Saturday, October 31, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 - Movie

After his young son is accidentally killed by a group of young outsiders, a rural father (Lance Henrickson) turns to a local witch for help. She can't bring his boy back from the dead, but she can help him get revenge. Revenge comes in the monstrous form of the demoncalled Pumpkinhead. The cost is a physical and psychic connection between the monster and the father, who realizes the terrible mistake he made out of his grief and he sets out to try and destroy the monster. This is the first time I've ever seen Pumpkinhead (1988, a decent, simple monster movie with lots of visible monster. This is not surprising given that the film was directed by make-up effects genius, Stan Winston. The characters are pretty undefined, though there's a nice bond between the father and son. The contrast between the dirt poor rural folk and the invasive outsiders is such a contrast that it really seems like aliens have dropped in to this dirt poor community. The rural folks are treated with quite a bit of respect and never played of as a bunch of creepy inbred menaces. The monster itself is nicely done with an appearance that evolves over the course of the movie. Pumpkinhead is not a great movie, but it was a nice one to finish the month with.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31 - Book

A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. Avon Books. 1993.

For the final book in my Halloween Countdown I chose something I've been meaning to get to for some time and it turned out to be a perfect sendoff.

Told from the first person of Snuff,  Jack the Ripper's dog, A Night in the Lonesome October tells the story of "the Game" which occurs every few decades when the full moon falls of Halloween, and the barriers between our world and the dimension where H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones are imprisoned. The Game involves openers and closers; those wanting to let the Old Ones into our world and those who want to keep them out. There is a large cast of literary and cinematic figures and types involved in the game in some fashion such as Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, the Wolfman, a witch, Dr. Frankenstein, a mad monk, occultists, a vicar, a druid, and a pair of occultists, but they and their actions and intrigues are revealed to us through the true stars of this book, their animal companions, a cat, a bat, a snake an albino raven, an owl, a rat, and a large unnatural dog. The animals slyly trade information, aid one another, and do a lot of detective work as the days (each chapter is one day in October) count down to the big event. 

This book was a lot of fun and completely captured me by the second paragraph. The animal characters are delightful and the tale is full of really compelling intrigue as the players try to figure out who is on whose side, who is trying to bump off the players, if there are any unknown players and where the climactic showdown will take place. To top it all off, each chapter features an illustration by the great Gahan Wilson.

This is a truly fun book for Halloween which also happens to be, in itself, a countdown to Halloween.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 31

HJere is my final Halloween cut paper piece made for this countdown. It is based on an old postcard. The original art will be soon made available for purchase at my art store.

Friday, October 30, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 - Movie

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) haunted by his childhood experiences at the Overlook Hotel is a wreck of a man trying to put his life together. He takes a job at a hospice where he is able to to his his shining to help send the dying peacefully on their way.  He finds himself in psychic contact with Abra  (Kyliegh Curran)teenage girl also possessing the shining. The two seem destined to never meet until terrible events become known to Abra. A group calling itself The True Knot is crisscrossing the country feeding on children who shine, and now they have Abra in their sites.

Doctor Sleep (2019), based on the novel by Stephen King is a sequel to The Shining. I liked the book quite a lot, even though I went into it thinking The Shining didn't really require a sequel, and still skeptical when Dan Torrance ended up having his life impacted by yet another type of supernatural beings, but King really pulled it off. Mike Flanagan, who wrote and directed this film adaptation realized that more people would be familiar with the movie version of The Shining than the novel version, so chose to adapt this sequel to fit Kubrick's movie. Kubrick made some changes to King's story that made a straight up adaptation of King's sequel to his own book impossible, but Flanagan is to be commended for finding ways to incorporate scenes from King's sequel into this adaptation that remain true to the spirit of King's book and Kubrick's movie. Flanagan was also able to replicate authentically sets and costumes from the 1980 film and even threw in a number of Easter eggs to King's Dark Tower series of books, and a nod to Frankenstein (1931).

The heart of this film is its characters and the actors portraying them. This is an exceptional cast, and their performances in this completely engrossing and carefully paced film make this a must watch. I've seen this movie three times now, and it is one of my favorite genre films of recent years.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30 - Book

A Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle. Valancourt Books. 1986.

I'd heard about this book in the pre internet days and hunted used book stores for a copy to no avail. Published in the UK back in 1986, and never published in the United States until Valancourt Books recently reprinted it as part of its Paperbacks From Hell series, I can say that the wait was worth it.

This is a collection of thirteen short stories.  My experience with short story collections is that there are usually a couple of real stand outs, a bunch of really good ones, and a few that don't really cut it. In Tuttle's collection every single one is a standout. Any one story chosen at random is worth the price of the book. Chilling and often with heart crushing pessimistic endings each story here is a dark gem. I'm happy to see Valancourt is reprinting more of her work, because I'm ready for more.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 30

Here's part two of my visual tour of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. To see part one simply scroll down to yesterday's midnight post.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Movie

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) takes a position as the winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel. Located in the Rockies, the hotel will be completely cut off once winter sets in. Aside from the isolation, Jack and his family (Shelly Duvall and Danny Lloyd) must also deal with the malevolent hotel's ghosts, Jack's descent into violent madness, and young Danny's psychic abilities called the shining.

The Shining (1980) directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the novel by Stephen King, is a movie that I disliked for years, but gradually, over time, have learned to enjoy for its merits. As a stylishly made film full of fantastic imagery it's wonderful. The acting is great and it has incredible discordant music selected for its score. As a horror film, it's pretty much a bust to me. Kubrick's style of directing always keeps the viewer outside looking in, and not an active participant in what is going on, so there is a remove that keeps the viewer from engaging on the visceral level necessary for a good horror story to work. Nicholson is exceptional as Jack Torrance, but is presented in a way that does not suggest a caring family man trying to build a life before being undermined and influenced by the Overlook's malevolent nature. Nicholson's Torrance seems like he's just one step away from madness from the beginning. I've been training myself to get past those two negative aspects and to allow myself to enjoy The Shining for its strengths.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29 - Book

Ghostland by Edward Parnell. William Collins. 2019 This is not a travel guide to haunted England, but a travelogue of the country and of personal history. Edward Parnell who has loved ghost stories from an early age, traverses the country to sites connected with various authors of ghost stories, the stories themselves, and even BBC and cinematic adaptations. His travels often intersect with places that he'd lived, or visited on familiy excursions, and the memories associated with those trips often entangles with those of the ghost stories. Not all of the ghosts are literary. Parnell has suffered devastating loss, and this book is as much a love letter to those who left him as it is to the stories that inspired him. This was a very engaging read. Even if, like myself, you've read countless ghost stories, this book will make you want to return to old favorites as well as seek out some you may have missed. I'm also really dying to see all those BBC adaptations, especially of the M.R. James stories. I've known about them for ages but have never seen any. The trick for me with Ghostland is not knowing where to shelve it. I actually have a number of regional ghost tour books, but I'm not sure this belongs with them, or with my collections of ghost stories.

31 Days of Halloween - Day 29

The last of my travel photo posts takes us to Père Lachaise Cemetery covering 110 acres in Paris, France. It truly is a city of the dead and is filled with amazing monuments, crypts and tombs. There are also many notable people buried there. You can find out its incredible history and the names of its most famous inhabitants at the official website. This post will be in two parts. Part two will appear tomorrow.