Here we are at the end of perilous things, but to misquote Dickens “I will honor Halloween in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” How was my spooky season? It’s been okay. And in 2020 terms that means it’s been super awesome.
Followed *most* of the Drawloween prompts, resulting in this:
I’m supposed to be reading The Hound of the Baskervilles this weekend for Sherlockathon, but mostly I’m just chilling out and regrouping for…
Notes of Non-Peril
Nonfic November! I’ll be blogging for that tomorrow and I’m combining my first couple nonfiction reads with Sherlockathon. My original choice, The Butchering Art, is on deep hold at the library so I’ll be reading Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood and The Tale of Terror: A Study Of The Gothic Fiction by Edith Birkhead.
And I’m also going to do NaNoWriMo. Yep. I’m going to try and write 50K words on my Ada Swason project. Basically, I’m going to write a loosely structured narrative, with digressions and notes on what I need to further research. So far, so good: I’ve already got one day done!
Stars: John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen Eric McIntyre
“Nobody can know all about someone, can they?”
Initial: It was either go with a film title that included an “X” or watch Xtinction: Predator X. Fear X seemed like a good option.
Production Notes: Nicolas Winding Refn also directed Drive (2011), which is probably one of my top 30 favorite films.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) As much as I like Drive, I hadn’t seen any other of Refn’s films. Fear X is pretty low-key. Its plot is relatively simple and its ending is ambiguous. It’s slow and quiet. Apparently, it was such a flop that it put Refn in debt. But I rather like it. John Turturro is excellent and many of the things I like about Drive (a script that doesn’t explain much and long shots of people in hallways) are here in spades.
Year: 1994 Runtime: 1h 42m Rated: R
Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: James O’Barr, David J. Schow, John Shirley
Stars: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson
“What are you supposed to be, a clown or something?”
Initial: I had originally slated Young Sherlock Holmes for my “Y” rewatch, but it didn’t sit well with me. I consider it to be too much of a Christmas movie, and I’m not ready to skip that far forward. So, I decided instead on a Devil’s Night movie.
Production Notes: Not only is co-writer John Shirley a novelist, he’s also written lyrics for bands such as Blue Öyster Cult.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) There are so many great things about this movie, least of which is my nostalgia surrounding it. The style obviously owes a lot to O’Barr’s original comic, but director Proyas and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski aren’t slouches when it comes to visuals. (They teamed up again a few years later for Dark City (1998).) Brandon Lee and Ernie Hudson have a great rapport. It has one of the best soundtracks and scores around. Yeah, occasionally, the time-line is a little screwy and things only make sense in a comic book sort of way, but everyone making this movie was invested and it shows.
Year: 2016 Runtime: 1h 42m Rated: R
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Richard Brake
“First, I’m gonna bless you with a story.”
Initial: A movie from Rob Zombie. Zombie. Z. Get it??
Production Notes: A crowdfunded production.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Rob Zombie does some really nice things as a filmmaker. In all the movies of his that I’ve watched, there are always some really beautiful sequences…I mean, for a blood-drenched splatter films. Zombie knows horror, especially 70s horror. But, man, I wish he’d direct something he hasn’t written. 31‘s set up is tenuous. The characters are stereotypes and their survival is not based on any sort of competence. The plot is basically put five people in a weird place and send killers after them.
Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane
“What up with all the Hellraiser?” my husband asked me the other day.
‘Tis the season, I guess.
I do rather like Hellraiser, the movie and the Clive Barker story, “Hellbound Heart,” that it’s based on. I believe I’ve watched the second in the series as well, but haven’t further followed the franchise. The mashup of Sherlock Holmes and Hellraiser lore seemed intriguing to me.
How much Hellraiser is in this novel? Quite a bit. This more than a wink-nudge-nod. I don’t think it’s explicitly necessary to be familiar with the movies or additional literature, but I did find the protracted mention of various Cenobites from other sources to be a little tedious.
Similarly, there are a lot of mentions and allusions to the extended Holmes universe, which I enjoyed more since I’m more familiar with that. I am a little leery of non-canon Holmes fiction, especially when it runs along the lines of “Sherlock Holmes Meets [insert famous historical/fictional character]”, but the conceit of Holmes being drawn to the Lament Configuration after his near-death at Reichenbach was plausible. I thought the personality traits of Holmes and Watson were well-represented, but many of the plot points originated from character other than the duo. It wasn’t *quite* deus ex machina, but close in a couple cases.
It was a fun enough book, especially for an October read.
Initial: “Katherine, what’s all this Hulu love?” Well, Hulu is the streaming service I currently subscribe to, so I might as well use it.
Production Notes: Another of Hulu/Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) As a fan of concepts like the Deck of Many Things in Dungeons & Dragons, I wish this were a better movie. First of all, for a film called Uncanny Annie, it’s rather devoid of Annie. I’m not sure why you’d set up a creepy little girl villain, but then not use her. The black void the characters found themselves in is a great budget saver, but it didn’t quite work. The cast worked pretty well together, but I wished they’d been a smidge smarter, especially considering that several of them were fairly experienced tabletop and board gamers.
Year: 1979 Runtime: 1h 48 Rated: R
Director: Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise)
Writers: Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi, Giulio Paradisi, Ovidio G. Assonitis
Stars: Mel Ferrer, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen
“Beautiful and peaceful. Where would that be?”
“Far away. Beyond the imagination.”
Initial: After watching the trailer, what even is this movie?!
Production Notes: Cast also includes director Sam Peckinpah.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) This is a bizarre movie, but despite what I’ve read of other people’s experiences of it, not incomprehensible. The plot is fairly simple. An evil alien (but totally not a demon) has spread his genes around. Barbara has passed some of those genes to her daughter, Katy, who is manifesting some malevolent psychic abilities (but is totally not possessed). A group of cultists (and Katy) want Barbara to have another child (a son, but totally not the antichrist). An old guy from space or maybe just another dimension wants to put a stop to this. The rest is amazing shots of people’s eyes, an absolutely terrible 70s action score, an amazing amount of easy-break glass, and Lance Henriksen being dispatched by a switchblade-wielding clay pigeon.
“I was thinking, maybe… I should just bring a broom down here for you, if you wanted to sweep up some of the skeletons. I don’t know…”
Initial: I’ve been in the mood to watch Thor: Ragnarok, but it’s the Horror A to Z…
Production Notes: There’s a What We Do series on Hulu. I’ve watched a few episodes, but it hasn’t caught on with me. It tries too hard…
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) I love a good horror comedy. What We Do in the Shadows is maybe more subtle in its comedy than most, relying on the absurdity of the situation, four vampires sharing a house, than out-and-out jokes. But I did notice more call-backs on this rewatch (I’ve probably seen WWDitS three times now). Ex. Vladislav the Poker’s look of excitement when told he can “poke” someone on Facebook. There are a few scenes that are a bit scary too: Nick attempting to flee the dinner party; Stu and the camera men suddenly being very much in danger. And well, as a vampire movie probably should, there’s a lot of blood.
I intended to read The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes for Sherlockathon‘s Mycroft prompt (read an entire book in one location), but after a few pages, I found that I didn’t care for the art or Christopher Sequeira’s take on Holmes and Watson. So, I switched from one graphic novel collection to another and read Cynthia von Buhler’s Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini. Minky is a hard-boiled PI who ends up uncovering the truth behind Houdini’s death. It’s based kinda-sorta on fact, with quite a bit of nudity, bondage, and girl-fights mixed in. Definitely not the usual fiction I’ve read about Houdini.
Notes of Peril
I also finished my first novel for the Sherlockathon: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane. I’ll have a review of that later in the week. Next up: The Parasite by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Deal Me In provided a holiday treat this week: “Dark Christmas” by Jeanette Winterson. Of course, wrong holiday, but that’s what happens when you put Christmas stories in your random reading challenge. Very “perilous” and atmospheric, though, proving that the spirit of the Halloween holiday can continue after Saturday.
Notes of Non-Peril
Cooler weather! Football! It’s almost like fall around here. Well, Nebraska lost its game and we’re probably going back to near 90F by the end of the week, but I’ll take it for as long as I can have it.
Usually, I’m all in on Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, which happened on Saturday, but I didn’t participate this time around. Leading up to it, I was hesitant and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I thought it was just because I had other things going on Saturday (like Nebraska football’s season opener and horror films to watch). But halfway through Saturday, I finally figured out what the deal was. I had found the last Readathon stressful. I know it sounds kind of dumb, but I had felt pressure to read when I didn’t feel like reading. I didn’t want to be stressed out about reading! So, I abstained this time around. We’ll see how I feel in April.
Initial: Not horror, really, but a Halloween movie, at least for me. And I really needed a fun break from horror and, well, life.
Production Notes: The first televised broadcast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred on Oct. 25, 1993…
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) … And that would be the first time I ever saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though I’m sure a in PG-ized prime-time version. I have a very specific set of memories attached to Rocky Horror. Nineteen ninety-three was my freshman year in college and I had just moved from one dorm room (where I had a roommate) to another (where I didn’t). All the friends I had made thus far in college were in the other building and this particular Monday was the first weeknight I spent, alone, in this new room. I watched Rocky Horror, studied for a chemistry test, and fretted about how I was going to survive the semester. I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to pass my classes. I remember thinking that Rocky Horror was loud and weird and, I would later think to label it, queer. It felt safely transgressive. Watching it today, I’m amazed that it was on TV! This year, it was perfect thing to watch instead of the presidential debate.
Stir of Echoes
Year: 1999 Runtime: 1h 39m Rated: R
Director: David Koepp
Writers: Richard Matheson, David Koepp, Andrew Kevin Walker
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Zachary David Cope, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas
“I’m not shocked that there’s another woman. Of course, the fact that she’s dead gives one pause.”
Initial: I’ve been looking forward to rewatching this film since I set my lists back in late August.
Production Notes: Director/writer David Koepp teamed up again with Kevin Bacon for another novel adaptation: You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) Coming out a month after The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes never got as much credit as it deserves. This is the style of ghost story I enjoy most: one that has the supernatural, but is also a mystery that isn’t entirely solved by the supernatural. The plot is well put-together. Plus, I really like the blue-collar characters and neighborhood. Kevin Bacon plays a great somewhat likeable asshole. Yes, sure, it doesn’t have the “twist” of something like The Sixth Sense, but it’s solid and creepy.
Year: 1963 Runtime: 2h Rated: N/R
Director: Sidney Salkow
Writers: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert E. Kent
Stars: Vincent Price, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Joyce Taylor
“My old friend, you had the grace of a panther!”
“I did, didn’t I?”
Initial: Decided there hadn’t been enough Vincent Price in my autumn.
Production Notes: Based loosely on three stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and The House of the Seven Gables.
What Did I Think: (possible spoilers ahead) This movie is very 60s Victorian/Gothic, as can be expected. The “Rappaccini’s Daughter” segment was my favorite. Brett Halsey and Joyce Taylor are good-looking people with some chemistry and the garden is over-saturated and bright, the perfect contrast to the tragic romance of Giovanni and Beatrice. Price is at his most complex here too. His Rappaccini is honestly confused as to why no one thinks he’s done the right thing by making his daughter and her lover poisonous.
The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” by William Hope Hodgson
Being an account of their Adventures in the Strange places of the Earth, after the foundering of the good ship Glen Carrig through striking upon a hidden rock in the unknown seas to the Southward. As told by John Winterstraw, Gent., to his son James Winterstraw and by him committed very properly and legibly to manuscript.
As I mentioned in my Notes post, I had decided to read Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates between Home Before Dark and the Sherlockathon, but an author’s note in that volume redirected me to The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”, the first of a loose trilogy, apparently. The second volume is The House on the Borderland, which I intend to read as part of my Classics List at some point. The House on the Borderland is commonly considered a foundational text of weird fiction and is well-regarded by the likes of H. P . Lovecraft.
I really enjoyed The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”. I get in the mood for sea adventures every once in a while, especially ones with a bit of supernatural flair. Two boats make it away from the wreck of the Glen Carrig. They encounter a desolate island full of shrieking fungi, storms, a continent of kelp, giant crabs and squids, and finally an island near another wrecked ship with survivors who have been marooned for seven years. Alas, the island/kelp sea’s natural inhabitants are strange squid men.
My forever beef with weird fiction is that it often falls back on “It was indescribable and therefore drove me insane!” Hodgson’s narrator does his best to describe all the uncanny elements and then he and his colleagues proceed to kill the things with fire. Is he later nervous and a little haunted by the things? Sure. But the goal is always survival. Does that make this a less sophisticated story? Maybe, but also a more enjoyable story in my opinion.
In the later part of the novel, Hodgson does get wrapped up in describing how the ship marooned in the kelp sea is eventually put into sailing shape again. All of the sea voyaging seems pretty realistic to me, which also grounds the fantastic elements, but some of these bits are drier than Melville’s whale chapters in Moby-Dick.