Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vincent Price at Tee Villain

You can never have enough glow-in-the-dark Vincent Price shirts. Available today only (6-29-16) at

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Conjuring 2 ~ Review

If one word could be used to describe The Conjuring 2 it would be a-harrowing-ordeal. It is unrelenting, surprisingly moving and a fascinating portrait of a family in peril with the famous demonologist and psychic Ed and Lorraine Warren at the center. Like its predecessor, this movie is incredibly well cast and written with enough jump scares to satisfy causal audiences and disturbing images to cause even seasoned horror fans nightmares.

After apparently swearing off horror movies, James Wan is back behind the director's chair for Conjuring 2. He's brought his arsenal of tricks with him – quick reveal cuts, artful framing, topsy-turvy camera swings, and those prolonged pauses on darkness where the audience strains to see something in the pitch black. What he doesn't bring is anything new. By now, audiences can anticipate his next move and the overly familiar plot doesn't help matters. However, he compensates by changing the timing of the scares. They're never when you think they should be and this is how he builds suspense. One mesmerizing scene starts with a faux startle with a painting, and then is so patiently sinister you have time to realize how much your anxiety levels are rising. The effect is maddening.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farming's performances as Ed and Lorraine Warren once again ground the film and give it a profound depth. Even with its long running time (2h 14min), you can't help but be mesmerized by their chemistry. Also, the film spends a great deal of time with the Hodgsons family drama, making their subsequent agony much more resonant. This kind of patience reminds me of 70s haunted house films that focused on characters before the horror. Caring about the characters makes you more invested as an audience, which makes their plight even more frightening. (Stay through the end credits to see pictures of the actual family and actual recordings of a possessed Janet.)

It's rare for a sequel to measure up to the quality of the predecessor, and this is definitely a solid film. It is exhausting, consistency ratcheting up the dread, and then pummeling you with sudden abject terror – everything a horror film should be. It's also rare (and slightly odd) when an audience claps at the end of film, but I joined in when the audience at my screening burst into applause.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Outcast: Pilot Review

I'll admit that Cinemax's new series, Outcast snuck up on me. I knew it was based on a comic book from Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, but did not realize that it was a bonafied horror show. The story is set in a small town in West Virginia under attack by demonic forces. At the center is a loner (Patrick Fugit) who seems to be connected to the mysterious possessions, and a reverend (Philip Glenister) who helped him as a child.

The casting is spot on to the comic book, and the pilot which follows the source material almost frame by frame is genuinely creepy, dark, and expertly directed by Adam Wingard (the up-and-coming horror director who helmed You're Next, The Guest, and the upcoming The Woods). And even though the protagonist is brooding and the surroundings are bleak, the pilot moves along swiftly and is action-packed. Being on paid cable, they definitely aren't holding back on the gore, supernatural elements, or the unpleasant abuse of young people (to be fair, one is possessed).

The show does raise a few questions. So far it sounds like The Walking Dead with demons instead of zombies, right? Production wise, there is much attention to detail, and the world they are creating is fully realized. This lends a supernatural series much-needed gravitas. Will this pace continue throughout the series? Probably not, but there's enough mystery to draw you in, and the characters are genuinely likable. Does it feel groundbreaking? Not exactly, but when something is done right, even the mundane stuff seems intriguing. I'll will be tuning in Fridays at 10pm on Cinemax to find out more, and the meantime you can stream the entire pilot for free here:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Halfway to Halloween

(un)Officially this is supposed to be April 30, but as most Halloween home haunters could appreciate, I'm running late!!! Happy Halfway to Halloween!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Eli Roth's CLOWN is headed our way

Pennywise gets a run for his money in the new film CLOWN, produced by Eli Roth and directed by Jon Watts (who's currently working on the Spiderman reboot). A father hires a clown for his kid's birthday party (because that's what kids want in 2016) but fails to show up. Luckily, he finds a clown costume in the attic and saves the day. But in the morning, he realizes he can't take it off – it's fusing to his skin, and it's changing him. Yikes. Looks like this falls under the body horror genre with an interesting coulrophobia angle, and while the premise is great, early reviews are mixed.

The original Italian poster (below left) was banned citing it was too disturbing for general audiences. Note the tagline "No child is safe" and the bloodier nose and lips. American audiences will get the revised poster below (below right).

CLOWN is headed to a limited release and VOD on June 17. Take a look at the terrifying trailer:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beware the Slenderman

The true crime documentary Beware the Slenderman premiered last month at the SXSW festival and is coming to HBO soon. It deals with two young girls who attempted to kill their friend to appease Slenderman, a fictional monster that arose out of an internet meme.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sleepy Hollow: What Went Wrong

Sleepy Hollow's third and likely final season aired this weekend, and the finale perfectly captured everything that was terrible and wonderful about the show. What started as a fun, nerdy, and thrilling genre show quickly became an incoherent mess plagued with behind-the-scenes drama.

The show's two brightest assets were the charming Tom Mison as the old-school Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as the likably pragmatic Lt. Abie Mills. No matter how contrived the circumstances as the two faced increasingly odd supernatural forces, the chemistry between the two actors was infectious and kept many viewers coming back. The storylines which often intertwined historical events with inventive supernatural revisionism, a trend that was popularized with Seth Grahame Smith's mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was also a draw.

In the fantastic first season, the two faced the Headless Horseman (of the Apocalypse!!) and a twisty story that set-up a brilliant premise. Then, the underwhelming second season made a series of missteps including a complicated mythology, a focus on Crane's intolerable witch wife Katrina, an emasculating backstory for the horseman that removed all the terror, an annoying Indiana Jones-type character named Hawley that brought the show to turgid halt, and worse of all, an insignificant side story about Sheriff Frank Irving (featuring the outstanding Orlando Jones). By season three, the shark had officially been jumped and we were treated to Pandora's lackluster box, a one-note ancient god (I. DESTROY. ALL. HUMANS. And stuff.), an endless trip to the interdimensional catacombs were Mills (and the remaining audience) went mad.

Behind the scenes, the show was in turmoil (and hopefully one day we'll witness the full story right from the horseman's mouth). Orlando Jones wanted out since his role was never fully developed, there was huge fan backlash against Katrina and Hawley, ratings struggled, the show was moved from a prestigious Thursday night to a dumping ground of Friday night, and even Nicole Beharie reportedly also wanted out of her contract. And most troubling, the showrunner (the person responsible for day-to-day management, operations, and overall creative authority) quit the series. Oy.

The third season was set up for failure from the beginning and as the finale proved, it was a discordant, boring mess held together by two fine performances of Mison and Beharie. The writers gave Mills a send off in midseason winter finale (when she walked into an exploding tree portal?) but the network reconsidered and brought her back for the rest of the season for an even more abrupt finale. The connection between these two characters is what made Sleepy Hollow tolerable and the really the only reason to tune in. I've made peace with this as a fitting series finale since it wrapped up much of the dangling storylines, reconnected long lost characters, and brought a blissful end to two of my favorite characters in a long time. It's so disappointing that the promise of this series never fully materialized, but we'll always have the fun first season.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad!

Christine McConnell is one amazing talent. From her freakish baked goods to her impeccably styled photography, her brand is utterly unique and fascinating – a 1950s pin-up with a penchant for pastry and light-hearted horror. It is sublime, and I have eagerly awaited it's arrival since the announcement last year. Eight months later, Deceptive Desserts: A Lady's Guide to Baking Bad! is finally here and it is the book of the year for Halloween enthusiasts.

Granted this is not specifically a Halloween book per se, and is divided by seasons. Each glossy, full-color page reveals things like a Red Velvet Reptilian Cake with sharp teeth and red candy glass shards or Cat Lady Gelatin with floating apple chunks and a side bowl of cinnamon kibble. The Fall brings a Tarantula Cookie with caramel and prickly coconut, and a Caramel Popcorn cat with spider legs. Even Christmas gets a trick with a Serpentine Spice Cake wrapped in a peppermint fondant snake. All this monstrosity is precisely summed up by McConnell, "I prefer a world where the sweets bite back."

This gorgeous hardcover book is exquisitely designed and features pictures of every recipe, as well as assembly and presentation directions. I honestly don't have the talent to make "pretty food", but the step-by-step directions certainly makes me feel like I could. And at 280 pages it's no light endeavor. This is a serious book that rivals the quality of the best Martha Stewart's Halloween book.

McConnell has revealed every trick to her treats in Deceptive Desserts – all designed on a shoestring budget! – easily earning her the title of "Queen of Creepy Cookies". And she does it all! She's a photographer, a stylist, a baker, creates much of the costumes, crafts the sets, and even models in her pictures. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, or revel in her gorgeous photography on Instagram and Flicker. And most importantly get Deceptive Desserts immediately (order from her website directly and get a signed copy).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016