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Posts tagged “The Conjuring

Digging into the Short Film Christmas Pile

The Twelve Slays of Christmas 2013

For the tenth Slay of Christmas, this genre gave to me, ten vids-a-streaming, Santa’s assassin, crazy dancing eyebrows, Santa vs. Zombies, the anti-Santa Nackles, BILL GOLDBERG!, four creepy songs, Tales from the Crypt, Santa’s demon Krampus, and a scream queen hanging free!

Hopefully my previous slays have gotten you into the horror holiday mood, but if not you are in for a treat today. That’s right, this Axe-Wielding Santa is early for you good boys and girls and I come bearing the gifts of 10 short horrific films. Now, I’ve dug really deep into the pile this year to ensure that you don’t just get all of the same as previous seasonal holiday lists on other sites. But I will admit that there are a few chillers here that I found listed elsewhere that I didn’t want to leave off. Some of the flicks are animated. Some are claymation. Some are obviously amateurish (but still a good deal better than Santa vs. the Zombies, yeech). These yuletide treats were made with love, and I hope you enjoy them just as much as I do.

Honorable mention: there is an excellent 7 minute short film that served as the precursor to Rare Exports. I don’t want to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it, but I do want to say that this is a very respectable short that covers the exact same material from the film. If you’ve seen the full-length Rare Exports then the shorter version is interesting to view to see a much more condensed version of the idea!

#1 The Winter Stalker

(these are in a mostly arbitrary order)

The 1980 film Christmas Evil (come back tomorrow for a longer review) details just how creepy it is for a middle-aged man to spy on children (both nice and naughty). Here is a short film written and directed by Stephen Reedy that distills the idea of becoming the target of a Santa Claus stalker.

#2 My Name is Kris Kringle

This one takes things a step further from just stalking children, as Santa is hauled into the police station after hacking up a few naughties with a meat cleaver. It isn’t until after explaining that he is simply following the orders on his list, that the full enormity of the situation comes to light. This very dark tale was written and directed by Drew Daywalt.

#3 I Still Believe

In this claymation short we can see a despondent Santa inches away from simply giving up. He hasn’t wandered into creepy stalker/killer territory yet, but it is very clear that this Old Saint Nick is far from jolly. Then he gets a visit that is simply out of this world. Can extraterrestrials get Santa Claus back into the Christmas spirit? This short was animated by the artist Mr. Oz.

#4 Night of the Living Santa

This darkly humorous cartoon was made by Michael Friedman for aniBOOM. Again, we find a depressed Santa, and see exactly what happens when he gives up. This is probably the most funny pick on the list, as the elves use the Christmas Necronomicon to bring Kris Kringle back from the dead. As you can imagine, an undead Santa would prefer brains over cookies on Christmas Eve!

#5 Vampire Santa

Following the idea of a zombie Santa is this one where Santa Claus is a vampire (possibly?). This is an episode of a show called Boss Hospital by Raym Hensley, which appears to be a little know gem of comedic weirdness. It’s a 2 and a half minute strange non-sequitur, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I enjoyed this. Hopefully you will too as you find yourself repeating “Merry Christ’s Mass” in a few days time.

#6 Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is a recent holiday tradition, but a strange one none-the-less. Santa has enlisted the help of these stone-faced smiling creeps the world over to watch over kids and ensure that they stay good during the holiday season. As Child’s Play, The Puppet Master, or more recently, The Conjuring, have shown us, dolls are inherently off-putting. But when imbued with magical powers they become all the more unsettling. There are several weird Elf on the Shelf videos online, but this one is the most effective.

#7 Christmas Morning

Here is an amateur film that has to be, technically speaking, one of the best. It doesn’t suffer from shaky cam, the special effects aren’t too bad, and the song featured is actually pretty funny. The girl lip-synching is a bit off at times, but that doesn’t take too much away from the video’s effectiveness. It was directed by Ryan Richardson and seemingly only featured his family members. I’d be interesting to see what he could put together with more of a budget.

#8 Little Cracker

Well, let’s say you’re a child, and your parents are murdered on Christmas. If you’re not lucky enough to have a grandma to live with, then probably you’d end up in an orphanage. Orphanages never seem to be especially happy places, but as Silent Night, Deadly Night, and this short film (and the following one) show us, they can really be deadly during the holidays. In Little Cracker, director Paul Mayers does a lot with very little to craft a story about an orphan boy who just isn’t right.

#9 The Bottleberry Orphans

This is a creepy poem about another deadly Christmas at the orphanage. The imagery used in the video is great, and the poem is off-putting. Lyrically it doesn’t rhyme, but that adds to its unsettling effectiveness. Unfortunately, this poem is not spoken, so you’ll have to read along with a spooky rendition of Silent Night, Holy Night in the background.

#10 976-Evil 2

My last pick for this holiday themed list of scary shorts comes from the full-length 976-Evil 2. The movie itself is largely unmemorable, but this mash-up of Night of the Living Dead and It’s a Wonderful Life is an excellent way to spice up that annual showing of Jimmy Stewart’s tale of angelic redemption. Just beware of Zuzu’s trowel.

So holiday horror hounds, cuddle up close to the fireplace and try to keep warm while watching these chillers!

American Horror Story: Coven — Bitchcraft


The Beat-by-Beat

American Horror Story is back with an all new season — Coven. And if you couldn’t guess from the subtitle, this story is all about witches. ‘Bitchcraft’ (the episode name tells me these ladies be sassy!) opens in New Orleans in 1834. Kathy Bates is Madam Delphine LaLaurie, the sadistic mistress of a large mansion who hosts opulent parties in the front rooms, while up in the attic hides away tortured slaves shackled to the walls or stuck in cages too small for human bodies. And those are the lucky ones who haven’t been flayed alive. LaLaurie has three daughters, one of which is openly defiant and brazen in her sexuality. The madam takes her kin in stride though, as she is all too concerned with keeping her girlish looks by painting on a red concoction of blood and pancreatic secretions (all in the name of beauty). When LaLaurie’s youngest is caught cavorting with a black freedman, she has the man taken up to the attic of horrors and mounted with the head head of a bull!

Cut to present day. Young Zoe Benson, played by Taissa Farmiga (missing from last season’s Asylum series, but present in AHS’s first, Murder House), is having her very first sexual tryst with a boyfriend. This first lesson of carnal knowledge also comes with the revelation that she is not a regular teenage girl. Things do not end well for her partner, as Zoe discovers that she has the power to suck the life out of men.

Zoe, obviously distraught over this turn of events, is informed by her mother that she is indeed a witch, despite the genetic trait having skipped a generation or two. Consequently, she is sent away to a boarding school (a regular Hogwarts) in New Orleans. Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies is run by Cordelia Foxx (AHS alum Sarah Paulson) and hosts a coven of three other witches in training: Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), a Lindsey Lohan-esque party-girl actress with the power of telekinesis; Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) a human voodoo doll who can inflict pain on others by physically harming herself; and Nan (Jamie Brewer, another AHS season 1 returnee), a clairvoyant.

The coven is rounded out by Fiona Goode (played by the fabulous Jessica Lange). Fiona is the “Supreme” of this witch generation, meaning that she is the most powerful (and likely also most ambitious) witch walking the Earth. Her powers are tantamount to those of all the other witches combined. She can levitate, do Jedi-mind tricks, toss people aside with a mere flick of the wrist, and steal the life-force away from a man with a single kiss. This last power seems to be waning however, and Fiona is depicted as being on a quest for youth. Following a failed injection of vitality serum, she soulsucks the scientist who developed it, and then decides to drop back in on her estranged daughter Cordelia and the school’s bevy of neophytes.

The night before Fiona’s return is a deadly and eventful one, when Zoe accompanies Madison to a frat house party. There, Zoe meets Kyle (AHS stalwart Evan Peters), the mature fratboy of the group (who doesn’t mind being reduced to a stereotype). While the characters of Peters and Farmiga were fated to love each other for eternity in AHS: Murder House, this pair hardly has a chance to get their relationship started, as a drugged Madison is being raped upstairs by Kyle’s frat brothers. Kyle puts the kibosh on that and tries to talk some reason into his fraternal brethren, but only gets knocked out for his trouble. Zoe and the now conscious Madison follow the fratboys out to their bus, where Madison uses her power to get revenge by toppling over the bus and setting it ablaze.

The next day, in a powerplay that is sure to continue throughout the season, Fiona defies Cordelia’s wishes and takes the students on a tour of historic haunted New Orleans. First stop: the LaLaurie Mansion! It is here that Fiona realizes that her aims coincide Madam LaLaurie’s, who had been poisoned and presumed dead, but whose body was never found. Fortunately Nan is able to locate the body buried near a fountain, and wouldn’t you know it, after Fiona has a few men dig up the chained coffin, out pops a rather befuddled, but altogether alive Madam LaLaurie.

Following the encouragement to embrace their powers by Fiona (rather than Cordelia’s method of self-preservation through hiding) Zoe goes back to the hospital where two of the fratboys had survived the bus crash. She is dismayed to see that Kyle was not one of the survivors, but she is able to extract a bit of vengeance by killing the one who initiated Madison’s gangrape. Sexual promiscuity equalling death is one of the oldest tropes in the horror genre, but never has it been so hamfistingly clear as when it is portrayed by a witch deathfucking a comatose victim.

My Thoughts

This season of American Horror Story has started out in a much more linear fashion than the last season. It is much less schizophrenic, which is a good thing, considering the change of setting. Last season got away with showing a lot of crazy stuff because the main theme was sanity. This season seems like it will stick to a traditionally told (main storyline told chronologically, with some flashbacks to the 1800s).

The initial voiceover with Zoe seemed a bit amateurish at first, but it was much less annoying during the ending of the show. These younger actresses (Taissa Farmiga & Emma Roberts) have quite a bit of work to do to get to the level of a Jessica Lange or Kathy Bates. But being on set and able to perform with such veterans should give them quite the leg up. One of the best aspects of this show (apart from being the best written horror series currently on TV — sorry Walking Dead) is the fantastic acting. Lange can really chew up the set pieces if given the right material, and I thought that Sarah Paulson really shined last season too. The interplay between these two (as well as Bates) should be captivating to see.

I didn’t mention in my beat-by-beat about the short appearances by other American Horror Story alumnae Frances Conroy and Lily Rabe, but they were both good too. Conroy was the one who personally shuttled Zoe to New Orleans, so I assume that she serves as some sort of talent scout for the coven. I’m sure we’ll see her character again in the series, probably in a more limited role like last season. Rabe, unfortunately, played covenless witch Misty Day who was discovered and burned at the stake. Although it looks like she is dead, given that this story is about witchcraft and one of their powers being resurrection, she may return.

Also, Angela Bassett was the witch (voodoo priestess?) who poisoned Bates. Certainly we haven’t seen the last of her!

The fratboys in the deadly bus crash reminded me of the similar scene in Night of the Creeps. I doubt American Horror Story will feature any brain-dwelling alien slugs though (at least not this season anyway). Also the subject of rape and fraternities is all too topical these days given this rapebait email scandal.

Finally, it seems to me that witches are presently having their day in the sun (er, full blood moon night). One of the summer’s biggest horror films was The Conjuring, and this show as well as the surprisingly not terrible Sleepy Hollow TV show prominently feature witches. I’m all for it, and say, let the zombies shamble on into the sunset; this is a witch’s time to shine.