Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
Join us again for another round of Fusions of Fright, Fascination With Fear’s monthly music article!
“No artist is ever pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction;
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes us more alive than the others.”
A Blessed Unrest is a mostly instrumental album that aims to capture the tone of Victorian spiritualism, among other things. The album was inspired by Margaret Yayanos’ interest with Victorianism and its darker aspects, such as its attitude towards death and the afterlife and its ideas concerning “female hysteria”. An excerpt from their website says that, “Many of the pieces composed or co-composed by Yayanos are conscious riffs off (t)rapping of Spiritualism and lingering concepts of the “monstrous feminine”.
|Photo by Audrey Penven|
“The Lady of the House of Love” is a song of madness, or perhaps the struggle to prove one’s sanity. The ferocious driving riff gives away to sorrow, desperation and turmoil. It was a rustic, folky and Eastern European sound that sets it apart from the rest of the songs. A music video for this song was supposed to have been made but never seems to have been completed.
|Poster by Ellen Rogers|
“Sheol” is another favorite of mine for its strange and powerfully atmospheric qualities. A particularly eerie track, it is composed from the theremin, a brilliantly creepy instrument that is controlled without even having to be touched. The sound is incredibly unique and is an automatic mood-setter. The scene I have pictured in my mind for “Sheol” is an empty and vast field covered by a night sky black and sequined with stars. But there aren’t just stars up above… you find yourself gazing up in awe, transfixed by the flashing colors of light and the sweet, though unsettling, sounds that echo over the land, wondering—and secretly fearing—that you aren’t as alone as you think.
A Blessed Unrest is a beautiful and haunting debut album from The Parlour Trick, and hopefully not their last. You can stream their entire album for free at their bandcamp (http://theparlourtrick.bandcamp.com/album/a-blessed-unrest), and learn more about them on their website (http://theparlourtrick.com/). You can watch the video for “Half Sick of Shadows” below.
The Parlour Trick: "Half Sick of Shadows" (Starring Rachel Brice) from Theremina on Vimeo.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
As we were watching this, my husband quickly said that was exactly what he would do, because if someone breaks into your home, they mean you harm. And I agreed. Gone are the days in which people would try to call the police or see who the intruder is before killing them. Nowadays it's just BAM! It's all about protecting your family and home. Shoot now, worry about the consequences later.
Confused and torn, Richard realizes something isn't right. The man he killed was NOT Ben's son, and now the cops are obviously hiding something and trying to cover it up. So he rushes out and pulls Ben off the tracks just in time. He takes him to his father's secluded cabin, waits until he comes to and proceeds to tell him the unlikely story. At first Ben reacts with complete disbelief - until he accompanies Richard to the cemetery where they unearth the body of what Ben thinks to be his son. Upon the discovery that the man in the grave is unknown to him, Ben believes Richard and they start to devise a plan to uncover the truth.
This is a film that at first feels a lot like Cape Fear, until it doesn't. I'm not saying it morphs into 8MM, but it's obvious at the beginning of the movie that Richard's family is in danger from Ben, who is anxious to rectify the death of his son. But then the tables turn and the two become allies in a conspiracy that will drag them into the dark bowels of the human condition.
I loved seeing Michael C. Hall in a role that allowed him to show true emotion, instead of being just a cold-blooded, soulless serial killer. He is as skilled at playing a run-of-the-mill family man as he is a heartless murderer, and he's got wonderful range to go along with his expressive eyes and talent for speaking without saying a word. Sam Shepard is his usual low-key self, which serves him well when addressing Hall's character with a cold, unfeeling vengeance, yet he is able to turn a corner and befriend Richard when he realizes he's a good man who was taken advantage of just as much as he was. And what can I say about Don Johnson that hasn't already been said? It's so fun to see him play a bombastic character like this. He's always able to rein in the swarm just enough to be utterly engaging and likeable.
If you like films like the aforementioned Cape Fear, A History of Violence, and the more recent Prisoners and Blue Ruin, you're bound to enjoy this pulpy thriller. I can't wait to see what Jim Mickle has in store for us next!
Monday, November 17, 2014
Today we turn our eye to photographer Christopher McKenney. I couldn’t turn up any information on him other than he is a horror surrealist photographer from Pennsylvania. No matter, we will let the faceless apparitions in his photos speak for themselves.
Hooded figures and cloth-cloaked spectres lurk in the fields and forests of McKenney’s work, and they are plotting something evil. Don’t follow their beckoning finger, don’t listen to their raspy words, no good can come of it. But it can’t hurt to just stop and look… right?
You can see more of Christopher McKenney’s work at his website,HERE.
|The Righteous Will Be Saved|
Thursday, November 13, 2014
So when Jessabelle was making the trailer rounds, I was intrigued and perhaps even excited to check it out. I never get my hopes up in watching a new horror film - though I still can't get enough of them - that way if it turns out to be good I am pleasantly surprised. There haven't been a lot of surprises lately. Hmpf! Jessabelle doesn't do a whole lot to make the movie feel fresh at all, and in using the same old rhetoric and plot devices it fails to evoke any serious scares and falls well short of the aforementioned films. That said, there was enough going on within the hour and a half running time to keep my interest and semi-enjoy it.
Her mother died of a long illness when Jessie was a baby and even though she hasn't set eyes on her father Leon (David Andrews) in years it is him that she is forced to call to pick her up at the hospital upon discharge. Leon takes her back to his house deep in the Bayou and sets her up in her mother's old room - which has been strangely blocked off with a large cabinet for a seemingly long time.
Apologetic in the morning, her father presents her with her mom's old wheelchair and warns her that the tapes are not good for her to watch and that her mother had crazy ideas. After he leaves for work Jessie is alone in the house and starts to experience some strange, even paranormal events. When a therapist comes and helps her into the tub for a bath, Jessie falls asleep but is awakened and pulled under water by a malicious female spirit, who then seems to be screaming at her in every reel from then on.
She finds another hidden videotape and scares herself silly when she realizes her mother was either correct about someone being in the house - or she actually was crazy. Maybe a little of both. Her father is furious to find her watching another tape and he takes them outside to burn them. Things go awry and somehow he ends up in his work-shed with a raging fire all around him. At his funeral (its' really not giving anything away to mention his death), Jessie reconnects with an old high school boyfriend, Preston (Mark Webber). She starts to tell him about the strange events and they begin doing some research into the past. It's obvious Preston still has a thing for Jessie, but just when you think they are going to quickly couple up we are introduced to his wife.
Preston continues to help her despite the scowls and torments of his wife, and their search leads them to a grave on the other side of the bayou on the property. When they uncover the name, and it says Jessabelle - with Jessie's exact birth date, it's clear that malevolent forces are at work here.
I wanted to love Jessabelle. I really did. But now I know I am destined to only just tolerate this recent venture into voodoo. All things told, it really incorporated too many different ideas in one film - I had way too many unanswered questions. Was Jessie's mother a voodoo priestess? A witch? Do voodoo practitioners use Tarot cards? Why were there evil spirits? Was the house itself haunted? Or was the apparition supposed to be a demon? Was someone possessed by the devil or was it a voodoo possession - which is allegedly a good thing in voodoo? Did I not pay close enough attention and miss something profoundly important?
Sarah Snook, for being an Aussie, does a pretty good job of spinning that cajun accent, and does emulate well a frightened young woman with all kinds of questions and nothing to lose. But there just wasn't enough actual voodoo. I was looking for loads more secret rituals, inexplicable transformations - maybe even a few zombies for pete's sake!
But instead all I was left with was hopes and dreams for the next voodoo film that comes along.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Sunday, November 2, 2014
This little history lesson does have a point. If you want to scare someone from this area whose lives are already touched by coal mining, make a horror movie about a mining accident. Mining disasters, collapses, cave-ins - they are all a part of life here and miners know the chance they take every time they go under the ground. There really couldn't be anything scarier, in my opinion. Except maybe if you made a movie about it. You've got everything a horror fan could possibly need. Dark, dank and creepy? Check. Extremely dangerous? Check. Claustrophobia? A BIG check. Stuck in a helpless situation? Check. People losing their mind, hallucinating, and resorting to murder? Check (oxygen depletion will do that to a person). Possible supernatural element? Check....
Most horror fans have seen My Bloody Valentine. And many horror fans have seen The Descent. I don't think it's me going out on a limb to say Beneath is kind of a lesser mash-up of these two films. While it will never match The Descent's balls-to-the-wall dose of claustrophobia, and it doesn't have the blatant (and sometimes unintentional) humor of MBV, it does stand on its own as a decent flick to check out on a random Saturday night.
But off they go, greeting the hesitant sunrise as they drive to the mine early the next day. Randy advises Sam to "say goodbye to the daylight" as they descend into the mine, and you can feel Sam's uneasiness kick into full gear. Naturally, you already can surmise something tragic is about to take place, and it does. When one of the miners accidentally drills through a support wall, he triggers a collapse, leaving some men dead or separated from the others and unaccounted for, with the remaining miners trapped.
When they start to hear sounds coming from outside the container, they assume it could be coming from miners still trapped in the tunnels and several of the men leave in search of survivors. As is oft the case in horror films, people become separated and suffer the consequences of being alone. What we are teased with here though, is not just the fact that Sam and the men are becoming more oxygen depleted by the moment, but also that there may be something preternatural at work here. A story told about a group of 19 miners who were lost in a cave-in during the 1920's lends a hint of nostalgic terror to the movie, and makes the viewer start thinking about possible supernatural elements presenting themselves. Is something else down there in the depths of the earth with them?
The decision of going forward to look for fellow lost miners or staying put to try to save themselves and conserve oxygen brings morality into the film as well. But when things start going awry at the container, all bets are off and the dwindling group heads deeper into the mine to search for other survivors, discover a way out, or run out of oxygen and die within the dark mine shaft.
We are meant to be a bit confused by Beneath at times, I think. Are the hallucinations that present themselves ghosts? Or are they they product of very little oxygen and a whole lot of mind-tricks? I can think of nothing more terrifying than knowing you are trapped 600 feet underground and your oxygen supply is little to none. I assume there would be a certain amount of denial, which we are shown by Sam here. And as that wavers and fate is realized, acceptance would set in. That's something we can deal with. Optical illusions that may or may not be ghosts of miners long lost - that's another thing altogether.
Regardless, I enjoyed this little flick well enough. Coal mining is a brutally unforgiving job, wrought with injury, anxiety, and a sometimes hopeless future, so when you add in the supernatural factor, it's bound to scare me well enough. I've always been a huge fan of MBV, campy or not - so another film set in a mine was bound to be gold to me. See what I did there?
Friday, October 31, 2014
While I’m sure almost all of us will be celebrating Halloween today (hooray!), very few of you will still be honoring the Pagan holiday of Samhain (sah-win), which begins tonight at sundown. Celebrated in Celtic countries, Samhain marked the beginning of winter and many rituals and festivities took place over the night.
Although Samhain was a time to prepare for winter, it was also very much a festival of the dead, as the Irish believed that on this night the doorways to the Otherworld opened and spirits were allowed access into our realm.
It was believed that dead family members would return to their homes to warm themselves by their fireside so a fire was, of course, kept roaring, and a place at the table was sat for the ghost. The sídhe were also free to walk the Earth on Samhain; the sídhe are a race of supernatural beings that come in many forms, but are all essentially nature spirits, or, in other words, faeries, elves, goblins and that sort of thing.
The Irish have utmost fear and respect for the sídhe and would take great care to make sure they were comfortable on Samhain. They would place offerings of their doorsteps in the form of food and drink in hopes that the sídhe would help their crops to prosper next harvest. Trick ‘r’ treating comes directly from a symbolic ritual that the Celts would perform on Samhain.
People would dress up in costumes—that were, rather, disguises to hide their human selves from the sídhe—and go house to house singing Pagan songs or reciting poetry. The owner of the house was then expected to reward them with food (which was gathered for a enormous feast), and if they did not, bad luck was sure to come upon them.
The sídhe love to play tricks and fool people, so, naturally, if one is dressed up as one of the sídhe they may as well act like one, and because of all the prank playing Samhain eventually gained the nickname “Mischief Night”. In modern times Mischief Night is commonly celebrated the night before Halloween and teenagers are encouraged to go out and perform pranks such as TP'ing houses. In Canada it is called Devil’s Night.
While some spirits were welcomed to return, there were also many precautions taken to keep dark forces at bay; the most famous one now being jack-o-lanterns (also made out of turnips), which were hollowed out and lit to intimidate evil spirits and frighten them away. Huge bonfires were lit on the night of Samhain to keep spirits away, and smoke was thought to cleansing and protecting.
If one is walking down the road on Halloween night and hears someone walking up behind them, they must not turn around, for if they do they could look Death in the face, therefore quickening their own timeline to the grave.
Those born on Halloween are given the gift of second-sight, the ability to see ghosts and faeries. They are also granted protection from them.
On Samhain and Halloween there were many ways to tell the future, and many strange ways to go about doing it. Some of the more easy ways are going to a crossroads, and in the voice of the whispering wind you will hear tell of events in the upcoming year. If you visit a churchyard when the clock strikes midnight, you will hear a voice list out the name of locals who will die within twelve months.
While many of the core themes and traditions of Samhain still exist today, few may know the origins behind them. For me, knowing the roots of the legends makes them even more magical and makes me enjoy my favorite day of the year even more.
Happy Halloween everyone, and thank you for joining us in another year's festival of fear!