Sunday, November 20, 2016

American Horror Story: Roanoke ~ Season Review

Everything about American Horror Story: Roanoke is off-kilter. From the super secretive theme that was not revealed until the first episode to the excessive amount of teasers trailers to a narrative structure that is both familiar and odd. At only 10 episodes, the shortened season also seems like a challenge for the writers who typically shove many (hundreds?) of plot lines into one season. Then there is an unshakeable feeling that this has been an elaborate experiment.

The first five episodes prove that AHS can be scary, linear, and give actors meaty opportunities to stretch themselves in very dark ways. As a show-within-a-show, "My Roanoke Nightmare" is told in the dramatic reenactment/survivor-interview style of shows like Paranormal Witness and A Haunting. We know instantly that whatever horrors lie ahead, these people will survive. It lowers the stakes but also shifts the focus onto the story, characters, and ambience of the creepiest house since Amityville. The house itself is a character with round eye porthole windows, large lung-shaped picture window in the center, and a spiral staircase like a throat. The very ground pulses like a breathing animal.

But this also inadvertently highlights one of AHS ongoing problems: none of the characters are likable and viewers end up cheering for The Butcher and the menagerie of beasties to cut these whining people to shreds. Effective horror writing requires that viewers identify with or remotely feel empathy/sympathy for the protagonist. Sadly no one here, even the young girl, are worth remembering much less saving. Nonetheless, the nods to genre pastiche are effective and the show is incredibly entertaining. Then the first big twist arrives as the show-within-a-show comes to an end and AHS switches gears.

Episodes 6-9 become a found-footage-style behind-the-scenes making of a second season of the show, and while it's an interesting concept, the execution is fumbled. We are immediately told that only one survived the second ordeal at Roanoke, again lowering the stakes and making it a distracting guessing game. The survivors return to the house with the flimsiest of motivations (I want to reconnect with my estranged husband–in hell!) and as usual, the "real" actors are portrayed as self-centered idiots. It all too quickly becomes a repetitive slaughter and the found footage angle quickly becomes an incredulous crutch (let me hold this camera steady on my face while you're hacking away at me). Why is found footage still a thing?!

After no real surprises and some seriously grisly deaths, Episode 10 caps off the season with Lana Winters (from Season 2: Asylum) interviewing the sole survivor. This fulfills producer Ryan Murphy's promise that all the seasons are loosely connected because–oh who cares. Anyhoo, the episode literally races to the finish line with so much sphincter-cramming nonsense (there's the AHS we know) and yet ends with a resounding whimper. WHAT. THE. HELL. Again, ideas swirl in my head like why didn't they keep the behind the scenes approach (sans found footage) and really delve into the haunting, why this land, what happened to the colony, the real butcher whose appearance was all too brief and unnerving, and show how fact and fiction really differ. For a season to start with such a strong conceit and squander it was disheartening.

It should also be noted that this season is quite a judgy commentary on horror. Is Season 6 mocking the very fans who love horror and this series? Referring to Episode 10's flashback scene at PaleyFest (a real annual TV festival hosted in LA) the rambunctious audience laughs mindlessly and cheers on the "My Roanoke Nightmare" cast who delivers canned, cheesy quips to their vacuous delight. I guess horror fans are all indiscriminate, dumb consumers of entertainment.

I'm not certain yet how this season will stack up to the other seasons – time is needed to percolate – but like others it is neither a complete failure nor resounding success. Episodes 1-5 get a "A-" while episodes 6-9 get a "C", and episode 10 gets a "D". Averaging to:


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Halloween Post-Mortem

Autumn really kicks in October in Northern California, bringing very high winds and rain. I survived mostly unscathed, and although rain was forecast for the entire Halloween evening, not one drop fell over our neighborhood. Our finally tally of  trick 'r treaters:


I finally checked a Dia de los Muertos theme off the bucket list, due mostly to my dear friend Britta Peterson of Eerie Elegance who gifted me her gravestone artwork, a ton of flowers and decor first used in her 2015 Day of the Dead display. My approach was more of a Dia de los Muertos meets Halloween so there were jack-o-lanterns throughout plus things like giant spider webs, projected spiders, and orange was the highlight color! The neighborhood also seemed to respond much more favorably to a family-friendly, colorful Halloween display. (Up the block we have neighbor who prefers a guts-n-gore type of display and that rarely goes over well.) 



We also hosted a large Halloween party this year – the first since 2010 – which also happens to be our last! The time, effort, and cost of such big parties is just too much, and I'd rather enjoy the holiday season rather than worry about guest counts, menus, and booze. As farewells go, this party was a blast and I loved that we went out with Dia de los Muertos theme!

I hope you enjoyed your Halloween season! We're heading back to the tomb and hibernating for a long while.

Scarrry Jerry
Editor-in-Mischief




Monday, October 31, 2016

Have a Scary Halloween!

Horroray! We've made it to another Halloween! This year I celebrated the afterlife with a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) meets Halloween theme. The full album will be posted soon at MyScaryHalloween.com, but for now here are a few pictures of this year's display, featuring gravestone artwork designed and constructed by Britta Peterson, Webmistress of the Dark (visit EerieElegance.com).

Have a scary Halloween!

Scarrry Jerry
Editor-in-Mischief







Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tlachtga: The Birthplace of Halloween

From the University College Dublin*:

Archaeologists from University College Dublin have completed the first excavations of a hilltop enclosure in Ireland reputed to be the birthplace of Halloween.

Using airborne laser surveys and geophysical techniques, before the excavation the archaeologists were able to identify that there are at least two forts on the site -- one measuring 150 metres in diameter which was partly built on top of another, ever larger, fort measuring almost 200 metres wide.

"The surveys clearly reveal that the site - Tlachtga, known locally as the Hill of Ward - has several different phases of monumental enclosures and we believe them to be associated with festivals and rituals potentially dating back as far as 1,000BC," says Dr Steve Davis from the UCD School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Ireland.

"Given the size, this was almost certainly a key ritual site for many generations."

During the three week excavations the archaeologists uncovered the skeletal remains of a young 6-12 month old child, which may date back some 3,000 years, from the bedrock at the base of a 1.5m trench. The remains will undergo a full scientific analysis.

Samhain which was celebrated from sunset on 31st October to sunset on 1st November marked the end of the harvest season and the start of winter. It is believed that torches were lit from the sacred fire on the site on the Hill of Tlachtga and then carried to several other hills around the county including the Hill of Tara (which is about 12 miles away).

Funding for the excavation was provided by the Office of Public Works, Meath County Council, the Heritage Council and the Royal Irish Academy. It involved a team of six professional archaeologists and about 20 volunteers.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNBsHwsS6lY

*Text and video posted by University College Dublin (July 31, 2014).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Book of Hallowe'en

Ruth Edna Kelley wrote the book on Hallowe'en. Literally. According to Lisa Morton in her book, Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, Ms. Kelley was a 26-year-old librarian who researched the holiday in her spare time while holding a full-time job at the Lynn Public Library in Massachusetts. The book is a scholarly look at the history of America and dives deeply into the regional folklore, celebration rituals, and even a little mysticism, most notably in the divination games where young adults sought to find messages about future suitors in ashes, seeds or other devices. Written in 1919, this book was the first ever about our beloved Halloween.

For those who prefer audiobooks, New Paradigm Press Audio has just released a new audio version of the book, read by Oliver Vale (available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes). The audiobook is a short listen - 2 hours and 31 minutes and well worth an afternoon listen. It's clear the narrator is having a good time with the content, but even though it's an old-fashioned book, it's a necessary read for anyone who loves Halloween. You have to know the roots to really appreciate what came after, and I'm thinking Ms. Kelley never imagined a Halloween like the one we now celebrate.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cat Watching Horror Movie

Tomorrow is National Cat Day (October 29) and I present you with the BEST cat video ever: Cat Watching Horror Movie!


https://youtu.be/_kgRFHaNo-Y

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Nightmare Before Christmas ~ An Honest Trailer

Is nothing sacred to those Honest Trailers folks!? No, I guess not. Let the roast begin...


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Punkin' Carving Time

One of my annual traditions is carving pumpkins with my nephew in hopes that the Halloween bug has been passed on. I am happy to report that this year, he asked for scary decorations to make his house like Uncle Scary's house. Yes!!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Our Awesome Neighbors!

As a yard haunter, nothing brings me more joy than seeing our community respond to our Halloween display. I always wonder if people think we're nuts, obsessed, or crazy. It's so awesome that they love it and took the time to write us a handcrafted card. Wow!