Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kinder, Gentler Horror

A couple of days ago I read a news story about a horror movie being released this week end. That was the first mention I had heard, which is surprising because these things are usually beaten to death with trailers. The same evening I saw a commercial on TV for the same move..."Insidious". This is by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the same guys who wrote and directed "Saw". You can link to the news story here. It's about a family who become haunted by evil spirits when their son falls into a coma after an accident.

Insidious is a bit of a departure from the usual blood and gore the guys are used to dishing up. They wanted to try a movie that had a "creepy atmosphere" without falling on the usual shocks of standard horror movies these days. I'm looking forward to this movie because I haven't been a fan of horror films the past few years (perhaps with the exception of The Ring). I saw the first Saw movie and that was plenty for me. I've shied away from movies like "Hostel" and "Final Destination" and "Grindhouse" that fall into either the so-called 'splatter' movies or the more controversial label of 'torture porn'.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind blood or violence in a movie if it depicts a realistic situation that is advancing the story or, better yet, enhancing it. What I don't want to see is someone strapped or chained in position with a gag stuffed in their mouth and a nine inch nail...well, you get the picture.

I can recall three movies off the top of my head that made a distinct impression on me years ago that played more on the psychology of the situation. They tended to imply grievous harm without actually depicting it. As a teenager I watched Roddy McDowall in "The Legend of Hell House" (1973). This was a scary picture that didn't really show anything, but built tension with sound, music and effective lighting. It was remade in 1999 as "The Haunting" with Liam Neeson in the lead role but was no where near as affective. The second movie I recall was "Alien" (1979). Sure, there was a bit of blood in this one...who doesn't remember the scene where that little creature pops out of the guy's chest...but, if you recall, the alien wasn't really seen until near the end of the movie. The creature was more hinted at throughout the movie. The third movie? "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) scared the crap out of me. Again, there was nothing disturbing to be seen. I think the more frightening aspect was that it was preying on the superstitious nature of people. The documentary nature of the film added a certain creepy factor as well. I have heard the movie "Paranormal Activity" (2007) falls into this category of great scares with no blood or gore. I'll have to rent that one soon.

I plan on checking out Insidious to see if they attain their goal of terrifying the audience without drenching them in blood and gore. FYI, it ranks 67% at the Rotten Tomatoes web site at the time I am writing this. That number is good enough for me. I hope that the viewing audience supports movies like this because I'd like to return to a kinder, getnler, more thought-provoking horror rather than sensory overload splatter-fest that leaves you rushing home for a hot shower to cleanse yourself...

What is the scariest movie that YOU recall seeing? Was it more cerebral...or splatter?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

[read between THESE lines]

Wow, that was a week that I'll never get back. It all seems a blur now. Three days this week we had significant snow fall that required shovelling (mostly using the snow blower, of course). But I did have my junior Sherpa on hand to hide in the warm car  fart around  do most of the manual labour. I must be having sympathy pains (like when 'V' was pregnant) because my back is still paining me. I had to make up the lost office time by working after hours. And my overlords are now cracking the 'overtime whip' in an effort to get more steel out the doors. I used to like overtime when I was younger (one year I had nearly 500 hours of overtime) but I prefer to avoid it now.

Friday's snow storm played havoc on the boy's schedule too. He is a member of the robotics club at school, and they were to compete against other Jr. High schools from the eastern part of the province at a certain unnamed 'institute of higher learning' here in St. John's. However, the event was cancelled due to the snow and high winds preventing travel of the out-of-town teams. We did fill out the permission form and submit it to the school a few days ago. You all have no doubt seen these forms before. Essentially written in legalese, signing away one's rights to sue the 'institute of higher learning' until well into the next century.

Let me relate to you some of the facts of the two page document [and a few of my thoughts in passing.]
  • Although it is understood that 'the institute of higher learning', in general, endeavours to provide a safe environment for students, I am familiar with and accept that there is a risk of injury, possibly of a serious nature in participation in the Event;  [injury? what kind of injury? The kids'll be operating small, robotic subs in a shallow tank of water for frigs sake!]
  • Injuries may include, but are not limited to, bruises, abrasions, strains, muscular injuries, fractures, back injuries, joint injuries, concussions, drowning, paralysis and death;  [OK, sounds to me like this 'Event' is actually going to be Acapulco cliff diving or duelling with light sabres or frigging ice hockey!]
  • Injuries may result from, without limitation, equipment malfunction, slipping, tripping or falling, hazards inherent to the environment of the Event;  [so you're REALLY saying we should encase the little darlings in bubble wrap before sending them off to 'the orifice  edifice of unparalleled danger'...]
  • I knowingly and freely assume all such risks, both known and unknown, even if arising from the negligence of those persons released from liability below, and assume full responsibility for my Child's participation;  [...and we should also have Father Ted bless them and sprinkle a wee bit of holy water on them for good measure...]
  • My Child will immediately notify the nearest official of 'the institute of higher learning', if at any time he/she senses or observes any unusual condition or feels that he/she has experienced any deterioration in his/her physical, emotional or mental fitness, for continued safe participation in the Event;  [Do I understand Clause #691 correctly?...if the young'uns Spidey senses get tingling, or if they feel a crying jag coming on, they should tell the Commandant right away?]
  • I understand that the 'institute of higher learning' assumes no responsibility for personal injury or loss of or damage to my Child's personal property;  [Yeah. Right. Kinda seen that one coming]
  • I hearby consent to the use without compensation, of my Child's name and/or likeness, images and/or voice in publicity and advertising concerning the Event in any media and/or promotion throughout the world;  [so if you produce a video, and it makes its way to YouTube and goes all 'Justin Beiber' and it makes a crap-load of money for an as-of-yet 'UNKNOWN PRODUCT' we won't see a penny of that?]
  • I declare that I have read, understood and agree to the contents of the WAIVER FORM in its entirety and I sign it freely and voluntarily without any inducement.  [ya know, just because you can't SEE the friggin' gun pointed at your head doesn't mean that it's not there.]
Anyway, I signed and dated said form. So did the boy. So did the obligatory witnesses and the Holy Father himself. After I had my team of lawyers look over the document, Sean returned it to school. Then the Event got cancelled. Maybe he can risk life and limb NEXT week end.

Photo Credit: Safe Home Products

Monday, March 21, 2011

(Almost) Good Enough to Eat

I've been around dogs my entire life in some fashion or another. You've all probably heard me go on about having been a dog catcher (or the more PC...Animal Control Officer) in a former life. As a child we had a pair of fox terriers called Monday and Tuesday, and in my teen years we had shelties.You never know what will happen with dogs as they have as many quirks as their owners. We now have a greyhound called 'Jet' that we got from the local greyhound rescue group. We sometimes refer to him as 'the dog' or simply 'dog', much the same way we refer to our son as 'the boy'. Kind of a term of endearment.

We feed the dog Purina One, Lamb and Rice chow with probiotics (the probiotics help keep the dog-gas to a least we don't need to sit about in the evening wearing the WWII gas masks anymore). So nauseous are the fumes that we even add fresh yogurt with probiotics to the mix. A kind of insurance policy.

Anyway...I mix the whole thing together and it looks like a nasty mess. Sort of a 'dog's breakfast', as it were. No matter, Jet eats it anyways. Without fail, he leaves behind three or four pieces of the chow in the dish. Why? I've pondered this mystery for some time. Perhaps even obsessed over it. 'V' tells me that I should just let it go. She says that, if it helps, I should just think of the chow as a gift from dog.

Speaking of a dog's breakfast...

Help! My spoon is stuck
The cold weather has us eating a lot of soup. I recently opened up a tin of Campbells's Chunky beef soup (No, neither they nor Purina are paying me for the endorsements...)and instantly flashed back to my teen years and the tins of dog food I used to crack open for the shelties. That was Dr. Ballard's beef stew. I often thought the beefy bits, carrots and peas were fantastic looking and nearly good enough to eat. I was too much of a wimp, though, to actually give it a taste. I think that may have been a Canadian brand of dog food and those of you in other countries may not have heard of it. I took a few photos of the tinned soup, though, that we had for lunch last week. Sort of a visual aid. Yum. Except that the soup was a bit congealed. And there weren't many meaty bits. When I get thinking of it, the Dr. Ballard's was actually a lot nicer looking than the beef soup. Sadly, I understand that they were bought out by Friskies, who ceased production in 2001.

Shlurp! The unveiling...

The Leaning Tower of...

I pine for the days of Dr. Ballard's

*Sniffs* Now I shall never be able to conduct that taste test. Take my advise...strike while the iron is hot. (OK, that was a bit cliche...)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fine Dinner Conversation

Photo Credit: Scandanavian Log Cabins Direct
On Sunday evening we went out to Montana's for supper. It was one of those days when nobody wanted to cook and, coincidentally, V had a gift card given to her by her employer. The supper out is neither here nor there, but V noticed a large set of moose antlers hanging above our table and the following discussion gives you a taste of the conversation that occurs a Davidson meal. It's not 'Charlie Sheen' crazy...there were no warlocks or Vatican assassins discussed...but in retrospect it seemed a tad odd.

V:  "God must have a sense of humour to inflict a set of antlers like that on a creature that has to navigate through thick woods."

AD:  "I understand that moose aren't native to this island. Perhaps they wandered through open fields back in their native land."

V:  "I suppose..."

AD:  "Anyway, don't they rub their antlers against tree trunks to remove that fur every season?"

The Boy:  "'s not fur. It's velvet..."

AD:  "And...did you know that there are people who go into the woods and scrape that velvet from the tree trunks, package it up and ship it to factories in the United States? They use it to make those fine portraits of Elvis that are shipped around the world."

*Stunned silence falls across the table*

Does anyone want to take credit for this picture?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Giving Credit...

Picture Credit: Tattered Star Apparel
Does anyone use that blogger feature that can be set to notify you of when someone comments on an old blog post? I think it's a great idea as I wouldn't think to check back on posts to see if there were new comments left. I have mine set to notify me if a comment is left two weeks after the original post.

I received one of those notifications a few days ago about a comment left at a post that was over a year old. You can link to the post here about a woman who was lobbying to have pole dancing as an Olympic sport. I 'borrowed' the clever photo shown on the right from another writer's blog because it both reflected the topic of discussion and tied back to the literary reasons for creating this blog in the first place. Like so many pictures floating out there in cyberspace, though, poor Poe was not properly credited when originally borrowed and I followed suit in using it without knowing its origins.

Wes, of Burbank, CA left a comment informing me that the picture was designed by his wife for their t-shirt company Tattered Star Apparel. Please take a few moments to check out some of their other horror-themed shirt designs. I found the funny little YouTube video below advertising their company at the Tattered Star website. is unknown to me if this is the mysterious Wes and his lovely wife...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

Yes, today was pancake day and I hope that all of you who partook of the flapjack meal enjoyed yourselves. I let the boy choose between pancakes and macaroni for supper and he picked macaroni *sighs*.

Besides Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday or whatever you wish to call it, today was also International Women's Day. I discovered this at the Huffington Post. In fact, it's the 100th anniversary of the event. The Huffington Post provided many links to stories by noted women and I can link you to a few from here. Drop by and read the stories by Queen NoorMarlo Thomas, Ashley Judd, Annie Lennox, Roseanne Barr, and many others.

Yesterday I found this short film (2 minutes) narrated by Dame Judy Dench regarding the inequality between men and women that persists in the workplace. You may find the clip, entitled 'Equals', featuring Daniel Craig to be somewhat amusing and definitely enlightening.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Again With the Horror...

I guess this post can be considered an extension of the previous Bad Movie Night post. Don't worry...I'm not going to inflict another review on you. Prof. Larry forwarded me a link to what he referred as "...vitally important information for us all". This link will take you to a Horror Movie Character's Survival Guide. This is a list of more than 300 tips designed to increase your odds of survival should you find yourself stuck in a bad horror film. I know, that's A LOT of tips to go through. If you don't have that kind of time I'll list a few that I found relevant and amusing (in a twisted sort of way).

• Do not search the basement, especially when the power has just gone out.

• Always be nice to the shy, quiet, unpopular girl in school.

• Stay away from 'quaint' hotels and inns. Go for the brand names.

• Don't run through the woods wearing high heels, as most of the time one of the heels will break.

• If you are a female, never show your breasts, easy women are expendable.

• If you walk into the local abandoned-looking church to seek help or shelter, and you notice that the crucifix is mounted upside down, turn around and go back outside as quietly as possible.

Yada, yada, yada...the rest follow in the same vein. Anyway, I've you've got the time scan through the list and let me know which ones that you like.

I've recently discovered the Huffington Post as a cool resource for online news. They update fairly frequently and often have spectacular photos. Last week I stumbled across an article by Rev. Jonathan Weyer, a Presbyterian minister from Columbus, Ohio who blogs for Huffington. His article called Sacramental Horror Stories: Shining Light Into the Darkness of the Human Heart takes a look at different types of horror and explains why it can help us that there's more to the world than what is visible. The Reverend also published a horror novel called The Faithful. Yep, you heard it right. A horror novel. Follow the link to check out the review at Amazon.

Of course, no discussion of horror would be complete without injecting the name Aaron Polson into the conversation. He posted on Thursday about the setting of prices for one's ebook. Take a moment to drop by his blog and participate in the poll that he's conducting (top right corner of his blog). How much would YOU pay for an ebook novel?

And continuing the discussion of scary things...nice segue, eh?...My pal Laurita Miller has only 6 more sleeps until she shaves off all her hair for the Shave For The Brave campaign. If you haven't done so, please drop by her pledge sheet and throw a few bucks her way. Or pounds, or deutsche marks, or yen...She has WAY surpassed her goal but, you know, why stop there? The money is going to help young adults dealing with cancer. A good cause, no?

And...what could possibly be scarier than Blood Sucking Monkeys from West Mifflin, PA as described by Joe Flaherty as Count Floyd?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bad Movie Night (Part 3)

Earlier in the week, I was going to post a recap of the Oscars and the annual friendly competition between 'V' and myself to pick the most winners. But then a day passed. And then another. It's now what I would consider 'old news' as I'm sure you've all heard that "The King's Speech" was the big winner (deservedly so). GLOATING ALERT...I'll just say that my losing streak is finally over and I have finally out-scored the competition. 'V' usually beats me by one or two picks. However, this time I had an impressive 15 out of 18 correct. The categories I got wrong, you might ask? I had picked True Grit for cinematography, but "Inception" won. I figured Geoffrey Rush would be part of "The King's Speech" steam roll. Didn't happen. Christian Bale won his first Oscar for playing the trainer in "The Fighter".  I also assumed the lovely, and somewhat eccentric, Helena Bonham Carter would win for "The King's Speech". Nope. The Oscar went to the potty-mouthed Melissa Leo in "The Fighter".

Prof. Larry called for another Bad Movie NightTM with only 48 hours notice. We rallied together a skeleton crew of four brave souls and assembled in his basement for another nudie movie  cinematic experience. After 45 minutes to choose the 82 minute movie, we settled on on the 1976 stunner "Seven Women for Satan" (Les week-ends maléfiques du Comte Zaroff). This "banned in France" erotic Euro-horror was written, directed by, and starred Michel Lemoine.

The main character lives in a French chateau and his name is Count Zaroff (I think he is supposed to be the nephew of Zaroff, the guy who hunted men on a deserted island in the movie "The Most Dangerous Game" (1932). I suppose Lemoine intended his movie to be an homage to that movie. The saying, "with friends like that, who needs enemies" comes to mind. The Compte is aided by man-servant, philosophical/spiritual advisor, and body removal guy Karl (played by Swiss horror veteran Howard Vernon). Also in residence are the ghost of a woman that his ancestor murdered and a Great Dane called Ingmar. The fashionably-dressed ghost pops up on occasion to torment the Compte, spoiling Karl's attempts to make him a murderous fiend like his uncle.

Don't get  me wrong. The Compte murders several women in what appears to be a hallucinogenic rage. He chases them on horseback, in cars and on foot. He's a bad dude that seems to drift between periods of reality and erotic fantasy. Karl's main reason for being there is to provide us with lengthy back story...and, of course, to lure in the occasional hapless female victim into the chateau. I think the dog is there for comedic relief because she certainly isn't very scary. There is a priceless scene where the dog is sent chasing after a woman trying to escape wearing only a blue feather boa (the woman wears the boa, not the dog...). The dog jumps on her in what is meant as a vicious attack. It really looks like the dog is playing and the victim is trying to hold her in place by her collar. Perhaps they smeared the woman's assests with steak sauce to get the dog interested.

Some of the scenes are quite stylishly shot from peculiar angles and with a reasonably good soundtrack. That being said, there was one tune played to death each time the Compte chased after a woman. The story line was difficult to follow (most of what I note here I gleaned from people commenting about the movie at One zealot commented on a scene where one of the hapless victims is drugged and is dancing lewdly in front of a wooded carving of a black man. The totem, at one point, comes alive and its hands roam across the woman's...well, you get the picture. Anyway, the guy said, "...represents the dark unconscious mind of a white woman's unrestrained sexual drive."  Yeah. Right.

The most hilarious aspect of the film was that it was both subtitled AND dubbed in English. As a result, a lot of the dialogue didn't match the text written on the screen and, in fact, was completely different with comedic results. As per usual, I'm not going to recommend this film. Remember…it was Bad Movie NightTM, not Oscar Winners of the 20th Century Night. There was one memorable scene with a young couple asking to see the former 'torture chamber' in the dungeon (yeah, for real...they ASKED to see it). I won't spoil it with the details, but suffice it to say they come to a bad end. There was no swearing in the film and even the murder scenes were tame by today's standards. However, the film was over the top in its depictions of violence against women. They were the target throughout the movie. For the most part they are naked and defenseless. Be forewarned if you plan on renting this dud.