Saturday, December 28, 2013

Keep Calm And Say Goodbye To 2013: A Random Recap

Another year has come and gone, and though 2013 was a really rough year for me outside of horror, I made it through and am looking forward to 2014!

The horror genre saw some really good strides, with tons of horror on the small screen (more on that in a bit) and some decent films as well.  I'll be the first to admit I didn't see as many as I'd like, but for the most part what I did see I generally did enjoy.

This is by no means your normal countdown of the yearly best.  Some of these films are not even from this calendar year, that just happened to be when I saw them. (So no nasty comments, please.) I just wanted to say goodbye to 2013 by giving my thoughts of what I saw, enjoyed, and could have lived without!

So here's my random rundown of what impressed me the most (and what made me throw up in my mouth a little bit, too!)

BEST HORROR EXPERIENCE OF 2013:   Seeing The Shining on the big screen.  I was just a little too young to see it in theaters when it came out in 1980, so the opportunity to see it this year (on the day before Halloween, no less) was one I couldn't pass up.  To see Jack's face that close when he exclaims, Heeeeere's Johnny! probably made my whole year.

In second place would really have to be The Walking Dead.  I have never looked forward to Sunday nights (because of their place in the week that is eversoclose to Monday morning and the ugly thought of going back to work). But at least I have TWD to make me forget about it for an hour or so.  This season, though great, had me in tears more than once when we lost several main characters.  Can't wait for February when we see where the story goes then! Onward!

The Conjuring
FAVORITE THEATER EXPERIENCE (BESIDES 'THE SHINING', OBVIOUSLY)The Conjuring.  I saw this one a few weeks after it came out and was lucky enough to be the lone person in the darkened theater.  Love that feeling! And I was rewarded with a pretty solid spooky flick.  More, please.

1) Carnival of Souls: One of my all-time faves, I got the Criterion edition this Halloween. It never fails to creep me the hell out. One of the best ghouls ever.
2) Eyes without a Face: Another Criterion edition I picked up this year. With a ghastly plot like this one, you've got to have it on your horror life-list.
3) Sleep Tight: One of the more disturbing films I've seen in a while.  A quiet creep fest that will have you looking under your bed for sure.
4) Evil Dead (2013) : While not the best film of the year by far, I still think they did a decent job with the content. However, it doesn't hold a candle to the original. 
5) The Awakening: Old fashioned ghost story that has good atmosphere and a great score.
6) Byzantium: And it's back to real vampires, finally! Great relationship-vampire film, if that makes sense.
7) Maniac: This was the best remake I've seen in years, hands down. Gritty, grimy, and great.
8) The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh: From the founder of Rue Morgue magazine comes one of my favorite films of the year.  Just an ever-so-quiet movie with loads of atmosphere and an affecting story.
9) Oldboy: The original. Because I never owned it until now. Woot!
10) The Uninvited: The 1944 classic ghost story, Criterion edition of course! Waited for this release forever!
11) The Rocking Horse Winner: A pal from the UK turned me on to this oldie but goodie.  And when a film involves horror AND horse racing, it's a surefire winner (no pun intended) for me! (Thanks Pauline, btw!)
12) Cold Prey II: Because I'd been waiting FOREVER for this one!

1) Jug Face: From writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle comes a backwoods tale of a community that worships a pit.  No, seriously.  And you have no idea what you're missing if you write this one off.
2) Dark Skies: Wasn't really expecting much from this one, but was surprisingly entertained and thoroughly spooked out. Finding a good movie about aliens or alien invasions is rather difficult to do.  This film will do quite nicely.
3) Kill List: From 2011, this British film seems a little all over the page, and has a rather surprising ending. But the violence is good, the story is wild, and the acting is very credible. Oh, and did I mention the ending??
4) Julia's Eyes:  A Spanish thriller from 2010, this one was recommended to me by The Mike of From Midnight with Love.  It's a bit of a slow burn, but it gets under your skin and is really a solid film.
5) The Bay:  Holy shit was this film disturbing.  I have this thing...this innate FEAR of creepy crawly things inside your body, and this movie almost did me in.  Everyone should see it - it makes a political statement while telling a ghastly story of a small town that has a growing problem...
6) Citadel:  I loved this movie. While I don't think it's for everyone, this little Irish film packed a punch and Aneurin Barnard's turn as main character Tommy may be one of my favorite performances in horror. A feeling of quiet, impending doom surrounds the entire film, an atmosphere which I can't get enough of.
7) The Call: Maybe I'll get some smack talk for putting this movie on this list, but I think it was a tight, exciting thriller with the added benefit of getting to look at Halle Berry (ever-important when trying to keep a husband awake through an entire film).
8) Stoker: This film really snuck up on me, and I think it was one of the best releases this year.  I certainly think it would have benefited from a different title, for I - like many I'm sure - originally thought it was a film about the author of Dracula. Just a beautiful piece of film making from Park Chan-wook.
9) World War Z:  Pretty shocked that I actually liked this one, considering I heard it was so different than the book, and the fact that I blatantly detest almost everything Brad Pitt has done.  But this one was fun!
10) All the Boys Love Mandy Lane: While I don't think I was as enamored with this 2006 release that finally made it to our screens in 2013 as many others were, I did appreciate the ending, as well as the music. It wasn't really all that unique in horror, truth be told.  But yeah, Amber Heard is all kinds of hot.

The Black Waters of Echo's Pond
1) The Black Waters of Echo's Pond:  Lotta pond scum here, folks.  Sorry Danielle Harris but this one reeks of stinky excrement.
2) Evidence: Though I hear it was a decent film, I almost immediately got sick from the found footage-type effects.  I just cannot watch those films anymore.
3) The Purge: I wanted this to be decent.  Ethan Hawke's Sinister topped my list last year. But this film was an uninspired, prosaic addition to the home invasion sub-genre. I could see the ending coming a mile away. Very dull.
4) My Amityville Horror:  While I can't say I wasn't semi-entertained with this semi-autobiographical mess, watching Daniel Lutz make a case for himself for an intense need of counseling made for some pretty insipid viewing.
5) The Tortured: We just didn't need another movie that combines revenge horror with intense Saw-esque elements. Stop. Now.
6) The Possession: I was a little late to this party, and I should've skipped it altogether.  If you want a movie about a box, watch Hellraiser, not this ridiculous waste. Sorry Jeffrey Dean Morgan (you beautiful man!). Sorry producer Sam Raimi (I still love you) but.....UGH.
7) The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Which took place in.....Georgia?  Why in the name of all things good and sacred would someone use an awful sub-title like Ghosts of Georgia? In fact, why would they even use any of that title? I'm still trying to figure it out.

Mama: While it did have some creepy moments, I would have been satisfied renting from Netflix or watching it one of the three hundred times they have played it on HBO.

1) Carrie: Heard nothing good about this remake, sorry.
2) I Spit on Your Grave 2: Capitalizing on a film title assures us this will be crap.
3) Hatchet III: While I didn't hate the first one, I didn't lose my mind over it.  Never saw the second one, so there you go.
4) Bad Milo: I have enough stomach problems that I really don't need to see a flick about an intestinal demon that kills its host's enemies. Say what?
5) The Last Exorcism Part 2: Why was this necessary in life?
6) Pacific Rim: Heard nothing good, but how can they say that when Charlie Hunnam is the star? I'll just stick to Sons of Anarchy I guess.

Curse of Chucky
1) American Mary
2) The Complex
3) Insidious Chapter 2 (just bought it so we'll soon see!!)
4) Warm Bodies
5) Curse of Chucky (want to buy it since most people loved it)
6) We are what we are (remake, and I hear it's really good)
7) The Battery (another I can't wait to see!)
8) Antiviral
9) Oldboy (2013)
10) Berberian Sound Studio
11) Sightseers

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh
1) The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh - As stated above, I really loved this movie. Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere!
2) Byzantium - Vampires have returned. With teeth and without conscience.
3) The Conjuring - The clap game? No thanks!
4) You're Next - Compared to The Purge, this home invasion film is the I-Ching.
5) Stoker - What a stunning piece of film-making, profoundly affecting.
6) Maniac - Hands down the best remake in nearly ten years.
7) The Lords of Salem - Stop hating Rob Zombie and just watch this damn movie!
8) The Invoking (aka Sader Ridge) - Independent horror at its best. Just a creepy, persistent film.
9) Jug Face - Another indie winner that will keep people out of the backwoods...again.
10) Dark Skies - I really liked this X-Files-ish aliens-among-us movie. Give it a chance!
11) Resolution - One man tries to save his drug-addled best friend in a run-down crack house in the woods. With unusual results.
12) Evil Dead - Admittedly, it's nothing close to the original and yet it still managed to entertain. Gotta give it props for that.
13) World War Z - Brad Pitt saves the world. Or at least tries to. Great popcorn horror. 


1) Godzilla
2) 7500
3) The Green Inferno
4) Horns
5) Devil's Due
6) Oculus
7) The Quiet Ones
8) I, Frankenstein

Bates Motel
Even though it has been an absolutely banner year for horror on television, as mentioned previously I don't think anything could top my enjoyment of The Walking Dead this year, but two series came DAMN close.  American Horror Story and Bates Motel.
Finishing up in early 2013, AHS: Asylum was a rollicking good time thanks mostly to Jessica Lange's turn as Sister Jude.  She amped it up a little more in the fall as witch supreme Fiona when AHS: Coven came to the small screen to bring witches back to the forefront where they belong.  Throw in some voodoo tricks by Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau and Kathy Bates as the torturous, racist Delphine LaLaurie and it's a fine recipe of devilishness.
Bates Motel is the critically acclaimed series developed as a prequel to the 1960 film and stars Freddie Highmore as Norman and an excellent Vera Farmiga as his nurturing smothering mama. It's obviously a character-driven show, with enough frights to keep the viewer panting for more.  I love this show!

MY FAVORITE BOOK I READ IN 2013:  Joyland by Stephen King. 
King is my favorite author, so it was great to have him back at his best with this release in the summer of 2013. I still have Doctor Sleep on my nightstand to read and when all the hubaloo of the holidays is over I will get serious about this sequel to The Shining.  But Joyland was wonderful.  My review is HERE.

Horror Films FAQ: All that's left to know about Slashers, Vampires, Zombies, Aliens and More by John Kenneth Muir.
Muir is one of my favorite genre critics. He's a great writer/blogger and a helluva nice guy. And this is an awesome book with loads of info and even a few tidbits that seasoned fans may not know. Makes a great gift, too!

Gorezone! Back from the dead, this red-headed stepchild of Fangoria serves up a heaping helping of gore, violence, sex, and shock in every blood-soaked issue.  Available only by subscription, it is two tons of fun.

Byzantium by Javier Navarrete.  Sometimes chilling, sometimes just plain beautiful. A perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of writing....or whatever you may be doing!  The version of The Coventry Carol and the pieces that sample it and weave around it are just haunting. 

Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom.
I didn't get to see this one until January 2013, and watched it countless times this year.  It is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

Random Year-End Awards:

The Black Waters of Echo's Pond.  Gah! Nothing more I can really say about this bomb.

Maniac. An excellent, excellent redo of the 80's classic. Good job Elijah Wood! You made me forget Frodo for 90 whole minutes!

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane - A movie made in 2006 FINALLY makes it to American shelves.  Was it the almighty second coming of Christ? Nah. But it was a solid flick.

Evidence. As I mentioned before, too much found footage. I couldn't sit through it and never really figured out what was going on.

Evil Dead
Evil Dead (2013).  There was so much bodily fluid and blood in this one I doubt anything could compare.

The Conjuring.  For weeks, no - months, I'd heard about this movie. Over and over. It was going to be so scary! Have you seen the trailer? Oooh, James Wan has done it again!  Well folks, it was pretty much all true.

Oculus.  I really have no idea what it's about but if it is the same Mike Flanagan that brought us Absentia, I'm there.

The Purge
The Purge. They advertised this film like a raped ape but it fell totally flat for me and countless others.  On the opposite side of the coin: The Conjuring, which did indeed, live up to the hype.

*THE "I REALLY DON'T GIVE A SHIT WHETHER I EVER SEE THIS" AWARD:  Again I say: Bad Milo. I know a lot of people have it on their year-end lists in the "like" column, but you'll have to forgive me this one.

Honestly I can't think of a single film I would want a sequel for. But I'm sure there are several already in the works.... I know The Purge has one coming, among others. And that film was mediocre at best. Ugh...

*MOVIE I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2014:  Godzilla. Premieres May 16, 2014. Bring it!

*MOST EXCITING NEWS OF 2013: Both Marie and I were asked to join the writing crew at Eli Roth's new horror app, which is bound to change the way we experience horror forever! So, go to the App store and download the new (FREE) app for iPhone (Android access is right around the corner!) and keep an eye out for our contributions amongst some of the best writers in horror! It's interactive, too - so anyone can post on the community boards and get involved!  Do it now!

*THE "THIS IS WHAT I'M WATCHING TONIGHT SO I HAVE TO GET OFF THE LAPTOP" AWARD:  Insidious: Chapter 2.  Time for a trip further into the further. /ch

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Invoking (a.k.a. Sader Ridge) ~ Indie Horror Done Right

In horror, there must be a gazillion movies about a group of people heading to a cabin in the woods only to find themselves hunted down by a mass murderer/supernatural being/evil presence.  So what makes a film different enough to make an impression on a seasoned horror fan?

One word: Atmosphere.

For whatever reason,  a film that started out as Sader Ridge ended up with the much more horror-centric, cinema-friendly "The Invoking".  I for one, prefer a title that isn't so obvious, and therefore found the Sader Ridge title more to my liking.  That said, whatever the title may be, it is a film that should be sought out and watched - and one that I was pleased to have the opportunity to see while it is still on the festival circuit.

Written and produced by John Portanova and directed by Jeremy Berg, The Invoking  is an independent film that was made for peanuts but certainly doesn't appear any less impressive. Shot in a matter of days, it is the tale of Sam (Trin Miller), who has inherited a house in the country from an aunt she knows nothing about. She's brought along three friends, Caitlin (Andi Norris), Roman (Josh Truax), and Mark (Brandon Anthony), to explore the property and have a little vacay.  The trio is a relatively typical (or should I say typecast?) group, with Caitlin being the eccentric, fun friend, Roman reeking of jealousy because Caitlin is flirting like crazy with Sam's ex, Mark - who by all accounts is pretty much the asshole of the gang.  Sam herself is quickly established as your average, pretty girl-next-door type who is by far the most down to earth of her friends.

Adopted at age five, Sam has no recollection of her heritage, so when they roll up to the gate to the property nothing seems familiar. Even after meeting the caretaker to the property, Eric (D'Angelo Midili), who claims to have been a playmate of hers when they were little, Sam still can't recall anything.

A few words about Eric. At once peculiar, his quiet demeanor and reclusive nature is unnerving, only adding to the dread that seems to creep up on you throughout this quiet film. He seems to know more than he is telling, and even with prodding by Sam, he is still reluctant to say much.  He makes himself available to the group even when it's more than clear that the two other men aren't too thrilled with him being around.

Almost immediately after arriving, Sam begins to have some distracting and downright disturbing feelings being in the house.  She hears Caitlin saying prayers out loud at night, and witnesses on several occasions arguments and interactions between her friends that don't actually happen. Is she realizing repressed memories? Or is something in the house trying to tell her something?

While checking out the grounds, the four visitors run into the property line adjacent to what is called Sader Ridge and though Mark and Sam aren't too enthused, Caitlin and Roman talk them into crawling over the barb wire fence and checking things out.  As darkness falls, the group somehow gets separated and Mark ends up lost in the woods and Sam's visions take on a life of their own.

With a bare-bones film like this, the less said the better.  What makes The Invoking uniquely different from all the other "cabin in the woods" movies is the fact that we are only given tiny tidbits of information at a time to try to piece together the story.  We want so badly (perhaps because we are so used to this gimmick in most horror films) to have things explained to us that we almost feel frustrated when nothing here is black and white. There is no demon to contend with, no menacing killer outside the door- just a woman struggling to put together the story of her youth and find out what happened to her biological parents, as well as the reason she was given up for adoption at age five.  What she discovers is handed to us soooo slowly that fans of action-horror and gore will likely be disappointed here.  But for those of us who enjoy a slow burn, this is just the type of film that will get inside your head and plant itself there with no intention of leaving.

The cast, in particular Midili, is really effective here. They bicker amongst themselves and appear, for all intents and purposes, like a bunch of old friends who are so close they have basically all slept with each other and formed lasting friendships that are certainly peppered with relationship issues and raw feelings. Midili's Eric is downright creepy at times, but we're never really sure of his intentions until the climax sneaks up on us.

There are eventually some moments of sheer terror that are shocking and unexpected yet deserved. In a film like this there feels like there has to be a reward for waiting for something to happen, and we are compensated nicely here. When a plot isn't completely obvious and holds back on gruesome effects (there is very little gore), it really is so much more focused and effective.

But although the ending doesn't completely tie things up in a nice neat bow, it feels right.  A short running length helps things move along, but again I have to mention we are trucking along at a turtle's pace.
But the ominous sense of dread that wraps itself around the entire film more than makes up for any lack of action and gore.  In my book, atmosphere far outweighs blood and guts, and we've got the former in droves.

Keep your eye on this production company, The October People. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more quality work from them in the future. At least I certainly hope so!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mindless Movie Monday: Nothing Left To Fear (except mediocrity)


Ever heard of Stull, Kansas? Probably not, but this small town just a stone’s throw from Topeka was the inspiration for the 2013 film Nothing Left to Fear, produced by Guns N’ Roses guitarist, Slash; although you’d probably never guess that after watching it.

Nothing Left to Fear follows a picture perfect family of two daughters, Rebecca (Rebekah Brandes) and Mary (Jennifer Stone), a young son (Carter Cabassa), and sunny mother Wendy (Anne Heche) and her husband Dan (James Tupper, Heche's real-life partner as well) who has been chosen as the town’s new pastor. The family is instantly welcomed into the tight-knit community, receiving almost a little too much hospitality.

Dan is replacing the revered Pastor Kingsman, played by one of my favorite genre actors, Clancy Brown (Pet Sematary 2, Hellbenders, TV's Sleepy Hollow). While Kingsman takes Dan under his wing as he predecessor, Rebecca is getting to know the town hottie, Noah (Ethan Peck). Behind closed doors we are able to see that things are not as pleasant and peaceful as they seem, and Kingsman is encouraging some dark task upon Noah, who, naturally, plays it cool around his sweetheart.

At the same time, sister Mary has become the target of some strange events, and is being plagued by nightmares of the neighbors crowding silently outside her windows, and slack-jawed, hollow-eyed demons. It isn’t until she is kidnapped from the local carnival and subjected to a mysterious occult ritual that she becomes one of these hellions, and the sinister nature of the town is revealed.

The “real” legend of Stull condemns it as one of the seven gates to hell. The diabolical portal resides in the cemetery, founded in the late 1800’s. In Stull Cemetery there’s an old stone church (well, was, it was torn down in 2002) that is the rumored location of occult gatherings, rituals, and a hidden staircase that leads straight down to Hell, itself.

That is pretty much the extent of the legend, other than a few additional creepy little tidbits that will vary from whom you hear the story. The Hellmouth of Stull has also inspired the 2001 film Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal and an episode of Supernatural.

Upon hearing of this legend I was instantly drawn to Nothing Left to Fear because of my love of urban legends and modern folklore. However, the film turned out to be quite a disappointment, and not only for the fact that the legend serves no greater purpose than a “based on a true story” tagline. Rather than explore the ins and outs of life in the Hellmouth, we are forced to watch a boring film progress very slowly with no tension, texture, or terror developed.

Nothing Left to Fear is both director Anthony Leonardi III and writer Jonathan W.C. Mills' first feature film, and this could be the reason why the whole movie felt very awkward to me. The editing (sight and sound) left me feeling confused and detached from the narrative—which is easy to do when there is hardly a plot to grasp, at all.

A myriad of interesting ideas are neglected and the result is a bland, muddled mush with cheesy CGI and flat characters.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks Be to Horror, Part 3

We've reached the final part of my thankful posts here in part 3.  I'm thankful for all the blessings in my life, but certainly one of the things I hold most dear is my love of the genre that defines who I am, makes me happy when I'm down, and gives me the fulfillment in life that many people lack.  Horror in its many forms is the light at the end of my tunnel and the very marrow of my existence.
And with that sentiment, I give you the remainder of my list of gratefulness....

21) 80's Horror ~ I wouldn't be where I am today without having seen such films as Friday the 13th, April Fool's Day, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Creepshow, Night of the Comet, The Evil Dead, Pumpkinhead, The Lost Boys....the list goes on and on.  I was a teenager in the eighties, so I saw a lot of classic horror films at the theater, where they formed my love of the genre and had me seeking out more.  Though many of my favorite horror films were made in the 70's, if I hadn't seen those 80's standards, I may not have been as drawn to the genre and god forbid - might be writing a blog about bad romantic comedies.... Gah!

22) Screeners ~ Ordinarily I wouldn't think to say thanks for receiving screeners of films in the mail from production companies, but here's my chance to be grateful. I've discovered a lot of hidden gems (and a bunch of throwaways, truth be told) this way, and I have to give a shout out to anyone and everyone that has ever sent me a movie in the mail.  Don't be discouraged if I didn't review your film.  I get a lot in the mail and I watch a ton that I never get a chance to write about for one reason or another.  In any event, thank you for sending me your work. It's always appreciated.  This goes for all the ARC books I've gotten as well.  Like I said, chances are I've read your work, but I don't have enough time in my day to get up reviews of everything.  It could still happen though!!  Regardless, thank you!

23) Hitchcock ~ To my favorite director:  I love you and thank you for making my life complete. I don't own all your films yet, but I'm working on it. Thank you most of all for Psycho. I know it wasn't easy getting that film made, but damn if it wasn't worth it. Appreciative thanks also for Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and Notorious.  While I like pretty much everything of yours I've seen, those seven movies are my favorites. I've heard a lot about you being one weird bird, but I'm guessing that craziness served you well. It certainly helped me fall in love with your work. Thanks again, Hitch!

24) The Top Secret Eli Roth Project ~ While I can't say a lot right now, I will say that I've been given a profoundly exciting writing opportunity to be a part of something that is going to change horror substantially in the future. Both Marie and I will be writing for this special project, and just knowing that Eli Roth is behind it and has his people hand-picking the writing staff has me pretty psyched. We'll be working with some awesome fellow writers and friends, and believe me when I say this is going to be big.  Coming VERY SOON.
*For now, follow us on Twitter: @fearthecrypt, Facebook, and online at

25) Quiet Horror ~ I'm in love with the quiet horror film.  Movies that are subtle, slow-burners that although they don't have chainsaws, car chases, or people screaming while running through the woods, still pack a punch. Films like Session 9, The Abandoned, The Orphanage, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, Dead Birds, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, The Eclipse, The Woman in Black, The Eye, The Innkeepers, The Ninth Gate, even The Strangers...films that don't scream at you but still make you think.  Many ghost stories are like this, which probably goes hand in hand with the fact that ghost stories are my favorite sub-genre.

26) Fellow Horror Bloggers ~ I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by to say thank you to all the bloggers out there toiling away on their blogs, writing about their passion for horror.  I read so many blogs that I couldn't possibly list them all. And I've made some truly wonderful friends in this crazy community, some of which I consider extended family. And even though there is a lot of fighting and reprehensible behavior at times within this genre and those who write about it, there's a love and understanding that reaches far beyond the bad vibes.  So thanks to all my friends out there, keep up the great work!

27) Nox Arcana & Midnight Syndicate.  I think the first time I heard Midnight Syndicate was on vacation at the Outer Banks. There is a gigantic Christmas store in Manteo, N.C., and their top floor is a Halloween shop. I was perusing the wares and was suddenly aware of the most enchantingly creepy music playing in the background. Low and behold, I'd found the soundtrack to my life. Discovering Nox Arcana soon afterwards only added to my glee. Believe me, if you haven't experienced the haunting, gothic music that both of these artists bring to the table, you're really missing out.  Check out their websites with samples: NOX ARCANA and MIDNIGHT SYNDICATE. And of course you can buy both on and iTunes.

28) Michael Myers ~ Jason and Freddie don't have anything on my main man Michael.  Nor does that ugly sumbitch Leatherface or the S & M pretty-boy Pinhead. I'm thankful for Michael because the dude taught me fear. He taught me that blood and guts do not necessarily a suspenseful movie make. I love his no-nonsense attitude. He's pissed and he doesn't really have to tell you why. He just kills. I realize that when Halloween part II came out it introduced the whole sister angle, but I prefer to think of Mikey as simply, The Shape. No rhyme or reason to his killings, he is just pure and simply, evil.  By far the most intimidating slasher, period.

29)  Anticipation.  In the horror genre, I sometimes feel like the anticipation of the latest book, movie or television show is almost as exciting than the show itself.  When it was announced that The Walking Dead would be a television show, I was at first in a state of disbelief. First of all because it would be on AMC, which is so obviously NOT a premium cable station. How could they do it? Zombies on TV? Bloody, gory, violent zombies....? But then the hype started...and kept going until it was at a fever pitch.  The waiting for the series to start was agonizingly fun.  The same goes for a new novel (who wasn't beside themselves when Stephen King announced he was writing the long-awaited sequel to The Shining?) or the latest film to start a The Conjuring - or the remake of Oldboy?  While finally realizing the dream and reading the book or seeing the movie....or that first episode of usually great, I still feel the promise of the next great thing is almost better than the actual experience. It's what we horror fans live for!

30) And finally, I'm so very thankful for my partner in crime here on Fascination with Fear, Marie. Not only is she like a little sister to me, but she keeps the blog up and running when I am unable to post when life gets in the way. She's insightful, smart as a whip, and well versed in all things horror. I'm thankful every day that we happened into each others lives. And I don't think there's really any way to thank her for everything she's done and for being a wonderful friend. (But thanks anyway, Ms. Robinson - you rock!)
I'm also hoping she doesn't flip out for my posting her pic! :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks Be To Horror, Part 2

Happy Thanksgiving!! As we Americans celebrate turkey day, I hope everyone has at least one thing they are thankful for in their lives. I've got tons, including my humble list of horror thank you's!  If you missed part one, click HERE.
And here's the second of three parts...

11) Ghost Stories. This could go two ways.  I'm a huge fan of both the written word and the silver screen when it comes to ghosts.  It doesn't even have to be dark out, if I'm watching or reading a ghost story I am completely immersed. I can look up and see shadows in corners and just simply freak out. This sub-genre branches out in so many ways.  While I'm not as big a fan of the ghost hunting shows as Marie, I appreciate the spookiness of it.  It's the found footage that I can live without.  But if there is anything that will get me to a theater fast, it's a ghost story.  I'm always looking for the next best one...

12) Mainstream stars doing horror. I'm talking people like Paul Giamatti (John Dies at the End), Julianne Moore (Carrie), and most certainly Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange in television's American Horror Story, among many others.  At last, it doesn't seem like such a career-ending move as it used to be.  I could sit and watch Lange chew scenery for hours on end. Horror isn't quite the red-headed stepchild anymore. Things are on the upswing. Respect is at hand! Now all we need is someone to call Meryl Streep and offer her the next Chucky movie and we'll be all set!

13) The return of Hammer.  As someone who thrived on watching old Hammer films on Saturday afternoons as a kid, all I can do is thank the powers that be for raising that studio from the dead. With films like Let Me In  (2010), Wake Wood (2011) and the remake of The Woman in Black (2012), I think they are well on their way to being a force to be reckoned with in the future of horror.  And it's so nice to see their name on the opening credits again.  I know Marie agrees with me on this one, we're both psyched to be here for the ride.

14) Vampires are still alive and well.  Yes, True Blood is ending next year. I do realize that. But I don't think there's ever a time when vampires aren't popular in horror crowds. The unfortunate business that was Twilight didn't do the fanged ones any favors, but TV shows like Dracula, The Originals, True Blood and the upcoming series based on Guillermo del Toro's trilogy The Strain, as well as movies like Byzantium and Midnight Son are making it safe to like vampires again.  As if there was any doubt!

15) The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh ~ I saw this film for the fist time a month or so ago and if I'm being honest, I loved it.  It is written and directed by Rodrigo Gudiño (of Rue Morgue fame) and tells the tale of a man who was estranged from his mother but goes back to clean out her home and settle her affairs but finds more than he bargains for.  It's a slow burn, and many people might become bored with it before the wings of this butterfly unfurl.  The home in which it was filmed is packed full of unusual and even creepy artifacts and mementos (which is part of the story itself) and this makes it one of my favorite houses in horror.  And speaking of mainstream stars...Vanessa Redgrave plays the title character, and though we really only hear her voice - what a voice it is.  Give this one a chance.

16) The horror classics.  I don't think I've ever praised the stories that started it all. Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Turn of the Screw, The Tell Tale Heart, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward..these are some of my favorites, but I also love Jane Eyre and The Woman in White....Anything by Lovecraft, M.R. James, Edgar Allan Poe. The more recent The Haunting of Hill House, The Woman in Black, I Am Legend..... There are so many wonderful authors out there and their stories are timeless. Probably why I've read all of them several times.

17) Italian horror ~ Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time would have to know of my love of Italian genre films. In particular the films of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Mario Bava. I love not only the giallo films, but stand alone films as well as Fulci's popular zombie films.  The gorgeous, artistic talent of Argento, the so-called godfather of giallo Mario Bava, and the gory beauty of Fulci's zombie flicks have long been favorites of mine. While many other foreign countries have films I love (France and Japan among them), the Italians strike a nerve of mine...and I've never looked back.

18) JAWS - It's not a secret that Jaws is my favorite film. The perfection of the script, the brilliant direction, frighteningly good cinematography and of course, the impeccable casting all comes together for an experience of sheer terror unsurpassed in most of film. It's not the first scary movie I saw, certainly not the last...but definitely the film that left the biggest impression on my psyche. Even though I vacation there every spring, I am still terrified of the ocean. Only one guess why.

19) My personal DVD collection ~ I have a ridiculously large collection of horror DVD's. I'm not trying to win a medal or get special recognition, I'm just stating a fact.  I own a ton of films. And this, to me, is comfort. When I'm feeling down or having a bad day at work, I want to know that I can go home and pull Martyrs off my shelf and feel ten times better about my own situation (because of the profound horror the main characters go through), or I can grab up Psycho - one of my "comfort horror" films - throw it in the DVD player, and relax with a movie I know line for line and never tire of watching. It might sound weird, but it works for me. My only problem is that I'm running out of room to store them....

20) GODZILLA (2014) - As a huge fan of the original monster, I'm fairly psyched to see this new version, which is saying a lot because I'm not a big fan of remakes. I don't think I need to say more, as this trailer pretty much speaks for itself. Go here:
(If the link doesn't work I'm sorry, it seems this film is top secret and all the links to the teaser trailer are constantly being taken down all the time.)

*Stay tuned for the final third of my thank you's!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanks Be To Horror, Part 1

All over social media, I've been seeing these posts throughout November in which people post day by day things they are thankful for, as in "Nov 15: I'm thankful for Starbucks gingerbread lattes, they make my entire existence worthwhile!" Now, I'm not one to look down on that, and I'm certainly all about joining in any kind of meme or list-a-thon, so I thought I'd do something similar here on Fascination with Fear.  But I'm not going to do day-by-day postings, I'm just doing the whole damn thing at once.  As in, there are thirty days in November - hence, I'm posting thirty things I'm thankful for, with a horror twist.

I'm already eternally thankful for the big three: my husband, family and friends. And everyone already knows how much I love my cats, Bob Marley, spaghetti, and the Outer Banks. That's all common knowledge, so I'm not boring you with any of that.  What follows is a list of things that make me the happiest about horror, whether it is a single film or a sub-genre, a character or a book I's all here.  This is how this horror fan says how grateful I am to be a part of this wonderful genre we all know and love.

1) Stephen King ~ Yes, I thought I'd start with one of the biggies.  King shaped my love of horror at a very tender age. I was probably eleven or so when I first picked up The Shining and I'm not kidding you when I say it changed my life. And he keeps upping the ante. This year's Joyland only goes to prove he still "has it" and the release of Doctor Sleep (the long-awaited sequel to The Shining) shows he still has a love of the game. So, thank you Stephen, for being your warped, twisted, brilliant self.  Thanks also for being a truly stand-up guy who gives back, as well.  Things like that do not go unnoticed.

2) Indie Horror ~ While I always ramble about the big name movies that everyone else does (because yes, Psycho, Jaws and The Exorcist really ARE that good), I still love to find an independent film that knocks my socks off and is unlike anything an obnoxiously over-hyped major studio film puts out.  For instance, films like Lake Mungo, The Pact, Absentia, Midnight Son, and Jug Face are just a few of the many movies that have blown me away in recent years and it is the independent filmmaker that I most admire, toiling over his tiny production with the heart and soul that is missing from most big productions. Thanks go out to every indie writer/director/producer that makes strides to entertain us.  I for one, appreciate the hell out of it.

3) Norman Bates ~ Might as well get this one out of the way because you all know it was coming anyway. Norman is my absolute favorite character in film, any genre. And though I enjoy young Freddie Highmore as the younger version of the ultimate mama's boy in television's Bates Motel, the brilliance in which it is played in the Psycho film series by Anthony Perkins is chillingly awesome. I've come to realize I think I would have fallen dangerously head over heels in love with Norman if he were real. And that's the scariest thing of all.

4) Horror television ~ While we're talking about Bates Motel, I may as well thank the television gods for the plethora of amazing genre shows that are on these days.  Is it just me or is horror on TV becoming extremely fashionable in recent times?  With the undisputed king of television The Walking Dead pulling in insanely high numbers (beating all other shows, even the basic channels), someone out there is finally getting it.  And the shows continue to pile up: Bates Motel, Dracula, The Vampire Diaries, Hannibal, True Blood, Hemlock Grove, Game of Thrones, Witches of East End, The Following, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, The Originals, Being Human, The Returned, Grimm, Under the Dome, and of course the fabulously delicious American Horror Story....there's no end in sight.  Which is awesome. My DVR can't keep up!

5) Soundtracks/Scores ~ Most of the music I listen to, be it instrumental scores or alternative rock songs, comes from horror movies.  I'll hear a song during the end credits and I am downloading it off iTunes ten minutes later. I have an embarrassingly large collection of movie scores, from Jaws and Psycho to more obscure titles like Dark Remains, Half Light, and Rogue, to really hard to find titles like Psycho II and The Woman in Black (1989). I've also downloaded a ton of tunes from horror TV like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and True Blood.  I guess I like to be reminded of my favorite horror all the time. It's also how I discover new music, because I detest the radio. That's not crazy, right?

6) Jimmy Stewart ~ It might seem strange to put an actor who was so famous in film, in general, up here on a horror list. But his films with Alfred Hitchcock are the stuff of legend.  Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 ), and Vertigo (1958) are four of Hitch's best, and I'm certain Stewart was the reason for that.  Rear Window is sheer brilliance, and one of my favorite films.  But Vertigo is the one I seem to come back to most often for another look. It's captivating and mysterious, with Stewart doing some of his best work. On a side note, Stewart was born only 25 miles away from where I live. I've seen where he grew up and live in the same area, so I feel closer to him somehow. It sounds sappy and it is, but it makes me happy, so there.

7) The Shining ~ As I indicated above, The Shining has been one of the biggest influences on me in horror, all around. The book is my second favorite of anything I've read (Straub's Ghost Story is first) and the palpable fear within that book just spreads like wildfire till the exciting conclusion.  Likewise, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) is such a slow-burning, tension-filled film that had me at the opening credits. I haven't really rambled on about it any any length on the blog because everyone already knows what a brilliant piece of filmmaking it is (even though King dislikes it I feel it stands alone well too, without telling the exact same story King penned).  And even though many say Jack Nicholson went over the top in his performance as Jack Torrance, I think it is the perfect mix of crazy and controlled.

8) The Theater Experience ~ I'm thankful that I still feel a need to entertain myself by going to the movies and seeing horror on the big screen. I generally go see horror films alone because my hubby never feels the need to spend his hard-earned cash on something he can watch in the comfort of his own home in three months. That said, I love going to see a film a few weeks after its release, just about when they are ready to stop showing it.  I can generally have the whole theater to myself.  I've seen tons of films this way and it's a creepy but rewarding experience. This year, among other, I saw The Conjuring and You're Next alone.  I totally dig the feeling of isolation and fear.

9) Dark Jewelry ~ By dark I mean things like bats, crows, and owls.  I'm very much into these kinds of expressions of horror and own several pieces. I'm always looking for something new, and this year I bought a spiderweb necklace with dangling spider. I also love those skull bracelets that are popular and I have a penchant for crescent moons as well.  While I never go huge and cumbersome and I'm not much for coffins, crosses, dragons, or big skulls, I do like subtle accents here and there. It's the real me.

10) The Criterion Collection ~ In the last few years I've been collecting some of the great films Criterion is offering, and they have plenty of horror to choose from.  These editions of classics are top-notch special editions that generally have a nice selection of bonus features and are quite frankly the definitive version of the film. This year I splurged on myself and bought five: The Uninvited (1941), Carnival of Souls (1962), Eyes Without A Face (1960), The Vanishing (1988) and Sisters (1973). I also own Diabolique (1955), Kwaidan (1964), Rosemary's Baby (1968), and The Devil's Backbone (2001). The film I am most waiting for a Criterion release?  1945's Dead of Night!  Hopefully someday!

I'll be back with part two......