Sunday, August 25, 2019

READY OR NOT... for Date Day!

I somehow managed to pry Professor O'Evil off his iPad for a Date Day with the promise of a World Burrito bowl, which just happened to be next to a theater. After incessant whining (I won’t mention who did the whining), we went to see Ready Or Not. Is it me or did this movie come out of no where? There was no advance buzz, no ostentatious festival debut, and film just dropped into theaters with little fanfare.

Ready Or Not puts the eccentric rich on notice about bizarre family traditions. We all know they live privileged lives in fancy mansions and apparently can get away with murder. In the film, a new bride on her wedding night must defend herself in a brutal game of hide and seek where the stakes are life or death – literally. Professor O'Evil asked why the dumbwaiter is the first place everyone hides in fancy mansion movies. I assume it’s because screenwriters like for actors to say “dumbwaiter” since most actors were once waiters in L.A.

The cast here is perfect and embodies both dimwitted buffoonery and vile savagery very well. This helps bobble the tone from horror to comedy seamlessly. And, yes, it is bloody awful at times and earns its R rating. The tone really reminded me a lot of the movie CLUE (1985) with its confined set and whimsy but with the clear horror edge of a film like You're Next (2011). Professor O'Evil said it reminded him of that movie with the clowns or that other movie with the girl and the gun. Needless to say he doesn’t watch a lot of horror movies but I really like that he tries to relate to my weirdness. I should make the same effort and like listen to… a jazz?

The ensemble here works very well together as a dysfunctional family and they all have a familiar, lived-in feeling that’s often difficult to achieve in ensembles. First, I should mention that Adam Brody is in this film, he is a delightful, and he is always my favorite. BUT it’s Samara Weaving, as the bride, who steals the show instantly becoming an iconic final girl. If you are not familiar with her, she was in a fun Netflix horror comedy called The Babysitter (2017), where she played the nanny from hell. Samara knows how to throw down fear, agony and distress with these guttural howls that literally made my bones ache. Professor O'Evil said she reminded him of less persnickety Nicole Kidman. They are both Australian and blond so I can see the resemblance but Samara has no air of aristocracy, seems approachable, and doesn't leave a trail of frost behind her. I can see her getting an Oscar in the next 3-5 years but then we’ll lose her to those damn prestige films.

Ready Or Not was directed with a good amount of polish by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillettt, the duo behind segments in both Southbound (2015) and V/H/S (2012). For a low-budget $6 million film, the money is clearly all on the screen with the lavish well-appointed finery, although that one hall started to look quite familiar. The] team knows how to deliver comedic beats and manages to keep the suspense tight with a quickly moving pace. Even the emotional scenes between family members are kept brief and to the point. This was a ride and they knew not to interrupt the momentum. The surprising and hilarious finale was such a satisfying end. Many times screenwriters come up with a great premise but struggle to wrap things up. This is not the case and we loved the full tilt. 

Horror comedies are a tough sell and they don't seem to satisfy neither horror hounds nor comedy fans. Ready Or Not is absurd fun, quite gory, and the perfect date movie. It almost doubled its budget at the box office this opening weekend and currently holds an 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes so audiences and strangely critics are enjoying this bizarre blend. I personally love the horror comedy subgenre and much like that World Burrito bowl Professor O'Evil is enjoying, it's a complex mishmash of the best parts of the genre, topped with a fair amount of flair.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Home Depot Wins Halloween...AGAIN!!!

Someone at Home Depot really loves Halloween. The last three years they have put out some really inspired decor that Spirit Halloween can't even touch. Be aware that the brick-and-mortar stores carry only a fraction of the items available on their website. But they have great sales and free shipping quite often throughout the season.

This year they have a full side pirate ship (well just the tip, bit still), a full size Headless Horseman, some great looking tombstones, a fairy colored dragon, and some cool inflatables. Check it out!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Knitted Dissected Bat Specimen by Emily Stoneking

Emily Stoneking
While visiting Portland last week I made a point to visit the exquisite museum-like store of natural wonders called Paxton Gate. On my bucket list was a taxidermy bat, but the staff members educated me on the rarity of ethically sourced bat bodies. Most bats sold by vendors are killed solely for collectors. The store rightfully refuses to sell something that might have been destroyed rather than gathered, so I removed a bat from my bucket list permanently.

As if by fate, I was directed to the artwork of Emily Stoneking, a knitter from Burlington, Vermont whose creations "explore the places where art and science intersect" – also available at her aKNITomy Etsy shop. From frogs to human brains to aliens, Emily knits whimsical objects that are meant to be be appreciated by those who are typically squeamish of such things. I immediately purchased the Knitted Dissected Bat Specimen (below) which is pinned to a board and splayed open with felted internal organs on display. It’s icky science art made adorable, and no bats where hurt in the process!

I had to learn more about Emily and her curiously wonderful art pieces.

Señor Scary: Some may consider your art macabre, but I think it’s whimsical and even educational. What drew you to such subject matter?

Emily Stoneking: I'm not sure what drew me to macabre art in the first place because I kinda feel like I've loved creepy stuff my entire life. I loved reading about diseases and stuff in my parents' encyclopedias as a kid. I then grew up to study medieval history, and have a deep interest in historical epidemics, as well as medieval and early modern anatomical art. I love how in the eras before photography, the only way to learn about the body was to study illustrations done by master artists showing the inner workings of anatomy.

Señor: Did you study biology or physical sciences, and how accurate do you feel your artwork represents the internal workings of these creatures?

Emily: No, like I said, I studied medieval history and German! My knitted animal dissections are not very anatomically correct, I'm afraid. I took a little artistic license with the shapes and colors of the organs, and sometimes real scientists get cross with me about it! My human illustrations (which are newer works), I do try for some accuracy. I'll study anatomical illustrations of the subject I'm tackling and go from there. But they're definitely more art than science.

Señor: Where do you draw your inspiration and do you sometimes look at a thing and think, hmm, what does that look like on the inside?

Emily: I draw inspiration from everywhere! Conversations with friends will spark ideas, trips to museums, walking around the lake, all over the place! When I do think about what could the inside of a creature look like, I often end up going in a joke direction in my brain. Like, I make an Easter Bunny whose guts are that pink plastic grass you put in your easter basket, and his organs are all easter eggs. I have a plan to make a dissected shark and the contents of his stomach will be things like a spare tire, human leg, stop sign, etc...

Señor: I don’t know much about knitting, but I imagine there are no patterns for such creations (other than on your Etsy page). Is it trial and error or how do you approach the process?

Emily: Yeah, I make the patterns up myself, which is a definite trial and error process. I usually have an idea in my head of what shape I want to create, and a rough idea of the technique I want to use to achieve that. Then I'll give it a try, and usually my numbers are off a bit, so I rip it out and start again. It's normally little tweaks to get it right. I take tons of cryptic notes that probably only make sense to me, and then when I'm happy with it, I'll write it up into a pattern that other people will understand and can use to make their own!

Señor: What has been your favorite project?

Emily: My favorite project was a set of fish that I was commissioned to make by Parcs Canada. They wanted a knitted walleye and a common pike, each about 20 inches long, each 3 dimensional, with very detailed realism. They were going to use them to teach kids how to clean their catch when fishing! So they wanted gills, and a zipper pocket in the stomach, where the kids could open the fish and remove the organs. That was a really cool project. I ended up having to knit the pieces and then hand dye the stripes on the fish to make them as realistic as possible.

Señor: Is there a dream project you’d like to tackle someday? Perhaps a full size dragon or dinosaur dissection?

Emily: Hahaha full sized dino sounds amazing!! I honestly wouldn't know how to store such a beast, but heck yeah, that'd be wild! But yeah, up next on my wish list is to make a full sized bisected human collage. I'm not sure yet how I want to piece it together, which has been holding me back. But I hope to get started on it this fall.

You can purchase your own knit dissection on her Etsy site, aKNITomy and follow her Facebook.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Quick Takes: Scary Stories, Climax, Under the Silver Lake, Lake Mungo

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark may be aimed at teens but it’s still a well-made & effective horror movie. Creepy tales impressively interweave into a cohesive, dark narrative. The strong cast, period nostalgia & Burton-esque atmosphere add to the chilling charm perfect for a Halloween night.

Climax moves you with intense dance then compels you watch helplessly as the frailty of the artistic psyche plummets into darkness. The debauchery & nastiness flip the world upside-down, defying convention, pushing narrative structure to the grueling last act of carnage.

Under the Silver Lake offers a confused mystery wrapped in a cloak of conspiracy doused in skunk spray. This L.A. story is a slow, long slog that intermittently introduces oddly striking visuals & genuine moments of noir inspiration. But absurdity can only go so far. The anachronistic soundtrack & indifferent performances don’t entice much fanfare. This either points to a genius or overly indulgent filmmaker. I can't decide.

Lake Mungo is a faux documentary that explores family trauma and loss, and its wretched repercussions. Highly realistic interviews divulge unexpected twists & turns to a perplexing story. Then either photos or videos supply proof of ghostly phenomena to add to the confusion. It's well-made and absorbing, with effective performances that ground the film. Yet on the fringe just off camera lies a very dark dread that unnoticeably floods the room.