Women in Horror Month: Let’s Play A Game

How are you enjoying ‘Women in Horror Month’ so far? And are you enjoying the daily challenges? I’m loving hearing about people’s favourite movies, books, actresses, characters and more. As always, I have a growing list of assorted media I need to plough through and I’m excited about being terrified by all your recommendations.

Today’s theme is ‘Let’s Play A Game’ and it’s definitely something I need your help with. I’ve never been a gamer as such and the scariest game I play is ‘Plants vs Zombies‘. If I’m honest, I was never into video games growing up and the few I’ve attempted, I’ve not been brilliant at (I generally get stuck in a corner and can’t get out or I get frustrated at slow gameplay and give up).

For those who don’t know, it’s a simple strategy game that’s free to download. You have to grow plants which have special abilities (‘pea shooter’ which shoots peas, dragon fruits which breath fire etc.) in order to defend your house against assorted zombies. I like the strategy aspect to it, plus it’s not too scary to play first thing in the morning.

However, I feel I should expand my horizons and want to know what games you’re all playing? Let me know in the comments below about the scary first player action games, strategy games or more that you’re playing and why you love them.

Movie review: Mythica series (2014-2016

Synopsis: The adventures of necromancer Marek and her band as they battle to save the world from darkness.

Director: Anne K Black (first two movies) then A Todd Smith (Necromancer), and John Lyde (Iron Crown and Godslayer)

Starring: Melanie Stone, Jake Stormoen, Adam Johnson and Nicola Posener

Review: I said at the beginning of ‘Women in Horror Month‘ that I was going to include science fiction and fantasy because, well it’s my daily challenge and I love all genre movies, books etc. Plus I find that many horror movies including elements of fantasy or science fiction.

One of the things I love about the assorted streaming services is you have access to loads of different movies and TV shows, many independently made which wouldn’t necessarily have wide exposure. There’s a downside in that there is a lot of tripe on there, but as you’ll know if you read my over-excited review of ‘Ink‘ I love discovering a good, independently made movie.

The Mythica series was funded through a Kickstarter fund, which is very impressive. It follows a standard ‘D&D’ idea where a group comprising of a Wizard, Thief, Healer and Warrior must go on a quest, in this instance to collect the shards of ‘Darkspore’ to avoid the end of the world. I’m not going to lie, there’s little originality in the idea and the inspirations behind it, including Lord of the Rings, are obvious.

Don’t let that it’s an independent movie, D&D  movie put you off. Whilst the concept may not be unique, the production is. Given this is a Kickstarter project, the passion the team has is obvious, from the costumes to the score, it’s made with care. As seen with other franchises who have changed director after the first movie, the series is a little uneven and turns strangely steampunk under Lyde’s guidance whilst Smith was a little lighter in tone. However, we’re discussing female directors and in this respect, Black proves competent and with a good eye for making the most of a restrained budget in the first two films. Having viewed the full series, I’d say the first two movies are my favourite, both for the story and direction. Black knows when to go for a tight shot and when to showcase the scenery. The editing is good and I liked the music. There are obvious budget constraints which mean some of the CGI isn’t great but it’s not used to excess, and I did prefer the use of costumes and prosthetics but that is a personal preference and didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect set of movies. Other reviewers have commented on the uneven acting and certainly, some are weaker than others. As I mentioned above, the different directors bring their own styles, some of which aren’t my personal favourites but that didn’t make the films unwatchable for me. I also found some of the story-telling a little muddled, specifically the relationship between Merek and Teela which didn’t ring true for me. I disliked the distrust and enmity that they held for each other which was never fully explained.

I didn’t fall instantly in love as I did with ‘Ink’, but I enjoyed the premise and I will return to the world of Mythica to give it a rewatch.

The movies are: Mythica: A Quest for Heroes, Mythica: The Darkspore, Mythica: The Necromancer, Mythica: The Iron Crown and finally Mythica: The Godslayer, an extraordinary feat in two years. You can find out more on the Mythica Website.

Bit of fan-girl trivia, keep an eye out for ‘Hodor’ from Game of Thrones in the last movie.  Oh, and Kevin Sorbo from, well, just look at his IMDB profile and you’ll see at least one of your favourite shows that he’s been in.

Movie review: Valentine (2001)

Valentine 2001

Synopsis: A group of school friends find themselves hunted by a Valentine-sending, masked killer.

Director: Bruce McDonald

Starring: David Boreanez, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton

Review: I originally watched this as a huge fan of Boreanez (I was massively into Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time). It was part of a glut of similar movies (including Urban Legend, the ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer series, and Scream to name a few) starring semi-well-know actors who were all murdered in various ways by mysterious killers.

The premise is much the same for all these movies: a group of friends has a shared history, during which they caused harm to someone, in this instance the group of girls were rude to a young boy ‘Jeremy Melton’, who comes back years later to exact his revenge.

There’s little to make this movie stand out (unless you’re a fan of Boreanez). The performances are fairly standard, with Richards playing the over-sexed vixen she seems to have been type-cast as, Broeanez playing it pretty similar to his Angel character and Shelton seeming to be permanently annoyed (possibly for agreeing to do this movie). None of the characters are particularly nice, especially the assorted males who hit on the girls – they’re overtly lechy, rude and unprofessional that it’s unbelievable and you sort of wish the killer would do us all a favour and ‘off’ them so save us their performances. As for the girl, it’s hard to see why their friendship as survived, as aside from attending parties together, they don’t have any camaraderie, so really it’s just a matter of waiting to see what way they’ll be murdered. Valentine is sadly not a gift for your loved one, but like a bad date, once it’s over, you never need to see it again.

Women in Horror Month: Terrifying Treats

It’s Pancake Day! I LOVE pancakes and we don’t have them just once a year here in Casa CH. Hubby and I don’t disagree on much, but the best type of pancake is something about which we can’t agree. I prefer the thinner crepe style, whereas hubby likes the fluffy American stacks. We’ve agreed to disagree given that any pancake is a yummy pancake.

I used a cookie cutter to create feet, then added strawberry ‘claws’

This year I wanted to do something in combination with Women In Horror Month so I tried to create shapes from the pancake batter, then use fruit for some added details. Not going to lie, I did use a cookie cutter for some shapes and tried to be creative, with mixed results. Luckily the toddler enjoyed them all and wasn’t too scared of her food!

Not too sure what this monster is with tentacles and large banana teeth

Pancakes are pretty simple to make and I like this recipe for crepes from the BBC Good Food site.

Make It Monday: Galentine’s Day Cards

Have any of you ever watched ‘Parks and Recreation’? There are a lot of things I love about this show but mostly The depiction of female friendships. Yes, Leslie Knoppe, played by the stunning Amy Poehler, is insanely positive but the support and kindness she shows her girlfriends is more reflective of the relationships I have with my dearest friends than that shown in other TV shows. One thing I really loved in Parks and Rec was the episode where Knoppe and her girlfriends celebrate ‘Galentine’s Day’, a day to celebrate the love you have for your friends just before you celebrate the love you have for your Valentine.

Poehler, along with her friend Meridith Walker, started a foundation ‘Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls’ and there are loads of fun experiments and things to do on there (the Lamb and I recently did the ‘geodes in an eggshell’ experiment but more on that another day) as well as loads of Galentine’s Day cards.

I’m blessed to have some fantastic friends who have supported me through the good & bad. For some, I wanted to create something a little elegant, so bought some laser cut flowers and birds which I coloured using gel pens. I then pulled out my calligraphy pens and attempted to whip my normally atrocious handwriting into something respectable. They turned out quite well I think and certainly, the girls all loved them.

However, I had some very geeky friends for whom birds and flowers just won’t cut it so I created some more tongue-in-cheek cards, more in keeping with the ideas of ‘Women in Horror Month‘.

I’ve always loved witches, as you can see in my Witch Wednesday post and truly believe that god friends create magic when they’re together. We have the ability to build each other up, and in doing so empower ourselves and others. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.  I was pleased with how the hat on this card turned up and will attempt this calligraphy style again.

I felt I needed a ‘Frankenstein‘ style card to honour Mary Shelley, but obviously with a Galentine’s twist. I didn’t want to use ‘Frankenstein’s monster so even though Shelley didn’t write the ‘Bride‘ character, I hope she would forgive me for using her here. I’ve also been working to create a little ‘girl’ character I can transfer to a few other projects and so was really pleased with how Frankenstein’s Bride turned out. I’m sure she’ll be making an appearance on assorted other creations of mine.

This was a really fun card to make. So many of my friends support my creative endeavours:  through sharing my work, buying it, leaving reviews, or even just telling me its good on those days I ‘wobble’ and question my skills. I’ve long been a fan of ‘Red Sonja‘ and have had a number of conversations about the impracticality of her ‘armour’ so knew I had to feature it. I have a number of friends who LARP so I’m sure they’ll appreciate this card.

Did you send any Galentine’s Day cards? How did you celebrate? Let me know in the comments below.

Reborn

How are you all enjoying ‘Women in Horror Month’? I am really enjoying celebrating women writers, directors and more, as well as having my socks scared off daily!  As part of my daily challenge, here is my ghostly short story ‘Reborn’.

Reborn

He tried his best to contain his excitement as the small bundle was pushed into the cave, but the little squeal that started deep in his stomach burst past what passed for his lips, alerting the others. Soon, seven little ghosts were looking at the dozing baby, wrapped in thick woollen blankets to stave off the chill of the cave.

‘A baby,’ whispered one of the ghosts, slowing stretching one of her rainbow coloured tentacles towards it. She screeched as the stinger of one of her companions penetrated the tentacle. The rainbow colours rapidly dulled to black and it hung uselessly against her gelatinous body.

‘Don’t touch that child,’ her attacker warned. He was shaped like a foot, with three large toes, each with a sharp stinger on the end.

A third ghost moved between them, his two frilled antennae gently separating Rainbow and Toes. The antennae were attached to a spherical, clear body in which bobbed an ever watchful eye. The Watcher spun his antennae gracefully upwards, mindful not to touch the dripping walls of the cave.

‘Now, we must not disturb the child until the decision is made.’ His eye spun and one of his antennae whipped out at one of the ghosts who dared get too close to the child.

A bell-shaped ghost edged towards the group. He rippled as he spoke, the oily surface of his skin reflecting what little light penetrated the cave, ‘But which of us is it to be?’

Rainbow swatted the Watcher’s antennae away and drifted closer to the child, the others ready to pounce on her if she touched the pink, warm skin. ‘It should be me. My son needs me,’ she said, her voice breaking a little.

Bellringer pulsed as he laughed, ‘Your son’s been dead for generations, you stupid witch. Your pathetic attempts at magic were no more effective than that fools attempt to kill a god.’

The antennae folded around the Watcher. ‘I would have killed him, had I have had more men,’ he huffed.

A worm-shaped ghost with a spotted crest inched closer. ‘Your army was washed away by the same god you were trying to kill.’ Her crest quivered as she giggled.

‘His plan was no more ludicrous than taking a life just so you can keep your bath filled,’ a small, furry ghost muttered.

The Worm writhed angrily. ‘You mock me? I was trying to keep my youth. You were taking body parts to try to rebuild your deceased mother. That’s ludicrous,’ she shrilled.

The ghosts froze as the walls of the cave shifted, dislodging stones, dust and salt residue that the dripping water left behind. Several of the ghosts cried out as the salt hit them, causing their skin to sizzle and peel.

‘Be quiet,’ hissed a diamond-shaped ghost, the small spikes which covered his body clicking in agitation. ‘Any more loud noises will kill us all.’

The ghosts watched in silence as the dust slowly floated down, each all too aware of the nature of their prison. Only when the constant dripping of the water from the walls had resumed and the last particles of dust had hit the floor did they dare to speak.

‘The child is mine,’ proclaimed the Watcher, ‘I have had time to realise my mistakes and will not make them again.’

‘Which mistake is that? Attempting to kill a water god by stabbing the water?’ mocked Bellringer.

The Watcher snorted. ‘No. I need more men. Then, I’ll kill the water gods.’

Toes flexed his toes and flicked out his stingers. ‘Pah! You talk of killing a god. I plan to resurrect one! I was one kill away from my thirteenth and then my dark lord would have arisen from his fiery pit.’

‘It should be me,’ said the Worm. ‘I meant no harm, merely to bring beauty to the world. My beauty.’ Her crest rippled, the spots reflecting the dull light.

The hairs on Fuzzball bristled. ‘No! I should go. Mother needs me,’ he whined. The Watcher slapped Fuzzball with one of his antennae, sending him spinning dangerously close to the salt-covered walls. Fuzzball hissed in anger but dared not move closer to the group.

‘I had ‘em running scared, those filthy whores. Let me go back so I can finish the job. I can still remember the feeling as my knife gutted ‘em. Gotta cleanse the streets. Vermin they are, running around spreading disease every time they spread their legs. I’ll slice ‘em up real pretty with my knife.’

‘Please, you don’t understand. My son is at war and I need to keep him safe. If I continue making the sacrifices, he comes home to me,’ begged Rainbow.

The ghosts huddled together, arguing. Their movements causing a blur of colours until it was difficult to discern one from the other.

A short, sharp whistle brought them all to a stop and they turned to see Diamond-spike floating near the dripping wall.

‘You pathetic creatures. You argue and fight for the right to be reborn, for your petty beliefs or desires. You all want a chance to return and continue doing whatever ridiculous thing it was that got you sent here. But me? I was born evil they said, never had a chance to go topside.’

‘You mean, you’ve never….’ Rainbow trailed off.

‘If you’ve never been up there, then what right do you have to claim the child?’ demanded Toes.

Diamond-Spike spun lazily, his spikes grazing the wall but he didn’t flinch as the salt burned his skin. A slash of a grin appeared on one side of his body. ‘I seen a lot of your types come and go. All have their reasons for killing, for pleasure, for pain, their gods to serve or sacrifice. Some got ideas about purifying their race, others about keeping loved ones alive. But me?’ Diamond-Spike let the question hang in the air between him and the other ghosts. The others drew closer to him, eager to know his reasons for being sent to the cave. Diamond-Spike’s grin grew larger.

‘But me?’ he repeated, ‘I got a plan.’

He spun, flinging the droplets of salty water which had accumulated on his spikes at the other ghosts. They all howled and screamed as their bodies began to smoke.

Diamond-Spike floated down to the baby who had begun to stir with all the noise. The child gazed at the tiny speck which bobbed in front of its eyes. However, it let out a scream as Diamond-Spike forced himself inside its nose. The child thrashed its chubby arms around as a small droplet of blood dribbled from its nose and across its face. As quickly as it had started crying, it stopped, its blue eyes turning to black with tiny blood-red flecks. A thin grin spread across the baby’s face and it disappeared leaving the other ghosts in complete darkness.

 

If you enjoyed this short story, check out to my other free fiction. Feel free to add links to your short stories below or on my Facebook page.

Movie Review: The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook movie poster 2014

Synopsis: A widow and her son battle with an evil entity in their home. Don’t invite in the Babadook!

Director: Jennifer Kent

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman

Review: I first watched the Babadook when my daughter was first born and I remember being terrified. I couldn’t watch it all in one sitting and had to watch the rest during the day whilst the baby slept as I was too scared to watch it at night.

So, I wondered how I would feel, watching it nearly four years later with the benefit of dealing with my own little bundle of trouble (although thankfully no Babadook!).

Well, I was still terrified! In many respects, my situation is completely opposite to that of Davis’ character but I have a definite feel for the exhaustion felt by a mother when you’ve got a child who hasn’t slept for an extended period, coupled with the demands of a job, keeping house and all the other pressures both external and internal.

Davis has rightly been lauded as she gives a fantastically nuanced performance of an exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed single mother caring for a troubled child whilat also grieving for her husband. Her character is trying to manage so many things without support from her family, no real friends and a child with very specific needs. Her son, played by Wiseman also deserves huge praise for excelling is a very challenging role. I’m always impressed with child actors who are able to display a maturity in their performance well beyond their years and should he continue to follow an acting path, then I expect we’ll see more stellor performances from him.

However, the kudos belongs to writer and director Kent.  This project was born from a 10minute short caleed ‘Monster‘ she wrote and directed. Nearly ten years later the story was still nagging at her and she expanded it to create ‘The Babadook’. Kent’s other credits include directing an episode of a TV show, acting and producing. She truly has a rounded knowledge of the industry and this is evident with the slick delivery of ‘The Babadook’.

From the first instant, the movie has you on edge and it doesn’t release you until the final few scenes. Kent’s use of different colours to signify moods works well, with the bright sunlight of time spent outside in contrast to the blues and greys of their home. This lighting lends itself well to the scary scenes which are light enough to see the action, unlike some horror movies where I have no idea who is running in terror etc as it’s too dark to see anything.

The script, for the most part, is sharply written and Kent’s observations of looking after a child, as well as pressures placed on parents both by society and themselves are dealt with well. The scene where the group of mums are sympathising with Davis’ ‘Amelia’ whilst also silently judging her is spot on and something I know a lot of mothers have endured. Amelia’s isolation in this scene, reflected both in the fact that the colour of her dress is different to the muted colours of the ‘popular’ mum gang, as well as having her seated whilst the other mums are standing at the opposite end of the table is a scene which has stuck in my memory. It’s not overtly horrific but it’s one of the more run-of-the-mill daily encounters which resonated with me, and one which I experienced more the second time I watched it because like ‘Amelia’ I’ve had to find my voice to stand up to others who have judged my parenting style.

It’s an intimate movie in many ways, with the bulk just playing out between Davis and Wiseman. Keeping other characters at arms length works well to help build up the tension of what lurks in the house as well as the sense of isolation felt by ‘Amelia’. The creepiness of the book as well as the lack of explantion as to where the Babadook comes from is works well. Sometimes the over-explanation of where the ‘big bad’ is from slows down the pacing and doesn’t add anything so it’s lack allows speculation and for the viewer to create their own scary ideas.

Overall, I loved this movie. There were a few minor niggles I had but then, everyone’s a critic and they didn’t stop me from enjoying this movie. It’s one I’ll definitely be watching again, although hopefully not from behind a pillow!

If you’ve enjoyed this review, have a look at the other movies I’ve reviewed.