Bodies

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abstract anatomy art blur

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After seeing MIDSOMMAR in the theater, I have a few Thoughts.

Bodies don’t bother me.

Oh, my body bothers me, but that’s different. I’m not talking about attractiveness. I’m talking about the very idea that we have flesh instead of silicone and Botox.

Wrinkles. Stretch marks. Cellulite. Sagging. Freckles. Scars. Zits. Mucus. These things don’t bother me.

I don’t understand why, when someone old or fat or conventionally undesirable wears something that shows their skin or takes off their clothes for a role, people say ‘God, I did not want to see that.’ I’m noticing a lot of old men and old women going naked in horror movies, and I think it’s supposed to incite the fear of mortality, the repulsion of ageing bodies.

When I see naked bodies, I’m not scared of my own unattractiveness, nor does it trigger the fear of my own mortality. If anything, full frontal of average bodies is a relief, and the nakedness of the old is comforting. Because it’s not as bad as people say it’s going to be. A little more flesh, a little less collagen. That’s it.

It’s not like we don’t already know what bodies look like. Our own. Other people’s by the shapes under and against their clothes.

It’s not scary at all.

We need to confront the fear of our own bodies, associated with sex and separate from it. Because let’s face it, most of our experience with our own nakedness have nothing to do with sex. I think we’d be less afraid of nudity if we had more of it divorced from sex and divorced from attractiveness. It’s sad that this thing we all have is so repulsive in our own sight that we rate ourselves out of ever seeing it. The rest of what we have access to is overwhelmingly young or surgically sculpted.

Confront your reactions, and look again.

Fear

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1159420_96550296I’m always afraid when I start something new. There is comfort in working on old projects, whether editing, proofreading, or even continuing an old story through a new book. In editing and proofreading, the work is already there. I just have to move it around, spruce it up, make it pretty. When continuing an established work, like the Thorns series, my characters, my backstories, my world-building, my tone and style, they’ve already been established. I have more springboards to work from, even when I’m creating new canon. That’s also what’s nice about fanfiction (and the Thorns series could be considered fanfiction, of a kind, given it’s a fairy tale mash-up).

But when I start from scratch on a completely new, standalone story, I always start afraid. I was afraid when I started horror story DEEP DOWN earlier this year (technically continued it from what I’d put down a year before, but still kind of terrified). And I’m afraid now that I’m starting American gothic fairy tale DRIFT.

Everything I write sounds like it comes from me – at least, to me it does – but the styles still shift from one kind of story to the next, because to a certain degree, form follows function. Think of it as the filter of the story. You can have the same director of photography and notice the trends, but the filter changes the impressions and moods. And it’s so important to how the story is felt and received.

New characters. People who have populated my head like ghosts quietly solidify and come to life, and they never end up quite the way I imagined them. New settings. New themes. New endings. New problems.

I’m afraid to start because I’m afraid it’s all going to come out wrong. I’m not going to get the tone right. The style won’t work with me. The ending will be weak. I’m not going to be able to get from point A to point B.

This fear is not irrational. I’ve failed before.

I succeed more often than not these days, and a lot of the problems can be fixed in editing. But NOCTURNE needed several complete rewrites, not just edits, although I salvaged much from the original drafts. The beginning of THORNS was reworked multiple times because it never felt quite right. I’m going to have to rewrite WAR HOUSE (I was actually going to do that this summer, but DRIFT felt more solid to me). I have a trilogy that I tried ten years ago that never got off the ground, and though I love the concept, I’m still not sure how to salvage it.

I really could get this wrong. And if I do, it might feel like writing the first draft was a waste of my time, since I would either have to let it go or try again later. I already feel like my writing time is strained as it is without having to write things more than once.

But God, it might go right. Or right enough. And even if it goes wrong and I have to rewrite, that’s still a solution. Not my favorite solution, but it’s something.

That’s why, no matter how scared I am to begin, I just do it. I just write the words, day after terrifying day, until I’m finished.

Until I determine it’s ready to prepare for publication, I remind myself that everything I write is just for me. No one has to see it. No one can judge it. I don’t even edit until everything’s finished, because I can’t assess details until I understand the larger picture. It’s all about getting the words down. Fear is an empty page, and as Jodi Picoult says, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

I can either work with what I have – which I think I’m actually quite good at doing – or I don’t work with anything at all. The story remains in my head instead of getting exorcised, and no one can judge it, but also, no one can read it. And that doesn’t serve anyone.

So yeah, I’m afraid of writing. I’m also afraid of what happens when I don’t. So I sit down in front of my fear, and I start writing anyway.

Dead Ends

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horror crime death psychopath

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I tried to write a hitchhiker ghost song a while back, but it didn’t really work, and I had to put the idea back in the box for a while.

Last month, I tried writing one again, and this time it came together into something coherent.

I’m fascinated by ghost stories, because they’re so difficult to do well. Ghost poetry’s a little different – all about atmosphere. It’s so delightfully creepy and sad and sexy all at the same time. The hitchhiker ghost urban legend is one that’s stuck visually in my mind, so it was a pleasure to find an outlet. I’m quite happy with it.

DEAD ENDS

Black leather jacket and long white dress
Silk flutters like wind through the mist
Don’t have no home, don’t have no address
Picking up the girl with a tear and a kiss.

Sparkling eyes and pale blue lips
Can’t help but tear your gaze from the road
A corsage goes dry on another girl’s wrist
But whispers remind you that you’ll soon grow old

I offer you a moment
I offer you a chance
I know it’s not allowed, sir
But would you like to have this dance?

Chorus:
I wander a long and lonely highway
Can’t stay in one place, can’t linger in one town
Hitching rides without a destination
Legs are tired but feet never touch the ground
You’ll see me in the rearview mirror
But I’m not there when you turn around.
Ride with you until the moon descends
And I’ll be wandering until the road dead-ends.

Never had my moment in the sun
Cold gray steel and headlights stained with blood
Silk dress still white as winter for so long
I touch your hand, just looking for some love

Back seat steams, my skin’s as cold as ice
Ghosts from your lips as you bring your heat inside
Steal your breath to remember my own life
That someone like you stole in a car like the one you ride

I offered you a moment
In the dark you heard my voice
You know it’s not allowed, sir
But remember, you made the choice.

Chorus:
I wander a long and lonely highway
Can’t stay in one place, can’t linger in one town
Hitching rides without a destination
Legs are tired but feet never touch the ground
You’ll see me in the rearview mirror
But I’m never there when you turn around.
Ride with you until the moon descends
And I’ll be wandering until the road dead-ends.

Bridge:
They find your body in the back seat
Of your wayward hitcher car
Don’t you know not to pick up strangers?
You never know who they are
Now you’re cold as your ghostly lover
Your journey ends, but mine’s still so far
I’m still cold, your ghostly lover
God, why does it have to be so far?

[whisper] I want to feel alive

I offer you a moment
Die a little more each night
I know it’s not allowed, sir
But I don’t want to do what’s right.

Chorus:
I wander a long and lonely highway
Can’t stay in one place, can’t linger in one town
Hitching rides without a destination
Legs are tired but feet never touch the ground
You’ll see me in the rearview mirror
But I’m never there when you turn around.
Ride with you until the moon descends
And I’ll be wandering until the road dead-ends.

How to Love

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aerial photography of pine trees

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This is the sad song I wrote. I just had a moment and didn’t want to feel it, so I wrote it instead. It’s just a soft little thing.

HOW TO LOVE

I don’t understand all the songs
I don’t understand the days they set aside to celebrate
I don’t understand the flowers, the cards, the doves
My heart doesn’t know how to love

I don’t enjoy the romance, the games
A rose would smell as sweet by any other name.
Don’t know that loneliness will ever be enough
But my heart doesn’t know how to love.

Wandering alone in the wilderness
No one ever at my side
And when the beasts come a-roaming
They tear my skin, but nothing’s underneath inside
No meat, no heart, a mannequin,
Nothing to hide with nothing inside.

The stars are just fire, the moon is just stone
And ice only wanders the cosmos alone
There’s never been any magic above
My heart doesn’t know how to love.

I don’t believe in miracles, flying off to heaven
But I walk the line with ghosts in my head
It’s not exactly what I was dreaming of
My heart doesn’t know how to love.

It’s not exactly what I was dreaming of
My heart doesn’t know how to love.

DOUBLE REVIEW: Cabin Fever/Cabin Fever remake

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Cabin Fever 2002[SPOILER ALERT: There isn’t much, but there are a few later scenes referenced.]

I’m going to say it, and everyone is going to hate me.

The remake is better than the original.

Some of the shots are framed the exact same way, except flipped around. Some of the script is exactly the same. They didn’t even do anything new or reimagined with the remake. They literally remade the original CABIN FEVER. And it’s better.

Let me give you some context.

In college, I went a little horror-movie crazy (and I haven’t stopped). I bought all kinds of eighties slashes, cult classics, all the movies I’d wanted to see when I was too young or too high-strung for it. I’d been attracted by the cover for CABIN FEVER a number of times before I finally bought it, because it was a contagion movie, and that’s one of the things I’m legitimately afraid of in real life. When I watch ghost movies and supernatural villain movies, I can go to sleep afterward just fine because I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural (open-minded but skeptical). But diseases are real. They happen. And necrotizing fasciitis is a real, terrifying thing. So what a great premise for a horror movie, right?

Then I sit down to watch it.

The necrotizing fasciitis parts were suitably gory and effective. I think the opening credits are one of the best in the business. And that scene where the girl is shaving her legs and starts shaving off her legs is probably in my top twenty-five horror moments.

But that’s it. Those are the only good things I can say about the Eli Roth-directed CABIN FEVER. The man needs to stick with producing, because he’s decent at that. The whole film, though, from script to direction, just felt so…juvenile. The humor wasn’t funny. The weirdness didn’t have a point. And CABIN FEVER is filled with an unsympathetic cast of jerks. We root for precisely no one to survive–except maybe Winston, strangely enough.

A man is killed by a harmonica, and as a white girl in the suburbs, I literally can’t even.

It’s one thing to tell a story about juvenile people. It’s another for the director to be just as juvenile–you can feel it in all his immature choices. I can watch and even enjoy bad horror. I can enjoy campy horror. I can enjoy young people horror. But for Pete’s sake, I only enjoyed about three consecutive minutes of CABIN FEVER, and the rest was trash. I gave the movie away because I hated it so much.

About six months ago, all the CABIN FEVER movies were on Netflix at once, and I thought, Hey, I’m more tolerant of all kinds of horror these days. Maybe the original CABIN FEVER isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Maybe I’ve grown as a horror aficionado and can appreciate CABIN FEVER as the cult classic that it is. So I watched it again.

I still hate it. Totally my opinion. I feel like it was made by an emotionally stunted manchild for other emotionally stunted manchildren, and I have no place in its audience. So maybe it’s just not meant for me, although I seem to enjoy other horror movies obviously made for male audiences (the PIRANHA remake and THE BABYSITTER come to mind).

Seriously, when I get more out of the spectacularly gross, misogynistic, shallow CABIN FEVER: SPRING FEVER (yay, Marc Senter) and CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (yay, Currie Graham and Sean Astin) than the original movie, maybe the problem isn’t me?

cabin-fever-poster remakeEnter the remake–taking a good concept and bad execution and trying to execute it better.

The characters are still juvenile, but they aren’t as unlikable as the first set. They’re not completely lacking in redeemable qualities. When they make bad decisions, you get why they make them. Even when the least likeable of the group starts to show symptoms, I felt bad for him, because it’s a horrible way to die–unlike Jason, it’s not a villain you can outrun. It’s something that’s already inside of you, and it’s too fast-acting to treat even if they get to a hospital. The rash and the blood are more realistic. The claustrophobia is more intense. It’s as though a grown-ass man took Eli Roth’s original movie and shot it like a grown-ass director would. It’s a more mature film in every way.

The only real misstep they might have made was recasting Winston as a scarred Barbie doll whose obsession with partying seemed more creepy-coy than the original sex, drugs, rock-and-roll simple Winston. It was an interesting direction, but I’m not sure whether it worked with the more coherent tone of the rest of the movie. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t.

My favorite bit of irony about this movie (both of them) was that it turned some of the slasher tropes on their head–probably why it’s a cult classic. In the old eighties slashers, sex, drugs, and drinking would have gotten them killed. But in CABIN FEVER, it’s drinking water instead of beer that gets them sick. It’s eating off of dishes cleaned with the bad water that gets them sick instead of being a dirty slob. Being bad doesn’t get you killed. The villain’s in the safe places, and there’s no saving you after that. I feel they play that up more in the remake.

Even if it’s not necessarily the best horror movie ever, I’d go so far as to call the remake a decent horror film, and I enjoy rewatching it when I need another dose of contagion fear and rereading The Stand just seems like it’ll take too long.

REVIEW: Grave Encounters

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grave encounters[Warning: Here there be spoilers.]

I’ve been going in and out of wanting to write a review for this movie. I’m not entirely sure what I’m afraid of. That it’s not as good as I still think it is? That the review won’t do it justice? (Entirely possible. I’m still new at this.) I mean, it’s not perfect or anything, but I do get intimidated by good horror movies more than I do by explaining what’s wrong with the not-so-good ones.

For people with found-footage fatigue, I’m sure movies like GRAVE ENCOUNTERS don’t really help that, but I first saw GRAVE ENCOUNTERS when I opened my Netflix account, so I hadn’t watched nearly enough bad found-footage at the time to make me weary of the subgenre. And frankly, I have a fondness for that kind of low-budget horror, because it usually forces the film-makers to get creative with effects or eliminate them completely.

It’s worth noting that the effects of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS are its weakest points. They reference the obviously computer-generated effects in the sequel (please, miss that one—it offers nothing new, plus a dose of juvenile humor it didn’t need). They’re disappointing on every level, because in video that’s supposed to look real—kind of the whole conceit—the worst thing you can possibly do is show something that doesn’t look real. In the slight fuzziness and filter of movies, you can get away with minor CGI effects that you simply can’t in found-footage. It doesn’t matter how good the cameras are that they’re using. The slightest whiff of CGI ends up reading as fake, which takes a viewer out of the moment. If you’re going to use CGI, you’ve got to be dead careful. And the makers of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS were not. They would have benefited much more from judicious makeup, props, and unsettling acting rather than pay a small fortune on a small budget to get bad CGI.

But when they’re not stumbling in the computer-generated arena, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is a solid offering in the found-footage arena, and it doesn’t—in my opinion—suffer from the same ending malady as most found-footage. And frankly, most horror.

Before even starting, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS ticks off a number of boxes that guarantee I’m more likely to enjoy it. For one, it got in my queue early, which means more things get compared to it instead of the other way around. I’d already watched a ton of horror movies by this time, between my college-days movie buying and back when FearNet was streaming, so I didn’t approach it in a vacuum. But other than BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and possibly PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (can’t really remember the timing), I hadn’t seen a ton of found-footage at the time. That gives it an automatic leg-up over its competition. But it’s stood up over time in spite of everything I’ve watched since.

Another point in its favor is the setting. I’m a sucker for psych ward horror, even though it’s often bad and ableist as hell. But being a person with mental illness who processes things through fiction, I’m entitled to like what I like. There are a lot of horrifying things about mental illness and a lot of horrifying things about what people have done to people with mental illness. GRAVE ENCOUNTERS has a few problematic moments, but it’s mostly about what was done to the people who were kept there rather than the mentally ill themselves being the monsters, and the movie makes everything more about setting, the building itself more the monster that keeps haunted people.

Abandoned buildings are amazing in general. If you haven’t seen Abandoned America’s photographs, I recommend checking them out. The movie probably only uses about three hallways and changes them just enough to make it seem like the gigantic building we see it is on the outside, but they also manage to convey a sense of claustrophobia and that disorienting feeling when you get lost—or worse, when things aren’t where they should be. Probably one of the more effective scenes is where they break down the front door, and there’s just more hallway. Then when they’re trying to get to the roof, and there’s just a wall halfway up the last set of stairs. This is why I like to emphasize practical effects. All they needed was a freaking wall to creep me the fuck out. If you’ve ever been lost, you know what that panic feels like. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Like that feeling you left your wallet or purse somewhere, but it doesn’t go away.

I feel like the movie really used its set to its full advantage, as simple as it was. And at its best, the scares themselves were simple. In found-footage, those work because of the conceit that everything is actually happening. A window opening by itself. Someone you don’t see pushing you down the stairs. A wheelchair rolling by itself. Blood in a bathtub. Waking up to patient ID bracelets on your wrists. Fog rolling in and people disappearing when it rolls out. Keep it simple in found-footage, and you’ll get a lot more mileage than a cheap-looking eye-and-mouth effects.

Like good found-footage, the cast doesn’t actually distinguish itself much. They’re a cast of regular people, the kind you would see on any reality TV show. The only one who feels polished is the lead, and since he’s the lead of a television show and needs a certain amount of charisma, that wouldn’t be unusual. Everyone’s slightly annoying at different times, but again, we’re watching footage of a television show that wouldn’t have actually made it onto the show.

When people get legitimately scared, they do get shrill. When people are legitimately exhausted, they do get emotional and snappish. And when they freak out, they do lash out. There wasn’t a moment in the movie when I felt the reactions weren’t real. They may not have been attractive or cultivated like in most other movies, but they were real, which is the best you can ask from found-footage.

One of my favorite moments is near the end, when Lance and Sasha are trying to look for a way out in the tunnels below the hospital. Sasha was sick, which being constantly scared, not sleeping enough, and not eating enough only exacerbated. She falls to the ground, vomiting blood, and just wails, “I want my mom!” It’s a striking scene in the movie, because the blood wasn’t CGI. You know she’s dying slowly and painfully and she’s scared and miserable, and you feel it. My heart aches every time she cries like that, because come on, if you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably say the exact same thing (unless your mom sucked, in which case I’m sorry—choose your own loved one).

Now, I said that the ending didn’t suffer from the usual dissatisfaction malady of other found-footage and horror movies, and it doesn’t. It’s vague. I’ll say that. But I didn’t find myself wanting more from it. I thought it was exactly the ending it needed. And how often do I say that about horror? (Answer: Rarely.)

So if you’re looking for some good found-footage horror in the midst of an oversaturated subgenre, GRAVE ENCOUNTERS really is worth your time. If you forgive it for the bad CGI and stay for the creepy building, you’ll likely leave satisfied.

Trouble

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I write about this theme a lot when doing lyrics, and you’d think I’d do something to change it and find another heartache, but when your problem is stagnation, it’s by definition difficult to change.

There’s a similar verse rhythm to Miranda Lambert’s “All Kinds of Kinds,” so I keep hearing it country, but I would rather do it more singer-songwriter.

TROUBLE

The world is full of metaphors
Like butterflies and open doors
But I never liked any of them anyway
I’m always running on back home
I lock all the doors and stay in alone
And every day’s like every other day.

My reflection’s always changing
While I’m busy rearranging
My life so that it’ll never change again
But mirrors crack and colors fade
With risks untaken, turns unmade
So things end up just like they’ve always been.

Things don’t get better when you’re staying the same
You don’t get to win if you don’t play the game.

Chorus:
I never go looking for
Trouble, trouble, trouble
So it never finds me
Trouble, trouble, trouble
And it reminds me
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Is meant to shine me
Like fire to gold
And oil on leather
Trouble, trouble, trouble
I always stay out of
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Ain’t got no way out of
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Helps you to grow out
And all that makes me wonder whether
If I’m not looking for any trouble
That’s the trouble that I’ve found.

The world is full of dead cocoons
And roses that refuse to bloom
And I guess that I am just another one
And sure, that means I feel no pain
No heart to break, no man to blame
Don’t have to pitch my worth to anyone.

But life was always made to live
And a frozen soul can never give
And all too soon the future’s in the past.
You can always go back home again
But when sand’s poured out, it can’t go back in
Don’t fight for first, you’ll always finish last.

Things don’t get better when you’re staying the same
You don’t get to win if you don’t play the game.

Chorus:
I never go looking for
Trouble, trouble, trouble
So it never finds me
Trouble, trouble, trouble
And it reminds me
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Is meant to shine me
Like fire to gold
And oil on leather
Trouble, trouble, trouble
I always stay out of
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Ain’t got no way out of
Trouble, trouble, trouble
Helps you to grow out
And all that makes me wonder whether
If I’m not looking for any trouble
That’s the trouble that I’ve found.

 

Am I ill?

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I started a pure horror story near the end of February (I classify NOCTURNE as horror, but it has a serious supernatural fantasy vibe in addition to the horror elements). I wrote the first ten thousand words last year, back when I had downtime at work to longhand (what is downtime?). I started out last month with transcription, then tackled new words. That’s difficult for me to do, come back to an old project, but this one hasn’t been hard to sink into. I guess it’s stayed on my mind all this time.

Any problems I’ve had have been because dayjob has been going through a months-long transition, and that’s required a near manic level of energy from me, but also more time than I like giving. I’m a perfectionist and pathologically terrified of disapproval, so I do what I do and don’t have enough time or energy to write as much as I’d like. Still doing it, though. Because when I don’t, my mental health plummets to dangerous places.

How strange that such a dark, bleak, sad story that I developed during the surfacing  fatalism after the last election would become a haven of sorts. So it’s moving more slowly than I’d like, but it’s moving.

I’ve hit roughly twenty-eight thousand words on the manuscript so far. And based on my outline and rough word goal of sixty thousand words, I’m about halfway through. Now, usually I give myself a word goal, then end up twenty thousand words or more above it. I’m notoriously terrible at figuring out how long things take or, in the case of novels, how long they’re going to be, even when I adjust for knowing how terrible I am at it.

But for DEEP DOWN (working title), I’m looking at fifty to sixty thousand words of a novel. As planned. Before edits. I’m actually writing a short novel, possibly a *gasp* novella.

You have to understand, in addition to being terrible at gauging how long things take, I really tend toward longer novels. I think I average around 120,000 words. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I’m really good at cutting my starting word count, paring a novel to its necessary words. That 120K novel was probably 140-150K to start out with. THORNS started out at a whopping 195K and ended up 155K.

A fifty-thousand-word novel is unthinkable to me. I’m literally looking at that word count and wondering whether something’s wrong with me. Or the story.

But I think it’s because it’s a single story line, no subplots, and a spare cast. I’m usually working with a more complex plot and multiple characters whose arcs need tending. DEEP DOWN has a very simple premise. A lot of good horror is minimalistic, and that’s what I wanted to try here.

I guess it’s working.

It’s still weird.

 

REVIEW: The Uninvited

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the uninvitedTHE UNINVITED is a strange animal in my collection. I saw the South Korean movie it was based on, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, a few years before it, and I wish I hadn’t. Knowing the twist affects how you view a movie that depends on its twists. I had to watch UNINVITED again with my horror friend to determine whether the twist was sufficiently twisty. He didn’t predict the ending, by the way, which means he really wouldn’t have figured out the twist to TWO SISTERS, because TWO SISTERS is more twisted, which is why I wish I had seen it afterward. Because as a result, THE UNINVITED suffers a bit from comparison.

On the other hand, while I have a handful of Japanese and South Korean horror that I like, I’m afraid most of it leaves me rather cold. While culture shock plays a role, I think the primary reason is that they follow a different kind of storytelling and film making. To this American viewer, it feels disjointed and difficult to follow timelines. Angles and framing are different. Editing doesn’t feel like it has enough segue. The horror stories feel more dreamlike, impressional rather than literal. This isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t respond to it as well as I do American/European structures and standards, which feel less jarring in a hundred little ways. This is why I don’t mind when Hollywood remakes Asian films. When they’re bad, they’re still bad, but I tend to respond better to the method. Hard to apologize for that.

TWO SISTERS was twisted as hell, and it was R-rated for a good reason, while UNINVITED stays a pretty tame PG-13, but TWO SISTERS also had that trippy quality that’s sometimes hard for me to follow, so while I liked the movie, it’s not one that inspired repeated viewing, while I’ve watched UNINVITED multiple times over.

Here’s the thing: THE UNINVITED is perfectly serviceable horror. Do I wish it had gone a little farther and hit the R rating? Yeah, I kind of do. Because I think Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, and Arielle Kebbel would have had a field day going all the way with it, and the cast could have killed it, particularly Browning and Banks, on whose performances the movie really rests. I’m big fans of both of them. I think Elizabeth Banks, in particular, tends to get overlooked because she’s so reliable of an actress that she doesn’t stand out. She’s a total ensemble player, and I appreciate her work in everything she’s in because of it.

Emily Browning brought her usual china-doll delicate strength to the screen. Not going to lie, she’s almost painfully pretty, but she brings a lot of soul into her face – like Angelina Jolie with more innocence – and without it, I might not respect her as much as an actress. But even at eighteen, which was her age during filming, she’s a rock-solid, grounded performer. If the movie itself is a little weak, a good cast made it stronger than it had any right to be, because by the nature of the twist, they had to play the movie multiple ways at once – just like any good mystery, multiple possibilities need to be plausible until the ending is inevitable. That’s not an easy game to play, but they all manage to accomplish it.

Moreover, while some of the scares were lifted directly from TWO SISTERS, there were a handful that were legitimately creepy in spite of the rating, and gems like that are valuable in any horror movie. So much goes into a good scare that doesn’t depend on surprise or screeching violins, and even though they only last a little while, if it gets my heart racing, I gotta give them credit.

It’s a solid, respectable movie, good if you’re a fan of the PG-13 Asian horror remakes but also decent even if you aren’t. The psychological thriller/paranoia aspects make up for some of the weaknesses in the horror, and the legitimate scares make up for a somewhat weaker thriller ending than I would have liked. Even if the story gets slightly tired in places, the performances are so emotionally nuanced that you don’t mind. It doesn’t reach the quality of THE RING or even THE GRUDGE, which makes sense, because THE UNINVITED was made to try to profit off their trend, and the staleness shows. But the actors aren’t acting like it’s stale, and if you haven’t seen TWO SISTERS, UNINVITED might be a decent popcorn flick for some Saturday evening alone, and might even make better viewing the second time through. You might also follow it up with TWO SISTERS later – don’t worry, there are more than enough twists to go around.

House of Windows

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brown concrete castle

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Because I’m between major writing projects (transcription isn’t a major project), I was finally able to start THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE on Netflix. No spoilers, please, but I think it’s amazing. Episodic horror doesn’t always deliver – I think it’s a pacing thing, and in the case of what I’ve seen on AHS and other Ryan Murphy shows, a matter of being too clever to be scary.

Anyway, it seems like a good time to share my haunted house song I wrote last month, which totally has a Shirley Jackson vibe to it.

HOUSE OF WINDOWS

It’s a whole wide world out there
A fine, varied, full-bodied thoroughfare
Hundreds of thousands breathe the same air
Footsteps thunder over same streets, same stairs.

The house is gated, silent, and still
Its statues, a marble gleam atop the shadowed hill
They peer from stone eyes, listen with stone ears
Let all with eyes see, let all with ears hear.

Chorus:
The house has many windows
Curtains trembling with ghosts
Moths have made away with all the clothes
The dead inside don’t sleep but doze
It’s a house with many windows
But the windows are closed.

Statues at the gate, statues in the rooms
Inhale stale air, filter in the gloom
Every creaking floorboard, memory of previous doom
A house of many windows, a house of many tombs.

Visitors come to view the walls in awe
Priceless paintings behind drapes only the dead get to draw
Guests all leave unsure how to say what they saw
Any moment a knock on the door, any moment a monkey’s paw.

Chorus

In the deep dark garden, the roses have died
Whatever the tenants tell you, the dead likely lie
From skylights come the gray of stormier skies
A house of many windows, a house of many eyes.

Let all who wish to join us enter in
Remember all your failures, remember all your sins
Death chills the halls, creeps under your skin
The house offers rest, yet restlessness within.

Bridge:
Is life just waiting for death? Is that how it goes?
Am I a house, or am I already a ghost?

Chorus