Sunday, June 28, 2020

Happy Pride 2020!



The image above is made fabulous by freelance designer Sean Sinclair, courtesy of Unsplash.com

Monday, June 22, 2020

Can Yard Haunting Save Halloween?

As more states move towards opening businesses and get some semblance of normality during this pandemic, I wonder about the lingering effects to our collective psyche. There’s a looming threat of a covid-19 resurgence in the fall or winter, and Halloween is smack down in the center of that time period.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foretell that our spooky traditions will be altered this fall. For starters, I can’t imagine that parents will encourage their trick ‘r treaters to go door-to-door this year. Haunted attractions may be a little less spooky six-feet apart. And parties may not feature extensive guests lists or allow for much nibbling, with masks likely being required for the foreseeable future. We must remain committed to safety for the sake of our most vulnerable populations. 

So where does that leave the yard haunter, like myself, that decks out the lawn with sinister sights?  In one regard, creating these displays may draw crowds, which is normally a good thing, but not in the age of social distancing. I also wonder if the horror of it all will make the masses (and myself) more anxious at a time when we need to find inner calmness. Or will it provide a needed distraction from the real horrors of the world and give the people an expected thrill in October? My instict is the latter. I personally want to get back to the world B.C. (before covid-19), and imagine that many others want to do so as well. Our neighborhood is very receptive to our efforts, often knocking on our front door to thank us. I want to provide a sense of frightful fun to our community, and on Halloween, everyone's entitled to one good scare, to quote Dr. Loomis in Halloween (1978).

Planning for my walk-by/drive-by display is underway with the building of new props, sourcing supplies, and creating a manageable schedule. The theme this year is inspired by the film Trick ‘r Treat, which is arguably the best Halloween movie ever made. The film's sublime production design evokes classic Halloween visuals of jack o' lanterns, ghosts, and graveyards. I hope to recreate some of that atmospheric charm with Sam as a focal point, and add adding a few nods to other iconic horror movies. I can already hear my haunter friends calling it a “haunt stew,” a term they use to define the lawns littered with an overabundance of Halloween store props mish-mashed together with no rhyme, reason, or story. Personally, I welcome any seasonal decorating – yes, even those obnoxious air-blown monstrosities – over no decorating and applaud the spirit of all yard haunters.  

I’d really like to hear from yard haunters about your plans. (Via social media links below or use the form on the right column.) How big or small will you go this year? Do you fear any backlash (or more than usual)? Are you feeling any stress about building something that few may come out to see? Or do you think it will be scary business as usual? This is going to be one hell of a year for the record books. 

Instagram @senorscaryjerry



Thursday, June 11, 2020

Quick Takes: Shirley, Blood Machines, House In Between, Defending Jacob

Shirley is an atmospheric & engrossing study of the creative process & the monsters created in its wake. Moss is brilliantly unhinged as the pioneering #horror writer, Shirley Jackson who wrote The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery. Her provocative, seething resentment is palpable, and she is often shot in extreme close-ups with handheld cameras that add a shaky, restless energy. The film distills the dizzying madness to a singular, urgent message: "The world is too cruel to girls."




Blood Machines roars to life in a visionary spectacle that defies sci-fi & horror conventions & boldly goes forward. At a scant 40-45 minutes (& inexplicably split into three episodes by Shudder?), the pulsing synth leaves you breathless & yearning for more despite the frayed optical nerves & itchy brain stem. The perfunctory performances are almost nonessential given the conceptual nature but still its weakest link. More importantly, the gender politics give me pause, as men are ignorant buffoons but the females are all demonic ghosts within the machine – and naked. It’s a French production, so salacious sexual subtext is expected, but is this the point?




The House In Between has balls, and I will admit that I was impressed by them. Beyond that, it's clear the filmmakers don't fully grasp the structure needed to sustain a feature documentary. Specifically, this would be a multi-faceted subject, a distinct point of view, some level of education on the subject, and the ability to produce a narrative that has a beginning, middle and end. This felt more like an extended episode of a ghost hunting show without any kind of resolution. The more compelling questions were not asked: Why does this happen in small town America? What is the fascination with ghosts and ghost hunting? Why is this home owner so intent on reaching out to the media and what is her story? Ultimately, it struggles for relevancy, repeats itself, and runs out of ideas.



Defending Jacob is a tightly-paced and somber family tragedy with stellar performances that add gravitas to even the most melodramatic moments. Jaden Martell really shines in an understated performance that is both sadly endearing AND unquestionably insidious. Every moment with him is complex and excruciating. I also couldn’t believe how each episode added at least one significant reveal and yet maintained the overall mystery. This is a solid, remarkable thriller with a bleak, dark heart and at only 8 episodes is still feels a bit too long.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Black Lives Matter

There are no words more important than these: BLACK LIVES MATTER. The horrors of America are all too real to ignore and silence is complicity. I stand with you. Learn more and donate at blacklivesmatter.com.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Plea to Reconsider the Timely IT COMES AT NIGHT

In 2017, It Comes At Night was royally screwed by A24 (the studio behind The Witch, Hereditary, Midsommar, and The Lighthouse) when it issued a horror-packed trailer, lauded soundbites, and released the movie alongside the summer blockbusters. The studio was likely trying to capitalize on the prestige horror wave aimed at adult audiences clamoring for mature horror films (most mainstream wide-release horror films are targeted to teens). Audiences, myself included, hated the movie and walked away incredibly disappointed. Expectations are the death bell of a horror movie experience.

The director, Trey Edward Shults, had previously worked on a stylish, intimate character piece called Krisha, and It Comes at Night follows further down that dark path. It seems Shults set out to make a grounded, atmospheric, psychosis-driven horror movie without conventional horror elements – a sinister drama, perhaps. And just to be clear there are several very frightening moments, and a tense, gruesome sequence. 

The story revolves around a highly-infectious viral outbreak that possibly turns people into zombies and this plague decimated a nearby city. That’s it. We know only tidbits about the characters as they treat each other with suspicion and distrust so there’s not much exposition. The rest is an exercise is harrowing paranoia, bleak terror, horrible dreams, and a savage, emotional climax. It’s all presented vaguely but it’s not too difficult to decipher what’s going on.

I’m fortunate to have waited 3 years to revisit this film, and it’s especially timely and almost prescient now during this pandemic when our kind neighbors are met with cautious uncertainty. It Comes at Night is very well-made, exquisitely shot, and effectively ominous. The cast honestly portrays the madness of claustrophobia, the anguish of life-and-death decision-making, and the brutality of scared humans. 

It's a shame that I, and so many other horror fans, dismissed this film for not living up to the expectations that A24 set up (The Lodge met a similar fate earlier this year). The studio could have treated It Comes At Night better, promoted it more honestly, and given it a modest rollout to see if audiences responded. Word of mouth with limited availability is a solid, time-tested strategy. Now is the time to revisit this shunned gem and give it another chance. Perhaps my home isolation prompted the new sentiments, but I was surprised at how effective the film is and how genuinely real it feels. The resolution is unequivocally haunting.

Coincidentally, as a result of the way A24 markets its films, I made the decision in 2017 to NEVER watch trailers again, and unsurprisingly, I haven’t had a movie ruined since then (The Invisible Man trailer gave up many of its jawdropping moments). It's tough to avoid them, especially if you watch network TV or subscribe to the cheaper tier of Hulu, but I've embraced an awkward trailer stance (eyes shut tight, finger-plugged ears) to combat terrible marketing.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Quick Takes: Z, Porno, Why Don't You Just Die, The Droving

When this works it has some great tension, well-staged scares and overall eeriness. Eyes staring back from the darkness of a child’s bedroom is particularly effective, as is one vicious moment that I had to rewind to accept. The third act completely drops the ball, becomes repetitive, and it’s clear they didn’t know where to go from the premature climax. Just for once I’d like to see both parents on the same side. The level-headed, doubting man, hysterical woman routine is such a tired, insulting trope. As Shudder originals go, this is above average.




Admittedly, there is some juvenile fun to be had in the tawdry PORNO, but it’s just not a grower. The pace is clunky and the action spurts out in fits and drabs. Thankfully, the likable ensemble cast holds the film firmly together, and they help us through an intolerably gratuitous scene that would burst any man’s bubble. But things wither the moment you realize the big bad is nothing more than boobs and a mask. It’s supposed to be a sleaze-fest and it’s more of an uninspired snooze-fest.



WHY DON'T YOU JUST DIE! is a gleefully vicious little film that is so damn bloody, implausible and action-filled. I loved every minute of it! It's dark humor coupled with brutish performances and even a little bit of heart make it all work, even though the majority of the film takes place in one room. There's some very vibrant artistry on display with impeccable production design, colorful lighting, and fun, energetic camerawork. You can clearly see the Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Park Chan-wook influences. I'm very excited to see what director Kirill Sokolo has coming next!



THE DROVING upholds its bargain, promising a woeful tale of loss & revenge entwined with a regional folktale. Beautifully shot against stunning U.K. vistas with dynamic sound, wind practically whips around you. Adept performances with surprising character developments & a chilling ending land the devilry of this indie horror.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Quick Takes: Extra Ordinary, Sea Fever, The Wretched, The Turning

Extra Ordinary blends rom-com with the paranormal to produce a snort out-loud giddy #horror comedy. Between the ectoplasm collection, satanic absurdity & lampooned tropes lie great performances that ground the shenanigans. It's the best time I've had "at the movies" this year.



Sea Fever is a grim nautical horror thriller that draws heavily from The Thing, The Descent, and Alien. With themes of isolation and infection, it’s resonates but it quickly loses momentum in the second half. The characters are well-rounded but all fairly unlikeable keeping you detached. And the ambiguous creature design seems interesting but leaves you wanting much more. It’s harrowing and frustrating at the same time.



The Wretched is old-school #horror with a Fright Night template (a teen knows there's an evil witch next door but no one believes him!). It’s a witch instead of a vampire & not the pretty, pouty lipstick kind. This is a more terrifying, volatile creature. Sadly, the lore is not explored & it moves along predictably but solidly enough to entertain.


The Turning starts well-enough with a rich, gothic atmosphere, some ghostly scares & great performances. But the it rambles towards an abrupt and maddening non-ending. This was so off putting it ruined everything that came before it. The problem lies in how the director attempted to pay homage to the original novella’s debated ambiguity. Here it’s confused, clumsy, unsupported, and a serious embarrassment.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Happy Halfway To Halloween!

We've made it through to the midpoint. It's time to start planning and building towards Halloween 2020. Sure, it may be different this year with social distancing rules, BUT the spirit of spookiness should remain undeterred. Let Halloween lift your spirits, stay home, and save Halloween!


Monday, April 13, 2020

Delve Into the Dystopian Ceramics of Laura C. Hewitt

The work of Alaskan artist Laura C. Hewitt is strikingly beautiful and startling dark and whimsical. It immediately evokes the work of H.R. Giger but upon further inspection, there’s an aesthetic that’s so completely unique and ethereal. She earned her MFA in 1998 at the Vermont College of Norwich, and her work has been exhibited from Alaska to Seattle to New York. Her Etsy shop, INAEENT or It’s Not Anything Exactly Enterprises, is now the prime location for acquiring one of her mysterious and otherworldly pieces, which include decorative vases, plates, cups and saucers, jars, and ornaments. The work must be seen to be believed. Ms. Hewitt writes,

“I’m particularly interested in exploring the intersections between technology and nature, art and craft, destruction and creation. As inspiration, I look for the magical within the mundane, provoke thoughtfulness with the practical and animate the pragmatic with mischievousness.”

For my birthday, I purchased the piece called a “Hybrid Dystopia Cappuccino Mug. On Wheels” and  it is detailed exquisitely in 22k gold. It’s heavy, solid and even a little sharp is spots.

Holding it for the first time was it’s own ephemeral experience. I felt the true artist’s energy and passion coming through, and it evoked a strange feeling like she has somehow tapped into a different consciousness and that realm was being channeled directly into her work.

Upon studying the piece, the mind reels out of time, looking for mooring, as faces, hands, teeth, tails emerge and recede. There’s a story going on from all sides, underneath, and inside. Its energy transports the imagination to the far reaches of the cosmos.

I reached out to Ms. Hewitt with a few questions, which she graciously answered.


What drew you to this kind of expression and medium? 
Pottery was the only medium I’ve worked in where I could actually make money from home. 18-hour exhibition related flights + teaching job got really old, really fast. 

Who are some of the artists that inspire you? 
Anything edgy, contemporary, trope defying, a bit of danger and a dash of science helps, too.  Currently: Cai Guo Qiang, Adrian Piper, Roberto Lugo, Tsutomu Nihei, William Gibson, Megan Thee Stallion, Carmen Maria Muchado, Augusten Burroughs, Dark Souls video game, Handmaid’s Tale (series) and those animated engineering videos on Instagram of concrete being poured underwater or bridges getting built or whatever.   

Your work evokes an otherworldliness. What is your sense on the secrets of the cosmos?  
Well, that’s certainly not a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times!  I really haven’t a clue.  Probably it’s a huge joke we’re just not getting.   

Your work feels deeply spiritual and meaningful. What is your message?
Think Dangerously.  Embrace everything, even the icky stuff. Take care of yourself because no one else can do that for you. When life feels pointless and meaningless, we can create meaning for ourselves, we’re responsible for creating meaning for ourselves (those of us who have the privilege, of course, the time and resources) and it can start with small personal rituals, as simple as using a thoughtfully chosen cup for the day’s first coffee.

How do your family and friends perceive the work?
Not much different to what you, and others, have written about it, but they’ve always seen sardonic humor as well.  It’s been said to me, and they’ve heard many times, “It looks like it was created by several different people.” And they’re like “Oh no.  That’s all her alright.”

Follow CyborgWidow on Instagram to keep up with her latest works. They truly are one-of-a-kind artwork that you can own!



Thursday, March 26, 2020

Stay Home. Watch Horror.

For those new to home quarantine, welcome. We're all in this together. Now let the #horror movie marathon begin!