American Horror Story – Asylum – S02E01


Speaking of American Horror Story, it’s back and it’s every bit as strange and bizarre as you would expect. For this story, we’re at Briarcliff Manor, which like so many of the "institutions" we’ve seen on shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, has a checkered past and high body count. At one time it was a tuberculosis ward complete with body chute and a death toll of 46,000. Then it was converted by the Catholic Church into a Sanitarium for the criminally insane where it was hoped a pious life could rid them of their demons. It house "Bloody Face" a notorious serial killer who’s fate is unknown. Finally, it has been shut down and abandoned. In essence, everything we’ve heard about institutions for the mentally ill has been rolled up into one place. And what a place it is!

Jessica Lange returns as Sister Jude, the matron who runs the asylum with an iron fist and a closet full of caning rods.

Evan Peters also returns as the supposed "Bloody Face", notorious serial killer who skins his victims alive.

More of the old cast will be forthcoming as this story unravels.

The story moves quickly and we get a barrage of characters and twists right off the bat. Sister Jude will stop at nothing to heal the mentally ill of their sins even if that means holding a reporter against her will and threatening to expose her "partner" if she doesn’t have her committed to the sister’s care.

And we have the makings of a mad doctor, who plans to experiment on his patients to find out what makes them tick. Can he cure evil through science? Can he "tap" into that evil and make it go away? Several patients without families have already gone missing since the doctor showed up, their bodies cremated before Sister Jude can look into the matter. Are their bodies as broken as their minds and they simply passed on or did they not survive the experiments? He’s been approved by the Church, so what could possibly go wrong?

The battle of wills between Sister Jude and Dr. Arden has begun and I have a feeling it will be one hell of a showdown.

But let’s not forget the present, where Teresa and Leo have snuck into the abandoned asylum as an end to their "haunted honeymoon tour" for some sexual thrills. But things go horribly wrong and the mood is ruined when Leo becomes the victim of something unforeseen as they explore the asylum just before sunset.

We’re in for a dark and sinister ride. We’ve already got sadistic nuns, serial killers, mad scientists, the criminally insane, forbidden experiments, the evil that men do and it all takes place in an asylum! And that’s just in the first episode!

I can’t wait to see the rest of this series. I loved the first one and this promises to be even more intense. The location is dramatic, the atmosphere is dark and gloomy, Sister Jude makes me cringe and Dr. Arden looks to be one evil man. This has everything I like!

So what do you think? How do you think this will compare to the first season?

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666 Park Avenue – Episode 3

I’m being drawn into this show. I like the mystery, the layers, the hints and clues at what’s to come. For the first time we see Gavin make a move to show more of his nature as the Councilman takes a nose dive. We see the influence he has over people when he pushes Henry to move forward, almost against his nature. And do we see the walls going down between Jane and Olivia discuss the tragic events surround Olivia’s passing? And clearly from the note Olivia burns, there is more to that story as well.

It’s turned into a real soap opera hasn’t it?

But I do like the way this is playing out. I like that it answers one question, but adds two more to the mix. It’s an interesting look at people and what we’re all willing to do to get ahead and if we’re willing to make a deal. I like that there are multiple stories going on, not just with the tenants, but with the past itself. Why do we have a secret room? Why was it walled up? Who used to live there? What meetings or shall we say rituals used to take place in this building all those years ago? I like the atmosphere. I like the questions. I like how everything seems to be circling, but that somehow, all of this is going to tie together.

What do you think? While not quite as dramatic as American Horror Story, it does present some of the same elements. Is anyone on board with this new show?

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Ghost Adventures – Black Moon Manor – S07E05

The guys head out to Buck Creek Township, Indiana to the Black Moon Manor, the oldest house in the town, where the owner has called them to get to the bottom of mysterious events. The house has been witness to the smallpox epidemic, a disease that may have brought to the area by the same doctor who came to treat it. Did the death toll really rise to over 200 people? There are also reports of a girl jumping to her death as she threw herself into the 70 foot well that’s under the very floor boards of the house. There is even the report of a young girl dying on the property and her spirit still plays with the rocking horse.

Matt and his girlfriend have stories of being pushed and grabbed when they first got to the home. An investigator says it’s the only place she’s been scared to investigate. She saw shadows going in and out of the bathroom. She could feel the floor vibrate with the sound of footsteps. All this occurred as they tried to provoke Doctor Harvey, the man who treated the smallpox and may be the one who introduced it. They also interview one of the previous residence and he claims he heard voices and footsteps all the time.

But as is so common with an old house like this, what is fact, and what is simply legend? It’s a real treat to hear Zak saying they need to separate the fact from the fiction. Matt has been given the names of hundreds of people who died there. But it’s simply a list of names, and doesn’t necessarily connect itself to the house. Considering the age of the place, that many deaths would almost be normal. Or is this simply a list of the family history? There is very little evidence to support these claims, but Zak wants to dig deeper.It sounds like he’s almost to the point of doubting Matt and his claims.

After checking the records and talking with some historians they conclude a lot of the stories as simply that, stories. They aren’t based in fact and don’t have evidence to support them. They do find evidence of Doctor Harvey, but he was simply a doctor treating smallpox. He lost around 5 patients, not the 200 that are claimed. And there is nothing to suggest his presence in the town was sinister in nature.

With some of the history sorted out, they begin the investigation to try and answer some of the questions about why people are being touched and shoved. Is there really something to this home or are imaginations running wild based on all the stories?

They first send in Aaron who hears footsteps and a voice saying, "Come up here", which may have turned out to be, "no one’s up there". There is also the possible sound of someone crying.

Zak joins in with the Spirit Box and they get the word, "evil" come through. Zak then notices the temperature on the Mel Meter is at 66.6 degrees. There is also the word "demon". When asked what color the lights on the meter are, they get the word, "green". Does this indicate there is an evil presence in the house that is keenly aware that Zak and Aaron are there? Are they really interacting with a dark force? When asked if the entity is making the probe read 66.6 degrees, the answer is, "yes". It seems they have something interesting on the hook.

In conjunction with the voices, both Zak and Nick feel drained and tired as they walk through the house. Surprisingly, Aaron doesn’t have the same reaction. He feels the place is creepy as $%#@, but it doesn’t seem to affect him physically. Is Aaron simply less vulnerable or are Zak and Nick working themselves into a frenzy?

The final piece of evidence for the night is a supposed rock or object that gets thrown. Zak definitely reacts to something, but what was it? Was something really thrown at him? Was the spirit he spoke to earlier taking a shot at him? Was it simply a loose piece of ceiling in an old building falling down?

There are many things to consider about a place like this. There is far more legend than fact surrounding this house. This can certainly get expectations up and cause people to think something is happening. None of the team experienced the forceful touch the owner’s girlfriend claimed. Did she bump into something or have a skin reaction? If an entity that forceful was in there, wouldn’t it have gone after the guys? Is there really an evil spirit inside because it says it’s evil? 666 is nothing more than a number in my opinion. It’s a common temperature for a house with no electricity. Does that mean that all houses with a temp of 66 degrees are on the verge of being evil? And let’s think about the footsteps. It’s an old house, wouldn’t it make more sense for the source of the noise to be animals or creaking boards? We know it was a warm day from the sunshine. And we know it was a cool night from the 66.6 reading. Wouldn’t it make more sense for footsteps to be the sound of boards popping and settling from the temperature changes? I’m sure that house flexes like crazy on a daily basis.

To me, when you boil it all down, there are the words, "evil" and "demon" that the whole investigation rests on, from a device I don’t much care for. For a moment, let’s say they are real. Where does that leave us? This dark force doesn’t seem to be doing much. Perhaps it did attack the girlfriend, but there was no sign of force when it had three other victims at the ready. There was no abuse or threats. Did they really get the words right? Was the spirit trying to say something else?

I have no doubt there is a lot more to the story of that house, but on the surface it appears to be nothing more than an old house that needs to be restored before it falls over. So what do we think, is this house supernaturally charged with a demonic entity?

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The Raven – John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe

image Since I’m a fan of Cusack and Poe, I had every intention of seeing this movie when it came out in theaters last April. I went to "Abraham Lincoln" and thought this movie would make a great "double header" so to speak. But for some reason, the idea simply slipped out of my head. Before I knew it, the movie had come and gone. And when I asked if anyone had seen it, no one knew what I was talking about. It’s disappointing, because overall, I found myself liking this movie.

The plot is a bit ridiculous, as a murderer bases his crimes on the works of Poe. But this isn’t the first time a movie has been made with this premise. I seem to recall some other low budget horror movie using the same concept. See, it’s not so outrageous.

We find Poe in a rather beleaguered state. He’s on the verge of intoxication or in need of "fortitude", he’s nearly broke since he can’t get any of his reviews published and he doesn’t have another "Tell Tale Heart" in him. As the editor says, "write me something that sells." He’s also at odds with his beloved’s father who thinks he’s nothing but a drunk, opium addict and atheist. Needless to say, Edgar is down on his luck.

And then he finds himself at the center of a series of murders based on the his macabre short stories. But emulating Poe isn’t enough, the killer captures Emily and forces Poe to try and figure out who’s behind the crimes. At his subsequent murder scenes he leaves clues as to his identity and the whereabouts of Emily. The murder also forces Poe to write about the murders, blending fact with fiction so they can be told in the following day’s newspaper column. He wants Poe and himself immortalized in the press.

Are you with me so far?

I found the atmosphere, costumes and quirky nature of Cusack as Poe to be very enjoyable. I love period piece movies, and unlike some, I’m not going to throw a fit because a movie oversteps a few historical details. It claims to be a work of fiction, not a documentary, so getting a few details wrong to push the story along is alright with me. If you put a Ford Mustang on the grounds of Downton Abbey, we have an issue. If you get the wrong color of paint on a building, I don’t care.

This is a slow paced movie that makes multiple leaps to keep the story going. Not everything falls in line from one scene to the next, and the action is just as much focused on Poe writing his account of the murders as the acts himself. In same cases it almost seems like he’s relishing his new muse. He’s inspired to write. The story flows. The ideas leap to the page. He’s once again back in the limelight.

The two things I really liked is that Detective Field isn’t your usual bumbling idiot of a cop so many of these use these days. He’s smart, focused, clever and determined without being an asshole. He has skill and knowledge.

We also have Emily who won’t play the victim. She tries to escape. Uses her wits. Doesn’t give to hysterics and keeps a level head. Also, a nice change of pace from what we normally see of female lead in these kinds of films.

It seems like most people gave this movie a pass. Sadly, I was one of them. But now that it’s available again, I’ve made amends. The story is a little thin, but the atmosphere and acting help to smooth that over. It’s not the type of movie to have you jumping in your seat or scratching your head over the complexities of the killer motives. In fact, when all is said there still won’t be feelings of enlightenment. But as they say, the point of a journey is not to arrive.

Between this and 1408, you might have the makings of a fine night of the macabre with John Cusack.

Raven ~ John Cusack

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