By: The Reverend
On April 5th 1974 Stephen King’s epistolary horror novel Carrie
was released. Written on his wife’s old type writer (the same he used for Misery) in the run down trailer that they were living out of, Carrie became his first published novel. It was the fourth that he had written, and it would have been lost at the bottom of a trash can if it were not for his wife, Tabitha. She fished the pages of the infamous shower room scene out of the trash and forced him to finish it. Taking her advice, King expanded it from a short story into the novel we all know. Thus the book was dedicated to her.
For those not familiar with King’s writing process (I highly recommend his autobiography/writing tutorial On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
), many of his stories start out as questions. In this case: what would it be like to be raised by such a mother as Margaret White?
With the supernatural accenting the awkward process of a girl experiencing her first period, the novel features the eponymous Carrie White
, an extremely sheltered high-school girl who uses her newly-discovered telekinetic
powers to exact revenge on those who tease her. The fury of Carrie's tortured soul pushed too far forces her to destroy her high school, most of her home town, and her own mother. When you play with matches, you'll eventually get burned.
Two years later Brian De Palma's
film adaptation is hailed as a brilliant film earning both Sissy Spacek
and Piper Laurie
Oscar nominations. It is one of the best adapted King novels and to this day remains a fan favorite of the horror genre. De Palma used literal tension to create emotional tension in the slow-motion "pigs blood" scene where Chris pulls a string attached to the bucket of blood as Sue, along with the audience, puts the pieces together. This tension and the despair that follows makes this scene, in my opinion, one of the best in the history of film. Especially in the genre of horror.
The success of the original left me questioning the intentions of a remake. Filmmakers seem to be stuck in a rut with the constant onslaught of remakes and reboots. However, there's certainly a case to be made for revisiting Carrie
given the alarming prevalence of teenage bullying, public cyber-humiliation, and fatal acts of retaliation in the post-Columbine era. One of the most alluring aspects to the tale of Carrie White is the poignant way that it deals with the pains of maturing as a teenage woman and bullying on both a simplistic and an extreme level. If you gut the story down to its bare essentials, it’s merely a story about a troubled teen who is pushed to the edge, snaps, and lashes out in a violent and unexpected way. There is no doubt that this is a horror film, but the monster is not something lurking in the shadows or crawling out of an unmarked grave. No, the monster in this horror tale is the one that hides within all of us. Whether it’s the prideful monster tormenting an awkward girl or the smaller, whimpering monster that evolves into a powerful rage of judgement, the main point is that evil inherent in us all.
For this film Marvel comic writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
took his first stab at a Hollywood script with assistance from Lawrence D. Cohen
(writer of the 1976 Carrie
). This was not Aguirre-Sacasa’s first time adapting King’s work (in 2008 he published the first issue of a comic book version of King’s 1990 post-apocalyptic opus The Stand) which should have readied him for this task. The film even has a sensitive interpreter in director Kimberly Peirce
, who so powerfully evoked the inner world of another tortured, misunderstood individual in 1999′s Boys don't Cry.
You would think that this combination of creative minds could have brought a solid contemporary version of King’s classic novel, but the addition of Cohen and Peirce's close relationship with Brian De Palma may have prevented any meaningful deviation from the original. Sadly, this is another uninspired remake that—in spite of some good points—stumbles and falls flat on its own face.
Peirces feature eschews De Palma’s diabolical wit and voluptuous style in favor of a somber, straight-faced retelling (an issue I have with many of the King adaptations). All of the emotion and pathos that King puts into his work are gutted out and left with a carcass that is overly serious and too focused on the technical aspects. The film is also the proverbial vessel for cliché modern horror idioms of fast flying sharp objects, shuddering cacophonies of instruments/over-zealous sound effects (Marco Beltrami’s score did nothing to accent the emotions that it should have), and of course blood--gallon upon gallon of dripping, oozing, cgi blood. Uniformly following a commercial pattern, especially in the effects-heavy closing reel, you wonder if Michael Bay was co-directing this film.
Notably, De Palma’s luridly funny sensibility is little in evidence; Peirce has excised every dirty chuckle and whisper of camp from the material, nudging the story in a more realistic direction, but also adding dimension to some of the characters. The hateful Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday
) and conflicted "good girl" Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde
) are well fleshed out, and Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz
) begins to experience a flicker of self-worth as she spends time cultivating her telekinetic powers. This is suggestive of the origin story of a comic-book super-heroine, or a more adult version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda
Perhaps Peirce’s shrewdest calculation is to play the Carrie-Margaret White (Julianne Moore
) relationship almost completely straight (though “I can see your dirty pillows” still gets a laugh). Crucially, the characters’ arguments are not just shrill screaming matches but careful negotiations of power and control (complicated at one point by Carrie’s own impressive command of Scripture), which can suddenly give way to moments of striking tenderness. One senses that the love between mother and daughter, twisted beyond recognition though it may be, is chillingly genuine; they truly have no one else but each other.
For her part, Moretz can scarcely be blamed for falling short of one of the most iconic performances in horror cinema; Spacek may have given the remake her blessing (as has De Palma), but no other actress could capture that hauntingly lost quality she brought to the role of Carrie White, making her not just a shy, misunderstood waif but a mesmerizingly alien presence. By contrast, Moretz, though superficially de-glammed with a strawberry-blonde mop, is still rather too comely to resemble the pimply, slightly overweight figure described in King’s novel, and her efforts to look downcast and withdrawn strain credulity at first.
Up until the epic conflagration of the prom scene, which seems to play out at twice the length and with far more Grand Guignol
overkill than the original, Carrie
(2013) sustains interest as a moody psychological/paranormal drama with a melancholy undertow that at times tilts into genuine pathos. When Carrie puts on her dress and strolls into the prom on the arm of handsome Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort
), it’s hard not to feel a rush of bittersweet emotion, as well as anticipatory dread, as this Cinderella story proceeds to go terribly wrong. What happens next is a letdown: the prom fiasco feels less like an explosion of teenage id than a snazzy visual-effects showreel, the climactic set pieces are borrowed directly from the 1976 version, and the denouement is pretty limp, especially when compared with De Palma’s literally groundbreaking kicker. It’s a disappointing wrap-up to a movie that, at its infrequent best, suggests there’s more than one way to adapt a classic.
By Madam MercySpooky World Presents Nightmare New England
is a scream-park Halloween destination situated on the banks of the Merrimack River in Litchfield, NH. In addition to five haunted houses, the park also offers carnival concessions, restaurants, bars, a Monster Midway, nightly music, zombie paintball, go-kart racing, mini-golf, batting cages, tarot card readings, and a fire-pit.
Me and my cohort, the illustrious Dr. Phobias, being veterans of the industry, managed to score VIP passes to the attraction opening weekend and also attended the following weekend. Ergo, I will compare my experience from opening weekend (which can often be like a dress rehearsal for a haunt) to my experience from the following. The VIP passes on opening weekend made it considerably easier for us to experience the haunted houses without the hassle of the several-hour-long-wait lines. However, even with the VIP pass, the wait was quite long for their main house, Brigham Manor (about an hour). I would also like to point out that this was a Saturday night, and the park was offering a buy-one get-one deal, which meant the place was a madhouse. The second visit was only about half-as-crazy.
Waiting in line was boring like usual. Normally at a haunted attraction, there are line entertainers, or Midway performers. While a few of them scooted by on the back Midway, I saw very little interaction or attempt to break up the monotony of the line on my first visit. Luckily on a second visit, there was a good deal of line entertainment; this was great to see, because NNE has a number of talented Midway performers on staff. The façade of Brigham Manor is probably one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in New England haunted attractions, owed in large part to the design skills of Bad Boys Scenic Design
. It is a two-story 18th century plantation, and it looks like a legitimate house in the middle of the woods. The lighting is sinister, and the sounds of Tool and A Perfect Circle complete the atmosphere with Maynard’s thumping rhythms and eerie vocals.
The inside of Brigham Manor was anti-climactic, compared to its flawless exterior. The décor was shrouded in darkness, which made it difficult to enjoy the detail of the sets. On a first visit, the actors were enthusiastic but definitely embodied that “first night on the job” vibe. On a second visit, the first half of the house was near-empty, but the second half definitely brought their A-game, making for an enjoyable walkthrough.
Brigham Manor dumps you immediately into a second attraction known as the Colony. This is a backwoods Hicksville kind of haunt complete with shacks, decaying cars, married first cousins, and Satanic priests. On a first visit, the acting, for me, was par, with a few nice surprises thrown in. Due to some technical difficulties, a chunk of the trail was without light entirely. The second visit floored me - in the middle of the woods, there are hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns peering out at you. You really can’t beat the natural ambiance of being in the middle of the woods at night, and on that second visit, the actors certainly seemed to be making the customers scream.
Next up was Freak Show, which is a 3D haunt. This style of haunt has been popular for many years now, and involves black walls painted with neon colors. The customer walks through with 3D glasses, and the art pops right off the walls. On opening weekend, the sets were visually fun, but the actors seemed as though they were lacking energy. On the second visit, however, the actors were impressively crazy and off-the-walls. In addition to scaring customers with creepy circus visuals, there were a number of interesting and new acting techniques that we witnessed in this haunt. But I won't spoil it for you.
Next up was Riverside Hospital, which is your typical hospital/asylum style haunt where the customer is tormented by demented patients and doctors. I can’t comment too much on this haunt, as I found it disappointing. After seeing the gorgeous work that was done on Brigham Manor, this seemed like it was thrown-together. However, there were some talented actors working inside, and some great pop scares - so certainly don't skip it in your travels.
Lastly, we made our way out to Ravensclaw Cemetery "The Resurrection", which like the Colony, is situated in the woods. Before the gate to the cemetery stands an animatronic prop known as the Necromancer, a giant, hunch-backed skeleton with a coffin on his back that speaks to you as you wait. The haunt weaves in and out of crypts and catacombs and is crawling with zombies. On visit one, the actors were on par, but were not particularly scary. On visit two, the zombies had found their groove, adding their grunts and undead shenanigans to the uncanny atmosphere of the woodland graveyard.
Should you go before the season is out? Yes! You will be visually stunned, startled, but more importantly, you will have fun. Nightmare New England is fast-becoming a New England Halloween tradition and is a great way to spend one of your October nights. Check out their website, www.nightmarenewengland.com
for more information on the attractions and special events.
By The ReverendEditor's Note: Our contributor originally announced as James 'Barren Juden' Halstein will henceforth be known as 'The Reverend'. The Reverend has previously established himself in several communities of the same ilk as The Unkindness, so we thought it best to continue the leadership of his flock here. Backdated blog posts will be updated to reflect this change.
The killer's point of view is a time-honored shot in thrillers and scary movies. From cheapie slasher flicks to more artful fare like The Silence of the Lambs,
what better way to heighten the horror of the kill than to make the viewer unwillingly complicit in the demise of the victim, who looks directly into the camera — into the killer's eyes and our own — as they voice their final screams?
Just recently added to Netflix, Maniac (
a 2012 remake of a notoriously violent 1980 cult classic of the same name) director Franck Khalfoun looks to test the limits of whether one can have too much of a scary thing when it comes to POV camerawork.Elijah Wood
stars as Frank, a socially awkward loner who runs a one-man, mannequin-restoration business in Los Angeles. It's his inheritance from his mother, along with a complicated relationship with his childhood memories of the woman — memories that alternate between tender flashbacks to brushing her hair and less innocent recollections of peeking into her room while she had drug-fueled sex with strange men. In response to his lingering emotional trauma, Frank begins killing women and taking their scalps to use as wigs for the dead-eyed plastic companions that populate his shop and his apartment.
Despite Wood's star billing, he has precious little screen time; nearly all of Maniac
is shot from Frank's point of view. Apart from a couple of brief moments in which Khalfoun breaks with this convention, the only time Frank is seen on screen is when he's looking in a mirror, often with a look as blank as the faces of his mannequins.
It may be a gimmick, but it's not one without a purpose. As in William Lustig's low-budget original
, Khalfoun looks to make the material work both as gory, gut-level shocker and as character study in obsessive psychosis. In that context, filming from Frank's point of view isn't just a device to unsettle the viewer during the murders, but also one that builds a thin thread of empathy with Frank — undeniably a monster, but also a victim of his past. Lustig did so with voice-over conversations between Frank and his dead mother (an homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho in some ways); Khalfoun's device is more elegant, and fascinating from a technical perspective, though arguably less effective in creating setting the mood than Lustig.
The newer Maniac
does manage to improve upon the look of its source material, but part of the lingering appeal of Lustig's film was how its cheap flash accentuated the grime and dark danger of a 1980 New York City, so it's a questionable improvement. What did need overhauling was the original's reliance on clichéd slasher tropes — and Khalfoun's film, alas, fails on that count.
Here, Frank meets characters like the promiscuous young woman through his victim-finder of choice, an online dating site. After dinner she's quick to invite this stranger back to her place and strip off her clothes, despite Frank showing every typical quality of a sketchy Internet hookup. It's a lazy excuse for titillation and sexual violence and typical of the sort of moviemaking Maniac
seems to want to transcend.
The film does improve when Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder
), a fetching, friendly photographer who wants to use his mannequins for a gallery show she has coming up. The development of their relationship provides some internal conflict for Frank - a tension between his honest affinity for this woman and his constant urge to kill.
That makes the latter portion of the film much more successful, an improvement aided by the fact that the POV device eventually feels less like the director trying to show off and more like an integral part of the story. But it's still not enough to save a remake that, rather than trying to fix the deep flaws of its source, just covers them in a shinier coat of paint.
Khalfoun’s remake is genuinely unsettling and propelled by a brilliant, buzzing synth soundtrack straight out of the early 80s. He makes great use out of the advances in special effects but at the same time that ends up being the unraveling aspect of the film. The original version set new standards in gore upon it’s release, so all that's left is the question of which woman is going to be objectified and murdered next. In the end the film is reduced to a 90 minute killing spree interrupted only by awkward dates, creeping, and copious amounts of nekkid women. If that's your sort of thing, add Maniac
to your queue.
By Belladonna BellevilleAfter a couple months of absolute insanity in the lives of The Unkindness, we're ramping things back up for October! Please head over to our facebook page for daily posts on spooky facts and finds curated by Dr. Phobis! Also, for October we're adding a new member to our flock, and you'll be hearing a lot more from him soon. Introducing - The Reverend!
Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, The Reverend was an anomaly from the start. As a child his favorite films included Heavy Metal, Snow White, Monster Squad, and Child’s Play. From that point on he developed a niche for the obscure and the macabre and was influenced by Tim Burton and new wave music – both prevalent in his early youth. Learning about love from Morticia and Gomez, as well as Edgar Allen Poe, he grew into the quintessential hopeless gothic romantic whose main aspiration in life is to become a successful writer living in a gothic mansion with his muse.
The Reverend attended West Liberty State College where he majored in English with a focus on horror and mythology. In college he hosted a new wave radio show and an hour long weekly broadcast on the paranormal, heavily influenced by the works of George Noory and Rod Sterling, that focused on attempting to understand the ‘forbidden’ and ‘unnatural’. He also has nearly two decades of musical experience having played the cello and double bass in several pit orchestras and chamber groups.
The Reverend also attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where he focused on lighting and sound production. After college he was a DJ in the goth/industrial scene and ran a special FX makeup group. Recently, James has put more focus into his writing and is working on a science fiction epic series. He currently resides in Columbus, OH but will soon be re-locating Massachusetts to be closer to his lovely and talented paramour.
By Belladonna Belleville
Taking top prize at the box office this weekend was a horror film based on a true story about demonic possession. The Conjuring
took home $41.5M this weekend, and it’s obvious why. This movie is scary
. And it scares with moderate violence, little gore, I don’t recall any profanity, and no sexual themes or nudity. It’s impressive that this film manages to be so terrifying without these staples of contemporary horror. That said - this movie is R for a damn good reason. Do NOT let your children watch this unless you’re prepared to have them crawl in bed with you through high school and can afford some serious therapy…for yourself. Just kidding, you’ll be fine. I promise ;) The Conjuring, set in 1971, first introduces us to Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), real life paranormal investigators from Connecticut who are at the top of their field. Concurrently we meet the adorable Perron family, a mom (Lili Taylor), dad (Ron Livingston), and 5 girls ranging from high school age, to 4-5 years old, as they are moving into their new home in Harrisville, Rhode Island.
Watch me swiftly escape
in this handsome neckerchief!
By Belladonna Belleville
I’d like to retitle this film How Many Ways Can Brad Pitt Almost Die But Always Predictably Prevail at the Very Last Moment because this film seemed like a fetish flick for people who get off on Brad Pitt almost dying over and over…and over. Ooo baby! Nearly hit by a cop on a motorcycle, nearly eaten by zombies, nearly exploded, riots in Newark, pre-zombification near suicide, more zombies, riots in Israel, plane crash, piece of metal through the torso, more zombies, deadly virus, etc… But don’t worry everybody! Brad narrowly escapes each time using his superior wit and chiseled good looks. **rolls eyes**
My apologies for the delay on this most glowing review of Steampunk World’s Fair 2013. My most favorite Steampunk convention sadly caused me to contract a nasty strain of con-plague which I immediately followed with wonderful vacation, followed by an onslaught at my day job, so I’m just now getting back on track.
If you are a Steampunk or are just interested in the genre, Steampunk World’s Fair
is the premiere event of the year. This is the largest Steampunk festival in the world and boasts more entertainment, guests, and attendees than any other exclusively Steampunk event in the world. It is truly an event not to be missed.
For one thing, this festival is so big it is housed in 2 adjacent hotels, the courtyard of one, and the parking lot between them. Every nook and cranny is filled with something wonderful to behold. While it can get crowded, staff and attendees were very good about clearing out high traffic areas, and I think the bustling crowds gives World’s Fair the festive aura that truly makes it special. The setup does however get a bit tricky when you’re in a corset, booty shorts, platform heelless heels (see below), and it starts to rain on your beautiful, not-waterproof costuming. (I nearly had high-maintenance costuming panic attack.) But you honestly couldn’t get 2 hotels closer together. With activity spilling outside as well, you’re always part of the action. Just bring a fancy umbrella.
By Belladonna Belleville
I had a fantastic time at The Watch City Festival
this past weekend! I saw some old friends, made some new ones, and had a great time exploring what this festival has to offer. Watch City is a very unique festival because it’s mainly a 2-day, outdoor event that is much more open to the public (i.e. not JUST for Steampunks) than any other typical convention. Watch City is the perfect opportunity for “muggles” who are interested in Steampunk to get their feet wet. Welcoming new members serves to increase visibility of the Steampunk community and further our genre.
Because of this delightful mixing of worlds, some Steampunks may find themselves becoming part of the show. This is fantastic for those of us who have worked hard on our costuming (basically all Steampunks), and it’s a great opportunity to show off. I did happen to encounter a few photographers who didn’t seem aware of basic etiquette, but thankfully I’m used to having my picture taken, and Belladonna has retorts for such behavior ;)
In all it seemed that performers, guests, and attendees alike were having a spectacular time. For an event that poses a myriad of logistical nightmares, it seemed as if the convention was very well-organized with only a few minor hiccups. Props to the Watch City staff for putting on a great event. I do believe this was their best year yet.
By Belladonna BellevilleCome see The Unkindness this Saturday from 1-1:45pm in the “Panels” room at The Watch City Fesitval in Waltham, MA.
This weekend all Unkindness members (and some members to be) will be attending and presenting at The 2013 Watch City Festival
in Waltham, MA. What’s unique about Watch City is that while most conventions are mainly indoors at hotels and convention centers, Watch City is an open-air event that takes over Downtown Waltham for an entire weekend. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the (hopefully) beautiful spring weather in a city rich with industrial-era history. Break out your parasols, this event is perfect for both Steampunks and muggles alike! In my experience Watch City fosters the friendliest environment for non-Steampunks, so even if you’re just curious this festival will be a wonderful experience.
By Belladonna Belleville
I know I’m getting this out a little late, but it’s been a very difficult week, and I wanted to share my thoughts. Thanks for reading.
As most of you know by now, a favorite topic of mine is monsters. I like to analyze who or what they are, how they became monstrous, what they look like, and what they do. In the context of film and literature this is a fun topic that can teach us about ourselves and our fears. However, we learn the most about ourselves when confronted with despicable human beings – real life monsters.
Last Monday, April 15, 2013, was an extremely difficult day for me and countless others affected by the senseless acts of monstrous people. I work at the corner of Berkeley and Boylston Street, which is just over a block past the finish line of the Boston Marathon where the bombings took place, and this hit close to home for me. I spend time in this area every day eating lunch, shopping, and taking walks - mundane activities that will never be the same for me or any other Bostonian. The scenes from that day will be burned into our memories because of the terrible pain they caused.