Halloween 2023 Postmortem

So I fucking did it: 31 days of (mostly) soft horror recommendations! I know this sort of thing is easier for some folks, but damn, I’m fucking exhausted.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my wife and I have a long-running tradition of just tucking in for Halloween, wrangling wings from BW3 a.k.a. Buffalo Wild Wings — sorry, not sorry as their spicy garlic wings are some of the best things on Earth — and eating candy and watching movies.

Beforehand I send her a list of film suggestions that encompass ‘classic’, ‘cult’ and ‘contemporary’ horror films and she chooses three from ‘em based on trailers and descriptions. (I do not want to be one of those asshole dudebros that force works onto others. Also, this year, just like with Horrorclature 2023, they were all cozy horror films.)

So here’s what we decided on this year. (These are just brief notes! I got other shit to do, y’all!)


VIY (1967)

This is the first Soviet horror film and it’s all spooky witchy folk horror goodness. Goddamn, the production design and casting here is perfect, especially during the three days the philosopher is stuck in a church with a witch. I still can’t believe that the Soviets went ~40 years without making a horror film.



This has been on my watchlist for a while, and we always love a campy musical, and this delivers in a very Brian De Palma way. If you are a film nerd, you know that De Palma is all about extolling works he loves, and this modern rock opera interpretation of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA delivers. (I’ll note: it predates Webber’s version by over a decade!) From his split-screens, to his hallmark adoration for Hitchcock, to his fondness of THE WHO’s rock operas and remarkable characters, this is quintessential De Palma and I love it.

Also, it features Jessica Harper, as in motherfucking SUSPIRA lead Jessica Harper. Also in SHOCK TREATMENT! What more could you ask for?



I rewatched this just a few weeks ago, but I was so stupidly excited to rewatch it again. This film is so, so, so much fun. It is the perfect amalgamation of cast and script and direction and camerawork. It is funny and witty and spooky and occasionally gory and a glorious ride of a film.


Due to scheduling matters, we ended up screening the above the weekend before Halloween, but decided to watch one more scary work on Halloween proper, which I already featured yesterday: MILLENNIUM’s The Curse of Frank Black. There’s no trailer or anything, so you’ll have to settle for my write-up:




Yet again, I am intentionally breaking the rules I laid out for Horrorclature 2023. This episode of MILLENNIUM involves childhood trauma and suicidal references. This is not a happy or carefree work. However, I feel it’s a singular, important work that deserves to be extolled on the day depicted in the episode: Halloween.

Happy fucking goth Christmas! I hope you’re either all slutted up and partying like there’s no tomorrow — no judgement! Been there, done that! — or cuddled up at home, all warm, surrounded by great, scary works.

If you’ve been following along with this blog, you know that I absolutely love Chris Carter’s MILLENNIUM, specifically the second season when he handed the reigns to James Wong and Glen Morgan (who would go on to help kick off the FINAL DESTINATION franchise).

“Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?

“Since Willie’s death, I catch myself every day, involuntarily talking with him, as if he were with me.”

Abraham Lincoln — upon the death of his son

There was nothing like it on TV in the mid-to-late 90s. It was astoundingly dark, but had moments of levity. It was super smart, but wasn’t pretentious. It had motherfucking Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, an overly-emotionally sensitive ex-FBI profiler, and LOST’s Terry Quinn as a morally dubious, potentially exploitative head of a quasi-cult.

It is one of my favorite seasons of TV and this episode — The Curse of Frank Black (CURSE going forward) — is one of my favorite episodes from that season.

I know this episode like the back of my hand. I vividly recall my mind being blown when it was first broadcast, and I have revisited it every October for many years now.

CURSE has many of the hallmarks of the best MILLENNIUM episodes: it leans far more on showing rather than telling; there are more than a few scenes where little more than an utterance occurs. It’s extraordinarily visual for network TV at the time. Also, most importantly, it is seriously empathetic. It showcases Frank’s origin story, when he realized he felt too much, felt for people and could read people far more than others. (Hence why he was so great at being an FBI profiler.)

It’s that sense of empathy from a man — who, again, is played by a middle-aged, very craggy Lance Henrickson instead of some young emo 20-something — that is rarely seen on TV. It’s his empathy that undermines his entire life. It’s a trait he inherited from his mother — along with an ability to see the demons and angels that inhabit the world — and it fucks over his career and his marriage and his life. Folks simply do not understand the way he feels, despite the fact that he knows how they feel. Frank is haunted, not just by the demons and angels that he actually sees, but by how much he feels for others.

As noted in the content warning, CURSE takes place almost entirely on Halloweens. One from Frank’s childhood, and one current Halloween. It opens with Frank prepping for Halloween, gutting a pumpkin. Odd events start occurring around him, such as radios turning themselves on or refusing to dial in correctly, electricity going out, and his car sputtering to a stop. All of these events occur around the number ’268’. Frank exits his busted car, runs into kids egging houses, scares them off and then sees his house — the house he and his wife and daughter once were happy in — and he eggs his yellow house himself.

We flashback to when Frank was a youth. He’s dared by friends to trick-or-treat the house of a scary, chain-smoking shut-in who lives at a singular 268 number, Mr. Bob Crocell, played by Dean Winters who has great comedic chops. He is best known right now for being Mayhem in insurance commercials, but also Dennis ‘Beeper King’ Duffy in 30 ROCK, however he was also dramatically great in TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNER CHRONICLES. This is not a comedic performance; it is extremely dark.

Crocell is ruminating on his life and just wants to be left alone, but he allows young Frank Black into his abode. He forces Frank to listen to his horrible mental tribulations and his time in the army before he offers him his deserved treat, which is a lone cigarette, and it’s not even a candy cigarette.

Fast-forward a few years: Frank and his friends drive by the house. Crocell is being carted out of his house, dead on a covered stretcher. His friends make light of it, but Frank bluntly remarks about how Crocell was misunderstood.

FRANK: “He killed himself.”

FRIEND: “…yeah, because he couldn’t take being a commie traitor.”

OTHER FRIEND: “He’ll go to Hell for killing himself.”

OTHER FRIEND: “I always heard he, you know, liked men. That’s why he killed women.”

FRANK: “…it’s none of that.”

FRIEND: “How would you know?”

It’s Frank’s empathetic awakening, something that will loom over him for the rest of his life. As someone who has felt too much and felt too hard and felt haunted for so many years, this depiction hits me intensely.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“Tell that to Frank Black.”

There’s one amazingly stark, darkly back-lit scene where Frank enters his attic and sees Crocell there, chain-smoking as usual. Then the ghost-of-Halloween-past (or future, depending on how you look at it) Crocell delivers a monologue that chills Frank:

“I know you’re feeling strange right now kid but, believe me, it’s a hell of a lot creepier for me to be back.

“That night, I was so dying to know if the dead can return… if there was anything afterwards, ‘member?

“The time when you’re really asking the question and when you really need to know just goes by like — nothin’.

“But you know the answer.


“I’ll tell you this: all that stuff your hear about the fire and the brimstone and the rats and the excrement and the demons tormenting you for all of eternity — there’s none of that stuff.

“It’s worse. It is so much worse.

“It is for me, at least.

“Imagine having to suck on this [cigarette] for all eternity. Man, I wish someone had told me!

“Others, they uh— they ain’t got it so bad, I guess. I don’t know. But you’ll know… soon enough.

“I’ve been sent here here because you’ve become me.

“The way people look at you, what they say about you, making stuff up… pretty soon you come to believe it’s true and then it’s really all over.

“You know, I threw things at my house too. Not eggs though. I think I threw dog crap.

“Yeah. I threw dog crap from my backyard at my kitchen window.

“I never cleaned it off. Imagine that.

“The one thing you’ve got that I never did is that you’re getting close to understanding what’s about to happen. And He’s been watching you — uh-huh, oh, yeah — more closely and more often the closer you get.

“Here’s the deal, kid. Give up the fight. Sit it out. Forget about this Millennium Group.

“Go back to your wife and to your daughter and to your puppy and to your yellow house and just live out a nice, happy, normal life. And there’s gonna be a place for all three of you afterwards.

“A place, believe me, where a lot of souls wish they could be.

“But you pass on this… and you’re going so much farther than I have ever been.

“Hell, the way you gutted that guy who took your wife, the anger inside of you, whoo, I don’t know why you’re not being offered a sweeter deal.

“You got the heat inside of you to fight for this side so what I’m asking of you is really simple. Sit back and do nothing. Anyone can do it. Hell, most people do.

“Take this deal, kid. Secure you and your family’s future because the time is near, and He will win. There’s no way He can lose!

Frank then responds:

“When will it happen?”

And Crocell is gone.

It’s a harrowing, sensitive piece, one about empathy and trauma and temptation and complacency and giving up, with a perspective that is rarely seen — even in contemporary prestige TV.

Happy fucking goth Christmas.


I am a huge fan of the website AUTOSTRADDLE. Yes, it is a queer-centric site and I do identify as queer, but AUTOSTRADDLE is specifically a website for lesbian culture that is also trans and non-binary inclusive.

I fall under none of those labels. Okay, well, genderqueer, but I present as a dude. I feel more akin to their writing than, well, just about any other culture site out there. They have a certain sensibility — a brusqueness and forthrightness coupled with insight — that brings me joy, although I do occasionally feel like an interloper. I have numerous tabs of their posts in my browser at all times. I want to send more eyeballs there way, and perhaps maybe you’ll enjoy it and maybe even become an A+ member. (I am a proud supporter!)

I first discovered the site via Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, who wrote for the very influential A.V. Club website before the working conditions went to shit, and she is now a writer and managing editor for AUTOSTRADDLE.

Kayla is brilliant and recently posted the sequel to her HORROR IS SO GAY collection of queer-adjacent essays about horror works, which is a far better collection than what I’ve been doing all month. Among other things, it features a deep dive on the works of Jennifer Reeder, who I have posted about and am always delighted to see others extoll her films.

HORROR IS SO GAY 2 also includes a paeon to the FINAL DESTINATION franchise, which I oddly hold near and dear to my heart. (Of course they featured the log truck. I don’t think anyone can argue against the log truck scene being one of the most spectacular horror scenes in film history.) And of course, they have a post about NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2, because how could they not?

I’d be bereft to mention their selections of horror films based on your astrological sign. While I’m not all that into horoscopes, this is fun and I absolutely cannot deny that I’m undeniably a Cancer, to a scary extent, and despite — well, this entire fucking site — I have not seen any of the films they assigned to my sign.

While I’ve always identified Halloween as Goth Christmas — see tomorrow’s post — it is also Gay Christmas and Kayla linked to a fantastic piece about exactly how it became know as ‘Gay Christmas’. This is history that should be known and she’s doing the work. I would not have discovered it if it weren’t for her or AUTOSTRADDLE.

AUTOSTRADDLE is a great site, one that really knows how celebrate Goth and Gay Christmas! I do hope that you click through to some of their non-horror posts as well, as they’re writing amazing works and I’m happy to call myself a supporter, even if I’m a dude.


If you’re looking for more horror/goth-centric queer essays, I highly recommend GOTHIC QUEER CULTURE from Laura Westengard. I will warn you that it is surprisingly more entangled with trauma than I expected.


This Sunday’s repost is LIZZIE: THE MUSICAL! I can count the number of off-Broadway musicals I know by heart on one finger, and on that one finger? That’s LIZZIE, THE MUSICAL.

This musical — centered around Lizzie Borden, who had an axe and gave her mother forty whacks — is goth as fuck, goddamn pitch-black, and outrageously, outstandingly feminist and I am absolutely fucking here for it.

There’s a fair amount of smutty language so, uh, good luck seeing a high school production of it (although more schools should produce it! Even if they have to tone down the language!) but keep your eyes out for a local production!

OJO (2005)


This post contains mentions of familial death and deals with trauma. (Yes, I know I’m breaking my Horrorclature rules yet again here. I will do so one more time, unfortunately.)

Annie is a youth who lives with her grandpa and her bratty older sister, her father absent and her mother dead due to a car accident. Annie loves to care for creatures but she is awful at it, which results in the death of lizards, birds, and smaller animals.

“I’m cursed.”

One day she discovers a sort of a nightmare of a multi-legged creature — something along the lines of a mutated spider. She latches onto it, names it Ojo, and considers herself Ojo’s new mother, even though she’s repeatedly told that she should find Ojo’s real mother, and she does upon realizing that Ojo can only survive by feeding his mother meat. Matters escalate.

“Okay, that’ll make you all better. You don’t want to go home, do you? I’m your mama now.”

Ojo was penned and illustrated by Sam Kieth. Kieth is best know for the comic book series THE MAXX, which was adapted into one of the handful of shows featured on MTV’s ODDITIES too-short-lived alternative animated programming.

Sam Kieth is a triple-threat of comics. Kieth is quite well-known for his extraordinary and multi-faceted illustration work, which ranges from extremely elaborate and realistic cross-hatched renditions that involve so many curls — both hair and torn fabric — to absolutely warped, exaggerated depictions, to energetic cartoonish portrayals and then to deceptively simple child-like line-drawings that are also effortlessly amazing with their storytelling.

“There’s a kid whose name is Mike /

“He couldn’t dance or ride a bike; /

“He couldn’t keep a beat, and he had flat feet. /


“Now Unicycle Mike’s his name, receiver of fortune and fame. /

“Cash and cars and chicks galore — tell me, who could ask for more? /

“But happiness was not to be: his life was struck by tragedy. /

“When he was on his way to Vegas… /

“He collided /

“With a /

“School bus!”

He’s also a surprisingly sensitive individual, especially for someone who was involved in the initial launch of IMAGE COMICS, which comically — no pun intended — represents the worst of young male teen wish-fulfillment, and that comes through in every work of his. THE MAXX is all about abuse and disassociation and allowing folks to help you sort out your trauma.

“Gramps, why’s she gotta wreck everything, and why won’t she won’t ever talk about mom?”

“Maybe for the same reason we don’t want to talk about her.”

“Should we talk about her?”

“Only if we’re ready to.”

“How will we know?”

“We just will.”

OJO juggles similar emotional trials and feels earnest and earned. It’s not just about Annie’s journey, her struggle trying to reckon with the death of her mother, but how that also impacted the entire family, and how Annie’s actions affect them.

OJO is backed up by some supreme talent: Alex Pardee and Chris Wisnia contributed to the art, and multi-faceted Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley (who you may know as the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM) lend their lettering expertise to the work.

It’s a brilliant, evocative work that flew under the radar, and it is absolutely stunning, both with its visuals, its storytelling, and empathy and trying to imbue to the reader the hurt and coping mechanisms of trauma.

“When you’re as young as Annie, you can’t deal with something like this directly.

“What she can’t say to Mom, she says to her pets. She’s working it out the only way she knows how.”


I’ve previously penned about William Castle’s cinematic escapades, specifically regarding THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and the influence of Castle on Joe Dante’s work (and THE TINGLER? Definitely an influence. You can see it not only in MATINEE, but also GREMLINS 2).

Yet again, my favorite local arthouse theater — the Music Box — hosted another Castle screening by the same folks (this time presented in Percepto! Whatever that is!), all interactive and enthralling!

If you are or have been an avid MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 viewer, you’ve seen THE TINGLER before. They, well, they do eviscerate it. Despite a rocky premise and a number of clumsy lines and awkward special effects, it’s far smarter than they give it credit.

The always magnanimous Vincent Price is a scientist who is investigating the physiological logistics of fear. He postulates that fear is imbued by a creature — the titular Tingler — that only manifests itself when one is terrified. He sets out to prove his point, and matters escalate.

I don’t need to tell you that Price is amazing here — he always shows up and gives his all, no matter the material — but the film is surprisingly gorgeous, especially the print that we saw. The contrast of blacks and whites are measured but effective; there’s a surprising amount of center-framing, and well, everyone just looks splendid, even the Tingler! (Yes, the Tingler definitely is poorly puppeteered, but the design is great and it glistens like it’s real!)

What is most astounding about this work — and unfairly discounted — is its reliance on a deaf and mute individual. This is one of the earlier genre films I can think of that utilizes ASL and deafness as a plot point without belittling the character. Said character is the wife of an older man, and together they pointedly run a theater that exclusively shows silent movies. Her husband mostly communicates with her via ASL, despite the fact that she can read lips.

(I will note that this film does slightly disparage her by briefly labeling her as ‘deaf and dumb’. She is not dumb.)

This is a film that explicitly asks you to scream at certain points. (I’ll note, everyone at the Music Box gamely participated, myself included! It was a lot of fun!) However, the crux of the film is centered around a woman who cannot scream, who has no voice, who can only communicate via visual motions. What’s more filmic than that?

Castle gets a lot of shit for being a schlocky, gimmicky director. Yes, he definitely more than leaned into that, but hell, so did Hitchcock. Did Castle rig up electrical shocks in theater seats to thrill audiences? Yes. Did I attend a screening featuring a number of campy interactive performances, solely meant to titillate? Yes. However, the work does have an empathic heart beating under the schlock.

If you do choose to watch THE TINGLER, please bear that in mind.


Anya, as portrayed by Vera Brosgol in her young-adult graphic novel, is a high school girl with traditional high school girl issues: she frets about her weight, she has crushes on boys she’d be better off staying away from, she secretly smokes cigarettes with her best friend, she tries to separate herself from her Russian past, and she’s trying to be her own person.

Oh, and she also accidentally falls down a hole and discovers a skeleton inhabited by a 90-year-old ghost who, by her account, was murdered. The ghost, Emily Reilly, seems benevolent while lingering around her. Then matters escalate.

“There aren’t any other Russian students there?”

“Nope, just your run of the mill rich white New Englander private school kids.”

An aside: I am a New Englander, but I do not come from a rich family and I attended public school. Also, I consider myself agnostic — the universe is too weirdly symmetrical for me to consider otherwise — but I am not religious. However, I was very briefly raised as Roman Catholic. (My mother rightfully got pissed off at the church and we stopped attending services when I was quite young.)

My wife, however, is Greek Orthodox. One of the fun things about being Roman Catholic? I didn’t have to convert to get married to her in a Greek Orthodox church, partially because of how Catholic Orthodoxy spread across continents. I even had the fucking paperwork to prove so. (Yes, this is an actual thing and yes, I fucking hated it, but you do what you have to do for love and legal issues.)

Anya is an early Russian immigrant to America, explicitly Russian Orthodox but she’s spent a lot of time erasing that. Her mother — we’re never quite told what happened to her father — moved heaven and earth to give Anya the life she has. Anya, in a traditional act of teenage rebellion, punts on attending services, although her Russian heritage is not something that she can escape.

“Shut up! You look great!”

“Are you sure it’s not too loose-woman?”

(I will note: I am not going to touch on any of the recent Russian tumult.)

As noted above: my wife is Greek Orthodox. I’ve attended a number of Greek Orthodox church events, from Greek Easters — fun fact: not even remotely the same as what folks consider traditional Easter! — to funerals to weddings, even our own of which I was not completely educated about and kind of made a fool of myself in a BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING sort of way.

Religion is weird. I don’t begrudge anyone who finds solace in it, because we all need something to latch onto, but let’s face it: the rituals are fucking crazy and abstract and the history behind them do not make much sense. (Again, no judging!)

“I’m not interested in the life you wanted, or your taste in men.”

That spectre of belief, of history, of generations and what Anya’s mother believes in and has lived through looms over Anya as she tries to navigate her high school life, even as she exploits Emily to cheat on tests and woo folks. I’ll note that Anya? She doesn’t appreciate any of the kind graces her mother or brother or friends attempt to ingratiate on her. She’s having none of it, in only the way that teens do. (Been there, done that.) She has the occasional sense of self-awareness, but — like a teen — she’s firmly fixated on her wants and needs and it’s refreshing to see this honest portrayal of a slightly shitheel of a youth.

I’ve spent many words extolling the plot and story and depth of character here, and I do not want to ignore Brosgol’s astounding artwork. The line work is lush, the character expressions are so vibrant and telling, and her panel work and visual structure is extremely stark and effective. When Anya is shocked, her eyes grow astoundingly wide in a way that makes you feel for her, and the same when she feels shame, or anger. All of the emotions are on display via Brosgol’s penmanship, and you can’t help but hurt for Anya, even though she can often be a bit of a brat.

It is a perfect encapsulation of an auteur graphic novel work, all heart both in words and visuals, with a touch of supernatural and teen horror.

“I’m human! She’s just a pissy cloud!”


This is definitely a brag, but the copy I received was signed to myself and my wife, and also arrived with a print that I want to share because it’s amazing. Brosgol does astounding work — she goes above-and-beyond. Her pieces are something special.

DOCTOR X (1932)

DOCTOR X, directed by endlessly exhausted motherfucking Michael Curtiz — oh, did you know he also directed a little film named CASABLANCA? Also, well over a hundred other films? — is mostly notable for its technical details as opposed to its plot, which is wildly chaotic.

If you are older than 12, you’re probably familiar with the traditional Technicolor film look; it’s all vividly colorful and eye-popping and glorious. THE WIZARD OF OZ would be nothing without Technicolor.

That’s not how Technicolor started out. While it was one of the first non-hand tinted color film processes — in the early days of film, folks actually hand-colored individual frames, or entire reels were dunked in dye — it started as a two-color rendition, which was rather garish, mostly a glowing green and a ruddy red-brown.

While those hues were novel, they didn’t quite suit most dramas or comedies being produced by Warner Bros. who had signed an exclusive agreement with Technicolor. Then they realized: “Hey those Universal horror films seem to be doing well, and they’re just black-and-white. Let’s give that a go!”

As a result, the world received DOCTOR X and THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (which was later adapted as HOUSE OF WAX). They didn’t set the world on fire like Universal horror films, but folks did take note of them.

For a long time, the only way to watch either of them were via shit transfers of deteriorated prints. The vibrancy of the Technicolor process? Nowhere to be seen. Two-color Technicolor? More like one-color Technicolor. When I said they were shit transfers? They were shit-colored, all brown and muddy and not at all appealing.

UCLA, as they often do (along with significant backing) took considerable measures to restore both films to their prior glory. The two colors glow in a singular way that you simply don’t see in films. It’s a very specific look. However, if a film isn’t shot with that in mind, if it’s shot thinking ‘oh, this is full color’ then, well, it’ll look ill-designed and flawed.

That isn’t the case with DOCTOR X. This film was shot by Ray Rennahan, an early master of the Technicolor process. His deft handling of lighting and hues is what makes DOCTOR X exceptional. Plot-wise, DOCTOR X is definitely bizarre and intriguing while at the same time being more than a bit staid and boring. While it’s essentially the tale of a Jekyll-and-Hyde serial killer mystery sussed out by cops and scientists, the means of how they do so are rather twisted and involve a lot of handcuffs and chairs and re-enactments for what I can only deduce as dramatic intent. However, it’s also injected with a lot of pratfalls, poorly conceived attempts at humor, stuttering pacing, and a terrible romantic subplot that even scream queen Fay Wray can’t make work.

While the use of color is the star here, the sets bolster the film. They’re all angular, stark and all over-powering in a German expressionist way. They’re mesmerizing and striking and compelling and draw you into a scene in ways the script fail to do so.

In other words: this is a film where the production values justify its existence, and this restoration does the film justice and returns it to its former glory.


I’ll note that, even when Technicolor finally mastered full-color, it was mostly via extremely complex and very heavy cameras that shot scenes on three reels — one red, one green, one blue — and it was optically combined in post. Think about that when you see push-ins in films of the late 30s and 40s.

Yeah, and you think CGI FX artists have it rough.

Lastly: I had this film slated for Horrorclature 2023 before I noticed that my local favorite art house theater — the Music Box — would be screening a 35mm print and, of course, I attended. A lot of the finer production details noted above are because of the introduction the programmers at the Chicago Film Society provided. They always do great work and, if you’re in the midwest? They program films not just in Chicago, but all around!



This film contains depictions of abuse, and this post does briefly note said depictions.

This is a stellar film from Karyn Kusama — whom has helmed so many extraordinary pieces such as GIRLFIGHT, THE INVITATION, as well as the best eps of YELLOWJACKETS — and writer motherfucking Diablo Cody. It deftly navigates teenage changes, teen popularity dynamics, and the intensity of youthful friendship. It’s supremely quippy in the way that post-JUNO Diablo Cody is, and it’s bloody and it’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot under the surface.

If you aren’t familiar with the film: Jennifer, perfectly embodied by Megan Fox, is a high-school cheerleader, all hot and popular, and Needy — a surprisingly dorky Amanda Seyfried — are best friends, and have been since they were children.

“Sandbox love never dies.”

Jennifer lusts after an emo band, helmed by the O.C.’S Adam Brody gamely reveling in swarm. Jennifer convinces Needy to attend the show and, after a terrible fire breaks out at the bar and kills a bunch of people, said emo band woos Jennifer into their van, then sacrifices her so they can gain illegitimate infamy through Satan.

They thought Jennifer was a virgin. Jennifer? Not a virgin.

Jennifer is reborn as a blood-lust demon and only Needy can see what horrible acts she commits — when others cannot — and matters escalate.

“I thought you only murdered boys?”

“I go both ways.”

I will note that — while I am queer — I am a dude. I know that I am not the right person to discuss the many nuances of this film, so please read Carmen Maria Machado’s take on it and bisexuality and queerbaiting and more. It is an astounding essay that everyone should read, as she uses JENNIFER’S BODY as a launching point to discuss queerness.

“We can understand queerness itself as being filled with the intention to be lost,” Muñoz wrote in Cruising Utopia. “To accept loss is to accept the way in which one’s queerness will always render one lost to a world of heterosexual imperatives, codes, and laws . . . [to] veer away from heterosexuality’s path.”

Carmen Maria Machado

(Machado not only penned one of the greatest modern collection of short stories with HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES but also IN THE DREAM HOUSE, one of the greatest modern memoirs. These are essential reads, and I implore you to seek them out.)

“I need you frightened. I need you hopeless.”

This is a brazen, angry film that gives queer teen girls agency. Its detail portraying the complexities of young female friendship and more is the heart of the film. The abuse, that of Jennifer being ‘turned’, is certainly the pivot point but is also ancillary. While the emo band are the male aggressors here, you could easily write them out and still have the focal point of the film: the relationship between Jennifer and Needy.

“She can fly?!”

“She’s just hovering. It’s not that impressive.”

Do you have to undermine everything I do?!

If you are a film nerd, you know that JENNIFER’S BODY was absolutely and unfairly ignored upon release, mostly because the promotion for the film posited it as cheap, vapid and queerbaiting exploitation horror, instead of the measured character study it actually is. Thankfully, around its tenth anniversary, folks started to realize that it’s a fucking amazing film.

“I am a very different person now. […] A very bad, very damaged person.”

If you haven’t seen it and think it’s just about Megan Fox getting freaky with Amanda Seyfried? It is far more than that. As with all of Kusama and Cody’s works, it has a lot to say, and it does so very violently.

“Kiss someone, fuck someone, think about fucking someone while kissing someone else. Let sex be unknowable, warm, thrilling, funny, erotic, terrifying; let sexuality be all strange currents and eddies and unknown vistas and treasures and teeth. Because, Queer Reader, when Jennifer’s body came for you — publicly, privately, neither, both — it was more than more than enough.”

Carmen Maria Machado


This is a terribly unfair recommendation as there’s no way you can experience — or even watch this — but my blog, my rules.

Chicago-based burlesque performer Red Rum is rather singular in that she marries burlesque with horror. Her acts are often creepy, often unsettling, sometimes bloody, but always enthralling. For example: she once programmed an entire night of performers around TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and it was a twisted blast.

In 2018 I attended the second SATANIC PANIC FESTIVAL, a phantasmagoric horror-centric burlesque gala, wrangled by Red Rum. It took place in Chicago’s School of the Art Institute’s ballroom which is an open two-story space and — as you can see by the photo above — they needed it.

The event was bewildering, all spectacle and darkness and it was spooky and creepy and sexy and it was amazing. The highlight — in more ways than one — was the above. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: those folks are holding buzzsaws to their metal-ensconced crotches and yes, the sparks flew two stories to the ceiling.

Red Rum only programmed two of these momentous, over-packed events, the first of which I missed — which I regret — but at least I was able to attend this one. I treasure the card pack that was handed to me. It resides on a shelf to the right of me, and I see it every day.

Why am I posting this? Obviously, you have no hope of attending these events as the SATANIC PANIC FEST is no longer.

First and foremost, Red Rum is an amazing performer and she does show up in cities other than Chicago, so keep an eye out for her!

Second, there’s more to enjoying horror than just watching scary movies or TV.

There are so many ways to celebrate confronting the darker sides of humanity than just watching a screen. These events are communal. You intermingle with like-minded individuals and you can simply revel in the experience and know that you are in a safe space where folks want to have fun while acknowledging the terrible potential of human or supernatural or otherworldly behavior.

It’s a way to be thrilled, to be safely scared, to feel like you’re living, and there’s no better way to do so than with others while watching someone living in front of you, writhing and reveling in your reactions. Hopefully you live in an area with folks that provide such an experience and, hell, if no one else is doing it? Do it yourself. Red Rum willed this event into existence. She did it herself. You can too.