All the News that’s Fit to Print!

Tired of the media not covering the creepy stories you care about? My second weekly weird news roundup is live!
Learn about two cases of killer fashion, angry clowns, Bulgarian vampires, and haunted house renovations.

Posted in announcements, horror-writers dot net, things involving me | Tagged , | Leave a comment

More Ways to Find Me!

I’ve started a weekly collaboration with Horror-Writers Dot Net. I’m writing a weekly news roundup, with the grossest and strangest news I can find on the web. Check out my first article at Scarina’s Weekly Roundup and keep an eye out for more.

Posted in announcements, horror-writers dot net, things involving me | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

American Mary

Sometimes, you watch a movie and it just clicks with you. You understand the movie and the movie understands you. I’ve felt that with Interview with the Vampire and The Silence of the Lambs and I felt it with this week’s movie.

You know how people talk about women’s movies and they mean the movies they show on Lifetime and Hallmark channel and romantic comedies? Those aren’t women’s movies, American Mary is a movie that shows what it’s like to be a woman.
The movie stars Katharine Isabelle as Mary Mason, a medical student hoping to become a surgeon.
She’s very poor and deeply in debt. Getting the scary calls from the student loan people, that kind of in debt. Mary peruses the help wanted ads and finds a job looking for strippers. Her audition is cut short when one of the club owner’s thugs is brought in, injured. Billy (Antonio Cupo) offers Mary $5,000 to fix him up. She operates on him but is scared and remorseful afterwards.
Afterwards, Beatress (Tristan Risk) approaches Mary. She’s a dancer from the club who’s spent thousands of dollars to look like Betty Boop.
BeatressAmerican Mary
Beatress wants Mary to help her friend, Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), become more doll-like and offers Mary $10,000 to perform the surgery. This draws Mary into the world of extreme body modification.
Mary continues with her residency and is invited to a party with other surgeons, including her former professor, Dr. Alan Grant (David Lovgren).
Thankfully, not this Dr. Grant.

Thankfully, not this Dr. Grant.

Dr. Grant drugs Mary and brutally rapes her. Mary pays Billy to have his enforcers kidnap Dr. Grant. She drops out of medical school and practices extreme body modification on Dr. Grant.
Mary opens an underground practice performing extreme body modifications on people, which culminates in her performing surgery on the Demon Twins of Berlin (The Soska Twins, in a cameo).
The movie is basically Mary’s journey and I’m not giving away the ending because you have to go watch this right now.
I love when horror fans make horror movies because it’s like we all speak in the code of shared movies. It’s fun to unravel this code.
The movie opens with intense closeups of Mary suturing something that we eventually realize is a turkey, with “Ave Maria” playing the background. This feels very like something you’d see in the Hannibal movie.
When Mary is at her office, she wears a black apron over a white shirt. She wears something similar when she practices on Dr. Grant. It feels very similar to Asami’s outfit in Audition.

There’s the surgical outfit that Mary wears when she operates on the Twins. It’s very reminiscent of Dead Ringers.
This movie just feels very personal, but that may reflect on my age and status in the world. i remember looking at the stripper ads in college and wondering if I should try it. What kept me from doing it is remembering that I hate absolutely everyone and I dance like Elaine Benes. I think a lot of us know the pain of being so desperately poor when we’re just trying to make the right life decisions to not be poor.
There’s definitely the pain of seeing Mary being devalued and degraded just because she’s an attractive, competent woman. She views herself as a colleague of her professors and they repay her with abuse. Billy, when he first meets Mary, is also completely vile and gross. It isn’t until Billy sees what Mary’s capable of that he treats her with any respect.
And there’s the pain as a woman where your outside doesn’t match your inside. I actually really liked Beatress and could relate a lot to her and Ruby Realgirl. We live in a world where if they had gotten mainstream plastic surgery they’d be celebrated for being so in control of their bodies, but anything alternative is laughed at. Plus, I legitimately understand being drawn to the cute aesthetic. I think I’m the only white person ever who’s tried eyelid tape to try to make their eyes look bigger.
There’s this really touching moment that I really loved, between Mary and Lance (Twan Holliday), one of Billy’s enforcers. Lance says to Mary, “Don’t you ever devalue what you do, Mary.” He then tells her about how his mom walked in on a home invasion burglary and how he wishes he knew Mary then. Mary becomes a monster but she’s a kind of benign monster. Maybe sometimes the world needs monsters, to get rid of the other monsters.
The movie is pretty much the right mix of gore and humor. The effects are practical, which I appreciate a lot, especially for an indie movie. If a practical effect goes wrong it can definitely cost you time and money, so I respect the risk they took using them. Plus, they look great and gross! Tristan Risk looks especially awesome as Beatress.
I especially liked the music. The movie starts with a simple version of “Ave Maria” and this increases in complexity as the movie proceeds. It’s like it’s reflecting the increasing complexity of Mary’s character.
“Unique” is the word that comes to mind when I think of this movie. I can’t think of any movie that’s quite like this and it has to be one of my favorite 21st century movies.

Posted in 21st century, body horror, thriller | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Eyes of Laura Mars

This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been waiting for months to review this movie because Netflix doomed me to the “very long wait” section with this disc. I’m talking about the 1978 American giallo Eyes of Laura Mars.

I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. This movie is a really neat, distinctly American take on the giallo genre.
Faye Dunaway stars as successful photographer Laura Mars.
She’s known for her violent and sexual images. This is no surprise, as Laura has been having increasingly violent visions of murder and they’ve been influencing her photography. In fact, at the opening of her exhibit in SoHo, she finds out that her publisher, Doris (Meg Mundy) has been murdered. The killer is starting to target those close to Laura.
A young, unibrowed, Tommy Lee Jones costars as the police lieutenant John Neville.
There’s something Carl Sagan-y about young Tommy Lee Jones, maybe it’s because he wears a turtleneck later in the movie. Anyway, he shows Laura some unreleased crime scene photos that bear an uncanny resemblance to her photographs. Laura continues to have visions when she tries to take pictures and Neville eventually believes her. They begin a relationship as Laura’s friends are picked off.
I consider this an American giallo film. There are some stylistic choices that keep this from being a standard slasher. First, there’s the lack of teens and the setting is professional. This has more in common with Argento’s Tenebrae and Opera than it does with Friday the 13th. It follows the killer’s POV trope and includes the obligatory shot of a hand with a stiletto.
The score alternates between disco and a Goblin-esque synth score mixed with some orchestral music. What makes this movie distinctly American is that it’s very bloodless compared to its European counterparts of the time. You can tell that they were going more for art than slasher. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just don’t expect gallons of the red stuff like it’s an Italian movie.
What I like about this movie is the way it plays with what’s real. You know that Neville believes in Laura but her friends are worried that she’s having some kind of breakdown. She isn’t really a reliable source. So we get these shots of her reflected multiple times in mirrors and we wonder if she’s the killer.
Laura’s career is devoted to creating a fake reality. She’s not a documentary photographer, she films fashion campaigns (Fun fact, prop photographs were supplied by Helmut Newton and Rebecca Blake. They all have a very eighties Vogue feel). So the audience is watching an actress playing a photographer creating a photo set and doesn’t that just break your brain a little?
The movie is full of red herrings galore, including Raul Julia playing Laura’s ex-husband, Michael.
I’m not telling you the ending because I really liked the twist and it actually made me a little sad. So now you have to watch it for yourself to find out what happens.
Fun fact; I really love when I recognize places in movies. A lot of movies are filmed in NYC now but that wasn’t always the case. So I shrieked when I recognized Greene St. and Canal St. This website has some fun comparison pictures.
Another fun fact, this was directed by Irvin Kershner, the guy most responsible for making The Empire Strikes Back not suck.

Posted in 1970's, serial killers, slasher, thriller | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Nosferatu (1922)

I’m back! And since I’m back, I thought we’d go way back to the oldest movie I’ve ever seen. This is F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent classic, Nosferatu.

The book, Dracula came out in 1897 and was crazy popular. Just like Twilight, but good. People gobbled up the story that touched on fears that are still relevant today, like sexuality, the role of women in society, and post-colonialism. Stage adaptations came out pretty quickly after the book was published, so it was only a matter of time before a movie was made. The German studio, Prana Film, decided it wanted a vampire movie and wanted an edition of Bram Stoker’s work. Sadly, they didn’t have the rights to Dracula. They plowed ahead, changing details, but it wasn’t enough. Stoker’s heirs sued and the studio went bankrupt. The judge ordered that all copies be destroyed and we only know Nosferatu today because a print escaped the fire.
The movie follows the basic plot of Dracula. Jonathon (Gustav Von Wangenheim) and Nina (Greta Schröder) are a young couple who are deeply in love. It should be noted here that the names differ depending on the edition of the movie you have. I’ve seen this at the Landmark Loews in Jersey City and on DVD and both of those editions call the couple Jonathon and Nina. But there are also editions where they’re called Ellen and Thomas Hutter.
Jonathon works as a clerk for Renfield (Alexander Granach). He’s sent to Count Orlock’s castle in Transylvania to deliver some real estate papers. Orlock wants to move to their city, Bremen. There are some red flags on the trip. Villagers near the castle warn Jonathon to stay away from the castle, especially after dark. Count Orlock (Max Schreck) looks like a more robust Mr. Burns and gets very excited when Jonathon cuts his finger. Jonathon wakes up with fang marks on his neck that he attributes to spiders or mosquitoes. Jonathon reads a book that he took from the inn and realizes that Orlock is a vampire.
The next day, Jonathon finds Orlock’s coffin. He finally escapes the castle but is knocked unconscious. He wakes up in the hospital, with Orlock gone to claim the mansion right across the street from his own home.
An empty ship arrives in Bremen. Its hold is full of rats and the captain is dead, tied to the wheel.
People assume it’s the plague and it kind of is. Orlock is in town and, unlike his other incarnations, he doesn’t make more vampires, he just kills. He has his sights set on Nina as his next victim.
I really like this Dracula incarnation. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Anne Rice vampires (Mega-excited for her new book), but I like that Orlock is ugly. He brings death and destruction with him. Orlock isn’t looking for friends or lovers, he just wants dinner. A classic monster.
This movie suffers on the small screen. It was made before any director even considered that there’d be home entertainment. I originally saw it at the Landmark Loew’s in Jersey City. It was played on a huge screen with a live organist playing the music. The shots look so striking when they’re huge and the music was nice and creepy. The DVD I’m basing this review on came with an orchestral score but I think the organ music was better. Most of the music for Nosferatu was lost and the soundtrack is usually based on reconstructions. I’m not sure where the organist got the music he used from but it was definitely spooky. If you have access to an event like this, I recommend taking advantage of it. It’s a way of supporting cool indie events and a way of saying “Fuck you” to the movie studios that insist on giving us Transformers 17.
This movie isn’t scary to my modern sensibilities. What it does well is establish tension and atmosphere. This is the perfect movie to project on a wall if you’re throwing a Halloween party and then blast Bauhaus as the soundtrack. Nosferatu is the only silent movie I’ve ever seen but it makes me want to see more. It falls in the category of German Expressionism and I’ve heard these movies–without sound and with sound–can be very creepy, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Student of Prague, The Golem: How He Came into the World, and M.

Posted in 1920's, famous movie monsters, foreign, vampires | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

An Extended Absence

I can’t believe it’s almost been a month since I’ve updated. I’ve maintained this blog fairly consistently for years. I haven’t even watched a scary movie in weeks. I really miss that.
What’s happened is life. I’m in mortuary school and class started. It’s online but it eats up quite a bit of time. My unemployment is close to running out so I’m desperately trying to find any job that will take me. I had some crazy flu thing that knocked me out for a good week. And I’m hurriedly making artwork for Walker Stalker Con 2014.
Here’s some of the stuff I’ve made, so you see my time hasn’t been entirely wasted.
My first piece is based on Soviet propaganda posters. I got the idea for it because of the signs leading to Terminus at the end of season four. I wondered what it would look like if Woodbury advertised.

Closeup on the Governor.

Closeup on the Governor.

Detail of the zombies to the Governor's left.  All of these are based on zombies that appeared in "The Walking Dead."

Detail of the zombies to the Governor’s left. All of these are based on zombies that appeared in “The Walking Dead.”

Detail on the zombies to the right of the Governor.  All but one of these zombies is from "The Walking Dead."

Detail on the zombies to the right of the Governor. All but one of these zombies is from “The Walking Dead.”

My second piece shows my love for The Silence of the Lambs. It’s a collage with a portrait of Jame Gumb based on his appearance in the movie. The details I chose for the background were more influenced by what you learn about him in the book. It’s mixed media on a 2″ cradled gesso-board so it’s quite heavy. It incorporates real butterfly wings.
Closeup on Jame's face.

Closeup on Jame’s face.

Upper left side detail.

Upper left side detail.

Lower left side detail.

Lower left side detail.

Upper right side detail.

Upper right side detail.

Lower right side detail.

Lower right side detail.

The next pieces I’m working on are drawings, which are always easier for me to produce. I’m feeling better so here’s hoping I can get back to my regular schedule because I miss movies and I miss my readers.

Posted in art, things involving me | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Remember that time it was August but it felt like September, so when September actually came nature was all, “Let me turn up the heat BWAHAHAHA!” That’s how it felt the last couple of days so I decided to watch a cold movie. What’s colder than Christmas? Nothing, I says! So I’m celebrating Christmas in August with…
Before you start saying

remember that “Garbage day!” doesn’t happen until the next movie.
This is the original movie that managed to piss off the PTA, Siskel, Ebert, and Leonard Maltin.
The plot is actually pretty straightforward. Billy (Played by Jonathon Best as a five-year old, Danny Wagner as an eight-year-old, and Robert Brian Wilson as an eighteen-year-old) has the worst luck at Christmas. Worse than yours when you didn’t get an Intellivision and worse than when your family argues at Christmas dinner.
He has to drive hours and hours with his parents and baby brother, Ricky, to meet his crazy grandfather who’s pretty catatonic. Until Mom and Dad leave Billy alone with the crazy person, for some reason. Grandpa is BONKERS and goes on this rant about how Santa doesn’t just give presents, he punishes the naughty.
Billy begins to fear Santa. This fear is exacerbated when they pull over for a Santa who appears to be having car trouble. Santa actually just robbed a convenience store and shot the owner. He shoots Billy’s Dad, gets pretty rape-y with Billy’s Mom before killing her, and would kill Billy if he could just find him.
Three years later, Billy and Ricky (Max Broadhead as Ricky age four, Alex Burton as Ricky age fourteen) are in a Catholic orphanage. Billy has emotional trouble every Christmas and Sister Margaret (Gilmer McCormick) suspects it’s because of what Billy witnessed. You think, Dr. Phil? Mother Superior (Lilyan Chauvin) thinks Billy just needs a reminder of Jesus’ everlasting punishment.
She spanks Billy with a belt when he leaves his room without her permission, while reminding him that punishment is necessary. Then she ties him to his bed when he has a nightmare.
The movie then jumps to eighteen-year-old Billy.
He gets a job as a stock-boy at Ira’s Toy Store. Everything is fine until the Christmas decorations start arriving. His coworker, Andy (Randy Stumpf) heckles him while Billy is forced to socialize and be happy. Things get worse when the man playing Santa can’t work and Ira dresses Billy as Santa. Billy finally snaps when he sees Andy trying to rape the woman who Billy likes, Pamela (Toni Nero). Billy rescues Pamela but since he strangled Andy with Christmas lights she’s completely freaked out. Billy kills everyone left in the store while snarling “Naughty.”
Billy goes out into the night, punishing the naughty while giving a box cutter to a good girl. His most memorable kill is when he impales Denise (Linnea Quigley) on a deer head’s antlers.
This, of course, reminds me of my favorite show, Hannibal (Can we get six seasons and a porno?)

Abigail's friend, Marissa (Holly Deveaux) becomes a victim of the Shrike Copycat.

Abigail’s friend, Marissa (Holly Deveaux) becomes a victim of the Shrike Copycat.

I’m not sure if Bryan Fuller consciously used that imagery but it’s a neat little coincidence.
Once Sister Margaret realizes what’s happening, she starts helping the police track Billy down. He makes his way to the orphanage. Am I the only one who was rooting for him to kill Mother Superior? She’s just the worst. Billy faces this sassy little girl and then goes after the Mother.
Billy’s shot by the police and he tells the shocked children that they’re safe from Santa as he dies. Ricky glares at Mother Superior and then starts to snarl, “Naughty,” leaving this perfectly set up for the sequel (Actually, there are FOUR sequels and a remake).
This movie opened the same weekend as A Nightmare on Elm Street and actually briefly outgrossed it. Then the PTA noticed it. The fact that the killer dressed as Santa was emphasized in the posters for the movie and that really, really pissed people off.

Concerned families picketed theaters where the movie was showing and Tristar pulled the ads for the movie and then withdrew the movie from theaters. Siskel and Ebert read the credits on air and said “shame” after each name.
I know I’m thirty years too late but that’s just the kind of story I hate to hear. First of all, I hate the idea of arbitrarily sacred cows. It can really suck when a parent’s Helen Lovejoying is more important than making art—it may be silly, schlocky art, but it’s still art.
I also think they miss two essential points. Billy dresses in a Santa suit. He’s not the real Santa and is never made out to be the real Santa. Secondly, Billy has been really abused. He’s had a really shitty life and Sister Margaret is pretty much the only person who’s ever nice to him. In Horror Films of the 1980s, John Kenneth Muir points out that Billy isn’t a motiveless killer like Michael Myers, he’s someone the audience can sympathize with. He wasn’t born a monster, he was made one in large part because of his treatment at the hands of Mother Superior. Maybe that’s why Christian groups hated the movie so much.
This isn’t the best slasher I’ve ever seen but the controversy surrounding it ensured that it wouldn’t be forgotten. It’s basically a fun little movie that has a bit of suspense. I liked the original plot and the fact that they bothered with a backstory for the killer. I own the 2003 Anchor Bay release that promises to be uncut. You can tell the differences in the footage used, which is pretty neat to see.
It’s just kind of funny how times have changed. Siskel and Ebert hated this movie but it has a higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB BOTH rate Silent Night, Deadly Night higher than the reprehensible Christmas with the Kranks. Maybe Siskel and Ebert should have shamed that movie. And now there are movies like Rare Imports and Krampus: The Christmas Devil that deal openly with killer Santas and his friends.

Posted in 1980's, killer kids, slasher | Tagged , , | 3 Comments