Archive for June, 2015

House of a Hundred Windows by Fawn Krisenthia

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2015 by fawn krisenthia


She slowly closed the book and left the last sentence to flit around her mind, darting between all the things she understood and all the things that made the world so wonderfully mysterious. She laid the book on the table, looked up at the door, and turned the knob.

Countless doors before, she would always knock before entering, but not everyone answered. After years of this she learned it was best to just walk in unannounced.

Hunter S. Thompson sat in the corner of the room, aviator shades hiding his bourbon eyes. His was the last book she read, but she decided to walk through his room without stopping. She wanted to feel sober and Hunter always made her drink. There was a cursory nod, and they might have even fist-bumped had his hands not been full of guns.

Back to the hallway, she picked up Catcher in the Rye and disappeared deep into the cushions of the couch. This was her seventh time reading it. Afterward, and always, J. D. Salinger hugged her when she sauntered in with her shoulders hung low, tear trails screwing up her face. She was in love with him. There was a feeling of recognition, like when you’re in a record store and some boy walks in and you see him look at an obscure record, and your heart starts to race when everything you’ve ever felt listening to that record floods your body and suddenly you’re in a relationship with this stranger, and he doesn’t even know it.

J. D. would often apologize for giving her the wrong impression. She always left feeling more alone than when she entered.

Long hallway, massive couch, worn book, closed door.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr was always a hoot. He loved telling stories of how he went room to room in a house similar to this one, only he visited musicians, not writers. He would even tell her the stories that the musicians told him about being trapped in houses of their own, going room to room and talking to visual artists.

“Art feeds art, like a snake eating its own tail” he’d say to her. She asked him once if there was a way for her to get out of this windowless house, but he didn’t know, or if he knew he wasn’t telling.

Of course, she had long changed since the beginning. It was in her youth that she soaked up inspiration at the pace of a piece of bread thrown into a lake. Decades later, she realized that inspiration did not easily translate into the real world. At her lowest point, she started to believe that books could ruin your life, and that some of the most damaging books were the ones that convinced you to go for your dreams. But not all dreams come true.

Years of reading writers who also felt the pointlessness of life, with the added complication of being moved by their genius, had the unique effect of filling her with a directionless inspiration to grab these overwhelming feelings and rudely shove them into the shape of words – like a balloon that holds too much breath and is tied up so it can’t take off. Even if it did manage to get loose, though, she was sure it would just scuttlebutt close to the ground like a tumbleweed in a ghost town.

She visited Sylvia Plath the longest – twenty years, off and on. They loved to ruminate, and she felt a sense of connection with Sylvia that she never really felt with the others. In her last visit, they drank black tea and talked about the pressure to be a perfect woman, and how easily your arms bend back when you try to lift all the weight of it.

It was after that visit that the clock started showing up in the hallway, with its quiet booming of a clicking tick-tock.

Hallway, couch, book, door. Clock. Clock. Clock.

She couldn’t focus on reading anymore with that damned ticking. Very quickly, the deficient grasping for human connection with a stack of books morphed into the desperation to get out of the fucking house.

Full of want and untested bravery, she picked up a new book, the one that always sat on a table at the end of the long, dark hallway. She opened it and saw that it was blank. She tucked it under her arm, and finally decided to walk through the front door.

Expecting beams of golden light to pour through the portal and lift her up and away – this is what some of the old books had taught her – she was instead met with an empty, endless landscape of a certain darker Earth, filled with hordes of stumbling figures clutching their own blank books.

She attempted to make eye contact with the ones that walked with their heads up. She even tried conversing with a few that were kind enough to look back at her. But she always felt clumsy and frustrated with herself because the most important things to say are also the scariest to share with other people, and the most difficult to even put into words.

She ended up building another house, this one inside herself, and unlike the last one, she made sure that this one had a hundred windows. So that sometimes, when you look in her eyes, you can see her in the distance staring out of one right back at you.


Horror from the Ooze: An 80s Horror Fan Re-evaluates Her Life Decisions

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2015 by fawn krisenthia

I’ve been lied to. Maybe by myself, maybe by the media, maybe even by fellow horror fans. But firmly cemented in my mind, until my recent viewing of Dracula II: Ascension (2003, directed by Patrick Lussier), was the idea that movies made from the early 2000s were all pretty much worthless.

I remember seeing a very much hyped Darkness Falls when it was released, and afterward thinking it was a harbinger for the end of the horror genre. Quickly buttressing this was the vapid Wrong Turn, Underworld (thus begetting my intense hatred for CGI), Scary Movie 3, and the blasphemous Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. As the movies were released, they validated my growing disdain for where the horror genre was headed. For the first 8 or 9 years of 2000, although I would begrudgingly watch most of these major sequels, remakes, franchises and CGI nightmares in order to keep my horror club card up-to-date, I knew I should never expect anything more than to be greasing the wheel of these great machines that aim to make as much money as possible from the masochistic horror fandom. Psychologists call this ‘learned helplessness.’ My reprieve came from watching my beloved ’70s-’80s-early ’90s films, foreign and independent films.

The seed of my hate for most horror from the ’00s (and how do you even say ’00s out loud? Can I pronounced that as “Ooze”?) was planted when the world was ushered into the DVD world, marking the end of the VHS era. I still remember going into a video rental section of my local grocery store in the early 90s and spending hours picking out a horror movie for the night, drooling over the dusty covers of Tales from the Crypt, The Girl in Room 2A, etc.  Ten years later, the exciting hunt through rows of horror VHS tapes went way, and was replaced with homogeneity; walls of every rental store lined with the exact same straight-to-DVD releases and knock-offs with similar names of every recent popular film. I negotiated with the manager of Hollywood Video to sell me the horror VHS section before they destroyed all their stock and went straight to DVD. By the end of the first decade, the internet killed the video store in my town altogether. What was once a warm ceremony of finding an ’80s diamond in the rough became a cold, transactional click of a mouse on a Netflix queue. A service which, admittedly, I’ve used since 2008 (you can only rage against the machine for so long before you realize you currently live in a small town with no options to rent movies, and by the time I moved to a bigger city, I had already drunk the kool-aid).

For me, all this got mixed in a swirling cesspit of ‘us vs them’ mentality. VHS vs DVD. Later, DVD vs Internet. ’80s-’95 classics vs modern crap. Original vs Remake. Old school horror fans vs those people who claim to ‘love scary movies’ and then name Halloween remake as their favorite. Sadako vs fucking Samara. And so on. TL;DR – I’ve hated 80% of all horror from the early 2000s because that time period killed my childhood via the eradication of VHS first and then the rental store, because that was the beginning of popular use of CGI over old school special FX, and because the movies being made were for the obvious purpose of making money (ie sequels, franchises and unimaginative remakes).

Now I must re-think everything. After watching Dracula II: Ascension, a sequel to the mildly popular Dracula 2000, I was shocked at how much I screamed ‘yeah!’ at the screen. It was thoroughly enjoyable. And as I was enjoying it, I was equally dismayed at how much I had disregarded it as just another money-grabbing film fart. Even the group shot on the DVD cover was formulaic for that time, signifying a turd. Now, I understand that even though Dracula II turned out to be an enjoyable film, that does not suddenly mean that all 2000 films are enjoyable. I get it. But you must understand – my level of enjoyment for this film blew my mind. It’s like an evangelical nut publicly raging against homosexuality for a decade and suddenly finding himself turned on by his beefcake neighbor – the implications are jarring. It made me realize how many other films I have casually dismissed without a second glance.

Is my shift in perception for 2000s films just part of a natural cycle? I can watch any ’80s and early ’90s film, low-rated or panned, and find something enjoyable about it. The nostalgia factor weighs heavily here – the synth pop, the big bangs, the neon colors, the make-up and special fx, the yearning of a simpler time. If the film is rated low, there is a good chance that the film is dripping with camp and kitsch. As an avid VHS collector, I can watch and re-watch a grainy copy of Nightmare Weekend (1986 – the best year of horror) with fervent vigor. I also dismiss an IMDb rating of 2 for that film because most people just don’t get it.

However, with films from the early 2000s, if I saw a film rated low, I would mentally shelve it into the typical twenty-oughts trash category. For the longest time, I’ve trusted the ratings, I’ve trusted the first lines of critic’s reviews dumping on the films, and I’ve trusted my longstanding hatred of cheaply made moneygrabs and sequels and remakes and CGI. I came to rely on other people to tell me if it was worth my time. These people get it.

But… do they?

There are tons of people that discuss/swap/collect 80s horror films and call themselves horror aficionados because of this (myself included), but there isn’t really a support group for those people that are into ’00s films – that I know of – and so the only thing I can safely go by determining the popularity of these films is by their online ratings.

Dracula II popped up on my instant watch Netflix with a rating of a 1 star. I realize I may be assigning too much importance to Dracula II: Ascension if it’s making me re-define my horror snobbery as horror myopia, but the best horror movies are the ones that make you fall down on your ass and turn you back into a fan rather than a reviewer looking for abnegation. And Dracula II is just the figurehead of something I’m trying to work out myself: my growing affection for “terrible” ’00 films. Here are a few more examples: [all ratings from IMDb at the time of this writing]: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is rated a 4, American Psycho II: All American Girl is a 3.9, Feardotcom (which I actually LOVE) is a 3.3, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary 4.3, The Mangler Reborn 3.1, It Waits 3.7, Cemetery Gates 3.5, Mad Cowgirl 4.9, The Gravedancers 5.6, Sublime 5.3, Wind Chill 5.9, Storm Warning 5.9, Long Weekend (remake) 5.2, Hatchet 5.7, Dread 5.7. Mutants 5.6

I wonder if my watching these films is now tinged with a freshly brewed nostalgia that has been fermenting inside me without my even knowing it – that may even culminate in the next twenty years into a rabid love of the time period like that which I have for the ’80s-’95. By the year 2035, is it possible…. will all films from the early 2000s be considered cult classics? Will it foster coveted DVD swaps, midnight digital showings at the cool theater in town? Will old folks who were in their late teens/early twenties at the time make the ‘new generation’ jealous, regaling them with tales of how they saw Cherry Falls in the theater way back when? This dystopian epoch is surely on our doorstep.

An ’80s Horror Geek’s Quick Guide to Y2K film appreciation: Don’t put any weight into the critic’s reviews written at the time of release they should be seen as a curious snapshot of the millennial zeitgeist to hate everything. Also, don’t measure your enjoyment of ’00 films based on what you know and love about ’80s films. They are two different animals. Example: while 80s films are more care-free and filled with unsuspecting victims, ’00 films seem to be filled with anxious and cynical characters who are expecting the worst.

Now onto the review of the movie that can never measure up to the hype I’ve just created for it

Dracula II: Dracula Meets Science! a review

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2015 by fawn krisenthia


A fresh burn vic is delivered in a body bag to a New Orleans morgue. Medical student Elizabeth Blaine (Diane Neal of Law & Order SVU) and her assistant Luke (Jason London) conduct the autopsy, noting that the organs are absent of blood. Luke recalls that the body was burned hanging from a cross at dawn in front of a church, and with an inspection of the decedent’s teeth which springs a fang and knicks Elizabeth’s finger, they both ascertain that the body is that of a vampire. Immediately, Luke receives a call from a mysterious Brit offering $30 million dollars for the cadaver. This bolsters the idea that they have a gold mine in their hands. Imagine harnessing the secret for eternal life, “immortality for sale at a morgue near you!” They call medical ethics professor Lowell (Craig Sheffer – who I honestly thought was David Boreanaz throughout the whole film) for guidance – an ethics professor who, curiously, is sleeping with his student Elizabeth– and he orders them to take the body to his parent’s… castle… for experimentation. As they are leaving the morgue, a very daunting vampire-killer priest (Jason Scott Lee) demands to give last rites to the corpse. They temporarily throw him off track by replacing the toasted vampire with another burn victim, and make their way to the castle where Elizabeth meets up with two fellow medical students Kenny and Tanya. They begin their scientific experiments on Dracula meatloaf, as a priest with a vendetta closes in on them.


Dracula 2: Ascension is the second movie in a trilogy directed by Patrick Lussier, and written by Patrick Lussier and Joel Soisson. This straight-to-DVD film with a $3.2 million dollar budget came on the heels of the lukewarm success of his theatrically released Dracula 2000, where the vamp trope of a sexy male actor donning fangs and stalking a pretty lady continues. [Spoilers ahead]

Within the first five minutes of the film, another modern vamp trope emerges when we are introduced to a sickle sword-wielding, trenchcoat-wearing priest that beheads identical twin vampire babes. Five years prior, viewers were introduced to Blade and the character of a bad-ass vampire slayer who also happens to be a vampire. Father Ufizi is just a rehash of Blade, but that doesn’t make him look any less cool.

double decap latte

double decap latte

However, the aspect of scientific experimentation on Dracula completely elevates it with its refreshing, nerdy take. From Dracula’s autopsy, the Dracula Meets Science theme continues when medical students fill a bathtub with 350 pints of stolen blood from a medical facility. The wonderful part of this scene is the fact that none of the participants ask questions, they just willingly go along with the idea that yes!, we have the body of a vampire and of course!, attaching electrodes to his charred body and immersing him in a bathtub full of blood will reanimate him. Which of course, it does. Dracula is also videotaped but unfortunately the image recorded is just an outline of morphy blood droplets because “the electronics don’t record him at all!” We also get to see vampire blood cells replicating under a microscope.

nice, but not quite as epic as the microscope scene in Horror Express (1972)

nice, but not quite as epic as the microscope scene in Horror Express (1972)

The film enters another stratosphere altogether when the sexy, brooding Dracula played by Stephen Billington comes on screen. At first, he is shown as weak and pale, chained and kept in a corner after attacking and defenestrating Tanya. It’s an odd cinematic treatment of Dracula. The title character is the subject of much ethical debate among the characters of the film, but for the majority of the film he is a secondary character tied up in a laboratory, cycling back and forth between being catatonic and pissed. But every shot of him in the laboratory is fantastically lit and even a little creepy. As the movie progresses, Dracula is given more blood to fuel his regeneration, and by the fifty minute mark he transforms into a delicious sex beast, and you suddenly realize, Stephen Billington looks like the crème of a goddamned tasty Dolph Lundgren and Rutger Hauer soup.

that swag tho

that swag tho

that swag tho

Science mixes with vampire lore in the way in which Dracula is kept confined in the laboratory. He is propped up by a dolly in the middle of a makeshift laboratory/bottom of an empty pool, surrounded with mustard seeds, draped with a knotted net, and bathed in ultraviolet waves from industrial lights. Props to Patrick Lussier for including obscure vampire lore; with the saturation of vampire movies, it is always refreshing to learn something new about vampires. Like a leprechaun’s weakness for shining any shoe he comes across, vampires apparently can’t move past piles of mustard seeds without counting every single speck, or move past a knotted rope without wanting to untie it.

The action really begins when Dracula telepathically pushes Professor Lowell down the pool stairs, critically wounding him. Elizabeth and Luke desperately look for the remaining vial of Dracula’s sample in order to inject him and save his life. The sample is gone. Kenny has already injected it and stalked off to do vampy things in the streets of New Orleans – oddly deserted streets I might add, even though this is apparently during Mardi Gras according to the hanging signs and float-gets strewn about the tables. Kenny is hunted and decapitated by Father Ufizi, but not before biting a woman in her apartment, who later eats her own cat.



With the sample gone and Dracula drier than an Arkansas county, Elizabeth and Luke must find a way to boost production of his magical juice and save Lowell. Elizabeth has already been infected by Dracula during his autopsy but has not yet turned, so she volunteers to do a blood transfusion. What ensues is the second best part of the film in what can only be described as HEMO-eroticism. As they exchange blood, Dracula mindfucks Elizabeth all the way to Transylvania. After some heavy necking, Elizabeth asks who he is, to which he claims to have been Gilles de Rais, Vlad Tepes, El Hazarid, Dagobert, Proximus, Uther, Caligula and Judas Iscariot. Later in the film as Elizabeth injects Lowell with Drac’s blood, she coyly asks “what’s it like?” …as if she doesn’t know already. He answers “It’s like… sex.” Of course, just having seen Elizabeth have mind-sex with the vampire that infected her, I am wondering if Lowell was in that moment having mind-sex with Dracula? These are important questions. Another important question is from where, exactly, is Lowell’s accent supposed to originate? It’s almost terrible enough to be distracting. David Boreanaz would have known better.

Lowell is immediately cured of his degenerative condition and reveals that he and Eric are actually partners. He was just using Elizabeth. Eric then rubs salt in the wound by a most intense flipping of the bird I’ve seen since Poltergeist. Incorrectly, though, as Eric is a Brit – but I suppose it would have been a lot weirder if he slowly did a ‘V’ sign.

The climax of the film came when Dracula finally has enough strength to leave his shackles and fights Eric. Eric at first tries to escape Dracula’s fangs but then implores him to “go ahead. I’ll still live forever” to which Dracula replies “Ahh, but WILL YOU WANT TO?” and immediately bites off his face. Eric the facebite vamp appears again minutes later, but is quickly shut down with a bottle filled of holy water. The special effects her are so seamless that I have trouble discerning whether it’s makeup or CGI. That’s a great thing.


Dracula then starts to move toward Luke and Elizabeth. Luke then yells about the knotted net, surely that will keep Dracula at bay! Dracula looks down at it, and with a simple twist and flick of his finger, and voila! the net comes undone and all the knots disappear. Suddenly all those previous shots of Dracula looking forlornly down and pawing at the knotted net make sense. He was just figuring out the math of it, like a puzzle. It’s deliciously ridiculous.

In my favorite scene, Luke yells to Elizabeth “but he can’t move on without counting the seeds!” and Dracula casually looks around at the ground, then tells him exactly how many are present. Thinking on his feet, Luke starts throwing more seeds at him, but before they hit the ground Dracula has already counted them – like the prodigy Little Man Tate looking up at the trees and counting the spaces between the leaves. Okay, that was a random reference but it’s seriously what I thought of when I saw this scene.

putting the 'count' in Count Dracula

putting the ‘count’ in Count Dracula

Some housekeeping items: Roy Schneider makes a cameo, Ufizi quickly dispatches Lowell, and Father Ufizi and Dracula finally battle it out… for about one minute. There is a nice flashback to when Dracula was Judas Iscariot. The final twist comes when Elizabeth, who is now full bore vampiress, defeats Ufizi with a harpoon gun, but not before Dracula demonstrates the most badass putting on of a duster, ever. Dracula and Elizabeth run off into the sunset, a love story to be continued in the third installment of the Dracula series, Dracula III: Legacy (2005).

Bonus: as the credits roll, your ears are filled with the delightful song called “Do You Know My Name” which is one of the best Marilyn Manson impersonations I’ve heard since Marilyn Manson’s last album.

Another bonus:  Count Dracula and Elizabeth Blaine’s love story fan vid set to Beyonce’s Sweet Dream