Archive for the ‘Questionably creepy’ category

The Guilty Pleasures of “Puppet Master…”

July 21, 2021

Horror as a genre is not for everyone, and even those of us who enjoy it have our favorite sub-domains. One of my favorite niche franchises is that of Puppet Master, now having produced over a dozen films since the first one issued in 1989.

Now calling these inspired creations “puppets” is technically incorrect as they are actually marionettes, although of the autonomous Pinocchio type that function without strings, or even direct human guidance. Crafted by old world-type puppet master Andre Toulon, these puppets are infused with the souls of people who died fighting the Nazis, and have an axe to grind against them and other rotten individuals. Toulon had picked up the trick of animating the figures with transmigrated souls through Egyptian magic, and as we know the ancients were quite concerned with resurrecting things. A glowing green brew with which he infuses his creations keeps them perking. Each of the anthropomorphic Puppets has a distinct appearance, personality and skill set.

Consider Blade here. Skull-like but not quite a skull, he’s inhabited by the soul of a German scientist and doctor who wanted to work with Toulon, but was shot by the Nazis. Now he operates with a hook as one hand, and a blade for the other, and is arguably the leader of the Puppets. He has kind of a Goth appearance.

Then we have Six-Shooter, undeniably well-armed with three sets of them each brandishing a pistol. Cast in the mold of a dastardly western outlaw, he can use his arms to climb walls, like Dr. Octopus of Spiderman infamy, and has a memorable hee-hee-hee laugh. Other Puppets include Jester, Torch, Pinhead, Tunneler, and Leech Woman (don’t ask). These are just a few of the regulars, who at times serve for either good or evil as protagonists or antagonists. It can all get rather confusing, and their universe is far from seamless.

The series has prequels, sequels, and cross-overs which add to the general mayhem and confusion. While a horror series with considerable gore, there’s a bit of leavening humor throughout. One leaves each viewing wondering what exactly they have seen, but this strange brew of Egyptian magic I find oddly invigorating and certainly offbeat…

Does Pepe Le Pew Stink?

March 10, 2021

(Warning:  some adult themes in the following post, albeit about a cartoon character…)

Striped skunk Pepe Le Pew has been kicking around as a Warner Bros. character since 1945, but to some this skunk is a male chauvinist pig and sexual predator.  With some saying that the amorous skunk normalizes rape culture, Pepe has been dropped from the sequel to Space Jam, and won’t be appearing in further Warner Bros. productions for the foreseeable future – – Sacre bleu!

Now this skunk was a one-trick pony, so to speak,  portrayed as a french character complete with accent who fancies himself highly desirable, whereas his skunk scent and unwanted advances made him in reality abhorrent to the object of his affections, usually one Penelope Pussycat, who was originally nameless.  In his classic routines, Pepe would be easily deceived into thinking that the black and white feline was another skunk once she wound up with a streak of white paint down her back.  Penelope would vigorously resist the skunk’s unwanted advances and attempt to flee from him, but Pepe could easily keep pace with her with a kind of bouncing hop classic to himself; he was truly “high on a feeling.” There were variations to this formula, but Pepe seldom abandoned his arguably predatory pursuit.

 

Herein lies the rub, and Pepe’s conflict with contemporary societal norms.  To the skunk, no never meant no, but resistance was all part of the game, and represented normal behavior.  It was alright for Pepe in his own mindset to persist in his unwanted aggressive physical advances, because the female was simply playing “hard to get,”  and her resistance was adorable, appealingly cute, and even amusing.  Hence, the accusations that Pepe was normalizing rape culture.  He simply grabbed poor Penelope, and tried to foist himself on her.  Fortunately, we never saw any skunk/kitty domination porn out of it, although in some dark corners of the internet you could probably find it.  Trust me on this; I’m a furry…

There was a bit more to the character as well, playing upon the stereotype that all Frenchmen were great lovers, whether they actually were or not.  Pepe certainly thought that he was, and his narcissism lent a bit of comic irony, which was part of the running shtick of the character.  He was also a skunk, and they don’t smell like roses!  Whether blinded by love or lust, Pepe in most of his cartoon outings failed to recognize that Penelope was of a different species entirely, so you had that comic misidentification  going on, a “love is blind” kinda thing.  Pepe was at core sexually frustrated in spite of his personal perspective that he was at least potentially some kind of love god, a hot item “on the make.”  He never prevailed, but he was certainly persistent, to a flaw. This is no longer considered a virtue as it once perhaps was, but now is rather a red flag of inappropriate behavior.  Pepe might today face charges for his conduct were Penelope of a litigious mind; watch out for a kitten who isn’t smitten!  Perhaps Foghorn Leghorn could defend Pepe in court…“The boy, I say, the boy was just doin’ what comes naturally, and after all, he’s French…”  

This unwanted persistence of male suitors played well generations ago at the general time of his origin, and Pepe Le Pew was certainly not the only character guilty of it.  For example, Dean Martin’s seasonal song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has also been largely dropped from favored Xmas song playlists for just the same reason as kind of an anthem of date rape. There’s a fine line between seductively sexy and creepy these days, and what was once constituted as “boys being boys” doesn’t fly well any more; just ask any number of disgraced pervy politicians, although charges stick much better to some than others, ahem! 

I’m kind of glad that Warner Bros. is dropping Pepe Le Pew rather than trying to reform him; it just wouldn’t be the same, and our skunk is after all incorrigible, a self-deceived romantic rogue whose essence would be destroyed by being sanitized.  While Pepe was a product of his time and that time is now past, I’m going to miss the lovestruck rascal even if he is politically incorrect by today’s standards…this skunk was such a dog, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, a slick if clueless anachronism and stereotype, the “locksmith of love” in love with love and himself.  The path of true love, so they say, seldom runs smooth, although hope springs eternal even while the “game of love” may for some have a baffling rule book.  As Pepe might say, “You know, it is possible to be too attractive.”  He may have been delusional, but he didn’t suffer from self-concept problems…

 


“Real Vampires” on MonsterQuest…

November 6, 2020

 
We can’t all be vampires, much less Dracula…some of us are just children of the night, and I can live with that.  It’s not that I dislike vampires, it’s just that I’m much more of a werewolf guy! Besides, we children of the night have a hell of a band, being know for our music.  Alright, now we’re just a garage band, but watch for our breakout album…

…that being said, MonsterQuest recently aired a new episode titled, Real Vampires.  Now vampiric legends exist in 95% of human cultures, with the oldest originating thousands of years ago in China and India.  Kali the Hindu goddess was one such example.  A word of warning that some gruesome things covered in the episode follow…

Flashing forward to more modern times, we have the case of “JB,” who was buried in the 1800’s in Willington, Connecticut.   His remains were accidentally discovered in 1990, and his body exhumed due to its unusual condition, which included the remains being mutilated, with the corpse decapitated, the ribs broken, and the thighbones disarticulated and placed into an “X” formation on the chest…some people thought that they were destroying a vampire here.  Modern forensic investigations found that the poor soul had suffered tuberculosis, revealed in the thickening of his rib bones.  Terminal tuberculin victims cough up blood towards the end of the disease progression, which to the unenlightened may have suggested a blood feeder rather than a disease victim.

New England vampiric beliefs likely came from eastern Europe, where in Hungary in the 16th century, Countess Elizabeth Bathory,  the “Blood Countess,” was obsessed with maintaining her fading youth and lured young girls into her service over a twenty  year period of time, later torturing and killing them and bathing in and drinking their blood; she would be convicted of 80 counts of murder, and is thought to have been one of the most prolific female serial killers in history.  In 1784, the Johnson children were exhumed to presumably break a vampire curse, which often involved removing and burning or destroying internal organs of the deceased.  Years before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, a woman called Mercy Brown in 1892 was exhumed two months after her death due to suspected vampirism, and had her heart cut out, burned to ashes, and fed to her brother, the gruesome ritual failing to prevent his death from tuberculosis, then called “consumption.”

So what gives with these people?!  Mysterious plagues, superstition, and a lack of scientific understanding can drive people to do strange and horrendous things.  Disease processes and even human decomposition were poorly understood, with such things appearing paranormal to those unfamiliar with them.  Rigor mortis and then the subsequent relaxation of muscular tissue after death can cause corpses to move somewhat, with the gases of decomposition also causing bloating and at times the expulsion of bodily fluid through the mouth that can appear blood-like.  Subsequently, those looking for vampires could appear to find them through changes in the corpses of deceased individuals. – – Get the torches, pitchforks, and stakes ready, we got us an “undead” vamp here!

Even more recently, a “vampire clan” operating in Eustis, Florida in 1996 killed the parents of one of their disciples, their leader drinking small amounts of the blood of the victims.  “Clinical vampirism” has professionally been recognized as a delusion that the blood of others is needed to survive.

After examining this extensive but not exhaustive history, MonsterQuest last examined the phenomenon of psychic vampires, who reportedly feed off the life force of others and are not themselves “the undead.”  A psychic investigator shown on camera during the episode found that a so-called psychic vampire could slightly affect a measured electromagnetic field in an interaction with another person that they were “feeding” off.  I think that many of us know people who can drain the energy out of a room by entering it…

The legend of vampires is embedded in popular culture, and involves power over someone or something else.  Portrayed over the ages as anything from outsiders to dark heroes, vampires symbolize a deep human hunger…

 

 

“Cats,” the Movie, Now On HBO…

October 12, 2020


Director Tom Hooper’s movie adaptation of Cats is now available for a broader audience on HBO, and it was there that I viewed it in its entirety for the first time.  If you don’t have HBO, wait a bit longer, and you’ll probably be able to catch Cats on Fx or a similar network.  Released in December of 2019 to almost universally scathing reviews, Cats is an odd duck if you pardon  the mixed metaphor.  It is, as one reviewer aptly described it, a plotless spectacle probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen, or would wish to see again.  By one estimation I’ve read, only 27% of those viewing it actually liked the film.

My short take on the movie is that it’s not as bad as you’ve been led to believe, although you may just want to sample it to see what all of the negative reviews are about.  It definitely helps to be a furry as I am to appreciate Cats, although once the spectacle of seeing A-list stars morphed into felines wears off, the novelty is gone really fast, and the movie light on plot becomes repetitious and even tiresome.  While not a horror movie, Cats can be horrible, and it’s said represents a career low for many of the big name stars in it.  

Parts of the movie are memorable, and the anthropomorphic cats move and dance with a fluid grace and athleticism that is memorable.  Taylor Swift projects a lithe feline sensuality that…well, I won’t go there.  The creepiness factor that set so many off the film is readily identifiable mixed with the incomprehensible such as why these cats are rendered with humanoid hands and feet.  As one reviewer huffed, “This is not a cat…this is an abomination!” – – Jeez, lighten up dude, this is entertainment, although it may have failed in that purpose for many people.  I think that the long-running Broadway show version of Cats worked better for many as patrons were always aware that they were viewing actors and actresses in dazzling cat costumes rather than a CGI-generated hybrid.  A live theater performance also permits a kind of interactive intimacy between performers and audience that is largely lost in a movie.

Love it or hate it, Cats is a unique experience likely to persist in the memories of its viewers as either a vision or a nightmare…Meow!

 

The Osbournes Want To Believe…

September 28, 2020

 

 

 

The Osbournes Want To Believe is a strange combination of reality and paranormal shows airing on the Travel Channel.  Why is it on the Travel Channel?- – Who knows?!  Why is wrestling on the SyFy channel?  The series does “travel” in the sense of airing paranormal film clips filmed in different locations, I suppose.  Each episode is filmed with three members of “The First Family of Darkness” sitting on comfy oversized red chairs in a rather gothic-styled room, complete with black accents and lots of candles burning.  Patriarch Ozzy is there, complete with wife Sharon and son Jack.  There’s also a Pomeranian dog or two resting on one of them or a chair armrest, and moving so little that you wonder if they’re alive.  Ozzie wears a black knit hat decorated with skulls, often looks on the verge of falling asleep, and occasionally chugs large mugs of coffee to perk up a bit, requiring bathroom breaks.  His speech is often accompanied with subtitles as he can be, well, difficult to understand.  Sharon and Jack are readily understandable, and seem like sharp people who could pass in regular company.  Ozzie may have seen better days.

In each hour-long episode, son Jack who is involved in paranormal investigation shares videos with his parents who then comment on them, and rate each on whether they are creepy and credible on a ten-point Woogie Boogie scale.  The videos may be supposed to represent a variety of things like ghosts, UFO’s, and cryptic creatures such as Bigfoot or reptilian humanoids.  Predictably, the images seen on the videos are brief, blurry, and jumpy, filmed by amateurs. 

With low production values of the footage, this is certainly not a scientifically rigorous presentation of any of the unexplained paranormal phenomena.  Experts or professionals are nowhere in sight, and son Jack is the glue who holds the show together and advances it.  The show does not take itself seriously, and doesn’t pretend to.  It does grow on you, however, and is just strange enough to be fun, even if the Osbournes are now about as scary as The Munsters show of the 1960’s…

Progressive’s Motaur “Herd” Commercial…

July 3, 2020

 
Apparently, there are others of his kind…Terrence Terrell’s Motaur, that is!  We had previously seen Progressive’s unlikely motorcycle insurance icon in 2019 as a solitary bio-mechanical being appearing to wondering young humans at an isolated gas station.  In the latest commercial, our Motaur appears with a fully-human companion on a mesa, observing with binoculars at some distance a herd of other Motaurs milling about before them.

As his companion babbles about how amazing it is to see them in the wild, he is shushed by our familiar Motaur who just wishes to become lost in the moment…then we hear motor sounds of the dirt-biking Motaur herd, buzzing about like angry hornets.  They individually do wheelies, accelerate, and bound over the terrain.  Terrence Terrell then raises his front wheel in a salute to his “people.

Viewers may find the commercial cool, creepy, or incomprehensible but it celebrates the close bond between many bikers and their “rides.”  I worry that perhaps these cyborgs have something to do with Skynet, soon to be followed by an imposing black leather-jacketed guy with sunglasses and an Austrian accent. Perhaps we really don’t have to be afraid of the Motaurs as those seen in the field appear strangely generic and not especially menacing…and hey, wouldn’t Don’t Fear the Motaurs be a great comeback song for Blue Oyster Cult?  Bio-mechanical beings just wanna have fun, after all, although if their herd passes through my neighborhood noise ordinances may need to be deployed.

The recurrence of Motaurs continues to pose unanswered and troubling questions for me.  Do they both eat and gas up, or is one act sufficient?  Do they see both doctors and mechanics?   How do they sleep, or do they? Are Motaurs born, assembled, or somehow pieced together in some kind of unspeakable Borg-type lab?  Is there a cross-over into the Transformer world, or would Motaurs be their rivals if not enemies? Do Motaurs reproduce, breed only with their own, and if so, how (now there’s a disquieting thought!)?  Anyhow, untold stories reside here, and inquiring minds want to know…

 

 

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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“The UnXplained” with William Shatner…

March 1, 2020


Originally debuting in July 2019, The UnXplained with William Shatner is now presenting new episodes on the History Channel, and while yet another paranormal show, it brings a measure of quality to its presentations that many similar shows have lacked. Without naming names, such shows can often be poorly done and even cheesy, simply trading on the presence of a receptive audience desperate to believe.

That’s not a problem with The UnXplained, which has solid production values anchored by the iconic presence of William Shatner.  This is hardly Shatner’s first rodeo with the paranormal, and he’s been kicking around our television screens since the 1960’s, so one can excuse him for looking a bit tired.  We’ve all looked better for the most part, at least those of us who are past our twenties.  His creepy narrations with an underlying note of whimsy reveal that the Shat is still where it’s at, so warp speed ahead, Captain!

Now The UnXplained is for us paranormal buffs more of a reunion with family than a presentation of new material.  You’re unlikely to see or hear new topics here, but rather a smooth and balanced presentation of familiar ground, with nothing dwelt on or belabored excessively.  A consideration of cryptozoology transitions swiftly and smoothly between Chupacabra to Mothman to species thought extinct but not, and we’ve even seen many of the commentators, experts,  and witnesses before on other shows…it’s a nothing new here, but gee, it’s nice to see you again kind of thing. The lure of the familiar is undeniable.

The UnXplained succeeds in its purpose of being entertaining if not illuminating, and it’s marathon season debut episode of four hours can really fill a dull evening.  So catch William Shatner’s latest mission to strange if familiar worlds on The History Channel, and be kind to him.  After all, “Klingon bastards” killed his son…

 

 

 

 

Jif’s “Squirrel” Commercial…

September 8, 2019

 
I would probably have long since starved to death were it not for peanut butter.  I’ve eaten it since childhood, and continue to turn to it several times a week.  At times, I even crave it; peanut butter is my go-to lunch and snack of choice when I don’t know what to eat. That being said, I indulge my guilty pleasure at home; even I may not be seen at a park, slathering peanut butter on a slice of bread.  I’ve never been known to carry a jar of peanut butter around with me; I’m just not that hard-core…

…not so the curly-haired young lady in our Jif commercial!  Seated on a park bench, she whips herself up a thickly-spread slice of peanut butter bread, only to find herself approached by a squirrel.  Aww…isn’t he cute?  Who could deny him?  So she gives him a tidbit, and is soon approached by another squirrel, then another! No good deed goes unpunished, after all.  Soon the woman is surrounded by dozens of squirrels, kinda like what happens when you feed french fries to sea gulls at the beach…

…It’s then that the commercial takes a surreal turn, for towering above the sea of squirrels is a creepy man-squirrel, wearing a squirrel mask that covers his entire head.  He, too, is seeking a hand-out, and even making beseeching squirrel-noises.  Is this a peanut butter pervert?  And what should the young lady do?  Mace him, scream for help, or try to bean him with the peanut butter jar? This question is left unanswered, but some people will go to any lengths for the product.  It’s that Jif’ing good, we’re told.  I do sympathize, honestly, sharing the addiction…

…but in my twisted mind fed by a love for horror, the question lingers;  what happens when the woman runs out of peanut butter?  Do the legion of squirrels and their squirrel-headed human-sized leader decide that the lady might be tasty, too?  A few pounce on her to take a tentative nibble, and soon she is writhing under a blanket of them…Aieee! (The screen fades to black as we hear squirrels chittering…the Day of the Squirrel is at hand!)

 

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!

 


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