FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Haunting Ladies!

Haunting Ladies Good and Bad by Kristin Battestella

Despite some of the famous names involved, these household horrors and haunting dames are good, bad, and ugly…

House Hunting – A low priced, seventy-acre foreclosure is too good to be true for two families in this 2013 mind-bender starring Marc Singer (The Beastmaster). Rather than a scenic credits montage, the obligatory drive to the horrors is a claustrophobic car conversation between a young wife and the unheard step-daughter. Shrewd editing places the divided family each in their own frame, and our second trio also argue over a teen son on crutches and a grumpy dad rightfully asking what the catch is on this dream property with automated sales pitches in every room. Surprise accidents, hidden guns, tongues cut out, crazy people on the road, and disappearing figures in the woods pack seven different characters into the SUV, but all the country drives lead back to this house. What choice do they have but to stay inside by the ready fireplace? Flashlights, hooded shadows in the corners, just enough canned food for all – the families stick together in one room but cigarette smoking, hooting owls outside, and chills in the air add tense while a bloody ax and a straight razor foreshadow worse. The men take watches but one woman wants to get to work on Monday while the other is almost happy to be there and clean the house. Can they wait for help to arrive? Instead of any transition, the screen simply moves to “One Month Later” with piled cans, smelly clothes, and nobody sleeping. Household papers reveal those responsible for the foreclosure are closer than they think, but they’re trapped in this routine, strained by violent visions and hazy apparitions. Is it really ghosts or cabin fever? If one family stays, will the house let the others leave? Finger-pointing, blame, and distrust mount amid suicides and new assaults. Of course, the metaphors on being trapped by one’s own consequences and reliving past mistakes aren’t super deep and the atmosphere falls apart in real-world logic. Why does no one do what the real estate recordings say? Have they no pen or paper to recount events? Why don’t they hunt for more food? This is a little weird with some trite points, unexplained red herrings, and an unclear frame – problems from a lone writer/director with no secondary eye to see the personal family connections through without changing the rules for the finale. Fortunately, the supernatural elements aren’t flashy, in your face shocks, and the plain fade-ins mirror the monotony, freeing the eerie to develop with meta jigsaw puzzles, doppelgangers, us versus them threats, injuries, and standoffs. Are they getting what they deserve? Will the house let them apologize and escape? The clues are there, but selfish bitterness and vengeance prevent one and all from seeing the answers. While slow for those expecting a formulaic slasher, this festival find remains unusual and thought provoking.  I Didn’t Think it was *that* Bad

Cold Creek Manor – New York skylines, business flights, morning rushes, and scary accidents lead to a perilous country renovation for Dennis Quaid (Innerspace), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Kristen Stewart (Twilight), Stephen Dorff (Blade), Juliette Lewis (Strange Days), and Christopher Plummer (Somewhere in Time) in this 2003 thriller from director Mike Figgis (Stormy Monday). The prologue, drive to the scares, and less than friendly redneck rest stops are just a few of the usual horror staples for our pretty rich white city folk. However, there is a high-end style with a great brick manor, overgrown charm, and unusual slaughter tools amid the spiderwebs, children’s clothes left behind, vintage family portraits, and saucy Polaroids. Older cell phones and flip cameras feel more rural than dated, and overhead camera angles, closeup shots, in and out of focus usage, slow zooms, and pans in the stairwell add chills. Intercut conversations also build community tension with chats in a booth versus whispers at the bar revealing the small town connections as uncouth relatives insist there are no hard feelings over the foreclosure sale. The trailer park naughty, shirtless handyman steamy, and mano y mano contests, however, are weak try hards alongside several unnecessary characters compromising what should be taut isolation. Snakes – and I do mean snakes for those terrified of them – nursing home nasty old men, skull bashing and devil’s throat dialogue, and tavern violence accent the backwoods car chases, animals in peril, and buried evidence as storms approach. Rather than in your face hectic loudness, the most frightening scenes here are the quiet chills, but of course, nobody pays attention to the son who’s holding all the information needed and being upfront about the real estate deal would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. The evasive camera and poor editing are used to distract from confusing logistics, and drinking or affairs contrivances are planted to deflect from the wealthy people claiming they have no resources to leave before the weak rooftop standoff. This tries to be sophisticated and had the pieces to be better but fails in putting together a steamy, fatal, cerebral thriller. Ironically this derivative is better than the recent trite scares shilled out, and if you go in expecting the standard house horrors, this can still be bemusing.  But Skip

House of Bones – The 1951 baseball nostalgia opening this 2010 ghost hunters yarn starring Charisma Carpenter (Buffy) is totally The Sandlot complete with a chubby redhead hitting dad’s Babe Ruth autographed baseball over the ominous fence. Technicalities drag the arrivals as dude bros in a van with the latest gear are sure to announce themselves as the cameraman, the host, and the producer. Slow-motion strobe and in your face television credits for the internal paranormal program parody such series while playing into all they do with annoying crescendos, false jumps, and cheesy bumpers. Every horror moment has to be a bad effect – a glance at gross apple worms has to be some herky-jerky strobe when exploring the cluttered old house, skulls behind the plaster, roaches, suspicious ectoplasm, and disappearing assistants better build the eerie atmosphere. Black and white camera screens, creepy radios, and EVPs accent the attic artifacts and bloody toes yet the modern filming is too fast with no time for the haunted house mood or psychic sensations. The unlikable crew remain jerks trying to turn throwing up hair, shadows caught on camera, disturbing phone calls, and impaled police into a reality show angle rather than taking the danger seriously. Trying to be both a debunking paranormal show and a horror movie at the same time doesn’t quite succeed when the out of place humor and handheld camera sarcasm jar with the scary glass mishaps and arms coming through the walls. The television production asinine should have been dropped sooner so all can fear this alive house that feeds on blood and plays psychological tricks with vintage visuals, power outages, mirror images, and gear hazards. However, the find the blueprints plan of action is silly – an overly serious and contrived resolution meandering with a thin script and useless psychic before running out of steam. While fine for a late night millennial audience, this ultimately has very little haunted house merit.  And Avoid

Winchester – Hammering sounds, lantern light, staircases, tolling bells, and dark corridors accent this 2018 tale of the famed mystery mansion starring Helen Mirren (The Tempest) as Sarah Winchester. Period patinas, maze-like designs, carriages, and cluttered libraries add mood, however creepy kid warnings and opium stupors contribute to an unnecessary opening twenty minutes. The Winchester company lawyer wants a doctor to assess the titular widow’s state of mind – an unwelcoming, typical start with men hiring other men to outwit a woman in a superfluous modern script that does everything but focus on the eponymous subject. Jump scares and crescendos compromise subtle winds and ghostly movements, and the bright picture and special effects editing feel too contemporary. One and all talk about the construction oddities, spiritualism, and the reclusive Widow Winchester’s grief, but it’s too much telling instead of seeing her unreliability and the potentially paranormal. Eerie sounds from the call pipe system are an excuse for ill-advised exploring, dreams, and more disjointed flashes. Quiet overhead scene transitions and meandering tours of the house have no room to create atmosphere because there must be a back and forth mirror fake out – it’s a bathroom scare at the ye olde washstand! One can tell this was written and directed by men, for even as a trio there are no checks or balance on how to tell a women’s horror story. We don’t know her internal or external torment over this spiritual construction as the creepy veils, automatic writing, and supernaturally received architectural plans are too few and far between, and the audience remains at arms length through the keyhole rather than inside with the ghostly connections. Why isn’t the possessed kid with the potato sack on his head who’s jumping off the roof and shooting at the old lady removed from the house? Why should the spirits leave her family alone when the Mrs. begs them to when the script hasn’t given them or us any reason to listen to her? The backward perspective here puts viewers in a skeptical, debunking mindset, leaving the picture with something to prove and audiences looking for the fright around the corner – creating predictable haunts rather than period simmer. Though capable of a one-woman show, Mirren is a mere MacGuffin as old newspapers, flashback splices, and physical bullets bring down one disgruntled ghost as if that’s supposed to stop the silly whooshes, earthquake rattling, and exaggerated construction destruction. Maybe the ghostly shocks and turn of the century accents are fine for a spooky midnight movie. However, the historically diverging and problematic constructs here shift a unique, one of a kind women’s story in an amazing setting into a pedestrian, nonsensical copycat horror movie about a man facing his own ghosts. Good grief.

Press Release: Monster Magic Magazine

20140601230838-Monster_Magic_October_Edition__social_share_size_Monster Magic Magazine 1st official online edition is set for June 30, 2014. The October edition will be released both online and in print! Monster Magic Magazine is a monthly magazine that captures the fun,exciting and sometimes creepy world of fantasy and horror. The magazine will include upcoming events such as conventions, contests, haunted houses and much more! In addition, there are interviews and bios on the people who make all this possible. Monster Magic Magazine gives an inside look at the work, preparation and art behind the scenes of the fantasy and horror industry. This magazine will also create exposure for new Indy projects that otherwise may go unseen. The founder believes that everyone needs to have the chance to have their projects viewed and this is a great platform for people to discover new talent. The founder believes this magazine will be successful because there are very few magazines on these subjects, none that cover this much material, and it has huge fan base! The magazine will contain ad space pertaining to businesses that deal in both fantasy and horror. Monster Magic Magazine will feature special fx, films, books, and games that we all love and the people who create them! For more information go to: www.monstermagicmagazine.com

What is horror?

The_ScreamNot long ago I got an email from an author who was upset with me because I had talked about one of her books on this blog; and I had said her writing combines horror and mystery. In her email she said that she does not write horror. She continued to say that horror is all about blood and guts and shocking people and she doesn’t do that, what she writes is paranormal mystery. I replied to her that to me, paranormal falls into the horror genre and horror can be a lot of different things, not just blood and guts.

This lady’s email really got me thinking, What is horror? I asked people in the horroraddicts.net facebook group and several people responded. One of the people who commented was Chantal Boudreau who said horror is about a lot more than gore. Chantal wrote her own blog post on what horror is which you can read here. Most of the other responses on what horror is, said that it’s a broad topic that can  be a lot of different things but basically horror is anything that scares you.

John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_NightmareSo even though one author sees paranormal mystery as not being horror, other people say paranormal does fit into the horror genre. Paranormal includes anything that doesn’t have a scientific explanation such as ghosts, psychic powers or extrasensory perception. People are scared of what they do not understand, and since paranormal deals with the unknown, I think its horror.

I would even go a little farther with this and say there are a lot of different sub genres to horror. Comedy such as The Addams Family or The Munsters fit into the horror genre. A lot of science fiction can also be classified as horror such as Alien or The Terminator. For me personally, I think hospitals can be scary places, so a show like ER can fit into the horror category for me. Even police dramas such as Criminal Minds or The Following can be horror because these shows deal with serial killers and that definitely fills most people with a sense of fear.

To me  even though I would consider the Friday the 13th movies, which I never liked, and The Nightmare On Elm Street movies, which I loved, horror; I didn’t find them very scary. So to me something doesn’t have to be scary to be considered horror. As I’ve gotten older I find movies don’t scare me anymore but books still do. That being said I still enjoy watching horror movies but I look at them as more funny than scary. I would still throw them into the horror category though.

So to me horror just describes something that is dark, different or misunderstood, not necessarily shocking or scary. So to everyone out there, what do you consider horror? What scares you? Do you consider something horror if it doesn’t scare you? Can scary sounding music fit into the horror genre? Also what makes you love horror? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

The Haunted

On top of a hill in a forest surrounded by tall trees that look like green soldiers was a beautiful old house with a dark past. A long gravel driveway leads to the house and occasionally people drove down the highway to admire the home’s beautiful architecture. They didn’t stay long though because the house had a sinister feel to it and the people in town were afraid of it. The house had a for sale sign in front of it for a long time but one day the sign came down and a young couple expecting a child moved in.

This is the opening to Michaelbrent Collings The Haunted. The young couple’s names are Sarah and Cap. As they move in they experience strange occurences that they can’t explain, such as radios turning on and off, a truck turning itsself on and objects moving on their own. On the second night an all out assault begins and the couple is attacked by a legion of homicidal ghosts who want them dead. Among the army of spirits that try to enter the house is one with a noose around its neck, one with a slashed throat, and one in a long hooded robe that seems to be the most evil of all. The couple tries to escape but there is nowhere to run; the only help they receive is from the local preacher who may be in over his head.

There are a lot of horror novels out there that can be considered a roller coaster ride but The Haunted is more like a freight train out of control. The opening reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and did an excellent job of creating a mood of spookiness and impending doom. Right from the start before anything happened I found myself hoping Sarah and Cap would leave the forest and not look back. Ounce the mood is set, The Haunted kicks into a terror filled thrill ride and never lets up, leaving the reader breathless and fearing for Cap and Sarah.

While the plot unfolds you learn more about Cap and Sarah, the author gets inside their heads and makes you feel what they’re  feeling. I love the way Michaelbrent Collings presents his characters. you know their fears, their weaknesses and what there thinking at all times. You fear for them because you relate to them and you know you would probably be thinking the same if you were in their situation.

The only things I didn’t like about The Haunted was that the story was a little confusing and I was able to predict the ending. Despite this, The Haunted is still an excellent horror novel. This is the second book I’ve read by Michaelbrent Collings and in both cases I found myself thinking that this book would make a great scary movie. Michaelbrent’s writing paints a horrific picture and his characters are always memorable. This book has plenty of frights, the descriptions of the ghosts are terrifying and one ghost in particular is scary enough to keep you from sleeping for a night. So if you like a good ghost story then check out the works of Michaelbrent Collings.