Chilling Chat Episode 152: Valjeanne Jeffers

valjeanne-jeffers-author-picValjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College and author of ten books including Immortal and Mona Livelong I and II. Her work has been published in numerous anthologies including, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, Sycorax’s Daughters, and The City and Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. She was honored as a “Seer” by the HWA Diverse Works Inclusion Committee in 2016 and is a screenwriter for the horror anthology film, 7 Magpies (in production.)

Valjeanne is a remarkable woman. During our interview, she shared some interesting facts about her early life, creating characters, and her upcoming projects.

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. You have a varied background. Your parents are English teachers and you have an MA in Psychology. How does this inform and affect your work?

VJ: Because my parents were English teachers, I came in contact with writers at a very early age. They were in and out of our house wherever we lived. I remember my mother cooking for them…poets, writers, artists and I got a chance to sit in on their discussions.

NTK: Wow! What writers?

VJ: This was years ago, so I can’t remember very many names. Quincy Troupe was one I remember. Another regular visitor to our house was Eugene Redmond. I re-connected with him about nine years ago and he published me in his anthology Drumvoices Revue (poetry.) It’s been a huge honor because my poetry appeared in an anthology with some really famous folk.

We did have a library and I was reading Richard Wright and Chester Himes from age 9 or 10. The authors I read had a huge impact on me. Himes and Wright’s use of magical realism influenced my writing horror and science fiction.

NTK: Did this interest in Himes and Wright lead to your writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective?

VJ: Yes, and I had other influences. Mona Livelong is an urban novel. And, Robert Beck (believe it or not) and David Goines brought this out. You know Robert Beck as “Iceberg Slim.” He’s notorious for his anti-heroes but he’s also a brilliant writer.

Tananarive Due and Brandon Massey are also huge influences, especially when it comes to writing horror.

NTK: Which of their works are your favorite?

VJ: For T. Due, it’s My Soul to Keep (the series.) For B. Massey, it’s Within the Shadows and into the Dark.

NTK: You’ve spoken of Stephen King and Dean Koontz as favorite authors. Which one do you like best?

VJ: Stephen King. Definitely. He has been a huge influence.

NTK: Which of his books do you like the most?

VJ: The Talisman and The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three.

By the way, earlier, you asked about how my MA affects my work. It helped me construct personalities and also “character careers.”

NTK: What made you choose the career of “paranormal detective” for Mona?

VJ: I had been toying with the idea of a paranormal detective for a while and I decided to take the plunge and just do it.

NTK: What’s the process of creating a character like that? Do you decide what she’ll do and won’t do? Do you decide what powers she’ll possess?

VJ: Characters for me are based on people I have known and sometimes, those I see on TV that week. I take someone and add and subtract the things I feel they should have. And, some, (Tehotep from Immortal, for example) come straight out of my unconscious. Both Mona and Karla (Immortal) are based upon a young woman who babysat me in California. She was coping with the death of her mother and brother and raising her two remaining siblings.

NTK: Did Tehotep come from a dream? Or, did he just come to you?

VJ: Tehotep came to me in waking dreams, bit by bit. As far as their [character] abilities go, that’s a process of imagination. Since I decided early on that Mona would be a sorceress, I had to decide what she could and couldn’t do. Her powers had to be limited. If that makes sense.

NTK: Let’s talk a little about Sycorax’s Daughters. How did you become involved in that project?

VJ: Two of the editors, Linda Addison and Kinitra Brooks, contacted me. They said they were publishing Sycorax’s Daughters and asked if I’d be interested in submitting something. Of course, I said yes!

NTK: How did it feel to be included among such original voices? Sycorax’s Daughters is an anthology like no other. All the writers are women of color.

VJ: I was blown away! We made (are making) history and to be a part of this—it’s incredible!

NTK: It was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.

VJ: Just to be nominated was incredible.

NTK: Could you talk a little about 7 Magpies?

VJ: Yes. What would you like to know? It’s still in the works.

NTK: Is it an anthology film? What is the significance of the Magpies?

VJ: It’s a film anthology. Each person involved contributed a story or poem. We got the Magpies from the creator, Lucy Cruell. It’s based on a nursery rhyme. “One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.

I contributed an excerpt from Immortal III: Stealer of Souls to the film. All the screenwriting will be done by screenwriters Lucy chooses. Here’s a description of the film from the website:

“The first horror film anthology written and directed by Black (or African-American) women. Authors include: Tananarive Due, Sumiko Saulson, Eden Royce, Crystal Connor, Valjeanne Jeffers, Linda D. Addison, and Paula Ashe. The directors are: Lucy Cruell, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nicole Renee, Robin Shanea, Lary Love Dolley, Meosha Bean, and Rae Dawn Chong.

NTK: What did you think of the adaptation process? Was it difficult bringing your excerpt to the screen?

VJ: Actually, I looked at what Lucy wanted and chose stories I felt were appropriate. She picked the Immortal III excerpt. That one was my favorite too.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What work do we have to look forward to?

VJ: Quinton Veal (my cover artist and guy) and I are planning on releasing Scierogenous II: An Anthology of Erotic Science Fiction and Fantasy. Scierogenous I was well received.

I’m also writing Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective III: The Case of the Vanishing Child.

NTK: Will you include horror stories in Scierogenous II?

VJ: Maybe. We’ve got a great crew so let’s see what they come up with.

NTK: As you know, season thirteen of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED. Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

VJ: Sorry, I don’t have one.

NTK: If you were to have Mona face a curse, what would it be?

VJ: (Laughs) Girl, I don’t know.

NTK: (Laughs) Ok, thank you for chatting with me, Valjeanne. It’s been a pleasure.

VJ: Thank you so much.

NTK: You can find Valjeanne’s work at the following link:

http://tehotep.wixsite.com/immortaliiiaudiobook

And, you can follow her on Twitter here at: @Valjeanne

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Movie Review: RED EYE

“Red Eye” is a legend Gage Barker use to be told as a kid. When he found out there was some truth behind this legend he gathered a group of friends to hike in the backwoods of Black Creek, WV to help him use this as the basis for his first film project. To what extent will they go to make this project a reality? Will their passion bleed through? Or cross the line?

 

Details

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 2017 (USA)

Filming Locations: Kentucky, USA

Box Office

Budget:$10,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co: Cyfuno Ventures

Technical Specs

Runtime: 73 min

 

Going into the movie, I knew right away this was a low budget film. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised at the Special FX. I love when they get creative and it looks good on film. Thumbs up to them and their FX persona for a job well done.

I was a little put off at first at the chemistry between actors in the very beginning. Everything seemed a little disjointed until the actors got comfortable with each other. I’ve seen worse, but it made the first few minutes of the film a little slow in my opinion.

Once the movie began to pick up, it wasn’t half bad at all. I take low-budget horror movies with a grain of salt because it’s not how much money you have, but what you can do with it. The story of RED EYE was an urban legend Gage Barker had been told growing up. He and one of his friends, loving horror and wanting to document it on film, decide to take along two female friends to give the documentary a little more drama. The opening of the movie discloses a secret love triangle and we know this is going to be all bad as the film plays out.

While I appreciate well-thought out and fleshed out back stories, I did feel it went a little overboard. You know that person you just meet, who gives you their whole life story? Yeah, that’s kind of the feeling you get sometimes with this film. I would’ve preferred they went back to the legend … speaking of the legend … my only gripe about this film was the conclusion.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW!! DO NOT CONTINUE IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE OR DO NOT ENJOY SPOILERS

In the conclusion of the film we discover Gage brought his friends out to the remote spot and was “improvising” so he had an “authentic” film. Plot twists are cool, but I feel there was a complete disconnect here. Maybe less attention to the Urban Legend, especially in the title? I am not sure how I’d personally handle it, because I’m not a film maker, I’m only the audience. To me it felt like a build up with a fizzle. I kind of felt something was up because of the type of killing and violence against the teens. It didn’t match up with the legend.

Anyway, that all being said, I didn’t hate the movie, but I feel with a little more experience, Director and Writer, Tristan Clay will go further in his career. I hope to see more from him and his team.

Movie Review: Caller ID Entity

The messages are real.

Caller ID Entity is a modern horror think piece, capitalizing on a form of reality driven fear that has become increasingly popular lately. The movie derives from actual messages and testimonials of people claiming to have been the victims of mind-control experiments. While the messages themselves are harrowing, creator Eric Zimmerman transforms them into more than the crazed ravings of deranged individuals. The film asks: whom can you trust when you can’t trust yourself?

Caller ID Entity follows four young men—Dale (Denny Kirkwood), Miles (James Duval), Noah (Nathan Bexton), and Tristan (Triton B. King)—after they enroll in an unusual graduate study program run by Dr. Adam Whitney (Douchan Gersi). At the beginning, they all believe the goal of their research is to understand the causes of psychopathy, but, as the practicalities of their studies grow increasingly disturbing, the men realize that they’re into something far more sinister than they could have imagined. They are the latest victims in a mind-control experiment that challenges the very basis of humanity. The film follows them as they spiral deeper into madness and discover a network of survivors trying to expose the people who used them. They must separate truth from paranoia and find justice before time runs out.

Set in urban Los Angeles, Caller ID Entity capitalizes on the masses of humanity to reinforce the movie’s themes. People are portrayed as pawns—easily disposed and forgotten. Cellphones and cameras are everywhere in the city. When that technology can be used to hijack the mind, the threat is everywhere.

The cinematography reinforces this further. Caller ID Entity pulls from a variety of genres, using filming styles from documentaries, reality television, and experimental film. The result is a story that feels as if it takes place just on the fringe of reality. It walks the edge between life and fiction, between the belief that it could be true and the conviction that it is too crazy to be so.

Flashbacks, flash-forwards, and interviews break up the narrative, creating a looming sense of doom. We suspect throughout that there is no happy conclusion for the characters, yet we cannot turn away from their downfall. We are kept in suspense, hoping for any outcome other than the one we’ve glimpsed and wondering how anyone could fall so far.

The story has more than one basis in reality. A psychology experiment in the 1960’s found that people are willing to commit atrocities if pressured by an authority figure (interested? Look into the Milgram Experiments). This premise finds new life in Caller ID Entity, where the four young men find themselves involved in increasingly sinister experiments, spurred on by Dr. Whitney with encouragement that it is all for the betterment of mankind. While we may sit back and say we would never do anything so twisted, science says otherwise.

Caller ID Entity does not employ jump scares or extreme gore, but if you’re looking for a form of speculative science fiction or experimental horror that piggybacks off the everyday, this film is for you.

Award Winning Horror

It’s awards season and, as Horror Addicts, that isn’t much to get excited about.

Film critics usually rank horror somewhere below stale theater popcorn, if they mention it at all. The only horror film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture was The Silence of the Lambs (over 25 years ago) and only four horror films made the cut for the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films (Jaws, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Sixth Sense). But the genre pulled in upwards of $983 million last year and was responsible 10% of the market share. Clearly, horror resonates with the public psyche and the lack of credit isn’t from lack of interest.

Perhaps horror gets a bad name from pulp monster flicks created to sell children’s toys or from movies that capitalize on sex at the expense of actual fear. Of course, exploitative movies aren’t exclusive to horror, but it seems that whenever a frightening film is acclaimed, critics are quick to characterize it as a different genre—thriller or science fiction, most often.

Are times changing?

Eliciting true terror is just as difficult as drawing tears and there is great insight achieved through examining cultural roots of fear. Get Out was a box office smash this year, indicating that audiences are ready to use horror to look at the world from a new angle. With the public seeking more than slashers that trade shock for substance, film studios—particularly indie producers—seem poised to push the boundaries of the genre further than ever before. Directors are creating defiant films that plumb the depths of human nature. If you haven’t already, go watch Raw, The Bad Batch, or The Shape of Water for a glimpse at the new frontiers producers are exploring.

Guillermo del Toro just won a Golden Globe for his directing in The Shape of Water. Get Out was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture (as a Comedy, but still… Horror wasn’t a category). Maybe it’s a sign of things to come. We could be looking forward to some nomination nods when the Oscars come around.

Blood and gore movies filled with jump scares will never really go away, (then again, neither will the Transformers franchise). That isn’t bad—those things have their place. But a new generation of movies is emerging, ones that may earn a place among industry greats as the best films of all time.

HorrorAddicts.net 150, Cure for the Holidaze Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 150
Cure for the Holidaze Special!

Hosted by Emerian Rich

Guests: Dan Shaurette, Ariel DaWintre, Camellia Rains

Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe

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Cure for the Holidaze

http://traffic.libsyn.com/horroraddicts/HorrorAddicts150s.mp3

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

Music this episode by Midnight Syndicate from Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Ghostly-Gathering-Midnight-Syndicate/dp/B014JP8EOU

“Dance of the Sugar Plums”
“Night of the Krampus”
“Coventry Carol”
“Winter Storm”
“Up on the Rooftop”

 

Russell asked, he received.

 

holiday shopping ugliness, relative madness, horrible family experiences, helping the needy – what about me? best horror gifts, snowglobes, nightmare before christmas, vampire gifts, buffy the vampire slayer board game, walking dead glasses, they live, walking dead yahtzee, firefly yahtzee, horror gift guide, movie tickets, ulta, paxton gate, skeletons, taxidermy, bones, pirate store, diy, craft store, etsy.com, evil dead, regretsy, homemade gifts, amazon gift certificate, midnight syndicate, frankenstein salt and pepper shakers, forever knight season 3, monster fluxx, booooopoly, take friend out, chat about horror, loren rhoads, 199 cemeteries to see before you die, ipso facto, goth show, morbid curiosity, highgate cemetery in london, cremation, honoring the dead, morbid meals, zombie cookbooks, the walking dead cookbook and survival guide, flesh burgers, brains, theme song band, game, guess the thing, courtney mroch, haunt jaunts, haunted shops, restaurants, castles,  crazy skeleton lady, wax works, jekyll island in georgia, spooky holiday events, escape games, serial killer in your mailbox, hellraiser, evil dead, nightmare on elm street, underworld, scream, phil rickman, dickens, king, woman in black, lucy blue the last winter night, dead mail, jeff, IT, exorcist, pennywise, stranger things, amanda, midnight texas, karysa, krampus, a christmas horror story, silent night, deadly night, jack frost, russell, post halloween depression, vincent price cookbook, danny elfman, night of the comet, ginger snaps back, the thing, snowglobe, herbig brown eyes, dead like me, reaper, new movies coming, another wolfcop, shape in the water, guillermo del toro, insidious the last key, cloverfield, winchester the house that ghosts built, strangers prey at night, ready player one, a quiet place, slenderman, the purge, hotel transylvania 3, the nun, predator, meg, cadaver, the little stranger, goosebumps horrorland, the house with the clock in the wall, edward gorey, john bellaires, Halloween H40 and more… have a great spooky holiday!

 

“Broken Pieces” by Valentine Wolfe

http://valentinewolfe.bandcamp.com/track/broken-pieces

HorrorAddicts.net blog Kindle syndicated

http://www.amazon.com/HorrorAddicts-net/dp/B004IEA48W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431022701&sr=8-1&keywords=horroraddicts.net

HorrorAddicts.net Facebook group.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499

 

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Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

————————

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

s t a f f

David Watson, Stacy Rich, Dan Shaurette, KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Mimielle, D.J. Pitsiladis, Jesse Orr, Crystal Connor, Lisa Vasquez, Adelise M. Cullens, Kenzie Kordic.

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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Evil Food from Non-horror Media

So, we all know the horror food in movie classics like The Stuff and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but here are some evil foods you might have missed because they are hidden in non-horror media.

 

  1. Boyfriend School aka Don’t Tell Her it’s Me

This silly 1990 romantic comedy starring Steve Gutenberg and Jami Gertz (Star from Lost Boys) is fun and quirky. Centered around Steve trying to get Jami to go out with him, his over-the-top sister played by Shelly Long, tries to help. At the first blind date dinner, Shelly’s husband makes Jellyfish Salad. Through Jami’s eyes, Steve looks like a bloated whale and the Jellyfish Salad looks to be alive. There’s not a clip of the Jellyfish Salad online, but the movie is worth the watch if you like quirky, oddball comedies with weird, insane characters. I especially like Shelly’s husband who is so socially awkward, it’s agonizing watching him. Also, Steve trying to pretend he’s a rugged New Zealander is pretty funny too.

 

2. Better Off Dead, a 1980s teen comedy starring John Cusak. After his girlfriend leaves him for Mr. Popular, he becomes obsessed with killing himself. This is not a horror movie, but the dark comedy might appeal to you. In the movie, they spoof Frankenstein by making a burger come alive who lip-syncs to Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some.”

Dead Burger – Clip

You can also watch the full movie which includes an odd scene where his mom makes some sort of green goop that crawls off the plate at about 18:08

 

3. Fraggle Rock

So this next one, you may not find scary at all, but when I was a pre-teen, The Trash Heap on Fraggle Rock is one of those strange things that creeped me out. The fact that trash could come alive and talk with me might have inspired my OCD to bloom into trash phobia.

 

4. Spaceballs

Pizza da Hut might be the grossest character ever. I can’t even watch the cheese dripping like snot all over him without my stomach turning.

 

5. Red Dwarf

There are many different monsters who want to kill the cast of Red Dwarf, including a vindaloo beast that Lister ultimately kills with a can of lager. The funniest evil food clip belongs to the polymorph that turns into a shami kabab and tries to kill Lister with shrinking underpants.

Do you have an “evil food” that has shown up in a non-horror show or movie? We’d love to hear about it.

Kbatz: Silent Film Scares!

Frightening Flix

 

Silent Film Scares!

By Kristin Battestella

 

Here are but a few early film frights to catch your tongue!

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Sleepwalking, hypnosis, and a demented carnival atmosphere are just the beginning for this influential 1920 paragon. From the German intertitles complete with a madcap, unreliable narrator font to the eerie, off key merry go round score, the distorted perceptions and exaggerated visuals force the viewer to pay attention. Green patinas, teal evening scenes, golden up close shots, and opening and closing irises layer on the dream like retelling alongside askew, Expressionist angles and a stage like design – a play within a play to which we the audience are willingly privy. Contrasting triangles, shadows, lighting, and more surreal architecture parallel the lacking reality, for there is no external frame of reference and forced perspectives belie a fun house whimsy. The actors, makeup, and abstract period styles are fittingly macabre, and the stilted contortionist movements evoke a poetic but unsettling ballet where a misused seemingly innocent, forgotten pawn needlessly dies once his job no longer computes. Though very indicative of its early interwar time, this remains immediately progressive – man is misled, controlled, even compliant in his misdeeds but not willing to be responsible for his actions when it is easier to be led astray and defer your killing hand to the orchestrating puppeteer. Do we not let popcorn entertainment and social media dictate our needs because someone somewhere told us so? Are we living in a fantasy if we think otherwise? Maybe so. The mass sheep consequences are indeed frightening, and some may find it tough to view this picture objectively knowing the catastrophic calamities to come. The appropriately named Cesare, deadly predictions, a perceived loved triangle, escalating murders, and crazy case connections twist and turn while satirical police sit on high up stools like toy soldiers waiting to be told what to do – like us in our 9 to 5 cubicles. Ignorance is bliss, and that is mighty scary. This is must see genre at its finest thanks to heaps of real world fears and social commentary for horror fans and classroom studies.

 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThis 1920 John Barrymore silent classic still looks good, with fine style and design and eerie organ music to match. There’s a lovely level of atmosphere for a spooky event- project this baby on some creepy cloth and you’re set! Granted, it’s a little slow to start and long for a silent film at 80 minutes. The presentation itself is almost Victorian in establishing the parlor goodness before its hint of pre-code sauce- the dance and proposition of Nita Naldi (The Ten Commandments). The posturing and makeup for Hyde may seem hokey, there isn’t that much of a visual difference compared to today’s high tech effects transformations. Nonetheless, Barrymore (Don Juan) sells the depravity without over exaggerating as the era often dictates, and the result is quite timeless.  There aren’t many title cards, either.  As the film progresses, the good and evil torment steadily increases thanks to the freaky pictures and creepy performance. A must see. 

 

Fall of the House of UsherThis very early 1928 silent adaptation of Poe’s macabre tale is only 13 minutes. There are no inter cards to read, nor what we would call dialogue. The fashions are decidedly Roaring instead of Victorian, too.  The visuals are so out there-even nonsensical-that it’s almost tough to see Edgar in any of it.  Nonetheless, this moody piece is perfectly disturbed with great, haunting organ music and eerie, distorted photography.  It’s trippy, unexpected, and a little scary. This is another one of those old films that makes for a great demented projection during a spooky party or ghoulish gallery presentation. Though not for everyone, anyone who is a fan of early film experimentation or audiences who just like weird shows should definitely check this out.

 

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Faust – This 1926 F. W. Murnau biggie waxes on all the good and evil one can muster thanks to its Old World appeal, supernatural surreal, and timeless story. Familiar strings and sweeping orchestration ground the Expressionist horror framework with frenetic ills or melodic tender as needed while stunning images of angels both light and dark are fittingly disproportionate with oversized wings. So maybe the mounted skeletons may seem hokey, but the smoke and mirrors, creepy eyes, and evil horns make for superb overlays and superimposed shadows. Why do we toy with spectacular effects when each frame here is like a seamless painting – unlike contemporary, noticeably shoddy CGI. Ghoulish makeup, severe looks done with very little, dark hoods, rays of light, and religious iconography loom large, telling the tale with symbolic light and dark objects dueling for our attention – just like the delicate titular ballet. The battle for one man’s soul is set amid our earthly plague fears, and despite the torment and somewhat odd, dragging domestic humor, the acting is not over the top but subdued for the weighty subject. This macabre is closer to the past than the present, setting off the repentance questions and plague as divine retribution debate. His Old Testament gives no answer, and evil enters in on Faust’s doubts, trading decadence with quills to sign in blood, hourglass measures, alchemy, superimposed flames, and mystical books to match the thee and thou spells. Our deceiving little old man becomes more traditionally devilish looking with each lavish temptation, duplicitous with his immediate tricks of pleasure and unfulfilling youthful elixirs that cannot be sustained. Could you do good with such power? Flight and winds show not how high one goes but how far we will fall, and despite a somewhat overlong hour and forty minute full length edition, the grim sense of dread here snowballs as the looming evil drapes the bedchamber within his robes. Will innocence and love triumph and restore the divine? This stunning attention to detail not only makes me want to tackle Goethe again, but shows what can be done when time is taken to ensure a picture lasts 90 years rather than be a consumed and quickly forgotten 90 minutes. The multiple versions and assorted video reissues will bother completists, but we’re lucky to have these copies at all and horror fans and film students must see this still influential morality play.

 

The Hands of Orlac – Art and music meet the grotesque for this 1924 tale of pleas, surgeries, and will power. Precious few newspaper clippings and streamlined, made to look old intertitles accent the ominous locomotives, vintage vehicles, smoke stacks, and well done but no less hectic disaster filmmaking before the macabre executions and madcap medicine. Doctors in white coats with terrible news, a saintly woman in white, bleak black trees against the clouded white sky – rather than our beloved silver screen, the picture here is truly a black and white negative with bright, symbolic domestic scenes and nighttime outdoor filming. Overwhelming buildings loom tall, and the sharp, gothic arches of a sinister father’s house reflect his uncaring. Eerie superimposed faces, phantom feelings, and impatience to remove the bandages build toward the eponymous hysterics, but the simple agony of handwriting changes and crooked hands so skilled with a killer blade but unable to master the piano wonderfully increase the torment and self doubt. Is it the mind doing these fatal repeats or the appendages themselves taking over? The full near two hour restored version feels somewhat overlong, with melodramatic scenes and unnecessary transitions interfering with the anguish. At times, contrived fingerprint exposition and solving the crime clichés pull the rug out from under the horrific hands possibilities, but fortunately, the blackmail, murder investigation, and bittersweet love anchors the monstrous appendage swapping. Where today we would have all kinds of bent, hairy, or special effects to hit the viewer over the head with how evil these hands should be, it’s amazing how these wicked hands psyching out our pianist don’t look evil per se but actually fairly normal. With our contemporary pick and choose genetics and scientific advancements, the concept of these influential limbs out for themselves is perhaps more disturbing. Could you loose your art and livelihood when calamity takes your hands or would you use extreme science to restore your limbs, accepting the inadvertent trade of music for something more barbarous? This is an excellent must see both for the ghastly what ifs and the inner turmoil at work.

 

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The UnknownLon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera) and Joan Crawford (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) star in this short but memorable 1927 silent from writer and director Tod Browning.  Similar to Browning’s Freaks in many ways, the grotesque yet tender and sympathetic love triangle here is fast paced and well edited with intense twists and a great, revitalized score.  Sure, it may be a Leap of Faith in taking Chaney as armless and the carnival set-ups are hokey- but trust me.  There’s no over the top acting, only perfect expressions and emotions all around. Crawford looks dynamite, too, with great eyes and readable lips that don’t need inter titles. It’s not all Chaney’s footwork and bravo to his double Paul Desmuke; their combination is strangely delightful to watch. It’s probably a tough concept for some contemporary, effects-obsessed audiences to comprehend, but hearing or reading words aren’t required for the viewer to receive the trauma here.  Yes, some of the essential plot points are fairly obvious today. However, the performances keep it splendid nonetheless. This hour is by necessity of the silent style yet also very modern in its own way. It’s definitely a must see for classic fans, lovers of the cast, and film makers or would be actors- who should definitely take a lesson on the big reveal here!

 

Wolf Blood – This 1925 silent hour plus is the earliest remaining onscreen lycanthrope picture, complete with Canadian flavor, old fashioned logging, spooky forestry, railroads, and jealous love triangles to match the desperate titular transfusion and its would be consequences. A befitting green hue graces the outdoor scenes while standard black and white reflects the bleak interiors and golden tints accentuate the high society parties. The focus is blurry at times, the print understandably jumps, and the music is surprisingly loud. However, the rounded iris close ups add a dreamlike quality, and the vintage jazz tunes and period fashions are a real treat. If you’re looking for a time capsule logging documentary, this is it! Flirtations, camp injuries, company rivalries, drunken dangers, and medical debates give the first half of the picture a purely dramatic pace, but the wolfy fears, mob mentality, and deadly possibilities build in the latter half. Fantastic medicine, superstitious leaps, dreams of becoming the wolf – this isn’t a werewolf film as we know it but the key pieces are here. How fast people turn on you once you have wolf’s blood! The wolf footage is also quite nice, with what looks like real mixed wolf or husky dogs. No, there is no werewolf transformation and it’s all a bit of a fake out in that regard, but the community fears and early man versus beast melodrama is still fun to see.