Fall Fever

August 26, 2010
All it took was last night’s full moon, coupled with the tiniest hint of cool air, and I’m now experiencing full-blown Fall Fever.
Fall has long been my favorite season of the year, for a variety of reasons. For one, the summers here in Alabama are absolutely brutal, and Fall means that Summer is over. Don’t get me wrong – I like swimming and beach trips and seafood and all the things that signify Summer, but it all serves as barely enough incentive to overlook the crippling heat and humidity.
Besides, it’s so much more than the end of Summer to me. Fall is the beginning of so many of my favorite things. First, there’s football season, where I get to argue loudly with others about the merits of teams comprised of college kids (War Eagle) and arguably overpaid but inarguably talented professionals (Go Steelers!). I get to sit in stadiums surrounded by thousands of intense fans who live and die with every play. I get to hear marching bands, eat great food, take long walks across college campuses, and talk endlessly with friends about arcane matters like strength of schedule, weak secondaries, blitz packages and yards-per-carry. I get to hold my breath and yell in triumph and, sometimes, fight back tears.
Fall also kicks off the holiday season. From here on out, there’s one every month. Labor Day is the last hurrah for lake trips, beach trips, and poolside barbecues. November brings Thanksgiving, with its table-loads of food and gigantic family gatherings. December, of course, means Christmas, arriving in a sleigh filled with gorgeous lights, over-the-top
decorations, more family get-togethers, the joys of giving and receiving, and memory-making of the highest order.
Did I skip one? Nope – I saved the best for last.
October. Halloween. If I could live in one month all year long, it would be October. The air is crisp and cool. The leaves are falling in colorful drifts, leaving the bare skeletons of trees to scratch at the skies. Everything smells like apple cider, and the coffee shops are serving things like Pumpkin Spice Lattes. And speaking of pumpkins – they’re everywhere. Piled high in the markets, spilling out of containers at roadside stands, standing at attention on porches and stoops in every neighborhood, waiting for their smooth surfaces to be carved into ugly, twisted visages as Halloween draws near. The Halloween stores are open, and everywhere you go you bump into ghouls, ghosts, and zombies. Purple lights, black candles, scary movie marathons on every channel…I could go on and on. I have already,
actually. But that’s okay. It’s my favorite thing.
And this year, I have one more thing to look forward to on Halloween night. Traditionally, I close out the evening’s festivities with a viewing of my favorite horror film, John Carpenter’s original Halloween. But this year, thanks to AMC, it looks like I’ll have a pretty exciting lead-in: the pilot episode of The Walkng Dead, based on the outstanding comic series of the same name, and written and directed by Frank “Shawshank Redemption/The Green Mile/The Mist” Darabont. Here’s the trailer:
For many reasons, both personal and professional, this is shaping up to be a good Fall. But then, even the not-so-great ones are pretty good, you know? I welcome the season with open arms.
And to think, all of this spilled out of a five-minute walk in the moonlight….

Oh, the horror. “The Dunwich Horror.”

October 13, 2009

 

Great poster...the movie, not so much.

Great poster...the movie, not so much.

The Dunwich Horror is ’70s-era horror at its finest. Oh, it’s not scary; it’s not even good, for that matter.  But it encapsulizes that time in such a way that once glance tells you exactly when it was made – not in the ’60s, not in the ’90s – it’s thoroughly 1970s all the way, from the music to the wardrobes to the less-than-special special effects.

In a nutshell, the story (based on an H.P. Lovecraft tale) revolves around a young man from a sleepy little town with a weird past who shows up at a nearby university to woo a woman and take a peek at an invaluable book known as the Necronomicon. This book is so invaluable that the professor in charge of it lets his students lug it around like a regular textbook, as long as they take it straight back to the library and place it under its protective, unlocked case of glass.  The young man, tagged with the unfortunate name of Wilbur, shows up to find the book he’s seeking in the possession of a cute blonde. Score!

The professor, it turns out, knows of Wilbur, as well as the town he comes from. Seems the prof may or may not have been involved with some unseemly business there in the past, so he’s wary of letting the Necronomicon fall into Wilbur’s hands. This forces Wilbur to break into the library at night, where he gets into a fistfight with the security guard that turns out to be the action centerpiece of the whole movie. Book in hand, Wilbur uses his powers of persuasion (brought about by widening his

Dean "Wilbur" Stockwell's giant eyebrows, 'stache and pinky rings compel you!

Dean "Wilbur" Stockwell's giant eyebrows, 'stache and pinky rings compel you!

eyes, furrowing his brow, and waggling his bushy ’70s eyebrows and Super ‘Stache) to bring the blonde (who, it should be noted, is played by Sandra Dee) back to his home. Some suggested sexual shenanigans take place, and when Blondie doesn’t come home, folks come looking for her.

The climax involves a mysterious cliffside ritual involving tons of candles, a duel of incomprehensible Lovecraftian language between Wilbur and the prof, and the momentary appearance of an “Old God” that looks like an old mop. There’s also a twist ending that I won’t give away here, but if you haven’t guessed it by the time it happens then you’re obviously not up-to-date on your horror movie twist endings. (I think this particular one is number 14 in the official horror movie twist ending manual).

I know it sounds like I didn’t like this movie, but that’s not true – I had a ball with it. This is what those of us twisted enough to enjoy “bad” horror live for – laughable acting, terrible effects, but enough earnestness and atmosphere to keep it all from being a total waste of time. I’m sure this will be running on various cable channels this month – that’s how I caught it – so give it a look if you get the chance.


Hello, October!

October 3, 2009

My favorite month has arrived.

October. Cool weather. Autumn leaves. The smells of burning leaves, and apples and cinnamon. Pumpkins. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin spice lattes. Horror movie marathons on channels like AMC and Turner Classic Movies. Halloween. Halloween.  Halloween decorations. Candy. Shorter days and longer nights. I love it all.

It’ll be a month-long celebration here, as I blog about the scary movies I watch and the scary books (and stories and comics) I read. I might write about Halloween night, and why it’s one of two nights of the year when I really, really miss being a child. I might also slip in a little bit about what it’s like to now experience this time of year through the eyes of my own children. There’s no solid plan in place, so stay tuned.

Vincent Price and his reporter friend.

Vincent Price and his reporter friend.

I’ll start today, though, with a little write-up about my first scary movie of the month: From A Whisper To A Scream, aka The Offspring.  It’s an anthology movie, four stories and a wraparound segment featuring Vincent Price as a librarian sharing the mysterious past of the town of Oldfield with a reporter. Vincent Price? Laurence Tierney? Clu Culager? Martine Beswicke? Okay, decent cast. Directed by Jeff Burr of Stepfather 2 and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III fame. Not exactly classics, but they had their moments.

This one does not. Unless you count bad moments. It has a lot of those. The dialogue is terrible. The acting is beyond terrible – one story, set in the Civil War, has acting on par with those weekend reenactments that are so popular here in the South. The special effects are occasionally effective, but mostly awful. The “twist endings” – pee-yew. This one definitely earns a slot in the “so-bad-it’s-fun” category. Which, when it comes to horror movies, is just fine by me.