Saturday, November 4, 2017

EXTRA LIFE UPDATE

I'm very excited to say that thanks to generous donors, we've raised $325 for Lurie Children's Hospital! Since we hit the $300 mark, I've agreed to do a Spooky Storytime from one of my spooky pop-up children's books.

Problem: I can't seem to find a way to full-screen the webcam through Xbox's Twitch app. So I'm going to have to switch to my laptop for book talks and the Spooky Storytime, which means I have to schedule the book talks and can't do them between games. I've also updated some of my games/times, so my new tentative schedule is below.

And if you'd like to donate but haven't done so yet, you can still contribute anytime before, during or after the Extra Life Game Day stream! Visit my Extra Life fundraising page here and be sure to say hello or hang out for a while during my stream here on Twitch. Thanks to everyone who has donated, I'm excited that together, we'll be making an even bigger contribution than I imagined for my first year in Extra Life!

9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Minecraft

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Portal Knights/Fortnite

1:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Book Talks Part 1 with mini-break

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Trivial Pursuit

3:00 p.m. - Spooky Storytime

3:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. The Evil Within 2 or Prey

4:45 p.m. - 5:15 p.m. Book Talks Part 2 with mini-break

5:15 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Dead by Daylight

6:00 p.m. BREAK!

7:00 p.m. - 8:45 p.m. Trivia Murder Party
(or Dead By Daylight/Fortnite if no one is available)

8:45 p.m. - 9:15 p.m. Book Talks Part 3 with mini-break

9:15 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. Layers of Fear
(I might switch to something else the last hour if it gets too intense)

12:00 a.m. - 12:30 a.m. Book Talks Part 4 with mini-break

12:30 a.m. - 2:00 a.m. Dragon Age Inquisition
(Multiplayer for a bit, then campaign)

2:00 a.m. BREAK!

3:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m. Trivial Pursuit/Scrabble

5:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Probably some kind of nap break and Minecraft

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Extra Life Game Day Countdown!


Game Day for Extra Life 2017 is less than two weeks away! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far! If you haven't yet, there's still plenty of time. Every dollar helps, and it will go towards medical care for Chicagoland kids at Lurie Children's Hospital. You can submit your tax-deductible donation through my Extra Life fundraising page here.

Whether you're able to donate or not, I invite you to join me during my 24 hour gaming marathon on November 4th! I'll be streaming on Twitch from my Xbox (gamertag: Rachel Storm), and it would mean a lot to see folks pop in during the stream, whether it's just to say hi or to join me in a game. I'll have adventure games, horror games, peaceful games, book talks between games, and I will even be playing a game or two that anyone can play along with from their mobile phone. You can see way more details in my original blog post.

And speaking of the games, I've put together a schedule of what I'll be playing and when. These are all Central Standard Time, and could change depending on how the day goes. In between games I will do quick book talks, so if you're looking for reading suggestions then tune in around the time I switch games.

9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Minecraft

11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Portal Knights

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Fortnite

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Trivial Pursuit

3:00 p.m. - Spooky Storytime

3:15 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. The Evil Within 2 or Prey

5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Dead by Daylight

6:00 p.m. BREAK! in Minecraft Library of the Dead

7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Trivia Murder Party
(or Dead By Daylight/Fortnite if no one is available)

9:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. Layers of Fear
(I might switch to something else the last hour if it gets too intense)

12:00 a.m. - 2:00 a.m. Dragon Age Inquisition
(Multiplayer for a bit, then campaign)

2:00 a.m. BREAK! in Minecraft Library of the Dead

3:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m. Trivial Pursuit/Scrabble

5:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Minecraft

Friday, October 13, 2017

Invasion of the Podcasts: Friday the 13th Edition



Happy Friday the 13th, Library patrons! I'm so excited that one of these infamous days occurred during October this year. At my real-life-work library we're running a special Friday the 13th superstition-themed escape room tonight, and I'm following that up with a special spooky night with friends. I am so much in the holiday spirit that I'm even dressing up as Jason Voorhees for the day. Just because I can, and it makes me laugh. Which is my motivation for most weird things I do at home and at work, my own amusement.

To help you celebrate, I have a special Friday the 13th edition of my podcast recommendation series, and this one comes with double the podcasts because I just couldn't stop myself. So whether you want to hear about superstitions, creepy stories, the movie series, or the video game, enjoy this special prequel-to-Halloween Friday the 13th however it pleases you.

BrainStuff Audio "Why is Friday the 13th Considered Unlucky?"
Why do we consider Friday the 13th so damn unlucky? Learn more in this super short but educational entry from BrainStuff.

Nightmare on Film Street "Voorhees a Jolly Good Fellow: Top 5 FRIDAY THE 13TH Films!"
Horror fans Kim and Jon rank their favorite five movies in the Friday the 13th franchise in this week's episode. Not necessarily the best five, but the ones they enjoy the most. I was excited that both Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason made the cut, as I would also count them as two of my favorites as well. It's a fun episode chock full of franchise facts, debates and theories.

Lore "They Made a Tonic"
Today Amazon Prime premiers the TV series adaptation of the Lore podcast, so if you haven't listened to it yet, now is a great time! Start at the beginning with "They Made a Tonic," or browse through any of the dozens of episodes to learn about the very real stories in which humanity's deepest fears are rooted.

Return to Camp Blood "The Voice of Chad Kensington"
Today the physical copies of Friday the 13th: The Game are released, but for those who have already been playing-- or spectating-- and enjoying the game will be familiar with the character of "Chad Kensington." Return to Camp Blood is totally dedicated to the Friday the 13th franchise, exploring every movie, kill, fact, actor, etc. and in this episode they talk to voice actor Ben Diskin about his experience voice acting and specifically playing "Chad."

Bizarre States "Friday the 13th with Brad Meltzer"
This Nerdist podcast featuring Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser explores all kinds of strange topics with trademark Nerdist humor. In this episode from earlier this year, author Brad Meltzer joins the hosts to talk Friday the 13th, weird news, and conspiracy theories.

My Neighbors are Dead "Friday the 13th with Rachael Mason & Susan Messing"
In this improvised comedy podcast, host Adam Peacock interviews lesser known characters from popular horror films and stories. In this episode he talks to a couple of Christian counselors from a camp across from Camp Crystal Lake about their perspective on the slayings at the camp.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Halloween Flashback: Watcher in the Woods



One of the most memorable live action scary films from Disney that I watched back in the day was Watcher in the Woods. On October 21, just in time for Halloween, Lifetime is releasing a remake of the film directed and produced by none other than Melissa Joan Hart, also a major part of my youth. The trailer looks pretty good, although I don't know what the plague doctor mask has to do with anything:


I loved this film as a kid: spooky ghost activity, a mystery to be solved, an old manor, British accents. I have very fond memories of watching it on a yearly basis. But I suspected my memory was a little colored by youth. The last time I watched it was probably pre-high school. So I was wary when I ordered it through my library. I didn't want it to be ruined by my more experienced and savvy adult brain.

If you aren't familiar or don't remember, Watcher in the Woods is about a family that moves into an old English manor being rented out by a widow, Mrs. Aylewood, whose daughter Karen disappeared mysteriously thirty years prior. Mrs. Aylewood lives in a cottage on the property and is very picky about who lives in the house.

The Curtis family consists of musician Paul, children's book writer Helen, teenage girl Jan and a younger girl, Ellie, who talks a lot about food. They are deemed acceptable, likely because Jan looks an awful lot like Karen.

Strange things start happening to Jan and Ellie. Jan sees images of Karen in mirrors, and Ellie hears things that Jan can't. As they meet and talk to other locals who apparently live 5 seconds away and never have anything better to do, Jan starts to put the pieces to Karen's mystery together.


The cast is actually worth mentioning, as some of the actors have been in noteworthy roles both before and after this film:


  • Bette Davis as Mrs. Aylewood, and... well, she's Bette Davis, enough said.
  • Lynn-Holly Johnson as Jan was also in "Ice Castles"
  • Kyle Richards as Ellie was fucking LINDSEY from "Halloween"! How did I never know that!
  • Carroll Baker as their mom, but once she was nominated for an Oscar for a film called "Baby Doll", where she played a "sensuous nineteen-year-old virgin."
  • David McCallum as their dad, who has been in some decent stuff like "The Great Escape" and "NCIS"
  • Benedict Taylor plays teen love interest Mike, and was also a nameless fighter pilot in "Star Wars Episode I", which is probably a best case scenario for being associated with that film.
  • Frances Cuka is Mike's mother, and I was pleasantly surprised to see she had a role in "Snow White: A Tale of Terror."
  • Richard Pasco as Tom Colley, who was also in the Queen Victoria film "Mrs. Brown"
  • Ian Bannen who starred in "Waking Ned Devine"

Overall, the movie still had a nice eerie factor to it, and the mystery of how Karen disappeared is actually even more interesting to me now that I've been reminded what happened. I think the spoiler-expiration has more than passed, but I'll limit myself to saying that this is a great example of unexpected sci-fi horror. It's set up as a ghost story, but it's not a ghost story. Kinda cool, and I totally forgot about that part.

I think one downside is the special effects. The images of Karen are done well enough, but the computer generated colors and lights look really weird and out of place. Another downside is Lynn-Holly Johnson's performance. When her character's emotions are level, she's mostly fine. Still a little overdone at times, but acceptable. When she gets angry or passionate or excited, her voice just ramps up to irritating heights. And she goes from zero to screaming pretty fast. It's hard to take by the end.

And given that, I will point out that if and when you visit the film's IMDB page, you'll notice that it won an award. I was a little surprised-- while it will always be a favorite from childhood, it just didn't seem like an award-winner. Sadly, the award it won was a "Stinker" bad movie award in 1981. The strange part is that Kyle "I was in Halloween motherfucker" Richards won for worst performance by a child in a featured role. I would have given it to Johnson, personally, although I suppose she might not have been a "child" at the time. Girl was chewing the scenery something fierce. I thought Kyle did a fine enough job, and she has some truly creepy moments when the "ghost" possesses her.

So if, like me, you hold a certain degree of nostalgia for Watcher in the Woods, it would be worth borrowing a copy to at least indulge your inner child and remember where your love of creepy things started.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Halloween Flashback: Disney's Halloween Treat




Of all the Halloween-themed movies and specials and TV show episodes that I've seen over the years, nothing ranks higher in the nostalgia department than Disney's Halloween Treat. It's one of the first things I want to watch when this time of year comes around.

There are technically two very similar specials-- one is Disney's Halloween Treat, which features a talking pumpkin as a host, while the other is A Disney Halloween, which has the magic mirror from Snow White as a host. A Disney Halloween takes Treat and adds more clips from Disney's Greatest Villains, as well as the Heffalumps and Woozles nightmare sequence from Winnie the Pooh, the Mickey cartoon Lonesome Ghosts, and the Donald Duck cartoon, Trick or Treat.

It was interesting examining the differences, because it made me question whether the one I remember most was Halloween Treat, or A Disney Halloween. I'm fairly sure I saw both multiple times, but the odd thing is that there are clips from the latter that I remember well, and ones that I'm not sure I ever saw. Then again, I'm relying on memories from about 25 years ago.

Either way, both are wonderfully creepy specials, and they're something fun and scary that can be shared with the whole family. They still hold up remarkably well in the chills department, which says a lot about the content Disney was putting out back in the day. You may not have seen it in some time, but the very first clip in Halloween Treat features Madame Mim from A Sword in the Stone, and that scene is solidly creepy for an animated Arthurian fantasy. A lot of animated features from the 80's were delightfully dark in their own ways.

During October I'm going back over several more Halloween themed specials and shows from the 80's and 90's, so if you hail from those decades as well be sure to subscribe or follow me on Facebook or Twitter for more holiday fun!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Extra Life Update: Stretch Goals!

I’m super excited to say that thanks to your amazing generosity, we’ve already hit my initial $200 goal for Extra Life! That means: STRETCH GOALS! All of which help the Extra Life Chicago guild reach our team goals for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.



For $300, during my stream you get a Spooky Storytime where I read from/demonstrate one of my three scary pop-up books (see photo below). Make it $400, I will play at least 3 rounds of Dead By Daylight as a killer, while wearing my Jason hockey mask in order to channel my inner slasher.


We still have over a month to raise money for the kids being treated at Lurie, and you can visit my fundraising page here: https://www.extra-life.org/participant/268932 and you can read more details about donating, as well as what I'll be doing during my stream in this blog post.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far, you're fantastic and I hope I get to do some ridiculous things on November 4th!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Comics Review: Monstress Volume 1 & 2

Monstress is a dark fantasy story written by Marjorie Liu (Astonishing X-Men, Dark Wolverine) set in an alternate version of 1900's Asia where gods, magic and monsters all dwell among humans and part-animal half-breeds. Our protaganist Maika Halfwolf is one of those half-breeds, known as Arcanics. She has survived a major war, and in the beginning of volume 1, she has purposely allowed herself to be sold off at a slave auction in order to learn more about her mother's life and death.

Volume 2 reveals much more about Maiko's backstory, her mother's history, and the mythology of this world in general. In every issue they peel back one more layer and it gets more and more fascinating as you go. I really don't want to give more details than that, because the best part of this series is discovering these links and layers for yourself firsthand.

But I will say that one of the highlights of the story is the same theme the title so clearly advertises. Is Maiko, herself, a monster? How will this struggle change her? What does that mean for her relationships with others? How will her mother's secrets change how she views herself?

Monstress is probably the most gorgeous comic I've read all year, thanks to the brilliant artwork by Sana Takeda (X-23, Ms. Marvel). There is a clear anime influence to its style, particularly the way the characters are drawn. But in the clothing, interiors and buildings there is a solid Western influence. It's very Art Deco, and it works beautifully. The art also lays full claim to both the horror and fantasy genres; there are many intense, dark scenes to convey the hungry monster inside Maiko that threatens to take control. But you also get a sense of how big and complex this alternate world is through the intricate scene details, and the expert work on the half-human half-animal characters.

This is definitely my new go-to recommendation for both horror and fantasy fans. It has a rich mythology, as well as engaging themes of otherness and fear that are well explored through the horror of slavery and invasion.