Thursday, October 31, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 31: The Sixth Sense (1999)

What I love about ending with this movie is that I think it feels so outside of the other spirit films. It, in essence, changed or disrupted the typical view of a haunting movie. Not only does it have the twist (which would become Shyamalan's trademark), but it ended up creating a whole new scare style and character development.

It has the element of a haunting as a dramatic plot device, but the haunting is also at the root of the scares. As I mentioned in previous entries, there is the fine line of there being a deeper moving only using the skin of a haunting, possession, or malicious spirit and the movies that are more about the actual supernatural activity and the story is driven directly by the haunting. Here is where that fine line is danced upon and then broken.

Sadly, though, once you've seen the twist, it takes a little bit away from the movie when watching it again. The nice thing is that you start to see all the little hints and signs of the twist throughout the movie.

1999 was clearly a high point in the release and reinvention of the spirit/possession genre and this one continued the tradition of breaking the mold and upping the ante on this style of filmmaking.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 24: The Haunting (1999)

For being in 1999, The Haunting has some interesting special effects. I was thinking back to when I originally watched it, and it just wasn't as dated then.

When I was doing some digging around about the movie, I learned that Stephen King and Steven Spielberg were working on developing this movie together. The interesting part of it is that Steven Spielberg wanted it to be a heroic story and Stephen King wanted it to be a scary movie. The parted ways on the project and Spielberg gave us The Haunting and King gave us Rose Red, which I'll be watching later, but am very familiar with.

What is interesting, though, and that I'm really noticing is at the heart of these stories with the houses or mostly any ghost story is the emphasis on the backstory and the history. Sometimes it has someone who knows all the details and brings others along. Then there are the ones where the people discover it through research or history. Then there's the twist kind where someone who knows everything tricked the people involved and it's typically because they want to get something out of it. I think I need to revisit this idea in the wrap-up piece.

The Haunting utilizes the one character who knows everything and is exploiting the people he's drawn in under false pretenses. He has an ulterior motive that goes away pretty quickly after things take a turn. The history of the house and the "reality" behind the haunting is discovered through research and intuition by the leading lady.

I don't think it stands the test of time, but the story is an interesting one, as part of the Winchester Mystery House tradition. The unique use of connections to the haunted house and the history that surrounds the house, coupled with the main character's own history makes it stand apart. It is slow and isn't really about the spook and scare, so be prepared for something a bit more akin to a drama, but set in a haunted house.

The Haunting also pays homage to The Haunting of Hill House (1959) with the blood writing on the wall, which was a great surprise.

Finally, tying it into this long list of films... we have Lili Taylor as the lead role... and she's Carolyn Perron from The Conjuring.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 23: House on Haunted Hill (1959)

I'm sure at the time of it's release, it was riveting. Now it has its nostalgia factors, one of which is Vincent Price. For the time, the visual effects were really interesting. The twist at the end, though, is what makes this a great inspiration for so many other haunted house movies that make it more about just people being harassed by ghosts. A great addition to a dated film.

***After watching The Haunting, there is a bit of homage to The House on Haunted Hill with the painting of information on the wall.***

Quick Apology

Quick apology if you've actually been following the month long challenges. As prepared as I was and still am on this project, I just had some news dropped in my lap that has derailed me.

Four years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. After treatment it had gone into remission and she was doing well. She recently had her yearly CT scan and the cancer is back. It is in her heart and her liver. The length of time she has left has been estimated at 2-3 months.

It's a hard decision figuring out what to do. She's going through the options with support from her family and friends. That is why some of these entries are not moving along as intended.

I'm hoping to catch up, as the movie entries are a huge passion for me and was the project I was the most excited about.

Again, sorry for the delays.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 21: Attack on Titan: The Last Stand (2017)

TMI - Usually as I get ready for bed, I have my television on. On Adult Swim there have Anime on Saturday nights and I fell into watching Attack on Titan. It is so revolting, yet it drew me in. Bottom line, I'm kind of a fan. When I saw they turned it into a tabletop game, I was really interested. When I learned Attack on Titan: The Last Stand was made by Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc it became a must-add to my collection. Finally it happened and I've become a fan.

Loved the mechanics. Loved the asymmetrical quality. It reminded me of a more involved version of Jurassic Park: DANGER! With the one player playing the dinosaurs/titans and the other players playing the characters and using their designated skills. Attack on Titan, though, felt more involved and requires more strategy. I really am excited to break it out again. Our game went quickly but it was our first time.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 20: Session 9 (2001)

I thought long and hard about adding Session 9 (2001) to my list. Some say it is about a man going mad, so a whole psychological breakdown. Others, though, consider it a haunting or even a form of possession.

I think the tapes reveal the secrets of the haunting, ending with Simon. I think that when Gordon first sees the chair in the hallway, he is captured by the spirit of Simon. I don't believe that Simon is one of Mary's personalities.

I could have put this with malevolent spirits, but I think there is more of a connection to the place, specifically Mary's room.

Session 9 is honestly a tricky film to figure out, but while a slow burn with the plot, the end rushes up on you, leaving you reeling.

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 20: Elder Sign (2011)

Elder Sign is a lighter companion piece to Fantasy Flight’s other Cthulu games Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror.

Elder Sign is a cooperative game that inspires terror at midnight! Elder Sign plays 1-8 players, but is best played with 4, if you want to defeat the evil that is unleashed. You encounter spooky locations within a 1926 museum and through the use of dice and special cards try to earn elder signs to aide in battle against the big bad Ancient One, once it is awoken.  You will lose members along the way, but never fear, others will emerge to help the team be victorious against what lurks just past midnight.

I've heard debate over which game is the better Cthulu: Elder Sign, Eldritch Horror, or Arkham Horror. I think Elder Sign is significantly faster and less of an absurd table hog than Arkham Horror. I would argue that Arkham Horror is overly bloated with mechanics that back in 2005 may have seemed cool, because it added to the them, but 14 years later just seem annoying. For that, Elder Sign stands the test of time and the growth of the game industry.

Also, with the outstanding Gates of Arkham expansion, Elder Sign takes you out of the museum and becomes just as thematically city-sprawling as Arkham Horror without adding too much bloat. It is just so much more accessible, especially when introducing people to the genre of games and it is a plus to play with most of my kids. This is an absolutely fantastic game.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 19: Betrayal at House on the Hill (2004)

You and your fellow players go through the doors of this foul mansion to unearth its mysteries. Move room to room looking for clues, finding means to protect you from the horrors that lurk around every corner. Not only is your life in danger, but your very sanity teeters on the brink. In the end, one of your compatriots turns out to be a traitor and each game of Betrayal at House on the Hill leads you down a very different story path depending on a number of circumstances. Is someone bringing for demons from another dimension? Is their a vampire amongst you? Is one of you a lunatic housing a gang of murderous escaped inmates? Has someone bowed down before alien eye-creature overlords? One never knows what sinister happenings you will discover at the House on the Hill.

This game is so awesome! We brought it to the lock-in and the kids thought it was great! The best part was the twist at the end. Whoever gets the book as the betrayer goes off and hides and reads their part. Everyone else at the table wonders what is going to happen and tensions start to run high! These are the kinds of games that my middle school kids get a kick out of. For instance, Dead of Winter also has a potential betrayer and so the kids are always trying to figure the person out. Sadly, it gets so distracting sometimes, because you have the kid who is always saying that they're the betrayer or "maybe it's me?" and all of that sort of thing. It's that unknown factor that just drives them crazy, because we all know kids think they know everything and always want to feel smarter than everyone around them.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 17: Ghost Stories (2008)

A co-operative game from designer Antoine Bauza (he also gave us the previously reviewed Hanabi and so many other great games). A game for 1-4 players, Ghost Stories is about 4 noble and mystical Taoist priests protecting a village from an onslaught of ghosts, demons, vampires, and everything else that goes bump in the night. Players perform exorcisms, take special actions by enlisting the help of certain villagers, and work together to prevent any of the priests from becoming overrun and any of the village locations from becoming haunted. This all culminates in the priests doing battle with the incarnation of Wu-Feng, Lord of the Nine Hells. This is an incredibly difficult game the requires precise teamwork and strategy, but its elegant design and simple mechanics make for tremendous fun.

I laugh when my husband gets it out. He still considers it an incredibly strategic game and he'll have little play sessions alone at night playing it. It is so adorable. We've even played it with our daughter and it's been interesting. Our middle school kids, though, had the most fun, whether we bring it for lock-ins or our game unit... it's a challenging yet rewarding game.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

More Custom Starbucks Frappuccinos

I have to say that I went on a bit of a bender with these drinks. Sugar abounds, which is never a good thing in my household, but after living a year and a half on an extreme food lifestyle, I feel entitled to have a little bit of fun. So this weekend we had a little bit more fun!

The first one was the Smelly Cat. The Friends secret Starbucks menu is popular right now and while the majority of the drinks are just something straight off the menu that a character would order, I thought the Smelly Cat would be a fun drink to try.

Smelly Cat ( How-to-Make)
It is a nice drink. It has a bit of earthiness to it from the dragon fruit. It really felt like a "hippie" drink, which is the point. My husband got the same thing and he loved it.

How to order:
- Size (we did Grande.)
- Vanilla Bean Frappuccino
-  Coconut Milk
- "Splash" of Guava Juice and Dragon Fruit
- Whipped cream

Then this weekend, we went and tried some spooky Halloween drinks, but also my husband just wanted something that felt more him. The sad part is... I forgot my phone the first time we were going to go, which was when we dropped our daughter off at acting. The second time... and I warned my husband about this, was going to be during too busy of a time and they wouldn't be as happy about a custom order. And sure enough... they were not. So sadly these pictures aren't what we hoped for, but honestly... isn't it also about the taste of it?

The Joker ( How-to-Make)
I am a green tea fan. Not a "Venti" green tea fan, but I really enjoy it. The Venti was too big for me, but my husband just went Venti because his order later down was listed as a Venti. The Joker, though, was pretty good! The strawberry sauce with the green tea balanced out the tea and sweet factor. Despite it looking like an injured Swamp Thing or a horrible zombie attack, it was really quite delicious. Unpredictable, maybe, because you never knew if you'd get just the tea, just the sauce, or both. Chaos in a cup? Totally Joker! Awesome!

How to order:
- Size (my husband ordered a Venti...)
- Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappaccino
- Draw a strawberry sauce smile on the side of the cup.
- Matcha Whipped Cream (which mine doesn't have, so it's regular whip with Matcha sprinkle)
- Mocha Drizzle finish

Beetlejuice ( How-to-Make)
The image of this would have been great, but the lines weren't there and it just all ran down. The person making them was in a frenzy and just dumped things into the cup. But that's alright. It had some great flavor if you're into a more mocha flavor from the drizzle. Almost like... well... it was like a shake with some mocha flavor. My husband liked it just a smidge more than his Horchata, but would not swap out the Horchata for the Beetlejuice. (Note: My husband isn't a Starbucks fan and it takes quite a bit to find a drink he'll like. I learned last week that nothing with Pumpkin Spice should be served to him.)

How to order:
- Size (my husband ordered a Venti...)
- Vanilla Bean Frapp
- Mocha Drizzle (lining the cup like stripes)
- Matcha Whipped Cream (which mine doesn't have, so it's regular whip)
- Matcha sprinkles on top

Horchata ( How-to-Make)
My husband loves Horchata and tries it most places we go that serve it. So when I was scrolling through custom drinks, he saw it and wanted to try it. He really enjoyed it, especially the foam. It blew his mind! (My husband took the picture below while in the passenger seat... it doesn't do the drink justice and you can't see the cute sip-lid.)

How to order:
- Size (my husband ordered a Venti)
- Iced Latte
- Almond Milk
- 2 Espresso Shots Only
- 2 Pumps Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
- 5 Pumps Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce Syrup
- Add Cold Foam made with Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
- Cinnamon Topping

The recipe said to get some stevia to add in, but my husband liked it just fine without. It's a taste thing.

I don't know if I can keep up the sugar rush of the drinks, but I really have had a ball trying these. I also lucked out on one of my drink orders and essentially got the drink for free because of all my stars! Bonus! 

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 13: The Last Exorcism (2010)

The Last Exorcism has one of those titles that makes you forget about it and a poster that doesn't really match up to the film itself. So every time I see the post or hear the title, I have to rack my brain to remember the movie. And as I watched it, it just had too many things that made me think of Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring combined into some sort of shameful attempt at fear, with a little touch of Southern insanity.

The film is done as a faux documentary, with a film crew following a hoax preacher, Cotton Marcus, who claims he can do exorcisms, but really it's about praying on the weak. He shows up at this family's home and their daughter, Nell, is said to be possessed. There is the act of helping with an exorcism. Then little pieces are revealed that make the preacher think something else is going on and then things take a turn for the worst. The question lingers, though, as to whether or not she's truly possessed or is just ashamed of being pregnant as a young girl.

It essentially becomes a possession film revolving around a Satanic/Demonic cult. This is revealed further in The Last Exorcism II (um... let that title sink in for a second). As I'll get to in a later post, Paranormal Activity is essentially a demonic cult/possession film and isn't about a ghost at all! The Last Exorcism might also be touching on the Rosemary's Baby story of being forced to bear the son of a demon or Satan and you're at the mercy of the cult.

Regardless, the movie is pretty interesting. It has its own twists and turns that make it unique from other possession films, but the sequel is unnecessary with some horribly cheesy special effects at the end, as well as just a disappointing ending.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 12: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a bit of a departure from the possession story that The Exorcist presents. What happens to the priest when the possessed dies as a result of the exorcism and how does psychiatric medicine figure into the label of demon possession?

The story is based on the real life story of Anneliese Michel, who went through a similar experience of being diagnosed with epilepsy, then depression, then other psychosis problems that required psychiatric help and medication. The long and short of the story is that medication over an almost 10 year period was having not effect on improving the condition and the family saw Anneliese getting worse. The family finally decided that she was possessed and called in a priest for support.

Possession and diagnosed mental illnesses or brain conditions have been a long battled issue. Well... not like people are out there challenging this daily, but it's a topic of debate and concern. Not only by people in the medical field and skeptics, but even by the Catholic Church itself. If we go back to the days before modern medicine, women who were suffering from various psychoses were committed to institutes (informal or otherwise) or were forced into seclusion via convents. The cultural history of the nun and it's presentations are rife with these types of conditions.

In The Exorcism of Emily Rose the matter is mental illness verses possession is well played out. Both sides of the case are presented, from symptoms to connections to even letters and testimonials. There is a level of the supernatural that makes you want to believe one side and there's a more realistic level that causes you to wonder about coincidence and subliminal suggestion.

While not endowed with shock horror value, the film has its moments, but I love the thinky quality it possesses (get it... possesses... hahaha...).

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 12: Zombicide (2012)

Zombicide is a Kickstarter phenomena that has spawned several sequels and all sorts of mini-characters that are inspired by pop-culture. You could say, at this point, it is completely out of control and you could dedicate a whole room to your house for all the Zombicide you might own! At least you can play this cooperatively or there are individual glory quests, so with all the stuff there will never be a dull moment. The game books have the campaigns you can follow in them, explaining end-goals and missions. The problem, as with most zombie games, is being overrun with zombies! And in Zombicide you face the Abomination which can only be defeated with a special concoction. In other expansions and games, there are other challenges, additions, monsters, and goodness knows what else. It is a whole world of possibilities!

Zombicide is the most epic epic games and can actually take up an entire weekend of gaming. My favorite characters are El Cholo (AKA Machete) and Dave (AKA Sheldon). There are so many character options, depending on the editions and character expansions, you can have endless geek fun representing all sorts of cult classics. I've played this with my game club kids and it has been a hoot. Practically an RPG without being an RPG and the kids really get into the action. Cooperative play at the middle school age is really great!

Friday, October 11, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 11: The Exorcist (1973)

While many exorcism and other supernatural spirit films call on the echoes of rituals and cults, The Exorcist brings us right into the realm of mysticism and the connections it has to the world - the old world and the new world. Clearly this is brought about with the opening at an archaeological dig. We sift through the remnants of the past, hoping the understand more about the ancient world, but instead we playing with things that we only think we know something about. Hubris. All the dichotomies the long opening offers because we get to Georgetown and the possession.

As the film plays out, though, we are introduced to the supernatural spirits' best friend... the Ouija board. This is the gateway to the demon who then wreaks havoc on Reagan and her mother. The Exorcist is its own classic horror film and the roots of so many other films clearly crib from it, even if they're in denial. I mean, honestly... once you enter into a genre you can argue it wasn't planned, but certain things become ingrained into our culture and occasionally find their way out into modern film.

An origin film and, again, it fits into this perfect start to more modern exorcism films.

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 11: Zombie Fluxx (2007)

My daughter has never played Fluxx before. She knows I absolutely adore zombies, so she took the time to play this with me. The basics of Fluxx is that you start out by drawing a card and playing a card and the rest of the time you just follow the rules on the cards. This was both frustrating and exciting for her. I, though, enjoyed it. The zombie variant offers several new twists and changes (such as groaning like a zombie when you get a zombie creeper and the Ungoal that causes everyone to lose).

A great quick game for the spooky season.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 10: The Possession (2012)

The Possession has an interesting place in my spread of movies. It has the malicious spirit attached to an item quality, but that spirit possesses the daughter in a very demonic way.  The dybbuk box is part of Jewish mythology and there is part history and part fictionalized horror. The box itself is said to have been specifically a wine box and that, when burned, will burn an excessively long time, releasing the spirit. At some point, a guy created a box and sold it on eBay along with his fiction story about it, which is what this particular movie is based on. Well... based on the story, not buying the box off of eBay.

According to one of the histories I read, the dybbuk originally was considered a demonic spirit, but over time it was changed to be an angry spirit.  This is primarily why I put it between the possessed items and demonic possession. 

The Possession itself is an interesting movie. It follows the same traditional format of not realizing an item is possessed and essentially getting entangled in the situation. Again, here we have an individual who takes on the spirit from the box, fighting from inside. This is similar to the Annabelle movies in The Conjuring Universe.

One of the best images, though, is in the hospital and the scan of her inner body. A unique touch in this particular genre. Addressing that idea of where does a spirit or demon go when they possess us or is it just an ethereal thing. 

The film has its creepy moments and how people suffer at the hands of a possessed tween, but again the plot is relatively formulaic. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 9: Oculus (2013)

Oculus is an interesting movie that truly deals with a malevolent force. Like with Annabelle (the possessed doll), the main character, Kaylie, is convinced that an old mirror is responsible for the deaths in her family. She spends years and a good majority of money researching and finally tracking down the mirror. Kaylie waits for her brother, Tim, to be released for a psychiatric hospital where he has spent his time after being accused of killing his parents.

Kaylie gets Tim and takes him back to their childhood home where she attempts to rope him into documenting how evil the mirror is. Sadly, it doesn't go well for either of them, because the spirit that inhabits the mirror is determined to keep it's home safe so that he can continue to harass and torture the living.

Having just finished watching Annabelle Comes Home (2019), I found it interesting that Ed Warren asserts demons don't attach themselves to object, they attach themselves to people. I don't know if I buy that, despite demons seeking lifeforms and "haunt" the living until they can enter someone. But with Oculus, the spirit is clearly malicious and wants nothing more than to hurt the family.

When I think back on Oculus I always seem to have a different story in mind. Almost like it combines with another story. I think this is mostly due to the cover, but when I watched it again it really had that kind of psychological scare that comes along with malicious spirit movies. This spirit really goes all out to mess with their minds and it's hard not to feel sorry for the family.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 8: The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring Series absolutely enthralls me. I spent a good bit of time looking into how the films came about and how involved James Wan was in the production. As I mentioned in the Insidious commentary, Wan and Whannell and Peli are these three keystones to the modern take on the supernatural horror genre. What I found at the heart of the production started to open the lid of Pandora's Box even more than this binge session already had.

Long story short, the script went through a bunch of drama to the try to get made, but Chad and Carey Hayes were finally brought on to give the script a treatment and bring it up to something a bit more Hollywood. They are the ones to really bring in the Warren's POV of the events taking place, instead of it just focusing on the family's POV. Here, consultations with Lorraine Warren were even made. After the script had started to be floated, then they attached Wan as a director, which also brought with it Patrick Wilson.

The interesting connection that popped up was that the original writer of the initial script/story, Tony DeRosa-Grund, had made a deal with Gold Circle films. Clearly the deal fell through and the script just got moved around like crazy. Gold Circle films, though, is the production company that did The Haunting in Connecticut, which is another movie that is going to pop up later with the haunted house films.

Also, Carey and Chad Hayes had some horror credits to their name with House of Wax (2005) and The Reaping (2007). Not that any of these have a place in this holiday binge, but the slasher and psychological horror aspects I think are interesting backgrounds to have going into this new and cutting edge take on ghost films.

While I chose The Conjuring as my title item, I also am drawing in the other Conjuring movies. The emergence of one just built an entire franchise that still has a very intriguing development in regards to the ghost/spirit/haunted story genre.

Annabelle (2014-2019)
The Annabelle movies fall more into the possession category. The object (doll) is possessed by a demon and seeks a host to bring it to life. The demon was summoned through the prayers of desperate parents who wanted nothing more than to see their daughter again. How the story continues to develop is really intriguing, spanning numerous films. Another interesting connection between the Annabelle films/Conjuring Universe and the spirit films is Lulu Wilson, who is in Annabelle: Creation (2017) and Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016). She plays Doris in Ouija - the girl who is possessed. She plays Linda in Annabelle - the girl who wants to stop the possessed Janice. The series is really engaging and I love watching it. It still has some spooks and scares after several watches.

The Nun (2018)
This is another demonic entity and I'm interested in seeing how this story unfolds. They say there will be a second one. This demon is connected directly to The Conjuring and what Lorraine Warren goes through. It's amazing how they make sure all the movies are linked. The Nun is focused on an actual demon and its possession of people. I think this movie, overall, is kind of weak. As someone who loves nun movies, this aspect is really disappointing. Once I link it up with the arrival of the nun in the other Conjuring movies, though, it adds a little more information and the potential overarching plot I find very intriguing. I, though, am insanely detail-oriented when it comes to film series and the picture from the convent of nuns is actually in Annabelle: Creation (2017). Sadly, there is no real  explanation of this and while the connection is there, it is never explained in either movie. Maybe the second nun movie will explain it more. Wan said there is tons of information to use to develop the story. It's just about getting a green light to move forward with projects.

The Conjuring (2013)
The two actual Conjuring films that have been done have primarily centered on actual spirits in the two houses that serve as primary setting and how they are affecting their respective two families. I like this presentation, because it reminds me of the roots of the television show Ghost Hunters. It's not about collecting evidence - it's about helping families. Along the way, though, information is collected to be used in the future. I've learned that the last Conjuring, though, is going to return to the demonic and possession with the very first trial of someone who used the possession defense in the court room. It should be pretty great.

The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
Then there's this little stand alone movie. The only connection it has to the Conjuring universe is Father Perez, who was in the Annabelle movies. He helps guide the family about the spirit haunting them. This particular film deals with a malevolent spirit and how she seeks revenge for the loss of her own children. It has a few touches that seem akin to Paranormal Activity, with the idea that you can transfer a haunting onto other people. It also seems connected to Drag Me to Hell, because it involves a person being cursed by another in a fit of rage. A child services caseworker, Anna, takes a, woman's children away and, in doing so, leaves the children vulnerable to La Llorona. The children end up being killed by the spirit. Their mother then calls on La Llorona to go after the Anna's children. Woowee... so much anger and bitterness. This movie really needed a bit of the loving mother, Lorraine Warren. The Curse of La Llorona does have some great scare scenes. For example, how La Llorona lures the children and the car scene! I can't give this stuff away, because it gives some great flavor to the film, but it does feel a little out of place in the entire universe unless it's touched on again.

I love the Conjuring universe. It pushes all my must-see buttons when it comes to a series. Interconnectedness always gets my engine revving and all the different supernatural elements utilized make this universe an absolute must for those completely obsessed with spirit/demon films.

The Joy of Gaming: October Challenge 2019 - Day 8: Letters from Whitechapel (2011)

I am an absolute adoring fan of Letters from Whitechapel, Whitehall, and Scotland Yard.

Letters from Whitechapel puts you in the position of one of the most notorious killers in history or the cops who sought to find justice. Players are either Jack the Ripper or the police officers. Each turn, Jack the Ripper secretly moves around the board and the cops need to use their knowledge and powers of deduction to try to catch The Ripper before the final night of making it back to his hideout. Full of fun and strategy and great for a group of people. You can even roleplay the characters if you’re so inclined.

Also, if you’ve played Nuns on the Run, this is a similar gameplay style and Nuns on the Run is an additional fun game that you can dress up for (trust me, I’ve done it), but isn’t a murderer thing!

Monday, October 7, 2019

October Movie Binge 2019 - Day 7: The Ring (2002)

When The Ring came out, I remember it caused a new film obsession with Japanese horror cinema in the United States. Not only were fans of The Ring obsessed with the American remake, but Ringu started to make the rounds.

I should have watched it before The Grudge, in this binge, because The Grudge came out of this new Hollywood obsession. What is interesting, though, is that sometimes both films are great or one is significantly better than the other. In a movie I'm watching later, the Japanese version is far superior to the Jennifer Connolly remake.

I like the pacing of the American one. I know, as a country, we supposedly can't appreciate a long burn movie, but the original loses interest once the island investigation starts. In this one, it moves at a really reasonable pace and keeps our interest going without huge lulls of driving and swelling music, attempting to cause suspense, but instead makes it like a Sunday drive meant to be little Timmy to sleep.

While The Ring has the scares that pop up throughout, the real story is based in the investigation. What drives me nuts, though, is the video. Watching it now after all these years, the video still bothers me even more. It was too film school, which the character Noah mentions. It just brought back too many of the bad feelings I have towards my time in academia in the Humanities and the Film Studies departments in general. It reminded me too much of Un Chien Andalou (The Andolusian Dog) made Luis Buenel and Salvador Dali during the surrealist movement in Europe. Art for art's sake without any rhyme or reason. I've officially decided these ghosts were fans of artistic Euro cinema.

What is different from the surrealist movement, is that here all the images and things have a deeper meaning that drives the investigation and could potentially save lives, affecting the characters in the movie and not simply frustrating the audience. It's art for the sake of horror. Luckily, the artistic take makes the horror that much more memorable. The burning circle of "the ring" and the creepy long-haired girl crawling out of the well and the walk towards you and all the aftermath... haunting.

At the time is was more powerful. In today's world, people demand much more hardcore scares and I can see this not playing as well if released based on today's mainstream standards. Sad, but true... the jaded internet, need to feel smarter than everyone else (lack of humility?), and the ever growing quality of the post-production process has done so much damage to the industry in so many different regards.

The Ring, though, stands up as much as it can. The most recent addition, Rings (2017), taps into the modern by attempting to understand the move from video to actual digital content. Would the "curse" still hold? The American remakes are just The Ring (2002), The Ring 2 (2005), and Rings (2017). The Japanese series had a series, but then a prequel.

As far as what it contributes to this binge, it has the malicious ghost and her attachment to an object in order to wreck absolute terror. And like The Grudge, that spirit just can't seem to be sated.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Those Custom Starbucks Frappuccinos

I haven't been to Starbucks in a long time. I find them to be overpriced and often so sugar-packed I can't imagine consuming that amount of sugar daily. That's not to say I'm not a sucker for cool things and this weekend I totally indulged in the world of obnoxious custom drink orders.

We went full on The Nightmare Before Christmas. We were at a game convention all weekend with my family, so I knew I had to get a drink for myself, my daughter, and my husband. This was the perfect thematic lineup. I found the easy recipes on

Sally ( How-to-Make)
This was absolutely delicious! My daughter and I were almost obnoxious enough to fit over it! Not too sweet and a total treat. A must try if you're doing any of these!

How to order:
- Size (we did Grande.)
- Vanilla Bean Frapp
- Add Matcha Powder
- Caramel drizzle on sides of cup
- Whipped cream, strawberry sauce, and freeze dried strawberries on top

Jack "The Pumpkin King" Skellington ( How-to-Make)
My husband drank it, but it just wasn't our bag. If you like the chia and spiced pumpkin and all that, it might be your thing, but it definitely wasn't ours.

How to order:
- Size (we did Grande.)
- Pumpkin Spice Frapp
- Chai syrup
- Mocha drizzle on sides of cup
- Whipped cream on top
- Java chips on top

Oogie Boogie ( How-to-Make)
This was my drink and now is so naughty that I want it more. Cookie crisps and mocha and it's a chocolate chip cookie in a cup. The java chips and the cookie bits just make it so delicious. It looks pretty great, too!

How to order:
- Size (I did a Ventie, because I thought it needed space....)
- White Chocolate Mocha Frapp
- Add Java Chips mixed in
- ON THE BOTTOM: Whipped Cream with Java Chips
- ON THE TOP: Whipped Cream, Matcha Powder, and Mocha Cookie Crumbles

There is another way to order it, but I couldn't remember. Had something to do with the type of base Frapp, but I can't remember what it was.

The next day we went in and got two more creations. The first one I ordered that I had seen floating around was the Pennywise It: Chapter Two drink. The second one was the Maleficent drink that had apparently been hacked from Disney.

Pennywise It: Chapter Two  ( How-to-Make)
My daughter insisted on drinking this one and it tasted just like strawberries and cream. Our local Starbucks did an awesome job! We would totally order again. My barista knew what it was, but had never made it. So excitement!

How to order:
- Size (we did Grande)
- Vanilla Bean Frapp
- Strawberry Puree (either on the sides and/or drizzled on the top before the whipped cream)
- ON THE TOP: Whipped Cream and freeze-dried strawberries

Maleficent ( How-to-Make)
This thing tastes like a FRUIT LOOP!!! Oh my goodness... what a treat! If you like fruit loops, this is the drink for you. I wanted to share it with my husband, but he was so busy gaming, I couldn't share this amazing secret with him. Honestly just so delicious!

How to order:
- Size (we did Grande)
- Vanilla Bean Frapp
- Add in blueberry and dragon fruit
- ON THE TOP: Whipped cream and matcha powder
Someone said ask them to make the matcha powder whipped cream, but I couldn't do that to them.

I have more frapp tries coming up. I've found all sorts of crazy ones and now feel compelled to try them. I can't say I'm not totally stoked.