Showing posts from November, 2020

Sun Sets in Utqiagvik, Sparking 60-Plus Days of Night

Today, the sun set in Utqiagvik, Alaska, for the very last time in 2020. The next time it rises will be Jan. 23, 2021. Utqiagvik was formerly known as Barrow. The residents voted in 2016 to revert the town to its traditional Inupiaq name. Barrow, of course, is the setting for the 2007 vampire flick “ 30 Days of Night .” In the movie, a group of vampires move in for the kill when Barrow settles in for its “polar night.” It is one of the scariest vampire movies I’ve ever seen. I’ll be rewatching it tonight as a nod to the polar event. Yes, I admit it. I’m one of those people who like to watch certain movies to celebrate the holidays and the change of seasons (and who don’t mind watching a movie more than once). For instance, when Halloween is around the corner, I watch “ Trick `r Treat ,” “ Hocus Pocus ,” “ Practical Magic ” and “ Pay the Ghost ” to get in the mood for All Hallows’ Eve. Photo: jplenio at Confession: I also watch “ Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the

Why Are Old Photos So Creepy?

I once passed by an exhibition of American civil war photographs in a store window. Some of them were group shots, some were portraits, and others were photos of a particular event. I lingered over every one even though I had no connection to the subjects, the store, or the civil war. Today, I don’t remember what the shop sold, or why the pictures were there. However, the feeling I had from looking at the display has stayed with me. The photos gave me the chills. It didn’t matter whether the subjects were sad or happy, stoic or animated. The ones in which the people look straight out at you are the worst, in my opinion.  Photo: What is it about old black-and-white photos that is so unsettling? Is it the fact that the people in them are long dead? The fact that their lives—which were captured for one brief moment in time—are gone forever? Are the images disturbing because they are memento mori —reminders that life is short? I know I’m not the only one fascinated by old ph

Two Horror Novels That Would Make Great Movies

I’m spending more time watching television and movies, as I’m sure others have because of the pandemic. I’m about to watch “The Little Stranger,” the 2018 movie based on Sarah Waters’s 2009 gothic novel about a haunted mansion set in 1940s post-war Britain. I liked the novel when I read it some years ago. If my memory serves me right, it’s slow, measured and atmospheric, not exactly something that’s easy to translate into film. The book was as much about Britain’s class system as it was a ghost story. My to-watch list also includes “The Ghost Bride,” a Netflix series based on Yangsze Choo’s 2013 book of the same name. I loved the book, even more so because it’s set in Malaya, the country in which my parents and grandparents were born. Photo: Netflix's "The Ghost Bride" webpage Given that many of my favorite horror novels have been made into movies, I’d like to suggest two more: “ Soon ,” by Lois Murphy, and “ The Fifth House of the Heart ,” by Ben Tripp. Both book

“Paranormal”: This Sourpuss Sees Dead People

“ Paranormal ,” Netflix’s first Egyptian television series, has hints of Indiana Jones and “The Mummy,” with a touch of “The Ring.” The series is based on the late Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s best-selling books. It is set in 1960s Cairo and its protagonist, a hematologist named Refaat Ismail, is a gloomy, chain-smoking pessimist who is incapable of saying what he really means. He lives by a set of “laws” and believes in science over the supernatural. Photo: Refaat’s love life is a mess. We learn that his first love was a ghost girl who tried to lure him to his death. Decades later, he has a fiancee but continues to carry a blazing torch for his former colleague, Maggie Mckillop. Maggie suddenly returns to Cairo after a 15-year absence. Her appearance roils Refaat’s heart and coincides with a spate of paranormal events. Among other adventures, Refaat and his loved ones are stalked by the ghost girl. He also is pursued by a mummy, and goes on the hunt for an ex

Shirley Jackson’s “Hill House” vs. the Netflix Series

Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, “The Haunting of Hill House,” blew me away with its first paragraph. I was especially chilled by the paragraph’s very last line: “silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.” It was wonderful writing, and what a great way to introduce, and end, a horror story. It gave me goosebumps. I finally watched Netflix's  television program based on the novel. How does the Netflix production stack up against the novel? Jackson fans may be disappointed to hear that the series’ plot bears very little resemblance to the book. In the novel, Eleanor Vance (Nell) joins a paranormal investigation at Hill House mounted by one Dr. John Montague. The other members of the investigation are Theodora and Luke Sanderson, who will inherit the house when his aunt dies. Much of the novel focuses on Eleanor’s inner landscape, and how she views her fellow participants and the strange events that befall them. Among oth

"Pagpag: Nine Lives": Soulless Entertainment

“Pagpag: Nine Lives,” now streaming on Netflix , is a stylish 2013 Filipino horror flick focusing on what not to do at funerals. For example, after attending a wake, don’t go straight home or you risk the spirit of the deceased following you back to your house. Also don’t wear red to a funeral, or allow your tears to fall on the dead. In the movie, a group of young people violate the taboos. Predictably, they are terrorized by a vengeful spirit who looks like charred meat because he died in a fire. In a plot twist, it turns out the man died while he was on a killing spree to resurrect his dead son. To reach his quota of nine lives, he stalks and murders the teenagers one by one. Photo: It was interesting to learn about the Philippines’ culture and traditions regarding funerals, and the movie did have its creepy moments. Regrettably, however, I didn’t find it one of the more memorable examples of Southeast Asian horror. I’m a big fan of the region’s supernatural offerin