Friday, September 30, 2016

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.”

Traditionally, Fascination with Fear has done a month long blog-a-thon each October in celebration of the holiday season. But I feel it's important to let the few readers I still have the facts. This year has been a very difficult one personally, as my mother is very ill and it has been a serious challenge to find the time to write. In fact, she's just had another hospital admission this week and it's left me convinced that my time is just too strapped to consider any seriously wordy posts.

Hence, I've decided to adapt the "Wordless Wednesday" feature into "A Wordless October", where I will post some of my favorite creepy pics. Some of the pictures will be taken from previous posts here and there and some will be new to the blog.

First though, an explanation that may ramble off course but is as sincere as it can be.  This has been a very rough year, and going forward I'm unsure how much time I will have for one of my favorite escapes, which is writing, and in turn, this blog. But it will stay up and always be here for me to add to when I am able or feel compelled to do so.  I'm still watching horror and enjoying all the genre has to offer, especially this time of year. Horror has always brought me great comfort, which I know sounds insane. But when I've had an exceptionally trying day or week, nothing brings me more comfort than throwing JAWS or FRIDAY THE 13th in the Blu Ray player and settling in with some tea or a hefty glass of straight-up bourbon. The familiarity of hearing the same lines and watching the same scenes I've seen dozens of times somehow makes me feel like all is right with the world. I can escape from all the worries of the day.  Being horror fans, many of you can relate to this I'm sure.

Many times over I've been asked what does horror mean to you? Well folks, that's it: comfort.  It's something I've been coming to since I was a youngster watching Godzilla movies on Saturday afternoon or reading Stephen King under the covers with a flashlight when I should have been sleeping on a school-night. It's the joy of the terrifying written word and the bliss of the scary story on the screen, be it big or small.

This blog has been around almost a decade of my life.
I used to take great pains and spent countless hours trying to post at least every few days and at the blog's most prolific point was sometimes posting daily. When I would skip several days it felt like something was missing. I likened it to being a movie or rock star, if you don't keep making movies or singing, they forget you. Sounds stupid but it's generally a true statement. I HAD to keep writing.

When I started out back in 2008, there were several of us horror bloggers in it at the same time, names I became familiar with soon advanced into friendships, many of which I still cherish and have to this day. It was fun times! But as the years pass fewer and fewer of my friends were still hanging in there and writing on a regular basis. Some got other horror gigs that occupied their time, some found other things in life that became more important, some got married or had kids and literally had no time, and some quit all together. Some moved on to writing books or screenplays, some are acting and directing. A few even tired of the genre all together.  I miss the camaraderie of guest posting on each other's blogs, chatting on AOL (there's me dating myself) about horror, of emails and Facebook messages and just getting to know each other as friends. One by one, a lot of the blogs from that era have closed up shop. And I get it, I absolutely get it. I love writing about horror and am grateful for the opportunities that this genre has provided me. First of all, it's made me a better writer, editing and proofreading and growing as a writer just came naturally after all these years. I was even able to write for publications such as Fangoria and Paracinema. I received free films and books in the mail to review, I've met authors I respect and admire. I've even been nominated for Rondo awards. But most of all I've made lasting friendships.  And I want to thank all those horror pals for all they've written in the past for my and countless others' enjoyment. You guys rock, and continue to do so. Love you.

The thing is, and I feel it is the same with many of the other friends of mine in the horror community, life gets in the way. It goes on. It pulls you in different directions and swirls with the unexpected challenges we're meant to face to make us better. Other things take up too much time and we find ourselves struggling to find a few hours just to WATCH a film, let alone review it. It can take so much of the joy out of watching when you end up trying to concentrate on everything you want to write in your review. It's nice to just simply enjoy a movie as the entertainment it is. And unless we're actually getting paid as we are in our real jobs, it just becomes less important to document every detail for the twenty people that read your blog on a daily basis. There is life out there folks, beyond the Wordpresses and Bloggers of the World Wide Web.  Would I like to make a living writing about horror? Sure, I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't want that. But with a 40+ hour a week medical management job filling my days, it's just not possible to expend the energy necessary to keep up. I applaud those who can, I really do, but I'm just too fucking tired. And hey, I've actually found time to read again! It was always so hard to finish a book because I'd lay it down for days at a time so I could write on the blog. RIF, kids! Reading is fun!

My writing cohort, Marie, has gotten married and started back to school, so she is finding it equally as difficult to keep pace with what the world throws her, leaving little to no time to contribute anything either. Like I said, life gets in the way, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes totally planned.

And you know, at first I thought it made me a failure-- for not finding the time to post reviews or lists or even just a random "Sunday Bloody Sunday". I worried that others were moving on to more important things: writing books, making movies, contributing to big name horror sites - some of them even making money doing it.  And that's all fine. But then I finally realized I could only be ME. I am who I am.  I didn't really want to move to Hollywood and be a screenwriter. I've no desire to make movies. I don't want to talk about the latest Funko horror toy to the masses. I don't even need to meet Kane Hodder or Robert Englund at the nearest convention to respect and appreciate their work. I just want to enjoy horror. To have that escape waiting for me at the end of a shitty day. To go to a horror flick on the third weekend and sit in a darkened theater alone - not to go to the crowded first weekend just to raise numbers. To sit quietly and read the new Stephen King novel without someone wanting me to hurry and critique it.
Life is too short not to just love yourself and do whatever the hell makes you happy.

So for now, please forgive the brevity of the posts coming at you this month. And enjoy it, as it might be a while till my next offering.
Thanks so much for reading.

*Quote used for the title by none other than Stephen King. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dark Arts: The Eerie And Affecting Photography Of Derek McEntire

Concrete City --  Nanticoke, PA
It's been a while since our last Dark Arts post!  I'm glad to be back and today will be highlighting the work of a very promising young photographer, Derek McEntire.  Full disclosure: Derek is the son of my best friend's cousin Shawn- someone I grew up with and who has very similar tastes in the morbid and macabre.  As it turns out, his son does too!  I was recently introduced to his keen eye and wanted to share his work with all of you.

Derek is a mere 24 years old and hails from southeastern Pennsylvania, where bleak and gloomy subjects abound for an enthusiastic photographer interested in documenting the darker side of life.  His focus on abandoned buildings and spooky locations piqued my interest and left me wanting to see more.  While I myself have enjoyed photographing cemeteries over the years, every time I see an abandoned house, prison, etc., I've always thought it would be profoundly interesting to capture those places as well - and Derek has done just that, in striking fashion. 

I'll just let him tell you about his passion in his own words:

"I am a photographer based in Lancaster, PA.  I photograph lots of landscapes and everything else that catches my eye, but what I love and am best known for is photographing haunted, eerie, and abandoned locations. 

 I always had a love for haunted places and eerie things - everything from horror movies to creepy legends, but my passion for haunted locations came from watching the TV show Ghost Hunters.  I decided to combine my three favorite things: photography, eerie locations and travel.  

My most recent photography series Haunted, Eerie, and Abandoned started off at the one and only Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA., one of the most haunted locations in the U.S. "

"From there I took my series to Centralia, PA, which inspired the horror film Silent Hill.  The church in the photo made an appearance in the film."

"I ended the photography series at the eeriest place I have EVER been: Concrete City, an early example of International style architecture in the US. built as company housing in 1911 for employees of Delaware, Lackawanna and Western railroad coal division.  It has been abandoned since 1924,  This place will give you chills down the spine. In my opinion it's a scene straight out of a horror film."

 "These 3 destinations were the start of my photography series that will continue this August at the abandoned PA turnpike.  My love for horror, creepy tales of the unknown, and photography is what drives me to continue to choose these destinations."

Eastern State Penitentiary
 "It's like taking a step back in time or walking through a live horror movie.  I want you to feel what I feel as if you're there with me... the haunted history, the spine-tingling artifacts left behind and most importantly the beauty of the destination...all through my photography.  My passion for this is what you will feel."  / DM

 **Thanks for sharing your work with us, Derek!  I know I certainly look forward to the continuation of your series! /ch

You can find Derek on Facebook

 Instagram at

And his website:  Derek McEntire Photography

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Invitation (2015) Tension And Dread Abound In This Wicked-Good Indie Thriller

These days it's been hard to find time to write much, but when you see something extraordinary you have to find the time!  Recently I'd been hearing a lot of hype about The Invitation - on social media and genre websites, etc.  Generally I am wary of hype because it is usually just that.  But I took a chance on this indie thriller and believe me when I say it will get under your skin and haunt you afterward.  It's not a film that showcases a lot of violence or gore, doesn't have an A-list cast and is as understated as they come, but The Invitation is the best creep-fest I've seen all year.

Will (a superb Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are driving into the Hollywood Hills area on their way to a party hosted by Will's ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) in their former home together.  Will is visibly on edge, harboring a weird sense of anxiety that comes from not having seen Eden in quite some time.  Kira tries to talk him out of going but he presses on.  There is a jolt of reality when they hit a coyote along the road and Will is forced to humanely euthanize the creature by using a tire iron (mostly off-screen, thankfully).  It's an unlikely event that we immediately want to tuck away in our memory for later - because it really seems important to the plot.  But will it be? Or is it just a red herring?

Immediately upon arrival at the home, it is blatantly obvious that something is just not cricket.  Eden's new husband David (Michiel Huisman) welcomes them with open arms but makes sure Will knows it is now "his house".  He ushers them into the living room where a group of Will and Eden's friends have also gathered.  Eden appears and the conversation turns to how she and David have returned from Mexico with a new lease on life and explains how in touch with their emotions they are after spending time with a group geared towards grief management.  No sadness!  No anger!  No guilt!  David goes on to introduce his friends Pruitt (John Carroll Lynch) and Sadie (Lindsay Burdge), who have also been to Mexico for this revelatory spiritual experience.   It's all a little too new age for Will and though uncomfortable and perhaps a bit paranoid, he agrees to stay and have dinner.  It's very apparent that the ghosts of the past have Will battling old demons - Will and Eden's young son died in a tragic accident at the house and Will is still fighting those emotions, heightened by his return to the house they shared.

After being shown a video (which should instantly raise a red flag in my book) in which a woman is dying and is surrounded by gentle folks who urge her to accept her fate and die peacefully on her own terms, the rest of the dinner guests are also visibly shaken when they watch her take her last breath. 

Soon, talk turns to playing a game of "I want", in which Eden plants an awkward, much-too-long kiss on mutual friend Ben.  Pruitt then wraps his "I want" into an unsettling story about how he "accidentally" killed his wife - but it's okay, because the program - called The Invitation - helped him get rid of all his guilt and move past it.  This shocks everyone and leads one of their friends, Claire, to leave.  Will, his inner sense of pending doom on overdrive, tries to make sure Claire leaves okay after Pruitt follows her out, claiming he parked her in. 

Amping up the tension is the fact that David has been locking the door behind everyone who enters, there are actually bars on the windows, and one of their friends, Choi, has never arrived - despite a voice mail that Will received from him stating he was already there and had forgotten the dessert - could Will pick it up on his way?  All of the unrest ends up with Will having a bit of a freak-out, demanding to know where Choi is.  Kira tries to get Will to leave with her but he's not having it, certain that David and Eden are up to something sinister and are trying to recruit the others into their "cult".  Unfortunately, Will's suspicions are short-lived when everyone is relieved to see Choi arrive, having been called back to work and been detained. Everyone subsequently assumes Will is just having a hard time dealing with seeing Eden and the house again due to his past trauma.  But Will may be on to something here....he knows it, and we as the audience certainly know it. 

This film is such a slow burn that some may find it off-putting.  But that is the whole of what is fantastic about it.  With understated performances (none of this Manson Family type of ridiculousness, save for the character of  Sadie - she's the token nut-job more than happy to drink the Kool-Aid they're handing out and is an obvious ode to Susan Atkins) and palpable tension mounting throughout, it's the kind of movie that nearly has one cheering by the final act.  Will's vindication of his spidey-sense telling him something is "off " makes up for any kind of wait we are forced to happily suffer through. In every sense of the word, this feels like an "adult" horror film - something that perhaps only those over say, 30, will be equal parts captivated and terrified by.  Once you've been out in the world for a while, you can feel a darker edge to society, a fear of what's really going on - or perhaps we're always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Director Karyn Kusama keeps us all on edge and full of dread with her fine-tuning and attention to detail.  Her choice for the score is another win, as Theodore Shapiro (whose score for Ghostbusters 2016 will likely bring much more acclaim than this little indie could, sadly) has created a creepy and emotional score to mesh together all the emotions of fear, anxiety and downright quiet terror that this film pushes on us.  I readily anticipate more from both in the future.

Lastly, I can't praise Logan Marshall-Green enough in his performance as Will.  The whole film rests on his shoulders and he is fantastic.  He is the "me" character, as in his feelings and actions would absolutely mirror mine - immediately thinking something is just not right, and sticking with his gut feeling right up till the end.  We're forced to go along with the dinner guests at times, thinking perhaps Will is just too sensitive, too scarred to be thinking clearly.  But we should always follow our instincts.  They rarely hand us over to the demon.  They give us the clarity of mind to fight it.