Over The Garden Wall – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 31

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

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Over the Garden Wall (2014)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Collin Dean, Melanie Lynskey


tumblr_nfcs3qYzqs1re3ihpo1_500Synopsis:
A miniseries, in ten 11-minute episodes, about two boys who are lost in a mysterious wood and are trying to find their way home. Wirt is a teenager, frustrated with his young half-brother, Greg, who is imaginative, happy-go-lucky, and adorably annoying. Along with Greg’s pet frog (whose name changes many times) and a girl-turned-bluebird named Beatrice, they meet many strange and mysterious characters, all the while being stalked by the Beast – who wants to turn them into oil-trees to feed the lantern of a woodsman they meet. As the series progresses we learn that the boys are really modern children from our world, who fell off the wall of a cemetery on Halloween while Wirt was trying to get an embarrassing mixtape back from the girl he likes. In the end Wirt and Greg manage to defeat the Beast with the help of the woodsman, who hadn’t known the trees he was cutting down were children, and make their way home. Wirt is met in the hospital by his crush, and he realizes how much he appreciates Greg as his brother.

I’m late with this, but I did manage something for every day of October! It was a great month of movies and TV and I look forward to venturing into into new waters next Halloween season!

Continue reading “Over The Garden Wall – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 31”

Five Good Things for 11/2/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

How was everyone’s Halloween weekend? Mine included an epic haunted farm party and too much huckleberry vodka. Thank Dog for that extra hour of sleep, even if it does mean it’s now dark at 5:30 in the afternoon. Hope you all had as a spectacular time as I did!

1) Elephants sure know how to party.  These four at the Oregon Zoo’s annual Squishing of the Squash got to tear into some pumpkins almost as big as they were!

2) It’s NaNoWriMo! That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the acronym disinclined. Are you one of the thousands attempting to pound out the first draft of your novel in the next 30 days? I’m not, because I have too much going on at work this month, but I intend hold my own personal NaNoWriMo (TraNoWriMo – Trace’s Novel Writing Month?) in January. To those of you who are taking part – good luck!

BbnqDB53) Black Books is back on Netflix! This British sitcom from 2000 about a misanthropic, alcoholic, Irish book shop owner is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. And now you can binge watch all 18 episodes with ease, all while feeling better about your own life.

10552509t4) The aforementioned huckleberry vodka. It’s delicious. Combine with fizzy water and sip. Do not combine with Pepsi and then just keep pouring it in the can when the Pepsi is all gone…

5) In related news, I also now have a huckleberry hangover. Which means I’m going straight for the potatoes (after I drink a gallon of water). These cheesy mashed potatoes with sour cream and chives really hit the spot.

Five good things for 10/30/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, g, ood. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

Since today’s the last (week) day of October, I give you the All-Halloweeny Good Things Post!

Ganesha_Pumpkin_by_snerk1) No Halloween season would be complete without being made to feel inadequate in your Jack O’ Lantern carving skills. Here are some of the most impressive carved pumpkins ever. Weep at what you will never achieve while the crude face of your own deformed pumpkin mocks you from the shadows.

2) For some reason, I find a good, creepy radio play a much more effective scare than move movies, particularly when listened to in the dark, preferably outside by a campfire. This is the perfect weekend to binge all the episodes of the first season of The Black Tapes Podcast, which combines a This American Life-like set up with a mystery and some truly chilling intertwining tales.

enhanced-buzz-25570-1351700753-13) Pets should have fun on Halloween too! By which I mean, we should have fun dressing them up while they tolerate it because we provide all their food and shelter. Buzzfeed has a great round-up of epic pet costumes and the pets who survived them and probably didn’t later eat their owners’ faces off in revenge.

original_Sam-Henderson-Halloween-mr-hyde-cocktail-beauty_002_v.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.616.8224) I like my Halloween cocktails black and bubbling. Mr. Hyde’s Potion certainly looks like could do the job to change someone into a killer. It packs a kick and looks really cool. But don’t let your guests overdo it… if it comes back up on them, it will not come out of the carpet.

140925_2020_slenderman_16x9_9925) Want some scary Halloween reading from the depths of the internet? Check out Creepypasta.com, the definitive compendium of the freakiest results of internet groupthink and early viral sharing. Some them are just bad and funny and some will definitely keep you awake at night.

Hellboy – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 26

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

hellboy_ver5

Hellboy (2004)

Starring: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt.

I’m not going to try to write a full synopsis for this movie, because, frankly, I’ve seen it twenty times and I’m still not sure I really understand the plot. If you have seen it, this review will make sense to you. If you haven’t, no synopsis can help you. Trying to explain all the plot threads of Hellboy is not a rabbit hole I want to go down.

tumblr_mvtf0poptT1r4z8l1o2_r1_500The truth of it is, Hellboy’s plot is convoluted, confusing, and ridiculous. Some things will not make sense if you haven’t read the comic it’s based on, and other things will not make a whole lot of sense even if you have. But for a movie like Hellboy, that is all entirely beside the point. There are hellhounds. There are strange and dubious prophecies. There is a cat loving, cigar smoking, big red antihero who is in love with a mentally unstable pyrokenetic. There is the reanimated corpse of Rasputin and there are massive ancient beings frozen in space/another dimension. And all that is wrapped up in a ball of action and tied with a bow of Guillermo Del Toro.

It’s. Awesome.

Continue reading “Hellboy – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 26”

ParaNorman – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 25

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

paranorman-movie

ParaNorman (2012)

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Synopsis: Norman is an 11-year-old boy who lives in the Salem-analogue town of Blithe Hollow, which which has made an industry of its’ own witch hunting history. Norman is obsessed with zombies and the dead, largely because he can see and talk them. Unfortunately, this also makes him an outcast and no one understands, not even his own family. He meets one boy, Neil, who insists on being his friend even though Norman tries to reject his invitations. One day, after Norman has experienced even stranger than usual visions, a crazed old man comes up to him and tells Norman he’s his uncle, and that Norman will have to follow in his footsteps by performing a ritual every yeah on the anniversary of the famed Blithe Hollow witch’s death to keep her from rising and destroying the town. Shortly thereafter, Norman’s uncle dies. Norman reluctantly retrieves the book (which turns out to be fairy tales) and goes to the graveyard to read it as instructed, but is interrupted by the school bully before he can finish. The men and women who sentenced the witch so long ago rise from their graves as zombies, and the spirit of the witch begins to grow and exert power over the town, causing a huge lightning storm. Norman ends up teaming up with his sister, Neil, Neil’s older brother Mitch, and the bully to try and escape the zombies and find out what to do next. After a lot of chasing and the town getting up in arms over the threat, they find out that the zombies only wanted to talk to Norman to make sure he was going to perform the ritual correctly, because they were sorry for what they had done to the witch and didn’t want to make it any worse. It turns out the witch was just a little girl with strange powers named Agatha Penderghast, a distant relative of Norman’s. She was killed by the town council because they were afraid of her, and the ritual each year was to read her a bedtime story so she would stay asleep and not take vengeance on the town. Norman seeks out her grave and talks to her angry ghost, explaning that he understands what it’s like to have people afraid of you, but it’s not okay to hurt others just because you were hurt. He helps her to think about her mother who loved her, and she finds peace. She releases her hold on the town and sleeps, and the zombies return to their graves as well. In the end, Norman’s family accepts his abilities and they all hang out together – with his dead grandmother.

tumblr_mperbq8QZp1rhbco5o1_500ParaNorman, from the makers of Coraline, is one hell of a sweet movie, particular given that it’s all about death and dead people, and faces some historical ugliness head-on (although the reality is that far more of the witches killed in the 1600s were old women than young girls). Aside from being an incredible feat of stop motion and CGI animation with fun character designs and a well-realized mythology, it’s is just bursting with humor and the exact kinds of messages both kids and adults need to hear. It doesn’t shy away from some of the more gruesome aspects of its plot, nor does it try to sanitize them. Although it does make death less scary – there’s even a scene where Norman has to pry the book out of the rigor mortised hands of his dead uncle which is both funny and disturbing.

tumblr_mh4kx9lu3x1qctv6lo2_500The notion that a parent might be afraid for their child, and that this might cause them to take it out on the kid, is not one that is often addressed in kids movies so directly, but one I feel is hugely beneficial. I think it’s great for kids to see examples of loving parents who get it wrong, because they all do at some point, and to try to see things from their parents perspective. When you’re young, you don’t quite get that your parents are just people. Norman’s relationship with his parents is imperfect, and they may never totally understand him, but by the end they’ve moved to a place of mutual acceptance and love, which all any of us can hope for from our families, really.

Continue reading “ParaNorman – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 25”

Bloodsucking Bastards – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 24

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

bloodsucking-bastards-poster-600x841

Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)

Starring: Fran Kranz, Pedro Pascal, Joey Kern

Synopsis: Evan works a at sales company selling male enhancement products over the phone, along with his ex-girlfriend Amanda and his best friend, Tim. Evan has been working towards becoming sales manager but is disappointed when his old rival, Max, is brought in instead and he’s relegated back to the sales pool. Things start changing around the office, with some people disappearing and others undergoing a change of personality that makes them work harder than ever. Evan remains largely oblivious to the very clear fact that everyone is being turned into a vampire, which is at first only noticed by Tim and a security guard, Frank. He’s more concerned with Max putting the movies on Amanda. Eventually, however Tim and Evan, along with Frank and Amanda, set out to fight the vampires and take the office back from Max. After a long bloody battle they eventually defeat Max and Evan and Amanda get back together.

video-bloodsucking-bastards-videoSixteenByNine225This movie is Office Space meets Shaun of the Dead meets 30 Days of Night – a middle management comedy with vampires and buckets of blood. The metaphor of a charismatic vampire who turns the company’s performance around by transforming the employees into mindless subservient drones is neither subtle nor revolutionary, but it is very appealing for those of us who have worked in offices with this sort of management structure (ie, most people). Max’s explanation that this is the perfect place for vampires, since it’s a windowless office full of pale people who already work late into the night, rings unfortunately true for my own cubicle based existence (hey, if I stand on my tippy-toes I can see a window sometimes).

Continue reading “Bloodsucking Bastards – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 24”

Halloween – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 23

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.

halloween-1978-movie-poster

Halloween (1978)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance

Synopsis: The story begins in 1963, when 6 year-old Michael Myers murders his sister while wearing a Halloween mask, in some kind of weird psychosexual fantasy. After fifteen years in an insane asylum he escapes and returns to his hometown, where he begins stalking high school student Laurie. On Halloween night, she and some friends are babysitting and/or messing around with their boyfriends, when Michael begins to pick them off one by one. First Annie is killed after she drops her young charge off with Laurie and the boy she is watching, Tommy, in order to go pick up her boyfriend. Then Lynda and her boyfriend are killed after having sex in the house where Annie was babysitting. Laurie goes over to check on them after receiving an alarming call from Lynda and discovers their bodies, staged dramatically, before Michael attacks her. He chases her back the house she was babysitting at and she manages to hide the children and then fight Michael off with a knitting needle. He’s not easily killed and is about to overcome her, when his psychiatrist, who has been tracking him all this time, comes in and shoots Michael multiple times. He falls off the balcony, but when they look down his body is gone.

tumblr_m7b519p4dt1qj7u8ao1_500Going back and watching the original Halloween now is like going through a time warp. Although hardly the first slasher film and owing much to Psycho and other of its ilk from the 50’s and 60’s, Halloween is definitely the origin of the modern slasher flick and kicked off a flurry of them in the 80’s and 90’s (with the 2000’s we got the torture porn genre, which is its hillybilly cousin on steroids). Frankly, it’s not scary. Maybe it was, watching in a dark theater for the first time, or maybe I’m so inured to terror and violence that it seems almost quaint. There’s little blood or gore, and really very little real tension until the last third. I mean you know Michael is stalking Laurie and her friends, but most of the movie is them chatting, getting high, and arranging their social lives. Even at the climax, the level of fear is nothing compared to modern day horror. Continue reading “Halloween – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 23”