Saturday, February 16, 2019

10th Anniversary – And There's A Name Game!



It's my 10th Anniversary of writing this blog! It started in 2005 as an email newsletter called Wicked October, then transformed into a seasonal blog in 2007. A couple of years later with the launch of MyScaryHalloween.com in 2009, I rebranded the blog as MyScaryBlog.com. This became a year-round blog that tapped into my passion for horror.

Today, the blog continues to evolve as I dig deeper into film studies, focus even more on horror, and delve into my cultural and personal identity. With this new found voice, I've decided to embrace a new moniker: Señor Scary, and a refreshed blog is now available at SenorsScary.com. This site is still dedicated to the scary things I love: horror, haunts, and Halloween. I hope you will continue to follow me and please connect with me on Twitter or Instagram.

–Dreadfully, Señor Scary (a.k.a. Scarrry Jerry)



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Horror Queers Sets the Record Straight

The latest podcast from Bloody-Disgusting.com gives a voice to a disenfranchised segment of the horror community: Horror Queers. The Horror Queers podcast based on the column of the same name, looks at one horror movie at a time through a gay lens to suss out the actual, implied, subtly hinted, or unintentional queer moments, and review them in a modern context. Deeps dives into older films (so far from 90s onwards) are discussed for cultural relevancy, enduring appeal, and the people making the films. As a result previously panned movies like Jennifer’s Body or Hostel get fresh-eyed assessments.

Arguably, podcasts are most successful when hosts have engaging on-air personalities. I’ve been (re)watching the selected movies to see the world through the eyes of hosts Joe Lipsett and Trace Thurman. Thurman comes across as that lively and enthusiastic friend that you love to go to the movies with because he will appreciate that one great moment in a terrible film. Lipsett by contrast comes across as more reserved and obligingly snarky, like a certain Dowager Countess of Grantham. He is soft spoken, razor sharp, and reminds me of a friend who never seems quite pleased with anything. Together the dynamic is electric: a Siskel to an Ebert that often see eye-to-eye but love to disagree with cheeky aplomb.

The podcast itself is fun, informative, and lively. Sure a touch long but in fairness, I think most podcasts run too long. I could turn it off, but what if I miss a salient point about Jesse Bradford's himbo in Swimfan? The commentary often makes me question my initial opinions on films which is the mark of effective critique. For example, Hostel has one clearly queer scene but is the relationship of the two main characters really more than it appears? Film media, even horror, is a kind of art. One person's perception is just as valid as another who might see something entirely different. The Horror Queers do their homework and present thoughtful arguments to support their opinions. In the case of Hostel, I wonder if poor editing amplified lingering gazes/touches that could be considered queer. After all, performances are "made" in the editing room.

None of my friends truly love horror movies like I do. Beyond the gore and terror, it’s likely because the horror genre often veers towards misogyny and homophobia (among many other phobias). Horror Queers fills a specific void in the landscape that will hopefully bring together the LGBTQ+ community and allies who love horror, and have those awkward and frank discussions about our beloved genre. I'm very excited to see how this podcast develops, and grateful for a major site like Bloody Disgusting to support such an outing.

Listen to the Horror Queers podcast.

Read the Horror Queers articles.

Sign up to sponsor to the Horror Queers on Patreon.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Quick Takes: Prodigy, Golem, Velvet Buzzsaw, Tumbbad


The Prodigy has some clever ideas and soot-dark moments but the mounting dread is muted by a lethargic pace, repetitive narrative & bland characters. Jackson Robert Scott as the evil kid is chilling and anchors the movie but it's not scary or radical enough to stand apart. (In theaters on Feb. 8)






I'm a sucker for period pieces and The Golem smartly updates the figure of Jewish folklore with a well-crafted, sincere & culturally relevant film. There’s surprising emotional resonance even while bodies are being torn apart. That's quite a feat Dread Presents! (Available on VOD)





You may hate art after Velvet Buzzsaw. Jake is hilarious in this odd Final Destination meets Absolutely Fabulous-ish queer horror satire comedy that never tips too pointedly in any one direction. Check your expectations and it'll be a merry momentary diversion. (Stream from Netflix)






Folklore, fantasy and horror collide into a feast for the eyes in the creepy and atmospheric Tumbbad. It's thin on characters and bows a bit in the middle but the epic scale and wildly effective visual effects tell the story without the need for words. This is a very good film. (Stream from Amazon Prime Video)



Monday, February 4, 2019

Scary Movie Calendar 2019

Here’s a handy Scary Movie Calendar for 2019. I'll update it periodically, so if I missed something good, let me know: @scarrryjerry or comment below.

UPDATE: I've added a new page to the blog: SCARY MOVIE CALENDAR. It's my personal database (yes, I'm a geek) with release dates of upcoming horror, thriller, and genre-adjacent scary movies

UPDATE 2: I've had a few questions about my definition of "scary movie." I include horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and other genre-adjacent movies. Why? Many movies now defy specific genre categorization and may appeal to horror genre fans. Scary means things that cause fear, alarm, or unease whether it be from monsters, ghosts, aliens, serial killers, or just weird people doing awful things. Scholars, critics, and purists may rightfully disagree. (Here's a great primer on Film Genres Origins & Types.)



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Best Scary Movies of 2018

The horror renaissance continues in 2018 with some fantastic films, thanks largely to streaming channels and video on demand (VOD). As theaters are steadily becoming relics of the past (only a handful of films on my list are wide releases), VOD is the way to go. Casualties like Overlord (which I have yet to see!!!) and Suspiria both inexplicably opened after Halloween and died quick deaths. I should also note that some of these movies premiered in 2017 (at film festivals or internationally) but didn't become widely available in the U.S. until 2018.


The BEST of 2018

1. Hereditary - Ari Aster's debut film is a family drama with a sickening, dreadful atmosphere that slowly suffocates viewers in it's crazed third act. This is a horror masterpiece.

2. Suspiria - This reinvents every aspect of the original and adds a hypnotic, unsettling menace and epic grandeur. Tilda Swinton is spectacular, and this art film, though quite long, is beautifully conceived.

3. A Quiet Place is a monster movie with a truly unique concept - make a sound and die. The exquisite production values and stellar cast shows how to make the most of a modest budget.

4. Mandy succeeds not as simple revenge story but rather the artful manner in how it was made: dark, stylized, and strangely hypnotic and I hate to admit how much I loved Nicholas Cage's performance.

5. Aterrados (Terrified) is an Argentinian fever dream escalates scene by scenes as a paranormal infestation takes a neighborhood. It's an exhausting, unsettling nightmare that is not soon forgotten.

6. Halloween  is a smart, reliable sequel that surprises and delights fans of Michael Myers, John Carpenter, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

7. Annihilation is a unique vision of nature gone wild with extraordinary and often terrifying visuals. The superb cast led by Natalie Portman adds needed urgency to this ultimate meditation on extinction.

8. The House that Jack Built invites us back into Lars Von Trier demented brain as we get to experience the stuff that serial killers think. It's artful, excessively nauseating, riveting like a car accident, exhaustively plodding, heady, hateful, and features a fantastic epilogue. Like most of his films, it's an exceptional work of art – that I never want to see again.

9. Revenge is ferocious gut punch where a sexy young girl faces off against three lewd middle-aged, men in a remote desert. Leave it to the French to bring such superb, bloody action to the screen.

10. The Endless is a cosmic head trip whose ingenious plot and story aren't mitigated by the stoic performances of it's director/writer/actors. Hopefully bigger budgets will allow these two very creative people to push their unique vision further.

11. Lizzie is an understated and quiet contemplation on female empowerment – and a retelling of the infamous ax murders of the Borden family. Chloe Sevigny's furious rage coupled with Kristen Stewart's weary angst are revelations in this definitive film.

12. The Ritual is a rare good Netflix film that pits the struggle of men's stoic friendships against a really scary monster. It's a male-centric spiritual sequel to The Descent.

13. American Satan is a tale as old as time about the virtues of taking shortcuts to stardom. Its engaging, well-acted, and credit title cards are thought provoking.



Sadly, Not Yet Seen

There's a strong possibility that this list may be revised since I haven't yet seen two of my most anticipated 2018 releases: Overlord, and Anna and the Apocalypse.

Other possible contenders STILL in the queue are Wilding, What Keeps You Alive, Les Affames (Ravenous), Slice, Mary Shelley, Mon Mon Monsters, and Thoroughbreds. There just isn't enough time, right?



Honorable Mentions

These were all considered for my best of list but it was another really good year for horror movies.
The Clovehitch Killer, Pyewacket, Summer of ’84, Upgrade, Verónica, My Friend Dalmer, Possum, Ghost Stories, The Dark, Winchester (a nostalgic favorite but not a great film), The Cleanse, Little Stranger, Apostle, The Lodgers, and Our House.



Horror Adjacent

Bad Times at the El Royale is a noir crime cult period pulp thriller comedy shot like a horror movie. It's full of tension, surprises, great performances and satisfying ending from the director of Cabin In The Woods.

Sorry to Bother You is an insanely good comedy/social commentary with a freaky twist. It definitely crosses the line into legitimate satire horror and shows you things you can't unsee. 



The Most Disappointing Movies of 2018

I define the "worst movies" as those with good credentials on paper whose production entirely and inexcusably miss the mark. These should have been so much better given the talented people behind them, but something went terribly wrong. Sure, there are much worse movies like the trash that fill the horror categories on Netflix but those were trash to begin with and completed avoided.

The Nun couldn't decide on a tone (adventure-romance-horror?) and is a sinful hot mess.
Insidious: The Last Key puts the amazing Lin Shaye at the center and gives her a bland story.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a tedious sequel no one wants and doesn't even properly feature kaiju.
The Cloverfield Paradox has some trippy scenes but goes no where slowly - and then there's a monster in the clouds. Ugh, lame.
Down a Dark Hall is a dreadfully boring movie with a dreadfully miscast Uma Thurman.
Marrowbone features great performers with a slow burn setup and senseless final act.
Winchester is a decent movie about a glorious house that should have been so much, much better.
Terrifier has great potential and an evil villain but the amateurish actors and thin story sink it.
Mom and Dad starts out good, even with Nicolas Cage, but then has no third act. What's the point?
Bird Box delivers tense performances and set up but its repetitive and doesn't deliver ANY goods.
Unsane is a super annoying experiment and looks absolutely awful – because it was shot on a phone.
House With a Clock in Its Walls is Eli Roth's stumble into kid fare that's neither scary nor fun.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Best Scary TV Shows of 2018

The cold, dark days of January finally give me time to catch up on scary tv and movies. We don't get snow here but lots of overcast skies and rainy, foggy days so the atmosphere is set for some awesome marathons. Here's a list of my favorite 2018 tv shows (my movie list is coming soon!).

The Best Scary TV Shows of 2018
  1. The Haunting of Hill House is fine horror literature with a brilliant story, direction, and acting.
  2. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is wickedly good fun and one of Netflix's all-time best series.
  3. The Terror is heady horror for adults with a top notch cast and production. Who doesn't like a good naval yarn?
  4. Ash Vs. Evil Dead ended its short, glorious run with a bloody hilarious season. Goodbye Ash–forever and ever!
  5. Preacher added Betty Buckley as a swamp witch – and God as a dog! – and cast a fantastic, fun spell.
  6. Castle Rock is a slow burn that doesn't quite catch fire but is rich with characters and story.
  7. Eli Roth's History of Horror was like a great conversation about the horror genre with friends. 
  8. Sharp Objects is horror-tinted drama with a creepy mystery about grisly murders and possible serial killer in a small southern town. The performances are stellar and the final scene is mind-blowing.

Honorable Mentions

Outcast finally showed up for a final bow at Starz and another good show bites the dust.
Stan Against Evil continued its amusing snark and deadpan indie humor.
The Purge was tamed for TV but also exists as a different, slowburn extended feature.
Channel Zero: The Dream Door is imaginative and often horrific but loses momentum after an early reveal and too much anti-climatic personal drama.



The Disappointments of 2018
    T
  1. The X-Files is really not written well and failed to prove why it needed to return other than fan love for the characters, conspiracy, and aliens.
  2. Westworld became an incomprehensible mess with many unnecessary tangents. It demands too much from an audience and feels like the second coming of J.J. Abrams other misguided effort, LOST.
  3. Midnight, Texas continued its odd, dim-witted and befuddled march to extinction. 
  4. Lore retooled the formula adding great production values but removing its beloved narrator. Bad move Amazon.
  5. Charmed couldn't be less appealing with the dull writing and chemistry-free cast.
  6. American Horror Story: Apocalypse is the usual ridiculous hodge-podge and yet another missed opportunity. This could be edited down to a much more successful 6-episode mini-season called Coven Returns

Thursday, January 3, 2019

How to Build a Monster House



One of my nightmares is a house that comes to life. From the stretching hallway in Poltergeist (1982), to the transforming walls in The Haunting (1999), to the animated motherload of Monster House (2006), to Christine McConnell’s monstrous creations, houses that should be safe havens can be scary monsters. 

My Monster House Halloween 2018 display was a very simple concept but on a very large scale and created entirely from scratch. The horns on the roof are 4 feet tall, and the mouth is 8 feet tall and about 14 feet wide, complete with an 7-foot tongue. The eye in the window is an animated projection (from AtmosFX) which made this monster come to life. Finally, red lights flowing on the bone littered porch suggest a river blood of blood to lead trick 'r treaters to the front door – and their doom!

I should also note the video above is the very first video I purposefully shot (with help from my friend Ariel Germanaz) and edited (after learning Adobe Rush), so it's a bit rough.


How I Built a Monster

The project started with two 4-foot horns made of chicken wire, PVC, lots of tape, paper mache, and plaster cloth along with paint, more paint, and spar urethane. Since these were going on a sloped roof, I also weighted them and built a V-shaped wood support to let gravity keep the horns in place and protect against our high winds (that even topple nearby castles!). 



I then moved on to cutting out out the teeth from two 4x8' sheets of 2 1/2 inch thick insulation foam from the Home Depot. After chiseling the ends a bit, I added paper mache to bulk up the teeth and covered the whole with several layers of plaster wrap. I was quite surprised at how durable this product was. We kicked the hell out of the bottom teeth every time we climbed over them (since they were at our front door). For a subsequent year (2020), the goal will be to reformat either set (upper or lower) teeth to make the mouth comp on command.


The final piece was the 7-foot tongue. Originally I wanted to build a gimbal-style support to allow the tongue to weeble wabble but ran out of time when the nine foot tongue met an unfortunate accident. I quickly reformed the tip and ran through the build procedure and coloring. I will likely rebuild the tongue from a lighter material next time to allow for easy movement.



The eye projection comes from AtmosFX's Eerie Eyes collection magnified 10 times to a full window display with the color slightly re-hued green. When I was concepting Monster House in 2017, I kept wondering where I would get an eye from. I thought about filming my eye and begging my friend to edit it for me but that fall, AtmosFX introduced this very projection. Problem solved!


I plan to revisit my Monster House in 2020 with a few design modifications and perhaps a few added surprises! See more pictures at MyScaryHalloween.com.



Thursday, December 27, 2018

Bird Box Holds Back Everything

Inevitably Bird Box will be compared to the far superior A Quiet Place. We have one sense removed while something lurks about killing everyone and causing the apocalypse. It features an aggressive and ferocious performance by Sandra Bullock (werk!) and a well-rounded cast playing fairly straightforward stereotypes. Nothing gets too deep here and that’s fine.

Horror movies are dependent on suspense and plot so not having fully formed characters is not a deal breaker. However the narrative structure, the jumbled story is told from three different time periods over five years, deflates much of that needed tension giving away crucial moments early on.

Plot wise the story lumbers on with no surprises but there’s blips where it almost gets interesting. Some filmmakers leave much to the imagination and like the survivors, not much is known about the force causing people to kill themselves. Again that’s fine. I don’t need to be spoon-fed answers. However, the restraint here reeks of an underdeveloped concept and really poor directing choices. How these beings operate is never fully revealed. Setting up rules is again one of those needed elements in a horror movie, which this very much is. Invisible supernatural beings that have corporal weight (bending trees and brush) that make you kill yourself firmly puts this in the horror category.

Moreover, movies are a visual medium. Just once, I wanted to get a glimpse of what a victim saw, perhaps at the climax of the film? This movie holds everything back. Without a true sense of the horror the victims experience, the actual impact falls flat. Imagine a vampire story where you never see a vampire - only puncture wounds and dead bodies. A zombie movie with no zombies. Doesn’t sounds like much fun, and there’s no pay off – another cardinal sin for a horror movie. Much like M, Night Shamealot’s abysmal film, The Happening, we have nothing to fear but the wind itself.