Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Teke Teke

Teke Teke is a 2009 Japanese horror film based on an urban legend about a girl who falls on train tracks and is severed at the waist. Her vengeful spirit pursues victims and cuts them in half. I tend to like Asian horror films, and at only a little over an hour long, this is well worth watching. There's a scene after the closing credits you don't want to miss, so don't stop watching too soon.



There is a sequel, which is about the same length.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Snack Bar

The Snack Bar (1930):


by Edward Burra, who died on October 22, 1976, at 71 years of age, his health having steadily declined after breaking a hip.

We're not eating out as often these days, not even at snack bars, but I had a birthday recently and was gifted with a bottle of wine:


I had a glass with some lentil soup:


I enjoy soups, especially during the cooler months. I'm ready for Halloween as you can tell by the mug I've chosen for my after-supper coffee.

Please share a drink over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where a weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering has already begun. You'd be most welcome to join in.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Warning to the Curious

A Warning to the Curious is a 1925 ghost story by M.R. James. Wikipedia says, "Written a few years after the end of The First World War, 'A Warning to the Curious' ranks as one of M. R. James's bleakest stories." It begins,
The place on the east coast which the reader is asked to consider is Seaburgh. It is not very different now from what I remember it to have been when I was a child. Marshes intersected by dykes to the south, recalling the early chapters of Great Expectations; flat fields to the north, merging into heath; heath, fir woods, and, above all, gorse, inland. A long sea-front and a street: behind that a spacious church of flint, with a broad, solid western tower and a peal of six bells. How well I remember their sound on a hot Sunday in August, as our party went slowly up the white, dusty slope of road towards them, for the church stands at the top of a short, steep incline. They rang with a flat clacking sort of sound on those hot days, but when the air was softer they were mellower too. The railway ran down to its little terminus farther along the same road. There was a gay white windmill just before you came to the station, and another down near the shingle at the south end the town, and yet others on higher ground to the north. There were cottages of bright red brick with slate roofs . . . but why do I encumber you with these commonplace details? The fact is that they come crowding to the point of the pencil when it begins to write of Seaburgh. I should like to be sure that I had allowed the right ones to get on to the paper. But I forgot. I have not quite done with the word-painting business yet.

Walk away from the sea and the town, pass the station, and turn up the road on the right. It is a sandy road, parallel with the railway, and if you follow it, it climbs to somewhat higher ground. On your left (you are now going northward) is heath, on your right (the side towards the sea) is a belt of old firs, wind-beaten, thick at the top, with the slope that old seaside trees have; seen on the skyline from the train they would tell you in an instant, if you did not know it, that you were approaching a windy coast. Well, at the top of my little hill, a line of these firs strikes out and runs towards the sea, for there is a ridge that goes that way; and the ridge ends in a rather well-defined mound commanding the level fields of rough grass, and a little knot of fir trees crowns it. And here you may sit on a hot spring day, very well content to look at blue sea, white windmills, red cottages, bright green grass, church tower, and distant martello tower on the south.

As I have said, I began to know Seaburgh as a child; but a gap of a good many years separates my early knowledge from that which is more recent. Still it keeps its place in my affections, and any tales of it that I pick up have an interest for me. One such tale is this: it came to me in a place very remote from Seaburgh, and quite accidentally, from a man whom I had been able to oblige — enough in his opinion to justify his making me his confidant to this extent.

I know all that country more or less (he said). I used to go to Scaburgh pretty regularly for golf in the spring. I generally put up at the ‘Bear’, with a friend — Henry Long it was, you knew him perhaps —(‘Slightly,’ I said) and we used to take a sitting-room and be very happy there. Since he died I haven’t cared to go there. And I don’t know that I should anyhow after the particular thing that happened on our last visit.
You can read it online here and here. It was adapted for television in 1972:



Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Shout

The Shout is an award-winning 1978 horror film directed by Jerzy Skolimowski and starring Alan Bates, John Hurt, Susannah York, and Tim Curry (as Robert Graves, whose short story is the basis of the movie). Bates is a traveler who has spent 18 years with the Australian Aborigines and has learned how to kill with a shout. He intrudes on a young couple, and the effect of his presence is devastating.



Ferdy on Film says, "The Shout stands today as a lonely island in cinema, one of a handful of entries in the history of the cinefantastique that evokes vast possibilities with a spare, even abstract, method." The British Film Institute says, "Most effective of all, however, is the director’s strange and darkly magical portrayal of the English coastline in his 1978 film The Shout, which contains – among many other unique things – one of British cinema’s most unnerving examples of sound design."

Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "What makes the movie terrifying is the way in which the outback magic is introduced so naturally into the placid fabric of village life." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 82%.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pigeons from Hell


Pigeons from Hell is a 1938 short story by Robert E. Howard, best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian. This story is a fine example of the traditional Southern gothic horror tale and appears on various "best horror" lists. You can read it online here. It begins:
1. THE WHISTLER IN THE DARK
Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril. He stared about wildly, unable at first to remember where he was, or what he was doing there. Moonlight filtered in through the dusty windows, and the great empty room with its lofty ceiling and gaping black fireplace was spectral and unfamiliar. Then as he emerged from the clinging cobwebs of his recent sleep, he remembered where he was and how he came to be there. He twisted his head and stared at his companion, sleeping on the floor near him. John Branner was but a vaguely bulking shape in the darkness that the moon scarcely grayed.

Griswell tried to remember what had awakened him. There was no sound in the house, no sound outside except the mournful hoot of an owl, far away in the piny woods. Now he had captured the illusive memory. It was a dream, a nightmare so filled with dim terror that it had frightened him awake. Recollection flooded back, vividly etching the abominable vision.

Or was it a dream? Certainly it must have been, but it had blended so curiously with recent actual events that it was difficult to know where reality left off and fantasy began.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bloody Reunion

Bloody Reunion is a 2006 Korean revenge horror film. I didn't care for this one. It didn't come together for me, and I still don't see how that twist makes sense. And what happened to the deformed kid? No, I won't watch this one again.

trailer:


HorrorNews.net concludes by saying it "is well worth watching, and without doubt one of the best films of its type."

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Slade House


Slade House is a 2015 horror novel by David Mitchell. It's a type of soul vampire story. This was quick to read, and I'm wondering if there'll be a sequel. This isn't a scary tale but is interesting, both in how it's structured and in the characters involved.

from the back of the book:
Keep your eyes peeled for a small, black, iron door. Down the road from a working-class pub, along a narrow brick alley, you just might find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won't want to leave. Later, you'll find that you can't. Every nine years, the residents of Slade House extend an invitation to someone who's different or lonely; a precocious teenager, a recently-divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside? For those who find out, it's already too late....
favorite quote:
Places change you.
*******

The Washington Post explains how the book came to be written:
The genesis of Norah and Jonah’s lair is weird but not much weirder than the genesis of “Slade House” itself. Last summer, Mitchell published the first chapter as a series of hundreds of tweets. Ordinarily, I would rather have my soul sucked from a hole in my skull than read a novel that started on Twitter, but this breezy string of murders is a fiendish delight.
The Guardian says it's "like Stephen King in a fever". The New York Times says, "The biggest drawback of “Slade House” might that it simply isn’t very scary." NPR says, "The less you know about that going in the better, because all the joy in Slade House is in the discovery." The LA Review of Books says, "Like most of his novels Slade House is a page-turner, fast paced, hard to put down."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Annihilation

Annihilation is a 2018 science fiction film (you'll hear some describe it as science fiction/horror, but it's not horror in any meaningful sense of the word) based on the first book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I read the book when it came out and was excited when I heard it was going to get a film adaptation. It is every bit as good as I'd hoped. If you liked the book, you'll like the film. And it's absolutely gorgeous to watch!

trailer:



Screen Rant calls it "an emotionally compelling and exciting film" and "an exciting, beautiful, and thought-provoking adaptation of VanderMeer's novel". The Guardian calls it "unnerving" and says, "it will shock, fascinate and haunt audiences".

Roger Ebert's site closes with this:
“Annihilation” is not an easy film to discuss. It’s a movie that will have a different meaning to different viewers who are willing to engage with it. It’s about self-destruction, evolution, biology, co-dependence, and that which scares us the most—that we can no longer trust our own bodies. It's meant to linger in your mind and haunt your dreams. In this recent wave of sci-fi films, it's one of the best.
Empire Online concludes, "Drawing on mythology and body horror, Annihilation is an intelligent film that asks big questions and refuses to provide easy answers. Sci-fi at its best." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 87%.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Still Life with Open Drawer

Still Life with Open Drawer (1879):


by Paul Cezanne, who died on October 22, 1906.

My own still life is quite different, though more seasonal:


The owl's name is Arthur, and that's Spice Tea for the cup. You can see the recipe for the tea mix in this post from early 2014. That was also a T Stands for Tuesday post. That weekly blogger gathering is an ongoing event. Please join me at this week's edition. Share a drink in your post and leave a link there.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom is a 1960 horror movie, a thriller film about a serial killer. Not at all gory, but quite disturbing.



The Guardian says, "if anything deserves the "dark masterpiece" tag, this does: a brilliant satirical insight into the neurotic, pornographic element in the act of filming, more relevant than ever in the age of reality television and CCTV" and includes it on a list of best horror films of all time.

The Telegraph says,
In a modern reading of the film, we can suggest Powell was asking his audience direct questions: you may be horrified by what you see (the shocks, the grisly murders), but to what extent are you complicit in agreeing to sit and watch? Is there are a part of you that secretly enjoys the carnage being served up for your entertainment?
Senses of Cinema has an article which concludes, "Peeping Tom remains an unsettling, disturbing, and unforgettable psychological and visual exploration into the sadistic obsession with fear experienced by a psychopathic killer" and includes this:
Comparisons can be made between Peeping Tom and Psycho, as both these films share a fascination with voyeurism. The two main characters of Peeping Tom and Psycho (Mark and Norman Bates respectively) are both voyeurs. However, Powell takes this voyeuristic notion significantly further in Peeping Tom by implicating both himself and the spectator
It's on Roger Ebert's list of Great Movies. He says, "It was so loathed on its first release that it was pulled from theaters, and effectively ended the career of one of Britain's greatest directors" and "His film is a masterpiece precisely because it doesn't let us off the hook, like all of those silly teenage slasher movies do. We cannot laugh and keep our distance: We are forced to acknowledge that we watch, horrified but fascinated."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 96%.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral

The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral is a 1911 short story by M.R. James. Wikipedia has this synopsis: "Archdeacon Pultney of Barchester Cathedral dies mysteriously and the new Archdeacon Haynes takes his place. Haynes is very talented and performs the duties of his office with great zeal, however he is haunted by the carved figures in the stalls of Barchester Cathedral."

It begins,
This matter began, as far as I am concerned, with the reading of a notice in the obituary section of the Gentleman’s Magazine for an early year in the nineteenth century:

On February 26th, at his residence in the Cathedral Close of Barchester, the Venerable John Benwell Haynes, D.D., aged 57, Archdeacon of Sowerbridge and Rector of Pickhill and Candley. He was of——College, Cambridge, and where, by talent and assiduity, he commanded the esteem of his seniors; when, at the usual time, he took his first degree, his name stood high in the list of wranglers. These academical honours procured for him within a short time a Fellowship of his College. In the year 1783 he received Holy Orders, and was shortly afterwards presented to the perpetual Curacy of Ranxton-sub-Ashe by his friend and patron the late truly venerable Bishop of Lichfield.... His speedy preferments, first to a Prebend, and subsequently to the dignity of Precentor in the Cathedral of Barchester, form an eloquent testimony to the respect in which he was held and to his eminent qualifications. He succeeded to the Archdeaconry upon the sudden decease of Archdeacon Pulteney in 1810. His sermons, ever conformable to the principles of the religion and Church which he adorned, displayed in no ordinary degree, without the least trace of enthusiasm, the refinement of the scholar united with the graces of the Christian. Free from sectarian violence, and informed by the spirit of the truest charity, they will long dwell in the memories of his hearers. [Here a further omission.] The productions of his pen include an able defence of Episcopacy, which, though often perused by the author of this tribute to his memory, affords but one additional instance of the want of liberality and enterprise which is a too common characteristic of the publishers of our generation. His published works are, indeed, confined to a spirited and elegant version of the Argonautica of Valerius Flacus, a volume of Discourses upon the Several Events in the Life of Joshua, delivered in his Cathedral, and a number of the charges which he pronounced at various visitations to the clergy of his Archdeaconry. These are distinguished by etc., etc. The urbanity and hospitality of the subject of these lines will not readily be forgotten by those who enjoyed his acquaintance. His interest in the venerable and awful pile under whose hoary vault he was so punctual an attendant, and particularly in the musical portion of its rites, might be termed filial, and formed a strong and delightful contrast to the polite indifference displayed by too many of our Cathedral dignitaries at the present time.

The final paragraph, after informing us that Dr. Haynes died a bachelor, says:

It might have been augured that an existence so placid and benevolent would have been terminated in a ripe old age by a dissolution equally gradual and calm. But how unsearchable are the workings of Providence! The peaceful and retired seclusion amid which the honoured evening of Dr. Haynes’ life was mellowing to its close was destined to be disturbed, nay, shattered, by a tragedy as appalling as it was unexpected.
You can read it online here and listen to it here. It was adapted for television in 1971:


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Train to Busan

Train to Busan is a 2016 award-winning Korean zombie film directed by Yeon Sang-ho. I can't recommend this highly enough. It's more than "just" a horror movie but is a reflection on modern life, relationships, and sacrifice.

trailer:



Variety has a positive review. The Telegraph gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says it's "pretty much everything you could possibly want a zombie film to be." The New York Times has a positive review.

Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says it's "One of the best horrors of the year: innovative, effective...". The Guardian gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says, "This rip-roaring, record-breaking South Korean zombies-on-a-train romp barrels along like a runaway locomotive," also, "Yeon Sang-ho’s breathless cinematic bullet train boasts frantic physical action, sharp social satire and ripe sentimental melodrama designed to reach into your ribcage and rip out your bleeding heart."

Roger Ebert's site gives it 3 out of 4 stars and opens their positive review by calling it "the most purely entertaining zombie film in some time, finding echoes of George Romero’s and Danny Boyle’s work, but delivering something unique for an era in which kindness to others seems more essential than ever." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 95%.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Cigarette Case


The Cigarette Case is a 1911 short story by Oliver Onions. It can be read online here. You can listen to it via Librivox here. It begins,
"A cigarette, Loder?" I said, offering my case. For the moment Loder was not smoking; for long enough he had not been talking.

"Thanks," he replied, taking not only the cigarette, but the case also. The others went on talking; Loder became silent again; but I noticed that he kept my cigarette case in his hand, and looked at it from time to time with an interest that neither its design nor its costliness seemed to explain. Presently I caught his eye.

"A pretty case," he remarked, putting it down on the table. "I once had one exactly like it."

I answered that they were in every shop window.

"Oh yes," he said, putting aside any question of rarity. "I lost mine."

"Oh?…"

He laughed. "Oh, that's all right -I got it back again- don't be afraid I'm going to claim yours. But the way I lost it-found it -the whole thing- was rather curious. I've never been able to explain it. I wonder if you could?"

I answered that I certainly couldn't till I'd heard it, whereupon Loder, taking up the silver case again and holding it in his hand as he talked, began:

"This happened in Provence, when I was about as old as Marsham there- and every bit as romantic. I was there with Carroll -you remember poor old Carroll and what a blade of a boy he was- as romantic as four Marshams rolled into one. (Excuse me, Marsham, won't you? It's a romantic tale, you see, or at least the setting is.) We were in Provence, Carroll and I; twenty-four or thereabouts; romantic, as I say; and -and this happened.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Death Bell

Death Bell is a 2008 Korean horror film. I found this one confusing. I had trouble keeping up with who was who and what their relationships were.


Variety says it has "a neat concept" .


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Chirpin' the Blues

Chirpin' the Blues:



sung by Memphis-born Alberta Hunter, who died on this date in 1984 at 89 years old.

Lyrics excerpt:
I woke up this mornin', heard somebody calling me
I woke up this mornin', heard somebody calling me
My man had packed his grip, said he was leaving for Tennessee
Bad luck and trouble, looks like they're on me to stay
Bad luck and trouble, looks like they're on me to stay
But good luck is old fortune and it's bound to fall my way

This was the first song I ever heard her sing (not in person, but on the radio back in the day):



She's an absolute delight! Listen to her on Youtube or on Spotify:



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Two Cafes by Lesser Ury

Cafe Bauer:


Im Café Victoria, Berlin (1904):


Lesser Ury was a Prussian-born German Impressionist painter, who died on October 18, 1931. Here's a short biography:


Please join the weekly blogger T Stands for Tuesday gathering, where sharing a drink in your post and visiting the other bloggers makes for an enjoyable time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad


Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad is a 1904 ghost story by M.R. James. It begins,
'I suppose you will be getting away pretty soon, now Fall term is over, Professor,' said a person not in the story to the Professor of Ontography, soon after they had sat down next to each other at a feast in the hospitable hall of St James's College.

The Professor was young, neat, and precise in speech. 'Yes,' he said; 'my friends have been making me take up golf this term, and I mean to go to the East Coast - in point of fact to Burnstow - (I dare say you know it) for a week or ten days, to improve my game. I hope to get off tomorrow.'

'Oh, Parkins,' said his neighbour on the other side, 'if you are going to Burnstow, I wish you would look at the site of the Templars' preceptory, and let me know if you think it would be any good to have a dig there in the summer.'

It was, as you might suppose, a person of antiquarian pursuits who said this, but, since he merely appears in this prologue, there is no need to give his entitlements.

'Certainly,' said Parkins, the Professor: 'if you will describe to me whereabouts the site is, I will do my best to give you an idea of the lie of the land when I get back; or I could write to you about it, if you would tell me where you are likely to be.'

'Don't trouble to do that, thanks. It's only that I'm thinking of taking my family in that direction in the Long, and it occurred to me that, as very few of the English preceptories have ever been properly planned, I might have an opportunity of doing something useful on offdays.'

The Professor rather sniffed at the idea that planning out a preceptory could be described as useful. His neighbour continued:

'The site - I doubt if there is anything showing above ground - must be down quite close to the beach now. The sea has encroached tremendously, as you know, all along that bit of coast. I should think, from the map, that it must be about three-quarters of a mile from the Globe Inn, at the north end of the town.

You can read it online here and listen to it here. It has been adapted for television twice, once in 1968 directed by Jonathan Miller and starring Michael Hordern:



and again in 2010 starring John Hurt:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Demons

Demons is a 1985 Italian horror film directed by Lamberto Bava. The soundtrack may be the best thing about it. Very 80s.

trailer:


watch it here:



HorrorNews.net concludes a mixed review with this: "by keeping an open mind and a sense of humor, all hope is not lost and who knows, maybe the viewer will actually enjoy it. Modern it isn’t, but for the true fan of horror…". Classic-Horror.com has a mixed review and says, "If you're new to Italian horror, do not start here."

You can check out my other blog posts on horror movies I've watched here, where you can scroll through posts just on that subject.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rooum


Rooum is a 1911 ghost story from the collection Widdershins by Oliver Onions. In it an engineer is pursued by an unknown, unseen presence. You can read it online here. It begins,
For all I ever knew to the contrary, it was his own name; and something about him, name or man or both, always put me in mind, I can't tell you how, of negroes. As regards the name, I dare say it was something huggermugger in the mere sound —something that I classed, for no particular reason, with the dark and ignorant sort of words, such as "Obi" and "Hoodoo." I only know that after I learned that his name was Rooum, I couldn't for the life of me have thought of him as being called anything else.

The first impression that you got of his head was that it was a patchwork of black and white—black bushy hair and short white beard, or else the other way about. As a matter of fact, both hair and beard were piebald, so that if you saw him in the gloom a dim patch of white showed down one side of his head, and dark tufts cropped up here and there in his beard. His eyebrows alone were entirely black, with a little sprouting of hair almost joining them. And perhaps his skin helped to make me think of negroes, for it was very dark, of the dark brown that always seems to have more than a hint of green behind it. His forehead was low, and scored across with deep horizontal furrows.

We never knew when he was going to turn up on a job. We might not have seen him for weeks, but his face was always as likely as not to appear over the edge of a crane-platform just when that marvellous mechanical intuition of his was badly needed. He wasn't certificated. He wasn't even trained, as the rest of us understood training; and he scoffed at the drawing-office, and laughed outright at logarithms and our laborious methods of getting out quantities. But he could set sheers and tackle in a way that made the rest of us look silly. I remember once how, through the parting of a chain, a sixty-foot girder had come down and lay under a ruck of other stuff, as the bottom chip lies under a pile of spellikins—a hopeless-looking smash. Myself, I'm certificated twice or three times over; but I can only assure you that I wanted to kick myself when, after I'd spent a day and a sleepless night over the job, I saw the game of tit-tat-toe that Rooum made of it in an hour or two. Certificated or not, a man isn't a fool who can do that sort of thing. And he was one of these fellows, too, who can "find water" —tell you where water is and what amount of getting it is likely to take, by just walking over the place. We aren't certificated up to that yet.

He was offered good money to stick to us —to stick to our firm— but he always shook his black-and-white piebald head. He'd never be able to keep the bargain if he were to make it, he told us quite fairly. I know there are these chaps who can't endure to be clocked to their work with a patent time-clock in the morning and released of an evening with a whistle —and it's one of the things no master can ever understand. So Rooum came and went erratically, showing up maybe in Leeds or Liverpool, perhaps next on Plymouth breakwater, and once he turned up in an out-of-the-way place in Glamorganshire just when I was wondering what had become of him.

The way I got to know him (got to know him, I mean, more than just to nod) was that he tacked himself on to me one night down Vauxhall way, where we were setting up some small plant or other. We had knocked off for the day, and I was walking in the direction of the bridge when he came up. We walked along together; and we had not gone far before it appeared that his reason for joining me was that he wanted to know "what a molecule was."

I stared at him a bit.

"What do you want to know that for?" I said. "What does a chap like you, who can do it all backwards, want with molecules?"

Oh, he just wanted to know, he said.

So, on the way across the bridge, I gave it him more or less from the book —molecular theory and all the rest of it. But, from the childish questions he put, it was plain that he hadn't got the hang of it at all. "Did the molecular theory allow things to pass through one another?" he wanted to know; "Could things pass through one another?" and a lot of ridiculous things like that. I gave it up.

"You're a genius in your own way, Rooum," I said finally; "you know these things without the books we plodders have to depend on. If I'd luck like that, I think I should be content with it."

But he didn't seem satisfied, though he dropped the matter for that time. But I had his acquaintance, which was more than most of us had. He asked me, rather timidly, if I'd lend him a book or two. I did so, but they didn't seem to contain what he wanted to know, and he soon returned them, without remark.
*******

If you're interested in other weird tales and ghost stories and such that I've written blog posts on in the past, you can scroll through them here.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Whispering Corridors

Whispering Corridors is a 1998 Korean horror movie, the first in a series. This is more sad than scary. Schools are damaging places.

trailer:




HorrorNews.net calls it "a must". Classic-Horror.com says, "when the film is good, it’s really, really good" and credits the director while finding fault with the story itself.

I've also watched Voice (2005), which is 4th of the 5 films in the series.

*******

The Husband is on vacation and is watching some old monster movies with me to celebrate the October/Halloween season. I rarely re-blog movies I've already seen, but I do have blog posts on these we've watched since my last update on our ongoing marathon:

King Kong (1933)
The Mummy (1932)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Ritual


The Ritual is a 2011 award-winning horror novel by Adam Nevill. When I finished it, which didn't take long because I couldn't put it down, my first thought was that it should be adapted for film, and here it is. This is a good, solid horror story, with those ill-equipped young men lost in the primeval Scandinavian forest.

from the back of the book:
When four old university friends set off into the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic circle, they aim to briefly escape the problems of their lives and reconnect with one another. But when Luke, the only man still single and living a precarious existence, finds he has little left in common with his well-heeled friends, tensions rise. With limited experience between them, a shortcut meant to ease their hike turns into a nightmare scenario that could cost them their lives.

Lost, hungry, and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, Luke figures things couldn't possibly get any worse. But then they stumble across a derelict building. Ancient artifacts decorate the walls and there are bones scattered upon the dry floors. The residue of old rites and pagan sacrifice for something that still exists in the forest. Something responsible for the bestial presence that follows their every step. As the four friends stagger in the direction of salvation, they learn that death doesn't come easy among these ancient trees....
quotes that struck me:
Maybe for short periods of time it seemed to him, inside that stinking bed, that some people were exempt from tragedy and pain, but these respites were short; in the scheme of things and in the length of eternity, respites were nothing but anomalies in a relentless flow of despair and pain and sadness and horror that surely would eventually sweep everyone away.
*******
And so it all continued; it was dull in its predictability. Evil was, he decided, inevitable, relentless, and predictable. Imaginative,
he'd give it that much, but soulless.
*******

The Guardian opens a positive review by saying, "This novel grabs from the very first page, refuses to be laid aside, and carries the hapless reader, exhausted and wrung out, to the very last sentence."

If you're interested in other horror stories and weird tales I've read, please check out those posts here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We Are What We Are (2013)

We Are What We Are is a 2013 remake of a 2010 Mexican film I haven't seen. It's a horrifying look at what insistence on religious observance past the proper time can bring us to. The music is gorgeous.

trailer:


Slant Magazine gives it 1.5 out of 4 stars and compares it to the original, saying the remake "tailors the story’s basic components to concern the eroding income of a deliriously religious lower-rural American class." The Guardian gives it 2 out of 5 stars and compares it unfavorably with the original.

Roger Ebert gives it 3.5 out of 4 and says, "the serious and respectful tone helps to make for a genuinely creepy moviegoing experience that will attract both serious fans of the genre and those viewers simply looking for a well-told story" and "in terms of smart and serious filmmaking, I would put this film up against any "serious" movie that has come out so far this year and I implore you to give it a chance." Rotten Tomatoes has an 86% critics score.

I watched this one alone.

*******

The Husband is on vacation this week, but the weather has been so hot he hasn't much wanted to do the outdoor activities we had planned. We have instead been watching some of the old monster movies, and he's been choosing to work his way through the old Frankenstein franchise from the beginning. That includes these, for which I have old posts:

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

We also re-watched this:

Dracula (1931)

Also, we enjoy, and so re-watch, some of the shows traditionally thought of as being for children, and we watched these while The Husband was on vacation:

The Halloween Tree (1993)
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

More recent films we've enjoyed re-watching during this October movie marathon week:

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Making of a Teapot


This video shows the making of a Japanese teapot by a master craftsman with many lessons for us. Those lessons don't come in words, as the limited spoken elements are in Japanese, but the lessons are crystal clear nevertheless.

I'm offering this for the weekly T Stand for Tuesday blogger gathering (share a drink in your post and join us), but most of my posts during October are stories and movies suitable for the Halloween season. Ghost stories, horror films, weird tales... if you like that kind of thing I hope you'll check out some of my other posts this month.

(I found the teapot video via Open Culture.)

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Old Nurse's Story


The Old Nurse's Story is an 1852 Gothic story by Elizabeth Gaskell. It begins,
You know, my dears, that your mother was an orphan, and an only child; and I dare say you have heard that your grand-father was a clergyman up in Westmoreland, where I come from. I was just a girl in the village school, when, one day, your grandmother came in to ask the mistress if there was any scholar there who would do for a nurse-maid; and mighty proud I was, I can tell ye, when the mistress called me up, and spoke to my being a good girl at my needle, and a steady, honest girl, and one whose parents were very respectable, though they might be poor I thought I should like nothing better than to serve the pretty, young lady, who was blushing as deep as I was, as she spoke of the coming baby, and what I should have to do with it. However, I see you don't care so much for this part of my story, as for what you think is to come, so I'll tell you at once. I was engaged and settled at the parsonage before Miss Rosamond (that was the baby, who is now your mother) was born. To be sure, I had little enough to do with her when she came, for she was never out of her mother's arms, and slept by her all night long; and proud enough was I sometimes when missis trusted her to me. There never was such a baby before or since, though you've all of you been fine enough in your turns; but for sweet, winning ways, you've none of you come up to your mother. She took after her mother, who was a teal lady born; a Miss Furnivall, a granddaughter of Lord Furnivall's, in Northumberland. I believe she had neither brother nor Sister, and had been brought up in my lord's family till she had married your grandfather, who was just a curate, son to a shopkeeper in Carlisle - but a clever, fine gentleman as ever was - and one who was a right-down hard worker in his parish, which was very wide, and scattered all abroad over the Westmoreland Fells. When your mother, little Miss Rosamond, was about four or five years old, both her parents died in a fortnight - one after the other. Ah! that was a sad time. My pretty young mistress and me was looking for another baby, when my master came home from one of his long rides, wet, and tired, and took the fever he died of; and then she never held up her head again, but lived just to see her dead baby, and have it laid on her breast before she sighed away her life. My mistress had asked me, on her death-bed, never to leave Miss Rosamond; but if she had never spoken a word, I would have gone with the little child to the end of the world.

The next thing, and before we had well stilled our sobs, the executors and guardians came to settle the affairs. They were my poor young mistress's own cousin, Lord Furnivall, and Mr Esthwaite, my master's brother, a shopkeeper in Manchester; not so well to do then, as he was afterwards, and with a large family rising about him. Well! I don't know if it were their settling, or because of a letter my mistress wrote on her death-bed to her cousin, my lord; but somehow it was settled that Miss Rosamond and me were to go to Furnivall Manor House, in Northumberland, and my lord spoke as if it had been her mother's wish that she should live with his family, and as if he had no objectioins, for that one or two more or less could make no difference in so grand a household. So, though that was not the way in which I should have wished the coming of my bright and pretty pet to have been looked at - who was like a sunbeam in any family, be it never so grand - I was well pleased that all the folks in the Dale should stare and admire, when they heard I was going to be young lady's maid at my Lord Furnivall's at Furnivall Manor.
You can read it online here and listen to it here:



There's a video tour of the author's home here:


Sunday, October 07, 2018

Roxanna Slade


Roxanna Slade is a 1998 novel by Southern writer Reynolds Price. I continue to read his books as I come across them, because I was deeply impressed with Kate Vaiden. This doesn't measure up for me, although reviewers liked it. I think reading Kate Vaiden first spoiled me. I never could bring myself to care about Roxanna. I'll keep reading this author, though. He is well-respected and honored in literary circles, and he does have a way with words. There's a Reading Group Guide here.

The book begins on October 7, 1920, on Roxanna's birthday.

from the book jacket:
Roxanna begins her story on her twentieth birthday -a day that introduces her to the harsh realities of adulthood and changes the course of her life forever. From this day on, Roxanna is quick to share with the reader the intimate details of ninety years of life in North Carolina. While she rarely leaves the small town of her youth, Roxanna's vision of the world is shaped by intense passions and loyalties and the certain tragedies of a life long lived.

Roxanna Slade is a sweet-and-keen-tongued tale-teller. And her beguiling tale is one that boldly reflects the high and low moments in the development of the modern South and the nation as well as the inner strength of a woman possessed of a piercingly clear vision, forthright hungers and immense vitality.
quotes:
*******
Whatever foolishness any politician or TV preacher tries to peddle today about human families as the peak of all striving, the highest of every human achievement, let me tell you plainly that in my youth and young womanhood, the families of many people thought to be decent as bands of angls were nothing but factories for driving souls crazy or still more evil than their hateful mothers or fathers.

And that big claim -but dead earnest- doesn't even mention the brothers or uncles who could use their younger kin like side meat. And even if all your people were saints, the lack of anything solid for young white respectable women to do would leave a girl so bone-shattering bored
that she might easily turn out a demon of world-sized meanness, just for something to do with the endless silent hours of frost or broiling swelter.
*******
Sometimes it's fairly slim consolation to notice how few human beings of any sex or background are called to anything grander than dinner.
*******

The New York Times has a positive review and closes with this:
In one way this tale represents a novelist's version of millennial fever. We will see many characters taken through the 20th century as it draws to a close. Since this century has been in many ways a more interesting one for women than for men, many of these books will be about women. ''Roxanna Slade'' is not only an example but exemplary.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as
A lovingly detailed record of a long and seemingly modest life, given resonance by the prolific Price’s extraordinary language and his sharp eye for the subtle complexities of character" and closes by calling the protagonist "a memorable figure, and further indication of Price’s quiet, precise power as a novelist.
Publishers Weekly has a positive review.

Other books I've read by this author:

A Long and Happy Life (1962)
Kate Vaiden (1986)
Blue Calhoun (1992)
Good Hearts (1998)

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Crowhaven Farm

Crowhaven Farm is a 1970 made-for-tv horror film starring Hope Lange and John Carradine. Lange inherits a farm but feels a haunting presence there. I found it tedious and dated.

via Youtube:


Moria gives it 2 out of 5 stars and says it "does not hold up that well today" and that "not a lot seems to make sense in terms of what is happening". Horrorpedia calls it "needlessly overwrought" and closes with this: "If you have a morbid fear of being slowly squashed by some costumed-loons, there could be food for thought here yet".

I watch horror movies all year but don't post them as I watch them. I schedule them so they'll be scattered through the year except for October when I post more of them. But still, the fact is I didn't watch Crowhaven Farm yesterday. What we did watch yesterday was The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. These are movies I've seen before many times, and I don't tend to write new posts about films like that. Here are the posts on them:

The Wolf Man (1941)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

The Husband is on vacation this coming week, and a trip -even a little trip- is financially unwise right now. We had plans for seasonal outdoor activities only to be hit with heat in the 90s F. We decided to plunge ourselves into reliving fun monster/horror movies of the past instead. 'Tis the season and all that. I'm letting him select what we watch. He does not like jump scenes, blood, intense suspense, subtitles... As I write this on Friday night he's cooking waffles:


After supper, we watched this:

Frankenstein (1931)


Friday, October 05, 2018

The Fisherman


The Fisherman is a 2016 horror novel by John Langan. This turns fishing into an entirely different enterprise -a dangerous activity that must be undertaken with care, or at least in places known to be safe. It's a story of loss and coping and obsession and how wanting a thing can lead to tragedy. Women are motivating characters here but not real people for plot purposes. This is a man's tale, and everything is centered on how a man sees things and reacts. I found it engrossing.

from the back of the book:
In upstate New York, in the woods around Woodstock, Dutchman's Creek flows out of the Ashokan Reservoir. Steep-banked, fast moving, it offers the promise of fine fishing, and of something more, a possibility too fantastic to be true. When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other's company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It's a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.
The New York Journal of Books calls it "profound" and says,
At times, the novel calls upon the spookier elements of classic horror authors such as M. R. James, Ambrose Bierce, and H. P. Lovecraft. There are Moby-Dick like instances of seafaring tension and wonder. And the novel’s Russian nesting doll-like narrative structure is reminiscent at times of Frankenstein, layering tales within tales.

There are so many rich descriptions in everything from the novel’s various Catskill settings to many a character’s physique. The reader can practically smell the humid air, can hear the gurgle of running water ... and feel cold, wet flesh beneath their fingertips.
The New York Times calls it "superb" and says, "Langan writes elegant prose, and the novel’s rolling, unpredictable flow has a distinctive rhythm, the rise and fall of its characters’ real grief. These fishermen are restless men, immobilized but never truly at peace." Publishers Weekly has a less positive review.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

When a Stranger Calls is a 1979 horror film starring Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, and Tony Beckley. Watching this is a tense experience. Kane is a babysitter who can't reach the parents of the children she's babysitting and who keeps getting anonymous calls asking her, "Have you checked the children?" Durning is the police officer she appeals to for help. The first 20 minutes are "now consistently regarded as one of the scariest openings in horror movie history" according to Wikipedia's sources.

via Youtube:


The New York Times says, "The movie is full of fine actors, but they all seem to have been wedged into the wrong roles" but calls it "an energetic first film". Moria gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars and says, "While it is occasionally effective, When a Stranger Calls is also a somewhat listless film."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 33%.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

A Head Full of Ghosts


A Head Full of Ghosts is a 2015 award-winning horror novel by Paul Tremblay. I enjoyed this, but there's not really anything new here. It's basically a is-it-possession-or-mental-illness exploration told by the younger sister. I had expected this to be scary, but I didn't find it so. I say if you want a scary book read the Bram Stoker Dracula.

from the back of the book:
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents' despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie's descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts' plight for a reality television show. With John, Marjorie's father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family reluctantly agrees to be filmed -never imagining that The Possession would become an instant hit. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie's younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long-ago events from her childhood -she was just eight years old- painful memories and long-buried secrets that clash with the television broadcast and the Internet blogs begin to surface.
There are several references to the yellow wallpaper in the house that put me in mind of Gilman's book, which can be read online here. There are also references to Gloomy Sunday:



Sunday is gloomy,
My hours are slumberless.
Dearest, the shadows
I live with are numberless.

Little white flowers
Will never awaken you.
Not where the black coach
Of sorrow has taken you.

The Guardian says the book "scares in layers" and that "wherever it comes from, there’s real evil at the heart of this book – and just in time for Halloween." io9 says it "will scare the shit out of you". NPR calls it an "eerie, edgy tale of perception and possession". The New York Times calls it "terrific".

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Still Life with Fruit

Still Life with Fruit (1960):


by Jerzy Srzednicki, a Polish artist and poet, who died October 1, 2007, at the age of 77.

I do eat a lot of fruit and was arranging a bowl yesterday to photograph and share here when it came to my attention that yesterday was National Homemade Cookie Day. So I did this instead:


I ate some while being serenaded by one of the members of our resident Chipmunk Horde:



I've been sitting on the patio lately wondering why it's still so hot.


It's never cold here in September and early October, but we're still getting highs in the upper 80s.

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering. Share a drink and a visit and get to know some people.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo is a 2008 Australian horror film. It's presented as a documentary-style look at a family grieving over the drowning death of their daughter. This is a sad movie, not scary at all.



Variety calls it "ambitious, restrained and well-mounted". Moria has a mixed review. HorrorNews.net says it's "quite a interesting and intelligent movie that knows how to keep its audience glued to the activities and facts presented."

DVD Talk says, "in its own way it's much more frightening than most of the schlock fests regularly served up in that genre" and concludes
Lake Mungo is a different kind of horror film. It doesn't follow a traditional narrative, and lacks gore and cheap scares. What it does have is a powerful story, believable and familiar characters, and a subtle, creeping atmosphere of dread that pervades the film. This is a superior effort, one that will keep you up at night.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 93%.