Some Poetry for Halloween

Months ago, I announced that Moon Tide Press was putting out an anthology of poems inspired by horror films. Well, the anthology is out! It features 66 poets and has wicked cool cover art by Leslie White.

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If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can do so through Moon Tide’s website here, or through Amazon here.

I have three pieces in the anthology, and as a little preview, here is one of the poems:

Imagining One More Romero Movie

 

I’d like to see Romero’s take on this moment,

a time as uncanny as the dead rising,

groaning, and slow-walking towards a meal.

The elite already live in towers,

like in Land of the Dead.

The president has a tower in NYC,

barricaded by police in all-black riot gear,

like the beginning of a movie

where everything is about to go wrong.

The working-class hustle below,

their hands hard and calloused, their clothes

rife with the smell of gasoline, oil, or dirt.

Sometimes, they crane their necks, stare

at those towers, maybe to imagine a gold nameplate,

a desk, leather chair, and air-conditioned office.

 

If Romero directed one more sequel,

I wonder where he’d place the survivors.

Shopping malls are too 1980s, but maybe Starbucks,

staring at their smartphones, plugging in

before the dead bust down the doors,

rip out espresso machines, gnaw on flesh,

or maybe he’d have a horde overtake DC,

while a few remaining politicians and lobbyists

flee down K Street under a harvest moon,

until the working-class, turned, drop the gas pumps,

hammers, or call center headsets and devour the living, fed up

with slumping and staggering from job to job.

 

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy October! Favorite Horror Podcasts

Happy October! Finally, the Halloween season has arrived. On the East Coast, the temperatures have dipped and pumpkin flavored food and drinks are ever-present. I write a lot about horror films on this blog, but I thought I would share a list of some of my favorite horror-themed podcasts. For the most part, all of these deal with the horror film, but they also touch upon Gothic and horror literature and other forms of media.

In the coming days, I’ll also share a list of some of my favorite horror films that are currently streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, just as I did last year. For now, here’s my list of horror podcasts I think you should check out.

Faculty of Horror: Hosted by Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West, Faculty of Horror is one of my favorite podcasts. Primarily, it looks at horror films through an academic lens, but the content is generally accessible, engaging, and interesting. The podcast has over 60 episodes, and all of them are achieved on the website.  Films covered include classics like Psycho and The Thing to more recent films such as Funny Games and The Witch. The show notes include a reading list, featuring the articles and books mentioned in the show.

Hellbent for Horror: This podcast is hosted by S.A. Bradley, a self-proclaimed “champion” of the horror genre in all of its forms. What makes this podcast unique is that Bradley typically picks a theme, such as the woods/nature, family relations/bad blood, religion, and applies it to various horror films. This podcast is less “academic” than some of the others on my list, but it includes a nice analysis of the genre. Some episodes feature interviews with authors, fans, and experts, thus giving space to other voices.  With over 70 episodes archived to date, there is a lot to listen to.

Horror Pod Class: I discovered this podcast recently, and it’s one of my favorites. It features two high school teachers talking about the genre as a whole. They’re knowledgeable and passionate. Show notes include titles of the articles/films/books discussed during each episode.

Final Girls Horrorcast: This podcast is really unique because it only features reviews of horror films available on streaming services. The reviewers, Aimee and Carly, are funny and offer interesting takes on some well-known and lesser-known genre films. This is a great podcast to check out when you’re looking for something to stream.

Inside the Exorcist: Hosted by Mark Ramsey, the dude who hosts LORE, “Inside the Exorcist” is a multi-part podcast that digs deep into the layered story behind The Exorcist. The first few episodes focus on the 1940s case of the Georgetown boy who was allegedly possessed and served as the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s novel. The rest of the episodes focus on the stories behind the filming, including casting, and the cultural legacy of the film. This is one of the best behind-the-scenes accounts I’ve encountered on one of the most canonized films of the genre. Ramsey also created podcasts about Psycho and Jaws, so check those out as well.

Happy listening!

 

 

 

Review: The Devil’s Doorway

 

Typically, I’m not a fan of the demonic possession movie. At this point, a lot of the tropes are overplayed and it’s hard to do something unique with the subgenre. Paul Tremblay’s novel A Head Full of Ghosts is an exception that I’ll make, but the book is also hyper-aware of the subgenre’s history. That said, I do recommend  The Devil’s Doorway, a rather unnerving film released by IFC Midnight and directed by Aislinn Clarke.

Set in 1960 at a home for unwed mothers, the film follows two priests who have been sent there to document a “miracle,” a Virgin Mary statue that bleeds from its eyes. Echoing The Exorcist, the film has two priests who are on the opposite sides of the belief spectrum. The young Father John (Ciaran Flynn) is a true believer, while the older Father Thomas (Lalor Ruddy) is a skeptic and is even called a “Doubting Thomas” at one point by his counterpart. Father Thomas reminded me of The Exorcist’s Damien Karras (Jason Miller), who was not initially convinced that Regan (Linda Blair) was possessed by a demon until the film’s final act. Father Thomas does not believe that evil takes a supernatural form. Rather, he sees evil in everyday human actions

This is one of the most interesting concepts of the film. We see the “evil” Father Thomas speaks of play out as the film progresses. The nuns, especially Mother Superior (Helena Bereen), abuse the women, especially physically. Yet, there is little faith to be had in the institution of the Catholic Church to remedy the situation. Early in the film, Mother Superior tells the priests that the Church will merely hide the abuses that the priests witness. They’ll sweep it under the rug as they’ve done with other scandals. Father Thomas knows that she’s right, and it’s probably another reason why he’s simply there to do a job, to prove that there is some rational explanation for the bleeding Virgin Mary statute. He does want to report the abuses, but he knows that it will most likely be fruitless.

Once the priests meet Kathleen (Lauren Coe), a pregnant teenager who the nuns have shackled and banished to the basement, the scares really ramp up. Some of them are typical of demonic possession movies, including levitation, contorted bodies, and ancient languages spoken in a gravelly demonic voice, but because the film employs the found footage technique, some of the scares are unique. For instance, when Father John films some of the events and loses light or the camera cuts off and then on again, it allows for unsettling close-ups of Kathleen in full-blown demon mode. This is the only praise I will give the found footage technique because I think it has been overdone at this point. How many shaky camera shots can we take?

The introduction of Kathleen and the supernatural events that unfold, including exploding Virgin Mary statues, allows for the growth of Father Thomas’ character, which is again somewhat similar to Damien Karass’ character arc. It causes Father Thomas’ seemingly sturdy belief system to be shaken and questioned, which makes him more vulnerable and human. Yet, beyond the film’s supernatural elements, there is something to be said about the everyday evil that Father Thomas speaks of early in the film, the fact that these young women are abused and forced to spend hours upon hours scrubbing floors, washing sheets, or doing other remedial tasks instead of being allowed an education. Even more horrifying is the introduction of Kathleen, with cuts and lashes on her arms and shackles on her wrists. The nuns see the unwed, pregnant women as sinners, undeserving of mercy or compassion. This, indeed, is evil.

Overall, The Devil’s Doorway is a solid entry in the demonic posession subgenre. It addresses belief and skepticism in an intelligent way. Some of its images are generally creepy and haunting, and perhaps, most importantly, it uses the trope of demonic possession to address issues of gender and mortality.

The Devil’s Doorway is currently in theaters and VOD.

Side note: I encourage anyone interested in this film to read this interview with Aislinn Clarke in which she talks about the real “Magdalane Laundries” in Ireland that inspired this film. Pretty scary and eye-opening bit of history.

Some Thoughts on The Halloween Trailer

For horror fans, today’s the day. The new Halloween trailer has dropped.

There is quite a bit to digest in this nearly three minute trailer, but here are some of my general thoughts.

  • Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a badass. Much of the trailer shows Laurie Strode ready and eager to confront Michael Myers after her first encounter with him 40 years ago. She fires shotguns. She secures the house. She says, “I’ve been waiting for him.”‘
  • The film ignores all of the other Halloween movies, other than the original. This film is sort of a soft reboot, and it’s already been reported that it will be a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 film. At one point, a friend of Laurie’s granddaughter asks, “Wasn’t it her brother who murdered all of those babysitters?” The granddaughter counters, “No, that was something people made up.” So, there you have it. This film ignores the story-lines from all of the sequels, even the brother/sister story first introduced in Halloween II.
  • John Carpenter’s name is very present in the marketing. Early in the trailer, it is noted that the film was produced by John Carpenter. He also handled the score. It is likely they will continue to push and market his return to the franchise.
  • Several nods to the original. From the mental asylum story-line, to the scar on Laurie’s arm, to the closet scene at the end of the trailer, it is clear that this film will have  several nods to the original film.
  • Michael looks aged… but menacing. Just look at that mask! It is worn and tells its own story. Michael, meanwhile, looks hulking and menacing in every scene. It should be noted that Nick Castle, who played the original shape, has returned for this film.
  • Women, Laurie will face off with Michael again, but it’s clear her legacy/the plot of the first film will have a major impact on her daughter and granddaughter. At one point, her granddaughter says, “Everyone in my family turns into a nutcase during this time of year.” I hope this idea is explored, and I hope the other Strode women go toe to toe with the boogeyman.

So, there you have it. Our first glimpse at the new Halloween film is here. I am curious to what others think and what observations they may have. What are you expecting and hoping for with this film?

A Quiet Place: Masterfully Suspenseful Mainstream Horror

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John Krasinski is not the first name that comes to mind in the horror genre. Yet, A Quiet Place, which he directed, is one of the most memorable mainstream horror films of the last few years. The film stars Krasinski as Lee and his real life wife, Emily Blunt, as Evelyn. Together, they exist in a post-apocalyptic world and try to protect their children from monsters that are blind but have a heightened sense of sound.

The film handles suspense masterfully, especially in the first 15 minutes, when the family hunts an abandoned store for medicine. Evelyn needs pills for her sick son, and she slowly has to turn the bottles on the shelf to read the labels. One little sound, and she knows her family will be meat for the monsters. After exiting the store, the family walks barefoot on trails of sand so their footsteps don’t echo and alert the monsters. You hope that all of them will make it home.

The rest of the film is relentless in its use of suspense, sound, and silence. Any wrong move, like the creak of a floorboard or a scream, will doom the family. The monsters, meanwhile, break the silence with their screeches and loud thumps when they invade the family’s home.

Like any good horror film, A Quiet Place serves as a metaphor for a larger issue: parenting and the dread that you can’t protect children from a world that can be unbearably cruel. At one point, Evelyn asks Lee, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?”. Blunt and Krasinski are stellar on screen together, especially in one of the early scenes where they share earbuds, cling to each other, and slow dance. You root for this family and want them to survive, but their pained facial expressions and the threat of a monster that is always lurking in the cornstalks surrounding their farmhouse make you wonder if they’ll last until morning.

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Emily Blunt’s performance as Evelyn is fantastic. She has one of the most terrifying birthing scenes I’ve ever seen on screen. It is visceral and jarring. Her character gradually transitions to a mother who will do whatever needs to be done to protect her children. In a movie that relies so much on silence and has so little dialogue, Blunt pulls off much of her performance through body language and facial expressions.

Krasinski has a mainstream horror hit on his hands. He may be new to the genre, but he certainly understands that character development and suspense that doesn’t rely too heavily on gore are elements that make a good horror film. Blunt, meanwhile, is emotional and powerful. A Quiet Place is the best mainstream horror film of 2018 thus far.

For your holiday viewing pleasure

 

If you’re looking for a horror movie to watch during this holiday season, then let me recommend Black Christmas (1974), one of the most overlooked slasher movies that preceded Halloween but established a lot of the techniques that John Carpenter used in his much-acclaimed film.

The premise of Black Christmas is quite simple. Directed by Bob Clark, the Canadian horror flick focuses on a group of sorority sisters who are a tormented by anonymous phone calls that put them on edge when all they want to do is make plans for their holiday break. The film is loosely based on the urban legend of a killer who torments a babysitter and tells her to “check on the children,” and it is based on murders that occurred in Montreal.

So what makes Black Christmas different than other slasher films? For one, it predates the slasher wave that started in the late 1970s and peaked in the 1980s. It is generally a more innovative and unsettling film compared to all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween sequels, too. Black Christmas is a film heavy on atmosphere, from the location of the house to the squeal of violins in the soundtrack. The sorority sisters are picked off one by one, but the gore is never gratuitous. More unsettling than the deaths are the unnerving phone calls that follow.

The film also established the technique of creating a point of view from the killer’s perspective, which has been used countless times since, most notably in John Carpenter’s Halloween, which opens with a shot from a young Michael Myers’ POV, as he is about to murder his older sister, Judith. Carpenter uses this technique several times throughout the film, as Michael stalks Laurie Strode (Jaimee Lee Curtis) and her friends.

If you’re looking for a horror movie this holiday season, then check out Black Christmas. The film still holds up well and is generally creepy, especially its conclusion. It plays on the worst fears of every babysitter, and it is a lot more original than the nauseating slasher wave that followed.

If you have any Christmas horror movie recommendations, feel free to share!