Taking a Walk on the Wild(ish) Side

Field of Screams

Halloween has a tough gig.

Of all the major holidays, it’s the only one that falls on the very last day of the month. Thanksgiving has the buffer of Black Friday before we start thinking about December. Christmas gives us a whole week to prepare for the New Year. With Easter, we never know what day . . and sometimes even what month it’s gonna show up inside of. And the Fourth of July has a peach spot as the lead off hitter in summer’s lineup.

All Hallows Eve is the ultimate drop the mic party, and it gets cropped even further if it falls on a weeknight since all murder and mayhem needs to happen inside a two hour window so’s you can get a decent night’s sleep . There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Myers waited until the weekend to steal away to his hometown, since that’s when peeps let their guard down (read: they stay up late, drink copious amounts of alcohol and get super lazy). If he would’ve fucked with the average person’s shit on a weeknight, the boy never would’ve made it out of Haddonfield alive.

Dr Evil

For us horror fans who don’t live in the fictional town of Haddonfield, the idea of trying to escape the clutches of a crazed killer whilst running down the street screaming for our lives is nothing more than a pipe dream. So we need to get our fix in other ways. For yours truly, I made horror movies a daily part of my diet for the better part of the last month. And this past Halloween night, I decided to take the girl to a haunted attraction called “Field of Screams”.

I’ve done these attractions before and truth be told, I was never piss my pants frightened. Other than a few jump scares and the occasional freak out session inside a pitch black room, I never got the feeling I was in any sort of real danger. Like, the kind of danger where I’m dragged off into an abandoned factory, subjected to unimaginable torture and then served up as Sunday dinner.

Maybe it’s because I have an intimate knowledge of what goes on at these places once the sun goes down. As an actor, it was my job to scare the living hell out of anyone who dared to trespass into my unholy domain. It’s kinda hard to suspend disbelief after you’ve gotten prepped in a makeup room whilst listening to Jason Vorhees cry about his college girlfriend as Freddy Krueger pops a couple Advil and chases it with a Red Bull.

Batty

And then this past Halloween night happened, and I lost my jaded snark. I didn’t get piss my pants scared, but I sure as hell got humbled into a freak out pie . . and I was being force fed seconds. And the worst part is, I knew better.

Because there are rules you do not mess with. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t sit in the first row at a comedy club and you never . . ever show up early to a haunted attraction. Because when you show up early to a haunted attraction, you’ve totally fucked with the ‘safety in numbers’ theorem.

Dead Nurses

We signed up for the whole enchilada, which meant a couple hours worth of roaming the grounds . . . mostly by ourselves. It didn’t take much suspending of disbelief as we navigated shrinking rooms, rummaged through attics filled with mummies, danced with strobe lit clowns and begged the living dead girls for mercy. This Son of the Bronx conceded defeat before we even made it out of the Den of Darkness.

There were three more venues to consider, so I came up with a plan.

“You go first,” I told my daughter.

“Scared?” She replied.

“No . . I’m just uber sensitive to my surroundings right now, alright?”

I regretted this change of plan about halfway through the next venue- The Frightmare Asylum- when Grandpa Sawyer started following my ass around. Because as a horror movie aficionado, I know Leatherface is a vicious psychopath and a clingy grandson.  It took me a couple of minutes to convince myself I was safe from a meat hook, which is when zombie mama jumped right into my grill and started brushing my hair. I haven’t been that freaked out since I was on Match.com.

Living Dead GIrls

Before we ventured into the Nocturnal Wasteland, I had to change things up yet again. “Okay, you know what? Maybe let’s go with the original plan . . you first,”

My daughter is cooler than the Outlaw Josie Wales, so she simply shrugged before accepting her mission to protect Dad. And she was more than up to the task as we made it through unscathed . . well, except for the mutant chain saw guy who grabbed my arm with a pair of rusty tongs (That’s what it felt like, okay?). And oh yeah . . the sum of my deepest, darkest fears which had us walking through a pitch black school bus as the children of the night invited us to play with them in eternal darkness. Which was totally fucking uncool shit if you ask me.

The hayride was my reward for having taught my daughter another lesson in the art of self defense. I sat back and drank in the cool night air, surrounded by people whose screams provided cover for my profanity. And then I drew up yet another plan . . this one foolproof.

Next Halloween, we bring a posse.

A Derry Halloween

Wordless Wednesday will return next week, but in honor of All Hallows Eve, I thought I’d deliver up a challenge post I’ve been stewing on. The challenge was simple: Take 13 Stephen King characters and use them in a short story. And oh yeah, write it in exactly 666 words.

This piece was a ‘challenge’ seeing as how I’m not the biggest Stephen King fan, but the guy is so prolific that it’s entirely possibly to read several of his books by accident. As I have. Now, if this reads like a slice of life, that’s because it’s meant to be that way. I mean . . his characters have ordinary days too.

HALLOWEEN . . . .

Annie Wilkes peeked out the living room curtains to find the Cunningham kid next door buffing and polishing his ’58 Plymouth Fury for the millionth time. His girlfriend was a car . . he named it Christine for chrissakes!

As she moved into the hallway to check in on her favorite writer, the doorbell came to life.

“Oh cockadoodie . . what now?!” Annie spit. She cupped her ear to Paul’s door . . quiet as a church. She was going heavy on the opiates with their time together running short now that his book was almost complete.

The doorbell chimed again.

“Fiddely-foof! I’m coming, I’m coming!”

Annie opened the door to find the White girl, all dressed in her Sunday best, on Wednesday. Margaret was doing a number on this kid, for sure.

“Morning, Carrie . . whatcha selling?” Annie smiled.

“M’aam . .girl scout cookies,”

“Aren’t you a little old to be a girl scout?” Annie asked.

“I’m collecting for my cousin Charlie, she’s not feeling well . .”

“You mean the fire starter?” Annie blurted out.

“She has a gift is all,” Said Carrie.

“Well that gift is costing me sleep.” Said Jack Torrance, as he moved onto the porch and joined the conversation.

“Morning Jack,” Annie said.

“Annie, Miss White. Uh, could ya tell your cousin to keep this gift to herself. I got government vans casing her place every night and my wife Wendy waking me up at all fucking hours . .”

“Jack, language!” Annie shouted.

“Well, yes . . ”

“What do you want Jack?” Annie asked sharply.

“I have that manuscript you promised to look over,” Jack said sheepishly, as he handed Annie a manila envelope that looked as if it had arrived at term with the words inside its belly.

“Now Mr. Man, I told you I’m hosting a big shot author! Lordy, it seems everyone on this street is a writer! There’s that Beaumont character who literally buried his alter ego . .  he should be in the loony bin for a stunt like that. That widower . . Noonan, spends his days crying about his writers block at the Gotham Cafe. And don’t get me started with Mort. I swear, you never know who you’re going to get with that odd duck! And what happened to your Colorado trip?” Annie said.

“We leave tomorrow. This is the prequel to the story I’m planning,”

“I’m not making any promises . .” Annie said, snatching the envelope from Jack’s grasp.

“Annie, you’re a doll! Good day ladies,” Jack said.

“You sweet talker.” Annie blushed. “Sorry, Carrie . . you were saying?”

“Girl scout cookies?”

“Oh yes, I’ll take some!”

“I don’t have them with me but I’ll deliver them when they come in,” Carrie explained.

“Isn’t that the way of the world? Hurry up and wait! Hahaha!” Annie bellowed. “Okay, I’ll take a box of thin mint cookies for me. A box of shortbread for Mr. Smith, who just came out of that awful coma. And oh yes . . a box of lemons for Tanya. Poor girl is skin and bones from working nights,”

“Thank you so much Ms. Wilkes!” Carrie said excitedly as she stumbled off, nearly bumping into Mr. Halleck, who was out for a morning run.

“Hey Billy! Losing weight?” Jack shouted as he strolled along.

“It’s the jogging!” Billy shouted between deep huffs. “I’m eating more than ever! Anything I want!”

“Atta boy!” Jack smiled, as he thought, Fucking lawyers . . where do they come up with this shit? He moved to the other side of the street when he saw Cujo coming, where he came upon Father Callahan stapling a missing persons poster to a utility pole.

“That the Georgie kid?” Jack asked.

“It is, went missing after the thunder storm yesterday,” Callahan replied.

The local inhabitants of Derry were descendants of a madman whose bloodthirsty compulsion to cause murder and mayhem had landed him in the annals. In Derry, every day was Halloween and every night was full of those mythical sounds that went bump and howled at a moon whose home belonged to someplace else.

Hell.

 

 

Sorryless Sunday Morning Movie Review

Michael vs Laurie

*Spoiler Alert: The following movie ‘review’ contains certain plot elements- such as the beginning, the middle and the end. 

I thought maybe this latest incarnation of Halloween was going to make me pine for the days of eight track tapes, boom shakalaka vans and reckless hair. But nope, that’s not where the Danny McBride and David Gordon Green’s sequel to the shape lives at all as it picks up forty years after the original movie. It’s a modern day slasher flick dressed in an old ghost story and it aspires to be both at the same time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes . . not so much.

McBride and Green are ambitiously dedicated to the franchise, and I dig that very much. Their decision to wipe the timeline clean and to pick up where the first movie left off was inspired. Their idea to frame Myers murder spree in the original movie as random in nature, and not an evil obsession to end the family bloodline was reminiscent of In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter. Because fratricide is something every sibling has contemplated, but a totally random killing is more chilling than a Shackleton Martini.

And hey . . don’t take my word for it. Watch this one take scene where Michael borrows a knife from a random victim. I should supply a word of warning that Michael doesn’t borrow things in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more like stealing . . with lots of mangled body parts. Fucking guy . . .

 

Bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis was a sublime stroke of genius. In reprising her role as Laurie Strode, Curtis is the most believable- and enjoyable part- of the film. She plays a gun hoarding hermit who has been preparing for Myers return for the last forty years. She lost her family in the process, but is ‘vindicated’ when Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to hunt her down. And inviting the original ‘Shape’- Nick Castle- to don the mask (even if only for a hot second) was a cool hat tip. So with all that, I was digging more than a private investigator working on commission.

Here is what I ain’t dig so much . . .

In trying to appeal to a new audience whilst catering to those of us who were around for the original release, the movie comes off as unfocused. We’re introduced to investigative journalists Dana Haines and Aaron Korey- whose only purpose, it seems, is to reunite Michael with his mask. And it kinda pisses me off that Rob Zombie was criticized for portraying Michael as a terminator-like slasher rather than a supernatural ninja whose dedication to his craft was subtle and spooky and altogether kooky. Because in the 2018 Halloween, Myers is . . . you guessed it, a terminator-like slasher. There ain’t no subtlety to him. His kill scenes are every bit as grotesque and demonically mechanized as Zombie’s. And I have no beef with that. I just think my man Rob was an easy target thanks to the pissing contest he engaged in with Carpenter back in the day, but whatever.

The creepy Dr. Ranbir Sartain (played by Haluk Bilginer) brings a story line I had the most trouble with. Sartain is the protege to the since deceased Dr. Loomis, and he is nuttier than a Twin Peaks convention. In the movie’s home stretch, we come to learn the depths of the bad doctor’s obsession with Michael Myers. He prevents the local Sheriff from putting a bullet through Michael’s head . . by murdering him. After which he gives Laurie’s granddaughter and Michael Myers a lift back to Laurie’s crib so they can, yanno . . resolve their differences. It’s in this scene that we come to realize the doctor was responsible for Myers escape, the Patriots sustained success and the selfie. Of course, the doctor is such a fucking whack that he never stops to consider what happens when you cozy up to a spring-loaded temperament under high duress. Until Myers turns him into spaghetti squash with his boot.

After which we get, the showdown. Michael versus Laurie. Because the more things change, the more this franchise will keep going back to the same bloody well. These two are so inextricably linked to the franchise that to kill one of them is to kill both of them. Which is what I was hoping for, all the while knowing it was never gonna happen. Because there’s sequels in them Hollywood Hills, and yanno . . .

So long story short . . Michael ends up at Laurie’s compound and he is majorly pissed at having been led all over town by Dr. Strangelove. So he takes out Laurie’s son in law first, and she’s like “Mikey , that doesn’t make up for all the shit you’ve put me through for the last forty years, but thanks for trying . .”. And then Laurie’s granddaughter shows up since all her friends are dead thanks to Michael, and now Laurie’s daughter has to draw on her fucked up survivalist upbringing to save the day because Mom is using a shotgun to kill Michael when a Bazooka would’ve been a much better idea.

So the three girls end up hiding in the basement as Michael searches the place for someone to dismember. Laurie decides to shoot into the floorboards and in so doing, officially becomes the worst participant in hide and seek . . . ever. So Michael disassembles the kitchen island and somehow . . the girls sneak past him. It’s not nearly as easy as I’m making it out to be, but ridiculous nonetheless.

As Michael climbs the steps, Laurie activates ginormous wooden spikes that sprout from the walls and it all becomes clear. Her compound was never meant to be a cage . . it was meant to be a trap, for Michael. The girls post a couple pics on Instagram before Laurie lights the place on fire and they skip the scene. As flames engulf the compound, Michael is nowhere to be seen and then . . after the credits start rolling, we hear that infamous heavy breathing once again.

Despite my snarky fucking manner, I did like the film and I’m giving this sequel a solid 3.5 out of 5. I loved the score, the kill scenes, the mask and the jump scares. And I love that it made me have to run back to the original, which is the gold standard for the genre.

I’ll leave you with a dedication made possible by those frugal geniuses at Blumhouse Productions who made this puppy on 10 million bucks and are killing it (pun intended) at the box office to the tune of 100 million and counting. I mean, it’s raining so hard that JLC is talking up a rematch with Myers.

So here’s the song I want them to play at the conclusion of the sequel to this sequel. As Laurie stands over Michael’s cold and lifeless body whilst swigging a bottle of whiskey, she looks down at the mask and spits the words we’ve been longing to hear.

Boogeyman my ass . . .

Sorryless Sunday Morning

Where does inspiration come from? I mean . . other than commercials and hallucinogens. Welp, I guess it depends on where you’re sitting. An idea is the composite of its metaphysical values swimming through a wilderness with no particular place to go until the feral seedlings plant themselves into a grip of ink that gives them shape.

So it was that AMC was running a Stephen King marathon yesterday morning as I searched for some inspiration for today’s post. There really was no good reason for me to tune in, seeing as how I’m not the biggest fan of King’s horror flicks. But it was The Dead Zone and Christopher Walken is in it, so that made it worth a look.

My “Very Unofficial Thespian Rules” read thusly:

  • I would listen to Morgan Freeman read a cereal box
  • I’d buy into anything a Tom Cruise character sets his mind to
  • A Julia Roberts entrance is worth the price of admission. Still.
  • Jeff Bridges owns his characters the way the tides own forever.
  • If Christopher Walken is in it, you should watch.

For thirty five years, I flouted that last one. And then yesterday morning happened and I found myself watching a movie I can’t believe I’d been missing out on for all this time. The cast is superb and the story makes you wonder why this was dropped into the horror genre, because outside of the fact that King wrote it, it ain’t got much of anything to do with horror.

But it did provide me some inspiration in the form of an idea that I thought was pretty clever . . . for about five minutes. I thought it might be fun to tuck a handful of characters from King’s horror flicks into a small town and write a short story about it.

The original idea was to use thirteen famous quotes and then build the story around it, but that wasn’t working. So I’ll try another tack, and should it work? I’ll have a Halloween “bundle” post for next weekend. If not? Well, I’ll still have my favorite Halloween song to fall back on.

Anyways . . .as pleasantly surprised as I was by The Dead Zone, I had to chase it with something more in keeping with my favorite month of the year. Rob Zombie’s Halloween did the trick. It’s been my October go-to since its release ten years ago. I tend to rummage through all of Zombie’s stuff this time of year. So far this month, I’ve digested House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, The Lords of Salem and of course, Halloween. 

The recently released Halloween is on pace to top eighty million this weekend after a record opening for October. That eighty million would topple Zombie’s total haul, so it would seem the people have spoken. And while I am down with checking out the Danny McBride sequel, which has the Pope’s (John Carpenter) blessing . . I’ve already been served up some buyer beware 411. My son went to see it on opening night and came away unmoved. “It’s a three star movie when it should be much better . .”.

Imma finish up with a classic song that has become synonymous with the Halloween franchise. It’s done up in the new old fashioned way by Nan Vernon, who did the closing credit music for both of Zombie’s Halloween films. The girl provides with Mr Sandman- a three and a half minute sugar pill that slows things down into a purring lullaby of a bad girl’s dream. With all due respect to Carpenter and the Chordettes . . this morning I’m riding shotgun with Zombie and Nan.

Go Dodgers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorryless Sunday Morning

Halloween Poster

It’s the end (or beginning) of another week, as summer loses its grip and the leaves swim in caramel and fire. Shorts turns into sweaters and apples into pumpkins and the sky goes thick with slumber.

Music is different inside the fall; tethered to its annual rites rather than a fresh new bundle served up weekly. This time of year is the domain to which the standards rule, and membership is exclusive. We own the music and the music owns us. As it should be.

Tricky Pumpkin

Music should never behave, as far as I’m concerned. It should thrill and provoke and surprise you into places you’ve never been, while at the same time casting a spell that makes you feel as if the moments have your name on them. It should be a place where we can fall in and out of love. Where we can sublime the ordinary, provoke our wicked moods and tease the nickel and dime concerns into million dollar dreams.

I love when a tune has its way with me, as if it has been eyeing me up from the get. And then it feeds me its best line and then I’m falling and then it has me, right where it wants me. Because the right song, it makes you want it that way.

The Only Truth

Personally, this is my favorite month of the fall when it comes to music. Nothing against Bing Crosby and Perry Como, but those fellers is gonna own the deed from November through January while the spooky nooks and crannies of October are left to their thirty one days and nights.

So here’s one from the inimitable Screamin’ Jay Hawkins who tuned it up and shook it loose inside the year of nineteen hundred and fifty six. And in so doing, he delivered up one of my all time favorite Halloween songs. This naughty little thing was originally intended to be a ballad, but it quickly turned into something else entirely on account of Jay and his boys liking their drink rather artfully. And so while he didn’t spill this into vinyl with any spooky ideas, it’s got October written all over it from where I’m sitting.

Lucky thing for me old Jay wasn’t much for good behavior.