Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror

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Southern gothic horror is uniquely (under-appreciated!) American literature, and too often written by white men. Imagine my surprise when stumbling across Eden Royce’s self-published anthology collection on GoodReads. A  black horror author with roots in Hoodoo/Conjure. Yasssss. I downloaded her book without hesitation and read it while listening to my old delta blues records. The proper way to enjoy a southern gothic is on a porch swing while the sweet, idle songs from grasshoppers rise up from the brush. Unfortunately, congested, downtown Chicago makes that impossible. So listening to Skip James was the next best thang, y’all. I’m also a little homesick and I miss my Gulf side of Texas. Reading “Spook Lights” was the perfect escapism for this reluctant city gal.

Connect with the author on

@edenroyce on Twitter  or her website, edenroyce.com, or blog

Or better, just buy her book on Amazon  or Lulu

There are 12 short stories in all, but my three favorites were “Doc Buzzard’s Coffin,” “Hag Ride,” and “The Choking Kind.” Royce’s melodic writing is full of texture, atmosphere, and characters that invoke the South. I felt the swelter and stale, human sweat rise through each word. Descriptive language meets Black folklore to create a leisurely atmosphere. Think ghost stories told around the campfire. Think of the fairytales your grandmother read to you when you were a child. Reading Spook Lights is more of an experience best enjoyed when not rushed. The horror element is subtle, often ironic, and I found myself able to predict most of the stories’ conclusions, however, the author’s charm and folksy delivery kept me squirming in my seat until the end of them. Most of the short stories are cautionary tales, where the main character often does something stupid, only to be punished or chastised by a vengeful spirit or magical spell later. There’s Hoodoo, Voodoo, murders driven by passion, and quests for revenge.

There’s also strong thread of female (often motherly) wisdom and jilted love in this collection. I appreciated the strong female protagonists of color. The women were often victims of their own making, but learned along the way how to find themselves. You don’t have to be from the south, Black, or a woman to understand the overall concept of this book, which I love. The author does a lovely job blending mythology for contemporary tastes. This is a book to kick back with and savor, bit by bit. It’s down-to-earth, like crackling bacon grease in a hot pan or like cold, tap water from the kitchen sink. Let the stories do the heavy lifting for you–Royce’s subtlety is masterful.

I enjoyed Spook Lights for its storytelling, not necessarily for innovation, horror, or plots. That said, I’m giving this anthology collection a solid 5/5. I heartily recommend Spook Lights to those looking for an enjoyable read rich with Southern atmosphere and non-traditional folktales told from Native American, Black, and a Caribbean perspective. Eden Royce’s ability to entertain is a dream. I will be reading more of her work.

 

Breaking the fourth wall with “Resolution (2012)”

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Resolution (2012)

Writers/Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

Starring: Peter Cilellaand, Vinny Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Bill Obserst Jr.

After the first viewing, I wasn’t sure how to rate it. It was meta upon meta upon meta. The characters broke the fourth wall and Resolution (2012) ended in a way that left me going “huh?” Not because I didn’t understand the conclusion, but because I just couldn’t believe the direction the writers/directors took an otherwise coherent plot line. The horror writer in me was irritated. “Clever,” I thought, “But why waste a perfectly good story by inserting this ludicrous twist? Are the filmmakers trying to be cute?” I appreciated the story’s constant misdirection, its irony, and brilliant performances by the two leading actors, Peter Cilellaand and Vinny Curran. The movie was great. But still I fumed.

And then I decided to watch Resolution (2012) a second time. Just like the first, the film challenged and forced me to see beyond the characters, beyond the narrative to the private joke played on my expense. But instead of fuming, I decided to play along, which is, I think, the point of this movie. This is a film that demands audience participation, not passivity. The ending is up to us, which even the characters realize and attempt to react to before audience expectations “kill” them.

It’s…literary. Experimental. And interesting. If you’ve seen Rubber (2010) it’s a bit like that…but without the absurdity.

What is Resolution about? Quite simply; it’s about a man who handcuffs a junkie to his remote cabin. The rest is…well…up for debate. Anymore will take all the fun out of watching a film like this. So just watch it. You’ll either love it or hate it. It’ll fly over some people’s heads, but if you read this blog, I’m assuming you’re into weird, thought-provoking shit. I’m giving it an A+ and will definitely check out Justin Benson’s and Aaron Moorhead’s new film, Spring (2015). They’re the same guys behind “V/H/S: Viral.” Definitely two filmmakers to watch. Adding Resolution into my personal collection.

Submission Call: Mothership Zeta!!!!

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Mothership Zeta is OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS from July 12 – July 25. They’re particularly interested in horror and sci-fi from diverse authors. What constitutes diverse?

Mothership Zeta welcomes submissions from writers of all backgrounds. We are especially interested in seeing more submissions from people of backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented or excluded from traditional publishing, including, but not limited to, women, people of color, LGBTQ or non-binary gender people, persons with disabilities, members of religious minorities, and people from outside the United States.  Our goal is to publish fiction that reflects the diversity of the human race, so we strongly encourage submissions from these or any other underrepresented groups.

Submissions up to 6,000 words. Paying $0.06/word for original short stories and $30 flat rate for original flash fiction.

They do NOT want:

  • Graphic horror
  • Erotica
  • Fanfiction
  • Rape, torture, child abuse, etc.

So…get cracking this weekend, minions! May the odds be ever in your favor. Check out the links for more information and good luck. 🙂

Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, has died. :(

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He passed away last weekend after losing his battle with cancer.

It’s a sad day for gamers everywhere. Nintendo has been such an influential part of my childhood, and it’s sad to know the man responsible for creating so many happy memories is now dead.

“For young players, classic games are brand new. For older players, they bring back memories and make you feel good.” –Iwata

“We do not run from risk. We run to it. We are taking the risk to move beyond the boundaries of the game industry to reach new players and current players.” –Iwata

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” –Iwata

He was an incredible man and millions of Nintendo fans will miss him.

So I ask you, what was your favorite Nintendo game? Let me know in the comments. Let’s honor Iwata’s passing with cheerful nostalgia.

My favorite Nintendo game was Super Smash Brothers, mostly because I played it so often with my little brother and his friends. Nintendo games always find a way to bring people together. I will always treasure Iwata’s vision on that.

“Delicatessen (1991)” has cannibal butchers!

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The creators of quirky, romcom, “Amelie,” are behind the strange, off-kilter, and obnoxiously French, “Delicatessen.” Kitsch dystopia meets surrealist cannibalism.

Delicatessen (1991)

Director: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writers: Gilles Adrien, Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Marie-Laure Dougnac, Dominique Pinon, Pascal Benezech

What an usual treat Delicatessen (1991) is! It was directed/created by the same minds behind the movie, “Amelie,” starring Audrey Tatou. The same quirky humor I enjoyed in “Amelie” take a dark, dystopian twist in Delicatessen. The story takes place in a French town where food is scarce and the only available currency is corn and meat. To feed themselves, the townpeople put out ads for handymen and then eat him after a week. The butcher is responsible for killing the handymen, and while the townsfolk feel bad about the grisly scheme they say nothing in fear of the maniacal butcher chopping them up into pieces, too! The butcher’s daughter falls in love with one of the poor handymen and joins an revolutionary society of corn-eating lunatics deep in the sewer systems to thwart her father before the handyman is butchered.

The story isn’t as enjoyable as the characters and surreal cinematography. The acting is dry, witty and obnoxiously French. I loved the Troglodyte sewer people and their pantry-raids in the butcher’s kitchen for his corn. I loved the character who thinks she’s hearing voices and her failed, often comical, attempts to commit suicide. I loved the butcher’s daughter’s sleeping herbs, the handyman’s chimpanzee, the frogs and snails, and everything else. This isn’t a movie that takes itself seriously, and if you love surreal, zany plots, with dark humor, I recommend Delicatessen. Watch it in French with English subtitles. There are many free, online videos to choose from, but I watched it HERE.

I’m giving it a B+.

Killer viruses in “King of Thorn (2009)”

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While I love manga/anime with a medical-thriller vibe (think Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster”) this killer virus flick, “King of Thorn” totally escaped my radar. In fact, I hadn’t heard of this anime or the manga until last night while dicking around on YouTube for something to review. If you’re familiar with the anime series, “Big O” (an adolescent favorite: mecha meets Batman) then you’ve already seen Kazuyoshi Katayama’s directorial style. That alone convinced me to give this movie a try. Although I sorta wished I hadn’t.

King of Thorn (2009)

Director and screenwriter: Kazuyoshi Katayama 

Original writer: Yuji Iwahara (Manga) 

Voice actors (Japanese — English dubs generally SUCK donkey balls) Kana Hanazawa, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Misaki Kuno, Akiko Yajima

The first one-third of the movie was what I expected (in a good way). To survive a pandemic virus, humankind’s last hope is to freeze a selected few for 100yrs until a cure is found. While asleep, mutant creatures attack the dreaming facility and those lucky not to have died while asleep, fight off crazy scientists, mutants, and other odd creatures through gory, pulptastic, action sequences. The animation isn’t terrible and I liked all the crazy characters. Even Kasumi. I wish the movie had stuck with its simple survival horror plot instead of veering left and getting lost in its metaphorical “Sleeping Beauty” message.

I thought the virus was a virus, but apparently the whole thing is just a dream, but the main character is also a figment of that dream, who is a clone of her twin and…yeah…what? Why couldn’t this just be a shoot’em up monster movie as advertised? “King of Thorn” tried way way way too hard to be philosophical and just sorta fell flat by the second-third of the movie. It’s so convoluted I can’t really tell you what the ending even means.

All in all, I’d give it a “C.” I’ll try to review other anime horror movies in the future. This one was just OK.

Sleep Paralysis in “The Nightmare” (2015)

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The Nightmare (2015)

Director: Rodney Ascher

Starring: Yatoya Toy, Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson, Elise Robson, Nicole Bosworth

Guys. I  have a lot of thoughts about this documentary, but I’ll keep this review short. As someone who battled sleep paralysis daily for 19 years, I had high hopes and expected The Nightmare (2015) to shed new information about the misunderstood sleep condition. Instead, I got weak re-enactments of the documentary subjects’ hallucinations and zero scientific clarification about sleep paralysis. There’s literally one sentence in the opening credits explaining what sleep paralysis is, and then discordant montages of “alien abductions,” “demonic possessions,” “Shadowman,” and other paranoid conspiracy theories linking sleep paralysis with the paranormal.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. So let me break it down for you without scare tactics.

What is sleep paralysis? In a nutshell, it’s a physiological disorder that happens during the REM sleep cycle when the sufferer awakens while the body is still immobilized from sleep. The dream continues to play outside their mind while they are paralyzed and aware. This can be a very frightening experience and can sometimes leads to panic attacks, hallucinations, and anxiety. Every person with sleep paralysis experiences their own unique cocktail of symptoms, but ones most people share are:

1. Full-body paralysis–unable to open or close eyes, sit up, or open mouth to call for help

2. Buzzing, banging, and other auditory hallucinations (some people hear screams or disembodied voices)

3. Heavy feeling weighing down the chest (can feel like being smothered or forcibly restrained)

4. Sensing an outside “presence” hovering above or near the body

If you’re like me, you also get crazy, intense hallucinations and temporary amnesia. I used to wake up each morning not even remembering what my name was. Panic attacks and night terrors haunted me almost every night, and as a child I slept in bathtubs at sleepovers, hid inside kitchen sink cabinets, and laid awake for hours, to the point of exhaustion, just to avoid falling asleep. I found no relief until starting relaxation therapy with a professional therapist.

It is tempting to link sleep paralysis with demons, alien abductions, and other paranormal phenomena, but I assure you, sleep paralysis is a medical condition and can and SHOULD be treated. I only wish the filmmakers had taken a scientific approach instead of misleading people.

If I were to judge this documentary for its entertainment value, it’d still get a lackluster grade. I’m afraid I can’t recommend The Nightmare (2015) to anyone who actually has sleep paralysis. It is triggering. Make time to “cool down” after watching the film (if you choose to watch it at all!) For everyone else, meh, if you like cheesy re-enactments with unconvincing graphics, this documentary is chocked full of them. Giving this one a “D.”

Jonathan Strage & Mr. Norrell

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Catch Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on Saturdays on BBC!

I am not an anglophile like Damsel Bruja. I find most popular British television marketed to American audiences incomprehensible, but Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is refreshing, compelling, and dare I say, exciting? The first two episodes aired on BBCAmerica so you can catch up if you start now. I think English viewers are already on episode six?

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is an alternate historical story set during the Napoleonic Wars. The main characters, Jonathan and Norrell are two very different magicians destined to make magic respectable in England again. No longer the stuff of parlor tricks, magic can be applied to aid the war effort. Norrell is nervous, introverted, and socially awkward where Jonathan is a likable idiot whose failed attempts to win over his lady friend are used for comic relief. I’ve never seen anything like this! (No, it’s nothing like Harry Potter–thank god) There’s necromancy, supernatural deities, prophecies, and an unusual wit about the whole thing.

Not a fan of BBC? That’s OK. Apparently Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is based on the bestselling book of the same title by British fantasy/specfic author, Susanna Clark. I’ve only watched the first episode, but my fondness for female sf/f/h/specfic authors will probably lead me to the library this week. Fun fact: it took Susaana Clark TEN YEARS to finish the novel and several failed attempts to get it published. She was told her book was “unmarketable.” Ha. Showed them, right? I love author success stories like these and I can’t wait to read the book.

It’s rare I come across a series with original, refreshing material, but THIS is it. And I’m excited to sink my teeth into Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Set your DVRs, run to your library and watch/read with me. Trailer below.

Mr. Bucket has never been more terrifying…

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Do you remember Mr. Bucket? The lovable children’s toy from the 80s and 90s? I do. And it scared the shit out of then and still does now. Why does he want to suck on my balls? Why is this perverted toy for kids?

Mr. Bucket just wants to suck on your balls, kids.

My husband is a fan of The Angry Video Game Nerd (or Cinemassacre) on youtube and has been binge-watching James’ stuff for the past two months. I heard him cackling on the sofa and then he showed me the Mr. Bucket vid. If you aren’t familiar with Angry Video Game Nerd or Cinemassacre’s, you should definitely check out more of his videos. They’re all as hilarious as this Mr. Bucket skit. And don’t doubt for one second that youtubers aren’t “real” filmmakers. They work just as hard (if not harder) than the bigger names in the indie film circuit.

http://cinemassacre.com/

Or catch more on Twitter: @CineMassacre or @Mike_Matei

God bless Youtubers.

Gorgo (1961) A Kaiju classic…from ENGLAND???

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Yes, that is Big Ben in the poster. Totally rips off Gamera, Godzilla, and other kaiju films from Japan. But Gorgo is a British classic and capitalized on the “dino craze” before Jurassic Park. So there.

Underwhelmed by Jurassic World’s blockbuster success, I found myself hungering for a true blue, n0-frills kinda Kaiju movie. From England. Because…why not? (Wasn’t in the mood for subtitles, if I’m being entirely honest)

Enter Gorgo (1961) or Britain’s rather lame equivalent to the Gamera franchise.

Director: Eugene Lorie

Writers: Robert L. Richards and Daniel James

Starring: Bill Travers, William Sylvester, and Vincent Winter

The story starts on an Irish island where two British treasure hunters, Sam (Sylvester) and Joe (Travers), discover a baby monster that killed two divers. While they strategize to capture the beast, they meet an incomprehensible Irish orphan named Sean (Winter), who, I shit you not, speaks gibberish for the entire film. Maybe that’s my Stupid American™ showing, but I thought I DIDN’T need subtitles for this film. Like Kenny in Gamera, Sean tries to set Gorgo free and generally gets in the military’s way and is forced to be rescued many annoying times.

Every Kaiju movie needs a monster-obsessed kid who puts everyone’s lives in danger by freeing the kaiju at the last second!

Once Sam and Joe make it to England , they sell the creature, who Sean calls “Gorgo,” to a London circus. And surprise, surprise, discover the creature’s mother has destroyed Ireland while they were away. What follows next is an incredibly long montage of bombers, tanks, guns, explosions, and mass hysteria as British forces fight Gorgo’s mother. She somehow makes it all the way to London, destroying the city and mostly everyone in it. These scenes were enjoyable for their kitsch factor, alone. The movie was done in 1961 and had no real special effects to speak of, save for cheesy puppets and model scales, but I thought they were well done.

The circus people lock Gorgo in an electric fenced cage but Gorgo’s mother breaks through and both escape back to the sea. The End.

What baffled me most was how easily Gorgo was caught. He’s impervious to bullets, fire, and other human weapons, but is somehow defenseless against rope nets. He allows himself (without aid of tranquilizers) to be ferreted across the sea to London and does not try to kill Sean when the kid gets close to him. Gorgo is a typical kaiju monster flick with a lot of action scenes.

Giving it a “B.”