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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With each passing year, we add a little more sugar, spice, and geekiness to our Christmas tree, and I love it a little more. Because we’ve had Star Wars on the brain, we’ve made several additions in that vein, including the best nutcracker ever conceived. And after much searching, contemplation, and meditation, we finally added a tree topper for the first time. Jeff found the perfect one. Praise Cthulhu!

cthulhu tree topper

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charlie bradbury supernatural badass

Supernatural wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Charlie Bradbury. Not only is she one of the few fully-fledged characters, she facilitates emotional communication between the Winchester brothers, enabling them to reconcile their feminine-gendered traits. Arguably, Dean and Sam both exhibit femininity throughout the show, despite their cookie-cutter emulation of American blue-collar, heteronormative masculinity. However, in the first six seasons, the brothers only show outward emotion in certain contexts—a pattern that Charlie disrupts.

In the first six seasons, even though Dean regularly denounces things like yoga and chick-flick moments, Tanya Michaels compares Dean to a soccer mom, who sees himself as the protector, nurturer, and upbringer. Michaels says, “In Mary’s absence, can there be any doubt that Dean was the most nurturing influence in Sam’s early life?” (82). Even in Sam’s adulthood, Dean watches over him and would give his life to protect him. There’s no question that female-gendered qualities abound before Charlie enters the scene; however, they seem to only surface in specific contexts.

Through most of the show, Dean would rather keep his feelings to himself and pound a few beers (or a fifth of whiskey) before talking to Sam about his feelings. The exceptions to this rule usually involve a heart-to-heart in the Impala, what Melissa Bruce notes as “visual space that is typically masculine, yet the series uses it as a device through which to filter the more intensely emotional moments” (154). In other words, the Impala renders the feminine show of emotion as acceptably masculine. In the rare instances where the boys do express emotion outside of the Impala, Lorna Jowett notes: “Dean and Sam sit […] facing straight ahead. (Typically, the characters do not look at each other while expressing emotion)” (45). Meaning, in the first six seasons, the Winchester brothers express emotion in specific contexts to uphold their carefully-guarded masculine personae.

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ready player one stacks book cover

I know I’m behind the times, but I just got around to Ready Player One and really enjoyed it. If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic novels involving virtual reality and ’80s references galore, then I highly recommend it. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite quotes form the book:

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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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