I love horror movies.

Okay you guys.  I’m back.  Why now, you ask?  What has inspired me to return to this vortex of navel-gazing and narcissism?  Was I revitalized by my recent move to Los Angeles, a real-life vortex of navel-gazing and narcissism?  Have the sunshine and palm trees re-sparked my urge to word-vomit ?

No, friends.  Last night I watched a horror movie.  A pretty great horror movie.  And I love a great horror movie.  The House of the Devil came out last year to mostly positive reviews: it’s at 86% at Rotten Tomatoes, and has a metascore of 73 on Metacritic.

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The House of the Devil takes places in the early 1980’s, in a small, New England-looking college town.  Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) is a college sophomore who answers an ad looking for a babysitter in the hopes of paying for an off-campus apartment.  A friend drops her off at a creepy-looking Victorian out in the middle of nowhere.  At which point a creepy-looking man with a creepy-looking cane reveals that he and his creepy-looking wife don’t actually have a child, but in fact need Sam to stay with the wife’s mother, who they claim is asleep somewhere upstairs.  Sam is hesitant, but after the promise of a night of pizza, television, little-to-no work, and $400, she agrees to stay.  Unfortunately for our final girl, this turns out to be a bad idea.  Satan!!!!

Ok, so, that doesn’t sound all that exciting.  And it’s true, writer/director/editor Ti West takes standard elements from slasher/haunted house/devil-worship movies that we’ve seen a hundred time before, and doesn’t do much to push past the familiar tropes.  But what he does do is create such a spot-on homage to those typical ‘80’s horror movies, that if you’re familiar with them it’s really hard not to enjoy being thrust into that world.

And if your not familiar with them, but can appreciate an eerie atmosphere and good suspense, there hasn’t been a film I’ve seen in recent memory that’s done those two things so well.  West sure knows how to build some tension.  Aside from one early scare, not much happens in the first half of the movie. We get to know Sam, and feel for her predicament.  Once she gets to the titular house, West doesn’t settle for cheap shocks and empty jolts.  As she explores the house, the tension builds and builds until I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  Seriously creepy. Maybe too slow for some, but I was on the edge of my seat by the time the giant pentagrams show up and the blood starts flowing.

Unfortunately, the pay-off for all that tension is a bit anti-climactic.  The last 20 minutes or so are about as scary as any good occult movie (save Rosemary’s Baby, which is obvs in a class by itself), but not as scary as the build up lead me to imagine it would be.  But the devil’s in the details (see what I did there??!!), and the period setting, atmosphere, and suspense are done so well that it makes up for any minor disappointments in the end.

I spend a lot of my movie-viewing time trying to find good horror movies I haven’t seen before, and I end up mostly frustrated and disappointed.  The House of the Devil reminded me why I love a good scary movie.

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Dearest blog,

I know I’ve been distant lately.  Life has been so crazy (not really).  I promise it’s not you…it’s me.  It’s just that, well, I don’t know what I want. This relationship isn’t what I envisioned, and we’re going to have to make some changes.

Can we start over? I promise I’ll make it up to you.

xoxo

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Babies rule

Lucas is the 19-month-old boy whom I babysit twice a week.

Here is a list of names I taught him to say this morning:

1. Sam Cooke (Sa Cuck)

2. Al Green (Aw Gweem)

3. Michael Jackson (Mika Jacka)

4. The Swayze (Ha Wayzay)

YES. Also, my name is Uhjaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, for some reason.

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R.I.P. Patrick Swayze, The Swayz, Johnny Castle
If you haven’t seen
 , I suggest you correct that situation asap.
He will be missed.

R.I.P. Patrick Swayze, The Swayz, Johnny Castle

If you haven’t seen

red dawn , I suggest you correct that situation asap.

He will be missed.

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It’s fall coming, I kept thinking, fall coming; just like that was the strangest thing ever happened. Fall. Right outside here it was spring a while back, then it was summer, and now it’s fall - that’s sure a curious idea.
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
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Played 3 times

NPR: ‘Reading Rainbow’ Reaches Its Final Chapter

reading rainbow

Folks, it is truly a sad day. I grew up watching Reading Rainbow.  I was an English major in college.  Coincidence?

Apparently, nobody wants to put up the money to keep the show going. Of course. Because, really, we should be encouraging children to read less, amiright?  Let’s encourage them to be magical teen pop stars who lead double lives instead! I hear books are totes a waste of time.

Real talk though: LeVar Burton rules. Reading Rainbow, dude from Star Trek: The Next Generation, AND Kunte Kinte?

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Mad Men 3.2: “Love Among the Ruins”

mad men 3.2 ann-margret

Last Sunday’s episode of Mad Men opens with a close-up of a pleading Ann-Margret from Bye Bye Birdie, singing sweetly and looking directly into the camera.  Her face conveys an innocent, unabashed desperation.  Ken, Sal, and Harry bop along to the song, patting their knees along with the rhythm, clearly pleased by what they are viewing.  Not so, Peggy. She appears apprehensive, skeptical, even bewildered by the men’s collective reaction.

It turns out that Pepsi wants to use Ann-Margret’s scene as the basis for a commercial for their new diet soda, “Patio”.  Peggy tries to explain that this kind of ad would clearly be for men, and not the women Pepsi wants to target.  The rest of the men at the meeting don’t care, making it clear that when it comes down to it, it’s the male gaze that matters most. If men like it, women will want it.

This scenario sets up my favorite thread from this episode, that of Peggy struggling with what’s being presented in Sterling Cooper as the tyranny of the male gaze - that it dictates what women feel that they want or need.  She comes to realize, through taking on the role of spectator, the possibilities and limitations of having control over how she is viewed. My favorite scene in the episode is when Peggy is alone in her bedroom, dressed in her nightgown, imitating Ann-Margret in the mirror.   She uses this kind of imitation again when she goes to a bar and tells a joke she heard Joan tell to a group of men earlier that day.  Her lack of control in her professional environment becomes fuel for taking control in her personal life, complete with bringing a man home from the bar, and telling him that “there are other things [they] can do” when he doesn’t have a condom. But it’s the kind of control she’s learning to have by catering to a male gaze that shuts her down professionally.

The question of control marks another important moment of spectatorship, as Don looks on as his children and their flower-child-esque teacher prance around a May Pole, performing a moment of transition and renewal. This image emphasizes the tensions that Don has confronted throughout the episode between “natural” transition, decay, renewal, and “articifial” transition.  The exchanges with the Madison Square Garden people about tearing down Penn Station, the problem of Betty’s father and his old age, and the new British leadership over Sterling Cooper beg the question: who controls the way things change, and when?

Don seems to keep being told in one way or the other that in the end no one has any control: “Who’s running this place?” he asks.  Even Pryce tells Don that he doesn’t know why they bought Sterling Cooper.  Betty’s father gives a wonderful moment of insight, telling Don “The animals are running the zoo,” and pondering “the plans, the plans, the plans you make,” as if he knows that they are inevitably futile, that nature must take its course without Don’s permission.

Watching the May Day celebration, Don seems to embrace this view of transition, reaching down to the grass as if yearning to give himself over to nature’s firm grasp on change.  Is this why he decides to take Betty’s father in, a man at the whim of time and age? Is it a symbol of his acceptance of the transitions dictated by the natural world?  Even if the answer is yes, ultimately Don is the one who, like Peggy, takes control over this private situation. He is the one to dictate what will be done with Betty’s father.  It’s as if Peggy and Don are both figuring out how to control what they can within a system that is unwilling to give up control.

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Played 3 times

Ellie Greenwich, the woman who wrote some of my favorite songs ever, including ‘And Then He Kissed Me’ performed by The Crystals, died today at the age of 68.

She also wrote ‘Chapel of Love,’ ‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ ‘Be My Baby,’ ‘Leader of the Pack,’ ‘Baby I Love You,’ and ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’.

This might be one of the most depressing summers ever.

MSNBC obit

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