Apocalyptic Planning from the Couch

Pandemics and zombies go together like mac and cheese. Maybe, we’re looking for survival tips. I mean, zombie movies and apocalyptic horror have a special way of reminding us that humanity is worth fighting for, right?  Well, we’re not dead, or undead, yet, so, if you’re not yet ready to build a bunker, start a collection of assault rifles, or learn to love cold chili from a can, here’s a list of my favorite zombie movies to better prepare us for doomsday.

10. Cargo (2017)
“I don’t think normal is on the horizon.”

cargo
Based on the brilliant 2013 short of the same name, Cargo is the story of a father wandering across the apocalyptic Australian wasteland with his infant daughter, searching for help, after he’s been bitten. Sometimes doing right by humanity means not getting caught up in other people’s misery.

9. Re-Animator (1985)
“You’ll never get credit for my discovery. Who’s going to believe a talking head?”

reanimator

Stuart Gordon directs this blood-drenched, nudity-filled horror-comedy, based on the H.P. Lovecraft’s short story, about a group of ethically questionable doctors fighting for control of a glowing green serum that brings the dead back to life. This is quintessential 80’s horror for anyone who believes doomsday starts in a lab.

8. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
“In the back of my mind, I was always thinking, better them than me.”

dotd04

Director Zack Snyder ups the survivor stakes by replacing slow shambling zombies with a little berserker action, in this retelling of George Romero’s 1979 film of the same name. While it falls short on Romero’s mastery of social commentary, it does have the most thrilling opening sequence of any zombie movie ever and does a good job showing what diversity looks like in apocalypse.

7. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
“As we approach your new home, you will notice a dramatically increased military presence.”

28weekslater

The US military swoops in to save the day or does it?  This action-packed sequel to Danny Boyle’s horror masterpiece, 28 Days Later, features an all-star cast and another bleak story of desperate, complicated survivors, including two resourceful teens, whose father recently went out for ice cream.

6. The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
“Pandora peered into the box and found one more thing in the bottom. It was hope.”

gir

Zombie horror for the thinking man, based on the book by M.R. Carey, with a story set in rural England, where military scientists study an airborne fungal pathogen that turns people into zombies, by experimenting on special children who born with bloodlust but managed cognitive thinking and learning capability. Humans may be willing to do anything to survive, but remember, nature has a way of favoring the dominate of the species.

5. Train to Busan (2016)
“Those of you who just got here, I don’t think you can stay with us.”

busan

This Korean thriller about a group of survivors stuck on a bullet train, trying to make its way to country’s last stronghold before the zombie horde gets to them, is non-stop action from beginning to end. Korean directors sure like using trains to point out social inequalities and class warfare. Btw, Peninsula, Busan’s upcoming sequel set in the same universe with a new kinetic story is expected to be released sometime in 2020.

4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
“As Bertrand Russell said the only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation.”

shaun

Sometimes the only thing to do is go to your favorite bar, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over. Oh, that’s right, we’re on lockdown. Well, I hope you stocked up on Cornettos. The world’s first zombie rom-com is loaded with laughs, but doesn’t skimp on the gore, nor the scares, plus, it can teach us a thing or two about sticking close to loved ones during the bad times.

3. 28 Days Later (2002)
“It started as rioting. But right from the beginning, you knew this was different.”

28dayslater

The fact that this film shows up on my zombie list sheds light on my opinion on whether this is a true zombie film. Some people debate that 28 Days Later is not a true zombie film because they’re highly infectious cannibals, who are very much alive. But, much of what’s most terrifying of Danny’s Boyle’s brilliant thriller about a military science experiment gone bad is the explanation of the rabid virus is the most logically plausible. Dead, undead, who cares, humanity has collapsed due to hordes of uncontrollable flesh-eating rage-monsters ravaging the London countryside. Sounds like a zombie film to me!

2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
“Don’t you know what’s goin’ on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!”

notld

Inspired by political and racial strife of the early 60s, young filmmaker George A. Romero had no idea the impact his little low-budget movie would have on films, much less the horror genre, with a story of a group of complicated survivors holed up together in a farmhouse surrounded by undead corpses preying on the flesh of the living.  The metaphorical snapshot of American society on edge is sadly, still relevant. Clerical errors sent the film into the Public Domain. As of March 2019, the film has been downloaded 3.1 million times. Looks like Romero’s biggest regret of not doublechecking the copyright form has been a true gift to humanity.

1. Dawn of the dead (1979)
“Wake up, sucker! We’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s exactly what we are.”

dotd79

George A. Romero’s magnum opus is number one on all the zombie lists for a reason. It’s the one that created the most popular subgenre in horror films, for which, all others pay homage to. The film was chock-full of both realism and symbolism. There are unforgettable characters, heroes with real flaws that audiences find identifiable or admirable in some way. Deep down inside, there’s a little fly boy or fly girl in all of us. Then, there’s Romero’s brilliant social commentary, a story that simultaneously mocks and celebrates American society and its insatiable consumerism. Our sanctuary, the American Mall. Our tool for survival, the almighty gun. Our privilege, unimaginable wealth, just behind glass doors. Golly gee, if we only had the guts to brave the hordes of flesh-eating monsters standing in our way. Pssst…all the living dead are capitalists!
We must stop the killing, or lose the war.

 

Halloween-y Things to Do During a Pandemic Quarantine

Hello, I hope everyone is staying safe, staying healthy and staying home. Even Halloween fans must do their part to help to flatten the curve of Coronavirus, in hopes to minimize deaths and buy our overtaxed health workers a little time to get the crisis under control. Since the situation is so fluid, volatile and a vaccine is over a year away, who knows how this will play out, but citizens have a chance to save the day by staying indoors and doing absolutely nothing. It’s not going to get easier than that.

That said, I bet there’s a whole lot of people out there feeling anxious and stressed by the Covid-19 crisis though, so I came up with a list of things that Halloween fans can do during the quarantine to keep ourselves busy.

Write a Short Story

“Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble”

Don’t let anxiety and depression take over your brain! Get those feelings out on paper. Writing under duress sometimes produces the most creativity. Look at Shakespeare, that dude turned out Macbeth, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and dozens of sonnets during the black plague. Yep, it’s true. The Bard of Avon was surrounded by the horrors of sickness and death every day for most of his life, and yet, he spent his time writing about love. I mean, isn’t that what life’s all about? Death and love?

Witches brew by Ka7 on DeviantArt
Witches Brew by Ka7 on DeviantArt

Binge-watch 14 seasons of Supernatural 

“The road so far”

Coronavirus has interrupted the production schedule of the CW’s Supernatural, television’s longest-running paranormal show. Maybe 2020 is upset as we are that this is the series finale. It’ll be hard to say goodbye to the Sam and Dean, and their angelic sidekick Castiel, which is why we should binge-watch all 14 seasons now, to mentally prepare for the end! It’s a 15-year story that demands closure. Does anyone even remember why the Winchester brothers are hunting demons in the first place?

spn

Create a Spooky Terrarium

“Life springs from death”

Creating a spooky terrarium is a lot like putting together a Halloween diorama. You get to work with miniatures to create a haunted scene, but somewhere in your terrarium, globe, or glass container is a real living plant. The upside is going green for Halloween is always a good idea. The other upside is if you forget to care for your living plant and it dies, well, a dead plant will fit right in with your theme. Win-win!

Work on your Halloween Smash book

“Something wicked this way comes”

Halloween junk journals are still all the rage. All you need is a journal or notebook, and some Halloween ephemera, postcards, printables, or stickers. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, just follow your heart. Make ’em big. Make ’em small. Get artsy or just manage your collection of pumpkin stickers. Since we never enough time to do all the things we want to do with our smash books, quarantine life is like a gift from Father Time.

Halloween smashbook

Create a Witchy Halloween Playlist

“But the talk got shackled by the howls and the cackles
From the bowels of the Black bayou”

Creating your own Halloween playlist is one of those suggestions that always end up on lists like these, but I’m challenging everyone to get specific. When you’re done creating a witchy playlist, with only songs about witches, make a zombie one, then, werewolves, vampires, okay, apocalyptic tunes to dance to, you get the picture. With any luck, the rabbit hole you fall into should last the entire pandemic.

∴∴∴

You’ll notice I left off reading scary books and watching spooky movies, not because they’re not great ideas to keep our minds entertained and occupied during these surreal and unsettling times, but because those are things you should be doing every day anyway.

Let’s practice good physical-distancing, so we’re all here when Halloween 2020 rolls around this October!🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

 

Best Xmas Gifts and Stocking Stuffers for Halloween Lovers, 2019

Halloween fans are dreaming of a dark and moody Christmas. Forget the goofy grandma sweaters and wicker baskets full of over-processed cheese and stale crackers, this year, slay the holidays with some frighteningly awesome gifts for your favorite Halloween lover or yourself!

THE STOCKING STUFFERS

Halloween miniatures, $2-$20

Help your Halloween fan get a jump on creating a miniature display for next season with these adorable little Halloween miniatures.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheLittleHedgerow?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=562375513&ga_search_query=halloween+miniatures&section_id=11989979

Halloween and horror pins, $5-20

Pins make the best stocking stuffers. Most are cheap but the collectibles can be more expensive.

https://lunarcryptco.com/search?type=product&q=pins

Vintage-style Halloween magnets, and stickers from Vintage Spooky Company, $5

Graphic designer Gary makes all his own original Halloween and monster art, inspired by vintage Halloween wares and other spooky stuff.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Vintagespookycompany

Batteries, $8-$40

Don’t laugh. Everyone needs batteries. Sure, you could go for AA or AAA, but I suggest those CR2032 batteries that go in tea lights and animatronics. Those little guys get costly. Believe me, they are so appreciated.

https://www.amazon.com/JOOBEF-Electronic-Cell-Button-Calculators/dp/B06VX7XDKJ/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=batteries+for+tea+lights&qid=1575660693&sr=8-5

LAST MINUTE BUYS FROM AMAZON

Llewellyns 2020 Magical Mystical Calendar featuring artwork by Lisa Parker, $15

Llewellyns make the best mystical, spiritual and witchy calendars, and they’ve once again teamed up with renowned fantasy artist Lisa Parker for 12 months of magical felines

https://www.amazon.com/Llewellyns-2020-Magical-Mystical-Calendar/dp/0738760056/ref=pd_sbs_14_1/136-9589722-3958451?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0738760056&pd_rd_r=22c842eb-d06b-497a-a1ef-ebb8f002945c&pd_rd_w=vq6An&pd_rd_wg=gcDFK&pf_rd_p=5873ae95-9063-4a23-9b7e-eafa738c2269&pf_rd_r=5Q1F0CPNNRM83FN8H2XT&psc=1&refRID=5Q1F0CPNNRM83FN8H2XT

Gracula Garlic Twist Crusher, $16

gracula.jpg

The kitchen is one of the hardest rooms in the house to decorate for Halloween fans and this little garlic crusher is simply delightful. This little novelty item is probably not good for serious cooks and heavy usage but seems perfect for once-a-blue-moon meals.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076CTTZKX?creativeASIN=B076CTTZKX&linkCode=w61&imprToken=xu4iVfROQtjjhHAB4lUGoA&slotNum=41&tag=bfheather-20&ascsubtag=5212165%2C11%2C107%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Cbf-bshp%2C776%3A1

Black Candle Pillar Holders, $20

retro candle holders

Every good witch needs a little iron and light to help ward off evil. Black candle pillar holders come in many shapes, sizes and styles, start here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cylindrical-Festival-Birthday-Candlelight-Decorative/dp/B074C34NZ9/ref=pd_sbs_201_t_0/134-2838771-8268900?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B074C34NZ9&pd_rd_r=a7fe565d-31e8-4617-87c0-2b45ff25b47e&pd_rd_w=CvVsX&pd_rd_wg=N3Y9u&pf_rd_p=5cfcfe89-300f-47d2-b1ad-a4e27203a02a&pf_rd_r=3G0D4ZGEY73RD6R2NMKM&psc=1&refRID=3G0D4ZGEY73RD6R2NMKM

Haunted Skull Cake Pan, $28

pizza skull pan by nordic

The Nordic Ware Haunted Skull Cakelet Pan is an absolute treasure. You can make pizza skulls, skull muffins, skull burritos, Dia de Los Muertos cakes and whatever your imagination can come up with. This quality cast aluminum, non-stick pan is a must-have for any Halloween lover’s kitchen.

https://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-Haunted-Skull-Cakelet/dp/B00Y6PRETK/ref=asc_df_B00Y6PRETK/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167152175681&hvpos=1o25&hvnetw=g&hvrand=15619877883895473149&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9031194&hvtargid=pla-166479118326&psc=1

TIME TO SPARE

Poe Ornaments and Tea Ball Infusers by Annabel Lee and Me, $9-10

Annabel Lee and Me specialize in Poe centric and gothic wares. After you put up your dark and spooky Christmas tree covered in Poe ornaments, sit back with a nice cuppa hot tea.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/677381427/edgar-allan-poe-tea-ball-infuser-goth?ref=shop_home_active_114

Prints from the Edward Gorey Collection, $12

Eccentric artist Edward Gorey liked to draw creepy creatures and cats. He even drew the Prince of Darkness in a whimsical scene. If you’re ever in Yarmouth Port, MA, stop by the Gorey House Museum.

https://goreystore.com/

The Ghoulish Grimoire books by artist Diana Levin and author Shawn Givens, $12

Now on the 7th issue, these unique horror anthologies feature stunning black/white pen and ink illustrations, accompanied by two short stories, sometimes poems and other musings, which are always the perfect blend of creepy and macabre imagination. Back issues from this talented couple are still available. Get them before they’re gone!

https://www.ghoulishbunnystudios.com/books

Horror Movie T-shirts from Fright Rags, $25-40

frightrags.jpg

Halloween fans and horror lovers can represent 365 days a year with these officially licensed T-shirts and other cool merch from the most iconic horror films of all time.

https://www.fright-rags.com/

“United” Halloween flag 3×5 ft by Rhode Montijo, $25

UNITED_Halloween_Flag_by_Rhode_Montijo_A_1024x1024

Halloween fans can now let their freak flags fly with this giant orange and black striped jack-o-lantern flag that will look great hanging on the wall. Don’t forget to pick up some adorable Halloween prints and buttons too!

https://rhodemontijo.myshopify.com/products/pre-order-for-large-united-halloween-flag

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Gris Grimly, $25

frankenstein gg ms

Citing the monster as a childhood favorite, acclaimed artist Gris Grimly jumped at the chance to illustrate the very first, full-length novel using the original 1818 text from Mary Shelley. This beautifully haunting book with stunning artwork is one-of-a-kind. Pick up a copy at his newly reopened online store.

http://grisgrimly.com/product/gris-grimlys-frankenstein/

Fine Art Prints from Killer Pumpkins, $30

Welcome to the colorful and spooky world of artist and designer John Pelico, whose digital artwork is simply mind-blowing. Whoever thought grim could be so cheerful. Only prints are available online but if you catch Killer Pumpkins at San Diego Comic Con or other So Cal conventions, sometimes they carry unique merchandise like coffee cups and lamps.

https://www.killerpumpkins.com/store

Infernal Creatures: A Collection of Rare Occult Artworks book from Century Guild, $35

infernal creatures Century Guild

Century Guild is a private museum and gallery, now based out of Southern California, that specializes in fine arts between 1880-1920s, particularly Arte Nouveau and Symbolism. This exquisite hardcover book features full-color, professionally photographed art and posters, printed on the highest resolution paper. Fascination with death and the occult is not a contemporary concept

https://centuryguild.net/collections/books/products/infernal-creatures-rare-occult-artworks

Horror Movie Burst a Box, $50

A unique twist on a centuries old child’s toy, which still features the chilling ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ tune. Choose from Billy, Chucky, Freddy, Jason, Pennywise, or Sam.

https://www.mezcotoyz.com/category/burst-a-box-cg/categories/burst-a-box/1.html

Need more ideas? Check out last year’s blog posts for great stocking stuffers and Christmas gift ideas for Halloween fans.

zombie christmas card

September Seduction

I love a good summer storm. Anyone else? Warm breeze. Dark clouds. Rumbling thunder. Lightning strikes. Can you smell and feel the hot rain?

September is like a good storm brewing. It’s a sexy month. The weather dances the tango with you. The unbearable heat embraces you and swings you around, dizzying your mind, and just when you can’t take it anymore, there’s a cool nip at your nose, keeping you on your toes. You never know what September might be thinking. She’s as tempestuous as the sea, like a wild woman searching for the calm.

September likes to remind us of what we love and who we are. She brings back memories and yearns for new adventures. She makes us lose track of time. We’re constantly dreaming. She sees through the false smiles. She wipes away our summer tears and nudges us to do things that make us feel whole. Do not ignore her.

This is your time. Look out upon the horizon and take in the electrifying light show of last summer storm. Enjoy September. She has so much more to offer than being a pre-month. September doesn’t live in the shadow of October.

September is the lover you wish you could hold onto.

 

Horror’s Worst Vacations Ever

Happy September! School is back in session, summer is winding down, and that recent holiday in the sun is now a distant memory. Everyone knows vacations can sometimes be more stressful than relaxing. Between the airlines losing luggage and hotel rooms not looking anything like the brochure, to pricey tourist traps or flat out being robbed, the reality of exotic trips not living up to their expectations is a top reason why people just stay home. Let’s be honest, a lot of the disappointment could’ve been solved with better research and a Lonely Planet travel guide.

No matter how awful your trip was, just be glad you weren’t a character in an Eli Roth movie.

friday13

Camp Crystal Lake, Friday the 13th (1980) dir. by Sean S. Cunningham

Years after a child’s accidental drowning, a group of young camp counselors prepare for the summer camp’s reopening, only to be stalked and murdered by an unseen force.

This one almost didn’t make the list because for all its posturing and preparation for summer visitors, Camp Crystal Lake never actually opened to the public. That’s right, no vacations were had, which is a good thing because after all those brutal murders, they never would have survived the Yelp reviews. The locals called it ‘Camp Blood’ for short. I mean, can you imagine the BBB rating on this place? “One star for the blood-stained bunk beds!” Never before has the mere uttering of a vacation destination sparked so much fear, because no one steps foot in a forest these days without hearing Jason’s theme ‘ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma‘ in their head.

Continue reading “Horror’s Worst Vacations Ever”

The Most Famous Pumpkin Patch Photo in the World

Joel Sternfeld McLean Virginia December 1978
McLean, Virginia, December 1978, ©Joel Sternfeld

blazing orange fire
autumn spoils on the ground
more to the story

I dedicate today’s blog in honor of World Photography Day.

I was immediately spellbound by the imagery of this photo that I stumbled upon over a year ago. A few more clicks led me to a fascinating story about photographer Joel Sternfeld, who one day, came upon this fiery scene in McLean, W. Virginia, and snapped the now-iconic photo.

In the photo, we see a fireman shopping for a pumpkin, while a farmhouse burns in the background, a few hundred yards away. In his arms, the fireman clutches his prize, presumably the best of the bunch. In the foreground, dozens of rotting pumpkins spoil and wither away, in what we could consider, Autumn’s last kiss. Amongst the barren trees, the burning farmhouse roof rages like a fiery inferno, yet, the fireman seems undeterred. On this day, the hero’s quest is not put out a fire, but to pick out a pumpkin.

The photo simply titled “McLean, Virginia; December 1978” was first published for Life Magazine in Fall of 1988. It would later serve as the cover for his 1994 book American Prospects, a visual color chronicle of the life and landscapes of America during in 1980s. For many years, the photo floated around the American consciousness, via magazines and journals, without context. When taken at face value, the photo of an American fireman ignoring his duty to peruse a pumpkin patch is quite flabbergasting, some people thought it so incredulous, they believed the photo was staged.

It was neither.

The truth is, the farmhouse fire was a controlled training exercise and the fireman was on a break. That is the scene that Joel Sternfeld photographed while driving cross-country in his VW campervan, under a Guggenheim Fellowship, looking for America’s truth. He kept mum on the details for decades, until opening up for 2004 interview on photography for the Guardian. In the interview, Sternfeld argues photographers are their own authors, capable of manipulations. They can turn the camera at different angles or leave out parts entirely, and tell whatever story they want to tell. Photography has always been about interpretation. That’s what makes it art. In the article, Sternfeld says,

“No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium. It is the photographer’s job to get this medium to say what you need it to say. Because photography has a certain verisimilitude, it has gained a currency as truthful – but photographs have always been convincing lies.”

For years, the worldwide public has relied on pictures to be evidence and visual aids in understanding. A picture says a thousand words.  But what or whose truth are we seeing?

Darkest Before the Dawn

I’ve been struggling with my writing for several days. Weeks, really. The summer blues have had a strangling hold on me this year. I had several ideas on how I wanted to approach this month’s blog post. At one point, I wrote out a long piece about suffering from summer depression. It read like a book report on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it had nothing to do with Halloween.  As my deadline came and went, guilt followed, then, the shame of failure set in, and soon, it was hard to write anything at all, not even one of my goofy movie lists.

Group therapy 

I belong to a few Halloween groups around the web, wherever I can find like-minded creatures. Halloweenophiles always seem to find each other. It’s nice not to feel the burden of being the weirdo sometimes. It’s a sure bet, the second Halloween merch hits the stores, people post pictures and store locations. We know how to comfort each other, most importantly, we understand why it’s important to do so, no explanation needed.

it's time
©Sam Heimer

Sensing the buzz, off I went, in search of Halloween, looking for pumpkins, skeletons, black cats, and any sliver of orange and black. My local Michael’s did not disappoint.

Continue reading “Darkest Before the Dawn”

Halloween Green

As we celebrate World Environment Day, here’s ten things that will help save the environment this Halloween.happiest pumpkin

Not just a Jack-o’-lantern 

Don’t let your pumpkin guts go to waste. Save the seeds and bake them for an awesome snack. Use the flesh to make puree or pumpkin juice, or even eat it raw. Check for recipes online. You can also freeze pumpkin and use it later to make sides, pies and other holiday desserts.

Continue reading “Halloween Green”

Scary Bites

Some of you may have noticed there was no Haiku of the Week.  Please forgive me.  I suffered a sudden health scare this week.  Recently, during a trip to a local botanical park in Austin, TX, I was bitten up by mosquitoes. The bites turned out to be more serious than I thought because I fell ill with a blood infection. Luckily, no serious disease. I’m now recovering and should be totally fine. Haiku will return next week, but as summer approaches, I can’t help but remind everyone to please use insect repellant.

Also, think twice about using those flowery shampoos and fruity lotions when camping and traipsing through the woods. We wouldn’t want insects to take over the world just because we want to smell good.

Bogleech-MagictheGathering Insects-heartstabbermosquito-jasonfelix
Bogleech: MagictheGathering Insects- heartstabbermosquito by Jason Felix

For more heartstopping terror, go here: http://www.bogleech.com/magicinsects.html

Happy March

shamrock-wreath
Happy March! It’s the month of strange Irish legends, ominous warnings, over-indulgence, abstinence, and all things green.

February got a bit crazy. I missed all my writing deadlines, struggled to find time to work on the site, and much to the chagrin of this Halloween lover, Valentine’s came and gone without being changed into a second Halloween. But, sometimes, you just gotta roll with the punches and there’s no time to mourn February because we’re too busy looking forward.

This month, I’ve got some great haiku, fantastic art, cool movie lists, beautiful photos and lots of yummy Halloween recipes to share with everyone. I love reading your comments, and please, keep on rating those haikus.

In parting, I leave you with this wonderful quote from the Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats:

Let us go forth,
the tellers of tales,
and seize whatever prey
the heart long for,
and have no fear.
Everything exists,
everything is true,
and the earth is
only a little dust
under our feet.

StPat1