Paranormal Activity Still Holds Up

Standard

Sometimes when I watch a movie again years after it was released, it doesn’t always stand the test of time. The special effects might appear hokey, or it might be a storyline that would be crushed with a tool as simple as a mobile phone.

 

Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but I felt like Paranormal Activity is still full of fun scares. It’s similar to Blair Witch Project in that we, the viewers, are supposed to believe we’re watching found film footage, not a scripted movie. Because it’s in this niche of found footage, I believe that gives Paranormal Activity staying power.

 

In Paranormal Activity, Katie and Micah are experiencing what might be a haunting in their townhouse. Katie explains that this has been happening for as long as she can remember, that the haunting follows her. Micah is a little annoyed that she didn’t mention the bit about being a ghost magnet before they started living together.

 

They decide to film what’s happening day to day and even record in the bedroom while they sleep. This approach works well to build up tension because there are sounds, for example, that take place well off camera. That’s a terrific plan for a tight movie-making budget since you don’t have to show anything scary for most of the film.

 

Noises, footprints, and even a photo found in the attic build up the creepy layers, but we haven’t seen the ghost or poltergeist or whatever might be haunting Katie and the home she shares with Micah. For me, this works well in the same way that the movie Jaws created tension. It’s allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Perhaps that fails with folks who have no imagination, but for my whirling scary-go-round brain, filling in my own blanks is a major scare.

 

As a fan of scary movies, I was absolutely livid that Micah wanted to use a Ouija board. Has he really never seen any scary movies? This NEVER works out well, and it doesn’t work out well for Katie and Micah either.

 

Random side note: I was irritated by the pronunciation of “Micah” as “Meeka” instead of with a long “I” sound. I listened to several recordings of how to pronounce the name in English, and they all had the long i. Picky? Maybe, but it’s one of those pesky things that will break my interest in a movie. All they had to do was give him a name like “Scott” and there would have been no problem!

 

The big ending (spoilers!) mostly happens off camera. Again, this works because we believe that this is found footage. Micah’s body is thrown at the camera, knocking the camera down. We’re treated, at long last, to a glimpse of the demon, now making itself comfy in Katie. Totally scary when demon-possessed Katie screams and lunges at the camera to end the movie.

 

Paranormal Activity still holds up. The timing of the thumps, bumps, footsteps, and so on just builds and builds until it explodes into a demonic possession. Is it a profound artistic masterpiece? No way, but it’s still a reliable movie for startling scares without gore or crazy effects.

Ghost Makes Women Touch Their Own Cleavage (my summary of Hell House)

Standard

            Hell House by Richard Matheson was intended to frighten the reader. Four people enter a haunted house in Maine to find proof that there is life after death. Their time in the house corrupts their behavior. Not all the investigators survive the investigation. Scary stuff, right?

            Unfortunately, I fell out of the hypnotic trance of a good spooky book with scenes that are now laughable. When the two women are possessed by a spirit, they suddenly become nymphomaniacs, eager for sexual delights.

Edith attempts to engage in a naughty tryst in the sauna with her husband. He responds with horror, as the only way his wife would behave in such a saucy manner is if Edith were being manipulated by an evil spirit.

Really? The only way a woman might want to have sexy time in the sauna with her husband is if her freewill has been seized; clearly, that’s the only explanation. I had to stop reading to roll my eyes.

Overcome by wanton lust, Florence strips and straddles Edith, trying to get Edith to touch her bare breasts. Florence announces that they are both “that way.” Florence would only feel free to waggle her bosoms at Edith when possessed by a wicked ghost, as a proper woman would do no such thing.

This book was published in 1971. Perhaps the author was shocked by the sexual liberation of the 1960s and the new freedoms for women with the availability of birth control pills. Clearly, Richard Matheson wasn’t a fan of women being forthright in their pursuit of sexual pleasure.

It also felt to me that Matheson was homophobic, referring to the character of Edith as a “lesbian bitch.” One might argue that a fictional character made that comment to another fictional character in the context of a story, so maybe it isn’t a reflection of Matheson’s world views. I believe his characters didn’t need to have such a conversation at all, so his choice of words is telling.

The sexual scenes weren’t shocking or frightening to me. I found them ridiculous and foolish, the ramblings of a boring old fart. Fifty years after the publication of Hell House, the world has changed enough that what was appalling to a reader of that era is not even a little scary today. Those aspects of the story didn’t age well.

The concept of a house haunted by an evil ghost stands the test of time. When the group arrives and finds the windows of the house have been bricked over, I felt their dread. The reader is treated to the full experience of a creepy abandoned home, and I enjoyed being introduced to the house.

As soon as a ghost fondles Florence’s derriere roughly seventy pages into the book, I was pulled out of the spooky ambiance. A spectral butt grabber is rude, but Florence seems amused by it. Again, this is something that didn’t stand the test of time. A female character today would have been angered by such an action rather than thinking it clever or rambunctious.

Clearly, I was not a fan of this particular book, but I understand that I, with my modern opinions and healthy libido, was never its intended audience.

The Haunting of Hill House versus The Real World

Standard

Shirley Jackson’s book The Haunting of Hill House might be the literary version of MTV’s The Real World. The premise of The Real World television show was putting strangers in a house together and following what happens “when people stop being polite and start being real.”

Our characters in The Haunting of Hill House are strangers, brought together when Dr. Montague seeks to document the allegedly haunted house. Theodora and Eleanor are brought in to assist the doctor in his summer of research. Luke is a member of the family that owns the home, and the family will only allow Dr. Montague to rent the home with Luke there. Four strangers find themselves living together for the sake of paranormal research, so what could possibly go wrong?

Just like every season of The Real World, it seems in the beginning as though everyone will get along and have a lovely time. They take meals together and relax with chess and brandy.

Hill House is full of things that go bump in the night, which was their reason to be there in the first place. Like The Real World, it’s not enough to live together without taking sides and ostracizing someone.

Eleanor wants so badly to belong somewhere and fit in to a group. That desperate longing to be included is part of what brought her to Hill House. Eleanor tries to get close to Theodora, even offering to follow Theo home after their research is done, but Theo is having none of that. Eleanor sets her sights on a grand romance with Luke, and that effort goes nowhere. Theodora won’t have her, and Luke won’t have her. All that’s left to do is lose what few marbles she has and give herself over to the house.

Eleanor feels a sense of belonging in the house and she opens herself to the house and its spirits. She feels at home there, the only time in her life she’s felt that sense of being part of something large and important.

Eleanor wakes everyone as she runs through the house, hearing what she believes to be her mother beckoning her. Eleanor ends up in the library at the top of a rickety staircase, trying to climb out to the turret. Luke plays the hero and gets her down from the stairs.

In the morning, everyone is insisting that Eleanor leave. This is another great parallel to The Real World, where every season someone is bullied to the breaking point and the others all victim-blame. Instead of being excited that the house is just strange enough to have shattered Eleanor’s fragile mind and digging into what happened, they want her to leave. They have decided that they are done with Eleanor, and she needs to go. Eleanor, of course, doesn’t want to leave but they have made up their minds.

They pack her in her car and insist she skedaddle. They underestimated Eleanor’s commitment to give herself over to the house. Instead of driving away from Hill House, Eleanor drives into a tree, committing suicide to avoid leaving the place she thinks of as her only true home.

Eleanor’s death ruined the whole summer research shindig for the remaining group, and they all went their separate ways.

Why aren’t you wearing a werewolf hoodie?

Standard

Werewolf Jersey

There you are, staring into your closet, wishing for a fashion miracle to happen.  “Why oh why don’t I have a shirt with a werewolf on it? How will I ever be cool at the craft brewery/tailgate market/gym if I don’t stride in wearing a werewolf on my shirt?”

This is a common concern here in Asheville, NC, and all around the world.  I’m here for you today with a solution.  You can have werewolf-wear delivered right to your doorstep.  Need a jersey? A hoodie? A t-shirt? I’ve got you covered.

All you need to do is skedaddle on over to my merch store on Cafe Press and go wild!  If you join the Cafe Press email list, they send out great coupons all the time that can be used in my store so you can come back and get that werewolf shower curtain, too!

Sunday Funday: Let’s Go to the Movies

The Lodge Movie Poster
Standard

The Lodge Movie Poster

Sunday is usually our day to get out of the house in search of some fun.  With both of us fighting off some February germs, my sweetie and I decided to take it easy and just catch a movie.

We’d seen the trailer for The Lodge a few weeks back when we went to see Color Out of Space.  I thought The Lodge looked suitably creepy and have been on the lookout for it to land in the local theaters.

This is not a blood, chainsaws, and jump scares movie.  This film is a heavy, stressful kind of scary.

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” — Stephen King

You have Dad’s new girlfriend caring for his two kids in Dad’s winter vacation cabin just before Christmas.  Dad’s a workaholic that skedaddles back to his job in the city, leaving the kids with this woman who is pretty much a stranger to them.  He’ll be back in two days, so what can go wrong?

Everything goes wrong.  The kids are jerks.  The girlfriend is more than a little off her rocker.  Let’s toss a blizzard into the mix and lose power so the cell phones are dead.  Everyone’s stranded in this cabin miles from nowhere with no communication and no vehicle.  Sounds like a super good time in the making, right?

What’s horrific in this movie is the churning of emotions.  The landscape is bleak, frozen white as far as the eye can see.  The situation is awful and getting worse every moment.  Our characters are cold, hungry, and desperate.  The two days that Dad is supposed to be gone seem more like a month.

Who is the villain in this movie; who is the monster?  Every character shows their ugly side, their darkness, at some point, but they also show their weak spots.  They are all at fault on some level; that’s why the movie stressed me out, because there really are no innocents and there is no happy ending lurking around the corner.

When the credits rolled, I was like, well, at least there weren’t screaming alpacas (Color Out of Space was stressful, particularly the alpacas).  I let out a sigh of relief for being set free from the weight of this movie.

The Lodge is scary because humans are terrifying.  There are no vampires or mask-wearing nuts roaming the woods, but this movie doesn’t need those gimmicks.

 

Let’s Be Creepy Together

Standard

Creepy Book Cover

This is a super short read, but it is one of my favorites.  These are true stories from my life experiences with ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.

I asked an artist to do the ghost design for the cover based on some ideas I had, and I love the design she created.  I love this design so much it’s available on mugs and t-shirts on CafePress.com.

I think there will be more of these stories to come, or perhaps I will share bonus stories to my website followers!

 

How to Be a Crappy Boss

Standard

Cover of Crappy Boss Book

Wow, I have had some seriously crappy bosses over the years.  I had notes about some of these bosses because someday I may turn these notes into a work of fiction.

For now, you can figure out what not to do in your new leadership role from this book.  Being a supervisor, manager, director, or whatever is not free license to be the Mayor of JackAssville.  Micromanaging, taking credit for the work of others, and being a horrible human in general: these are not good leadership traits.

10 Ways to Work Yourself to Death

Standard

10 Ways Book Cover

I love James Altucher and his book Choose Yourself.  He suggests a daily practice of making lists to keep your creativity and ideas flowing.  He posted a challenge to his social media followers to write a short book in a weekend based on one of these lists.  Challenge accepted!

You can follow 10 Ideas to Work Yourself to Death as a manual if you would like to run yourself into the ground…or you can do the opposite if you would like some balance in your life.

Love Unstitched

Standard

cover of Love Unstitched

This book was unplanned!  I rented a hotel room for a couple days to work on some short stories set in Asheville that had been bouncing around in my brain for several months.

I sat down with my notebook and pen to write, and the characters of the Asheville short stories were not what flowed onto the pages.  Instead, essays and thoughts around love came tumbling out.

When I finally put the pen down, I didn’t have what I expected at all.  I also had a weird feeling about it, like I needed to do something with this pile of words.

Driving back home from the hotel, I decided I would type everything up and publish it on Amazon as Love Unstitched.  It felt cathartic to publish it, like by posting it online, I was putting some ugly feelings down and walking away from them.

Those Asheville short stories still aren’t finished, even after all this time.  I pick them up, noodle around a bit, then put them back down.  I may revive that project, or like so many projects, it may rest half-written in one of my zillions of spiral notebooks.