Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dog Days of Summer Reads

August is the last, long, hot crawl through summer and into our favorite season: Autumn! How to pass the time? Reading of course! Here's a few recommendations for getting through the rest of the summer and into the golden pumpkin spice days ahead.

Grady Hendrix's novel My Best Friend's Exorcism is a funny, nostalgic trip through the 80s with real heart. The premise follows two young girls from 10th grade through the perils of high school when one of them is seemingly possessed by a demon. It doesn't add much to the supernatural genre but as an American satire of friendship and puberty it was certainly entertaining. It's totally awesome.

Loved the Ghostbusters reboot? For those lucky few in the front row, the book Ghosts from our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively featured prominently in the movies was actually printed and a fantastic souvenir/tie-in book. It has great illustrations, hilarious lists of ghosts phenomenon, and what may be some real research on the paranormal. Probably not – who knows or cares, but it's incredibly entertaining and written from the perspective of the two characters from the movie, Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates. By the way, order the UK version which is hardcover and about $2.50 more than the cheaper U.S. paperback (available on Amazon).

While we're all familiar with the stories of the Brothers Grimm, I'ver never actually read any of them. Thankfully, the new collection Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm has arrived and this passion project from Gris Grimly is lovingly restored to it's uncut, grim form and filled with his whimsical and dark illustrations. Everything about this book from the gold foil insignia on the cover (under the dust jacket) to the smooth, deckled edge paper feels special. This is not be missed and will make a great addition to any haunted library.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

AHS Teaser Fatigue

We're up to 19 (!) teasers for AHS Season 6 and Fox is calling some intentional misdirects or fake-outs. Is anyone else experiencing teaser fatigue? It's like when the prom queen keeps reminding you she's the Prom. F-ing. Queen.

“American Horror Story” just dropped FOUR new teasers — but only one is real!!!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things ~ Review

I grew up in the 80s, and I must admit that nostalgia sways my opinion about films and TV shows set in my formative era. That said, Netflix's new series Stranger Things is easily the best show of the summer crowded with very strong genre contenders (Preacher, Outcast, BrainDead). It is an ambitious love letter to kinds of films that I love.

Divided into eight "chapters" the story (that due to it's brevity is best discovered than discussed here) echoes early Stephen King and his infamous "The Shop" where gifted people were studied and exploited. There's also early John Carpenter references to his weirder sci-fi mind-bending elements (long live the new flesh!), and topped with Steven Spielberg's unique family-oriented perspective where kids in peril undertake some great adventure. It's a very wild, serious, entertaining and emotionally resonant concoction that seems so perfectly out of time.

Written and directed by newcomers, The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things unfurls efficiently with absolutely no filler. Binging on this show definitely brings out its more cinematic underpinnings, because really, it's an 8-hour movie. Every episode seamlessly moves into the other with cohesive style and pace. It helps that the creators directed the majority of the series, a rarity in scripted series.

Much of the success can also be attributed to the incredible young cast who gives very rare, natural performances. Their camaraderie feels like these kids actually grew up together. Even the mostly unknown adult ensemble pulls off great performances. Winona Ryder is strangely not the standout with her quirky, affected performance that is a bit over the top. Add to this very understated costumes, props, sets, and lighting that complete the mood of quintessential 80s filmmaking.

This is a must-watch for fans of 80s horror/sci-fi and highly recommended for general audiences. It may not have the flashy effects, jump scares, or be saturated with CGI, but this is a very special series and one of the best that Netflix has produced.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Yankee Candle 50% Off Sale

"Just in case" you want your home smelling like Autumn, here's a 50% off coupon for all candles and home fragrance at YankeeCandle.com (promo code: EMPLOYEE). Offer expires August 14.

Also, don't forget their Halloween Preview Sale happening Saturday, August 27 at 10am.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Paranormal Witness, Season 5

Surprise?! Paranormal Witness is back with Season 5, which premiered last Wednesday, August 3. SyF's erratic schedule (sometimes you wait years between seasons and sometimes it's just a few months) and poor promotion (we dare to find out when our shows air!) is astonishing. Thankfully one of the best supernatural shows is back! Yay! Watch Wednesdays at 10/9C.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

American Horror Story: Season 6 Teasers

The first teasers for American Horror Story: Season 6 arrived on Snapchat today. We have a desolate remote house, black smoke forming a 6(66?), a crib, and a demon baby hand. So maybe a follow-up to S1: Murder House's demon baby that Constance stole?

See the teasers on Lady Gaga's Twitter feed:

Some on Twitter are also suggesting the image below spells out "PIG" which could be in reference to the Manson Family. After murdering some people they wrote PIG on the wall with the victim's blood. So could this season be about satanic cults?

More clues here: http://tinyurl.com/gscmftp

(The guessing game is the usually the most fun part of this show.)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Disney's Tower of Terror to Close Down

The only reason I've ever wanted to go to Disney California Adventure was the breathtaking and iconic Tower of Terror ride. With the Twilight Zone license lapsing and Disney's recent acquisition of Marvel, the Disney decided now would be a great time to convert the ride to a Galaxy of the Guardians-themed ride. It was officially announced on the Disney Parks Blog last Saturday after months of internet speculation. Tower of Terror is scheduled to close in January 2017, so at least we have some time to enjoy it the haunted goodness. The "new" ride with the Guardian makeover will open in the Summer of 2017 to coincide with the sequel.

Lights Out ~ Review

Horror films are wily things. The most effective ones strike at the inner core of your psyche where irrational fears reside. Fear of the dark is one of those lingering tenants that nudge us whenever there's a dark alley, a musty unlit basement, or a long echoey walk in a desolate subterranean parking lot. The boogeyman is always out there waiting for you. Lights Out capitalizes on this precise fear with a lean, mean and satisfying narrative that culminates in a good little film.

This is the first feature from writer and director David F. Sandberg and it's based on his 2013 short of the same name. Expanded from three minutes to 81 minutes, the film is slight but cleverly builds on its original concept giving us enough of an origin story without over explanation, well-drawn characters, and a definitive conclusion. Side note: The ending of the original short has given me nightmares to this day.

Performances are solid. Teresa Palmer (from Warm Bodies) is up to the emotional challenge of dealing with her mentally ill mother (the always fabulous Maria Bello), her nettlesome younger brother (the doleful Gabriel Bateman recently seen in Cinemax's Outcast pilot), and a creature that appears only when the lights are out.

The film is produced by James Wan (The Conjuring) who stumbled upon the short and decided to give the director an opportunity to broaden his vision. Wan's on-set presence is felt in the final film with the swooping camera moves, quick cuts, and mainly practical effects. The pace is good, and the characters oddly do what normal people would do in this kind of situation. I was surprised by how quickly everyone accepted that a supernatural creature was attacking them but I think if something out of thin air was physically attacking me, I'd accept it pretty quickly myself. And no that claw mark as not the wind!

The film's main stumbling point is the screenplay and the awkward dialogue with loads of exposition lodged into long, chunky monologues. Kids do not talk like that. Adults do not talk like that to children. I suppose the film is trying to be efficient but unfortunately, the unimaginative solution of telling the backstory is having the characters narrate flashbacks. This is much too mundane for such a nifty film. Also, it can also be argued that the film is making a bold statement about mental illness and the outcome is politically frustrating.

Lights Out is solid, fun-size film that deserves to be seen. And then feared later than night when all your lights are off. It's a good first feature and look forward to Sandberg's next movie, which happens to be Annabelle 2.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


One of the movies I've most looked forward to this year is The Woods which early reviews are calling one of the scariest films ever made. At ComicCon, distributor Lionsgate surprised everyone by revealing that The Woods is actually going to be called BLAIR WITCH and is a direct sequel to the 1999 film, The Blair Witch Project! Whaaaa?! Instantly my excitement went to complete despair. WHYYY! In The Age of Sequels, Reboots and Reimaginings I hope studios take chances on new visions of horror and bring new stories to the screen. But I forget this is all about the money. Lionsgate could have kept the original title and viewers could have discovered the connection to The Blair Witch Project on their own inciting tremendous word of mouth but now, the movie is guaranteed to open big. For the sake of horror fans who don't like to be tricked, the movie better be amazing. The second "official" trailer for Blair Witch looks much less promising than the original trailer for The Woods. It opens September 16.



The movie poster before and after the reveal:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) ~ Review

Remakes, reboots and reimaginings get no love at all because they compete again nostalgia and, yes, very often slightly better filmmaking. It's easy to judge them harshly by comparison, but approaching them with an open mind is essential. Thankfully, the new Ghostbusters made clever decisions to avoid treading on scared ground by going in new directions like casting female protagonists and creating an original (if tepid) story. The tone is spot on. The effects are fun and colorful. And the cast is very funny even when the script fails them.

Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and the outstanding Kate McKinnon, who upstages the entire cast, work great together and if anything one wishes they were allowed to cut loose and let that PG-13 rating slip into R-rated territory (this freedom gave director Paul Feig's other films Bridesmaids, Spy, and Knocked Up a sharp comedic edge). It's clear this expensive production was aiming for a very wide summer audience despite its undaunted (niche?) ambition: to boldly go where few women have gone before?

Arguably, the original 1984 Ghostbusters was a mainstream film aimed primarily at male geeks, and now it's geared to an unconventional female audience*. I found this approach refreshing and internet trolls found it despicable causing exhausting tirades. Bottom line: the female-led cast is the best thing about the film, and its shrewdest move.

However, the wobbly script desperately needed to call a genre writer. Even one of the funniest bits (ahem, Chris Hemsworth) that was ripe (ripped?) with possibilities went nowhere (I heard an audience member say, "What the point of having a Hemsworth in a movie with his shirt on?). And the stakes in the final act aren't all that dire since we don't have the Bill Murray/Sigourney Weaver-type characters in peril/love/hate. Other notable missteps, were the "special cameos" (lovable as they are) take you right out of the moment. Also, the villain is So. Typical. I would have loved if a well-read but spoiled 13-year brat was responsible for the ensuing mess.

I saw the film in 3D and was mightily surprised that they treated the format with new respect. I hadn't seen this before in a 3D film but they created a "false frame" around the film (the black bars remained on top and bottom of the projection). Then some – but not all! – the 3D elements broke that frame creating further depth to the effect. It was a spectacular touch that really drove home the gimmick and worthy upgrading to a 3D ticket.

Ghostbusters is an entertaining popcorn flick that's perfect for a breezy summer evening, and I'd love to see another one with these magnificent ladies wearing the proton packs. Although for the next one, cut them loose and let them do their thing.

(*By comparison, I imagine someone trying to remake The Notebook for a male audience by setting it in an apocalyptic space world with aging robots that have finally discovered a neural process called "love". Flashback to the manufacturing plant on Pluto where a scantily-clad Cosmoscientist Megan Fox solders a memory chip onto the N.O.A.H.  Any agents out there? I'll get you my treatment for The Notebook: Reckoning immediately.)