Sunday, November 17, 2019

Anyway (and in addition)

So I'm watching the movie "Frozen" for the first time right now. My cousin bought a subscription to Disney+, and she wanted to share the magic with me, so she gave me her password, and this is the first thing I thought of watching . I've watched almost the entire movie through with clips and previews,  but I've never just sat down and watched the entire thing from beginning to end, and a lot if things struck me.

First, it must be terrifying to be like Elsa, to have powers that you don't understand. Everything she touches freezes. That must he horrible. She is taught she can create beautiful things, like snow covered frozen trees and fields. These are beautiful.  But also she can hurt those she loves the most. She can freeze them and effectively freeze them to death, kill everything she touches. Conceal your powers. Don't feel the pain, learn to control it.

And what does she get? An empty existence where everything around her is cold and frozen, but she's gotten used to it, and the cold never bothered her anyway. So what has she lost? Nothing, if she really had nothing to begin with.

Last week I tried to talk to some people in my church. I tried to make them understand why people like me, broken people,  might be afraid of church, might be hesitant to go to church at all, because we've only seen the worst that the world has to offer, and we know nothing of grace and the beauty it could bring to the world. It went badly,  I'll say. I didn't say it right, and I don't think they understood.  Sometimes I think I don't understand either. I know abuse and fear and timidity and pain, but not much that gives me hope.

So if you'll remember, a million years ago, I  started writing about a writer called Robert Dunbar and his books, and how though they're full of horrible things, they give me hope, because they point toward something bigger than my fear and my horror,  something good, something worth fighting for.

My cousins and I, we know of fear and horror and bad things. We know of all the bad the world has to offer, but we used to play together in the fear and the muck when we were kids, and we would always hope for something better. I remember once wading through a swamp with my cousins Nikki and Derek and Tommy and having a long conversation about how so many things were horrible in our lives, but as we stepped on leeches and snakes and rotten things, we hoped to come out on the other side and find something better. Something better than we ever hoped we could find in our worlds of darkness and poverty and pain.

So now, as a 30...almost 40 something, this movie means more than it ever would have meant to 10 year old me, who could never hope for anything bigger than the tiny world I had known. Today my cousin told me about how she felt hopelessness as a kid, but when she met me she learned to hope for more than she could see, because I had a whole imaginary world I played in where anything was possible, and she said that thanks to me, she viewed something she couldn't see before, some future and some hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise that God has a plan for our lives, a plan to give us a future and a hope. At one point in my life, I remember lying naked on a floor in the dark, and I had nothing, literally nothing to live for, and I couldn't even pray, because all I could see was darkness, and I couldn't find any words to say, but I remembered Jeremiah 29:11 and a future and a hope, so I said that, over and over, rocking back and forth and hugging my knees to my chest.

I want to write more about these experiences, but before I can even do that, I feel like I have to lay the foundation for why it's so important to me. Horror movies and books and stories have always resonated with me,  because I knew so much dark and evil, but in those stories, people would try to fight the evil with whatever they had. Maybe they lost, but at least they tried. I've been given so much crap all my life for loving horror movies. I've even been told that in my heart I know Jesus doesn't want me to watch those movies, and I try to make excuses because I don't really love him.

First of all, fuck you. Second of all, did it ever occur to anyone that sometimes people like horror movies because their life experiences look more like a horror movie than anything else? Maybe we need to see that people can fight evil. No one is saying everyone has to like horror,  or even understand it, but it would be nice if people didn't shit all over the only thing that has helped me through the darkest times in my life. Even before I had words to explain why, I loved seeing people fight monsters. It gave me hope that I could fight them, too.

When I was little I did that, I created worlds in my mind where people were strong and where people stood up against evil and won, because that's what I hoped would happen, that people would fight the evil and win. I had to believe there was a parting between me and the evil, that there could be a way out. I saw the evil, the bad things I could do, that we all could do, and it made me afraid, but I had to believe there was a possibility that I could do good too, or there was no hope, and I should give up now.

So when Elsa sang this,  I felt it in my heart:

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation
And it looks like I'm the queen

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn't keep it in, heaven knows I've tried
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don't care what they're going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

Let it go (go, go, go go, go go, go go, go, go, go go)

Let it go

Let it go

Let it go

It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I'm free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You'll never see me cry
Here I stand and here I stay
Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I'm never going back, the past is in the past

Let it go
The cold never bothered me anyway
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand in the light of day
Let the storm rage on

The cold never bothered me anyway...


Girl, tell me about it! I got so used to the cold at some point that I'm sure these could have been my words. And those who should nurture and protect me had gotten so used to the cold that they saw nothing wrong with providing me gear to survive the cold instead of trying to make it warmer...

See, in therapy we hear the warnings about this. Trying to learn to like the cold instead of trying to warm things up.  See. The abused people try to learn to like the cold as it is, instead of trying to make it be warmer. We try to learn to adapt to the cold around us instead of trying to change it. It's a whole big thing, learning to identify in our lives things that need to change instead of letting them stay awful and being stuck in our past patterns of abuse and horror. So anyway, I've heard this song before, how I should learn to use who I am to get me through the bad, instead of letting who I am make me stronger and protect me for whatever is to come to change the bad and make it better.


It's scary, leaping into the unknown and trusting that who you are will guide you through, no matter what happens.

So Robert Dunbar (remember him?) Wrote this whole long story across three books that I'll hope you follow me through to read about, because it's horrifying and yet beautiful in its horifyingness, but one thing that it says above all else is that sometimes horrible things happen, and we are hurt, but we can find beauty in the brokenness. This is why I see a pattern between all the frozen brokenness and all the good that can come after,  when all the broken pieces put themselves together and people can weather what remains of the storm together.

I know, I'm nuts. But I've lived 38 years with this broken beautifulness, and if I've learned anything, it's that God is bigger than me,  and he can shine his truth though the darkest night. That's probably a messed-up thing to draw as a conclusion between myself and the unknown, but I'm trusting that god is bigger than me, and that God can reach through the darkness and find light where I don't see any light. He's good at doing that. So let us trust God,  the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and Eileen and Robert Dunbar,  and all of us. The God that is bigger than us is capable of everything, so let us trust that  And read and write, and not be afraid.

Amen.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

October Horror Challenge 2019 #101: "The Invoking V: Phantoms"



Don't ask me how, but for some reason, an overlong and ultimately unsuccessful psychological horror movie from 2013 became a halfway decent collection of horror anthology movies. Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are, but these movies are creepy fun. Not always the best when you look at the stories as a whole, but there's always at least one standout story, so they're worth checking out, at least for me.

As always, the stories here don't really have a connection to each other, but short, sweet, and for the most part scary. The first story is really  creepy,  and I hate it when my neighbors knock on my door too, so I can totally relate. To my surprise,  I actually liked the second story too, about a repressed housewife haunted by something in her house. There's also a couple of college students living together who get a creepy old book (I love books, but even I would take a pass on this one), then terrible things start happening. I get the message, books are bad, right? This story is actually gory and kind of cool.

The last story deals with the end of the world, another apocalypse predicted, with references to other reports of the apocalypse that have happened in past years. The protagonist is a guy who is sick of these reports, and sick of life in general, as he finds out that there might be more truth to this report of the end of the world. This is actually a pretty darkly comedic episode. Definitely more sophisticated than I expected it to be. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. This whole collection was good, there wasn't one story I didn't like. It's way better than any movie with the number 5 after its title has any right to be.


October Horror Challenge 2019 #100: "The Invoking IV: Halloween Nights"



As you can see, my internet searches revealed that there is indeed a 4th "Invoking" movie, and look, it's called "Halloween Nights"! Perfect to watch on Halloween! Like the second and third movies in this series, it has nothing to do with the first movie, and is instead a collection of spooky short movies that don't look like they're connected to each other, except that they all have something paranormal about them.

This movie opens with a bang. The first story is about a little girl who hears something scary in her closet. The acting is a little rough at times, but it's still pretty cool. The second story again is more of a scary scene than a whole story, but it was still cool and showed one of the scariest things about going on a road trip and pulling over because you have to pee where it's all secluded and there is no bathroom. Yikes!

There's a story that shows us a desperate pregnant woman who probably shouldn't have cheated on her husband (but can you blame her? He's creepy as hell). I have to give credit to one of the stories for being extremely creepy and fucked up. It's gory and gross, and probably close to the worst thing you could watch if you were pregnant. Good lord. I give it credit though for being willing to go so far and show so much. It's definitely the best story in the collection for me. The last one took me forever to realize what was going on, and then once I did, I rolled my eyes into the next century. There's some cool gore, but the actors all sound like they're reading their lines, and after the awesome story that came before,  there's no way this will measure up. The first four stories are good, though, so I still ended up enjoying this movie.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #99: "The Invoking III: Poltergeist Dimensions"




"The Invoking 3," otherwise known as "WTF, they made another sequel to that movie?!" Seriously, I did a search and parts 4 and 5 popped up, too. If they're not joking, that might mean "The Invoking" series is going to become a dumping ground for low-budget horror flicks that won't get released any other way, because the sequels don't have anything to do with each other or with the first "invoking" movie. Sheesh. Let's hope this movie is at least worth watching.

Like  the second movie,  thisis a collection of short horror movies that don't have anything to do with each other or with the first "Invoking" movie. Well, I guess the stories in "The Invoking 2" all had some element of the paranormal, so there's that connection. The stories in part 3 all have an element of the paranormal as well (though not a poltergeist, as the title would have you believe...it's not a generic word for ghost, it's a specific kind of spirit, come on guys, words mean things).

As with the second movie,  the stories in this movie are all short, so they don't have too much time to get annoying before they're over. I really loved the first story, a found footage style story that takes place in some dark caves being explored by an archeology student and his friends. That's actually my favorite story in this movie. The rest of them don't feel like stories, because there aren't enough details for them to be considered stories. They're more like just scenes of something creepy, not a story that has a beginning,  a middle, and an end.

I know my chief complaint about the first "Invoking" movie was that it dragged, but these stories could still stand to have been longer without dragging too much. The one about the girl who always notices something creepy in the photos she tries to take with her phone is probably the best of the rest. This is still better than the first movie, though, so I guess that's a win.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #98: "The Invoking II"



Second verse, same as the first, only, hopefully better, not worse! That's right, I'm finally checking out the sequel to the low-budget horror movie "The Invoking." I gotta say, when I was typing this review, autocorrect tried to change that sentence to "low-end movie The Invoking," and that's mean, but kinda accurate. The first movie was a bunch of atmosphere that never gels into a coherent movie. I'm hoping this sequel is better (hey, don't look at me like that, sometimes sequels are better than the originals, it could happen!)

Apparently, this is a sequel in name only, which might be a good thing, considering how irritated I was by the original. This is supposed to be a collection of stories about people being touched (and often destroyed) by evil. It happens. It's not a regular anthology style horror movie, where we get a story that bookends all the short stories, like someone sitting down to read a collection of horror stories, and then each story is one of the short films in the movie. That helps ground those movies, but this movie just starts, and one story plays after the other with no connection between them and no indication of when we're switching from one story to another. That's kind of annoying. I mean, there's a little title card at the beginning of each new story, but I still wish they were connected somehow.

It might be a good thing that each of these stories is short, because my biggest problem with the original movie was that it dragged and dragged forever without ever getting to the point, and since they're short, these stories don't have time to do that. The first one is good, but a little too short to be called a "story." The others are cool, too. One has some good ghost effects, there's someone struggling with hallucinations that are a little too real, someone trying to run from justice (a bad idea in these kinds of movies), some friends goon a doomed cabin retreat (aren't all cabin retreats doomed in these movies), and a woman is stalked by a masked killer.

The stories are supposedly a collection of short films that producers found that weren't meant to be part of a collection. It's a cool idea, because short movies aren't likely to be released on their own, and if putting them together is more likely to get them seen, I'm all for that. This movie isn't anything original or groundbreaking, but the stories are still kinda cool, and I definitely liked this better than the first movie.

October Horror Challenge 2019 #97: "The Invoking"




I don't know much about this movie. Like for instance, I didn't know it was also released under the title "Sader Ridge," but both of the movie posters are pretty cool. Honestly, I only knew that it was a horror movie and it had Josh Truax in it, and I like him as an actor, so I wanted to watch the movie. Unfortunately I also promptly forgot about it, and it wasn't until I saw a movie poster for "The Invoking II" that I remembered it again. Gotta watch this movie before I check out the sequel  yo.


So this movie is about some college friends who are on a road trip. One of the girls, Sam, was raised by adoptive parents, and while she's in college she's contacted by a lawyer who informs her that she has an aunt who died and left her a house and several acres of land in a rural area. Since her adoptive parents are sensitive about her asking questions regarding her birth family, she doesn't tell them about the lawyer and instead heads out to explore the house and property with three of her friends. She has no memory of the place, even though she lived there for the first five years of her life, but once she's in the house she starts seeing things and hearing things, and soon she and her friends are driven to the brink of madness by some force they don't understand.


Ok, why do people in these movies always go on trips with their ex boyfriend or girlfriend? It keeps happening in these movies, and I don't get it, especially when the relationship had some dark secrets, and they're dating someone new who doesn't want them going on a trip with their ex (no shit, seriously, I wouldn't want them to do it either). There's enough tension going on a trip to some creepy place in the dark and digging up past memories that might be painful without adding a heaping dose of relationship drama on top of that.


People online have written lots of bitchy reviews complaining about the acting in this movie, but I don't think it's that bad. I've seen worse. Hell, I've seen worse acting in movies I've watched TODAY. Maybe everyone should try watching 100 horror movies in October. It definitely gives you a better perspective on what "bad acting" truly is. And I like the characters in this movie. Along with Sam and her ex, we have another guy and girl who seem to have some romantic tension between them, even though they're not dating (see, again, I wouldn't want to go on a road trip with the person I have a crush on who doesn't like me back, that seems like a recipe for a nightmare even if there aren't evil ghosts attacking us). But the characters have history, so it was entertaining watching them interact. There's also a young man staying on the property who is a caretaker for the house and grounds, and it turns out that he and Sam played together as kids, though she doesn't remember it.


Because of the kind of movie this is, haunted people in a place haunted by memories (if not ghosts) there's a lot of scenes of people bickering, staring off into space, and looking tormented by memories. I get that it has to happen to set the scene, but I think these scenes are a big part of why people call this movie boring. I will agree that the movie drags a lot more than it should. The scenes Sam sees in her head that play out in the rooms of the house like they're real but turn out to be like, waking nightmares or something, they're interesting, but not interesting enough to carry a whole movie. There's way too much space where just nothing is happening, and the characters start to get really annoying. They're always fighting. and the caretaker guy is hiding something, so it's frustrating when no one will just come out and tell the truth about whatever the hell is going on. It's less an "introspective thriller" and more a boring, confusing, jumbled mess. I hate to say it, because I really wanted to like this movie, but I understand now why everyone was so bitchy about it. It has potential, but it never realizes that potential. And now I'm bitchy. Thanks a lot, movie.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October Horror Challenge 2019 #96: "Waxwork"



This movie always lurks at the edges of my consciousness. Amazon and Netflix both recommend it to me every year, and I once had a roommate who loved this movie and its sequel. I'm finally sitting down to watch it after all these years and I hope it's as good as everyone has said.

This movie is billed as an "episodic" horror movie, which is a bunch of mini horror stories in one. This movie is different from other episodic horror movies though, because it's not a bunch of different stories introduced separately into a collection. The movie 8s about a mysterious waxwork museum that opens in the rich area of a town, and a group of college students are invited to come to a private showing one night at midnight. As each of them wanders off to look at different exhibits, they get sucked into the world that the scene represents. That's such a cool idea! Then each "episode" is just the kids trying to survive whichever scene they find themselves in.

This movie definitely makes me never want to go to a waxwork museum, even if it's not owned by a creepy guy who wants to unleash evil into the world. I think I was supposed to like the characters, especially the young rich man we meet at the beginning who defies his materialistic mother by daring to spend time with the hired help. I get that's supposed to make him sympathetic, but with his money and influence he could do more to help them than he does, and he's still a cocky little jerk who thinks he's a lot cooler than he is.

Call me crazy, but if my friends disappeared after we all visited a creepy wax museum one night, and I had a ton of money and a well-connected family, I'd do more than call a few cops and knock on the door and kindly ask to see the museum again (of course, I would have never left the damn museum in the first place after they disappeared, because I actually give a crap about my friends, but whatever).

There's some cool gore, and I liked watching the scenes play out. Vampires and werewolves are cool! So are mummies! Gotta love the classic monsters. And we get to see a guy ripped apart, and a midnight snack of bloody flesh that actually turned my stomach (I like rare steak, but eeeew). The characters do the typically dumb horror movie stuff (hey, let's go into this creepy wax museum alone at night after a bunch of people have disappeared here!) But without stupid moves like this, the movie would be five minutes long. I like the backstory of the museum owner and why he's doing these evil things. What an evil jerk, seriously. I guess you have to use your talents in life, but come ON, dude. Overall this was a really fun movie, and I'm glad I finally watched it.