My latest video on my YouTube channel, where I discuss and break down the first season of Stranger Things!
My latest video on my YouTube channel, where I discuss and break down the first season of Stranger Things!
When one thinks of horror, often one thinks of horror movies.
These movies are fantastical in some ways. We all know that someone cannot possibly be shot 23,889,209 times and still get up to chase sexually precocious teenagers and kill them in inventive ways (although that is a good way to burn that free 100 or so minutes you may have that day. More if you watch the cut scenes on the “extras” menu.)
But often, real life can contain plenty of horror…
But seriously, just turn on the news any given night, and tell me that man’s inhumanity to man is not the most horrific thing out there?
And there is one guy who understands this very well, and who has written some compelling literature on the subject, as a matter of fact…
You guessed it, we are talking about Stephen King!
*insert shocked look right about here*
King has been called The Master of Modern Horror (but you can call him The Master for short), and for good reason.
A rabid St. Bernard that makes you want to avoid car trouble at all costs?
Check and mate!
While most of the above horrors are not actually “real horrors,” one of King’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to include elements of realism in his writing.
So we associate The Shining the famous phrase “Redrum” (spell it backwards, for the uninitiated), along with a haunted hotel and a scary lady who is a permanent residence of a room with a famous number
There is also the matter of the guy in the dog costume…
Well, back to my point.
Which is that King can insert reality into his works. The Shining is a great example of this, because it deals with alcoholism, unemployment, child abuse and the list goes on.
In other words, we can relate the above list, since we have all experienced at least one of those things in our lifetime.
And that is what makes the story so terrifying: since we can relate to those topics, it is not that far out of left field that there may be a haunted hotel somewhere out there, where we avoid room 217 (or 237), along with the hedge animals and fire extinguishers, because if it can happen to the seemingly normal Torrance family, it sure can happen to us.
King writes about people. These people may be placed into extraordinary situations, but they are still people, who could, at least theoretically, be any one of us.
And these people do not always fight supernatural monsters, Often, humans are the monsters, and what a human can do to a fellow human is far worse than what a haunted hotel or even a rabid St. Bernard can do to us.
One of King’s books that deals with man’s inhumanity to man (or, more appropriately, woman) is Gerald’s Game.
Gerald’s Game contains hardly any elements of the supernatural, but it is still a frightening read. The monsters in this book are human, so the scenario is one that is plausible for anyone.
So strap in (but don’t handcuff yourself), and get ready for the ride that is Gerald’s Game.
So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…
Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too. I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants? Come on, now!
Well, actually I do. And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.
But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way: one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)
In other words: horror movies. Horror movies everywhere…
At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner. And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!
And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…
That’s right, watch some horror movies. Or maybe lots of horror movies. All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!
And so many movies to choose from.
Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies. There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from. And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix. Cable schmable, right?
Now, one thing about horror movies: they seem to have an audience. And no, not necessarily horror junkies.
Let’s face it: most horror movies are geared towards white males. That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.
And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies. In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics. And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.
But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies. In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…
That’s right, where are my ladies? I mean, we make up half the population, right? So where are we? Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?
Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies. And some bad ass ones at that!
In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories. After all, Game of Thrones, anyone? Plenty of kick ass women there!
And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.
So, if you look, we are there in horror movies. Sometimes we get horribly victimized. Sometimes we victimize others. But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!
With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.) Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…
And, as always:
Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:
And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!
Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)
But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it. And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.
Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!
Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man. However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.
After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons. Who would want to cross her?
Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.
For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator. She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.
Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance. After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life. That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.
Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? It’s an existential crisis! But an awesome existential crisis!
9. Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)
Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.) This is especially true of horror movies. After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?
Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.
When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask. I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert: they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!
So, let’s go back to the beginning.
In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. And a few horny teenagers. And of course, the campers.
And…the camp’s cook?
Yes, the camp’s cook. And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.
Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise. We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts. All. The. Blood. And. Guts.
All of it!
I personally love a lady vs. lady show down. There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.
Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!
It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!
When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware. He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie. It was good for plenty of yuks!
The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.
After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.
In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.) And that is just the beginning.
Scream pokes fun at the horror genre. A lot. After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?” Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.
However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie. With a protagonist who kicks ass.
And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!
Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar: her mother was raped and murdered. The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.
And then people start getting killed. Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust. Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.
Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter. From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.
Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished. The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.
Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.
Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!
In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.
Well, sleep usually is. Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…
But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.
They can’t hurt me.
The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.
Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.
I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it. Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?
However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.
First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.
Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)
She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.
Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing. And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.
The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake. Wait, I take that back. Nancy is the cake, icing and all.
Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.
I spent most of my time isolated. And being isolated was actually the good part. When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.
The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…
But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?
In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?
Isolation and bullying is one thing. We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…
In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.” And that would be dangerous indeed.
And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.
Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it: Willow is also a bad ass herself.
As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.
How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?
Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay. And it was all so natural too. When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish. Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!
Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses. I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.
Yeah, see above…
I will say it once and I will say it again: High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best. At worst, it is Hell. And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck. High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.
And again, my high school experienced sucked. It sucked bunches. My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.
The teacher must have though I was a freak…
Well, I am a freak. But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.
Meet Carrie White.
On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject. At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.
But the at worst part is just horrible. Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!
However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject. For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.
Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers. And this turns out to be bad news for everyone. When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.
Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.
I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates. Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters. How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?
I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)
And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…
“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”
Oh, the above quote…
When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…
Happiness was one of them, of course.
And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.
I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character. I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.
Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.
As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.
We all had them in at least one class.
The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.
Often, they loved horror.
They had an affinity for creepy things.
Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least. Nine Inch Nails, anyone?
Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.
She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here. Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)
In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in. In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.
Growing up, I felt like a ghost. Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.
And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation. I loved to read and write, and create art.
Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.
That was the thing I admired most about Lydia: she remained true to herself.
She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)
Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)
Being different is a good thing. But often, it is lonely.
Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.
“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”
Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!
Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”
And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.
It is a tribute to all things 80’s.
It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans. The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.
I could go on and on, actually. Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things…
At least eleven, I would say…
Oh, right. Eleven. The subject of this entry!
If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.
On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.) That statement would not be incorrect.
But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.
Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.
And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)
At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.
However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits. A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)
Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place. Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.
The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.
Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know. She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.
And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!
I love Eva Green…
Oh, how I love Eva Green!
Eva Green is the bomb.com!
Did I mention that I love Eva Green?
Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.
And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.
I have problems. I really do. Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)
But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.
In other, my problems are pretty damn mild. Or maybe even non-existent, really.
After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.
Or Dracula, for that matter.
I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.
(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together. Fun fact of the day!)
Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.
Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?
I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful. Yikes much?
But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.
Vanessa makes everyone around her better. Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)
Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa. Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic. However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.
(Another side note: anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)
Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.
Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.
Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.
And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…
I give you…
OK, let’s get one thing straight…
That’s Dr. Scully to you!
Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.
I liked math and science.
I read books on theoretical physics for fun.
A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books. OR SIX BOOKS. SIX BOOKS!
So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087. Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.
But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up. Well, a little bit, at least.
For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.
Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd. Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.
However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing, I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.
But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.
And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.
You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully. Finally, she arrived.
And she did not disappoint.
Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)
Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade. And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.
And her autopsies were so cool! They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that. Almost.
Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded. Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang. They made a great team.
I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge. Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well. But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.
Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis. Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner. But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence. And I loved her for it.
And I have one thing to say: Representation matters. I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored. And its not fun. I do not wish that on anyone.
But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter. And a little less lonely.
At last, someone gets us. And the journey becomes exciting, At last, we begin to see the hope.
Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.
I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task. So a shout out to any I may have left out: You are not forgotten!
So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.
At the very least, you can kill a few hours. Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!
So, it’s summertime.
Not only is it hot, but the offerings on television are a bit scant, so to speak.
Although, really, I was craving a dose of the 80’s.
But The Goldbergs are also on vacation. And I needed something new and fresh, and none of the 80’s movies or TV shows in my collection were cutting it!
But luckily, Netflix decided to oblige me…
I heard that there was new show out. It could satisfy that 80’s craving…check.
I’m a huge fan of horror and it was scary…check.
It paid homage to some writer guy I am obsessed with…check.
Oh, and it was actually well-acted and directed…check.
In other words, I am referring to the Netflix show known as Stranger Things.
Yes, I jumped on the Stranger Things bandwagon!
No I didn’t get a t-shirt, but it was one hell (or is it upside down?) of a ride!
Now, I didn’t binge. Despite my love for this show, it still is a fine wine that needed to be savored.
So I forced myself to slow down.
In other words, I finished watching the show in about a week. And I still felt that I rushed it a bit, since there was so much good stuff to savor!
Like the 80’s aspect of it…nostalgia rules!
The Stephen King references…The Master himself even earned a direct reference…but I know he won’t let the fame get to his head!
And this show was scary…I had to hide my eyes and grip my poor dog really hard watching some parts…good thing dogs are tolerant of their human slaves, even when the human slaves are watching scary stuff on TV!
In other words, there are so many reasons to love Stranger Things. The show really does have a little something for everyone, and is so well done.
So, I deemed this show worthy of a post on this little old blog. And I narrowed down the number of reasons to love this show…
Wait for it…
(See what I did there? You are welcome!)
So, here is my list of 11 reasons as to why Stranger Things is an awesome show. It may be a bit redundant in parts, but I feel each reason earned its place on the list and is worthy of discussion.
Time to break down and discuss this show, so buckle in for the ride!
And, as always:
It is scary
Some of you may be scratching your heads, and wondering if Captain Obvious has taken over this blog. And I don’t begrudge you for that thought. After all, this show is billed as being in the horror category, so of course it’s scary, right?
Well, not necessarily. Both the big and small screen are filled with all kinds of abominations these days that call themselves horror. And when I refer to them as abominations, that does not necessarily mean they are the good kind of abomination…
So, let’s break it down and discuss it.
When I watched Stranger Things, I felt warm and fuzzy at times. After all, nostalgia, right? And I laughed. I mean who wouldn’t laugh? After all, Dustin’s antics, floating Eggo waffles and Steve’s hair…all of those are pretty chuckle-worthy, in my opinion.
And, as quickly as I felt the warm and fuzzy, or went into a mad fit of giggling over a Dustin one-liner, I found myself holding on to my dog for dear life (like I said, she’s tolerant) and trying not to be scared into a change of pants. The show was that effective.
First of all, there was the concept of the Upside Down. An alternate dimension that sucks in a little kid. forcing him to communicate using Christmas lights? One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of the unknown. And an alternate dimension fits that category perfectly, as that would be one of the few frontiers left.
Nancy is briefly sucked into that alternate dimension, and seeing it through her eyes was just frightening. No wonder she needed a little company that night. I don’t think I would ever sleep again!
There is also The Monster. Although the politically correct name for him (it?) is Mr. Tulip-Head. So I shall refer to him by his proper name in this post, so no tentacles are ruffled!
And Mr. Tulip-Head is not one to be trifled with, yo!
Not only is he an extra-dimensional monster that is a predator (you could say that the town of Hawkins was his haunt, as in haunt meaning a place where animals feed), he seems to force slug-like creatures down people’s throats, in an attempt to either kill them, or perhaps an attempt to reproduce…
I tell you, if Will has a mini Mr. Tulip-Head come busting out of him, per the infamous scene in the movie Alien…well, I won’t be surprised at all! And you can say you heard it here first!
Did anyone else think sushi when Will puked up that tentacle, by the way?
Ok, so that was just me then…
Well, nevermind, I guess…
It is Nerd Heaven
From the opening scene of Stranger Things, the tone is set. The audience realizes that it will be treated to a…
I know, something nerdy making it on to this blog? Can you imagine!?
At the beginning of the first episode, the boys are playing Dungeons and Dragons. And using all the technical terms, like Demi-Gorgon. And trust me folks, it only gets nerdier.
Obviously, we have Mike, Will and the rest of the gang. Right from the beginning, the writers of the show let us know that they are the nerds among their peer group. This title includes the good grades, unusual hobbies (D&D and membership in the audio-visual club), and the other, not positive attributes of nerdiness, such as the empty social calendar and merciless bullying.
Not only is D&D present throughout the series (as a useful metaphor, no doubt), there are so many little details that made my nerdy heart go pitter-patter.
We have the teacher that has a hot date with a pretty girl explaining the special effects in a horror movie. Who needs brawn and muscles when you have a guy that can give a technical break down of the special effects in a scary movie to put your mind at ease?
There is the sensory deprivation chamber. I loved how the boys, Hop and Joyce speculated on how to create one, and then hit upon the idea of using salt water. It added some credibility to the series, although I think I will skip making one in an attempt to visit another dimension, as this one without Mr. Tulip-head is just fine, thank you!
I also loved it when the guys talked to the science teacher (the same expert on special effects in movies), about the existence of other dimension, and how to access those dimensions. As a teenager, I read tons of books on physics, along with science fiction and fantasy novels covering that same topic (A Wrinkle in Time is a favorite of mine) and it is a subject of endless fascination for me, even in adulthood. So to see it addressed on this show (the analogy with the acrobat and flea on the tightrope is an excellent) gave me goosebumps. And goosebumps of the good variety.
If I actually had a friend group as a child, I hope that group would have contained a Dustin, a Mike, a Will and a Lucas. After all, nerd power!
It has strong feminist leanings
The formula looks something like this: a scary monster (or serial killer) is on the loose, somehow. There are all kinds of hints, but both the teenagers and adults ignore the warning signs. The teenagers are left to their own devices. In other words, teenagers of the opposite sex gather together, and “own devices” turns out to mean “having sex.” So most of the teens pair off, and conveniently find fully furnished bedrooms. And then they have sex. Well, except for a couple of virtuous kids, who are either uncomfortable with the idea of dating before marriage, or the nerdy guy (or girl, but usually a guy) who is rejected by the beautiful member of the opposite sex for either the jock or cheerleader.
Apparently, nothing angers a movie villain more than sexually active teenagers. And the kinkiness of the sex involved is directly proportional to how quickly (and even how gruesomely) the teenagers get dispatched. It is then up to the virtuous guy or girl to face the killer, and defeat the killer, who just won’t stay dead, even after being riddled with a large number of bullets that would take down any non horror movie villain.
Or something like that, at any rate. Formulaic, in other words.
Now, Stranger Things may be a tribute to the 80’s and all things horror, but one thing it is not is formulaic. This includes its treatment of the teenage girl. In fact, Stranger Things stands the formula on its head, and can be argued to make a strong feminist statement by doing so.
Well, no. Although my friends and family may argue otherwise, but you can’t miss what you never had, right?
And yes, Stranger Things does make a strong feminist statement, and here’s why.
Nancy becomes involved with Steve, and sneaks out to a party, lying to her parents and convincing poor Barb to cover for her. Pretty typical teen behavior, in other words.
Not surprisingly, Nancy and Steve have sex. The other couple at the party has sex. And poor Barb is left to her own devices.
Standard horror fare, in other words.
But then, we veer away from the standard horror. Nancy survives her first time, although Steve behaves in a pretty boorish manner (in other words, a teenage boy.) Barb, however, does not survive that night, as she is attacked by Mr. Tulip-Head. Apparently, Mr. Tulip-Head did not get the memo from Jason or Michael Myers, and does not attack the teenagers engaged in premarital sex. Rather, he behaves like a typical predator, and attacks the isolated member of the herd, aka Barb.
It takes a bit, but Nancy realizes that Barb is missing. She confesses her lie to her mother and speaks to the police, naturally leaving out that she and Steve had sex that night. I mean, it’s not like her sex life is anybody’s business but hers, right?
Furthermore, Nancy lets her mother know this, in no uncertain terms. Yes, she had sex and Barb is now missing. But the two are NOT related, nor should they be seen as related. Because, you know, becoming sexually active and an extra-dimensional monster that had been unleashed due to the irresponsible actions of a shady operation in town are NOT related, so let’s focus on the important thing here: now two children are missing, and maybe our town is in danger, so let’s do something before more people turn up missing?
In other words, quit punishing women for being sexual! Being sexual should not lead to death! And a women’s sex life is no one’s business but her own! Yeah, go Stranger Things!
Plus, Nancy kicks ass anyway. She threw down some serious shade against Mr. Tulip-Head, and they boys just kind of followed her lead.
In other words, I can’t give Nancy enough love.
It is 80’s heaven
And let me count the ways…
Where do I even start? This show just has so much 80’s…
We have the decor in the houses. Someone took some great care to make sure that the houses looked like something you would see back in 1983, from the wall paper down to the carpeting. So there’s that.
We get 80’s music. The Clash? How much more 80’s can you get?
And movie references. Don’t forget those. Joyce surprising Will with tickets to go see Poltergeist. And then Will disappearing, in much the same manner as Carol Anne Freeling. It’s true that Joyce developed an obsession with all things electronic and not the TV, but the concept is still the same.
I saw elements of The Goonies and Stand by Me. In fact, the story arc of Mike and his friends is kind of similar to these two movies: plucky misfit kids have a crazy adventure together and test their friendship in the process. Well, just add in extra-dimensional monsters and shady government operatives. But still not too far off.
The television that happened to be playing an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…squee!
Throw in a little John Hughes as well. The girl must choose between two guys: one is kind of a lovable meathead, and the other is artistic and introspective, and the sworn enemy of the aforementioned meathead…
Then there is the character of Hop, who had a kind of Indiana Jones vibe…swoon…
So much nostalgia.
I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s (I am 38, for all you nosy folk), and when I watched Stranger Things, I was (at least momentarily), transported back to my childhood, and was reminded of a time in my life when things were a little less complicated.
And no, I am not looking back with rose-colored glasses. That’s 3 D glasses I am using, thank you very much!
Now excuse me, I have to go find some leggings that coordinate with my banana clip…battling extra-dimensional monsters will just have to wait!
The nods to different types of horror
Well, we just talked about how the show is scary. So of course, since it is a show in the horror category, right?
Captain obvious strikes again!
Actually, this reason is more in regards to the fact of how the show paid homage to so many different types of horror.
First of all, we have the 1980’s horror aspect. When I watched, I was reminded of all the 80’s classics: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and the Halloween movies. Those movies had teenagers or young adults as their protagonists, just like Stranger Things.
One of the main points of the show was the fear of the unknown. Again, I was reminded of John Carpenter (The Thing.) The premise of The Thing is a life form that is not understood, just like Mr. Tulip-Head in Stranger Things. That creature is definitely not understood, nor would understanding be a good thing (although it may result in one being forced to ingest slugs.)
I was also reminded of the movie Alien, which (again) deals with the fear of the unknown. And has a strong female protagonist. Nancy and Ellen Riply…now that would be a dangerous combo!
And I was also reminded of H.P. Lovecraft…
Yes, a show that is a mix of Stephen King’s It and The Goonies also has some nods to Lovecraft…who knew?
The idea that Will had been touched by the unknown (after he pukes up a slug and seems to be back in the Upside-Down momentarily) and forever changed is also something that is distinctively Lovecraftian. One of the running themes in Lovecraft’s stories is that knowledge is not necessarily always a good thing, and Will experiencing life in another dimension was not necessarily a good thing. In fact, I think that experience will have some pretty severe repercussions, but only time (and a second season) will tell.
In fact, I found the end of this season to be pretty unsettling, as the camera shots and the shots of the stars in the sky seemed to imply that someone (or something) had its eye on Will, his friends, Nancy, Jonathan and the whole town of Hawkins, Indiana. And that someone or something was not friendly. Not friendly at all.
It is a HUGE homage to Stephen King
While we are on the subject of horror and scary things…
This reason may be a bit redundant.
After all, Stephen King is a horror writer. And he is scary. He is even tied into the 1980’s (It, Pet Sematary, Cujo and Firestarter are all 80’s books.) He even ties into the feminist part, since he is also capable of writing strong female characters.
But, he is The Master. And The Master deserves his own entry. Not to mention the fact that there are aspects to this show that are distinctly Stephen King.
We do have one character specifically asking another character if she has read a Stephen King book. Hey, if you are going to drop a bunch of King Easter eggs, you may as well admit it, right?
The fact that Eleven’s mother was drugged in order to enhance latent PSI abilities is a direct reference to the book (and movie) Firestarter. In Firestarter, a man and woman are drugged as part of an experiment. The man and woman fall in love, marry and have a child. The child is gifted (or perhaps cursed) with the ability to start fires with her mind. This is similar to Eleven’s situation, in that her mother was drugged, and then gave birth to a child with PSI abilities (aka Eleven.)
Plus, I am pretty sure that Hawkins Laboratory is actually an operative of The Shop…
People, especially children, with extraordinary abilities, are a major theme in King’s work. The Shining, Carrie, Everything’s Eventual, Dr. Sleep and Firestarter are just some examples. In fact, in the Dark Tower series, people with these abilities even have a name: Breakers. And Eleven definitely classifies as a Breaker. Don’t worry, I won’t tell the Low Men!
Traveling between realities is also a huge theme in King’s work. In fact, this also has a specific name: going Todash. And the space in between realities is called the Todash space, and monsters lurk in the Todash space. When Eleven was in the blackness and first encountered that monster…I would say that was a pretty good representation of Todash space!
In King’s books, there are doors that lead to realities. They are known as “thinnies,” and allow travel to different worlds and even different time periods. Eleven was able to use her PSI abilities to make one of these doors. And, as far as we know, that door still exists at Hawkins Laboratory, with the potential for more creatures (The Mist comes to mind) to cross over to the Stranger Things level of The Tower…
Yeah, I said it. I gave Stranger Things its own level on The Dark Tower. So if Roland and his ka-tet, or perhaps Danny Torrance, end up employing the services of a certain girl with a fondness for Eggo waffles…well, you heard it from me first, folks!
It gives an honest portrayal of small town life
I am someone who grew up in a small town, so I feel qualified to write about this topic. And it is something that has come up in many a blog post, mainly in the Stephen King related posts, as small towns are as vital to a Stephen King novel as kids with PSI abilities, homicidal clowns and rabid St. Bernards.
I have discovered that the only people who really understand the small town are those who have spent time in the small town (like Stephen King, obviously.)
You have one extreme that sees the environment as charming, quaint, maybe even bucolic. Can kids really go missing in a small town? You can leave your doors unlocked, right? The locals are charming!
Then, there is the other extreme: people who see the small town populated by the likes of the Peacock family, with no access to modern technology (what plumbing?) and just a general ignorance of the outside world, period.
The truth is that small towns are complex. Stephen King hits on this in books like Needful Things, It, ‘Salem’s Lot and many, many others. Stranger Things also hits on this, and in only eight episodes. I am sure that this theme will be discussed more in (hopefully) upcoming seasons as well.
On the the one hand, there is a sense of community in a town like Hawkins, Indiana. People rally together to comfort Joyce and help search for Will when it is believed that he is still alive. People are at ease with each other, because if they don’t know you, they probably went to school with one of your parents. Or worked with your best friend at the local factory.
But small towns have a sense of ugliness about them too. I can personally testify to this. And Mike and his friends can as well. The bullies hurl a racial slur at Lucas early on. Steve is able to spread rumors and ruin Nancy’s “reputation” fairly quickly. The lack of concern for Barb after she disappears is downright disturbing. People quickly assume that Barb is a runaway, and no effort is made on her behalf. And that is part of small town life: the people in the town do not want to believe that something may be amiss, and will try to cover it up.
So how long have the inhabitants of Hawkins Laboratory suspected, at least somewhere deep down, that something was amiss in their town? Obviously, Dr. Brenner (who will be referred to in this blog as Dr. Pedophile, due to his disgusting nature) has been performing unethical experiments for a long time. At the very least, these experiments produced poor Eleven, and a woman in a vegetative state (likely the mother of Eleven.)
But Eleven is the 11th. The 11th of what? Are there others like her? If so, what happened to them? And what do the people living in the town know? What other skeletons will emerge?
The show has been renewed for a second season, so I am sure we will be finding out a lot more about Hawkins, Indiana, and its secrets.
Now, all of the characters are fabulous. Let me just get that out there, less I ruffle the tentacles of Mr. Tulip-Head, and any other monsters that resemble flora gone terribly wrong!
Along with Old Tulip-Head, I have much love for the characters in this show. Even the bad guys, like Dr. Pedophile. They are well drawn-out and believable, even when they are behaving in ways that may make one scratch his or her head (talking to you, Sheriff Hop.)
But there is one character that deserves his own entry.
So, without any further ado…let me introduce Dustin!
And if you don’t love Dustin, then you are definitely in the same category as people who kick puppies and listen to Nickelback!
Ok, I may be joking. About the kicking puppies bit, anyway.
On the surface, Dustin is lovable. Actually, everything about him is lovable, from his love of chocolate pudding, to his smile and even that speech impediment!
But, there is much more to Dustin than his ability to track down chocolate pudding and that charming smile of his.
Dustin is the glue that holds his group of friends together. It is true that Mike is the brains, and Lucas is a fighter.
However, if it weren’t for Dustin, the group may have fallen apart. Mike and Lucas were constantly at odds with each other, especially when Eleven was added to the fold. In fact, things got physical, and Lucas was thrown in the air by Eleven for his troubles.
But due to Dustin’s insightful nature (he did understand that he could not have the same place in Mike’s life, because he didn’t come into it until fourth grade), Lucas and Mike were able to come to an agreement and reconcile. Dustin played the mediator, getting each side to compromise with each other, so that they did not compromise their mission: saving Will from what was literally Hell.
Dustin has been compared to Vern Tessio, a character in the movie Stand By Me. Superficially, there is something to that, as both Vern and Dustin provide comic relief and are the easy going friends who try to keep the peace.
But as a wise man pointed out: Dustin would never forget where he left his pennies.
This is Dustin. He’s our friend and essential to keeping us from killing each other so that we don’t leave our other friend some place that is not on any map!
Much of Stranger Things is about friendships, and the relationships the characters have with each other.
Obviously, we have Mike, Will, Lucas and Dustin. The OF, or Original Friendship, if you will. When Will goes missing, Mike will stop at nothing to find Will so that his group can be whole again.
Then, there is Eleven. Mike and Eleven seem to bond immediately, and Eleven slowly becomes something more than a human flashlight to Mike, even though he is still desperate to find his missing friend.
In fact, it could be argued that Eleven’s presence makes all the boys better people, although this is especially true for Mike, whose relationship with Eleven opens his eyes, and causes him to grow up a little.
We also have Nancy and Barb. Barb starts off as Nancy’s friend who is willing to do anything for her, including lying to her parents so that she can sneak out and spend time with Steven. However, Barb disappears into the Upside-Down, a seeming victim of the Mr. Tulip-Head. Like Will, Nancy is forced to grow up, as she searches for Barb, and encounters the callous reaction of law enforcement and even her parents, who refuse to believe that Barb is anything other than a teenage runaway.
There is the relationship between Nancy and Jonathan. Jonathan is frantically searching for his brother, and Nancy is frantically searching for her friend. The two bond in their mutual tragedy and work together to defeat the evil that is trying to destroy their town. Nancy develops a respect for Jonathan, viewing him as a person, rather than the “weird kid” that her peers see him as. Jonathan also develops a respect for Nancy, and seems to feel something more than friendship for her, even though Nancy reconciles with Steve.
Steve also bonds with Jonathan, and seems to genuinely feel remorse for the bullying. However, that friendship seems to be tentative at best, given that both men have feelings for Nancy.
In other words, people had “frenemies,” even back in the ancient times!
It tackles taboo topics
It is no secret that horror and “taboo” topics are linked. Almost every horror movie features sex of some kind (Friday the 13th and its approximately 725 sequels are a great example of this.) Candyman is another movie that deals with taboo topics, because it addresses racism.
And don’t even get me started on Stephen King, The King of Taboo Topics (pun intended.) King books run the gamut, from domestic violence, to bullying, to substance abuse and even to the death of a child. When “real-world” issues are included alongside the supernatural ones, the the story becomes that much more believable.
Stranger Things is no different, in that it also deals with taboo topics. The show begins with every parent’s worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child. And it only gets more taboo from there.
Early on in the series, we witness the bullying that Mike and his friends endure. Lucas is treated to a racial epithet. Dustin is harassed due to his speech impediment. And it gets worse, as the bullies make some disparaging remarks about Will’s supposed death, when they are supposed to be mourning the loss of their classmate.
Mike is not the only character who experiences bullying. Jonathan is also harassed for being different, and this harassment is experienced at the hands of Steve. Steve is also insensitive to the disappearance of Will, and to the disappearance of Barb, the best friend of the girl he claims to love.
We have the character of Sheriff Hopper. Hop’s character is a walking bundle of taboos, actually.
First of all, Hop is a substance abuser. He is an alcoholic, much like Jack Torrance in The Shining. Not surprisingly, he is also a womanizer, using sex and alcohol to escape his demons.
Hop has also experienced the ultimate tragedy: he has lost a child. Not surprisingly, this experience has shaped him into the man that he is. The loss cost him his marriage, and his ex wife has moved on and started a new family. Hop attempts to do this, but struggles mightily. However, when he meets Eleven and spends time in the Upside Down so that he can rescue Will, Hop is able to begin healing. It could even be said that Will and Eleven are surrogate children of Hop.
Often, subjects are “taboo” and therefore frightening because we choose to keep them in the dark. But when the light is turned on, the monsters are no longer as formidable as they once were.
Now, I know that I said I had made this list with no particular order in mind. But, like Maury Povich might say, this post has determined that to be a lie!
There is one aspect of Stranger Things that deserves her own entry, and should be in the spotlight, at least for a minute.
I mean, after all, it would be an Upside Down kind of logic if I didn’t pay her homage, right?
So, without any further ado…
Here is my favorite thing about Stranger Things!
Yes, in case you have not figured it out, I am talking about our favorite telekinetic, Eggo waffle loving, mouth breather hater with a cute buzz cut adolescent, aka Eleven!
Eleven is bad ass. I can’t think of any other way to put it.
She is here to kick ass and eat Eggo waffles, and she’s almost out of waffles!
In all seriousness, I just love Eleven. How can you not? People who hate Eleven are like people that listen to Nickelback!
Eleven is one tough chick.
She started out as an experiment. She doesn’t know her real parents. The only parental figure that she’s ever known is a creepy scientist, known as Dr. Pedophile for the purposes of this blog.
And to Dr. Pedophile, she is nothing but his lab experiment, to be used as how he sees fit. And he uses her to open gateways that should never be opened, and to explore what should remain unknown. When she escapes, his concern is not for her as a person, but as his test subject that someone else may access.
Eleven is forced to face things that would frighten people three times her age to death. Yet, she somehow does it, in the name of helping a boy that she has never met.
She is also fiercely loyal to her friends, although she has only known Mike, Lucas and Dustin for a short time. She makes the bully pee his pants…that is true friendship right there!
Even though Eleven has been raised in a lab, she still manages to exhibit the most humanity of anyone on the show. Nearly everyone on the show has an agenda: Mike and his friends want to find Will, Hop wants to expose Hawkins Laboratory, Nancy is looking for revenge for Barb. But not Eleven. The only thing Eleven is looking for (besides waffles) is love and acceptance. And she does manage to find that, if only for a short time.
However, Eleven’s happiness is tragically cut short, when she makes the ultimate sacrifice: she battles an extra-dimensional monster, and seemingly sacrifices herself so that her friends may live.
Often, bad ass can come in small packages. And Eleven is a lot of bad ass in one small package. But sometimes, small packages have the most give, just like Eleven.
So, there you have it. Eleven reasons why I love Stranger Things. Sure, maybe I missed a few, but I think I got most of them. Hopefully, I don’t incur the ire of Mr. Tulip-Head and his merry band of slugs1
This is Stranger Things. Its my show and it’s crazy…crazy awesome, that it is!
So, if you haven’t watched this show, I have given you eleven reasons to make sure that Netflix subscription is up to date…
So flop down on your couch, and prepare for one epic binge session!
For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.
And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…
Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers. However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.
No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.
I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old. Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!
Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet. I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day. And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)
So, I read other writers. Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch. And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)
I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too. In other words, there’s always movies and television.
I will be an X Phile for life. I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.
And horror movies. Who can forget horror movies?
Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?
Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway. Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead. Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away. REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!
Watching horror movies is fun. The adrenaline rush is fun. And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too. Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.
And there are so many horror flicks to choose from. You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It…
Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!
At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there. And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies. It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!
Reminder: this is one blogger’s opinion only. I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care. And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.
And, as always:
Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?
And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.
Lots of people died, in fact.
And in really inventive ways.
And klowns were responsible. Killer Klowns. And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!
If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched. And it set the stage for me.
Yes, the movie is just ridiculous. I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!
And acting? What acting? Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.
Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films. I became a Stephen King addict. I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie. Because it was, at least for me.
It was a gateway. A gateway into the horror genre. And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.
Often, horror movies deal with morality…
Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.
Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies. There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.
But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.
One of these movies is Candyman.
The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist. However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose. He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook. The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.
Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.
Since this is a horror movie, there is someone
stupid brave enough to do just that. And lots of people get murdered. Lots and lots of people. So that’s disturbing.
But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people. It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered. And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders. Some of these victims are children. All of the victims are African American.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point. Maybe. Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country. If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family. However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored. Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.
Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society. Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.
Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.
But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?
I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown. So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!
But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe. Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!
Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real. We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member. Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.
Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…
Like Freddy Kreuger.
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010. But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!
The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough. After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately. And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie. The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.
It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen. And no one is safe, including her family.
Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art. This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores. The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”
It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.
As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this. I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked. In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old. And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked. And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.
In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time. But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing: I rented the movie Freaks.
Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing: man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover. Oh, and karma is a real bitch!
This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities. However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner. However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.
I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got. However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…
Again, karma is a bitch!
While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie. For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.
I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels. Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material. Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books. And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.
Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category: it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie. The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it. Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.
The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with. I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie. And I understood why Carrie “snapped”: there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough. Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come. And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.
One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending. Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced. Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue. Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.
That scene gets me. Every. Single. Time.
My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam. We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life. I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.
In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno. I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory: there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be. And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.
The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory. The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities. Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain. Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.
Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul. See the part about Purgatory. In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right: Jacob is already dead. He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death. So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.
It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on. He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is. It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.
Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.) It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.
Sometimes, we create our own monsters. And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.
Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth. Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.
One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns. These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.
We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior. Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent. For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name. Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.
Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more. It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory. In other words, a little something for everyone.
Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie. And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.
In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie. There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.) The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true. The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.
However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie. For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants. The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.
Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur. In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult. He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.
In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain. After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.
For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature. Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?
Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)
Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm. Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.
Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time. I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!
As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain. The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.) However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear. I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening. Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway. Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)
It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.
And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…
Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time. This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?
Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie. There is no violence. There is no sex. There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs. In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.
In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!
However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie. I will mince no words: this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.
Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie. At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing. Chairs move on their own accord. Drinking glasses break. Furniture cannot stay still.
But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister. Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies. And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…
Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…
Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.
But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family. And Carol Anne is rescued. Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.
Case closed, right?
Well, no. The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.
Turns out, there is a technicality. So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!
In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!
Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one). But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win? And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…
The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling! There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list: CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.
Oh, and a side note: I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.
Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies. It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off. What it is it that they say? Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?
So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already. I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!
And with that note, adios! Happy viewing!