66 Things to Do in Salem, MA (Updated July 2015)

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salem-witch-museum-roger-conant--statue

Because I like lists, and sympathise with the tourist dilemma of “Bollocks! We only have 5 hours to spend here – what do we do first??”, I’ve decided to compile a big fat list of awesome things to do in Salem. Yes, this list could have been shorter, but the number 66 is cool, so shut your face (and click “Continue reading” to read more!):

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Tangerine Nightmare: Favourite Drumpf memes

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Well, you did it, America. You elected an inexperienced populist spouting divisive, hateful rhetoric, a happily-admitting paedophile, a potato sack of farts. And, much like Brexit before it, I’m seeing Facebook posts from people who cannot believe that half their own country could be so stupid, misinformed, wilfully ignorant, foolish suckers to downright lies. I guess that sort of thing is catching.

Some eloquent spark noted that at least some good art will come of this pain. I’d like to think this includes some dank memes.  Here are a few of my favourites so far:

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31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 31: The Stomach (2014)

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It’s it! I did it! The final film of this year’s marathon!

[I’ve a feeling you’ll likely see more horror posts from me before next year]

I cheated again this year – another short! And what a short. Writer-director Ben Steiner‘s The Stomach is equal parts bleak family fable, gritty neo-noir and grisly body horror. Packing two hours’ worth of backstories and interpersonal relationships into just 15 minutes, it’s no surprise that a feature-length is in the works – yet it never feels rushed or overcrowded.

the stomach 2014 horror short

Unlike Frank (Simon Meacock)’s stomach. The poor man, a medium who literally goes with his gut to talk to those in the afterlife, is ready to give up his gift. The work has taken its toll – physically and mentally – but his brother Tom (Ben Bishop) begs him to finish the day’s sessions before they agree to get Frank an operation that will replace his stomach. But back comes Mr. Pope (Peter Marinker), a recent client who’s not pleased with his service…

the stomach 2014 short horror

For such a short film, I genuinely cared about what happened to these characters. It’s a bittersweet fraternal story: the brothers have such chemistry and Frank looks so close to death, it’s hard not to feel for them both. It’s also a tension twofer, between the rough and grimy threat of Mr. Pope and the unpredictable forces of the ghostly beyond. Which, given that the tension starts straightaway, it’s probably a relief that it only lasts a quarter of an hour.

4.4/5

And that’s it for this year’s horror-a-thon. See you next year!

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 30: The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

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Things I learnt from watching The Undertaker and His Pals:

  1. An opening trippy, wavy-visualled montage does not mean you’re getting a surreal film.
  2. Women look incredibly sexy when being knifed. But to avoid tastelessness, just expose their bra (make sure it’s a push-up; they’ll be lying down)
  3. Any victim will scream and shriek with uninterrupted rhythm and pitch when being pinned down and literally having their intestines poked by a number of gloved hands.
  4. Despite spending their day with unengaging corpses, undertakers can be stylish, too.
  5. There’s always a market for gourmet meat but, as always, the younger the better.
  6. Grinding a meat grinder is as easy as flipping a needle on a record.
  7. Beatnik music never gets old.
  8. Motorcyclists make the most durable serial killers because they always wear a helmet.
  9. Male can shriek just as good – if not better – than their female counterparts, if only to cause others to drolly utter the line ‘He made quite a noise.’
  10. T.L.P. Swicegood is a wonderful film director’s name.
  11. Some statues just had it coming.
  12. The humble rooftop plus a serial killer’s apparent dyspraxia can save a Final Girl’s life.
  13. If a movie is bad in most other respects, if the players themselves are having believable, chemistry-ridden fun, then on balance there’s enough enjoyment to have it on in the background of a Hallowe’en party.

3.6/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 29: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in The House (2016)

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i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

What a pretty little bit of visual poetry. Like a visual novel. It’s honestly not what I would have expected, given that, from writer-director Oz Perkins, I’ve only seen a botched version of his script for mediocre slasher The Girl in the Photographs. But this – Netflix’s I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House…is something different entirely.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

Lily (Ruth Wilson) is a live-in nurse caring for an elderly, retired horror novelist Iris (Paula Prentiss). Soon after she moves into the house, she begins to suspect that one of Iris’s most famous stories is based on a real murder that occurred in the house.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s not a slasher. Neither is it a creature feature, psychological thriller or a possession melodrama. It’s a simple, impeccably shot and gracefully acted one-woman show from an always-compelling Wilson. Narrated by her (with a shaky American accent) as the titular pretty thing, the story is a bare-bones peek behind a series of increasingly creepy doors, book-covers and stairwells.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s all very highbrow atmosphere, with a flurry of beautiful frames and crisp, clear audio melancholy, but there isn’t much else. I can see why some have been disappointed; this is Netflix’s first original horror production, and it’s a deliberately muted, skeletal sketch of a ghost story. Given its length and repetitively gothic minimalism, the pace drags; it would have been far more chilling as (even a longer) short film, but it’s a quietly elegant viewing experience if you know what style to expect.

3.6/5

 

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 28: Silence! The Musical (Arts After Hours)

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source: artsafterhours.com

source: artsafterhours.com

How can a musical featuring a song called ‘If I Could Smell Your Cunt’ be so painfully tedious? And from especially an Arts After Hours production, a reliable staple of my last two Hallowe’ens, and yes I am drunk but I am so pissed off that this was such a terrible, awful, no-good disappointment of a Friday night out. And you know what’s worse? The fact that the players had such a pervasive energy that it felt rude not to acknowledge its potential to make a decent show better, if not for a cringe-driven exercise in overly-telegraphed humour that left the performers’ would-be-infectious efforts ring hollow.

Jesus. I’m sorry. But Silence! The Musical was worlds apart from Arts After Hours’ 2013 and 2015 offerings. I felt like I do when I am in a room in which everyone loves Lady Gaga and I do not. 2013’s Evil Dead: The Musical was a masterful homage, spoof and love letter to all things Raimi. 2015’s The Texas Chainsaw Musical was a hand-over-mouth ‘should i laugh at this?’ send-up of Ed Gein’s twisted, romantic leanings, plus sprinklings of its cinematic influencee, Leatherface.

But 2016’s production left I and others I spoke to feeling embarrassingly cheated. It resembled nothing of what I’d expected based on previous productions. The humour was obvious, low-brow fare, and when it wasn’t ‘avoiding’ lazy double entendres by asking fellow characters to refrain from making them, it relied solely on spoofing the film (imagine Scary Movie vs. Spaceballs) without any non-spoof humour to prop it up. The production never had a chance in standing up on its own.

No doubt that the actress who plays Clarice is well-equipped to dazzle on both stage and screen. But she is wasted in a show that demands that she extract her role’s only source of entertainment value from a copycat accent that takes a a Southern drawl and shits on it with an inconsistent speech impediment that gets old after five minutes. Hannibal himself is delightfully deadpan, and a  memorable Buffalo Bill gives it his admirable all, but it’s the background players that had me leak out the odd guffaw. The way they effortlessly turn from intro-singing moths to scurrying FBI agents, or background wanking and Tourette-cursing while Clarice did her best Christian Slater impression had me spitting out my beer. I’d happily watch a retelling from their point of view.

I feel like a dick for being this honest but I’m not that important of a human being, so fuck it for saying I couldn’t wait for it to end. Despite gleefully enjoying my last two Arts After Hours shows, I’d never had unreasonably high hopes for this one. But now I’m cautious as to what my next year will bring.

2/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 27: Cub (2014)

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In my opinion, there can’t be enough movies about sad, bullied children going into the woods when they know they shouldn’t, because there’s a nightmarish legend called Kai stalking the lands.

cub welp 2014

Cub (or Welp) wears its many flaws on its fur. It isn’t an expensive film, nor one made with experienced players (what is it about this year’s horror-a-thon and directorial debuts?), but it’s far better than it looks on paper. Echoing the childhood abuse issues and dark fairytale motifs of Pan’s Labyrinth, this Belgian tale from Jonas Govaerts doesn’t waste any time with the unpleasantries. On a woodland retreat, twelve-year old cub scout Sam (Maurice Luijten) is bullied daily by his fellow scouts, and even his scoutmaster Peter (Stef Aerts). Once the asshole kids cause the group to get lost in the mountains, Sam buggers off and runs into a creepy-looking feral boy he identifies as the urban legend werewolf Kai.

cub welp 2014

Up until that moment, it’s some slow, bleak Lord of the Flies shit, but after this first-act twist, it’s some bleak, disturbing, melancholic shit – including the taboo of killing children without a shred of humour or facetiousness. It’s an engaging story the further it plays out, and I appreciate seeing this kind of fable from a child’s point of view. But the film suffers from dreadful pacing in its first half, awkward tension build-ups, and one or two wooden performances. Despite this, on balance, it’s an enjoyably creepy and atmospheric slasher.

3.6/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 26: Kaboom (2010)

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This is embarrassing, because I genuinely, for some idiotic reason, thought that Gregg Araki was the guy from Heroes. Fucking Greg Gundberg. I’ve seen Nowhere! And I loved it! I so adored how horrifying it was that I patently refuse ever to see it again.

source: imdb.com

source: imdb.com

Kaboom is an attempt at more of the colourfully trashy same, featuring a crowd of young, attractive, laconic hipster college students sexually experimenting with each other with little regard for feelings or consequences. Smith (Thomas Dekker) and Stella (Haley Bennett) start having a series of odd dreams after one-off dates with people with red hair or who are called Thor. The story is mostly vignettes of how pretentiously tedious their romantic encounters can get, before there’s some climax with a trio of masked weirdos who may or may not be witches.

I stuck with this one on Shudder because the two mains are genuinely compelling with some fantastic chemistry, but it’s more of a prettily-shot dark comedy with sci-fi elements than any kind of horror.Honestly, the supernatural element feels like an afterthought, and it’s a bit insulting. Shame on you, Shudder.

1.7/5