Author Archives: mmarier

Carpe Scream: LORE

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I was so excited about Amazon’s upcoming show, Lore. I really was. Bunnyman Bridge, Robert the Doll, dead-ringers, etc. Lore promised to be a show that would cover all of the gruesome truth behind the folklore. Did it really deliver on that promise?

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Lore, now streaming on Amazon Prime

When the show started I immediately sussed out that something wasn’t quite right. The narrator was pausing in strange places. He didn’t seem to have a sense of flow as he stumbled over the words and phrasing, trying to dramatize mundane words and placidly running over important key statements. I immediately had to look up who this was. A former child-star? An lesser-known actor?  No. The whole show was being narrated by it’s own co-producer, and writer, Aaron Mankhe. All sense of drama was left flaccid by Aaron’s awkward nasal voice. Apparently this guy has a podcast? Maybe he’s better unscripted. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

No problem, I thought. At least the scares and folklore would save it.  Sadly, that was not the case. The episodes started promisingly, with a preface about people being buried alive and demons plaguing the house, and the Bunnyman bridge. But that preface always disappointed as we were then thrown into slowly paced, badly written amateur drama about families with Tuberculosis, A boy and his doll, and the first lobotomy procedures. No fright. No thrills, No chills. Just very stilted, boring, dramas. These reenactments are of the caliber of those Travel Channel TV episodes about families with haunted houses. Long pauses, tangential story-lines with milquetoast characters, and very often NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ORIGINAL PREMISE. I really don’t care about Doctor Walter Freeman’s strained relationships with his wife or his hatred of Thorazine. Nor did I care about Mr. Howard’s spiritual crisis about digging up his dead daughter. And at the end, when they teased about miraculous supernatural events and occurrences, murder, or sacrilege? Nothing. Because these stories are about real life and in real life, nothing like that happens. That’s pretty much the punchline of every episode here: NOTHING HAPPENS.

There was nothing new either. Every point covered has had about 10 television specials already. The points were redundant, highly speculated, generalized, and very uninteresting. Most of the facts could be found in a single wikipedia search. The real-life stories had nominal interest, but they certainly didn’t need to be drawn out into 40-minute late-night TV dramas with no budget.

And the torture porn. Oh, my sweet aunt, do they love torture porn in this. In the middle of the mind-numbing boredom, we’re treated to squick-factor, highly detailed uncomfortable closeups of fingernail needles, lobotomies, blood-letting, and other gross scenes that take up way too much time.

The worst offense in this show is that there seems to be no real focus. The premise has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, and they might tack on a twist at the end, but more likely they don’t. And the twist will be totally unrelated to the premise.

It’s very true that we’ve never seen anything like this show. We’ve seen better. If you’re interested in schlocky writing and spooky stories, try the Travel Channel. If you’re interested in real horror and scary folklore, look anywhere else.

 

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Carpe Scream: Pet Semetary

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Pet Semetary was the first Stephen King book I ever read.

I was pregnant with my first child and looking for things to do that didn’t tax me. I thought that since I hate horror movies, a book would be safer. I could just close the book, right? No. No, I was treated to a movie I couldn’t turn off because it was in my brain. A story about evil spirits, the loss of a young child, and the depths of madness that a man sinks to when he’s in despair. I saw in the forward that Stephen King was inspired to write this when his 2-year-old son got away from him, ran into the road and was nearly creamed by a semi-truck. King was so shocked and devastated by what might have been that he decided to write about a man who loses his own baby in a similar way. It was horrifying. I can’t even remember how it ended because I was suffering right along the main character the whole time, and the weight of becoming a parent, and the ties to your child was a new and very real thing to me.

So, you might imagine it took me a long time to work up the courage to watch this movie

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It’s very similar to the book in a lot of ways, but it sort of tricks you into thinking this is a lesser horror movie without much substance. The casting was odd to start off with. The leading male was bland and forgettable, the leading woman was “Tasha Yarr,” Denise Crosby, who I love, but who didn’t strike me as “Maternal Housewife with hangup” materials and always looked like she was about threaten to leave a bad review on Yelp.

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“I want to speak to the manager of this movie!”

And who do we get as the creepy old New-England neighbor? HERMAN MUNSTER.

This movie gets major points for lulling us into a false sense of security. We get weird zombie visits from a dead biker (like something out of An American Werewolf in London) and a fun storyline about bringing a dead cat to life so our dear daughter won’t be upset. Tralala, right? Then we get punched in the gut. The baby’s death is every bit as unspeakable as the book, and the subsequent plot takes us down that same spiral of madness. Little moments, like the glimpse of a tiny dead hand, the bloody shoe in the highway, and Mr. Munsters desperate talks about life and it’s purpose, and how sometimes death is better.

The end is a little cheesy and diverts from the book (I think, again, I’m not sure) and we’re treated to a little groan-worthy moment.

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“Best. Hero. Ever.”

Regardless, the real scares of the 3rd act are indelible, and very well staged. If I have to nitpick, I’d complain about the zombie biker, a movie add-in to let the audience know what they’ve already figured out if they know ANYTHING about any kind of folklore or horror at all. It added nothing to the tension and gave us a contrived reason for Crosby to show up at the end. Oh and they threw in a psychic kid. Just incase we’re REALLY stupid. I think all of these were probably due to production notes.

ATTEN: PET SEMETARY: NOTES:
HOW WILL THE AUDIENCE KNOW THAT THE EVIL ABANDONED BURIAL SITE THAT BRINGS BACK UNSPEAKABLE ZOMBIES IS EVIL

ALSO WHAT IS A WENDIGO? SOUNDS TOO ETHNIC. CUT WORD AND REPLACE WITH DEMON.

The other thing I’m mad we’ve lost is that first midnight walk to the old burial ground. That passage that King wrote about the night and the blackness behind his flashlight and the feeling of large dark nameless beings in the void beyond. That scene chilled me to my core. I’ve been in the woods at night. I know that feeling of darkness pressing in on your feeble light. King put in words that terror of untamed nature at night.

So yeah, highly recommend this movie for a good scare. Just be prepared to roll your eyes at the end.

Carpe Scream: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Poe

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Edgar Allen Poe has always been a Halloween staple for us. Among us Americans especially, we bear a sense of pride in our nation’s black sheep writer of the macabre and phantastic. Not surprisingly, his works have inspired many fascinating movies like “The Masque of the Red Death,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “House of Usher.” Heck we’ll even count Corman’s “The Raven” as an adaptation, even though it only followed the loosest adherence to the plot. But when horror needs to find an audience, sometimes Hollywood needs to slip one past us. Slapping Edgar Allan Poe’s name, or the title of one of his stories onto a movie used to be a surefire way for a Horror movie to find a built-in audience (albeit a very disappointed one). Such a movie was the 1934 production:

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The Black Cat

If you look closely at the title scroll in the opening credits  you see something like THIS.

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Yep. “Suggested” by. I’ve seen “based on” and “inspired by” in movie title credits, but this was the first one that seemed to shy away from it’s forced association with Edgar Allen Poe. Like, it was almost hang-dog ashamed of what it’s trying to pull.  Nothing else succeeds in screaming so accurately, “this movie is absolutely nothing like Poe’s story, The Black Cat.”

Okay, so that aside, this was actually a very fun movie. It follows a pair of newlyweds who are traveling through Hungary when they get sidetracked by a car accident and are rescued by their tragic traveling companion, Dr. Vitus (Bela Lugosi), who takes them to an acquaintance’s house nearby. Bela departs from his usual monster role and plays a haunted, lovable, character with a heavy burden. I loved seeing Bela as such a sweet character, he was very endearing. His acquaintance, Poelzig, played by Karloff, was a swanning dramatic scenery chewer who was a delight to behold. It felt like I was watching Karloff trying to out-Bela Bela in his role as charming psychopath.

Oh, and Bela’s character has ailuraphobia (fear of cats). That’s it. That’s the cat. They try to make a big deal about it and cats and spirituality, but that’s it. The writing was snappy and fun, the honeymooning couple were a delightful dose of humor and were great tour guides through this dangerous war-torn country. I highly recommend this movie. Please see it on TCM streaming while it’s available. Just be prepared for a very good story that’s nothing to do with a drunken man murdering his wife and walling her body up with a cat.

But, wait. Haven’t we covered something like this on Carpe Scream before? Where Poe’s name was used on something that wasn’t Poe?

Yes, indeed we have, in Corman’s 1963 “The Haunted Palace” with Vincent Price. Years later, Hollywood convinced Corman that doing “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” by magazine writer, H.P. Lovecraft would be too obscure to bring in an audience.

It was released under the title of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Haunted Palace.” They even stuck a verse of it at the end of the movie, just to drive home that this was totally “suggested” by Poe.

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We all know how much Poe liked his references to the Necronomicon and Cthulhu.

I also like The Haunted Palace a lot. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is one of my favorite stories and I loved seeing it brought to light. Just don’t expect any real Poe story in it. You’d be better off looking for The Raven in a wacky magical romp about two wizards fighting over a woman.

Sweet screams, everyone.

Carpe Scream: The Many Faces of Dracula

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When most people think of Dracula, they think of a sexy older man with a tuxedo and widow’s peak. But were vampires always sexy beasts or was this iconic vampire figure pure Hollywood magic? Tonight I review two iconic vampire movies.

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Nosferatu, 1922 Film Arts Guild

NOSFERATU

I’d like to say that I’ve always had my nose to the ground re: vampires I’ve written college papers on them, I write a comic with one and more than a few writing projects (which might one day see the light of day) feature my favorite monster: VAMPIRES. They were one of my first fears, and one of my first fascinations. From Bela Lugosi to John Carradine, to Leslie Neelson, I adored every incarnation of Dracula (save the Wes Craven version. Sorry.). How then had I not until this point see where cinema first met Dracula.

Thanks again to TCM’s ever wonderful October Lineup. I got a chance to finally see Nosferatu for the first time. It’s a silent film that came out of Germany in 1922. It was very much based on the Bram Stoker novel, Dracula, but being unauthorized, the creators changed the names of all the characters, set it in 1850 Germany and hoped no one would notice; Stoker’s widow noticed and sued the director. Courts ordered that all versions of Nosferatu be destroyed. But a few copies in the United States escaped destruction due to legal loopholes and thankfully saved this brilliant film.

It’s your typical silent film, where actors are hugely pantomiming everything in the manner of Victorian stage actors. The Rennfield Character “Knock” was a hoot, and the Johnathan Harker character, Hutter was suitably tragic and pathetic. In this, we see Dracula as closer to how Stoker envisioned him: Ugly, old, repellent and devoid of all charm. Up to this point, barring a few Penny Dreadful novels (cough Byron), this is how vampires had been portrayed for centuries. Crude rough slavering beasts with demonic visages. Max Schreck’s portrayal of Orlok fits this character to a tee and is genuinely creepy and horrifying. In this version, he’s a bringer of plagues and wanton destruction. He uses his long filthy nails to pierce his victims neck. And sure, it’s all goofy as all getout, but scares are there, especially Hutter’s stay in Orlok’s castle.

I highly recommend this film if you’re looking for a different sort of Dracula story, and wondered how our culture envisioned vampires before Hollywood gave them a makeover.

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“What’s Edward Cullen got that I don’t?”

 

DRACULA

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Dracula 1931 Universal Pictures

As iconic as Nosferatu was for the cinema, so is Bela Lugosi for vampires in general. As I said, vampires for centuries were always seen as rough hairy cannibalistic monsters. In fact their lore was almost intertwined with werewolves, and Lycanthrope was the name used to describe both types of monsters. Stoker even mentioned things like how hairy Dracula’s hands were, how heavy his eyebrows were, his pointed sharp nails, snoutish nose, and rank breath.

Bela Lugosi changed all of that. He was our first introduction to the dapper gentleman vampire. Lugosi started his career off by playing Dracula on Broadway in an authorized stage adaptation of the book. It cut out a lot of characters (mostly the Lucy storyline), had the genius idea to make Rennfield Dracula’s ill-fated realtor and later his thrall, and cut out the final chase back to Transylvania. Hollywood decided to use this tailor-made version in their movie and the sexy cinema vampire was born. Younger Bela (who, lets face it, was pretty enthralling) had the presence, the voice, the double jointed fingers, the whole package. And the trope of vampire was never the same. Now the vampire was charming, mysterious, alluring.

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“Where all my bitches at?”

The new vampire didn’t necessarily need magic to captivate people, he had a smoldering stare doing half of the work. A wonderful contrast to his brother, the smash-and-grab werewolf, here was a patient monster who could bide his time. After all, he was irresistible. And with that trope, came the new form of vampire story, the story of the siren song of pure lust, suppressed passions longing for exploration, and the fear of the unknown and unrestrained. When handled subtly and deftly, it can be crafted into beautiful stories of love and longing and darkness.

When handled poorly, we get soppy romance books like Twilight, and spanking material like Wes Craven’s Dracula. So, as we see, the sexy gentleman vampire is a double edged sword.

Closing remarks: I love both of these films, but for closeness to the book and best feel-good vampire movie? Mel Brook’s Dracula Dead and Loving it. It keeps in the Lucy storyline (which I think is pivotal to the plot), keeps the Mina story with the right amount of tension, and has the very best Van Helsing. Just my two cents.

I leave you with Dwight Frye’s Laugh. Sweet Screams, everyone.

 

Carpe Scream 5: Puppet Master

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So….Puppet Master

I’m not sure what I just watched. Once again, I was taken aback by and actual FIRST movie being listed on Hulu (as opposed to seeing “Puppet Master VXII, The Cult of the Sock Puppet” or something) so I dove at the opportunity.

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Puppet Master 1989, Paramount Films

This film put the “whack” in wacky. It’s like if Doctor Phibes and Jack the Giant Killer had a slow-paced poorly written hate baby. We have minimal characters without a lot of motivation, five psychics who are trying to uncover the mysteries of the Puppet Master’s puppets (which we know hardly anything about, getting no background on who the Puppet Master was, why he did what he did, and what his motivation for it was). So looking for puppets, find dead friend. They stay the night, and the rest of the movie is them getting picked off in HILLLLLAAAAAARIOUS fashions by weird little “celebrity death match” puppets.

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“We’re just as God made us, Ma’am.” (image property of Universal Studios)

We get a monologue at the end by the big bad but yeah… not much else going on.

I think this is probably best enjoyed with a lot of friends and a lot of beer. I mentioned Doctor Phibes, and that’s really the attraction of the movie, to see how each puppet utilizes their special “skill” for mayhem. It’s delightfully cartoonish. Just be prepared to wonder, “Wait, who was that guy? Why is he/she here/doing that/want that?” a lot. I’d love to watch this again with some smart-ass loudmouths like me.

The Puppet Master is currently streaming on Hulu.

Inktober 5

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WHAT’S MY NAME?

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Alexander Hamilton Commission, by Monica Marier, 2017

This gorgeous Jamaican is part of a customer commission that I’m working on. The fact that I absolutely love this show and was stoked to get to draw Lin Manual Miranda (who I remember from his Electric Company days!) is just a lovely added bonus.

Inktober 4

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So I tried a little experiment yesterday. I had bought a Wink Pen on Kickstarter ages ago and I’d never had opportunity to try it out. So I figured this was the perfect time to crack it open.

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The running idea behind Wink Pens is that you can suck up any dark liquid into the barrel and draw/write with it. It was designed fro red wine, but I decided to try coffee. The uneven result was as follows.

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Coffee Tendrils by Monica Marier

The “ink” did not move around the page, refusing to adhere to the nib. I’m not sure this was a success, but there are 2 factors in that. This might be the wrong kind of paper and possibly my coffee wasn’t dark enough. I think it will be worth trying again at a later date. So, although this one test didn’t go well, I think this pen deserves another chance.