Houston! Join the WolfCop Wolf Pack!

 

Do you have plans Thursday, April 8th?  No? Good.  Then you should come join me for WolfCop on the big screen.  It’ll be a howl (ha!). This is exactly the type of movie you want to see with a crowd, so please rsvp and help me make that happen. So please, click below, and I’ll see you April 8th!

 Join me at this @Tugginc screening of Wolf Cop!.

Friday the 13th Mini Pies

Guess what the date is this Friday?  Friday the 13th!  If you haven’t checked your calendar yet, next month also boasts a Friday the 13th.  Two in a row! Growing up, this was a day guaranteed to air marathons of the films on cable.  Some years, you could find marathons of the television series.  Those marathons seemed to have waned over the years; I’ve checked my cable guide and can’t find a single showing on basic cable this Friday.  Instead, I’ll force my boxed set upon my poor friends.  To compensate, I’ll bring along personal sized cherry pie.

Jason Voorhees pie

Things you’ll need:
2 (2 count) packages of refrigerated pie crusts
4 cups of red pie filling (cherry, strawberry rhubarb, etc)
1 egg, whisked

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups.

2. Flour your work space. Roll out a single pie crust (keep rest of pie crust in fridge until ready to use).  Use a four-inch, round cookie cutter to cut out circle of dough.  Don’t have this? Neither do I. I used a lid of a yogurt container.  Press each circle of dough into the bottom of each muffin cup so that a little rim of dough sticks out of the top.  Repeat until all 12 cups are filled.

3. Fill each cup with pie filling, approx 1/4 cup, until nearly filled.

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4. Here’s the creative part.  Topping the pie. Roll out the remaining dough.  To make the Jason Voorhees hockey mask: I don’t have a miniature oval or circle cookie cutter, so I took a small spoon and traced the shape with a knife.  Then used the knife to cut out the eye holes.  For smaller holes I just pressed down with the knife and gave a small twist, following the shape in the mask as much as possible with the small dough canvas.  A cookie cutter I’m sure would have given a much cleaner appearance, as would using something like a straw for the eyes.  But, you make do with what you have, right? Place pieces on top of filling.  You can cut out any shape you wish or even make a small lattice.  I attempted a machete, but it never quite worked out how I wished.

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5. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each pie with the whisked egg.  Then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling begins to bubble and the crust is lightly golden.

6.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for at least 15 minutes.  Then gently lift out each pie from muffin tin.  If it doesn’t give as easily, carefully run a knife around the edges of each pie to loosen before removing from tin.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Cooling pie

Happy Friday the 13th!

2014 in Retrospect

By now you’ve seen countless of Top 10 Horror for 2014 lists, with the end of the year upon us, and I considered posting one as well.  2014 has been a great year for horror, though you wouldn’t know it judging by wide theatrical releases.  However, I feel wrong titling this list as the “top” or “best of” as, to be honest, there’s so many I still haven’t seen.  So instead, consider this my list of recommendations.  My reflection of the horror films throughout the year that resonated with me; the gems that may have gone overlooked.  In short: my absolute favorites.

The Guest

THE GUEST

Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Immediately go to your closest retailer or VOD of choice this Tuesday, January 6th.  This is, hands down, my favorite film of 2014.  While The Guest may not count as traditional horror, the obvious John Carpenter and James Cameron influences argue otherwise.  As does the blatant Halloween III homage and that the plot is set over Halloween, with the climax set amidst the most amazing Halloween party ever.  The setup is simple: a soldier shows up at the doorstep of a family, claiming to be there fulfilling a promise he made to their son to look out for them after his death.  Their teenage daughter soon suspects this soldier is not who he says he is.  The performances by leads Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe elevate the basic premise into something extremely special.  Maika’s performance as tough-as-nails Anna made her one of the best final girls in recent years. This genre bender is a masterpiece, complete with quirky humor.

Starry Eyes-

Starry Eyes

A cringe inducing allegory on ambition and a stark look at sleaze of the casting couch, Starry Eyes follows Sarah and her desire to reach stardom.  Alex Essoe carries the film as Sarah, from tragic vulnerability to vehement determination in achieving her goals.  Sarah lives in a complex of other Hollywood wannabes, a group of friends content with partying amongst each other, while Sarah persistently looks for casting calls and juggles a job at a Hooter’s style restaurant.  She gets her lucky break when invited to meet with the producer of a well-known company to discuss the lead role in their latest film, but must trade in morals and more to win the role.  Starry Eyes spends a lot of time setting up Sarah and her journey, but once her deal is struck the film picks up the pace and amps up the gore.  Sarah’s transition into stardom is both gripping..and gag inducing.

Purge: Anarchy-

The Purge: Anarchy

A hugely entertaining sequel to a mediocre at best predecessor.  Read why this film is worthy here.

Late Phases-

late phases

A blind Vietnam vet moves into a retirement community where the residents are being slaughtered every full moon.  Wait, really?  Instantly intrigued by the premise, I found this film had more in common with Bubba Ho-Tep that initially suspected.  Stocked with a solid cast (Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, and Larry Fessenden) lead by Nick Damici as the gruff and independent vet, Ambrose, Late Phases transcends its gimmicky plot with a melancholic study on the forgotten elders.  The residents are largely forgotten outside of their community; their children have abandoned them and even the community’s security treats them like jokes.  Behind Ambrose’s abrasive persona lies guilt and depression, and it’s both heartbreaking and captivating to watch it unfold amidst the gory slayings every full moon.  I should probably mention I have a huge soft spot for werewolves, and as far as both makeup and transformation sequences, Late Phases doesn’t disappoint.  Horror and heart? Instant win.

Witching & Bitching-

Witching_and_Bitching

I’ve previously discussed how much I love Spanish horror, as well as why this eccentric comedy is a must see here.

Housebound-

Housebound

Another great horror comedy, but this time from New Zealand. After getting into some trouble with the law, Kylie is sentenced to house arrest in her childhood home.  Kylie is a bit of a loner, so this punishment is especially painful for her as she’s stuck under the same roof as her blabbermouth mother who is convinced their house is haunted.  But when she begins encountering strange events in the house, she starts to question if her mother may be onto something.  For a comedy, the film takes some surprising sharp turns that keep you guessing.  Kylie is so initially off-putting, but her mother’s quirks and personality distract and compensate.  In fact, all of the supporting cast make up for an irritating lead.  Housebound tries hard to balance the horror with the comedy elements, instead of favoring one over the other.  There are genuine scary moments as well as laugh out loud jokes, which is no easy feat to accomplish.

Afflicted-

afflicted 2013 poster

A horrific transformation story reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London that effectively uses the found footage style? Yes please!  Read why Afflicted worked so well here.

Honorable Mentions:

The Taking of Deborah Logan-

Taking of Deborah Logan

A documentary crew offers money to use Deborah Logan as the subject of their medical documentary on Alzheimer’s disease but is soon questioning if her eerie behavior is just a product of her disease or something supernatural. Jill Larson’s performance as Deborah Logan is downright frightening in the best possible way, and the first half of this unique possession tale will leave you with chills.  However, halfway through when one character wisely leaves as you most characters would, the film unravels.  The more that is revealed about the supernatural elements haunting Ms. Logan, the sillier it all becomes.  The disappointment of the final shot stings all the more with such an effective first half.

The Babadook-

thebabadook

An excellent film, to be sure, but nowhere near what critics lead me to believe.  It also doesn’t help that I’m not a mommy.  Read more about my thoughts here.

I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store.  What were your favorites from 2014?

Joshua Hoffine’s Black Lullaby

Black LullabyChances are, if you’re a horror aficionado then you’ve stumbled upon the work of horror photographer Joshua Hoffine.  He’s been exploring horror through photography since 2003, but when he released a series in 2008 exploring childhood fears the internet took notice.  With good reason.  Not to downplay just how exquisite his previous series, Horror As Metaphor, is, but there’s just something so fundamentally fascinating and relatable about childhood fear.  Haven’t we all been scared of the boogeyman at some point in our lives?  Of course, Joshua Hoffine translates these fears to lenses in eloquent manner that lends beauty to nightmare.

His study recently culminated in a four minute short film, Black Lullaby, in which a young girl’s curiousity overshadows her fear.  Unlike previous shorts I’ve mentioned, Black Lullaby isn’t particularly scary.  It does compensate with artistry in measures, however, and it does invoke a sense of childlike wonderment.  As with his photography, Joshua Hoffine displays a deep attention to detail.  From set design and color filtration to sound. Make-up effects were done by previous SyFy’s Face/Off winner J. Anthony Kosar and the featured child in the film is played by Hoffine’s own daughter.  Horror must run in their genes as she fills the role well. In short, it’s gorgeous.  Released over the Thanksgiving weekend, you can find it on Vimeo Pro or here.  But I recommend you view the series first, here.

And if you find his previous series too dark for your tastes, I’ll leave you with his very cheeky Monster Prom photo shoot: here. Am I strange for wishing this was the kind of prom I attended in high school?

The Babadook Review

thebabadookSeven year old Samuel (Noah Wiseman) is borderline feral with his unchecked imagination and violent outbursts.  His mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), struggles to balance her work life and her attempts to parent her wild son on her own.  Her stress is further compounded by her continued grieving over the loss of her husband seven years prior.  When Samuel picks out the bed time tale “Mister Babadook,” an eerie pop-up book that seemed to appear from thin air, Amelia’s pushed to the end of her rope as the book’s title character becomes a menacing presence in their already dysfunctional lives.

Debut director Jennifer Kent utilizes a monochrome color palette and haunting sound to set the tone before the audience even catches a glimpse of the Babadook, which only amps up the tension.  Familiar haunted house tropes populate the first half of the film; Samuel converses with an unseen visitor, Amelia’s bed time is interrupted by footsteps outside her bedroom door, and every time she tosses out the book it reappears.  The second half delves fully into surreal psychological horror reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, taking on a much darker tone.

The strength of the film lies largely with the performances behind Amelia and Samuel.  The relationship between the mother and son are in constant fluctuation, alternating between loving and utter frustration.  The lack of a paternal presence features prominently at the core of the story; Amelia struggles with parenthood after the loss of her husband while Samuel is becoming more aware that his family life is not like everyone else’s.  Some moments you feel Amelia’s defeat at Samuel’s unruliness, and other moments you feel for Samuel due to his mother’s distance.  The fragility of their state of living makes the Babadook all the more upsetting. Essie Davis’ portrayal of Amelia is both heartbreaking and horrific, while maintaining that maternal love for Samuel throughout.

While the tension remains consistently palpable, and there are many terrifying moments, it just fell short of the hype machine.  Though I suspect I will be in the minority on this one.  For me, this was not the scariest movie I’ve seen in a while.  The film is well acted, beautifully shot, and emotionally investing, but much of the tension fizzled out instead of the explosive ending the film deserved.  Most excellent genre films are social metaphors, I just happen to prefer them to be a little more subtle. Realizing what exactly the Babadook is took away all of the fear, though it did succeed in creating a much richer and more fulfilling story.

Overall, the Babadook is a great entry to the horror genre by Australia and newcomer Jennifer Kent, though not as scary as most reviews would lead you to believe.  Another shining example of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Babadook is set for release on DirectTV October 30, and wider release on November 28th.  Check out the website, and sign up on the email list to be notified on updates for the “Mister Babadook” pop-up book release.  You know, if you want to keep your children up all night.

Cannibal Dinner Party

So last night was the season five premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.  Did you watch?  Between last season’s finale with heavy hints of cannibalism, the Hannibal tv series, and the very excellent film We Are What We Are (2013) I’d been imspired to create a cannibal themed meal of my own.

I admit, I took a lot of shortcuts and the end result was a hybrid of classy Hannibal and southern Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Cannibal dinner

 

The meal itself consisted of a bbq spread complete with chopped beef stuffed into a custom made rib cage, broccoli cheese casserole, cole slaw, loaded mashed potatoes and beans.  Very southern, right?  But then I decided to amuse myself putting the potatoes in a martini glass and topping with the beef, riffing off of the loaded baked potatoes commonly found in bbq joints.  My favorite piece of the entire meal may have been the cheese tray, however.

Flayed skin skull

Take a plastic store bought skull (make sure you wash this well prior to using), smear your favorite spread evenly over the service, and layer on prosciutto.  For this one I used a cream cheese chive spread.  My particular skull wasn’t thrilled to participate so he refused to stand up, but putting a little blob of the spread on the tray and directly setting the skull on it worked well to keep him in place.  This particular “Flayed Skin” appetizer is versatile, and has the added bonus of amusing and grossing out guests.

Cannibal dinner

Of course dinner couldn’t be completed without dessert, so a fruit tray was served alongside severed finger cupcakes.  You can find the royal icing fingers on amazon here, or find them at your local Michael’s.  If I hadn’t been short on time, I might have attempted to serve intestines  for dessert.

severed finger cupcakes

 

I’m very lucky to have friends willing to entertain my strange ideas, and I enjoyed every minute of this dinner.  Not onto planning an even more creative Halloween menu.

Houston Halloween Events

It’s finally October!  My favorite month of the year.  I’ve been scouring the internet looking for festive ideas and thought I’d share some of the local events I’ve had my eye on.

Houston Halloween Festival- October 19th

HORRORFEST

The annual zombie walk for charity has now been upgraded to a full on Halloween festival held partly in Minute Maid Park.  The event features musical acts, pumpkin patch, haunted maze, makeup effects artists, vendors, horror film industry celebrities, and a zombie walk.  Tickets and more information can be found here.

Evil Dead the Musical- October 17th through November 1st

Evil dead the musical

You may remember my previous write up last year, when I visited San Antonio’s production of the bloody musical.  This year the production is making its way to Houston (Pasadena more specifically), via Stage Door Inc. Tickets are only $15, with the option of purchasing a zombie survival kit for an additional $5.  The kit contains items meant to protect clothing against the inevitable blood splattering from this very messy, very fun production.  Productions of this show are popping up across the country, so check here to find cities near you.

Dismember the Alamo- October 25th

DismemberTheAlamo_Poster-2

My favorite theater is putting on a four film mystery horror marathon.  The line up won’t be revealed until just prior to showtime, but with the Alamo Drafthouse rest assured that it will be worth it.  As if a costume contest and the Drafthouse’s trademark pre-show isn’t enough to entice you, perhaps seeing scream queen Barbara Crampton live in attendance will entice you.  Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, From Beyond, You’re Next) isn’t just showing up as a guest, but is also assisting with the programming.  Dismember the Alamo isn’t just a Houston exclusive event- look for it at your local Alamo Drafthouse. Each venue will have their own special guest. Tickets for the Houston event can be purchased here , and information on other locations hosting Dismember the Alamo can be found here.

Being that it’s only October 2nd, I’ll share more discoveries as I find them.  What are you most looking forward to this Halloween season?