Wednesday, January 11, 2017


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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


"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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review - VAMPIRA: DARK GODDESS OF HORROR by W. Scott Poole

Happy new year! It's 2015 - how the fuck did that happen?! Well, in any case, the holidays are officially over. In fact, according to the LA Bureau of Sanitation, they ended today, because today was the official day for Angelenos to drop off their Christmas trees for recycling. Christmas is a merely a memory and we're already four days into a brand new year. Did you make any resolutions? Do your resolutions include, say, reading more books? Or increasing the scope of your horror knowledge? Perhaps you're just a fan of macabre babes? Nice, me too! Oh, and I've got a book recommendation for you - W. Scott Poole's sociological examination of the original horror hostess, Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror.

As a lifelong Elvira fan and child of the '80s/early '90s, I didn't know a whole lot about Vampira growing up. Honestly, I'm not even sure when I first heard of her. Was it when Tim Burton's Ed Wood came out? Did I see her glamorously ghastly visage peering out at me from the shelves of some goth clothing store in north Orange County? I'm not sure. But I can tell you exactly when I became deeply interested in Vampira, and that's when my friend Lindsay, who had written a very good article on horror hosts and learned a lot in the process, gifted me a DVD of an intriguing little documentary called Vampira and Me a couple of years ago. Vampira, also known as Maila Nurmi in the daylight, led a fascinating life - and it's remarkable how a woman who was only a television personality for a couple of years in the '50s, who has only a combined few minutes of surviving film and TV footage to her name, has managed to impact popular culture in every ensuing decade. Simply put, Vampira is the shit. So when I heard that there was a new book about her, I was eager to learn as much as possible.

W. Scott Poole makes it clear in his book's introduction that this is NOT a standard biography of the OG goth girl, mostly because Maila Nurmi remains an enigmatic figure about whom little is known. Instead, it's an examination of what Maila Nurmi's creation meant to the counterculture, to the '50s, to entertainment and to the world at large. Of course, there are still lots of fascinating biographical details to be had, from a look at Nurmi's controversial friendship with James Dean to her dalliance with a young Elvis Presley. (Incidentally, Cassandra Peterson - a.k.a. Elvira - was a Vegas showgirl in her youth and claims to have lost her virginity to Elvis, so the man clearly had a type.)

You can also expect to find lots of juicy and evocative details like the following:

I'm sorry, is Vampira actually sucking strawberry milkshake off of a rosary in this scenario?! All hail the queen, dudes.

There were a few early passages in the book that I have to admit I found a bit dry, such as Poole's look at what it must have been like for young Nurmi to grow up in the Finnish American community and the impact her parents' religious views may have had on her as a performer. The story of how the character of Vampira came to be, however - she was Nurmi's take on Charles Addams' gothic housewife (later named Morticia for the Addams Family TV series), a costume created for a Halloween party - and the ways in which the character shaped the rest of her life was truly engaging.

I may not look like Vampira (I mean, I wish!), but the whole glamour ghoul schtick is something that is truly near and dear to my heart. Plus, there's nothing I cherish more than witty one-liners and deadpan delivery - and Vampira certainly puts the dead in deadpan, so you could definitely say that I owed a lot to this woman on a personal level, even before I knew who she was. If you're looking for a book to kick off 2015, pick up Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror - a look at the original "spooky little girl."

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spooky Self-Promotion: See What's Lurking Under the Bed

My short story "The Song of Love" (inspired, in part, by binging on Twin Peaks while housesitting in suburbia) is in the October 2014 issue of Under the Bed magazine (Vol. 03 No. 01). Please check it out here or on Amazon for "awesome reviews, horrifying relationships, cannibal terror, deadly bees, and a whole lot more." What horror fan could say no to that?!

P.S. I know I've been quiet lately. (Okay, basically dead.) Rest assured, I'm still spooky. I'm just not sure how I feel about blogging, but I do update the SLG Facebook page from time to time.

Here's a brief and incomplete list of things I've been meaning to write about but just haven't gotten around to lately:

  • The amazing selection of Halloween goodies at Spirit stores this year.
  • The haunts I've visited this year (so far, Universal HHN, the Halloween Harvest Festival at Pierce College and the Empty Grave).
  • My newly rekindled love of rollercoasters, which are so much more terrifying to me than mazes and haunted houses.
  • Nicholas McCarthy's The Pact and At the Devil's Door.
  • ScareLA, which I can't believe was all the way back in AUGUST. 
  • The Houses October Built (loved it) and the Haunters documentary (can't wait for it).
  • My feelings on "extreme haunts," i.e. San Diego's infamous McKamey Manor.
Maybe some spooky day I'll actually get around to some of it...

Until then, enjoy this beautiful October. I know I will.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

HHN Choose Your Scare Zone: And the Winner Is...

...MASK-A-RAID! I'm totes pleased, because Mask-a-Raid happens to be the scare zone I voted for. Power to the people, the system works!

More info on the scare zone and what's in store for this year's Halloween Horror Nights (Hollywood):
The new Scare Zone, staged in the theme park’s French Street location, will transport guests to a time when masquerade balls were a staple of the social calendar in pre-Revolutionary War France. However, visitors will soon learn that behind the elaborate, jeweled masks of powdered and perfumed party-goers are members of a blood-thirsty cannibal cult. 

In addition to the new Scare Zone, and after rave reviews from fans, Universal Studios Hollywood’s “Halloween Horror Nights” is bringing back AMC’s “The Walking Dead” for an unprecedented third consecutive year. A terrifying maze – “Walking Dead: End of the Line” – and “Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead” will be inspired by Season 4 of the critically-acclaimed, Emmy Award®-winning television. 

This year’s bone-chilling maze will place guests at the heart of a harrowing journey to seek sanctuary at Terminus, an elusive destination that promises community for all. Meanwhile, “Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead” will send guests on the road to Terminus, interspersed with landmarks and walkers from Season 4, including the “burned moonshine cabin,” “charred walkers” and “mud walkers.”

Monday, June 2, 2014

Halloween Horror Nights: CHOOSE YOUR SCARE ZONE

Summer has just begun, so naturally my thoughts are turning to...Halloween. And it looks like, as usual, I have plenty of company in southern California, because I just learned that Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is about to launch a voting competition so all you spookies can choose one of the new Scare Zones for HHN this year!

Here are your choices (descriptions and concept art courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood):
  • Option 1: Corps - “The War to End All Wars” has left a swathe of destruction through battle-torn France, and on French Street at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, World War I-era soldiers have returned from the dead. The constant artillery bombardment has turned the twisted network of trenches into a sprawling graveyard, and now “The Lost Generation” is rising from their muddy graves and coming home to haunt the streets of “old Paris.” 
  • Option 2: Mask-a-Raid - Masquerade Balls were a staple of the social calendar in pre-Revolutionary War France; a time for the members of the French aristocracy to misbehave behind the cover of elaborate, jeweled masks. But “mask-a-raiding” among the powdered and perfumed party-goers are members of a blood thirsty cannibal cult. Bon app├ętit! 
  • Option 3: Ghoulz - In 19th century France, restrictive laws and social norms prevented medical colleges from acquiring the one asset they need most – human cadavers. To solve this “body shortage crisis,” universities employed “unsavory characters” to do their dirty work and steal corpses from cemeteries in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the grave robbers on Universal Studios Hollywood’s French Street have developed a morbid fascination with the dead – and a taste for human flesh. 
Voting starts this Wednesday on the HHN Facebook page, and the winner will be announced on June 19th. Cast your vote and then watch the mayhem come alive at Universal Studios this fall.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

British Rural Horror vs. American Hillbilly Horror

One of my favorite podcasts is Boys and Ghouls, which is basically like listening to two of your buddies discuss horror movies for around 60 minutes once a month. I love to listen to podcasts when I’m a) cooking or b) exercising, and Boys and Ghouls is the best because it’s fun and accessible and it’s essentially just talk radio but with no commercials and pertaining to topics that I actually give a shit about. I prefer the discussion format to the storytelling format when it comes to podcasts. Anyhow, I digress – my point is that Kat and Marshall recently ran a contest asking listeners to submit ideas for their April episode, and my suggestion was British rural horror. Alas, my idea wasn’t drawn out of the plastic jack o’lantern, but I’m still hoping that they might delve into it on a future episode.

British rural horror is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, because two things recently happened in quick succession: I caught A Field in England at the Cinefamily, and I finally watched Blood on Satan’s Claw for the first time. The latter is a movie that I’ve been aware of for like 20 years, ever since I first heard it referenced in a Cramps song. Fucking cool title, right? It also features a character named Angel Blake, whose eyebrows get so diabolically awesome the deeper she’s drawn into the occult that I think it may have inspired my 2014 Halloween costume. (Well, I’m either going as Angel Blake or as Tara the Android.) **CAUTION: Tara the Android will HAUNT YOUR NIGHTMARES, so watch at your own risk!**

Both A Field in England and Blood on Satan’s Claw utilize the bucolic splendor of the English countryside as the setting of, and impetus for, ungodly horror. That, coupled with a recent article on the subject, made me realize that, duh, British rural horror is one of my favorite horror subgenres. I’m all about setting and atmosphere when it comes to scary movies, and that is definitely one of BRH’s biggest strengths. There are so many movies that can be construed as being part of this subgenre, even if the connection is a little tenuous. One notable example is The Witches, a Hammer horror film from 1966 starring Joan Fontaine that would make a really excellent double feature with Blood on Satan’s Claw. Another obvious choice is The Wicker Man (Christopher Lee version, not Nic Cage version). I’m guessing this is the most well-known BRH film.

I’m stretching the definition a bit here, but what about The Innocents? Burn, Witch, Burn (a.k.a. Night of the Eagle)? Curse of the Demon? Even Horror Hotel and The Haunting (1963) – while set in New England – have a very British feel about them, and a horror/revulsion surrounding the countryside. Who can forget Mrs. Dudley, the housekeeper of Hill House, ghoulishly grinning at Eleanor while she tells her, “Nobody lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. In the night. In the dark,” or her caretaker husband deriding “all you city people, think you know everythin’.” 

In their discussion of the listeners who had submitted episode suggestions to Boys and Ghouls, my topic came up. While Kat was enthusiastic about the idea, her co-host was a bit cagier about the whole thing, wondering where he would even start with such an arcane topic. I realized that there is a very easy “in” for those people who don’t really get or aren’t that familiar with British rural horror, and that is to compare and contrast it with another, similar subgenre that surely every American horror fan knows, perhaps far too well: American hillbilly horror! 

I definitely have more of a love/hate relationship with this subgenre. As someone who was raised in the suburbs and now lives in the city, I am admittedly ignorant of what it’s like in the more sparsely populated corners of our country, and ignorance does breed fear, so there is something in me that responds to the notion of murderous inbred mutants and weirdoes. Still, it does smack of classism, doesn’t it? Certainly more so than its British counterpart; while American movies tend to be about demented hicks in abandoned farmhouses, BRH usually positions its villains as having some sort of pagan wisdom or connection to the land, old gods, pre-Christian traditions and so on.

There is an elegance to BRH films that is lacking in American hillbilly horror movies. I’m thinking of films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Wrong Turn and even something like Children of the Corn or Jeepers Creepers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the majority of these movies; but it’s interesting to see how differently British filmmakers seem to view their small towns and sprawling landscapes. There’s a fear and a respect to it. In most American movies, the fear is laced with derision and condescension.

HBO’s True Detective – an excellent occult-based series with a super-scary finale – is almost a marriage of the two subgenres, as Hart and Cohle slog through the Louisiana backwoods in search of a killer with bizarre and possibly supernatural proclivities. Tonally, I think it skews way more toward British rural horror than regular American hillbilly horror, even though it takes place in the Deep South, which normally falls squarely in hick territory in Hollywood’s eyes.

Both subgenres offer something intriguing, something disturbing – especially for “all us city people, think we know everythin’” – and they surely make us grateful for the anonymity of the city once the movie is over and we’re back in our real lives. You’re probably way more likely to get killed in the city, say from a car accident or a violent crime, than you are in the countryside. But rural horror helps us feel like perhaps there’s safety in numbers, that maybe moving to the city – despite the smog, the traffic, the high cost of living, the noise – wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Or maybe it taps into something more primal, our sense that there is something going on just below the surface of modern life that we can’t quite discern, that we used to know but was lost to us generations ago, but that some people haven’t yet forgotten – and that’s what scares us most of all.


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