Monday, July 22, 2019

CRAWL Death Rolls My Phobias

Dorothy, my Florida friend, and I went to see CRAWL and I didn't tell her about my irrational fear of alligators. I'm not sure if it's their beady eyes, their snarling snouts, or my deep-seated childhood memory of a crocodile chomping off Captain Hook's hand and then later finishing him off. I can’t tell the difference between the two tailed, long snout beasts so bear with me. Alligators are powerful, mythic beasts, and to my companion they are everyday. She tells me they were in her backyard and if referring to an obnoxious squirrel. To a West Coast boy, alligators are just not a normal thing. She probably fears earthquakes more than I do.

I knew very little about CRAWL going in, like most horror movies, other than there was a storm and alligators. I didn’t realize the two lead characters where trapped in the crawlspace under a home, next to a gator farm during a category 5 hurricane. Bells, whistles and flags all went up simultaneously.

After a brief introduction to swimmer girl, the movie gets into the storm and into the crawl space. I was impressed at how quickly it got to the point and though I didn’t feel any connection to the characters, I did immediately sense the claustrophobia and the sense of being hunted. And then came the brisk alligator action. The alligator's death rolls were so well done and I shrieked giddily. Dorothy seemed nonplussed throughout the ordeal of this movie and I sunk into my seat, fists held up and ready to punch the modern day dinosaur in the snout. I was exhausted by the end.

The plot is clever and refreshingly simple and other than a few father-daughter emotional scenes, the movie’s focus really stayed in the water. The storm effects were great and I didn’t realize that water could get up past a second floor childhood bedroom so quickly. Again, West Coast boy where our annual rainfall is like 8 inches. This was a reminder that nature is and will always be in control.

CRAWL may not be the high art, but horror fans looking for a well-made, briskly paced, tense, fun summer thrill ride couldn’t do better. There is minimal gore except for one scene that looked like teenagers attacking a pizza when the lid opens. I left completely satisfied and in no need to quibble any flaws. I do however wonder why Paramount Pictures didn't do a greater marketing push given the two big horror names behind this, director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) and producer Sam Raimi (Evil Dead). In its second week, it has all but disappeared from theaters, and the shoebox theater it was relegated to was full in the middle of the day. Sounds like a missed opportunity.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Quick Takes: Midsommar, Starfish, Annabelle Comes Home

Midsommar is a folk horror daydream promising serenity for a pound of pulpy, red flesh. It is hypnotic, blooms with dread & drops unsettling, grisly visuals that while expected still land hard. Ambitious, unique & masterful auteur work, but it sadly does perpetuate xenophobia.

Starfish brings an arthouse apocalypse filled with stunning, hypnotic visuals, Lovecraftian monsters & a moody alt rock score. It all hangs on a captivating lead performance but is ensnarled in too much enigma, dampening the impact of this unique & somber grief piece.

Annabelle Comes Home is a surprisingly clever third installment due to the setting, strong cast, and menagerie of nasties. I enjoyed the glimpses into the Warren’s other cases & rather than being a retread, it simply dives in. A treat for fans but newbies may get lost in the fog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Christine McConnell is Back!

I've been a big huge fan of Christine McConnell and have followed her from Instagram to her book, Deceptive Desserts, to her Netflix show, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. Sadly the show got the axe but you can't keep a good woman down for long.

She has just launched a new YouTube series called "From the mind of Christine McConnell" which will feature a new project every month. Each video will follow the project from beginning to end. July's video has her transforming a pullout couch she bought on Craigslist into an Edwardian masterpiece. This is absolutely a jaw-dropping transformation.

If you are like me, and can't get enough, consider becoming a Christine McConnell Patreon subscriber and get a coffin full of extras including exclusive project videos, Q&A livestreams, recipes, tools & instructions, and more, depending on your tier.

I'm so delighted to see Christine McConnell back on screens. She is such a talented and inspiring artist. It must also be noted how exquisite the production design, camera work and lighting is in her premiere video, and the music is so hauntingly beautiful. Brava!

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Horror of Food: Figs & Wasps

Fresh figs are just about in season and it's time to delve into the pulpy, sweet fruit high in vitamin A, C, potassium and fiber. Here's some great recipes from

Unfortunately, this delightfully exotic fruit was forever ruined by a post on Apple News. I cannot unlearn the following info, so if you are a fan of figs, you might want to skip this post.

First, there are male figs that are inedible and female figs that we eat. Second, a fig wasp that's no bigger than a gnat enters the base of the male fig to lay her eggs and DIES. Males hatch, breed with the females, chew tunnels out of the fig and DIE. But female wasps use those tunnels to emerge and start the process all over again. If the fig she enters is a female fig, the wasp DIES, and is absorbed by the fig eventually resulting in a juicy, plump fig. Coincidentally, for this reason, many vegans and vegetarians refuse to eat figs.

The following video from BrainStuff gives you the full explanation:

YouTube Link

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Quick Takes: Knife+Heart, Nightmare Cinema, Man Who Killed Hitler...

Knife+Heart is expressionist film at its dandiest, indulging in titillating & giallo color-saturated imagery. Vanessa Paradis is stunning as an obsessed porn producer in the 70s being stalked why a leather-faced baddie. Its roots are firmly embedded in the horror of gay trauma.

Nightmare Cinema gives the horror anthology a fresh take with segments that take on slashers, body horror, possession & in the most impressive turn, mental health anguish. The cast and the production are superb & shows #Shudder is really stepping up their game as producers.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then Bigfoot is a surprising & often touching drama, thanks to Sam Elliot, with a kooky & original premise. It stumbles with tonal/genre shifts but exciting as a hybrid experiment. Ultimately it’s too syrupy for genre fans & too weird for drama fans.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Los Espookys is Offbeat, Genius & Hilarious

Los Espookys is the show that I didn’t know I needed and absolutely love. I’ve laughed to the point of having a white outs, and find it fascinating that these wacky characters are all too similar to weird people I know in real life. The situations they put themselves are surreal and I imagine humorless home haunters rolling their eyes at the implausibility of the effects they create, but that’s not the point.

A reluctant entrepreneur Reynaldo (Bernado Velasco), teams with his friends, the droll tech whiz Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherrotti) and the orphan chocolate prince Andrés (Julio Torres) to use their horror proclivity for pay. Whether boosting the demon-fighting allure of a parish priest being replaced by a younger, handsome, and glossy-lipped priest, or an heiress who wants to ensure her family’s fortune doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, Los Espookys are called to set up scenes of terror to fool the superstitiously-inclined dummies while managing their escalating personal problems.

I’d like to call out Ana Fabrega who plays the quirky, soap-licking Tati who goes from an illustrious job of fan-spinning to possessed girl. She’s also one of the two writers of this show (along with Julio Torres). Those familiar with the irreverent At Home with Amy Sedaris will recognize her as Esther who lives with the lady in the woods. Fabrega has impeccable comic timing as well as a gift of highly expressive face acting. Face acting, of course, is the rare skill to communicate boatloads of character with zero spoken dialogue and one look. Just ask Norma Desmond. Julio Torres who plays Andrés has written some of the more unusual skits on Saturday Night Live and is also a standup comic with an unusual show. His HBO special, My Favorite Shapes, airs August 10.

Between Torres and Fabrega, they have birthed something truly unique with Los Espookys. The show is created in the kindred spirit of shows like 30 Rock (this show is also executive produced by Lorne Michaels) and Arrested Development where quick line deliveries, absurd situations, and extremely clever wit swirl into comedy gold. It’s mostly in Spanish, and yes, there are subtitles but don’t be afraid. I will admit that as a bilingual, the show seems somewhat funnier in Spanish. I'm not sure if its the colloquialism or sensibility of Latin America, but the jokes land harder in my native Mexican tongue. Of course most of the humor is universal, like Andrés' vapid Instagram boy toy Juan Carlos, a hypnotized news anchor who seeks the truth because the public demands it, or the telenovela-like mysterious dame dressed in red and running around a mansion looking perplexed. Guest stars like Fred Armisen as Tico, and Carol Kane add to the crossover appeal.

With only six 30-minute episodes, this will be a very quick binge when it hopefully makes its way out of HBO and onto other streaming platforms, which I hope it does for the sake of a second season. Los Espookys is a tough sell of horror, comedy and Spanish that may limit its broader appeal stateside but I admire HBO’s commitment to diversity. Putting Mexicans at the forefront of the show, setting the show in Mexico, and having the actors actually speak Spanish (because that's what it should be) is exactly the kind of representation needed on American TV.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Happy Pride! I'm Gay for Horror

It's the last day of Pride 2019 and I wanted to share an article I wrote for The editor put out a call for contributors on Twitter and I was selected for publication, my first outside of this blog! It's one thing to call yourself a writer and another to convince someone else you're a writer and have them publish you. Thank you Terry for giving me the opportunity to share my writing and my experience with your readers.

I'm Gay for Horror
by Señor Scary

Growing up in 80’s southwest Tejas, there were three things to do in my border town: sweep up dust, eat, and watch movies. You could also go to church and the good Catholics were eager to sit on your shoulders and shine a flashlight on your sins. I once asked a priest about sins. The greatest was not murder or adultery but being gay! Early on, I suspected that I might be different because I lingered in the JCPenney men’s interior fashions, my brother told me I held my books like a girl because they were clutched to my chest, and a gorgeous junior high bully, Brad Dunkadonk insisted on calling me faaaag… gettt… as he ran past me in gym class. I got to admire his assets so I guess we both won. I would get home from school and turn on the VCR.

Movies were my constant companion and my window to a Technicolor world. I didn’t know then, but horror movies in particular would help shape my identity in the decade to follow. We were a family who loved movies. In fact, we bonded mainly over movies. My earliest recollection is my father taking us to the palatial old theater, El Regalo, in Juárez, Mexico for a Sunday afternoon double feature. One was usually a thriller, but we rarely stayed for the second feature opting to get a torta de milanesa and agua de melon across the street. This is where I saw my first horror movie, Blood Beach, in which people were sucked into the sand by a monster. We also saw The Changeling since my father loved George C. Scott, and I vowed right there to never live in a house with stairs or red balls.

At home, my older brothers introduced me to Fangoria magazine, and my eyes bulged at the gruesome spectacle of an axe to the head in Friday the 13th. I was so in awe of special effects that I learned how to make blood out of everyday pantry ingredients so that I could permanently stain my mother’s bathroom tile with a grisly scene. Yet, my weary Mamá always encouraged my dark endeavors. She even allowed me to watch the TV-network edit of The Exorcist because she knew horror movies made me happy. I made good grades, never got in trouble, and stayed away from Maria Juana, so Mamá was also happy. This is when I understood that I could be myself and still be loved.

In high school, I finally understood what being gay meant, although I wouldn’t tell my intermittent girlfriend – or another soul – for 5 years. I felt like a misfit. I was soft-spoken, quiet, and yearned for acceptance. Then, suddenly, I made a new friend––and he loved horror movies! This guy had an odd, eggshaped head with puffs of curly hair, and he was markedly heterosexual. We watched so many movies together including Pumpkinhead, argued the merits of Stan Winston, and furiously yelled across the mall parking lot about man-in-a-monster-suit movies.

I was a master of horror movies and would debate them to death. Through this alliance, I finally managed to find a voice. It was a timid, sheepish, and reluctant voice, but I finally felt like I could express myself with a shred of confidence. Sadly, at graduation this friend told me he would kill me if I ever turned out to be gay. It was a real threat and he owned a lot of guns, so I believed him and we never spoke again.

My love of horror movies, introduced to me by parents, ushered by my brothers, and explored with my friends, helped me find my feisty voice. Horror movies instilled a survival instinct in me to overcome the adversity of judgmental strangers who condemn my passion. It’s also very encouraging to discover that a large community of outsiders and misfits devoted to the horror genre are also queer and queer allies. And if horror movies have taught us anything it is that the final girl who keeps her wits and her coif during extreme bloodshed, walks into the warm morning sunlight without a hint of shame.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

DemonHuntr Is Looking for a Few Good Souls

DemonHuntr is dying to bring diversity to the horror genre but it needs your help! Created by Tim O’Leary (Wolf Island, SGM seeks LTR in NYC), this web series will be casting a horror comedy spell with a Sabrina/Evil Dead/Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe – but now featuring LBGTQIA and people of color as lead characters! We are in a new era and representation matters. “Everyone is getting a seat the table,” says O’Leary. The crowdfunding campaign is underway raising over $12K towards their goal of $36,666. To contribute, please visit today!

Mr. O’Leary was kind enough to answer some of my probing questions about his views on queer horror, sex, and, yes, even, theatre.

Señor Scary: I often hear that there are gay characters in almost every series now, so is targeted media like this really needed?

Tim O'Leary: There’s a world of difference between having a gay character in a show and having the leads almost exclusively be in the LGBT community, and that difference is whose story it is. When your lead is a gay man, as ours is, that means the world of the show is seen through a gay lens. We see his community, we see his relationships, we see his life in a way you wouldn’t if he were a side character. Right now, there are exactly zero shows in our genre with an LGBT lead, so I’d say Demonhuntr is absolutely needed.

Señor Scary: A year ago, Queer Horror was not something I’d heard much about. When I saw the first Horror Queers articles on I was delighted but also surprised. Why do you think Queer Horror is taking off now and how do you feel a series like this will shape its future?

Tim O'Leary: Great question! As it happens, there’s been a queerness in horror and horror fandom stretching back a very long time. The movie Gods and Monsters showcased how much gay sensitivity and humor went into Bride of Frankenstein.

The big difference now is the Internet. We’re able to find each other with an ease that is unprecedented. In the past, if you were an isolated LGBT person into horror, you’d have to ask around, talk to friends of friends, maybe try to start a group, just to see if anyone else was like you. Now you just do an Instagram search for #queerhorror.

I think the emergence of this fandom is fantastic, and my hope is we get to see a lot more inclusivity in the genre. And since the conventional wisdom in Hollywood is “write the show you’ve always wanted to see,” that’s what I’m doing!

Señor Scary: Your Instagram account led me to my favorite new artist Karl von Frankstein which included a scantily clad Jason, Michael and Freddy Krueger. Yet LGBTQIA media is often criticized for its overtly sexualized imagery. Is it that sex sells or does the queer community approach sex differently?

Tim O'Leary: I think, and this is solely my own anecdotal experience not based on anything official, that the queer community just has a little more fun with sex than our straight counterparts, and we don’t take it so seriously. And that particularly goes with sex in media and advertising. Straight men are conditioned to believe that all media is for them, and this is reinforced through most imagery we see on TV and film, particularly the exploitation of female bodies for the male gaze.

When I see things like a sexy pin-up version of Jason or Michael Myers, I’m much more likely to laugh than get turned on, because obviously there’s a joke there, but also I know that it’s most likely going to make straight men very uncomfortable... which I also enjoy. I could write a whole thesis paper about this.

Our show is frank in its sexuality – characters have sex, and we don’t shy away from that. But it’s also not exploitative or soft-porn-y either. As a writer, I’m much more interested in making people laugh than turning anyone on.

But if they do get turned on, that’s okay, too.

Señor Scary: I loved the pitch video and also read that you and several in your cast have a theater backgrounds. Will that world of spectacle, over-the-top, sing-out-Louise audacity inform the series? And more importantly, have you planned out a musical episode?

Tim O'Leary: We actually have a song-and-dance number! Well, hopefully. I wrote a very musical theater moment that actually fits easily into the plot. But song-and-dance numbers are expensive, so that’s one of our “stretch goals,” meaning if we make over the hoped-for budget, we can include that number. Which I really hope we can do.

There is a sense of grandness to the story, which probably is a bit informed by my love of musical theater, and also Shakespeare, fantasy novels, and video games. A lot of various media has informed Demonhuntr, for sure.

Señor Scary: For those who join the crowdfunding efforts, and every horror fan could for as little as $5, what is the timeline for production and debut of the web series. How many episodes are you hoping to get for the first season?

Tim O'Leary: Once we have our budget established, we’re going into pre-production and will most likely shoot in the fall. One thing you learn very quickly in Hollywood is that post-production always take twice as long and costs twice as much as you think it will going in, so I’d say we’d probably be looking at the summer of 2020 as the earliest release.

We’re hoping for seven episodes, but it all depends on the amount we make. The original slate of episodes we wrote numbered nine, and that doesn’t include outlines for even more episodes. I’m a long-form storyteller by nature so I can see this going for years. There are so many stories we want to tell, and we’re hoping we get to tell all of them!

Check out DemonHuntr on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and their YouTube channel featuring Monster Mondays, Trivia Tuesdays and Feature Friday clips!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Doctor Sleep Trailer is Finally Here

Director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Oculus, Gerald's Game, Hush) revealed the first trailer for DOCTOR SLEEP, the follow up to THE SHINING today on Twitter.

If you haven't read the fantastic book, you might not know that it's not a direct sequel. Stephen King's book follows little Danny Torrance into adulthood (now played by Ewan McGregor) as he tries to fend off a tribe that preys on children with the shining. The tone is radically different, and fans looking for a return visit the bloody madness of the Overlook Hotel will be greatly disappointed. There are no ghosts here, only very bad people who hurt children.

I have full faith in Flanagan to capture the spirit of the book as he excels in intimate stories of personal adversity, family dysfunction, and quests for redemption. It opens November 8.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Crazy about "American Psycho: The Musical"

The trend of turning horror movies into farcical pop musicals continues with the mostly successful American Psycho: The Musical. You get to experience the film on stage, mostly, with the addition of a thumping 80s electronic score. The original songs by Duncan Sheik work well, but these are interspersed with tedious snippets of classic 80s songs, which take you right out of the moment. Presumably this was done to give the cast a chance to execute numerous costumes changes or wipe the blood from their bodies and stage.

The musical is fun, zippy, and brash, but the success rests squarely on the broad shoulders of the actor in the lead role of Patrick Bateman. In the  Ray of Light Theatre’s West Coast premiere production, the charismatic, tall and handsome Kipp Glass perfectly fills Patrick’s tighty-whities. He’s oozing cocky confidence and antsy lunacy by way of crazy bulging eyes, irritable intensity, and impeccable line delivery. His singing is on point and he truly embodies the character.

Having lived through the 80s, the references, visuals, and the costumes all made sense and the book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is quite amusing while retaining the serious storyline. The simple set is aided by projections which allow for vibrant, shifting visuals. The design smartly turns the room, showcasing a corner center stage, allowing for two opening panels that allow for entrances and scene changes. Then there’s some awkward choreography which involves the rather large cast, although most eyes are on Glass and his purposely cumbersome white boy dancing. It all seems chaotic and incoherent, which was probably a choice.

The second act drags a bit and the big reveal at the end was more of question mark than a statement. If they wanted us to feel as dumbfounded as Patrick Bateman, they certainly succeeded. Nonetheless, American Psycho was bloody fun, well-conceived, and didn’t teeter too far into gloominess or camp. I’m extremely excited to see what Ray of Light Theatre does next.