Pietari lives on a reindeer farm with his father in the far, arctic reaches of Finland and someone has slaughtered their entire herd. It could’ve been wolves, whipped into a frenzy by American archaeologists dynamiting the mountain, but it wasn’t. It was Santa and his vicious, naked elves. What the Americans dug out wasn’t a mountain…it was a prison burial mound where the fat, not so jolly man, has been trapped for centuries. Children begin to go missing and it’s up to Pietari and his father to hunt down Santus Clausium and save the world. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a horrific holiday treat for those looking for a darkly humorous, alternate history of Old Saint Nick.
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The burial rites given to the dead in Claysville are a little different. In this town, the designated “graveminder,” a woman who is both official mourner and cemetery caretaker, administers an elaborate ritual to ensure that the dead stay buried. It has been this way for generations, but Rebekkah knew nothing of it until she inherited the role and was told she must track down an escaped dead girl who has begun feeding her hunger. Emma Galvin’s careful and moody reading of Graveminder by Melissa Marr plays with your existing fears and skillfully plants a few new ones.
Gore, girls and gruesome stories have long been a part of horror films, but are scary movies something more than boiling kettles of lust and carnage? In The Monster Show, David Skal poses that horror is a response and coping mechanism to society’s collected concerns. For example, movies about demonic children, like Rosemary’s Baby, made it big during an era when women’s reproductive rights were an overwhelming, national concern. Skal has created a conversational study on (mostly American) horror. If you haven’t had enough horror history after finishing The Monster Show, try the documentary The American Nightmare. It features prominent directors, like George Romero, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, talking about their films and the cultural climates that inspired them.
It is a gusty October day when the lightning rod salesman comes to town, warning of a coming storm. Soon an autumn carnival arrives, under the leadership of the intimidating Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce). The sleepy town is ripe for excitement, and Will Halliday and Jim Nightshade investigate by night. When citizens start disappearing, Will’s father (Jason Robards) realizes that the boys have stumbled into a frightful discovery. Not your typical Disney fare, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983) is the disturbing tale of an eerie carnival and its strange attractions by way of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”. Ray Bradbury originally wrote the screenplay for Gene Kelly and later reworked it as a novel. Though the studio made significant changes, including the addition of a James Horner score, the creepiness is still intact.
If changing leaves, creeping mist, and chill-laced evenings put you in the mood to be pricked with fright, we have the book for you. Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense brings together masters of the sublimely eerie in an atmospheric assortment of Victorian-inspired horror tales. Even the titles cast their spells: “Why I Was Hanged” (Gene Wolfe), “The Iron Shroud” (James Morrow), “The Proving of Smollett Standforth (Margo Lanagan), “The Unbearable Proximity of Mr. Dunn’s Balloons” (John Langan), and Peter S. Beagle’s exquisite “Music, When Soft Voices Die”. Dare to be scared with visitations by strange machines, seductive spirits, and grim obsession. We won’t blame you for keeping extra candles nearby.
If the combination of evil and isolation intrigues you, let narrator Bernadette Dunne read you one of Shirley Jackson’s tales of psychological suspense. Dunne’s ability to serve the story by making her voice husky, girlish, breathy, or shrill adds just the right touch of chill to gothic horror, and Jackson’s works are well-matched. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, two sisters have become outcasts in their town after the arsenic poisonings of several family members. The Haunting of Hill House tells of a group of strangers who agree to participate in a study of occult phenomena. Both deal with darkness subversive and real, and the echoes will resonate long after the final words.
There are many ways a movie can entertain us, but some abandon traditional standards of quality with such lunatic gusto that they offer their own unique pleasures. Often best viewed with a group of friends, these are the cream of the crop of the rarified so-bad-it’s-good category.
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If you are looking for a sharp-toothed, vicious vampire tale try David Wellington’s 99 Coffins. 99 coffins are found by undergrad students on an archaeological dig on the grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield. These coffins contain the 150-year-old remains of vampires. Laura Caxton is a vampire-killing, modern-day cop hunting down the lone blood-sucker that escaped from the dig. Then there is the Civil War-era story of the vampire himself, told through letters and journal entries of his long-dead, soldier colleagues. Perhaps there is more to this vampire’s story than ripping flesh apart in want of blood… After you finish the fast-paced, horror thriller 99 Coffins, check out Laura Caxton’s vampire-slaying past in Wellington’s 13 Bullets.
It’s 1939 and the Spanish Civil War rages. Even a remote orphanage is bombed – only the device doesn’t explode. It stands tall, firmly planted in the courtyard, undetonated. This is how you enter Guillermo del Toro’s thrilling, gothic tale, The Devil’s Backbone. Carlos is new to the orphanage and has a hard time making friends. Carlos soon meets Santi, the orphanage’s ghost, but Santi isn’t so much a friend as a terror that will not stop haunting him. But who is Santi? Why is he lingering at the orphanage? Carlos answers these questions and more in a movie that is both elegant and dreadful.