Five Sleeper Hits on Streaming

Summer is always a rough season. Summer combined with the Corona virus lockdown is almost unbearable, but being stuck inside doesn’t have to be torture. I found these five low budget gems, definitely better than expected, that should satisfy your horror movie cravings.

We Summon the Darkness (2019)
Service: Netflix

“There’s a lotta evil out there.”

For anyone’s who has ever worn a leather vest over a jean jacket, sported big feathered hair, or been bullied for listening to Ozzy or Slayer, all over the misguided belief that heavy metal is Satan’s music for devil worshippers, this one’s for you. Set in the 80s, this low-key thriller about three victims falling prey to a murderous cult with diabolical intentions isn’t particularly scary or gory, but it definitely harkens back to those old glossy B slashers that the studios used to churn out. The movie stars a gaggle of Hollywood’s brightest teen stars, led by Alexandra Daddario, and Johnny Knoxville, surprisingly right at home, playing a smarmy televangelist. The energy is high and acting is decent, honestly though, absolutely nothing else stands out here. Both the plot and the twists are totally predictable, it’s a little hard to tell if that’s by design or not. If I was one of the filmmakers, I’d get all meta and say, ‘oh yeah, it was supposed to be that way.’ People really enjoy homages, and stickin two giant middle fingers up to the real evil in the world, those big greedy corporate churches, for lying to the world about great music, using the lord’s name in vain, and besmirching religion. That, plus a bitchin’ soundtrack, and heavy metal couture, so 80s, you can almost smell the AquaNet, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night.

Spring (2014)
Service: Shudder

“I gotta make sure you’re the kinda crazy I can deal with.”

There aren’t too many well-made horror romances out there in the world, but this movie is in top ten. Spring, the story of grieving young man who finds love with a mysterious woman, while on a vacation in Italy, is just as refreshing as its name sounds. It’s simply a beautiful movie, everything from the strange Lovecraftian story to the incredible cinematography, and the dark, creepy suspense to the blossoming love between two strangers. What makes the film work, besides getting lost in charming scenery of Southern Italy, is the chemistry between the leads Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker, it’s sweet, like saccharine, yet, definitely filled with a touch of danger and mystique. Their romance moves a little fast and even seems unrealistic, but if you factor in love at first sight (hey, it can happen), and remember the vulnerability of a lonely, grieving, inexperienced young man, it becomes real easy to understand why he would be attracted to an alluring, beautiful, mystical 2000 year old creature. It’s almost sad to watch her toy with him so effortlessly, then again, the boy is as impulsive as he is lost. A violent episode in the film’s beginning shows he’s far from a perfect hero and they might just be morally matched. As for the girl and her “condition”, well, you’ll just have to go watch the movie to see if her intentions are pure or not.

Ghost Stories (2017)
Service: Hulu

“Things are not always as they seem.”

This movie about a skeptical professor and paranormal debunker is a cleverly disguised anthology from IFC Midnight, turns out to be one of the scariest movies that I’ve seen in a long time. Triple threat writer-director Andy Nyman stars as the wry skeptic investigating the disappearance of his hero mentor. Once he finds him, he is then tasked with looking into the old man’s three most disturbing cases, which brings the professor on a terrifying journey of self-discovery. Nyman, along with co-creator Jeremy Dyson based their script off their hit theater show of the same name. The writing, cinematography and performances here are all phenomenal, in particular, Martin Freeman as a haunted banker, and in a mystery role, that I won’t give away. Ghost Stories makes good work of jump scares and sports some deep Hammer vibes, paying homage to numerous horror films, so it’s not inventing the wheel or anything, just making really good use of the tools from the tool box. Sometimes, that’s all a proper horror film needs.

One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Service: Shudder (Japanese subtitles)

“One take, no cuts. With one camera from start to finish.”

Shin’ichiro Ueda’s brilliant feature debut is a bit of movie inception. The movie starts off as a seriously cheesy low-budget zombie movie about an indie film crew filming a zombie movie in an abandoned warehouse, when suddenly, they’re attacked by real zombies, much to the director’s delight. If you’re still watching by the time the credits roll about 37 minutes in, yes, you read that right, boy, are you in for a treat! As you’re sitting there wondering ‘what the hell was that?’ a new movie starts. Well, sort of, it’s a flashback, and all good things to those who wait. One Cut of the Dead isn’t really a cheesy low-budget zombie film, it’s a hilarious meta-satirical comedy about filmmaking, including the backstage antics of producing live television. There are a ton of references to zombie movies and lots of gore and screaming, of course, but, the real prize here is the storytelling. One Cut features a strong message about the collaborative filmmaking process, and the resourcefulness, courage and heart it takes to be in the entertainment business. I guarantee, by the third act, you’ll forget all about those 37 minutes wasted in the beginning and cheer on the film crew’s spirited efforts to make their zombie movie.

Blood Quantum (2019)
Service: Shudder

“Every one of those motherf****** is a time bomb.”

Blood Quantum is essentially zombies on a modern-day reservation. You get all the blood-thirsty ravaging undead and pensive natives struggling to survive day-to-day, while reconciling their anger, resentment, and fears. Writer-director Jeff Barnaby channels his inner Romero and delivers biting social commentary on real life native troubles by drawing parallels to surviving in the zombie apocalypse, thus, immediately making it a better than average zombie story. Life on the reservation hasn’t improved, but it hasn’t necessarily deteriorated either. The white man is still trying to kill us. Same shit, different millennia. A little closer to the heart, there’s nice family drama subplot involving a wayward son named Lysol, wonderfully played by Kiowa Gordon. Lysol is one complex dude. He’s angry and alluring, righteous, and terrifying, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he represents a lot of young native men across the North America. Sadly, in a film filled with quirky interesting characters, Lysol is one of the few fleshed out characters. Dropped plot points involving back stories is just one of tiny problems that all add up over time, keeping the film from being truly great. I read director Barnaby wore several post production hats to ensure he told the story he wanted to tell, but I can’t help but wonder what the film could have been, if only it had a bigger budget and better editing. Despite its obvious flaws, this is a solid horror movie with nice cinematography, comical one-liners, ranging from cheesy to endearing, and plenty of zombie action and bloody carnage.

Bring on Halloween 2020!

Covid be damned!

No, you’re not imagining anything. America is definitely ushering in Halloween earlier than we ever have before. We’re not waiting for the ‘Ber months. The unofficial pre-season starts now!

Between trying to keep our families and ourselves safe from Covid-19, the stresses of working from home, health worries, money woes, and fear and loathing of societal ills, including a looming election to determine the fate of America’s soul, honestly, we need the distraction.happiest pumpkin

Autumn and Halloween merch have already hit the craft stores, retailers have released their catalogs, and candy has hit the shelves. Halloween Haunters, artists, bloggers, content creators, and writers are buzzing with ideas and upcoming projects. The Samhain Society has new members, and I encourage everyone to hit up links to some of the best Halloween bloggers and content creators on the planet. Here at Halloween Haiku, I have cool celebrations planned this October, so keep checking back regularly.

I’ve also been reading responses from Halloween fans on social media forums and have determined that despite the pandemic, there will be so many cool things happening to ensure Halloween 2020 will be the auspicious event we all know it will be.

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Of course, Halloween 2020 won’t be without its controversies. Some of us will be all dressed up, with nowhere to go. There are rumblings that trick-or-treating, parties, parades, haunted attractions, and other mass gatherings will get nixed. I can see why this is alarming, and it’s gonna be tough when autumn leaves peak and temperatures cool. We’re going to be tempted to throw caution to the wind and traipse around in the world, looking for inspiration and celebrations with our fellow Halloween fans. I got three words for you:

Halloween at home.

Carve your pumpkins. Decorate your homes. Pick out your costumes. Bake ghost cookies. Eat candy. Watch scary movies. Drink your spirits.

But please, please, for the sake of American lives, Halloween at home this year. Wear masks. Social distance. Let’s make America safe again.

Yeah, I really just did that. 😉

Honestly, I think Halloween at home is exactly what America needs, a reminder that Halloween lives inside of us. It’s not a place we go or a thing we do. It’s something in our hearts. It’s about honoring and remembering our loved ones and those who have passed on. Traditions mean nothing if there’s no one to share them with. As long as we keep that in mind, and we try the best we can to keep each other safe, we’re all going to have an amazing Halloween season. So, relax. Be smart. Be safe. Stop worrying. Halloween is what we make of it, and as long as you’re celebrating, nothing is canceled.

Have a Happy Halloween season!

Monthly Haiku Corner – July

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toxic air
a new kind of plague
same old death

Monthly Haiku Corner – April

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empty streets
crowded morgues
pandemic

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?

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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.

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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!🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃

 

Advice from a Jack-o’-lantern

During these difficult and surreal times, I just wanted to give a shout-out to the Halloween community. We all want to be here this Halloween 2020 because it’s going to be quite the spooktacular celebration and we don’t have time for Coronavirus!  So, let’s do our part and help flatten the curve against Covid-19.  I realize I can’t be the only one suffering from a little anxiety and stress, so, I thought I’d repost my Advice from a Jack-o’-lantern. I hope it helps a little.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home, my friends.

Advice from a Jack o'Lantern 🎃Don’t lose your top 🎃Never let your light go out 🎃Stop worrying about your imperfections 🎃Find your own porch to sit on 🎃Take time to enjoy the view 🎃Greet everyone with a smile
Advice from a Jack-o’-lantern ©Halloweenkristy