Archive for christmas

Merry Christmas from Smucky: CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Happy yuletide, solstice, Christmas, and any other pagan traditions! Our gift to you is a new MINUTE MORBIDITIES:

Enjoy some spooky family time today, ghouls. And stay tuned for all new episodes in 2016.

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Short Story: BEARING GIFTS

Posted in Original Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

In the nights before Christmas, a different kind of gift giving… one kept in shadow.

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The snow tried to follow her inside, buffeting the dust and gauze of the empty hall, until she forced the door shut. Without the wind and the snow’s glare, the house was utterly desolate. In the early days it had nauseated her to be alone there. She could feel the weight of all the silent rooms, the winding corridors pressing down on her, tempting their secrets. Now she had grown accustomed, though the wind still sounded like a warning as it begged for entry.

Clutching her bundle, she stepped across the wasted floorboards and approached the ballroom doors, which hung ajar in anticipation. Their moaning movement revealed what once had been a grand ballroom. She imagined it, glowing with candles and extravagant fabrics, a rebellion against the blasted land outside. All that remained of that glamour were the web-shrouded chandeliers and the cavernous yawning windows. They still leaked blue light into the room, enough to reveal the silhouette crouched in the center.

She never took more than three steps into the room. It was enough to made the shadow stir, ripple into movement. A sigh whipped around the ceiling; then, the wheezing voice. “You bring dinner.”

So many years and those words still rattled her spine. “Yes, I did.”

She did not look at the shadow anymore. In the beginning she had made the mistake of doing so. The impressions of grey flesh, distended from misery, and the tatters of an unused bridal gown squeezed over the rotten frame, would never leave her mind. It was best to close her eyes and present the bundle blind.

There was shifting, the crackle of old bones, then the bundle was ripped from her arms. She tried not to listen as the bundle stirred, cried, then extinguished with the crunching of teeth. The chewing dragged on for several moments until the swallowing throat belched and groaned in disgusted satisfaction.

“Done,” the voice sobbed. “Done…”

The sobbing was the worst. She could bear the grotesque shape, the chewing; even the preparation, creeping into silent homes and lifting the bundles from their cradles to satisfy her ward. That was all, she knew, necessary. But to hear this creature, who had once twirled beneath the chandelier with ultimate grace and promise, shaking and blubbering in such degeneration… She ran from the room, holding her hands over her ears until she had burst back into the storm.

Outside and concealed, she withdrew the knife from her dress. She had been carrying it for weeks. When the sobbing became too awful she would use it and end the cycle, allow that deformed body to rest. It would be an act of mercy. But the time had not yet come. She could still hear the innocence, the pure beauty, of that cursed child, trapped somewhere in the body of a beast.

7 Horror Films to Ruin your Christmas

Posted in Best Of, Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

It’s the holiday season – as the nights lengthen and the weather turns vicious, we turn to warm fires, bright lights, and wishes of wellbeing. At least, some of us do. For those who like their holidays with a dose of darkness, here is a list of films that capture the wickedness of winter.

  1. BLACK CHRISTMAS

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What other movie scores a murder scene with “O Holy Night”? Oft credited as the first ‘slasher’ film, this one takes place in a sorority house on the brink of winter break – but someone does not intend for the sisters to go home. Featuring a truly creepy villain (BILLY!) and one hell of a creepy ending, “Black Christmas” is great spirited terror. (Stay away from the gory remake – the 1974 version is where it’s at.)

  1. CRIMSON PEAK

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The director himself claims that this is not a horror film, and to a point I agree – but this traditional Gothic yarn is perfect for a cold winter night. The visuals are stunning, the performances are spot-on; and the titular house, embedded in drifts of red snow, is sure to become an icon. Best watched by a fire while the wind howls outside.

  1. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN

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Encased in the bitter snows of Sweden, this understated masterpiece is one of the best vampire films ever made. Its exploration of innocence, loneliness, and intimacy are beautiful, but also deeply chilling. This is no Twilight – there is true evil at work here. Gorgeously shot, too, this is ideal for lonely winter viewing.

  1. RAVENOUS

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No winter is complete without a visit from the Wendigo! As discussed in a previous post, this film is brutally original and also true to its source legend. Set in the icy climes of frontier-era California, the story gives us our fair share of viscera, blood, and snowy spirits. Take some pointers for Christmas dinner, too.

  1. DEAD OF NIGHT

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While only one segment of this anthology relates to Christmas, the overall film has an atmosphere of fireside ghost stories gone horribly wrong. What begins as cozy becomes claustrophobic – but I won’t give too much away. No film delivers old-fashioned chills more darkly and stylishly.

  1. THE THING (1982)

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What better setting for a horror film than a snowed-in station in Antartica? Sticking closer to the source story than the original, and taking some cues from “At the Mountains of Madness,” John Carpenter’s classic is paranoid and claustrophobic – also sporting some of the grossest monsters in horror history. You think getting stuck with your relatives at Christmas is bad? Try spending December with the Thing.

  1. THE SHINING

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An obvious choice, but too perfect to ever exclude. Stanley Kubrick adapts Stephen King’s ghost story and turns it into a cosmic nightmare. The snowbound waste of the Overlook is pervaded by a sense of dread that only Blackwood can conjure – a massive force watching over. Part ghost thriller, part domestic drama, but ultimately a surreal assault of the senses, there is no better film for a dark snowy night.

Did we overlook anything particularly chilly? Let us know! And happy dark days, fellow ghouls.

Winter Traditions: Ghost Stories by the Fire

Posted in Dark Musings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

Our Western culture often associates December and its holidays with cheerfulness, light, and warmth. These are defenses against the long nights and cold winds that otherwise would haunt us. We forget, however, a tradition predominant in Victorian Europe, one that ran alongside the cheery tidings: winter ghost stories by the firelight.

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Evidence of this tradition exists throughout Victorian literature. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is arguably the most famous, and the lightest-hearted – but many authors contributed darker tales. M.R. James, for instance, was famous for writing out his chilling stories by hand and reading them in utter darkness to his holiday guests. Other authors, such as Sheridan LeFanu, Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell, followed this tradition as well.

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These stories are far from cheery, designed to create dread and uncanny fear in the reader. Coming from these talented scribes, the effects are considerable. They spin for the fireside audience spectral evil, cursed objects, and decaying churches where wicked creatures hide. Sometimes the protagonists escape with only rattled nerves; other times the supernatural prevails. Rarely, however, do the stories end in upbeat morals, in the form of “A Christmas Carol.” They are purely written to frighten and make listeners question the existence of ghosts.

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Where does this tradition come from, then, and where has it gone? We have shirked ghost stories and shivers for sentiment and comedy. I think, though, that these opposite moods serve a similar purpose. They both present a distraction from that dreary dark outside. Whether laughing or shaking, the entertainment is harmless – these ghosts don’t haunt us as they do the characters. It is the momentary catharsis, the communal chills, that make the ghost story an important part of the Christmas tradition. Perhaps, one day, it will reinstate itself.

Horror Stories for a Snowy Night

Posted in Best Of with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2015 by smuckyproductions

 

Yuletide is upon us! The nights grow dark, the air cold, and the wind carries voices of ice… the perfect time for a few fireside shivers. Here is a (partial) list of classic and contemporary stories that suit themselves for a cold night, when you tremble from something other than temperature.

  1. THE WENDIGO by ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

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Algernon Blackwood is the unchallenged master of the terrified awe that nature inspires – like an evil twin of the Romantics. “Wendigo” is my personal favorite of his famous tales. His ill-fated group of hunters who encounter the titular spirit in the winter woods are witnesses to a horror that we all understand: being at the mercy of the elements. It evokes a sense of ever-present dread, lurking over the treetops and blowing in on the snow – something that we can’t see, but it sure sees us.

  1. OH, WHISTLE AND I’LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD by M.R. JAMES

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No December reading list is complete without M.R. James – he is one of the best practitioners of the fireside ghost story. While many of his stories are worth reading, “Whistle” combines the best traits of them all: chilly seaside atmosphere, ancient relics, and slow-building uncanny events that blow up into shocking terror. All with a cheeky sense of humor. Suffice to say that James actually makes the ghost-in-a-sheet cliché frightening.

  1. THE COMPANY OF WOLVES by ANGELA CARTER

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As with the entirety of her collection, Angela Carter is phenomenal at paying tribute to fairy tales while also subverting them. Here, we find a deeply dark version of Red Riding Hood – a snow-shrouded village in Eastern Europe; a young girl with a vital task, and the boy who seduces her; the horrible, animal secret that might kill her. It’s both frightening and hideously erotic, realizing the full potential of the werewolf/sexual awakening metaphor.

  1. SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW by CONRAD AIKEN

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Cited by some as one of the first psychological thrillers in short American fiction, this story has a bizarrely simple premise: a boy becomes obsessed with snow. Somehow it manages to be weirder than it sounds. On one hand, it’s a deeply disturbing supernatural horror story; on the other, it’s an upending exploration of mental illness and obsession. All while having a supremely chilling atmosphere.

  1. MIRIAM by TRUMAN CAPOTE

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What would you do if a helpless little girl follows you home… and refuses to leave you alone? Set in a bitter, empty New York winter, this shivery tale reads like the purest of nightmares: surreal, impossible, but inescapable. It’s also a horrifying meditation on loneliness and manipulation. Capote knew how to scare readers with his true stories, but he also could craft fictional terror, all too well.

  1. THE YATTERING AND JACK by CLIVE BARKER

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No one in their right mind would call this scary. But it’s an absolute blast to read – a combination of demonic horror clichés and brilliant dark humor, often bordering on slapstick. And it all takes place during a traditional Suburban Christmas. Clive Barker has an imagination of dark gold, and it’s displayed beautifully in this tale of holiday Satanism, with a hefty dose of satire as well.

  1. SNOW, GLASS, APPLES by NEIL GAIMAN

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Only someone like Neil Gaiman could take such a classic, overdone story – Snow White, in this case – and completely invert it, so the original is unrecognizable. I won’t tell you how he does it, but the effect is astonishing and wholly terrifying. This wintry fairy tale is a bleak and brilliant nightmare. Its minute twists of the source material alter the reader’s perception so fully that they can never go back.

Official KRAMPUS Trailer Released

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This is some deliriously exciting news.

For most horror fans, 2009’s TRICK ‘R TREAT was the Halloween dream that we didn’t know we were missing. Michael Dougherty made a beautiful name for himself in the horror community, with talks of a sequel and other projects. But then… all news went quiet.

Now, at last, Mr. Dougherty has graced us with yet another holiday-themed horror fest: KRAMPUS, based on one of the weirdest legends out there. For those who aren’t familiar with it already, the trailer gives a decent overview. Basically, it’s the Scandinavian Anti-Claus, stalking around on huge hoofs and sporting awful horns, looking for bad kiddies to punish in while his counterpart spreads cheer.

Judging by the trailer, this looks like a classic horror-comedy in the vein of the last film – meaning, it allows itself to be both funny and scary without sacrificing one over the other. That mix of genre is rarely seen anymore, pushed out by solely ‘so-bad-its-good’ midnight fare.

I’m thrilled to see that the film will follow in the tradition of “Trick ‘R Treat,” in its gleefully messed up story and wacky visuals (see evil teddy bear and jaw-unhinged clown thing in trailer). Perhaps Mr. Krampus and good ol’ Sam are collaborators in this whole follow-the-rules-or-die type of scenario. Here’s to hoping that this film lives up to its predecessor’s success and gives us a good, cheerful bloodfest for Christmas.