Monday, August 7, 2017

Summertime Boos: Midsummer Scream 2017



I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We are absolutely spoiled with the number of Halloween and horror festivals, celebrations and conventions that we have to choose from here in southern California, many of them taking place in the ordinarily dreary off-season. I can easily rattle off half a dozen just off the top of my head: Halloween Club's Spookshow, Monsterpalooza, Scare LA, Son of Monsterpalooza, Abracadaver's Grave Harvest...and, of course, Midsummer Scream, which took place at the Long Beach Convention Center on July 29 and 30.

Not to rub it in or anything, but if you weren't there? You missed out, man.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shudder Double Feature: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL and GHOSTWATCH

4th of July weekend was a hot 'n muggy one here in LA, and the heat didn't let up after the sun set - at least, not in our apartment. The only thing I wanted to do was lay on the couch in the dark with the fan pointed directly at me and watch horror movies. Mr. Spooky and I finally signed up for Shudder recently, so we had our work cut out for us in terms of selection. (Look, I know we all miss the horror sections of brick and mortar video stores - their charms were undeniable - but I still can't get over how FUCKING DOPE it is to have the entire horror section in my living room, ready to watch at a moment's notice.)

SIDE NOTE: I assume I'm late to the party, but just in case - you're signed up for Shudder, right? For just $5 a month (less if you pay for the entire year at once) you get access to so many cool horror movies. As far as I'm concerned, it's already paid for itself, because that weekend we discovered two new (old) favorites via what turned out to be an ideal double feature of Halloween-set retro found footage horror: WNUF Halloween Special (2013) and Ghostwatch (1992). 


WNUF Halloween Special has been on my radar for a while, and it was one of the films I was most excited to find on Shudder. The movie is a tape-recorded broadcast of a local TV station's Halloween night programming in 1987, complete with commercials. For fans of '70s, '80s and '90s nostalgia, this is exactly the kind of gem you're always hoping to unearth every time you watch an old VHS tape you found in a thriftstore (or just click on one of Dinosaur Dracula's Retro TV Commercials posts). The period setting feels so true to life and the Halloween atmosphere is so intoxicating that it starts to feel like you're in an honest-to-god timewarp.

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:

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.


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.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review - SEASON OF THE WITCH: HOW THE OCCULT SAVED ROCK & ROLL by Peter Bebergal

"If you make enough noise, no matter your instrument, you can keep the old gods alive forever."  - Season of the Witch (p. 207)

If you know me, you know that I love music. I've played in bands for years, and I've been an obsessive fan of various musicians at least since seventh grade, when I discovered Nirvana and Pearl Jam. So when I heard about Peter Bebergal's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll (released last year - on my birthday, no less!), I knew I had to read it. An examination of how music, magick and mysticism intersect and play off of one another, and how musicians have used the occult as everything from a marketing tool to a genuine attempt to channel the divine,  Season of the Witch is like the textbook for the most interesting class you never took in college.

In a Q&A, Bebergal is asked about the intended audience for the book, and he replies that, beyond the usual suspects (rock fans, scholars of religion, students of pop culture esoterica), "if you ever 'threw horns' at a rock concert, this book is for you." So, in other words, this book is for me. There was a period of time ('96-'99?) when throwing the horns was just my default pose whenever someone pointed a camera at me. I still occasionally throw horns as a way to, oh, greet a friend, or wave a fellow motorist through a four-way stop sign. You know, the usual.


You see, dear reader, weird occult rock music is in my blood. My dad introduced me to Black Sabbath. My mom initiated me into the cult of Stevie Nicks. Flirting with the devil via riffs, drum solos and vaguely sinister cover art is part of my DNA.


Season of the Witch starts at the beginning, demonstrating how rock music has been conflated with - if not Satan, exactly - then certainly with divine and mystical forces since its inception. From Robert Johnson allegedly selling his soul to the devil to the psychedelic shamanism of early Pink Floyd to Jimmy Page's Crowley fixation, it's all there. But Bebergal doesn't just stick to the hits - he goes for the deep cuts, introducing readers to occult-inspired bands that are a little less well-known than Sabbath and Zeppelin, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


Take Coven, for instance. In addition to featuring this super sick cover art on their 1969 album Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, "Coven is also credited with being the first band to 'throw horns'" (p. 116). Now there's a cultural contribution that can't be denied! I also learned about Mort Garson, who was one of the first musicians to record popular music using Moog synthesizers. His 1970 album Black Mass, released under the name Lucifer, is a total retro-futuristic trip. This book even gave me a healthy appreciation of prog, previously one of my most maligned musical genres!

Witchy TV shows on Lifetime and the Hallmark Channel. Witchy clothes at Urban Outfitters and Forever 21. Hell, even Jay-Z and Beyonce are probably members of the Illuminati, right? (See page 211 for more info.) We are definitely in the midst of a serious occult revival, which means this book couldn't be more timely or intriguing. 

For anyone who has ever pondered an inscrutable lyric, for anyone who has ever felt unsettled by a strange and disturbing music video, for anyone who has ever wondered - even for a second - when this bullshit "Paul McCartney" will finally admit that Paul died decades ago...this is your new favorite book. Get ready to remember why you started loving rock & roll in the first place.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review.

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