RELEASE DAY – Recurring Nightmares 3

Today is Release Day for David and Peggy’s Excellent Recurring Nightmares, book three in the Recurring Nightmares Series (Exhibit A and B)

7 horror writers are gifted the names of 2 real people and told to do whatever they wanted – as long as those unspeakable acts contained a chicken! In the resulting stories, “David” and “Peggy” are troubled, tortured, and terrified. The owners of these names won the right and the exquisite privilege to experience this unique madness, and the writers of GLAHW were all too happy to oblige.

Welcome to the 3rd Edition of Recurring Nightmares, the Special Raffle Prize of the annual Monster Mash for Literacy Bash, hosted by the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. This Annual Halloween Party benefits the Dominican and Siena Literacy Organizations in Detroit.
Edited by ken MacGregor, this volumn contains stories by Peggy Christie, Shad Kelly, Justin Zimmerman, Essel Pratt, H R Boldwood, Michael Cieslak and MontiLee Stormer, with cover art by Steven J Bejma.
Grab your copy please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads,  LibraryThing or wherever discerning fans of horror congregate.
David and Peggy's Excellent Recurring Nightmares
David and Peggy’s Excellent Recurring Nightmares

Recap: Motor City Comic Con 2016

Over a week ago, Motor City Comic Con was in town, bringing with it celebrities, crafters, and most important – Comic Creators from around the industry. MCCC is a highly anticipated pop culture exposition held annually the third weekend in May. This year, over a record breaking 55,000 people met with creators, cosplayers, and celebrities to buy. sell, and squeee over their favorites.

While a lot has changed, from the size of the venue to the caliber of the celebrities, the main goal has remained the same – be the premier pop culture exposition in Southeastern Michigan. Sure there are larger conventions in Chicago and Indianapolis and Columbus, but this one belongs to Michigan. GLAHW has attended the convention as vendors for the past 8 years, selling horror anthologies and members’ works at booth space designed to be enticing and intriguing. It’s a gruelling job, but one we enjoy doing and MCCC always feels like the Thunderdome of conventions  fro the upper Midiwest.

Because of restrictions by both guests and representatives of the guests, as well as time crunches due to the massive crush of people, I was unable to really get out and see as many celebrities as I would have liked.  I also don’t have photos of celebrities taken from afar – it’s rude (and not allowed) to snap without permission. I do however have personal photos of fun Cosplay I saw throughout the day. Other media organizations have photos galleries (see below foer a few links)  and I encourage you to check them out!

Here then is my recap of four days in the trenches (click to embiggen the photos).

Day Thursday:

Booth Photo Credit @GLAHW
GLAHW Space at MCCC 2016

Thursday is Zero/Set up day for many vendors. The large bay doors are opened to the rear and trucks and vans file into the convention space like busy drones preparing a hive for the queen. GLAHW usually grabs two 8’ table spaces, but some vendors and exhibitors have massive space set ups. Like sailors navigating by the stars, convention goers often use the tower of t-shirts as a reference point. Thursday setup is also a great opportunity to see who will be your booth buddies.

Badges
Badges

Check-in was quick and I was able to grab my exclusive Film Obsession press badge as well as my GLAHW Vendor Badge and see where we’d be set up. I wasn’t part of the actual setup due to work obligations, so thanks go out to Peggy Christie and Michael Cieslak for a great table set up. We were under the giant letter “I”, which made for easy directions if anyone wanted to visit us.

Day Friday:

I dressed in my best blue dress and favorite blue hair and motored down to MCCC. Arriving at 11:00 am, I joined Peggy and Michael at the booth and by noon, the VIP pass holders were filing in. Many celebrities don’t arrive to the convention floor until Saturday, but that was okay, since there was already a large crowd through the doors. I spoke with the CKC Agency about setting up interviews and the very helpful Frank was able to direct me to who was and wasn’t giving press for the weekend. Completely understandable, since this convention is how a lot of touring celebrities connect with fans.

#3 Group Photo

Because it’s usually the less congested of the three days,Friday is a good meet and greet day for Vendors to familiarize yourself with your neighbors, plot the best course for the restrooms and see where all of the celebrities are seated in case you have a chance to break away for a quick autograph. Not a ton of cosplayers visited Aisle I, but we did see the back end of Captain Ohio.

Captain Ohio
Captain Ohio

Michael Nesmith of the Monkees was there, Ivy Doomkitty and Alloy Ash signed and took photos with fans amd comic artist and writer, Alan Davis had a line that never seemed to diminish with admirers eager to talk to him.

Meanwhile at the GLAHW table, we’re doing a brisk walk-up business. Writers are a hard sell at an exposition, because unlike visual art or collectibles, what we sell is hidden between sheets of cardstock, with enticing but vague covers. That’s why GLAHW does its own version of visual art with theme cosplay days and fancy dress. If they can catch your eye, maybe you’ll be interested in picking up a few books, or at least business cards to check them out later.

(I did my best to help)

Vanity Thy Name is
Vanity Thy Name is

Day Saturday:

This is Insanity Day! Up and on the road by 8:30, through the doors at 9 am, first customers shortly after 9:30 – and then the world exploded. The crowds were expansive, with lines around the block, overflow lots at capacity. There were two cancellations of note, Billie Piper and Robin Lord Taylor, and while there were disappointed people, the remaining star power was staggering.

Jon Bernthal and Elden Henson from Daredevil smiled and greeted fans warmly. Jon E. L. Tenney and Dirk Manning both had standing room only panels in the expanded convention space. Lena Headey, Brent Spiner, and Katrina Law kept their fans laughing and entertained on their respective panels. The truth may have been out there, but Mitch Pileggi and William B Davis kept things strictly confidential – confidentially amazing!

(I don’t know what that means, either)

There was no shortage of great talks and fantastic conversation. The cosplay contests brought out the creative and the dazzling.

One disappointment was the cancellation of the Walking Dead Panel. Representatives of AMC pulled the plug on this one due to the actors being under contract and unable to talk about the show during the off-season. Lots of unhappy fans,

As for the GLAHW crew, The Theme Day Creepy Dolls, so Blade, a broken Ballerina, and a Voodoo doll worked the booth.

#6 Group Photo

So many fans and readers stopped by to pick up the latest issues of Erie Tales and Ghostlight, and works by members. The horror was the data signal inside was extremely poor, likely being due to 30K people trying to update photos and text family at the same time. Sprinting outside to to credit cards was a great way to get in daily steps!

The most adorable Supergirl ever (mild-mannered Lola) posed with Peggy and it was so sweet, we all got meth mouth.

#7 Lola and Peggy

I saw a very cool cosplay of from the Rooster Teeth anime, RWBY

#8 RWBY
RWBY Cosplay

And Louise and Tina managed to slip away from Bob’s Burgers to take pictures of butts. (not really, but maybe)

 Louise and Tina
Louise and Tina

The Little Mermaid’s Ursula dazzled poor unfortunate souls
#10 Ursula

It’s not a convention until Disney Princesses show up
#11 Cindy and Belle

Everyone’s favorite WNTV Community Radio Host, Cecil, found himself in Mitch-i-gan (is that even a real place?).
#12 Cecil

A jaw dropping Annie Titan (Attack on Titan)  wandered by. Lots of members of Scout Regiment and even a soldier from Garrison Regiment were nearby, so I hope It was okay.
#13 Annie

This would have been the best day for interviews, had I been able to land any, however with the sheer volume of people it just wasn’t possible. Many celebrities had opted for no press, which is absolutely their right, and even the few times I was able to break away, the celebrities I would have like to talk with were dealing with autographs and pictures.

As the day finally wound down, Ian Zeiring walked down our aisle and smiled and waved. He mouthed the words of out banner as he walked past. He knows who we are. Now is the time to strike!

#14 Group Photo

Day Sunday:

One more day. We can do this.

#15 Group Photo

This is a shortened, getaway day for many of the celebrities. It’s has a much lighter load than Saturday, and it’s a great bargain day for those looking for a deal. Lots of celebrities leave by 2or 3 and the show closes at 5. Kiddie cosplay contest highlighted the adorable I did not envy Ivy Doomkitty her job as Judge. Lea Thompson spoke about her time on the Back To The Future set with audience questions and answers and Alan Davis had a panel on Comics writing. The expanded hotel-convention center allowed for multiple panels and contests to run concurrent with the main convention floor activities, so ther ewas plenty of room walk, decompress in the lobby, or hit any number of available rooms for gaminh and anime movies.

I dresses as Zoe Washburne, complete with replica Mare’s Leg, so lots of pictures of me exist out there.  I try not to think about it.

Bob brought most of the family by the table (probaby left Gene and Tina back at Bob’s Burgers)
#16 Bob, Linda, Louise

Brent Spiner was still signing nearly until 4:30, but his sign had pretty much had enough about 3:00pm.
#17 Brent Sign

The folks at the GLAHW table still did brisk business, selling anthologies, memberships and talking to fans and admirers.

At 5:00pm the show was over, and a few celebrities could be seen walking the quickly emptying floor, seeing things they missed and making final purchases. We broke down the booth, put away the snacks, and packed up our books. We said goodbye to our aisle mates and promised to meet again at upcoming shows. Convention vendors are a lot like carnies – we’re a twisted extended family and we totally get the life.

We’re totally looking forward to Motor City Comic Con 2017, and we can’t wait to do it all again.

Life in Michigan had a great write up and gallery 
The Oakland Press has a fun gallery from Sunday’s festivities

*Dislaimer, MontiLee has been a member of GLAHW since 2008

Unelss otherwise noted, Photo Credit @ MontiLee Stormer, all rights reserved.

Ghostlight, Winter 2016

Just in time for Spring, the Winter Edition of Ghostlight, The Magazine of Terror, presented by GLAHW and edited by Nicole Castle will be available April 1.

We are please to present the TOC:

Spring Thaw – L.S. Engler
The Flesh – Jay Helmstutler
Devil May Care – Phil Margolies
Odd Dog – Stephen McQuiggan
Adopting the Shadow – John Thomas Allen
Too Good to be True – Kimber Grey
Chirp – Patrick Winters
The Nefarious: A Tale of a Notorious Halloween Dance – J.J. Steinfeld
The Atomizer and the Matchbox – Christina Sng
Spider Webs – Trico Lutkins
The Confession – Clive Carpenter
Skitters – S. L. Dixon
Blur – Mike Trottier
Lived In – Rachel Watts

And the Cover

Ghostlight Winter 2016 Coversm

Top 10 Movies That Go Bump In The Night

We all have our film predilections. I adore ghost stories and haunted house films. Under the bed, in the closet, sitting next to you on the couch, for me, there is no better way to spend an evening alone that to watch ghost stories and then be too afraid to go to bed.

Seriously. The following is by no means a definitive list and in no particular order, but here are my Top Ten Movies I Watch In The Dark Proving I Lack Common Sense Because I Do It All The Dang Time:

  1. Poltergeist (1982)
    This was one of my first movie theater experiences in the horror genre and I spent the last 20 minutes pretending to pick up imaginary M&Ms I’d pretended to drop on the floor. There’s a story in this haunted house, which makes everything that happens to Steven, Diane and the Freeling children so terrifying.Favorite Scene: In the kitchen as Diane is cleaning up after breakfast. She pushes all the chairs in and gives Carol Anne a look (“silly people”, it says) as she gets her cleaning cloth from under the sink, but when she goes to wipe down the kitchen table, all of the chairs are stack impossibly tall on the table.  it takes less than 5 seconds.  You know that cold feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that says things are very, very wrong – I get that feeling every time I watch that scene.

    poltergeist
    Poltergeist (1982)
  2. The Others (2003)
    I don’t particularly care for Nicole Kidman, mainly because she plays the same high-strung, yet fiercely-determined headcase in most of her movies. The thing is: it works here.

    The Others (2001)
    The Others (2001)

    When Grace has to protect her children, Anne and Nicolas, from a condition that makes them extremely sensitive to sunlight, the arrival of new servants and unexplained noises complicates her already fragile hold on what little self-control she has left.

    Favorite Scene: Can’t say as it’s a spoiler for the entire movie, but it’s heartbreaking, but I hope one day someone leaves the room shouting at me that I’m wicked.

  3. The Orphanage [El Orfanato] (2007)
    You buy your childhood home because you want to give back to the disheartened and disabled, and the blessed thing is infested with imaginary friends who tell secrets that shouldn’t be spread. Tragedy upon tragedy later —  well, let’s just say this film is layered and intense. It’s foreign because everyone else in the world seems to understand what makes a good ghost story, and Americans muck it up with sex and Ice T as some street-wise guy about to take a hatched to the head.

    The Orphanage (2007)
    The Orphanage (2007)

    Favorite Scene: In a game of Statues (I think we played something like it called Red Light/Green Light), Laura coaxes out the children.

  4. Apartment 143 (2012)
    Part found footage, part exorcism, this movie practically broadcasts what you’re about to see next, but you’re still unprepared for it.

    Apartment 143 (2012)
    Apartment 143 (2012)

    The White family escapes their poltergeist-ridden home to discover whatever harassed them there has followed them. With fancy equipment, a team of psychologists move in to capture evidence. This feels real and raw and what Poltergeist would look like in a modern day setting – less subdivision and suburbia and more city life and small spaces. It’s the silence and pauses and lack of music cues that make it for me.

    Favorite scene: Any time they used the strobe camera.

  5. The Woman in Black (2012)
    English Ghost stories? Yes please. The quiet brooding, the staunch sensibilities, the way everything makes sense until it completely doesn’t. Like Mama (below) this is maternal rage manifested, and also like Mama, there is an undertone of mental illness and what it takes to be a good mother.Settling a woman’s estate, a junior solicitor spends nights in her home and catches a glimpse of the local ghost, setting off a series of unfortunate events against the children of the isolated village.

    The Woman In Black (2012)
    The Woman In Black (2012)
  6. What Lies Beneath (2000)
    All of the reasons to marry Harrison Ford are in the movie. There is nice redirection, funny interspersed with the terror, because remember, Oscar nominees don’t act in horror movies, but psychological thrillers are always chic. Empty nest syndrome following a car accident, leaves Claire alone, on edge, and ignored by her brilliant, but distant husband. It’s easy to dismiss her as high-strung, but it’s not an over-active imagination if there really is something hovering in the corner of her eye.

    What Lies Beneath (2000)
    What Lies Beneath (2000)

    Favorite scenes – just watching Clair fall apart because she’s hysterical is really a lot of the fun.

  7. Stir of Echoes (1999)
    Matheson + Bacon + Erbe = a modern ghost story written 70 years ago that still feels fresh. After screwing around with a seance, a man’s mind is opened to the possibilities of things he wasn’t ready to experience. This is better than a fish out of water story, because the fish never leaves his pond. All the creepy comes to him and he faces it exactly how you’d expect a working man to face his problems – with a jackhammer.
    stirofechoes
    Favorite scene: “I’m afraid of the feathers.”
  8. A Haunting in Connecticut: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)
    New house, strange neighbors and someone called The Stationmaster. I need to write a story about that. It has one of my favorite tropes Magical/Wise Negro, but I’m willing to let it slide because the rest of it is pretty enjoyable.

    The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)
    The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)

    It’s not a sequel to A Haunting in Connecticut, in case the subtitle of Ghosts of Georgia gave it away, so think of it like a franchise piece instead of a continuation. It’s also supposedly based ona true story, (like its predecessor, A Haunting in Connecticut), complete with the smiling person and faily the story is based on  at the end. You could buy the book if you were so inclined, but it hinges on the idea that seeing ghosts more like a burden and a woe is me, I’m special, so just stick with the movie and enjoy the White Guilt.

  9. The Baby’s Room [La Habitación Del Niño]  (2006)
    I saw this one on a Lionsgate double-feature billed Six Films To Keep You Awake, (like the popular but poorly-continued, 8 Films To Die For) with the film “To Let”. Again: foreign film, beautiful blocking, and simple, practical special effects.New couple with a new baby but a gorgeous but dilapidated home to fix up with their own blood, sweat and tears – not knowing it would take exactly that to fight whatever is in his house.

    Baby's Room (2006)
    Baby’s Room (2006)

    (hint – skip the first five minutes. You’ll enjoy the movie more.)

  10. Mama (2013)
    Not everyone liked this movie, mostly because (SPOILER) but it’s is a creepy, scary, heartbreaking movie. A couple take in the found children of a long-dead relation, who’ve been living in the woods for five years. Their adjustment is made harder by an entity that has followed the girls back, protecting them, and jeopardizing the lives of anyone who tries to help.

    Mama (2012)
    Mama (2012)

    I don’t have a favorite scene, but check out the short film this movie was based on, and then hie thee to Netflix!
    Mamá (2008 Spanish short film) from Pablo Sierra on Vimeo.

Honorable mentions:

  1. Ring/Ringu 2002/1997
  2. House of Voices (Saint Ange) (2003)
  3. The Eye (2002) – The elevator scene, dude.
  4. The Gift (1997) Kind of not a ghost story, but a supernatural thriller that has folks in it that wouldn’t normally act in horror movies.
  5. Paranormal Activity – the whole series, because it just gets more and more fun
  6. Sinister (2012) – More of a demon in the walls story

This post is part of the thread: 10 Haunted House Films – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

10 (or more) Books: A List I’d Like You To Acknowledge

Authors of GLAHW were challenged by author Tom Sawyer (and a few other people) to list ten books that have stayed with us in some way. This is my list of 11, and it would have been more, but I had to stop somewhere, and it’s by no means definitive. Books influence writers in lots of subtle and not so subtle ways, but that doesn’t mean we should give up reading. In fact, any writer who says they don’t read, probably can’t be trusted with entertaining you properly.

A Terrible Beauty

A Terrible Beauty, Graham Masterton
A Terrible Beauty, Graham Masterton

I don’t remember when I read this, my Goodreads doesn’t go that far back, and I don’t even remember where I’d obtained the book, but I have an image of a woman who’d literally being flayed alive to the bone and it has never left me.

House of Leaves

House Of Leaves
House Of Leaves

I’m not big on experimental storytelling, and I honestly don’t know what made me pick up House of Leaves but the story within a story wrapped around a third story was a nice hook, and once I was lured into the Navidson Record, the hook became a trap. It will take months to read, not because it’s boring (see a little further down) but because there’s so much to explore in the footnotes, side notes, and appendices.

Ten Little Indians

Ten Little Indians
Ten Little Indians

I probably read this story in the 5th or 6th Grade, and let me tell you a little something about how far the school system has come. After reading the book, the class has an assignment to take a nursery rhyme and turn it into a mystery. I choose “Rock A Bye Baby” and proceeded to kill of ten pregnant women. I think I only got a B- on it because I couldn’t tie the killer into the nursery rhyme to the teacher’s satisfaction, but think about this for a moment – in a Catholic School, I wrote a murder mystery that killed expecting mothers. No conferences, no psychologists, no media outrage. Thank you Mrs Gayde or Mrs. Hasho for letting me be budding twisted little freak I am today.

The Talisman

The Talisman
The Talisman

I’m not an epic-book reading person. Curling up with a novel on cool nights, with a glass of wine, and reading for hours hasn’t been a thing with me in a long time.  That being said, I will read The Talisman a few times a year both as a well-loved dog-eared paperback and the incomparable narrated version by the late Frank Muller. Jack’s journey across America, as well as The Territories feels like something I need to endure and survive several times a year, because it’s so wonderfully rich and alive. It reads like a living document, and it never feels dated. I cry in the same parts, I laugh in the same parts, and I *always* discover something I missed the first 30 times I read it, as if I’m seeing something I needed to read right at that moment.

The Rosary Murders

The Rosary Murders
The Rosary Murders

I don’t remember a blessed thing about this book, but the cover terrified me for years. All I can remember is it was written by a priest and that was cool, and it was what led me to read The Exorcist. 

The Exorcist

The Exorcist
The Exorcist

F*ck. I mean … (no words) …

I used to have a friend that kept this book in his garage, much like Joey used to keep a copy of Cujo in the freezer.  There’s nothing about this book that isn’t terrifying, and despite the fact that Regan did nothing to warrant possession (bad things just happen, chica), she spends a l ot of this book being very uncomfortable. I’m not Catholic, but I know this book was the cornerstone to my interest (obsession) in Angelic Hierarchy and complicated Catholic rituals and mysticism in general.

Night Shift

Night Shift
Night Shift

One of my earliest memories of my mother reading to us takes place in the basement of our Cambridge home  (doesn’t that sound ridiculously posh? It’s not.). We’re all gathered around the arms of my grandfather’s chair, a black leather number with a houndstooth fabric, and my mother was probably trying to enjoy a little light reading. I have the most vivid memory of her reading us “The Boogeyman”. Her reading and my imagination (which for this memory is cast is a royal blue light with terrifying shadows) made me decide I wanted to scare people like this weird guy with the glasses did.

 The Witching Hour

TheWitchingHour
The Witching Hour

This one is not on my list because it’s good. It’s really not. It’s long and drawn out and took me six months to finish because every Garden District description needed four pages and it’s own appendix. Reading should not feel liek a chore, and everytime I picked this book to finish, it felt like an obligation. Where “The Boogeyman” showed me how thrilling the economical short form could, The Witching Hour showed how to abuse words to the point where you forgot what you were reading and why you cared.

Stories from the Twilight Zone

Stories From The Twilight Zone
Stories From The Twilight Zone

More of the short form. I dig it. I especially dig speculative fiction, stories that have no genre, but still make us think and feel. I pulled Rod Serling’s Stories From the Twilight Zone from a friend’s shelf to read whenever I’d get ignored (don’t worry, aren’t friends anymore) and managed to read a story or two before being recognized as a viable presence again. “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” despite having seen The Twilight Zone teleplays still felt new and very on the nose, and “Walking Distance” always made my heart hurt just a little.

The Howling Man

The Howling Man
The Howling Man

On a whim I’d picked up The Howling Man, by Charles Beaumont, not realizing he’d also written stories for The Twilight Zone, and when I tore through The Howling Man, I knew this was what I wanted to write forever. There is no story in that collection that doesn’t kick you in the teeth.

Stir of Echoes

Stir Of Echoes
Stir Of Echoes

I’d seen the movie a bunch of times (I’m sure it’s in my DVD collection) but didn’t read it for the first time until maybe two years ago. I’d read the book cover to cover in the bathtub one night, having to refresh the hot water, unable to put the book down. Thrilled and satisfied with the end, I turned to the front matter where all of the legal stuff is, and my jaw dropped when I saw the copyright date: 1958.  The story is written where the only things that matter are the characters and what’s happening to them right at that moment. Over the next few days I thumbed through it several times and realized that within this marvelous story, there are no modern trappings – no mention of current events, technology, who drives what car. It’s a story that’s – wait for it – story driven. If I’m spending time describing what people are wearing or what they drive or the kind of phone they have, I’m taking words away from the who my characters are and the how that impacts the story. It was a huge revelation for me, and I’ve been rethinking my stories a little bit ever since, cutting out the stuff that doesn’t matter, creating a timeless story that doesn’t remind the reader of whens and the right nows, and instead focuses on the what of the story and the right thens.


I thought about all of the books I’d read and enjoyed – more than a few – but none of them influenced me, not as a person or a writer, like the ones above. They were just really good books – To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Harriet The Spy, for example that made me happy (or sad) to read. 

Did any of these books strike a chord with you?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter (@MontiLee or @GLAHW) with the hashtag #GLAHW10Books!

Movie Review – Oculus

Oculus
2014
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane
Writer/Director: Mike Flanagan
Produced by Intrepid PicturesBlumhouse ProductionsWWE Studios
Distributor: Relativity Media (2014) (USA) (theatrical)

(info courtesy of imdb)

If you don’t want to be even a tiny bit spoiled, I saw it, I liked it and you’ll probably like it to. Now stop reading because I may have revealed plot points and spoilers.

Seriously, the review is starting.

Last chance …

(P.S. it’s not the destination, but the journey, Whiner)

I wanted to see Oculus for a few reasons:
1 – I like Karen Gillian and I miss her face as Amy Pond.
2 – Scots using American accents is always a hoot
3 – I love haunted item (dolls, houses, body parts) movies
4 – Douglas said we could

With all of the preliminary bases covered, we hit a movie house on the first 70-degree Saturday to ensure ZERO other people. I even got popcorn (and a refill)!

Oculus tells the story of Kaylie and Tim, adult survivors of their parents’ mental collapse and double murder over a decade prior. Kaylie is successful and single-minded, having her parents’ money to provide her education and lifestyle. Despite what happened to her, she manages to be successful in the way people are deemed successful – good job, loving fiancé, and well put together for being a survivor of not being murdered.

Tim, her younger brother, has had it tougher – now released from a mental institution after spending those same years dealing with his parents’ actions he only has eleven years of psychobabble and medications to fall back on when things shortly go to hell.

Based on a promise they made to each other as terrified children,  Kaylie takes her newly stable brother to the place where it all went down with the very singular intention of destroying the item she believes is the culprit, once and for all – The Lasser Glass. Her reasons for exonerating her dad in the murder of her mother are as deeply personal as any Daddy/Daughter relationship. Tim plays the role of skeptical audience, throwing everything we would at a very determined person to convince them of things like logic, false memories, and the strongest of all: belief in absolute retribution.

I’m a sucker for ghost stories, like some people drool over slashers and fantasy. I won’t get into the psychology of why I find them the most satisfying of themes, mostly because I have no idea, but in movie-lover’s layman terms supernatural horror should be indefinable. There shouldn’t be a “reason” the Glass is evil, and there shouldn’t ever be a way to stop it. Ghosts, like God or Monday mornings should be eternal – always there, their reasons for haunting and demoralization as ethereal as their presence.

This is a movie that takes out all of the “why didn’t they”, because Kaylie isn’t just the one that didn’t go to a mental institution and have therapy and get lithium shakes for lunch. She’s the one that grew up the internet, went to college, cited her sources, and showed the posers how it’s done. She’s techno-savvy without being flashy, The audience is treated to a brief history of the mirror, rapid-fire millennial-style, without the montage of someone typing and looking thoughtful with open books scattered around. Back story is out the way super quick, because it’s necessary but the story doesn’t hinge on it and we can get back to the meat of the tale. Everything is there except how the mirror came to be haunted. That’s actually the best part. I love that it can’t be defined.

I enjoyed the low-tech feel of the movie, because when a movie starts throwing all sorts of CGI and special effects wizardry, especially in a ghost story, it feels and it looks fake. Filmed on a (Hollywood) micro budget of $5M, more attention is paid to the story and the acting, because without that, there really is no story. There is a very nice flip because While Tim is the one that spent time sorting out his demons, Kaylie has had no such therapy, and he sounds like all of the rational explanations for things being remembered one particular way. It’s nice to have the recently insane be the rational ones. Just when you think maybe Kaylie really needs a handful of anti-psychotics and a good cry – she gets what she came for.

This movie is about perceptions and guilt and learning to leave well enough alone. Sometimes you simply can’t go back to fix the past, and no matter how hard you try, you’re only going to make things worse. The bonus bits for me were the ways the Glass twisted reality, and the divergent memories of the two survivors speak to just how deep its influence was in the past.

Movies like Oculus work because it doesn’t rely on CGI to make the Lasser Glass terrifying. It doesn’t have to because the story isn’t trying to wow you with tired pop culture clichés and gimmick placed to prove how utterly clever everyone involved. Horror movies aren’t about showing your audience what an ultimate fan you are (Rob Zombie, I’m looking at you). Writer/Director Mike Flanagan gives us information, shows us what we can expect, and the rips the rug out from beneath up with by letting our own imaginations run wild.  Good old-fashioned movie making rounds out the rest of the scares and those creepy silvery eyes of Marisol and everyone trapped in that cursed mirror. The effect is low-key and subtle which I’ll take any day of the week over stupid jump scares and lots of running and screaming. It’s hard to outsmart a supernatural entity when it can make you see anything it wants, so we were all along for the ride, which made everything happening so much more fun to watch.

 

1 – Wow Factor – This didn’t suck like I really feared it will. That makes it a win.
2 – Wander Lust – I actually ran to the concessions for my refill of popcorn because I was afraid of missing something good.
3 – Rewind – There were no blink and you’ll miss them moments, which made the dread so much more palpable
4 – Recommend – Yes, to lovers of ghost stories, haunted items and movies with tangible stories
5 – Movie Math – The Haunting + Dead of Night + the good parts of The Conjuring = Oculus
6 – Personal Movie rating (scale of 1-5 with one being Abysmal and 5 being “Start A religion”) – 3.75

(cross-posted to my personal blog – littleblackduck)