Tag Archives: horror

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: 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!

Inktober Day 10

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I missed 2 days this weekend, but you know? That’s okay. Instead of worrying about making it up or stressing, I’m going to just keep going. So here is a cute little H. P. Lovecraft colouring page. I always dreamed that some day I can do a full colouring book of these. Some day. Anyways, feel free to print and colour this and share it with me. I’d love to see what you do!

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Pickman’s Model, by Monica Marier

Carpe Scream Day 28

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Today’s another kids’ movie night so I’m reviewing “Monster House.”

Monster House, 2006, Sony Pictures

First off, I have to confess that kids’ movie or not there were elements of this that were pretty dang scary, not least of which is that the movie’s story, execution, and even film and color palette, are very reminiscent of old 80’s slasher movies. The movie is obviously set in the early 80’s and with a touch of Spielberg and Zemeckis (co-producers) over the whole, this has a very Halloween meets Goonies meets E.T. feel to it.

There’s a visceral grittiness to the characters and dialogue that feels unscripted and anxious which makes it scarier and more grimdark than your usual fluffy kiddy fare, and that’s very much on purpose. That’s solely for the purpose of making the viewers of ALL ages feel like the kid protagonists. We are transported back in time to when parents wouldn’t believe us, our hormones were turned against us, and when we were slowly becoming aware that real evil existed in the world, and not just in our books and movies. It’s a very helpless feeling and this movie cashes in on making the viewer feel vulnerable and alone.

No punches are pulled either. The evil’s origin story is as dark as you can get for a kids’ movie. This is not a movie for the real young’uns. This one is for the kids who think, “maybe I’m too old to dress up this year.”

Carpe Scream Day 27

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Today’s movie is a double feature: both the stage production and the Tim Burton film of Sweeney Todd. First up, is the filmed production of the Broadway Version with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury.

Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 1982, Turner Home Entertainment

This is really the bible of this show as far as precedent and how to beat it. Hearn and Lansbury are superior as the demonic and impish Todd and Lovett. Hearn’s deep basso and terrifying expressions really make him a fantastic tragic villain.

“At last, my arm is complete again!”

I’m only sorry that Angie’s comedy chops aren’t as good in this as they’ve been in other things I’ve seen her in. She’s a little too over the top and her stiff-legged waddle and monkey-faces aren’t as funny as if she’d played it more straight. Yes, it’s stage. Yes that’s how 70’s theatre was, I get it. I think I was spoiled by seeing Emma Thompson do it in the staged concert on PBS. She is my favorite Lovett.

Dat hair tho.

All in all, this version is a bloody good time and worth watching.

And then there’s this:

Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Demon, 2007, Warner Bros. Pictures

I’m pretty sure the creation of this was Helena prancing around Tim in a sexy lingerie and singing “Do it! Do it! Film it! Film the musical, baby! Come on!” and him eventually saying yes. It’s clear that Tim had no desire to make a musical. Half of the numbers were cut out, all of the crowd’s lines were cut (so you can sing it yourself at home!) But for that, it’s not a terrible version, if you look at it as bringing demension to the story that you can’t on the stage, the quick cuts, the crowd shots, the action, and the blood. SO MUCH BLOOD. LITERALLY BUCKETS OF BLOOD.

“Do I got a little something on my face?”

That’s really the fun part. In the stage show, the producers have to be conservative with blood in the show, so the actors aren’t slipping in giant wet lakes of it during the production. In the movie we get to see graphic portrayals of real blood, bugs, meat and other delicious closeups and subtle winks and nods that we’d never get to see on a far away stage.

“I’d gander at that.”

Where it falls short is, sadly, the lack of experienced singers in the major roles. They managed to find great performers and singers for the secondary players, but Depp’s gritty constipated grunts, and Helena’s flat whistles utterly fail to enchant, and are perhaps the bigger reason Burton cut out more musical numbers. So this makes a great sing-along and it’s visually exciting. And for all the weak singing, Depp summons a wonder pathos for Todd and Helena brings the subtle quirky funny no problem. Of course, this is the REAL reason we went to go see this when it came out.