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Ghoul's Errand

A horror culture gazette.

Show: My 600-Lb Life, TV14, 2012-

Viewer beware! This show has at least one graphic surgery per episode, generally lasting several minutes. My 600-Lb Life is sponsored by the medical center where they take place; suffice it to say the editors spare no details.

This program is focused on demonizing, then rehumanizing, an already traumatized set of people. I am not including images because, frankly, the exploitation is the most horrifying part.

What hooked me was the fact that everyone carries it differently. While every protagonist is so heavy that it’s actively endangering them, there’s a surprising amount of variety among body types. Some folks look like pupated Tim Burton characters, some have only a massive spare tire. Consider the poor woman whose lymphedemas meant her lower body outweighed her upper body 2:1, or the man whose cellulite was so prone to infection that it was constantly leaking and hardening.

Every episode begins with the featured patient describing how humiliated they are with themselves, then moves straight into discussing the generally similar traumas they’ve encountered, in between ECUs of the protagonist eating junk. The stars almost universally express that they know they lack control and are afraid of truly examining why. Bariatric surgeon-cum-producer Dr. Nowzaradan enters to offer a miracle cure in the form of stomach stapling. Based on their attitude, he performs the surgery or doesn’t.

Exploitation is an ugly, ugly storytelling device, and My 600-Lb Life makes certain that the audience only relates to its characters out of empathy they’re not entirely sure to trust. I’d estimate about two thirds of the featured people are sexual abuse survivors; while all of them clearly wound up with eating disorders, there’s no other common thread between them or likeable, individual trait given any real focus. My heart hurts most for the man who began eating badly after his first wife was murdered: halfway through the episode, his second wife and their toddler walk out over his “attitude problems”. It’s unclear whether we’re meant to sympathize for a man still obviously grieving or a woman whose spouse mentally abandons her as he does so.

I am featuring My 600-Lb Life because lack of control is probably my biggest, most realistic, and most relatable fear. Despite its simplistic sideshow sheen, this is ultimately a program about people who freely express that they live in a nightmare… and who, as often as not, don’t get to leave it.

Back. Sorry

I make the same mistake every time I get a new job.

Somehow I got it into my head that the right job will mean I no longer need hobbies. I seek work that will happily consume me, and to which I will willingly give all my spare time, convincing myself, every time, that I am completely fulfilled with desk work. I have never been salaried, so I always imagine that treating my contract job like this will rapidly move me up the ladder- after all, salaried jobs occasionally require one’s total focus.

If my life was a scary movie, we’d be yelling “Don’t go in there!” with each job change.

Case in point: I bailed on Ghoul’s Errand because I started working for a cable provider, and boy did I want to do it right. After the initial gloss wore off, I realized my basic function is to wait for a problem to arise, then tell other people about it. That’s all. That’s it. And while we wait, we can watch literally anything in the catalog… included a decent selection of horror.

So for a while I glutted myself, thinking the joy was in the watching, only to find that I’m the only coworker with any real appreciation for the finer, scarier things in life: no one wanted to watch them with me. Slowly I gave up on that, and almost immediately fell into a pit of doubt and self loathing. My old demons sat on my shoulders and whispered into my ears:

>You don’t like your job.
No, I don’t like my job.
>You don’t like anything.
No, I don’t like anything.

Meanwhile, boyfriend was putting together an Amazon order and trying to make it large enough to qualify for free shipping. He shouted out did I want anything? and before he finished the sentence I was yelling “GOODNIGHT MOMMY”.

And I realized I had an answer for the demons.

I love scary movies.
>No, you don’t.
Yes, I do, and I like writing about them even more.

And faced with the truth, they ran off screaming. I’m positive they’ll come back for the sequel, but the shock at seeing them won’t.

So I’m back, and slowly saving up money in the hopes that I can support being an author full time (turns out I do like working at a desk as long as I’m doing something intelligent). Thanks to the daily overexposure, and largely for want of time, you’re going to have to take quality over quantity, heaven forbid.

Thanks for bearing with me, guys! There’s a really interesting one coming soon, I promise.

Anne

Look: Totally Not Haunted Eye Painting, Dumpster, ???

Mr. Flax and I live on the bottom floor of our complex, and are compelled to walk by the dumpsters any time we enter or leave the building. People tend to drop their moving-out stuff a little ways from the dumpsters: they separate the trash and the not-quite-trash. One day someone tossed what appeared to be an oil painting class portfolio, and I adopted most of the lot.

Unfortunately, the paintings are oddly sized, and we’ve only just gotten around to framing them. The first: this gorgeous eye on strangely-shaped upcycled cardboard.

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The eye, in particular, has always made Mr. Flax uneasy. Once we hung it up, though, he put his foot down about allowing it in the apartment… we have enough mirrors that it’s difficult to avoid this effect.

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So now idk what to do with it, except tell people about it in the hopes that it’ll scare them too. ❤

Happy hauntings!

Look: Vince Cardboard Human Skull, Cardboard Safari, 2016?

Ooooh guys. If only money was no object.

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Per Amazon, it’s an 8x6x6 inch cube that you assemble yourself; this is the largest one in stock, and there’s only four left. Jump on it, if you can!

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Film: The Hallow, NR, 2015 (Spoilers)

[SPOILERS]
Watcher Beware! Graphic, but not remotely realistic death of a baby; offscreen death of a dog; moderate gore throughout, specifically connected to the eyes; not-great treatment of women on the whole.
[END SPOILERS]

Well, fellow monsters… this is the first entry to Ghoul’s Errand that I’m almost certain will give me nightmares later. I can’t give The Hallow an unqualified recommendation- some of the imagery is that disturbing- but it’s easily an 8.5 out of ten.

The elevator pitch for The Hallow must have been something like “The Evil Dead meets Celtic fairy tales”. The frenetic pace and strong adherence to Murphy’s Law is lifted right from the former, with Irish bogeymen in place of Kantarian demons. Combating the baddies even comes down to reading from an old, magical book.

Unique to The Hallow is an understated, believable married couple and their incredibly well-behaved baby. Adam, some kind of botanist channeling Jack Torrance, has moved his little family to a cottage in the middle of the forest for research. Claire keeps house and minds baby Finn, and turns up with her husband to keep the Problem with No Name at bay. They’re adorable and we’re jealous of them. Their only apparent issues are a rude neighbor who broke their window and the moisture causing increasing damage to the house’s structure.

Little by little, bits of vegetation begin leaking into their house along with the water. They increase in size and intricacy, knotted to the extent that the plant is no longer identifiable. Claire finds one about the size of, say, an infant in Finn’s bed, and the fun officially begins.

The Hallow relies heavily on horror tropes, but at a pace that will keep you guessing, seeming to get them all out of the way within the first half. It’s also easily the prettiest movie I’ve seen this year, with sets balanced equally between lush and claustrophobic. Seriously, check out these screenshots.

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By the way, this is like 80% of the HOH subs on Netflix.
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Dig that Rembrandt lighting. Mmm.

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Weird, wonderful, unforgettable- but not the best. Pretend it’s a B movie and you’ll leave thrilled.

Film: Red Eye, PG13, 2005

Watcher Beware! Actually, this one is fairly clean. There’s about four curse words and one disturbingly casual misogynist statement that winds up biting back. A woman gets in position to puke, but doesn’t. There are two major puncture wounds occurring near the end, both with a fair bit of windup.

Wes Craven’s Red Eye is not immediately recognizable as his. Offering a realistic but paranoid view of plane travel, it has more in common with a really good Twilight Zone episode than something we might expect from Craven’s canon. Red Eye is spookily atmospheric and was, at the time of its release, hot-button frightening.

Hotel manager Lisa (Rachel McAdams, killing it) finds her flight home from her grandmother’s funeral delayed due to tropical storms. In between phone calls with a coworker, she meets and has a drink with Jackson (Cillian Murphy, sociopathy incarnate), whom she eventually learns is her seat partner. As the lights go down, he doubletalks about his job. As the plane goes up, they talk about her father- and he tells her about the calls she needs to make to save his life.

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80+% of it looks like this.

Two quick notes about misconceptions:

1. It was my understanding that Red Eye was about hijackings; after all, it’s set on a plane in the early 2000s and makes a point to distinguish itself as a thriller. It’s much, much closer to microbudget suspense (there are maybe five sets), and there’s no out-and-out survivalist violence until the final ten minutes. Red Eye has plenty of opportunities to get topical and hamfisted, but it consistently refuses to engage.

2. I bought Red Eye because my cousin and I were talking about dumb movie deaths, and she brought up a stabbing with… well… something you can still take on a plane. Here in my home office, there are three in my immediate line of sight. I cracked up, unable to conceptualize a campier murder, and relished the idea of seeing it in the middle of something taking itself so seriously. Suffice it to say the act is ultimately nonfatal and contextually logical. I am a little disappointed, but would be more disappointed if it played out how I imagined.

Freaky? Yes. Liable to keep you up at night? Probably not. Recommended highly as a movie in general, but not as a scary one.

Book: I, Tina: My Life Story, Tina Turner with Kurt Loder, 1986

Reader Beware! This book heavily covers an abusive marriage, but portrays it distinctly in the past tense and without too many specifics. The abuser- again, not too graphically- spends a good chunk of the book snorting coke. There are more uses of “motherfucker” than any slurs; Tina sometimes uses less than PC language to describe peoples’ ethnicities, but in a way appropriate for the time in which it was written.

“It was like a horror movie. That’s what my life had become: a horror movie, with no intermissions.”

You read it here first, folks.

Tina Turner’s life story is consistently impressive and frequently heartbreaking. She knew from toddlerhood that she was destined to be an entertainer and collected a fair chunk of change singing for people in the mall through her elementary years. She was, naturally enough, picked up by local band The Kings of Rhythm near the end of high school. The Kings were led by Ike Turner, whose negative impact on her life far outshines the positive one.

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Amazon decided to censor my copy. Joke’s on them: I opened it from the bottom.

I am featuring I, Tina because it discusses, in terrifying, realistic detail, that living-dead feeling when something in your life controls you so completely that you stop noticing individual days. Glancing back from the safety of the career she established herself, Tina’s coerced marriage to Ike reads like an uninterrupted blur of shoehorn beatings and manipulation followed by going onstage like nothing has happened. There are several years’ worth of examples in the text- by and large, the Turners’ coworkers knew what was happening and turned a blind eye- but the event that stood out to me was the cold Tina was forced to work through, which became bronchitis, which became TB, which took about a decade and several methodologies to kick in full. It’s obvious from the start that Ike sees her only as a money machine; there are no monsters so terrifying as other people who refuse to treat you as human.

If not outright frightening, I, Tina makes a personal hell relatable, not through star power but through sheer honesty. The reader doesn’t grow impatient waiting for Tina to leave but relishes with her the small victories brought by her talent alone. Teetering over the edge of believing the abuse and surrendering her humanity, Tina realizes that she is stronger than her circumstances: she wakes up from the nightmare; the horror movie’s credits roll. The rest is several Grammys worth of history.

Look: Rippled metal skull garland, Target, 2016

I eventually intend to do this to my whole wall. (Lower garland (C) Michael’s, 2015.)

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Brought to you by a company literally named “Retail Inc.”.

$3, about $5 total paired with 2 and a half pounds of candy corn.

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Film: The Ouija Experiment, NR, 2011

Watcher Beware! Every character in this movie is a broad negative ethnic stereotype. One man is referred to as “simple” and “the Rain Man type” and summarily assumed to be a murderer. There is a fair amount of misogynistic gaslighting, portrayed in a relatively harmful light.

A black brother and sister, two white men, and an Asian lady walk into a horror movie, and you’ve already got mostly correct assumptions about the order of the hit list.

The Ouija Experiment is a horror movie for people who have never seen a horror movie, or perhaps those who hate them… it’s a little hard to tell. At its core, it’s a numb, racist rehash of a (particularly popular) Mexican folk tale wrapped in a semibelievable dating drama and a ton of hamfisted namedropping. “Didn’t they make a movie, The Entity, about that?” Ugh.

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It’s one of those, all right. Also: distractingly incorrect planchette.

New York YouTuber Brandon takes his friend Shay to Dallas so he can record her playing Ouija with her boyfriend Calvin. Almost-couple Michael and Calvin’s sister La’Nette round out the group. It becomes immediately apparent that Calvin is fooling around on Shay, who uses the board to find out who he’s texting when he leaves the room. The mood shifts. The couple storms off and the others bail, leaving the board sitting in the open without having officially said goodbye.

The obvious follows, with increasingly poor acting and increasingly good special effects. The ending would be passable if it wasn’t preceded by a good ten minutes of (extra-) cringe content.

Given that you’re willingly reading a horror blog, I assume that you’re genre-literate enough to not miss much in skipping this one. The final fire effects are admittedly pretty neato, and the main five actors pour more talent into their vapid characters than they deserve. If you’re gonna watch it, I recommend you skip or snooze through the third quarter.

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