I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch David Cronenberg’s original Dead Ringers (1988) so I almost feel like I don’t even have any business watching something inspired by it. But what convinced me is A. it’s on Amazon Prime, which maybe it has been all along and I didn’t realize it, and B. I thought Alice Lowe was involved– and I loved her movie Prevenge, about a pregnant widow who believes her unborn baby is guiding her to exact murderous revenge on those who may have been responsible for her husband’s death.
Well, joke’s on me. It’s Alice Birch, not Alice Lowe. I don’t even know who that is! And furthermore, I am squeamish as hell when it comes to gynecological stuff and things related to pregnancy and birth. That makes me feel like a terrible feminist and also maybe a terrible ally and support system to all of my family members and friends who are also mamas. I am sorry! I’m grossed out by all of it! Out of all of the horror in the world, this is some of the stuff I find most horrifying. Which sucks for me, because I have a body containing all of these bits that must be invasively poked and prodded and examined on an annual (or more frequent basis) and so even walking around in this flesh is a constant fucking horror story.
…so why did I think I wanted to watch a movie, let alone a whole television series about Beverly and Elliot, a pair of famous gynecologists planning to open a high-tech birthing center? I DON’T KNOW. I watched the first episode last night, and I will be honest with you, I had to look away for about 40% of it.
I was ten years old when I got my first period. I had said period for 3 months straight. It was our male family doctor who did my first exam, and it hurt so badly that, terrified, in pain, and not understanding a single thing that was being done to me, I sobbed the entire way through. He basically told me to calm down and chill out. I was ten fucking years old, man. Have a little care, a little patience! How I’d love to go back in time and just punch that guy in the dick.
Anyway, thirty-seven years later, every cervical exam or pap smear is an absolute nightmare for me, and I am taken straight back to that day, feeling completely alone in the world, my body not my own, my pain a thing does apparently doesn’t really exist. Sitting home in my office now, my knees locked tightly together, even the thought of a speculum so shiny you can see your pores in it makes me feel like fainting dead away.
I really wanted to watch Rachel Weisz in this duo role of brilliant but menacing twins, but I don’t think I can go back for more. I have two dear friends that have been recommending to me a show called Deadloch for the past few months, it looks like a sort of noir-mystery-comedy, which I have also heard referenced as “Broadchurch, but make it funny.”
So I am peacing out on Dead Ringers and headed over to Deadloch and I am not looking back. Life is too short to torture myself!
I finally watched Talk to Me, and it was an extremely uncomfortable, disturbing, upsetting, and brilliant film. I never want to see it again and I definitely don’t want to talk about it.
I’ll sum up in one sentence, just so I can say I did my due diligence: Teens are getting high on possession as a party trick/for social media likes, with the aid of an old, severed hand, encased in ceramic and covered in creepy symbols and graffiti.
Teenagers are already susceptible to suggestion and stupidity and grief can leave you open, yearning, and raw. Talk To Me takes those feelings and behaviors and twists them to its own purposes for a relentlessly terrifying story.
I’m done now. I literally cannot think about this film a second more.
I am currently reading Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-fi Art of the 1970sby Adam Rowe and I am enjoying it immensely. Aside from being stuffed to the gills with phenomenal science fiction art–from the abstract and avant-garde to the trippy and surreal, from the murky and lurid to the vivid, vibrant, and hyperrealistic–on top of all that, it is written in exactly the way I want to read about art.
Well-informed, brimming with details, and powerfully engrossing sure, but Rowe’s voice is chatty, warm, and irreverent–like you’re being regaled by one of your smartest, funniest, nerdiest friends. You no doubt know of Adam Rowe from his Twitter and Tumblr accounts, where he shares otherworldly, alien retro sci-fi art on an almost daily basis…but while those are both awesome places to peek in at, it’s not the same as having this outstanding book at your fingertips.
Of course, the imagery he has curated is tremendous, but what makes this such a special collection is the enthusiasm, fondness, and overall spirit of curiosity and wonder that infuses every single word in this book. You never doubt even for a second that Adam Rowe is absolutely jazzed about these artworks–and he wants you to be, too.
I will probably write a longer review once I finish the book, and if I do a year-end round-up of gift book ideas, Worlds Beyond Time is going to be right up at the very top.
What does any of this have to do with 31 Days of Horror? Well, I just today finished the Monsters chapter in a section of the book, wherein artists “blend fiction and arguable fact, looking at how artists and illustrators reinterpreted old science-fiction tropes like creepy creatures and alien priests to represent the latest cryptid or mystic vision.”
I thought I might share two of my favorite works from this chapter, the first being Don Maitz’s 1977 cover for Eerie #91, and the second, Richard Hescox’s 1985 cover for Alan Burt Akers’s Omens of Kregen, featuring a final confrontation from the book, in which a bestiary of googly-eyed, wriggly-tentacled monsters have assembled to protect their queen. I know these guys are meant to be scary, but there’s something about this menagerie that tickles my fancy. The “weird and gross but adorable” fancy!
Cat People has been on my 31 Days list every year for the past 7 years. Better late than never!
Irena is absorbed in her sketchbook at the zoo when she meets neat and tidy and well-behaved Oliver Reed, who teases her when her frustrated, crumpled-up drawings don’t quite make it into the trash bin. They chat and leave together, and as they stroll away, we catch a glimpse at what she’s been doodling: a sleek panther with a dagger plunged through its heart.
Oliver walks Irina home to her fabulously beautiful apartment, and she asks him in for tea. During this sort-of-first-date, as Oliver is meandering about her space, he seems particularly struck–and a mite disturbed by–a certain statue, and Irina explains. In her village in Serbia, there was the belief that it sheltered satanic cultists who could take the form of cats.
Good King John tried to kill these cat people, but some fled into the mountains, where they are said to live to this day. We soon learn that Irena secretly fears she is one of those cat people.
In the way of cinematic whirlwind romances, Oliver and Irina declare their love for each other and are married and living together within the next five minutes of screen time. It’s very clear right from the start that this relationship will be tested because Irina, uncomfortable with physical affection, dreads getting close to Oliver. Forget about consummating the marriage–she won’t even kiss him. She is terrified that once her passions are aroused, she will transform into a panther and kill and eat her husband
Oliver promises patience and time, but when his long-time coworker, the very swell and pretty Alice, confesses her love for him, Oliver is not so supportive anymore.
As Irena’s fear and jealousy grow, she begins to stalk Alice; there is a genuinely creepy scene in which Alice is hiding in a swimming pool while something prowls and growls from the shadows. Has Irena metamorphosed? Is it Alice’s heightened terror and imagination? Things eventually escalate, there is an attack, and things don’t end well for precisely the person that they wouldn’t have a hope of ending well for, considering the era during which this film was made.
Cat People was a gorgeous movie with all its atmospheric cinematography and wonderful cat motifs, but I think what I felt more than anything from it was a deep melancholy and loneliness.
Irena says at one point, when she is attempting to explain her apprehension about the intimate nature of marriage: “I’ve lived in dread of this moment. I’ve never wanted to love you. I’ve stayed away from people … I’ve fled from the past. Some things you could never know, or understand — evil things.” She reflects to Oliver, in a later scene, “You’re the only friend I’ve ever had.”
An immigrant, an outsider, a possibly cursed individual, a cat person who cats apparently don’t even like, whose only friend is that fickle fucker of a husband–Irina’s story is impossibly sad.
People have only just started watching The Fall of the House of Usher, Mike Flanagan’s newest offering over on Netflix, so I am hesitant to say much–or anything!–about it at all!
I watched all eight episodes this past weekend, and I will say two things. I did not love it as much as I loved Midnight Mass (I think that one was pretty divisive though, so that may not mean anything to you!) and if you are expecting an adaptation of a singular Edgar Alan Poe short story…that’s not what that is. Rather it’s a narrative in which many Poe references, characters, plot pieces, story fragments, and poetry snippets are entangled. One reviewer referred to it as taking place in the “Poe cinematic universe,” and THANKS I HATE IT. It makes me think that Flanagan’s next installment is going to be something like BRAM STOKER: ENDGAME.
Did I love this new series? I did. Did I love watching rich people wearing designer clothing? Yes! Camille’s Alexander McQueen dress in episode two! Her snake lingerie/bodysuit that we’ve seen advertised all over Instagram, you know the one! Luke Skywalker absolutely stole every scene he was in! Did I love the cheesy, overarching message? Who doesn’t love a cheesy message? There was so much to love about this show. I mean … “GUCCI CALIGULA.” Iykyk.
But did I love it as much as Midnight Mass? I did not. Would I watch The Fall of the House of Usher over and over again? Absolutely, it was that enjoyable. Whereas I would never watch Midnight Mass again. I can’t explain that, but there you go.
Today I’m completely knocked out by the vaccines I got 48 hours ago and I am taking it easy. Which is to say, I am cramming a whole bunch of tv and reading down my gullet today but I am not going to exhaust my brain in trying to muster up words about it.
Over on Instagram, I am participating in the OctoberChrysalis challenge, a series of creative prompts collaboratively put together by Jess of Bloodmilk and musician Chelsea Wolfe. Today’s prompt was “Landscape/Dreamscape” and I was really scratching my head for this one. I live in the Florida suburbs, there is not much landscape to speak of out here. So instead I went with a few dreamscapes I’ve included in my books. You can peek at what I’ve been coming up with over here.
What else have I got planned for Day Fifteen? I just finished up Rachel Harrison’s Cackle, which was a wonderfully cozy small-town witchy story about friendship, accepting who you are, and being happy on your own. It had real Practical Magic/Stars Hollow vibes. I feel stupid saying I “highly recommend” it because I am pretty sure I’m late to the party here, and everyone has already read it. I’ve read Rachel Harrison’s other books and really enjoyed them, but they are definitely more in the horror genre than this one. This was feel-good, but not super saccharine or extra-fluffy. Just a little sweet. A tiny bit of fluff. Perfect for a sick day. I feel like some dudes out there are rolling their eyes at “cozy horror,” but whatever. You don’t hate cozy horror. Call it what it is. You hate women.
Anyhow, I’m feeling just peachy, not at all sickly and miserable, can’t you tell?!
Today’s plans include taking the all half-empty cans of pumpkin littering my refrigerator and making this curried pumpkin soup, watching some more of The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix, and reading a few more stories in Jordan Peele’s horror anthology, Out There Screaming–which is pretty great so far, with several stories I found myself wishing I could read a full-novel version of!
In the first five minutes of watching The Blood Spattered Bride, I thought, “Huh, I’ve already tried to watch this once before.” A newlywed couple speeds down the highway, arriving at a hotel. The groom (unnamed throughout the film) suggests that the bride, Susan, head up to the room while he unpacks the car. Once in the room, a stocking-faced man who looks very much like her husband emerges from the wardrobe, pins her to the bed, and violently rips her wedding dress off. In my initial experience with this movie, it was this scene that made me think, “No thanks, I’m good,” and turned it off.
But it is at this point her husband arrives with all of their luggage and finds Susan sitting on the bed, wedding dress intact, and looking upset. “I don’t want to stay here,” she says, “I don’t like this hotel.”
From there they tootle off to his country estate. In gauging their early interactions, we get the sense that Susan is quite young and inexperienced (he says as much when he refers to her later on in the film as “just a child.” Ugh.) He is an older man, and soon, we learn, aggressive, predatory, and controlling. But Susan is not easily cowed, and often either runs away, defies him, or coldly shuts him down.
It’s this “you’re not the boss of me” spirit that comes across when she demands to know why there are no women featured among the ancestral portrait gallery in the house. He admits that they are all kept down in the basement. Susan, curious, checks it out…and finds a painting of a bride with her face sheared completely away.
This is where things start to get interesting. They walk through the gorgeous autumnal landscape around the castle’s grounds as he tells her the story of the woman in the portrait. Mircala Karstein (!!) murdered her husband on their wedding night and the family found her comatose beside the dead body.
They eventually buried her in the ruins of the cathedral on the property. Susan realizes this is the ghostly woman she has seen from the corner of her eye, ever since they arrived–and even in the hotel parking lot as they were leaving. Susan then begins dreaming of Mircala. In her dreams, there is an antique dagger, and an irresistible urge to kill her husband…
The Blood Spattered Bride, which I initially thought was an exploitation film that really wasn’t in the mood for, turned out to have a bit more going on than that. Although you have to get through the first half of the film first, and I if I am being honest, I found it a bit of a slog. But there’s definitely a psychological depth that I wasn’t expecting, and there are some politics beyond the sexual involved that I wasn’t aware of, and you can read more about here.
I don’t think I can blame it on the flu vaccine/COVID booster combo that I received last night, but if I ever knew that this film was a retelling of Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I had completely forgotten it. It was a delightful surprise because honestly, I could watch a million versions of this sapphic vampire story. I’m not feeling so hot today, I’m clammy and my joints ache and I am definitely having a reaction from the shots, so I think that’s all I’ve got in me for day fourteen.
P.S. If anyone knows the artist for the film poster featured in this blog, please fill me in!
For Friday the 13th, I was going to do one of the Friday the 13th movies, as I’ve never seen a single one! But much like how when I was younger, I believed you were either in the Star Wars or the Star Trek camp because you obviously couldn’t be into both (I’ve since changed my mind) I still staunchly maintain you are either Team Freddy or Team Jason. As Freddy has my whole heart –or he may slice it out if I decide to switch things up– I’ve decided to continue leading a Jason Voorhees-free life. In the interest of neutrality, I instead opted to finish watching a film I began two months ago and got too scared to finish.
Too scared! Yes, I said it. I have become a big, stupid baby. Evil Dead Rise scared the crap out of me.
I never intended for this to be a horror 101 blog, so I won’t bother rehashing the plot/events of the other Evil Dead movies. If you’re here reading this, I’m 99% certain you already know them. If not, read about them on Wikipedia…like I did with the entire Saw franchise, ha!
So, what was so scary about this? Taking place mainly in a condemed apartment complex in the aftermath of an earthquake, it had a claustrophobic, apocalyptic aspect that I found extremely freaky. There’s this feeling of extreme, terrifying isolation which makes you wonder “are these the only people left in the whole world?” Ellie, her children, and her visiting sister are more or less trapped inside, along with a handful of other residents–and that would probably be scary enough, but one of Ellie’s kids climbs into a chamber unearthed under the parking garage during the quake–which turns out to be an old bank vault, where he finds a creepy old book and some weird old records.
…Which he plays, and there’s an incantation and a summoning and now he’s fucked up big time because all of a sudden, his mother is possessed. Demon-possessed Ellie is the second scary thing in this movie and she is scary as hell. Not only did they make her look hideous and horrifying (here’s a full-image of what’s happening in the screencap above) but she’s menacing her own children –and spoiler, most of the kids don’t make it–and even for me, with a lifetime full of watching horror movies, that kind of feels like crossing a line.
I’m really curious about other folks who have seen this one? Am I just getting old and feeble? Or was this actually pretty scary? Let me know your experiences with Evil Dead Rise!
Tonight on this 31 Days of Horror edition of Midnight Stinks is Only A Witch Cat, Pearfat Parfums ode to cult classic Japanese horror film Hausu, a kitschy, kaleidoscopic, gloriously demented, dizzying psychedelic fever dream which I chose for a first date with my now husband I am pretty sure he is still reeling from it 12 years later.
If I recall correctly this was a film wherein Toho, attempting to replicate the commercial success of American movies like Jaws, hired a renowned ad-man known for his creativity and aesthetics to make a blockbuster movie…and then this man enlisted his 12 year old daughter to help. I love that story, and it made for one of my all-time favorite films.
With notes of shiso leaf and climbing vines, melon and coriander, and powdered compact, this is a fragrance of melancholic breezes tangling gorgeous powdery citrus shampoo-perfumed hair, fraught with a crisp, crushed oppressive green tension. It’s a scent of loss, lost love, lost youth, and ghosts and spectres shadowed by generations of loss. For all that, it’s not a dense or heavy scent, it’s light and flimmering, but you can feel its presence–like the gaze on the back of your neck, like movement from the corner of your eye, like a past that you can’t escape.
This review was originally posted to my Midnight Stinks TikTok on October 12, 2023.
@midnightstinks Midnight Stinks, episode 407: Only a Witch Cat from Pearfat Parfum.
Like many folks with a lifelong fondness for horror, Shirley Jackson’s elegant, unnerving The Haunting of Hill House holds an extra-special place in my heart. Not just scary for the unknowable motivations of the notorious house and the intense atmosphere of personal terrors it conjures for each of its inhabitants, but there’s also the soul-crushing psychic soup of mental disintegration that it encourages as the house takes further hold. It’s heady, intense stuff, and one of my favorite haunted house stories.
I never necessarily thought that we needed a return to Hill House but when I learned that Elizabeth Hand was authorized by Shirley Jackson’s estate to write such a story, I’ll admit, I was pretty excited. Her short stories are incredible–“Near Zennor” (found here) being a particular favorite of mine. A weird, supernatural mystery wherein a grieving widow is driven to learn more about a secret part of his wife’s past, it affected me to such a degree that I made a creepy little playlist for it. Wyldling Hall, a book about a folk band recording in a strange, remote house and the tragedies that happened there, is another favorite of mine from this author. If anyone is to be working with Hill House material, I would trust Elizabeth Hand implicitly–she knows a thing or two about creating immersive, eerie atmospheres and disturbingly uncanny happenings.
In A Haunting On The Hill, Holly is a struggling playwright who has been awarded a grant, and, being in the area and happening upon the expansive opulence of Hill House, she immediately falls under its spell. She becomes convinced that it would be a grand idea to rent it out for a few weeks and invite a group of her actors and collaborators to work on her current project together. The intimate gathering, sequestered away from the bothers of the world for a time, would afford everyone the opportunity to appreciate the material and put their own spin on it and sink into their roles, etc. Along for the ride is Nisa, Holly’s girlfriend, a singer with a beautiful voice that Holly doesn’t want to give too much of the limelight to; Amanda, a prickly older actress with a bit of a cult following and a reputation because of an on-stage tragedy she is linked to; and Stevie, Holly’s best friend, a sensitive and vulnerable individual who is going to do sound design and play the part of a demon-dog. A demon-dog! Yes, this is a play about witchcraft!
Once ensconced in its oppressive walls, the group begins to realize that the space is not as luxurious as it might have initially appeared. Rooms are dimly lit, dusty, and damp. There are more rooms and twisting hallways than would seem possible, and it is easly to become lost, alone, and open to the awful energies of the place. All of the members of the troupe begin to encounter varying degrees of strange and terrifying weirdness inside Hill House but because of their various agendas and commitments, they each have their own reasons for looking the other way (or in some cases, leaning into it) and seeing it through.
They are warned repeatedly to leave the house by people who live locally and who know its history and what always happens there. The realtor who owns the house, the woman who occasionally cleans the house and who drops off meals for Holly and her guests, as well as the eccentric individual who lives in a trailer down the road and who initially chased Holly with an axe on the first day she saw the house. As it happens, this trio all knows each other, and they may be witches, too! Although I am not sure how much that actually figures into the story.
Did Elizabeth Hand do the Hill House material justice? I didn’t go into this book with this question in mind because I wanted an Elizabeth Hand story, not another story by Shirley Jackson. But I’m sure that will be on the minds of a lot of people who are interested in reading the book. She did an outstanding job of evoking the house’s sickening nature, and how it affects/infects each individual so differently depending on the neuroses and trauma that they bring with them into the house. I thrilled to the way that we got to experience Hill House’s terrible corridors again through contemporary eyes and modern sensibilities. And while I did find some of the characters absolutely insufferable, I think all of the personalities worked within the context of the story, and also, that’s just people, right? There’s one or two in every friend group that are annoying and unbearable. And if you care about such things, the whole story is absolutely bewitched with gorgeously golden autumnal vibes and haunting harvest-filtered imagery–which makes it an incredibly perfect October afternoon read.