TV Review: The Exorcist

The-Exorcist-FOX-TV-seriesCreator Jeremy Slater took on a behemoth by attempting to adapt the acclaimed horror film “The Exorcist” for the small, non-premium channel screen. The presentation keeps true to the inspiration of William Peter Blattey’s 1971 book, setting the story forty years after the movie’s events and moving the action to a crime-ridden Chicago.

Everyone seemed to love Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera). The parishioners at his church, although not wealthy, enjoyed his services. Higher church officials pointed to his charisma as a vehicle for his advancement within the faith. Indeed, all seemed to go well for the young man, yet he felt directionless and questioned his decisions. Worse, recurring nightmares placed him in a Mexican home with an unfamiliar Roman Catholic Priest who performed a tragic exorcism. One afternoon, parishioner Angela Rance (Geena Davis) begged Father Tomas for help with her daughter. Although she assured him of her sanity, she feared the girl was possessed by a demon.

“Every Soul is a battlefield.” So claims the series’ promotional tagline. However, demonic possession is just the beginning of the plot devices employed in “The Exorcist, the Series.” Combining elements of the original movie, aspects of “Rosemary’s Baby,” and a bit of a buddy-cop-type dynamic, the series presents interesting FX, good acting, and tense, dark cinematography in its ten episodes. Twists keep the plot from too much predictability as the narrative explores human fallibility and demonic incomprehension of love.

Through helping the Rance Family, including its brain-injured patriarch Henry (Alan Ruck) and daughters Casey (Hannah Kasulka) and convalescing ballerina Kat (Brianne Howey), Father Tomas encounters and works with the priest from his dream, the fierce exorcist-on-leave Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels). Father Marcus plays loose with the papal rules, which earns him a talking to by Father Bennet (Kurt Egyiawan), who is also a true bad butt and champion of the papacy, and an ex-communication.

The Fathers discover subversion and plots within the church and “stand in the doorway” to push back the oncoming darkness not only for the Rance family, but also for greater Chicago and the world. Occult scholars, a cloister of nuns, and a surprise visit from a believed-dead grandmother provide assistance, and the Rance family realizes to face subversion and evil, they needed to help each other.

The series is nominated for awards by ihorror, Fanforia, ASCA, and People’s Choice. At this date, Fox has not signed for a second season. However, in an interview with Dominic Patten from Deadline.com, the series creator Jeremy Slater explained, “…we’ve created a big and exciting world with a mythology that we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of…”

Fundraising for “A Place Among the Undead”

place among the undead

Actress Juliet Landau (Drusilla of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”) started a project with real teeth. Her Indiegogo campaign aims to make film history by producing a definitive vampire docu-series featuring narrative films directed and produced by Landau.

Landau ‘s project has garnered some superb celebrity attention and backing. Joss Whedon and Tim Burton both directed the actress in past projects, and they throw their support toward the exploration of the undead. Authors Anne Rice (“Interview With a Vampire” series) and Charlaine Harris (“The Southern Vampire” series which inspired “True Blood”) lend their expertise along with actors Gary Oldman (“Dracula”), William Defoe (“Shadow of the Vampire”), Ron Perlman (“Blade II” and “Cronos”), Nathan Fillion (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Dracula 2000”), Lance Henrikson (“Near Dark”) and director David Slade (“Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “30 Days of Night”).

The series hopes to explore mankind’s underlying need for vampires and how they metaphorically represent aspects of ourselves. Themes such as loss, death, violence, addiction, sex, obsession, ostracism, and the dark side of man’s natures will be examined during the six proposed episodes.

Originally, Landau hoped “A Place Among the Undead” would produce a feature film, but enthusiasm for the project caused her to expand it to its current planned six-part anthological docu-series. Thus far, the Indiegogo campaign (http://igg.me/attheundead) has raised $165,741 USD to date, but every project could use an influx of fresh blood. Intriguing premiums from t-shirts, original art by Kyle Shold, and voice messages by Ms. Landau herself are available for modest to extravagant contributions.

Follow https://twitter.com/julietlandau or www.facebook.com/Juliet-Landau-official for more information and updates on “A Place Among the Undead.”

 

TV Review: Santa Clarita Diet Season One

santa clarita dietSuburbanite Sheila Hammond (Drew Barrymore) finds herself confused. A recent upset stomach culminated in a lot of vomit when she and her likewise realtor husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) showed a house to an interested couple. In fact, Sheila may have vomited up an organ. Before this remarkable illness, Sheila and Joel Hammond, though very much in love, found their lives had fallen into a bit of a rut, After her seeming brush with death, though, Sheila’s outlook changes. Although she no longer possesses a discernible heartbeat, she finds her energy doubled and her passion for life exuberant. Her previously type A personality yielded to an unexpected indulgence of Id. However, she must make some changes to her diet.

As with many television series, the first episode drags a bit while setting up the mythology. However, as the characters embrace their altered existences and tackle the problems inherent with Sheila’s newly undead state while maintaining a semblance of normalcy, the action picks up. Their teenaged daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) acts out in reaction to the changes in her homelife, and the aid of Libby’s intelligent and charming classmate and neighbor, Eric Bemis (Skylar Gisondo) helps the Hammond family make sense of their situation.

The mythology toys with zombie culture, but instead of resulting in a mindless eating machine, Sheila and the undead in “The Santa Clarita Diet” maintain their intellects. Becoming an animated corpse frees their libidos. They pursue dreams. Much like the DC Comic turned CW television series iZombie, wherein lead character Liv Moore (Rose McGowan) claims a zeal for life previously denied while still alive, Sheila maintains something of a moral compass, choosing her victims when not overtaken by a blinding desire to eat human flesh. She cares for her family and worries over her realty business.

Although often profane, the series merges wit and quirky characters in improbable circumstances. Victor Fresco wrote the ten episode first season of the American paranormal comedy for Netflix. Although Netflix has not announced a second season, the first season ended with a cliffhanger.

Birthday of the Zombie Master!

romero

Born in the Bronx, New York, on 4 February, 1940, George A. Romero began his film-making career with his 8mm at the age of 14. He studied at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University and filmed a tonsillectomy segment for “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” before founding “Image Ten Productions” with nine of his friends. His most famous film, the black-and-white “Night of the Living Dead” ripped onto the American social conscience in 1968, changing the definition of zombie forever. (Hitherto, Hollywood presented zombies as people under the thrall of a powerful sorcerer. Romero’s zombies hungered for brains.)

This writer, director, editor, cinematographer, and actor has been involved in over twenty film projects, including “Dead” sequels, “Martin,” and “Knight Rider.” He collaborated with Stephen King on 1982’s “Creepshow,” 1988’s “Monkey Shines,” and “1993’s “The Dark Half,” and his flair for the macabre proved an invaluable asset on the set of television’s “Tales from the Darkside” from the mid 1980’s. He’s even acted. For example, he served as one of Hannibal Lecter’s jailers in “The Silence of the Lambs.” He authored and co-authored several books, spearheaded DC Comic’s “Toe Tags” and Marvel’s “Empire of the Dead,” and stars as himself in video games.

His works often contain a frequent metaphoric commentary including consumerism and the collapse of the family unit. This sneaky social conscience and skill in film making is acknowledged in the influence other filmmakers such as Tarantino and his friend fx masterTom Savini report. He was awarded the “Mastermind” award by Spike TV in 2009.

To celebrate his birthday, @Syfy is streaming 12 hours of #livingdeadmarathon on Facebook live.

 

Happy Birthday Edgar Allan Poe!

edgar-allan-poe-portraitOnce upon a January dreary, while she labored, weak and weary, there came a gentle cry into the chill Boston air…

Born the second son of actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe, Jr. in 1809, Edgar Poe became an orphan by the time he was two when his father abandoned the family and his mother died. John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia took him in and kept him until he grew to adulthood. Although they never formally adopted Edgar, they gave him the name “Edgar Allan Poe” and had him baptized in the Episcopal Church. During Poe’s formative years, the family travelled to Scotland and England. Upon his return to the United States, he served as a lieutenant of the Richmond Youth Honor Guard when the Marquis de Lafayette visited. Poe attended the University of Virginia for one semester, majoring in ancient and modern languages, but left when he couldn’t pay for higher education. Using an alias, “Edgar A. Perry,” and lying about his age, Poe enlisted in the Army in 1827 and published a collection of poetry “Tamerlane and Other Poems” as an anonymous “Bostonian.” He obtained the highest rank for a non-commissioned officer, but he ended his enlistment early.

After his foster mother died, Poe moved in with his Baltimore relatives, the Clemm’s, published a second book, “Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems,” and entered West Point. His relationship with his foster father deteriorated, and Poe was disowned. He was court martialed in 1831 and pursued the life of a poet and writer. Fellow West Point Cadets helped finance his third book titled “Poems,” which was printed by Elam Bliss of New York. He placed prose in journals and won a prize for his short story “MS Found in a Bottle.”

27-year-old Poe married his 14-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm on 16 May, 1836. She died of tuberculosis in 1847, two years after the publication of his famous poem “The Raven.” Alcoholism plagued the Poe family. Edgar’s elder brother died because of alcohol in the early 1830’s, and Edgar himself lost positions due to drunkenness. He hoped to edit and produce a literary journal, but he died of unknown caused on 7 October, 1849 before he published.

Despite detractors such as Griswold and Huxley, Edgar Allan Poe left a legacy of writing, much of it gothic. Poe is credited with penning the first detective stories. To this day, Edgar Allan Poe’s iconic works influence popular culture in the United States and beyond. Several of his residences are preserved as museums, and The Mystery Writers of America present The Edgar, an annual award for distinguished writing established in his honor.

Halloween Forevermore remembers this amazing writer on his birthday.

“And so, being young and dipped in folly, I fell in love with melancholy.” Edgar Allan Poe

 

Witchcrafts: Pumpkin Spice Balm and Candles

wc2Autumn brings all things Pumpkin Spice. It is an obsession for many here in the United States, this pumpkin and the heady warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove. To add to the mania, I present this DIY recipe for homemade Pumpkin Spice Lip Balm. The pumpkin gives it a natural tint, and the spices add the necessary seasonal scent. What better way to keep lips kissable during shortening days swirling with gem-bright leaves and haunting nights?

 

Ingredients:

 

2 Tablespoons of bees wax pellets

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

Optional: 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil

½ teaspoon fine ground pumpkin spice

¾ teaspoon pumpkin puree

 

wc3Set a small pyrex container in a pot filled with 2-3 cups of water. Melt bees wax and coconut oil in this “double boiler.” Once melted, add vitamin E if desired. Stir in pumpkin puree and spices until evenly dispersed. Carefully pour mixture into small lip balm containers or cleaned and used EOS container.

 

The final product is nourishing, tastes yummy, and smells divine.

My son and I recycled some cardboard tubes (from T.P. and paper towels) and bought inexpensive battery operated tea lights to create safe and striking candles. To create them, we hot-glued the tea lights to the top of the tube, “flame” side up. I allowed the hot glue to drip over the outside of the cardboard tube, giving the appearance of melted wax.

The color of your tempera paint and coordinating glitter can be dictated by your decorating theme. My son used black tempera paint to cover the entire tube, the dried hot glue, and the plastic cap of the tea light, avoiding the actual flame. While the paint was still wet, he sprinkled it with black glitter to give that additionally magical look.

The only drawback to this project is the tea light is secured at the top of the tube, which makes turning the candles off and on a bit of a challenge. To do so, we used a barbeque skewer to flip the switch since our hands wouldn’t fit inside the tube.

Arranged together, the faux candles make a striking display.

Witchcrafts: Ghost Foot Prints

gfpFor my annual pumpkin carving party, I needed a super-fast and fun Halloween craft. I bought some 5” X 7” black archival board, dipped the bottom of my kid-guests’ feet in white paint, careful to be certain to coat their toes, and pressed the paper to the black paper. I then had the kids press their thumbs into black paint and press their thumbprint to the center of their heels to make an ominously open mouth. Two index fingers placed above the thumbprints became eyes. I allowed the pages to dry and then placed them in inexpensive frames as party favors. The kids’ parents loved the resultant artwork as much as I enjoyed helping the kids make them.

 

To make:

 

  1. Brush white paint over cute little feet.

  2. Press wet painted foot to dark colored, acid-free matting, board, or paper.

  3. Wipe off the little feet. (They often want to run about, after all, and unless you relish some ghostly footie prints on your carpeting, it is best to attend to this step as soon as an acceptable print is acquired.)

  4. Set aside and allow to dry. (If you did not use much paint, this step will not take long.)

  5. Once footprint is dried, press the little haunter’s thumb into black paint to make a nose. Use the index finger to make eyes.

  6. Allow to dry.

  7. Don’t forget to sign and date the print, either front or back as you prefer.

  8. Frame and add to your Halloween decorating.

Happy haunting!

Movie Review: Young Frankenstein (1974)

young-frankenstein-1Our local Cinemark offered a big-screen viewing of 1974’s comedic horror classic “Young Frankenstein” featuring an introduction with the still-amusing and surprisingly spry Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks took viewers on a tour of the movie studio’s back lot, showing sights such as the brain depository door, complete with brain-in-slot and a fabulous mural of the film. He shared the origin of the story, which was star Gene Wilder’s idea. Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks co-wrote the script. Mr. Brooks pitched a gorgeous coffee-table book with glossy photos from the filming of “Young Frankenstein,” suggesting those who purchase a copy not actually drink their coffee atop the book itself.

 

Fox distributed the movie which filled the screen with black and white delight, introducing Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a scientific-minded neuroscientist and professor who, though the grandson of the famous Victor Frankenstein, disavowed any interest in his infamous ancestor’s work. He changed the pronunciation of his name to further distance himself from any unpleasant association with this “cuckoo” relation. When Frederick Frankenstein discovers he inherited the ancestral property in Transylvania, his life changes. He leaves his professorship and socialite fiance, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) for the long journey to his ancestral homeland.

young-frankenstein-2There he meets Igor, brilliantly portrayed by the incomparable Marty Feldman, who consistently broke the “third wall” to address the audience directly in characteristic Brooks-style. Igor, complete with moving hump and lazy ways, offers his services, just as Igor’s relative acted as Victor Frankenstein’s lab assistant. Cloris Leachman plays the stern Frau Blucker whose very name inspires horses to scream. She harbors a secret love for the deceased Doctor and desires the successful completion of his life’s work. Teri Garr plays Inga, an enthusiastic lab assistant and eventual love interest. A haunting melody and a read through Victor’s private book “How I Did It” (featuring paraphrased excerpt from Mary Shelley’s famous work about the modern Prometheus) lead Victor and Igor to grave robbery, a trip to the brain depository, and a dusting off of the old laboratory. Peter Boyle played the hulking, reanimated monster who befriends a flower-picking little girl and a blind man (Gene Hackman).

 

Suspecting nefarious happenings and monster-making, the villagers, led by Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), rise up with flames, chains, and pitchforks. Unaware of the complications, Elizabeth stops by for a platonic visit with her fiance, but she falls victim to the monster’s amorous attentions. Chases, a little soft shoe, the “sweet mystery of life,” and a brain-swap later, and the movie concludes with a happy wrap-up.

 

young-frankenstein-3Brooks rented and used props from the original 1931 Frankenstein movie from Kenneth Strickfaden for $5. In previous Frankenstein productions, Mr. Strickfaden’s set contributions were not acknowledged, and Mel Brooks made certain to mention him in the credits. Sentimental nods to the old movies pepper the scenes. Brooks used nostalgic opening credits, musical scores by John Morris, and fading transitions. He insisted the movie be filmed in black and white, losing a deal with Columbia by this insistence. He hired Gerald Hirschfeld, relying on Hirschfeld’s artistic expertise, and for love of the production, the cast worked for scale wages. Although Mel Brooks did not act in the movie, he did provide “voice” for a werewolf, Victor Frankenstein, and a shrieking cat.

 

“Young Frankenstein” was a critical and box office success. It garnered awards and award nominations as well as acclaim. The lasting appeal of this film allow it to appear on such lists as “Total Film Magazine’s” List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time, Bravo TV’s List of the 100 Funniest Movies, and The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies. The US National Film Preservation Board selected it for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2003.

 

Mel Brooks adapted the story for stage. Its run on Broadway from November, 2007 until January 2009 earned Tony and Emmy Award nominations.

During his conversation about the film, Mel Brooks admitted it was the finest of the films he wrote and directed. Gene Wilder said it was the favorite movie he created.

TV Review: Scream Queens Season One

scream-queensSeason 1 of Fox’s dark comedy series premiered on 22 September, 2015, the brain child of creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan. With an avant-garde approach to social commentary, they create the worst possible stereotype of an elitist sorority headed by the quintessential “mean girl,” Chanel Oberlin (portrayed with an articulate poise by Emma Roberts.)
When the new dean of Wallace University, Cathy Munsch (acted by a true scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis), threatens to close the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority unless they open their house to all interested pledges, a number of “undesirables” flood into the halls of the anorexic and shallow. Grace Gardner (Sklyer Samuels) pledges, hoping to learn more about her departed mother who love her time as a Kappa. Zayday Williams (Keke Palmer) tags along with sass enough to temper Grace’s naivety.
A killer, donning the school’s Red Devil mascot uniform, enjoys a killing spree, and the main targets are those in the Kappa Kappa Tau house. Trying to keep the body count down and the press quiet, Dean Munsch hires security guard Denise Hempfield (Niecy Nash), and the Kappas host a national representative of the sorority, Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad.) One of the pledges reveals an unnatural attraction for death and dying, another a love for candles, and a third an obsession with Taylor Swift.
As the body count rises, the mystery deepens.
Existent members of Kappa Kappa Tau (KKT) are all called Chanel, since getting to know their real names proved unnecessary to its president. Chanel number 2 is portrayed by the ever-vapid Arianna Grande, #3 by Billie Lourd (who makes earmuffs an integral fashion statement), and #4’s death bore nothing more than a mention in the pilot episode. Abigail Breslin portrays Chanel #5 who can’t chose between twin lovers. Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), one of the Dicky Dollar Scholars, dates Chanel, but finds fidelity difficult. His friend Boone (Nick Jonas) dislikes the hold Chanel has over his friend.
Everyone in the cast is a murder suspect. Twenty years earlier, one of the KKT sorority sisters died after unexpectedly giving birth during a campus party. Any of the co-eds on campus could be the child and perhaps the murder. The Dean has a storied past, Grace’s father has an unhealthy obsession, and the even the cleaning lady has motive. Dead bodies disappear. The murder mystery advances as red herrings and clues vie with a death-per-episode. The Red Devil employs ingenious ways to achieve its ends. Who knew a lawn mower could be so deadly, for example.
Scream Queens is not frightening, except to think such stereotypically awful, self-absorbed elitists might exist. The language and adult references are over-the-top, prompting a Rotten Tomatoes Reviewer to write that the show is “too tasteless for mainstream viewers and too silly for horror enthusiasts…” However, for film enthusiasts, picking up the nods to past films is interesting. Jamie Lee Curtis studied her mother’s iconic Psycho role for one of the episodes, capturing nuances of the famous shower scene.
With dark, sniping social commentary, Scream Queens explores the cruelty young people visit upon each other, the prejudices of the elite, and obsession with image, youth, and money. In one scene, a sorority sister exchanges “words” with her killer while he threatens her in her own room. She takes a moment out to update her social media status during the murder.
The show won a Critic’s Choice TV Award for most exciting new series, a People’s Choice for favorite new TV comedy, and won an award for its excellence with hairstyling and makeup. Several of the cast earned nominations for awards as well.
Season 2 of Scream Queens is scheduled to premiere on Fox on Tuesday, 20 September, 2016. The new season is to move the action from the New Orleans college campus to a hospital setting in LA. The producers promise three Halloween episodes, more deaths, and a new mystery.

Autumn Sangria

autumn-sangriaAutumn is a time of change, so I suggest we switch up our Sangria, dress it with the proper spices and make it ready for the fall.

This simple recipe produces delicious and attractive results.

Ingredients:
2 peeled and chopped pears
4 peeled and chopped apples
Jim Beam’s Fire Whisky (about 2 ½ cups)
Burnett’s Pumpkin Spice Vodka (about ½ cup)
½ quart apple cider
bottle Pinot Grigio
cinnamon sticks

To make a sangria suitable for an autumnal gathering, begin by cleaning, peeling, and dicing fruit of the season. I used Bosc pears and a mix of Gala and Granny Smith apples. Place the fruit in a bowl and cover them with Cinnamon whisky and Pumpkin spice vodka. I went heavier on the cinnamon because I like Jim Beam’s spicy bite. However, adjust the proportions to suit your taste. Float a few cinnamon sticks atop. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When preparing the drink for consumption, pour the drunken fruit into an appropriate container. (I used my crystal punch bowl.) Add ½ a quart of apple cider and 1 bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio. Turning Leaf caught my attention with its pretty label, appropriate name, and inexpensive pricetag. Give the mix a gentle stir. When serving, be sure to add a scoop of the fruit to float atop the wine glass. (The fruit was my sister Heather’s favorite part of the drink!)
Cheers, and happy haunting!