Sunday, October 4, 2015

Octoberfest Five: Sunday Bloody Sunday






Saturday, October 3, 2015

Octoberfest Five: 5 Favorite Dark Poems

~by Marie Robinson

“Love isn’t soft, like those poets say. Love has teeth that bite and wounds that never close.”

-Stephen King

While all of us love a good flick or short story, poetry is more of an acquired taste. A movie can lay it all out for you, visually and orally, but poetry is more complex. A good poem will make you think think and feel, and a good horror poem will make you afraid to turn out the lights. Here are a few of my favorites.

Der Erlkönig

“Der Erlkönig”, or, “The Erl-King” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was written in 1782. Goethe (pronounced “gir-tah”) was a German poet most famous for his tragic play Faust, which has become the archetype for countless horror stories since its production.

“The Erl-King” is about a father riding through the forest at night with his young son in his arms when they are unexpectedly attacked by the Erl-King, a supernatural being from German folklore. The Erl-King is a forest spirit; a literal translation of his name means “Elf King”, and he is believed to be the king of the fairies. The Erl-King is an evil creature who preys on children, and has a famously evil daughter, as well.

Pay close attention to who is speaking in the poem, for it switches from dialogue between father and son and the son and the Erl-King, who is invisible to the father.

Here is the adapted English translation:

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear? 
The father it is, with his infant so dear; 
He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm, 
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm. 

"My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?" 
"Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side! 
Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?" 
"My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain." 

"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me! 
For many a game I will play there with thee; 
On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold, 
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold." 

"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear 
The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?" 
"Be calm, dearest child, 'tis thy fancy deceives; 
'Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves." 

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there? 
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care; 
My daughters by night their glad festival keep, 
They'll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep." 

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see, 
How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?" 
"My darling, my darling, I see it aright,
 'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight." 

"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy! 
And if thou'rt unwilling, then force I'll employ." 
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast, 
For sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last."

 The father now gallops, with terror half wild, 
He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child; 
He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread, – 
The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead. 

Annabel Lee

Written by Gothic master, Edgar Allan Poe, if you haven’t heard this one, you’ve been living under a rock. Written in 1849, it was Poe’s last completed poem and was not published until shortly after he had died. “Annabel Lee” creeps me the hell out, and I chose it for several reasons.

This poem explores Poe’s favorite topic, which is the death of a beautiful woman. While “Annabel Lee” made read as a powerful love-poem, but assured it is not. Look behind our “passionate” narrator’s words and you will find a disturbed, delusional, and immature man.

The narrator marries a young woman—with whom he claims he fell in love with while they were children, suggesting they were related, perhaps?—who quickly becomes ill and dies. He believes the disease to be caused by the angels, themselves, who were so jealous of the couples love that they took to “chilling and killing” Annabel Lee. But he’s not just in love with his departed bride, he’s obsessed with her; so much so that he takes to spending the night in her tomb and cuddling up with her corpse. Not so romantic anymore, is it?

It is thought that the inspiration behind “Annabel Lee” could be Poe’s wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe. The two were cousins and married when Virginia was 13 and Poe was 26. She contracted tuberculosis and died at 24, drawing a few similarities to the poem.
Creepy fun fact about Virginia: the only portrait of her was painted several hours after her death.

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love— 

I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre 

In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea—
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


This isn’t to be confused with Poe’s Lenore, which came 70 years later. This “Lenore”, published in 1774, was written by Gottfried August Bürger, and is considered more of a Gothic ballad than a poem.
It concerns a young bride named Lenore, who has been patiently waiting for her fiancé, William, to return from the Seven Years’ War. She is convinced that he has died, since all the other soldiers have returned, and her mother thinks that he has found himself a new bride.

However, a knock comes on Lenore’s door at midnight, and it appears to be William, asking Lenore to accompany him on horseback to ride a hundred miles to their marriage bed. Although she thinks it strange, she goes with him, where they ride off at a breakneck pace through strange and spooky lands; and what Lenore finds at the end of the journey is not her marriage bed at all, but her final resting place.

There is a refrain in the German version that reads, “die Todten reiten schnell” which as been popularly translated as, “the dead travel fast”. This phrase was familiarized by Bram Stoker, who used in Dracula; you may recall the scene where Jonathan Harker is awaiting a carriage through the Carpathian Mountains to Castle Dracula. When it finally arrives, driven by an ominous cloaked coachmen and travels at a remarkable speed, one of Harker’s foreign fellow travelers fearfully whispers, “die Todten reiten schnell”, for they know who truly drives the carriage.

There have been many English translations of “Lenore”, but the most beautiful was done by that of an 11-year-old Dante Gabriel Rossetti. However, in this version, the refrain does not appear as it’s popularized, “the dead travel fast”, but rather, “bravely the dead men ride through the night”.
The ballad is rather long, so I’ve included a link for you to read it, here (

All Souls

Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer-Prize winning American writer, is famous to some for her humor, and others for her horror. While she isn’t remembered strictly as a horror writer, she did produce quite a few ghost stories, and one deliciously spooky poem that captures the spirit of Halloween. This poem was written in 1903.

A thin moon faints in the sky o’erhead, 
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead. 
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways, 
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays, 
But forth of the gate and down the road, 
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode. 
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night, 
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight. 

Fear not that sound like wind in the trees: 
It is only their call that comes on the breeze; 
Fear not the shudder that seems to pass: 
It is only the tread of their feet on the grass; 
Fear not the drip of the bough as you stoop: 
It is only the touch of their hands that grope — 
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night, 
When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite. 

And where should a man bring his sweet to woo 
But here, where such hundreds were lovers too? 
Where lie the dead lips that thirst to kiss, 
The empty hands that their fellows miss, 
Where the maid and her lover, from sere to green, 
Sleep bed by bed, with the worm between? 
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night, 
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight. 

And now that they rise and walk in the cold, 
Let us warm their blood and give youth to the old. 
Let them see us and hear us, and say: 
“Ah, thus In the prime of the year it went with us!” 
Till their lips drawn close, and so long unkist, 
Forget they are mist that mingles with mist! 
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night, 
When the dead can burn and the dead can smite. 

Till they say, as they hear us — poor dead, poor dead! — 
“Just an hour of this, and our age-long bed — 
Just a thrill of the old remembered pains 
To kindle a flame in our frozen veins, J
ust a touch, and a sight, and a floating apart, 
As the chill of dawn strikes each phantom heart — 
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night, 
When the dead can hear, and the dead have sight.” 

And where should the living feel alive 
But here in this wan white humming hive, 
As the moon wastes down, and the dawn turns cold, 
And one by one they creep back to the fold? 
And where should a man hold his mate and say: 
“One more, one more, ere we go their way”? 
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night, 
When the living can learn by the churchyard light. 

And how should we break faith who have seen 
Those dead lips plight with the mist between, 
And how forget, who have seen how soon 
They lie thus chambered and cold to the moon? 
How scorn, how hate, how strive, we too, 
Who must do so soon as those others do? 
For it’s All Souls’ night, and break of the day, 
And behold, with the light the dead are away. 

The House

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a man who needs no introduction (though, if you aren’t familiar it is seriously time to get wise!). His poem “The House” was published in 1919, which depicts the same house that is the subject of his novellete “The Shunned House”. It is inspired by a real place, the address now famously known by Lovecraft fans as 135 Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island.

'Tis a grove-circled dwelling 
Set close to a hill,
Where the branches are telling 
Strange legends of ill; 
Over timbers so old 
That they breathe of the dead, 
Crawl the vines, green and cold, 
By strange nourishment fed; 
And no man knows the juices they suck 
from the depths of their dank slimy bed. 

In the gardens are growing 
Tall blossoms and fair, 
Each pallid bloom throwing 
Perfume on the air; 
But the afternoon sun 
with its shining red rays 
Makes the picture loom dun 
On the curious gaze, 
And above the sweet scent of the the blossoms 
rise odors of numberless days. 

The rank grasses are waving 
On terrace and lawn,
 Dim memories savoring 
Of things that have gone; 
The stones of the walks 
Are encrusted and wet, 
And a strange spirit stalks 
When the red sun has set. 
And the soul of the watcher is fill'd 
with faint pictures he fain would forget.

 It was in the hot Junetime 
I stood by that scene, 
When the gold rays of noontime 
Beat bright on the green. 
But I shiver'd with cold, 
Groping feebly for light, 
As a picture unroll'd— 
And my age-spanning sight 
Saw the time I had been there before 
flash like fulgury out of the night.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Octoberfest Five: 5 Doomed Romances In Horror

  Bram Stoker's Dracula
 It would be hard to consider a list of unfortunate couples without including the ultimate love story, so let's just get this one out of the way first. In Francis Ford Coppola's opulent retelling of the classic novel, destiny brings two lovers together again in another lifetime only to be torn apart by hatred. Though Mina Murray is already betrothed to the (horribly cast) Jonathan Harker, when she meets Prince Vlad she is inexplicably drawn to him and is soon meeting him in secret and allows herself to be courted by the mysterious Count. Things take a tragic turn for the worst when the Prince's true identity is discovered and he is determined to steal away with his long lost love.
Love never dies, people.

An American Werewolf in London
Werewolf movies are always a kick in the pants to romance.  And perhaps none more so than ill-fated love affair of David and Alex.  After losing his best friend to a gruesome "animal" attack and suffering injuries himself, David's charms score him a place to stay with sexy nurse Alex. However, as we all know, that wasn't just some animal that worked David over, it was a werewolf.  And we all know once the moon is full and the CCR starts playing on the radio, the carnage begins.  Alex has only one task as the sweetheart of a hairy beast....slay him after professing her love.  Beware of the moon....

Yep, I'm putting Arnie and his babe of a car on this list because love breaks down all stereotypes.
Nerdy Arnie and his popular jock best friend Dennis happen upon a junkyard in which sits the the most beautiful girl in the world, a 1958 cherry-red Plymouth Fury.  Though she's in shambles when Arnie hastily purchases her, Christine quickly comes alive and takes hold of Arnie with an unmatched love. And Christine will stop at nothing to possess Arnie's heart and soul.....but mostly his soul. She's bad to the bone.

The Evil Dead
Ash and Linda were just a couple of crazy kids headed to the obligatory cabin in the woods with some friends for a weekend of fun.  As we all know, that didn't exactly work out too well when the deadites showed up.  When Linda is possessed by one of the demons, Ash is forced to stab her when she attempts to kill him. Dragging her out into the shed, he tries to dismember her but is too broken-hearted to do it, so he just buries her in the yard.  Naturally, in this world, the dead don't stay dead and Linda raises from her shallow grave and once again tries to attack Ash.  This time he takes off her head with a shovel.   Love....sometimes you just can't get ahead.  Sometimes you can.

Cannibal Holocaust
Well, it served them right, didn't it?  When documentary filmmaker Alan and his girlfriend Faye trek into the Amazon rainforest with their two cameramen,  they should have known what they were getting themselves into.  Trying to film a documentary about previously undiscovered indigenous tribes was always a bad idea - but they agitated the living hell out of the Yacumo tribe by gang-raping one of their virgins and shooting another in the leg in order to locate their village.  The couple and their friends had already murdered various creatures in the forest, which for me is a death sentence anyway - and they certainly got their due, in particular Faye who is violently gang-raped and beheaded while Alan watches from behind some trees. But don't worry, he doesn't last long after that.  The other other white's what's for dinner.....

Honorable mentions:  Creepshow (Something to tide you over), Eden Lake, Thirst

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Octoberfest Five: 5 Favorite Horror Heads

There are so many decapitations in horror that it's really hard to narrow it down to a small list of five, so I decided to go with my favorites.  All of these films are fairly popular, but they are famous for a reason. And a good beheading, for whatever reason, always stands out in a horror film.  Behold, my favorite horror heads!

Certainly one of the most famous heads in horror, Mrs. Voorhees lost her noggin back in the very first Friday the 13th, but it was this lovely scene in Part 2 that made all our heads spin. To what did Ginny's wandering eyes appear but Pamela Voorhees, her head cut

Seeing as how Jaws is my favorite film, I couldn't let this famous head go without a mention either!  Poor Ben Gardner.  He wanted to make a name for himself by catching the biggest fish in the waters off Amity Island.  Instead, he loses his head.  Bobbing up and down in the wreckage of his fishing boat, he gives Hooper a terrifying fright and causes one of the only jump scares in this brilliant blockbuster.

April Fool's Day is an unfairly disregarded film.  It's witty and fun and the ending, though constantly bitched about, is in my opinion perfect. And no one had a rougher time in AFD than Buffy St. John.  But she may be the only head on this list to party down to some Three Dog Night.  Not everyone can say that! 

By far the best special effects on our list, the head of Norris in The Thing is one nasty noggin.  When he transforms into one of the alien "things", his head slides over the end of a table, falling onto the floor and bizarrely changes into a spider-like creature with legs and antennas. It is a disturbing scene that is unchallenged in its beautiful creepiness.

Winning the prize for 'best use of a decapitated head', this films takes it one notch higher by also being the most literal use of "head" as well.  When Dr. Hill finds his cranium unattached to the rest of his body, he uses this to his advantage and sexually abuses a young woman, creating one of the most memorable moments in all of horror, hands (or heads!) down!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tomorrow! Octoberfest Five Begins!

Just a quick post to let our readers know that tomorrow starts a special, month-long feature on the blog called OCTOBERFEST FIVE, which brings what everyone is always clamoring for:  LISTS!  Each day will be a new subject and the content will be a list of five items.  We will range from film to television to music to art to the written word and a few other things in between. 
Here are a few of the subjects, just to tease....

Five Doomed Couples In Horror
Five Wonderfully Creepy Music Videos
Five Fab Men Of Current Horror TV
Five Dark Poems

We'll also bring back two of our popular features, Sunday Bloody Sunday and Wordless Wednesday.

So stay tuned and be sure to let us know if you like what you see. As always, comments are like catnip to bloggers!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Post-Mortem: Bizarre Graves, Part II

~by Marie Robinson

In death we become faceless. We are a reduced to a slab of stone with a humble engraving to sum up our lives. Walking through cemeteries (a beloved hobby of Christine and myself), you see a lot of the same stuff: “Loving father and son”, or similar stones listing a person’s roles and accomplishments.

There is, every once in a while, a headstone that stands out, either by bizarre shape or mysterious inscription. Take a moment to look at the stranger side of death in these four unique graves.

The Girl in Blue (?-December 24th 1933) 


In 1933 on Christmas Eve, a young girl was struck and killed by a train in Willoughby, Ohio. She had no identification in her purse and no one was able to recognize the poor girl, even in the two weeks she was laid out in a funeral home, where thousands of residents stopped by to see her; she was defined only by the blue woolen dress and blue shoes she wore. A grave was made for her, the funds raised by the town residents, and was given the moniker, “the Girl in Blue” since no one knew her name. At the bottom of the headstone reads the eerie tagline, “unknown but never forgotten”. An additional fund was raised that flowers (geraniums, to be specific) would be placed on her grave once a year.

Her identity was finally confirmed in 1993, by a real estate agent who had recently been looking through the history of what happened to be the girl in blue’s family home. While her original headstone still stands, she now has an additional one with her true name, Josephine Klimczak.

Grancer the Dancer (1789-1860) 

Near Kinston, Alabama in Harrison Cemetery, there is a very large, unusual, and infamous grave. A large, white stone tomb, belonging to a William “Grancer” Harrison does not fit the traditional form for a headstone, but is instead constructed in the crude shape of a bed.

The man buried in this bizarre grave is somewhat of a legend in his part of Alabama, and the story goes that he owned a large and successful plantation. His nickname “Grancer”, is a shortened, slurred version of “Grand Sir” (kind of like Grandpa back in the 1800’s), and it just so happened that he loved to dance, so his moniker eventually became “Grancer the Dancer”. He loved to host parties and balls so much he had his own dancehall built where he would wear his clogs and stamp out the dance floor.

When Grancer eventually passed, he made demands to be buried in his bed, donning his famous dancing shoes, and within earshot of his dancehall. After his death, rumors began to spring up about his grave. Many claimed it was haunted, and people said they could hear a fiddle being played at night, or the tap of heavy clogs (earning him yet another nickname, “the dancing ghost”), or a loud voice calling out line dances.

There was also talk that Harrison had buried a large sum of gold along with him, or scattered in the land near his grave. His tomb was exploded with dynamite in 1964, which turned up no gold but all but destroyed his corpse. The cemetery was vandalized again in 2010; 50 headstones were overturned in search of the buried gold, but none was found.

Margorie McCall (?-1705)

If you are visiting Shankill Cemetery in Lurgan, Ireland, local legend will lead you to a very strange stone. Erected into the bottom of an old, almost unreadable headstone is the inscription, “Margorie McCall, Lived Once, Buried Twice”. There are no dates on the grave, but local folklore claims that Margorie McCall fell victim to a fever in 1705 and was quickly buried to avoid an outbreak.

 It apparently was common knowledge that she was buried wearing a valuable ring, and the same night she was laid in the earth grave robbers exhumed her. Her body had swollen from the fever and the ring would not come off of her finger, so one of the robbers made to sever it.

However, when he began to saw at her finger, the “corpse” of Margorie McCall shot up, screaming in agony. The grave robbers fled—or, in some stories, died of fright. It seems that Margorie had not died but simply fallen into a coma and was buried prematurely. She got up out of her grave, walked home, and knocked on the door. When her husband answered and saw his wife standing in the doorway with her burial dress covered in dirt and blood he fell dead on the spot. He was then buried in the same grave that Margorie had abandoned.

This story is actually a popular European urban legend called “The Lady with the Ring”. Versions exist all over the British Isles as well as in Germany, Italy, and France. It is most likely that Margorie McCall never even existed; and someone had the stone made and erected under the grave of a random “John McCall” to feed into the legend.

For a more in-depth look at this fascination story, please take the time to read this article penned by our good friend James Gracey, who has a unique tie to the Shankill Cemetery!

Katherine Cross (1899-1917) 

18-year-old Katherine Cross is buried in Violet Cemetery in Konowa, Oklahoma. While the death of someone so young is always a tragedy, the epitaph on her headstone has left a bizarre mystery surrounding her; it reads, “Murdered by human wolves”.

Surprisingly, few stories have sprung up about Katherine, but her grave has become notorious simply for its troubling etching. Dozens of grisly images come to mind with the strange words, and it’s only obvious that some locals believe she killed by werewolves, and that her remains were found in gory shreds at the edge of the woods.

Other stories say that she was killed by the Ku Klux Klan. There is a plausible explanation that has been established by researching the end of Katherine’s life. Records show that she died while under the care of a Dr. A.H. Yates, and his schoolteacher assistant, Frederick O’Neal. Cross’ cause of death is listed as “criminal operation” on her certificate, and many have come to the conclusion that she died during a botched abortion. This was apparently not the first time the two “doctors” were charged with a criminal operation, which led to the death of a young woman.

We probably will never know exactly what happened to Katherine Cross, but you can’t deny that the epitaph was definitely a strange choice of words. Next time you’re in Oklahoma, keep an eye out for the human wolves.

If you missed Part I of this series, check it out HERE!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Jurassic World Rant: In Defense Of Dinos & Popcorn Films

The New Yorker, May 1997

Well folks, JURASSIC WORLD has taken the....well, world by storm, and did we really think it wouldn't?  Its world-wide box office (as of 6-30-15) is a staggering $1,259,873,609!!!! Which just goes to prove that dammit....people LOVE dinosaurs.  Surprise!

Now this rant I am closing in on here is just a little bitch session combined with some true depth of feeling ( much as I can muster) regarding the creatures I have loved since I was a little girl. 

Part 1:  The Rant

What makes people want to curse a film before it even comes out?  What makes that same person then go to the movies to actually SEE said film?  So they can bitch about it? And why then, when a film is topping the box office for many consecutive weeks and beating all comers, would someone ramble on about the movie being awful and that "everyone thinks it's shit".  Ah, I'm thinking the world populous feels a mite different, as a whole.  

The ode to the original 'summer blockbuster' JAWS (Jurassic World)
Speaking specifically of JURASSIC WORLD, it currently holds a 7.5 rating on IMDB.   Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+.  It has the highest grossing opening of all time, is the world's 8th highest grossing (and counting) film of all time, the 5th highest North American gross, hit the billion-dollar mark faster than any other film (ever - in 13 days!), and has broken countless other records the world over.  This is a serious money maker.  How can a film possibly make so much money and break so many records if it is a piece of crap?  It can't.  Plain and simple.

Though my rant is geared at the animosity towards JURASSIC WORLD, in all honesty this kind of thing goes on all the time with many a film.  Why can't we just like (or dislike, for that matter) a movie instead of picking it to pieces? Yikes! I know that's what "film critics" do...but let me tell you, there are a whole lot of people who claim to be film critics than there are actual, well-rounded, legit critics. And no, I don't claim to be one. At best, I'm an amateur.  But yes, I'm able to be fair and I will call bullshit on a film when I need to.  But someone who has never actually seen - or cannot appreciate for that matter - a decent film like THE GODFATHER, SUNSET BOULEVARD, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, TAXI DRIVER, THE DEER HUNTER, or even Spielberg's own SCHINDLER'S LIST for Christ's sake, has no business pretending to be a critic. Bitching on social media in a forum does not a critic make. And if the best you can do is a few AVENGERS movies and a dozen video games, then just stay in your parent's basement and flap your gums with your equally doltish friends. Yes, you have the right to be bitchy.  Yes, you are entitled to your opinion.  But holy crackers, don't make it seem like those who DO enjoy the film are out of their minds.  In JURASSIC WORLD's case, you'd be calling the masses crazy. 

Jurassic Park (1993)
Here's another point.  I've become so irritated with people that don't understand what a popcorn movie is.  Wiktionary's description says it best:  

"popcorn movie (plural popcorn movies):
(film, idiomatic)  A motion picture without serious dramatic content, a weighty message, or intellectual depth, which serves simply as enjoyable entertainment."

People, JURASSIC WORLD was not meant to be the next CITIZEN KANE. Nor were the three previous dinosaur sagas that came before it.  These movies are not Thomas Hardy adaptations nor are they going to get a Criterion release. They are popcorn films - stereotypical SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS created for the masses about dinosaurs on the loose looking to wreak havoc and eat people.  Take it for what it is. Expecting it to have a mind-blowing plot with depth, multiple story arcs, thought-provoking narratives and Meryl Streep in the lead is just stupid.  This really irks the living shit out of me. Bitching about the acting...come on!  The dinos are the real stars.  Who gives a shit if the character's actions are ridiculous!  What did you expect them to do when being chased by an Indominous Rex?  Kill it in the first act?
Here's my thought:  If you are so sure the film is going to suck, here's a thought: don't go see the fucking movie. Let the people have their fun.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
And here's something else that ought to piss a lot of people off.  Truth be told, I'm a much bigger fan of dinosaurs than superheroes. I don't read comic books. I've never been into them and can't force myself to start....not even when you call them graphic novels! I don't live and breathe Avengers or whatever the SuperheroOfTheWeek is making the rounds, so when JW beat out THE AVENGERS I'm not ashamed to say I was secretly giggling.  But I understand people are passionate about Iron Man and Wolverine or whomever.  Fine.  I do not have a problem with anyone going to see X-Men 17, I really don't.  If they make Jurassic World 17, I'd probably be there.  So I'm not going to bitch about anyone's passion.  It's what makes the world go round.  But it's when you start crapping on my passion that I get a little testy. 

Jurassic World's Indominus Rex
People that say they were so bored they could have fallen asleep during JURASSIC WORLD...I call bullshit.  That comment just smacks of someone trying to act like they are too good to watch in, "well, if they would have made it more scientific, more original, more plausible or more meaningful I would have liked it more".  More likely they didn't blow enough shit up for you.  If you were able to fall asleep in a theater with shrieking raptors and bellowing rexes, then you are half dead already.  If you were indeed "so bored I could have walked out" - then by all means, you should have done it.  Those of us enjoying the movie don't want you there anyway.  You're probably one of those idiots that texts throughout a film as well.  

And other thing.  Stop griping about product placement. Give me a fucking break. Everyone does product placement these days. I heard someone say, "it took me out of the whole movie, I almost walked out". Seriously? Because the lead character was drinking a Coke? Because they showed a Pandora store inside a giant theme park? They have them at airports for Christ's sake! 
And it's not just summer blockbusters or big releases that have it. Tell me, did you not notice FORREST GUMP's box of chocolates? Russell Stover, people. His Nike tennis shoes? His fascination with Dr Pepper?  In 1982's THE THING - Kurt Russell was swigging from a bottle of J & B scotch whiskey....several times!   What about James Bond and his ever-present Aston Martin?  All the labels on all the food in the pantry in the movie THE SHINING? Reese's Pieces in E.T.? FED-EX in CASTAWAY? The vast array of brand-name toys in the TOY STORY films. Let's not even discuss TRANSFORMERS, ok?
The thing is...why does this bother people so much? 

Hope there's enough head room in that Benz.
Don't even get me started on sports. Can you even name a sport that doesn't do product placement? I can't think of one! Maybe curling!? I don't know. And television? It reeks of it. Everywhere.  So if it pissed you off that the kids in JW were using Samsung phones or folks were enjoying Starbucks, you really need to move to a desert island. It's not like they put Nikes on the Velociraptors and had them wear shirts that said Just Do It (though maybe they should have!).  

Stop being a snob. You know you're enjoying an ice cold Pepsi while reading this on your Droid in your Jeep Wrangler. Just stop. If it bothered you that the film showed someone driving a Mercedes then you really need to get on some anxiety meds. All cars are some kind of brand. Should they have strategically shot the scenes without showing the front or back of the car, making sure there were no distinctive tell-tale signs of being a German automobile? Should productions put black tape on the side of a Harley in a scene so you can't tell what kind of motorcycle someone is on? Should we not have people reading Entertainment Weekly or The New York Times because we don't want to play favorites? Wow.
Have a Coke and a smile!
Actually, I think it brings me more into the film if there are well known brands used. When I see someone using Heinz ketchup in a film or tv show, it feels more real than if they are using something from a no-name bottle that simply says Catsup. Seriously, the days of generic are over. Even generics have a label now. I used to love it when I would be reading a Stephen King novel and he'd mention something like Coke or a popular band...made me feel right at home and more in the moment.  So griping about product placement is just so ridiculous. Who really gives a shit! Let them drink coke while an I-Rex is chasing them!

Part 2:  Love Those Dinos

Jurassic Park "You bred raptors??"
Now...the dinosaurs.  Who doesn't enjoy a dinosaur movie?  When I was a kid I swooned over Godzilla on Saturday afternoons. Whether he was chasing the Japanese down a crowded street or fighting off Mothra or some other monster, he was my hero!

There seems to be an age-old fascination with dinosaurs that people just can't get over. Me included. One of the very first books I remember reading as a youngster was a book I'd bought at a school book fair- quite possibly the first book I'd ever bought on my own. And the subject matter: yep, dinosaurs. It was pretty hard as a kid to imagine a world in which creatures like the Brachiosaurus and the T-Rex walked the planet. I'm not sure I believed in them at first. But I was utterly struck with a life-long fascination. From watching Godzilla flicks on Saturday afternoons or Land of the Lost on TV to all my various books, stuffed animals and toys, to trying to memorize all the various difficult names, I was obsessed. 

Pteranodon from Jurassic Park III
Naturally, as I grew older other things replaced that fascination. Like Led Zeppelin records. And horror movies.  And boys!  Though in grade school I remember thinking that I could be become a scientist who studies dinosaurs.  Didn't know they had a specific name back in the day. But what wonders could I discover when digging up bones? A new species perhaps? Would they name it after me? Oh my. To be young.
Eventually my parents and my guidance counselor steered me away from that of course..."where would you live with that kind of degree?" Being from western Pennsylvania, they did have a valid point. So I took up psychology and moved on. 

BUT. Then it happened. Fall 1990. Michael Crichton released his novel, Jurassic Park. Being an avid reader, this was something I couldn't miss. Then to make my life complete, I heard they were adapting it. And not just anyone was bringing this story to life....Steven Spielberg was behind it.  And no matter how many blockbusters Spielberg brings to life he can never be called a hack, so you knew you would be getting something extraordinary!

And of course, the rest is history.  The original JURASSIC PARK went on to make millions and millions of dollars and please just about everyone on the planet.  And while THE LOST WORLD and JP3 weren't quite up to the same caliber as the first film, people still flocked to the theater to enjoy the latest offering.  Which is what they are doing now, in vast numbers, for JURASSIC WORLD.  Why?  Because people like fucking dinosaurs, that's why! 

Jurassic Park.  Dinner is served!
There is something truly, truly terrifying about dinosaurs.  The scene from the first JP movie in which the T-Rex attacks the Ford Explorer (product placement alert!) that Tim and Lex are in - that is one goddamned tense and frightening sequence!  I would put it right up there against any of the scariest moments from any horror film.  The T-Rex was going to fucking EAT them!  How is that not horrifying and nightmare-inducing? In JAWS, when Quint slides down the deck of the Orca and (spoiler alert for anyone assholish enough not to have seen JAWS) into the mouth of the 25 foot Great White - that is hands down the scariest thing imaginable - to be shredded to pieces by hundreds of teeth and eaten alive!  So thinking about a giant creature with a roar greater than the crowd's last moments of this year's Belmont Stakes - well that's just petrifying!

 The interest in dinosaurs will likely never wane.  The fascination with these obsolete creatures that lived over 65 million years ago is something that most likely every third person in the world has at least a passing interest in.  Their awe-inspiring size and formidable power has thrilled man for almost as long as they have been extinct.  Still gracing the cover of the National Geographic and other scientific mags, the masses will forever want to read about the latest discoveries.  

The countless array of adventure books and films that have been written and produced (even just since the first JP book/movie) is proof positive that the magnetism of these prehistoric monstrosities continues to enchant! Kids still want to be paleontologists just like I did - even if they live in inner-city Detroit, the wilds of Siberia, or the sandy beaches of Guam.  They are still buying toys and lunchboxes and folders and posters and bedspreads and anything they can get their mitts on that is related to the giant lugs.  Tell me who wouldn't want a chance to dig up the bones of a Velociraptor if given the chance?  Children flock to cartoon movies about the land before time and adults get their kicks watching a T-Rex eat a man while he's on the john.   They're scary.  They're somehow magical. And for heaven's sake THEY'RE FUN!!

So when people feign disinterest or act as though those of us enjoying these Jurassic films are simpletons or don't know a good movie when we see one, well - to them I say 1.2 BILLION DOLLARS.....and counting.  Don't let the theater door hit you in the ass on the way out the door.

In closing... I guess what I am trying to say - oh so UN-eloquently - is that as long as people are alive, dinosaurs are going to continue to amaze, intrigue, terrify, and most of all THRILL audiences. So if you can't handle it - stay out of the park.

Friday, June 19, 2015

We Are Still Here (2015) : ( A Touch Of ) Fulci Lives!

Quickly and quietly atmospheric, Ted Geoghegan‘s We Are Still Here introduces us to not just a grieving couple attempting to move on from a tragedy, but to the house itself, for let's not kid ourselves, the house holds secrets that are truly the star of this film. We get long, sweeping shots of the winter landscape and the house within it, forboding and yet just an average looking house.  The sparse score by composer Wojciech Golczewski sets the eerie tone.

Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (genre-fave Barbara Crampton) Sacchetti have bought an old farmhouse in the idyllic New England countryside to escape the real world and try to get past the death of their son Bobby in a horrific car accident.  No sooner do they start unpacking when Anne starts feeling the presence of her dead son. Things that go bump in the night daytime draw her into the basement where she, in true X-Files fashion, wields her flashlight toward the strange sounds. As she walks carefully around in the basement, we are privy to a few moments of "what was that behind her?" "was that a shadow of someone?"

But Anne is not as enlightened as we are.  In a moment ripped right from the fabulous ghost story flick The Changeling, a baseball (shown to be in a box of their son's possessions in earlier unpacking) comes bouncing down the basement steps to Anne's surprise. Naturally, it's way too early in the movie for anything to truly rear its ugly head, so Anne is left with a melancholy wonder - as if she hoped her son would grace her with his ghostly presence.

I'm sure losing a child would be the worst thing that could ever happen to a mother, so it's quite understandable that she is yearning for some kind of proof of life after death.  And soon she's relaying her thoughts to her husband, who is much more skeptical of the afterlife, but is also obviously grieving in his own way.  They seem to be a tight couple, and Paul is willing to listen to Anne's ravings and truly does offer his comfort as they try to settle in. 

After determining that the basement of the house reeks of smoke and is scorchingly hot, Paul calls for an electrician to come look at the boiler.  Meanwhile, neighbors Dave (Monte Markham) and Cat (Connie Neer) McCabe come by for a little visit, a little whiskey, and a little tale of the dark history of the Dagmar house - which I will not disclose here.  But as the McCabes depart, Cat slips a note into Paul's hand which he opens after closing the door. It reads:  THIS HOUSE NEEDS A FAMILY.  GET OUT!

When the electrician comes the next day, he is left alone in the basement to work on the boiler and is soon attacked by a supernatural being who is smokin' hot - and not in a good way!  It reeks of Lucio Fulci's many cellar horrors, which is never a bad thing.  It's our first glimpse of the ghosties that rule the Dagmar house. And the practical effects are a breath of fresh air, thank you.

 Anne admits to Paul she has invited their friends May (Lisa Marie) and Jacob (Larry Fessenden!) to come to the house for the weekend - and not just to check out their new digs.  The couple both have beliefs in the supernatural and May is said to have psychic abilities, therefore, Anne wants her to see if she can reach out to the other side and contact Bobby.  Once the eccentric couple arrives, they head out to eat at the local burger joint - where it is extremely uncomfortable immediately, with all the patrons staring at them and whispering.

Back at the house, May and Jacob's son and his girlfriend have arrived, having also been asked to enjoy the weekend with the Sacchettis.  They make themselves at home and enjoy some whiskey (of note:  everyone in this entire movie is obsessed with drinking whiskey. I don't know how the measly bottle keeps on pouring that amber liquid - it's like a biblical miracle) and are just getting busy on the couch when they hear a banging in the other room.  The basement to be exact.  And like in every horror movie that has come before it, someone has to go check it out.  Needless to say, once the others arrive home from dinner, it's like no one was there.  Whiskey glasses back in place, music turned sign of anyone.

As the two couples settle in for nightcaps and chatter, the restaurant in town gets a visit from Dave McCabe.  He wants to know all about the couples, and what they talked about.  He then gives hints as to what really happened in the Dagmar house in the past, and it's none too pretty. 

When we get to the part of the film where Anne and May head into town and the boys stay home, you know something is lurking right around the corner. Jacob decides to conduct an ill-advised seance, which just opens the portal ten-fold.

We Are Still Here, while utilizing plenty of old tropes and clichés used thousands of times before, is still a very fun and scary way to kill an hour and a half.  There's no doubt that having the leads all be adults and not screaming teenagers gives it a credibility missing in most of today's modern horror outings, and for this fan, having both Crampton and Fessenden in one flick is like the rapture. Crampton plays up her usual doe-eyed disbelief well here, and Fessenden playing a new-age stoner - well, I'm not sure it gets better than that.  The rest of the cast is very good as well, with the notable exception of  Lisa Marie, who either over-played or under-played nearly every scene she occupied. There was no happy medium for her, and it did put me off a bit.  Though not enough to ruin the film.  Someone like Illeana Douglas would have been just perfect here. Alas....

The throwback feeling that hearkened back to the early 80's and the Master of Gore, Lucio Fulci, made the film extra special to me.  I grew up watching Fulci and all the horrors he unleashed, in particular his favorite kill-spot - the cellar.  This film reminded me so much of The House by the Cemetery, with a little bit of The Beyond thrown in, that I was nearly blissful and had to watch the film twice before my 48hr rental expired.
Side note:  I even read somewhere that the character names in We Are Still Here are names of characters and actors from THBTC, so I guess that's an homage if I've ever heard one.

Dealing with depression in a horror film may seem beyond prudent, but I think it opens people up for the horrors within and makes them more susceptible to the evil all around them.  Anne was so overcome with grief here that she was actually hoping she could contact her dead son.  Then what?  Ask him to stay forever?  Not allow him to transition to whatever comes next? And she was so certain her son was the presence she felt, she was not able to comprehend that something much more sinister was at work.

The subtle scares here were the best ones, truth be told.  A glimpse of a ghoul in a picture frame, a pair of feet seen in the light under the door, someone standing behind a character who can't see them...these are the things that keep us up at night.  Even more than the icky ghouls that have an age-old agenda and promise that the Fulci-inspired gore is imminent.  And with the final act, we get all the gore we could ask for and more, but it never cheapens the feel of this genuinely enjoyable haunted house offering.

And on that note, I should have some whiskey.  Something has got me in the mood!!