Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spooky Self-Promotion: Discover What's "Hidden" in HelloHorror


My short story "The Hidden" is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of HelloHorror, which you can read online for free right now! Who needs ice cream during this monstrous heat wave when you can have delicious chills running down your spine instead? (Or check out my piece and the other sinister selections while eating ice cream for maximum summer enjoyment.)

Either way, stay cool, babies! October will be here before you  know it...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

REVIEW: The Willows (From the minds of Creep Los Angeles)

Photo by Hatbox Photography

The first indication that we were in the right place was the lantern. It flickered softly on the sidewalk, on the opposite side of the street from where we'd parked our car. A man in black stood nearby, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Where did he come from?” I asked Mr. Spooky. Truly, I hadn’t seen him walk up - it was instead as if he had slowly materialized out of thin air, like mist creeping around the headstones in a graveyard. The night was warm but suddenly it felt like fall, like Halloween was just a few days away and not months in the future.

We approached. “Are you here for The Willows?” he asked.

Indeed, we were.

We stood and waited, near the lantern and its mysterious keeper, as others began to arrive in their party clothes, chatting and laughing. Suddenly, an announcement: Our ride would be here soon, to ferry us to the Willows’ family estate. Silence - and blindfolds - were mandatory for the short trip. 

Finally, our chariot: An unmarked van. I pulled the silky panel over my eyes, fastened my seatbelt, and surrendered.

Does all of this sound shady? It’s not. It wasn’t.

Photo by Hatbox Photography

The Willows is not an event that traffics in cheap thrills or jump scares. It’s not a haunted attraction, or dinner theater, or a Sleep No More-style interactive play - not exactly. It’s none of those things, and yet it’s all of them at once.

Am I being too cryptic? As with Creep - the eerie and innovative haunt that shares a creative team with The Willows - the less you know going in, the more you’ll have to discover on your own. And discovery is, after all, the fun of the thing.

Here’s what you can expect: Several hours of intriguing character development and world building from a talented cast who make you feel like you’re actually an honored guest at a bizarre and unsettling dinner party, and not an audience member or (gulp) an improv scene partner. You will be plied with drinks and food and led around a beautiful, enigmatic home full of sadness and secrets. You will be asked to give yourself over to the experience completely - to answer questions that might make you uncomfortable, to read documents you don’t quite understand, to share a dance with someone you might otherwise not have met. You will be puzzled, thrilled, tantalized, amused, and ultimately haunted by all you witness and learn during your evening with the Willows family.

If you're concerned, rest assured that you will not be harmed or humiliated. While this is not an event for a passive audience, it's also not a haunt (and even if it were, the Willows are far too classy for such crass antics!). Don’t be afraid! Observe. Converse. Engage.

Photo by Hatbox Photography
Those of you who feel that ache for October, who are counting down the days until the shadows lengthen and darkness again overtakes the light: Accept this invitation from The Willows. It is more than worth the price of admission.

Perhaps you’ll become part of the family. Perhaps, finally, you’ll come home.

The Willows are waiting to meet you. Don’t disappoint them.

All currently scheduled performances of The Willows are sold out, but more dates will be added soon. Sign up to be notified of future ticket opportunities.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes to review this event.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Get Ready for NIGHT OF THE WITCHES


Spring is in full swing, and for the spooky among us, that means that we're HALFWAY TO HALLOWEEN! That's right - this coming Sunday, April 30 is Hexennacht, aka Hex Night, aka Walpurgis Night, when witches roam the earth and the veil is thinned (at least, as thin as it's going to get outside of October). If you're in the Los Angeles area and your coven has the night off, head to the Phantom Carriage Brewery in Carson for Night of the Witches, a celebration featuring food and drink specials, a Q&A with a working mortician, an illustrated talk on the history of the holiday from Sarah Chavez and a screening of Anna Biller's florid feminist fever dream The Love Witch, one of my personal favorite films of 2016. 

For those of you who can't make it out, The Spooky Vegan has compiled an excellent list of 20 Witch Films to Watch on Walpurgisnacht. I was so excited to read this list comprised of some of my favorite movies that I felt compelled to offer up some additional suggestions of my own. Truly, you can never have enough cinematic spellcasters in your life. So from the goofy to the gruesome, here are 20 more titles to add to your witchlist:


01) Practical Magic: This is not a horror movie. Instead, it's a late '90s rom-com with magical elements starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as two sisters with beautiful hair who also happen to be witches. Sandy is sort of a reluctant Samantha Stephens type who just wants a normal life, while Nicole exploits her magic without bothering to learn the intricacies of the craft. It's a little cheesy but it's a definite grower, and it also features national treasures Dianne Wiest and Chloe Webb. Plus, I covet the house from this movie so hard



02) Curse of the Demon (aka Night of the Demon): This would make a fun double feature with the Spooky Vegan-recommended Burn, Witch, Burn! A professor tries to unravel the nefarious machinations of a Satanic cult led by a charismatic Aleister Crowley type. The climax is a bit, um, over-the-top, but this is slow-burn occult horror at its finest up until the last 5 minutes. 


03) Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead): The inimitable Christopher Lee plays a professor (oh, those professors and their wacky forays into witchcraft!) who lures an unsuspecting student into the clutches of a coven in a remote New England town. Foggy atmosphere to spare. 


04) Witchcraft '70: This lurid 1970 documentary is witchsploitation at its finest. SEE the sleazy poster promising "Actual Human Sacrifice on The Bloodstained Altar of Baal!" SEE pagan practitioners around the world engage in rituals for the camera. SEE boobs. Many, many boobs. If you can find it, it's worth a watch. 


05) Vali, The Witch of Positano: Another documentary, this obscure 1965 film is about the titular Vali, an intriguing and charismatic Australian woman who moves to the Italian countryside and basically lives the witchy bohemian dream life. I confess that I had never even heard of this one until the Cinefamily included it in their All of Them Witches lineup last year. Again, there's a great double feature opportunity here if you pop this on before or after Witchcraft '70.


06) Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome: Kenneth Anger directed this short film starring the incredibly striking artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron, who was also married to rocket scientist, occultist and general foxy weirdo Jack Parsons, founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Seriously, if you don't know anything about Jack Parsons and Marjorie Cameron, read up! I'm pretty sure I just introduced you to your new favorite topic of fascination.) All that aside, you don't have to know anything about anything to get into the profound weirdness of a Kenneth Anger movie. Anger, who wrote Hollywood Babylon in addition to his work as a filmmaker, is himself a notorious occultist and provocateur. I saw this film at the beautiful Ace Hotel downtown while in an extremely altered state and it tripped me out so fucking bad I could barely look at the screen. Enjoy!


07) The Witches of Eastwick: Three downtrodden babes (played by Susan Sarandon, Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer) who don't quite realize the full extent of their powers - not just as witches, but as, like...women, ya heard? - conjure up The Perfect Man. Only he turns out to be kind of a repugnant bastard, because he's Satan as played by mid-'80s Jack Nicholson. Lucifer as Lothario. Come for Cher in overalls, stay for Veronica Cartwright barfing up truckloads of cherries in one of the most indelibly disgusting vomit scenes of all time.


08) I Married a Witch: Screen legend Veronica Lake plays another cute witch with hot hair who, for some reason, gets super romantically obsessed with a guy who's kinda not worth the trouble, but I guess the heart wants what it wants? To be honest, I've only seen this movie once, but Veronica Lake is gorg and this is a fluffy little meringue of a witch movie - short, sweet and goes down easy. Check it out if you have 77 minutes to spare.


09) Elvira, Mistress of the Dark: Yeah, this is a witch movie. Come at me. No, you say? Then how do you explain the fact that Elvira is NEARLY BURNED AT THE STAKE for serving the townsfolk a casserole that leads to a mass orgy? Case closed. No, but seriously - this movie has everything from Elvira using her boobs to bust through a cemetery gate to Edie McClurg sitting on some dude's face. It's indescribably awesome and you should watch it right now even if you just finished watching it five minutes ago.


10) The Worst Witch: Guys, look at that. It's Fairuza Balk from The Craft flying through the air with TIM FUCKING CURRY and Tim Curry is wearing a goddamn bat bowtie. If you don't already have this very image tattooed on your body because The Worst Witch has been your favorite thing in the world since it first aired as a TV movie in 1986, drop everything you're doing and watch it right now. 



11) The Wicker Man: Not a witch movie, but more of that good old-fashioned British pagan horror. This movie is kinda weird and slow but it's all about dancing while nude and paying tribute to nature and to the cycles of the year and therefore it's kind of the perfect movie for this spooky spring holiday, right? Oh, and it should go without saying that I'm recommending the 1973 Christopher Lee version, not the Nicolas Cage version, although I guess you could watch that one too for a much different kind of horror. You're an adult now. I can't stop you.


12) Paranormal Activity 3: Here's the weird/fun thing about the Paranormal Activity movies: You think they're ghost/haunted house movies, but really, they're witch movies. Part 3 is when the whole backstory really gets fleshed out, and many consider it the best in the series. Here's my hot tip for optimal Paranormal Activity viewing: Watch them alone. In the dark. Preferably in bed on your laptop. Really try to lose yourself in them and empathize with the characters. Stop being a cool in-the-know horror fan and just let yourself be a weenie for 90 minutes or so and these movies will reward you with a treasure trove of shivers and jump scares. Seriously! Signed, Your Favorite PA Apologist.


13) Blood on Satan's Claw: More British rural horror. These village kids kinda lose their minds. I think demons are involved maybe. Honestly, the details are a little fuzzy at this point, but I can say unequivocally that my favorite part is HBIC Angel Blake, who goes hardcore pagan and basically starts rocking the most intense strong brow of all time. So dope. I don't remember much about this movie, but I think about Angel Blake's brow game on an almost daily basis. 


14) Halloweentown: This is a Disney channel movie, so know that the humor is going to be broad and the witchcraft is going to be family-friendly af. Quick question: Do you want to see the fabulous Debbie Reynolds (RIP) swan around in crushed velvet robes and ride a broomstick with her grandkids? Of course you do. (Note: There are three sequels, so clear your schedule if you plan on doing the Halloweentown deep dive.)


15) The Witches (aka The Devil's Own): In this 1966 Hammer horror flick, Joan Fontaine plays a conservative schoolteacher who is shocked to find that witches exist even in her small English village. Fun fact: The creepy little chap who played Miles in 1961's The Innocents is also in this.


16) The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil's Bride): "Hey, girl, it's me, Christopher Lee. Here I am in a Hammer horror movie about trying to rescue my friend's son when his occult dalliance goes too far. I look super dashing with my facial hair and neat suit, check me out."  


17) The Seventh Victim: A woman discovers that her missing sister has taken up with a group of Greenwich Village Satanists. This is my favorite Val Lewton movie. It's another quick watch at 71 minutes, and the ending is surprisingly brutal. Also, total hair and style inspo from Jean Brooks, playing a 1940's proto-goth girl.


18) Rosemary's Baby: Somebody had to say it. 


19) BONUS TV SHOW - The Secret Circle: This 2011/2012 show was canceled after only one 22-episode season, which I guess makes sense because I don't know anyone else who watched it, but I loved it in all of its perfectly-coiffed white-teethed CW glory. I'm pretty sure they pitched this one as The Craft meets Dawson's Creek, and if that description appeals to you this show won't disappoint. I don't know why, but I always have one CW show that I'm obsessed with at any given time. (Right now it's Riverdale. Are you watching Riverdale?! You SHOULD. Twin Peaks meets Gossip Girl and Luke Perry and Skeet Ulrich play hot dads! I am old!)


20) BONUS TV SHOW - Hex: No, really, NO ONE I know watched Hex. This British show ran for only 2 seasons, from 2004 to 2005, leaving us with only 19 episodes and some Hex-y blue balls. Oh yeah, and it gave the world some guy named Michael Fassbender, maybe you've heard of him? Well, here he plays a fallen angel/demon trying to hook it up with a teen at a boarding school, and also her best friend is a ghost and things get real crazy. If you like Hex, please get at me because I've never met anyone who's even heard of this show. (Also, just realized that both of my bonus witch TV shows feature blonde leads named Cassie, which is weird.)

+++

There you have it! Again, a big thank you to the Spooky Vegan for the inspiration, and also for giving SLG a shout out as one of her Top 13 Halloween Blogs. I truly appreciate the support - it's nice to feel like maybe I'm not just screaming into the void here. More posts to come soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NOTHING HAPPENS


A parody trailer, lovingly made to pay tribute to my favorite kind of horror movie: Ultra slow burn, leisurely paced and atmospheric. Crossing my fingers that I don’t get cease & desist emails from Eli Roth, Ti West or Fangoria!

Monday, September 19, 2016

REVIEW: Creep Los Angeles 2016


We are driving down a dark road in an industrial area. I haven't seen any houses in a while; just gas stations with their buzzing fluorescent lights, fast food joints and mysterious unmarked warehouses. Have we passed it? Our eyes strain to make out numbers. Then, projected on the side of a building, stark white on black: CREEP

"There it is!" I exclaim. I make a U-turn and pull into the lot.

A small group of people linger out front. A man in a dark hoodie and mask hands us cards inscribed with a single word and silently points to the X's on the ground in front of the door. We take our places. An orchestral cover of Radiohead's "Creep" plays. Are those children singing? It's hot in LA - still summer, really - but Halloween is in the air.

The door swings open. It's our turn to enter.

I ask to use the bathroom. It's lit only by candles; incense smolders in the sink. One of the creeps repeatedly pounds on the door while I try to pee. "This is all part of it," I reassure myself.

They call us forward, four at a time, and ask us to sign waivers. I don't even read mine, I just scribble my name. "Don't fuck it up," a creep hisses in my ear. After everyone has signed their lives away, they gesture: This way. Look for the man with the clipboard and introduce yourselves. We slink down a twisting maze in pitch blackness, the eight of us, thrown together by fate. Where are we heading?

Suddenly, a light. No one jumps out at us. There are no flayed corpses or fog machines or spiderwebs. Just a room that looks like a nightclub from a David Lynch movie, bathed in red light. PJ Harvey's "Electric Light" is playing. We order vodka sodas and wait, nervously. What have we gotten ourselves into?

A beautiful woman asks me to dance and makes me promise to go wherever the darkness takes me. A stranger pulls me away from my husband and takes me into an enclosed space. A man tells us the story of Erebus Burwyck, who believed the path to transcendence was paved with suffering, both mental and physical, before hammering nails into his face.

Then, the man with the clipboard says the word printed on the cards we were given. Purgatory is behind us now; only hell lies ahead.

We are led away. Our adventure begins in earnest.


What happens at CreepLA? To say much more would be to spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that this haunt is totally unique, and true to its name. Will you be touched? Absolutely. You may be blindfolded, or told to hide. Your face may be painted. You're guaranteed to have a different experience than your friends. (But for those who fear McKamey Manor-esque hijinks like faux water boarding or live insects on your face, rest assured that nothing like that will befall you from the creeps at CreepLA. You will be touched, but you won't be harmed.)

If you're game, this is an experience that's rich with petrifying possibilities. Enter the darkness, and let the darkness enter you.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes to review this event.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Halloween in July: Midsummer Scream 2016


While the rest of the nation writhes and sweats in the summer sun, something magical is brewing in the greater Los Angeles area...yes, my spooky friends, the rumors are true: Southern California is absolutely lousy with Halloween conventions in 2016. Last weekend was the inaugural year of Midsummer Scream a brand new Long Beach-based "Halloween Festival" from haunt season stalwarts Creepy LA and Theme Park Adventure.

Sure, smaller minds may balk at the idea of kicking off the Halloween season when October 31st is still three months out, but connoisseurs know that this is a long time coming, and midsummer is actually the perfect time to start pretending it's fall.

To wit:

  1. The last significant festive holiday is the 4th of July. And then nothing until Halloween, which leaves a huge pumpkin-shaped hole in the hearts of the American public. 
  2. The 4th of July is actually the holiday that's perhaps closest in spirit to Halloween, automatically putting everyone in the mood for tricks 'n treats. I mean, the 4th of July is a community holiday, not a family holiday. People run wild in the streets, there are terrifying explosions, and if you do the 4th right, it should pretty much border on anarchy. Just like Halloween! (Well, maybe not the explosions. MAYBE.)
  3. Unlike premature Christmas, which can totally ruin early fall vibes - not to mention completely overshadowing everyone's favorite calendar-sanctioned food fest, Thanksgiving - premature Halloween steps on no one's toes. It's not like your Labor Day is going to be ruined if you catch a glimpse of the velvet skulls on the shelves at Michael's. 
  4. Late summer is less obviously spooky than fall, but it still has an inherent moodiness to it that lends itself well to horror movies. To name just a few perfect-for-summer horror flicks: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp, The 'Burbs, Jeepers Creepers, The Devil's Rejects
So yeah, I am definitely on board with firing up the broomstick a little early. And that's exactly what Halloween fans got with Midsummer Scream.



Mr. Spooky with the creepy creeps of Creep Los Angeles


In addition to panels, classes, film screenings and a full roster of eerie exhibitors peddling jewelry, apparel, housewares, bath products, perfumes, baked goods, movies, books, special FX for the home haunter, and just generally every kind of Halloween-related tchotchke imaginable, there was the Hall of Shadows, full of mini mazes and small-scale haunted houses, live theater from Zombie Joe's Underground, a stunning collection of artwork in the Ghoulmaster's Gallery, and even a collection of beautiful cats available for adoption.


Glittery bat ring, planchette post earrings and fucking dope Witch hoops from Dulce Calaveritas.
Artwork by Michelle Prebich (Bat in Your Belfry).
I also managed to procure The Worst Witch on DVD - which means I no longer have to dust off my VCR to enjoy Tim Curry in all of his unspeakably wonderful wizardly glory! - and the complete Groovie Goolies cartoon series, including the Looney Toons crossover episode. Clearly, my day was a tremendous success.

Fuck your beach and fuck your BBQ* -  with Midsummer Scream behind us and Scare LA looming ahead, Halloween conventions are the new jam for summer fun in SoCal. 


*DISCLAIMER: I kid, I kid. I love the beach. And I really love BBQs! Please invite me to your BBQ!!! Thx.





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Halloween in March: Halloween Club's Spookshow 3


We didn't stay long - because it was hot, and because we couldn't resist the siren song of the nearby In-N-Out - but Mr. Spooky and I had a ton o' seasonally inappropriate fun at Halloween Club's Spookshow 3, which took place in La Mirada on March 7. It was basically like an outdoor swap meet, but there were randos in awesome costumes running around, and every vendor was selling the coolest Halloween goodies, from fancy spirit boards to the creepiest of creepy dolls to customized heads in jars.

I also received a flyer for what is probably the most extreme and controversial haunt in the world (barring some sort of real-life Hostel-type situation), San Diego's McKamey Manor. I want no part of those shenanigans! I mean, right? I mean...dare I? Should I? If anyone reading this has actually experienced McKamey Manor, I demand you comment and tell me all about it!

It may be March, but I'm officially in the Halloween spirit (LOL, as always). Next stop, ScareLA! In the meantime, enjoy a few snaps from our day in the spooky sun.











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