Archive for October, 2015

Best Movies to Watch on Halloween

Posted in Best Of, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2015 by smuckyproductions

THE DAY HAS ARRIVED! Movie marathons commence, costumes are fussed over, and legions of undead-for-a-day ghouls crawl the earth to celebrate Hallow’s Eve. In the spirit of this joyous and spooky occasion, here are my 10 favorite horror films to watch on Halloween.

It goes without saying that, for me, all of these films capture something about the essence of Halloween – the liminal autumn air, the dying leaves, and the electrifying sense of the impending uncanny.

  1. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

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Trick or treating gone wrong: everyone comes knocking at your door, but instead of candy, they want your guts. George Romero’s visceral, paranoid and ground-breaking classic is a must for October. (That’s why MTV plays it every 31st.) It’s disturbing, suspenseful, and phenomenal for its introduction of the zombie trope.

  1. THE HAUNTING

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From the brilliant novel by Shirley Jackson comes one of the scariest haunted house stories of all time. Fabulously acted, beautifully designed and utterly terrifying without showing any ghosts, this film is a landmark of horror. It reminds us that madness and anxiety are the true monsters. And there’s no better villain than a house that preys on those things.

  1. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

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Controversial, to be sure, but in the right mindset, ‘Blair Witch’ is exhaustingly disturbing. Set in the autumn woods and featuring a great folktale as its backdrop, the true terror comes from the breakdown of the human mind. It’s an exercise in restraint – which is why many will hate it – but for those with whom it connects, the experience is pure horror.

  1. THE FOG

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A perfectly simple ghost story, an eerie seaside atmosphere, and a score by John Carpenter – what more can you want? This film is calm and chilling until suddenly it breaks out in mist-shrouded horror. It’s perfect for a Hallow’s Eve sunset when things just start waking up.

  1. HELLRAISER

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One of the purest horror films of all time, Clive Barker’s cinematic debut is all visuals and world-building – and it does an amazing job at that. Disgusting without being tasteless, and featuring some of the most brutally scary villains of all time, this one is required viewing for the strong-stomached. Behind all the goo, it’s quite beautiful, too.

  1. THE EXORCIST

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Another example of pure horror. A genius work of cinema, this film attacks all the senses and also some of the basest fears. It takes no prisoners as it spins its tale of normality upended by pure evil, and what goodness means in the face of such a thing. Brutal, brilliant and bold – and, of course, monstrously frightening.

  1. SUSPIRIA

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With a terrific score and some of the most beautiful camerawork in all of horror, this Italian giallo is the perfect dose of surrealism for Hallow’s Eve. It shuns the idea of ‘plot’ and ‘logic’ in favor of a dreamy series of scenes, which crescendo into utter terror. This is one sick, bloody fairy tale.

  1. THE EVIL DEAD

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The original cabin-in-the-woods movie. It remains one of the most flawed movies on this list, but it possesses (no pun intended) such intensity and non-stop brutal horror that the viewer can’t pay attention to mistakes – they’re too busy having a ball. Like a haunted-house video game on film, it’s an unprecedented blast.

9. TRICK R’ TREAT

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Obviously. This one isn’t that scary, but it is one of the greatest homages to this holiday. With an onslaught of different monsters – from werewolves to zombies to a principal-turned-serial-killer – and a killer atmosphere, it’s hard to think of a better film to kick off the season. But…

10. HALLOWEEN

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One cannot ignore the master. It’s simple, it’s slow-building, and you hardly see it coming, but this film captures the October spirit – while also scaring the sh!t out of everyone – like no other film out there. Eerie, heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and completely phantasmal, this is the quintessential Halloween film – just look at the title.

That’s all for now, ghouls! Go out and haunt the streets tonight. Get ready to be scared.

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New MINUTE MORBIDITIES: CUDDLE

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Hallow’s Eve, ghouls! As the dark day approaches, a new episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES has been released. This one’s called CUDDLE.

Share the scare!

CLICK HERE to follow on Twitter.
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CLICK HERE to follow on Instagram.

Happy Halloween, folks.

Short Story: TRICK FOR TREAT

Posted in Halloween, Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2015 by smuckyproductions

In time for Halloween, here’s a little story about a different kind of trick-or-treating.

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Dressed in a white sheet, the shape went out at sunset, when the bare branches were black against a sky of fire and the cries of children lilted on the wind. No one looked twice at the shape. Gliding behind the other costumed children, he looked like any other little boy. He did not speak and was not spoken to, until the group he followed reached the porch and rang the doorbell. Creeping up the steps, past fresh pumpkins leering with ephemeral faces and false spider webs drifting in the brittle air, he waited for the tribute like the other children, but did not say “thank you” and flee giggling to the next house as they did; and the adults, looking down at what they thought was a child, would pause, smiles fading, and speak. When they went quiet and had shut the door, he was free to dissolve into another group, and at the house next door, would do the same.

When the adults leaned down and looked into the holes in his sheet, expecting to see the glint of eyes, they spoke in soft voices. They said, “Well, no, I’m not sure I do love him;” or, “I meant to throw those dirty magazines away, but I couldn’t stop staring at them, I couldn’t look away.” He listened as they went on – “He doesn’t look at me anymore;” “I never wanted to touch that student, but he was so, so beautiful;” “You know, sometimes I do wonder, I do want to know what she would look like dead.” In their whispered tones the words had no more substance than the autumn wind that curled around them. They flitted off into the leaves, into the moonlight, and into the holes in his sheet, where they twisted and hardened into something material. Once the words could no longer sustain themselves, he left. The speaker would stand frozen for a moment, frowning and staring at the ground, trying to understand the hollow that had formed inside their chests. It never took them long to realize that they would never understand, so they trailed back inside. He did not know what happened to them after that.

The violet evening and black night shrouded him for long enough, and allowed him to visit many houses, hiding in the folds of plastic devils or cheap satin witches, who he knew did not see him. Only the adults, herding their children down the street or stumbling on their way to a neighbor’s party, would stop and watch. Once the moon began to peak in the sky, and the children were dragged back into their homes, he would no longer be safe roaming in the open. With no one left to camouflage him, he faded back into the night, from whence he had come. The sheet fluttered away and stuck in the branches, a ghost of its own; and he, uncovered, became an It, blended seamlessly with the dark. Under the cold moon and the black branches, he could feast on the treats he had plundered, the breathed secrets that had been tricked from the mouths of those who refused to acknowledge them.

How I Pick My Halloween Films

Posted in Dark Musings, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by smuckyproductions

THREE. MORE. DAYS. 

Until the best, most horrifying day of the year. And one of my favorite ways to celebrate is to curate a marathon of films that speak to the spirit of Halloween. As a horror fan, this isn’t terribly difficult, but I still believe there is a precision to the selection process.

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When I mention this to the uninitiated, the response is usually simple – aren’t all horror films good for Halloween? My personal answer is: No. I am undoubtedly pickier than most, but many horror films don’t fit into the spirit at all. (It always confuses me why “The Shining” – year-round, my favorite movie of all time – is always chosen for October movie nights. It’s a winter movie, guys.) It’s a combination of atmosphere, imagery, and storyline, not just scariness.IMG_1097

So, what are my guidelines? I’m not totally sure. But it has to do with the spirit of Halloween itself. This holiday is a celebration of the spectral, the liminal, and the uncanny. The air itself is brittle with the impending change of seasons. Fireplaces newly lit exude a smell of homely smoke, and the quality of the light becomes shadowy as nights grow shorter. Houses drift and lunge with paper ghosts and fake spiderweb. It’s a unique time of year, tingling with a pleasant time of dread, as candles ignite and costumes conceal – so unique that film has a difficult time capturing the authentic atmosphere.

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Films that work for me, then, evoke the intangible and phantasmal quality of October. Surrealism and dream logic are the best examples. Synth-y music and dreamy camerawork combine to transport the viewer into a world apart.

There’s also the stories, of course. Monsters and ghouls make up so much of the childlike glee of Halloween – things that aren’t real become possible. Films that feature a terrific, fantastical villain, perhaps even several to give the film the quality of a well-produced haunted attraction, pay tribute to the variety of creatures that come to life on the 31st. These films don’t have to make their monsters scary, either. They just have to be honest.

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It isn’t precise, and is certainly ridiculous, but I hold true to my little science: autumnal atmosphere, ethereal score, dream logic, and a funhouse-esque parade of ghouls. Films that feature most, or all, of these qualifications are my favorite for the Halloween season.

Watch out for my personal top 10 list, coming out the day before Halloween, if you’re wondering what meets my conditions!

OVER THE GARDEN WALL: A Modern Classic

Posted in Halloween, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Animation has been at the forefront of the avant-garde television movement, with countless shows – “Adventure Time” and “Rick and Morty,” to name just two – combining vividly unique styles with subversively brilliant storylines. It’s a genre-bending, form-defying renaissance. And from this revolution has come a great Halloween gift: OVER THE GARDEN WALL.

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When reading a logline or seeing the poster for the first time, this Cartoon Network-produced miniseries sounds fairly typical: two brothers get lost in a spooky wood and must find their way home. In execution, the show transcends this premise and fills it with subtle, sublime brilliance. The brothers encounter characters who reveal dark but poignant themes about isolation and loneliness, and also travel on their own philosophical journey, struggling with a purgatorial loss of hope and purpose.

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Through the music, the character design and the general atmosphere, the show places itself in an amorphous early-1900s period that is purely enchanting. The supporting characters range from animals dressed in old-fashioned clothes, grotesque witches, and skeleton-dressed pumpkins. And the forest through which the brothers must find their way is stunningly designed. The animation is luminous, with soft oranges and browns that evoke autumn perfectly. It evokes something akin to “Wind in the Willows,” with a gentle aura that can sometimes turn sinister.

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But these are just style elements. The true genius lies in the characters and stories. Throughout the ten episodes, the brothers encounter about as many different characters – my particular favorites were Auntie Whispers (voiced by Tim Curry) and the pumpkin people – who each evoke something of the lost purpose that the brothers feel themselves. And the villain, a terrifyingly simple creation called The Beast, stands as a testament that the greatest evil is often the most invisible and enticing. I won’t reveal the theme that this creature represents, but suffice to say, it culminates in a heartbreakingly beautiful finale.

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“Over the Garden Wall” also holds itself as one of the greatest examples of animated horror that I’ve seen. The Beast being the greatest example, but supported by a number of other ghouls and wicked creatures, this show displays an unsettling ability to scare the viewer – all without breaching its target audience of young viewers. For this reason, and because of the atmosphere, it’s ultimate Halloween viewing – standing alongside “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I dare say. Horror does not have to be hardcore to unsettle; in fact, subtle can sometimes be scarier.

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With terror, philosophy, and beauty combined, “Over the Garden Wall” feels like a classic birthed in our modern era – not only for its craft, but for its sincerity. No note of this show comes off as false or pandering. The creators truly believe what they’re making, and each frame is instilled with that passion. It feels honest and raw, which causes it to touch the viewer so much more intimately. The humor, the fear, and the sadness all come from a real, truthful place. It’s cathartic, in the end – and who ever thought a children’s show could be cathartic? That’s why it transcends its boundaries and creates something universally brilliant. And, it so happens, one of the best Halloween watches of all time.

MINUTE MORBIDITIES #4 is up!

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Greetings, ghouls – a new episode of MINUTE MORBIDITIES welcomes you this morning.

It’s called GARBAGE:

Take out the trash. And share the scare!

Four Horror Novels for Halloween

Posted in Dark Musings, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy Halloweek, everyone! To kick off prime celebration time, I’ve put together a short list of my favorite horror novels that capture the Samhain spirit. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it scratches the surface.

For atmosphere, ghouls, and disturbing stories, these are four novels that can’t be missed.

THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ouvre goes beyond tedious, forced high school reads. “Seven Gables” is a classic American Gothic, stocked full of Puritan themes, eerie imagery of witchcraft and brutal settlements, and a terrific drama about a cursed family. The titular house is full of spectres not seen, but felt, memories that won’t go away. By now, a plot like this has been overdone, but Hawthorne’s gorgeous descriptions make up for any familiarity. Autumnal and phantasmal, it’s a must-read.

PET SEMATARY

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Yeah, yeah, Stephen King is great and all. But not all of his novels are suited for Halloween reading. “Pet Sematary,” though, has it all – cursed graveyards, undead children, evil spirits, and a spooky suburban setting over which the presence of death hangs like fog. On top of that, it’s beyond terrifying. The first time I read it, I had to put it down while I waited for the chills to pass so I could keep going. With both entertaining and psychological horror, and one of the most disturbing ending lines of all time, this one is perfect for ghost season.

HELL HOUSE

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A terribly cheesy title – but this is one of the best horror novels of the 1970s. Penned by weird fiction master Richard Matheson, this novel is oppressively atmospheric, with doom and dread oozing from the first pages. The house is masterfully described and full of hidden horrors – in true 70s fashion, psychedelic and sensual, too. The terse prose creates such an aura of paranoia and horror that it’s actually difficult to read through, but the suspense is such that you can’t stop. For a quick, terrifying, and entertaining read, with all the Halloween trappings, there is no better book.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

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If you talk about Hell House, you have to talk about Hill House. Shirley Jackson is the master of quiet, psychological horror. This book pairs her brilliant character analysis with an uncanny haunted house story, a combination that results in madness and terror. It subverts the cliches in the most disturbing way possible. And Hill House is one of the most formidable villains in all of dark literature – how can you fight a house? Finding a way to dissect loneliness and agoraphobia within the most ghostly of places, “Hill House” is a truly horrific read.

As Halloweek chugs along, keep your eyes peeled for more original Smucky stories and short films! And stay spooked – it’s the best time of the year.