FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: British Horror Documentaries!

British Horror Documentaries, Brilliant! By Kristin Battestella

This quartet of documentaries and informative programming has plagues, queens, holidays, and witches – all with a little across the pond flair.

The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague – Purdue Medieval Literature Professor Dorsey Armstrong hosts this 2016 twenty-four episode lecture series from The Great Courses Signature Channel, beginning with early feudal nobles versus peasants, religious society and church control, and urban growth in the medieval warm period before a changed Europe in 1348 with plague reducing the population from 150 million to 70 million. Onscreen maps, notations, and timelines supplement the disturbing first-hand accounts, despairing eye witness testimonies, and Old English translations of outbreak terrors – focusing on the human response to pestilence while dispelling misnomers on The Black Death’s name and symptoms. Some victims writhed in long-suffering agony while others died within a day, drowning in their own blood thanks to bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic bacterium. Ebola virus comparisons are specific and gruesome alongside scientific theories on bacillus causes, tuberculosis similarities, Blue Sickness inconsistencies, and Anthrax possibilities. Prior Justinian outbreaks, Asian beginnings in Kaffa, and Italian trade route migration spread plague while fleas, rats, and gerbils transmission, weather patterns, and even extraterrestrial origins are debated. Entire villages were ravaged with hemorrhagic fever contributing to the scourge’s spread on poor, crowded, malnourished people fearing the judgment of God, wearing creepy masks, and carrying fragrant herbs to curb the smell of mass shallow graves and dog-mauled bodies. Despite illiteracy, wills and documentation accumulate – although journals have blank spaces and abrupt ends because the writers died. Vacancies increase while religious orders decrease since those ministering to the sick die, yet crime declines as thieves won’t even enter a wealthy but plagued home. Avignon pilgrimages bring devastation and Walking Dead comparisons as Florence’s valuable textiles are burned. Prostitutes are often cast out – not for transmission worries, but to purge sin from a city. Orphans and widows become dependent on the patriarchal society, and artistic guild become charitable necessities. Flagellant movements fill the religious gap while England’s unexposed island population leaves London with no place left to put the dead. When only the 103 heads of households are marked dead in the census, one can conservatively deduce the number of dead was probably quadruple that 103. In a town of 1,000, what if the average household number was seven? Ghost ships arrive in Norway, and grim reaper folklore expresses Scandinavian fears amid whispers of children being buried alive to appease angry gods. Primitive remedies and bloodletting rise, as do tales of monks and nuns going out in style with debauchery and hedonism or gasp, dancing in town-wide festivals. An entire episode is dedicated to antisemitism and Jewish persecutions, a depressing and violent response on top of the plague, and the callous church using the pestilence as an opportunity to remind people it was their sinful fault may have helped spur later reformations. Of course, lack of clergy meant the church accepted anyone for ordination, leaving priests who didn’t know what they were doing when the faithful public needed help most. Outside of nobles losing their privileged status, most classes were ironically better off post-plague with memento mori artwork and danse macabre murals flourishing amid literary masterpieces and dramatic analysis inspiring the early renaissance and the likes of Chaucer. Economic booms re-establish trade as the aristocracy marries into the merchant class and peasants revolt for more power, changing the world for centuries to come. While lengthy for the classroom itself, these half hours are jammed packed with information, documentation, and statistics keeping viewers curious to learn more. This is a fine accompaniment or a la carte for independent study – an academic approach rather than the in your face, sensationalized documentary formats permeating television today. The Great Courses Channel is worth the streaming add-on for a variety of informative videos, and this macabre selection is perfect for fans of horror history.

Mary Queen of Scots: The Red Queen – Scottish castles, ruinous abbeys, and highland scenery anchor this 2014 documentary on that other devout catholic Mary thorn in protestant Elizabeth’s side. The narration admits the similar names are confusing, but the voiceover meanders with unnecessary time on Mary’s parents James V and his French wife Mary of Guise amid Henry VIII marital turmoil, perilous successions, and religious switches. Opera arias interfere further as we stray into Mary Mary quite contrary rhymes, earlier Robert the Bruce connections, Tudor rivalries, French alliances, and the possible poisoning of infant Stuart sons before finally getting to Mary being crowned at nine months old in defiance of male inheritance laws. Rough Wooing tensions and early betrothal plans with Edward VI lead to isolation at Stirling Castle before a pleasant childhood at the French court, but a princess education and marriage to the Dauphin in 1558 ultimately send the young widow back to Scotland as regent in 1561. Catholic unrest always leaves Mary on unfriendly terms with Bess alongside John Knox reformations at home, misogynist rhetoric, and a nasty marriage to her first cousin Henry Stuart. The need for an heir, murdered lovers, adulterous pregnancies, revenge – loyal nobles take sides as the Catholic baptism of the future James VI divides public opinion. Men with syphilis, suspicious gunpowder accidents, marital traps, and final meetings with her year-old son begat possible kidnappings, a new marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, revolts, imprisonment at Loch Leven, abdication, and rumors of stillborn twins with unknown fathers. It might have been interesting to see scholars contrasting bad girl Mary with her marriages and male interference versus Elizabeth The Virgin Queen rather than the all over the place narrative. Bess holds Mary captive in various English castles for eighteen years until religious coups, forged letters, an absentee trial, and the final treasonous Babington Plot. Mary goes out in style with symbolic red despite her botched beheading, with an ironic final resting place at Westminster Abbey beside Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. This rambling hour confuses itself and repeats anecdotes in what should have been a tighter, more informative focus. However, such superficial storyteller basics can actually be a good classroom compliment with additional materials.

Witches: A Century of Murder – Historian Suzannah Lipscomb hosts this two-part 2015 special chronicling the seventeenth century persecutions and torture run rampant as witchcraft hysteria spread from James I in the late fifteen hundreds through Charles I and the English Civil War. 1589 Europe has burn at the stake fever thanks to the Malleus Maleficarum belief that witches were in league with the devil, and contemporaneous sources, books, and confessions help recount violent techniques and sexual aspects that may not be classroom-friendly. Innocent birthmarks or moles on maids and midwives were used and misconstrued until naming names and pointing fingers snowballed into deplorable jail conditions, hangings, and conspiracy. Postulating on why the innocent would confess is addressed alongside the details from the North Berwick Witch Trials – including garroting and even the smell of burning human fat. James I’s own Daemonologie becomes a license to hunt witches as the 1645 then-normal rationale that witches have sex with the devil escalates to extreme Puritan paranoia. Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins takes the law into his own hands via body searches, sleep deprivation, and agonizing deaths while unknown medicinal ills or causes were conveniently mistaken as evidence for witchcraft accusations. Names and faces are put to the exorbitant number of accused while on location scenery from Scotland to Oxford, Essex, and Denmark add to the prison tours and suspenseful trial re-enactments. Here specific facts and detailed information happen early and often rather than any hollow paranormal herky-jerky in your face design. Community fears, social cleansing frenzy, and things done in the name of good and God against evil and the Devil at work accent the timeline of how and why this prosecution became persecution run amok. Instead of broad, repetitive sensationalism or the same old Salem talk, this is a mature and well presented narrative on the erroneous impetus of the witchcraft hysteria.

You Make the Call, Addicts!

Halloween: Feast of the Dying Sun – This recent documentary hour intends to set the holiday straight with the Celtic origins of season, adding sunsets, cemeteries, Samhain bonfires, and end of the harvest celebrations to the spooky voiceover for heaps of atmosphere. From Scottish identity guessing games and the belief that the dead visit the living to trick or treating as beggars pleading door to door and souling for small cakes, tales of how our Halloween customs came together are detailed with banshees, hidden fairylands, and ghost sightings. It’s great to see Druid practices, pre-Tolkien fantasy ideals, and Victorian fairy beliefs rooted in daily culture rather than Halloween as we know it as October 31 and done. Brief reenactments add creepy alongside authoritative, folklorist interviews, but the campfire storytelling narrative is often too abstract, meandering from one spooky specter to another with only vague, basic minutes on Celtic arrivals in Britain, early sacrificial offerings, standing stones, and ancient sites. The facts jump from 4,000-year-old yew trees to otherworldly portals and fairies capturing mortals for liberating dance rituals – crowding intriguing details on the special power of nine or magic number three and church absorption of pagan practices. The generic Celtic talk drifts away from Samhain specifically, as if today’s generation needs hand-holding explanations on witch hunts, the origins of bobbing for apples, and the medieval transition toward All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day. The rough timeline tosses in New World changes, Victorian gothic literature, and horror cinema fodder as we both laud Halloween with parades and an American commercial revival yet continue to misconstrue witchcraft and occult hallmarks of the season. This can be spooky fun for folks who don’t know a lot about the history of Halloween, however, it will be too swift and superficial for expert viewers. It’s easy to zone out thanks to the random storytelling style, and the intended pagan history would be better served with a longer or specific, multipart documentary. Except for some wanton fairy queen sexy talk, as is this is neat for a teen sleepover or party background where rather than attempted academic, the tall tales can be casual fun.

Advertisements

Kbatz Kraft: Re-Purposed Black Topiaries

When macabre aficionados such as ourselves are looking for unique wares, it pays to shop at your local thrift stores, Goodwill, and charity shops. One of a kind donated items and inventory rotate regardless of season – meaning not only can you get Halloween items in June, but you can also find other holiday items to take from trash to sophisticated treasure.

I’m always looking out for florals, wreaths, or other stems to cut up and Kraft, and I stared at these Christmas style fruit bowls and toparies for quite some time wondering how I could Halloween ’em up, so to speak. Spray painting the fake, dated brass bases was an obvious choice, but the glittery fake waxy fruits of yore were not paintable. For $2 a piece thanks to the Goodwill half off tag, however, I could go with the gothic glam of red apples, purple grapes, and gold pineapples.

At home, I took the bowls and trees apart, sorting the fruits in bags to assure I was putting the right stems back into their correct topiary. Yes, the bases would be gloss black, but I decided to spray paint the leaves black also to further contrast the fruits. It took multiple coats for as much full coverage of the leaves as possible. Of course, the styrofoam core absorbs a lot of spray paint, and the fabric leaves certainly needed touch ups after drying for a few days. Fortunately, regular black acrylic craft paint did the trick for any of the green undersides remaining, although when totally dried, some of the leaves looked more gray than true black. Rather than more coats that may not have any better result, however, that touch of gray adds a black, but old, aged, memento mori style.

There was actually a full size fake tree in the store as well, the kind that retails for $100 green and more for autumn or black tree varieties. Even for $8, the based was damaged and there were just too many leaves to spray paint once, twice, three times, or touch up every single one. After seeing how these leaves took to the black paint and touch ups, I’m glad I passed on that big, leafy tree!

Certainly nothing was going to be in the exact same place when it came time to put the assorted fruit arrangements back in their rightful spots. It took a bit of sticking here, having to remove a pick there and arranging to make sure there weren’t too many pears or apples in a row. All this pick and play, however, did get a little messy. Glittery bits and bobs got everywhere! Be sure to line your table or floor with some paper or plastic and keep the vacuum or broom handy.

This isn’t a family friendly project, more something for the Victorian florist indeed. It also takes a bit of luck in finding the right floral nothing to make into gothic something. However always keep an eye out for holiday greenery you can take for a Halloween spin. For two toparies, two fruit bowls, and a few cans of paint, I paid under $12. My cheap self was ecstatic to see the original price of the tall toparies when I peeled the Goodwill sticker off the bottoms: $24.95 each!

Initially these pieces looked old, sentimental, and eighties faux expensive. There was a time when this kind of artificial style was everywhere each December. Store bought autumn topiaries, Halloween trees, and festive fall bowls today are often very expensive, too – a luxury item not easy to find or cost effective to make. By shopping alternatively for older seasonal items with an October eye, you can save heaps of time and money without sacrificing on the dark, sophisticated décor.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Video How-To!

Why paint just one box gray when you can make use of all your cardboard boxes for an entire DIY Graveyard?

Check out Yours Truly Kbatz in My Latest Video for details on the pros and cons of making your own Cardboard Cemetery!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets a little BATTY in showing how you, yes YOU can make your very own Customized Cardboard Tombstones for the BEST Halloween Haunt in YOUR Neighborhood! Also featuring Giant Pumpkins, Scary Basements, and One Pesky Feline.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our Video, Podcast, and Media Coverage!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Jean Rollin Saucy!

 

A Saucy Jean Rollin Primer by Kristin Battestella

French director Jean Rollin’s horror films have any and all manner of vampires, witches, subtitles, boobs, and saucy. What’s not to love?

Fascination– Writer and director Jean Rollin uses eerie zooms and haunting camera speeds to provide wonderful turn of the century style and Old World feelings for this 1979 French saucy. Phonographs and period music, ominous sounds, flowing white frocks, frilly lace, feathered hats, graceful mannerisms, candles, decorated interiors, natural visuals, and a great castle locale contrast the morbid slaughterhouse, vivid red colors, blood, rogue, symbolic lips, scythes, black robes, and blonde/brunette or good girl/bad girl expectations. Talk about a sexy grim reaper! It does help to know your français, sure, but the fine performances and talk of death taking the form of seduction add extra panache and gothic allure even amid any translation discrepancies on the available English subtitles.

The laid back mood may be tough for modern American audiences, but the curious characters and simmering atmosphere is soon set with crimes, betrayal, and a siege situation – not to mention how the boobs are out early and often. We’re immediately intrigued in how one man is going to survive being locked in a house with blonde Brigitte Lahaie (I as in Icarus) and brunette Franca Mai (Zig Zag Story), let alone five more cultish women and a blindfold! Though there’s a lot of skin and tender kissing, the saucy scenes may also be a whole lot of nothing for those who are expecting more full-on porn. This pretty Victorian via seventies French lesbianism won’t be for everyone but the kinky sucks the viewer in for the disturbingly delightful fashions, sinister switch, and sophisticated chic.

Lips of Blood – French Director Jean Rollin gets right to the mausoleums, Winnebagoes, shrouded bodies, coffins, and rituals in this more upscale than his usual 1975 tale. A somber score, beautiful but spooky memories, and a mysterious woman in white are immediately eerie while a colorful, swanky party and retro fashions create drama and a sophisticated foundation. Blocked childhoods, an overprotective mother, and castle ruins may be real or imagined add to the secret cemetery passages, hidden tunnels, and questions regarding perfume, scent, and memory. Naturally, there’s nudity both male and female complete with a bonus photography session, seventies bush, and masturbation. However, the saucy isn’t as rampant here, and this has a more put together story compared to Rollin’s usually thin plotlines. Although there is a bit of walking around filler, blue street lights and a moonlight ambiance anchor the after hours aquarium pursuits with an abandoned about the city feeling – there’s a dead body in the water fountain and The Shiver of the Vampires is playing at the late night movies, too. Mysterious men follow on the subway while bells, alarms, abductions, and straight jackets intensify the bats, toothy vampire nurses, and undead who help one and hinder or kill another. Phone the mayor the hungry, naked, vampire chicks are loose so gather the staking posse! Though rushed in the end, the unique finale is well edited with an interesting mix of doubt, mystery, character drama, and a sexy creepy. Who’s the worse villain – entombed vamp ladies or the village torch mob? And who knew coffins would float so well? Did we know this?


The Nude Vampire – Hooded rituals in science labs make for some unique disrobings, blood vials, and colorful beakers to start this 1970 French saucy from writer and director Jean Rollin. Although I could do without some of the now tame but up close, lingering nipple shots and overlong gyrating and dancing – continental seventies staples though they are – the black and white noir mood is well lit with candles and torchlight alongside striking red, purple, orange, and pretty people treating the eye. The interracial nudity is also surprising for the time, and the seemingly suave, exclusive clubs veil more kinky, sinister, creepy animal masks, and dangerous gunplay. There isn’t a lot of gore or blood, however, a simmering string score, evening streetlights, and cobblestone streets invoke an Old World mood to anchor the rare blood disorders, cult rites, and disturbing deaths. Unfortunately, the production is somewhat small scale and not as lavish as viewers might expect with minimal locales and poor editing. This picture is quiet, slow at times, even boring when precious minutes are wasted on meaningless walking here and there or out there plot exposition that feels tossed in after the fact. Thankfully, there are some great stairs, columns, and marble to up the decadent atmosphere, and the overall sense of bizarre helps the undercooked statements regarding immortality, blood possibilities, man’s stupidity, and the superstition versus science comeuppance. The story could have been better, but this is a fun viewing and we’re not really meant to notice the thin plot over all the titular shapely now are we? 

 

Requiem for a Vampire – Clown costumes, shootouts, daring car chases, and dangerous roads lead this 1971 Jean Rollin juicy before two chicks on a motorcycle roam the countryside leaving dead bodies and torched cars in their wake. The spoken English track and Anglo subtitles don’t match, however, there is hardly any dialogue until the latter half of the picture when we finally find out what’s afoot. Some may dislike this silent style, but grave diggers and thunder create an intriguing, off-kilter spooky atmosphere. Scares, screaming ladies – we don’t know the details but we’re on their side as rituals and titular bloodlines escalate. Of course, colorful castles and seemingly hospitable cults providing purple furs on the bed for some lesbian touchy feelys add to the bushy babes and bemusing euro shtick. Granted, the first half-hour could be tighter, and the bare-bones plot should have gotten to the naughty sooner rather than all that running here and there. The sexual statements are iffy as well, even erroneous, for one wants to be a vampire/lesbian while the other doesn’t want to be and gets a man instead – having sex with a woman still means you are a virgin and can still claim to a man that you haven’t made real love yet! Some saucy scenes are also more graphic than others are, with uncomfortable to watch slaves in chains and more violence against women. I’m not sure about the oral sex bat (um, yeah) but the good old toothy bites mixing supernatural pain and pleasure are nicer than the rough stuff. Bright outdoor photography, pleasant landscapes, sad but eerie abandoned buildings, silhouettes, and well lit candlelight patina with gruesome green and creepy crimsons accent the dark graveyards and frightening dungeon traps, too. Once you get passed some pacing flaws and the uneven smexy, this is a fine looking and bizarrely entertaining vampire ode.

The Shiver of the Vampires – Pallbearers and a black and white graveside set the 1971 Jean Rollin mood before colorful castle ruins, overgrown greenery, and edgy music both embrace the heady and keep the medieval flair with torches, goblets, and candelabras. Howling winds, red lighting, and askew camera angles accent torture chambers and sacrifices, creating a surreal dreamscape with saucy vamps in ye olde but tie-dye dresses. The bride in white contrasts those mourning in black while gruesome skulls belie the cathedral architecture, canopy beds, and rustic yet cozy fireplaces. She’s too distraught for the marital bed – but our bride strips downs when a hippie woman humorously pops out of the grandfather clock and they lez be friends no questions asked. Sheer clothing doesn’t cover the perky naughty bits, so they need all those furs to keep those caressing ladies warm. That poor lonely groom gets left out in the cold! More camera panning, vampire opportunists stepping in and out of the frame, and overhead shots parallel the us versus them debates and whirlwind talk of undead religions and vampire persecutions. Although flashbacks add to the dreamy tone, they also confuse the wild library scene and talk of past crusades, former vampire slayers, and predestined deadly fates. But hey, killer nipple spikes! Yes, the premise is thin with strung together coming to and going fro or looking cool, meandering scenes. Rather than one vampire perspective or the young couple viewpoint, the focus constantly resets. Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who’s undead? Rival vampire hierarchies at first seem tempting, but twists and true colors ultimately show. Granted, you can say that if you’ve seen one Rolling vampire movie, you’ve seen them all. However, had there been seriously proper writing, The Nude Vampire, Shiver of the Vampires, and Requiem for a Vampire could have been a fine trilogy. Fortunately, the nicer production values keep this bizarre romp brimming with an Avante Garde but no less creepy atmosphere.

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Halloween Candle Clusters

Why spend heaps on battery operated candle sets when you can save your paper towel and toilet paper rolls to make your own DIY Halloween candle clusters? Recycle, craft, and help the planet!

Of course, the reason it took me so long to do this project was because I thought there was a technical aspect to the candles – running wires from each light to a bottom base or arduino breadboard with a smartphone remote or toggle switch. To the at home computer hobbyist such advanced lighting schemes are no problem, but regular ole me had no idea how you could glue drips around a tea light yet be able to use its on off switch. Fortunately, our own illustrious horror hostess Emerian Rich made the simplest observation that there must be a shelf inside the roll to hold the candle. Huzzah!

Armed with such wisdom, I traced circles onto a piece of cardboard, cutting them out and trimming each to fit a roll before taping and gluing them inside at the tea light depth. Next I bunched my two clusters together with ten tiered rolls cum candles each, varying the designs so they are symmetrically asymmetrical rather than matched or mirror images. By stacking or cutting rolls, I could make the tiers taller or smaller, taping and gluing the rolls as needed. Rather than spray painting everything Halloween black, I chose red paint for year round décor. I debated painting all my rolls and going around their rims with the glue drops a la wax motif before gathering them together. However, I suspect that would mean I was painting in unnecessary hidden spots or stuck with glue in places that didn’t fit.

On to my trusty glue gun, I added globs of glue drips around my rolls – long drips, short lumps, globby pieces in all the nooks and crannies. Obviously, this is part of the candle look, but once hardened, the glue also added stability to the bunch and the rolls became quite sturdy. This is a time consuming detail that took a day to dry before touch ups, and in addition to clear, I used red and silver glitter glue sticks, hoping they might add a sparkly touch. For more realistic attention to detail, I also did a glue ripple around the bottom of the bunch. After Round One, I could see spots that needed more waxy drip effects, so I did another layer of glue globs to conceal any problem spots. At first, these looked really bad, obviously cheap, and barely held together. It’s not as simple as it looks – oh Etsy, glue drips and toilet paper rolls make tea lights look like big candles, yeah Pinterest!

Indeed, with different textures, thin cardboard, glue, and tape, these clusters needed several coats of paint. The more I painted and glued, fortunately, the more they really started to look like candles. The tea lights themselves also needed several paint coats. Rather than buying red that had a red light, I chose the white tea lights for their realistic glow. Originally, I wanted to do these bunches in an aged off white or creamy color. After seeing how many coats it took of red, however, I’m super glad I didn’t choose a light paint where all the tea lights could illumine every T.P. imperfection. For my final coat, I added a drop of darker paint called ‘Berry’ – last used in my Spooky Spellbook DIY – to the red base. I painted both clusters in this slightly darker hue, not worrying about every little crevice, resulting in an antique, realistic look. Now instead of obvious recycled materials, that a la wax dimension is what you see first.

For something more substantial than a plastic tray or no base at all, I picked up two silver plated trays at Goodwill for $2 each. Both clusters actually fit on one larger tray – a classy centerpiece that fits in right through all the holidays. Overall, this project took about four days with the drying time between coats as the biggest hurdle. One should also make sure the tea lights still fit as you add your gobblely glue trim. Some became snug and need to be wedge in gently. After the ins and out to turn them off and on, a few have chipped, so expect touch ups if you are going to repeatedly poke and prod at the candle lights. The 8 ounce red acrylic paint was $4 and a pack of 24 tea lights was $8, both from Amazon. So for around $16, I have two stylish, unique candle clusters compared to at least $20 for one from Spirit or gasp $80 at Pier 1 – neither of which appear to be available online this season. Of course, with store bought battery candles, once one burns out or there is a remote timer problem, they often don’t work anymore. When one of these goes bad, I can just change the tea light!

Though not necessary a family friendly project, one can customize these faux candle clusters – creepy face designs, blood drips on white candles, go huge by using tubes or piping instead of towel rolls, or dozens of individual rolls can become an entire room of Harry Potter floating ceiling candles. We all certainly use enough T.P.!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes

Kbatz Kraft: Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes

Last Halloween, I shared a video on how to make ‘Puffed Stumpkins.’ This How-to on making your own stuffed pumpkins out of recycled materials was squishy fun for the whole family.

This summer, I again found myself with more stuffed pumpkin making supplies – plenty of plastic bags, recycled denim padding from organic food shipments, and an orange felt-like remnant on sale for $2. When the material seemed too tough for smaller pumpkins, I went big. Instead of a lot of cute little pumpkins the more the merrier in a patch, I cut my material into more realistic large pumpkin sizes.

The preparation is the same, sewing a gathered bottom closed before stuffing and gathering the top and adding twine seams and leaf toppers. I used green Dollar Store twine and cut up floral stems for the leaves, continuing the true to nature look with green accents. A $5 bag of driftwood bowl filler at Wal-Mart provided for realistic stems compared to the curly, glittery pipe cleaners on my smaller jazzy pumpkins. Some of these gnarly bleached pieces I painted brown – a fall color fittingly called “nutmeg” – to go on my previous pumpkins, too, while others I left white to be a contrasting stem on some of the mini black pumpkins.

Two of the four larger pumpkins seemed crooked or wobbly, so I glued them together with more leafy accents between them since stacked pumpkins are popular but expensive. These can be amid the patch or set up on a nice stand when all total these cost less than $10. Of course, since I had more felt fabric, I made one, BIG pumpkin. Charlie Brown size. Big enough to sit on it!

I packed this largest pumpkin pretty firm with plastic bags, but I still wanted a leaf topper even if you could sit on it. Enter my trusty friend Goodwill and the half-off color tag with several sets of green cloth napkins, some as cheap as four for fifty cents! I sewed two together and stuffed it with one layer of the recycled denim batting, making a chair cushion to go on top the pumpkin. After tacking the corners down, I now have a fun “green” piece of extra fall seating for pennies compared to the cost of a generic designer poof.

Then again, I also had an old sixty inch round orange table cloth that looked like it could be an even BIGGER pumpkin ottoman and plenty more recycled denim to fill it. Since this was already round, I didn’t have to sew the bottom closed but gathered the edge as much as possible before giving it a good old stuffing. Had this been a stiffer fabric, a drawstring closure might have been better, and it is also possible to build a square frame inside for a properly firm piece of furniture. This basic gather and stuff method, however, anyone can do, no matter how tiny or huge the pumpkin!

This giant pumpkin poof, though, did take a lot of stuffing, and one might pay hundreds to buy this much polyfill and foam. All the plastic bags I had gone to the outer layer with the gathers creating the pumpkin seam-like squat around a center recycled denim core. Because this pumpkin was shorter and wider than my firm pumpkin poof, I sewed eight green napkins together for two oblong padded leaves on top. After tacking the corners down, I found end pieces from a beige table runner in my fabric stash and sewed them into a stem shaped throw pillow as a piece de resistance.

It would cost a hundred dollars or more to make something like these with store-bought materials and much more to buy ottomans in this size – not that you can get a pumpkin-shaped ottoman in stores! Not everyone may have the recyclable materials to do this, but I hope this gives you an idea on how to make good Halloween use of plastic bags or excess packing supplies when you do have them. Though giant compared to the mini, instantly stuffed pumpkins, these are still kind of small for adults. For imaginative kids, however, these poofs are a Cinderella loving dream.

 

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: Tales from the Darkside Season 2

Tales from the Darkside Season Two Provides More Bizarre by Kristin Battestella

Producer George A. Romero’s 1985-86 Second Season of Tales from the Darkside is the series’ longest year with twenty-four episodes of oddities, scares, and morose mood. Of course, the night club comedy act in “The Impressionist” is stale – but mysterious G-men offer a has-been comedian a special job communicating with gestures amid secret labs, spaceships, and sympathetic aliens. Our slight of hand performer picks up the interstellar mimicry but refuses to reveal the alien’s secret to fusion power. While the weak effects are a little laughable, this alien touch gives a once sarcastic man a piece of something more. It’s business as usual, however, for harsh workaholic Bill Macy (Maude) in “Lifebomb” until an insurance salesman presents a deal on an unique medical safety device that’s too good to be true. After sudden chest pains, he accepts the titular offer, but that little implant on his back leads to scarier medical situations and company control over what could be life-saving technology. This is an interesting plot on stress, aging, and our career servitude made fantastic before inventor John Heard (Home Alone) recounts the earthquakes and mini volcano rising through the floor to deliver extraterrestrial Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way) for “Ring Around the Redhead.” The jailhouse frame condenses the pace for the romance, reduces the need to show action the series can’t afford, and grounds the what-ifs with electric chair shadows and noir mood. Remodeling and rent control versus eviction unfortunately carry a touch of racism in “Parlour Floor Front” as the upstairs alligator on the polo shirt snobs insults the elderly voodoo practitioner downstairs. A few curses lead to damaged antiques, broken wrists, and falls off the ladder. Mischief, disrespected coffins, and evil-tainted gold escalate to fatal lies as Tales from the Darkside does a lot of scary with very little. Likewise returning director Tom Savini’s “Halloween Candy” adds vintage costumes and candy bags to the holiday hate and cranky old dad hoping the kids have a sugar overdose on the doorstep. Threats to call the police or telling the trick-or-treaters to go to hell result in an incessant doorbell buzz and a devilish little goblin peeking in the window. Broken watches at midnight, bugs in the candy, blue hues, and freaky monster masks stand out thanks to the well-edited suspense.

Romero himself pens “The Devil’s Advocate” starring ornery radio show host Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld). He makes his callers cry amid vintage soundboards and flashing red studio lights, but the engineer falls asleep, the studio grows increasingly darker, and call-ins come from all over history before a chat with the boss from below himself in this superb one-man parable. A man in shades also has an exclusive offer to revive an old sixties network series for the film within a film of “Distant Signals.” The show Max Paradise was unfortunately terrible, but a hefty gold investment reminds the crusty Hollywood suit, writer’s block writer, and drunken actor how inspiring television really is. Although this nice Galaxy Quest story follows several scary tales, it’s made all the more bemusing thanks to today’s reboots and revivals ad nauseam. By contrast, the self-involved yuppie parents in “Ursa Minor” don’t believe their daughter when she says her antique teddy bear is responsible for the household mischief. Occult experts warn them of Native American magic and ancient worship of the eponymous bear constellations, but the muddy little paw prints and tool mishaps create some chilling moments before the faulty gas stove, ambulances, crutches, and karma for “Effect and Cause.” Starving artist Susan Strasberg (Scream of Fear) believes in synchronicity, tarot, and astral charts, leaving her reluctant to paint over unusually awful found canvases. Unfortunately, the esoteric heavy and chaos debates leave her trapped, helpless in a home that’s working against her in this Mandela Effect meta mind-bender. Baby Seth Green (Buffy) has something creepy under the bed on Christmas morning in “Monsters in My Room,” too. The boy prays against tentacles, saw blades, and boogie men in the closet out to get him with scary nighttime lighting and every toy, ticking clock, or floorboard creak adding to the terror. However, his stepdad wants to toughen him up, giving him beer and trying to make the boy a man in a whiff of subtext as real-world and horror merge.

Shakespeare quotes and an antique telescope invoke a renaissance touch for “Comet Watch” – a lighthearted entry obsessed with the cosmos once an Edwardian babe pops into the attic after taking a long celestial trip. The dated science and charming love triangles set off what was then a timely January 1986 airing ahead of the forthcoming Halley’s Comet. Yes, this again far beyond the Darkside theme. However, this is probably the last time a genre television series could address such fanciful fears with such innocence as we’re too scientific and overly cynical these days. “A New Lease on Life” provides a new apartment with all the trimmings and supposedly no catch for an uber-cheap $200 a month. Unfortunately, the wall groans when an against the rules nail is hammered in, and handymen against newfangled microwave radiation fix the bleeding sheetrock with peroxide. Neighbors denied water warn our tenant while cries within the walls and giant garbage disposals suggest there’s a price to pay for eating meat. One could have it all forever if he just follows the rules and does what he is told, making this a freaky little statement on human horrors and arrogance. The desperate writer with the empty refrigerator in “Printer’s Devil” follows an ad to one creepy agent’s office where voodoo dolls, mystic tomes, and animal sacrifices promise Pulitzers. Publication and success soon follow, but the so-called inspirational pets also increase as the literary riches must be maintained. When his new girlfriend starts sneezing over his apartment zoo, well, our devilish agent suggests one final sacrifice. “The Shrine,” by contrast, presents a mother offering her estranged daughter milk and cookies. She doesn’t want to talk about the past or her daughter’s breakdown, but she keeps her daughter’s room in untouched childhood perfection – yet phantom winds and nursery rhymes suggest someone else is living among the ribbons and pom poms. Can a mother be so disappointed in how a child grew up that she would try again with the same daughter? The who does mommy love more contest could be silly, but the warped women’s roles are played serious amid the taboos. Motel manager John Fielder (The Bob Newhart Show) reluctantly lends the Room 7 key to a cruising salesman for “The Old Soft Shoe,” and a vintage radio plays jazz while a woman in black lingerie draws a steamy bath. She calls our salesman by a different name and insists they’ll never be apart while they dance cheek to cheek. However, 1950 newspaper clippings and dusty corsages lead to gunshots and jilted dames as the nostalgic personalities and ghostly femme fatales bring the blood and stockings full circle.

On Thanksgiving eve an ingenue waits on the desolate platform for the late train in “The Last Car.” Once onboard, the eponymous passengers warn her she can’t travel between cars – they fear the upcoming tunnels, nobody likes to talk about time, and the so-called train to Providence isn’t stopping like it should. Lost watches, a shoebox full of all the foods they desire, and a nonsensical conductor create an askew Twilight Zone perception with memorable revelations before a cocky doctor is happy to diagnose mob boss Abe Vigoda (The Godfather) with cancer for “A Choice of Dreams.” Fortunately, a more radical scientist offers him power over death for a cool ten million. Ticking clocks count down as the murderer faces his own mortality while black and white offices with futuristic technology keep the brain alive as the memories flashing before our criminal’s eyes catch up to him. The 1935 noir, moonlight, pale skin, and hints of red in “Strange Love” tell us what fangs are afoot. Marcia Cross (Melrose Place) has no heartbeat and a cold touch to match her seduction, power, and beauty as this saucy love triangle leads to betrayal, a double wide coffin, and a bloody good time. The video will be left by a fire and brimstone televangelist for his sister Connie Stevens (Hawaiian Eye) in “The Unhappy Medium,” however, isn’t the riches she hoped. The hypocritical pretenses and greedy true colors come out thanks to neon lighting, purgatory traps, and devilish possession. The family that sins together, stays together in this timeless Tales from the Darkside parable. Meanwhile, the empty army recruiting office receives an unlikely man not signing up but asking for sanctuary in “Fear of Floating.” He unbuckles his boots and floats every time he lies – a gift the army would love to use between the zany standoffs, tall tales, delusions, deceptions, and one low hung ceiling fan. Splattered sheets and bloody babes set off frequent Tales from the Darkside director Frank de Palma’s finale “The Casavin Curse” amid homicide detectives, suspect servants, and ancient gypsy curses turning a tiny heiress into a deadly demon with killer claws. She always ends up hurting the one she loves!

Tales from the Darkside’s half hours often center around one or two characters, and episodes are slightly better when there’s a more recognizable name to anchor the fun. Indeed, viewers have to take these gonzo tales with a sense of humor, for even amid the serious parables there are laughable things. Scribble on a piece of paper isn’t an alien language nor is one earring and a few crystals in a gal’s hair outer space couture – actually, it’s just totally eighties! A calm granny offers chicken soup to the possessed little girl who’d rather eat souls in “The Trouble with Mary Jane,” and local amateur exorcist cum con artist comedienne Phyllis Diller is going to use tea leaves and tarot cards to put this demon into a pig and make her fortune. This could be something scary, but it’s tough to tell if the humor is intentional and we should roll with it or just laughably bad. Several juvenile shows and household scares in a row sag mid-season, and daughter Lisa Bonet (A Different World) tries to inspire her angry composer father in “The Satanic Piano.” His record company is unhappy with his latest album, but a mysterious man offers the family a computerized keyboard with telepathic connections and a sinister price to pay. Can a machine capture the purity and essence of one’s soul and music? This contemporary tale is waxing on something innocent, however, the execution is off the mark in a series where youth in terror befits the Darkside content. Dated phrases like “rad,” “far out,” or “right on” I can dig, yet I can’t say the same for “Dream Girl” as film shoots and pin-ups help a creepy janitor live out his sexist misogynist fantasy. While fog, distorted angles, and fake props set off the warped titular haze, the Inception play within a play meta is too nonsensical and confusing with abusive shouting and characters trapped in an overlong, dry predicament. Certainly, the computers and alien designs are primitive. The empty sets are grayscale abstract with wild faux marble luxury meant to be eighties high end but it’s all so obviously cardboard fake today. One may argue the backdrops beyond those false windows create a more stage-like setting allowing the bizarre per tale to shine, however, the redressed cheap is often too apparent – an office from one episode is easily a jail cell the next. Most special effects seen are also hokey but brief with major fantastics largely left to off-camera imagination. Though the jury may be deliberating on the eighties silk blouses and pussy bows back in vogue, those bright yuppie pinks and thugs in sport coats with the sleeves rolled up were never good looks!

While there may be no subtitles for the Tales from the Darkside: The Complete Series set, the always chilling greeting and opening theme speak for themselves. Old tape recorders, rotary phones, and typewriters add nostalgic décor alongside retro ice boxes, doilies, and static on the big boob tube. Blue lighting, silver accents, moonlight silhouettes, firelight, and candlesticks invoke mood as increasingly dark schemes, shadows, dreamy photography, and cigarette smoke frame the spooky atmosphere. Some of that white leather furniture and mauve pastiche does have the right swanky, and Tales from the Darkside’s production values increase slightly during the season with latter episodes featuring real homes and locales rather than mere set walls. Tiny white lingerie and steamy nightgowns and some side boob close calls also push the envelope, yowza! Art Deco tone on tone designs add an Old Hollywood simmer while choice reds and brains in jars never let us forget the horror at hand. Sure, Tales from the Darkside has a certain amount of dated silliness. Bemusing weirdness is more often featured than full-on frights. However, the scares are superb when they happen and the spooky fun doesn’t overstay its welcome. Tales from the Darkside Season Two is easy to marathon for nostalgic creepiness and all manner of bumps in the night.

Read our more risque Tales from the Crypt reviews or catch up on Tales from the Darkside Season 1, too!