The hostess with the mostess. (I saw HOST on Shudder.)

Merry Sunday!

I’m writing this half a year after my first post about COVID-19. We’re six months into the pandemic, and what do we have to show for it? A horror movie set during this same pandemic, that’s what. Host is the first movie I’ve seen – maybe it’s the first one, period – that was filmed and set during the COVID-19 pandemic, entirely centered around it.

 

 

Host is an impressively effective found-footage horror film. It’s about six friends who want to hold a séance. How can a séance take place during quarantine, you may ask? Over Zoom, of course. It’s a simple yet interesting concept. What happens when you enter into a Zoom séance is that you can see what’s going on with each participant. And what happens when you’re on your laptop at home watching the movie about said Zoom séance is that from your perspective, it looks like you’re involved, too. Your screen looks exactly like it does when you’re taking part in a Zoom gathering.

The movie, a Shudder original, was made entirely during quarantine. It was written, filmed, edited, etc. in a hurry, and on a low budget. It was shot over video chat, with each actor being directed remotely. The actors had to do their own stunts and practical effects. They played characters with their same names, which likely made it seem more real to them. They had a script, but they also had ample opportunity for improvisation as they responded to each other in the Zoom meeting. Apparently, some of the lines were redacted in the actors’ scripts (below their own lines), so they didn’t know what was going to happen next.

It did seem chillingly real. A found-footage film with more practical effects than special effects/CGI amounts to a pretty damn authentic horror movie experience. Being alone in a dark house in front of my computer watching a séance unfold over Zoom made it easy to forget that I was watching a movie, and you know that things went disastrously wrong as the séance got underway. It was an intense 57 minutes. I spent much of it clutching my throat and holding my breath.

My plan was then to take my shower and write this post. Instead, I watched an episode of Shameless in order to crowd Host out of my head so that I could get into the shower, and then a smothering sleepiness overcame me, and all I could do was crawl into bed. Nenette was somehow inspired to alternately run and trot through the house after her ball in erratic bursts of energy, occasionally yowling and slamming into things in the dark. I fell asleep with my nerves frayed.

Host works. I was alone, but I actually saw it “with” my friend Caroline. (It was our first horror movie “date” since 2019!) We got on the phone and counted down to hit “play” at the same time, and then we hung up. We got back on the phone afterward and found each other to be equally spooked.

It was good. It was really, really good, and easily my favorite movie of 2020 so far. If you’re into horror, I highly recommend that you sign up for Shudder’s 7-day free trial just to watch this film, if you’re not already subscribed.

I’ll leave you with the trailer:

 

 

Have a great what’s left of your weekend, friends.

 

 

Phoenix Forgotten. (Failed non-review movie review!) (+PTSD diagnosis story)

We went to watch Phoenix Forgotten, which brought back the year of 1997.

As I sat there, it occurred to me for the first time that the beginning of my PTSD coincided with the Phoenix Lights.

[NOTE: The link function to open the linked page in a new window is down at the moment, so you’ll have to back-arrow to get back here]

 

 

Probably many of us living here in Phoenix metro in 1997 remember the lights that moved over the Valley in March. For me, 1997 was also eventful because it involved numerous doctors throughout the year. 1997 was the year I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yes – six years post-main event.

I wasn’t in school in 1997. I was taking a year off, the year after college and before grad school. There were only two things on my agenda for 1997: write poems and train for my black belt in Tae Kwan Do. I was also working.

So I was doing all of that, just minding my own business, like you do, and then, one night, I went to bed feeling sick to my stomach. As soon as I closed my eyes, my heart jumped in and crashed the party, like, Hey! I’m here too! Whheeeeeee! Cannonball!!!… and I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was going to die of a cardiac event.

Then I was waking up. It was morning. What the hell just happened?

It happened again the next night, and the next and the next. It got to a point where I was too gun-shy to go bed. Going to bed had become a horrifying prospect, so every night, I put it off until I was passing-out tired. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the doctor sooner.

Eventually, I did go to the doctor, because I had an episode that was different than the others, and that was the proverbial last straw.

In that episode, I was trapped in another dimension and I was going to die for sure. Somewhere between awake and sleep, something happened. If I was completely asleep, it would’ve been a nightmare. Whatever this was, it was psychedelic and real, like, 3D real… and that was on top of the physical Armageddon that was my new normal. After I survived that night, I finally went to the doctor.

*****

1997 became a year of medical mystery. I went back and forth between different internists and specialists, cardiology and gastroenterology and cardiology again, everyone referring me to everyone else. I was deemed healthy – good news! – but I was still having these ridiculous episodes.

Then my baffled first internist started asking me questions about my background. When it came out that I was a combat vet, she referred me to a shrink. The shrink explained that panic attacks mimic heart conditions and other physical issues, which was why no one thought of the PTSD possibility.

He explained that the first episode was a panic attack. After it recurred nightly for a period of time, it became a panic disorder (PTSD, in my case). And the next-level attacks, he said, were “night terrors.”

Why did it take so long for the PTSD to manifest? He said it wasn’t unusual for vets to come home fine and then experience a trigger years later. The trigger could be anything, he said. So what was my trigger? We’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter.

All we know is that my PTSD was triggered by something in the spring of 1997. Coincidentally, I’m sure, the Phoenix Lights also happened in the spring of 1997.

*****

I sat in the movie theater remembering and pondering all of this, and that is how my non-review movie review became a post about my PTSD diagnosis.

I can’t be objective about this movie, but I can say that in my opinion, it wasn’t bad.

Phoenix Forgotten begins on a robust note, then bleeds out into the Found Footage horror movie sub-genre. In my experience, Found Footage movies made after the first Blair Witch Project are doomed to the basement where Bad Horror Flicks live. I often really enjoy Bad Horror Flicks, but I can’t even say whether this movie was bad enough to qualify as that bad.

If you’re intrigued by the Phoenix Lights and/or you’re a fan of Found Footage horror movies, you may dig this one.

 

 

10 Cloverfield Lane (Informal non-review review.)

You go into a sci-fi horror film prepared for some gore, and eventually, you get… just a little, if it’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. You might even be taken aback when it happens. You probably also go in anticipating campy sci-fi horror film fare, and you might get a tiny morsel of that, too. The smidgen of camp may even come with a light dressing of irony, which would make 10 Cloverfield Lane a clever specimen of its genre.

10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t insult the intelligence of its viewers. Its writers reveal what’s necessary to piece together the backstory from which horror arises. As important as that backstory may be, no one spells it out for us, and this restraint helps to make up for its lack of depth.

10 Cloverfield Lane is billed with the tagline “Monsters come in many forms.” This is apt, so you could say that it’s a monster movie as well as a horror movie, a thriller, a sci-fi movie, a sci-fi horror movie, and a drama… yet 10 Cloverfield Lane is in no danger of an identity crisis. It works just fine switching its hats. Horror seeps in as the mystery unfolds, and the Great Unknown serves as a character in and of itself.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-10CloverfieldLn

 

I just wanted to share these few thoughts with you, should viewer opinions interest you. Sci-fi horror (or sci-fi anything) is readily passed over by those not endeared to such films and their ilk. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you may yet find something to enjoy in 10 Cloverfield Lane, as its appeal goes beyond the constraints of its genre.

“A rumbling sound, then three sharp knocks…”

We’re on the eve of a new month, and we’ve got another Friday the 13th coming up soon! That makes two months in a row. In honor of the underrated yet overhyped doomsday of lore, I’ll regale you with an anecdote. Today is, after all, the halfway point between the two Friday the 13ths.

First, a refresher, or background information for those of you who are new here.

A few months back, Callaghan and I watched The Babadook, which I’ve since decided is the best horror film I’ve ever seen. Being a huge fan of all kinds of horror, including some of the cheesiest of the many bad movies the genre has to offer, I tend to rate a horror film based on its HMISM (How Much It Scared Me) factor. (I just made that up.)

It’s hard to get a good rating on the HMISM scale. I don’t scare easily. I have Exaggerated Startle Response, but that’s jumpiness, not fear… and it’s certainly not the same thing as a satisfying case of creeptastic-movie-produced heebie-jeebies. After a good horror flick, I’ll find myself looking over my shoulder apprehensively, and the back of my neck will prickle as I wander alone through the house. Not only did The Babadook have this delightful effect, but also, it was 99% cheese-free.

We knew we were sitting down to watch a horror movie, but we didn’t suspect we were in for an astonishingly terrifying, brilliant, richly layered and masterfully wrought horror movie. The Babadook has stayed with me, and I can easily call to mind its expertly applied sound effects.

This brings me to the weekend of our last Friday the 13th (two weekends ago), when I heard a mysterious triple knock in our bedroom.

Callaghan was at the gym. I was the lone human in the house, working on my laptop on the bed with Ronnie James and Nounours purring by my side. All was quiet, and then we heard it. Knock-Knock-Knock.

The kitties startled upright, and I looked around with all the neurons in my brain shining through my eyeballs as I tried to ascertain what I’d just heard, and where the sound had come from. It made no sense. It really sounded like someone had knocked on the wall from inside the room, but no one was there. There was no way the sound came from the front door, since that’s at the opposite end of the house.

A few seconds later, I heard it again. Knock-Knock-Knock. This time, it happened while I was actively looking around, and I didn’t see anything either directly or peripherally. There was nothing in the room that could have explained the sound, but I thought I heard it from the area of Callaghan’s night table.

 

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

Just a night table with the usual stuff on it, right?

 

 

Naturally, I thought of The Babadook. That’s how the Babadook announced himself in the movie: Knock-Knock-Knock. The thought came to me with some amusement, but I was truly mystified. When I told Callaghan about it later, he said he had no clue what it could have been.

One day the following weekend – that would be last weekend – we were lying in bed, waking up slowly, when the triple knocking sound suddenly filled the quiet space in the early morning room. Knock-Knock-Knock.

“There it is again!” I said excitedly, happy to be validated by the recurrence of the sound. I hadn’t been sure that Callaghan believed me when I’d described it to him. He turned toward the direction of the sound, studying his night table.

“It’s this,” he said. He was extracting something from beneath a pile of magazines. I looked and saw that it was a small, slim tablet. With its dark blue cover, I hadn’t noticed it mostly buried on the dark table.

 

Why look at that. It's a tiny tablet.

Why look at that. It’s a tiny tablet.

 

Of course! Now I remembered that little tablet… it was the mini Samsung Callaghan had given to his Grandmother in France last year, specifically so she could use it to Skype us. Mamie isn’t tech-savvy, so Callaghan set it all up for her, simplifying it as much as possible. She only had to open it, swipe the screen, and hit the Skype button… but she never did. She said that she wanted to use it, but it was too complicated. Eight months later, when Callaghan’s Dad visited us in December, he brought it back. I hadn’t realized it and I didn’t even remember that tablet, so it didn’t occur to me to check under the magazines when I heard the triple knock!

It’s a very small tablet.

 

 

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It's barely bigger than my hand. (Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don't worry. In a few months, we'll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

We took this pic last night to show the smallness of the tablet. It’s barely bigger than my hand.
(Yes, it was 18:20 and 75 degrees. Don’t worry. In a few months, we’ll deal with our scorching summer while you enjoy your well-deserved beautiful temps outside!)

 

 

Callaghan’s own tablet is a white, regular-size iPad in a white and red Eiffel Tower case. It’s quite conspicuous, and it obviously wasn’t on the night table when I’d first heard the knocking sound. And my tablet is a regular-size black Samsung with no case. I didn’t see any tablets when my eyes skimmed the night table. My powers of observation are slipping.

“Mamie must have set the sound notification to knock,” Callaghan said. “I didn’t do it!” We checked, and sure enough:

 

 

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

 

 

We tapped it and heard the triple knock. Each time Callaghan received an email, the tablet made that sound. Mystery solved, right?

I just don’t understand 1). Why Mamie would bother changing the notification alert sound if she never used the tablet, and 2). How she could have changed it if she was so reluctant to try the tablet that she never even hit the Skype button to call us. I mean, does this make any sense? The idea of Mamie fiddling around with the settings and changing things in there seems a bit far-fetched. For me, there’s still a feathery question mark hovering in the air above the whole thing.

“Maybe the Babadook changed the notification sound,” Callaghan suggested helpfully.

“Yeah, let’s go with that theory,” I said. “It’s more fun.”

After this upcoming Friday the 13th, the next one won’t occur until November… but somehow, I doubt the eight months in between will be uneventful!

Happy Friday, All!

Addicted to Fear? (PTSD post.)

Q: What happens when you watch the American Horror Story: Freak Show premiere and the first two episodes of Stalker all on the same night?

A: The next time you’re alone in the house, ALL THE LITTLE NOISES will cause you to jump and imagine that the most terrifying clown you’ve ever seen is creeping around your windows.

And, if you’re kind of warped, like me, you’ll love it.

Twisty the Clown

Twisty the Clown

Fear is a mysterious emotion. It can be taught, or it can be intuitive. It can be provoked by things we perceive with our own senses, or by others’ senses. Fear as a response to external stimuli real or imagined can also be unpredictable.

Twisty the MURDER Clown, that is.

Twisty the MURDER Clown, that is.

I have phobias, meaning that I experience irrational fear in response to specific things. I also have PTSD, meaning that I have a few known “triggers” floating around in a deep lake of more inexplicable, unknown causes of panic. The resulting inner havoc is predictable even if its cause is not… it’s the familiar old Armageddon of panic and stress boiling in my core, rippling outward through my body like a fire spreading through a house. It feels like I’m being consumed. Sometimes, it even feels like I’m going to die, or like I have to die. I actually take medication for this. Throw in the by-product of clinical depression just to balance it out, and there you have the main reason I live for my body combat classes at the gym three days a week. I enjoy them because they’re amazing, yes, but I also need them for medical reasons. Intense physical training on a regular basis helps my brain chemistry better than anything.

So it’s a mystery to me why, when a former boyfriend introduced me to the creepy PlayStation game Silent Hill (the only video game I’d played since the ‘80’s), I quickly became addicted and couldn’t wait for darkness to fall every night so I could huddle in the shadowy corner of the bed with all the lights out, trembling and listening to the discreet yet horrifying sound of snow crunching beneath my feet (leave it to developers of Japanese horror to make the sound of snow horrifying) as I walked through the abandoned town in search of my daughter. You would think the eerie sense of being watched and the unpredictable sightings and attacks would have sent me into PTSD Armageddon, but instead, I found myself craving more.

It’s odd, this thing about the horror genre in pop culture. If scary movies, television shows, books or games manage to provoke fear or stir up the creep factor even a little bit, which very few of them can do, by the way – my favorites are the ones that can – I just twitch a little and then run back for more. Yet, the sight of a sewer roach encases me in fear and leaves me traumatized for days. Why is that?

I would venture to guess that the PTSD lurks behind this incongruity. Fear strikes, and in that moment of skyrocketing adrenaline, I’m instantaneously alert and on edge. Maybe, in some perverse way, I love it because it makes me feel alive… alert, alive and ready to act, and when this response comes in the wake of stimuli that I know is fictional, I can just enjoy the rush. There’s no real-world threat in fiction. (A roach is not a formidable threat, but it is real.) Maybe I’ve become a “fight or flight” response junkie, though I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’m addicted to adrenaline, a phenomenon that some people apparently experience. For me, in the case of creepy movies and T.V. shows and books, maybe I’m more just hyper-intrigued by the fear of the unknown, and of the (horrifying) possibilities. Neither am I sure that there’s much of a difference between this kind of fear addiction and the kind of garden-variety thrill-seeking that leads people to go bungee-jumping (I am not a thrill-seeker of the bungee-jumping variety). Whatever the case, I find the psychology of fear to be fascinating. Fear is terror-provoking, thrilling, necessary and fun. What emotion other than love covers all of that?

My affection for the horror genre pre-dates my PTSD, so perhaps that’s significant, as well.

I also think that it’s my PTSD that drives me through whatever martial/fighting arts training I’m doing, especially when my energy stores are low, though I’d loved combat sports long before the PTSD, too. In high school, I was the girl who demanded that the P.E. faculty allow girls to take wrestling, because that was what I wanted to do, and I was outraged that only boys could take it. (In the end, they acquiesced, but only because I got other girls to sign my petition, indicating that they would take it with me. We were only allowed to wrestle under the stipulation that we’d wrestle each other, rather than the boys. Haha!) (I don’t think that anyone was surprised when I joined the Army after that.)

On the tail of that tangent, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that Halloween is just two weeks away. I’m beside myself with glee. We’re in a house now, which means that we get to give candy out to trick-or-treaters. I wonder how many American Horror Story Twisty the Clowns we’ll find on our doorstep Halloween night? I can’t wait to find out!

Happy Friday, All!

Our Halloween Laundry Room

On Friday, I wrote about the heartwarming qualities of a well-maintained, staffed Laundromat. It’s entirely coincidental that this morning’s post is also about a laundry space. On Saturday, before I’d decided what to write about for today, Callaghan and I stood in our new laundry room at home talking about the most important feature of that room, which is, of course, that it makes me think of the laundry room in the horror film Halloween. Because we all know that no laundry room is complete without the mental image of a masked killer standing outside of it, watching as you blithely go about the business of doing your laundry.

That original Halloween from 1978? Stands out in my memory as being the movie that sparked my interest in the horror genre, which has long since been one of my favorite film genres. I find the laundry room scene in that movie to be a wonderful scene, especially because it arrives at that moment.

You know that moment. It’s the moment in a cheesy horror movie wherein the tension gathers itself into a jagged-edged ball with frayed, stripped wires poking out all over the place before it begins its bouncing, chaotic journey downhill, picking up speed and snagging everything along the way until it slams to a halt with everyone (except that one, token survivor) dead at the end. (Long aside: It’s fun if the survivor is the one person that you’d predicted would escape. Sometimes, a horror movie starts and some characters have DEAD written all over them from the very beginning, right? We like to make predictions within the first 15 minutes. “He’s dead.” “She’ll be the first to go.” “That person’s going to be the one who stays alive.” It’s actually the most satisfying when we’re wrong, though, because being wrong means that the movie wasn’t as predictable as we’d thought it would be.)

Taken out of context, this scene from Halloween isn’t particularly creepy, but it’s brilliant in its place (no gore here):

 

 

I honestly don’t know why this came to mind on Saturday. Our laundry room isn’t especially creepy. Maybe it’s because the start of the fall semester means that fall is near, which, in turn, signals the approach of Halloween, bringing to mind the movie Halloween. Whatever the case, Callaghan and I had the chance to discuss the matter gravely.

“This reminds me of the laundry room scene in Halloween,” I said as we stood in the laundry room. It was empty. The washer and dryer were to be delivered later that day.

“What scene?”

“Remember that scene? The girl is babysitting, she goes out to the laundry room – it’s night – and the killer is there, creeping around outside. This is like that laundry room.”

We were having this conversation because our laundry room is only accessible from the backyard. It’s connected to the main house, but you can’t walk through. The only other time I’d seen a laundry room like that was in Halloween.

 

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio's two bright lights.

Our laundry room at night, not creepy at all under the patio’s two bright lights.

 

“In this laundry room,” Callaghan said as he looked around, “the only place for the killer to hide is behind the door. So you enter it by kicking the door in really hard… and then there’s no more killer!” With his French accent, he pronounced it “keeler.”

But the killer would be wilier than that, I thought. I could picture how it would happen. The killer would crouch around the corner, or, if the patio lights were out, in the inside corner of the patio.

 

The laundry room in the dark.

The laundry room in the dark.

 

I’m not really concerned, though. The laundry room is spacious, but it’s narrow, and other than the one on the door, there are no windows. That means that I would have the advantage.

All of this makes me think of American Horror Story: Freak Show with increasing anticipation. We can’t wait for the return of Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulsen, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Even Peters, Emma Roberts, et al! October 8… only a month away!

 

 

Blog Design Change!

I took a critical look at my blog over the weekend and said to myself, “Self, your blog needs a design overhaul.” I clearly remember sitting in the Little House in the Rhône-Alpes in France back in the fall of 2012, selecting and setting up my first theme and writing my first post. Now it’s 18 months and 161 posts later, and I’m in a totally different place in more ways than one. My blog should reflect that, I thought.

I decided on a new theme, found a dusky photo of Tempe Town Lake I’d recently taken from half-way up “A” Mountain (representing our downtown Tempe neighborhood), and, early yesterday morning, asked Callaghan if he would be so kind as to lend his clicking finger to an impromptu photo-shoot, because what better way to start your day than to go outside and take a million pictures of your overly-detail-oriented partner? (I wanted Virgil’s cute cactus garden in the background!) I also updated content where updates were needed and just generally cleaned things up a bit. We threw it all together last night. It took less than an hour, but the minimal, streamlined result pleases me very much.

So that’s the main thing. The only other thing I wanted to tell you about today was… and this is random (with so much going on all over the place, this week already feels more random than usual, and it’s only Tuesday)…

You know you watch too many horror movies when you hear the low tinkling of a classic lullaby from a back corner of your apartment, and when you cautiously venture forth to investigate, the following dialogue takes place:

“Are you listening to a creepy lullaby?” I called to Callaghan, who was somewhere.

Or it’s the ghost of a child. This apartment complex is probably between 50-60 years old, so a lot could have happened.

“I’m watching sleeping puppies and kitties! Haha! I’m almost done, Baby.”

He was in the bathroom with his tablet, watching cute animal videos!

It was Brahms’ “Lullaby and Goodnight,” and actually, I did have an eerie experience involving that particular nursery rhyme when I was a teenage babysitter. But that’s a story for another time.

 

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Jeepers Creepers

I’m not big on practical jokes. I don’t usually enjoy being on the receiving end of them, and it almost never occurs to me to play one on someone else. I guess you could say that I’m an opportunist when it comes to practical jokes, because the only one I can remember playing was in Nice two summers ago, and it was totally spontaneous. An opportunity presented itself, and that opportunity was just too good to pass up.

The joke was on Callaghan, of course.

First, some background: Jeepers Creepers is one of our favorite cheesy horror movies. Not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but in order to get the joke, you should know that a psychic woman calls the two (sister/brother) main characters on a diner pay phone and issues a warning about the classic jazz song “Jeepers Creepers”:

When you hear that song you run, and I mean run! ‘Cause that song means something terrible for you, something so terrible you couldn’t dream of it… not in your worst most terrible nightmare!

Then she plays the song for them. It’s the original Louis Armstrong recording from the 1930’s, which I can imagine would be a suitably creepy thing to hear over a pay phone.

We spent the summer of 2012 helping Callaghan’s father renovate three apartments in an old building in Nice. I should say “creepy old building” because it really kind of was (creepy). (I mean that in a good way. I like creepy. I like old buildings. Creepy old buildings = Good). One apartment was downstairs, the other two were upstairs, and there was a small, dusty old radio that seemed to float around the building, usually ending up with Callaghan’s father, who always had it set to a jazz station. Maybe the radio was his. I don’t know. I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Anyway.

One morning, Callaghan and our friend Jean-Mi were working together in one of the upstairs apartments while Callaghan’s father and I were in the downstairs apartment. At some point, he – Callaghan’s father – stepped out for a little while, leaving me alone in the creepy old apartment with the radio, jazz music blaring away.

Well, when Louis Armstrong came on singing “Jeepers Creepers,” I couldn’t believe my luck. There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity! I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Callaghan’s number as I ran to the radio. When I got there, I held the phone up to the speakers. I was cracking up laughing, but I managed to stifle my hilarity while Callaghan answered his phone and heard:

 

 

Hahaha!! He was up on a ladder at the time, too, he later told me. Ha! Just envisioning him standing up on a ladder listening to “Jeepers Creepers” on his phone cracks me up all over again!

Ahem. Maybe this is another example of me being too easily amused, but you have to understand that thanks to the movie, that song had become one of our inside jokes. We’d say things like, Oh, well… the day could get worse… we could answer the phone and hear “Jeepers Creepers!” Because in the movie, hearing that song was the ultimate Bad Thing that could happen.

A song portending the arrival of a horrible latex monster would make everything so much worse.

And cheesier.

Happy Friday, all!