Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trick R Treat (2007/2009)

Oh Trick R Treat, you have filled me with such glee that this girl just doesn't know what to do with her self. See, Dears, Darlings, and Fellow Spooky-Dos, Halloween is just around the corner. The air is starting to cool in anticipation of Autumn, and the approaching holiday has almost constantly been on my mind. Whether its been on account of Target getting in its lovely ladies Halloween shirts, or because I've been diligently planning my costume I am in a constant state of anticipation these days.

And let me tell you, this movie was really the best way to kick off the most wonderful time of year that I could possibly ask for.

Which of course, thrills me to no end, especially since I had been looking forward to this film for quite sometime. But first its 2007 theatrical release got pushed back, and then it got further debunked in 2009 as a direct to DVD that I only recently managed to get my hands on. Trust me my lovelies, I have been kicking myself for not going to the screening of it at Comic Con a couple years back a LOT.

You would think with that level of anticipation that this film would fall flat, because, let's be fair, what ever truly lives up to the hype that we assign something in our minds? With the exception of the Dairy Queen Pumpkin Pie blizzard and Disneyland's seasonal "Nightmare before Christmas" revamp of the Haunted mansion, pretty much nothing ever does.

But I have a third thing to add to that list now kids, and that is Trick R Treat.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, before I just completely lose myself in babbling about how much I loved this movie I should give you a bit of an idea about what its about.

This movie had me hooked from the get-go, the title sequence is one of the most awesome I have seen in a movie in years. Seriously if it doesn't make you bounce in your seat with excitement than.... well, you just have no love of the world. I mean for Goddsake, its presented in comic format, introducing you briefly to the charecters you will meet, the rules of Halloween, and generally sets you up for the lore of the film exquisitely.

What follows is four different stories that are interwoven into one all encompassing ones. I've seen this done in movies before, and usually it requires that the movie be broken into chapters, with titles announcing the name of each of these chapters. Trick R Treat, however, overlaps and blends all of them in such an intricate and seamless fashion that I am absolutely dumbfounded that this work of art was Michael Dougherty's directorial debut, because he handles it better than many veterans.

At the center of these stories is the character "Sam", cleverly named after Samhain, or the Pagan Halloween celebration. He appears in each tale and is the embodiment not only of the holiday, but of the danger and fear associated with it, that lead to many of the practices we still use today. The use of Jack 'o lanterns, the dressing in costumes, etc. He's also adorable, in a really, weird, disquieting way. And not just because he reminds me a bit of a demented Sack Person from Little Big Planet.

The first of the stories that we are introduced to, revolves around Principal Steven Wilkins (played by Dylan Baker of Fido and Hide and Seek) who plays a thoroughly disgruntled man who firmly believes in upholding the age-old traditions of Halloween, as well as a few dark ones of his own. Although, like most of the characters, he makes appearances in the other stories as well. He's throughly creepy, but in a fun way, because he's also intensely awkward and neurotic, and there was one instance in the movie I had a definite "YEAH! ALL RIGHT!" moment for him.

Next we're introduced to a group of trick or treaters, headed by Macy (Britt McKillip, who I know and love as Reggie Lass in Dead like me). They are gathering Jack 'O Lanterns in a grocery cart en route to a rock quarry. Along the way they stop at the house of Rhonda, who Macy introduces as "The Idiot Savant". I warmed immediately to Rhonda; she's completely awkward, obsessed with Halloween, artistic, oh, and she made her cute little Witch costume herself.

I won't lie, I saw a little bit of a Young Spooky Pie in her, and felt instantly protective. We then learn that the pumpkins have been gathered as an "offering to the dead". Macy relays the tale of how a group of children were killed when a bus crashed into the lake nestled in ravine. And then tells the other children that that are going down to place the pumpkins at the water's edge, one for each child who was killed in the accident. As to be expected, this is when things go wrong.

Our next tale introduces us to Laurie (a nod, perhaps, to another great heroine of this holiday?), who, by the way, is played by Anna Paquin. Which, I won't lie, was one of the driving forces to see this film to begin with. I'll let you in on a secret my lovelies, but I do have the teeniest bit of a girl crush on Miss Paquin, largely because of her portrayal of True Blood's Sookie Stackhouse.


Laurie is out with her sister and friends, who are all dressed as over-sexed version of fairy tale characters. With the exception of Laurie, who appears practically demure in her Red Riding Hood costume, WHICH I WANT, by the way. There is, apparently, a tradition every year with these girls. They all go out to a big bonfire party in the woods, and each one has to find herself a date to bring to said party.

The other girls tease Laurie about her sexual innocence, her sister claiming that she has "22 year old virgin" carved on her forehead. Laurie is further ostracized as the other girls find boys and pair off with relative ease. They leave Laurie to fend for herself, and head off to the party with their respective dates with a patronizing pat on her cheek and an instruction to come meet them once she finds a man.

After she is abandoned, Laurie is left wandering through the woods on her own, directly paralleling the Fairy Tale she is dressed as. With the viewer just waiting for the inevitable Big Bad Wolf to spring at her from the shadows.

The last of the stories tells the tale of a grumpy old shut in, called Mr. Kreeg. He hates Halloween, he has his TV and his dog, the rest of the world can go to Hell for all he cares. He is also, quite cleverly, the neighbor of Principal Wilkins, and we see him briefly in the first story, bellowing through the fence at the slightly weaselly Principal.

Okay, okay, I felt a little biased going into this tale. I automatically love grouchy old men; especially when they have a small dog and watch the television with a rifle. They remind me of my own, dear, Grandpappy Pie. And Spooky loves her Grandpappy.

Sorry, got a bit side-tracked there, I'd tell you that it won't happen again but I respect you too much to lie to you like that.

Anyway, the other key player in this last tale of woe is dear little Sam, the sack boy who could. He is, apparently, intent on punishing Mr. Kreeg for his unwillingness to give Halloween the respect it deserves. To be fair, when Principal Wilkins wished him a Happy Halloween earlier in the film, Kreeg responded with "SCREW YOU" (and with that, he won my heart). This little story further establishes Sam as the spirit of Halloween, or at least the one responsible for enforcing the rules of Halloween.

Through that, and the rather poetic concluding scene we are re-affirmed with the fear that we all grew up with. On one hand, Halloween is the exciting, fun time of year when we all get to dress up and be given heaping bagfuls of diabetes. On the other hand, as a child, you always could feel that there was something just a bit dark lurking around corners, the sort of thing that could only be possible on that one night of the year.

And that leads us to one of the major reasons I have fallen so head over heels in love with Trick R Treat. It so perfectly encompasses the feeling of Halloween I had as a child, a feeling that you don't quite get any more as an adult. When you lose some of the fear associated with the holiday, you lose some of the fun too. So Trick R Treat reminding you that the fire in the Jack 'O Lantern will keep you safe so long as it stays lit, and that you wear the costumes to blend in with the spirits who they won't get you, even to check your candy for razor blades; well, it just filled me with nostalgia.

The storytelling is largely responsible for this, the conversations and people seem real. When they have conversations you don't sit there saying "What? Nobody talks like that!". And while you don't like all the characters, and you aren't supposed to, you find at least a few that you latch onto and care about. Much like the title sequence set you up for, it reads like a comic. Which is AWESOME.

Now, I've talked about the storytelling and the general feeling, so I feel it only fair to now talk about the final element that made this movie so wonderful. The Cinematography is utterly breath taking. Putting aside that this is a horror film, it is absolutely beautiful to look at. The color pallet, the editing, the subtle way certain shots are framed. My goodness, it damn near gave me the vapors.

So, Essentially, if the holiday were a film, it would, hands down, be Trick R Treat; fun and creepy, with an undercurrent of candy-like sweetness to pull it all together. If you want to watch something to get you in the mood for some good old Halloweening, Trick R Treat is the cure for what ails you kiddies.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

[Rec] (2007)

Well y'all, this girl actually has a bit of time before her in which she is going to be watching TONS of horror movies. In fact,as soon as I am done writing this here review I'm gonna go watch another one! Wooooooo!

Yes darlings, that's what this girl does when she has the apartment to herself for a week. She doesn't throw parties, or rearrange furniture, she sits in her arm chair and does her damnedest to overdose on horror films. So how happy was lil 'ol me when I turned on the TV and FearNet on demand was running [Rec], which I've been meaning to watch, but other things kept demanding to be at the top of my netflix queue, and you know how that is.

How exciting! And you know what, I wasn't disappointed. And that's kind of rare for me. That's not to say that [Rec] is perfect,because it isn't, but for what it is, it's quite good. And is furthering my opinion that these days Spain is churning out some pretty amazing horror.

So here's the basic rundown of what [Rec] is about:

The film opens with no sort of credits, no title card telling you that what you are about to experience is 100% REAL YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW, it starts like it would if you were watching lost footage. Young, adorable reporter Angela Vidal, is doing a piece for her show "While you're asleep". She is covering the job of local Firefighters, shadowing the firefighters on one of their "typical nights".

The beginning is actually really cute. Angela is sweet and flirtatious with the Firefighters, who seem more than happy to have her around, letting her try on their hats and showing her around the firehouse. I won't lie, two minutes into the movie and I already liked Angela and was secretly routing for her to take the coveted title of 'Final Girl', but that is neither here nor there.

For awhile there's a lot of Angela swinging her arms and telling the cameraman, Pablo, how nothing is happening and how she is getting bored. But then, oh joy of joys, the Firehouse alarm goes off, and the boys are called out. A resident is apparently trapped in their apartment, and of course, firemen Alex and Manu are more than happy to let Angela and Pablo ride along with them.

Once they arrive at the apartment they are greeted by a group of police and a lobby full of nervous apartment occupants. Apparently, the resident in question is an old woman who lives upstairs, no one has been able to get into the apartment; but they sure heard an awful lot of bangin' and screamin' up there. Manu assures the nervous tenants that everything will be fine, they have tools, they'll have the apartment open in a jiffy.

So, up the stairs they go, the firefighters, a couple of sanctimonious police officers whose names I can't remember because they were kind of douchebags, and Angela and her cameraman. Once the door to the apartment is cracked and our intrepid heroes venture inside, it is obvious to even the bluntest tool in the shed that there is something gravely amiss here. The old woman is standing in a corner soaked in blood and looking crazy as a shit house rat. Apparently, this isn't concerning anyone though, and the authority figures of the group schlep on over to Granny Batshit with lot's of "hey, everything's fine. You're fine, I'm fine, the suns out, ain't life dandy"? speak.

To the surprise of NO ONE, the crazy bitch launches at one of the policeman; because her stomach was making the rumblies that only human throats would satisfy. The firefighters manage to wrestle the lunch meat man away from the old woman and more or less subdue her. Manu instructs Alex to stay up here with the woman and not let her do any more crazy shit, whilst he and the other, more sanctimonious police officer, drag the shrieking, blood squirting man down to the lobby.

This does nothing to help the level of hysteria amongst the residents. Because, let's be fair, nothing ruins a decent night like a bleeding man squealing like a stuck pig in your lobby. Minor chaos erupts as the residents begin to be increasingly more shrill in their demands to know 'just WHAT in the name of God's ass is going on here'. This is, of course, when Alex takes the swan dive from the top of the stairwell and splats on the lobby floor.

Things go from bad to worse, because this about the time that the electricity in the building gets shut off, and the apartment is flooded with bright lights from outside, whilst a voice informs them via bullhorn, that "The health authorities have sealed off the building for health reasons". And because of something called a BNC threat, which we later learn translates to biological, nuclear, or chemical threat.

This, dear readers, is when all Hell breaks loose. The building is entirely sealed off, complete with plastic dropped from helicopters, and armed men in biohazard suits outside of the complex. But this is also the point when Angela turns to the camera, and in a deadly serious voice tells him:

"Fuck what they say, we have to tape this, people need to know what happened".

Generally this is the sort of thing that would make me put my hands up and shout "DONE!" in regards to the character. Because, generally, this is the sort of thing done out of sheer narcissism, but there is something in the earnest way that Angela handles herself and the situation that I couldn't help but find it endearing.

And remember that police officer who got attacked, and the poor fireman who was hefted down the stairs by the crazy old lady? Oh yeah, they're starting to act just like the woman, because, you know, they got bitten.

Fortunately it doesn't take long for our little troupe to figure out that getting bitten makes you into grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes. UNfortunately, the grey faced, blood thirsty, assholes, are not the George A. Romero shambling variety. You know, the kind that if they manage to catch you, you probably deserve to die because they travel about a centimeter every two hours? Nope, these guys barrel at you for all they're worth.

Fast zombies, or not zombies, whatever they are ... are harder to stay away from. So the residents of the condemned apartment complex fall one by one, the slowest, and most useless go first.

Okay, so this movie is more or less the mutant offspring of "28 Days later" and "The Blair Witch Project", if it were raised by George A. Romero's "The Crazies". And if you have a problem with "the shakey hand-held cam" business, you'll want to give this one a wide birth. HOWEVER, what thoroughly endeared [Rec] to me, and set it apart from others in this genre (namely, Paranormal Activity and The Blair With Project) is how intensely character driven it is.

There is a tight grouping of central characters and you actually care about them. You like them, you want them to come out swinging, and not become one of the rage filled bumbling hoard. Angela and Pablo's relationship is touching, even though you never see Pablo, but instead see the events through him. But even as shit hits the fan, Angela always looks first to Pablo, and he, in turn, is quick to take a hold of her hand and comfort her as it gets tenser.

Generally the faux-documentary type of movie doesn't do it for me. But the tight, almost claustrophobic, way it is filmed via hand held camera gives the viewer a sense of the tense urgency of the film. You feel involved, you're in the thick of it with them.

There is no "happily ever after" wherein everything is tied up in a neat little bundle, but the ending had a twist to it that I actually found surprising, which is rare. Usually reveals in this type of film are contrite, or so obvious you feel beaten over the head with it. But this leaves more questions than it answers, along with a deep unsettled feeling in the stomach.

Yes, there are flaws. Yes, there were multiple times during the film that I found myself shouting "YOU HAVE A GUN! JUST SHOOT THEM!", and I won't lie, a few of the characters you are fairly pleased to see get it. Nonetheless, I was fairly impressed with [Rec]. So really kids, see it, it kicks Paranormal Activity's ass and takes its lunch money.

Monday, September 6, 2010

So cute it's scary.

Well, ladies, gentlemen, and Spooky-dos alike. Yours truly, Spooky Pie, is now the proud owner of this beauty right here:

I would be lying if I said that since I first started seeing all the "coming soon" stuff for Monster High I haven't been just ridiculously excited about it. The idea of a high school full of "teenagers" who are the offspring of the famous movie monsters is just ridiculous to the level of Kitsch and This girl loves her some Kitsch.

Okay, so talking about a toy here is a little strange, but I felt that, all things considered, it was fitting. Especially for this girl and this blog. I mean, for goddsake, its a vampire whose favorite color is pink and has a pet bat named "Count Fabulous". I am stupidly pleased you guys, stupidly pleased. Most of the designs for the dolls are extremely cute, but this one, this one just screamed Spooky Pie.

Scary and yet pink and girlie? Oh! And a vegtarian to boot?! (and not in that lame Twilight way, according the little bio on her packaging she really does the vegetarian thing like most normal people. Not, you know, meaning that she eats mountain lions instead of people) Who does that make us think of? Me? Oh, how sweet, you shouldn't have.

All right, all right, this post was a little random. But whatever, I'm happy.

Now if you'll exscuse me, I'm going to go play with my new dolly like the deranged seven year old in a twenty-something's body adult I am.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Harvest Home (novel) - 1973

Yes kids, that's right, we have our first ever HORROR BOOK REVIEW here at TGDH! And it is none other that the extremely hyped up novel Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon.

I won't lie, when I found this at a used book sale (which are my Achilles heel, by the way, this girl finds it impossible to resist the lure of a good used book sale) I was *BEYOND* stoked. I had heard SO much about it, how terrifying it was, what an amazing story, and of course the "I think it's out of print, so good luck finding a copy, and if you do expect to pay hand over fist for it."

So imagine the ludicrous smugness that settled over my person upon finding it at said book sale, and then further only having to pay $1.50 for it. I felt proud, I felt mighty, I felt that I had good and stuck it to the man; and that always makes me far too pleased with myself.

So there I am. 'It's summer', says I, 'This is the ideal time for a good old fashioned 'scare the pants off you' type book'. Much like the tradition in Japan of beating the summer heat by sitting around and telling ghost stories, so you get the chills enough to forget that it is 100 Goddam degrees in the shade. So excited was your beloved Spooky Pie, SO EXCITED.

I finished this book last night, and I am not anywhere near as excited anymore.

Le Sigh.

But before I get into how this 'meant to be awesome' book made me want to start chewing on my desk out of annoyance and frustration, let me give you the general run down of what its about.

Harvest Home is the story of stereotypical, wholesome, American family, the Constantines. Father, Ned, is a miserable bureaucrat, married to dewy eyed June Cleaver-esque Beth, the daughter of a Preacher. Their daughter Kate is a fussy asthmatic, who, as far as I can tell, has never had a friend in her life.

When our tale begins Beth's over bearing Preacher-man dad has just kicked the bucket, and the Constantines are enduring the road trip back to New York from his funeral. During said road trip they take the scenic route and happen upon the quaint hamlet of Cornwall Coombe and decide that THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WHERE THEY MUST LIVE AND THEY WILL ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS SO DON'T EVEN TRY TO TALK THEM OUT OF IT BECAUSE IT WON'T WORK. Lucky for them, there's an empty house, and after a spell they get the provincial locals to cave in and sell it.

Now that they live in the country side Ned no longer needs to make money or something and spends all his time painting, whilst Beth does... I don't know what Beth does. Maybe she lies down on her face for eight hours at a time. But everyone is so in love with the little town and their quaint, old fashioned practices.

Namely the multitude of ceremonies they have to celebrate the various stages in the cycle of the harvest, which ultimately culminates in a giant ceremony known as "Harvest Home", at the center of which are the two villagers who have been deemed the Harvest Lord and the Corn Maiden. You know, basically hillbilly prom court. Ned can't keep his nose out of others peoples business and he stumbles upon the "pagan" belief system that the people of Cornwall Coombe have, and their "terrifying" rituals they perform to insure the growth of the corn.

* outsider comes into community
* outsider mocks natives' belief system
* outsider becomes obsessed with belied system
* outsider is given what for because he is a persistent bastard

I had a multitude of issues with this book. First, and foremost, it is written in first person, and the narration of Ned Constantine is the most self-involved pompous voice ever; which alone made it hard to get through. He is, APPARENTLY, not only a genius but sex on two legs because every woman wants to jump his unemployed bones. Everyone is a caricature - Ned is supposed to come across, I think, as some sort of Byronic hero, although he just seems like a douche bag. Beth is the ideal housewife who spends a lot of time putting a hand to her bosom and making declarations that start with "Oh Darling!". And of course, the village has all of its stereotypical players as well; there's the town slut, the town crazy, and of course, the weird-ass old woman who acts as Judge Judy and executioner for the community.

Then there's the over used tropes throughout the book, an ideal village with a dark secret... wait? That's been done before? When? Oh... 5789489737893478943987 other times? Huh... well, let's do it anyway.

Know what else we'll do? Let's have the whole village be a bunch of "Crazy ass Pagans" who do nothing but butcher people and have sex in Cornfields, because that's totally what they do right? Right?


This sort of crap is why a lot of people still assume that being Pagan equals being a Devil Worshiper. Wow. Just wow.

And this is yet another thing that made me think that if I were a feminist I would be up in arms about the portrayal of women in this book. Every woman is completely one dimensional, and all are thoroughly objectified and made out to be so much under the males. They are all simple minded creatures who have the singular goal of popping out babies and making food.

I might have been offended if the whole book weren't so damn ludicrous that if I got offended about everything in it that was worth getting offended about I probably would have gotten a brain hemorrhage.

Okay, okay, I'm getting a little irritable and long winded, so I'm going to wrap this up you guys.

If you can get past the narration, and the fact that much of the story has been done to death a thousand times, and pretty much always better, its an okay read. The "big reveal" is fairly weak, and Tryon seems to get confused about the mythology he's already set up in the book towards the end, because it basically double back on itself and becomes a giant contradiction.

Basically, I finished the book and went


Take that however you want guys.