Category Archives: Carpe Scream

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 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.

Carpe Scream 4: Child’s Play

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Today, I look at another Horror Movie Icon. For the longest time I thought I’d seen the first Chucky movie, but I guess that was number 2 or 3, because I have no memory of Child’s Play. This is back when they were still calling it “Child’s Play” and not “The ____ of Chucky,” because, let’s face it. It’s all about this freaky little doll, possessed with the spirit of a Chicago Serial Strangler.

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Childhood fears are a subject I embrace with tender love, but this movie is the only one to encapsulate the TERROR which I lived with as a child: FREAKY UNCANNY VALLEY TOYS OF THE 80’S. Seriously. ALL of these guys could have been possessed by dead serial killers. Just look at them!

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Killers. All these guys.

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Ahhh! No!

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WHAT…. I DON’T EVEN….

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BURN IT WITH FIRE!!!

So yeah, I was among the millions of kids who saw the “Good Guys” doll in commericals (a cute nod to the “My Buddy” doll for boys of that era) and immediately cottoned on to the idea that it was evil. But still not as evil as the HuggaBunch movie.

The rest was your typical Talky Tina plotline, except this doll isn’t protective of its owner and has a vendetta of his own to kill the guys who pursued him in life and—HOLY CRAP, IS THAT GRIMA WORMTONGUE?

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Brad Dourif, image property of MGM/UA

So, I guess this guy is just good at being the evil little voice in people’s ears.

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“Chucky says she was a rotten bitch and got what she deserved!” (image property of Newline Cinema)

It was pretty fun, and Charles Sarandon was pretty fun as the detective, but it might have been fun to hint at a little romance between him and the mom. And for all Chucky being possessed by a serial strangler, he actually did very little strangling. Mostly stabbing, but when your body weight is reduced to a measly five pounds, you don’t really have that power behind it.

Final thoughts? This movie wins the award for the most fake-out endings ever probably. Chucky is now available to stream on Xfinity OnDemand for a limited time. Also Netflix just posted the The Cult of Chucky for streaming. I might take a peek later this month just to see how weirdly this concept deviates from its source.
Sweet Screams, everyone!

Carpe Scream Day 3 2017

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Cape Fear

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Cape Fear 1962, Universal Pictures

This was a hard one, guys. I’d seen plenty of visuals and references to Cape Fear, most noticeably on The Simpsons. I expected this to be a straight forward movie about a criminal getting vindictive revenge on a lawyer. I didn’t expect this to be a very realistic thriller about obsession, violence against women, paedophilia, and how rape is the worst crime against women, but the victims are always punished more heavily than the perpetrator. I could go on, but it’s all there in the movie. Gregory Peck as a helpless, petrified father is heart-breaking. Robert Mitchum is transformed from his usual goofy, charming-asshole-with-a-heart-of-gold character into a sleazy, greasy, creepy predator that was truly terrifying to watch. I’m not sure I can watch Sabrina for a while after this.

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Holy shit, are you scary, Bobby.

Yesterday I touched on how the theme of child-loss is such a strong, true fear to stain a gore-streaked horror movie with. This is the other one. Mitchum’s character, Max Cady is a very REAL sort of fellow. There’s hundreds like him all over the world, maybe thousands, and the film reminds us, that for the most part, society won’t help us against them until it’s too late. Maybe not even then. So, yeah. This is probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen for Carpe Scream. This totally counts as Horror.

This is streaming on TCM On Demand for a short time only. I feel the need to state: Trigger Warning: rape, abuse of women, child rape,

Stay close to each other tonight, folks.

CARPE SCREAM IS BACK!!

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IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN FOLKS! Welcome to this year’s Carpe Scream!

What is Carpe Scream?
Carpe Scream is a self-inflicted movie challenge in which I watch one horror movie for every day in October and post my thoughts on it on my blog. That’s 31 movies in all.

Why are you doing this?In 2014, I had a strange revelation: I write and draw for a horror comic, but I hate horror movies. I had at that point only seen a few horror movies, and most of those were of the cheesey B-movie genre that weren’t very scary. That year, ever since, I’ve pushed myself to explore more deeply the artform that is the horror movie. I’ve seen about 100 horror movies (some repeats), some good, some bad, some now in my yearly favorites, and I think it’s helped me appreciate the craft and the genius behind GOOD horror.

Any Changes this year?
This year, I’m going to try to post where I viewed the movie so that others can check them out with me. I’m also going to include links to wikipedia pages for people who (like me) might want to know more about the making of the films. As always, please feel free to post in the comments.

You get a two-fer for today, since yesterday was Sunday, here we go!

PUMPKINHEAD!

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Pumpkin Head, 1988  (Photo Property of MGM/UA)


At last! At last! Pumpkin-head was on streaming this year! It’s so rare that I get to see the first movie in a series listed. This guy was on Amazon Prime Streaming, so I dove in while the getting was good.

Pumpkinhead is the directorial Debut of Special Effects wizard Stan Winston (the guy behind Edward Scissorhands, Batman 1&2, Predator, and Terminator2). I was already a huge fan, having followed the Stan Winston School on Facebook and drooling at all the courses I wish I could take.  And, I mean, you can tell. Just check that monster out: GORGEOUS.

This movie deals with a theme, which is very much a REAL fear of mine, which is the loss of a child. That’s one that always punches me in the gut, as a parent, and is ten times more terrifying than zombies or werewolves. Pet Sematary is on my list for that reason too. (shudder).

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And just look at this little Lipnicky-lookin’ guy! (photo property of MGM/UA)

So the whole thing kicks off when Big Daddy Ed loses his little guy, only reminder of his wife, etc. Who’s to blame? GEN-EXERS. So death to them. He seeks out the help of a witch named Haggis. I’M NOT KIDDING.

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“They Call me Haggis because I was MISS HAGGIS of the Glasgow Sheep Festival in ’23!” (photo property of United Artists/MGM

Haggis helps him summon the demon of vengeance named “Pumpkinhead” to kill everyone who was within spitting distance of his son when ONE GUY ran him over on a dirt bike. Yeah, I’d be that mad too. Anyway, things go about as you’d expect. Overall it was a lovely bit of dark fantasy, with a familiar ring of the old fairytales of dark magic and evil servants whose help comes with a price. I was blown away by Winston’s special effects and makeup. Nothing like a Monster they actually SHOW you in glorious detail so you can marvel at the sculpt every time he’s on screen. Just wow.

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Photo property of Stan Winston

 

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON

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(Image property of Universal Pictures)

From one special effects wizard to another, this one is the special effects playground of my secret idol, Rick Baker! his teamup with comedy legend John Landis makes this whole movie a delight.

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PLUS RICK BAKER

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to work up my nerve for this one. I remember as a kid trying several times to watch this film (BECAUSE RICK BAKER) and failing. The gore makeup on Griffin Dunne (seen above) was incredibly realistic and it’s only taken over 100 movies for me to innoculate myself against squicking out and shutting off the telly.

This film follows your classic werewolf story, and even pays homage to the Lon Chaney Jr’s film. but with the added fun of the werewolf being haunted by his victims urging him to kill himself. Dark dark stuff, but with a peppy, iconic moon-related soundtrack, and Landis’ golden touch of irreverence and comedy.

But all of that takes a backseat to one of the most fantastic transformation sequences ever choreographed. I held my breath the whole time, marveling at how seamless and truly magical this sequence was. This was practical effects, by the way. All of this was painstakingly painted latex, and bladders, and rigs, and hair application.

 

TRULY ASTOUNDING. This movie won an Oscar for best makeup, by the way.

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Rick Baker, (image via @TheRickBaker on Twitter)

Rick Baker is currently a judge on SyFy’s Face Off spin-off, “Game Face” on at 9pm EST on SyFy. I was in no way paid to say that, I’m just a huge fan. An America Werewolf is now streaming on Hulu.

So that’s today’s post and the first Carpe Scream. Also stay tuned this month for my Inktober posts, where I post a new ink drawing every day. Hope you enjoy getting spooky with me this month. Ta!