Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: Halloween (1978)

I always save the best for last…

In honor of Halloween week (not to mention the last week of Spooky Season), I watched John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) for the millionth time. As with all the other times I’ve watched, it didn’t disappoint.

If you’ve never seen Halloween, the story goes like this… Laurie Strode is a babysitter in the small town of Haddonfield, IL. When escaped mental patient Michael Myers travels to the town, Laurie finds herself and her friends being stalked by the silent menace.

This is a straight-forward suspense flick. It’s categorized as horror, and although it has horror elements, I don’t feel that it’s a horror movie. It’s not your typical slasher, in my opinion; There’s so much more going on here.

The haunting score immediately puts you on edge. As the film progresses, the use of silence during pivotal scenes intensifies the suspense. Then the score kicks in again, the moment gaining momentum until it crescendos. This is one of the things that makes the film terrifying.

Let’s talk about the use of suspense. The fiend Michael Myers stays in the shadows. He watches and waits. With his featureless white mask, silence, and patience, he is the most terrifying villain put to screen. The film plays with light and shadow in a way that cannot be rivaled; Myers can be seen hidden in the background of most shots in the second half of the movie if you look closely. This puts the viewer on the edge of their seat, or cowering inside their hoodie.

I don’t really have to say much more, do I? Halloween is a simple film that does a couple of things extremely well. Those things are what makes this movie a classic of the horror genre. I have watched it a million times. It never gets stale, and it never fails to scare me.

Standard
book and movie reviews

The Mortuary Collection (2020)

The Shudder Original The Mortuary Collection is a delightfully dark and funny movie much in the vein of the classic Tales from the Hood.

In need of a job, Sam visits the local mortuary to answer an ad for an assistant. Now, this mortuary is abnormally dark and creepy, the mortician in charge is called “creepo” by the local children. When Sam is being interviewed for the job, she asks what all the books in his office contain. Monty the Mortician explains that they are stories of how people died. This is how the movie segues into the anthology format.

Each of the five stories in this collection are definitely dark, but I don’t think I would call them scary or terrifying. I like a certain amount of suspense with my horror, and the stories explored here just don’t give me enough of that critical element.

I think the stories aren’t suspenseful for me because they are so far-fetched. I’m not going to get into spoiler territory, but these stories are presented with a heavy dose of fantasy. I did enjoy the movie, just not in the way I expected to.

Spook-O-Meter

👻👻👻👻

The stories are entertaining. I laughed out loud during the second story, so if you’re into that kind of thing, this movie is definitely for you. For me, though, I can’t suspend my disbelief that much. I prefer something more realistic. Because of this, I preferred watching the interactions between Sam and Monty. I think there could be a great story there.

Standard
Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Directed by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in 1974. Touted as a “true story”, the plot follows Sally and her friends who are traveling through a small town only to run into the local family from hell. Although the plot of the movie was inspired by Wisconsin’s favorite psycho, Ed Gein, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not a true story, folks.

I have to admit… This isn’t one of my favorite films. To be honest, I have a hard time sitting through it, but I will give it credit where credit is due. I love the character of Leatherface. I find him a sympathetic character trying to break free of the chains of his family. He doesn’t really want to kill people, but his family wants him to, so he does. It’s sad. Leatherface seems to have the mental capacity of a toddler. This gives his family free rein to walk all over him.

Another aspect of the movie I did like was Hooper’s intention behind it. I haven’t found out if this is true or simply a fan theory, but the thought is interesting to me and makes me look at the movie in a deeper way. Has anyone heard that the whole movie was a subtle commentary on the political climate of the time, specifically the Vietnam War? I’ve been hearing that lately, and I’m fascinated. I even watched the film again through the lens of the commentary, and it makes sense. It also makes the movie more thought-provoking for me (as thought-provoking as a cheap slasher can get, anyway). I’m not going to get into this theory here, but if you want to read more about it, Erik McClanahan wrote a great article about it and other theories surrounding the film.

I am not a fan of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I can appreciate aspects of it. It is a well-made film mostly free of gore and straight violence (that is strange to be saying, but it’s true). I simply don’t care for the story. Despite this, I will probably watch it again, some summer night while hanging out with friends.

Standard
Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: The Big Grey Man of Ben MacDui

Cryptids are usually not my thing, but when I heard the story of the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDui I had to include it in Fiend Fest 2020.

In 1891, Professor Norman Collie was scaling the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland, the highest peak of which is Ben MacDui, when he got the feeling he was being watched. As Collie descended the mountain through a heavy mist, he recalled hearing long, heavy footsteps walking behind him. Each time he looked over his shoulder he couldn’t see anything, but he knew something was there. Norman Collie was being stalked as he descended the mountain.

As it turns out, Professor Norman Collie wasn’t the only mountain climber to have come into contact with the Big Grey Man. Doctor A.M. Kellas also had a strange experience with the creature. Kellas and his brother, Henry, saw a large monster come at them from the opposite side of the mountain. It disappeared inside a dip, and the men did not wait for it to reappear.

It is also said that whenever the creature is around, visitors to Ben MacDui will feel as though they’ve been put under a hypnotic trance. They will snap out of it dangerously close to a ledge, then hear eerie laughter. Some, it is believed, have even been chased to their deaths off the edges of cliffs in their desperation to escape, disembodied laughter following them every step of the way.

There are other accounts of the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDui, and each account has three things in common: The creature is large, it resides on top of the mountain, and it stalks trespassers. If you ever find yourself on top of Ben MacDui, take care. There may be someone watching you.

Standard
Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: A Nightmare on Elm Street

“1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you…”

Every horror fan knows this rhyme. A Nightmare on Elm Street didn’t begin the slasher craze of the 1970s and 1980s, but the titular character Freddy Krueger is one of the best slashers to ever be depicted on screen. 

Released in 1980, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street tells the story of Nancy and her friends. These teenagers being having nightmares about some guy with a burnt face and “Knives for fingers.” As her friends die one by one in their sleep, Nancy learns that the scary guy who is hunting them is one Fred Krueger, a child murder who terrorized Nancy’s small town. As it turns out, Krueger was hunted down and murdered by the town’s parents, including hers. Nancy now must come up with a plan to defeat this monster before he gets her too. 

This movie, actually the entire franchise, is one of my favorites. I remember when I was three, my older stepbrothers were watching the series’s third installment. This is how I was introduced to Freddy Krueger and to the world of horror. I remember not sleeping for weeks. Now, I have nothing but love for Freddy Krueger.

The first movie in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was groundbreaking. No one had ever thought to create a boogeyman that could only hurt you in the dreamscape. Craven had a problem getting the projected picked up by a studio. No one believed it was scary because the horror happened in dreams, but if you think about it, what’s scarier than not being safe when you’re at your most vulnerable? 

After Craven left the franchise, subsequent films became vehicles for comedic one-liners. The films themselves became dull, retelling the same story over and over. The magic was gone, but the character of Freddy Krueger skyrocketed to icon status. Krueger may have been loved, but he was no longer a terrifying monster. The franchise had become a laughingstock. 

But that first film is still scary. If you can forget the asinine films that followed it (aside from the third film, which had the best dream scenes in the franchise), the original Nightmare on Elm Street still has that special magic. This film is worth a watch any time of the year, but especially on Halloween.

Standard
Fiend Fest 2020

Fiend Fest 2020: The Disappearance and Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott

“I’ve got her.” 

Imagine you receive this phone call a week after your child has disappeared. The caller does not identify himself, and hangs up after he says these words. 

This is the first of several anonymous phone calls Dorothy Jane Scott’s parents received beginning a week after she went missing.

Dorothy Jane Scott attended an employee meeting at work in the spring of 1980. At around 9 pm, Dorothy noticed a co-worker had a pretty nasty spider bite and offered to take him to the hospital. Another co-worker offered to join them. 

After the spider bite had been treated, Dorothy went into the hospital’s parking lot to get the car. Her co-workers waiting at the exit for her to pull up. When they saw Dorothy’s car barreling toward them, they waved their arms to get her attention. The vehicle sped past them and made a sharp right turn out of the parking lot. They reported Dorothy missing the next day.

A week later, Dorothy’s parents receive strange phone calls. The first call is the one transcribed above. All of the mysterious calls after continued to claim that either he was holding Dorothy captive or he had killed her. The Orange County Register also got an odd phone call from an unidentified man. This man claimed, “I killed her. I killed Dorothy Scott.” The police believe that this caller was indeed Dorothy’s abductor. 

Dorothy herself had also received strange phone calls before her disappearance. These calls began with a man telling her how much he loved her and that he would eventually kill her. Dorothy’s mother recounted a time when the caller instructed Dorothy to go outside because he had a surprise for her. Dorothy did go outside, only to find a single dead rose on the windshield of her car.

Dorothy’s remains were found in 1984 30 feet from Santa Ana Canyon Road in California. Investigators believed that her body had been at the spot for two years.

What happened the night Dorothy disappeared? Where was she taken, and who was she with? Did she survive until 1982 with her captor or was she murdered that spring in 1980? No one may ever know.

Standard
Fiend Fest 2020

It’s Time to Celebrate Spooky Season with Fiend Fest 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s time for classic horror books and movies that give us that warm, tingly feeling. It’s time for murder mysteries that are so obscure you can’t help but want to go investigate. 

I celebrate spooky all year, but when pumpkin patches open and leaves start to fall, everyone is on board with spooky. I like to share the fear with others.

So, in honor of Halloween, I will be posting twice a week on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the month of October. Monday’s posts will be devoted to reviews of classic horror books and movies that we all love. Tuesday’s posts will consist of unsolved mysteries no one talks about.

I will be posting both of this week’s content today (October 6) and we’ll get on a regular schedule beginning next week.

This week I will be revisiting one of my childhood favorites, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and we’ll be delving into the disappearance and death of Dorothy Jane Scott.

Thanks for joining me in this wonderful celebration of horror and all things spooky. Every year it goes by way too fast.

Standard
randonautica

Randonautica: Another Experience

 It’s hard to keep up with these posts when I can only play this game once a week. But play it again I did. 

Okay, so my first post on the subject was more of a game review and introducing some lingering questions I had about how the game works. The locations the app game me the first time I played it were spot on regarding the intention I had each time. I wanted to know how the game works. How could it have known what I was thinking? Well, this time around, I think I’ve found the answer to my question.

It doesn’t read your mind. If you say an intention out loud, it can’t hear you. These locations are totally random and if a location the app gives you does line up with what you were thinking, well all the better. Let’s dive into what happened this time.

I was looking for money. Who isn’t, am I right? So, my intention was money. I thought the game would take me to a bank or something, based on my past experiences with this app and accuracy, but what does it do? This damn app took me to an empty baseball field out in the middle of nowhere. I saw no money. I even got out of the car and walked around (I wasn’t going to do that much hiking because I was wearing flip flops.) Aside from digging for gold, there was no money to be found, but the baseball field was cool to see. The old score board was rotted and dilapidated. The dugouts were filled with debris. There were no bleachers. 

It was a little strange, a baseball field out in the middle of a cornfield, literally. There was a road to it, but you know what I mean. Kind of like that movie about a sports field of some kind out in the middle of nowhere (I think it was Field of Dreams, but I’m not sure.) But this field looked abandoned. It’s weird saying that, like how can empty land look abandoned, but I assure you it can. 

Well, this location was a bust, so I move on to another intention. This time, my intention was happiness (I’m trying to give this game easy things now, confirmation bias a play here for sure.) Where did it take me this time, you ask? A courthouse. Not even my local courthouse, but one that was in the next county over. I saw no happiness. Like, at all. I suppose some people can find happiness here, I thought. People who work there. People who built it. I was trying for that confirmation bias hard. 

This courthouse looked like it hadn’t been in use in years. I’m familiar with the county and it’s courthouse to the west of me, but this was to the east. I’ve never been out here before. I saw people walking in and out of the building, but the building itself didn’t looked like it shouldn’t have anyone entering it. It didn’t look abandoned, per se, but like it needed some serious upgrades. Unusual for any courthouse I’ve ever seen in my state. 

An abandoned baseball field and a broke-down courthouse, both of which had nothing to do with what my intentions were. 

That was my second experience with Randonautica, and yes, it was lame. I guess the game is not all I had hoped it was. It’s still fun, though. This time, I got to see places I didn’t even know existed that are right in my backyard. I’ll still play and, actually, I want to play more often. I’m going it make it a point. Maybe the next time I’ll try it at night, just for something different. And yes, I’ll take someone with me.

Standard
randonautica

Randonautica: Is There Something to the Hype?

I’m going to do something a little bit different here. I’m going to review a game.

Randonautica.

Heard of it?

I hadn’t until last week.

Background

Randonautica is billed as a “choose your own adventure reality game.” It’s an app that you can download for free onto your phone that generates random GPS coordinates in response to your “intention”, or what you want to find. The idea is that you think about something you want to find, and the app will randomly generate a location for you to plug into your GPS and have an adventure. It’s like one big random scavenger hunt where you may or may not find something interesting. Sounds like fun, right?

Well, I’ve heard the hype. After some digging, I’ve come across hundreds of YouTube videos posted in just the last couple of months claiming to have found some strange things. Some people have searched for “creepy” and found pentagrams spray painted on trees. Some people have searched for color and found a field of wildflowers. Most notably, some people have found human remains in a suitcase (I’m sure you guys have heard about that one.)

Color me intrigued, but how does it work? I tried to find neutral information on how the app was developed and how it really works. The only information of interest was the Randonautica website itself, which states:

Randonauting is the act of using the Randonautica app to generate truly random locations sourced with quantum entropy. The user can then choose to venture to these locations to see what they find. They often discover that what they see lines up with their intention, which is what they were thinking about when they generated the point. But even if this doesn’t happen, it’s a way to mindfully explore the world around them.”

Okay. I can dig it. But what is quantum entropy?

Quantum Entropy: A measure of distinguishability between two quantum states.

Mm. Yup. Cleared it up.

All right. Still doesn’t answer my question. Can this app read your mind? If so, how? Or is it literally just giving the player a random set of coordinates and you hope for the best?

There’s no way to really know unless you try it, so try it I did.

My Experience

I downloaded the Randonautica app. I opened it and set it up. I was ready to go.
My first intention was “something creepy” (I am a horror writer, after all). It generated a location that was 15 minutes away from my house. My initial thought was, “Lame! I’ve been all through that area and have never seen anything that would fit the ‘creepy’ vibe.” But I got into my car and drove out to the address given on the GPS.
Everything was familiar to me until I turned down a gravel road that ran behind an abandoned horse racetrack. I knew this road was here, but had no idea that it went back behind the racetrack as far as it appeared to. One point for Randonautica.
I was still four minutes from my destination. The road curved toward the highway that was about a mile to the east of where I was. I thought for sure it was taking me to a dead end with nothing to look at. The road sure did take me to a dead end, but at the end of the road was an old, burned out barn. I parked the car and got out, staring at the shell of the building. There was no house, no farm. Just a shell of a barn. I was surprised. Two points for Randonautica.
As I explored the building, I noticed there were rusted farm tools inside. I didn’t go in (I didn’t think it was safe and I was alone), but you could see most what was left of the interior. The isolated location and the state of the building did send a shiver down my spine. Three points for Randonautica.
Okay. So, Randonautica won this round. Encouraged, I thought of another intention. I wanted to be specific this time. I wanted to test this thing out. To make it harder for the app, I didn’t speak my intention out loud this time. My second intention was “ice cream.”
The app generated a location that was five minutes up the highway from the burned out barn I was currently parked in front of. By the look of the map on the GPS, I knew it was a Shell gas station. I drove there anyway. 
Sure enough, I parked at the Shell gas station and the GPS said that I had arrived at my destination. I scoffed. I had beaten the game. One point for Liz. Zero for Randonautica. 
As I was patting myself on the back (literally because I’m dumb like that), a thought entered my brain cells. Gas stations sell ice cream. Damn. One point for Randonautica. Zero for Liz.
Spook-O-Meter
👻👻👻👻👻
I don’t know what to make of this app right now. My first exploration took me to a creepy place when I wanted to find something creepy, but the creepier exploration, to me, was the gas station. I never said “ice cream” out loud. I figured the app could be listening and generating locations based on what was said. That would make sense. But I never said it. It didn’t even occur to me that ice cream is sold at gas stations until I arrived at my location. The experience made me sit in my car for a few moments, stupified. 
This may be an ongoing series on this blog. I am more intrigued now than I was when I had heard all the stories surrounding the app. I still have questions; The main one being, “How does it know?” I’m going to dive deep into this. This is my new pet project. I want to figure out how this app works.
If anyone else has used this app and has an experience they would like to share, I would love to hear it. Please post it in the comments below or email me privately at nefariousgoulash@gmail.com. 
There are two main parts to Randonauting: exploring blind-spots, or places nearby that are outside of your conscious awareness, and experimenting with mind-matter interaction, the hypothesis that consciousness can influence the distribution of random numbers. 
Standard