Posted in Other Media

Watching Peril, 10/12/22

I Think We’re Alone Now

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 39m
Rated: R

Director: Reed Morano

Writers: Mike Makowsky

Stars: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Paul Giamatti

Initial: I didn’t know the release date of this film when I watched it. I thought for sure it was a pandemic film, considering the very small cast and subject matter. It is not. It’s was released in 2018.

What Did I Think:
I don’t believe in the paranormal, so it seems rather incongruous that one of my favorite genres is horror, especially ghosts stories. The problem is, supernatural horror is such a good canvas for telling stories that I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the tale. The post-apocalypse can be a great canvases too, but I find that often those stories end up being too big, too inclined to satire. I Think We’re Alone Now is mostly a small, subtle post-apocalyptic story.

We’re not burdened with the “why” of the apocalypse: seemingly a majority of people simply died one Tuesday morning. I’m not sure if Del (Peter Dinklage) really believes he’s the last man on earth, but telling thing is that he doesn’t endeavor to find out and is befuddled by Grace’s appearance. It’s also pretty telling about me that I saw him living in the library and thought, “That’s the perfect way to spend an apocalypse!” How he and Grace (Elle Fanning) interact is absolutely the best thing about this film.

The third act widens the plot, but really only in a way that explains some of the mysteries surrounding both Grace and Del. Thankfully, the story stay too long away from our main characters.


Hellraiser

Year: 2022
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rated: R

Director: David Bruckner

Writers: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski, David S. Goyer

Stars: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison

Initial: This is a reboot and I have Hulu. Sure, why not?

What Did I Think:
Despite its many flaws, the original Hellraiser (1987) is one of my favorite horror films. In fact, I seem to like all the (3) movies that Clive Barker has directed. He has a very particular view that comes through in his films. I watched Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) and it was fine, but I jumped off the franchise that sequel. The story seemed to be headed in an overly baroque direction.

There are many things about this Hellraiser reboot are well done. Odessa A’zion’s Riley is good character and well-acted. The set and character design is wonderful. Voight’s boxed-in mansion is an image right up there with the new cenobite designs in memorable visuals. Jamie Clayton’s Pinhead/Priest is menacing, but also tempting.

This Hellraiser is also unfortunately rather tidy. Yes, I am complaining about a coherent story and explained lore, both of which feel out of place in this franchise. But also, the story and design are not gooey or grimy. The story shifts the focus from mostly transgressive characters (much of the first film’s runtime was spent with Frank and Julia) to a firm protagonist in A’zion’s Riley. We do see more of the cenobites, but they’re less villains and more like the inevitable curse that will catch up with you.

Still, Hellraiser (2022) is worthwhile viewing for spooky season. As with Prey (2022), I’m surprised there was no plan for any theatrical release, especially considering the recent success of other R-rated horror movies (notably, Smile and Barbarian).


Shadow in the Cloud

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 23m
Rated: R

Director: Roseanne Liang

Writers: Roseanne Liang, Max Landis

Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale

Initial: My sister recommended this movie to me ages ago! Mostly, because she knows I love movies with anachronistic synth soundtracks.

Production Notes: The script was rewritten somewhat after Max Landis was booted from the project. As far as I can tell from perusing an online version of Landis’s script, the bones of the action remained the same, but there was definitely some switch in focus.

What Did I Think:
You know the song “Princes of the Universe” by Queen? You know, the theme from Highlander (1986, 1992–1998 on TV)? I’ve linked it there if you’re unfamiliar with the whole track, and if you know it from Highlander, you might not be familiar with the whole track. Because “Princes of the Universe” is a great half of a song. It’s so epic that at the 1:40 mark there is no where to go with it.

Shadow in the Cloud is a great half of a movie. It’s stylish with a pretty rad soundtrack. We know something is up with Maude and her package, but we don’t know what. It’s pretty heartbreaking listening to the rest of the crew, all men, deride her, especially when enemy planes and actual gremlins come on the scene. It’s claustrophobic in more ways than one. I was getting strong Pontypool (2008) vibes. But, dang it, I wish this movie could have found some other ending. There’s a twist and I didn’t care for it. I also wasn’t a fan of the super-heroics, some of which made the trailer.

But the first half? Great half of a movie.

Posted in Female Author, Mixed Anthology, Novella, Short Story

Reading Peril, 10/12/22

Cover: Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Cover: Famous Modern Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

I feel like Nothing But Blackened Teeth has been on my TBR list for years, but it was only published this year. More likely, after reading Khaw’s Persons Non Grata novellas, I’ve been meaning to read more of her works.

I liked Nothing But Blackened Teeth well enough. I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligiea” recently and Khaw’s use of architecture in Teeth is very comparable, and I love architecture in stories! In many ways, this story reads like a J-horror film, full of vengeful ghosts and yokai just at the edge of sight. In fact, our narrator Cat often refers horror tropes as events unfold.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories, ed. by Dorothy Scarborough

“Modern” is, of course, a relative word. This anthology was published in 1921, so Scarborough’s picks are from 1830-ish on. Included are many stories that very much have survived the test of time: “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev, “The Shadow on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Bowmen” by Arthur Machen, and “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe. If I hadn’t read these stories before, I knew of them.

There are also a couple gems with modern touches: “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar is written from the ghost’s point of view and “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W. F. Harvey could easily be Thing’s great-grandfather.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories has been on my Kindle for a good long while and thus counts for my Beat the Backlog challenge. And it’s of course available at Project Gutenberg!

Posted in Readathons-Challenges-Memes

Readers Imbibing Peril & Something Wicked Fall

Image of two small unlit jack-o-lanterns with a black and orange background with other seasonal leaves.
Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Autumn is my favorite season. Horror, mystery and the related are my favorite genres. So, of course, Readers Imbibing Peril (or, R.I.P.) is one of my favorite reading/blogging events! There are multiple categories of participation or “perils.” Check out the link for details.

Banner for Something Wicked Fall blogging event.

September and October are also the time for Something Wicked Fall at Castle Macabre! The read-along this year is Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver, which I’ve had on my TBR for a while!

Click for TBRs
Posted in Female Author, Male Author, Nonfiction, Novel

Danse Macabre Around the Sundial Tonight

A couple reviews of books I finished a last weekend during Readathon:

Danse Macabre by Stephen King

Back in the late 70s, after Stephen King had become the go-to horror guy, he was approached to write a book about the phenomena of horror: why some people like it, why some writers write it, and why horror works. King decided, judiciously, to focus the field and write about horror between 1950 and 1980, both written and on film.

I first read this book back in college. At the time, I hadn’t read or watched much horror at all. Much of what King discusses was not really in my realm of knowledge (though weirdly, reading about horror media has always been almost as fun for me as consuming it). This book was, in fact what turned me on to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Anne Rivers Siddon’s The House Next Door, both of which I happily found in UNL’s library. It was definitely interesting to revisit Danse Macabre now that I’ve read and watched more of the titles mentioned.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

Speaking of Shirley Jackson . . . A second reread for me this month. This isn’t decreasing my “# of owned and unread books”.

I have in the past confused this book with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Not hard to do, I feel. Both involve a very insular group of people living in big old house. The difference: Merricat (from Castle) knows the world isn’t ending because she’s not lucky enough for all the people she hates to be so quickly wiped out.

This book is wild. As I mentioned the first time I read it (in 2006), I’m pretty sure there’s a satirical element, but, other than pointing out the lunacy that can come from classism, I’m not sure I’m neurotypical enough to puzzle it all out. It is a very funny book with moments of WTF and a dollop of terror when Julia tries to break for town.

Posted in Other Media

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Haunted House

To misquote a tagline, what’s better than one haunted house? Four haunted houses! I’m not against remakes and I had the opportunity recently to watch some classics back-to-back with their turn-of-the-century remakes. How do they stack up?

House on Haunted Hill (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960) were both directed by William Castle and written by Robb White. Castle was rather well known for promoting his films with gimmicks. House‘s gimmick was Emergo: in certain theaters, at a certain point in the film, a skeleton would be made to fly over the audience. Ghosts‘ had Illusion-O: a viewing device that audience members could use to see the ghosts in the film. Honestly, 13 Ghosts loses a lot without its gimmick because there isn’t much going on other than seeing the ghosts.

House on Haunted Hill is by no means a great movie, but it generally serves as a bit of schlocky seasonal fun. Vincent Price is delightfully wicked, the exterior of the house is a Frank Lloyd Wright design, and it has a few actually creepy moments. The plot (spoilers) isn’t exactly supernatural, but it has enough double dealing and betrayal that , if the house wasn’t haunted before, it is now. It’s also the easiest to view now. A copyright SNAFU has led to it being in the public domain.

In 1998, genre heavy-weights Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, and Gilber Adler founded Dark Castle Entertainment. The production company’s first two films were remakes of the two William Castle films mentioned above.

House on Haunted Hill (1999) was directed by William Malone and written by Dick Beebe. While the basic plot stays intact (stay over night in the haunted place, win money) the “house” is actually a former insane asylum, a trope that’s wearing thin for me. One of the criticisms of both of these movies (and of a trend in horror films that started during this period) is that they become too reliant on CGI effects. Yes, the ending of this movie is very over-wrought as our survivors flee from a Rorschach-test-like dark cloud. Luckily, there are some uncanny moments earlier in the film and there are also a few nods to the original. Winner of the Vincent-Price-level evil award: Famke Janssen.

Thir13een Ghosts (2001), directed by Steve Beck and written by Neal Marshall Stevens and Richard D’Ovidio, diverges even more from the original, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As in the original, a hard-up family inherits a haunted house, but in this case, what a house! It’s all glass, glowing runes, and clockworks. The set design is really the star of this movie. The titular ghosts have back stories, which the movie doesn’t really worry about fleshing out. That’s fine, those details go into the character design where they belong. While the ghosts may not be that scary, they are interesting. Like House on Haunted Hill, the ending is the weakest point in Ghosts, but it’s kind of a fun ride while it lasts.

Posted in Other Media

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Spooky Music

I have a pretty big Spotify playlist that I call 31 Flavors of October. It’s a combination of goth, industrial, movie soundtracks, and other somewhat “spooky” music. I hit random a just let it go. Here’s a sampler:

“The Olde HeadBoard” by Rasputina, from How We Quit the Forest, 1998

“The Haunting” by Nosferatu, from Prince of Darkness, 1996

Listen to More
Posted in Male Author, Other Media, Short Story

R.I.P. Bingo ~ Vampire

“Clarimonde” by Théophile Gautier – My original Classics Club pick for September was The Devil’s Elixirs by E. T. A. Hoffmann. At about 30% of the way through, I realized that I had kind of lost track of characters. The story is *very* Gothic with many characters and secret relationships between characters. For the time being, I’ve put The Devil’s Elixirs aside, to be visited more gradually with pen and paper in hand. To keep up RIP momentum and still cross a title off my Classics Club list, I chose a short title that I thought would still work for Gothic September. “Clarimonde” was perfect.

Published in 1835, the vampire tale “La Morte amoureuse” (“The Dead Woman in Love”) or, “Clarimonde” predates Le Fenu’s “Carmilla” by over 35 years. Our titular vampiress tempts a priest, but is, alas, eventually overcome. I found it surprisingly racy for the 19th century, though the parting “moral” of the story is, “Men, beware of women . . .”


“Jerusalem’s Lot” and “One for the Road” by Stephen King – I read “Jerusalem’s Lot” and was confused. Wasn’t this Stephen King’s vampire story? While nosferatu get name-checked, the end of the story seemed to suggest something much more Lovecraftian in nature. And then I realized that King had also written a novel called ‘Salem’s Lot. I had heard of ‘Salem’s Lot but more in the context of the movie adaptation. I thought it was just the clever sales way of giving the project a more evocative title. But, no! Two separate projects, though both in King’s literary universe. Yes, there are vamps in Jerusalem’s Lot. We just don’t see them in their full vamp glory in the short story. For that, we have to go down the road to Tookey’s Bar in “One for the Road” and try to save some out-of-towners from the Lot’s denizens during a blizzard.


Abraham Lincoln: Vamipre Hunter

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rated: R

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Writer: Seth Grahame-Smith

Stars: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper

Initial: Oh, why not . . .

What Did I Think:
If you take this movie as a bit of fun, it’s ridiculous, but not really a *bad* movie. The action is a little too CGI, but you don’t really need to exactly follow what’s going on in any of the fight scenes. The plot adds a little to vampire lore and it’s fun to imagine vampires in the burgeoning United States before Dracula.

But if you think about it a little too long, it could be a little problematic. Is this film really saying that the South was full of slave-owning vampires and not slave-owning people? I guess they’re going for allegory and I’m missing it(?) Also, full of factual errors (aside from the vampire thing). This isn’t the movie to watch for history.