Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Trouble with Slender Man

Sony Picture's trailer for Slender Man (below) was released this week and it while seems to be purposefully obtuse, it's still very creepy. Unfortunately, the origin story behind this supernatural creature with a featureless face that hunts children is quite tragic and may ultimately taint it's success.

It started on the now-called "literary site" Creepypasta, where visitors share their scary stories, photos and even videos. It's a true time sink for those who love scary stuff. Slender Man appeared in 2009 and slowly became a phenomenon. This generation devoid of a Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, finally had their very own boogieman. I've always thought Slender Man to be a mix of "The Gentlemen" from the 1999's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Cthulhu, the elder god with tentacles, from HP Lovecraft's work.

Yet none of it is real. Right? In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a classmate in an attempt to appease the Slender Man who they believed was stalking them and their families. Thankfully, the victim survived but it brought a renewed concern about minors on the internet and the inherent problem of discerning fact from fiction (fake news anyone?).

HBO Films released a disturbing documentary called Beware the Slenderman last year about the events and aftermath of the girl's crime, revealing that the one who orchestrated the attack was diagnosed with childhood onset schizophrenia. In the subsequent 2017 court cases, both attackers who were tried as adults, cited mental disease or defect, and have been hospitalized, one receiving a 25-year sentence to a mental institution.

On the heels of the trailer's release, the father of one of the attackers quickly voiced his opposition to the movie citing a distasteful move on the studio's part to cash in on the tragedy and thus extending the pain of the three families involved. It's a valid point and the cry across the internet is unanimous: too soon. As fascinating as Slender Man is as a property, it's inexorably tied to a real and tragic event that only came to a resolution last fall and reeks of opportunism.

Backlash like a recent online petition to shut down Creepypasta may be working as the site seems to be inaccessible (although their Facebook page and app are still running). I disagree that this one site is the cause of all children's peril on the internet but mobs do like a good scapegoat. The movie is scheduled for release in May 2018 which might end up being postponed if the backlash continues to escalate.

Monday, January 8, 2018

El Caribe

I started the new year in "El Caribe" (or The Caribbean) and ended up in Hell, literally. The town of Hell in Grand Cayman offers a horrific limestone landscape that likely gave the town it's name. The juxtaposition of the beautiful island and this vision was startling. Incidentally, Hell offers a unique passport stamp.

From here, I headed to the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich in Belize. A woman in white with fire-red glowing eyes is said to appear by "El Castillo" (or the tower) which ascends some 130 feet from it's bottom steps (add another 100 feet or so since it sits on a tall hill). It's one of the few pyramids left that visitors are allowed to climb. It's a treacherous though with no handrails and very small platforms, but I did it! On the bus ride home, I had a dream of a very tall 20-foot woman/being dressed in white feathers, yellow glowing eyes, hair that became tree roots, and a horned crown. I had not heard the story about the woman in white until after I shared the dream with my travel companions.

The Yucat√°n peninsula was the last stop and here I visited the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza which is a mainstay on the show Ancient Aliens. Our tour guide repeatedly emphasized that the Maya were not from outerspace. Um, okay. Though Mayans are not believed to have sacrificed humans, remains have been found in one of the towers on the site. There were plenty of street vendors who had a bounty of exquisite Mexican crafts to offer the nearly 2000 people who visit the site daily. 

The sea was fairly calm and we had a full moon while on the cruise. It was absolutely stunning the way it lit up the sky. Going to the Mayan ruins was definitely a bucket list item for me, and yes I rewatched the excellent movies The Ruins and The Shrine on the plane!  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Yuletide Horror Movies

At this time a year when things twinkle bright, fans of scary movies sit patiently awaiting a morsel of yuletide horror, a small but resilient sub-genre. Some films feature the darker side of Christmas (since many traditions do have questionable origins) and some use the holiday season as a backdrop since dark, cold desolate nights and raging snowstorms do cause blackouts and isolation. Here’s a recommended list to tide you over this abysmally cheerful season.

Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton’s holiday mash up gets a lot of attention at Halloween but is often overlooked as the Christmas classic that is is – and one you can see with most of the family.

Krampus (2015)
The director of Trick ‘r Treat takes on Christmas and the Alpine folklore beast that punishes those who are naughty instead of nice. Kooky and absurd with a very dubious ending!

Rare Exports (2010)
Who or rather what is the real Santa Clause is revealed in this coming-of-age Finnish film that plays like an alternate universe Spielberg film.

Saint/Sint (2010)
Downright silly at times, this tale takes another look at Santa’s true supernatural form according to the Dutch which includes some pretty bad behavior.

Gremlins (1984)
Gift-giving is examined in this story of a boy and fuzzy creature that must be tended by three very specific rules. It again proves that pets should never be given as gifts.

Better Watch Out (2017)
The holidays are a backdrop to this twisty take on the babysitter in peril story. Sure it's filled with absurd logic and implausibility, but still manages to be quite entertaining.

Black Christmas (1974/2006)
The old-school moody original set the stage for serial killer flicks to come, and the gory remake dazzles in it’s nastiness and campy tone.

A Christmas Carol (2009)
At it’s core, this is a story about ghosts on one cold December evening. The outcome may be jolly, the ensuing chaos is downright de-frightful.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
An uneven anthology of Christmas-themed stories that culminate in an epic Krampus versus Santa battle!

Christmas Evil (1980)
Another infamous gem from the 80s is more trick than treat, but still manages to be both timely and sleazy with a killer finish.

Need more suggestions? Check out Film School Rejects list of Christmas Horror: Every Christmas Horror Movie Ranked.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Last-Minute Shopping

If you are like me, you are starting to think about your holiday shopping. For the person on your list who likes scary stuff, here are a few recommendations. Shipping times this close to Christmas are dicey so upgrade that shipping!

Krampus Nutcracker available from Dellamorteco

Elvira Jewelry Collection from Sweet Romance Jewelry

The Art fo COCO available on Amazon.

Drawn to the Dark: Explorations in Scare Tourism Around the World
from Chris Kullstroem,

Home Haunting for Mere Mortals book from Hayes Haunt.

Krampus Funko Pop figure available on Amazon

Retro Krampus Scarf from Archie McPhee

John Carpenter Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998
available on Amazon

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Elvira Jewelry Collection

While Santa’s helpers don their holiday best, we Creepmas lovers need something festive but frightening. There is no greater icon of Halloween style than Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. With Sweet Romance’s exclusive Elvira Jewelry Collection, you can channel mesmerizing magic and spooky beauty. Each comes in a collector’s Elvira box with an insert written to you from the Queen of Halloween.

Elvira’s Magic Ruby Ring
Hauntingly beautiful and possibly powerful, Elvira’s signature ruby ring is handmade by designer Shelley Cooper in the Sweet Romance Los Angeles studio. Cast in bronze and heavily clad in 14K gold, this ring features a gorgeous Swarovski ruby stone.

Elvira’s Vampire Bat Bracelet
Santa may be up all night on December 24th, but you can sport the real guardian of the night – the bat – on your wrist with Elvira’s Vampire Bat bracelet. These bracelets are meticulously detailed, from the lithe form of the bat to the tiny spiderweb charm added to the hook closure. Made from authentic bronze and silver, these bracelets have gothic flair that will bring a touch of the dark side to any Creepmas event.

Elvira’s Cat on a Crystal Ball Necklace
Draw eyes at your next holiday event with this statement necklace. Created with burnished bronze and fine crystals, the necklace features a cat figurine atop a reflective crystal ball. With its back arched and eyes alert, this cat warns all to stay on their toes.

Order now and enjoy free shipping on U.S. orders!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Better Watch Out ~ Review

Oh the holidays! A time to snuggle up with loved ones and watch Christmas horror movies. Yes, horror. Seems like scary movies keep invading the yuletide season as movie viewers seek a refuge from the ceaseless joy, merriment, and fruitcake.

This year's best new offering is called Better Watch Out and while far from great, it is a very entertaining film. The teenager has the hots for his babysitter who is being stalked by a stranger during one unfortunate night. To reveal any more would spoil the absurdly implausible fun of this Home Alone redux with a real mean streak. The big reveal happens early in the film and the cat-and-mouse game is mostly a nonstarter (since said cat is tied up and gagged), but the premise is interesting enough to keep you invested through the end.

Also interesting, the original title "Safe Neighborhood" was smartly changed to a much more holiday-centric title to delight general audiences – but not delightful enough to warrant a wide theatrical release. It's available to stream on the Shudder app and this week's 99¢ rental on the iTunes store.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Beyond the Walls

BEYOND THE WALLS is a French miniseries that proves horror on TV can be great (ahem, AHS). Find it on the very fun Shudder site/app.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Coco ~ Review

COCO is beautifully realized, richly emotional storytelling, and a resonate love letter to Mexican traditions. It's Pixar's tried-and-true formula of a kid on mission but set against a dazzling Dia de Muertos backdrop. It also has an acute cultural perspective, checking off the many icons of Mexican life (pushy abuelas, abundant tamales, tequila, mariachis, and the dreaded "chancla") along with cultural phrases that were never translated or explained. Will it play to non-Mexican audiences as broadly as other Pixar films? For example, the music is wonderfully authentic and while I was joyfully tapping my toes, my movie companion seemed nonplussed at eschewing recognizable tunes (The Book of Life's music is definitively pop). Yet there's more than enough ghoulish touches to satisfy the masses obsessed whimsical skeleton shenanigans. But skeletons are for Halloween right, not Thanksgiving. The release date seems puzzling but COCO soon reveals a tender core with a truly moving story of family. The tone is surprisingly solemn at times and it defiantly embraces death, which is unexpected for a family holiday film. This is one of Pixar's best and an instant classic – and their best chance for Oscar gold in a long time.