Squeaking in an hour before midnight, here I am with the final entry for 31 Days of Horror! It’s mostly going to be photos because I am awfully tired.
Yesterday I visited my sister (which was nice) and we watched Halloween Kills (which was not nice.) I really didn’t have much in the way of expectations, but I am not sure I have ever hated a movie so much. It was a joyless, soulless thing, and I’m resentful of those moments of my life frittered away watching it. It was maybe only 40 minutes, because I found it so terrible that I couldn’t watch any more. But dammit, I want those 40 minutes back! And I want someone to pay for the crime that is this movie!
I decided the only way I could make things right was a palate cleanser so I revisited Suspiria, which I probably haven’t seen in 20 years or so, and I also watched Horror of Dracula, which I had never watched. I’ve not watched most of the Hammer Horror stuff, actually, so if there’s any must-sees, please let me know! Pictured here are two of my favorite scenes from these films.
We carved up a pumpkin (see here for inspiration) and roasted up the seeds for a snack. I also made some “marshmallow squares,” as I used generic cereal and that’s what the recipe on the side of the box referred to them as, hee! Mini candy corns were added for extra trashy festivity.
The soup is a carrot pumpkin soup which calls for “parsley root” and I have no idea what that is, and I certainly don’t have any, so it’s not in there! Instead I added ginger which I am sure is in no way the same, but whatever.
And in between every spare second, I was feverishly knitting on this top, on which I bound off the last stitch just as Dracula was being reduced to a ridiculous dusty corpse. It’s too big because of course it is. I never swatch and I will never learn.
The pattern is the Lounging Top by Joji Locatelli and the yarn is from Dragon Hoard yarn, it’s the goblin slub in the “slutty pumpkin” colorway. It’s pretty perfect, right?
And that’s 31 Days of Horror for 2021! Happy Halloween all my witches, weirdies, and wildly wonderful friends.
The month of October is a most marvelous time to see spooky new art emerge on social media while darkly-inclined artists all over the world are participating in eerie seasonal art challenges …and I eagerly await its arrival every year! There’s such a fantastically diverse variety of styles and mediums, from painting and illustration, to photography and sculpture, and even tiny creepy puppets. I am here for all of it.
See below for a gallery of frightful, fabulous favorites…!
Today I am finally taking a moment to breathe. Not to sound too annoyingly self-congratulatory but I just last night submitted the completed draft for the book I am working on this year. My deadline for the its completion (minus edits and…everything else, ha!) was Halloween, but there’s no way I am working on Halloween weekend, no way, no how! So, as much as I was enjoying working on this and maaaaybe drawing it out as much as possible, I did finally type the last few words last night and sent it off!
Between working my full-time job, Halloweening/Horroring it up all month, and immersing myself in and dreaming about dark artworks and what to say about them, I’m tired! So I’ll be honest with you here and tell you the three collections of poetry in the photo above are books that I have barely even started and most definitely will not finish before Day 31 of October, but I wanted to squeak them in here anyhow.
Satan’s Sweethearts from Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo: a collection of searing poems that explore deeds of death and debauchery, inspired by history’s most villainous women: serial killers, torturers, murderers, and madwomen.
Homunculus from Elle Stern/ Poetess Mori: I have been enamored with Elle’s feminist spells from the void for some time now and I am so thrilled to be holding this stunning copy of Homunculus in my hands and I can’t wait to immerse myself in these poems “extracted from deep and meaningful conversations with ancestors, aliens, demons, the dirt we walk upon, and everything in between.” Follow Elle on Instagram to get a peek of what you’re in store for and grab for yourself this splendid tome of deep magics and profound mystery from her shop.
Altars and Oubliettes by Angela Yuriko Smith: “In our lives, there are altars and oubliettes—the things we want to remember and the things we hope to forget. This collection explores the things we both idolize and abhor.”
I imagine if you follow horror blogs and “must-read horror of X year!” type lists, then no doubt you have seen mention of Cassandra Khaw’s novella, Nothing But Blackened Teeth. A quick and compulsive read, this story of five friends who meet up at a purportedly haunted Japanese castle for pre-wedding adventures is steeped in dread and inevitable tragedy. And as someone very sensitive to confrontation and hostility…oof. There’s a lot of baggage between these individuals and they really seem to despise each other. The writing here is absolutely gorgeous, but even more than that, this atmosphere of stewing resentment and loathing is so present and palpable that it made me physically ill. Well done! I guess! Seriously though, this was enjoyable and unique and if you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A24 had a one-night-only screening of LAMB last night, and since I am still not comfortable with going to the theatre, I had myself a fancy in-home theatre experience. Like every other movie that I have watched since late February 2020.
Are you guys going back to the movies yet? What are you doing to ease your fears about the experience of being out and about among others? I should note that I am not out and about doing much of anything yet. A few doctor’s appointments and the occasional grocery excursion, and two outside, open-air restaurant experiences over the course of 8 months, but that’s about it. I feel like if I weren’t living in FL, I might be a little more into it, but…nah. These people are insane, and I don’t want to risk it. So home movies it is!
I’m not sure what to say about LAMB just yet. If you’ve seen the trailer, and have decided to watch it, then I imagine you already have a grasp on what’s going on. To an extent. On the surface, it’s a simple, slow-moving story: a married couple, Maria and Ingvmar, are eking out a rather joyless existence on a remote farm somewhere in Iceland. You get the sense–though it’s never mentioned–they’ve experienced a loss. A profound sadness has taken root as resignation, and this is a couple just going through the motions, a daily life steeped in ennui. Until one day they bear witness to a strange miracle, and they accept this gift as their own. I am not sure it was meant to be taken as such, or taken at all.
I read a review in which LAMB is described as folkloric psychodrama and “chamber horror,” if you can consider this film horror at all. I believe this is a film meant to be unsettling, but as another reviewer remarks “…indeed, the most disturbing thing is how non-disturbing it ultimately becomes.”
The Icelandic scenery, the towering mountains and bleak, foggy skies, is somber and beautiful and this rural folktale almost seems like a love letter to nature, if you discount the fascinating and baffling story occurring at the heart of it.
I still don’t know what to make of LAMB, though to be fair it’s been less than 12 hours since I saw it, so I’ll sit with it a while longer. But I doubt I will come to any easy conclusions.
On a less weird (or MORE weird?) note…did you know that A24 sells scented candles in their shop? Your home theatre can be fragranced with the aromas of Horror, Noir, Thriller, or Fantasy, just to name a few! I won’t lie, I am kind of into this.
Horror, pictured here, includes notes of mandarin, clove leaf, cypress, suede, and cinnamon bark, and is inspired by “fangs, glowing eyes, remote lakeside cabins, foreboding shadows on walls, bloody knives, low-angle staircase shots, dilapidated houses silhouetted on a hill, and black cats.”
And finally, earlier this month, Nuri McBride over at the Death/Scent blog, for her annual October tradition of pairing fragrances with Halloween costume ideas, put together a phenomenal list of fragrances to set the mood for watching a handful of A24-associated films: If A24 Films Were Perfumes
If there is one tradition I have over the years of participating in 31 Days of Horror, it’s that Dragula usually always gets a mention. Most recently, I included it in last year’s Week 4 roundup, over at Haute Macabre. This is actually the first year I have been trying to keep up my 31 Days challenge on a daily basis as opposed to a weekly gathering, and I think I like it better this way, it’s somehow less stressful!
I’m always a little surprised that I even watch this drag competition show. Of course I’m here for the horror and glamour aspects of the spectacle, but these competitions always make me so anxious, partially because I just want everyone to win and I hate seeing people eliminated, but even more problematic for me is the cringe-factor involved. On one hand, I do love me some juicy drama, and the cattiness of the contestants never fails to generate that for me, but at the same time, I guess I hate to see it unfolding in front of me. I’d rather hear about in secondhand, in the form of salacious gossip! Oh well. I continue to watch anyway because I love to see them dreaming up their amazing floorshow creations!
I have only just seen one episode of Season 4, but so far my favorite is Hosu Terra Toma, a gore-geous beauty who I believe is the show’s first South Korean contestant. Exciting! What’s funny about this look (which I grabbed off of their Instagram because I didn’t want to include something from the show and spoil it for someone who hasn’t yet seen it) is that it is SO reminiscent of the KISS makeup that scared me so badly as a little girl. Isn’t it funny how our fears can sometimes lead to our fascinations?
Have you started Season 4 yet? I don’t want to get into it too much here because I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will say that I have some thoughts on the first floorshow, there is someone I really, really dislike, and there is another someone whose presence on this show makes no sense to me at all. Also, Tananarive Due, whom I just wrote about last week and whom I admire tremendously, was a judge for this episode!
Any thoughts? Let us gawp and gossip in the comments!
If you have not already seen The Medium, the first thing I want to urge you to do is PLEASE GO WATCH IT NOW! And then mosey on back here and let’s talk about it!
(But I am honor-bound to tell you that you need to check doesthedogdie.com before you watch it–and yes, it does– because I would never knowingly inflict that sort of viewing experience on my sweet, sensitive friends.)
In The Medium, a documentary team follows a pragmatic shaman named Nim in a remote village in Northern Thailand and who is now probably one of my favorite movie characters of all time. Nim works as a bridge of communication between the townspeople and their goddess, Ba Yan, and she is also on call to cure their spiritual ailments. Sicknesses from the “unseen,” as she stresses to the film crew when they ask her if she can heal all illnesses, and then deadpans, “If you come to me for cancer, you’re probably going to die,” I love her!
Being possessed by the goddess is an inherited gig, and it was not actually meant to be Nim’s calling, as we find out. Nim’s elder sister, Noi was next in line for the role but declined. We learn as the movie progresses that she did more than this in order for the goddess to pass her over in favor of her sister, some sort of supernatural “take her instead!” business. It worked, and perhaps for the best, as Nim actually grew to enjoy her job as spiritual advisor and conduit.
Mink, Nim’s niece (Noi’s daughter) begins showing signs that she will inherit the role as the area’s next shaman. Over time, however, Mink’s bizarre behavior becomes more erratic–extremely frightening in fact– and hints that within Mink is not the benign goddess that they worship, but something else entirely.
This is a film that takes some time to ramp up, so be patient and settle in, because when it gets going, it’s a wild ride. The first act is an engaging family tale, the second is more or less glimpses at the progression of classic possession, and the third…well, it’s fucking bananas. If you enjoyed films such as 2016’s The Wailing, you’ll probably find yourself compelled to watch this one, and that would make sense because I believe there is a similar director/producer involved.
Even if you’re not a fan of possession/exorcism films or zombie gorefests (which is not exactly what this film is? but it’s also not…not this film?) you might be interested in its themes of faith and belief, karma, and curses; you might be drawn in by the family drama and richly realized characters; or you may be intrigued by the remote, rural, and eerie but utterly breathtaking locations. The Medium has a lot to recommend itself, and no wonder it currently stands as the 6th highest-grossing Korean film of 2021.
The screen stills I grabbed from the film and used for this post are not exactly representative of the entire film, so don’t get the idea that it’s all as peaceful and idyllic as these images suggest. I just didn’t want to give too much away! Plus they were pretty.
Devilish chanteuse crooning her dark, unsettling secrets into your trusting ears and twisting your tender heart, dark pop artist La Femme Pendu conjures her second full-length album, VAMPYR, forth from the midnight portals today.
Don your dark glasses and a single earring: VAMPYR is a 1980’s darkwave party and a celebration of shadows and lustful excess, produced by Grammy nominee Dave Darling and featuring guest appearances by Billy Morrisson, Jake Hays, Damien Done, and the magnificent punk legend Cherie Currie of the Runaways.
About this fête fantôme of an album and its moody revelries, the artist shares that after having been quarantined for more than a year, pale and thirsty for human connection, she felt “like Dracula emerging from putrid soil after his journey on the Demeter.”
As such, she continues, this record was an aspirational one, drawing inspiration from favorites across film and music: bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode. Films like The Hunger, Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Let the Right One In, and Only Lovers Left Alive.
The lyrical protagonists from her first full-length album, Absolute Horrorwere fallible and mortal. In VAMPYR, our narrators are empowered mistresses of the night. And after these many months (years now!) spent in the melancholic limbo and navel-gazing of our self-isolation, a wicked bit of carousing with La Femme Pendu’s vampiric bacchants is profoundly appreciated, even by this wallflower.
“It’s my dream soundtrack to a Halloween rager at a goth club, and these days a gathering like that seems just as dangerous as the bloody rave that opens Blade (1998). It’s no accident I made a record about a contagious undead condition after our collective endurance of this lethal virus.”
Songs that have got me fanged me up, pricked my imagination, and infected me thus far: the dreamy beat of “la somnambule” and the jaunty dread of “la nuit a un prix”.
I have been meaning to read Tananarive Due’s The Good House from the moment that I closed the last page of Ghost Summer, which I thoroughly, delightedly enjoyed. My review for Ghost Summer wasn’t super in-depth or intensive, but about the book, I wrote the following:
These engaging short stories by Tananarive Due tick every box for what I want in a summer read. (I think I read this in September, so that still counts, as far as I am concerned!) A vast spectrum of supernatural business, characters that I care about, masterful writing that is emotive and nuanced but not super dense or difficult or inaccessible. It’s got everything!
Ghost Summer was previously my only experience with Tananarive Due’s writing, and though I believe that it was published more than a decade after The Good House, which I just read, it had all of the hallmarks that I’ve now come to expect from her work. I feel like it’s almost trite to say that a story or a book has “a lot of heart”…I mean, I say that a lot, but what does that mean, anyway? It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this author’s writing, I am tempted to say “horror with a lot of heart.” I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that her stories seem to be written through an empathetic, compassionate lens. That her characters are fully fleshed out, down to their annoyances and imperfections, and their stories are treated in such a way that they’re wholly, profoundly human, and we really grow to care about them.
Also, Tananarive Due writes in such a way that you don’t feel punished for having read and connected with the work. I sometimes feel like a certain subset of writers must really hate us, the reader. That’s probably not true, but it’s easy to feel that way when you see your favorite, beloved characters brutally dismembered on the page before you. I just…never get a sense of that with Due’s writing. Of course, in her books, there’s horror and heartlessness and heart-stopping moments…but there’s also hope. I love that she gives us that, too. I guess that’s what I mean when I say a story “has heart;” that no matter what else transpires, no matter how big and expansive the horror and heartbreak is, she leaves the door open for goodness and hope, as well. I come away feeling good about what I read.
The Good House (unlike the House movie that I wrote about yesterday) is actually a pretty scary story in concept, and I did find myself a little freaked out while reading it. The home that belonged to Angela Toussaint’s late grandmother is so cherished and revered that the local townspeople refer to it lovingly as the Good House. All of this changes one summer when a terrible tragedy takes place during a Fourth of July celebration at the house, and both the Toussaint’s family history and its future is irrevocably altered. Two years after, following her son’s suicide in the house, Angela returns and finally starts to unravel what happened and put things right.
Masterful storytelling combining multiple perspectives across different timelines, witchcraft and family curses, the burdens of inherited guilt, trauma, rich history, and mythology, and an overwhelming, palpable sense of stomach-curdling dread present from almost the very first page made this a vividly enthralling read and an intense page-turner, and I’m going to make it my mission in life to read everything author has every written.
Speaking of houses and homes–what’s more homey than a cozy bowl of porridge? Or steel-cut oats, to be more specific!
Here’s a little oatmeal bar I set up yesterday, with all the fixings: dates, pumpkin seeds and almonds, apricots, cream, and sugar. It was perfect for our 70-degree morning…which, if you live in Florida, you know that’s practically freezing, and about as close to autumn as we are likely to get! The little Halloween ramekins were a lovely surprise from Yvan, who picked them up for me from Le Creuset! I can’t seem to find them on the Le Creuset site (though he assures me there were quite a few in stock at the actual store and they weren’t exactly flying off the shelves) but if you are looking for them, it’s this set.
House is another one of those horror movies that had intriguingly gruesome cover art that greatly appealed to my 13-year-old brain. Of course, I never got the opportunity to watch it, so 30 some odd years later I was very excited to sit down and take it in this past weekend.
To put it kindly, I was …not…impressed. “This is what everyone is reminiscing so fondly about?” I thought. “But it’s so stupid!”
I was, however, greatly impressed by the bizarre artwork that adorned the fantastically wallpapered walls of the titular house. They looked like marvelously weird Gertrude Abercrombie/Frida Kahlo/Salvador Dali hybrids creations, and I could have watched a whole movie about them alone!
I stopped watching the film about halfway through. I’ve only got so much time allotted to me on this earth, and slogging through this silly film was not how I wanted to spend it. But in zipping through it afterward to grab some stills of these nutty paintings for a blog post, I wondered if maybe…the art wasn’t somehow important to the plot? I mean, if I was going to the trouble of sharing the art, shouldn’t I at least finish the film to get an understanding of how it played into the story? So the next day I revisited the film. And I finished it. For art!
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t THAT bad. I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it, in that initial viewing. If you’ve not seen it, it’s more or less just a haunted house story with some comedy, ridiculous but fun creature effects, and I guess you could say it’s got a lot of heart. The short version of the story is that Roger Cobb is a best-selling author; he and his wife are divorced and they have lost a son, and he’s moved back into his late aunt Elizabeth’s house to focus on writing his war memoirs. Turns out the house is balls-out bonkers haunted. In an interview, the director as described this as “a tongue-in-cheek, Mad magazine-style, effects-heavy hootenanny with goofy neighbors and comical monsters.” Sure, I guess that sums it up
I do have a lot of questions because so much of this is baffling. Why did his elderly aunt kill herself at the beginning of the film? And from the flashbacks, it looks like Roger and his wife and child were living in his aunt’s home at one point? While she was still living there? I mean, he was a famous writer and she was a famous actress, so why didn’t they have their own place? And getting back to the aunt–what was the deal with the paintings? Over the course of the film, you can see how she, as an artist, was no doubt influenced and inspired by the haunted goings-on in the house, and so I think there should have been at least a tiny bit of focus and backstory about her art and practice. And it turns out the paintings were *sort of* important, at least one of them was–but I’ll not give that away, in case you, like me, were one of the handful of people who have not yet seen House.
I was able to find the actual artist behind aunt Elizabeth’s strange canvases, though unfortunately, I can’t find any larger images. Richard Hescox has created a considerable amount of horror and monster movie poster art and seems to be fairly prolific, although his official portfolio seems to mostly showcase his fantasy-inspired works.
Now this all has got me thinking that I need to see House II on the off chance that there’s more of Hescox’s paintings and maybe old aunt Elizabeth gets a bit of story? Hm! Should I continue?