For some reason, I started thinking about the “soul pizza” moment in A Nightmare On Elm Street, Part Four: The Dream Master. Alice is sitting in a diner and Freddy sidles up to her and begins his gimmicky schtick–I actually love this surreal, schlocky music video of a film but Freddy has become an insufferable cartoon at this point– and there’s this whole thing with a meatball pizza. The meatballs are the screaming faces of Alice’s dead friends, and Freddy spears one of the little shrieking heads with his razor finger, pops it in his mouth, begins to chew, and just goes to town on it while Alice watches in horror.
My sister and I rewatched it last night, but I am afraid that by the time this scene rolls around I might have had a few too many margaritas and I don’t even remember watching it. Which is really dumb, because this 20 seconds was the whole reason I talked her into watching this film with me!
I’m always filing away food and meals from books and movies in my mental recipe folder, and I suppose because I have been thinking about attempting to make a sourdough pizza dough, this particular scene was on my mind. I didn’t want to recreate it, exactly. I mean…it’s pretty gross. And the details of those tiny faces would be complicated to execute.
…Pun intended, always!
So instead, we’ll just say that this very normal pizza that I made is, at best, loosely inspired by that scene? I used Joshua Weissman’s sourdough pizza recipe for the dough and the sauce, and it’s lightly topped with a blend of fresh parmesan and mozzarella, and tiny “meat” balls made from Impossible meat. I seasoned them with onion, garlic, and soy sauce, which is what seasoned the filling in one of Maangchi’s recipes, and I liked it so much, I just use it every time I have to add flavoring to a ground beef-like thing.
It turned out pretty well! We don’t have a pizza stone, so we baked a few versions of this in a large cast-iron skillet. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done.
So, I found out that they made a sort of novelty toy version of this pizza, with its own take-out box! I can’t imagine who would have wanted one of these things, but who am I to judge. I also see where, if one was so inclined, one could buy what I believe is the actual pizza prop used in the movie. Again…who would want this? I cannot guess as to those reasons, but suppose I do think it’s an awfully cool thing that it exists.
Ok, so maybe this is less 31 Days of Horror and more 31 Days of Halloween or 31 Days of October People Shit, but I thought it might be fun to share a handful of my favorite autumnal fragrances. For surrealist witches and bog witches, goblincore mushroom queens, and midnight bonfire revelries!
For the most part, all of the scents that I reference in the above TikTok video are perfumes that I have already reviewed, and the video is really just a quickie run-through of those thoughts. I’ve copied those past reviews below, if you want to know more!
I love that Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, which was inspired by the unearthly and surreal Tilda Swinton and her idea of a magic potion that smelled like the familiar grace of home. Greenhouses and kitchens and gardens and intriguing notes like yellow mandarin, pumpkin accord, Moroccan neroli, and heliotrope. I don’t know if I was influenced by the copy, but: the connection of magic potions and kitchens, along with the initial hit of citrusy-ginger, fizzing and spiced as if glowing in cauldron, summoned for me the transcendent, transgressive art of Leonora Carrington’s paintings of kitchens as magically charged spaces, as conjured through her singular and visionary filter. Floral, honeyed tobacco, an earthy spring greenness, and gentle musks bubble and brew alongside those first bright and zingy notes and the end result is a joyous creation that feels both celebratory and sacred.
November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest from For Strange Women is a scent I have worn for years and years and I am only just now attempting to review it. This is the aroma of a mushroom queen surveying their loamy domain on a cool, rainy morning. A soft green fern tickles your gills as your mycelial threads in turn wave at the worms moving through the rich earth beneath you; the ground mist rises through the dense forest canopy as cool trickles of rainwater drip off the oak and beech and fir trees to dampen the velvet, verdant moss carpeting a cropping of stones nearby. Your reverie is interrupted by the scent of expensive leather hiking boots on the breeze, crunching leaf detritus and tiny woodland creatures beneath its self-important tread. You smell the smoke and steam and artisanal resins and tannins of a gourmet flask of tea, and before you can let out a little spore-filled, mushroomy warning, you hear a shrill, nasally human female voice chirp HEY Y’ALL WELCOME BACK TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL. Oh no, you despair, it’s the slow-living mushroom forager YouTube influencers. You sincerely hope they pass you over for your poisonous cousins.
Wild In the Woods from Lvnea is a devastatingly simple scent of sweet swampy, loamy earth and spicy cypress. For all the bog witches out there. I picked this up from Altar PDX on a trip to Portland a few years ago and I don’t think it is sold anymore.
Ambre Narguile from the Hermès Hermessence line gets a lot of apple pie references from reviewers, but I don’t get that myself. A spiced compote, perhaps. Dried fruits–raisins and plums, stewed in honey and rum and cinnamon, and left on the stove very nearly too long. It’s been cooked down to a syrupy essence of its former self, and if you hadn’t pulled it from the flame, the caramelized sugars might have started to smoke and burn. I don’t love sweet fragrances, but come October I crave this one; it calls to mind a reading firelight a book you’ve experienced a million times (like the Secret History by Donna Tartt which I only just read but I loved it so much I’m ready to go at it again) while wearing a cozy oversized cardigan with thick cables and toggle buttons and that you probably inherited from your grandpa. Not to be confused with that awful cardigan in Taylor Swift’s video. ugh, Don’t get me started on that. That’s another conversation for another midnight.
Chanel Les Exclusifs Sycomore is a fragrant chorus of cool autumn foliage, rich, mossy soil; soft smoke, and damp greenery. All the best smells of a forest ramble in late October with the promise of winter heard in the whispering flutter of a straggling sparrow migration. But! The hiker on this path is garbed in expensive elegance, a leather Prada bag, a silk Hermès scarf, that iconic Burberry checked coat. This is the scent of a woodland elf turned posh socialite; Galadriel who quit the forest, and is now living in a penthouse on the Upper East Side.
Ambre Noir from Sonoma Scent Studio is dense and intense and the darkest amber you could ever hope to meet. Both somber and smoldering, with notes of labdanum, rose, incense, moss, leather, and woods, it is a blackened forest fireside frolic when the veil between worlds is thinnest. See also: the final moments in the film The VVitch. If you like outrageously dark, spellbindingly smoky amber fragrances, I believe you’ll enjoy this one.
Thanatopsis from Black Phoneix Alchemy Lab is a meditation upon death inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem, and a deep, solemn earthen scent containing pine, juniper and musk. A green-ness so lush and concentrated that it is nearly a syrup, growing in mysterious realms alongside venerable woods and breathless darkness.Thanatopsis is a meditation upon death inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem, and a deep, solemn earthen scent containing pine, juniper and musk. A green-ness so lush and concentrated that it is nearly a syrup, growing in mysterious realms alongside venerable woods and breathless darkness.
I’ve found interpretations of hinoki varies from perfumer to perfumer, ranging from lemony and coniferous, to tarry and peppery. In this version, Sumi Hinoki from Buly1803 is a deeply unpleasant boy scout campfire burning with bandaids and liniment and makes me feel the way I do when I’m dreaming and I walk into a darkened room and flip a light switch for illumination…and then nothing happens. At that point, the dream invariably descends into a nightmare, but I have learned to wake myself up at that moment, my brain boiling, electrified and panic-stricken. As a writer, at times I crave this scent when I need a freaky, feverish jolt of agitation. It’s also great for layering to add a touch of artful anxiety to a scent that’s pretty, but perhaps placid.
For something truly gruesome? Today I am wearing ALL OF THESE AT ONCE. I think I must smell like Yasushi Nirasawa’s unhinged-looking witch, NIGHT OF NOCTILA. Just an…unholy mashup of everything autumnal and October and Halloween and you just don’t know whether to be horrified or horny or BOTH.
I remember seeing this line of collectibles maybe fifteen years or so ago and I was practically salivating over them–they are so freaking cool. Finding them again today, I am still drooling and pining for them and just someone just buy me all of these slutty monstergirls already, please!
Here’s a bit of Noctila’s bonkers backstory, if you are interested:
“In the North Soup Village there is a rumor lately: “There is something going on in the woods…… strange sightings Noctilcaof the psychedelic light covering the forest haunts enery night!” Another rumor people said it’s a UFO! Ah ha! Maybe not! That’s me, Noctilca!”
Anyhow, getting back to fragrance…I am thinking that today I should FINALLY commit to either reading or watching (or both) Patrick Suskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. This is one of those things that people are always asking my thoughts on, because they assume that I have already read/watched it. And …I have not. It is getting to be a little embarrassing!
I did…not…enjoy Things Heard and Seen on Netflix. I will admit, the trailer captivated me, with its teasing of Catherine and George, a young couple and their child moving from the city to a ~quite possibly~ haunted old house in a small Hudson Valley college town. I already want to run away to an isolated farmhouse in upstate New York and bake bread and feed chickens all day (okay, Yvan can feed the chickens, I don’t really care about that part) so this appealed to me on a very base level.
But. With the exception of one character, I did not care for a single person in this film. As it turns out, and I’m not really spoiling anything here, George is not a great guy. You get a sense right off the bat that he’s a bit of a dick and he’s kind of sneaky, and he only gets worse. I don’t think the house would have gotten to him to such a degree if it wasn’t already a bad apple. And by the end of the film, you start to wonder about some things you learn at the beginning of the film and wonder if he wasn’t already rotten to the core.
I didn’t really love Catherine’s character, either. And maybe that’s not fair because I don’t know that we ever got a chance to know her, other than she gave up her art restoration career for her husband’s teaching opportunity, which is why they made the move to the country. And that she’s “the believer” in the family, as George asserts to a colleague who is trying to talk with him about Swedenborgian philosophies and spirituality. But other than his referencing of it, and the fact that she begins seeing and hearing strange, ghostly things, we don’t get much in the way of an explanation or examples of that, or any back story for her at all.
Oh, and a big-time TW here: We also know that Catherine suffers from an eating disorder. We know this has been going on for a while, because George references doctor visits, and weight gain shakes she is supposed to be drinking for meals. An excellent example of this guy’s assholery is how he’s always harping on her for not eating, almost as if he’s actually concerned. And yet. In a car ride home, after they have joined Justine, a fellow professor (Rhea Seehorn, who plays Kim Wexler in Better Call Saul!) and her husband in their home for dinner, George remarks that Justine “can really put away some lasagna.” With commentary like that, it’s not surprising that Catherine has some issues with food and with her body. “That was a really nasty thing to say,” she remarks about his casual cruelty. And it was. Fuck off, George!
Justine Solokof, professor of weaving (?!?!) is a QUEEN and I would love to eat some lasagna with her. She is the very best thing about Things Seen And Heard.
If I am being honest, I utterly tuned out about 20 minutes into the film as I began daydreaming about life in my lovingly restored and gently haunted murder farmhouse. Crisp, clear nights with no light pollution or humidity and you can count every star in the sky and it’s so quiet you can hear the flights of bats and owls. Slow, chilly mornings warmed by endless cups of coffee and something cozy and autumnal to eat.
Like sourdough pumpkin pancakes! It’s 85 degrees in Florida this week, and the pancakes were the only part of this fantasy that I could recreate. I am not a huge fan of maple syrup, so I ate these with cream cheese and honey and they were delightful.
Of course, my haunted country home fantasy needs a rustic autumnal ensemble! Details on all of the items used can be found here; I’m feeling too lazy to list them all at the moment, but if you check back later, I may have done so.
And oh my lord people, you people with comments like “$12K for a bag, I would never!”Of course, you would never! That just goes without saying! We don’t have that kind of money! But what’s the point of daydreaming on a budget? No thanks, friends. If I’m gonna fantasize, even if it’s just a dream of making pies and knitting on a front porch rocking chair with no one in 50 miles in any direction to bother me, it’s gonna be dripping in luxury. You want a cheap murder farmhouse outfit, make it yourself.
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.
Before I begin this review of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s recently released RPG-inspired perfumes, I need to confess to you that I do not in fact actually play D&D. I tried! On several occasions! Ok, maybe just two, but it was enough for me to know that this sort of RPG is not for me. I was a tiefling bard named Pickles McGillicuddy, and, as you can tell, I took things very seriously. But it all made me very anxious and fretful, having to remember all of my stats and spells and whatnot, and I never knew what I was supposed to be doing or what was expected of me and it was not fun. Nothing against my companions, they were grand! Just… D&D is not the realm in which I find a good time.
Oddly, enough, I like watching movies about it and reading about it? Especially the sorts of stories where things go tits up and bonkers!
I watched a series of incredibly low-budget, ridiculous films from Dead Gentlemen productions a while back, The Gamers & The Gamers: Dorkness Rising and they were a hoot. I recall that the D&D episode from Community was a lot of fun, and I of course totally lived for the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon in the 80s every Saturday morning. I won’t lie. I just watched that YouTube video for the intro to the show that I linked to in the last sentence, and my heart skipped a beat and I felt that very same exhilaration that I did 40 years ago, in anticipation for the adventures of Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Bobby, and Sheila! Also, not exactly D&D but if you ever get a chance to read John Coyne’s Hobgoblin, a story of a teenager deeply obsessed with a fantasy role-playing game inspired by Celtic mythology, you’ll become acquainted with one of my favorite books when I was a teenager. It’s one of those lurid, cautionary tale-type books, but I thought it was the coolest, and I wanted a whole bunch of friends to role play with. Even though I suspect I would have found it just as nerve-racking and anxiety-inducing as I do now.
ANYWAY. In 2020, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast took steps toward building a more inclusive series of fantasy gaming worlds–one that represents a wider array of belief systems, gender identities, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and cultures. One of the major changes they implemented is that there are no longer any inherently evil races. Wizards of the Coast recognized that the monstrous characterization of specific in-game races hit too close to the real-world experiences of many of us who belong to minority racial and ethnic groups. Because I am dating a life-long nerd who D&Ds weekly, I was aware of the shift, but I’m not informed or experienced enough regarding D&D to offer a really nuanced opinion except that it’s a good thing.
In the collection I am reviewing today, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has celebrated this fresh and complex exploration of the range of ethics, virtues, and cultures in fantasy role-playing games and literature. What stories could now be told? Where might an orc turn to find inner peace? How might a bugbear give back to their community? What challenges can this diverse group of adventurers now overcome?
Kobold Barista(freshly brewed coffee with ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and cream) A seasonal latte from your favorite local cafe; sweet cream, a dusting of autumnal spice melange, and the scent of roasted coffee beans, lightly caramelized and almost nutty, ground with aromatic pods and seeds and bark and roots.
Tiefling Therapist(white and red sandalwood, champaca attar, frankincense, and brimstone) Rich, velvety, vanilla-sweet floral with warm, apricot woodsy tea-like notes, it smells like sacred wine drunk by the moon and sun; a holy gloaming.
Bugbear Doula (motherwort, angelica root, and warm russet fur splashed with chamomile tea) Sniffing this straight out of the bottle, it’s a gorgeously delectable blackberry danish, but that’s so fleeting an impression I almost feel like I imagined it, especially considering that what it soon becomes is a warm, sweetly herbaceous musk, earthy, with a faint but lingering bitterness. The blackberries have all been plucked and it’s almost like they were never there at all. A nap on sun-warmed rock softened by moss. Nightfall, dreams, the cool dusty flights of bats and swallows.
Lizardfolk Park Ranger (pine needle, oak bark, sweet birch, stream-polished stones, lichen, dark mosses, nootka, hazelnut, rivulets of amber, and blackcurrant bud) This is an extraordinarily beautiful scent and tremendously evocative–there’s a whiff of something wild but also so safe and tender about it, when the scent first blossoms on my skin. The rushing creek below and the warmth of an old man’s strong, calloused hand, leaves crunching under small feet, he pauses to show his granddaughter a buckeye tree, tucking a sprig of Queen Anne’s lace in her pocket, telling her a snapping turtle might bite her toes off if she’s not careful! Then: the soft, soapy scent of a grandmother’s bubble bath, the soft pilled fuzz of a flannel nightgown, buttery, pearl-sugared bedtime cookies from the rusted blue tin. All of these memories, that seem so very long ago but also close at hand, like I could reach into yesterday and just as easily tug its sleeve. On my grandfather’s deathbed, he called me by the name of his sister and asked what we were wearing to church on Sunday. His childhood memories, just as near, just as vivid. Will memory always be this strange tug of rope? I’m 45 now and recall that autumn day, 40 years ago, without even having to close my eyes and step back into the byways of my brain. It’s always, always waiting just right there. And now, right here, with this fragrance.
Drow Yoga Instructor(wild plum, indigo lavender, and a tranquil tendril of sandalwood incense) An elegant plummy lavender incense, more breezy than smoky, the sort of scent you could close your eyes and totally space out and lose time while wearing, and yet it’s strangely grounded, too. Something earthy, rooty that tethers you, calls your essence back into your body before Lala Land claims you completely.
Drider Crossing Guard Perfume Oil(fig, black pepper, nutmeg, and black plum tea) This is such a confusing thing…from the notes I wouldn’t think it would smell like this, but: if you are a lover of such things, this is a fresh, fancy fantasy plate of all of the ripest, juiciest fruits you can imagine. I can’t pick anything out in particular, but wet on this skin this is definitely a pulpy, opalescent bounty of sweet, dripping fruit flesh. A few hours later it is a faint fruity-peony-vanilla. I realize neither of those two notes are listed, but I can’t argue with what’s on my wrist. Just reporting what I smell! Actually…in looking at this next scent, I have to wonder if maybe these two were accidentally mislabeled? Hm! A mystery!
Beholder Optician (eucalyptus leaf, white amber, pink bergamot, strawberry, and sheer, crystalline vanilla musk) In rereading this list of notes, all of these bright, electric fruity aromas are definitely what I smell in Drider Crossing Guard. The bottle labeled Beholder Optician carries a scent dry and figgy, woody and plummy and accented with a gentle grassy spice. Over time this just gets plummier, but not in a really fruity way, more like a plum wearing a handknit shawl and a bonnet and a monocle? I don’t know what that means. A Mother Goosey plum? An Ida Outhwaite fairytale illustration of a plum. Whatever it is that I am poorly trying to articulate, it is a freaking gorgeous interpretation of plum.
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.