I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch David Cronenberg’s original Dead Ringers (1988) so I almost feel like I don’t even have any business watching something inspired by it. But what convinced me is A. it’s on Amazon Prime, which maybe it has been all along and I didn’t realize it, and B. I thought Alice Lowe was involved– and I loved her movie Prevenge, about a pregnant widow who believes her unborn baby is guiding her to exact murderous revenge on those who may have been responsible for her husband’s death.
Well, joke’s on me. It’s Alice Birch, not Alice Lowe. I don’t even know who that is! And furthermore, I am squeamish as hell when it comes to gynecological stuff and things related to pregnancy and birth. That makes me feel like a terrible feminist and also maybe a terrible ally and support system to all of my family members and friends who are also mamas. I am sorry! I’m grossed out by all of it! Out of all of the horror in the world, this is some of the stuff I find most horrifying. Which sucks for me, because I have a body containing all of these bits that must be invasively poked and prodded and examined on an annual (or more frequent basis) and so even walking around in this flesh is a constant fucking horror story.
…so why did I think I wanted to watch a movie, let alone a whole television series about Beverly and Elliot, a pair of famous gynecologists planning to open a high-tech birthing center? I DON’T KNOW. I watched the first episode last night, and I will be honest with you, I had to look away for about 40% of it.
I was ten years old when I got my first period. I had said period for 3 months straight. It was our male family doctor who did my first exam, and it hurt so badly that, terrified, in pain, and not understanding a single thing that was being done to me, I sobbed the entire way through. He basically told me to calm down and chill out. I was ten fucking years old, man. Have a little care, a little patience! How I’d love to go back in time and just punch that guy in the dick.
Anyway, thirty-seven years later, every cervical exam or pap smear is an absolute nightmare for me, and I am taken straight back to that day, feeling completely alone in the world, my body not my own, my pain a thing does apparently doesn’t really exist. Sitting home in my office now, my knees locked tightly together, even the thought of a speculum so shiny you can see your pores in it makes me feel like fainting dead away.
I really wanted to watch Rachel Weisz in this duo role of brilliant but menacing twins, but I don’t think I can go back for more. I have two dear friends that have been recommending to me a show called Deadloch for the past few months, it looks like a sort of noir-mystery-comedy, which I have also heard referenced as “Broadchurch, but make it funny.”
So I am peacing out on Dead Ringers and headed over to Deadloch and I am not looking back. Life is too short to torture myself!
I finally watched Talk to Me, and it was an extremely uncomfortable, disturbing, upsetting, and brilliant film. I never want to see it again and I definitely don’t want to talk about it.
I’ll sum up in one sentence, just so I can say I did my due diligence: Teens are getting high on possession as a party trick/for social media likes, with the aid of an old, severed hand, encased in ceramic and covered in creepy symbols and graffiti.
Teenagers are already susceptible to suggestion and stupidity and grief can leave you open, yearning, and raw. Talk To Me takes those feelings and behaviors and twists them to its own purposes for a relentlessly terrifying story.
I’m done now. I literally cannot think about this film a second more.
I am currently reading Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-fi Art of the 1970sby Adam Rowe and I am enjoying it immensely. Aside from being stuffed to the gills with phenomenal science fiction art–from the abstract and avant-garde to the trippy and surreal, from the murky and lurid to the vivid, vibrant, and hyperrealistic–on top of all that, it is written in exactly the way I want to read about art.
Well-informed, brimming with details, and powerfully engrossing sure, but Rowe’s voice is chatty, warm, and irreverent–like you’re being regaled by one of your smartest, funniest, nerdiest friends. You no doubt know of Adam Rowe from his Twitter and Tumblr accounts, where he shares otherworldly, alien retro sci-fi art on an almost daily basis…but while those are both awesome places to peek in at, it’s not the same as having this outstanding book at your fingertips.
Of course, the imagery he has curated is tremendous, but what makes this such a special collection is the enthusiasm, fondness, and overall spirit of curiosity and wonder that infuses every single word in this book. You never doubt even for a second that Adam Rowe is absolutely jazzed about these artworks–and he wants you to be, too.
I will probably write a longer review once I finish the book, and if I do a year-end round-up of gift book ideas, Worlds Beyond Time is going to be right up at the very top.
What does any of this have to do with 31 Days of Horror? Well, I just today finished the Monsters chapter in a section of the book, wherein artists “blend fiction and arguable fact, looking at how artists and illustrators reinterpreted old science-fiction tropes like creepy creatures and alien priests to represent the latest cryptid or mystic vision.”
I thought I might share two of my favorite works from this chapter, the first being Don Maitz’s 1977 cover for Eerie #91, and the second, Richard Hescox’s 1985 cover for Alan Burt Akers’s Omens of Kregen, featuring a final confrontation from the book, in which a bestiary of googly-eyed, wriggly-tentacled monsters have assembled to protect their queen. I know these guys are meant to be scary, but there’s something about this menagerie that tickles my fancy. The “weird and gross but adorable” fancy!
Cat People has been on my 31 Days list every year for the past 7 years. Better late than never!
Irena is absorbed in her sketchbook at the zoo when she meets neat and tidy and well-behaved Oliver Reed, who teases her when her frustrated, crumpled-up drawings don’t quite make it into the trash bin. They chat and leave together, and as they stroll away, we catch a glimpse at what she’s been doodling: a sleek panther with a dagger plunged through its heart.
Oliver walks Irina home to her fabulously beautiful apartment, and she asks him in for tea. During this sort-of-first-date, as Oliver is meandering about her space, he seems particularly struck–and a mite disturbed by–a certain statue, and Irina explains. In her village in Serbia, there was the belief that it sheltered satanic cultists who could take the form of cats.
Good King John tried to kill these cat people, but some fled into the mountains, where they are said to live to this day. We soon learn that Irena secretly fears she is one of those cat people.
In the way of cinematic whirlwind romances, Oliver and Irina declare their love for each other and are married and living together within the next five minutes of screen time. It’s very clear right from the start that this relationship will be tested because Irina, uncomfortable with physical affection, dreads getting close to Oliver. Forget about consummating the marriage–she won’t even kiss him. She is terrified that once her passions are aroused, she will transform into a panther and kill and eat her husband
Oliver promises patience and time, but when his long-time coworker, the very swell and pretty Alice, confesses her love for him, Oliver is not so supportive anymore.
As Irena’s fear and jealousy grow, she begins to stalk Alice; there is a genuinely creepy scene in which Alice is hiding in a swimming pool while something prowls and growls from the shadows. Has Irena metamorphosed? Is it Alice’s heightened terror and imagination? Things eventually escalate, there is an attack, and things don’t end well for precisely the person that they wouldn’t have a hope of ending well for, considering the era during which this film was made.
Cat People was a gorgeous movie with all its atmospheric cinematography and wonderful cat motifs, but I think what I felt more than anything from it was a deep melancholy and loneliness.
Irena says at one point, when she is attempting to explain her apprehension about the intimate nature of marriage: “I’ve lived in dread of this moment. I’ve never wanted to love you. I’ve stayed away from people … I’ve fled from the past. Some things you could never know, or understand — evil things.” She reflects to Oliver, in a later scene, “You’re the only friend I’ve ever had.”
An immigrant, an outsider, a possibly cursed individual, a cat person who cats apparently don’t even like, whose only friend is that fickle fucker of a husband–Irina’s story is impossibly sad.
People have only just started watching The Fall of the House of Usher, Mike Flanagan’s newest offering over on Netflix, so I am hesitant to say much–or anything!–about it at all!
I watched all eight episodes this past weekend, and I will say two things. I did not love it as much as I loved Midnight Mass (I think that one was pretty divisive though, so that may not mean anything to you!) and if you are expecting an adaptation of a singular Edgar Alan Poe short story…that’s not what that is. Rather it’s a narrative in which many Poe references, characters, plot pieces, story fragments, and poetry snippets are entangled. One reviewer referred to it as taking place in the “Poe cinematic universe,” and THANKS I HATE IT. It makes me think that Flanagan’s next installment is going to be something like BRAM STOKER: ENDGAME.
Did I love this new series? I did. Did I love watching rich people wearing designer clothing? Yes! Camille’s Alexander McQueen dress in episode two! Her snake lingerie/bodysuit that we’ve seen advertised all over Instagram, you know the one! Luke Skywalker absolutely stole every scene he was in! Did I love the cheesy, overarching message? Who doesn’t love a cheesy message? There was so much to love about this show. I mean … “GUCCI CALIGULA.” Iykyk.
But did I love it as much as Midnight Mass? I did not. Would I watch The Fall of the House of Usher over and over again? Absolutely, it was that enjoyable. Whereas I would never watch Midnight Mass again. I can’t explain that, but there you go.
Today I’m completely knocked out by the vaccines I got 48 hours ago and I am taking it easy. Which is to say, I am cramming a whole bunch of tv and reading down my gullet today but I am not going to exhaust my brain in trying to muster up words about it.
Over on Instagram, I am participating in the OctoberChrysalis challenge, a series of creative prompts collaboratively put together by Jess of Bloodmilk and musician Chelsea Wolfe. Today’s prompt was “Landscape/Dreamscape” and I was really scratching my head for this one. I live in the Florida suburbs, there is not much landscape to speak of out here. So instead I went with a few dreamscapes I’ve included in my books. You can peek at what I’ve been coming up with over here.
What else have I got planned for Day Fifteen? I just finished up Rachel Harrison’s Cackle, which was a wonderfully cozy small-town witchy story about friendship, accepting who you are, and being happy on your own. It had real Practical Magic/Stars Hollow vibes. I feel stupid saying I “highly recommend” it because I am pretty sure I’m late to the party here, and everyone has already read it. I’ve read Rachel Harrison’s other books and really enjoyed them, but they are definitely more in the horror genre than this one. This was feel-good, but not super saccharine or extra-fluffy. Just a little sweet. A tiny bit of fluff. Perfect for a sick day. I feel like some dudes out there are rolling their eyes at “cozy horror,” but whatever. You don’t hate cozy horror. Call it what it is. You hate women.
Anyhow, I’m feeling just peachy, not at all sickly and miserable, can’t you tell?!
Today’s plans include taking the all half-empty cans of pumpkin littering my refrigerator and making this curried pumpkin soup, watching some more of The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix, and reading a few more stories in Jordan Peele’s horror anthology, Out There Screaming–which is pretty great so far, with several stories I found myself wishing I could read a full-novel version of!
In the first five minutes of watching The Blood Spattered Bride, I thought, “Huh, I’ve already tried to watch this once before.” A newlywed couple speeds down the highway, arriving at a hotel. The groom (unnamed throughout the film) suggests that the bride, Susan, head up to the room while he unpacks the car. Once in the room, a stocking-faced man who looks very much like her husband emerges from the wardrobe, pins her to the bed, and violently rips her wedding dress off. In my initial experience with this movie, it was this scene that made me think, “No thanks, I’m good,” and turned it off.
But it is at this point her husband arrives with all of their luggage and finds Susan sitting on the bed, wedding dress intact, and looking upset. “I don’t want to stay here,” she says, “I don’t like this hotel.”
From there they tootle off to his country estate. In gauging their early interactions, we get the sense that Susan is quite young and inexperienced (he says as much when he refers to her later on in the film as “just a child.” Ugh.) He is an older man, and soon, we learn, aggressive, predatory, and controlling. But Susan is not easily cowed, and often either runs away, defies him, or coldly shuts him down.
It’s this “you’re not the boss of me” spirit that comes across when she demands to know why there are no women featured among the ancestral portrait gallery in the house. He admits that they are all kept down in the basement. Susan, curious, checks it out…and finds a painting of a bride with her face sheared completely away.
This is where things start to get interesting. They walk through the gorgeous autumnal landscape around the castle’s grounds as he tells her the story of the woman in the portrait. Mircala Karstein (!!) murdered her husband on their wedding night and the family found her comatose beside the dead body.
They eventually buried her in the ruins of the cathedral on the property. Susan realizes this is the ghostly woman she has seen from the corner of her eye, ever since they arrived–and even in the hotel parking lot as they were leaving. Susan then begins dreaming of Mircala. In her dreams, there is an antique dagger, and an irresistible urge to kill her husband…
The Blood Spattered Bride, which I initially thought was an exploitation film that really wasn’t in the mood for, turned out to have a bit more going on than that. Although you have to get through the first half of the film first, and I if I am being honest, I found it a bit of a slog. But there’s definitely a psychological depth that I wasn’t expecting, and there are some politics beyond the sexual involved that I wasn’t aware of, and you can read more about here.
I don’t think I can blame it on the flu vaccine/COVID booster combo that I received last night, but if I ever knew that this film was a retelling of Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I had completely forgotten it. It was a delightful surprise because honestly, I could watch a million versions of this sapphic vampire story. I’m not feeling so hot today, I’m clammy and my joints ache and I am definitely having a reaction from the shots, so I think that’s all I’ve got in me for day fourteen.
P.S. If anyone knows the artist for the film poster featured in this blog, please fill me in!
For Friday the 13th, I was going to do one of the Friday the 13th movies, as I’ve never seen a single one! But much like how when I was younger, I believed you were either in the Star Wars or the Star Trek camp because you obviously couldn’t be into both (I’ve since changed my mind) I still staunchly maintain you are either Team Freddy or Team Jason. As Freddy has my whole heart –or he may slice it out if I decide to switch things up– I’ve decided to continue leading a Jason Voorhees-free life. In the interest of neutrality, I instead opted to finish watching a film I began two months ago and got too scared to finish.
Too scared! Yes, I said it. I have become a big, stupid baby. Evil Dead Rise scared the crap out of me.
I never intended for this to be a horror 101 blog, so I won’t bother rehashing the plot/events of the other Evil Dead movies. If you’re here reading this, I’m 99% certain you already know them. If not, read about them on Wikipedia…like I did with the entire Saw franchise, ha!
So, what was so scary about this? Taking place mainly in a condemed apartment complex in the aftermath of an earthquake, it had a claustrophobic, apocalyptic aspect that I found extremely freaky. There’s this feeling of extreme, terrifying isolation which makes you wonder “are these the only people left in the whole world?” Ellie, her children, and her visiting sister are more or less trapped inside, along with a handful of other residents–and that would probably be scary enough, but one of Ellie’s kids climbs into a chamber unearthed under the parking garage during the quake–which turns out to be an old bank vault, where he finds a creepy old book and some weird old records.
…Which he plays, and there’s an incantation and a summoning and now he’s fucked up big time because all of a sudden, his mother is possessed. Demon-possessed Ellie is the second scary thing in this movie and she is scary as hell. Not only did they make her look hideous and horrifying (here’s a full-image of what’s happening in the screencap above) but she’s menacing her own children –and spoiler, most of the kids don’t make it–and even for me, with a lifetime full of watching horror movies, that kind of feels like crossing a line.
I’m really curious about other folks who have seen this one? Am I just getting old and feeble? Or was this actually pretty scary? Let me know your experiences with Evil Dead Rise!
I’m pretty sure I watched the original Tomie film sometime in the mid-2000s but I don’t remember anything about it other than ~typical Tomie things~ and I did not realize that there were eight additional films released after that! Not all of them are easy to find, which limits my options quite a bit, so last night I watched what I could find on Tubi. Tomie: Beginning
This 2005 straight-to-video release was actually a great place to jump back in because it is based on the first Tomie manga by Junji Ito, and as I am presently rereading the entire Tomie omnibus, it’s all pretty fresh in my mind. The events of Tomie: Beginning apparently contend with everything that occurred right before the first film takes place.
Told in a dual timeline in which two former students reminisce in their dilapidated school rooms about what happened to their former classmates, alongside the past events as they unfolded, it’s standard business-as-usual stuff as far as Tomie is concerned. Tomie is the beautiful new girl who shows up at school, the boys are driven mad with desire for her, the girls are insane with jealousy, and Tomie’s out there making friends, influencing people, and getting chopped to pieces, as per usual.
This film takes aspects from the first story, where the entire class hacks her to bits and hides the disparate body parts around town, as well as the story about the photography club, where Tomie recruits goons to do her bidding for her, in addition to how we see her blood soak into things and spawn more Tomies. There is a marvelous (good? bad? I don’t know, it’s just silly!) scene where Tomie’s chopped-off ear sprouts wriggling little tendrils and tentacles, and slithers off into the underbrush. If that’s specific to any of the stories I don’t recall, but it was fun to watch.
I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it when I was younger, but Tomie’s is a complicated narrative. She’s presented as selfish and manipulative and generally just horrible in every way that a human can be, but she perpetually and seemingly inescapably experiences horrible trauma herself, in her eternal cycle of murder and rebirth.
Further, her story isn’t hers at all, it’s always told through of eyes of the people who are reacting to her–and over and over, framed as an evil succubus “who gets what she deserves–” never mind the misogyny and violence of the men who “can’t control themselves.” A lot of folks have written about this in a more savvier manner than I have, but whether you delve further into it or not, these are reflections and observations worth spending some time with.
…and I do believe that Tubi has at least two more Tomie movies if you want to spend even more time on it.
I first learned of Images (1972) around this time last year, after I had finished watching The Eyes of Laura Mars and had fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole. It also happens to be another film listed in Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women, and honestly, I should probably just devote one of these Octobers to watching films from the book, because they are all fantastic.
Cathryn is a children’s book author (played by Susannah Yorke, who actually wrote the book, In Search of Unicorns, which is dreamily quoted throughout the movie–very cool!) and she is experiencing some dizzying hallucinatory weirdness. This begins in her bedroom as the film opens and she is chatting with her friend Joan in a phone call sequence; suddenly another woman’s voice is on the line, cruelly informing Cathryn that her husband Hugh is sleeping with another woman. And then as if nothing happened, Joan is on the line again.
Cathryn’s husband (it’s DS9’s Odo!!) arrives home and she weepingly confronts him about the stranger’s phone call. As he is comforting her, she glances up, and it’s another man’s face! Understandably, she becomes hysterical, curling into herself on the bathroom floor, but next thing you know, it’s just Hugh again.
Cathryn and Hugh head out to their country home and things continue to morph and change for Cathryn. At one point they pull their car up on a cliff overlooking the house, and when Cathryn looks down below, she sees their car pull up to the house’s front door, with both her and Hugh getting out of it and starting to unpack their things. As this happens more and more frequently, Cathryn’s reactions become dulled to the fluctuating realities, and at times amused. It’s this detachment, that, in the end, leads to the film’s tragic ending, but along the way, it’s a fascinating and terrible trainwreck to watch unfold.
I mentioned the other day that a lot of recent horror movies are too stressful for me, but these hazy 70s-era gems, as strange and surreal as they might be, feel like a cozy comfort watches for me. Plus the vibe is off the charts, as per the two screencaps I grabbed, below. I mean, I would have watched this film based on these alone. I’ve also included a whole slew of the film’s promotional posters because there are in fact quite a few of them.