Horror Hound Review: 100 Tears

100 tears

SPOILER ALERT

I have a confession to make, one that is really going to make me sound like a psychopath – there is very little in this world that makes me happier than lashings of fake blood. Which is why awful B-movies like this one are hugely enjoyable to me despite the lack of decent acting and any plotline. It follows the old chestnut of a killer clown with a giant meatcleaver going on a rampage and leaving a trail of blood and guts in his wake while two amateur reporters are on his tail. It is one massive gore fest, heads lopped off and intestines spilling out and throats slashed every two minutes, so if you’re like me and every now and then you just want a stupid slasher movie that’s entertaining without you having to pay too much attention, this is the one for you. I’ve watched this while off work with a splitting headache and what is basically down to working too hard so it was ideal. If you want a plot line and believable character development, don’t bother.

100 Tears isn’t actually a particularly scary film; Gerty the Clown is sinister enough but who isn’t creeped out by a painted smile and bloodstained circus attire? There were a couple of attempts at building up tension, notably in the finale scenes in the warehouse, but they didn’t really take off. There’s only so many times a clown creeping up behind someone while raising a bloody meatcleaver can make me hold my breath. But believe me, it is gory and I did find myself squirming in my seat. Which after so many horror films isn’t that easy to do. But when the director is in fact a special effects artist, you can expect all the visuals to be great. I was worried when I first started watching it that the effects were going to be terrible because it was clearly very low-budget, but it just goes to show that you don’t need huge sums of money to have stunningly, stomach-churningly good effects.

Another plus was the friendship between the two reporters, Jennifer and Mark. It’s a bit tragic that one of the most believable portrayals of a male/female friendship without the whole ‘are they/aren’t they going to get it on’ crap comes from a pretty low-budget slasher film, but it made me so happy. Jennifer threatening to ‘shit on his pillow’ after Mark farts at her? That is how friends act around each other. Note to Hollywood; women are absolutely grim 80% of the time. Trust me; my female friends have threatened to shit through my letterbox, woken me up by farting on me and have licked my food. And Jennifer is a gorgeous and career-driven woman at the same time… yes, it is possible! Who knew?

But there were a couple of things that let it down for me. The acting from the leads was fairly sound, but the extras were bordering on atrocious. I don’t know about them, but I’d be reacting with a lot more fear if a bulky guy in full clown regalia came running at me down a corridor with a ridiculously over sized cleaver. And they honestly managed to fall over everything. A lot of the fight/escape attempts were pretty poorly executed; it felt like they weren’t judged very well and people were almost having to wait around for Gerty to catch up with them. The scene in which Mark is fighting with Gerty in the warehouse was the worst for me; he literally runs up and down about a foot away from Gerty, who manages to hit just about everything apart from him. It was clumsily coordinated and that made it a bit awkward to watch.

My final thought is on Christine, who turns out to be Gerty’s daughter and joins him on a killing spree at the end. I really can’t decide how I feel about her character. On one level, I loved it. She had absolutely no remorse and while Gerty carries out his kills in a detached, emotionless way, she is clearly loving every second. But she was basically a carbon copy of Harley Quinn, blond pigtails and all. I adore Harley Quinn so of course I loved Christine, but from a reviewing perspective it was just really unoriginal. And killer clown and cute girl killing combo is going to have a Harley/Joker vibe, but I just thought they could have altered her a little bit to make it not quite so obvious.

So all in all, decent film which is great to watch if you don’t feel like concentrating too hard and just want a gore fest. Brilliant practical effects that were honestly the highlight of the film, a pretty badass villain, some good characters and Voltaire pops up on the soundtrack which I was very excited about! Just don’t go into this expecting it to be anything too phenomenal.

How to be a Wiccan 101

Hint: there is no hard and fast way to be a Wiccan.

There are many, many different ways to be a Wiccan, even more to be a pagan and even more to be a witch. And I am getting a little bit sick and tired of reading books that tell you that you must do a b c, or believe in x y z to be a ‘good’ Wiccan.

I’m also getting sick and tired of writers conflating Wicca, witchcraft and paganism. THEY ARE NOT EXCHANGEABLE TERMS. I can forgive someone who is new to these concepts, but people who write Wiccan/pagan/witchcraft based books? Not so much. I’m not claiming to know everything, but I am going to try and set the record straight especially to newer Wiccans, pagans and witches who are worried they’re ‘doing it wrong’. I was there for quite a while myself, trust me.

happy lil witch
Look at this happy lil witch. You think she’s being told what to do?

First of all, the terms Wicca, witchcraft and paganism are often used interchangeably by writers, but they don’t mean the same thing. Paganism is a blanket term for any belief system that doesn’t subscribe to the major world religions, often with a higher focus on nature worship. Wicca is just one branch of paganism, and even that has many sub-sections. Think about it like this; within Christianity, you have loads of denominations. Protestant, Catholic, Quaker, etc. And within those, you have even more; within Protestantism you have evangelical Protestants, Methodists, Calvinists, the list goes on. Assuming every Wiccan believes exactly the same thing is like lumping all Protestants together, and assuming all pagans are Wiccan is like assuming every Christian is Catholic. Just because it is the biggest denomination doesn’t mean it is the only one. Witchcraft, although it is mostly pagans who practice it, is actually a secular practice. You can be any religion, or even an atheist, and still practice witchcraft. I know some Catholic witches who incorporate the angels and saints into their craft. I know some Wiccans who don’t practice at all. So while you can be all three (like I am), you don’t have to be, and you shouldn’t assume that people are.

Now that the definitions are out of the way, another problem I’ve often seen in Wiccan writings is the the tendency to tell people that their way of practicing is the right way. That is the problem I have with organised religion, and why I was so drawn to Wicca in the first place, so it’s frustrating to see it is still present. By all means, tell readers about the Wiccan Rede, describe the Wheel of the Year and give suggestions of how to celebrate them, explain the Rule of Three. But make it clear that these are Wiccan beliefs and not all pagans follow them. Some pagans don’t believe in karma and therefore think cursing is appropriate in some circumstances. I certainly don’t and as far as I’m aware, the laws of karma are central to Wiccan systems so it is unlikely that you’ll meet a Wiccan who is okay with cursing, but that is just Wicca, not paganism in general. I really can’t stress that enough.

I’ve read books in which Wiccan writers have stated it as an absolute necessity that you are ‘initiated’ into Wicca, whether by a self-dedication ritual or in a coven ceremony, and I absolutely disagree. I think it is a beautiful thing to do if you can do it properly, but when I was a young witchling I was convinced that none of my spells would work and I couldn’t do any rituals at all unless I had done this ceremony. So I bought myself some jasmine oil (which by the way is pretty damn expensive, and I was a highschool student without a job at this point) and sat myself down to perform this ritual, trying to get my head in the right place and feel this rush of power and transform into a Wiccan. It was honestly the worst ritual I have ever performed. I was stressed out because I  I wanted to do a ritual for Samhain but thought I had to do this first, my parents came home halfway through and were hurrying me to come down because they had brought food home, and I had to rush through it. I thought I had somehow failed and couldn’t be a real Wiccan. But I went ahead with my Samhain ritual anyway. And it was incredible. I always count that as my first ritual, and it was such a moving experience I ended up crying while I prayed. That was when I realised I had been a Wiccan right from the start. I believe that when you say to yourself, ‘This is the right path for me, I am a Wiccan.’ and you know in your heart that it your true faith, then that is all the initiation you need. If you want to mark the occasion with a dedication rite, that is up to you. I just don’t think it is necessary; Wicca isn’t an elite club. It is a religion. The God and Goddess aren’t going to ignore you if you haven’t performed an extravagant ritual to join the ‘real’ Wiccans. Do what feels right.

I hope you have found this useful, especially if you are new to or are considering becoming a Wiccan, pagan or witch and are unsure where to start. You don’t have to buy a lot of expensive tools just because it says so in a book, you don’t have to perform spells exactly how they are set down and you certainly don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you. I’m not saying that these books are useless; they were a great starting point for me in terms of realising my faith and in terms of the magical properties of herbs, stones and symbols they are insanely useful, but I wish someone had told me all this before I understood it myself. I’ve come to realise that to only hard and fast rule in Wicca is to harm no one, so as long as you stick to that as far as possible then you’re all set.

Blessed be )O(

Dursley’s Drag Adventures

Sometimes my life feels like a big gay sitcom. One of those times was last week in which I had decided to drag up from the day to meet my friends.

space boi drag
Space boi trash. Fox Mulder would be proud.

When I got home I found out my grandad had popped in and the problems started; the only reason I had planned to drag that particular day is that I knew – or thought – I would be home alone. The logical thing to do would be to not drag… but as I have mentioned before, I am very stubborn. Today was a drag day. So I say hello, make him a brew and go upstairs to get ready. At the ready in all my space-nerd draggage glory, I of course had to take a quick selfie and planned to leave… when I hear another voice from downstairs. Turns out my auntie and her baby have turned up too. To make matters worse, I’d left my mp3 in the kitchen and there is no question of me getting on a bus without music. So I hover on the stairs for a while and then tiptoe down, sneak around the pram, grab my mp3 and then fly out the door yelling “Sorry, can’t stop, late for the bus!” and leg it down the road. Let me tell you, running is not comfortable when your tits are strapped down with ballet tights.

By the way, I don’t recommend binding with tights unless it’s for a very short period. It’s awkward as hell to get out of, which isn’t great if you do what I did and nearly collapsed in a queue outside comicon. Although it does feel like I’m sticking my middle finger up at the hell-hole of a dance school I bought them from!

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Who doesn’t love some Halloween drag fun?

All this got me thinking about how odd my family is in the lines they draw at what is and what isn’t appropriate. My parents literally let me practice witchcraft and perform Pagan rituals in my room, but I have been told – and I quote – that cross-dressing is where they draw the line, after I made a joke about it when I was practicing my outfit for comicon. Even if I am not in drag, if I wear baggy jeans or what is known as my ‘lesbian jumper’ I’ll get some sort of irritated comment from them. A personal favourite was ‘If we’re going out for tea can you a least dress like a girl?’, which was followed by me digging my suit out of my wardrobe. I really don’t understand who I’m hurting if I present myself in a more masculine way every once in a while. There’s some days when that is far more comfortable to me. I’m starting to question whether I might be more genderfluid than anything because although the majority of the time I identify as a woman, I do have days when I just feel like a guy and I’m far happier if I can dress to reflect that.

Snapshot_20150618_12
First time I dragged up… and a King was born.

 

Really, gender is an odd thing when you think about it. And it’s great that non-binary people and androgynous styles are becoming more and more mainstream, but while these attitudes about clothing having a gender in the first place are so common it will always be difficult. For example, all the coverage of Jaden Smith has applauded him for his bravery in wearing ‘women’s clothes’, and while I agree with the message that he’s doing a brilliant job of breaking down barriers in what men can and cannot wear, there’s a problem in calling them ‘women’s clothes’. They’re pieces of cloth. They have no damn gender. The gendering of inanimate objects is what causes these barriers to exist in the first place, so surely avoiding that language when you praise someone for ignoring those barriers would be a better course of action

All the complex politics of gender aside, I like to wear drag sometimes. Especially after being told that if Derek Hales and Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf had a child, I would be it. So Elliot Stilinksi might have to be a secret from a lot of my family, but he’s definitely sticking around.

 

Horror Hound Review: Starry Eyes

(CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS)

Starry Eyes was quite a strange choice for my first film review. It’s definitely high up on my list of great horror films, but if someone asked me for my favourites it probably wouldn’t cross my mind. It’s not the cleverest, the scariest or the goriest film I’ve ever watched. And yet something about it really sticks in my mind. Clark Collis in EW says that while ‘What is the price of fame?’ isn’t a particularly original question, the answer given in Starry Eyes certainly is. It is so devastatingly bleak; the corruption of the Hollywood elite, how much of herself the protagonist Sarah has to sacrifice to achieve her ambitions and the effects this has on her in both a mental and physicalStarry_Poster27x40.indd way form a very cynical outlook on the film industry.

What makes it so original however, is that Sarah is not just the manipulated victim; she wasn’t pushed very hard into homicidal insanity. Her own monstrous ambition did most of the work. Even when she realises what it is doing to her, she keeps going forward. The part of the film that really shook me and has stayed with me vividly is the image of Sarah crawling towards the phone, covered in blood and filth, emaciated and with her hair and teeth falling out and screaming ‘I’m dying!’ to the sinister producer who simply cackles with laughter. It might sound pompous and ridiculous, but after reading Heart of Darkness, it reminds me of Kurtz’s final exclamation of ‘The horror!’. For me it’s always the simplest phrases the have the greatest impact, and the sheer desperation in her voice is haunting. Really, Alex Essoe’s performance is brilliant. Sarah isn’t necessarily all that likable, but she is believable in all her vulnerability and anger and insecurity. There’s something engaging about her as a character; she is infuriating, but she falls apart so spectacularly that you can’t help but be fascinated.

However, it must be said that there were a couple of things in the film that really irked me; the first being how stereotypical the Director’s assistant was. Scary, sterile and German. It seemed like a massive cop out the try and add a feeling of threat with such a cliche. The second was the random gay ‘kiss’ (if that’s the right word – watch it and you’ll get what I mean) between Sarah and Tracy at the end. I know, me, complaining about a lesbian scene? Unheard of. But this seemed forced and unnecessary. I think the idea was to show how Sarah’s transformation had altered her and she can now take control of a situation? I don’t know, it just felt like it was thrown in for cheap shock value. But they don’t make much of a negative impact on an otherwise great film. Apart from these cliched moments, the scares are built up with an atmospheric soundtrack and a build up of tension and emotion as Sarah is constantly knocked down by rejection, a monotonous job and passive-aggressive friends. You might not like her – I certainly didn’t. But you go start feeling like you’re going mad with her.

Horror reviews are a bit odd to do; fear is so subjective, and although I’ve watched exactly 183 horror films in my life (yes, I’ve counted. I’m a nerd) I’m quite easy to scare. But this unsettled me on a far deeper level than jump scares and if you want a film that is gory as  well as psychologically horrifying then I’d definitely recommend Starry Eyes.

Re-coming out?!

lgbt

I came out as bisexual about two years ago – actually, I dived out of the proverbial closet in a cloud of rainbow glitter and was about as open about it as you can possibly be. Seriously, I was out to everyone from my hairdresser to my French teacher. I didn’t really give anyone an announcement – I just started to casually talk about female celebrities I found hot and then told people when I had a girlfriend. No one was surprised. In fact, it turns out most people knew before I did. I know for a lot of people coming out is a difficult – sometimes painful – experience. But I loved it. Sure, it was harder with my family and there was a large element of fear involved, but the more people I came out to, to more connected to myself I felt. People were finally seeing me for who I was. I was finally figuring out what these horrible, confusing feelings that had messed me up all through high school meant – and I realised there was nothing wrong with me…

So what happens when you start questioning all over again?

Identifying as a lesbian has been a recent thing – literally as of about two weeks ago. I’ve known since the start I was mostly attracted to girls, often explaining my bisexuality as ‘97% into girls, 3% into guys’. You wouldn’t think going up another 3% would be a big deal, but for me it really was for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it was such a struggle for my family to accept that bisexuality even existed that I almost felt like they would feel vindicated in that belief if I re-came out as a lesbian. The idea that my experience perpetuates the idea that bisexuality is a ‘phase’, or bisexual people are ‘confused’ was something I hated, and still do hate. I have never experienced any particular difficulty identifying as queer, but identifying as bisexual caused me some problems. Biphobia is such a real issue. In fact, most of my family were under the impression that I was a lesbian from the start, purely because it would cause so much drama trying to explain bisexuality to a lot of them. It was frustrating, but one advantage is that I don’t have to now re-come out to them!

Another reason it took such a lot of struggling to re-come out was the fact that a lot of my friends would make a lot of comments like ‘Are you sure you aren’t a lesbian? You might as well say you are, you like girls way more than guys’. And it pissed me off. People shouldn’t assume that they know more about someone’s sexuality than they do. It’s no one’s business but mine how I choose to identify. Having so many people say these sorts of things meant that I spent a lot of time wondering whether considering identifying as a lesbian was the result of being told I should so often. Something else I hated the idea of. I pride myself in being independent-minded. I didn’t want to be subconsciously pressured into something. It took a long time to decide if it was truly me who was making the decision behind re-coming out. I am very, very stubborn. I don’t let myself get pushed into these things, and again – it was the idea of the people who had made those comments thinking they were right to do so. It isn’t right. Maybe once would have been okay, but when I say ‘No. I’m happy identifying as bi.’ just leave it alone! Heteronormativity and the constant brainwashing of a thousand other societal values makes it difficult enough to make an informed decision on what you choose to identify as. I don’t need the people I care about to make it any harder.

I realise there will be people reading this thinking what’s the big deal? It’s just a word! I don’t need to restrict myself to a label! But here’s the thing; some people can go through their lives not using labels, or using something more all-encompassing such as ‘queer’. And that’s great! But there are people who like the clarity of having a word to claim. People like me. I am concise with my words. Hell, I’m a writer! Words are important to me! So I need the right one for something as intrinsic to who I am as my sexuality. And I need to make sure it is my choice. So it feels like a huge relief to be able to say proudly that I am a lesbian, that identifying as bisexual was no more or less valid, and that people need to let people to come to that decision on their own.

… Although all that being said, maybe ‘homoflexible’ is better. I might be a lesbian, but if an offer came up from David Tennant I wouldn’t say no!

Blessed be )O(

Book Review: The Loney

loneyThere were stories, naturally, of it being haunted. A witch had once lived there, they said; a beautiful woman called Elizabeth Percy who lured sailors onto the rocks, and who remained there in some form or other even though they’d hanged her in the old bell tower next to the house. ~ pg. 40

(MILD SPOILERS)

It’s always an inspiration to see some local writing talent, and Andrew Michael Hurley’s gothic novel ‘The Loney’ is a great example of what the writers of good old P-Town have to offer. As a lover of all things dark and sinister, I was immediately drawn to this book on one of my excursions to Waterstones in which I convince myself I’m only going to have a look and come out with at least three new books. But this is one of those reads that makes it worth the instant drop in my paycheck.

The biggest triumph of this book is that it contains so many of the classic tropes of gothic horror – the supernatural, the pathetic fallacy, the religious overtones, the isolation, the setting of a creepy old house in a bleak landscape – that it ran the risk of being one huge cliche. And yet it isn’t. All of these elements have been used so effectively that they read as believable and horrifying. Nothing is overplayed. One scene that springs to mind is Mummer forcing her mentally disabled son to throw up as he was supposed to be fasting by forcing his own fingers down his throat; Hurley describes the incident in less words than I do, and this matter-of-fact description makes it all the more shocking. Clearly, this scene is nothing new to the narrator, and the casual treatment of their mother’s abuse is harrowing.

The fact that Hurley’s writing deals in subtleties makes it a thrilling and yet frustrating read. Not much is ever resolved or answered. This isn’t necessarily a criticism – just a warning to anyone planning to read it that you will be thinking about the ending forever. Hurley splits it in two, leaving the second half until after an interlude; a pounding buildup is suddenly cut off, and it is like how silence rings when loud music stops. The disjointed structure is a clever choice, as it reflects the narrators own confusion, and the difficulty he has in facing what happened. The whole book has an undertone of dread, as if he is putting off telling the reader what happened; certainly, he won’t try to explain it.

Overall, a hugely enjoyable plot presented in a refreshing and engaging way – I honestly can’t think of anything I would change. The jumping about to different times can be a bit jarring sometimes, but that’s the entire point of them – it is something you have to concentrate on reading, but it is very rewarding if you do.