Scary Story of the Day: A Very Special Message from Your Friends at “Family Farms Soaps” by LivingHalloween

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Like the soaps in “A Very Special Message from Your Friends at ‘Family Farms Soaps,’” this short story feels lovingly crafted and full of creepy detail.  The story starts similarly to the underrated so-bad-it’s-excellent classic Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.  A mysterious and mildly ominous television commercial airs at the same time each night, urging viewers to tune in.  Yet the company and its products don’t appear to exist, sparking a mystery in Summerdown Grove.  After the loss of the town’s central industry and the resulting exodus of half the town’s residents, the remaining Summerdown Grove citizens see the phenomenon as an excellent distraction and maybe even a chance to save the town.  But this isn’t an inspirational film about a small town saved by creative marketing.  I won’t reveal the truth behind Family Farms Soaps because you should definitely check out the full story!

Read the story here.

Listen to the story here.

What I love about small town horror stories like A Very Special Message from Your Friends at “Family Farms Soaps,” The Art of Jacob Emory, and Jessie Mac is the idea that horror can happen under the radar and never make it to the official news channels.  I suspect that every hometown has its horror legends, the blend of almost forgotten crimes, make up legends, and, very possibly, some truly scary things lurking just off the known paths.

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Scary Story of the Day: A Very Special Message from Your Friends at “Family Farms Soaps” by LivingHalloween

Scary Story of the Day: The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

Lion VeldtReading horrifying stories is a middle school rite of passage.  From classic short stories like The Lottery and The Most Dangerous Game to dystopian children’s novels like The Giver and the Shadow Children series, middle school literature seems designed to terrify.

In sixth grade, I devoured scary stories in the way living planets devoured innocent travelers (shout out to the Galaxy of Fear series).  It was at this tender age of 11 that my teacher assigned a brilliant and chilling science fiction tale that remains one of my favorites to this day: “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury.

“The Veldt” feels like a precursor to Black Mirror.  The Hadley family owns a smart home that does everything—it cooks their dinners, completes all their chores, and rocks the family to sleep—leaving the parents feeling frustrated and obsolete.  The most expensive room is a nursery that allows the children to imagine anything and creates their visions in vivid, lifelike detail.  For example, a child might imagine a beach, and the walls would generate the seaside imagery, the vents would waft in the smell of saltwater, and the speakers would produce the sounds of seagulls and waves.  In recent weeks, however, the children have become fixated on creating the same scene—an African Savannah complete with lions and vultures.

When I first read this story, as a voracious reader and a beginning writer, I was beginning to pick up on elements like foreshadowing and often predicted the endings of stories within the first few pages or chapters.  Many times, knowing the ending ruined the suspense, but “The Veldt” was different.  When I realized what horrific fate would befall the Hadley family, I was struck with terror.  It seemed as though the characters were hurtling toward their doom while all I could do was watch.  That feeling of sensing an unbearable fate and being unable to prevent it is still one of the scariest experiences I’ve had reading horror literature.

Click here to read “The Veldt.”

Click here to listen to the Dimension X radio production of “The Veldt.”

Scary Story of the Day: The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

Fido (2006) Review

Abandoned FriendlysThe 1950s have long been a shorthand for conformity and maintaining conventions at all costs.  Just as the twenties have come to symbolize opulence and the sixties youthful rebellion, in America’s collective memory, the fifties are all about those white picket fences and Levittown-esque suburbs.  From Pleasantville to Edward Scissorhands, the fifties setting is a perfect place for some subversive fun.

In Fido (2006), Helen Robinson, played by the magnificent Carrie-Anne Moss, is mortified that her family is the only one in the neighborhood that doesn’t own a zombie.  After a wave of radiation encircled the globe and brought the dead back to life, humans waged the “Zombie Wars” to take back control of the planet.  Using collars that render zombies docile and subservient, the ever-present conglomerate Zomcon has turned the remaining undead into a desirable commodity and has encouraged their use as servants, butlers, and housemaids.  Because her husband Bill (Dylan Baker) is terrified of zombies, Helen goes behind his back and purchases one, hoping that he’ll grow to accept this new addition in time.  Immediately, their lonely, bullied son Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) befriends the zombie and names him “Fido.”  The next day, Fido, played by a hilarious Billy Connolly, breaks loose from his calming collar and starts chowing down on Mrs. Henderson, the elderly town gossip.  When she becomes a zombie and starts assailing her neighbors, the quiet suburb faces a minor zombie outbreak.  However, this story serves as a side plot. The film’s main focus is on how the Robinson family adapts to their newest undead member and how Fido grows to care for his new family.  As Fido acts less like a bloodthirsty monster, dancing with Helen and rescuing Timmy in a manner reminiscent of Lassie, we are forced to consider whether the dead have truly lost their humanity.

Fido is an inherently subversive movie.  In recent years, zombies have been one of the most overused movie and video game monsters, and at their most trite, they are an excuse to endlessly massacre bodies without having to consider the messy morality inherent in shooting actual humans.  By domesticating and commodifying zombies, Fido brings a fresh take to the genre.  In the opening scenes, by establishing the story of a pitiful, bullied boy, Fido seems to be setting up a heartwarming film about a boy and his (zombie) dog, but this plot is subverted when Fido almost immediately breaks loose and gnaws on Mrs. Henderson.  One of the film’s best subversions and surprises is in the character of Helen Robinson.  Initially Helen seems like a throwaway side character; she barely looks up from her baking when her son mentions how he was nearly killed by a bully and cares most about keeping up with the Joneses.  But over the course of the film, she begins to have feelings for the new zombie man around the house, sasses her husband, who seems to care more about golf and paying for funerals than the fact she’s pregnant with their baby, and helps her son cover up a murder.  Watching her growth over the course of the film is gleeful fun.

While dystopias are often subversive, Fido also manages to subvert the typical dystopia.  In the world of Fido, Zomcon owns everything, assumes all government functions, controls the media, and banishes those who disobey to a zombie filled wilderness, which is tantamount to execution.  The dystopian corporatocracy plays out in the background, but nobody seems particularly concerned by it.  Although the characters manipulate the system, nobody topples the regime, and nothing really changes.  The corporation is forgiven for outright negligence that leads to countless deaths because its services and products are useful and ingrained in everyday life.  While most evil corporations and governments in dystopian films go too far and inspire resentment and rebellion, Fido shows how an institution is most dangerous when people are so caught up by its fantastic achievements that they refuse to hold it accountable for its abuse of power.

Overall, Fido is a hilarious, thought-provoking film with excellent performances—a perfect way to add variety to a zombie movie night.

Fido (2006) Review

Annabelle: Creation (2017) Review

Creepy DollTwelve years after a tragedy befalls a family who conveniently lives in the middle of nowhere, the father decides to open his home and heart to a nun and the orphans under her care.  In another film universe this premise might have produced a charming family movie full of life lessons and cheer.  In Annabelle: Creation (2017), the family, the nun, the orphans, and, by extension, the audience are subjected to relentless terror.

Part of what made this movie so entertaining was that I didn’t go in with high expectations.  While I had enjoyed the first two Conjuring films, I never bothered to see Annabelle (2014) which only got a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Going in to this movie, I didn’t remember much about Annabelle the doll.  I remembered her eerie appearance, of course, but other than that, I mostly remembered her getting safely locked away in a cabinet during the first Conjuring film.  But here, Annabelle is uncontained and ready to wreak havoc.

The first two Conjuring films were (supposedly) based on a true story.  While watching these films, there’s an extra layer of creepiness as you wonder whether these events really could have happened, but the fact it’s based on reality can zap some of the suspense.  Deep down, you know that Ed and Lorraine Warren will survive since the people they’re based on survived, and that evil will be vanquished—at least until the sequel.  Annabelle: Creation offers no such comfort: none of these characters are guaranteed to survive unscathed or even survive at all.  The body count is higher than either Conjuring film and with it comes the terror of knowing that anything can happen.  The horror is nicely varied, with lots of gnarly body horror and gore as well as possessed children, scarecrows, and dead bodies.  The only downside to these terrors is that there are way too many times when characters walk into dark, creepy basements or go into forbidden rooms when they know they shouldn’t.  I appreciate that this movie made me shriek in the middle of a crowded theater, but it also made me want to yell out advice to the characters, and that’s never good.

Though the characters aren’t incredibly developed, I did find myself caring about them.  Stephanie Sigman is wonderful as a sweet and compassionate nun named Sister Charlotte, and I definitely rooted for the orphan girls.  While I do love horror films where the main characters use their ingenuity and strength to fight back against their foes (You’re Next, Get Out, and 10 Cloverfield Lane are all excellent examples), I also love horror films like this where the main characters have no chance because the villain is so powerful, so unstoppable, and so evil.  The women here are so vulnerable and ill-matched to confront an ancient, shapeshifting evil, which definitely adds to the horror.

Another thing I particularly liked about this movie was its focus on female characters.  With the six orphan girls, the nun, and the mysterious wife, the screen was filled with women.  I really enjoyed the scene where the little girls Janice and Linda use a paper fortune teller and promise each other that they won’t let anyone adopt them unless they’re adopted together.  I also really liked the scene where the mysterious wife reveals herself; she stops being the intriguing figure who haunts the imaginations of the girls and confides in Sister Charlotte, telling her story in her own words.

Overall Annabelle: Creation is a great new addition to the Conjuring universe and definitely worth checking out if you want a good summertime scare!

Annabelle: Creation (2017) Review

Scary Story of the Day: The Art of Jacob Emory by Peterdivine

Before I start marathoning scary movies and TV shows, I want to recommend one of my absolute favorite stories. Jacob Emory, an aimless young man, returns from a trip abroad with a strange object that allows him to create moving, living drawings. Things inevitably go wrong. I hope everyone has a very happy Halloween!

Here is a link to read the story.

Here is a link to listen to the story.

Doodle

Scary Story of the Day: The Art of Jacob Emory by Peterdivine

Scary Story of the Day: The Russian Sleep Experiment.

Goosey Night, Mischief Night, Gate Night, Cabbage Night. Whatever you call it, this day of pranks and thrills needs to be commemorated by a very scary story. The Russian Sleep Experiment is about an experiment that supposedly took place in 1940s Russia, where a group of men were exposed to an experimental gas that forced them to stay awake. What happens to these men is absolutely horrific. This story is extremely gory and contains scenes of absolutely horrific violence so please take caution!

Here is a link to read the story.

Here is a link to listen to the story.

Saw Picture

Scary Story of the Day: The Russian Sleep Experiment.

Scary Story of the Day: Jessie Mack

Most of the stories I’ve featured here this month are things that most likely didn’t happen. At least I sincerely hope that Mr. Widemouth and the creature from the crawlspace aren’t real. But this strange story about a group of New Jersians who become obsessed with the name “Jessie Mack” always gives me a chill because I really could see this happening. Unlike the many more literary and well plotted stories, “Jessie Mack” is a very strange story that has no neat resolution, which makes me wonder if the author, who swears that his story is autobiographical, might just be telling the truth. Some notes of warning: this story contains lots of profanity and includes many mature topics including drugs and drug overdose, vomit, and suicide.

Here is a link to read “Jessie Mack”

JM

Scary Story of the Day: Jessie Mack