christmas horror story: Silent Night, Deadly Night

This has to be one of the worst holiday horror movie franchises in existence.  It may also be the only holiday horror movie franchise, which makes it that much worse.  Where is Black Christmas 2?  Jack Frost 2?  No one asked for Gingerdead Man and its many sequels but we got them anyway, and that’s really it.

Image result for silent night deadly nightThe first film follows two brothers orphaned after a criminal in a Santa suit murders their parents.  Years later, the eldest brother Billy now works at a toy store, and becomes unhinged when he is forced to fill in for the store’s Santa.  There are quite a few Christmas-themed murders happening: aside from murders committed by “Santa”, there is also strangulation by Christmas lights and impalement by deer antlers.  Of course the murders are sparked because Billy can’t handle people having sex, so the tagline “He knows when you’ve been naughty” is pretty accurate.

The second movie, creatively titled “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2” is where we run into problems.

Image result for silent night deadly night

Basically, you could skip the first movie and just watch the second.  The second movie contains a complete recap of the first movie, and is made up of at least 50% footage from the first movie.  The movie is about Billy’s younger brother Ricky, who takes up the mantle of Killer Santa (after killing a Salvation Army bellringer for the costume).  Ricky’s still upset about people being “naughty,” but also upset about the abuse he suffered as an orphan.  His main goal is to kill Mother Superior, who is now in a wheelchair and puts up a good fight before he finally offs her.

 

Image result for silent night deadly nightThe third movie still contains footage from the previous movies, but thankfully not as much.  Part 3, or “Better Watch Out,” follows the experimentation of a blind psychic girl, who a doctor is trying to connect to the comatose mind of Ricky.  Why?  Who the hell knows.  So Laura starts having visions of Santa killing people.  And then, of course, Ricky is awakened by the drunk asshole playing Santa at the hospital and he begins his murder spree anew.  This movie continues the tradition of laughable acting, but unfortunately, there weren’t very many Christmas-themed murders in this one.

 

Image result for silent night deadly night initiation“Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: The Initiation” finally drops the footage from the original movies!  Instead of Ricky as the main murderer, we are treated to a feminist cult that worships Lilith and causes our protagonist, Kim, to see cockroaches everywhere and makes her fingers do a weird twisty thing, and later lets Ricky (now a homeless weirdo – or is this even the same Ricky??) rape her and impregnate her with some weird giant larvae.  Aside from being set around Christmas time, the deaths and theme have little to do with Christmas.  There’s a lit Christmas tree on the top of the building where our initial sacrifice spontaneously combusts, and where our finale takes place.  A man is killed having fallen into said Christmas tree.  There’s also a lovely scene where Kim hangs with her current bf’s family, who turn out to be pretty sexist and anti-Semitic.  Given that the ending involves the defeat of the Lilith cult, I’m not sure what the takeaway is meant to be.  Are we for or against feminism?

Silent Night Deadly Night 5.jpg“Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker” proves that maybe the fifth in a franchise can be the best.  It amazes me that the actors in this franchise have become more recognizable (Mickey Rooney, what are you doing here??).  The Toy Maker starts out with a Christmas bang as a young boy listens to his parents having sex.  Little Derek then discovers a gift clearly marked “do not open until Christmas.”  After his father practically beats him down for opening it, Derek watches on as Dad opens the gift and is attacked by the Santa ball within.  The toy attacks Dad’s face (is it kissing him?  eating his face off?) and kills him.  Derek’s mom isn’t much better and quickly loses patience with him after the brutal death, deciding that buying his happiness is the only way – Mom doesn’t seem too upset it.  There’s a nod to SNDN4 with a larvae toy, and Ricky returns as a department store Santa.  “You would not believe the things I’ve been through,” says Kim, who also returns, and doesn’t seem too freaked out by mysterious Christmas gifts that keep showing up for Derek.  There’s a murderous Santa and a full-on assault by an army of toys (while the baby-sitter is having sex, naturally).

SPOILERS AHEAD

The finale of the last movie almost makes up for how terrible the first four movies.  I mean, a robot/puppet named “Pino” created by “Joe Petto” who just wants to be a “real boy” with a real dick, and somehow figures he’ll make that happen by sex with his mommy?  Didn’t see that one coming.

 

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November reading round-up

  • # of books read: 10
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • total page count: 1,782
  • year total page count: 38,498 / 40,280

I didn’t get as much reading in as I would have liked this month, because I was busy Nanowrimo’ing.

At the beginning of the month I was still working my way through this stack of horror novels I had vowed to read in October.  The Bargaining was kind of meh for me, while The Ravenous and Midnight Movie were full of gory thrills.  By the end, however, I was ready to read some non-horror.

The Good Girl was a paperback someone donated to the library, which I knew I had put on my TBR list a little while ago.  It’s similar to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, one of those twisty thrillers with not-especially-likable protagonists, and the word “girl” in the title.  A fast read that’s a bit unpredictable, although the ending and twist stretched believability.

I saw The Life She Was Given come across the library desk, and put it on hold for myself (but staggered out, so it wouldn’t interfere with my October horror binge). The story felt like a strange mash-up of Water for Elephants and Flowers in the Attic, if you can imagine such a thing. Of course I loved it.

Hopefully next month I’ll get more reading done – even if only because I’m going on vacation!

  • Best Overall: All the Crooked Saints
  • Best Audiobook: Eat the Dark
  • Goriest: Midnight Movie
  • Fastest Read: Forbidden Secrets (1 day)
  • Slowest Read: Boy Meets Boy (8 days)

The full list (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

  1. The Bargaining by Carly Ann West
  2. The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics
  3. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan (audiobook)
  4. Midnight Movie by Tobe Hooper
  5. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (audiobook)
  6. Forbidden Secrets (Fear Street Sagas #3) by R.L. Stine
  7. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  8. The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
  9. Eat the Dark by Joe Schreiber (audiobook)
  10. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

how the heck did they go to the bathroom??? and other questions asked while writing historical fiction

To date I have about 8 different novels that can be classified as historical fiction, in varying states of completion. For Nanowrimo, I am writing a novel that takes place shortly after the Reign of Terror in France.  And this isn’t the first time that I’ve had to research historical bathroom habits.

The drawback to writing historical fiction in general is that small details will throw you out of the story and down a rabbit hole of Google searches.

In chapter one of my current WIP (The Red Ribbon), I Googled:

  • where did people get guillotined in french revolution paris
  • place de la concorde (answer to the above question)
  • rue des marronniers lyon
  • map of paris

(These were to simply get a sense of where my main character was walking and where she lived in the first few paragraphs)

  • matches history
  • lighting a fire in the 1790s

(Because my character needed to light a fire in the fireplace, and I wasn’t sure if matches existed back then.  I’m still not sure.  I managed to write the two sentences without specifically saying how she lit the fire)

  • invitation historical ball
  • invitation wording 1700s
  • french phrases with blood
  • phrases of the french revolution
  • french proverbs
  • qui vivra verra
  • Le Réveil du peuple lyrics
  • 1794 calendar days of the week

(My MC receives an invitation, and I wanted to include the actual words on the invitation… The example I found included a quote that gave hint to a theme for the ball, which led me to try to find some proverb that might work for my story.  And since the proverb was in French, I needed to verify that the translation was correct.  I also decided to make the ball happen on Friday the 13th and amazingly, according to one site I found, September 13, 1794 was indeed a Friday!)

  • rue du colisée paris
  • gossip magazines in revolutionary france
  • garters 17th century
  • how common were pistols in the 17th century
  • pistols history
  • pianoforte
  • pianos history
  • french pianos
  • 17th century french outerwear

(Moving onto the 2nd and third chapters – once again I was trying to place the MC’s home near where the ball was being held.  She also packs a few weapons to bring to the ball because she wants revenge, so I had to figure out a. whether 17th century garters could reasonably hold a knife or pistol and b. whether pistols were common enough for an aristocratic family to own one.  My character also has a moment where she remembers playing the piano, so I had to figure out if pianos existed then, or whether something like a pianoforte or harpischord was more common.  Finally, my MC needed to wear a coat or cloak of some sort as she walked to the ball)

  • waltz popularity
  • panniers
  • french fashion 18th century
  • chic synonym

(In describing the ballroom and the other guests of the ball, I needed to know if the waltz had even been invented, and whether it had reached France, also a few fashion terms, and while “chic” is a French word, it was not in usage at that time…)

  • what poisons were available in france 18th century
  • effects of arsenic poisoning
  • when did red and green become christmas colors
  • old french christmas songs
  • Bel Astre Que J’Adore

(One of my characters dies short after eating poisoned cake, which led to the searches about effects of poisoning, and then what poisons were readily available.  What exactly does rat poison contain?  How long does it take to work?  After I described a color combination as “Christmas-like” I remembered that red and green have not always been used as traditional Christmas colors.  And then I needed a Christmas carol that would have existed back then…)

  • how was it determined that someone was dead in the 1700s
  • pencils history
  • historical term for cataracts
  • what was the bathroom called in french revolution

(Obviously, at this point in the novel, someone has died.  And I was fairly certain that people did not check a pulse to determine if someone was dead at that point in time.  Also, did they have pencils back then and how common were they?)

And the question we’ve all been waiting for.

I know the obvious answer is that people used chamber pots.  You didn’t go to a bathroom in the middle of the night, you just pulled out your chamber pot and went.  But if one was out at a fancy ball in someone else’s home, or in this case, at a hotel, there would have to be a room, right?

In my research I discovered that Versailles and the bathroom situation is a big part of the reason for the stereotype of the French not being very hygienic.  Dogs and other animals that were allowed to roam loose in the palace relieved themselves wherever, and apparently the humans used stairwells or went behind curtains.  Eventually I did find that bathrooms might have been called “lavatories” or “commodes” (I dropped in the term “powder room” as well) and that there might be curtains for privacy while one used the chamber pot.  Obviously, there was no running water.

I also discovered while trying to find this information, that pissing in the streets was such a problem in Paris that in the early 1800s they built “pissoirs” or small buildings where you could go to pee on the street in privacy.

Oh, the things you learn… I just hope the FBI hasn’t put me on a surveillance list…

October reading round-up

  • # of books read: 11
  • audiobooks listened to: 2
  • horror novels read: 7
  • total page count: 3,149
  • year total page count: 38,498

The first book read this month was from the batch I got signed at the Boston Teen Author Festival.  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was just such a lovely book that I gave a rare 5 stars! The writing was poetic and the story was just beautiful.  I don’t have the words.

I’ll be looking for more of this author’s books, but I had to put that aside, because this month I had vowed to read all the horror!

It was a daunting stack.  But I currently have only 2.5 books left to go!  Which is great, considering some of these have been languishing on my TBR shelf for years.

My absolute favorite horror novel I read this month was Diary of a Haunting.  I loved how the mystery of the house unfolded and how the format of blog posts was affected by the haunting as well.  There were some great creepy moments.  The Women in the Walls was a close second.  Amy Lukavics really knows how to pull you into a story without fleshing out the setting, somehow.

Many of these seemed to be more thriller than horror (Blind Spot and The Creeping).  And sadly, I was a bit disappointed in There’s Someone Inside Your House.  I read so much horror that I was waiting for some new twist and did not find it.

Just finished reading this one – so good! #turtlesallthewaydown #johngreen #bookstagram

A post shared by Kate (@spoffk) on

Of course, I vowed to read all horror novels in October, but then this one came out, and I had to read it.  I’ve only been waiting years since his last book!  Luckily it was a fast one and had everything I’ve come to expect from a John Green novel: quirky characters, philosophical discussions, and endings that are not tied up in a neat little bow.

  • Best Overall: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • Best Horror: Diary of a Haunting
  • Weirdest Overall: Fiendish
  • Fastest Read: Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror
  • Slowest Read: The Copper Gauntlet
  • Best Audio: Highly Illogical Behavior

The full list (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  2. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
  3. The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
  4. Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano
  5. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (audiobook)
  6. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  7. The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy
  8. Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
  9. Blind Spot by Laura Ellen
  10. Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
  11. The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium #2) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare (audiobook)

 

September reading round-up

  • # of books read: 13
  • audiobooks listened to: 2
  • graphic novels read: 3
  • total page count: 3,786
  • year total page count: 35,349

I read a review of The Art of Starving and had to buy it for the library.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a boy with an eating disorder, and yet I know it’s more common than we’d think.  It had a cool element of magical realism in there, which reminded me a lot of A.S. King’s books.

Such a Pretty Girl came from my haul from the Book Barn.  I hadn’t planned on reading it just yet, but I needed a paperback skinny enough to fit in my purse to bring with me to an outdoor concert, because lying in the sun reading and listening to music is my idea of the perfect afternoon.  This story was a super quick read – published by the same imprint that did The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Brave New Girl, both of which I also enjoyed (perhaps odd to note that all three of these titles I mentioned have sexual molestation as a theme…).

I attended the Boston Teen Author Festival on September 23, where I got to meet a bunch of great authors.  I was super excited to meet Adam Silvera after I had binge-read two of his books this month – History Is All You Left Me, and They Both Die at the End.  While neither of them made the top of my list below, I really loved the ideas behind them and the relationships between the characters.

Stalking Jack the Ripper was one I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and I started it on the train getting into the city and continued reading while I waited in line.  While this is part of the Jimmy Patterson imprint, I thought this was far better written than anything I’ve read of Patterson’s.  I loved the historical aspect and had just the right amount of gore, in my opinion.

I read a lot of really great books this month – I gave 7 of them four stars on Goodreads!  So in my overalls below, I have a tie for best.  I haven’t talked about Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  My mother recommended this book to me and I really enjoyed it.  It had a quietness about it but still made me race through the pages despite not being a thriller.

  • Best Overall: Stalking Jack the Ripper / Ask Him Why
  • Weirdest Overall: The Library at Mount Char
  • Fastest Read: Smooth, Volume 1 (1 day)
  • Slowest Read: Theft by Finding (technically, since I had to wait 3 months in the hold queue rotation, but only took me a little over 2 weeks) / The Witches (actually, took me over a month)
  • Best Audio: Theft by Finding

The full list (links take you to my Goodreads reviews):

  1. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (ebook)
  2. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  3. Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977 – 2002) by David Sedaris (audiobook)
  4. The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey into the Mind of a Serial Killer by Jason Moss
  5. Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick (graphic novel)
  6. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  7. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris (graphic novel)
  8. The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller
  9. Such a Pretty Girl by Lauren Wiess
  10. Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  11. The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff (audiobook)
  12. Smooth, Volume 1: Birth (graphic novel)
  13. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

my favorite evil clown movies (aside from It)

Stephen King’s It is generally considered the standard for the “scary clown” in horror movies, but there are so many other great ones! Here are my faves.

 

Stitches (2012)

(Stitches had quite the attitude, even before he died)

Highlights:

  • killer clown origin story
  • intestine balloon animals
  • pretty much the most clown-themed deaths of any movie I’ve seen except Killer Klowns from Outer Space*
  • or at least, the most punny deaths
  • Stitches’ potty mouth

 

Killjoy (2000)

(Killjoy the clown, apparently shooting someone with bullets from his mouth)

This gem was an extra in the Puppetmaster collection DVD.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an American horror movie with zero white people in it.  The highlights:

  • “Biiiiiiiiiitch”
  • Why won’t the hot girl give the nerdy guy the time of day?  Maybe because all he has is “Killjoy [his clown doll] and dark magic”?
  • The so-bad-it’s-good effect – pretty hilarious if you’ve had a few drinks (can’t say the same for the sequels, though…)

 

Clownhouse (1989)

(Cheezo the clown’s come-hither look, and this was before an escaped mental patient stole his costume)

  • a young Sam Rockwell acting like a complete asshole
  • I know what I like to do is make out with my boyfriend at a family circus
  • clown unibrown (clownibrow?)

 

Clown (2015)

(That wig is his hair now…)

  • creepiest/dirtiest clown costume (actually a demon skin, but whatevs…)
  • feeling dirty after watching it

 

The Last Circus (2010)

(The Sad Clown gets his revenge)

This Spanish film earns a spot on my list largely because it’s the one circus movie with a death by aerial silks! Highlights:

  • clown makeup applied by an iron
  • feuding clowns
  • lots of actual circus performing

 

In my opinion, a good evil clown horror movie should have a least a little humor – after all, aren’t clowns meant to make us laugh?  And while scary clown make up is, well, scary, I think it’s better for the clown to start out looking like all the other innocent clowns, and then grow more evil-looking – because clowns really aren’t meant to scare people!

 

*I personally didn’t like Killer Klowns from Outer Space, mostly because the clowns looked too fake for me (they were aliens, but come on).  But there is death by cotton candy, so you might find it worth watching.

school required reading: books I hated, books I loved

booksm-collection-2578237_640School is back in session, and as a librarian trying to run both a teen book club and a teen writers club, I get a lot of teens who don’t have time to read or write for fun because of school reading.  I’ve always been a big reader, but even I hated quite a few of the books I was required to read.

Of course I have loved quite a few of those books.  Catcher in the Rye, The Bell Jar, and The Stranger (I read this first in French, then on my own in English) are just a few that I’ve read and re-read.  Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel are two poetry collections I really enjoyed, despite maintaining for years that “I hate poetry.”

But the bad ones were just so bad.  Freshman year I had to read Great Expectations, and hated every moment of it.  Never mind that my English teacher spoiled the ending of the first chapter for us all, it was 52 chapters of snooze.  And is any teen at a point in their life when they might enjoy Siddhartha, the story of a man’s spiritual journey to Buddhism?  The Jungle was another that I could barely get through.  The only thing I remember from that book was when one of the factory workers

There is something about a book being “required” that sucks all enjoyment from it.  I might have enjoyed The Once and Future King if it hadn’t been required summer reading (and over 1000 pages…).  The Sound and the Fury was by far my worst summer reading assignment – the only book I’ve ever needed CliffsNotes to comprehend.

And don’t get me started on Shakespeare.  I read three of his plays during high school – The Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew – and hated every single one.  Especially Taming of the Shrew, which raised my feminist hackles.

When I got to college, however, I took a Shakespeare class and discovered that I actually really liked Shakespeare!  All it took was having a great professor.  (I still wasn’t a fan of Dubliners, which I had to read in both high school and college).  The Great Gatsby, which I disliked in high school, wasn’t quite so bad as an adult.

It’s unfortunate that schools have to require reading, because so many books would have been better if I hadn’t been required to read them.  Then again, would I have read them if they hadn’t been required?  Probably not.  Which is why I’m glad I’m not still a student and can read whatever the hell I want (sorry, students!).