Last one! “Next Floor” and “The Herd” (Short Horror October post 5)

Alas, we’ve arrived at the end of this year’s Short Horror October series.

One thing I love about a short film is that its length makes it easily re-watchable. This next (penultimate!) horror short begs for re-watching, as it’s heavily symbolic. My own thought is that the guests around the dinner table are of more significance than the food that’s on the table.

This beautifully filmed, multiple award-winning French Canadian film is called Next Floor.

 

 

This brings us to the last short film I’m posting in this year’s series!

The Herd is age-restricted for potentially challenging content. It’s not pretty, but it’s a brilliant horror film that’s worth watching to the end of its 16 minutes.

 

 

And that, as they say, wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed this year’s Short Horror October series as much as I did! I’m already counting down to next October… but you knew that.

Happy Friday Wednesday Eve, my friends. (Thank you for correcting me, Caroline!)

 

 

“Instinct” – Short Horror October post 4

Well, I can’t believe we’re down to only two more blog post days in October. We’ve got next week Tuesday and Thursday, and that’s it. Thursday is Halloween! I’d planned to do a Halloween post for you sans horror short, but I changed my mind because I wanted an opportunity to post two more films, and then I changed my mind back (convinced by a friend that I ought to do the Halloween post on Halloween), and so – long story long – my last horror short post for this year will be on Tuesday. I’ll still post two more films, though! I’ll put them both in Tuesday’s post.

Today’s horror short, Instinct, is one that I find to be nearly perfect… that is to say, I think it’s a stunning work of cinematic art. Please note that the film features some nudity, but it’s brief, tastefully done, and not at all gratuitous. A little research revealed that Instinct has been viewed in over 30 film festivals, and it’s won 12 awards, but I’d already decided that you had to see it.

Without further ado:

 

 

The end.

Happy Friday Eve, all!

 

 

I don’t have a Halloween costume. (Yet?) Here’s “Jameson,” though! (Short Horror October post 3)

I’ve been so immersed in the glories of October that I almost forgot about a Halloween costume! I didn’t realize it until yesterday at the gym when a few of us were talking about maybe coming to class in costume next week. Callaghan and I have no plans for Halloween this year, after all… unless I were to count Body Pump as a Halloween plan?! Should I get into costume just for the gym? Hmm.

Today’s Short Horror October film, Jameson, was written and directed by John Humber, and it stars Brad Carter (Ascension, Sons of Anarchy, True Detective). I’m excited to share this one with you. I’m uninterested in zombie films for the most part, but every now and again I find myself caught off-guard by a fresh specimen of the genre.

Please to enjoy…

 

 

Until Thursday!

 

 

My hand is fine. Also, I have “The Blue Door.” (Horror short October post 3)

Quick story-time: I missed Monday’s workout. Why? Because when I pulled up the bedroom window blinds that morning, the whole apparatus fell off the wall and crashed down onto the back of my left hand, which was resting on the dresser beneath. I felt it, and it didn’t feel great. A bruise appeared instantly and my fingers tingled as my hand swelled up, so I found myself going to urgent care instead of to the gym.

Point being, this was the second time in six weeks that my house attacked me. First, it tried to chop off my foot, and now it’s tried to crush my hand. Can’t wait to see what it does next.

Let’s get on with the purpose of this post, though! I have another excellent horror short to share with you this lovely October night: The Blue Door.

The Blue Door is a British short horror film starring Gemma Whelan, an actress you may recognize from Game of Thrones.

 

 

Happy Friday Eve!

 

 

Midsommar: you don’t go to frolic. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

On Sunday, we went to the movies anticipating a good scare, because we thought we were about to see a normal horror flick. But that plan didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Nothing about Midsommar turned out the way I thought it would. Midsommar is a film that does things to you. Leaving the theater, it was more “what just happened to me?” than “what did I just see?”

There’s horror, and then there’s Midsommar.

 

 

Writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary) and independent film distributor A24 bring us a masterpiece of psychological horror in Midsommar. One needs to be somehow mentally prepared to see it. Don’t look to the trailer for help with this, because the “scary” parts aren’t even in it. Midsommar is disturbing to the extreme. For me, it was an unsettling and inexplicably compelling visceral experience.

A group of four American friends travel to Scandinavia at the invitation of a fellow student at the university. He’s from Sweden, and he’s spoken of a special summer festival held in his small community back home. The festival takes place only once every 90 years! Cultural anthropology doctoral candidates can’t pass it up, can they? Especially considering that they’re still wavering on where to train their focus in their graduate studies. An ancient festival in Sweden, now, that would be different. One of the students has a girlfriend suffering in the aftermath of a tragic event; she tags along, desperate to hang onto her caring yet ambivalent boyfriend.

And so we’re all shepherded to Sweden by our congenial Swedish student friend. He’s happy to take us on this trip to experience the festival… and a trip, it is.

I’m leaving by the wayside any attempt at sounding intellectual in this review, because I’m not an expert reviewer, and it’s difficult to characterize how I felt from the time the Americans reached Sweden. Having made this disclaimer, I can say that once the group arrived at the festival in all its isolated, bucolic splendor, it was just WTF piling on WTF slowly and steadily throughout the rest of the film. Midsommar is a true WTF-fest. By the end of the movie, I felt pinned to my seat beneath the weight of a WTF stone tower, each stone heavier than the last. If I needed the restroom during this movie, I couldn’t feel it. Midsommar is completely immersive, and that is one of its horrifying strengths.

In Midsommar, Ari Aster seeded the horror in the atmosphere of the setting; from there, he grew and cultivated it with methodical precision. Simple acoustic music played by festival hosts takes the shape of a voice that serves as much as a character as the actors. Skillful usage of foreshadowing and symbolism help the film to burrow under the skin. There are no jump-scare cheap thrills in this film.* An early scene in which the group is driven through the Swedish forest to the festival is presented upside-down. This bit of symbolism sets the tone for the rest of the movie as standard horror conventions fly out of that upside-down vehicle’s window.

We are in Sweden in the summer. Our tendency is to think of horror unfolding in the dark, but Midsommar is horror unfolding in a place that never gets dark.

Elsewhere in the horror genre, we might experience the horror of, say, a haunted house. In Midsommar, we experience the horror of nature in a peaceful, Scandinavian countryside.

Midsommar robbed me of some pedantic horror-movie joys: a few things happened that I guessed would happen, but I couldn’t take satisfaction in guessing correctly, because the events played out in ways more twisted than I could have imagined. I was too traumatized to be smug.

That’s the thing about this film. Even if you know what f*cked up thing is about to happen, you can’t believe what you’re seeing as it’s happening. The happening is more horrific than the thing, itself.

Another of Midsommar’s strengths is that it’s horror that could occur in real life. You think, this could happen. Then you dare think, maybe it does.

I’ve spent the past few days recovering from this nightmare film, and yet I’m sitting here recommending it. As disturbing as it is, Midsommar is impressive and beautifully wrought. The writing, direction, and acting are superb. It’s a fine work of indie art, as we’d expect from A24.

When we stopped at the store after the movie, I made my way through the aisles feeling disoriented and panicky. I was jumpy and irritable. You would’ve thought I was in Costco, not Whole Foods! Everything freaked me out: interactions with people in the store. The color white. The flowers for sale. My inability to find an item that I needed. The cashier handing me the receipt.

I saw runes everywhere, in everything. I still do. It’s chilling to the core.

I don’t know whether a film this macabre, graphic, and psychologically disturbing can be an Academy Awards contender, but if it can, Midsommar deserves nominations. The big ones all apply: writing, acting, directing, cinematography, musical score, costumes, editing.

If you’re up for the challenge and thrill of psychological horror, go see Midsommar in the theater! You need the theater to optimize the immersive experience of it. I would recommend that you see it in any case. It’s an excellent film. It’s an experience. As the tag-line says, let the festivities begin.

*****

*Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy carefully placed cheap-thrill jump scares!

 

 

It’s that time again. (November Favorites!)

I’m back to share some “little things” that I enjoyed or actually loved in the last month! November brought significant “big” things to appreciate, such as visiting my family and finishing the first draft of my manuscript, but as always, this list is all about the fluff in between.

We’ve got a couple of T.V. series, a horror flick, some vegan processed (junk) food, some other edibles, and, of course, a few cruelty-free skincare products.

Without further ado, may I present…

 

1). Godless (T.V. series)

 

 

This series, in my humble opinion, is rave-worthy.

Westerns aren’t my favorite genre, but I do enjoy the genre; my all-time favorite movie – Tombstone – is a western. We thought we’d give Netflix’ new western mini-series a try. Godless did not disappoint. From its quintessential sweeping vistas to its characters who are badasses merely by virtue of existing, this one captivates for the reasons fans love westerns. One aspect that sets this western apart from others, though: in this traditionally male-dominated genre, Godless is female-dominated.

Add to this the story’s extravagant application of symbolism and metaphor (also characteristic of westerns), the quality of the production, itself, and the actors’ fine performances, and we’ve got a binge-watching hazard on our hands.

 

2). The Good Doctor (T.V. series)

 

 

Truth be told, we’re just entertained enough by The Good Doctor to keep watching it. The main attraction, for me, is Norman Bates in the lead role. I’m sorry, but hapless Freddie Highmore will always be Norman in my mind. (Bates Motel remains one of our favorite series.)

Callaghan feels the same way. While watching it, we’ll say things like, “Norman will figure it out!” and “Poor Norman is going to get blamed for this,” and “FINALLY Dr. Melendez recognizes that Norman is a genius surgeon!” Also, “But does Lea know that Norman is autistic?” because we’re rooting for Norman and Lea to become “Norman and Lea,” and the two of them are continuously confused by each other’s behavior communication-wise, and, well, you can see how this hospital drama closes in on soap opera territory at times. Maybe this explains why I’m only borderline super into The Good Doctor… generally-speaking, I don’t dig soap operas. We love Freddie Highmore’s character, though. We giggle every time he sums up his assessment with his emphatic, matter-of-fact “He’s dying” or “She’s dying” (right in front of the patient), which he does in almost every episode.

That being said, it’s Norman’s (I guess I should say “Sean’s”) personal journey and challenges that intrigue us. The Good Doctor is ultimately thought-provoking and well-wrought.

 

3). As Above, So Below

 

 

I don’t have much to say about As Above, So Below except that we enjoyed it. We’re not too discriminating when it comes to horror, especially since horror is sometimes at its most entertaining when it’s cheesy, low-budget, or just plain bad. Horror’s found-footage sub-genre is usually guilty of one or all of the above. As Above, So Below is no exception. We liked this one more than most, and definitely enough that we’d see it again.

Also, we’ve walked through those catacombs beneath Paris, and let me tell you… I believe these movie people 100% when they say that As Above, So Below was filmed down there. That the story unfolds in a familiar place made it even more creepy and entertaining.

 

4). Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes.

 

Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes

 

This is Gardein’s third consecutive appearance here. This time, it’s their crabless cakes, my friends. These little tidbits of doom are delightful. I don’t think they taste like crab, which is good if you like crab cakes that don’t taste like crab, if that makes any sense. Haha!

We bought these for my parents to try, and they liked them, too. We always find ourselves looking for more, so next time we’re in the mood for these junky, processed vegan treats, we’ll get two bags. (They’re not cheap, so they are treats.) Our preferred prep method is to bake them in the conventional oven. Oh… and they’re amazing with vegan chipotle “mayo,” in our opinion!

 

5). Simply Balanced Organic Agave Nectar Light.

 

Simply Balanced Organic Light Agave Nectar

 

I ran out of coconut sugar for my coffee and had to fall back on something else until we could get to the store. That “something else” turned out to be the unobtrusive bottle of light agave nectar we’ve had in the pantry forever. Now I remember how I used to love it! This might even be the second time I’ve featured it in a “favorites” post. For me, light agave nectar serves as a great middle ground (sweeter than coconut sugar, not as sweet as Truvia). I love its light smoothness, too.

 

6). Raw unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Raw unsalted mixed nuts

 

I love salted nuts, but in November, I cycled into my raw-unsalted phase. I leave a big jar of these mixed nuts out on the kitchen counter, and I grab a handful of them at random times… often with breakfast, actually. I’ll still have the salted nuts and seeds later in the day, so yeah, I’ve been doubling down on the mixed nuts. If you count the peanut butter I eat almost every day, it’s a triple-down. I have nothing against a daily mega-dose of healthy fats, though. They’re delicious.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar.

 

Apple Pie Larabar

 

I’ve also cycled back into a Larabar phase! Lately, I’ve been enjoying this apple pie version as a spicy-sweet refined-sugar-free alternative to fall desserts. Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. That’s it. Yum.

 

8, 9, 10). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Yes to Coconut Naturally Smooth Lip Balm.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Naturally Smooth Lip Balm

 

Okay, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of this entire line of products by Yes To. I’ve already talked about (and continue to use) Yes to Coconut cleansing facial wipes and Yes to Coconut moisturizer. It’s all wonderfully rich and hydrating, and I can’t say enough about it, really. If you have dry skin like I do, then you might do well to try out the Yes To Coconut line for your skincare!

 

That’s it for November! Happy Friday, friends.

Don’t Breathe. (Non-review movie review! NO SPOILERS.)

Don’t Breathe is a thriller/drama, otherwise known as a thrillama. (Adorable, right? If that term didn’t already exist, it does now.) It’s categorized as a horror film because there’s no other way to describe the shit that goes down.

 

thatasianlookingchick-com-dontbreathe

 

Don’t Breathe is an anomaly of a horror film. There’s no hint of the supernatural. No monsters or creatures of lore. No deranged killer wearing a mask while hunting people. No scheming lunatic masquerading as an ordinary person in unsuspecting victims’ lives. No lethal super-virus trampling international borders. No evil aliens or UFOs. No colossal, razor-toothed fish torpedoing out of the ocean. No natural disaster threatening humankind with the apocalypse in a planetary meltdown. No serial killers. No creepy dolls. No clowns stalking children in the Carolinas. (Oh, wait… that’s not a movie. That’s really happening). (It’s not a movie yet, that is.)

There’s just a guy.

And he’s both a victim and a victimizer.

He has reason to do the things he’s doing, as he is being provoked. In his own home.

He does have an obsession, shall we say… but by the time it rears its head, the reveal is powerless to overtake the action and suspense already blurred in full throttle. We’re brought back to the central terror, albeit minus any sympathy we may have had for the guy.

Likewise, a reveal in the backstory of another character serves in the reverse: it seeks to help us feel sympathy for her, lest we’re feeling 100% like “she’s getting what she deserves”… though some of that sentiment may remain. It did for me. There can be no justification for her actions, but at least we’re given some kind of device with which to understand her emotional motives.

Don’t Breathe is smart, unlike a great percentage of its ilk. I enjoy a stupid, campy horror flick as much as the next devoted fan of the genre, but Don’t Breathe is a pleasurable breath of fresh air, as they say. Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) crafted it into an exhilarating and tight ride.

I think I’ve said all I want to say that I can say without spoiling it for you, if you haven’t seen it. This aptly-titled film is worth the price of its ticket. (An alternate title could be Why Everyone Should Know How to Hot-wire a Car.) I recommend this film highly if you enjoy horror and/or thrillamas, if you don’t mind a bit of gore… and a lot of breath-holding.

Lights Out. (Non-review movie review! No spoilers.)

We went to see Lights Out two Fridays ago, which happened to be the night of our first major monsoon storm of the season.

It was daylight when we went in, and darkness with rain, booming thunder, and flashing light when we went out. The movie had been darkness and flashing light, too. All kinds of light. Flickering light, steady light, florescent light, candlelight, black light, light bulbs, headlights, stage lights, overhead lights, lamp lights, cell phone light, you name it.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LightsOut

 

Lights Out is an old-school horror film that benefits from its uncomplicated plot, one part jump scares and one part jittery suspense. (In another dimension, one part atmosphere, one part sound design, both exquisitely crafted.) (In yet another dimension that’s irrelevant, no part award-winning acting.)

We didn’t care about the acting, and we didn’t care much about plot, although the plot in this film isn’t badly lacking. We just cared about being spooked by the monster as we sat ensconced in the dark theater.

See, in this movie, you don’t know when the lights will go out, and the first thing you learn is that when the lights go out, scary things happen. Lights Out preys on – or resurrects – our fear of the dark. It’s a simple premise, and that’s why it works.

Rather than wasting time and effort trying to impress us with plot complexity, character development, and CGI effects, the film teaches us how to react. It lends a coat of paranoia to each interior scene, each room, confining tension within the walls. The attention paid to the integrity of each scene maintains the mood, and I appreciated this consistency. There we were in a house that seemed real, with lighting that seemed real (not forced, as props as central motif can seem), holding our breath the whole time. Lights Out is back-to-basics, monster-under-the-bed horror, enjoyable and making no apologies for its lack of embellishments.

I found the monster in Lights Out to be satisfying, too. It’s scary because it’s elemental. It’s unencumbered by CGI overload, devoid of the cheesiness that often ruins the spook potential of contemporary horror movie evil entities.

To make my conclusion as simple as the movie itself: Lights Out is an entertaining horror movie.

 

SPOOKTASTIC: The Boy (movie review – NO spoilers)

There’s a scene toward the end of horror movie Dead Silence (2007) where the protagonist removes a cloth covering a mysterious shape. “Is that a doll?” asks the detective as he studies the revealed marionette. “It’s not a doll,” says the protagonist. “It’s a boy.”

This captures the central question in The Boy,  William Brent Bell’s new horror movie. Is it a doll, or is it a boy?

 

(from "Dead Silence")

(from “Dead Silence”)

 

I love good possessed-doll horror movies. And bad ones, for that matter.

To write a horror movie review without spoilers is almost to write no review at all. The challenge leaves me, an amateur film critic, with little more to say than, “I liked this movie,” or “I didn’t care for this movie.” But I do want to say a little bit about The Boy.

After the obvious Dead Silence, the next film that comes to mind is Poltergeist (1982). Poltergeist matters because it was my first spooky horror movie, so it set a standard of comparison. (I say “spooky horror” as opposed to “psycho slasher horror,” “serial killer horror,” “sci-fi horror,” “psychological horror,” “mystery horror,” etc.)

Poltergeist made an impression on me partly because I was 14 and new to the genre, but more because it was just a great film. Looking back on it now, after 33 years and countless more horror movies, I can appreciate the restraint and effective use of fright tactics in Poltergeist. The 2015 Poltergeist remake, on the other hand, did nothing but bore me. I couldn’t help but set it against the original in my mind. I rolled my eyes when the family moved into the house and the kid almost immediately discovered a whole box filled with clown dolls. I didn’t finish the movie.

The Poltergeist remake failed me because I wasn’t spooked by a pile of clown dolls in a box. I was spooked by one clown  illuminated in the night at the convergence of built-up of tension and weather, as in the original Poltergeist. That’s pacing. And nuance. And Steven Spielberg. Probably many of us Gen-X’ers derived our fear of clowns from that movie. I know for me, it was that clown that hooked me on the shiver of dread I’ve sought in spooky horror movies ever since. I don’t know that The Boy would inspire any such lasting impression on those who see it as their first spooky horror film, but it’s a solid example of nicely done metaphysical terror. Where spooky horror is concerned, “less is more” works for me.

The Boy has this focus in common with the original Poltergeist. There’s only one “boy” in The Boy.  If a remake of The Boy is ever done and it features triplets instead of a single child, I would roll my eyes and walk away, like I did during the Poltergeist remake. The clown doll in Poltergeist was little more than a prop, but it was the most memorable prop for many of us, and the creators of the remake knew it. That’s why they figured they’d capitalize on its impact by filling a box with clowns and shoving it at us at the beginning of the movie. “You got a major rush from that one scary clown in the first Poltergeist? Here, have a whole bunch of clowns!”

Granted, that box of clowns might be terribly scary to a child who sees the movie, but as an adult who saw the original decades ago and has henceforth proceeded in life with an instilled dread of clowns, that box of clowns was ridiculous.

For a more literal comparison, you could align The Boy with other “possessed doll as main character” films such as Child’s Play or Annabelle. Unlike Chucky and Annabelle, though, Brahms (the titular character in The Boy) isn’t made to look creepy. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I think of “Amelia,” a tale in Karen Black’s Trilogy of Terror (1975). The possessed doll in “Amelia” is so over-the-top in its vicious appearance, it safely clears the level of “trying too hard” and goes straight to campy gore. It’s one of my favorites.

Brahms in The Boy is not a possessed doll-turned-slasher. Brahms is a normal-looking porcelain doll who sits calmly and does basically nothing. Brahms resembles the eight-year-old male child shown in a painting hanging above the stairs in the darkly atmospheric English country manse that provides the setting for the movie.  If the Brahms doll is animate, it’s animate by suggestion only. We do not see it move. It is quiet. It doesn’t go tearing around the house with an upraised dagger. It doesn’t go ripping out people’s tongues. It’s this element of absence that spooks me more than the obvious, albeit entertaining, antics of the possessed dolls in other movies.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-TheBoy2016

 

The Boy features its share of horror movie tropes such as jump-scares and phones that suddenly don’t work and terrifying scenes that turn out to be nightmares, but these tropes are used judiciously and kept to a minimum so the story can evolve of its own accord. It’s a rare horror movie that doesn’t depend solely on cheap tricks to get reactions.

The Boy impressed us with its fresh take on the possessed-doll horror theme. I don’t know what else I could say without spoiling the film, so I’ll stop here. I do recommend this film if you’re a fan of the horror genre, or if you’re just curious.

Oh, and by the way… the clown in Dead Silence is, to date, my favorite of all the scary movie clowns, and that includes the one in Poltergeist. To me, it’s the scariest.

Scarier, even, than the one in Saw.

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

The theme here is Halloween, obviously. This “favorites” post is late, so let’s get right into it, shall we?

 

1). American Horror Story: Hotel (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-AHSHotel2015

 

People either love this season of AHS, or they hate it. We love it. It was love at first step into the extravagant art deco set, and so far, there’s no aspect of Hotel that hasn’t impressed us. For one thing, we were happily surprised to find, right from episode one, that Lady Gaga can act (it was anyone’s guess how that casting decision would pan out). Hotel is a gorgeously done gore-fest of lavishness, and an equally gorgeously wrought mystery. Fine writing. Fine directing and acting performances. Breath-taking set. And that intro with its split-second, neon flashes of the 10 Commandments has to be the creepiest (therefore the best) yet – at least, it’s our favorite so far.

 

2). Scream Queens (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ScreamQueensS12015

 

We were skeptical about this new series, so I’m thrilled to include it here as a favorite. Every episode of this comedy/horror series features at least one moment that causes us to hit “pause” so we can pick ourselves up from the floor. We’re always a little surprised when we bust out in spontaneous laughter during Scream Queens. Its random humor just strikes you that way, out of nowhere. The series spoofs horror films, so it appropriately stars Emma Roberts (American Horror Story) and, most brilliantly, Jamie Lee Curtis in essentially the same role she played in Halloween H20. Between Scream Queens and American Horror Story, we were set for Halloween all through the month (and between Scream Queens and Modern Family, we were set comedy-wise, as well). Oh, and did I mention that two of Scream Queens’ creators are American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk? There you go. Now go watch it.

 

3). Drag Bingo (Melonhead Foundation charity event).

 

Off to the Melonhead Foundation's annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

Off to the Melonhead Foundation’s annual Drag Bingo. This has to be my favorite wig yet.

 

The Melonhead Foundation put on its annual Drag Bingo gala, so of course we attended. Where else can you contribute to a great charity while playing dirty bingo dressed up for Halloween while some of the finest drag queens around MC the event and provide the entertainment, and there’s dinner, candy, a costume contest, and mystery prizes? Don’t say I didn’t told you… if you’re in Phoenix next October, don’t miss this event!

 

4). Too Faced Born This Way foundation (Nude).

 

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Nude

 

Don’t worry… I’m still an e.l.f. devotee, and e.l.f. is still the brand of cruelty-free make-up I mainly use, but I unexpectedly found myself purchasing this high-end foundation one day in October. What happened was I went to Ulta in search of the Urban Decay concealer I prefer – one of two high-end cosmetic items I use – and just when I found (for the third week in a row) that they were sold out of my shade, the Too Faced lady, who had been lurking further down the aisle in the Too Faced section, snuck up behind me and got her claws into my common sense and then her fingers on my face and next thing I knew, I was walking out of the store $40.00 poorer. But the little orange bag I held contained this amazing foundation, and I absolutely love it. (Plus, since I didn’t get the Urban Decay concealer, I only spent $10.00 more than I’d planned, anyway.)

 

5). Iced Coffee.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-IcedCoffee

 

Maybe it’s because October’s heat felt unusually extreme to me, or maybe the heat actually did register as unusual… in any case, I sort of fell into the habit of drinking iced coffee while home in the afternoons. I’d put the morning’s leftover coffee in the refrigerator, and then I had this fabulous, refreshing drink to look forward to later in the day. It became a special treat.

 

6). Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan breakfast burros.

 

Tempe Farmer's Market vegan burritos

Tempe Farmer’s Market vegan burritos

 

We live across and slightly down the street from the Tempe Farmer’s Market, so once we discovered that their deli offers huge, delicious vegan burros every day, it became challenging to go by without stopping in to pick one up. They’re a lot of food for a reasonable price, and there are all different kinds, so you never know what you’ll find. My favorite is the breakfast burro (the one on the right).

 

7). Frontera salsa (Jalapeño-Cilantro).

 

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

Frontera Jalapeno Cilantro salsa

 

Even something as simple as an excellent salsa can add to the enjoyment of a whole month! We’d never tried Frontera brand salsa before, so when we spotted it at Sprout’s one day, we decided to try it. This Jalapeño-Cilantro one immediately became my new favorite jarred salsa.

 

8). Larabar (Cashew Cookie).

 

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

Larabar fruit and nut bars in Cashew Cookie

 

These little bars contain a mere two ingredients: Cashews and dates. That’s it. While these tasty and satisfying nutrient-dense treats aren’t cheap, they’re definitely worth it.

 

9). New Hair.

Finally! I had bangs cut! By Melanie, my fabulous hair stylist and friend! Finally, my hair is back to the way it was before I moved to France, it’s out of my eyes, and it’s much easier to control. I’m displaying this particular pic because you can see the shape of the cut, even though it’s wind-blown because I’m sitting at the bus stop in the early morning and there’s weather and lots of fast cars going by.

 

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

New hair with bangs and a little face-framing and layering.

 

Hello, November! We’re already two weeks into the month, but it’s never too late to say hello.

“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!

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!

It was Karen Black with the Candlestick in the Library: My Tribute to Karen Black

We initiated ourselves into the joys of juicing vegetables last week on Wednesday, and I was going to tell you all about it today, but then something happened on Thursday that takes precedence. On Thursday, the landscape of pop culture changed. We lost American actress Karen Black to cancer, and I want to take a minute to write about her in this space.

 

American actress Karen Black (July 1, 1939 - August 8, 2013)

American actress Karen Black (July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013)

 

Although she earned critical acclaim – including Oscar and Golden Globes recognition, among others – for films such as The Great Gatsby, Nashville and Five Easy Pieces, the made-for-television movie Trilogy of Terror (1975) propelled Karen Black into the stratosphere of B-movie Scream Queen fame.

I’m fuzzy on the details of the first time I saw Trilogy of Terror.

I don’t remember exactly with whom. I don’t remember exactly when, and I don’t even remember where… but I do remember that a). it was with a girlfriend, b). we were in high school, c). we were at someone’s house… maybe mine, and d). an excessive amount of junk food was involved. There were probably Nacho Cheese Doritos, Twinkies, M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Coke. OH! Those chocolate-covered marshmallow cookie things, what are they called?

Got it – PINWHEELS. By Nabisco.

The cheesy tortilla chips were especially appropriate for the occasion.

As indicated by its title, Trilogy of Terror contains three separate stories. Karen Black stars as the protagonist in all three of them. The first two of the three bizarre short films that comprise the Trilogy are psychologically bent. The third, entitled “Amelia,” features a Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll… and that’s about all that needs to be said about that.

As far as I’m concerned, no prop in Horror will ever compare to Trilogy of Terror’s maniacal cackling, growling Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll. The clown in Poltergeist can’t touch it, and Chucky doesn’t even come close. Even the creepy doll in The Conjuring looks like Malibu Barbie next to it.

 

Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll in Trilogy of Terror's "Amelia"

Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll in Trilogy of Terror’s “Amelia”

 

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a Horror afficionado, I suggest you get Trilogy of Terror and skip straight ahead to “Amelia,” the third segment. Then go back and watch the first two, “Julie” and “Millicent and Therese,” so you can come away with the full Karen Black Trilogy of Terror experience.

At least two things came about as a result of Trilogy of Terror:

–After Karen Black did Trilogy of Terror, she went on to become something of a B-movie horror cult figure, more or less concentrating her efforts in the genre. A gothicky punk/shock-rock kind of band in New York even named itself “The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black” in her honor.

–Watching Trilogy of Terror spawned my affection for the Horror genre, which runs deep in my pop culture veins to this day.

Yes… for me, it was Trilogy of Terror that started it all. Why will I always run to the theater to watch the latest creepy movies, rather than the romantic comedies? It was Karen Black with the candlestick in the library.

At some point, a copy of Trilogy of Terror on VHS made its way into my movie collection, after which I pestered everyone I knew to watch it with me. (I’d long since lost track of how many times I’d viewed it.) Callaghan was the exception, because by the time he and I got together, I no longer owned a VCR, and neither did he. We moved to France. After I populated my bookshelves there with books from my collection, I carefully positioned my Trilogy of Terror video cassette on the edge of one of the shelves. I really need to replace that with a DVD version one day, I thought to myself as I did it.

I haven’t acquired the DVD yet. But I will.

When Karen Black’s death was announced on Thursday, I turned to Callaghan. We had another Glenn Close bunny-boiling Fatal Attraction situation on our hands. Callaghan still hadn’t seen Trilogy of Terror, so he couldn’t truly appreciate what Karen Black meant to me. I mean, he had no clue about the Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll! How could that be? Appropriate action had to be taken at the first opportunity. The next evening, we finally sat down to watch Trilogy of Terror together.

And, as always, “Amelia” induced laughter, because for all its spooky, cringe-worthy ferocity, that Zuni Fetish Warrior Doll is quite hilarious in some of its scenes. Callaghan loved it, as I knew he would (we have the same taste in just about everything).

When I mentioned that I would love to own a replica of that doll, Callaghan quickly said, “NO!”

Speaking of boiling bunnies, here’s a bit of trivia about Karen Black that endears her to me even more:

 

from: http://www.peta.org/features/Karen-Black.aspx

 

Thank you for everything, Karen Black. You will be missed… but, you know, you’ll never really die. Heheh.

Oh, THAT Apocalypse.

We saw three movies over the weekend: Pacific Rim, The Heat and The Conjuring.

Brilliant times were had.

In the existing sea of apocalypse movies, newcomer Pacific Rim does a fair job of defying all of the superlatives in the English language… and that’s okay, because it handily makes up its own as it goes along, relieving me of the burden of description for those who ask. It’s inventive like that. Pacific Rim is such a staunchly self-defining film that I can only recommend that you go watch it for yourselves so you can see what I mean. It’s visual bombast at its finest. It’s one of those movies that manages to inhabit its own cinematic space while stealing from everywhere at the same time. I might be saying this to lazily avoid thinking of the words, but I also might be doing you a huge favor. Go and enjoy yourselves a hearty 131 minutes of campy, cheesy, Godzilla-mated-with-the-Loch Ness Monster-in-the-aftermath-of-a-nuclear-event-and-spawned-meets-Iron Man goodness. Sit back in your seat in the dark and let your eyes gobble up the spectacle that spills out before them. Not since the delightfully awful Tank Girl have I been so gratified at a Good vs. Evil apocalypse fun fest (though Tank Girl is technically post-apocalyptic). Seriously, I’m not a sci-fi fan per se, but I love these movies. They are the exceptions for me. Like Tank Girl, Pacific Rim is a sci-fi action film that I’m going to want to watch over and over again.

Side note… there should be an industry awards category called “Best Use of War-Paint in an Apocalypse Film,” because Mako Mori co-storms into combat wearing red lipstick, and she would get my vote for that award. Red lipstick? It might sound frivolous and potentially reductive, but it isn’t sexy or glamorous so much as bad-ass. (Becca in Tank Girl wore it too, come to think of it.) People from cultures all over the planet have fought battles wearing paint on their faces from the beginning of time, so there’s nothing new going on when Mako shows up wearing her “Yeah I’m a Rookie SO WHAT” shade of red. She just does it with aplomb, and it’s a costume detail that stands out when you consider the character’s personal circumstances. It’s a dash of defiance. (Interestingly, I can’t find a still online showing Mako in that red lip, but I swear I saw it in at least one scene, and Callaghan remembers it, too.)

If the Kaiju monster in Pacific Rim is the new Godzilla, then Ashburn and Mullins in The Heat are the new Beverly Hills Cops (though Ashburn’s actually a Special Agent), as Callaghan aptly remarked as we exited the theater. We went in expecting raunchy fun times ahead, but we honestly didn’t think we’d laugh as much as we did. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make quite a pair!

Finally, The Conjuring pulled off the nearly-impossible and thoroughly creeped us out with its sneaky direction, pacing and use of, um, props, shall we call them. (No spoilers here!) I definitely am a fan of the horror genre, and it’s hard to make me jump. The Conjuring did it.

In summary, it was an excellent weekend at the movies, which is an intensely satisfying thing, especially since a weekend at the movies is a rare event for us. Neither a cent nor a second of our time went to waste.

Okay, so I dwelled on Pacific Rim a bit longer than I’d intended. I also wanted to point out one of the hidden hazards of public transportation.

When this is your bus stop...

When this is your bus stop…

...and this is across the street...

…and this is across the street…

This happens. hahaha!

This happens. hahaha!