Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Self-Promotion: Tricks and Treats for All Hallows Eve

Because you have the most Halloween spirit, because you kept the vigil in the most sincere pumpkin patch you could find, I present you with a trio of Halloween tricks and/or treats!

Download "Don't Trick Me, Treat Me Babe," an excellent Halloween compilation from music blog Sincerely, California - 16 tracks of Halloweenie goodness for free! I listened to the whole thing earlier tonight and it's awesome, and I truly am not just saying that because my band is one of the contributors.

...and speaking of compilations that my band contributed to, listen to our Misfits-inspired version of "The Sword of Damocles" on this goth-tinged tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show called (natch) The Gothy Horror Picture Show. Put together by Jack over at Darkest Radio, mp3 versions of all 12 tracks (plus a bonus song) can be yours today for just $10 (in honor of Halloween - normally priced at 13 bones), with a CD version coming soon.

Finally, listen live to Magic Monster Radio tomorrow night from 9-10pm PST. My husband/bandmate, Mr. Spooky, and I will be sharing ghost stories and celebrating our favorite night of the year live on the air. Listen on the website or on iTunes in the Alt Rock category.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Spooky/Bad Spooky: Capsule Reviews

Sinister is the latest movie (that is not part of the Paranormal Activity franchise) from Blumhouse Productions, which has a special place in my heart because a) they have given us some fun scary movies, b) they ended the Saw/torture porn reign of terror that dominated the early aughties, and c) they produced the new Rob Zombie witch movie The Lords of Salem, which is due in 2013. Anyhow, Sinister is sort of like The Shining meets Paranormal Activity: It's about a true crime writer, played by Ethan Hawke, who moves his wife and two children into a house that was the scene of a grisly unsolved crime - a family of four was murdered, and the youngest daughter vanished. He finds a box of extraordinarily disturbing "home movies" in the attic, and begins to lose his grip on reality as it becomes clear that the crime he's investigating was not an isolated incident - and an extremely, well, sinister boogeyman may be to blame. This movie was a little silly in parts, but it was tons of fun. If you liked Insidious, you'll probably enjoy this one too. Extra points for doing a "found footage" movie with a twist: Instead of claiming the movie itself is comprised of found footage, in Sinister a character actually finds and watches the footage, with terrifying consequences.

And speaking of Paranormal Activity 4, what did everybody think? I really enjoy these movies, but even I have to admit that the conceit is getting a little tired at this point. I love the second and third movies - maybe even more than the first one - but this one felt like a retread, and few of the scares surprised me. Not a bad movie, and if you like this kind of thing you may as well check it out, but it won't be a tragedy if you wait for the DVD. I hear a fifth installment is already being planned. Has the franchise run out of go-go juice or are there still scares to be had in the saga of Katie the suburban succubus and her demonic cronies? You decide!

Like I said, PA4 - while flawed - wasn't bad. If you want BAD, I hope you caught NBC's airing of Bryan Fuller's Munsters remake, titled Mockingbird Lane, last Friday. Since the series wasn't picked up for the fall schedule, the network decided to broadcast the pilot as a one-hour Halloween special. (That, or they truly are "tanking NBC," just like Jack Donaghy said on 30 Rock!) I wanted to like this. I did! I'm not opposed to remakes (see: my love of Rob Zombie), and I love what they did with the Addams Family in the 90s. But tonally, this was a complete nightmare...and not the good kind. It lacked charm, it lacked scares and it lacked laughs. Maybe there's some sort of Munsters Curse that has rendered this great piece of classic '60s horror kitsch completely un-remake-able. We have the complete original series on DVD already; maybe this retread will be the last nail in the coffin and the Munster clan will finally be able to rest in peace? Here's hoping!

Roasted Pumpkin Pasta for Halloween Eve

'Twas Halloween Eve and all through the night, the witches and ghosties were hungry for a bite...I just threw together this (relatively) quick and easy pasta dish for Halloween Eve dinner and thought I would share for those of you looking for ideas for a festive feast of your own!

Roasted Pumpkin Penne with Leeks and Goat Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425F for 10 minutes.
2. While oven is heating, cut open a small sugar pie pumpkin and remove the seeds and pumpkin guts. (Save the seeds for roasting, obviously!) Cut the pumpkin into smaller chunks.
3. Spread the pumpkin chunks on a baking sheet with leeks, shallots or onions (I used leeks), also cut into smaller chunks, and sprinkle with 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
4. Combine olive oil (maybe a cup or so?), 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, oregano, sage, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pour over mixture to coat. Add a little more oil if necessary. You don't want it to be super greasy, but you also don't want your pumpkin to dry out!
5. Put in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. When the pumpkin is browned around the edges and fork tender, it's ready!
6. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove skin from pumpkin chunks (should peel right off, or you can scoop the pumpkin out with a spoon) and cut into bite-size pieces, if desired.
7. Serve pumpkin mixture over warm penne pasta. Crumble goat cheese into pasta and stir to combine; cheese will melt into pasta mixture and become extra deeee-licious. (I also added a little havarti cheese.)
8. Plate and top with freshly grated parmesan.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dead Inside? Redefining My Halloween Experience

This has been a hard post for me to write - clearly, since I've waited nearly a full month to write it. It all started when I went to the opening night of Universal's Halloween Horror Nights on September 21st. Haunted attractions (as I prefer to call them, to differentiate from locations that are rumored to be "actually" haunted) like these - and Universal's annual event in particular - have been a huge part of my Halloween experience for at least the last 5-10 years. Of course, I've been going to Knott's Scary Farm on and off since I was a little kid, around 7 years old, and while I always looked forward to it I was never devastated if I missed a year, and I never felt the need to seek out other haunts - Knott's easily filled my yearly quota for mazes and fog machines and actors in rubber masks.

Then I started this blog. At first I envisioned Spooky Little Girl as merely a place where I could talk about the horror movies I was currently watching and/or anticipating, and where I could point like-minded readers to noteworthy spooky events happening in the Los Angeles area. Then I discovered something interesting: There were SO MANY MORE haunted attractions in southern California than just Knott's and Universal. And as a journalist (of sorts), I could often get free passes to these events in order to review them on my blog!

The freaky floodgates opened and I started attending as many haunts as I could possibly fit into my schedule. Basically, I had little time for anything else - my weekends were packed between mid-September and the beginning of November. At first, I was in horror heaven. And then I started to feel a little lackadaisical about the whole thing; I was still excited, but it was hard not to feel like I was seeing the same things year after year. It was hard to ignore the fact that the "monsters" were just actors and the "mazes" were just painted plywood. I used to be incredibly jumpy - one of those people who screams at nearly every turn in the maze. Last year, I started to suspect that I was broken. Nothing scared me anymore. I had lost my scream. I was dead inside.

Last year, I told myself I would take a break from mazes and haunted attractions. At least for a little while.

Yet as the months rolled by and my beloved Halloween haunts started to loom on the horizon, I felt excited again. I couldn't wait to go to Universal and take a ride on the Walking Dead Terror Tram and revisit the La Llorona maze and experience the witch-themed scare zone. September 21st rolled around and Mr. Spooky and I happily headed out to the Valley for our annual dose of scares. Yet something curious happened. Something I had never fully experienced before.

We had just finished the Terror Tram and we paused on the walkway overlooking the backlot. I felt strangely empty. Not scared. Not intrigued. Not thrilled. Looking out at the sound stages and production offices, I felt an ineffable, powerful yearning to be a part of everything - to actually make films instead of just watching them or, at an even further remove, walking through mazes loosely based on them. I turned to Mr. Spooky and said these fateful words:

"I think I'm over haunts."

It was a weird, complicated feeling to finally confess this truth out loud. I felt relieved and sad and like I was finally growing up, but maybe I was a little depressed about growing up, but really I felt excited that I was finally ready to learn about things and maybe make some art instead of just experiencing things that interest me and scare me at a safe remove via an amusement park ride or maze.

I felt ready to experience Halloween in a new way - a way that doesn't involve having people in costumes jump out at me and startle me. Haunts have been such a focal point for me these past few years that the 31st has actually become an afterthought: Sometimes I don't even dress up on the day itself. More than once, Mr. Spooky and I have just stayed at home and watched scary movies instead of planning anything for our favorite night of the year. When people ask me what I have in store for Halloween, I've often felt confused: Halloween is beside the point, right? My objective was to go through as many mazes as possible!

Am I truly over haunted attractions for good? It's hard to say. Maybe in a year or two I'll feel like going to Knott's again, or I'll pine for the Haunted Hayride, or there will be a new haunt that tickles my fancy. I'm certainly not writing them off entirely. But I can say, with complete confidence, that I am over haunts for now.

So where does that leave me for the rest of this Halloween season? It is, after all, still my favorite time of year.

Tuesday is my birthday. I'm going to see an advance screening of Paranormal Activity 4. On the 20th, Mr. Spooky and I are heading to Vegas to tie the knot in a gothic garden wedding ceremony. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure.

I want to see Sinister and V/H/S. I'm still looking forward to the Halloween rerelease at the end of the month. Of course, staying home and watching scary movies on TV will always be a great way to spend any given October night (Hot Tip: TCM is showing a slew of Hammer horror flicks on Wednesday!). But what else?

Here are a few more non-haunt-related Halloweenie activities I'm looking forward to as I start to redefine the holiday for myself:
  • October 24 - Dead Men DO Tell Tales @ the Last Bookstore: An awesomely weird combo of sex ghost lecture/slideshow presentation, films by the Art of Bleeding and performances by Rosemary's Billygoat and a band that does sci-fi theremin music. Sex ghosts?!!
  • October 25-31 - Monster Mansion @ the Magic Castle: If you or someone you know has a Magic Castle membership, you need to go the last week of October. Classic monsters will be roaming the halls, and guests are encouraged to come in costume! The Magic Castle is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I celebrated my birthday here last year and it truly was magical.
  • October 27 & 28 - Victorian Halloween and Mourning Tours @ Heritage Square: Learn about the Spiritualist movement, Victorian funerary customs and mourning etiquette in a gorgeous period-authentic setting. I've always wanted to do this and have never been able to find the time...until now.
  • End of October/beginning of November - Dia de los Muertos events: I would love to experience all of the cool Day of the Dead events offered around L.A. this time of year. Perhaps we'll actually make it out to the always-crazy-crowded Hollywood Forever event on October 27?!
More than anything else, I am finally learning the truth that lies in all those treacly Christmas specials: Halloween isn't something you can buy in a store. Halloween isn't something you can purchase a ticket to, or something you have to venture out to find.

Halloween, my spooky sisters and brothers, is in your heart.

Capsule Movie Reviews: Prince of Darkness, Frankenweenie, From a Whisper to a Scream, Equinox

Sometimes there are movies I want to write about, but it just doesn't feel like I have enough in me to create a "full post." For those moments, I give you...capsule movie reviews. (I actually really love shorter movie reviews, personally. They give you enough to help you determine whether or not you want to watch the movie, but they're usually too brief to give away major plot points.)

Prince of Darkness: This is a John Carpenter movie from the 80s that focuses on the Devil, which is such an 80s horror topic, right?! Satanic cults were a real thing back then. Anyhow, in Prince of Darkness it turns out that, concealed beneath an old church is an unspeakable evil, in the form of green goo that is vaguely reminiscent of You Can't Do That on Television, or the filling of a delicious, delicious Cadbury Screme Egg. Donald Pleasence plays a priest with haunted eyes who says terrifying things about how everyone is doomed. Alice Cooper plays a homeless guy who stabs someone to death with a fucking bicycle. It's on Netflix streaming - check it out! It's not a masterpiece, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

Frankenweenie: Tim Burton (sorta) redeems himself to diehards who want to love him but can't pretend his most recent movies have been good with this supercute black-and-white 3D animated tale about a boy who resurrects his beloved dog, based on his live action short of the same name which you probably watched as an extra on the Nightmare Before Christmas DVD. It has lots of Burtonian atmosphere, a creepy/manic Danny Elfman score, nods to Universal monster movies and Vincent Price and even the voice of Winona Ryder as a Lydia Deetz-ish deadpan goth girl. If any of this sounds even remotely appealing to you, you'll dig this movie.

From a Whisper to a Scream: Another horror anthology currently available via Netflix streaming, this is an 80s movie starring an elderly Vincent Price about the evil that infects the (fictional) town of Oldfield, Tennessee. (Note: For some reason, I thought there would be a murderous scarecrow in this movie. I'm not sure why I thought this, but let me tell you there are no scarecrows whatsoever. You have been warned.) VP plays a classy/creepy old librarian whose serial killer niece has just been executed, and a mysterious lady comes to visit him to learn more about what drove her to murder. What follows is four ghoulish tales covering topics like murderous babies from beyond the grave, voodoo, necrophilia, carnival freakshows and the horrors of the Civil War (no, really!). This movie was kind of brutal, actually - anthologies tend to be a little on the kitschy side (think Tales from the Crypt) and this one had a number of gory moments that took me by surprise. And can I just say that I'm so fucking tired of watching women murdered in movies for rebuffing a man's sexual advances, as if that somehow lends sympathy to the murderer? (Note: This is why we need more women filmmakers, especially in the horror genre!) Apparently Vincent Price hated this movie. It's nothing I would recommend going out of your way to watch, but if you're an anthology fan with a couple of hours to kill, you could do worse. Like, for instance, you could wind up watching...

Equinox: This 1970 movie straddles the line between so bad it's funny and so bad you're kinda pissed that you spent valuable minutes of your life watching it. It's full of annoying characters who do inexplicably stupid things, and I can safely say that I was rooting for absolutely everybody's death. The special effects are abysmal, even for the time, and don't make a lot of sense within the context of the story. Like, why does one of the characters end up battling a large blue caveman? Hmm. It gets points for all of the cool cars and for showcasing L.A. hiking trails that I know for a fact I've been on, including the Bronson Caves in Hollywood. Points taken away for the hyper-annoying casual sexism and the utter idiocy of the plot.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mad Monster Party Group Art Show

Mad Monster Party? is a Rankin-Bass stop-motion TV movie from 1967, which means it is totally nutty and sort of surreal in the way that cartoons from the swingin' sixties/early seventies often are, and it features the vocal talents of both Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller doing that inimitably bizarre Phyllis Diller laugh (RIP Phyllis and her cackle), so you know it's good.

After you drink that in, mark your calendars, because the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks will be paying tribute to the movie's groovy ghoulies with a group art show that opens with a reception on October 13th from 6 to 10pm.

Check out the website for more info. The Van Eaton Galleries are located at 13613 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, CA.


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