Musings in the Dark: 2020

10/20/2020

Horror 102: Black Horror

Anyone who knows me knows that this is a duuuh!  It’s Candyman, which dropped in 1992.  We all know the rule: you look in the mirror and say Candyman’s name five times, and he appears with his hook for a hand and slits you from groin to gullet.  I freakin’ LOVE this movie.  It is based on Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden,” and it is about a graduate student, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), who is working on her thesis about modern folklore.  She learns about the myth of Candyman from someone she was interviewing and decides to investigate further.

"Be my victim..."  "Um, okay." 

10/19/2020

Horror 102: Sci-Fi Horror

Event Horizon (1997) is about a rescue crew who are tapped to head to Neptune and recover a lost one-of-a-kind spaceship.  The ship was fitted with an experimental gravity drive, designed for deep space exploration.  But it disappeared seven years prior to the events of the movie and no one knows where it went.  Captain Miller, played by Laurence Fishburne, leads the rescue mission with his crew along with the ship’s creator, Dr. Weir, played by Sam Neill. 

10/17/2020

Horror 102: Television Horror

NBC pulled a genius move in 2013 by hiring Bryan Fuller to run an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ characters from his novel Red Dragon.  The show, called Hannibal, ran from April 2013 to August 2015.  Mads Mikkelsen was tapped to play the character of Hannibal Lecter, and bay-bee...whew chile!  There was a time when Anthony Hopkins was the definitive Lecter, but Mads has since supplanted Sir Anthony.  He plays Hannibal as the Devil and does things just to see what happens.  The co-star of this excellent show is the adorable Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, known to us fans of the book as the one who caught Hannibal Lecter.  The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford and he killed that role.

10/15/2020

Horror 102: Holiday Horror

I saw the original Black Christmas (1974) about fifteen years ago after reading about how influential it was on later horror movies, such as When A Stranger Calls and my beloved Halloween.  Being that it was from 1974, I felt good that it was going to be a worthwhile watch.  One minute in, I was not disappointed.  The movie opens from the killer’s perspective; he’s peeking into the windows of a sorority house, finds a rose trellis and climbs it, gaining entry to the house via the attic.

Downstairs, the sorority sisters are doing sorority sister things.  What’s interesting is that periodically, one of the sisters will go upstairs to do something or get something and is murdered by the creepazoid and stashed either in the attic or in one of the bedrooms...and for the longest time, people don’t notice that they don’t come back downstairs.  The killer crank calls the girls, using language that he heard them say in conversation. The father of the first girl that was murdered, Clare, comes to pick her up and is frustrated that she cannot be located.  

10/13/2020

Horror 102: Alien Horror

Man, this was a toss-up between two of my absolute faves: Alien and The Thing.  Both are horror classics.  Both were game-changers; Alien more so than The Thing, but when I did mental gymnastics trying to decide between the two...I chose The Thing.  Why?  Because of that ending.

Based off J. W. Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There?”, John Carpenter’s The Thing came out in 1982, around the same time as Steven Spielberg’s E.T.  Most movie-goers at the time preferred to see a benevolent alien rather than a malevolent one, and as a result, The Thing flopped hard in theaters.  But over time, people have come to realize that The Thing is an excellent film; one of Carpenter’s best works and perhaps one of the greatest movies of all time.

10/11/2020

Horror 102: Children in Horror

The Bad Seed (1956) is about a mother, Christine Penmark, who slowly comes to grips with the idea that her eight-year-old daughter, Rhoda, might be a serial killer.  Rhoda, played by Patty McCormack, presents as almost perfect.  Rhoda believes that she deserves all the good things and when she fails to win a penmanship award, it brings out her innate amoral ugliness.  Her desire to have the things she wants leads to the deaths of two people.  Christine believes that she passed that amoral trait on to her daughter and as such, blames herself.  But Rhoda is very much her own person, and a very evil one at that.

I love, love, LOVE this movie.  


10/09/2020

Horror 102: Foreign Horror

The Vanishing is a 1988 Dutch film about the abduction of a woman, Saskia, from a rest stop.  This movie takes a different tack, as you know right up front who kidnapped her and why.  Saskia’s boyfriend, Rex, has been tormented for three years wondering what happened to her.  He starts to get postcards from Saskia’s abductor, which frustrates him even more. 

Eventually, the two meet and the abductor, a mild-mannered chemistry professor named Raymond, tells Rex that in order to find out what happened to Saskia, he must be willing to experience what she did.  Rex stupidly, foolishly agrees to Raymond’s demands.  Is knowing what happened to her better than not knowing?  Rex soon finds out.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m claustrophobic.  The final few scenes in The Vanishing have stuck with me for decades and are the stuff of my nightmares.  I can barely watch the end of the movie without getting anxious. 


That’s horror done right.


10/08/2020

Horror 102: Creature Feature Horror

The Relic (1997) is one of my all-time favorite movies.  My bestie and I caught it at the dollar theater waaaaay back in the day.  A detective, Lt. D’Agosta is investigating the decapitation deaths of the crew of a cargo ship and they lead him to Chicago’s Museum of Natural History, where he meets an evolutionary biologist, Dr. Green.  More murders happen in the museum and Green and D'Agosta have to work together to discover the culprit; which just so happens to be the Kothoga, a South American chimeric lizard god. The beast is quickly and constantly evolving due to rapid mutations in its DNA.



10/06/2020

Horror 102: Folk Horror

1973’s The Wicker Man.  Starring the great Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle.  A cop, Sgt. Neil Howie, played by Edward Woodward, arrives on the island of Summerisle in search of a missing girl named Rowan.  Sgt. Howie tries to conduct an investigation, but does not get much help from the locals.  He becomes certain that they are lying to him about Rowan’s existence.  


Sgt. Howie is a celibate Christian, and when he realizes that Summerisle’s citizens are pagans, he becomes disturbed by their behavior and frustrated that they won’t help him in finding out what happened to Rowan.  What Sgt. Howie doesn’t know is that his presence on the island is deliberate, and what awaits him is drop-dead terrifying.  


I watched this movie, bemused at the antics of the locals, and when I realized what was going on and saw Sgt. Howie’s ultimate fate, I was mesmerized.  Folk horror is usually hit or miss for me, but The Wicker Man slaps! 


10/04/2020

Horror 102: Satanic Horror

I watched Angel Heart (1987) shortly after it came out on video.  The hype surrounding the movie at the time was the fact that Lisa Bonet (Denise from The Cosby Show) starred in the movie and did things that “soiled” her “good girl” image.  But that’s a discussion for another day.  I was a pre-teen when I first saw Angel Heart, and therefore a lot of it got past me.  It wasn’t until I watched it again when I was older that I understood what was going on, and bay-bee....!


The movie is based on William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, published in 1978.  Basically, a well-dressed mysterious gentleman procures the services of private investigator Harry Angel to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite.  Apparently, Johnny Favorite is in debt to the gentleman, one Mr. Louis Cyphere, played to the T by Robert DeNiro.  Harry accepts the job, but soon finds himself deep into a web of mystery and intrigue, and waaaay over his head.


The ending scene, interspersed with the closing credits, sticks with me to this day.  I’ll never look at an elevator ride the same.


10/03/2020

Horror 102: My Favorite Horror Movies

 As you know, Dilettantes…the 10th month is here and I am overjoyed!  It’s my favorite time of year and last year, I learned how to celebrate it as only I can.  Last year, I began a series called Horror 101, where I brought to the forefront a mixture of my favorite horror novels, horror stories, horror movies and horror TV shows.

This year, I plan to continue the series.  I am going to focus strictly on horror movies.  When I first came up with this idea, I foolishly thought I could do a top 10 list of my favorite horror movies.  I shared this idea with Noob, a fellow horror head, and she promptly laughed in my face.

9/26/2020

Update

 Hey Dilettantes!

I've been in Senegal for six weeks now and have finally gotten over jet lag.  So far, all is good.  I love my new job, I like my new apartment, and I've made a few friends.  One of the best things about moving here is knowing that I wasn't going to be the only black woman at the job.  It is such a relief to be amongst my tribe...but I gotta brush up on my conversational French.  

Now that things are settling down, I plan to resume posting on a regular basis.  I got plans to celebrate the great month of October and my favorite holiday, Halloween, with the next phase in my homage to all things horror.  More to come in that regard.

Just wanted to touch base with you guys!  I'll check in with you soon.


6/29/2020

Update!

Hey Dilettantes!!

June has been a very busy month and I'm off my writing schedule (obvs).  My posting here in Indonesia has ended and I am going home for a short break before moving to Africa.  I've accepted a position in Senegal and I'm really excited about it. The opportunity for new opportunities awaits.

I've enjoyed my time in Asia, and it's time to give the Motherland some love.  I will be traveling for the next two days, and after spending some time with my loved ones, I will be moving on.

If you'd told me ten years ago that I would be a world traveler, I wouldn't have believed you.  Even though it was a dream of mine, at that time in my life I couldn't even believe it was possible.  I was in a lot of mental and emotional pain and couldn't see past it.  But now, I have the life that I want and worked hard for.

Goes to show you how funny life can be.

6/02/2020

Terminator: Dark Fate

We all know that T2: Judgment Day is when the Terminator movie franchise peaked.  Everything after that has been garbage.  The franchise hit an all-time low with Genisys.  That movie pissed me off so bad.  It was STUPID.  So I was not the least bit pressed when they came out with Dark Fate.  I had no interest in seeing it.


One day, I was sitting around with nothing to do and decided to watch a movie from one of my user-friendly movie websites.  Dark Fate popped up and I said, “Fuck it…it’s free.  Might as well kill some time.”  The only thing in the movie that had my attention was this cutie…


...and we DID NOT get an obligatory Terminator ass shot like we usually do. Trust me, I looked.  

Basically, Dark Fate is a discount T2 with women protagonists and lackluster writing. I did not buy the central protagonist as a revolutionary military leader and the movie made no effort to convince me otherwise.  And apparently, Terminators have reached an evolutionary dead end.  Being able to split into two parts just wasn’t that impressive and it felt like it should have been.  Maybe if they hadn’t put that in the trailer…

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about Dark Fate.  Everything you need to know about the movie, you saw it in the trailer.  While it wasn’t nearly as shitty as Genisys, they could have kept this one.  Grade: D

5/27/2020

Midsommar

This is a folk horror movie that came out in 2019.  It’s about a
group of “friends” that travel to Sweden to attend a festival at the behest of one of the members of a pagan cult.  One of the “friends” is a young woman named Dani who is grieving the loss of her entire family.  Her sister, who was bipolar, murdered their parents and then committed suicide.  Dani is the girlfriend of Christian, one of four guys who make up the rest of the main cast.  

It is established early on that Christian and Dani’s relationship is on the rocks; in fact, Christian has been wanting out of the relationship for the past year (according to his friends).  The only reason he hasn’t broken up with her is because she’s grieving and has no one else to depend on.  Christian’s friends are assholes, and he has some asshole tendencies as well (birds of a feather and all that). Pelle is the friend that invites everyone to attend his family’s midsummer festival, and things get interesting shortly after they arrive.

The only thing that truly annoyed me is how Dani has no agency.  She goes along with what’s happening and doesn’t question anything (outside of the tea the pagans give her to drink).  She senses that Christian wants to break up with her because she’s so needy, but she never really confronts him about it.  I think that if she had, that would have made the movie’s ending a lot stronger.

Midsommar is about two and a half hours long and honestly, it could have used a bit more editing. There were a few scenes that could have been cut out or down to shorten the time but that does not mean the movie was boring.  Slow at first, yes, but not at all uninteresting.  You have to pay attention because the director, Ari Aster, packs a lot into certain scenes and in background images.  He is very good when it comes to the details.

Midsommar is worth a watch.  Grade: B.

5/19/2020

Parasite

I was finally able to catch Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite.  It is an excellent movie.  I’m going to keep this review as short as possible so not to ruin the experience.  Basically, the Kims, a devious poor family that lives in a semi-basement apartment, manage to finesse their way into four high-paying service positions for the wealthy and somewhat na├»ve Park family.  The Kims are some straight up hustlers and the way they slide into those service positions is nothing short of brilliant.  However, their actions have some serious consequences.

The way the film is shot is amazing.  Bong Joon Ho uses vertical cinematography (in this case, stairways and hills) to convey wealth.  It is very clear that the world that the Parks inhabit is worlds different from the world of the Kims.  There is a discussion among the Kims at the halfway mark of the film about how money fixes things.  Mrs. Kim says that “money is an iron,” and she is 100% correct.  Who the title of the film refers to seems obvious at first, but as the movie progresses, that descriptor becomes fluid and it is not so easy to brand just one family as parasitic. 

If you get the chance to watch Parasite, do it.  It is a movie that requires multiple viewings and it won’t be a waste of time to do so.  Grade: A.

5/04/2020

The Mighty Elements of the Universe

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of music while working from home.  YouTube is amazing in this regard.  I click on a song I like and the algorithm generates a relevant playlist.  Next thing I know, I’m down the YT rabbit hole listening to the soundtrack of my earlier years; songs that used to play on Saturdays when my Momma made me clean up the house.  I’m sure a whole lot of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.  

Some of the songs that popped up included the GAP Band’s “I Don’t Believe You Wanna Get Up and Dance,” Con Funk Shun’s “Love’s Train,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Diamond in the Back,” Lakeside’s “Fantastic Voyage,” and the Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Stomp!”  I was bobbing my head so hard I lost track of what I was actually doing.

4/29/2020

My Favorite Things: Matt Stonie

I was a hard-core fan of Man v. Food on the Travel Channel back in the day.  Recently, I found old episodes on YouTube and proceeded to get my life all over again watching Adam and Casey complete (or not) impossible food challenges.  I like reading the comments and one thing I kept seeing referenced over and over and over again was something like, “Matt Stonie could do this in five minutes.”  After a while I got tired of reading those comments and one Saturday, I found myself on his YouTube channel.  He’s a competitive eater and cute. as. hell.
Source
Let me say right now that the food challenges Adam and Casey participated in absolutely cannot compare to the amount of food Matt Stonie can consume.  Matt probably weighs 120 pounds soaking wet and he can eat up to about 20% of his body weight.  I spent a whole weekend watching every video he had and I still marvel at how he is able to do that and be as skinny as he is.  It ain’t right.  Shit, if I walk past my fridge I gain 10 pounds.  He is a freak of nature, simply put.  Go check him out here.

Favorite food challenges:  Epic Root Beer Float, 7 Shamrock Shakes, Jollibee Five Buckets of Fried Chicken, Giant Bowls of Cereal, and Big Smoke’s Order.

4/20/2020

My Favorite Things: How to Cake It

One day, I fell down the YT rabbit hole and ended up on a channel called “How to Cake It.”  I then spent the next three or four hours watching cake virtuoso Yolanda Gampp create art out of cake.  There’s not too much more I can say; you have to see it for yourself.  The woman is an absolute wunderkind.  Mrs. Gampp has a warm and vibrant personality and she’s a joy to watch. 

My favorite vids are: Bread Cakes, the Ladybug Cake, the Butterfinger Donut Cakes, and the Corn Cake.

Don’t waste any more time reading what I have to say, go here and get your cake decorating life.

4/13/2020

My Favorite Things: Cosmo Queens

So I’m one month into quarantine and all is fairly well.  I’m still working from home, but honestly…it’s an adjustment.  Some days I’m not motivated at all, but it can’t be helped.  I’m grateful to still be able to work and earn money, but I digress.  In my down time, I’ve found new things to entertain myself and I wanted to share them.  Note: These things are NEW to ME.

Alliyah hipped me to Cosmo Queens.  These are videos that show drag queens transform themselves into their alter egos through the power of makeup.  I hardly wear makeup at any given time and am liable to poke myself in the eye with a mascara wand.  So, watching these talented individuals literally become queens is awesome.  I quickly became addicted.

My favorite videos are of Vanessa Mateo, Jaida Essence Hall, Vander Von Odd, Miz Cracker, Akeria Chanel Davenport, and Mercedes Iman Diamond.  Honestly, all of the videos are amazing, and I have watched them all multiple times.  I really appreciate and respect the artistry and skill.

3/24/2020

Update

I’ve been extremely busy for the past couple of months with work, and now—just like the rest of the world—am quarantined and doing distance learning from home.  How do I feel about it?  I’m good.  I’m an introvert anyway and know how to be at home for days on end and not be bored.  I’ve got books and movies lined up to read and watch, I have some new LEGO sets, and I can catch up on my blogging and writing.  

Of course, now that I have time to write, the Muse is not speaking to me.  I guess after completing Switchblade Romance, which took 8 months to write, she needed a break.  It is what it is.

I am excited to announce that (pending everything goes well) I will be relocating to Africa in the fall.  I am excited to start the next level of my expat journey in Dakar, Senegal.  I did not see this coming, as I had planned to stay in Asia for the next five or so years.  There are still countries I haven’t visited yet, such as Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.  Actually, I was supposed to go to Kuala Lumpur during Spring Break, but #DatRona hit and fucked up all my travel plans.  

But anyway, I was approached last fall and offered an opportunity that I would have been a fool to reject. I will have fewer preps and the benefits package is nice.  Also, I will finally be working alongside other black people.  That is a significant benefit, as I am tired of being the only one. Also, I will be able to travel to other African countries, and Egypt is the first country I’m gonna hit.  Europe is only 4 hours away.  Doable.  Pending everything goes well.

I haven’t been to the movies since last fall.  Nothing has dropped that I wanted to go see and review, and with #DatRona out, there won’t be any movie-going anytime soon.  Good thing I got NF and my online movie sites.

Y’all stay safe out there.

1/22/2020

Fic Update Alert!

The last chapter (of the first half) of "Switchblade Romance" is ready for consumption...finally.


About two minutes later, Trey knocked on the door before opening it and walking in.  “Princess?”

Shantreyl turned to look at him.  “Hey Daddy.  I’m ready.”

Trey stood there, staring at her.  Memories of Shantreyl as a little girl flooded his mind and he blinked rapidly, pushing back sudden tears.  A long moment passed.  Trey put a hand over his heart.  “I’m not.  Princess, you look magnificent.  You are a vision to behold.” He coughed and patted his chest.  “I’m not ready for this.  I’m not ready to give my baby girl away.”

“Too late, Daddy.”

“I know,” he said, holding out his arm.  “I know.  Come on, we need to go.”

1/10/2020

Fic Update Alert!

Chapter 20 of "Switchblade Romance" is ready for reading.  I'm almost done with this bad boy...I honestly didn't expect it to be this long (it's a novel at this point), but the Muse is speaking to me and I'll keep on until she's done...which I am 85% sure that she will be with one more chapter.


“I understand that Shantreyl is your sister and you have a dynamic.  But as long as I’m with her—and I intend to be until death do us part—don’t you ever talk to her like that again.  I don’t give a good goddamn about anyone’s feelings at this table except hers, and this is the second time you’ve disrespected her in front of me.  I will not put up with it.  You’re here on my dime at her request, so the least you can do is show her some respect.  If you find that you can’t do that, then you are welcome—even encouraged—to leave my hotel immediately and find your own way back home.”

1/01/2020

Year End Wrap-Up


2019 was a good year for me.  I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t like surprises.  I had another successful year in Indonesia.  Took my niece to New York for her graduation present and went to Singapore for Christmas.  I’ve got to step my travel game back up, and hopefully I’ll be able to do that in 2020.  I will be starting a new job in August—more on that later.