An interesting take on possession and exorcism, The Old Ways follows Cristina, a reporter who returns to her ancestral homelands to investigate the stories of sorcery and healing which take place there, some of which she witnessed herself as a small child. Kidnapped, chained up, and secreted away in a shack by locals who believe that she has become possessed by a local demon, she is understandably terrified, incensed, and intensely skeptical– but after experiencing several grueling days of inexplicable weirdness, she soon begins to believe.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film (I had a feeling I would, just from Felipe Flores’ marvelously lurid festival poster art alone!) It’s a tightly paced, wild trip with snakes, spirit surgeries, Brujeria, visions, lots of blood and pus, and a refreshing and fun take on this kind of story. An aesthetic observation–Cristina’s cousin has a beautiful wardrobe–nothing showy or fancy–but if you pay attention to such things, she wears some really pretty tops and sweaters.
Things take off pretty swiftly in Queen of Filth by V Castro, as something terrifying and unexpected happens to Lourdes and her best friends, after a boozy seance staged on a summer evening before they get on with the business of adulthood and going their separate ways. Because, of course…someone gets possessed. Don’t they always!
This too, is an interesting spin on a possession story, as it’s not a demon inhabiting the body of shy, smart Fernanda, but instead something significantly older, and perhaps not as evil as they would have thought. The bonds of friendship and female empowerment, contemporary realities, religion, and ancient beings weave together in this short novel to create a story that though I read it in the course of an evening, I won’t soon forget these characters or their ordeal.
For the past two weeks, I have been obsessed by the hypnotic, Luciferian splendor of “Angel of Light” from dark folk project Me And That Man, featuring the chilling vocals of Myrkur’s Amalie Braun. The devil in all their guises always counts as horror, right?
Well, if you disagree with that (rude) the Complex Distractions blog has put together a three-parter listing of Songs To Summon The Darkness, so surely you’ll find some amount of seasonally appropriate sonic horror over there! Part I // Part II // Part Three
A few additional horror/Halloween-related tidbits today…
-I am testing out a few Halloween scents from Arcana Wildcraft. Today is Cottage Witch, which of course, OF COURSE, because it’s the one I wanted to share today, it’s sold out! With notes of gingerbread, apple cider doughnuts, honey, pumpkin, fig, this is an autumn dessert cart in full glory– caramel, crust, crumb, and custard, all.
– I recently finished watching Mike Flanagan’s current offering on Netflix, Midnight Mass. I waffle about his stuff. Depending on what day and how I’m feeling, I either love it or find it awful and maudlin. I guess it’s both. I love stories that dive deep into grief and loss and trauma and his works definitely do that. What I have a problem with, and I’ve mentioned it before and perhaps it makes me a little problematic…is that I have a very hard time watching characters deal with addiction or severe mental illness. This is from my own past and what I grew up with in my home and what shaped me, for good or worse. I guess it’s probably in my DNA at some level. And that’s often painful to watch and I don’t always feel up to putting myself through that.
When I was writing for Haute Macabre a few years ago, in another version of 31 Days of Horror, I said something along the lines that I felt “traumatized” by The Haunting of Hill House, another Flanagan creation in which a character struggled with addiction. Someone commented, calling me out on it. I don’t recall what they said exactly, and I don’t want to look it up, because my cheeks are flaming and my heart rate is elevated just thinking about it, but in my memory, they said that I was throwing this word, “traumatized,” around lightly. Like I didn’t know what it meant. Like I had no right to evoke its connotations. I don’t like being called out, which is why I am still embarrassed and hurt now, but of course, if whatever I am being called out for makes sense to me, I can learn from it and do better. But in this case, it just didn’t. I’m not sure I understand why I, an adult child of an alcoholic, an alcoholic who also struggled with bipolar/manic depressive disorder, whose children lived through and dealt with their mother’s multiple suicide attempts and her rages and disappearances and all of her terrifying behavior…why do you feel I don’t have the right to feel deeply traumatized when I encounter some aspect of any of these experiences in the media I consume? Am I using the word “traumatized” incorrectly? Is there some other way I should be couching my feelings to make them less offensive or more palatable? Am I just not up on the vernacular? I still don’t know what this person’s problem with me was unless it’s that I didn’t trot out a list of my trauma credentials ahead of time, before making my observation. Reading over that whole paragraph it sounds really defensive. Maybe it’s because I just still don’t get what I did wrong. And I hate feeling that I have done something wrong, even three years later.
Wow, ok. Anyway. Midnight Mass. If you, like me, are triggered by depictions of alcoholism, you may find this a hard watch (and now that I think about it, maybe “triggered” was the word that this person had an issue with, not “traumatized.” Whatever. Get over it, Sarah!) Also, animal violence. Also LOTS of religion. And lots of monologues. I actually enjoy both…as someone who grew up with a lot of booze-problems in our house, there was no time for religion problems, and also we weren’t religious at all. And so as an adult, I really enjoy watching and reading about all manner of religious beliefs and rituals to see how other people live with and practice their spirituality. And yes, I also enjoy monologues. I don’t spend a lot of time talking to people, maybe that’s why.
I realize I have mentioned nothing regarding what this series is about. An isolated island community starts experiencing strange miracles with the arrival of a new priest. Where’s the former priest? What’s causing these strange and wondrous things to happen? What’s that thing thumping around in Father Paul’s olde-timey travel trunk? I won’t spoil anything!
-Ok, these were supposed to be little tidbit nuggets of things, and in that previous bullet point, I initially only mentioned because I was going to compare to James Wan’s ridiculously stupid Malignant, which I HATED, but I think I am in the minority because everyone else seems to love it. And I don’t even know why I am comparing these two, they have absolutely zero similarities except they both start with an “M”. My only point is, instead of watching Malignant, read Stephen King’s The Dark Half. I don’t want to say why, but you’ll figure it out.
-And finally, I had an excellent conversation with a friend. About horror and why we love it and what it meant to us… and they had all sorts of wonderful insights and thoughts and suggestions regarding these things. It arose from something I had posted on social media wherein I mentioned the following incident. I should note that the questions I am referring to were not directed at me, but rather about me, in a speakerphone conversation that I overheard.
“I have been agonizing for the past 3 days about how to respond to someone’s derisive, dismissive questions about why I watch horror movies. But I think ultimately my takeaway is this: tell me why your first reaction to learning about what someone loves is to make them feel weird and bad about it?”
And getting back to a previous point, I wish now that I had asked my friend in today’s lovely chat for their thoughts about my use of the word “traumatized” (or “triggered.”) as mentioned in the Mike Flanagan conversation above, but I wasn’t thinking of it at the time. Ah well, another chat for another time!
Of course, all of your thoughts are welcome, as well. And please don’t coddle me. If I was wrong, I want to know. And if you are the person who made that comment about my Hill House review so long ago, I am not mad at you. I hope you are not mad at me! If we can have a conversation about it, I would welcome that.
On a whim, I started looking into lists of fairly recent horror-adjacent graphic novel releases, which is how I happened upon The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs by Celine Loup. Surprisingly, I was able to find a digital copy through my library (and in doing so, I was excited to find a few more gems that I will be mentioning over the course of the next month!)
The book follows Emma, who after giving birth, fears a threatening supernatural force in the house. As her husband becomes increasingly remote and less involved in the life of Emma and her baby, she begins to unravel, growing more and more desperate between the lack of sleep and a newborn that won’t stop crying. Loup explores themes of the isolation of postpartum depression and being an exhausted mother with an unsupportive partner, and weaves in elements of unease and eerie horror for a story that is uncomfortable, unsettling, and profoundly sad.
I hope to be writing about some more horror titles before the end of the month, but in the interim, here are a few book lists to augment your scary stacks:
To accompany my spooky reads, I concocted the following pumpkin spice dirty chai latte or some such. I don’t actually know what to call it. I am not even sure if it was good! It…had potential.
Brew your coffee and pour a cup leaving room for extra stuff. Add a splash of autumnal seasonal creamer, stir in some chai powder (I typically use this kind from Blue Lotus but for some reason, I am trying something new and honestly I don’t like it as much), and add a bit of extra sweetener of your choice. Sip while reading this article on How America Invented the White Woman Who Just Loves Fall. If you find yourself becoming defensive, simmer down and sit with that for a while. Thanks, Hayley, for sharing this over on Facebook today!
In August of this year, I finally watched When A Stranger Calls. I didn’t really know much about this movie other than there was a babysitter and some creepy calls. I didn’t even know Carol Kane was in it! But if all someone had shown me was THIS still, and said “here, watch this”–I would have trusted them implicitly. Shadowy and dramatic and beautiful, to me, a movie watcher with arbitrary, low-ish standards– these are all of the hallmarks of a Good Movie.
This is the most comfortably dressed babysitter I have seen in any movie, ever. Also, fuck off, Dr. Mandrakis. Carol Kane is not having your low-fat yogurt. No one wants that crap!
Instead of disgustingly flavored low-fat yogurt, I opted for an autumnal yogurt breakfast parfait. The base is skyr, which is similar in taste and texture to Greek yogurt, and here’s what I did: spoon a bit of plain yogurt or skyr into the bottom of a glass, top with a spoonful of a mixture of chopped apples and raisins that have simmered with pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie seasoning until soft. Top that with a mixture of skyr, cream cheese, more pumpkin puree, and honey, and then repeat the layers for however hungry you are. This is topped with a mixture of packaged granola plus some raw pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds.
I cooked the apple mixture on the stove beforehand so that it had time to cool down, and while that was happening, I stirred up the cream cheese mixture. As I only made enough for two servings, you’re really not using a lot of any one of these ingredients and you’ll definitely have pumpkin puree and cream cheese leftover. Perfect for some pumpkin bread with cream cheese filling! Or pumpkin curry and cream cheese biscuits! I don’t know if cream cheese biscuits are even a thing, but I bet they are, and I bet that would be a delicious meal.
I’ve been excited about Nia DaCosta’s Candyman since I first heard the initial rumblings about it, though I supposed at that time I was still thinking of it at Jordan Peele’s Candyman. It’s finally available, and as I’m still not comfortable with the idea of going to the theatre right now, especially since in Florida, 99% of the idiots here are 99% more idiotic than idiots elsewhere, I cozied up on the sofa yesterday and paid $19.99 to watch it on Amazon. I think it was worth it!
I’m not certain that any version could ever top the original Candyman story of America’s racist past coming back to haunt it, which I know has its flaws, but I also know that Tony Todd is not one of them–and he is eerily, chillingly exquisite in the film. But despite the fact Candyman 2021 has minimal Tony Todd, I really enjoyed this story of its legacy, how Todd’s Daniel Robitaille “isn’t the only Candyman, that Candyman is ‘the whole damn hive’ as the film’s trailer proclaims, an amalgamation of all the violence and horror experienced by Black men in Cabrini-Green, and even in the whole of America.”
And because I love films that move within the spaces of the art world, I found particular interest in the main character’s roles of artist and art gallery director, and how much of the story took place in this exclusive, money-fuelled realm, policed by white critics, agents, and gallerists. Sort of like VelvetBuzzsaw, but …okay nothing like Velvet Buzzsaw, except for the art galleries and critics. (That was a ridiculous movie, but I loved it.)
Oh! And of course, I loved the striking visual storytelling and practical effects of the beautiful shadow puppetry in this new Candyman!
And finally, I loved that this wasn’t just Candyman/Anthony McCoy’s story, but that of his girlfriend, as well. You really get a sense of her backstory and her motivations and she’s just…a really interesting, rounded person. I think my only issue with the film is that the main character doesn’t seem to get that same treatment. He’s both the whole reason for the story, and what movies the story along, but he also seems unimportant? Like…who is he, even? We only find out much later in the film, but even that doesn’t tell us much about him as a person. Maybe we are meant to feel that way? Maybe that’s the intent of the film?
To tell you a truth, and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you must recognize that I am a pretty shit movie reviewer. Most things go over my head and I miss a lot, and half the time I can’t even tell you why I Iiked or disliked a film. A good chunk of my favorite movie list consists of films that are beautiful and have absolutely zero plot, so what do I know? But I’ll never get any better at talking about this stuff if I don’t practice, so here we are.
Some other things I am very excited about today include finally starting a project with this gorgeous Slutty Pumpkin yarn colorway from Dragonhoard Yarn! I’ve been having some issues with my right hand in the general area where the thumb meets the wrist, probably carpal tunnel or some repetitive use type injury, and so even though it killed me to do so, I’ve taken a few weeks off from knitting. Major, MAJOR sad face. The folks at Elmore Mountain Therapeutics were so kind as to send me a few samples of their CBD balms, and between the rest, the thumb brace I grabbed for keeping my thumb stable at night, and this soothing salve, I am starting to feel a bit of relief. I have tins of both the signature balm (lavender scented) and the “medicool” version with peppermint, eucalyptus, and birch, and between the two of them it’s been a lovely respite–and with all of the nourishing oils packed into them–even a bit of a treat for my poor, sore hand.
And of course, is it even 31 Days of Horror without the Halloween issue of Rue Morgue? Look at this gorgeous cover art! As always, I am wonderfully excited to dive into its lurid delights.
I’m currently rewatching all of the Halloween movies in anticipation for Halloween Kills, which I have zero expectations for, but I’m a dumb fan of the franchise, I guess.
My forever favorite will always be the original Halloween, but the scariest thing in this movie is the decor in Tommy Doyle’s living room. Those orange candles and that candelabra have got to be the tackiest thing I have ever seen. Is Michael Myers truly the soulless creature here? The Doyles have got a lot to answer for. See also that watermelon painting.
I am currently up to Halloween V and I am realizing that I have actually seen all of these movies before…except for Halloween III. Wow. That was something, wasn’t it? As an author that I follow on Twitter succinctly sums it up: “Halloween III is a story about the extraordinary lengths a man will go to in order to avoid hanging out with his kids.” Interestingly, the ex-wife of the main character in this film is played by Nancy Kyes, the actress who played Annie in the first movie! I looked her up and now she’s a sculptor, which is a neat thing to learn. And there’s a scene where the main character is trying to make a frantic phone call to the police and the operator saying that the call can’t go through is voiced by Jamie Lee Curtis, who otherwise is not in this film!
I realize this is stuff that everyone else already knows, but as it was my first time seeing it, I thought that was definitely a highlight of this mostly awfully silly film. I actually thought I had already seen this but I eventually realized that’s because I was recalling having read a paperback adaptation of the film when I was a kid. And even then I was like, well that sure was a lot of nonsense and craziness! And what does this have to do with anything at all?! For nostalgia’s sake, I looked it up on Amazon and apparently I can get a copy for $715. Nah, I’m good.
Some spooky sartorial and stink pickings for over the next few days! My horror tee collection has been pared down quite a bit, but even so, this gathering is but a fraction of what’s stuffed into my dresser drawers. I just grabbed what was easiest to get my hands on for this photo! If you are curious about any of them, leave a comment and I will figure out where they came from if I can. The tees are paired with pants if I am feeling like it and the non-negotiable dab or two of a few favorite and seasonally appropriate perfume oils: Strega from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Holy Terror from Arcana Wildcraft.