Grady Hendrix: Horrorstör

Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör is clever in all the right ways, but it’s also quite creepy. You can’t ask for much more from a high-concept horror novel.

It’s a little too creepy and clever, honestly.

I used to love our IKEA clothes drying rack. It folds flat and stores neatly in a nook in the laundry room, but it’s quick and easy to set it up and it holds several loads of laundry at once.

“Love” might be over-stating my relationship to any of our household accoutrements, but it’s safe to say I liked this thing a lot. Liked. Past tense.

Horrorstör ruined my laundry rack for me.

IKEA Mulig drying rack

Ever since I finished the book I’ve been utterly and completely creeped out by the laundry rack. I’m not kidding. I have such a visceral reaction to the thing that I avoid doing laundry until Husband can set the rack up for me.

This is ridiculous, not least of which because there isn’t a drying rack in the book.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the TV series, particularly since it’s being developed by Gail Berman, who was responsible for developing both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel for television.

Berman did, however, Executive Produce a couple episodes of Dig, which was truly abysmal in ways that even the narcotics and other assorted drugs I was on while recovering from a long and serious illness couldn’t improve. Seriously, even for television, that was some seriously ridiculous pop culture archaeology. Let’s just hope she learned her lesson from that debacle, because damn. Just…damn.

Sorry for the long absence, I didn’t mean to neglect you so.

My sanity wasn’t devoured by bad SyFy movies, but I was quite ill for most of the Spring and early Summer and it’s taken me much longer to get life back to something even close to resembling normality.

Wouldn’t want things to get too normal, though, so while I continue to sort things out, here’s a hypnotic re-edit of the ending of The Wicker Man.

The brilliant 1973 version, not the abominable 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage. Not even the powerful ancient magic of the Teletubbies could make that thing watchable.

I’ve been ignoring the links to the devil baby video on facebook because, up until a few minutes ago, I thought it was a promotional stunt for an energy drink. Apparently, based on how hard Husband is laughing at me, this is not the case. I think babies are demonic and I watch horror movies, so, um, maybe the marketing team was a little too oblique in their approach.

I suppose they’ve succeeded on some level, in that I’m sharing it. So, um, there you go. I guess.

If you’re looking for some holiday movies to go along with that bottle of bourbon Santa left under the tree, here’s a trio that will guarantee your whole family needs therapy for years to come.

Rare Exports (2010) is a 3 year old Finnish horror/comedy for the whole (Addams) family. It’s a really good movie.

The other two movies on this list? Not so much.

Santa Claus (1959) is the heartwarming tale of the year Santa fought the Devil. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) features a young Pia Zadora. Enough said. Neither of those films should be viewed in their original form. Trust me, you’ll break your brain. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K) versions of both are readily available on Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, etc.

Rare Exports trailer:

The Rare Exports Safety Video (a 10 minute short/sequel to the original movie):

Santa Claus (MST3K edition)

MSTK3K presents Santa Claus Versus the Martians (MST3K edition):

Merry Christmas!

image: The Addams Family Christmas episode (1965)

Recently, I ended a post by stating that we were watching Prometheus and it looked cool. I only remember that because I just searched my blog to see whether I ever wrote a post about Prometheus because I’d like to know what I thought. It was that memorable.

It had only been a few weeks since we watched it and JunglePete just asked me why I didn’t warn him about what a goddamned boring and annoying movie it was. Those probably weren’t his exact words, but they could have been. You know why?

Because Prometheus is a goddamned boring and annoying movie.

There was some kind of Movie Archaeology going on that was probably offensive to both cultural resource managers and real space archaeologists (there is such a thing) but I’ve repressed it all and can’t really remember many of the specifics about what my issues were.

Oh yeah, it’s coming back to me: it was a crappy movie.

And it was boring.

While I try to remember if there was anything else, here’s a link to the disappointed Prometheus review from Space Archaeology, a website that seems to have lost the will to live not long after posting it’s review of this movie.

Boring, boring movie. Of boringness.

The plot of Prometheus (spoilers if you’re stupid): long scenes showing a badly designed archaeological expedition (dig everywhere, maybe we’ll find some shit!) and then a whole lot of running and screaming and probably some exploding goo aliens because, duh, it’s the prequel to Alien.

Husband just tried to defend it, insisting it “wasn’t that bad.”

I informed Husband that he thought it wasn’t so bad because he snored through parts of the movie.

His response: “I did?”

I rest my case.

Intending to watch the hilarious Happy, Texas but instead watching the not-hilarious Paris, Texas is a mistake I doubt one makes twice.

I certainly haven’t.

Ditto: thinking you’re in for an evening filled with the adorableness of Sandra Bullock (and adorable alcoholics, judging from the description) in 28 Days and accidentally finding yourself immersed in the horrors of zombies in 28 Days Later.

Haven’t made that mistake again, either.

Mistaking Under Satan’s Sun (aka Under the Sun of Satan) for Under the Tuscan Sun would probably be the most disturbing of all, but I haven’t seen either one so I’m just speculating.

Unless Under the Tuscan Sun also stars Gérard Depardieu as a self-flagellating priest. I hadn’t considered that possibility.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the case but I’m very sure I don’t wish to investigate further. Slate’s David Edelstein concluded his review of Under the Tuscan Sun with this description: “The movie is sweet but deeply suspect: It’s like Lost Horizon re-imagined by a realtor.

What the hell does that even mean?

After about 30 seconds of research I’ve realized it’s a bit less ominous than I thought, in that it turns out Lost Horizon bears no resemblance to the movie that I originally thought he was referring to, Lost Highway.

I am not to be trusted with the Netflix queue when I have a high fever.

[Embedded Trailer: House of Bones]

Today we embarked on our Two Days of Crap Filmfest (aka Crapfest). Between our Netflix queue and our Tivo, Overlord II, we have an abundance of possibilities because I’ve been hording the worst of the worst for months. I made a spreadsheet to track the themes, key elements, and featured stars.

Eliza Dusku! Barry Williams! Charisma Carpenter! Danny Bonaduce! Misha Collins!

We’ve also got Liam Neeson’s Battleship and, as incentive to keep pushing forward, we’ve got that all-time Bad classic, the Manitou, as the headliner.

Bad (watch immediately, repeatedly).
Boring Bad (see also: Badish, Badesque).
Not So Good.
Mediocre (neither bad nor good enough to bother with).
Pretty good (might even see it again).
Terminator 2.

We started with Open Graves – a 2009 epic I tivo’d off SyFy on a Saturday morning in February at 9:30 a.m. It opened with a montage of my least favorite things: screaming, bloody torture, fingernail ripping, and snakes. This was on at 9:30 on a Saturday morning? Even I find that inappropriate.

It’s 6:30 on Friday evening and I still find it inappropriate.

There could be spoilers here, but you shouldn’t care because you shouldn’t watch this movie.

Seriously: this movie sucks.

I am telling you this movie is not worth your time.

Think about that.

Since we watched it, I might as well tell you what you’re (not) missing:

After the random spasm of violence that comprised the opening credits, we cut to a bunch of annoying graduate students partying in Spain. After a few minutes of “character development” we’ve already started rooting for a return to torture. Fortunately, Eliza Dushku showed up to give us someone to cheer for.

One of the annoying grad students, played by Mike Vogel, who might possibly be the intended star of this movie, bought an antique boardgame from the Spanish inquisition so hopefully most of these people are about to start dying, violently.

The Spanish Inquisition was famous for it’s board games. Little-known fact.

In related news, this movie has too damned many snakes in it.

To summarize: the idiot grad students play the Spanish Inquisition Boardgame and then start dying violently, each in the manner predicted by the game. The game is the vehicle of revenge for the witch, Mamba, whose skin was used to make the game.

Got that? It was more convoluted than that but actually made sense when Eliza Dushku read it to another character after she looked it up on the internet, presumably on Witchipedia or the Spanish Inquisition Boardgames Wiki. It’s not worth recounting in this post because I don’t wish to make the movie sound clever or interesting.

Then some stuff happened. Then it ended.

At one point, Eliza Dushku’s character said, “Everyone could win, everyone could lose.”

This is also a good summary of what could happen to audiences of this movie.

[Embedded Trailer: Open Graves]

House of Bones, which was the Saturday morning double-feature with Open Graves, had a distinct advantage, in that Open Graves set the bar pretty low for the evening. House of Bones turned out to be a Ken Badish production, which was amusing at first. Later, as the movie teetered on the verge of “boring badness (aka badishness) we wondered if it hadn’t actually been an omen we’d failed to heed.

Corin Nemec (Mansquito, SS Doomtrooper) co-stars alongside Carpenter as TV ghost hunters that enter a reportedly haunted house that may prove to be the death of them.

Oh, dude! The star and the producer of SS Doomtrooper and Mansquito? Why didn’t you say so earlier? (Nemec was also one of the short-lived Campbell cousins on Supernatural).

I loved Mansquito. It’s not as good as Snakehead Terror, but what is?

The plot of House of Bones: Alleged haunted house. Reality TV show crew shooting a show with a psychic in the alleged haunted house. Ta-Da! What could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, it turned out to be juuuust Bad enough to watch with minimal psychic damage, although it’s no Snakehead Terror or Hellbound. The important thing is that we’ve lived to watch another day.

“Where in the world,” I barked, indigent, “do meerkats and chupacabras co-exist in the same habitat?”

Husband, round clear vowels disguising any impatience he may have felt, intoned, “Noooowheeeeere.”

Even before the words were out of my mouth I knew this was a dumb question and that I should stop watching Tivo’d SyFy Saturday night craptaculars and get some real work done.


Then we un-paused Chupacabra: Dark Seas (aka Chupacabra Terror) and wallowed in the hilarity.

There will be spoilers in this post, but only for those not astute enough to figure out that a movie whose ads imply it might as well be titled “Chupacabra on the Love Boat with buckets of fake blood and a guy in a rubber monster suit” is going to involve a chupacabra getting loose on a cruise ship.

[embedded: Chupacabra: Dark Seas (aka Chupacabra Terror) trailer]

Giancarlo Esposito plays a cryptozoologist transporting an animal in the cargo hold of a cruise ship. It’s a chupacabra, but don’t tell anyone! It’s a chupacabra who lives on a caribbean island with meerkats! Silly meerkats, why do you think you should only live in Africa?

And the cruise? It’s a chupacabra-themed cruise!

No. Really.

chupacabra: dark seas

Chupacabra: Dark Seas

I don’t wish to ruin it for you, but when the chupacabra breaks out of the cargo hold and starts chowing down on all the tasty passengers and crew, he doesn’t look anything like the novelty chupacabra carved vegetable centerpiece shown in that photograph.

John Rhys-Davies, as the ship’s captain, seems to be imploring the viewer to use this movie as an opportunity to forget Dragonstorm.

Alien dragons? Fat chance we’ll forget that.

Esposito plays accent roulette, mumbling through awkward dialogue as his chupacabra gets loose on the ship and mayhem ensues.

“I have trapped it before. I can trap it again!”

He says that line more than once. In the same scene.

The captain’s daughter is also the ship’s Tae Bo instructor. I’d forgotten about Tae Bo. I found this fantastic New York Times article (March 21, 1999) about Tae Bo:

A friend of mine says that Tae-Bo is the macarena of exercise: irresistible moves with a beat that anyone can do and look sort of O.K. Men and women, young and old, all ”get” Tae-Bo, because a punch is an instinctive move.

Nothing about yoga, by contrast, is instinctive. (You remember yoga, don’t you? The ”inner” workout?) Yoga is weird and painful and elitist; it made you feel like you weren’t quite a member of the club. And that awful feeling of being left out meant that you weren’t primed to receive the mystical yummies that yoga was hawking. Besides, unless you were writhing around with all your pierced buddies down at Jivamukit on Lafayette Street in Manhattan, yoga was boring.

Perhaps oneness is out. In any case, the mild aggression of Tae-Bo feels like a welcome palate cleanser.

I just looked up at the screen and someone was on fire. I have no idea who or why. I don’t think it matters, it just looked cool. The Navy Seals (who up to this point I thought were supposed to be some sort of comedy-relief coast guard auxiliary) are ineffective at stopping the chupacabra. Luckily, the captain, his daughter and his old navy buddy who happens to be on the cruise, save the day.

The captain’s daughter defeats the chupacabra with – I am not making this up – Tae Bo.

Husband proclaims, “You can’t use yoga on a chupacabra!” Which would have made a great tagline for this movie.

Then we watched Chupacabra vs the Alamo, which stars Erik Estrada as a DEA agent who does battle with….chupacabra. At the Alamo. On Cinco de Mayo. Sure, why not? The Onion A/V Club hits all the highlights so I don’t have to, although I would like to state for the record that I think the chupacabras in Alamo would be more realistic than the one in Dark Seas, if chupacabras were real.

One last thing: one of the actors in Chupacabra: Dark Seas played Amy the gorilla in Congo.

Amy good gorilla.

Good night.

Sinister scared me witless. In honor of the Washington Post’s squirrel week, here’s my review of Sinister, which has almost nothing to do with squirrels but almost everything to do with why I’m never going into our attic ever again.

This (Hollywood) cheap horror movie riffs on found footage, snuff films, voyeurs, arrogant writers, technology, and the horrors that lurk in the suburbs. And in the attic. Horrors.


Here’s the official trailer for Sinister, which is creepy and spoils way more about this movie than my post does:

Ethan Hawke plays an arrogant, self-absorbed true-crime writer who uproots his family and moves into a house where, unbeknownst to his family, the subjects of his latest book died. Violently. Then he finds a mysterious box of home movies in the attic and unleashes evil upon his household.

The ad campaign and that trailer give away more about the movie than I do, so if you later feel that this post spoiled the movie for you, it’s really the film’s marketing campaign you should blame, not me.

Unless you’re one of those people who can’t derive the smallest amount of satisfaction from anything in life if it’s not shrouded entirely in complete mystery until the very second in which you view it. If that’s the case, the internet is not a good place for you to be knocking about.

Plus, you must be incredibly annoying.

I watched a woman flip out on her friends for telling her that there’s a love triangle on Lost. I witnessed this a little over a week ago. March. 2013.

Lost aired from 2004-2010. It was a TV show with more than 2 characters. Ergo, it was required by the federal court of TV and motion picture law to have a minimum of 1 love triangle per story arc. Over 6 seasons that’s a lot of complicated geometry.

Spoiler Alert Girl was really tightly wound and, evidently, humorless, which is both the reason I wanted to yell, “The plane crashes and there’s time travel and the goddamn Hobbit drowns!” and also the reason I refrained from doing so.

But I digress.

There was something about Sinister’s sound design, the forward momentum of the story, the cinematography, and a few good old-fashioned jump scares that kept my attention. We watch a lot of less-good movies, but I think my standards for (non-craptastic movies) is still pretty high. I often blog my way through the the craptastic ones. Sinister is (visually) very dark and looks great when viewed in a darkened room, so I scribbled a few notes in a notebook but otherwise paid attention. Plus, the tappity-tappity on my macbook would have been distracting, since, like I said, the sound design had some subtle, interesting elements.

I did have to pause the movie three times. The first time was fairly early on, when the writer’s wife wants to leave the house because she and their two kids are miserable and the writer makes the big annoying, “it’s our dream to be on the bestseller lists and win book awards and do the talk show circuit,” speech while his wife pleads with him to think of the family.

I’m really tired of the cliche wherein it’s noble for a family to make sacrifices for the father’s writing career. Consequently, Husband was treated to a treatise on the subject before we could resume our movie-viewing adventure. In popular culture, women who ask their families to sacrifice for their careers raise children who become serial killers. I presume, if a woman was ever portrayed as both writer and bread-winner, her kid would bring about the apocalypse.

Bad mommy. Bad. Bad. Bad.

My tirade was probably extra-cranky because I’d read this just hours before we watched the movie, “VIDA’s Count — Women and Ambition: A Discussion in Here, not out There.”

But again, I digress.

Sinister has been in our Netflix queue since it came out on bluray. At the PCA/ACA National Conference, we heard Marc Olivier present a paper, “Sinister Celluloid: The Textural Crisis of Horror in the Age of Instagram,” that intrigued us enough to finally watch the movie. (The paper’s abstract at that link may contain spoilers, so I’m not going to post any pullquotes from it here. You annoying spoiler-crazy people have been warned). Despite seeing pivotal clips during Olivier’s intriguing presentation and hearing a great deal about the plot of the movie, when we got around to watching it I still found it to be full of fun surprises and seriously creepy.

The basic premise – evil is unleashed by someone viewing evil’s celluloid leavings – isn’t original. Olivier pointed out the tribute Sinister pays to movies like Ringu and raised interesting questions about the role of outmoded technologies in horror movies – particularly when they’re used as the backbone of the story. Since I’m more likely to listen for soundtrack cliches and canned or poorly executed foley, I appreciated Olivier’s primer on this movie’s visual pre-cursers, especially how it pays homage to Blow Up. I also understand Olivier’s points about why the concept – dude watches film strip and evil wackiness ensues – has worn pretty thin.

Still, while Sinister isn’t a great movie, or probably even an especially good movie, I think it’s an effective horror movie.

While I don’t think that whole “demon uses technology” trope, especially when it involves that most self-referential of Hollywood technologies, film, has been clever for a while, the treatment in Sinister was fresher than I expected because the story wasn’t weighed down with tedious explanations for how the demon does anything.

It’s a demon.

It’s powerful.

It’s had millenia to learn how to operate a camera or make things materialize or rearrange the furniture. If there was some ridiculous Latin incantation or symbol that could destroy it, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary or powerful, would it? The Exorcist taught us important rules about hauntings and possessions, but the most important one of all may be that if we lived in a world where demons could only be exorcised by Catholics, then only Catholics would have demons.

Wait. What? Let’s just move on from that, okay?

Vincent D’Onofrio has a cameo as a professor who susses out a bit of backstory for Ethan Hawke’s demon, Bughuul. He supplies just enough information to keep the viewer from thinking too much, but not enough to slow the movie down. Excluding any elaborate mythology or physics-esque explanations about how a demon can do stuff eliminates the need to construct much internal story logic. I don’t mean to say that the filmmakers used the “Sure, why not?” method of screenwriting, just that they didn’t introduce any elements that foreshadow a tidy eleventh-hour resolution to the haunting.

The ads showed a figure painting a wall with blood, so I figure it’s safe to mention how effective the scene is where we see the walls of a house painted in blood. The ancient cave art imagery evoked by this smartly shows that this demon uses images to propel itself through time and space. The medium both is and isn’t the message for Bughuul.

While these types of movies usually speak to some sort of deep-seated culture fear of technological progress, I don’t think that’s the case with Sinister. If that’s what the filmmakers intended, I think they failed, and I think that’s for the best. The idea that Bughuul has been eating souls since humans lived in caves and will probably still be eating souls in a colony on Mars is kind of interesting, I think.

Alas, it also leaves the door open for sequels, and that may be an unfortunate path to take. It wasn’t that this movie had a neat and tidy resolution, I’m just not really sure there’s a point to a sequel – the temptation will be too great, and maybe necessary, to create mythology for Bughuul, and that might not work out so well.

That said, I thought a sequel to Paranormal Activity was a terrible idea, but the filmmakers managed to produce a second movie that complemented and interconnected with the first one in an entertaining way, so what do I know? The third movie was okay, and had some good scares, but it wasn’t as cleverly constructed as 1 and 2.

The fact remains, I thought Sinister was good scary fun and I had to turn every light in the house on at 3 a.m. to get up to pee. I never do that. I was pretty creeped out.

I’d also taken a migraine medication that contains narcotics and caffeine and barbituates before we watched the movie. So there’s that.

You might want to take that into account, actually, because it probably affected my judgment a tiny bit. Husband was creeped out, too, though, so the scariness of it may just differ by a matter of degrees.

Still. Scary movie. A little dumb, pretty fun. What more can you ask?

Actually, there’s one thing you can ask: why do they have to make the creepy “there’s something spooky skittering around in your attic scenes” sound like squirrels in the attic? It’s like a long-range evil practical joke. I just know that the next time we get a squirrel infestation, I’ll be creeped out by this movie all over again.

The previous paragraph is a summary of the second monologue I paused the movie to deliver to Husband.

We hit play again when I was done holding forth on squirrel evil. Minutes later (in the movie), the panicked writer confessed to the comic-relief Deputy Sheriff that he’d heard footsteps in the attic but no one was there. The Deputy suggested squirrels. Then the Deputy delivered a hilarious bit of deadpan dialogue about how snakes don’t have feet, but scorpions have feet, but you probably couldn’t hear their footsteps. It was pretty great.

Then I paused the movie again and informed Husband that the next time we get a squirrel infestation I’m going to do what I always do: climb up the ladder, pop the attic door open an inch, and yell into the attic. But I’d be yelling in Latin.

“Why Latin?” Husband asked, because he hasn’t learned his lesson and still asks these questions. And because no one had even mentioned Latin in Sinisterso this seemed a little left-field, even for me.

“Squirrels don’t speak Latin,” I explained to him, to assure him I’m not an idiot. “They also don’t respond to the Latin Rites of Exorcism.”

Wisely, Husband didn’t ask my why or how I might know this.

“But they also don’t speak English, so if I’m going to feel like an idiot yelling at them to leave the house, I might as well do it with some flair.”

Husband seemed to see the logic in this argument.

Then we finished watching the movie.

Then we put the bluray back in the netflix envelope and put it by the door so we could mail it back on Saturday morning.

Then we nervously laughed about the fact that Bughuul has a facebook page. Then we realized that if anyone invented the endless aspirational-wedding-obsessing-and-vintage-baby-nursery-creating-abyss that is pinterest as a way to spread its image across time and space to consume the maximal number of souls, it would be an ancient, powerful, prehistoric demon.

Then Husband quietly walked to the front door, opened it, put the Netflix envelope outside, and shut and locked the door.

Then we went to bed. With the hall light on, until Husband made me turn it off.

Home again after the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, which was a 4 day whirlwind. Think I’m kidding about the whirlwind part? Here’s the pdf of the schedule – it’s 501 pages long.

(The conference is actually going on until 9:45 tonight but we attended 3 panels between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and then our brains melted. Well, I can’t speak for Husband, but I can assure you mine did. While I’m writing this, I’m watching Project Runway and I’m having trouble following the plot. Yikes).

My conference paper on the TV show Supernatural was well-received and everyone else on the panel was fascinating so I was in great company:

horror (text, media, culture): television and New Media horror

“Translating tradition: domesticating seasonal horror through television.”
Derek Johnston (panel chair)

“Beyond salt and fire: the agency of human remains in the Supernatural Universe.”
Rebecca Stone Gordon

“Control is Being taken away from You”, Marble hornets and transmedia horror.
Ralph Beliveau and Amanda Kehrberg

I should probably edit the draft of my first TED DeExtinction post so I can get that online tomorrow. I intended to post about that last week and so it concludes with the delusional statement that I’d blog from the PCAACA conference. We can see how well that worked out.