Admittedly, the numerous streaming services make the month of October a whiplash of incredible viewing opportunities. Gone are the days of rehashing classic horror movies on commercial TV. In October 2021 you can navigate to “horror” or “Halloween Favorites” on everything from HBO Max, to Netflix, to Amazon Prime and find movies from Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) to brand new original series such as Jason Blum’s Welcome to Blumhouse horror anthology.
Dedicated goth chick that I am, I’ve committed myself to watching some version of horror every day (sometimes more) in the month of October. It was important to include classics while liberally peppering in new works as well. October 1st kicked off with Young Frankenstein (what else?), and thus far I have worked my way through Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein (1994), all the original Universal Studios monster classics (which I own in multiple formats), Brendan Fraser’s Mummy (1999), Johnny Depp’s Ed Wood (1994) and several of the “firsts” such as the first Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween. However, I simply couldn’t ignore the new entries in the binge-watchable series, of which there are a plethora to choose from.
While it is somewhat of an American tradition to go broke in the month of December, I try my hardest to do it in October as well. You’d think at this point, my obsession with the strange and unusual would have nowhere left to turn. I mean, there are only so many dead-things-under-glass one girl can have, right?
According to the National Retail Federation, spending on Halloween-related items is expected to reach $10.14 billion in the weeks surrounding October 31, 2021; up from $8.05 billion in 2020 which was an all-time high. This doesn’t happen if places like Spirit Halloween keep cranking out the same plastics skulls year after year. And here in lies the dilemma – there is a new batch of gothic splendor every October. What is a goth girl to do when faced with news like this?
Personally, I have two bucket lists. One is filled with experiences that sound familiar like “learn a new language” or “ride in a helicopter.” The other is my goth bucket list, filled with things that cause my parents to ask, “why can’t you just go to Vegas like a normal person?” Quite high on this particular list was a visit to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO. I say “was” because due to attending a wedding in Boulder, I was less than an hour away. That meant a gracious “no” to the invitation to a ladies brunch the day after the nuptials, and a great big “yes” to a giddy 55-mile drive.
Stephen King’s book The Shining is one of my favorites, and the Stanley Hotel was King’s inspiration. That much I knew, but exactly how much of an inspiration I was about to find out. To clarify one thing, the Stanley has no connection at all to Kubrick’s film. The hotel which represented the exterior shots of The Overlook Hotel in the movie, is actually the Timberline Lodge in Oregon. All the interior shots were filmed at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, outside London.
Though I can’t say I love everything Jason Blum produces, I would say that if he ever calls the Black Gateoffice looking for me, someone bloody well transfer him to my cell phone pronto.
Though Blum has been the driving force behind nearly 200 films dating back to 1995, it was when he created his own micro-budget company, Blumhouse Productions, in 2000 that he finally had the creative freedom to scare the living crap out of us. Blum’s low budget model launched his horror career with a serious winner. Paranormal Activity cost $15K to make thanks to Blum borrowing a location and camera equipment, and paying two of his friends $500 each to star.
Flash forward a few years to when Paramount acquired the U.S. rights for $350K. PA went on to pull in $193 million worldwide, making this the second most profitable film ever made based on a return of investment, behind only The Blair Witch Project. Word is that during PA’s first test screenings, people started leaving the theater. Blum thought he had made a flop, only to discover that people left the auditorium because they couldn’t handle the intensity of the scares.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I got to do something I have literally not been able to do for close to four years. And before you ask, it had nothing to do with goat leggings or full moons.
Having been trapped in academic hell since January 2018 when I made the questionable decision to pursue a doctorate degree, I have had zero time to enjoy simple pleasures. Like sleeping, or having a weekend off. However, the thing I missed most was devoting an entire day (or two) to devouring a good book. To me, there is nothing quite as awesome as parking myself with some snacks and a cold drink, then tucking in to a novel from cover to cover. Due to a series of fortunate events, that is precisely what I was able to do this last Sunday and Monday.
Knowing I would have this extremely rare extravagance, I did another thing I haven’t done in ages: spend a few hours at my local Barnes and Nobel choosing the perfect title. In the “new releases” section I found My Heart is a Chainsaw by prolific horror writer Stephen Graham Jones, which had just hit shelves on August 31st.
A search for “Jack the Ripper” in Amazon books results in over 2,000 titles, 77 of which were released in the last 90 days — and 19 “coming soon.” London’s most famous unsolved serial-killings are still a draw 132 years after the last victim was found on November 7, 1888. The story of five horrific murders in the Whitechapel neighborhood first appeared in sensationalized newspaper articles, eventually moving to Victorian “penny dreadfuls” before being chronicled in every medium imaginable. From poems to plays, music to movies and board games to video games, the world never seems to tire of “Gentleman Jack,” the faceless slasher who lurked in the foggy alleyways of bygone London.
The history of the “Jack the Ripper,” a name which the killer gave himself in one of the taunting letters delivered to the police, reads like fiction. In Victorian England, London’s East End was a teeming slum occupied by nearly a million of the city’s poorest citizens. Many women were forced to resort to prostitution, and in 1888 there were estimated to be more than 1,000 prostitutes in Whitechapel.
It was July 18, 1986 in the movie Aliens (where the year was 2122), when Ellen Ripley told Corporal Dwayne Hicks to “show her everything.” Ripley was actually referring to the totally badass M41-A pulse rifle, standard issue for the Colonial Marine Corp who is defending space at that time. Ripley ultimately weaponed up and used an M41-A to wreak alien carnage in what has become one of the most iconic combat scenes in cinema history.
Fast backward 101 years minus a month, to August 2021, where we just passed the 35th anniversary of Aliens’ theatrical release. Here, the Earth is overrun with a different bug for you to hunt, and now you’ve just been given the best belated gift ever…
Kids and the supernatural have always had a connection. Maybe it has something to do with the innocence of youth making them more accepting and open minded. I clearly remember my friend Noona as the little girl who lived behind the headboard of my bed in the small apartment we called home until I was six. The apartment was the second floor of an old house that my Mom and Dad rented when they were first married. Mom was 22 when I was born and tells me I used to scare the crap out of her. She says she’d come in my room to check on me during the night, and find me sitting up wide awake, making happy baby noises to the wall at the backside of the crib.
When I could talk, these nighttime adventures turned into me whispering with Noona. When I was nearly 7, we moved into our newly constructed home a few blocks away and Noona stayed behind. Either I grew out of her, or she couldn’t leave that old house, or…
Building which now houses Le Petite, in the early 1900s
When someone finds out that writing for Black Gate is my side hustle, you can be sure that in 3 minutes or less I’ll get asked if I’ve ever seen a ghost. I can say with all conviction, that I have certainly tried harder than the average person. I have attended 38 “ghost hunts” in 11 countries, accompanying paranormal investigators with credentials of varying legitimacy. I have sat up all night, surrounded by EVP recorders, EMP detectors, spirit boxes, full spectrum POV cameras and EDI meters. I’ve done this in places like the catacombs under the streets of Edenborough, Scotland, in the burial chambers beneath St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in London, Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Munich, Germany and the battlefield of Gettysburg. I consider myself an open-minded skeptic who would love to believe that spirits walk among us, or at least that the shadowy imprints of past events are occasionally visible. However, the most consistent thing I captured on the numerous outings to these damp, chilly places, was a cold.
Needless to say, the people who ask about my ghost adventures are disappointed. “You’ve never seen anything?” they ask, “Like an-nee-thing?”
Admittedly I approached A Quiet Place II with skepticism. I thought the first installment of the film, A Quiet Place released in 2018, was a genius take on the alien invasion story which has been explored dozens, if not hundreds, of times in Hollywood. Without dropping any spoilers, the story follows a family and their struggle to survive a post-apocalyptic alien invasion. We enter the story after nearly a year of horrific death and destruction has already occurred, perpetuated by alien creatures who are sightless, but hone in and destroy anything or anyone making the slightest sound, thanks to their ultrasensitive hearing. The result is a film that was almost totally silent (the script contained a total of 25 lines of dialog for a 3-hour, 36-minute run time), driving the visuals into even sharper focus. And the intense quiet made the jump scares more intense. In short, A Quiet Place worked because it was so unique.
Now, three years later, A Quiet Place IIhit theaters, once again helmed by the husband-and-wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. Both star in the follow up, and Krasinski is back to assume writing and directing duties as well. This alone seemed to point to another entertaining outing, but could the elements that made A Quiet Place a standout take on a horror movie trope work twice?