Week three was a bit of a bust, I’m afraid. I was overwhelmed and undermotivated and this led to me attempting to do a lot of things–probably too many things!– in uninspired, half-assed ways.
However! I did try to fit something horror-related or at the very least horror-ish or horror-esque or horror-adjacent in where I could, every day. The following, then, is a ridiculous collection of those attempts, and keeping in that theme, I’ve not listed them day by day, or even in any particular order. It’s a bit of a jumbled free-for-all, wheeeee!
We may as well get the most ridiculous item on this list out of the way first. Yes, I watched Hubie Halloween on Netflix. It was one of those evenings where more time was spent looking for something interesting to watch than having watched an actual something would have taken me, and at a certain point you’ve got to know when to say, “okay, this as good as it gets tonight.” And for what it’s worth…it wasn’t the worst Adam Sandler movie I’ve ever seen?
So…Hubie Dubois earnestly and enthusiastically loves Halloween, and every year he goes to great lengths to ensure that the townfolk of Salem enjoy it safely. Of course, this sort of pure-hearted exuberance can often make one the target of scorn and derision by mean-hearted people who don’t understand you or what you’re all about, especially if you’re…well, if you’re one of the characters Adam Sandler plays. (He’s still with this goofy shtick? Lordy.) So of course Hubie is the butt of everyone’s jokes and the focal point of all manner of cruel pranks.
A killer escapes from a local mental institution, a weird neighbor may have lycanthropic tendencies, and a number of mysterious disappearances in the town are a few horror-movie tropes that make me feel like I was justified in putting this on the list, as well as the horror I felt when I actually realized I was laughing a few times. Ugh, body, why did you betray me like that? In my defense, Maya Rudolph (who is also in this film, along with several Adam Sandler film regulars), and she is forever a high priestess of hilarity.
The not-quite-viewing of Relic was a massive failure on my part. You only have two days to watch the movies that you rent from Amazon and that presents a bit of a challenge for my distracted “ten minutes here, ten minutes there, maybe I will finish it on Wednesday of next week” film-watching habits. In the span of two evenings, I got about a half-hour into the movie…but from what I saw, I was fairly intrigued. When Edna, an elderly woman goes missing, her workaholic and somewhat neglectful daughter, Kay, and granddaughter Sam, head out to her isolated, rural home to find her.
The house itself, while at the onset somewhat mundane, became even in my short viewing, awfully unnerving. Moldy walls, rotten fruit lying around, shadowy stairs and hallways, doors slightly ajar, ominous notes tucked away in pockets (“DON’T FOLLOW IT.”) Edna reappears within a few days, disoriented, and with no explanation of where she was. A doctor’s visit suggests Edna may be unwell and this is where I stopped watching, but from the woman’s behavior and having experienced this in my own life with aging relatives, it’s clear that a diagnosis of dementia is undoubtedly forthcoming. I’ll definitely be returning to this film to see what direction it takes–will it remain an intergenerational family drama creeping with psychological horror, or is something supernatural stalking these women?
Woven throughout this week was a common thread, an entire midnight-dyed alpaca skein of them, as it happens. I took this opportunity to begin knitting up Our Widow’s lovely Widow’s Web stole pattern! Knit on size 17 needles (for non-knitters, this means they are BIG ASS NEEDLES) this is a gorgeous and satifying knit that comes together very quickly, and it is a pattern that is fairly easy to memorize–which makes it nice to work on while you are watching scary movies! I am about 3/4 through with it, so by the time I go to post up next week’s picks for 31 Days of Horror, I should have a finished object to show off!
Notes April Carter, proprietress of Our Widow, when I asked if there are any spooky movies or such that she likes to have in the background while working on a project:
“I’ve been on an Addams Family binge lately! Of course, I enjoy the whole kooky bunch, but I especially love seeing Morticia knit, it’s something that seems so against her nature, but she’s perfectly comfortable doing it. I think I mentioned something in our interview about the attitudes towards knitting being a homemaker/crafty type past time, and how I wanted to help change those beliefs. I think Morticia personifies that– she’s strange, she’s goth, she’s anti-cutesy, she hates traditional family standards, and she looks incredible while doing it of course!”
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I’m seeing people whose opinions I might generally trust falling into two camps with regard to The Haunting of Bly Manor, a current Netflix series based loosely on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, and it seems like they either think it’s outstanding or, to quote a friend, “a total snoozefest.” I thought rather than watching it and determining its merits for myself, I would instead go straight to the source material, never having read it.
…and talk about a snoozefest. A ghost story about weirdly beautiful orphan kids being haunted by malevolent spirits and the naively courageous governess vowing to protect them (or who is perhaps going mad?) should be an absolute delight to read with a cup of tea on a blustery evening. I had the tea! I had the bluster! I had the sentences that went on for three paragraphs long with no sign of stopping! But…I didn’t really need that last one, ok? Listen, I have no problem with the language of 19th-century authors. But this? This writing is nearly impenetrable. I found myself shouting after trying and failing to read the same sentence for the fifth time in a row, “what the hell HENRY JAMES, are you getting paid BY THE WORD?” Having not read the short story before, I wasn’t entirely familiar with it, but yes, as it turns out, I think he was, as The Turn of the Screw first appeared in serial format in Collier’s Weekly magazine, running in 1898 from January 27th to April 16.
I haven’t exactly finished the story yet, but now I am thinking I will just switch over To Bly Manor, instead.
This video essay is exactly what it sounds like, a condensed overview at the long cinematic history of Japanese horror. It’s a fascinating look at some cultural and genre touchstones as well as a neat opportunity to familiarize yourself with and learn more regarding some of the themes and ideas that one will find throughout Japanese horror films.
h/t to Jack, who shared a handful some Japanese horror videos on his blog recently!
While I was viewing the above video essay on Japanese horror, I was reminded of a film I’d heard of a few years ago with the silliest (yet somehow intriguing?) premise I could imagine: cursed hair extensions. I never had the opportunity to watch it, and so my knowledge and the memory of that knowledge was forgotten until just this weekend. I don’t think it’s an easily unearthed cinematic nugget, but if you don’t mind a crummy copy, you can watch it on YouTube.
Part family-drama, part police procedural, part bizarre genre entry, part shocking and macabre grotesquerie (let’s just say if the prospect of finding hair in your food makes you want to barf, then seeing it come out of someone’s eyeballs is really going to give you a problem) EXTE is many things and all of them add to what I thought was unhinged, brilliant fun. This is a Sion Shono film, so if that means anything to you, you’ll know what you’re getting in for. Also! It’s got Gogo Yubari in it, and I am always happy to see her in anything not related to Quentin Tarantino.
Double feature idea: I’ve just now become aware that a film called Bad Hair was just released on Hulu a few days ago and if I understand correctly, it is a horror-comedy about a killer weave? This plus EXTE would make for interesting back-to-back viewing!
Over the weekend I friend-sourced some ideas for horror shorts to fill up on when I was pressed for time, and I got so many wonderful suggestions! Thanks, friends. Feel free to check out the thread if you are interested, and share your recommendations, as well. (Thanks for this one, Kate!)
The narrator in this 1968 short, based on the M.R. James’ 1904 story, “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad” describes the author’s writing generally consisting of “peculiar atmosphere and cranky scholars” …and having read a great deal of Montague Rhodes James’ works, I don’t think I can argue with that summation of his measured, understated ghost stories. Nothing melodramatic or gory to startle you with, suddenly…but slowly, rather… through the subtle suggestion of fear and unsettling one’s imagination and one’s view of what is familiar — that’s the sort gentle terror that this particular author lulls you with.
“Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad” as adapted by the BBC in 1968, is the tale of a stuffy, eccentric, and self-important academic who discovers a strange whistle while exploring a cemetery on the East Anglian coast. Inscribed with the eerie phrase, “Quis est iste qui venit” (“Who is this who is coming?”) the instrument, when blown, unleashes a supernatural force that terrorizes its discoverer–who of course, thinks he does not believe in such things.