Halloween, The X-Files

Scully Is Our Queen

Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully is quite possibly the best woman who has ever graced the small screen. I seriously want to be her when I grow up. And not just because she’s smart, professional, good at rolling her eyes, and capable of holding her own against serial killers, rogue agents, and monsters.

Consider Scully’s life for a moment. Over the course of six seasons (a little less than six years in her timeline), she loses her dad, her sister, her dog, and her good reputation. She almost loses her partner/true love several times. She’s been abducted and experimented on, almost died from cancer, had a cloned baby daughter who also died right in front of her, and spent some time as an alien egg in the depths of Antarctica. And that’s not even counting her almost-weekly confrontations with superhuman freaks that can can squeeze through air vents or control people with their voices. Her faith in science, in God, and in her mission at the FBI is constantly being put to the test. The fact that she’s a woman working in a very masculine and often rather sexist environment is just the icing on the cake.

Like, this. This is a normal day.

If most of us had to go through even half that stuff, we’d probably be reduced to helpless, quivering balls of neuroses. At least, I know I would be. But not Scully. She deals with these things on her own time and then shows up to work the next morning, makeup intact. That’s the thing I love about her. She shows up. If someone she cares about needs help, or if innocent people are in danger, she’ll be there with a lab coat and a gun, ready to do what’s necessary. It doesn’t matter what she’s going through personally, how dangerous the rescue might be, or how much she disapproves of what the person (*cough*Mulder*cough*) did to wind up in trouble, she’ll get them out of it. She might be sarcastic about it, but she’ll get it done. And not because she doesn’t have feelings or can’t be hurt by the crap life throws at her (quite the contrary), but just because she cares about others more than herself.

She also has a wonderfully deadpan sense of humour, and she’s the supreme mistress of the eyebrow lift. This woman is my hero.

So, guess who I was for Halloween?

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This was one of the easier costumes I’ve ever done. I already have a few articles of business attire lying around, so all I had to buy was a more Scully-esque blazer, a toy gun, and a can of temporary red hair dye. I made my own FBI badge using this handy-dandy link and a picture of Scully I printed out. It helped that I already had a laminated name tag pouch from a conference. The hair was the only difficult part – I had to use a bunch of curlers to give my hair that lifted bob look – and I still don’t think I completely nailed it. But the important thing is, I was well-armed against trick-or-treaters. And I now have a fake FBI badge, which is pretty sweet.

Everything about Scully is awesome (except her dress sense in the early seasons – that was a bit appalling). I only wish I could be her for more than one day out of the year.

Namarie,
Aldy

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Halloween

Spooky Screen

Doesn’t this cool autumn weather just make you want to curl up in a blanket and binge-watch scary Netflix shows? It does me! The Walking Dead is an obvious choice for Halloween viewing, of course, but even shows that don’t fall squarely into the “horror” category occasionally surprise you with a truly creepy episode. This is especially true for those that follow the monster-of-the-week format I love so dearly.

Here are some scary highlights from my favourite shows:

Doctor Who

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” – The two-parter that introduced the phrase “gas mask zombies” into Whovian vocabulary and made “Are you my mummy?” the scariest sentence in the world. Also, Steven Moffat’s first episode and one of the best stories involving the Ninth Doctor.
“The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit” – The Doctor and Rose land on a planet orbiting a black hole and meet the Devil. The result: the only Doctor Who episode I’ve felt uncomfortable showing my 9-year-old sister. Not that the actual Beast is all that scary, but there’s something really unsettling about the Ood.
“Blink” – Again, Moffat. This time, he decided to make statues the scariest thing in the world. To this day, angel statues make me uneasy. This is easily one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time, so you really can’t miss it, whether you’re looking for a fright or just a clever work of art.
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” – And for a third time, Moffat. Everyone’s afraid of the dark sometimes, and these episodes give us a reason to be. They also give us a planet-sized library, our first meeting with River Song, and lots of emotional trauma.
“Midnight” – No slimy alien monsters, just the Doctor stuck in a bus with a bunch of panicky people, one of whom keeps repeating what everyone else says. It’s terrifying. And again, one of the greatest episodes ever.
“Night Terrors” – Giant, living dolls and an apartment complex straight from my nightmares. Only Rory Williams could get through this one unfazed.

Supernatural

Even though it is marketed as a horror show (and has a higher body count than The Walking Dead)Supernatural usually isn’t all that scary. But it does have its moments.


“Asylum” – It’s an abandoned insane asylum with creepy twitching ghosts everywhere, one of whom makes people bleed and go crazy. This sort of thing is why I don’t go to haunted houses.
“Something Wicked” – Monsters that target children are always extra scary. Especially when they’re portrayed explicitly like paedophiles. Especially when their actual “monster” form has long, tree-branch-y fingernails that scrape against your window right as you’re falling asleep…I mean, who didn’t have that nightmare as a kid?
“Everybody Loves a Clown” – No. We don’t.
“The Kids Are Alright” – No. They’re not.
“No Rest for the Wicked” – This episode is upsetting on a number of levels, since it’s a season finale that ends with one of our heroes dead (for the first time) and in Hell. But the scariest thing about it isn’t the hellhounds or the final shot of Dean. It’s FREAKING LILITH. Talk about a creepy child. “I don’t think I like you anymore.” *shudder*
“Family Remains” – Who would have thought finding out your new house isn’t haunted would make it scarier? No ghosts in this one, just a really messed-up sibling duo…much like a certain X-Files episode…
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” – Okay, so this one isn’t especially scary, but it’s the Halloween episode. And it is chock full of ghosts, zombies, demons, and witches.

The X-Files

I mean, one of the main characters is nicknamed “Spooky.” Of COURSE it’s got scary moments.


“Squeeze/Tooms” – These episodes will replace your fear of mice getting in the house via the air vents with fear of a liver-eating serial killer getting inside the same way.
“Irresistible” – And yet, Eugene Victor Tooms is outdone by a (probably) completely normal serial killer. He has a thing for hair and fingernails…and Scully…
“The Calusari” – You know how little kids don’t usually get killed on TV-14 rated shows? That rule doesn’t apply to The X-Files. Not that one of the kids in this episode wasn’t a killer himself, and also probably possessed by Satan. This is not a good one to watch alone in the dark.
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” – It’s a funny episode, but also pretty creepy and morbid, especially whenever we get a glimpse of Clyde’s death visions.
“Home” – As I’ve mentioned before, this got a “mature content” warning slapped on it when it first aired, for understandable reasons. It will also ruin your childhood if you grew up watching The Andy Griffith Show. But it’s a fantastic episode nevertheless.
“Sanguinarium” – This one isn’t exactly scary so much as it is just really, really gross. Botched plastic surgery + witchcraft does not equal happy times.
“Chinga” – It’s about an evil talking doll. It was co-written by Stephen King. Need I say more?
Even the myth arc episodes get in on the fun, with the “black oil” virus and aliens hatching from people’s torsos and whatnot. “Tunguska/Terma” and “Patient X/The Red and the Black” deserve special mention, partly for black oil-related gruesomeness and partly because Alex Krycek is Justin Bieber’s demon form.

The Twilight Zone

All of The Twilight Zone. Every single episode. If the actual plot doesn’t give you the creeps, the ’60s special effects, combined with that theme song and Rod Serling’s grin, will. They should broadcast marathons of this show around Halloween, not Fourth of July.

Well, that seems like a pretty comprehensive list to me. Please comment below if I missed anything. Meanwhile, happy binge-watching!

Namarie,
Aldy

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Halloween

Spooky Film

As I was deciding what to put in this post, I realized that I really don’t watch that many scary movies. Not sure why – I already have a really long list of spooky TV ready for the next post, and I left out several of my favourite scary books in the last one. I guess when it comes to movies, I tend to go more for the action and sci-fi stuff.

But I’ve got a few to mention. And if you haven’t seen these, then you should really be ashamed of yourself for having less scary movie experience than the non-scary-movie-watching Aldy.

1. Aliens

I know it’s not considered “horror” as much as its predecessor is, but it’s still pretty darn scary. The tension just constantly builds and builds, through quiet drama scenes and crazy full-blown action scenes alike, right up until the end. Because that’s how it works when you’re trapped on a dead planet where acid-dripping aliens could burst out of inconvenient places at any moment. But it’s not just the masterly pacing or the awesome battle scenes that endear this movie to me. There’s just something about a woman who’s survived a lot of trauma bonding with an equally traumatized little girl, and then suiting up in power armour to battle a gigantic alien queen for said little girl’s safety, that really pulls me into a story. Ripley is still pretty much the character to beat as far as sci-fi heroines go.

2. The Sixth Sense

Like many people of my generation, I watched this movie already knowing the Big Twist. (And I didn’t even have to read it on the Internet! Thanks, random kid in history class.) But this is one Shyamalan movie that isn’t ruined by its ending. In fact, once you know it, it’s a lot of fun to pick out all the subtle moments of foreshadowing that came before. It’s also fun to watch Bruce Willis with hair, Haley Joel Osment delivering one of the better child actor performances I’ve ever seen, some symbol-saturated cinematography, and a lovely take on ghosts that has influenced many a supernatural tale ever since. Once again, the characters are what make this movie great: I can sympathise with little Cole’s struggle to overcome his fears, and with the psychiatrist’s desire to atone for his previous failure. And the fact that I care about them just makes the mind-blowing, tear-jerking ending that much sweeter.

3. Psycho

Also, can I just say BRAVO for the completely misleading and spoiler-free poster. Why don’t we make posters like that anymore?

And yet, sometimes likable characters aren’t everything. Here’s a movie with no decent human beings in it at all. It starts out with a woman stealing money from her employer and hitting the road like a petty criminal…and it ends with some utterly forgettable people arresting a far, far worse criminal. Yet it’s easy to see why it’s such a classic. I think the magic lies, again, in the slowly building dramatic tension Hitchcock did so very well – and in Anthony Perkins’ incredible performance as the titular “psycho”. Rarely do you see an insane serial killer portrayed with so much genuine sweetness and vulnerability. Even though he’s really the most messed-up character in the movie – one of the most famously messed-up in any movie – you do end up sympathising with him quite a lot. But that smile at the end is still the stuff of nightmares.

So, now that I’ve come to the realisation that I need to find more good scary movies…any suggestions?

Namarie,
Aldy

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Halloween

Spooky Pages

We are officially in the last week of October, and Halloween is swiftly approaching us. Have you stocked up on your scary stories for the week? I have, so I’ll be spending this week posting about the best ones I’ve encountered, in various media.

Before we begin, I should probably include a disclaimer: I like scary stories, but I won’t read or watch horror. To me, there’s a difference. A horror story is one in which the characters, plot, etc. are merely a device to bring you as much gore and as many jump scares as possible, which is why the characters in those stories tend to be so idiotic and one-dimensional. I don’t have time for that nonsense. On the whole, I prefer stories with well-rounded characters and intelligent plots, and a dose of the uncanny can make those stories even better. All the more terrifying opportunities for the hero (and the viewer, to an extent) to show what he/she is made of.

Anyway, let’s start with books. In no particular order:

1. World War Z by Max Brooks

I would probably have gone through my whole life hating zombies if my freshman literature teacher hadn’t made me read this book. (Thanks, Dr. Rubin!) It’s an oral history of the zombie apocalypse, as told by survivors around the world. Picture a journalism project along the lines of Humans of New York, but with lots more blood. And as it traces the fictional apocalypse from its mysterious beginnings in China to the construction of a new world order, it offers some rather profound insight into real-life politics, consumer culture, military strategy, and more. Plus it’s really funny at times, and it’s the first and only book that has legitimately given me nightmares. If you read only one zombie book and/or only one alternate history in your life, make it this one.
Not to be confused with the completely different Brad Pitt movie of the same title. That one kinda sucked.

2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is a nice, short read about the “dual nature” of mankind and the consequences of giving in to our darker impulses. Everybody knows the story of the mild-mannered scientist who makes a potion to transform into his bad self, but you really have to read the book to understand why it’s such an icon of Western culture. It manages to be atmospherically creepy without giving many of the gory details. It’s philosophical and moral, but not heavy-handed. I like Stevenson’s writing in general, but I think this is his true masterpiece. And I know it takes place in London, but ever since I visited Edinburgh, Stevenson’s awesomely Gothic birthplace, I like to think of it all happening there.

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

It’s a classic for a reason. And again, it’s a reason you won’t find in any of the adaptations, parodies, or unauthorised sequels people have been endlessly churning out ever since the first edition came off the presses. What appears to be a story about a naive scientist accidentally creating a monster is actually a complicated tragedy about the neglect and oppression certain members of society (particularly women) experienced in Shelley’s time. (Yeah, this is another one I had to read for lit class. Three different lit classes, actually…) It’s as poetic and beautiful as it is scary. It was also one of the earliest sci-fi books – certainly among the first of the “mad scientist” variety. And an 18-year-old came up with the idea. Just in case you needed a guilt trip today.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Okay, I admit it – when it comes to scary books, my tastes run decidedly Gothic. This is another good one, though. And perhaps “scary” isn’t the right word, even though it does start out with a very creepy ghost sighting, and more ghosts appear later on. “Severely messed-up and disturbing” might be better terminology. This is a romance novel in the same sense that Twilight is a romance, except the author of Wuthering Heights didn’t try to pretend there was anything healthy about Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship. Their incredibly self-centred, morbid fascination with each other ends up destroying two generations of their families – and somehow it’s very enjoyable to read about. Each of the characters are twisted and flawed in their own special way, and each one gets a unique comeuppance. There’s something starkly beautiful in that.

5. Irish Ghost Stories edited by David Stuart Davies

This is a lovely little book I picked up in an Oxford bookstore. It’s a collection of short, creepy stories written by the likes of Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker, WB Yeats, and other giants of Irish literature. There’s just something about the ancient castles and bleak, rocky landscapes of Ireland that seems to inspire the very best ghost stories. My favourites include: “Squire Toby’s Will,” “The Curse,” and especially “The Judge’s House” (Bram Stoker is at his best when he’s not writing Dracula).

What are your favourite scary books?

My next post will tackle spooky films, so stay tuned!

Namarie,
Aldy

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monthly fandom

Meet Romelle Cogsworth, the Steampunk Gypsy

My Halloween costume is complete!

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That sheath contains a genuine short sword in this picture, but it’ll be empty on Halloween. People tend to get tetchy around sharp metal objects these days. I’ve also got a pair of “brass” key earrings you can’t really see, though they do dangle pretty close to my shoulders.

This one’s a bit blurry, but it gives a better view of the skirt:

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And, of course, the boots. Gotta have something tough on my feet for those long treks through the wilds between train stations:

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Here’s a shot of the whole thing from behind:

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So, there you are! Not nearly as fancy as some of the stuff I’ve posted here by other people, but for my first steampunk costume, and one created with no sewing and very little money, I’m pretty pleased with it. And the best thing is, it’s functional. I can walk around all day in this without getting too footsore or too cold, even in the 30-40 degree weather my area’s been having lately. The outer skirt even has pockets! It’s just what a wandering gypsy, on the fringes of respectable society, would need.

I’m looking forward to rocking this on Halloween! Namarie!

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