A Grief Interlude

It seems so strange to interrupt an ongoing tribute to a now deceased famous person who affected my life significantly…to talk about recent deaths of similarly significant celebrities. And yet here I am, writing this post rather than writing one of my Cravenous reviews as I continue to make my way (very slowly) through Wes Craven’s oeuvre.

There have been several deaths recently within the celebrity circuit. It’s rather alarming, actually, how many famous people have departed the realm in the past month or so—and not celebrities who we might have anticipated leaving us. It’s one thing when someone tips the scales into the upper 80s or even 90s and then leaves us still wanting more but grateful that they were there to inspire and entertain us for as long as they were.

No. These have been wholly unexpected (at least by the general public) and wholly depressing. These have been the deaths of people still active in their crafts, be it music or acting or writing or art. These were early deaths. Painful deaths from an illness far too prevalent among us all. For me personally, I find that the recent deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman have been almost as upsetting as Craven’s unexpected death in August of last year. Both were 69 years old. Both succumbed after lengthy yet quiet battles against cancer.

For Bowie, I confess that I didn’t start actively getting into his music until a few years ago. To me, he was first Jareth the Goblin King.

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I’ve already written about the significance of Jim Henson and his Muppets to my early years. Make no mistake that I consider Bowie to be a crucial part of that significance. His performance as the Goblin King to Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah is what made Labyrinth as captivating and memorable as it was. Plus, Bowie wrote all the music for the movie, which he of course performed.

It was his appearance as Jareth that I found most compelling, with the whimsical (though slightly lewd) costumes, the magnificent hair, and the most stunning makeup, made all the more ethereal by his one eye with the forever-dilated pupil. He was beautiful. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it wasn’t just Jareth who was beautiful. It was Bowie himself. Androgynous, feather-light, stick-thin, snaggle-toothed, and stunning. Whether as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, any of his movie roles (several of which are standouts among my beloved genre fiction, such as The Hunger or The Man Who Fell to Earth, which seems as though it was written with Bowie in mind), or simply Bowie, he was always gorgeous.

David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

(Also, from the look of this photo, Tilda Swinton owes him significantly as well…do you think she knows? Oh. Yeah, I think she does.)

As I learned more about his career, I realized that Bowie also was one of the most influential artists within the rock world to which I was first introduced. Even when I didn’t realize his impact, I was feeling it. Every time I turned on a Culture Club video and swooned at the sight of Boy George in all his early gorgeous glory or fell under the spell of similarly androgy-gorgeous Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox, I was reaping the benefit of Bowie’s influence. Any time I fell in love with an artist for being unabashedly, defiantly unique, what I was really falling in love with was how Bowie burst through the doors that continued to remain open for all these subsequent acts who fell within the purview of my growing attention to music. Bowie showed that it was all right to be different. It was okay to be flamboyant, to be a “Space Oddity” and not fit in. He showed the way for so many artists who walked the peculiar path whose bricks Bowie helped lay.

Even when I had no idea who or what Ziggy Stardust was, I was enjoying his short existence that continued to benefit all of us who were, just as he was, delightfully left of left of center. And even in my nascent naivete toward music and musicians, I was grooving to songs laid down by the Thin White Duke. I didn’t know who sang the songs (I predate the ease of holding up a smartphone to a radio and having the ghost in the machine tell me what I’m listening to), but I knew I liked them.

I liked David Bowie. His creativity was immense (almost as immense as Jareth’s cod piece) and left an indelible mark upon the creative spaces of sound and image. His influence shaped the musical landscape to which I arrived in all my unknowing glory and continues to enthrall and influence even now.

Many of these same sentiments can extend to how I feel about Alan Rickman’s equally unexpected passing. Rickman, with that striking singular voice. That voice will always, to me, be the Voice of the One True God (beware, NSFW for language):

Whether he was telling you to “shoot ze glass” or threatening to carve your heart out with a spoon or trying to teach you a new spell to protect you from the Dark Lord, Rickman’s dulcet timbre was always captivating and instantly recognizable. His performances were always satisfying, his range always astounding. By Grabthar’s hammer, he could bring gravitas and pathos to any character he played. He also breathed life into some of the most momentous genre fiction characters we’ve had the pleasure to meet on screen, be they Metatron, Dr. Lazarus, the Sheriff of Nottingham, or that most infamous Death Eater of all, Professor Severus Snape.

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For me, while it was all about these larger-than-life roles (of which, I do believe the Metatron was my favorite) to some degree, I think I loved Rickman most of all in a couple of his quieter, lesser-known roles: Dr. Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made and Alex in Snow Cake, which paired him once more with Sigourney Weaver.

Regardless of his role, Rickman was always watchable (or listenable, if it were one of his voice-only roles). His talent made many a movie more enjoyable and it will be sorely missed. He will be sorely missed as well, for his humor, his kindness, his depth of care and compassion for other actors. From what I have gleaned from recent words of kindness spoken of him and Bowie, both men were exceptionally generous with their time, attention, and advice. They were solid, solicitous souls who brought light to all they did. Both he and Bowie have left irreparable holes in the fabric of creativity as well as in the hearts of many a fan, including this humble and sorrowful wolf.

Photo Fun Friday: Wes Carpenter

First, the source of the inspiration:

Sidney: You know, if I was wrong about Cotton Weary, then…the killer’s still out there.
Tatum: Don’t go there, Sid. You’re starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick or something.

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Second, a beautiful quote from John Carpenter and Sandy King in response to the passing of their friend, Wes Craven:

Wes Craven was a good friend. His passing took the world of cinema and his friends by surprise, which is probably how he would have liked it. Shock was his stock and trade.

He was a craftsman and a master storyteller who amused and thrilled audiences around the world with his films. He was a gentleman who leaves his friends missing his fellowship and generosity of spirit.

And now, the point of this post:

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Photo Fun Friday: Lucille Blanchett

If you’re lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) to follow me other places online, you have already seen an iteration of this image. I’ve tweaked it little by little every day since that original posting. I think I’m finally pleased with the end result. You know me, though. I’m sure I’ll probably swing back around and replace this image a few times. Not that I’ve ever done that here with any of my other Photo Fun Friday posts.

Hmm.

Anywho. This is to mark the announcement that Cate Blanchett will be playing Lucille Ball in a biopic written by Aaron Sorkin and produced by Ball’s children.

To be honest, I’m actually more excited by the fact that Aaron Sorkin has been tapped to write the screenplay. I like Cate Blanchett, but I might be the only person on the planet who was not impressed by her attempt at Katharine Hepburn. However, I thought her portrayal of Veronica Guerin was exceptional (far more Oscar-worthy than her Hepburn performance), so she’s 1 and 1 with me for her portrayals of real people.

And now that I’ve dropped that bit of cinematic sacrilege on you all, here is my latest mistresspiece. Ha. What I did there. I see it.

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Flashback Friday: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

I thought about doing this on the original 1984 movie, but I wanted to shake things up a bit and go instead with the movie that continued to show Wes Craven as an innovator of the horror genre as well as helped lay the groundwork for the franchise that would once again place his name at the top of the horror movie game. And so it goes with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

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Released in October 1994, New Nightmare marked Craven’s return to the franchise that he unwittingly launched 10 years earlier. Craven’s original intention was to make a one-off film. He never intended that first movie to receive sequels. In fact, the movie’s original ending was far less ambiguous than the one that producer Bob Shaye insisted be tacked on at the last minute. Just like any money-hungry producer, Shaye saw the potential of this film to spawn the one thing that producers crave: a franchise (isn’t that right, Spielberg? Could have had a great horror ending to Paranormal Activity, but, no, you had to ruin it with a franchise-friendly ending…just like you ruin most movies you have anything to do with).

Fast-forward through the first sequel, with which Craven had nothing to do and which kind of hangs in this weird homoerotic netherworld among the rest of the franchise as not quite belonging but still being kind of awesome in its own weird right, and Shaye and New Line invite Craven back to pen the third movie (they had actually wanted him back to direct as well but he was still working on Deadly Friend). However, again, Craven doesn’t want Freddy to become a series. His original script for Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors was far more disturbing, dark, and demented than what Shaye finally greenlit. Craven returned as a way to try to take back control of his creation, to take Freddy to those darker places that he always thought Freddy should inhabit. Craven’s original Fred Krueger wasn’t just a child killer; he was a molester. He was so horrific in death because he was horrific in life. Craven’s original Fred Krueger was not in any way meant to be a hero of any kind. Shaye, however, wanted the camp, the lovable child murderer who smacks you down with zingers before gutting you in a haha gotcha kind of way that makes fans love him so. Guess who finally got their way? Craven’s Freddy was shelved…until he returned once more to the franchise to reclaim his monster and ultimately save him from what he had never wanted Freddy to become.

All that being said, was it such a terrible thing that Craven’s original creation became the franchise he became? I’m sure no one whose bank accounts grew from the series ever complained. And as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I discovered Freddy Krueger through one of those haha sequels. I had no idea how gruesome Krueger originally was. Also, because I first discovered him through the campier side of the character, I do hold a special place in my heart for that iteration. But from a more pure horror perspective, I think that Craven’s original monster is, by far, superior. But what about the new Krueger that Craven unleashed in 1994? Not only was this Krueger more in line with that original depraved character, but he also looked more in line with Craven’s original visual concept. Nothing but sinews and organic claws and hideous deformity.

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I know that Craven would later state that he regretted changing Freddy Krueger’s look for New Nightmare. I actually think that it was necessary to make this change for this particular story. Remember, we see the “original” Freddy—the version portrayed oh so many times by Robert Englund and the version that die-hard fans had come to have such a gloriously Pavlovian response to—early in the film. This was “Freddy.” This was the fantasy that fans made real through their devotion to the character and the actor portraying him. It was integral to the story, therefore, to somehow differentiate this Freddy from the darker, more elemental Freddy. This Freddy did not deal in witty bon mots and scenery chewing. This Freddy sprang from the most primal, most basic, most genetically programmed vein of fear within us all.

He had to look different. He was not who any of us had known before this movie. I always felt as though this was one of the concepts that Craven was trying to convey through this film—that Freddy Krueger had become far more than even his creator ever dreamed he would become. He lurked in the shadows of his fictional self, feeding upon the fear released by those films, biding his time until the lines between worlds could blur and recede and he could finally step forward at the franchise’s end to claim his rightful place and begin anew as king of infinite space and unceasing nightmares.

For this reason, it was imperative for Craven to convince Heather Langenkamp to return. Her Nancy was the character who both gave that original Krueger life and then snatched it back (one of the main reasons I chose Nancy as a bad-ass Lady of May-hem). Without Nancy, there would have been no Krueger. His focus on her, I believe, stemmed from his understanding that she was ultimately the only one who could take away his power and his life. Not even Craven could do that, because Craven granted this gift to Nancy in the first film. It’s why Craven tells Langenkamp in the film that stopping this nightmarish Krueger pretty much depended upon her willingness to be Nancy one more time.

Sounds deliciously meta, doesn’t it? While I’m sure that this metafictional approach to what had become a watered-down slash-o-rama was neither what franchise fans were hoping for nor what the horror genre at the time was looking to embrace, it planted the seed that, 2 years later would be ripe for the picking, in part by the man who planted it in the first place.

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Again, while Craven didn’t write the script to Scream, the power of his directorial influence cannot be denied. Neither can the influence of his metafictional approach to his heretofore most famous contribution to the genre. Kevin Williamson’s own metafictional script this time blurs the lines of fantasy and reality on the viewer’s level rather than the creators’ level. He demolishes the protection granted by the fourth wall and subsequently drops us all into the path of a monster we can understand because “we” are creating him. After all, “movies don’t make psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!”

That level of self-referential awareness is part of what makes Scream work so well. We are lulled in by the familiarity of what we think we understand, only to have the floor summarily drop out from beneath us. Nothing is as how it should be in the town of Woodsboro, just as nothing was as it should have been in the Hollywood horror machine of Craven’s New Nightmare. Craven thrived upon facing the ugliest fears within ourselves and by facing them, defeating them. His was the Litany Against Fear, embraced myriad times in myriad ways by characters who helped sculpt and ultimately save us from our worst nightmares:

I will not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

The Man of My Dreams

It would have to take something big to finally pull me out of the morass of work in which I’ve been trapped all summer. Something bigger than book reviews or navel gazing or even the insanity of the current political landscape (a landscape I’m already tired of looking at, and we’ve still got more than a year to go).

No, it had to be larger than that. It had to be something personally moving…something so important to me that, no matter how many evenings and stolen moments throughout the days that I have stockpile to write this, it will be done. It’s the least I can do for the man who played such an integral role in my conversion to the tried-and-true horror apostle I am today.

True, I credit Poltergeist as being the first modern horror film I ever saw all the way through. That was my gateway film, so to speak. But if I were credit one genre director as being most responsible for completely converting me to the Church of Horror, it would have to be Wes Craven.

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I give John Carpenter full dues for the brilliance that is Halloween. And I attribute the state of the horror genre as I knew and loved it growing up to a particular set of directors/writers who ruled the horror landscape throughout the 80s: Craven, Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, and Sean Cunningham (with honorable mention to Clive Barker for the glory that is Pinhead).

These men understood the visceral nature of fear and they harnessed that to full unadulterated effect through some of the genre’s most unsettling movies. They were the fathers of evisceration and unrest, pushing the boundaries of, at the time, a mostly staid genre into territories that even they found too disturbing to explore…which is what pushed them to explore them in the first place. Craven himself stated that The Last House on the Left was one of his movies that he could never go back and re-watch because of how horrific it was to him.

And then came Freddy Krueger. As much as I love Michael Myers and Pinhead and Jason, Freddy was my first horror villain. I actually first met him through the fourth Elm Street movie The Dream Master, which was not one of Craven’s films. However, I loved Freddy from the very first flick of his silver-knived hand right down to his inimitably painful puns. He was horror kitsch of the killer variety, compelling and charismatic and amusingly unique even among the high-caliber villainous company he was keeping at the time. I needed to know everything about him.

I was not anticipating the Freddy Krueger I met in the first film. Craven’s original 1984 movie was disturbing in the ugliest of realistic ways (strange to say of a killer who is himself dead and offs his victims in their nightmares). This character came from the mind of someone who understood that true fear resided in the deepest, darkest, most depraved corners of ourselves. We create the worst fears, whether through our own thoughts or our own deeds. No matter how much I love the campy, “lovable” Freddy of later films, my allegiance will always rest in the gloved hand of that original Krueger. He was only on screen for 7 minutes that first movie…less time than even the Wicked Witch of the West got in The Wizard of Oz…but oh, those 7 minutes.

Thankfully, Craven did return for The New Nightmare, one of my other favorite Freddy films. Additionally, New Nightmare was one of the earliest examples, that I can remember, of that meta take on film-making that blurs reality and fiction into a tasty melange of horror savoriness that I clearly find addictive.

And then there’s Scream. True, Craven didn’t write it and he almost didn’t direct it. But thank the horror deities that he did. Talk about meta savoriness. I have written about this film and franchise many times here at the lair. Two of my Ladies of Horror May-hem come from this film (two other Ladies come from Elm Street). The original film works so well in part because of its clear respect for and indebtedness to the time during which Craven and that previously mentioned collection of amazingly demented directors ruled the horror genre. And while the series holistically was never as solid as the first film, Craven did his best to make it as solidly scary as he could with what Williamson gave him.

Of course, these are only the movies that often rise to the top of any discussion of Craven’s contributions to the horror genre. Let’s not forget, he also gave us The Hills Have Eyes; Deadly Friend, which includes one of my all-time favorite character deaths ever; Shocker (I still refer to Mitch Pileggi as “Horace Pinker”); The People Under the Stairs, which gave me a whole new outlook on Twin Peaks and turned so many traditional horror tropes upside down and inside out in ways that I don’t think many appreciated at the time; Red Eye (sure, I’d like to find flying even more traumatizing!); and The Serpent and the Rainbow, which ranks still as one of my favorite “zombie” movies.

Craven was sharp, well-read, curious, creative, kind, and witty, and he made my horror-loving adolescence ironically brighter from all the darkness he brought to the genre. I have mourned his death every day since I learned he was with us no more. He left behind a brilliant legacy, but his time with us was still far too short.

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Saturdays Are a Scream

Hey, there denizens. I was actually planning on doing a holiday-themed Flashback Friday for you last night. However, my plans were thwarted by the subject in question being way too overprotective about YouTube clips. And, trust me, this is definitely a visual.

Instead, I’m giving you this alternative. A few months ago, we took what has become in recent years an annual trip to San Francisco, both for a little bit of work and a little bit of play. Okay, it was all play for me. Part of that play was spending a few days up in the Sonoma region, as any fan of drinking is apt to do. Honestly, though, it’s also a beautiful region; I’ve got loads of photos that I really need to upload here at some point.

Today’s batch of photos, however, are all related to a bit of a pilgrimage that I decided to take this year. Any regulars to the lair know that I have quite a bit of love in my heart for the horror movie Scream. The film, set in the fictional California town of Woodsboro, actually was filmed all throughout northern California, including the towns of Glen Ellen, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Tomales Bay (where Sara Sidle was born; geek love crossover!!), Santa Rosa…places that we go through or to every single time we stay up in this area.

So I did a little surreptitious research prior to leaving, tracked down addresses, made sure I packed my GPS and car charger, made sure I had fresh charges on my camera battery packs…and we were off! Time to track down the locations where director Wes Craven made the idyllicly horrifying town of Woodsboro come to life…and horrorific death.

First stop was Woodsboro High:

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The location they used was in fact the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California:

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The filmmakers were supposed to use Santa Rosa High School, but the City of Santa Rosa reneged after reading the script and deciding that the movie was too violent. If you watch the credits all the way through, you will notice that Craven gives a “special” thanks to Santa Rosa for this decision.

I found it amazing that Craven was able to take such a small space as the community center and make it believable as a public high school. I was honestly stunned by how small the center is, and how tucked away in a neighborhood it is. If you didn’t know its horror history, you’d drive right past it without a second thought, merrily on your way to one of the nearby wineries.

Of course, associated with Woodsboro High was Woodsboro Square, where all the kids could hear Principal Himbry tell them over the PA system how much he cared about them:

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This pavilion is still in Healdsburg’s town square, minus the overhang they built in front of it:

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And of course, the fountain where Sidney and her friends met up?

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It’s still there as well. I hung out for a little while, but Sidney never showed.

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Healdsburg actually doubled for Woodsboro in several scenes, including the police station scenes. The “police station” is now a little market. Ironically, the Healdsburg Police Station is right next door, which means that this alleyway, soon to be the location of “Bam! Bitch went down!”:

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Is still a police-associated alley…just with the police station on the opposite side:

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Next stop on my creepy stalker tour was Casey Becker’s house:

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The house, located in Glen Ellen, actually isn’t visible from the road. I found this to be true for both the houses I tried to visit. These foggy early morning shots of the mountains near where the Becker house is located are the closest I could get:

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Same with the Prescott house:

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The closest I was able to get to this house was to take a photo of the drive leading up into the neighborhood, but the big gate at the beginning prevented me from actually driving up there…unless, of course, I had been daring enough to buzz the guard and explain that I just wanted to creeper-stalk the “home” of Sidney Prescott. I’m sure they would have immediately let me in. Totally.

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It’s a shame I couldn’t get up to this house…not only because Sidney Prescott is one of my favorite horror heroines, but also because I would have loved to have been able to catch a glimpse or two of this amazing view that the Prescott house overlooks:

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These two experiences with trying to get to these houses got me thinking a bit more about the movie in ways that I hadn’t really considered all that closely. Got me thinking to the point where I started formulating my own “thesis” for some imagined film studies class…I would call it “Woodsboro: The High Cost of Isolation” or something equally undergrad-clever. Almost every house they used for Scream fit this same mold: beautiful, sprawling property, nestled far off main roads, cut off from traffic, from city life, from everyone. The initial purpose of this is obvious: You want your characters to feel cut off, alone, trapped by the killers. But there’s more to this if you keep looking.

Houses like where Sidney, Casey, and Stu live are muy expensivo. Takes a lot to afford these levels of privacy. So you’ve got well-off families, enjoying the privilege of solitude that money can buy. The parents of all these kids also obviously enjoy other privileges of money. Think about it: The parents are almost non-existent in this movie (as is usually the case with teen-centric horror movies). Casey’s parents are out enjoying an evening alone while their daughter settles into an obviously familiar “all by myself” routine, Sidney’s dad leaves her alone because he has an out-of-town work meeting (can’t afford a view that beautiful and sprawling unless you’re working some serious hours, Mr. Prescott), Billy’s dad stays out late, Stu’s parents aren’t even seen. The only parent that seems even remotely interested in her children’s lives is Mrs. Riley, Tatum and Dewey’s mom.

Even worse? Sidney’s dad leaves her alone on the first anniversary of her mother’s murder. Here’s a man either so uncaring or so emotionally damaged by what happened to his wife that he removes himself from the entire scene rather than deal with the emotions that such an anniversary would no doubt incite. Everyone has their own way of dealing with trauma, but he has completely ignored the needs of his daughter at this time. True, he was captured and perhaps he was meant to be home by the actual anniversary…but I don’t think so.

Then there’s Billy. They don’t really go into it a lot, but obviously Mr. Loomis was a bit of a dead-beat dad. Even though he was still there, taking care of his son in light of the fact that Billy’s mom left…well, let’s be honest, Sid…the reason she left was because Billy’s dad was a naughty boy who still liked staying out late, even when his son finds himself locked up by the local police. So the only time we see Mr. Loomis is when he comes to bail out his son. There financially, not there in any other way.

So no real parental supervision, including one parent who disregards the fact that he has a daughter still damaged by what happened to their family a year prior and another father not really that interested in how his son is coping with the fact that he caused the son’s mother to leave through infidelity. Oh yeah, infidelity with the now-dead mother of his son’s girlfriend.

Kids raised in environments in which they obviously never want for anything material…but are sorely lacking in emotional guidance and nurturing.

Of course, I’m probably reading way too much into all this. But I think there’s something there, some commentary on the darkness of material wealth when combined with moral or emotional bankruptcy. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Macher might have been Ward and June Cleaver. We don’t know, though. Never will.

And now I need to go watch this movie yet again and look for moments to support this new thesis. Hope you enjoyed my tour of Woodsboro. Haddonfield next time?

H Is For Horror…

Ah, denizens, you know I love you all even when I’m not around. And you also know that I love Halloween most of all the holidays…so I simply had to come back one more time for October.

So I’ve been binge-listening to a “new” podcast recently (they’ve been at it for a while now, actually, but the show is new to me, as I have failed to keep up with several podcasts lately, including this one). The podcast in question is The Little Pod of Horrors, featuring two of the loveliest, funniest horror fans I know. Of course, listening to their shows has once again reinvigorated my love of the horror genre. This whole month, in fact, I’ve been watching pretty much only horror movies for my daily workouts. I’ve caught up on quite a few movies that slipped off my radar, fallen in love with a few, and even added one to my personal collection!

Now, some of you might recall that I have posted a few entries here at the lair dealing with my love of horror. A few Halloweens ago, I even posted a list of what I consider to be Loba’s Most Viewed Scary Movies. What I’d like to do today is expand that list alphabetically. Here’s the deal: I have 26 letters, to which I will be matching 26 horror movies that I consider personal requirements for that mysteriously contrived desert island stranding for which we all feel compelled to prepare.

Now, here’s where I’m slightly “tampering” with these rules (and they’re my rules, so I can bloody well do with them whatever I want). I don’t yet have personal horror movie favorites for the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z. I just haven’t seen any movies that start with these letters that I consider necessary to my interests.

HOWEVER! This works perfectly for me, because there are a couple of letters for which I simply could not pick just one movie. Apparently, there are certain letters in the alphabet that are exceptionally popular with horror movie writers.

Do I think these movies are the hands-down, absolute best horror movies ever made for their particular letter? Objectively, no (for the most part). However, for me, these are the ones that bring me the most joy whenever I watch them, either for their merit to the genre or for purely nostalgic reasons. Will these choices change? Most assuredly, especially now that I’m getting back into the genre with much more gusto than recently. I noticed that a lot of these are older movies (and movies that I write and talk about a lot), revealing that it’s been a while since I was really dedicated to watching horror. Time to change that…but for now, this encompasses what represents, to me, really enjoyable horror (with, admittedly, a couple of thrillers, just to mix things up [and piss a few people off]) and a good sampling of movie options for people who might want to get a good idea of classic (or classically terrible) genre gems.

All that being said, I’m not going to write a lot about these films because: A) I wrote about several of them already in my previous Halloween list; and B) I don’t want to hype them up too much. This is a purely subjective list, so I know that there will be several selections that a lot of horror fans will respond to with “WTAF” looks…and that’s okay. But if you haven’t seen any of the movies on this list, I would hate to build up any of them and cause you to be horribly disappointed by your own experience. Really, just take this all with a grain of salt, eh?

Now…shall we begin?

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True, this is technically a science fiction film, but I believe this one falls squarely in the “sci-fi horror” subgenre. I saw Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner before I saw this movie, so I was already well and truly in love with Scott as a director by the time I saw this movie. This simply made me love Scott all the more. Plus, Sigourney Weaver is positively bad-ass as Ellen Ripley and makes an amazing genre heroine (of which there can never be enough). Also, H.R. Giger’s designs for the aliens are horrifyingly beautiful.

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I will always have a special place in my heart for this film for many reasons…filmed in my home state, first “found footage” movie I ever experienced, atmospheric as all hell (which you all know I love more than anything), and utterly fun (unless you suffer from motion sickness). Yes, the three protagonists wear on your last nerve quite quickly at points, and, yes, they’re terrible actors…but that works for this film! If they were great actors, who would believe them as “real people”? Also, maybe the fact that they were so terrible in this movie is proof that they’re actually brilliant actors! Okay, probably not…but you can’t fault me for trying 😉

carnivalofsouls

Another one I’ve discussed here at the lair before. I wish I could explain more precisely why I love this movie so much. It’s so low-budget and silly at points, and I know that it’s not going to be everyone’s particular cup of pickled bat juice. But I love everything about this movie…how it was the only “big” movie the director ever made…how the idea came to him from seeing an abandoned resort at dusk…how many consider it to be one of the earliest “zombie” movies…there are so many aspects of this movie that could have spelled out “Disaster.” Instead, it all comes together as a wonderful little horror gem, waiting to be discovered.

dragmetohell

Spoilers: This is the only Sam Raimi film to make it to this list. As much as I respect his original Evil Dead and actually quite enjoy a great deal of it, this 2009 offering had me at evil buttons and grossed me out and scared the hell out of me and made me laugh in ways that only Raimi can make a viewer laugh. I haven’t watched this in several years, but when I came to the letter “D,” it was the only movie that immediately sprang to mind…others surfaced later, but I’m going to have to go with my initial gut response…I’d hate to suffer a face-gumming for my Raimi insubordination.

exorcist

This was a tough letter…and this was a tough decision. I love William Friedkin’s take on William Peter Blatty’s book (which, by the way, is an excellent read). I think this is one of the pillars of my own House of Horror Love and solidifies my opinion that practical effects still trump CGI in so many ways. Is this a movie I can watch whenever? No, I definitely need to be in a particular frame of mind to watch this one. It’s not a “put it on in the background” or “let’s crack open some rum and have a horror movie laugh.” This movie petrified me when I first saw it, and still sends chills through me whenever I watch it. I also love the poster art (and am now reminded of a feature at the lair that deserves to be revived at some point soon).

fauno

Okay, I’m kind of cheating with this one. The English title of this film is Pan’s Labyrinth, and when I first read the “original” Spanish title, it was listed merely as El Fauno. For years, that’s exactly what I’ve called this movie. Now I realize that it’s really El Laberinto del Fauno.

I don’t care, dammit. Pikachu, I choose you for my “F” film. Again, my rules. I think Guillermo del Toro is one of the most amazing directors in today’s cinema game. I’ve yet to see a movie from him that I didn’t love. His horror movies just keep getting better and better (so wonderful, in fact, that another of his films will be coming up soon enough). He is so masterful at delivering scares that so easily turn into moments of utter pathos. Horror with a soul. Beautiful. And scary as sin.

gremlins

Here’s a purely nostalgic pick. It’s even also shown up in my Poster Picks feature. True, this isn’t the scariest of scary movies and could have been quite scarier (the filmmakers wanted something that could attract a larger audience, however, so they toned down the gore a bit). It’s still a wicked little film with some pretty solid scares, great special effects, extremely funny tension breakers, and awesome little villains. Billy might be a terrible pet owner, but we all benefit from his inability to follow three rather simple instructions.

halloween

All right, you’re more than welcome to flash that “WTAF” look my way now, denizens. Not for the first choice, of course. Only if I meant Rob Zombie’s abomination of a remake would I deserve castigation for selecting Halloween as my first choice for “H.” Carpenter’s masterpiece is just that. There are so few movies from the horror genre that receive almost holistic love from fans (it is such a subjective genre, after all, because it really comes down to the purely subjective answer to the question “What scares you?”). I’ve encountered very few fans who do not feel similarly toward this movie as I do. Bottom line is that this is, hands-down, another undeniable giant in the pantheon of Horror Classics.

haunting

The second choice shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone either, especially considering that I even recently featured this movie in a Flashback Friday (which conveniently saves me from having to write about it now, other than to voice once more my love for this movie).

hellraiseriii

Now, Hellraiser III is a totally different story. I could have gone with the original from this franchise, which is sublimely scary in a rather surrealistic way. However, I love Pinhead. Doug Bradley is delicious as this villain, who wasn’t even slated to be anything more than a bit character from this particular horror world. However, you simply cannot deny the horrifying appeal that Bradley brings to Pinhead. The third installment is pretty much the movie makers acknowledging the gift of Bradley to their franchise. He absolutely makes this movie what it is: a cracking representation of B-horror at its best. Terrible acting (other than Bradley), cheesy script, wonderful practical effects, new Cenobites!, and Jadzia Dax without her spots.

Like I said, this is my very subjective list…

iamlegend

Nothing is more terrifying than a movie that totally destroys a genre literary classic. This piece of crap does just that. It absolutely dishonors Richard Matheson’s novella in ways that are brutally awful, including changing the ending and thereby nullifying the original meaning of the title. Well-played there! Besides, I’m trapped on a desert island. I need something to use as a mirror or a Frisbee or a way to signal passing ships.

P.S.–Did any of you really think I was serious with this selection? I’m not. I’d actually choose Interview with the Vampire because, dammit, it’s such schlocky fun. I just thought I’d give you all a bit of an extra jolt on this fantastic All Hallow’s Eve.

jaws

Back on track. Another one of those widely accepted classics and a perennial favorite at Chez Loba. I wish the Spielberg who made this movie still existed instead of the Spielberg who has to make most of his movies insufferably sweet. Oh well. If wishes were Horta…wishes would be really gross and kind of freaky and no one would make them anymore.

Or something.

Scary shark movie is scary. And fun. And really makes you think twice about dipping skinnily into the ocean (actually, the real horror of murky brown grossness now does that…I kind of prefer the fake horror to the real).

kalifornia

Here’s another contentious one, mostly because…is it really a horror movie? I would posit that it contains many horror elements…which I can’t really get into without spoiling a lot of stuff. It’s definitely a creepy movie. It’s also very violent and disturbing in a lot of ways, which means that it’s another one on this list that I can’t just pop into the player for casual viewing. It’s a “mood” movie. It’s also a movie that puts to great use Juliette Lewis’s natural ability to play characters that are both charmingly fragile and off-puttingly naive, as well as lets Brad Pitt excel at being something other than “sexeh.”

He is most definitely not sexeh as Early Grayce. Unless that’s your thing. Then go for it. He’s all yours. I’ll just be in the back of the car with Fox Mulder and Ensign Ro Laren (trivia: Ensign Ro rocked that red headband for several episodes because Michelle Forbes had hacked off her bangs for this role…).

letright1in

I love two types of vampires…and neither type sparkles. No, I either like my vampires horribly campy (thus, my real pick for “I”) or brutal and primal. Eli is the latter type of vampire. She does what she needs to do to survive. She’s also capable of protective acts of kindness, as shown in her relationship with Oskar, the boy next door. This is actually quite a beautiful story that just happens to rock some awesome horror moments. There’s a rather pointless American remake (because prophets forbid that Americans have to read subtitles), but I strongly recommend the original Swedish film.

maximumoverdrive

No excuses and no apologies for this one. It’s the only original screenplay Stephen King has ever written. He also directed it. He even appeared in it for a brief cameo. It’s terrible. And I love it. How can you not love a movie about possessed trucks, led by a toy company truck bedazzled by a giant Green Goblin head with glowing red eyes? Plus, AC/DC, King’s favorite band,” did the soundtrack, including this little gem:

//www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/_jvqPvDUEW8

VIDEO SPOILERZ.

Seriously pointless. Seriously awful. Seriously fun.

nightmareonelmstreet

Another double-header, with a twist. The first is the original…the second is the remake.

Craven’s original movie is the movie that introduced me properly to the slasher. Freddy Krueger truly is the man of my dreams when it comes to this subgenre. Don’t get me wrong: I love Michael Myers…but I feel that each subsequent iteration of the Halloween franchise slowly whittled away at Myers’ awesomeness, while sequels to this film…well, didn’t necessarily make Freddy Krueger more terrifying, but instead morphed him into a weirdly likeable villain. You might still be rooting for the good guys to defeat him, but you enjoy him while he’s around. I talk a bit more about this in my Poster Pick on this film, if you’re interested.

nightoflivingdead

As for Tom Savini’s remake of Romero’s classic zombie flick…again, this is a “soft spot” movie for me. The remake features two of my all-time favorite Trek guest actors: Tony Todd (whose turn as the Candyman so very nearly made it onto this list), and stuntwoman Patricia Tallman. Plus, it dramatically improves upon the character of Barbara, giving her far more modern sensibilities and turning her into a right and proper bad-ass. I’m not saying the remake makes her a better character, but it makes her a character I’d follow into the zombie apocalypse.

elorfanato

Uno, dos, tres, toca la pared!

This time, Guillermo del Toro puts his money where his acumen for choosing great films is, again showing us why he’s such a force to be reckoned with, not just in Spanish horror but in the entirety of the genre. He helps director J.A. Bayona bring to us another beautifully macabre story with one of those endings that just gut-slams you as only truly well-done horror can.

poltergeist

Tobe Hooper’s 1982 ghost story was the very first truly scary horror movie I can remember seeing. I get all soppy-nostalgic for it in a previous Poster Pick/Flashback Friday combo. For this reason alone, this movie will always have a special place in my heart. Plus, it’s quite a well-made movie, and one that I’m really not looking forward to Hollywood remaking.

petsematary

As for this second appearance from Stephen King, so many aspects of this movie are just absolutely spot-on: the gore, the scares, the creepiness, the ickiness, the humor, the Fred Gwynne. And Gage Creed. As if I needed more reasons not to like kids… o_O

ring

I’ve yet to see the original Japanese film. To be honest, if it’s scarier than the American version (which I’ve heard it is), I don’t think I could make it through the original. This movie scared the living love of horror out of me…and then right back into me. Plus, it’s one of those rare instances where an American remake does the original justice (because, again, we can’t be bothered with reading!). I have to admit, I’ve only sat through this movie once, in the theater. I own the DVD, but…I’m scared to watch it again.

SHUT UP.

I figure, though, trapped on an island, I’d have to get around to watching it again sooner or later, right?

silenceoflambs

scream

I’m not going to write a lot about either of these movies because I know I have written plenty about them both here already. If someone told me, after reading this list, that I had to pick one letter and I could only keep in my collection what’s associated with that letter? “S” wins, hands down. These two movies are the two on this list I have watched the most of any others and the ones I love more than any others…even when their franchise sequels horribly disappoint me.

trickrtreat

Relatively new find for me, but one that really surprised me…in great ways. Several vignettes come together to form quite the excellent story, with great special effects and a pretty impressive cast (I love how the stigma of appearing in a horror film seems to be less and less present for a lot of actors).

vertigo

Know what I love most about this Alfred Hitchcock thriller (yes, I confess, it’s not a true horror movie)? Watching it is like watching two movies in one. Admittedly, the first part is a bit of a slow-burner, but it’s filmed all through San Francisco, which I love. And the second half is so redeeming, you can forgive the first half for being somewhat lackluster at times. I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Hitchcock movie, but it’s definitely in my Hitch Top 5.

whatever

If you have never seen the glorious hot mess that is this movie, then get thee to a rental source STAT. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, two actresses who notoriously loathed each other, as grand dames of Grand Guignol cinema? It’s just too wonderful not to include on this list. Watch the movie, learn all about the back story and what these two would do to torment the other…things like Crawford loading her pockets with rocks for a scene that called for Davis to drag her around…and Davis “thanking” her with a couple of cracked ribs during a later fight scene.

DIVAS. I love them. Subsequently, I love this film.

And there you have it, denizens. I hope this list gives you some ideas for movies to visit or revisit for some fantastic horror viewing…and if you have any suggestions for the letters I skipped…or replacements for the letters I used, click that little question mark below and drop me a line!

Photo Fun Friday: Twister

Someone really should take away my PhotoShop access when I’m in moods like this…

So, today saw the release of a movie based on the board game Battleship. You know, as in “You sank my battleship!” The game was all about strategy and intellect and cunning. The movie is apparently all about aliens and splosions.

Viva la…whatever. I never really was a Battleship fan. Connect Four was more my kind of game. But today’s movie release got me thinking: What will the next board game-based piffle will they think up next? Someone already beat me to the movie/board game crossover that I was initially going to do. Really, though, this one is simply perfect, and perfectly hilarious.

So I went with another of those perennial sleepover favorites, Twister! I actually used to love to play Twister. That sexy PVC smell will still take me right back, either to opening up the Twister box or the black vampire cape from my favorite Halloween costume. I’m by no means bendy like a pretzel, but I could keep up with the demands of that little cardboard and plastic spinner, regardless of the bizarre combinations it would come up with.

But what would a movie based on the game be like? Honestly, I’ve no clue, denizens. Then again, I couldn’t really imagine what a movie based on Battleship would be about either. Those Hollywood folk are just way sharper than I’ll ever be.

I could, however, envision what the poster would look like. It would have to be a horror movie, of course. With a name like Twister, it would only be a horror movie or a stupid action movie based on a meteorological event, complete with CGI cows being blown around. Who’d want to watch that?

Hmm.

Anyway, it was…interesting try to come up with the components for this latest PhotoShop trickery. First thing I learned? Do not type in “dead body” into Google Image Search. Just don’t. Best bet for a dead body-type image? Look for people who have passed out. Preferably from alcohol consumption. Second thing? It’s really hard to find a photo of a Twister mat without people standing on it! Stupid narcissists!

If any of you is particularly inspired by this image and has a brilliant idea for a story line, by all means, go for it! If it’s clever enough, I’ll let you use my poster idea. If it’s not clever, please don’t blame me. I just come up with the warped imagery…I can’t be held accountable for what you all do with it once it’s out there…

Reflections on a Golden Gate

As touristy and predictable as it is, whenever I go to San Francisco, I always end up taking an excessive number of photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. I simply can’t help myself. It’s stunning, no matter what time of day or what type of weather surrounds it. I’ve seen it damasked by fog, gilded by moon glow, and shimmering in the brilliant sunlight, and I’ve yet to tire of its beauty.

This past trip, I decided that I needed to mix it up a little bit…get a different perspective. I also wanted to visit yet another filming location from Vertigo, one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I ended up at Fort Point, right beneath the bridge and just as the sun was reaching a prime position in the sky for some gorgeous Golden Gate glow.

I would have liked to have gotten even further under the bridge or closer to the water’s edge for some of these shots. Unfortunately, the fort was closed and surrounded by a pesky security fence. Oh well. Perhaps next time.

Here, then, are my favorite shots, including one of a drippy-billed seagull who seemed quite amused by my impromptu photo shoot…

And, finally, here’s my favorite shot, which I took specifically as an homage to Vertigo. It came out so exactly as I had hoped it would that I couldn’t resist taking it into PhotoShop and turning it into my own “poster” for this movie:

Ode to…Pöpcørn?

I love the Muppets. A lot. I’ve already talked about how Jim Henson is one of the greatest influences from my childhood. Seriously, the two things that continue to make me proud to be an alumna of the University of Maryland at College Park are: my three aunts graduated from there; and Jim Henson graduated from there.

I still haven’t made it to see the new Muppets movie. I’m actually quite irritated with myself over this fact. I haven’t wanted to go see a movie in a very long time, but frog dammit, I want to see this one. Time to finally finish off that Fandango card!

In the interim, however, I’ve been watching some of the YouTube videos put out by Muppet Studios. Two have quickly become my favorites. Two of my favorite recurring characters are Beaker and the Swedish Chef. Poor Beaker, always getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop stick, no matter what. All the horrible things that Bunsen Honeydew did to him, yet he continued to rise like some kind of orange-tufted, felty Messiah (ooh, have I offended the fundamentalists? Good). Even when he’s on his own, as in this video, he still somehow attracts an incomparable level of disaster that is equal parts traumatic and hilarious. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re just hilarious…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnT7pT6zCcA&w=640&h=360]

And then there’s the Swedish Chef. I can only imagine that he must be offensive on some level to true Swedes. Right? I mean, come on, such a blatant mockery of their native language must ruffle their feathers at least a little. Yet there’s something so delightfully underdoggish about the Swedish Chef. He’s utterly incompetent and frighteningly inept at his profession. But he means well in his attempts. And he botches his dishes in such hysterically horrifying ways…such as this attempt to make Pöpcørn Shrimp. I can’t stop watching this video. Also, please, please, please make sure that you have the closed captions activated while you watch this. Trust me. You will appreciate it that much more…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UmUX68KtE&w=640&h=360]

I like how my favorite characters are two of the Muppets that have regular Muppety heads but have “real” hands (the Swedish Chef always had human hands; in fact, they originally were Jim Henson’s hands and Henson’s voice…Beaker has human hands as well, but they’re covered with felt). Also, neither one speaks a true language. The Swedish Chef is somewhat understandable at times; Beaker though…I have no freakin’ clue there, denizens. Just makes him that much more entertaining. Although, really, maybe Beaker isn’t even a “he.” How the hell can you tell? Maybe it’s a girl. I don’t know. Do you?

While you marinate on that question, here’s one final video, of both Beaker and the Swedish Chef together, bringing their…unique dialects together for this musical interlude. Watch for a guest appearance from one of my other favorite Muppets along the way…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXKUb5A1auM&w=640&h=360]