Halloween 2016 - Epilogue

Another successful Halloween event at the Allman ranch - lots of friends, family, neighbors and new faces leading up to the grand finale.  Which was not without its challenges.  Possibly the scariest part of Halloween, for me that is, were the 70 mph wind gusts that blew through our canyon Sunday night.  We try to make the displays tolerant of the weather and occasionally bring a few things in when it gets bad.  But how do you plan for hurricane conditions? The worst casualty was the gargoyle, our new friend this season and a heavy bugger.  Of all the displays, that would have been last on my list to succumb to the forces of nature.  But there he was, face down on the pavement, his wings broken, his nose smashed.  The headless horseman came in second, slumped over his broken frame.  So last minute repairs took over on Halloween morning.  Did I mention that my husband can fix pretty much anything?  It's true.  By early afternoon the gargoyle was back in action - his red flashing eyes and fog breathing mouth were the perfect highlight for our pathway.  And the headless horseman responded to some quick orthopaedic surgery in time to survey the estate through the eyes of his flaming jack o'lantern.

IMG_0311.jpg

Inside, the Halloween treats were receiving homemade love and before the first trick-or-treater rang the bell, 12 dozen hand-decorated cupcakes were lined up like soldiers ready to please the most discriminating child.  The cupcakes are always a hit, something I started doing years ago when the Trunk or Treat trend threatened to destroy all that is magical about Halloween.  When this madness first started, the organizers scheduled the even for Halloween evening in direct competition to the real intent of Halloween.  For a while, I could bake a dozen cupcakes and have some left over.  Today, the good people who organize these events are holding them well in advance of Halloween night and while I don't think trick-or-treating has completely recovered, it is better than it was.  Truth be told, that is what inspired us to put so much of our love into Halloween.

So thanks to all of the friends, family and neighbors who helped make this one of our best Halloween seasons.  We spent the evening handing out treats, visiting the guests, and watching short horror movies on youtube.  And as the decorations were put away until next year, we steadied ourselves for what promised to be the scariest night of 2016 - the November 7 election.  I think the social media feed went something like, "You guys, I'm really afraid somebody is going to win the election." And somebody did.  So now let the real tricks or treats begin.

Halloween 2016 Moviefest - Week 4.5 Final Round

Exorcist-movie.jpg

What better way to enter the Halloween weekend than with The Exorcist, arguably one of the most chilling movies of all time.  And who am I to argue?  Friday nights in October are for staying up late and getting scared.  Or maybe shocked is a better word, which is what this film does to its audience.  I was 12 when this movie was released and although I read the book at around that time, I did not see the movie until I was 17.  My mother gave me the book to read after she finished it - she loved horror as much as I do.  The original horror moviefests took place in her room when my father was out of town; we would watch Nightmare Theater and scare ourselves.  My dad wasn't away much so it probably only happened a couple of times, enough to anchor the memory for a lifetime.  I miss my mom, she would love how we do Halloween over here. The Exorcist is based on a true story, which as we know comes with a good deal of creative license.  The subject of the exorcism was a young boy who, in 1949, underwent a months-long exorcism or a series of exorcisms that ended in him apparently being cleared of evil spirits and leading a normal life.  Today the consensus is that the young man, "Roland Doe," was most likely suffering from mental illness; no proof of demonic possession was ever obtained.  True story or not, you don't have to be Catholic or even remotely religious to be shocked and terrified by this film.

Constantine.jpg

I rented Constantine when Netflix was still fairly new to the DVD business - long before streaming and at a time when people would wander through the video store looking for something to tide them over because the movie they'd intended to rent was not available.  It surprised me how long it took for mail-in DVD rental to catch on.  I bring this up because Constantine answered the question, what do you do when you when you lose the rental?  I'm not saying anything supernatural happened, but the Constantine DVD that I rented from Netflix vanished.  Poof - right into thin air.  I honestly expected it would turn up when we moved; everything in the house was packed up, moved, and unpacked.  No DVD.  That event is on my list of shorts that I plan to request in the next life, along with the times (yes, plural) that my keys also vanished.  Anyway, I had forgotten about this film until I saw in on the list of scary movies with storms.  I had forgotten how good it was, angels and demons, good vs. evil, and a glimpse of what Hell might look like.  I liked Keaneau Reeves in the matrix and felt like he delivered a comparable performance in Constantine.  Right down to paranormal guns blazing at the supernatural.  I bought the video for the 2016 moviefest and expect it will become a regular.

 

Shining.jpg

In about the time it takes to bake 13 dozen cupcakes, you can watch The Shining.  The Stephen King version and not the Stanley Kubrick one.  I watched a Stephen King interview on a television news show and he talked about how he hated Kubrick's adaptation of his book.   In fact, he was so vocal that Kubrick offered to sell him back the movie rights if he would stop his criticism.  So he stopped and remade the movie 17 years after the Kubrick film was released.  I sort of hate Kubrick's version and until I saw the interview, I didn't know that (a) Stephen King hated it too, and (b) there was a remake.  It bothered me that Kubrick ended his film with Jack simply sitting down in the snow to freeze to death.  Or that he changed the topiary into a static maze.  I mean, WTH?  The creeping boiler, "you will remember what he forgot," is paramount to the story yet left so entirely out of Kubrick's movie that the ending had to be different.  I doubt that is the reason for the lame ending, Kubrick never does anything without a reason.  Like casting Shelly Duval as a weak, sniveling Wendy Torrance.  The Twins figure so prominently in the Kubrick film but are notably absent in the King version.  That puzzled me because they are key to the book's creepy plot.

When Stephen King stayed at The Stanely Hotel, he stayed in Room 217 which is the room number of bathtub woman in the television miniseries. In the Kubrick film, the bathtub woman is in Room 237, which I really think is the same as the book so now I am really confused.  In the epic battle of Kubrick vs. King, my assessment is this:  Kubrick had the better movie while King had the better adaptation.  Peace, because I own them both.

Tales.png

I saw the original Tales from the Crypt at the local movie theater when I was 11, and that was the age at which I set the benchmark for scary because this movie was the scariest movie I would see for a long time.  I remember the heart scene, hiding behind the seat in front of me too scared to watch and unable to look away.  I remembered all of the stories in the 40 or so years until I saw it again.  The popular cable series of the same name apparently remade several of the episodes although I didn't see them.  I searched for years to find this one on video and I finally succeeded last year.  The movie was as good as I remember even with the seriously fake blood that looks like red paint.  I ran this film again for my brother on Halloween; he hadn't seen it since 1971 either and we both thoroughly enjoyed the creepy nostalgia.

 

Amityville-Horror-1979.jpg

I started the preseason with The Amityville Horror, so it seems fitting to close it out with the original.  Based on a true story, the Lutz family moves into a house where an unspeakable crime was committed and the haunting begins until they run screaming from the house in the night.  And while the movie is indeed based on a true story, there is much controversy surrounding the truth of that story.  It is true that Ronnie DeFeo murdered his family in that house, that the Lutz family moved in a year later and that they left their home never to return.  There is really no corroborating evidence for the supernatural events that are described in the book on which the story is based.  But then ghosts and demons hate corroborating evidence.  True or not, I love a good haunted house story even if it turns out to be fiction.

 

Salems-Lot.jpg

Another Stephen King television miniseries, Salem's Lot was released on DVD this month.  I honestly can't remember when I first saw the series but I remember reading the book, another donation from my mother's collection.  And I remember being scared witless by it.  I love vampires but there just aren't very many good vampire stories.  I didn't care for Interview with the Vampire and while I believe Nosferatu was indeed the scariest movie at the time, it doesn't do it for me.  And don't get me started on Twilight.  So I was really thrilled when this series came out on video so I can add it to the movie collection.  I turned the video on while I was decorating cupcakes so it functioned more as background and I really want to just sit and watch this one.  All three hours of it.  I will put it at the top of next year's list and maybe sneak in a screening in the meantime.

 

So that sums up the 2016 Halloween moviefest.  31 days - 37 movies, 3 repeats and a blog.  I will be back next year with the old favorites, films I didn't get to this year, and hopefully some new movies that prove the scary movie genre is alive and well.

Now I will kick back for something really scary . . . the 2016 presidential election.  Talk about wanting to hide under the covers.

Halloween 2016 Moviefest - Week 4 Recap and Home Stretch

Ghostbusters_logo_svg.png

As we get into the fourth week of October, the test kitchen is in full swing while the yard really starts taking shape.  Still, there is plenty of time for Moviefest as you can clearly see.  The first three movies this week were shared with my grandkids during their fall break and are generally fit for family style viewing.  That is, if your family is a little off their rocker like mine.  

Ghostbusters.jpg

 You can argue whether Ghostbustersfits the scary movie genre.  I tend to go back and forth as well, but ghosts, apparitions, dogs and cats living together . . . it feels like it belongs and besides, it is one damn funny movie.  I am talking about the original here.  Until recently I had heard nothing good about the remake and decided to skip it; maybe I just didn't want to mess with the original.  But my brother and my niece convinced me it is worth the time so I will get to it.  Just not in October.  This may be Bill Murray's funniest movie - I can't decide between this and Stripes.  Or Caddyshack.  Maybe a dead heat until Rushmore.  How did that one even get by?  I think if I could spend a day on the golf course with anyone in the world, I would choose Bill Murray.  Did you know that pretty much none of the scenes in Ghostbusters were shot as scripted?  There is ad lib all through the movie.  It makes me wonder how anybody got  through a scene without cracking up.  As you head into the home stretch and feel like you need a break from all of the scare and gore, spend an evening with this 1984 classic.

Haunter.jpg

 

 

Haunter may be the best sleeper film on my list.  Other than a handful of independent showings, it went straight to DVD.  Or in my case, Netflix, where it has been available since I bumped into it 3 years ago.  Little Miss Sunshine, Abigail Breslin, stars in this supernatural thriller that is just scary enough to be scary, but suitable for that person who just isn't into scary movies.

ghost-ship
ghost-ship

The opening scene in Ghost Shipis fantastic and I try to imagine what my 11 year old self may have thought about it.  I was 11 when I saw the movie that sort of defined scary for me so that is my benchmark age. More on that movie later.  So to back up, maybe this film isn't quite suitable for the kidlets or the squeamish; the horror isn't all psychological (as originally written).  A haunted ship, a cursed cargo, a sinless heroine against the collector of souls.  Every year I think about using my old boat to build a ghost ship Halloween display but have not quite made the commitment.  It would cut into my moviefest time and, well, a girl has to have priorities.

 

Insidious-3.jpg

Roll back to my review of Insidious 2 and you will see a clue for my review of Insidious 3.  I didn't love it, I am not sure I even like it although I won't say that it sucked. The film includes our favorite ghost hunter, Elise so that is a plus.  Chronologically it takes place 3 years before the haunting in the first two films though Lyn Shaye has clearly aged since we first saw her in Chapter 1.  Chapter 3 explores Elise's history and shows how she teamed up with Tucker and Specs.  Absent a strong plot, a prequel tends to fall back on building the characters' histories against a backdrop that isn't nearly as compelling as the story in the first two chapters.  I blame the director. More the absence of the director.  Wan's Magic is obviously missing from this latest installment and me thinks his time would have been better spent here than on Furious 7.   Chapter 4 is scheduled to release next year sans Wan as director.

Uninvited.png

The Uninvited is another American remake of an Asian horror film like The Ring and The Grudge.  (It must be a rule that these movie titles start with "The.")  I don't recommend tuning in if supernatural girls with long creepy hair is what you are in the mood for, though.  This wicked stepmother psychological thriller is borderline horror with a twist that I should have seen coming, but didn't.  Kudos to the director for doing that to this hard core  horror movie fan.  It is hard to fine a new thriller that measures up without being cliche and I felt like I got there with this film.  The Uninvited is not my favorite or even in the top 10 or 20, nor am I sure I watch it again unless it came up during a surf and I was too lazy to look any harder.  But give it a try if you're looking for something you haven't already seen that is good enough to at least hold your interest.

Scream.jpg

I can't believe it has been 20 years since Ghost Face brought us the best Halloween costume ever.  I saw a little kid wearing one at the grocery store over the weekend, he or she looked to be the size of maybe a 6-year old.  But dressed as the villain in Scream, everybody is terrifying.  I love the way this film makes fun of horror movie cliches while committing all of the same sins, including corn syrup for blood.  This film also delivers us the six rules for surviving a horror movie.  Can you name them?

Sinister.jpg

Sinister is one of the few newer scary movies that I saw in the theater.  The trailer was truly terrifying, I couldn't wait to see it.  My husband and I went with a few co-workers whose wives don't watch scary movies so I felt like I was crashing boys' night out.  And I was the only one who jumped.  I've seen the film 4 or 5 times since then and I still jump in the same spot.  I know it's coming, but I jump anyway - every time.  This film is really low on the blood and gore scale, it contains no nudity and very little profanity.  It is rated R for disturbing content which includes kids - so be warned.

 

 

 

 

halloween-2
halloween-2
jlc-halloween-1
jlc-halloween-1
jlc-halloween-2
jlc-halloween-2

Halloween II was filmed just 3 years after the original, long enough that Jamie Lee Curtis looks visibly older.  To me anyway.  Maybe it was just the wig.  That isn't the only flaw in this sequel which takes place almost entirely in a hospital with no lighting and whose only patients appear to be newborns.  Halloween II falls well below the standard set by the original but I kind of think it was doomed from the start.  Once the evil that is Michael Myers was revealed, there isn't a lot left to build suspense on the same night so bad slasher-movie scenes took over.  I always expect a sequel that includes the same core cast to be better than it usually is.  John Carpenter wrote this film but he did not direct it.  Oh and did you spot Dana Carvey?  If not, go back and watch again because I missed it, too.

poltergeist
poltergeist

I closed out week 4 with one of my favorites - Poltergeist.  This movie was released in 1982 just one week before "E.T. -The Extra Terrestrial" hit the box office; both are Spielberg films. I was completely unprepared for the scares this movie delivered so it quickly rose to the top of my "scariest movie" list and still hangs out near the top today.  I don't know if it was the clown or the storms or bodies popping out of the ground, but I left the theater shaking with fright and delight.  I saw E.T. shortly after and hated it because for some reason, I expected a similar experience to Poltergeist so I was obviously disappointed.  I still don't understand the allure of E.T. which got way more attention at the time, but then most people don't understand horror films so I guess it all evens out.  Poltergeist also makes my "top 5 movies for a stormy night" list.  Poltergeist is rumored to be cursed; the eldest daughter was strangled by her boyfriend shortly after the film's release.  She is buried in the same cemetery as Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) who died six years later on San Diego...on Superbowl XXII Sunday, which matches the superbowl poster in Robbie's room in the movie. Let that sink in.  Lou Perryman who played Pugsley in the film was also murdered, some 14 years after the release of Poltergeist.  In addition, two actors in Poltergeist II died within a year of the film's release.  Only the four actors' deaths were part of the original curse; Perryman's death was added later due to its unnatural circumstances.  The only curse I really believe in is the curse of the sequel.  Poltergeist II was awful.

If you're keeping score, we are at 31 movies going in to the Halloween weekend.  Officially we could call it and spend the weekend doing something more productive - like catching up on this blog, but what would be the fun in that?  Stay tuned, the grand finale is just around the corner.

2016 Halloween Moviefest - Week 3 Recap

Welcome to the last weekend before Halloween.  Sort of.  Since Halloween is on a Monday this year, the weekend before Halloween qualifies as Halloween.  How I love to bend the rules and stretch out my favorite holiday as long a possible.  So let's get started.  

oculus-movie-2014-exclusive-6572

Oculus is Latin for "eye."  If you've ever read your ophthalmologist's medical records, he or she would have used OD to describe your right eye (Oculus Dexter) and OS to describe your left eye (Oculus Sinister).  So while this feels like a oculus-1good reason to name a scary movie Oculus, the title of this awesome flick is a reference to the architectural definition, an oval window or opening.  A portal.  Every time I watch Oculus I swear I can't remember oculuswhat is coming up next.  This movie has a way of disorienting the viewer by taking us back and forth from the past to the present to the paranormal - is that real or a vision?   This is one of the more intense films on my list that keeps me in suspense in spite of multiple reruns.

 

creepshowCreepshow is another comic book made for the big screen with five "terrifying" stories written by Stephen King.  I'm not sure terrifying is the right definition but then maybe I'm not the standard against which terror should be measured.  I read The Exorcist in junior high.  This film has a great line-up of actors like Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, Lcreepshow-2eslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and Adrienne Barbeau.  This is where you roll your eyes and say . . . who?  Trust me, they were hot in 1982.  Did you know that John Carpenter was married to Adrienne Barbeau?  Or that Carpenter directed The Fog co-starring Andrienne Barbeau and Ed Harris?  Or that he directed Stephen King's Christine?  Or that Ed Harris starred in Needful Things while his wife, Amy Madigan, starred in The Dark Half - both Stephen King movies.  Yeah, Hollywood can be loyal that way which is sort of cool.  Oh, and there is the master himself, Stephen King, who makes more than his usual cameo appearance.  My favorite part just might be the voodoo doll.  If you like this film there is a sequel. Which you probably already know if you like this film.

 

Moving to the truly terrifying, The Omen.  I read this book while working my first omenjob as a clerk at the local dry cleaner; I was 14 or 15.  Unlike the really cool food service jobs ("Welcome to Arctic Circle, may I take your order?"), the dry cleaner was pretty quiet which gave me a lot of time to read or do homework.  It was actually pretty sweet but at the time, I was sort of jealous of my sister whose job was selling tickets at the movie theater.  Except for the occasional customer picking up or dropping off, or when my uncle/boss was around, the only noise in the place was an old radio.  What a great setting for a ghost story.  Or an anti-Christ story.  The Omen originated as a screenplay and the book was based on the screenplay - released as part of the publicity campaign.  I guess that is why the book follows the movie so well.  You know the creep poem that is supposedly from the book of Revelations?  Nah.  Written for the movie and very well done, I might add.  Forty years after its release The Omen still delivers scares and chills without CGI.  Ranked as the 14th scariest movie of all time, Damien's smile in the final scene has to be one of the scariest moments in movie history.  How do you even get a little kid to do that?  Forget it, I don't want to know.  damienDamien was Harry Stephens' only role as an actor despite his performance  which you have to admit is pretty amazing.  He did have a cameo as a reporter in Damien: Omen II, but that's it.  It seems like such a waste, with a sinister smile like that.  The film is rumored to be cursed as a result of several disasters surrounding the cast and crew.  Gregory Peck and the film's screenwriter took separate flights to the UK for the filming - both planes were struck by lightening. The producer was nearly struck by lightening himself while in Rome.  The director's hotel was bombed by the IRA and while he was not injured, he was later struck by a car.  After shooting on location in Israel, Peck chartered a private jet for his return to America.  He canceled his plans and the jet was rented to a group of business men who all died when the plane crashed.  On the day of a shoot, several members of the crew survived a head-on crash.  I'd skip the sequel, too.

 

I had heard very mixed reviews about The Witch so when I spotted it on Netflix, I decided to check it out for myself.  I gave this film 2½ skulls with a promise to watch it again - with subtitles.  The Witch is a New England folktale that sets the stage for witchcraft against a backdrop of a religious family's battle to survive after being cast out of their community.  I probably missed witch75% of the dialogue because the accents were so strong I just couldn't understand what the actors' were saying.  It didn't occur to me to simply turn on the subtitles at the time, and I struggled through the film.  You can argue that if you have to struggle just to hear what's being said, it isn't worth it.  Entertainment isn't supposed to be that hard.  I can see your point, but I don't find many bad horror movies and this is a different kind of scare.  Plus the whole witchcraft hysteria of that time period is fascinating to me.  So I'll give it a neutral rating and a better chance another time.

 

insidious-2The second movie of the Insidious trilogy is as good as the first movie.  That's my opinion.  And it's my blog.  But I'm open to comments so if you don't agree, let's chat.  The way Insidious 2 was woven into the first chapter was done so exquisitely that I would believe both movies were made at the same time, resolving beautifully at the end.  Sort of.  I don't think they were made together, but the film is that good.  This movie also shouts out to other films on my horror list.  There is an African painting in Elise's home that also appears in Daniel's study in Paranormal Activity 2 and in grandma's house in Paranormal Activity 3.  You know you're going to go back and watch now, don't you?  The actor who plays young Josh also plays young Tim in Oculus in a common theme where he sees an older version of himself.  And what about that creepy hospital?  Have you seen it before?  Well, it has been in 30 other horror movies including Halloween 2.  How's that for Hollywood horror loyalty?  My only disappointment of Insidious 2 is the ending which suggests a sequel another chapter that we hoped would be as masterfully woven into the trilogy.

 

The Thing is one of my husband's favorite movies; it is probably on his top 5 horror movies of all time.  I am talking about the re-make because I hthingave not seen the original.   I know there is an original because I've seen Halloween.  I like this movie well enough I guess, but for some reason this is one film where I find myself easily distracted.  That would be my flaw, not yours or his or John Carpenter's.  In fact, it is Carpenter's favorite of the movies he directed.  Truth be told, I don't know why I find myself checking my iPhone or starting dinner during this movie.  I mean, The Thing is full of a deliciously handsome Kurt Russell - a man I fell in love with when I saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and one who is just as handsome today.  So now you know my dirty little secret and I really doubt Goldie Hawn will hunt me down.  This sci-fi horror takes place in the Antarctic (a set created in the heat of LA) and makes us afraid to believe that somewhere in the frozen depths of Hell is an evil more ancient, more alien, more dangerous than any modern demon.  When you put it that way, this is a pretty great movie.  And despite my ADD and the film's lack of box office success, it has a respectable cult following.  It is tradition in British Antarctic research stations to watch The Thing as part of their Midwinter feast and celebration held every year.  And it hits my Halloween moviefest.  Every year.

 

cabinLook up "A Cabin in the Woods" or "Cabin in the Woods" in IMDb and you won't find one of my favorite, original scary movie flicks.  In fact, you just might miss this multiple skull feature that I describe as The Evil Dead meets The Truman Show and Thir13en Ghosts.  THE Cabin in the Woods starring features what may be the hottest actor in recent filmography, Chris  Hemsworth.  Yeah, it's not just about Kurt Russell over here.  The Cabin in the Woods is so original in the horror movie genre, with an opening scene that was apparently designed to confuse the audience.  The director grew up in Los Alamos, where scientists who build nuclear weapons masquerade as normal people during their off time.  I've heard of scientists who try to be normal by doing crazy things like baking cupcakes and blogging about Halloween to hide their inner nerd.

hemsworthMy little brother turned me on to this movie a few years ago when he responded to my Halloween moviefest status on FB by citing this film, followed by "don't tell the kids." My brother is a better parent than I am; he has standards for the content his children watch on television and in the theater.  But he's still human, and he's my brother, which means he is compelled to watch scary movies during the Halloween season.  So he does what any good parent will do - watches this movie and then keeps it to himself.  And FaceBook, of course.  Thank you bro for this movie; I would like to think I would have discovered it on my own but you helped me along.  This film boasts one of the most epic climactic scenes I have ever watched, earning it extra skulls.  If you have seen the movie, you know what I am talking about.  If you haven't seen it . . . well what are you waiting for?!  Not available for free, you might have to cough up three bucks to watch this one.  Take it out of your beer fund.  PBR is overrated.

 

paranormal-2In the spirit of Insidious, Paranormal Activity 2 is, in my humble opinion, as good as the original.  Like any sequel, or prequel (is there a term for concurrent quel?), a bit of the mystery is lost because out of the gate you have already figured out Paranormal Activity's secret.  It isn't real.  If you've ever watched any of the Paranormals as reruns, you already know this and if that ruins it for you . . . well, you make me sad.  I will never stop being creeped out by what might happen when I sleep.  I have exterior security cameras that often make me wonder what the hell is going on late at night in my neighborhood.  That combined with my status as a lifelong insomniac, I would never film what happens while I sleep inside.  It's like jumping into the bed and pulling the covers over your head when you hear a ghost.  You don't really want to know.  Both of the Paranormal films (I haven't gotten to 3 yet) were promoted by Christopher Chacon, a world-renowned paranormal expert.   Paranormal expert.  I went to college for like a hundred years and never saw any classes that would take me down that career path.  He is my hero.

 

I closed out the third week of Halloween moviefest with my grandkids, a ghost tour, and a late night viewing of The Grudge.  Remember, I'm that parent which means I'm that grudgegrandparent.  I put The Grudge in the same category as The Ring, but unlike The Ring, the American version of The Grudge takes place in Japan.  My daughter lived in Japan for several years and I was so lucky to spend some time with her.  Japanese homes really do have that creepy attic and the type of construction that you see in this film.  In true Japanese tradition, the cast and crew went through a ceremony where they were blessed so that nothing bad would happen to them during the filming.  Our friends from The Omen might have followed that tradition.  To this day, when my daughter is around for some scary movie action, I always pull out The Grudge and remember those awesome Japanese attics.

 

Nine movies this week, which doesn't include the two times I watched Oculus and Conjuring 2.  I mentioned my daughter was in town and she wanted to watch movies she hadn't seen before.  Only one new film that needs a re-screening for full assessment.  I'm thinking that as I get closer to the big day, the classics and old friends are how I get into the spirit of the Halloween season.

 

We're almost there, stay tuned and keep watching.

2016 Halloween Moviefest - Week 2 Recap

Half way through October already?!?  How did that happen?  The season is simply too short.

 

conjuring-2I started the second week of moviefest with The Conjuring 2.  I had been itching to see this sequel and I was not disappointed.  The film opens with a recap of the Warrens' investigation of the Amityville haunting so it grabbed me right away, but that is a prelude to the Enfield Poltergeist investigation in England which is the subject of this movie.  With all of its rain and mist, old buildings, royalty and executions, our neighbor across the pond is the perfect scene for a haunting.  Almost as good as Japan, but that comes later.conjuring-2a

I would say the story in Conjuring 2 is easily as good as the first movie.  My husband thought the first was better and I admit I deducted half a skull. The development of the Warrens' characters in the first movie was really well done and central to the plot but ... it had already been done.  That's always the down side to a sequel.  I am hoping to get this one in a second time before the season is over, I usually enjoy a good movie better the second time around.  Don't ask me why.

On thea-nightmare-on-elm-street-poster top 20 list of 1980s horror movies is Nightmare on Elm Street.  I pretty much never get tired of this film that asks whether dying in your dream means dying in real life.  Science is still unable to answer why we sleep, or why we dream.  So what's better than a movie that plays on the mysteries of sleep?  Well, a lot of things.  But still a good film.  (Confession: When my kids were little I let them watch this video to keep them quiet when I was working.  Yes, I was that mom.)

 

And since we're talking about sleep and dreams and nightmares and night terrors, insidiouswe should talk about Insidious.  Well, let's not just talk about it, let's watch it.  And I did.  Insidious is probably in my top ten movie line-up.  "It's not the house that's haunted."  Talk about your taglines.  This film is really original; I mean, obviously the concept of demons in your sleep is not as we've just shown with Nightmare, but I thought the way it was presented here was original.  I loved the crazy gas mask demon communicator thing worn by the psychic, Elise.  It's so much more scary than a friendly face, except that you don't get the whites of the eyes when they roll backwards during contact.  This film gets better, I think, with the sequel which is refreshing as the stories are masterfully woven together.  I haven't watched Insidious 3, that is on deck for next week after I get through the second one.  Trivia:  Elise (Lin Shaye) was in Nightmare on Elm Street.  Go back and watch it, see if you can spot her.

 

thir13en-ghostsBack into the Halloween test kitchen with Thir13en Ghosts to keep me company.  I have trouble searching for this movie in any database because if it is spelled correctly, neither "13"nor "thirteen" will give the correct result.  It is just this kind of an error that leads to a discovery like Thir13en Ghosts is a remake.  I was surprised when the DVD case looked nothing like the poster that I remember and realized I was holding the original version filmed in 1960.  In order to see the ghosts, characters in the 2001 film have to wear special glasses.  In the 1960 version, the audience has to wear special glasses to see the ghosts.  I have not screened the original yet but I'll keep an eye out for this detail and have a pair of 3D glasses handy since I suspect that is how the effect is created.  I will get back to you.  There is a special treat for those of you who watch this movie on DVD or Blu-Ray.  Visit the special features and watch the Ghost Files.  This contains the back story of each of the entrapped ghosts as told by the eccentric Cyrus Kriticos, and made the movie that much more entertaining for me.

 

The first time I watched Paranormal Activity, I wasn't aware of its mockumentary status.  By the time I got to the paranormal-activityending, I was pretty sure I had been Blair Witched so I looked it up, just to be sure.  That didn't change my enjoyment of the film and I still really like this kind of story-telling through the eye of a camera if it isn't too nervous.  If you want to take the "inspired by true events" concept a little too far, then this movie fits.  It was inspired by a box of detergent that fell off the shelf while the director was sleeping.  Said box placed in a positio n such that it had no business falling off the shelf.  Who hasn't had that experience? Maybe not a box of detergent - in my case, it was a bottle of detergent that managed to spill itself onto the floor of the laundry room.  At least nobody ever owned up to the accident and it hadn't occurred to me until I rpacreditsead about the director's experience that the laundry room was probably haunted.  That may also explain the mystery of the margarita glass.  Anyway, for some reason I kept the video running after the epilogue this time and I noticed thousands of names scrolling rapidly on the screen.  Why hadn't I seen this before?  The readout on the video indicated there was 15 minutes of this activity.  It turns out that fans of the theatrical release were rewarded for making the film successful by having their names added to the ending credits on the DVD.

 

I finished up week two of the moviefest with Tusk, another selection from the comedy horror genre.  My niece recommended this one along with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil though I cannot say I enjoyed it as much.  I might put this film on my wetuskirdest movie ever list if my husband had agreed.  Watch this film and then let me know what you've seen one that is even weirder just to get some perspective.  Hailey Joel Osment returns to the big screen an older and ... larger man.  Okay, he probably returned a long time ago but you can see my entertainment runs in dark places.  It is Osment's podcast co-host Justin Long, however, who really made me laugh.  Until he couldn't make me laugh anymore because ... well, you'll get it when you see it.  Perhaps the best part of the movie is Fleetwood Mac and the USC Marching Band performing "Tusk."  My husband was disappointed they didn't use The Beatles' music, but suggesting what that music should have been would be a spoiler and if you've seen the film, you know the tune I am talking about.  If you really liked this movie then you are in luck.  Tusk is the first of a trilogy that is followed up with Yoga Hosers (released this year) and Moose Jaws (in production).  I didn't have to love Tusk to go searching for Yoga Hosers.  They had me at the title.

 

That wraps up the first half of 2016 Halloween moviefest.  Two new movies this week, four reruns.  If you like scary  movies even half as much as I do, then I hope your favorite films are in your DVD/Blu-Ray collection.  As you can see, there are some rewards to owning tangible media, aside from it being ... tangible.

 

Intermission

I am taking a quick break from the Halloween moviefest to bring you some alternate media I have found for your scary entertainment.  It's the sad truth that not everybody has the endurance to watch 31 movies in October, not when you consider the ~60 hour time commitment.  And that's if you invest only the minimum effort and stop at 31 moves, which I never do.  It seems downright ... slothful.  "Who has that much time to watch movies?"  I didn't make that up, people ask me that all the time.  It's a fair question and I really have no good answer, so I use words like "endurance" and "activity" and "minimum effort" to justify my addiction.  I do promise to get back on a workout routine after Halloween.  Really. So if spending an obscene amount of time watching movies isn't your bag, but you still want that scary story fix, here are some alternatives.

Podcasts

I came by my podcast habit quite honestly.  My early mornings thrive on routine; I'm really not safe to be on the road for at least an hour after the alarm sounds even if I could be dressed, groomed and ready for work in under 20 minutes.  And for years the Bob & Tom podcast has been part of this routine with news, sports, and the kind of snark that people like me get.  And while Bob&Tom is a staple of my morning routine, I am always looking for an entertaining podcast to keep me company during long commutes after work.  I'll  share with you a few that go along with the Halloween horror theme for those times when you find yourself in the car with nothing better to do but drive and let your imagination run wild.

The Black Tapes Podcast.  I discovered this podcast while doing some research black-tapeson the science of scare.  It was referenced in a really good article that was annoyingly littered with ads - something I promise not to do to you.  The podcast has a byline on their FaceBook page that says, "It's Serial Meets the X-Files." Now I really liked Serial, and I loved the X-files, so a free podcast in the spirit of the two?  It took me about a minute to subscribe.  The podcast researches cases of paranormal activity and features a Dr. Strand who specializes in debunking such cases.  The title is a reference to a series of unsolved cases documented on VHS tapes that are kept in black cases.  I am maybe half way through the first season and really enjoying it, especially during the evening commute now that the days are growing shorter.  My daughter thought the delivery seemed a little over-acted, but I like to think about old time radio that rely on the dramatic because there are no special effects or visuals.  I hope you give it a listen.

nosleepThe No Sleep Podcast.  Podcasters and bloggers (like myself) often rely on their peers to help build their audience.  Visiting other blogs and podcasts and commenting on them draws sponsors which helps fund the resources necessary to refresh the content.  Audiences (including myself) like free media so sponsorship is necessary if you want to take, say, a geeky engineer, and have them devote more time to their blog.  I learned about the No Sleep Podcast from the Black Tapes.  This podcast really is old time radio brought to the digital era.  Each episode includes a collection of scary stories told by dramatic readers and as the link will tell you, it is intended for mature audiences.  So maybe it's a little different than old time radio.  The podcast is in its 8th season.  Early seasons are available at no charge, but there is a fee to subscribe to more recent content.  If this is for you, and I hope it is, help support some starving artists by kicking in a few bucks to keep the chills going during those dark drives when all you have for company is your iPhone.

 

loreLore.  Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.  This is an award winning podcast of true-life scary stories that was recommended by the host of The Black Tapes.  I listened to an interview she had with Lore's producer and immediately subscribed.  I have not started this podcast yet, it's just one too many right now, so take a listen and let me know what you think.  I'll catch up in a few weeks.

YouTube

If you have somewhere between two and 20 minutes, you can choose from these scary shorts offered by YouTube.  In about the time it takes to watch one moviefest selection, you can indulge in all 16 short films.  Can't get enough?  Go to YouTube and enter "short horror movies" and you can feed your newly found short flick addition.  I'll bet you didn't even know this was a thing.

Television

When all else fails, there's television.  And this fall, Fox network is running a new series entitled "The Exorcist."   I've seen the first three episodes and I can say that this series exorcist-cast-2017honors the classic 1971 novel and movie, updated as you might expect.  Because nothing screams contemporary quite like the Catholic church.  I am a little surprised this series is running on network television because it is scary from the opening scene.  I mean, look at the poster.  So in that sense we are definitely updated to post millennium television standards.  If you haven't seen any of the episodes and you need to catch up, spend $8 on a hulu subscription and binge a little.

This summestranger-thingsr Netflix released their original series, Stranger Things.   Eight episodes of paranormal adventure that reminds me of Stand By Me and Dungeons & Dragons and Minority Report and It.  Probably some others that I missed but you can let me know what you think.  I watched the entire series in a weekend but you can pace yourself if you have a subscription.  Good news for fans of the show, Season 2 is in production.

American Horror Story.  All five seasons of this FX original series are now available on Netflix.  Season 6 premiered on FX this month and the american-horror-storyshow was just renewed for a 7th season.  Each season of AHS is independent, so if somebody spilled the beans and mentioned that Lady Gaga stars in Season 5, go ahead and start there, we'll be waiting.  The actors are the common thread that run through the series.  Season 1 is still my favorite though Season 5 is looking pretty good so far.  I wasn't able to finish Season 4, which probably had something to do with the Clown but my fellow AHS fans loved it.  If you're in the mood for some serious binge into the paranormal, the unholy, witchcraft or the just plain weird, AHS is for you.

 

I hope some of all of these alternate selections enhance the scary season for you.  Truth?  I cover 31 days of Halloween movies plus podcasts and YouTube shorts and television episodes.  Yeah, I'm addicted.

 

2016 Halloween Moviefest - Week 1 Recap

It is here!  Halloween season has begun!

conjuring
conjuringa

I broke with the Halloween moviefest tradition this year.  Just a bit.  Of course I watched the original Halloween on October 1, but the Friday before I was like a kid on Christmas.  Or a kid on Christmas Eve.  I decided to watch the movie that currently holds the award for my scariest movie.  The Conjuring.  In my book this movie is scarier than The Exorcist, which kind of sets the standard for most people if that helps with the context.  I usually save this one for well into the season, you know building up to Halloween night, saving the best for last, that kind of stuff.  Or scaring somebody who drops over on Halloween and doesn't like scary movies.  I admit that I had just received Conjuring 2 from Amazon which I really wanted to put on the calendar.  So it was Friday night, and I was excited about October, and in the mood for a good scare ... so I watched it.

The Conjuring combines "based on a true story" with demons, possession, a remote house, the paranormal, moms with little girls, and exorcism.  Let that sink in.  The movie features Ed and Lorraine Warren who are real.  Well, they were real.  Ed passed away ten years ago.   The Warrens were professional paranormal investigators, which incidentally may be my dream job, and the The Conjuring is taken from one of their files.  (So was The Amityville Horror, if anybody is counting.)  For me, that adds a layer of scary and increases the skull factor.  You can read about Ed and Lorraine Warren on your own time, and you will find a lot of criticism about their work with people debunking their theories.  That doesn't bother me.  I believe in the  paranormal and although I don't know what creative license the producers took with the movie, it's a better film if you believe it.  If I wanted to introduce somebody to a really good, scary movie, it would be this one.  I have received mixed reviews on its sequel so stay tuned.

myers-2

On October 1, I did indeed watch the original Halloween.  This movie never bores me.  The opening scene when the one - handed piano cuts in - yeah, magic. Musicians will say that is due to the theme's 5/4 time signature.  Made on a shoestring budget with a Captain James T. Kirk mask, this film will always define the perfect Halloween movie.  Did you know that the original screenplay was not about Halloween at all?  The events were supposed to take place over a series of days but to keep costs down, the story was changed so that it occurred all on one night.  No costume changes.  And what better night than Halloween, the scariest night of the year.  Talk about ironic.  I will say that I wouldn't ever move to Haddonfield.  A smart, sweet teenage babysitter pounds on the door of her neighbors screaming for help and they turn her away?  Worst neighbors ever.

the-ring

I followed up Halloween with The Ring.This film is really original, or it was at the time of its 2002 release.  I mean, we'd never seen anything like this right?  A cursed video that kills anybody who watches it.  A modern-day Medusa.  And just when you think the restless were put to rest and the curse is lifted, you're wrong and it's worse than before.  "You let her out?"  That's right, it ain't over.  Okay, that part isn't terribly original but it is way better than the dead person that reaches out for one last grab at the end.  I didn't see The Ring on the big screen.  Movie crowds annoy me.  If there is one person in the theater talking or kicking the seat or reeking from cigarette smoke, that person is seated squarely behind me.  But I digress.  The DVD includes an easter egg that plays the cursed video when you click on it, and supposedly it takes control of your remote until the video ends and two telephone rings follow.  I remember watching the cursed video but I didn't remember losing control of the remote.  So I went back to check it out  and . . . no Easter egg.   What?!?!  I played the video on all of the DVD players in the house, including my computer - no egg.  Being the scary season, I naturally concluded some supernatural force had intervened.  But the logical and most likely reason is that the DVD I watched back then probably came from Netflix (before streaming) or even a video store for those of you who remember the dinosaur era.  I purchased the DVD several years ago, probably from eBay.  So it isn't the same disc and I don't have the egg.  Anyway, if you have a video of The Ring, click on "Look Here" from the main menu and see if you have the egg.  Then watch it and hold your breath for, oh, about seven days.

twilight-zone-3
twilight-zone-2
twilight-zone

I finished out the weekend with Twilight Zone: The Movie.  This is one where you can argue whether the film qualifies for the moviefest.  And I will take that argument because remember -   we're talking scary movies here, and  the movie pretty much starts . . . and ends . . . with scary.  It's why I included a couple of extra screen shots...

So the question is, Do you want to see something really scary?

Covering movies during the work week is hard because the days start soooooo early.  I target an 8:30 bedtime, which I never make but it's always a goal.  Yes, I am a child.  So weekday movies are nearly always reruns because they are easier.  But they are good reruns.  Like Trick 'r Treat, a comic book come to life. I love the way this film opens with a 1960's era commercial warning of the dangers of Halloween and to check your candy.  Did you know that there has never been a documented case of Halloween treat poisoning?  Snopes it.  And while you're at it you can also read about the hoaxes involving razor-blade tainted apples.  It seems that while these legends have been around for decades, the post-Tylenol poisoning of 1982 resulted in an increase in these tales.  The Tylenol poisoning was real and never solved.  Now THAT'S some scary stuff.

trickrtreat-a.jpg

Trick 'r Treat is a compilation of five interwoven stories on Halloween night.  This movie had been out several years before I accidentally found it while entering search terms into Netflix one day.  If it hadn't been included in the streaming package, I might never have found it.  Trick 'r Treat gets skulls for several reasons.  It is classic Halloween stuff full of costumes and legends, it is well written, well cast and well produced, and it takes place on Halloween night.  I often watch this movie more than once during the season.  There is a bit of nudity in this film if that is something you need to know ahead of time.  (It hadn't occurred to me until just now that maybe this matters.  I will go back and add ratings to the quick look.)

house-on-haunted-hill
houseonhauntedhill
the-craft

Another re-make I watched this week is House on Haunted Hill.  The original 1959 version starred Vincent Price (in my book, the original horror movie star whose voice - and laugh - you hear at the end of Michael Jackson's "Thriller").  I've never seen the original but I think it is no coincidence that the main character in the re-make is named "Price."  Screen shots of the Vincent Price version look pretty scary for 1959, I think I'll search out a copy.  The plot is a familiar one that requires the victims to survive the night in a haunted house in order to collect the reward.  That got me thinking of researching films with the familiar plot which I will probably do at another time.

The Halloween test kitchen opens along with the Halloween moviefest.  I was playing with a new frosting recipe so I turned on The Craft to keep me company in the kitchen while I baked.  I do love me a good movie about witches.  Not the kind with the pointy hats, but the kind that you might consider a counterpart to a wizard like Gandalf.  Real powers that come from somewhere, but get a bad rap when used for evil.  The story here is well written and well cast.  Tell me you haven't tried to levitate your friend during a sleepover.  I'm not sure why The Craft has an R rating but I'm guessing it is for profanity.  I don't screen well for the f-bomb unless it is overdone.  Like in Scarface, or The Big Lebowski, or the Wolf of Wall Street which currently holds the record.  Look it up.

clown-demon

I closed out the week with a new movie, the one I mentioned in my second post about clowns.  For some reason, the country has gone all clown crazy recently.  One news story called it a Clown Apocalypse with real and fake reports of clown sightings, clown attacks and even clown murders.  I mean clowns doing the attacking not being attacked, although there is a meme going around showing clowns holding signs that say, "Clown lives matter."  That cracks me up.  A local story of stalking clowns turned out to be real when the culprit fessed up.  It turned out he was pranking his fellow students but parents, teachers and cops were not amused.  I saw a photo of this guy who obviously meant for his appearance to be creepy and wondered if anybody would actually accept his friend request.

I liked Clown, it pretty much met my expectations.  A really nice guy puts on a clown suit for his kid's birthday party after the hired clown bailed on the gig.  Clown gigs can't be easy to come by so what self respecting clown even does this?  Anyway, dad can't get the suit off and evil ensues and you'll have to watch it for yourself to find out why.  There is a decent legend to back up the plot.  By the time the clown becomes fully demonic (oh, come on, you knew it was coming) the character is really scary, and removing the curse is even scarier.  A warning to watchers that there are kid victims.  Naturally you would expect this because clowns are made for kids, but the fictional screenplay might be disturbing for some.

This week's tally (including the September 30 jump the gun movie) sits at 8.  Eight movies in one week, all reruns but one.  I'm not sure what that says, other than I have a stack of new movies to get through in the next three weeks.  Or that I have favorites that bring out the Halloween in me (not that I really need it).  I also went back and updated the moviefest quick look and it looks like most of these films are rated R.  Again, I'm not sure what that says.  Maybe it says that Halloween isn't for kids, or maybe it says I should be watching movies like Nightmare Before Christmas and Halloweentown instead.  Maybe it's just that Halloween movies are scary.  What do you think?

Halloween Moviefest Quick Look

The Movies Don't Count, But The Chills Do

I've often heard the saying in sports that the preseason games don't count but the injuries do. I thought that was a fitting analogy to the sport that is the Halloween moviefest. Hey, it takes endurance to watch 31 scary movies in 31 days.  And remember from my first post, there are rules.  Endurance and rules; that sounds a lot like a sport to me. So let's check in on the 2016 pre-season which started with the remake of The Amityville Horror. Remakes get such a bad rap - and for good reason.  They obviously lack originality and they usually suck. (Feel free to amityville-horror-2005debate this with me because there are some great remakes out there.)  Anyway, I went into this movie expecting a lame remake so I was pleased that I enjoyed it.

wicker-man-posterThe Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage.  I'd never heard of this 2006 mystery thriller before.  It is another remake but I never saw the original so somebody will have to let me know if it sucks.  This movie goes in my Children of the Corn meets Burning Man bucket.  A small bucket as I haven't seen any other movie that fits this combination.  My husband said it was the weirdest movie he'd ever seen.  Meh, I've seen weirder, but this was not Cage's best performance.

And since we're making combinations, Dreamcatcher goes in my Stand by Me meets It meets The Stand bucket.  Except no clowns.  I really enjoyed this movie set in Derry where you'll find Stephen King's favorite clown.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.  Funny how titles draw or repel us.  Had my niece not mentioned this, I would have ignored the fitucker-n-dalelm they way I did Bill & Ted or Beavis & Butthead.  This horror comedy is so original and deliciously well done, I had to watch it twice during the same weekend.  When the college kid runs head on into . . . wait.  No spoilers here!  Watch this one for yourself.

behind-the-mask

Another pre-season selection in the horror comedy genre is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.  This selection featured on the Shudder channel got off to a slow start but it's worth sticking with it, you won't be sorry.

We are Still Here is kind of a tacky title, but a couple moving into a haunted house after a tragedy is a concept I find irresistible.  The theme behind the title was a little unexpected and this B movie held my interest to the end.

I watched the Dark Mirror during a marathon session in the kitchen.  This psychological thriller was pretty good although I have to admit I was more concerned with the sear on the grill than the mysterious disappearing subjects, so I may have missed some of the details.  I will watch this one again to fill in the gaps, and that should tell You this movie is worth the time.

hostel

I finally watched Hostel this month.  I've seen bits and pieces of Hostel and Hostel 2, but I'd never really, you know, watched.  I wasn't aware this was a Quentin Tarantino film. And I love the Saw movies, so naturally I liked Hostel.  Sick, twisted, weird? Probably.  But what if I throw in the possibility that the film was inspired by true events?  Yeah, that's what they say, and that takes this sick, twisted and weird movie to a whole new level.

And now for the reruns.  (You thought I was done, didn't you!)

1408

1408 is hands down my top re-run of the pre-season.

Stephen King strikes again in this thriller starring John Cusack as a professional paranormal skeptic.  I mean, how do you even get a job like that?   If you haven't seen this movie, drop everything and watch it on Amazon Prime.  Supposedly the standard DVD runtime is exactly 104 minutes and 8 seconds, and it stops playing at 1:44:08, both shout-outs to the title.  I streamed the film so I'd love to know if this is true.  Trivia:  I borrowed the skull rating from this film, which gets lots of skulls.

A severe storm system moved through northern Utah last weekend, inspiring me to watch The Mist.  Yes, another Stephen King tale.  Stormy nights beg for scary movies, I even started a post on the role of storms in scary movies during the storm but we'll save that for a later date.  This isn't a bad kid friendly film if you are a responsible parent cutting your children's' teeth on horror.  There is no language or nudity to worry about.  Just an annoying religious zealot, which might not be all that unusual around here.  the-gate

Another film fit for your budding horror freaks is The Gate.  This movie obviously takes place in the 1980's in a neighborhood where monsters are an acceptable risk if it means your parents leave you alone for the weekend.

I also watched The Others, one of Nicole Kidman's best performances (imho).  Executive produced by Tom Cruise, this film was released at the same time the public divorce became final.  That trivia made it a little more creepy for me. I love the whispered dialog dotted by bloodcurdling screams.

Last on this pre-season review post is Scream 2.  Yep, the sequel.  I didn't even watch the original but truth - I couldn't find it on Netflix.  Turns out I made a typo in the search box using the miniature Apple TV remote.

If you're keeping score (remember this is a sport), the tally comes to 5 reruns and 8 new movies that I hadn't seen before.  I sort of found that fascinating because reruns usually form the foundation of the Halloween moviefest.  I'm not sure that is because I used to think that there weren't enough decent new scary movies to sustain me for 31 days, or if it's just that reruns are delightful when you are just too lazy to watch a new flick.  That may be the ultimate in sloth.  But I still get chilled, so I'm okay with that.ghostface

Less than a week until the season officially starts.

Keep counting, and keep watching.

No Clowns!

clown-4 Apple TV  has this cool channel - Trailers.  You can literally watch hours worth of movies a couple of minutes at a time.  It's awesome.   I can waste an entire afternoon watching the best parts of movies packed with action, emotion and suspense, and skip all of the bad endings, boring interludes and crappy acting.

A few weeks ago I was trolling the Trailer channel for moviefest candidates when I came across a clip for the movie "Clown." How had I missed this 2014 film? And more important, what was I to do with this pivotal moment? Anybody who knows me will tell you that there are two things that terrify me.  Clowns and . . . well, let's just leave it at clowns for now.

Hey but I'm not alone, fear of clowns is a thing.  It has to be a thing because there is a name for it.  Coulrophobia.  Look it up.  Just don't try to find it in the DSM or ICD because coulrophobia isn't a recognized diagnosis, medically speaking.  Maybe it is a made-up phobia for something that  isn't terribly uncommon.  And there is a lot of research out there to back up this clown-phobia thing if you Google it.  The most interesting to me are studies documenting that kids universally don't like clowns, and usually fear them.  Clowns are made for kids and kids don't like them.  Weird.

So why the widespread clown fear?  Maybe it's because clowns are made to have exaggerated features that hide their true emotions.  Painted on smile, big funny nose, straggly hair, bald head or weird hat.  Features that are kind of identifiable but just distorted enough to be disturbing.

bozo-the-clown2

coco-the-clown

Even clowns that aren't meant to be scary are still . . . not right.

 

Or maybe it is the way clowns are portrayed in movies and television.  Ask a person why they don't like clowns and they'll probably reach back to some event in their past, a movie or a clown in costume based on a movie.  How many films portray clowns as scary, supernatural or evil?  Some of my favorites have made it into top ten lists floating around the internet.  Poltergeist, It, American Horror Story, and Rob Zombie's twisted tales brought to life (or death) in House of 1000 Corpses and the Devil's Rejects.

house-of-100-corpses

Rob Zombie's clown development is twisted, to say the least.  It makes me love his music even more.

 

At the time of its original 1982 release, I thought Poltergeist was the scariest movie I had ever seen. The opening clown scene set the tone early in the film, making the harmless clown look extra scary by the light of a threatening storm.  Foreboding.  Predicting disaster.  As in get rid of the stupid clown before it shows its evilness and attacks you.  But movie kids never listen to the audience, they can't hear us.

imageI didn't like the Poltergeist clown from the beginning.  And while I'm pretty sure that was Spielberg's intent, I sort of blame it on the fact that that the clown was a dead ringer (ha!) for a decorative clown my mother gave me as a kid.  It was some crafty doll that a co-worker was selling and in the light of day, it was sort of cute.  But at night, I swear that thing moved.  The kind of inanimate toy movement that only happens at night when everybody else is asleep and you have no defense other than hiding under the covers.  (I had a paper doll on my dresser that moved at night, too. It never occurred to me to just, you know, get rid of it or put it in the drawer.  Kids.)

 

When Steppennywise2hen King's novel, "It," was made into a TV movie, Tim Curry took Pennywise the clown to a whole new level of  evil, terrorizing a group of kids into their adult years and taking fans with him.  And there's the Joker of the Batman genre, who got creepier with every iteration.  But I have to say that the scariest clown I've seen in film (which includes made for TV) is found in the Freakshow season of American Horror Story.  This evil clown is so disturbingly creepy that I couldn't finish the series.  And I love American Horror Story.  And who can forget real-life clown, John Wayne Gacy, a psychopath that developed his own clown character, Pogo, after he joined a clown club known as the Jolly Jokers. A clown club.  Talk about wrong.  Gacy was a serial killer whose biography is represented in the movie "Killer Clown." That fact aloneahs-twisty-gif is enough to put a person off clowns forever.

Anyway, back to me and the Trailer with channel with this hideous clown face staring at me from a movie poster . . . daring me to watch.  It was daytime in the summer so not the middle of the night with everyone asleep, or worse, nobody else at home.   So I watched it and I decided it had to go on the moviefestlist.

I know what you're thinking.  I've added a clown movie to this year's line-up so the cardinal rules of Halloween décor have changed.  The answer is NO.  The cardinal rule being, no matter how many displays we set up... with fog and lights and sound, ghosts and phantoms and macabre guests, graveyards with jack o'lanterns, skeletons, witches, reapers and the undead; snarling hounds and haunted children, a giant ghost bride, the mysterious disappearance of Ghost Guy last season; 12 dozen hand-decorated Halloween cupcakes, a no-show headless horseman; and new this year, the fear theatre with a gargoyle.

No matter how over the top these displays might seem . . . No Clowns!!

clown2

I opted to purchase the movie because it was only a few bucks more to buy the disc than to stream it.  The movie arrived the other day with a cover that was even more disturbing in my hands than it was on the television.  And now that I own it, and I'm currently waiting for the official moviefest season to screen this one, I was forced to hide the package away so it can't come after me in the night.

And I will watch the movie with company.  Because only two things scare me Clowns and . . .

My Definitive Halloween Movie

Halloween_c

Halloween.

Fabulous, creepy, amazing Halloween. It's just around the corner.  Well, for me it was just around the corner In June, but now that it's less than three months away, I'm calling it.

Halloween at the Allman household officially kicks off on October 1 with the annual Halloween moviefest.  Thirty-one days of scary movies (not including pre-season).  I say "scary" movies because horror, thriller, slasher, supernatural, suspence and such genres all fit within my moviefest rules.  "Rules?" You say.  "A Halloween moviefest has rules?"  Well, duh.   Didn't you see "Scream?"  There are rules.

Really, they're more like guidelines.

Whatever it is about Halloween that makes you happy, your rules of moviefest should support that.

Jamie-Lee-Curtis-Halloween.jpg

I'm not sure why I love Halloween.  Maybe it's the childhood memories of birthdays my sister and I had in October that melded with the Halloween festivities. Maybe it was my mother's genius in costume design and her own love for Halloween.  Maybe it was dressing up in robes to scare our friends, or chasing some legend of s headless Chinese railroad worker with my brothers, or hanging out in cemeteries to scare ourselves. Hell, maybe it was just all of the candy - the glorious contraband of my youth. My siblings and my children and my nieces are also really into Halloween, so maybe it's simply genetic.

However it started, October 1 at my house is traditionally reserved for the original John Carpenter "Halloween."  Jamie Lee Curtis made her debut as a high school babysitting nerd at about the same time that I was a budding high school nerd myself.

Long before reruns or VHS or HBO or DVD, streaming video or the cloud, we had one shot to see "Halloween" on the big screen. It was an unprecedented film for its time.  Larger than life in the theater, it scared the hell out of me. And I am teleported back to fall in a small town high school every time I see it.

38 years later, I still jump the first time Michael Myers sits up.  You do, too.  You know you do.

Myers

What movie is your hallmark Halloween flick? What defines the season for you?  Are you into classics? What are the classics? Is Conjuring as terrifying for you as it is for me? Are you a Bruce Campbell fan?  Does Ghostbusters count as a Halloween movie, and does the remake work?  We will explore these and other deeply important Halloween topics in the weeks to come.

saw

Happy movie watching, and let the games begin.