Halloween

Wicked Wednesday: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel (2018)

My parents were visiting Britain these past couple weeks. The last of which they stayed with me in my tiny London flat. I love my parents, but it can be difficult to find things that all of us can enjoy. Throw my husband into the mix, and it’s even more complicated.

Usually any decision making is left to me. I’m very bad at making decisions. But it must be the Halloween spirit in the air because everyone actually encouraged me to pick out horror movies.

Both of my parents are a bit…prudish (conservative?), so it’s always a tricky affair. But when I saw Hell House LLC calling to me, I thought it was time for a rewatch. It scared me enough the first time around, surely it would creep everyone else out a tiny bit.

And it was interesting seeing this movie again with sets of fresh eyes in the room. I picked up on many of the same thing as the first time: it’s a subtle build up with a slightly-confusing pay-off in the end. My family, on the other hand, got to enjoy it for the first time. My mom had to physically leave the room and didn’t come back until the ending.

So inspired by the rewatch, I decided it was time to tackle the sequel: Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel. This 2018 movie has been on my to-watch list for a long time, but had purposefully avoided it due to the mostly-negative reviews of it.

The Abaddon Hotel picks up a few years after the original events of the film. Since the release of the documentary, the interest in the Abaddon Hotel grew. But of course, with all the idiots heading into the house for dares – none came back out alive.

Enter straight-laced “investigative journalist” Jessica Fox. For some reason, despite the number of people who have disappeared, she’s determined to get into the hotel and explore things for herself.

The others dragged into her horrible plan are her fellow staff members Molly and David, and original Hell House documentary maker Mitchell (not actually in the first movie). Mitchell was a part of Diane’s team. Diane had disappeared after her interview with “Sara”, and Mitchell is rather determined to solve the mystery. Also along with them is a medium and his camera man. But don’t even bother with them, they die right away.

Much of the movie switches between several different medias: the shaky footage of Jessica’s pals inside the hotel, an TV interview of three guests included Mitchell and an idiotic politician, and the different footage of all the missing boys.

It’s rather distracting, actually. As it’s difficult to understand why we care about any of these people. The initial scenes are about a man named Jackson who went missing after breaking into the hotel. We get to see an interview with his mother that’s actually very compelling. But…it just ends there. It doesn’t matter. And that sort of sucks.

The movie’s decision not to focus on one singular story makes for a very incoherent plot. It’s as shaky as most of the camera work. Glancing back at my notes, I stopped writing after the first 15 minutes or so after realising nothing I was watching actually mattered.

Unlike the original Hell House, much of its sequel has us watching people running around scared. Do you want people running around a haunted house? Great. Then you get it for at least 50% of this movie. The climax of Hell House LLC was great because it spend most of its time building up, and the pay off was (mostly) great because of it. Say what you will about the ending.

In The Abaddon Hotel, we’re immediately shown not-so-subtle images of the cloaked figures. It’s the same scared as the first movie, but they happen straight off the bat. I can see where the idea was to terrify right away, but mostly comes across as lazy and…boring.

Hell House LLC II fails to comply with the idea that less is more. We learn too much about Hell House, which makes it less scary in many ways. If there was a need to fill in the gaps, I think a prequel would have been more interesting. The creation of “the story” is better than over-explaining something in retrospect. Seeing the answers to the first movie was, well, rather disappointing (namely: the walls).

We also learn too much about Alex, the founder of Hell House. Where his story line went was just stupid. It actually takes away from what made the first movie good. Alex apparently signed some deal with Andrew Tully, the hotel owner and cult leader who had hung himself decades earlier. I liked Alex as a character in the first movie because he was just a no-nonsense asshole. Giving him a paranormal element took away from the realism of the first movie.

There’s something that many found-footage sequels have in common: they forget to make likeable characters the second time around. We like certain found footage movies because of the believable cast. Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield. You remember the people and they look like us, thus making the world feel rounder as a whole. Alex was totally ruined for me. The new batch of characters were not interesting. So when they died, it felt more like a shrug.

In this sequel, the acting is…bad. Pretty damn bad. Straight off the bat, the first scene with Molly and Jessica is wooden and cringe-y. It immediately takes you out of a “this is real” mindset and immediately reminds you that this is all fake. And in the world of found footage, that’s a pretty big crime to commit.

As they say, “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” And that, unfortunately, is very true for Hell House. There are many familiar scares here, but they just don’t work the second time around.

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Recommended reads for Halloween season

Autumn is the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book. Mostly because it’s raining outside and it’s miserable stuff out there.

But it’s also a high-point in the publishing calendar year. We’re getting all sorts of spooky books this year as everything occult is becoming popular again. I say bring on the trend! All the more witches and demons for us. Weird thing is, I tend not to read very much horror in the autumn. I save all those up for the summer where I can stay up late and scare the shit out of myself. I love supernatural romance and mystery at this time of the year. Characters > plot.

I gathered a list of my favourite books to read at the Halloween season. Incidentally, not many of these are new releases. But that does mean you can find these at a good used price.

Who said being spooky had to be expensive?

Whether you enjoy listening to a book or having pictures, there’s plenty to enjoy. So let me know what you’re reading this year (send some recommendations!). I’ve got plenty of books on funeral homes and murderous mischief awaiting me. Let the season begin!

The Novels:

If you like a bit of gore with a side of sweetness, there are loads of supernatural-themed cozy mysteries to choose from. I’m pretty new to the genre, so I may be one of the worst people to get a recommendation from. But I can say Caught Dead Handed: A Witch City Mystery is a pretty fun place to start.

Lee Barrett has returned to Salem, Massachusettes to interview for a TV reporter job. Only she ends up landing a gig as a psychic on a late-night horror movie show. Thing is – the job is only vacant because of the murder of the previous host. When Lee begins to see visions, she reluctantly begins to solve the murder.

And speaking of psychics… Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan is a supernatural thriller about Sarah, a young girl who begins to have visions upon moving to a new town. After posing as a fortune-teller for a fair, Sarah realises she’s set off a frightening chain of events linked to the Salem Witch trials hundreds of years earlier.

The book was turned into a pretty good made-for-TV movie called I’ve Been Waiting For You. (Terrible title change.) So if you want to skip the book and head straight for the adaption, I’d definitely recommend it. Try finding it on YouTube before dishing out £100 for the dated DVD.

You can’t talk about good adaptions of witch books without mentioning Practical Magic. Alice Hoffman’s classic is a wonderful tale about sisterhood, horrible ex-boyfriends and magic. You probably already know the story from the iconic 1995 film of the same name. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up and welcome to the world.

I personally think the prequel, The Rules of Magic, has more autumnal ambience, but it’s not worth reading without reading Practical Magic first. It will make you laugh and it will certainly make you cry. But most of all: it will fill your room with spells and a certain magic of its own.

The last novel recommendation is the Night World series by L.J. Smith. This is a classic YA series from the 90s. And personally, I think it’s one of Smith’s bests (only bested by the Forbidden Game trilogy). Set in a world similar to our own, human children keep falling in love with supernatural creatures. Sad news for them, this is a major no-no.

You’ll probably be able to draw similarities between the summaries of Night World and Twilight. Only, bless Twilight, L.J. Smith is actually a good writer. She has a great knack for making memorable characters. Even though each novel in the series follows a different set of children, I could easily describe the main character in each book. They have flaws, they have strengths. Sometimes they’re weirdly into techno music in a big way. But none of us are perfect, are we?

You might have noticed I’ve recommended a lot of supernatural romance and YA here. I’m very (not) sorry. This was unintentional. Have you ever heard of Stephen King? Yeah. Give that guy a try or something…

The Graphic Novels:

With the release of Shudder’s Creepshow reboot, it’s time to celebrate by revisiting the original (as well as enjoying the new show, obviously). If you haven’t yet, try the comic book version of the film. There isn’t much new here if you’ve already seen the 1982 movie, but there is something very satisfying about seeing the movie on page in a EC Comics-style.

A short read full of ghoulish fun.

Now the next pick is particularly special to me (as evident by the fact that I recommend this series to literally everyone). I first heard about Locke & Key at a Q&A at an IDW comic con panel. Most of the men on the panel agreed that this Joe Hill-penned story was one of their favourites. After following their recommendations, it’s one of mine too.

Locke & Key follows the story of the Locke children after the brutal murder of their father. They along with their mother return to their father’s ancestral home, Keyhouse. While healing from their trauma, they children discover a series of keys that each holds a magical power. As they gain more knowledge of they keys, an evil entity looms around them, growing stronger.

There’s an adaption coming to Netflix in 2020. And the cast really looks like the cast we deserve. So now is the time to read the comics before the show is released.

And if you’re like me and occasionally like revisiting the realm of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are loads of comics to choose from. Most of them are terrible. Some are more interesting than others. I personally enjoyed Tales of the Slayers, which is a selection of stories about various vampire slayers throughout history and the future (featuring Karl Moline’s gorgeous Fray).

If you’re not ready to commit to the long story-arches of the comic series aren’t sure where to start with Buffy comic material, this isn’t a bad place to start. It’s by no means earth-shattering content. But for a quick, fun vampire read – this is it.

The Audiobooks:

If you know anything about my reading habits, I’m obsessed with audiobooks. It’s the number one way that I consume books these days.

Horror and fantasy are great genres to listen to. Horror especially, as the right narrator really adds an ambience that only enhances a book. Not that being said…I haven’t read many horror books on audio. I typically read mystery and thrillers. That way I can’t look at the end of the book and spoil things for myself.

I’m the literal worst.

One such example of a great narrator bringing a story to life is Peter Bishop’s go at Algernon Blackwood’s short story “The Willows“. It’s only two hours, but there’s a lot of well-built suspense that has a great payoff. Plus it’s not a huge commitment. No summary here. Best to go into this one completely blind.

If you love haunted houses, look no further than anything by Darcy Coates. I listened to The Haunting of Blackwood House a couple of years back, but I still recall some great, thrilling scenes. It isn’t going to be the most original tale you ever read, but if you want some spooky doors with your blood and screams, I do recommend Coates.

At the point of writing this, I’ve not yet finished with Serpent & Dove, but I’m still going to throw it in these here recommendations. I’m an unabashed lover of YA fiction. I don’t care that I’m an adult. I haven’t been this obsessed with a story in ages.

Lou is a witch. Reid is a witch hunter. So it’s fairly inconvenient when they are forced into marriage to save their lives and reputations. As Lou continues her work to save her kind, she becomes more entangled in Reid’s world. It’s incredibly addictive. So it’s probably best to hold off until you have 15 hours to sit and listen to this baby.

Wicked Wednesday: Trick or Treats (1982)

Eegah! It’s already October! And here I was, all ready to suck in the loveliness of September. Turns out I just slept through the entire month because I can’t believe that it’s already time for Halloween!

Now, usually in October I just like to revel in everything Halloween-y, but that doesn’t mean I set out to watch anything specific during the month, bar the last week. (And that one time I watched The Day After Halloween which was…a choice.) But this year, I thought subtly be damned – let’s go all out!

And it’s not very surprising how many Halloween themed horror movies there are. Though I’d be curious to see which holiday has more movies from the genre dedicated to it, Halloween or Christmas.

Choosing the first movie for October was pretty easy. Upon opening Prime a couple weeks ago, Trick or Treats was the first recommended movie for me. And the lure of Halloween, pranks and Peter Jason was great.

Shame the movie didn’t live up to expectations…

Trick or Treats is one of the million copycats that arrived in the wake of John Carpenter’s original Halloween film and its sequel. But this one doesn’t even try to be subtle about where it gets its inspiration from:

A young actress, Linda, is called on Halloween night to babysit a child. But the family she’ll be working for have a secret. Years earlier, the husband, Malcolm, was thrown into a asylum because of his wife, Joan. And it just so happens that on Halloween night, Malcolm has made his escape.

Linda spends most of her night being harassed by the young boy, Christopher. He’s an aspiring magician who loves to play pranks. Does that sound like a fun movie to you? If so, you’re in luck! Large swathes of these 90 minutes are dedicated to stupid pranks.

Meanwhile, Malcolm is finally making his escape. Why was he put into the asylum to begin with? Well, there’s no reason other than a throw away line about him being “mad as a hatter”. So.

Malcolm assaults a nurse and takes her uniform and wig. With that, he makes his way out onto the city streets. He eventually sheds his nurse garb after being harassed by strange men. He steals the clothing from a homeless man. Oh and on the way he keeps making calls to his old home, wanting to threaten his ex-wife Joan. But silly boy somehow doesn’t realise that Joan and Linda don’t have similar voices.

So the whole night makes Linda frustrated. It gets significantly worse for her once Malcolm makes his way into the house.

And well, that’s it really. It’s really just is the plot of Halloween but with pranks to pad out those 90 minutes. I was surprised to see that the running time was so sort, especially since it felt like I was watching one of the longest movies of my life. There’s just some really strange choices when it comes to storyline.

Trick or Treats feels like a parody of a Halloween film. It’s incredibly farcical. The characters make completely silly choices and have the weirdest dialogue. So maybe that was the point? But I’m not convinced either way.

There’s a lot not to like about this movie. At least Peter Jason as Malcolm is a treat? Though it isn’t nearly enough to make this movie watchable. If you like kids playing stupid pranks for a couple hours, I guess this one was made for you.

Five great horror soundtracks to play this Halloween

It’s finally Halloween! The greatest night of the year. We’ll wake up tomorrow to a world of Christmas music, but for tonight: the world is ours, horror fans!

I love a good horror movie soundtrack any time, but I’ve chosen five of my favourites to listen to tonight. Don’t (or do) listen to them alone tonight. But be sure to lock the doors.

1. Deep Red (Profondo rosso) by Goblin and Giorgio Gaslini

Goblin’s soundtrack for Suspiria typically gets more love. I get it, it’s one hell of a soundtrack (and my personal top five). But there’s something very interesting and exciting about Profondo rosso. This giallo’s score switches seamlessly between Goblin’s progressive sounds, to the incredibly creeping singing of a child, to Gaslini’s more traditional pieces. Even if you just seek out the title track, it’s worth it. But “Mad Puppet” is really the jewel in the crown here. It’s a bit funky, like if you feeling a bit cool before you’re about to die.

2. Halloween (2018) by John and Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies

Including this just because you’ve probably listened to the original once or twice already. This is an updated take on Carpenter’s soundtrack from the 1978 original, and it feels a lot more industrial because of it. Come for the familiarity, stay for the excellence.

3. City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi aka Fear in the Town of the Living Dead)by Fabio Frizzi

Ominous and foreboding, this is Frizzi at his finest. City of the Dead is surreal and shocking (like most of Lucio Fulci’s work), but Frizzi has always complimented his vision well. It might not be your favourite movie, but the soundtrack is always glorious.

4. It Follows by Disasterpiece

Easily the most unsettling on this list. While It Follows is already a few years old now, its soundtrack still sounds like the future of horror. You can find its 80s synth inspirations everywhere now. While there are lighter moments (“Jay”, “Detroit”), much of the soundtrack builds to painful stretches of suspense (“Heels”). I can’t listen to “Inquiry” without getting goosebumps. Sure, it’s just music, but are you sure there’s nothing following you?

5. Carnival of Souls by Gene Moore

Want to remember those fond feelings of being terrified in church? Well, look no further than this eerie organ-based soundtrack by Gene Moore. The music immediately invokes the feelings of loneliness and desperation Mary feels throughout her journey. Definitely not one great to play at parties. This was movie made on a shoestring budget, but somehow the soundtrack (and the movie) defied all of that to create something really special.


What will you be listening tonight? Sticking to “The Monster Mash”? Probably for the best…if you want to sleep tonight.

Wicked Wednesday: Mausoleum (1983)

 

After all the bullshit that happened State-side these past few weeks, I really wanted to watch a horror film with a badass lady. So I put in a lot of research and did my readying. I had everything all picked out, but what did I do?

Abandon everything last minute because I couldn’t be bothered to pay £2 to watch the film.

Instead I watched Mausoleum. A film that lacks in mausoleum screentime, and is a serious mess.

The film revolves around Susan, a girl whose mother died when she was only 10. After the burial, Susan runs away from her Aunt Cora, and sees a mausoleum with a bit of dancing smoke in front of it. The young girl enters the building and becomes possessed as she approaches a coffin with the name “NOMAD” over it.

Twenty years later, Susan is a grown woman with a husband. She seemingly has a great life, but her aunt remains skeptical. Cora reaches out to a psychiatrist, Dr Simon (Norman Burton doing his best Dr Loomis). She gives him a family history that is contained in her father’s diary, then blabs about a demon. But Dr Simon insists that nothing is wrong with Susan, whom he has known her whole life.

But of course there is something wrong with Susan (note: this would be a much better title). She’s possessed by a demon. As the first born girl, she was destined to become a demon’s puppet.

To put things simply, Susan spends most of the movie getting her tits out then killing men by setting them on fire or blowing up their heads. There’s a super irrelevant series of scenes about some weird painting that she steals. She even tears poor Aunt Cora in half.

Susan’s husband Oliver is really stupid. He panics every time his wife does something. Oh my wife is sitting in a rocking chair! Let’s not talk to her – CALL THE DOCTOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING NIGHT!

After being dragged into the mess, Dr Simon begins researching and reads up on the Nomad family history. He calls in a friend who insists that Susan is possessed. She somehow knows that the only way to break the curse is to put the “crown of thorns” onto Susan’s head.

He succeeds with little effort. Then drags Susan to the mausoleum to put the crown onto the demon’s head? Again? I don’t know. It didn’t really make any sense to me. I think there was even meant to be a twist ending. The gardener she killed is actually a man who is meant to look over the mausoleum? Fuck if I should know.

Mausoleum wasn’t the so-bad-it’s-good kind of fun I was hoping for. That acting is pretty terrible (that poor actress playing Susan). The plot doesn’t make much sense. It’s mostly an excuse to make an actress strip so she can kill people.

Either way, I think there is a lesson to be learned in this: if you put all the hard work into something, you should probably fucking follow through with it. When you take the easy (ie free) way out, you’re stuck watching this.

Wicked Wednesday: The Haunting of Hill House ep. 1 (2018) at the Welsh Chapel

I rarely win things in life. I once won a Princess Diana Beanie Baby in a school raffle, and I was pretty chuffed because I knew it was going to be worth a fortune one day (still waiting on that to happen).

But when I received the email saying I’d won entry for two to an exclusive screening of The Haunting of Hill House, I knew this was a step up from purple bears filled with beans. Plus it took place in the fabulous and freaky Welsh Chapel.

So Husband and I attended a fabulous event last night hosted by Netflix, including a Q&A with the new show’s cast. Turns out Netflix throws one hell of a bash. There was even a supposed ‘set recreation’ that you could wander about, but it was really a ploy to have an actor jump out at you.

And for someone who loves horror movies so much, I’m a massive baby. So having someone jump out at me didn’t exactly bring out the, er, gracefulness in me.

While it was pretty easy to be dazzled by the free cocktails and canapes, the screening of episode one was the highlight of the night. I have to admit, the trailer for the show is pretty underwhelming and slightly confusing. But I can confirm, this skeptic is completely converted after watching episode one.

Even my husband (who enjoyed Wise’s version 0%, and thought we were watching a remake of Burnt Offerings) liked enough to ask when we could watch the next episode.

For those familiar with the Shirley Jackson’s world of Hill House, the TV series revolves around the Crain family. In Jackson’s book, the group are supposedly haunted by the Crains, some of who met tragic ends in Hill House.

In Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, the Crains have five children, all of whom deal with the trauma of their childhood in different ways. The show flits between modern day and decades before when they were all children in Hill House. It’s clear from

the first episode that the mystery will revolve around Mrs Crain and her supposed suicide.

There are a lot of nice touches for those who love the book and the original 1963 adaption (keep an eye out for the iconic spiral staircase).

In the Q&A, actors Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Kate Siegel and Oliver Jackson-Cohen joined the stage. They only could hint at some of the terror to come, but it all sounded promising. They even had a few cute stories to share about the child actors in the show. Turns out five-year-olds can be great actors, but not-so-great at being patient.

Now, sure, I may have been persuaded by the champagne and funny ghost photobooth, but I feel pretty confident in saying that The Haunting of Hill House is destined to be great. If you love family drama mixed with talking corpses and ghosts, we’re both in for a treat.

All episodes will be available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

 

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My most anticipated things this Autumn

Helloooo, autumn!

Today is the autumnal equinox, which means I woke up to rain and cloudy skies. In both Britain and the States, I love this season. Wisconsin is my preferred between the two, because there is more crunchy leaves and happier people. But nevertheless, this time of the year is absolute magic. And I mean ‘magic’ in both a figurative and literal sense.

This is still a time of year that feel more like renewal than death. And most importantly, this is the time of the year that I get to be queen. Horror movies become socially acceptable again. Spooky TV shows come out. Other people start talking about Halloween. It’s all happening.

But there’s plenty of amazing things coming up this autumn. These are just the handful I’m looking forward to most:

1. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is by far the best horror comic to come out of the Archie Horror imprint. It is absolutely brutal, and SO much fun. When this show was announced, I was infinitely more excited than the news about Riverdale. Sabrina was always my favourite Archie character as a kid (I grew up at the height of the MJH and cartoon era), and I’m excited to see another, darker version of her.

This Netflix adaptation looks fabulously cast and seems to have encapsulated the feeling of Robert Hack’s art work. This take on the classic teenage witch promises to be dark and (hopefully) terrifying. Bring it on, Salem!

Available for streaming on October 26th.

2. Halloween (2018)

Sure, everyone is sick of remakes and sequels (see numbers one and three on this list). But this latest addition to the Halloween franchise looks genuinely good. It looks like a lot of love and care went into making it, which already sets it apart from many of the other installments in the franchise. This Jamie Lee Curtis film will actually be a direct sequel to only the first film, which means it will disregard the other films. This probably angers a lot of fans, but I think it’s certainly more interesting than any other direction they could have chosen.

Plus Carpenter is doing the score, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.

In cinemas in the US and UK on October 19th.

3. The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix

Admittedly, after watching the first trailer for this show, I’m significantly less excited for this one. I was hoping for a more detailed, intricate adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, but instead this looks like…well, I’m not sure what it is. The trailer bares zero resemblance to anything about the book. Though I guess I had to expect some major changes if they were going to expand a 250 page novel into 10 episodes of television.

But Netflix and Mike Flanagan have worked well in the past before, so there’s plenty to be positive about. This will be the third adaption of Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel. While I love the Robert Wise adaption, I’ve always loved the book more and was really looking forward to a contemporary take on the work. So hopes up and fingers crossed.

Available for streaming on Netflix on October 12th.

4. Reading all the books

I’m naturally a slow reader, but I like to over-stuff my TBR every autumn. It’s wishful thinking to imagine that I’ll read everything I want to this season, but I will try. This month, the paperback version of Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic was released in the UK. I’m currently devouring it and crying over some of the best magical realism I’ve ever read.

Also, I do love to reread a childhood favourite of mine, Gooseberry Park. While technically set in early Spring, this book is so cozy, it always screamed autumn to me. My copy has been through a lot, so each read is nearing the book’s last.

5. Two Evil Eyes (Due occhi diabolicion Blu-Ray from 88 Films

This British film distributor KILLED IT with their release of Umberto Lenzi’s Eyeball (Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro). 88 Films are easily one of my favourite companies, so I was overjoyed when they announced a Blu-ray release of this 1990 film directed by my two favourites, George Romero and Dario Argento. They’re sure to do great things with this release.

You can pre-order now from 88 Films’ website for a release date of October 15th.

6. Horroctober at the Prince Charles Cinema

The PCC is my home away from home. They take 50% of my paycheck every month (sadly, that’s not much of an exaggeration). Each October, the cinema curates a fabulous selection of Halloween and horror movies to show. Horroctober pretty much offers something for everyone, so guard your wallets wisely.


What are you looking forward most to this season? Thanksgiving? Christmas nearing so you can start playing Mariah Carey?

Treasure these few months because it will be 2019 before you know it, and we’ll be entering the bleakest part of the year. Cheery thoughts, ya’ll!