like everyone else seemed to.  I feel like I could have just rented this and not bought it outright. Not sure when I'll really want to watch it again.
*Outcast - Though the atmosphere was really spooky, with celtic legends and witch-hunting and all, but parts of it were too damn slow. Could have rented and would have been happy.

Chernobyl Diaries
Eight films I'm pretty glad I DID miss and have no real intention of seeing in the future:
*Chernobyl Diaries
*House at the End of the Street
*Paranormal Activity 4
*Piranha 3DD
*Snow White & The Huntsman
*The Devil Inside
*The Collection

*Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

My thoughts on films I was looking forward to in 2012:
*The Woman in Black -  Many people didn't like this one, but I enjoyed it a lot.  I love the original story and certainly have been an advocate of the story as well as the 1989 version (still vastly superior), but I thought this one held its own, and showed that Harry Potter can move on to adult films. And I don't mean that in the porno sense. (Though there was that play with naked Daniel and the horse, right??)
*The Yellow Wallpaper -Not quite as creepy as the short story, but it has its moments.

The Awakening
*The Awakening - Very effective ghost story that I am still waiting on a DVD release
*Dunderland - Still unable to find this film anywhere
*The Raven - John Cusack is a funny guy. It shows here, with him playing Poe and lightening up the mood with witty banter amongst the dead corpses.  Interesting.
*The Silent House -  Yeah. Um. Pretty much the same as its Uruguayan counterpart, so I didn't see much reason to have re-done it.  But then again, I feel that way about most films.
*The Grey - It's Liam Neeson, folks. A very good man vs. nature adventure film. Wolves can be downright scary. But I think we already were aware of that after Frozen.
*Prometheus - Even if I hated this film to its core (which I didn't), I could not put down a film that I get to see Michael Fassbender act in.  I think you all know how I feel about him.

*Rabies - Lived up to my expectations and more, really.  Israel can do horror. Nothing wildly original, but I really did enjoy this one.
*The Dark Knight Rises - Holy crap! This was made in my backyard of Pittsburgh and I haven't even seen it yet.  I haven't rented or bought it I reserve judgement until 2013. But I have heard it rocks.
*Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - Yet to see, not sure I'm going to anytime soon.  The book was fun but the film just looked flat to me. Hard to adapt that kind of silliness.
*Dark Shadows - Um. Okay, not my favorite Johnny Depp film. Was expecting (hoping) for a true gothic film,  at least more along the lines of Sleepy Hollow than what we were given.  I did like the use of Nights in White Satin over the opening credits. That's something, right?
*World War Z - Still not released yet, but I honestly haven't heard very good things about it, so I'll obviously be waiting for DVD in this one.
*The Expendables 2 - I love me some Jason Statham. The film was nothing but shooting guns and testosterone, but hey - I'll take it.  Again, I can't hate a Statham film. Bring on Expendables 3.

Fifteen upcoming 2013 films that have peaked my curiosity -
*Mama - This will certainly be my first horror experience in the theater in 2013, as it opens in January. I am loving the trailer and the television spots, so we shall see! Looks awesome!
*Pacific Rim - del Toro brings monsters from the sea back into the limelight?  Count me in. I hope the monsters kick the robots asses. Call me a sadist if you will. The added bonus of SOA's Charlie Hunnam makes it even more worthwhile.
*Stoker - Hey! The dude from Prison Break (Wentworth Miller) wrote a screenplay! And this is it. Oh, and apparently it is not a vampire film.
*Warm Bodies - A zombie rom-com based on a book and poised to be the next Twilight. Wait a I really want to see this?
*Horns - Based on the book by Joe Hill, it stars Daniel Radcliffe as a man who grows horns out of his head. Yep, it sounds weird. So it should be fab.

The Evil Dead (2013)
*Paranoia - A thriller with Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford.  How can we go wrong?  (Oh yeah, Amber Heard is in it.............crickets.........)
*I, Frankenstein - Not exactly sure what is going on with this one....but Bill Nighy is in it, so I'm on board.
*Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters - This could be fun, right?  I'm not much for horror comedy, so I'll have to wait and see how this one goes...
*Oz: The Great & Powerful - Sam Raimi makes an adventure film that's a prequel to the age-old favorite about the Wizard.  I'm just not sure how I feel about this one....
*Jurassic Park 3D - Normally, I don't go in for the 3D phenomenon. In fact, I hate it. But goddammit, it's dinosaurs!  I'll put on those annoying glasses one more time!
*The Conjuring - Dude from Saw and Insidious decides to make a film with two words in the title.  He's really changing things up, folks! Look out!
*The ABC's of Death - Sounds like a pretty big project: 26 horror shorts packaged in one film. Um...?
*Carrie - WHY this needed remade is beyond me, but I do like Chloë Grace Moretz a lot, so I'll give it a chance.
*The Evil Dead - Another remake. Sigh. But I think this one might be worthwhile. And I feel sure it will kick some ass at the box-office.
*The Lords of Salem - Satanic witches and Rob Zombie. Yes, I am interested.

Favorite Book I read in 2012 - The Seance (by John Harwood) - Though written in 2009, I just got my paws on it this year and I have to say it's one of the best gothic/victorian ghost stories I've ever read.  I loved it.

Non-Fiction: Reel Terror - A great book on the history of horror. I couldn't put it down.

Runner up The Wicked (by James Newman) - Originally published in 2007 but re-released in 2012, you can read how much I loved this book right here.

Book I'm most looking forward to in 2013 - Doctor Sleep by none other than Stephen King.  It's been a long time since I've been truly excited about a King release, but seeing as how this is the sequel to The Shining (my fave King title), I'm over the moon and anxiously awaiting.... (projected arrival 9/2013)

Favorite Movie Score: The Woman in Black by Marco Beltrami.  Moody enough to evoke chills and dark enough to make me happy.

Favorite Movie of 2012Skyfall. Yes, it's a non-horror entry but hot DAMN was it a fine film! I really can't say enough about the latest 007 installment, and it is actually speaking for itself by hitting the BILLION dollar mark this weekend.  I love Daniel Craig. Apparently everyone else in the world does as well...

Random Year-End Awards:

*The "I can't believe I sat through the whole movie" award:  Wrecked. I'm sorry Adrien Brody, this was all over the place.  I may have even snored.

*The "Surprise! This remake was actually good" award: The Woman In Black. While not crazy-fantastic, I still loved it.

*The "When the hell is this title going to get a domestic release" award: The Awakening....though last year's winner of this award (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane) STILL isn't available.  Ditto that to Cold Prey 2. You cut me deep, Norway. You cut me deep.

*The "What the hell is this movie about, anyway" award: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Oh heavens. I was waaay too tired when I put in this DVD. I know it's a good, critically acclaimed film, and maybe someday when I'm loaded up on caffeine and have a couple hours to kill, I will check it out again.

*Bloodiest movie I saw in 2012:  I watched Martyrs again, so...

Cabin in the Woods
*The "It better be as good as everyone says because I'm damn sick of hearing about it" award: Cabin in the Woods.  And while I liked it well enough, I have to say I didn't think it was the next coming of Christ or anything.

*Most curious title of an upcoming film
John Dies At The End.  I guess it begs the question of how he arrives at that point.

*The "SO didn't live up to the hype" award:  Dark Shadows. Oh Johnny, it was only mediocre, hun.

*The "I really don't give a shit whether I ever see this" award: Piranha 3DD. Ugh. Spare me, please. I've seen enough titties and blood for a lifetime, I don't need them all condensed into one movie.

A Christmas Carol
*The "I can't wait for a sequel" award:  Prometheus. As long as Fassbender shows up, I'm in.

*Movie I'm most looking forward to in 2013:  Mama.  And I don't have long to wait. (Jan 18, 2013)

*The "This is what I'm watching tonight so I have to get off the laptop" award:  A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version, natch) - because the hubby and I were too damn tired on Christmas night to watch it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is A Good Ghost Story: Part 1

~ by Marie Robinson

Happy Holidays, everyone! Christmas is drawing ever near… There are some people who just love Christmas. Perhaps the most famous literary Christmas-lover was the great Charles Dickens.

Not only did he adore the holiday, he was a huge influence on it. I’m not kidding, this guy shaped Victorian Christmas. Tell me of a person who has never seen, read, or heard of A Christmas Carol and I will personally slap them. It was first published on December 17th, 1843 and sold over 5,000 copies by Christmas Eve. Over fifty film, theatre and television adaptations have been made. It is no wonder that Dickens considered A Christmas Carol to be his greatest achievement.

Before A Christmas Carol, Christmas in the mid-Victorian era was all about the Christ. And the mass. Come on, let’s be honest, no one wants to sit in church all fucking day. Of course, people were thrilled when Dickens came along and brought some secular fun to the season. He believed Christmas was all about being with family, dancing, laughing, giving to charity, and of course, telling stories.

If you don’t believe me that Dickens influenced Christmas, listen to Professor Hubert Lamb’s argument on the matter. He says that Dickens birthed the popular notion of a “white Christmas”. He went so far to prove his point and documented that a white Christmas occurred for the first eight straight years of Dickens’ life. Our bibliophile climatic researcher says that white Christmases are actually uncommon, but we have come to cherish them because of Dickens’ classic.

After the release of A Christmas Carol, the quintessential Christmas ghost story, Dickens decided to write a handful of others. He penned what were titled, “The Christmas Books” which included the short stories The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848). Some are these are more supernatural than others, and most are hardly terrifying but he was determined and inspired to keep up the tradition. A few other Christmas ghost stories Dickens wrote are The Haunted House, Christmas Ghosts, The Trail for Murder and The Signal-Man which was adapted for the 1970 BBC mini-series A Ghost Story for Christmas. In reference to these tales author Peter Straub calls them, “A lively mixture of comedy, pathos, and the supernatural.”

A prototype of sorts to A Christmas Carol is The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton. Released in December of 1836 it tells of a man named Grub, who is near identical to Scrooge, and chooses to go mope around in the graveyard on Christmas Eve. There he meets a ghostly figure who tells him how much his life is gonna suck if he doesn’t cheer up. If you wanted to take a simple moral from these stories it would be “Christmas is awesome!” But we know that Dickens was trying to say a little more than that. We get the Scrooge archetype yet again in A Haunted Man, where a grouchy old man is forced by a frightful apparition to reexamine his life. Dickens used this plot device to encourage a reassessment by his characters and his audience. He believes that the Christmas season is not only for nostalgia but also for change.

“…for we are telling Winter Stories—Ghost Stories, or more shame for us—round the Christmas fire; and we have never stirred, except to draw a little nearer to it.” –Charles Dickens, Christmas Ghosts

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Croning Review ~ Part Deux‏

~ by Marie Robinson

So last week I wrote up a review on Laird Barron's new novel, The Croning.  In relation to that review (which I seemed to have posted a bit prematurely), Mr. Barron, himself, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me!!

FWF:  What research did you do for this book?

LB:  I researched the history of the Olympia, WA region, and the Pacific NW in general; something I do for most of my stories that are set in those areas. I also looked into several international intelligence agencies--chiefly the CIA and Nation Security Agency.

FWF:  What is your favorite occult film?

LB:  The Exorcist and Session 9.

FWF:  What sparked your fascination with fear?

LB:  I’m not certain what the root cause might be, I only know that the attraction began in early childhood. My family read voraciously. We also entertained ourselves by telling stories--I discovered I had a talent for spooking my brothers with tales of the macabre and the uncanny. Perhaps I took a bit too much encouragement from their fright.

FWF:  A few of your stories feature a strong bond between protagonist and canine companion. We here at FWF are certainly huge animal lovers, would you say the same for yourself?

LB:  I love animals and have a soft spot for dogs in particular. My loyal companion Athena is a ten year old pit bull mix I rescued as a puppy. She’s been with me through thick and thin this past decade.

*Again, check out his new novel, The Croning, or any work of his if you haven't yet!! In my review I attached a link where you can read his story featured in Nightmare Magazine for FREE!!!

I would like to thank Mr. Barron for doing this for our humble little blog. Stay scary, dude!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Excision (2012): AnnaLynne McCord Deserves An Oscar.

It's not that Excision is an Academy Award-caliber film. It's really not. But AnnaLynne McCord (of Nip/Tuck and 90210 fame) puts forth one of the bravest and disturbing performances I've seen in quite some time.

Pauline (McCord) is a socially awkward eighteen year old with some pretty strange fetishes, and not just for someone her age.  She is obsessed with blood and has wild, unrestrained dreams at night about dissecting people, sex with naked corpses, bathing in blood - well, you get the picture.

By day she is a caustic teen with a terrible grudge against her dad (because he gave her herpes by giving her mouth to mouth while saving her as a drowning child - gee, what WILL they think of next?) and an even worse attitude with her mother (played to acerbic perfection by genre fave, Traci Lords).

It must be said, it's really hard to believe that McCord could actually be uglied up so much. I mean, she played a cold-hearted vixen on Nip/Tuck, and it's my understanding she played the same on the new version of 90210. It's almost hard to recognize her here and to be honest, her transformation is just about as impressive as Charlize Theron in Monster. To prove my point, I give you a pic from Excision and a pic of McCord all dolled-up, side by side >>

So anyway, Pauline goes about her daily life, which consists of attempting to find someone to take her virginity while she's having her period, trying to gain her controlling mother's love while at the same time pummeling her with vicious commentary, and dreaming of sexual gratification through the mutilating of human flesh.  This is a girl who pulls out a tampon and studies it fervently, while we watch.  I'm serious.
Yeah, nice girl.  And you thought May had problems...

The one thing Pauline does love is her younger sister Grace, who has cystic fibrosis and is in need of a lung transplant sooner rather than later. This piques Pauline's interest and her desire to become a surgeon no doubt stems from the need to help her sister. However, Pauline doesn't pay attention in class, and becomes violent enough on one occasion that she gets expelled from school - hence ending her surgical aspirations.

Traci Lords is very good as Phyllis, the struggling mother who finally admits that she can't love Pauline.  Try as she might, she just cannot accept her for anything other than the disturbed and potentially sociopathic head-case that she most certainly is.  She doesn't want to give up on her daughter, and attempts to normalize her by having her go to a cotillion (you mean they still have those?) and sending her to counseling with the local minister (a delicious cameo by John Waters!).  But Pauline always finds a way to ruin her mother's bid for structure and balance.
Roger Bart (Hostel 2, The Midnight Meat Train) is equally as commendable as Pauline's herpes-laden pops, Bob. You can tell he wants to help his older daughter but wrestles with conflicting emotions regarding her mental health and ability to actually love.

On the outside, Pauline doesn't even seem to want to fit in, as she behaves unspeakably in nearly every situation. She asks bizarre sexual questions in class, vomits on one of the "popular" girls and shoves another's head into the lockers. She talks to God on a regular basis, but not to pray - instead she tries to justify her wrong-doings and asks for forgiveness in advance of her bad deeds.  At first she seems to not even believe in a higher power, but as time goes by it really seems like deep down she is just trying to get his "okay".
She constantly schemes new ways to be unstable - and this becomes abundantly clear when we see her find a dead bird on the sidewalk, take it home, and proceed to dichotomize it and take out its organs.  You know something bad is imminent at this point.
But as much as Pauline seems like a hard-ass on the surface, deep down I think she just wants to be loved. She unfortunately hears her mother's breakdown and verbal admission that she is unable to love Pauline, and we see that this realization affects her fiercely, perhaps sending her even further down into the rabbit hole.

I'm not sure how much more I can say without spoiling the ending, so I'll just stop the synopsis there. To say this is a strange film would be an understatement. At times a very black comedy, Excision at its core is a story of a very disturbed girl with underlying mental issues brought to the surface by the stressors in her life and the realization that she will never fit in due to her weird fetishes and crazed obsessions.

And when I say AnnaLynne McCord deserves an Oscar, I mean it.  Of course the fact that this film is horror completely omits it from any end-of-year honors - but we don't need high-end prizes in horror - we know what's good when we see it.  And though Excision isn't a thoroughly amazing film - and in fact drags at times...sometimes a film is as good as its talent.  And the talent here shines.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: The Croning

Review by Marie Robinson

Don’t bothering looking up the definition for “croning” in the dictionary, it doesn’t exist. This is a word, or a concept, whatever, made up by horror author Laird Barron. I got turned on to Barron earlier this year after seeing his name continue to pop up in anthologies. I could not forget his works and I definitely could not forget a cool ass name like Laird. I may have seen him featured in a magazine or it may have been I first read him in an anthology I reviewed called Haunted Legends, regardless, I have been seeking him out since then.

His book, The Croning, is brand-spankin’ new and let me tell you I could not wait for it to hit the library self, I bought it on the spot. He has one previously published novel and two short story anthologies, one of which I have read, called Occultation. Honestly, stories from that collection come back into my memory time and time again. His style is that of the weird, the mythological, and often, the ancient.

Fuck, I’m rambling. Let me tell you about this book. To be honest, it starts off with a tale we all know, a certain Grimm tale about a tricky little dwarf with a tongue twister of a name. But we don’t dwell there; we are introduced to Don Miller, a geologist and an all around nice guy. Pretty easy-going, unless you talk shit on his wife, Michelle. The cunning and mysterious half of the marriage. Sure, Don knows he got lucky by scoring her as a wife, but he really starts to doubt the marriage when strangers start making Michelle out to be something strange, dark, powerful, and dangerous. How much does Don really know, and how much does he want to know?

Barron’s book is cosmic horror, but let’s not go comparing him to H.P. Lovecraft right off the bat. Okay, that’s not really what I meant, what I mean is that when I heard the words ‘cthulu’, and ‘mythos’, I kind of cringe. Harsh, I know, but I feel like that shit is so overdone! But what do I know? Either way, I think Barron makes cosmic horror cool again.

His voice is easy-going and casual, as if the narrator is a dear, foul-mouthed friend. But this, according to supernatural horror master M.R. James, is the only way to write a good horror story. If the dialogue isn’t natural, you won’t fall into comfort with the story and in the end you just won’t get scared. But believe me, Laird will getcha scared!
If you haven’t read any Laird Barron, here’s a story to start with. It is also available in audio, which is the way I enjoyed it, and it was awesome.