Little Miss Scare-All

A college goth trying to find her way in the world.
The Witch successfully summons unnerving ambience

The Witch successfully summons unnerving ambience

In the middle of a Halloween rewatch with my friend last week, I noticed that the best horror films have the most simplistic plots. A woman is paranoid that her neighbors are Satanists. A group of friends are being attacked in a cabin deep in the woods. The loglines are easy to come up with, yet their related movies are rich and memorable.

This holds true for The Witch.

The buzz has been going on and on about this particular flick ever since the unsettling trailer came out. I immediately knew that I needed to watch it, but I was simultaneously worried that it’d be all atmosphere and not much else. What happened instead was a pleasant albeit disturbing surprise.

Photo courtesy of A24

Photo courtesy of A24

It all begins with a religious Puritanical-era family leaving a village after the father, William (Ralph Ineson), disagrees with the leaders on how to worship. Their migration leads them many miles away to a seemingly secluded part of Northeast America.

It only takes a few months for their exile to turn sour, which is putting it lightly. A game of pee-ka-boo between older sister Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) and newborn Samuel morphs into a game of hide-and-seek when she uncovers her eyes and finds her baby brother to be missing. Unlike a horror movie from earlier this year, the forest right at the edge of this family’s living situation is actually creepy. It is here that the poor babe is taken, sacrificed by a witch for her devilish purposes.

The decline that follows is rapid. Mother Katherine (Kate Dickie) turns on her own daughter with a continuous glare of judgment and suspicion. William fails his family by producing a pitiful crop and not being able to hunt to make up for it. Suddenly this open space they live in feels like a trap. Physically speaking, the woods don’t move closer, but the threat it holds does.

Photo courtesy of A24

Photo courtesy of A24

Lucifer’s gaze shifts from behind the tree branches into the eyes of Black Phillip, a wicked goat that dashes onto their land. His stay is permanent, and the alarmingly young twins Mercy and Jonas immediately take a liking to him. Damnation has visited this family personally.

It could be easy for someone to write off the Satanic symbolism in The Witch as stereotypical, but it never once comes across as cheap. The haunting score paired with bleak cinematography allows for the natural placement of such moments for it’s these instances that add vibrancy to the setting. The most colorful images are the most striking, and it’s their spare use that allows them to be easily seared onto your brain.

This is a story of temptation. There’s various levels of sin in this movie, and Robert Eggers effortlessly explores every single one. There were a few shots that lingered longer than necessary or that weren’t needed at all, but it’s still incredibly impressive for someone’s directorial debut.

If you’re looking to jump out of your seat in terror, this one isn’t for you. If you’re hoping to have discomfort overcome you in a darkened movie theater, then go and buy a ticket. Come on, The Witch is Satanic Temple-approved; viewing it can at least work as a conversation starter.

 

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day horror-lover style

Celebrating Valentine’s Day horror-lover style

I’ve never been big on the whole Valentine’s Day thing, at least in the traditional sense. Oversized stuffed animals are a burden, cheesy dates make me roll my eyes into oblivion, and if I see one more Facebook post in which someone gushes about their significant other, I might puke.

There’s nothing wrong with these things actually, no, that last one is actually kind of annoying but it’s not for everyone. If you fantasize about candlelit dinners with Barry White music playing in the background, congratulations! Society has already designated a structure that will do wonders for you and your beloved on this holiday.

But what about us darker folks? There’s not really a guidebook on how to take things to a Gomez/Morticia level for V-Day… until now.

Go to your local oddities shop

The whole point of giving someone a gift is that they’ll enjoy it, and if your darling is into the macabre, then you might as well stroll past the holiday section at the grocery store and visit your nearest oddities shop instead. These babies seem to be popping up more and more lately, and the items they offer are fascinating and beautiful. You’ll find wet specimens, human hearts and probably some stuffed chicks. Each place has its own unique collection of items to offer, such as Orlando’s very own Carmine Boutique. If you don’t have an oddities provider near you, there are plenty of stores that also sell their products online. Pair that order with express shipping though; the day of love is coming fast.

Marathon thriller-romance films

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films

Photo courtesy of Drafthouse Films

Let’s face it, Nicholas Sparks sucks. In fact, most romance movies suck, at least the ones that try and fit every Hollywood celebrity into 90 minutes for quick box office smash. Thankfully, there are some morbid options for couples that wish to stay indoors and cuddle up on the couch for a night. Let the Right One In is cinematic gold. Its use of atmosphere and sound editing makes it one of the best horror films of all time and exemplifies that vampire-love stories can indeed work. Spring is a more recent option and has a heavier focus on the romance, if you’re looking for more passion in your selections.

Have a picnic at a nearby graveyard

Okay, I know, stereotypically goth-y, but what can I say? It’s a cute thing to do. Pack up a picnic blanket with some sandwiches, and suddenly you have a nice meal in a calm setting. Liven up your lunch a bit (you’ll probably have to do lunch since most cemeteries close at night) by bringing along a book of short stories to read aloud to each other. Lovecraft and Poe works if you’re looking for a classic approach, but I suggest digging deep into the nostalgia pit by bringing along a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Cook a horror-themed dinner

Photo courtesy of Bryanston Pictures

Photo courtesy of Bryanston Pictures

If you want to put more effort into your meal, there’s plenty of recipes that will add a grisly flair to every bite. Martha Stewart has an impressive collection of ideas you can pull from in case you want to try your hand at making a plate of “devilish eggs” or “mashed boo-tatoes.” Pinterest is another spot to check out for ideas, ranging from appetizers to extravagant entrees. I think it goes without saying that pairing your meal with red wine is a must.

 

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Marc With a C’s latest record is a genuine, funny, feel-good hit

Marc With a C’s latest record is a genuine, funny, feel-good hit

For those of you who haven’t heard of the likes of Orlando’s very own Marc With a C, you’ve been missing out, and his upcoming album, Unicorns Get More Bacon, is the perfect way to start getting in the know.

If you’re anything like me, you’re easily worried when any bit of a musician’s catalog can be considered funny.

My main issue with artists who like to dip their songs into a vat of comedy is that they often forget about the music along the way, as if the album is the vehicle to get to their destination instead of the destination itself. What usually ends up being released is a relentless shot of jokes accompanied by a fairly forgettable beat.

Photo courtesy of Marc With a C

Photo courtesy of Marc With a C

This doesn’t happen at all with Unicorns Get More Bacon. In fact, the songs are damn catchy, in an almost early-millennium-minus-the-cheesy-bits sounding way. It never feels like a song solely exists to make you laugh, but when they do, you’re probably bopping your head along to the beat as you let out a string of chuckles.

The record, which was mastered by Mark Kramer of Shockabilly and Butthole Surfers fame, is defined by its consistent acoustic guitar and its friendly voice accompaniment. Above all else, the album feels human. Anyone who remembers the sweetness of “Daddy, Make the Sun Come Out” from 2013’s Popular Music can be assured that such heart can be found in tracks like “Anything But Plain” and “Where’s My Giant Robot.”

But sometimes the album is a test to see how ridiculous things can get, and it’s a fun test to follow.

“The Ballad of Dick Steel” is Unicorns Get More Bacon‘s crowning jewel. The music is on par with that of an old school movie theme, and I can guarantee you that nothing will ever make you want to chant, “Dick!” as much as this two-minute tune. Here’s the best example of how great of a storyteller this guy is. He makes you want to know more about Mr. Steel, and you can be sure that he’s going to deliver.

There is some concern to be had, however. The release features some popular phrases of our day and age. Fleek is one, but the most noticeable example is the track “Epic Fail.” With the Internet, the way people speak is constantly evolving, and words we use one year are considered unusable the next.

His reasons for using said words are understandable in a commentary sense, but I can see this quickly dating the album, and while it’s not the biggest of problems, it’s still a problem. I assume it’s also done in an attempt to connect with people, but he doesn’t need such additions. Marc With a C commands a certain level of interaction with his music, something that’s made clear when you see him live.

When I first caught his act, it was during the first of four Halloween preshows that us Rich Weirdoes put together last year. It was also where I first heard “Unicorns Get More Bacon.” You can tell that the track is made for audience participation (“So what I gotta know is are you with me?”) which is a fairly regular facet of his performances.

There are moments on the album that sound like they’re made to spark such interaction (I’m looking at you “Celebutantes”), but Marc With a C is never in-your-face about it, having it be more of an enjoyable layer to the music rather than an inescapable annoyance.

This is a record worth buying, and if you don’t believe me, take into consideration that the first day it was available for preorder on Bandcamp, it rose right up to #1 on the vinyl pop chart. Clearly other people agree with me.

Anyone looking to buy a copy can head on over to the official Bandcamp page. Unicorns Get More Bacon is officially out March 8.

**NOTE** Although I was given a free copy so I could review the album, this in no way affected my thoughts on the release or the musician discussed in the review above.

 

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