Review: Stephen King’s It (2017) 

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   “Would you like a balloon?” a seemingly innocuous question made terrifying by a book released over 20 years ago. Stephen King’s It has been making people afraid of clowns and red balloons for two decades. Ask anyone the scariest clown movie they have ever seen, I guarantee your most popular answer will be “It” They of course would be talking about the 1990 made-for-TV movie starring the infamous Tim Curry. It has been a common misconception from the announcement of this film that it is a remake of the original. This is not the case. It is actually based on the novel. A refreshing notion. I have been patiently waiting for this film for over a year. Last night, my waiting had paid off and I settled into my IMAX movie seat ready for my heart to pound and the chills to wash over me. While this film has so many great moments, it failed to capture the true horror of Stephen King’s novel and wasted some big opportunities.

  Derry, Maine is like any small town. Or is it. Children are beginning to disappear at an alarming rate. After Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie joins the missing, Bill bands together with some neighborhood kids to battle the monster that is the sum of all their fears. I have to say, these kids impressed the hell out of me. All of them did a bang up job in their respective rolls. If they are this awesome in their early teens, I cannot wait to see what they will do as adults. Lieberher and Finn Wolfhard (the kid from Stranger Things) who plays Ritchie Tozier were truly the standouts in the pack. They were funny, genuine but still vulnerable. The unresolved feelings Bill has about his brother’s disappearance are palpable and his reconciliation is heartbreaking. The performance that really made this film was Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise. The man had a lot to live up to and he really made the performance his own. Everything about him was on point. His voice, his eyes, his expressions all combined to make a monster that people will be talking about for years to come. So where did “It” go wrong? Director Andy Muschietti had an opportunity to push the envelope and make a truly terrifying and disturbing piece of cinema and he didn’t. When a horror movie is rated R, I expect rated R violence. This was at best, PG-13. I feel, because there were children involved, the truly horrifying and disturbing aspects of this story were severely downplayed. If the entire movie would have been as violent and intense as the opening scene, this film would have been unstoppable. This is the problem we come across time and time again in modern horror cinema. Everything is safe. In recent years I have seen very few horror movie directors take things to the extreme. I would have liked to see this movie go there and instead it felt like it was being held back. As Rob Zombie once said “Art is not safe.” This film felt far too safe for my liking.

  Stephen King’s It is feast for the senses. The visuals are beautiful and the score and sound design are hair raising on their own. The feeling of looming terror peppered with humor and heart is something that is not easily done and it was executed perfectly. I have always felt that this story is about the loss of innocence. As a kid, you know there are things that you are afraid of and that can hurt you but they are only ever really in your nightmares. Articulating the things you fear somehow makes them more real and as you grow up you will come face to face with them. This is a coming of age horror that is creepy and intense but in the end, leaves you wanting. With a sequel already in the works there is a chance that it can be everything this movie was supposed to be. “It” is here to strike fear into a new generation of movie goers and remind those old dogs like myself why you should never walk too close to a storm drain and that the shadows of our childhood fears are still alive and well. 

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Review: As Above So Below (2014)

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 You know when you see a trailer for a movie and you think to yourself “Dang that movies looks super creepy! I can’t wait to watch it!” Then you watch it and are severely disappointed? Yeah that was my experience with As Above So Below. I saw the trailer for this movie right before it was released in 2014. With the found footage boom in full swing, this film fit right in with the rest. So why am I just now reviewing this film? Well because I watched it for the first time only two days ago. I honestly don’t know why I waited so long to watch it. Maybe because I knew deep down that this film was too good to be true. Before I get into this review let me give you a little background on the setting of this film, the catacombs of Paris. Established in 1738, the catacombs are a network of underground ossuaries and old mines which hold the remains of more than 6 million people. It is believed that the network of tunnels is over 200 miles long and about 20 meters down but considering no one has actually explored the whole network (and lived to tell about it) these are estimations. Now that you have a little history on the setting, you might be more understanding of my review.

 Scarlet Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) is a young alchemy scholar who is on the hunt for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone (better known as the Sorcerer’s Stone to you Harry Potter fans. Yes, it’s a real thing.) With a camera man, Benji (Edwin Hodge) in tow she enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend, George (Ben Feldman) to discover the location of the stone. Well unfortunately for everyone the location just happens to be in a secret chamber deep within the Catacombs. After enlisting the help of some Cataphiles (urban explorers who illegally enter the underground mines and catacombs of Paris) they enter the catacombs rather forcibly after being followed by a police officer who tries to stop them. As they journey deeper into the mines they realize that everything is not what it seems. This movie really did have the potential to be great. I am not saying that there weren’t some scenes that made my heart race because I am extremely claustrophobic. The idea of being stuck underground is literally my worst nightmare. I hate cheap jump scares and this film uses them ad nauseam. They acting is alright, there are times when I cringed at the over acting that was happening and times when I was surprised at the genuine fear the actors conveyed. The scene where cameraman Benji becomes stuck while crawling through a tunnel full of bones made me feel short of breath. The ending of this film leaves a lot to be desired. Honestly, this was one of those films that could have benefited from no resolution. What do I always say? Altogether now, less is more! I don’t understand how you can work with such a cool location so steeped in history and shrouded in mystery and manage to not come up with something more than stone demons. Yes, you read that correctly.

  I really wanted to like this movie. I wanted this to be a beacon of hope in the mass of terrible found footage films but alas, I was terribly disappointed. Chalk it up to a combination of over acting, an abundance of glaringly obvious plot holes, story lines that seem to go nowhere and a resolution more befitting of a 90’s thriller than a horror movie. I felt this film was somehow subdued in the production process. Like a way more intense cut was originally filmed but someone in the production office vetoed it and we were stuck with this nonsense. Or maybe this film was meant to be this way and I am just giving it too much credit. Final verdict, the only way this movie is going to give you any heart palpitations is if you are claustrophobic and even then, they won’t last long. This film is a testament to the fact that a film cannot rely on location alone to make it scary. Even if it is a 279 year old underground boneyard. 

AHS: Cult S7 E1 Review: Election Night

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  It’s that time of year again. When the air begins to chill and the leaves begin to fall. This signals the arrival of a new season of American Horror Story. I would be lying if I was a little bit hesitant of the seventh season considering season six was such a disaster but my faith in Ryan Murphy remained steadfast as I watched the clues for the theme of the new season unravel. Murphy loves a good riddle. He released teaser image after teaser image and it sure was fun to watch the internet speculate. With the big reveal of the title at the San Diego Comi-con, American Horror Story: Cult looked like it was going to be going back to the original format with an opening credit sequence and regular narrative. For long time fans, this was a welcome development. Early on it was announced that the show’s theme would have a political tone. With a hinting at clowns, trypophobia and the return of Twisty the clown, this season was the one we didn’t know we needed.

 Episode 1 started off with a bang. It’s Election Night 2016.  Sara Paulson is Ally, a woman with crippling anxiety and phobias that put insane stress on her partner Ivy (Alison Pill) and their son, Ozzy. They are only made worse after the results of Trump winning the presidency. Kai, played by Evan Peter’s is an almost fanatical Trump supporter who is all too ready for the revolution to begin. Winter, played by Billie Lourd (the late Carrie Fisher’s daughter to those of you who didn’t know) is Kai’s sister is heard lamenting over her dropping out of Vasser to campaign for Hillary. She and her brother share some sort of weird pinky promise handshake where Kai asks her a lot of weird questions you would probably never want to ask your sister. The effect of Election Night is clear in all of these characters. Their lives soon intertwine when Winter is hired as Ally and Ivy’s nanny.  It’s clear she is there at the urging of her brother who seems to have some master plan to help The Donald in his cause to “Make America Great Again.” This is no more obvious in a scene where he pisses into a condom and tosses it at a group of Mexican’s, yelling racial slurs and causing them to beat him up, all the while videotaping it. Episode one has some great creepy moments. Ally being tormented in an empty grocery store by a group of people in some of the scariest clown masks I have ever seen, Winter making Ozzy watch people being murdered on the “Dark Web” (which you cannot get to with Google. THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!) And the return of Twisty the Clown from Season 4. While it was only in a comic book, it was still creepy as ever.

 This season is going to be a dark one. Not only because of the creep factor being high, but because of the current political climate of our Country. The characters are a pretty decent representation of extremes on both sides. The uber liberal left who believe Trump is the antichrist and the fanatical bordering on Fascism right who take our President’s word as Gospel. The visuals are terrifying and visceral as usual but the subtlety that Ryan Murphy manages to weave throughout his shows is insane. From the tiny clustered holes in the clown masks creating a phobia-ception to the words in the speech Kai makes to the city council, the nuances and small details of this show are just too perfect. The title of the show rang so true with me. I am not political but I know people who are and like any organized group there are certain aspects that remind you of Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate. Those so fanatical in their devotion to their leader that they will defend them and their ideas to the death. Episode one was a hit, a perfect way to kick off a season of redemption. American Horror Story is back, with a vengeance. 

Odds and Ends: I’m Back! 

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So I have been absent off of here for quite some time. Writer’s block is a real thing guys and it has lasted much longer than I anticipated. I guess there just hasn’t been a lot of inspiration coming my way as of late. I definitely have some movies on my list to see. Annabelle: Creation, It, Mother, The Limehouse Golem just to name a few. I have also been trying out new movies I find on Netflix or Hulu just to see if they are hidden gems or duds. Take a wild guess at which of the two I have been coming across more often than not. With fall right around the corner, I know there will be new spooky content coming my way soon in many forms. American Horror Story has a new season dropping on the 5th of September and I can hardly wait. The theme of Season 7 was revealed at San Diego Comi-con and I can safely say there were many of us that collectively freaked out at the title American Horror Story: Cult. I have always been fascinated by cults. In college, I did a whole study and wrote a paper concerning them. With all the trailers and posters that have been released since the reveal, I am hoping this turns out to be one of the creepiest and most disturbing seasons yet. 

   If you have been following the horror cinema news you will no doubt have heard or seen some of the reboots and sequels that will be released in the coming year. We finally got a trailer for Jigsaw, the newest installment in the Saw franchise. This is set 10 years after the death of the killer known as Jigsaw. Appears to be pretty much the same story as the previous films. Get a bunch of people together and play a game to see how far you will go to save your own life. I am a huge fan of the original Saw film as well as the sequel. After that, the films became so repetitious that I lost interest. I am hoping this film brings something new to the table. Directed by the Spierig Brothers who made one of my favorite vampire movies, Daybreakers I have faith in their ability to make a visually fantastic movie and hopefully, pay homage to the original that started it all.

 After the release of Outlast 2 and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, good Horror video games we almost nonexistent. I did however really enjoy Little Nightmares, a game that came out several months ago. It was really fun to play and was very unique in its art style and story. It seems I am going to have to wait a little longer for my most anticipated game, Kojima’s Death Stranding. There have been so many rumors surrounding this game since its announcement 2016. With no concrete release date as of yet, I can busy myself with some other horror games releasing in the coming year like Evil Within 2 and Fallout 4 VR both due out in October. From all the chatter and trailers at E3 this year, it seems I have a lot to look forward to in the coming year!

  I am sorry that posting has been so infrequent on here you guys. Lots of things have been happening and planning a wedding takes up a lot of time! I have some posts planned for the coming months and some fun things planned for my YouTube Channel which I hope you guys will check out. If you want to see me cover a horror/paranormal topic, leave a comment or hit me up on one of my many social media outlets!  Stay creepy!

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Review: The Void (2017)

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    I can safely say that the number of horror films that have impressed me in the last 5 years is frighteningly low. I like to think my standards are not incredibly high. I don’t ask much. Films like It Follows, Mama and a few select others have made my list but I wasn’t holding out hope that there would be any more soon. The Void came out of nowhere. I hadn’t even heard of it until a read an article in my beloved Fangoria. The article sang praises of the film, how it was a cross between The Thing, Hellraiser and Event Horizon. That got my attention right away. Those are some of my all-time favorites! Plus, a film described as “Nightmarish” is right up my alley.

 The Void is one of those films that lives in that very special space between Sci Fi and Horror. Taking the best elements of both and meshing them into one gory, strange and terrifying ride. I love a horror film that gets you right off the bat and this film grabs you in the first couple minutes and doesn’t let go till the last second. It’s just another boring night for Sheriff Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole), until a wounded man crawls out of the woods and he is forced to rush him to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, that hospital is manned only by a skeleton crew including his estranged wife, Allison (Kathleen Munroe). I don’t want to give it away, but shit goes downhill really fast and it involves some weirdos with big ass knives standing outside the hospital in creepy white robes with a black triangle over the face. Like I said earlier, this is one of those films that gets you right from the beginning. Sure, I am a fan of the slow burn, if it’s done correctly but that seems to be a rarity these days. The acting is pretty on point. It’s believable, gritty and the emotion and urgency is quite raw. The practical effects in this film are absolutely incredible. I miss the days of good ol corn syrup, zinc oxide and red dye. With the things we can do now with digital effects, makeup effects are almost obsolete. There were scenes in this film that gave me the feeling of when I first saw John Carpenter’s The Thing. The monsters in this movie are pretty damn terrifying and my fiancé can attest to the fact that he would hear me every so often yell “What the fuck!?” or “Oh no no no!!” Those were my genuine reactions. This film doesn’t have to try hard to be scary. All the elements come together to create an absolutely terrifying and disturbing package. When I realized who the directors were I automatically knew what I loved the cinematography and the makeup effects in this film so much. Directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski have extensive backgrounds in art direction and makeup effects working together on such films as Suicide Squad and the new incarnation of Stephen King’s It. I believe this is partially what made this film so great to watch.

  Good horror movies are few and far between these days. Even fewer are the ones that manage to use great practical effects. This film made my little gore loving heart skip a beat. Viscera, blood, monsters that look like something out of your worst nightmare. This film delivers. You remember that post I did a few months back about Lovecraftian horror? This film is a prime example of that very topic. This is a film that horror movie directors everywhere could sit down and take a lesson from. The ending leaves a lot of questions. It doesn’t fully explain itself and that makes it so much creepier. I always find the more questions I have at the end of a horror movie, the better and this one left me feeling uncomfortable with the amount of them I had. As humans we naturally crave resolution and when a film leaves us hanging, it makes it so much harder to digest.

 The Void was an unexpected surprise. A beacon of hope in the dark ages of horror movies. It comes on full force and is unrelenting until the last second. It is smart, creepy and well made with a throwback vibe that I haven’t seen since It Follows. It is unapologetic with its gore and leaves you feeling empty and uneasy. My only complaint is that there aren’t more films like it. Horror filmmakers, take note, there needs to be more of films like this and less reboots. Think outside the box.  

Update: YouTube channel, Upcoming Reviews and More!! 

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  I have been neglecting this blog a little bit and for that I am sorry. Life gets in the way sometimes but I want to make it a point to post on here at least once a week. I do have a YouTube channel now which is slowly but surely coming together. The link to one of my videos is included below!

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  Lately, I have been at a loss for things to write about. Trying to spread content across all of my creative mediums can prove challenging especially if I don’t want any overlap. I hate to repeat myself. There haven’t been a great many horror movies releasing in the last couple months. While there have been a couple really exciting movie trailers released, there have been only one or two horror movies that have been ever remotely noteworthy. Even more surprising and that they were both indie films. I will have a review for The Void up soon, spoiler alert: it was amazing. I like my readers, viewers, whathaveyou to have some kind of input in my content. I’m not producing this stuff for myself ya know. So please, comment, tweet me, Facebook me what you want to see in the future. It helps me out a lot. Stay creepy 🙂

Haunted Seattle: Ghosts in the Fog

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I recently wrote a blog on some haunted places in New Orleans and I realized while I was writing that my home of Seattle has some pretty haunted locations too. I find that cities with a lot of history behind them can’t escape without a few ghosts and Seattle has one weird history. It’s actually a town that is built on top of itself. In 1889 an assistant in a woodworking factory was heating some glue. Somehow, the glue overheated and caught fire. This fairly innocuous incident caused what is now known as “The Great Seattle Fire”. When all was said and done, the fire had burned a total of 25 city blocks which was the entirety of the Business District, 4 of the cities wharves and its railroad systems. There was only one casualty in this fire so why do I mention it? After the fire, Seattle raised its city blocks 22 feet. This gave us the now infamous, Seattle Underground. The Underground is one of Seattle’s many haunted places. This is just a listing of a few of my personal favorites. 

Pike Place Market

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  Pike Place is one of Seattle’s most famous landmarks. The flowers, the food, the flying fish all come together with a little weirdness to make this place a must visit for any tourist. Hell, I’m a local and I come here all the time. What most people don’t know is before the market was even a thought, the land it sits on belonged to the Duwamish and Suquamish Indian tribes. Like any good ghost story, the market was built over their burial ground (good job Seattle). Weird things have been happening ever since the market was built. The second level seems to get the most activity with people who work there saying they have seen apparitions, heard footsteps when no one is around and even heard talking and whispering late at night. One of the most famous ghosts that has taken residence at the market is that of Chief Seattle’s daughter, princess Angeline. It is said that many tourists have seen her sitting amongst the sellers in the market peddling her Native American baskets but when they approach her she disappears. I have personally felt and seen some things during my visits to the market and I can say that it is a place unlike anywhere else. 

The Sorrento Hotel

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   There are an abundance of nice hotels to stay at when you visit Seattle. Every so often I have been known to be a tourist in my own city and do a little stay-cation downtown. My fiancée thinks I’m a weirdo but hey, it’s nice to treat yourself every now and then. If you visit Seattle and are looking for a place to stay with a little something extra, I would give the Sorrento Hotel a shot. It was built in 1909 and named as a Seattle Landmark in 2010. This place is so haunted it was placed on USA Today’s 13 Most Haunted Hotels in the World. That should be an indication of the magnitude of activity you would be dealing with should you chose to stay here. The most prominent ghost is said to be that of Ms. Alice Toklas. It is reported that she has an affinity for the 4th floor and particularly the room 408. No one is quite sure why she haunts the hotel considering she has no real ties to it other than her home was near where the hotel now stands. People have reported disembodied footsteps, drinks being moved at the bar and apparitions of a woman wandering the halls causing lights to flicker as she passes them. If you don’t mind sleeping close to some spirits, check this place out. Just don’t expect to get much sleep. 

Butterworth Building (Kells Irish Pub)

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    Kells Irish Pub is one of my favorite places. I am half Irish and whenever I need some good Irish food, a Guinness and some great music I make my way to Post Alley and nestle into this hole in the wall. I would assume that most of the bars patrons don’t know the history of the building that houses it nor do they know that the empty space next to them at the bar is probably occupied by someone unseen. The Butterworth Building was built in 1903 as Butterworth & Sons Mortuary. Yep, that’s right folks, this building was a mortuary. No wonder it’s haunted. So haunted in fact that it was featured on an episode of Ghost Adventures. There was a lot of corruption that happened in this mortuary including the owner, E.R. Butterworth being tied to Dr. Linda Hazzard. Dr. Hazzard had a habit of going to extreme measures to cure her patients including starvation. How convenient to have a mortician to give the bodies to and have them disposed of before anyone asks questions. This had led to the building being haunted by some seriously creepy spirits. One in particular that was captured by one of the demolition crew working on the building. It appears to be a man with black eyes and a stitched mouth, a common practice back in the day was to sew the mouth of the dead shut. I have included the picture below.

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Other reports of paranormal activity are glasses moving on the bar, hand prints appearing on the windows or mirrors and disembodied footsteps or dragging. If you are going to stop into Kells for a Guinness, be prepared for someone else to join you.

The Seattle Underground

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I saved the best for last.  The Seattle Underground is notorious for being haunted and with a history of bootlegging, prostitution and gambling, why wouldn’t it be? As I stated previously, the city of Seattle raised the sidewalks 22 feet in the rebuilding of the 25 city blocks that were destroyed by the fire. This left an underground maze of tunnels that were used by the public until 1907 when the city condemned them for fear of the bubonic plague. The basements of the buildings were abandoned and became flophouses for the homeless, speakeasies or opium dens. As you can imagine, there were some real nefarious things happening beneath Seattle’s busy streets. There is only a small portion of the underground that has been restored and made safe to go in. There are a few really awesome guided tours you can take through them most popular is Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour but this is a haunted Seattle post so I’m sure you want to go where the ghosts are. Spooked in Seattle is the place to be if the ghosts of the Underground interest you. They offer a 2 hour ghost hunt in the Underground and I can attest that it is really fun and very spooky. They have one of the clearest EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) I have ever heard that was captured there. To visit their site and check out all the awesome tours and hunts they offer click here http://spookedinseattle.squarespace.com/

 Seattle is a great city with a history that stretches centuries. Maybe it’s the perpetual grey cast, maybe it’s the smell of wet concrete and earth, maybe it’s the pieces of cobblestone streets and historic buildings but there is no denying the eerie feeling you get when walking through these streets. If you ever visit Seattle, you will see what I mean. Come with an open mind and maybe you will have an experience of your own to tell your friends.