Archive for the ‘horror’ category

Those East Wing Hallway Trees…

November 30, 2018


For the second consecutive year, First Lady Melania Trump’s East Wing Hallway decorations have proven unusual and controversial. The 2017 ornamentation featured bone-like white branches, icy and devoid of warmth in a darkened hallway. This year the dystopian nightmare theme continues with blood red trees that some have commented to be appropriate backdrops to Stephen King’s The Shining.  They spring up from the ground, as if drawing from some unspeakable underground plasma pool…

Care to promenade through the gauntlet of forty towering, blood red trees devoid of decoration? Perhaps we can hear them whisper, “Feed me, Seymour!  Must be blood!  Must be fresh!”  The Internet has had a field day with memes and commentary. And as if resonating on the same wavelength, it bears mentioning that black Xmas trees are making inroads this year.- -Bring on Jack Skellington in his Santa suit!

So have yourself a scary little Christmas!  It’s perhaps only payback for holiday merchandising beginning in October…

 

  

Stan Against Evil…

November 25, 2018


A comedy-horror series is a rare and wonderful thing, especially if it’s done well.  If you’ve missed this gem, you may want to check out Stan Against Evil, now in its third season on the IFC network.  The show takes place in the fictional New Hampshire town of Willard’s Mill, which was the site of witch burnings in the late 17th century.  As a result of that history, strange and creepy supernatural things continue to emerge there which are dealt with by the town’s former sheriff, Stan Miller (John C. McGinley) and it’s current one, Evie Barrett (Janet Varney).

Now Stan Miller is a delight as an aging, cynical, slovenly antihero who just wants to be left alone, but can’t even manage to do that! Teamed reluctantly with the young and beautiful woman who is his successor, Stan is pressed into service to battle legions of demonic monsters that include witches, vampires, evil puppets, and even a were-pony! Although he’d much rather be drinking and watching television, Stan uses traditional and improvised weaponry to devastating effect, repeatedly bludgeoning for example a large winged skeleton-bird wraith creature (at right) with a shovel until it moves no more .- – You gotta love this guy! 

 The show parodies horror in a loving fashion, and manages nods to The X-Files and other traditions from which it has drawn.  I’m glad to see something like this still in active production…long may its demonic beasties thrive!

 

 

The Grim Reaper of Home Appliances…

September 8, 2018

I, for one, fear the Grim Reaper of home appliances. My grief was great when he came for my hot water heater, leaving me $800 in the hole for plumber bills and heater replacement. Death, there is thy sting, right in the wallet!  Oh, the suffering budget, the anguish, the gnashing of teeth!  It was not a pretty sight…

…and so I can appreciate the trials of the poor woman in the American Home Shield commercial who answers her door to find the Grim Reaper paying a call, the icon hovering complete in smoldering black cowl.  As the dreaded black specter advances, our housewife understandably freaks out.  “No, it can’t be!  I’m not ready!  I do spin class!,” she protests, sinking to her knees in supplication.  But the Reaper advances further, his bony finger extending to indicate that his target is not the woman herself, but rather her large stainless steel refrigerator/freezer!  Now understanding, the woman protests “What? The refrigerator! – – Oh come on!  Do you know how much it cost me?  You’re killing me!”  Then the lady decides to rephrase her unfortunate choice of words, but death is implacable.  As the refrigerator shakes in his otherworldly powers, the announcer tells us how all of our appliances will eventually die, but their plan will see to their replacement.  For good measure, the Reaper decides to take out our hapless lady’s home central air system too.  It was a full day’s harvesting, apparently…

When the Reaper comes for me, I’m going to say “Oh happy day!”  No wait…that’s what I’m going to tell the aliens…

 

“We Are Gone,” The Terror, Episode 10

May 22, 2018

All good things must come to an end, and so The Terror wrapped up its tenth and final season episode (“We Are Gone”) with more than a bit of Grand Guignol, complete with cannibalism and the Tuunbaq ripping into Hickey and his rebellious men, literally tearing the sadistic psychopath in two before succumbing to its poisonous diet. You are what you eat, after all…

We were given more of a close-up of the Inuit monster in this conclusive episode, his countenance a disturbing mixture of human and bestial elements, almost resembling someone’s crazy old uncle; maybe Uncle Fester of The Addams Family. A “spirit who dresses itself as an animal,” the mythological creature was said to consume not only the flesh but also the soul of its victims. 

Where human flesh eating was concerned, there are suggestions in the historical evidence that some cannibalism occurred in the actual Franklin Expedition, although it was ramped up for horrific effect in the Dan Simmons novel as well as the series adaptation of it. In this television adaptation, surgeon Goodsir poisoned himself unknown to his captors and slit his wrists, his body then becoming a fatal feast for them. Other subtle differences between the book and the screen adaptation occurred as well, and without issuing spoilers I did find the novel’s ending more satisfying. If you were captivated by the televised series, check out the book as well as a really well done and worthwhile horror tale…

“Horrible From Supper” on “The Terror”

May 1, 2018

Smelling human flesh burning in the fire which had taken down the carnival in the previous episode, a starving and troubled crewman confesses to ship’s surgeon Goodsir that it smelled good.  “My nose and my stomach, they don’t know horrible from supper.  But I do!,” he agonizes.  This exchange explains the episode’s title, one in which the men of the doomed Franklin Expedition begin to have more to fear from themselves than from the supernatural.  As a Walt Kelly character from the comic strip Pogo once remarked, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” While the Tuunbaq  monster does not make an appearance, his handiwork is seen in the form of the decapitated heads of the advance expedition sent out in episode 2 for civilization from the becalmed ships…poor devils didn’t make it further than 18 miles away before having their heads handed to them, quite literally.

Abandoning the ice-locked Erebus and Terror ships, the crew drags supplies and rowboats on sledges over the frozen terrain, with their badly canned food proving over half rancid and 100% lead-tainted.  The effects of the lead poisoning are becoming increasingly visible, with acts of violent madness emerging to layer onto the on-going grinding hardships that are inexorably wearing down the British seamen, geared now for physical survival rather than adventurous discovery.  This is “misery porn,” and the worst lies yet ahead.  

We are given glimpses of that grim future in the deteriorating mental health of a number of the crew who are beginning to turn from their fellow mates to acts of rebellion and even murder against them.  With the captain’s dog being surreptitiously harvested as food and an officer initiating first contact with an Inuit group brutally slain by the mutinous (and now mad) Cornelius Hickey, it’s time to start your countdown to cannibalism clocks ticking…


“A Mercy” Episode on, “The Terror”

April 23, 2018

When the going gets tough, it’s time to throw a party as a counter to the growing anger, despair, and psychosis growing among the crews of Erebus and Terror, as we are shown in Episode 6 of the series. The party is a wild one, thrown in an enormous tent rigged by the seamen, complete with drinking, hot tub bathing, and men wearing dresses, ahem!  There are seamen wearing animal head masks…yes, 19th century furries!   Rum is even being fed to the brain-dead crewman Private Heather, his skull torn open in an earlier Tuunbaq attack.

Unfortunately, one of their own, Dr. Stanley, has quietly gone mad, and he seals off the tent before dousing it and himself with oil, and igniting both.  Stanley’s arms-spread self-immolation is evocative of a scene from The Thing from Another World, and is perhaps the most horrible thing in the episode, rivaled only by Lady Silence‘s staggering bloody entrance, her tongue self-removed in an attempt to forge a shamanistic bond with the Tuunbaq.  We do see the creature briefly, his face a disquieting mix of ursine and human features.

With their food supply starting to run low and the canned food producing recognized symptoms of lead poisoning, expedition leadership now plans to abandon both their mission and their vessels in a risky trek on foot hundreds of miles south to civilization. The ill-fated party was an effort to boost morale prior to food rationing, climatic suffering, and the further predations of their Tuunbaq adversary, although clearly it had the reverse effect, adding also to the mounting body count.  

With only four episodes left to run, we unlike the poor devils in the Royal Navy know that this will end badly, because as Captain Crozier observed, “The place wants us dead…”


“Punished, As A Boy” on “The Terror”

April 10, 2018

To dispense with what the episode title refers to, it appears that when you’re “punished as a boy” on a 19th century British ship, you’re flogged on your bottom rather than on your back, complete with all of your shipmates watching for both pain and humiliation.  We do get to see this, unfortunately, complete with blood spattering, agonized grunts from the punished, and the man’s behind resembling raw hamburger following his ordeal.- – Hey, horror isn’t pretty!  

This is grim stuff, but things are getting pretty grim indeed, with the Tuunbaq creature shredding members of the expedition brutally and pretty much at will, leaving some as only bloody smears on the ice, removing part of another’s skull to expose his brain (“It looks like pudding!,” remarks the ship’s surgeon), and tearing two others in half to crudely reassemble their bodies together.  The Tuunbaq has also demonstrated that it can move onto the English ships pretty much at will, and escape unscathed.  We’re kind of at the stage now that we were in The Thing where the men realize that the alien is inside the camp, and they’re relatively ineffective at countering it.  Composure and discipline are beginning to fall apart, just as some of the men’s gums are starting to turn black from lead poisoning brought by their spoiling and badly- packaged tinned food.

I’m not going to go on about the many complexities and layers of character and plot going on in the story, which can be appreciated on a variety of levels; we limit ourselves to just a few paragraphs here.  But central to the story and ever growing in importance is the enigmatic and appropriately-named Lady Silence, the Inuit woman whose father was accidently shot by the English in an earlier episode.  She was seen engaging in some kind of interaction with the Tuunbaq, perhaps a ritual.  Is she controlling the creature, or what is the nature of her relationship with it?  Hmmm…we’ll just have to wait and see!