Monday, December 23, 2013

Phoebe Kittington and The Nightmare Before Christmas!





Wishing health and happiness to all my wonderful friends in Blogland over the holidays!

Thank you to my buddy Dawn, from lostsentiments, for making Phoebe's Mini Santa Hat.  Many thanks also to the delightful Alynn, from Wooly Topic, who created Phoebe's The Nightmare Before Christmas Felted Wool Balls.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Lexa and Julie's Dream Destination Blog-Hop!

Photo Sources: Chris Kirk and Weasley-Detectives




I couldn't possibly resist joining this blog hop hosted by Lexa and Julie. Travelling anywhere is simply not on the cards just at the moment, so why not indulge in a little travel daydreaming instead?

My husband and I travelled quite a bit when we were in our early twenties. We spent time in Japan, France, Italy, Croatia, and England. I'd love to revisit Europe, and if we get to Italy again, where my husband's family is from, I'd definitely slip across the border to Austria to visit my friend, Maynard, from the Horror Movie Diary.

During our travels, back in the day, we ended up getting jobs in London and I think experiencing London as a resident was even more rewarding than as a tourist. The downside however, was that we probably got a little complacent. You think you've got all the time in the world to see the sights... until you don't. We ended up returning to Australia sooner than we expected (long story), so sadly, I missed a couple of dream destinations in England like the beautiful Highgate Cemetery in North London, and the seaside town of Whitby, in Yorkshire, that featured in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula (both pictured above). I will have to go back one day so that I can tick them off my "must see" list.

The Dream Destinations 

I have never been to the USA and I have a list of things I would desperately love to do there. Of course, it would be simply imperative that this trip take place in October, so I could experience some of the American Halloween festivities. I'm laughing to myself now because I'm imagining a normal person having the Grand Canyon or Disneyland or New York City on their travel itinerary, but these are my dream destinations in the United States:

Photo Sources: The Sydney Morning Herald and The Edward Gorey House

Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Edward Gorey 

Okay, I could easily devote an entire monster post just to Mr Addams, but suffice to say, I'd want to see absolutely anything and everything I could find that was Charles Addams or Addams Family related. I would also visit the Poe Museums in Baltimore, Maryland, and Richmond, Virginia. The other must would be a trip to The Edward Gorey House in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  It was the home of the late artist and writer, and now functions as a museum dedicated to his work and charitable endeavours.

Photo Sources: Roadtrippers, OTIS, and Fat Orange Cat Sudio

Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts 

As well as soaking up the general beauty and history of these towns, I'd go Hocus Pocus crazy and visit film locations like the Dennison's house, Allison's house, the Old Burial Hill Cemetery, and the town hall, which was the setting for the Halloween dance (all pictured above).

Photo Sources: Historic Hudson Valley and Julie Altebrando

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, New York 

And last but not least, I would absolutely love to visit Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, home to author Washington Irving and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (Pictured above: Washington Irving's house in Tarrytown and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.)


Thank you, Lexa and Julie, for this opportunity to luxuriate in a little virtual travelling. Just click on their names for more dream destinations and to enter their Rafflecopter Giveaway.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How do you celebrate? Blog Challenge


Ms Misantropia has challenged the inhabitants of Blogland to share some of the different ways we celebrate during the festive season. I live in Australia and I would say that Christmas is fairly universally celebrated as a cultural custom by people of many different spiritual traditions here, and also by those with none whatsoever. The Yuletide season also means summertime and hot weather, and although Australia is a multicultural country, our Christmas rituals are British in origin, so many of us still swelter through a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, albeit with air conditioners running on maximum. Ironically, northern hemisphere seasonal motifs, like snowflakes for example, are still a huge part of Christmas imagery here.

Most Aussie homes would have a Christmas tree, and Christmas crackers (or bon bons) have always been part of the festivities. If you're not familiar with them, Christmas crackers are basically tubes of brightly coloured paper with a twist at each end and they usually contain silly things like a paper crown, a cheesy joke and a little toy or trinket. At the dinner table, two people grab an end each,  pulling the cracker until it breaks with a bang (caused by a strip of card that functions in a way similar to a cap gun) and the person with the larger half gets the cracker's contents.

[Image Source]


Christmas also marks the beginning of the school summer vacation here, and it is common practice for children to hand out peppermint candy canes, cards, and other goodies to their friends on the last days of the school year.

The heat means that cold seafood, like prawns, lobster, or smoked salmon, is often served either instead of, or alongside, the customary roast turkeys and hams. Some Aussies barbecue outdoors rather than having a formal indoor meal, or even have picnics at the beach.

We don't do eggnog in Australia. Champagne is the beverage I associate with Christmas. Also, Christmas happens to coincide with the cherry season here, so cherries are absolutely synonymous with Christmas in Australia. I can't even imagine Christmas Day without a bowl of cherries on the table.

Many Australians (like my parents) stick resolutely to traditional British fare for dessert like Christmas cake (fruitcake), plum pudding, and mince pies (none of which I happen to like), but fresh, summery desserts, especially Pavlova, are served at Christmas as well. Pavlova is a dish that originated in Australia and New Zealand, and there is actually enormous rivalry over which country came up with it first. It was named in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Basically, it consists of a meringue base that has a crisp, fine outer shell, and a marshmallowy centre. The base is then topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I usually top a "pav" with strawberries and/or raspberries, and then sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the top.

I hope I've given you a bit of an idea about how my family, and many other Australians, celebrate at this time of year. Thank you for hosting this blog fest, Ms Misantropia! Hop on over to the Ms Misantropia blog to find the links to all the other participants sharing the way they celebrate the festive season.






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BEWARE OF THE THING



Creating this little bit of tomfoolery is how I celebrated Halloween with my family in 2013. My 16 year old son, James, has developed a passion for cameras and filmmaking, so I roped him into filming and editing a little micro-movie for me.

I hope you enjoy our family's silly All Hallows shenanigans!

Music: http://www.purple-planet.com.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Show and Tell - Part 1

Back in September, my friend Maynard, from the Horror Movie Diary blog, attended the /Slash Filmfestival in Austria, and knowing how much I liked the artwork promoting the festival, he surprised me with a package of official /Slash posters, postcards, stickers and the program booklet. Thank you so much, Maynard! ❤



Next up is a beautiful package of goodies I received after winning a giveaway on the Ms Misantropia blog. It was a cornucopia of little treasures including candles, crystals and the most gorgeous, lace-trimmed, vintage Halloween postcards. Everything was so beautiful! Thank you so much, Ms Misantropia! ❤


I was also lucky enough to win a Halloween giveaway on author Lorelei Bell's blog, Lorelei's Muse. I received Vampire Ascending, the first novel in Lorelei's Sabrina Strong book series. Thank you so much, Lorelei! ❤

I still have more to "show and tell", so stay tuned for part 2!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Resurrection Blogfest


"I've been thinking. This year, instead of giving everything away, why don't we charge a little something?"

A cartoon by Charles "Chas" Addams.

Mina Lobo of Some Dark Romantic is hosting her second annual Resurrection Blogfest. Mina is celebrating her second year of blogging, so Happy Bloggiversary, Mina!

The idea behind the Resurrection Blogfest is to resurrect a post from the past twelve months and basically give it a second chance at life. I was having trouble deciding which post to raise from the dead and then I came across this Charles Addams cartoon [Tuesday, December 4, 2012]. Perhaps my sense of humour is a tad twisted but it never fails to make me laugh and it seems rather timely as we are once again hurtling at breakneck speed towards another Yuletide season. Where did 2013 go?

Head on over to Some Dark Romantic to see the list of other participants performing a little resuscitation on a past post.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Maynard and Emma's BURBS-tastic BURBS-a-rama!

My good friend, Maynard, Austrian blogger extraordinaire from the Horror Movie Diary, always suggests the most fun themes for joint posts. So far, we've collaborated on The Addams Family, Beetlejuice, and now, The 'Burbs, which in case you haven't seen it, is the funniest film ever. EVER!!

First up is my rampant, runaway, enthusiasm-fest about what this movie means to me, for which I apologize in advance, followed by Maynard's Burbs-tacular review!

So without further ado...

The 'Burbs is an absolutely hilarious comedy, chock-full of quotable lines, but it also examines human behaviour within the petri dish of sprawling, middle-class suburbia in a light-hearted, but nonetheless thought-provoking way. On the one hand, we can feel sympathy for the Klopek family, who are under relentless scrutiny from their neighbours simply for being different (initially, at least), and just want to be left in peace. It's also fascinating, however, to consider what motivates people to become obsessively preoccupied with anyone or anything that deviates from the norm.

Having grown up in the Australian 'burbs, I identify with this movie so much. The architecture may be a little different but the Universal Studios "Colonial Street" backlot in California even has Australian Eucalytus trees, which makes it all feel scarily familiar. [Historical sidebar: Australian Eucalyptus trees were introduced to California during the Gold Rush as a renewable source of timber for construction.] The entire story is restricted to this one location (in the movie, a cul-de-sac called Mayfield Place), reinforcing the parochial nature of suburbia and the way small things can become magnified and spin out of control without a broader frame of reference to give some perspective.

Incidentally, Colonial Street has been the location for countless television and movie productions, and music videos. In recent times it is probably best known as Wisteria Lane on Desperate Housewives, but over the years there have been many notable residents, in particular, the Munsters. Ricky Butler's house in The 'Burbs was the Munster home in another life. If you're interested, you can find out more trivia about Colonial Street here.

Probably my favourite thing about The 'Burbs is how beautifully it captures  the seemingly universal experience of having a creepy house somewhere in your neighbourhood. My best friends in high school were Sue and Richard, and the three of us would walk back and forth from school each day past a rundown, little dwelling hidden behind a tangle of foliage and overgrown trees. The house was alway dark and quiet, and to be honest, we didn't give it much thought until one evening, Sue and I were walking home at dusk after a trip to the local shopping mall, and we were stopped in our tracks by a red glow coming from it.

Between the trees, through some open doors, we could see right into a room that had decor which was more like a Hammer Horror set than a typical suburban home. It was one of the most surreal and astonishing sights I had ever witnessed. Behind the exterior of that shabby residence there hid what I can only describe as some sort of ceremonial-style chamber with chunky candles burning in floor-standing, gothic candelabras. Most memorable of all was a HUGE, wolf-like dog (you just know I want to say hellhound) sitting Sphinx-like on a red, Persian rug in the centre of the room. The dog watched us intently and menacingly, so we decided it was best to move on rather swiftly.

This was back in the days before cell phone cameras, so to my everlasting  regret, I have no photographic evidence, but I scoured the internet looking for images and found the ones above (sources: here and here). Even after giving them a red glow, they're still not quite right, but if you can combine the three pictures in your imagination, you'll get a bit of an idea.

The next morning we couldn't wait to regale Richard with the tale and the three of us rushed to the house, but it was back to its usual state of looking silent and locked up. Thus began the legend of The Vampire House. (Yes, I wish we had come up with a cleverer name too.)  We concocted a whole entertaining mythology around that abode, involving a giant dog that guarded its undead masters while they were vulnerable during daylight hours, until they rose at sunset.

One afternoon, as we were passing The Vampire House, we began daring each other to go and knock on the door. (Yes, think Art and Ray egging each other on to go and introduce themselves to the Klopeks.) Richard took up the challenge while Sue and I hid behind some bushes trying to suppress our laughter. What we weren't expecting was for the door to open and Richard to disappear inside. Lets just say that after 20 minutes of waiting, the situation didn't seem quite so amusing anymore.


When Richard eventually emerged we were desperate for details. Apparently, after a woman had opened the door, Richard hurriedly came up with a story about a school survey on saving whales. He was invited into an appropriately gloomy kitchen and offered tea. All the other rooms were shut off so he saw nothing of the rest of the house, or the dog. While they were drinking tea, and Richard was busily concocting a tissue of lies regarding the whale issue, the woman mentioned that she was just waiting on a delivery of soil. If you are familiar with Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, then you'll understand why that particular detail has always been priceless to me.

Sue, Richard and I always reminisce about The Vampire House when we get together. It was our version of the Klopek house and it made life in the humdrum 'burbs somehow more eerie, mysterious and thrilling. It's kind of intoxicating to discover something extraordinary hidden amidst the ordinary and that's why it's hard to blame Ray Peterson for eventually succumbing to Rumsfield and Art's wild conspiracy theories and crazy antics. Regardless of the Klopek's guilt or innocence, or the film's underlying message about intolerance, the Klopek house seems to serve a much needed function in Mayfield Place in that it distracts residents like Rumsfield, Art and Ray from any secret dissatisfaction they might feel about their picture-perfect suburban lives.

Ultimately, whether it's the hysterically silly humour or the more serious subtext, when it comes to The 'Burbs, it all boils down to the final line of the movie, delivered by Ricky Butler:

*******************************************************



And now here's Maynard's review:



 

THE ‘BURBS
German Title:
Meine teuflischen Nachbarn
(= My Devilish Neighbors)


USA, 1989
Director: Joe Dante


10/10







“The ‘Burbs” is one of the absolute funniest horror-themed comedies ever made (only “Shaun”, “Fright Night” is better). I’m always shocked when I see the 6.6 rating on Imdb, or when I hear people saying that ‘it’s an alright movie’. Are you kidding me? This is Joe Dante’s masterpiece, better than “Gremlins”, better than “Piranha”, better than everything he has ever made, at least IMO.


Together with screenwriter Dana Olsen, Dante created a clichéd suburban microcosm where a few really wacky characters try to solve the mysterious secrets that surround the mysterious Klopeks, a new family in the neighborhood who’s acting and behaving in very unusual and unsettling ways.

The movie’s basic theme that revolves around the question “Who is crazier: the suburbanites or the people outside of suburbia?”, was already wonderfully portrayed in Dick Maas’ superb 80s comedy classic “Flodder”, but here, it got taken to a whole new level by Dante exaggerating it into an uber-hilarious and super-goofy laugh-fest that is packed to the brim with insanely funny gags and outrageous dialogue, but also pays massive tribute to classic horror films by including many well-known horror/thriller tropes (abandoned house, mysterious noises and lights in the night, creepy shadows, thunder and lightning, “Rear Window”-like neighborly behavior...).

I heard people comparing it to Wes Craven’s 1991 flick “The People Under The Stairs”, and yeah, in terms of neighborhood secrets and bizarre families, it almost feels like a continuation of “The ‘Burbs”, but set in a Ghetto-like environment. Would be interesting to know how “The ‘Burbs” would have looked like if Craven had directed it; probably much darker and not as entertaining.

Well, it’s easy to create such an entertaining film when you have such an awesome cast - and actually, it’s the cast that makes this movie so incredibly awesome.

Tom Hanks is absolutely brilliant as average joe Ray Peterson who just wants to spend a relaxing week off work at home until he realizes that there’s something wrong with this weird European family. He’s the skeptic who tries hard not to over-interpret things, and to stay grounded in reality.

“I’m going to do something productive. I’m gonna go watch television.”

His neighbor Art Weingartner - stunningly played by Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun - is the exact opposite of Ray. A loud, silly and quite greedy guy who instantly suspects the Klopeks to be satanists and/or cannibals.

“Ray, do you want them to take your family, tear their livers out and make some kind of satanic pâté?”

Best of all: the mighty Bruce Dern as ex-soldier Mark Rumsfield who’s bored and slightly frustrated in this oh-so-nice neighborhood, until the Klopek-situation starts to roll and gives him a perfect excuse to go back to war.

“Are you completely pussy-whipped? Why don’t you just take your balls out of your wifes purse? Make a stand for one time in your life!”

Also very worth mentioning: Corey Feldman as super-cool rocker kid Ricky Butler (“Yo Rumsfield!”), the wonderful Henry Gibson as the strange Dr. Werner Klopek (“I let you keep the femur, but now, now I want my skull!”), Brother Theodore as grumpy Reuben Klopek (“NO!”), and Courtney Gains as the super-weird Hans Klopek (“Sardine?”). Plus: Carrie “Leia” Fisher as Ray’s wife Carol (“Yoo Hoo!”), Wendy Schaal as Rumsfield’s wife Bonnie (“I’m trying to cut back.”), and Dante-regular Dick Miller as garbageman (“I hate cul-de-sacs.”).

The amount of scenes that are unbe-fucking-lievably amazing is very, very high and I won’t mention them all, although... well, you’re not able to stop me, even if I’m overdoing it ;P
Here are my absolute fave scenes:

~ The paperboy’s throwing a newspaper at Tom Hanks, which ‘forces’ him to immediately toss his coffee in the direction of the paperboy.

~ Hans comes out of the mansion and everyone in the neighborhood freezes. When Hans goes back in, Ray and Art walk towards the mansion (to the music of Ennio Morricone) and knock on the door. Result: the house number 669 becomes 666, and a swarm of bees rushes out of a hole and hunts them down the street.






~ Art tells the story of ice cream man Skip who suddenly snapped (“El Snappo!”) and butchered his whole family and left their bodies in his house until they started to decompose.

~ Bizarre lights and loud noises come from the Klopeks’ cellar. Then, the garage opens, and a car moves out slowly to the end of the driveway. Hans gets out, carrying a huge and bulging garbage bag, throws it into a garbage can and bangs the hell out of it with a stick.

“I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and bang the hell out of it with a stick. I’ve never seen that.”

~ Art and Rumsfield (with shaving foam in his face) in a garbage truck, rifling through all the garbage, while Dick Miller and Robert Picardo talking about paraphysical seminars and cul-de-sacs.

~ The incredible, INCREDIBLE dialog scene in the basement where Art shows Ray a weird book called “The Theory and Practice of Demonology”.

[excerpts]

Art: “I’m telling you these people are Satanists. As I sit here, they are satanists. Look, look, the world is full of these kind of things. Look at this: black masses, mutilations. Mutilations! The incubus, the succubus - I’m telling you: Walter was a human sacrifice.” (...)
Art: “We gotta go down to the religious supply store. We gotta get ourselves a couple of gallons of holy water. My cousin Jerry is a priest. He can get us a deal!
Ray: “No, I’m not going to listen to this. I don’t wanna hear this! I’m not going to listen to this.” (...)
Art: “We gotta get ourselves a couple of those big strings of Garlic. We gotta get ourselves some fresh lamb’s blood...”
Ray: (chanting) “I’m not going to listen to this, I’m not going to hear this now.” (...)
Art: “Ray, you’re chanting. Ray. Ray, look. (points to book) Ray, unconscious chanting! You’re chanting!
Ray: (continues chanting, fingers in ears)

Art: (chanting) I wanna Kill everyone. Satan is good. Satan is our pal.
Ray: (stops)

Art: Ray. Ray! You’re chanting! Hey, once they get in here... (points to Ray’s head)...it’s over, pal!

~ Ray flips through a couple of horror films on TV (“Race with the Devil”, “The Exorcist” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”). Later at night, he dreams of getting barbecued by his neighbors.

~ The hilariously amazing ‘smash zoom’.
“Ray... this is Walter... AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!”

~ The indescribably outstanding scene where Ray, Rumsfield, Carol and Bonnie go visit the Klopeks, incl. the evil-looking candle cluster (“For the ladies.”), yummy sardines and pretzels, cuckoo clocks, bloody paintings and ‘horses in the basement’
+ Rumsfield delivering a few of the movie’s absolute best lines:

“There go the goddamn brownies!”

“Here you go, sonny. A little something for the old sweet tooth.”

“Rumsfield’s the name. Don’t think I caught yours, sonny? - “Hans.” - “Hans? Oh-ho-ho! A fine Christian name. Hans Christian Andersen! Hehe!
What are you, Catholic?”

“What’d you say, we all sit down for a little of the old face-to-face.
Eh, what Reub?”

“Klopek. What is that, Slavic?” - “No!” - “Ho-ho, about a nine on the tension scale, Reub.”

“Got somebody tied up in the old cellar, have you, Reub?”
“What have you got in the cellar, Herr Klopek!?”

~ Last, but not least:
The scene where Rumsfield falls from the roof =)






*******************************************************


Maynard recently went to the /Slash Film Festival in Austria and was lucky enough to attend a screening of The 'Burbs with an introduction, Q&A, and signing with the movie's director, Joe Dante. Hop on over to Maynard's blog, Horror Movie Diary, to see his video and photos of the event.



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013!



Phoebe the Graveyard Cat

Phoebe turned 18 on October 6. She doesn't look her age at all, and she's still as cheeky as a kitten, so it was a big shock to us when she suddenly began having seizures earlier this year. I can't say that 2013 has been especially fun -- we seem to have had more tricks than treats -- but Phoebe's health issues have definitely been the worst part. My husband, son and I were afraid we were going to lose this much loved, furry member of our family.

After many (expensive) trips to the vet, the most we could establish for certain was that she had very high blood pressure. (Yes, apparently cats get hypertension.) She now takes daily medication, and thankfully, she appears to be back to her old (young) self. In fact, she's purring contentedly on my lap as I type this.


Anyhoo, considering the stressful time she's had lately, I decided to spare her the indignity of a Halloween costume this year, and just settled for a shot of her frolicking about my faux indoor graveyard set. My 16 year old son, who has become very interested in filmmaking, has made a (very) short film starring Phoebe the Graveyard Cat and I hope to post it in the next few weeks.

In case you missed it last year, here's a shot of Phoebe in her 2012 "Lydia Deetz" Halloween costume, made by me.


Happy Halloween, everybody! 





Monday, October 28, 2013

The Ghost with the Most!





Queenie from the Kweeny Todd blog invited Maynard (Horror Movie Diary) and I to contribute some fun facts and finds to a post with the most... the most Beetlejuice, that is!

So if you're a Beetlejuice fan, head on over to Kweeny Todd for the Ultimate Beetlejuice Fandom Post. Kweenyjuice is waiting for you!



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jackie Coogan!

Jackie Coogan was born on October 26, 1914, in Los Angeles, California. He was one of the earliest child stars of silent film and although he earned a fortune during his young career, his mother and stepfather squandered his income. He eventually sued them but by that stage there was little money left. His legal battle however, was responsible for California enacting the "Coogan Act" to protect child performers.

Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in a publicity photo for the 1921 movie, The Kid.




He married 4 times (his first marriage being to actress and pin-up girl, Betty Grable) and had four children. After returning from action in the Second World War, Jackie Coogan went back to acting. He struggled with financial problems, and addictions to alcohol and drugs, but he found fame again as the much loved Uncle Fester in The Addams Family television series (1964 - 1966). It was a role that his daughter Leslie, in The Addams Chronicles by Stephen Cox, said that he "cherished".

Jackie Coogan died on March 1, 1984, of cardiac arrest in Santa Monica, California.