Archive of ‘film’ category

this, that, & the other thing {xxiv}

molly-crabapple-geek-love-katherine-dunn-body-image-1463256483-size_1000 Why Katherine Dunn’s ‘Geek Love’ Was a Bible to Weird Kids Like Me

untitled-1-of-1Christ Consciousness, part I in Ellen Rogers’ Gnosis series, reflections on art & spirituality.

redasblood_full Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss

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Witchcraft, Satanism, and the Male Gaze: The Paranoid Sexual Politics of Belladonna of Sadness

1217.w529.h352Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden: A Korean Gothic Lesbian Revenge Thriller 

Follow the breadcrumbs: why fairytales are magic for modern fiction
10 strange novels of the British countryside
The Best Witch Cinema You Haven’t Seen
Riding With the Witch: Anxiety & Archetypes in Sleep Paralysis
The Haunting World of Jewish Female Demons and Spirits
Why we must burn her at once, via The Toast
How 2 Sisters and 1 Murder Inspired 500 Songs
How poetry helps us understand mental illness
Astronomers crack the secret of this gorgeous poem by Sappho
Google’s AI is writing eerie post-modern poetry
6 Sinister Podcasts to Scratch Your Eerie Itch

this, that, & the other thing {xxiii}

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Witch Series, Camille Chew

The new-to-me art of Camille Chew; a fanciful take on modern witches

 

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library)

A poster for Häxen. (Image: Cornell University Library,

Take a Peek at the World’s Greatest Witchcraft Movie Poster Collection

 


I’m absolutely enthralled with this beautiful, grotesque trailer.
Are you as excited for Tale of Tales as I am?

Forces that we cannot contain: The cosmic horror of the nuclear age

Why The Fly is possibly the very best body-horror film ever made

This Perfume Smells Like the Apocalypse: artists capture the heady scent of the end times

10 of the most disturbing folk songs in history

The H Word: The Monstrous Intimacy of Poetry in Horror

Is the Hum, a mysterious noise heard around the world, science or mass delusion?

Sorcery and Sex Appeal: Kristen Korvette Discusses Slutist’s Legacy of the Witch Festival

Anohni Finds Hope in Hopelessness: The iconoclastic artist on her politically-minded new album

The Gnostic World of Antti-Jussi Annila’s Sauna

The Dark Tales of the World’s Most Epic Sleep Talker

The complicated wallpapers of grief: The Midnight Swim

ms6Sometime last year  I became aware of a film which instantaneously piqued my interest…and, as unfortunately happens quite frequently with me, I promptly forgot about it. Later, in trying to recall the title or even what about it I found so compelling, I could only offer, “…well…it was about some sisters…and their dead mom. I think there was a lake.”

Scoff if you like, but I will have you know that was just enough vague information to find the film again. Directed by Sarah Adina Smith, The Midnight Swim is summarized thusly:  “When Dr. Amelia Brooks’ three daughters travel home to settle her affairs after she disappears in Spirit Lake, they find themselves drawn to the mysterious body of water.”

The Midnight Swim is told in found footage, faux-documentary style and takes place mostly at the estranged sister’s mother’s lake house in Iowa. I’ve seen it labeled everything from horror to fantasy to sci-fi, but I wouldn’t classify it as any of these, really.

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I suppose you could say it is a bit of a character study in the aftermath of a loss. Annie seems to be the oldest and the dependable one, Isa is a bit of a woo woo free-spirit, and June, the youngest, is mostly behind the camera, filming the sister’s homecoming and dealing with their mother’s disappearance (and death, we are to assume) for a documentary–one which I think is mostly in her head. June, as we find out later, is troubled, and suffers from unspecified mental issues.

You could perhaps also say that it is somewhat a mystery, for the mysterious atmosphere is pervasive throughout the film, and an ominous tension begins to build after the sisters, recalling a bit of local folklore, attempt to drunkenly conjure a spirit from the lake–one of the seven sisters who supposedly drowned within many years before, each unsuccessfully trying to save the other. Strange things begin to happen: dead birds turn up inexplicably on the doorstep every morning, time lapse footage of the lake is found on June’s camera with no one admitting to having filmed it, and throughout it all, the shadow of their absent mother looms uneasily and mostly unspoken.

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There’s not much in the way of a plot here, nor is there a conventionally satisfying resolution (which is not to say that I did not enjoy it.) What I did enjoy immensely was the sisters’ companionship and camaraderie. They rekindle their connection almost effortlessly, even though it’s obviously been some time since they have all been together, and if you have sisters whom you adore, this is a particular joy to see.  Even the uncomfortable moments, the sullen, weighty silences and the heated arguments–there’s such vulnerability and love there. This, to me, is the most enthralling and captivating aspect of the film.

There is a specific scene wherein the sisters and their neighbour (who seemed an unnecessary addition to the film, in my opinion) are playing in their mother’s clothes; dressing up as her and acting out her eccentricities and idiosyncracies.  Annie takes a “goodnight, children” scenario a bit too far–no doubt fueled by some traumatising memories and re-living that very situation from when she was a child–and the effect on the sisters is heartbreaking and no doubt triggering for many viewers. I have encountered and probably even instigated this moment with my own sisters in the wake of our complicated grief surrounding our own mother’s death, and no doubt we will re-live this scene again, and again, and again.

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What does any of this have to do with wallpaper patterns? To be honest, I don’t rightly know, but they caught my eye throughout the film and it somehow became entangled in my mind with the idea of absent mothers and complicated grief.  From the opening sequence, with June staring moodily in her childhood bed against that robin’s egg blue paper with the multicolor florals to that more modern feeling beige with white floral silhouettes–I don’t know, I just feel like it’s all there for a reason.

The film is currently streaming on netflix and is also on amazon, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find.

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Currently {4.13.16}

car

This has been a strange month.

A few weekends ago, on a trip up to North Florida on a rainy Saturday morning, we ended up on the side of the highway, sinking into a ditch.  A massive white pickup truck (I have dreamed about this truck multiple times since then, and I always see it when I close my eyes now) began to merge into our middle lane without looking or realizing we were there. In avoiding a collision with him, we shifted back to an empty lane on the right, but began to hydroplane on the wet roads. At that point, I closed my eyes and began to brace myself for impact.  I don’t know exactly what happened after that, but we were basically all over the road–facing oncoming traffic at one point–and seconds later we ran into a small copse of trees and a swampy ditch in the median between the north and southbound traffic.

I remember looking at the branches scraping at the windshield, noticing our miraculously unspilled coffees and thinking How are we even still alive?

In some parallel universe where my partner keeps a less cool head, this situation could have ended quite differently. The alternate reality us may have ceased to exist that day.
I  don’t care to dwell on that overmuch.

Giles

Giles by Goblinfruit Studio

Kraiza

Alholomesse by Robert Kraiza

My art gallery is ever expanding.  I could lie and tell you that I purchased these things as balm for my fractured soul after the above-mentioned incident, but the truth is that I ordered these things before that. I have long admired Carisa Swenson of Goblinfruit Studio’s works–her curious creatures and aberrant animals have been delighting me for years!  I decided it was the right time to provide a home for one of them, and so in the top photo we have Giles in his jaunty blue waistcoat keeping company with other various treasures

In the second photo is Alholomesse by Robert Kraiza. I consider myself a person of hushed passions, silent desires, but I’ll admit, gazing upon these wildly ecstatic women whips me into a bit of a maelstrom. I am so thrilled to have these witches dancing on my walls! Well, eventually. We all know how long it will take for this to happen.

black catcoven vampirella

It’s summer wardrobe time!  And summer wardrobes, as we all know, consist of interesting, dark-themed tee shirts. Right?  Well, that’s what mine consist of, anyhow. Much….like the rest of the year, I guess. Hm.

Black Sunday shirt $19 // Cat Coven Feminism shirt $25 // Vampirella shirt $23

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Reading:

The very excellent Sabbat Magazine’s Maiden Issue, which is full of magics from some of my favorite artists, writers and visionaries. A++ 5 stars would be ensorcelled again.

X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron. This took a chapter or two to catch my attention, but I’m glad that I stuck with it, because X’s For Eyes is a lot of fun.  I am about two-thirds of the way through (it’s only about 100 pages or so) and it’s like…a pulp-cosmic-noir adventure with Hank and Dean Venture except less incompetent and more demented.

Giant Days Vol 2. I’ll just come out and say that I will always support anything John Allison has a hand in. His webcomic Bad Machinery (formerly Scary Go Round and Bobbins) is the only webcomic I still read…and it’s the one that I actually started reading many years ago that got me into webcomics in the first place.  I even got to interview him once! That was a total dream come true. And once he mentioned my polyvore stuff on his blog, or in the comments of his blog, as inspiration for some of his character’s fashions! Which…that makes me sound totally stalkery, so we’ll move on. Anyway, Giant Days is also a lot of fun, following Esther, Susan, and Daisy through weird, slice-of-life college life adventures.

The Beauty: I haven’t actually started this one yet, but doesn’t this sound intriguing? “Modern society is obsessed with outward beauty. What if there was a way to guarantee you could become more and more beautiful every day? What if it was a sexually transmitted disease? In the world of The Beauty, physical perfection is only one sexual encounter away.”

Listening to Mamiffer’s The World Unseen. I’ve loved this experimental duo since discovering them quite by accident back in 2010 or so. This new effort flickers with loss and light and is described as an “exploration of subconscious and psychic bonds between the past and present” and an “eight-song aural lexicon that vacillates between Arvo Pärt’s delicate minimalist beauty, Thomas Köner’s narcotic pulses of noise, and Richard Pinhas’ sublime textural patterns.”

Watching: The Fly and Angel Heart.  Can you believe I had never seen either one of those movies?  I enjoyed them both immensely.  That was obviously the role Jeff Goldblum was born to play and it was nice to see Mickey Rourke looking like a dream boat before his face became the unfortunate plate of wet cat food that it is now.  (Sorry, Mickey Rourke).

Doing: Saw a live taping of NPR’s Ask Me Another, attended a They Might Be Giant’s show, gardening, and knitting all of the things that gave me trouble last year.

What about you all?  What have you been up to lately? Seen anything fun? Reading anything interesting?  Had any near-death experiences?  Fill me in!

The Dark Mysteries of Professor Jack

Jack Shear, artist’s rendering (Artist: Tenebrous Kate)

Ha!  I used a Gothic novel generator for the title of this interview, it’s pretty cheesy, but I kind of love it anyway.  As opposed to another one I picked out: The Bitter Vengeance of Professor Jack…which is maybe potentially slanderous?

Or …is it?

Read further and determine for yourselves my dear innocents, and learn more of this mysterious gentleman and his dark obsessions.  His fascinations align closely with many of my own, and, I suspect yours; I invite you to partake in the insights and secrets that he has been gracious enough to divulge today, and I pray that we do not live to regret this beautiful, terrible knowledge.

Jack and I began our correspondence in the winter of 2010.  It could have been any time during that year, but for dramatic purposes we will say that it was in bleak midwinter, the landscape treacherous, hardened by a killing frost;  a moonless night, an unexpected, brittle rap at the frozen windowpane…

(Except in this case, it was an unexpected email from an intriguing stranger who wanted to chat about a mutual love of music! It was actually a pleasant thing—and a welcome diversion,  and the beginning of a lovely friendship.)

Jack actually teaches Gothic and Decadence literature–that part was not just mentioned for drama and intrigue–and is also a published author of several RPG related materials. I had so many questions for him, and I am certain that the answers are of keen interest to the folks who read my ramblings here; if you have a love for Gothic tropes, for horror fantasy games, for dark music, film, and literature, you are certain to enjoy the following transcript.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and Jack–thank you for indulging me. You are a gem, and I am pleased to know you!

Jack Shear

Mlle Ghoul: Your answer to what is best in life differs slightly from that of our favorite barbarian: “What is best in life? To drink poisonous liqueurs, hallucinate fabulously about dancing girls, and engage in triumphant saber duels with your enemies!” I’d love to know what you get up to in your spare time and how closely it mirrors the duels and dancing girls that I like to envision.
Prof. Jack: Credit where credit is due: that bit of “biography” was written for me by my longtime friend and frequent collaborator Tenebrous Kate. She knows me far too well; I think she really captured the main points of my personality and predilections there. To be honest, I used to get out a lot more in my younger years, but these days I prefer a quieter kind of decadence: a nice intoxicating beverage, a beautiful bit of prose or cinema to get lost in, and a night in with my charming companion is my current preference.

As for saber duels, it’s probably fair warning to anyone who makes an enemy of me to note that I always triumph in the end.

I am intensely curious (read: nosy as hell. I am very nosy) about young Jack! Can you pinpoint a time in your childhood wherein you developed a fascination for the Gothic novel or gothic tropes/conventions? Can you talk about how it led to your current career path and the other writings that you do?
I actually remember my first exposure to the Gothic: my aunt bought me a couple issues of the comic book The House of Mystery, and by some stroke of fortune those issues featured J. M. DeMatteis’s ongoing “I…Vampire” story. “I…Vampire had Gothic conventions written into the plot an characterization as flavor, and the covers of those issues were rich in the Gothic aesthetic; it was all candelabras and crumbling castles. I could not get enough of it.

As for how that early exposure to the Gothic shaped by current career path and the kind of creative work I do, I can tell you that when I find pleasure in an aesthetic I get absolutely fixated on it. I don’t just want to indulge in it, I want to overindulge in it! I moved on from those early Gothic comics to checking out Poe, Stoker, and Shelley from the library; from there I delved into the lesser known Gothics. I never burnt out this fascination I have for the genre. If anything, over the years it has only intensified.

When I started taking academia seriously, I knew I wanted to share my passion for the literature with young, impressionable minds who maybe hadn’t dove into those dark waters yet. And so here I am, teaching an introductory course on Gothic fiction, as well as similar classes on the literary impact of the Jack the Ripper murders, the recent (and archly Gothic) television series Penny Dreadful, and Decadent literature.

Gothic shelfie

Gothic shelfie

Can you speak to your favorite elements of a good gothic tale? And for those reading who have been hesitant to jump in to this particular genre, can you recommend a reading list of few decent “starter” gothic tales? (Perhaps a few advanced for those whom this is old hat?) Are there any so awful, so atrocious that you would caution against reading them? Feel free to include those as well!
My favorite elements of any Gothic tale are the moments of absurdity. Horror tales are a dime a dozen, but what sets the Gothic apart is its propensity to get really weird, to skirt the line between sublime terror and overwrought, and potentially laughable, excesses.

If someone were new to the Gothic, I’d recommend Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Everyone thinks the story will be familiar, but Shelley’s novel has depths that are often missing from our “pop-culture” version of the Frankenstein story. Following that, I’d point people to a few Poe short stories (“The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Black Cat,” especially) or Oscar Wilde’s peerless The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I’m always pushing people who are already familiar with the main Gothic texts to read Charles Brockden Brown’s novel Wieland. It is amazing and like nothing else written. All I’m going to say is this: the plot revolves around religious mania and ventriloquism. You want to read that, right? James Hogg’s Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is another Gothic novel that too many people sleep on.

As for Gothic texts I’d warn people away from, there is a reason that the more obscure Gothic novels remain obscure. For example, Valancourt Press does tremendous work bring forgotten Gothic novels back into print, but I generally wouldn’t recommend them except to other fanatics who share my tastes. There are good books in their catalog, but a lot of them are fairly derivative. [Editor’s note: Valancourt Press brings many more recent horror titles back into print as well, and is definitely worth checking out if you have a love of Gothic or Horror. I have an entire shelf dedicated to beautiful Valancourt editions.]

The Martyr’s Kiss from misterguignol on 8tracks Radio.

We first connected, I believe, through a mutual love of music over at 8tracks, wherein you note that you like music made by artists who “live in their own weird little worlds” and list preferred genres including “spectral folk, murderous americana, doom balladry, dustbowl country, fin de siecle cabaret…”. I’d love to pick your brain regarding your current favorites in this vein! I am also intensely curious as to your musical journey (as a listener and an appreciator) and how you came to listen to this type of music?
It’s funny, I think I went from not being interested in music to being utterly obsessive about it in my early teenage years. Part of it was that I discovered that there were alternatives to what I had been hearing on the radio. Finding bands like Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, and Bauhaus was a revelation—a revelation that turned me into the kind of questing fool who went looking for obscure records made by maniacs and who spent far too much time in dank goth clubs, but it was a revelation none the less.

As for current favorites, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Batushka’s Litourgiya, a startling debut that mixes black metal with Eastern Orthodox spiritual music. My girlfriend gave me a copy of an Anna & Elizabeth album that is really nice Appalachian folk. The new Hexvessel is captivating. Aside from newer stuff, I’ve also been revisiting Aghast’s Hexerei Im Zwielicht Der Finsternis, a dark ambient record that is about as soothing as the sounds of a witches’ sabbath.

The Hallow, poster design by ArtMachine

The Hallow, poster design by ArtMachine

We often correspond back and forth with film recommendations and such. Is there anything you’ve watched recently that you would suggest to like-minded folks? And what was it about them that appealed to you?
I love horror films, but I’m also extraordinarily hard to please when it comes to movies. According to a lot of people I quite like, It Follows is a modern classic of the form, but I have to admit that I thought it was amazingly mediocre and frequently silly. It feels like I have to watch a pile of movies before I finally strike on something that feels worthwhile. The last movie I really enjoyed without much reservation was The Hallow. I liked the way that The Hallow reworked the themes and imagery we usually associate with “folk horror.” It felt like a fresh take on that niche. The performances were strong, and I admired the creature design.

"Wraith", Jack Shear

“Wraith”, Jack Shear

Your Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque blog is a wonderful resource for fans of horror fantasy gaming and has been praised by bloggers as an “output of depraved creativity” and for your valuable insight. Can you talk to the circumstances under which the blog was originally created and it’s purpose/intended direction? What are some of your favorite topics to blog about over there?
I think most blogs are conceived out of boredom, and mine was no different. I had started reading a few gaming blogs and thought that it might be a nice gesture to put my Gothic-inflected game material out there in case anyone could find a use for it in their own games. It grew from there, but I can’t say it has ever had an intended purpose or direction.

If I had to nail down a motive, it would probably be that I wanted to show people that even an idiot like me could put their stuff out there with a minimum of fuss, that doing-it-yourself was actually viable, but mostly I just post things that interest me.

It’s odd; a lot of people who blog do so because they crave community: they want to be part of a conversation, they want to grow an audience and have fans, they want to find like-minded folks, they want to network, etc. Blogging can be a great venue for that, but I’m so antisocial that it’s never really factored into what I do. I put my stuff out there and if people like it—great!—but if not I’m just going to keep doing what pleases me. It is nice, though, when people go out of their way to tell me that they liked something I wrote.

"Midnight in Krevborna", Jack Shear

“Midnight in Krevborna”, Jack Shear

You have published a number of original titles under the umbrella of Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque Publications. Your first offering, I believe, was Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque itself, “a Gothic Fantasy Supplement for old-school fantasy role-playing games”, and which has expanded to include additional world building manuals, as well. I don’t want to presume that you love your Gothic baby best – what can you tell us about your other titles? Which is your personal favorite to play (or DM is your bag, I guess)? Have you had great successes with these offerings? Which seems to be other folks’ preferred fantasy setting?
My favorite is always the thing I’m playing or running right now—which, in this case, is Krevborna, a Bloodborne-inspired Gothic setting I wrote to get a sandbox game going using 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. I am absurdly proud that I did all the art in the pdf myself. I also really like the setting in Jonathan Harper’s Blades in the Dark game; I had a blast exploring the setting in a campaign ran by Andrew Shields and I’m really looking forward for that game to pick up where we left off.

As for other settings, I’ve done things inspired by post-apocalypse trash culture like Planet Motherfucker and my Gothic-in-Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace setting Colonial Ethersea. There’s a lot of unpublished setting work kicking around as well; someday I should do something with the Edward Gorey-esque Slithdale Hollow. Overall, I’ve had far more success with my publications than I would have ever suspected—I thought I would only sell a few copies to close friends, but I sell a small pile of them every month. I have a strange aversion to profiting off my hobby, though; the money I make on my game books gets donated to worthy causes. This is the saddest mark of my success: I’ve actually caught people ripping off my material and claiming it as their own. That’s when you know you’ve arrived.

I think the vast majority of gamers prefer a more standard fantasy approach when it comes to settings for their games. There’s a reason why Wizards of the Coast has really been pushing the Forgotten Realms (a very “vanilla,” semi-Tolkien-esque fantasy setting) as the backdrop for the new edition of D&D: it’s got the recognizable fantasy tropes and is appealingly neutral in tone and flavor. Frankly, it’s an easy setting to understand and fit fantasy ideas into. In contrast, the DIY D&D scene seems to go through cycles. “Gonzo” settings were all the rage for a while, but right now “Weird” crapsack settings (settings where everyone is miserable and everything is grimdark and soggy) seem to be on trend—which is funny because if everything is “weird,” nothing is actually weird. Also, I think those settings are more talked about than played when it gets down to it.

You are also a contributing editor over at Heretical Sexts, a micro-publisher of niche, print material focused on the dark and the bizarre. I hear tell that there is a fantastic Gothic ‘zine currently in the works, which, I imagine, you must have a heavy hand in. What can you tell is about it, what can we expect?
I’m not sure if I have an exact job title at Heretical Sexts, but I think we’ve joked around that my job is “Enabler” or something along those lines. Heretical Sexts is really Tenebrous Kate’s baby, but I’ve always made myself available to workshop ideas, give editorial assistance, and provide writing for some of the collaborative Heretical Sexts ‘zines. It has been wonderful watching Kate’s project grow; I adore seeing my friends develop their artistry and put their lovable weirdness out there into the world. I suppose that is what makes me an enabler.

I believe that the forthcoming Gothic ‘zine, Morbid Fantasies, is the first Heretical Sexts publication that has been wholly written by someone other than Kate. I’m beyond flattered that she offered to put out a lovingly-crafted book of my thoughts on Gothic literature.

Morbid Fantasies is a response to a problem I have with the way that Gothic literature is usually presented. At its inception, the Gothic was a popular genre—it was fiction meant to be read and enjoyed by anyone with an inclination to dark or mysterious content. But somewhere along the way the Gothic became a genre sequestered by scholarly study—talk about Gothic literature was relegated to obscure academic journals instead of it being a literary form for devoted readers. Morbid Fantasies aims to change that. It’s a book that wants to help you learn to love Gothic literature. It gives a brief history of this amazing aesthetic mode, suggestions for what books you should read and what you should be looking for as you read them, and an exploration of the conventions, tropes, and imagery most often found in the literature. It’s a reader’s guide to the Gothic, and I can promise you that it will help you on your way if you are totally new to the Gothic or deepen your love of dark, passionate fiction if you’re already exploring Gothic texts.

Are there any other upcoming projects you can share with us?
Well, I do have a bit of eldritch fun in the Occult Activity Book [Editor’s Note: This is sold out for the time being] that you and Becky Munich just put out! Other than that, I’ve been writing a thing (I’m not sure if it is a book or what yet) about horror and philosophy—something inspired by E. M. Cioran, the Graveyard Poets, and doom metal, mostly. It’s the kind of thing I might finish and then never show anyone.

Miss Vanessa Ives, as illustrated by Caitlin McCarthy

Miss Vanessa Ives, as illustrated by Caitlin McCarthy

Finally–Eva Green: Discuss.
We all need a muse, don’t we? Joking aside, Vanessa Ives is easily my favorite character on television at the moment, and I genuinely feel indebted to Eva Green for making that character possible! Season Three of Penny Dreadful can’t arrive soon enough for me.

15+ things I liked in 2015

Here’s a hodge-podge list of things I either stumbled across or that were recommended to me, in no particular order, that I ended up being pretty thrilled with in 2015.
Previously: 14 things I loved in 2014

BEAUTYIope

The Iope Air Cushion is one of the items I discovered during my Korean beauty product phase earlier in the year that I am still excited about and that I will probably be replacing once it runs out.  It is a “unique formula-soaked sponge that has all the benefits of a BB cream (anti-aging, moisturizing, skin-evening coverage and SPF protection). It comes with an equally innovative non-absorbing puff that wicks the formula off of the sponge and effortlessly applies evenly onto your face, for that dewy no-makeup, makeup look.” What I like most about it is that quick, fast and easy. My time is valuable and when I want to throw a face on in a hurry, this is the best thing in my arsenal.  It’s got a light, lovely fragrance, it feels cooling when you apply it, it’s very hydrating, and it works quite well with my sometimes sensitive and irritable skin. Love, love, love.

 

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LVNEA’s Wild in the Woods is a mossy, loamy scent fragrant with sweetly decaying forest vegetation.  It reminds me of walking around a local pond; there is one spot where the water line meets the exposed tree roots that smells exactly like this subtle, unique perfume.

 

yule

I ordered several of the Icelandic Yule Lad scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s recent Yule update, but it was Ketkrókur who stole my heart. Ketkrókur (Meat Hook) comes down from the mountains on December 23, Saint Thorlak’s Day, to steal your hangikjöt with his hook hand. Rude! The notes for BPAL’s version of this dinner thief consist of “labdanum, patchouli, dragon’s blood resin, and clove” and is spicy and warm, slightly powdery from the dragon’s blood and with a tinge of sweetness from the labdanum. It’s an aggressive scent out of the bottle, but one that quickly settles down and behaves in the most lovely way. It smells nothing like smoked lamb, or metal hooks, or stinky trolls, thankfully.

 

BOOKS

booksI am not a phenomenal reviewer of media (or even a very good one, or a decent one) so I am just going to provide you with a list of books an incomplete sentence or two about each. Please note, not all of these titles were published this year, these were merely books I read this year, and thoroughly enjoyed.

The Doll Collection – Short stories exploring the darkness of the creepy doll trope, but avoiding the clichés. Not a dud in the bunch.
Megahex – Graphic novel about a depressed stoner witch, her cat, and their “friends”. These people are deadbeats and scumbags and basically terrible.
The Vorrh -A genre defying, mythic read, following several storylines (some more engaging than others). The language is dense and deliberate; I wanted to read and re-read and savor every sentence because each one was so perfectly crafted.
A Pretty Mouth -Not quite what I expected and so I’m not going to spoil any surprises. A novella of sorts, following the exploits of one family through the years, though not exactly by a direct path. Witty and decadent and sinister. Recommended to me by a fellow whose tastes I trust implicitly.
Revenants – Recommendaton #2 from the above mentioned gentleman. A highly atmospheric, eerie tale set in a small colonial New England village. Three young woman disappear. Inexplicable incidents follow. Secrets are revealed. Grim reckoning looms.
Harvest Home -Published in the late 60s, details a family’s move from the city to a simple country life ruled by the land, and the discoveries that ensue. A slow burn but worth the effort, and the magic and mystery of the small town life is something that lingered with me, despite…well, if you’ve not yet read it, I will stop there.
The Taxonomy of the Space Between Us – I read several books of poetry this year – stunning collections, all – but this is the one that resonated with me on a very visceral, very emotional level. Devastating and unrelenting, it is a haunting chronicle of grief and and ineffable sibling bonds that remain even after death.
The Wicked + The Divine – The story of reincarnated gods as pop stars; slick, beautiful art and a high concept story line, this wasn’t always easy for me to follow, but it was fun to get lost in.

 

FILM

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I did not watch many movies this year, and I’m afraid the ones I did watch didn’t leave much of an impression on me.  The Duke of Burgundy, however, was absolutely delicious.  I wrote briefly about it back in May, and described it thusly: “Gorgeous lesbian lovers/lepidoptera enthusiasts have minor spat”. I’m really not sure there was much more to  this dreamy film (advertised as “Sex, Bondage, & Butterflies”), but I am fairly certain I could watch it again, and again, and again.

Runners up: Spring and What We Do In The Shadows.

Films I loved, but not as much as I hoped:  Crimson Peak and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

MUSIC

At the very top of my list is Ghost’s Meliora, of course.  If I look at my music library I can clearly observe that this was my most listened-to album this year.  I almost feel like it’s not even fair to list it because it’s so obvious, but there you have it. Below are a handful of other artists whose albums I enjoyed as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary: There’s a lot of books on this list. Films were disappointing. I listened to the same thing over and over. I tried a great deal of cosmetics and beauty products, but only a few were standouts.

…And that’s probably about 15 things, right?  I’ll confess that lost count halfway through.  What have you discovered, re-discovered, or uncovered that was pretty great this year?  Tell me all about it!

Currently {11.04.15}

Currently stepping up my pin game with offerings from monpetitfantome, adipocere, and vacvvm.

 

Currently reading: Small press, local authors haunted nonsense in addition to learning about secret German fencing societies.

 

Currently wearing: my Lorraine cross and Two of Swords earrings from bloodmilk, all the time. And tee shirts because November in Florida.

 

Currently testing: Kypris Moonlight Catalyst, Herbivore Botanicals Rose Lip Butter, Moon Juice Heart Dust. (Verdict, the Kypris is a lovely overnight skin elixir but it may be too soon to tell, and the Heart Dust is delicious! The lip butter is nice, but not as great as my old standby.)

 

holy beast

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Currently watching: School of the Holy Beast.  Sans subtitles.  “…a veritable furnace of subjugated carnal desires and broken vows.” I probably don’t need the dialogue, right?

Currently listening: As beautiful and melodic as Julia Kent’s Asperities is, it is also an album full of tension and darkness. You’re not sure if that breathless feeling you’re experiencing is the welling emotion of tears yet to be shed or a silken noose tightening about your throat.  This is the sound of my every November. Haunting, heartless; exquisitely cruel.

Making things weird: an interview with Tenebrous Kate

Tenebrous Kate

Photo credit: Sylvie The Camera

Today I am going to write at length about one of my favorite humans on the planet.
But first, some backstory:

2009-ish, I guess that’s 6 years ago now – that was a strange, awful year for me. It had actually been a strange and awful number of years. I was floundering and feeling like a desperate mess. I had moved to New Jersey from Florida five years previously and things were not working out at all, which was some kind of bullshit, I can assure you. I had left everything I’d known behind for this opportunity and it was turning out to be the worst kind of hell. It was to get worse, and then get better, but I did not know that then.

Everyone’s got their coping mechanisms. For some it’s a kitten video binge on youtube, for others, it’s a tall glass of something cold and intoxicatingly potent; for me, at that time, it was obsessively seeking out horrors beyond my comprehension in the form of obscure cinema. I was fascinated with bizarre horror films at that time – well, I had been for as long as I could remember, but now it was so much easier to seek out and find these strange cinematic gems, and to connect with the like-minded souls who enjoyed them.

It was a Friday night, probably February. I view my time in New Jersey through the lens of a perpetual February -dull grey skies, relentless cold, dirty sidewalk slush that appears as if its been piled by the curb since the dawn of man and will never fully melt, even sometime in the future when the stars have all died. At the end times, there would still be a pile of pissed-on slush next to a dumpster, with an old boot next to it, somewhere in New Jersey. February in that place was the worst month to be a lonely person.

The hour had struck midnight and I was wide awake, and, of course- alone. Due to the unfortunate circumstances I had gotten myself into, all of my weekends were spent in my own company, which I don’t mind telling you, was pretty bleak. I was searching for reviews on a certain film and I unwittingly stumbled across the blog of one Tenebrous Kate, Love Train For The Tenebrous Empire. “Lurid. Weird. Fantastique.” promised the header, and after several feverish hours of devouring every entry and every lurid, weird, fantastic review I concluded that it was indeed all that and more.Occult nonsense and gothic horror? Women in prison? Necrophilia and Nunsploitation? Check, check and check. Cheeky kink? You betcha. Did she bring the weirdness, as promised? Fuck yeah, she did.

Brimming with wry humor, marvelously keen insight, and more knowledgeable on all my favorite subjects than perhaps any mortal has any right to be (because she’s actually a wizard, I suspect), Kate, I was to find, was more than just a damn good writer – she’s a talented artist as well, across several mediums. For years she’s consistently wowed me with her wicked Halloween costume prowess, she’s an illustrator and painter, as well as, a sometimes public speaker – which I believe is an art form into itself – and a wrangler of artists and writers for her mico-publishing imprint, Heretical Sexts. I would learn these things as they unfolded over the next several years, but at that specific point in time, I knew I had discovered a remarkable human woman and my life would never be the same.

I’m certain it took me at least a year to work up the nerve to even leave a comment on her blog, and yet somehow here we are, years later and you are about to read an interview that she graciously agreed to do with me. How did the stars align to even make this happen? I still don’t rightly know, but I am honored and privileged to have gotten to know Kate and I hope you will enjoy reading further and learning more about her background and her weird and fantastical projects as well.

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S. Elizabeth :Lurid. Weird. Fantastique. That’s been tagline on your blog header for as long as I’ve been stalking you. (I sort of think of it as a mantra or an incantation now, ha!) Tell us about what those themes/concepts mean to you and how they translate to the various projects you summon forth to share with the world.

T’Kate:You know, I’ve always struggled with defining the “stuff” I enjoy, because I feel like genre labels tend to restrict discovery of interesting things instead of assisting after a certain point. I chose “Lurid, Weird, Fantastique” because my favorite things combine a bit of sexiness, plenty of strangeness, and an element of imagination, whether it’s psychedelia, fantasy, or decadence. That tagline wound up being a good match because, though I initially began writing strictly about movies, it also lets me play with art, books, and music without feeling like I’m veering off topic!

I’d love to know Tenebrous Kate’s origin story! I imagine a little 5 year old T’Kate toddling around in enormously oversized Black Sabbath tees alternately peeping at dirty magazines and staying up late to watch lesbian nazi exploitation flicks. How far off am I? When did your strange fascinations begin to take hold? And how did you come to channel them into your art and writing?

I was an extremely sensitive child (like, creepy, Poe protagonist levels of nervousness and sensitivity to stimulus), plus I was the first kid in my “generation” of the family. What this meant is that I was sheltered from a lot of media, plus I socialized exclusively with adults for the first several years of my life. My parents are both former English teachers, so I read a lot–early exposure to Tolkien and those Time Life Enchanted World books had a huge impact on me. There was definitely forbidden media, and it’s hilariously tame in retrospect: I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV after my mother decided that Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” video went far beyond the limits of good taste. It took me to age twelve to get up the nerve to sneak downstairs after everyone had gone to bed and taste a few delicious minutes of “Headbangers Ball.” I didn’t start seeking out more extreme movies until my love of heavy metal and goth pointed me in that direction in my teens. What started as a way to test my adolescent nerves turned into a real passion after I recognized that there was more to some of these films than one might guess from the “gore checklist” mode of appreciation that was the norm in the 90s. Involvement in AOL chatrooms connected me with Scott Gabbey, who was developing what would become Ultra Violent Magazine, and that solidified my involvement in the world of “writing my thoughts about weird stuff.”

Tenebrous Kate

Photo credit: Sylvie The Camera

I think I found your blog through – of all things – a search for reviews on the film Hostel II (and was surprised to see someone give it a decent review!) – but it was your referencing and reviewing of gloomy, decadent occult artists, films, and music that really drew me in. I would love to talk about your interests in this vein – whether they are spiritual, literary-minded, aesthetic or whatever – and what are some of your beloved favorites that you’ve either reviewed for Love Train or that you’d recommend for a like-minded weirdo?

Oh boy–this is difficult for me! My favorites shift in focus over time, and I love different books, movies, art, and music for different reasons. I just seek out art (we’ll lump all creative output into this word for now) that resonates with me, and I feel like this shared creative vibration links all of the disparate things I enjoy. A great example of movies that really hit me where I live would be Tinto Brass’ historical epics–I think Salon Kitty and Caligula are absolutely captivating because there’s this combination of lush beauty, historical fiction, theatrical violence, melancholy, and taboo that just makes my brain and my eyes leap around, not knowing where to land. That’s the experience I’m looking for in art. Maybe the most perfect movie that captures this mindset, though, is Ken Russell’s “The Devils.” It’s so perfect that I’ve never written about because it’s just so vast in its imagery and implications, and it’s better if one just experiences it without vivisecting and destroying through over-analysis.

Die Mensur, debuting at the Saint Vitus Halloween Flea Market on Sunday 10/25

Delving into your various endeavors -your latest project, Die Mensur, “an exploration of the secretive world of German fencing fraternities” and a collaborative effort with with Gilles de Rais of the band Porta Nigra – Secret German fencing fraternities! Who knew such a thing even existed? Please tell us about how you stumbled upon this secret society of swordsmen and how you brought this amazing thing into being. How did it end up as the beautifully bound booklet that it is today instead of oh, say, working it into a blog post…or a painting, or even including in story arc for Super Coven?

I first became aware of Mensur (which is a form of non-sport/non-honor-duel fencing that has been practiced by student fraternities in Central Europe since the mid-1800s) from my long-time partner, whose family is of German descent. The powerful image of two men standing perfectly still while waving a blade towards one another’s faces had this combination of posture discipline, severity, and ritual that fascinated me. There are photographs of the aftermath of the Mensur that show these handsome young men with completely bloody faces and it’s really unforgettable. As a person who’s into body modification, I was intrigued by the dueling scars that were worn as a badge of honor. There’s not a lot of information in English on the Mensur since it’s an entirely oral tradition passed down through the fraternities, but it’s popped up on my radar over time (the mondo movie Ecco features what I’ve since learned is an accurate re-enactment of the Mensur, for example).

I read a review of the German decadent metal band Porta Nigra’s 2015 record Kaiserschnitt that included a photo of the band wearing Mensur protective gear and that’s what made me stop and listen to their music. Kaiserschnitt is an incredible record, and Gilles de Rais, the lyricist, is clearly a person who knows a lot about history and literature. After I wrote about the record on my blog, I wound up connecting with Gilles, who put me in touch with his contacts at a fencing fraternity in Cologne. I was honestly shocked that the fraternity brothers were willing to speak to me! Talk about being an outsider–I’m an American woman artist, and these are pretty conservative young men who are part of what’s essentially a male-only secret society

As to why I chose to make a book on the topic, it’s very important to me that, when I speak to people who clearly take their beliefs and passions seriously, I take those things equally seriously even if they’re different from my personal world view. Mensur is just such an interesting topic on its face that I felt anything other than a direct, documentary approach would have been doing it (and the people who were generous and candid enough to speak to me) a disservice.

My Dream Date With a Villain, Forever Doomed, and Witch Women, available from Heretical Sexts.

Die Mensur is just one of several projects published by Heretical Sexts, the micro-niche publisher focusing on the dark and the bizarre that you founded in 2014. Billed as “Weird Words on Dead Trees” and giving a platform to “those outside the status quo”, you’ve published ‘zines chronicling fictional dream dates with villains (two volumes to date!), explorations of femininity and the occult, as well as your own personal collections of essay and arts in Forever Doomed. Why do you think there is a need right now for these kind of publications? Why is it important to give these discerning creeps a voice, and who is it that you imagine your audience to be? And if you can share, what are some topics or themes that you hope to tackle going forward?

Honestly? It started with a desire to create more valuable work while controlling the context of some of the topics I wanted to discuss. I don’t really like genre labels and I’m not much of a joiner, so the “orthodoxies” of certain internet conversations bum me out tremendously. By creating printed pieces, it means a couple of things: 1) readers are demonstrating a real desire to read what’s on the page, which means their minds are probably more open already and 2) the act of reading on paper (or eReader–I fully cop to reading on a Kindle sometimes) creates the kind of immersion you just don’t get from internet reading. I want to offer an experience where people aren’t getting upset by the comments or distracted by social media or whatever. Like, just sit and think about what you’re reading and looking at in an open-minded way.

I am also lucky enough to know a lot of incredibly talented, intelligent people, and I feel that combining their voices and viewpoints can elevate everyone involved. Collaborative work just feeds my soul in an amazing way, and those that have agreed to work with me really commit to the concept and deliver remarkable art and writing that, in turn, inspires me. I think it’s important to publish humorous work (like the My Dream Date with a Villain zines) alongside more serious pieces (like Die Mensur or certain pieces in Witch Women), because life is complicated and our human brains are messy and contain multitudes. I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the pipeline right now! Jack Shear, who has had a hand in every single piece I’ve done with Heretical Sexts and who has been an amazing sounding-board for ideas, is developing a piece on Gothic fiction, and I’ve been pitched some great ideas on a very grown-up activity book that I’m pretty stoked to help bring to life.

Super Coven. All documented, all true.

Getting back to Super Coven, your web comic about friends and bandmates Andy, Jess and Red and the “monsters, heavy music, and all manner of occult nonsense”, that makes up their day to day goings-on – I know you’ve had to step back with the updates due to general busyness and other projects, but can you talk a little bit about where we left off? Without giving away any spoilers, we’ve encountered everything from bigfoots to nazi vampires to a burlesque dancer in a relationship with her motorcycle – what’s next for our intrepid stoner friends? And I have to ask -these characters seem so relatable, I feel like I could know these guys, maybe I AM these guys… – I have had so many of these weird, late-night, bar closing conversations about crazy monster theories and conspiracies and god knows what else. How much of this is pure imagination and how much can you attribute to actual real-life stuff? (Please tell me this motorcycle loving Lorna is based upon a real person!)

Oh sure! I still love Super Coven, and it’s been a really important project for me because it got me into the habit of producing (and sharing) my creative work on a regular schedule. I have the whole storyline laid out for this arc (which Jack Shear co-authored with me), plus there’s another story I’ve got a half-baked idea for that involves the character of “Draculigula” because most of my best Super Coven ideas are basically just portmanteaus.

As to how the comic developed, I really loved Scooby Doo and Dark Shadows as a kid, so I nicked the “pals solving mysteries” concept from the former and the “everything AND the kitchen sink” approach from the latter and blended it with my own worldview. I wanted a concept that would support all of the things I’m interested in (occult matters, history, folklore, gothic/decadent literature, various kinds of music, witty banter…) in a universe where those things could conceivably be blended. I’d like to think there’s an audience that likes monster fights and Huysmans references, anyway.

Writing and illustrating a long-form, serialized piece has been challenging, and I realize in hindsight that “conversations in a bar” do not make for scintillating visuals, but I’ve amped up some of the action stuff in this most current story (which I do intend to complete!). I’d like to think that occasional werewolf fights and motorcycle love-making offer enough to keep people reading.

This makes me wince as I type it, but I’ve been going to weird shows, bars, and clubs in New York for well over two decades now, so yes–there’s a good deal of “slice of life” stuff in Super Coven. The whole “real vampyre” thing is definitely drawn from my personal interactions. Sadly, I’ve never encountered an objectum sexual as fashionable and enchanting as Lorna.

You have got so many irons in the fire – if you’re not webcomicing, you’re working on a new book for Heretical Sexts, or you’re blogging a fantastic review on an obscure giallo film teeming with blood and bare breasts, or you are writing for various other publications – Ultra Violent Magazine, Occult Rock MagazineSlutist, and most recently Dirge Magazine, OR you are making live speaking appearances at pop culture variety shows in NYC. Damn, lady! What do you do in your downtime? Do you have any downtime? What are some current loves and favorite things that you’re enjoying?

That IS what I do in my down-time! I’ve just cut out most of the aspects of what I was doing that I didn’t really enjoy. There was a time in about 2010 or so where I felt compelled to write about EVERY movie I watched or to “give a chance” to a lot of things I really knew I wasn’t going to dig. Now I write only about the things that inspire me and have given myself permission to stop reading or watching at the point where I’m no longer engaged with a thing. I’m also kinder to myself when I need to shift my focus from project to project, or if I need a break. I only work with people I like on projects that excite me–I’m just fortunate enough to know a lot of great people with exciting concepts. In fact, I have a wishlist of people I’d love to work with, so we’ll see!

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Great Moments In Historical Sluttery: Anita Berber, The Scandal of Weimar Berlin

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Commissioned art for Gilles de Rais of Porta Nigra

 

I know I’ve asked this with regard to various projects above, but on the whole – what is next for Tenebrous Kate? What is left to conquer? I am hoping it is some sort of crazy-kinky memoir, but that’s just me. Any thoughts?

I’m always cooking up something! I really love working on the Historical Sluttery series that I’ve been doing for Slutist so I plan on continuing that, plus Dirge has been the kind of place that lets me write lengthy pieces where I get to showcase GIFs from silent films so I dig working with them. In addition to the couple of projects I mentioned above for Heretical Sexts, I’m writing some really lurid historical fiction that I plan to illustrate and bind in way that mimics early 20th Century pornography. I just like ambitious things that shouldn’t have an audience, whether I’m seeking them out or making them myself!

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Erotic Rites of the Nazgûl in Forever Doomed

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Currywurst with Kroenen in My Dream Date With A Villain (vol.1)


Find Tenebrous Kate:

Love Train For The Tenebrous Empire
Heretical Sexts Publishing
Super Coven

This, that, and the other thing (xviii)

Claudia is a wee porcelain doll born in 1944 who loves whiskey and dancing. I love peeking in on her sweet adventures

 

Where did 20 years go? Sigh. The dark, wounded magic of Boys for Pele.

 

 

Great Northern Knitting Pattern Book Inspired by Twin Peaks

 

 

Artists from Poster Posse pay tribute to Crimson Peak

 

 

Witch Please: Why Witches are feminist icons. A fascinating chat with Pam Grossman and Kristin Korvette, certain to be of interest to both witches and the witch-adjacent.

 

 

10 of the scariest ongoing horror comics you should be reading right now

 

 

I could stare at this eerie photo of dancer Martha Graham forever.

 

 

…and then I can stare at this stark, haunting painting by Finnish artist, Väinö Rouvinen

 

 

Ethereal folk and dreamy psychedelic songs from The Left Outsides

12 Horror icons reading scary stories that you can listen to right now

Free Love and Frankenstein, The Remarkable Life of Mary Shelley

The Surprising – and kind of boring – truth about FLORIDA MAN 

Lapham’s Quarterly Fashion 2015 is a thoroughly excellent read (h/t Carisa)

Dressing Lady Gaga for American Horror Story – Are you watching this? I was going to pass but I feel myself getting pulled in again by The Countess’ striking, glamorous outfits…

This, that, and the other thing (xv)


Fragments of Him is a playable interactive narrative where you follow the life of Will and experience how he affected the lives of those he left behind.

 

Best and Worst Demons to be Possessed by, on io9.

 

Hidden deep inside the Indonesian jungle lies an enchanted ‘church’ which looks like a giant chicken.

 

Artist Yukio Takano’s glowing fungal wonder lights.

 

    
I adore Kevin Wada’s “fashionized” comic book ladies & other assorted characters!

 

Currently adoring this solo offering by Alice Glass, Stilbirth. A powerful catharsis  Read more about it here. 

 

Marissa Nadler covers “Solitude” by Black Sabbath

 

“Grey Days”, an unsettling new offering from Chelsea Wolfe’s forthcoming album, Abyss.

 

Veronique Branquinho Resort 2016. Much floor sweeping, witchy goodness.

What people around the world dream about.  Fascinating!

Artist Sarah Horrocks writes on her approach to criticism. A thought-provoking, worthy read.

Feather Death Crowns: Appalachian Omens of Death

A Kickstarter for custom mathematical scarves. Algorithmically generated patterns, no two scarves are alike.

Two trailers for things I am VERY excited about:
Ash Vs. The Evil Dead
Attack On Titan

 

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