Archive for the ‘horror’ category

“A Quiet Place” Has It All…

July 1, 2020

In this time of the pandemic, it’s perhaps understandable that many of us would be drawn to apocalyptic fiction and cinema, and A Quiet Place (2018) is one of the best done and most striking films to emerge in this gendre in recent years.  It’s edge of the seat horror and  science fiction that blends elements reminiscent of the Alien, Cloverfield, and Walking Dead franchises, depicting humanity overwhelmed by vicious and powerful aliens who are blind, but hunt very effectively by sound.  Human survivors of this meteor-borne invasion are therefore forced to live furtive and hidden existences, avoiding the generation of sound, and communicating by sign language.  As a result, there is little spoken dialogue in the film, although captioned subtitles appear to translate the signing to the audience.

As for the aliens depicted in Quiet Place, they are neither warm and friendly nor possessed of high technology; they simply want to eat you, and are well-equipped to do so, possessed of clawed extremities and impressive dentition.  There is no evidence of higher cognition here, but rather animal cunning.  In appearance, they are somewhat insectile or bat-like, possessed of an armored exoskeleton of sorts and ambulating briskly on all fours but capable of rearing up on hind legs at which times they can appear disturbingly humanoid.  They use echolocation, and might not be able to perceive you as prey from several feet away if you are perfectly still and quiet.  Their auditory aurifaces when open dwarf any human ears…

Although a horror movie, A Quiet Place is of the rare type of horror movie with heart, as a family and its relationships is at the center of it.  There are unpleasant things to see such as the death of a child family member, but it’s handled non-graphically; a blur of motion, and he’s carried off.  The tension conveyed in the film, however, is almost palpable.  The survivalist husband and father (John Kasinski) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are rock-solid, and their  eldest child (Millicent Simmonds), a gifted young hearing impaired actress, projects a wonderful adaptive kind of Wednesday Addams darkness; she adapts and prevails.  The surviving female family members left standing at the end of the film are more than the equal of the vicious monsters headed their way, kind of like Ripley and Newt in a farmland showdown.  Catch A Quiet Place if like myself you enjoy intelligent innovative horror with heart… 

 

 

Of Giant Monsters…

May 20, 2020


There’s a special place in my heart for 1950’s horror movies, especially those featuring giant monsters…and it’s hard to think of a better tag line for one than, “This was the day that engulfed the world in terror!”  More than 60 years after its 1957 debut, The Deadly Mantis continues to be entertaining as a high camp classic, more amusing now than horrifying.  The clumsy and dated not-so-special effects of the giant mantis flying are alone worth watching the film for.

In these times of invisible horrors like the coronavirus, it’s so nice to see our fears embodied as something gigantic and readily identifiable that we can shoot artillery at, and direct flame throwers towards; we know that we’re going to win against it at the end.  I doubt, however, that bleach and bright lights would be effective against this thing.  Perhaps we can get a large number of regular praying mantids together, and make one really big one like this that we could threaten murder hornets with.  A Universal Picture creation, one yearns to see the Deadly Mantis locked in mortal combat with some creature from the Toho Studios world…Mothra vs. Mantis has a nice ring to it.  Now that’s entertainment…I’d go bugs over that one!

 

https://youtu.be/G8R9OoQh4q0

 

 

Creepshow’s “Bad Wolf Down”

May 15, 2020

I freely admit that I’m more of a werewolf than a vampire fan, but what would you expect? I’m a furry, and werewolves are kind of an amplified furry. I was therefore in seventh heaven to see that werewolves were featured prominently in the Bad Wolf Down segment of the new Creepshow series by Shudder, now available for viewing on the AMC network. This series draws heavily from the earlier Stephen King and George Romero movie by the same name which aired in 1982.

Meshing horror comics with live action, this S1/Ep2 installment plunges us into a furious firefight of WWII American troops overwhelmed by Nazis. Seeking sanctuary from annihilation, the few remaining Americans flee to an abandoned building where they encounter a woman locked in a cell who turns out to be a female werewolf! Seeking the release of death, the woman wants only to swallow the silver cross of one of the Americans. They accommodate her, but not before requesting that she bite each of them, transforming them in turn into werewolf soldiers that are more than a match for the pursuing Nazi elite troops.

Now the werewolf transformations are budget-restricted yet still effective, and the gore-fest which follows is not for the squeamish. It did, however, provide me with a satisfying spectacle as well as a reminder of the power of shape-shifting. I found it an uplifting experience…You might, too, if you are into horror, werewolf sub-classification. Other episodes look equally promising, so gratify your dark side by checking out the new Creepshow series; it’s a worthwhile indulgence…

 

Dashlane’s “Password Paradise”

March 24, 2020
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In our scary times, perhaps we’ve all been thinking a bit more about Charon lately…you know, the dread boatman who ferries souls across the River Styx to the afterlife in Greco-Roman mythology.  He looks a lot like the grim reaper, clad in a cowled, all black,  shroud-like garment.  Charon would be perfect as a goth or performing in a heavy metal band.  In our Dashlane commercial, the River Styx is a suitably forboding, mist-veiled river where strange birds cry out mournfully, and our nameless “Everyman” passenger is none too happy about being ferried on his final journey…he even attempts to bribe the Boatman with money!  But then, things brighten up, and a radiant light breaks through the darkness in the distance…this looks like an afterlife possibly worth going to, and our voyaging soul smiles in anticipation for the first time!

But wait, there’s a catch for our departed soul…Charon, who as per tradition never speaks but only looks grim and spectral, prompts the man for a password by holding up one of those whiteboards that you can write on with marker.  As the boat’s passenger struggles to recall his password, Charon even thoughtfully gives him prompts via the board, such as “Name of kindergarten teacher,” and “Name of first pet?”  The man fumbles trying to recall his password, even giving the spectral figure the name of a later pet, causing Caron to try to redirect the man through gestures and underlining to the fact that the password response requires the name of his first pet…but alas, all is in vain as the guy has utterly forgotten his password, and no amount of prompts are going to help him, otherworldly or not.  After three tries, Charon dramatically throws his board into the River Styx, for the man has exceeded the number of his allowed prompts.  The man gives off an epic cry of “Nooo!” when realizing the gravity of his plight; yep, it’s password purgatory, baby, and abandon all hope ye who enter here.  Too bad our hapless lost soul didn’t have a password manager such as our advertiser Dashlane would provide.  Eternal damnation is a high price for a bad memory, and many of us know that special Hell.  I can certainly relate…

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Progressive Agents of the Corn…

August 6, 2019


   
Fans of Stephen King will get this commercial (The Corning) about Progressive Insurance agents emerging from a cornfield and chanting in a monotone to Charlie the farmer that he is covered for an automotive mishap and saving money because he bundled his home and auto insurance together…

…it’s suitably creepy and surreal.  Led by iconic Flo, half a dozen Progressive agents, identically clad in their immaculate white uniforms, issue forth from the dense cornfield and begin their eerie slow chant while standing in near formation.  “We’re all here for you, all day, all night,” they intone. “Get in the house, Sarah!,” urges Charlie to his wife, wisely following her inside. Their intonation over, Flo congratulates her team for calming a customer by speaking slowly and clearly.  

The best is saved for last when you hear lovable loser Jamie ask the other members of his team if they heard “weird voices” while in the corn.  They all deny it, to which Jamie responds, “Me neither.” Listen carefully, and you’ll then hear a faint, otherworldly voice whisper Jamie’s name, presumably from out of the cornfield…Haunting!

 

Yuletide Horrors…

December 19, 2018

Since Christmas has been pushed on us since October, it’s only fair to bring a bit of Halloween to the merriment with tales of The Wild Hunt. Traditionally associated with Germanic folklore, notions of The Hunt have since spread and been adapted across Europe, and may even have resonated in North America…

The Wild Hunt stretches attempts to explain it a bit, but basically involves a group of spectral or supernatural huntsmen who ride in frenzied pursuit of unknown or unspeakable prey, or portending a catastrophe such as war, plague, famine, or a second Trump administration. The Huntsmen are traditionally led by a god such as Odin, a historical figure such as Theodoric the Great, a figure drawn from religion such as Satan, or at least a really bad dude. The cohorts of the Leader of the Hunt have been seen as elves, faeries, demons, or spirits of the dead. Their bestiary consists of horses (often spectral) and large fierce canines of the hellhound-variety.

Now riders of The Wild Hunt might be glimpsed as a vision or passing mist in the midwinter sky, and such was seldom regarded as a fortuitous thing, portending calamity to the observer at the very least. Unfortunate observers might have their souls sucked from their bodies by the Riders especially if they obstructed or attempted to interfere with the procession, while by some accounts they might also be rewarded if they helped in some way.

Celtic conceptions of Cernunnos, the bestial Lord of the Hunt, may have been influenced by Wild Hunt mythology. He’d give Santa a ride, but he ain’t no reindeer…

And in North America, the mythic concept appears as Ghost Riders (In the Sky), also a haunting song that may help in visualizing the spectacle. — So have yourself a scary little Christmas!

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…