Thursday, December 12, 2019

Lootcrate dream crate

A while back I was approached to build a "dream crate" for popular subscription service Lootcrate. Sadly this didn't involve being given lots of money to buy stuff... they just fancied finding out what things I'd enjoying discovering in an ideal unboxing.

So for my amusement - and hopefully yours, too - here's what I chose...

T-shirt: Death Has Come shirt



I follow Lunar Crypt Co. closely, because their stuff is always so cool! What's not to love about this shirt featuring such an iconic quote?


Pin: BURKITTSVILLE enamel pin



Pins are something of an addiction for many of us, and this one from Fright Rags would be an eye-catching, unique addition to a horror fan's collection. I'm kind of terrible in that I love deeper cut, "if you know, you know" pop culture stuff, and if you know and love The Blair Witch Project, this is unmistakably a reference to that. A nice little tribute.


Household: Blood Spill Doormat



Decent spooky housewares are the holy grail for the horror fan homeowner. This doormat in a "blood spill" design from Sourpuss Clothing is the perfect "welcome" to a house that keeps Halloween homewares on display all year long. Though it's maybe too nice and vivid in colour to use outside!


Vinyl Figure: Army of Darkness Deadite Pop!



There's got to be a Pop in there, right? Well I'm super picky when it comes to Pop Figures, generally preferring the more non-human ones as they seem to translate in design better. This Deadite from Halloweentown somehow manages to look cute and spooky all at once, plus thinking about the Deadites always cheers me up.


Something to read: The Yellow Wallpaper



This choice is maybe a little out-there... but it's something I feel passionate about. After randomly finding this short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman on Spotify some time ago, it's become a firm favourite that I find myself thinking about often. Only 6000 words long and first published in 1892, its story is an eerie one of psychological horror.



Want to pamper yourself? Why not do it in inky black bath water? This bath bomb from Hex-Bomb and sold by Foxblood is hardcore as hell.


This was a dangerous endeavour, because now I basically want to buy everything I have listed here. Hopefully you enjoyed this little break from the reviews, and maybe found some cool shops to follow, too? Thanks for reading! 👻

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Stephanie (2017)



This was an interesting one.

We're plonked down seemingly in the middle of Stephanie's story (an impressive performance from young Shree Crooks). Alone in her house and looking after herself while doing perilous things that made even a child-free person like myself wince, she talks to her cuddly turtle as if he were real, but there is clearly another entity here, too. Stephanie doesn't seem shocked about this. Scared, certainly, but not surprised. She goes about her day as normally as possible, reveling in her parent-less existence and also weeping for them to come home, occasionally hiding from a "monster" we only hear as it prowls around the little girl.




Before the story develops fully, there is a palpable sense of this being a traumatic experience told through the lens of a child's understanding and processing of something they can't quite grasp. This is one of the film's strengths, I think. It felt almost storybook at times.

Stephanie's parents (Frank Grillo and Anna Torv, freaking me out with her long, non-Mindhunter hair) seem confused and cagey around their daughter. There's a lot of talk about keeping calm. Stephanie's father is tender towards the girl; her mother less so. She's affectionate but guarded, often retreating a room of medical diagrams and Skyping with army officers. What on earth is going on?




The reveal did not come as a complete shock, to be honest. But it wasn't entirely evident, and it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the movie even so. This is a cool little story that successfully manages to convey a sense of fear and paranoia after a global crisis all while rarely leaving the upper middle class, suburban house. That the narrative ultimately pulls back so far as to leave the planet was... a choice, certainly. It's clear what they intended this to mean but I'm undecided as to how I felt about it after everything being so personal up to that point. Still, I enjoyed my time with Stephanie.


This is a Blumhouse Productions movie, directed by Akiva Goldsman and coming in at a very doable 86mins of runtime. It's streaming on Netflix at time of writing.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mom and Dad (2017)



Mom and Dad plays like a zombie movie if the undead were swapped for psychotic parents. Seriously stylish, from the beautiful retro opening credits to the expert use of music (satisfyingly Carpenter-like in places) to the rich cinematography, but also rapid and unforgiving in plot (you've got to respect a film that starts by showing a mother leaving her baby in the path of an oncoming train) this packs a hell of a lot of fun into its not even 90mins.

Which, when you realise it was written and directed by Brian Taylor, the writer/director of the Crank franchise, makes perfect sense!



We meet a white middle class household. Mom, dad, big sister and little brother. They're the kind of people who have those motivational/aspiration script-y signs everywhere in their home. The scene looks kind of perfect but quickly we see that, of course, things aren't that way.

Mom (Selma Blair) does a typical white woman "I'm an ally!" move of apologising to her Chinese housekeeper for something she deems offensive said at breakfast, but in the process offends the woman more. Dad (Nicholas Cage) seems close to his son, but at work turns the photo of his kids face down to jack off at his desk before taking a nap and ignoring a call from his wife. He's obsessed with his youth and all the opportunities he missed out on to have the life he does now.

No one is particularly likeable. But that's okay.



One of the best aspects of Mom and Dad is that we see the story unfold from both perspectives in the central family. As things start to go batshit the kids fight to stay alive, but more interestingly, we're shown what mom and dad are doing, too. It's chilling and hilarious how rational all the adults are about trapping and murdering their own children. Everything else about them is the same apart from this sudden, insatiable, specific urge to kill and it's highly entertaining to watch!

This was an excellent find after some false starts one evening. For sure worth checking out if you're in the mood for something blackly comic. Mom and Dad is fast, funny, mean, and streaming on Hulu at time of writing.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)



The Poughkeepsie Tapes is on Tubi right now! Tubi comes through again!

After a serial killer leaves a cache of tapes to be discovered by New York murder investigators, we're shown "choice cuts" of the decades of footage; from the disturbing to the horrific, to the downright weird, while context and background are given on those featured.

Ya girl got some spoilers

We watched this on the brink of my being home alone for a couple of nights, and I'm REALLY pleased I didn't save it for then. And not because of the strange balloon stuff.



At this point, this film had become somewhat infamous to me, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fictitious crime documentary that's often downright uncomfortable to watch. One scene in particular I couldn't get out of my head for a couple of days. Many aspects - including, obviously, the fact that it's found footage - contribute to this feeling very grounded in reality. 


Full of bleak moments and clips of terror and torture, this story is successfully very, very creepy. A thread that runs through it is one particular female victim (Stacy Chbosky as Cheryl Dempsey) and her abduction, imprisonment and forced complicity through physical and mental torture. 

Her interview and the information we're subsequently told about Cheryl is shattering. Hell, her entire story is shattering. This is probably the film's strongest aspect as it gives a heart to the story - even if it ultimately dissects that heart in front of our eyes.

I don't know what you want me to say...
− Cheryl Dempsey


As someone who deals with intrusive thoughts about home invasion (and yet watches horror movies and listens to true crime podcasts almost non-stop 👋🏻) the thought that his guy just moved on, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer style, and set up shop elsewhere is terrifying. The audience witnesses him begin, escalate, shatter countless lives through murder, torture and the justice system itself - then simply disappear. The only reason the police ever found the tapes was because he wanted them to.


The Poughkeepsie Tapes was shot in a staggered fifteen days, and was written (along with his brother Drew) and directed by John Erick Dowdle (As Above, So Below, Quarantine, Devil). He is also married to Stacy Chbosky. It must have been incredibly intense to direct her in some of these scenes.

If you like your scares stark, this is worth checking out. Not for those seeking buckets of blood; it's understated and implied a lot of the time, views often obscured or distorted so that we're forced to fill in the blanks. Nasty and unforgiving, if you're prone to movies sticking with you, this one just might.