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.



Monday, September 18, 2017

Extra Life 2017

UPDATE: Thanks to your generous donations, I hit my initial goal of $200! I've created stretch goals that will help my team, the Extra Life Chicago guild, reach our team goals. Plus you get to make me do ridiculous things on my stream. See below for more details about how your donations make an impact, and what games we can play together on game day.



I'm participating in Extra Life this year! The tl;dr version is:
  • Extra Life unites gamers to raise money that helps sick kids
  • Tax-deductible donations made through me will benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
  • You can donate here
  • I’ll be streaming my November 4th gaming marathon on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/rachelxstorm
  • There will be solo games, games we can play together, book talks and recommendations
  • Donate $15 and up and email me some info and I’ll give you personalized reading suggestions
  • Donate $35 and up and you can pick a game I play during my marathon
  • Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for updates and details
  • See details below, and help spread the word!



For a few years now, I’ve wanted to participate in Extra Life, and I’ve decided 2017 is go time. If you’re not familiar, Extra Life benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by uniting gamers around the world to play games while raising money to help save sick children at the hospital of their choice. Every year they host a 24 hour fundraising and gaming marathon, and this year it falls on Saturday, November 4th.

I’ll be playing for Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, so your tax-deductible donations (which can be submitted here) will be helping local Chicagoland kids and families who really need it. Lurie is ranked as the top children’s hospital in Illinois, and the money raised through Extra Life will help support critical treatments, healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care -- basically it will help them keep doing the amazing job they’ve been doing for Chicagoland families for 130+ years.

I never take on a charitable cause without having a personal reason -- and no, it’s not to have an excuse to play games for 24 hours. I could do that on my own for no reason at all. The gist is that for me, Extra Life is an opportunity to help local families and sick children by supporting Lurie’s efforts. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have a sick child, but I absolutely know how expensive serious medical care can be and what a burden it is on top of the medical issue itself. If I can raise enough money to help even one family out a little bit, then it’s worth it.

So if you’re able to donate any amount of money to help the hospital, to help local families and their children, it would mean a lot. If you can’t, I know all too well how it is to be broke and unable to donate to a cause. You can still help by spreading the word wherever you can-- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, anything and everything helps.

I’m planning to stream my marathon on Twitch, and if you’re free November 4th you can even play games with me. I will be playing and streaming on my Xbox One -- if you play Xbox too, my gamertag is Rachel Storm. If you want to be sure to play together on November 4th, add me, send me a message, and make sure you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter for updates on what I’m playing when.

Even if you don’t play Xbox, you can still play along! Saturday evening I’ll be playing a trivia game called Trivia Murder Party from Jackbox Party Pack 3, and anyone can play along on their computer, tablet or mobile phone by going to jackbox.tv and entering a room code that I’ll release on my Twitch channel as well as on Twitter.

In between the games I stream, I’ll be doing book talks. They will all be relatively new, and I’ll try to cover a variety of genres and formats: thrillers, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, YA, comics, and non-fiction. I’m a librarian, I’m going to play to my strengths.

I will also send personalized book recommendations for anyone who donates $15 or more and emails me the last book they read that they loved and why, and how they want the next book they read to make them feel. Happy? Awed? Creeped out? Surprised? Inspired? Amused? Sad? Get creative.

Anyone who donates $35 or more will have an opportunity to pick a game for me to play. It can be any game I can play on Xbox One that I either already have or can borrow from a library. You can click here to see a list of games I own and click here and here to see games that I can borrow from a library. If you’re not sure about the game, feel free to email or message me before you donate and I’ll check for you. Pick something ridiculous, pick something scary, pick something hard that I’ll suck at, or pick something we can play together. But pick it by October 28th so I can get it in time.

So far, these are the games I am definitely playing that day:

Dragon Age Inquisition Multiplayer
Dead By Daylight
Trivial Pursuit
Rocket League
Minecraft
Layers of Fear
Trivia Murder Party

This could change as we get closer to the date, and I’ll eventually post a schedule on my Extra Life profile as well as here on my blog, so keep an eye out for that if there’s a game you’d really like to watch or play with me.

Phew! If you made it this far, thank you! Now let’s get going and help improve these kids’ lives!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Invasion of the Podcasts: Monsters, Stories, Stories about Monsters



Lately I've been thinking a lot about monsters and stories, and if I have my way I'll have a new blog post soon to show you why. I thought it would be a one shot, but it's turning into a series now. I'm not really sure where it's going yet, but if you like reading things about monsters in stories, especially ones that take place in something called a Dragon Age, then we can pass the time until the next game together.

Until then, let's talk podcasts again. They're (mostly) relevant to what's been on my mind, and very recommended.

No Sleep Podcast - If you love short spooky stories, this is the podcast for you. It has a really great eerie atmosphere, well-written stories, and talented voice actors.

Oh No Ross and Carrie - Ross and Carrie explore fringe science, religion and the paranormal in each episode, and right now they're near the end of their journey through a UFO conference called "Contact in the Desert." The first episode of the series was so funny and interesting that before I knew it, I had downloaded part 2. They're great storytellers, and I have learned about SO MANY new conspiracy theories.

The Twenty Percent True Podcast: Modern Monsters - Carolyn has a great storytelling voice that will suck you into each episode's short story about a modern monster. Fans of fables and fantasy will really enjoy this.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Gwendy's Button Box

If you're a Stephen King fan but you don't quite have the time for his usual wonderful but lengthy novels, Gwendy's Button Box should satisfy your King craving. This horror-fantasy novella, written with Richard Chizmar (A Long December, October Dreams) clocks in under 200 pages.

We meet the titular character Gwendy in Castle Rock, Maine, in the summer of 1974. She is 12 years old and has committed herself to climbing the Suicide Stairs-- which zig-zag up a cliffside-- every day in order to lose weight before the school year begins. On this particular day she meets a strange, but not dangerous man in black named Richard Farris.

Mr. Farris gifts Gwendy with a button box that has several buttons of different colors and two levers, one which dispenses a piece of chocolate, the other giving out a valuable silver dollar. He explains how powerful the box is, and what the buttons do, and insists that Gwendy must keep it safe. The rest of the novella follows Gwendy through young adulthood, as the box both blesses and curses the course of her life.

It ends up being both a dark fairy tale and a coming of age story. Gwendy begins to realize the weight of her responsibility early on, but it's only as she reaches full adulthood that she experiences the real price of the box. It's a classic "What if?" kind of story that will make you wonder what you would have done in Gwendy's shoes.

Overall I enjoyed the story and Gwendy herself, although there were moments where I felt like she lost a little bit of dimension to her character. Was that supposed to happen as an effect of the box? I'm not sure. But it's a fun experience, and will leave you wanting to know more about the box and where it came from.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Invasion of the Podcasts: Ghosts, Psycho and Murder

Thanks to some freelance work I’ve been doing, every week I get to learn about new podcasts and audio stories by reading through podcast recommendation newsletters. The irony in all of this is that I process information I see better than information I hear, so listening to podcasts takes real work for me.


But I also love stories and learning, so podcasts are wonderfully tempting and I will absolutely make the effort when I hear about one that’s right up my alley. Especially after I discovered my optimal podcast-listening task: washing dishes.


I love sharing the podcasts I learn about, so I’ve put together three podcasts I’ve discovered recently that horror or ghost story fans would enjoy. I hope for this to be a regular series here on Librarian of the Dead, and if so, I’d like to explore other genres, topics, themes, etc. But this is probably an appropriate way to get started.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sick Day, Bloody Sick Day

Last week I had the pleasure of my second summer cold of the season, and while lying around coughing uncontrollably I thought about good sick day movies.

For me, a good sick day film has to be relatively low on gore and surrealism. Even mild fevers mess with my head, I don’t need the film to add to it. So I tend towards older films that are creepy or fun in a spooky way. Even better if it’s something I’ve seen a billion times, so I won’t miss out if I drift in and out while sitting on what I have dubbed the Couch of Doom, due to its seemingly mystical ability to cause sleepiness even when one is perfectly healthy and alert.

So as my immune system waged a war so forceful that I hoped my respiratory system would remain in tact, I came up with three solid pre-1970’s films starring horror icons to help me pass the time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Welcome to the Hellmouth: The 20th Anniversary of Buffy



Exactly 20 years ago, I was 14 years old and halfway through my freshman year of high school. It wasn’t a great time for me. Junior high had been pretty terrible, and I didn’t recognize at the time that much of it had to do with my first severe bout of depression. I also had a lot of social anxiety and difficulty figuring out how to behave around others, which came off to others as being overly sensitive, shy, awkward, cold, and sometimes, a jerk. That isn’t to say I didn’t have friends, but I felt very lonely most of the time. My home life was filled with a lot of movies, music, video games, and of course, television.