Archives For horror

Us-Movie-Twist-Clues.jpg

We first hear the catchy tune “I Got 5 on It” on the radio as the Wilsons drive to their vacation home. From the backseat Jason asks, “What does ‘I got five on it’ mean?” and his sister Zora replies, “It’s about drugs.” Their father chimes in, “It’s not about drugs. It’s a dope song. Don’t do drugs.”

At first, the song seems to serve as an excuse for a humorous exchange. But variations of “I Got 5 on It” play several times throughout Us, often taking on a haunting sound. While the song is indeed about weed, more importantly, it’s about not sharing it for free.

The lyrics by Luniz say,

No, he ain’t my homie to begin with,
It’s too many heads to be proper to let my friend hit it
Unless you pull out the fat, crispy
5 dollar bill on the real before it’s history
‘Cause fools be having them vacuum lungs
An if you let em hit it for free you hella dum-da-dum-dumb

In other words, the song is about getting paid. It suggests you shouldn’t let your friends hit a joint for free. If you do, you’re being taken advantage of because you’re all in the same “low budget” lifestyle trying to get by, so you can’t afford to be charitable. It’s a micro-exchange that creates “haves” and “have-nots.”

Us illustrates the horror we participate in: the shallow notion that greed can be good and the self-centered idea that you can buy happiness. This message is the true horror of Us: that we’re all so busy trying to take care of ourselves, to show our status of wealth, and to keep up with the Joneses that we neglect others. We’re so caught up in the shiny promise of the American Dream and trying to get ahead, that we forget to be grateful for what we have.

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final-girls-theater

As much as I love all horror with reckless abandon, women in the genre often fall into clear-cut tropes: the whore, the virgin, the Final Girl. However, we’re starting to see women slip into more sophisticated and complex horror roles. Do yourself a favor and add these films to your watch list, and be in awe of some of horror’s best badass women.

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I’m excited to share that I contributed a chapter to the book The Gothic Tradition in Supernatural: Essays on the Television Series, edited by the brilliant professor Melissa Edmundson and published by McFarland. Hands down, my favorite part of Supernatural is Charlie Bradbury, so I wrote about her awesomeness and Gothic heroism. It’s easily the best thing I’ve ever written (thanks to some amazing editors), and I can’t tell you how much fun I had on the project. I even worked a swear word into my title, because I’m a professional!

Take a look:

charlie bradbury supernatural ashley walton

If you’re interested in Supernatural, badass female characters, or Gothic themes, the book is available on Amazon, and the Kindle edition is a pretty good deal. If you’re not into any of those things, it’s cool. We can still be friends.

guillermo del toro

Guillermo del Toro is a master filmmaker, whose films explore the unknown, the fantastical, and the supernatural. Many of his films defend the outcasts and the bizarre, undermining commonly-held expectations of good vs. evil and appearances vs. reality, ultimately deconstructing binaries and playing with genre tropes. Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak share similar themes, both in terms of writing and visual cues, imparting the same moral at the end of each story.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pans labyrinth faun

One of my all-time favorite films, Pan’s Labyrinth, complicates popular fairy tale tropes—specifically, undermining characters’ face-value. In Marvelous Geometry: Narrative and Metafiction in Modern Fairy Tale, scholar Jessica Tiffin notes, “Lack of physical or circumstantial detail in the fairy tale thus goes hand-in-hand with a more profound effect, the simplification of morals and principles to the point where any conflict is dealt with in terms of absolutes—the hero, heroine, magical helper opposed to the villain, monster, or competing hero” (14).

Because fairy tales simplify people, the tales can then simplify morals. Tiffin says, “Unlike other forms of prose narrative, the fairy tale has no real interest in human subjectivity or psychological characterization of the individual. Like the events of fairy-tale narrative, characters are rendered down to essentials, described in terms of one or two defining characteristics” (14). By essentializing characters in terms of good and evil, fairy tale characters (and by extension, readers of fairy tales) know who’s good and who’s evil. The heroes and villains are readily apparent as such in both description of their attributes and appearance. Typically, good characters are beautiful, charming, and charismatic, while villains often have physical flaws, sometimes driven by jealousy of the more “beautiful” hero/heroine. It is this pattern within the fairy tale genre that del Toro critiques. While del Toro heavily prescribes to a good/evil binary, the good and evil characters are not readily identifiable by appearance.

One instance in which Pan’s Labyrinth overtly places itself in conversation with fairy tales is when Ofelia tries to determine if she has, in fact, encountered a fairy. A strange-looking insect follows Ofelia home and Ofelia asks it, “Are you a fairy?” Skeptical, she holds up one of her fairy tale books that showcases a dainty, humanoid fairy with wings, wearing delicate clothes made out of leaves. Ofelia points to the picture she says, “Look. This is a fairy.” Upon viewing the illustration, the brown, strange-looking insect transforms into a traditional-looking fairy, like the one in Ofelia’s book. When Ofelia first sees the insect, she’s frightened, but once she sees the fairy transform she realizes that the fairy’s form, whether humanoid or insect-like, is arbitrary. Ofelia decides to trust the fairy based on its actions instead of its appearances, seeing the value in withholding judgments based on physical cues.

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Halloween Party 2015

Ashley Walton —  November 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

Every year, we invite our friends to dress up, share a meal, and of course, watch Thriller with silent respect and awe. Below are some photos of our friends’ amazing costumes, party details, and the coolest novelty chocolates you’ll ever see. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be counting down the days until next Halloween.

Truffle Cottage Halloween

beautiful chocolates from The Truffle Cottage

Han and Chewbacca couple's cosplay

Han and Chewie

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buffy halloween episodes

Let’s be honest—you could pick any Buffy episode to watch this Halloween, and it would be a great decision. With witches, demons, vampires, and all kinds of other creatures that go bump in the night, Buffy is perfect for revisiting this time of year. That’s why I’ve compiled episodes that I think are particularly fitting for a Halloween viewing. With the exception of one, you’ll find I didn’t include the obvious Halloween specials because I think there are creepier episodes that better capture the Halloween spirit—ones well-seated in horror meta-commentary with brilliant visual storytelling. Here’s my list:

1. Halloween — Episode 2.6

buffy willow halloween 2.6

In season two, Buffy hits its stride, culminating in one of my favorite season finales of television. That’s not to say it didn’t keep some of the camp from season one. The premise of “Halloween” reminds me of something out of a Goosebumps novel or an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? After getting costumes from Ethan’s Costume Shop, the Scooby Gang and other citizens of Sunnydale transform into literal interpretations of their costumes. For someone who’s never watched Buffy, this is a pretty self-contained episode, perfect for a one-off Halloween viewing, but for lovers of the show, this is an introduction to Ethan Rayne, who seems like a throwaway character but ends up affecting the season arc and several seasons down the road. It’s the beginning of many long-term payoffs and complex narrative arcs that make Buffy a stand-out show.

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Not that you need an excuse, but October is the perfect time to indulge your nostalgia and watch cheesy Halloween movies from your childhood. Even though they may not be as spine-chilling as when you were young, these classic Halloween movies will fill you with warm fuzzies—and I gotta say, I think they (mostly) hold up.

1. Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

tales from the darkside the movie

Short stories are the perfect vehicle for horror. Many full-length horror movies and long-form novels lose steam in the third act: things tend to slow down to allow for explanations and solutions. Usually, you can see how things will be wrapped up from a mile away, and sitting through the ending is just a matter of principle. Because Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is a compilation of three short stories, the pace never drags and the pieces avoid over-explanation and cliché endings. Despite the outdated claymation and over-the-top, bright red blood, the storytelling rivals the best of ’em.

2. Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something_Wicked_This_Way_Comes_(1983_movie_poster)

Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes combines all my favorite things: creepy carnies, stalwart library patrons, and on-the-nose names, such as “Mr. Dark” and “Jim Nightshade.” Throw in a classic battle of good versus evil and some “Monkey’s Paw” scenarios, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Despite its Disney status, this film has some solid imagery that still haunts me to this day.

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