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 appétit! 
  • 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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