Scream Queens: Haunted House – Too Campy?

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Perhaps some people are more easily impressed than others, for instance, this viewer found the entire episode of Scream Queens Haunted House worth watching just for the extended Matthew McConaughey impression by Diego Boneta while preparing to question the  former Kappa in the trailer. That scene, as well as Grace’s father revealing that the scary thing about Children of the Corn is your inner child killing you, made the show.

There were things that still worked about the series, although not as well as last week’s episode Chainsaw. The character of Denise Hemphill has worn out her welcome, with all the campy eye rolling and hand waving.  The whole Niecy Nash act is overkill and adds nothing to the show…

But…

The other thing that made Haunted House delightfully worth watching was the unison scene with Nash and Boneta in the “hag” scene.  Hemphill and Martinez both reveal things learned about the house where ZayDay will hold her “haunted house” fund raiser.

Both of these scenes show a sort of genius that “gets it.” There are a few other things in the episode that work brilliantly, the “discovery” of the obligatory multiple victims. Like any decent slasher film, bodies have to be found; laid out in a grisly display to scare the heck out of the movie’s protagonist.

Chad and Hester (Glen Powell and Lea Michele respectively) who are obsessed with dead bodies, Chad fantasizes about necrophilia, find the dearth of murdered students and the decomposing Ms Bean in the haunted house and they both freak out accordingly. 

In the local coffee shop, they sit, in shock, and then tell the students in the place to avoid the house because of the dead bodies. The news galvanizes the other customers who all rush over to see the house of corpses.

Later when ZayDay finds that her fund raiser does indeed have real dead bodies in it, she calls 911 and speaks to a dispatcher who sounds suspiciously like Walton Goggins (Django Unchained, Justified) and considering how good Boneta was at doing McConaughey it would to be surprising to  learn that  he also “did” Goggins for the call.

Perhaps the problem with this comedy horror treat is the inclusion of too much comedy. Murphy, Falchuk and Brennan have thrown in everything, including the kitchen sink, with enough gags in each episode that repeated viewings are needed to get all the jokes, references and sly (and not so sly) genre homages.  Viewing figures are dropping steadily each week.

This may be more because of audience tastes being…out-of-sync with the show’s creator’s vision. Rather oddly, Scream, the MTV “salute” to the Wes Craven classic franchise, which missed the mark on so many levels, earned a second season, while the fans who normally flock to any  Ryan Murphy project have been tuning out.

It does beggar belief that viewers aren’t getting this show, too much comedy seems to equal death. (Something that would blow Mel Brooks away as all his films have loads of gags in them.) How can one not appreciate the interaction between Grace (Skyler Samuels) and her dad where her father says:

Wes: “No you were born in a hospital. I was there. I saw you come out of your mother…big mistake, by the way…”

 

The episode this week, sees ZayDay get kidnapped and at the end of the episode the “woman in black” is sitting in  a rocking chair surrounded by damaged dolls, in the haunted house and it is former Kappa Gigi Caldwell (Nasim Pedrad) who is doing the wailing. 

It may help this series to have more Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts,  Diego Boneta and Oliver Hudson and a lot less Niecy Nash.  Regardless of whether Hemphill becomes the Red Devil’s next victim or not, the gags are numerous in this series and may be flying by the less conscious viewers. Is Scream Queens too camp for fans of comedy horror? 

As Bugs Bunny would say, “Mmmmm, could be.”

However it is most likely a case of too much on offer and this is confusing the target audience. It appears that  Murphy and co. may have aimed their latest offering more towards “Gleeks” who adore  that verse but who may be incapable of appreciating this one.

It has to be noted that the dining room scene with the obnoxious “frat” and his house brother whom the little group of Chanel’s attack is odd, yet funny.  Taking feminism to its most combative and extreme fells strangely satisfying yet disturbing on so many levels. Kudos chaps for putting this in, surrealistic comedy that works.

*Sidenote* The two films being watched, firstly by the trailer park gal (And how funny it this storyline? The implication being that if one leaves University sans degree, they become trailer park “trash.”) are “Leprechaun” and “Children of the Corn.” 

Scream Queens airs Tuesdays on ABC, if you love full tilt comedy that just happens to be set in the world of slasher films and all that entails, tune in, you will like it. Gleeks?  Maybe not so much…

True Haunting by Edwin F Becker: Hair Raising Experience

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As Author Edwin F Becker points out, there were no Ghost Hunters a la TAPS in 1970. There was also no Amityville horror; at least not until 1977 when Jay Anson put pen to paper and wrote about the “alleged” ghostly problems of the Lutz family in the house where an entire family sans one was murdered.

It would not surprise me to learn that Jay Anson was not already aware of the ghostly events that plagued the Becker family via a NBC newscast that was aired both locally (where Becker and his wife lived) and nationally. Where else could he have gotten the idea? And  where Anson, admittedly, stretched the truth to breaking and beyond in search of a fast buck; Becker did not profit one cent from his haunted house experience until years later when he self-published his story.

I’d bet a pretty penny myself to say that he’s not profiting much from the sales of his story; his e-book is very affordable.

In 1970, Becker and his new wife and baby, wanted to buy a house. Finding a two-story house with two ready-made apartments already under one roof, he thought he’d found a bargain. Sure the house needed work and they needed to get rid of the “crazy” woman who lived in the downstairs apartment, but Edwin was not afraid of hard work and the “crazy tenant” was on her way out.

So what could go wrong?

Apparently, everything.

Becker recounts what happened when he and his young family moved into the house in the suburbs of 1970 Chicago and the traumatic affect the property had on friends and family. He tells of the Church’s refusal to get involved and of seeking help from two (the only two in the Yellow Pages) paranormal investigative societies available.

He tells his story in a straight forward, no-nonsense manner that convinces and disturbs and (for me anyway) made the hair on the back of my neck stand-up which resulted in my deciding  to read the rest of the book in the daylight. What he does not do is embellish the events to “sell” his story. He steadfastly refused to sensationalize any of the occurrences that he and his family experienced. Hence the self publishing.

When he and his family encountered what, at the outset, seemed like odd events: a kitchen door that refused to stay shut, a mixer that refused to hang on the wall, a phone that kept taking itself off the hook and countless other things, that he found  “logical” explanations for. Or so he thought.

As the haunting began to escalate, he and his wife (who to be fair, sensed this a lot earlier than her skeptic husband) realised that the house was haunted by not one, but several ghosts.

It was Mr Becker’s sincere and plain retelling that both convinced me of the truth of his story combined with “strange” experiences that I myself have encountered that sold me on the validity of his tale.

This is a very understated book when compared with Jay Anson’s nefarious tale of the Amityville “hauntings.” You’ll find no oozing black stuff pouring out of the sockets; no overabundance of flies; no voice telling anyone to, “Get Out!” and no pigs floating outside a second story window.

What you will find is a simply written(not in a negative sense)  tale of growing fear and financial difficulties. Your heart will go out to his (then) young family and the fact that they had so few avenues of help. Before the modern “ghost busting” equipment of today and the digital revolution that enables ghost hunters to track down “spirits and demons” you had psychics and clairvoyants and the odd paranormal scientist. Oh and the clergy, if you could get them to acknowledge the problem. This was a time of real “hit and miss” ghost hunting and something that not many of the main populace knew about.

This was a great read and, as I said before, one that literally “creeped” me out. I will warn you, this is not a book for the overly imaginative. I slept with the light on after reading this book.

I’d give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for no-nonsense reporting of one family’s experience with a haunted house. Do not miss reading this book, it is a great story, even if you don’t believe in ghosts.

Author Edwin F Becker.
Author Edwin F Becker.

AN ARKANSAS RAZORBACK IN QUEEN ELIZABETH COUNTRY 7

After I’d lived in the shared house about six months, Ralph had a female friend who was flying in to visit him. He’d never been to Stansted Airport so I said I would help him navigate his way there. The night before we both hit the hay early because we would be leaving at about 0630 in the morning. I drifted right off after double checking my alarm clock to make sure that I had set it right.

BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! I fell out of bed as the last of the heavy ‘bangs‘ on my door faded. I leapt up and ran to my bedroom door trying to put my trousers on as I went. With one trouser leg on and the other limply dragging behind me, I flung open the door. I had overslept, I just knew it. The words of apology that were forming on my lips died before I could utter them.

The kitchen, which was outside my bedroom, was silent and dark. I paused for a split second to put my other leg in my trousers. I rushed through the house to find Ralph and tell him that I’d be ready in a quick minute. I went all the way upstairs and his bedroom door was shut and the light was off. Puzzled, I went back down to my room and looked at the alarm clock.

0300.

I was completely stumped. The ‘banging’ had been real, I’d heard it still resonating through the house while I trying to put my trousers on. I looked thoughtfully at my ‘outside’ bedroom door. I decided that perhaps a drunken idiot and kicked my door for a laugh.

I stood in front of the door and after I put my boots on I kicked the living hell out of it. Try as I might (and with several different implements as well) I could not get the loud BAM that had disrupted my slumber. The most I could get from the bolted shut door was a dull, heavy sounding thud. I knew I hadn’t imagined it I’d actually woken up after the first two bangs. I had been on a Rapid Deployment Team when I’d first joined the Air Force and I was used to waking up at the first noise.

I then remembered the ghostly footsteps and the rocking bit of leather on Ralph’s recliner and I got spooked. I turned on every light in my bedroom as a sort of talisman that would ward off any mischievous spirits. I finally drifted off to sleep in a blaze of light at about half-past five.

Ralph did come and knocked on my bedroom door around 0615 and I startled him by opening the door before his fist could connect with the door the second time. I told him about my experience in the wee hours of the night and he then helped me conduct a few experiments on banging the doors the wall and even smacking the hell out of the kitchen table.

Nothing we did could replicate those loud bangs that had resounded through the house at three in the morning.

Ralph confided in me later that he didn’t like walking through the house without having a light on. I’d noticed that he turned on every light in the house when he walked through each room. As he was hardly there, I thought it was because he couldn’t remember where the furniture was. No, it turned out that the house, “Give’s me the hinks.” Whatever that meant.

I had moved out and was living in Cambridge and when I went to work one day Ralph approached me excitedly. He had a new girlfriend. Her name was Sarah and I’d met her quite a few times.

“Dude! The house is haunted!”

“No shit.”

“Yeah man. We had a medium out and everything. After you left the shit got worse.”

“Maybe it missed me.”

He laughed, “Yeah that must be it.”

I asked him what had happened and over lunch he told me. It turned out that his new girl had something touch her on the neck while the two of them were watching telly in the sitting room. It also go to the point that when she went up the stairs something would brush past her as if someone was trying to go around her on the stairs. After a month things began to escalate. Every time Sarah would go down the stairs she could feel someone breathing on the back of her neck. She ignored it, thinking that after awhile it would stop.

It didn’t.

One night as she and Ralph hurried to get ready for a party she went down the stairs to touch up her make-up. Halfway down the stairs someone pushed her hard from behind. She fell down the last six steps and badly hurt her ankle. Furious, she hobbled back up the stairs to yell at Ralph only to find he wasn’t there. He’d been in the kitchen the whole time.

The straw that broke the camels back was when one week later and she was going down the same stairs. One of the hall lights had burnt out and Ralph had not replaced the bulb yet. This made the stairway gloomier than ever. As Sarah made her way cautiously down the stairs a face suddenly appeared in front of her and pushed right up into her face. Her shrieks brought Ralph running from his bedroom thinking that she had fallen down the stairs again.

Ralph told me that all he could see was a bit of ‘darker’ air in front of Sarah, but no face. Sarah then gave Ralph an ultimatum. Either get the house looked at by somebody who knew about these things or it would be a very cold day in Hell before she ever stepped foot in the house again.

Ralph called a medium the next day.

She came out and did a “reading” of the house. She then informed Ralph that he did indeed have an unwanted guest in his house. She explained to him that the house had been a coach house in the early days and that one of the ‘footmen’ was still attached to the house. Ralph told her about the ghostly footsteps and the swinging leather throw. He also told her about the bangs in the night. She explained that because we hadn’t really reacted the spirit had calmed down.

Unfortunately when Sarah turned up, the spirit decided he quite fancied her. When she ‘rebuffed’ him he got angry. According to her he was still angry and very jealous of Ralph.

He got the house ‘cleansed’ the very next day and the romantic footman was never heard from again.

An Arkansas Razorback in Queen Elizabeth Country 6

A new arrival in the unit asked me if I was interested in sharing a house with him in a small Suffolk village. He’d rented the house and it was large and had about four bedrooms in it. I went out to the village of Swaffham Prior and had a look at the place.

For starters it was excellently placed in the village as it was right across the street from the village Pub. Don’t get the wrong idea. I liked my drink as much as the next person, but that wasn’t why I was so pleased with the proximity of the Pub.

The Red Lion

Pub’s were, at that time anyway, a meeting place for the village. Through the Pub, you met people, found out what was happening around the area and who was who in the village. That and if the Pub was close enough, you could drink a skin-full of booze and just stagger home.

The house itself was old. It had been a coach house in the olden days. (I cannot for the life of me remember when the house was originally built, but the coach house bit is a dead give away for how old it actually was) It was long, much longer than than the Google earth picture above. And when I lived there with Ralph, it was white.

On the right hand side of the house as you faced it from the street was an agate gravel drive that branched off to the left and led you to the back door. The front door was used only once when I lived there and that was when the local vicar stopped by to welcome us to the village.

When you entered the back door you would find the back hall, bathroom, stairs to the first floor (that’s second floor to denizens of the US) and a smaller hall to the rest of the house.

Nestled in between the drive and the back door path was our ‘sitting’ room. It had a two seater settee, Ralph’s leather recliner, a fireplace and the television. The window faced the front of the Pub across the street.

When you walked out of the ‘sitting room’ you crossed the small hallway and walked past the front door to the huge dining room. If you continued you walked through the kitchen (a perfect square of a room) and on the other side of the kitchen was my massive bedroom. That plus a utility room that housed our washer and dryer made up the ground floor of the house.

My bedroom featured the only other door that opened onto the high street. I say opened, but that is a bit of a misnomer. The massive four inch wide door was sealed shut and could not be opened at all.

The first floor of the house was comprised entirely of bedrooms. The one opposite the Pub was our ‘cold’ store. In the winter we left a window cracked and it kept most of our perishable foodstuff nice and cool.

The first couple of months that Ralph and I lived there we would occasionally both watch the telly in the sitting room. When anyone walked up the gravel drive and the path to our door you could hear them as clearly as if the path were in the room with us. One night we sat there watching the news when, during a break between stories, the volume lowered enough for us to hear someone walking up the drive.

“Looks like we have a visitor.” Ralph said with a smile.

He turned down the volume on the TV. We both sat grinning like a couple of idiots as we listened to the footsteps progress from the side of the house to the back door. The gravelly steps stopped at our back door and waited we for the knock.

Silence permeated the air. No knock. Nothing. We sat there is silence and waited for the footsteps to start their journey back to the street. Still, nothing.

Finally, we couldn’t take the suspense any longer. We both got up and jogged to the back door. Ralph flung open the door with a loud and cheery, “Hi!”

There was no one there.

We had quite a giggle about this turn of events and made jokes about ghosts and possible pranksters having a laugh at the ‘new boys’ in the village. As we walked back into the sitting room we watched the fancy leather throw on the back of Ralph’s recliner start swinging back and forth.

Ralph looked at me with one eyebrow up and said, “The fireplace must be open. I’ll close the draft.” He walked over to the fireplace and knelt down to close the flue. He suddenly stopped and looked up the chimney. He looked back over his shoulder at me.

“Damn thing’s closed already.”

As he stood up, the throw began to sway again. Ralph walked over to it and held his hand by the throw. “Nothing.” He moved his hand fractionally. “Not a breath of air.” We both shrugged and sat back down to finish watching the news.

This occurrence would be a regular event at the house. We used to make jokes about our mysterious sitting room ghost and our invisible house guest who was too shy to knock on the back door.

It was only after we had lived there for about six months that the activity increased and soon shifted it’s focus on to Ralph’s new girlfriend. But that was after it decided to pick on me and after I had moved out of the house and  into  a flat with my new fiancée .

My bedroom and it’s inoperable door.

The Haunted House

Haunted House
Haunted House (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
Summers when I was a kid were fantastic. The greatest thing about summer was the obligatory three months away from school. The second greatest thing was that because it was three whole months, summer seemed to last forever. I split my time away from school between working for my Dad and meeting with my friends. I also got to see a lot more of my two female cousins.
My cousins and I had a close relationship. My oldest cousin was about two years older than me and her sister about a year older. When we were together we acted more like brother and sisters than cousins. Things were different back then. When we were younger and one of us got a Doctor’s kit for a present, we immediately played Doctor. Of course our version was like that old Bob Hope  gag. We diagnosed each other with exotic illnesses and then sued each other for malpractice.  Those were the days.
One summer when I was about twelve or thirteen I had my then best friend Peter over. *note: Peter was not his name, but as I don’t know where he is now to get permission to write about him, Peter will do just fine*  His father was a local preacher. Peter at that time had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps. Not surprising as most kids of twelve or thirteen don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. I was showing off my new CO2 gas powered BB pistol that could also shoot pellets. Pretty cool all right, except for the fact that when you shot pellets it was a ‘one-at-a-time’ affair that could be a bit laborious.
It was while we were doing a bit of target practise that my two cousins showed up. They were actually there to visit our Grandmother who lived right next door to us and the town school. Introductions were made and we started talking about different things when Peter asked if we had heard about the haunted house.
Our interest peaked, we all said no, we hadn’t heard of it. Where was it? “Not too far from here.” My cousins and I were delighted to hear this. It meant we could go see it quite easily. “Yeah,” Peter continued,”You just go down to the end of the road, turn right and go down to the end of that road.  When you get to the stop sign, look straight ahead and you’ll see the house. You guys know where I mean?”
I did. It was “catty corner” across the road from where my biggest crush lived. She had black hair, cornflower blue eyes and a slight dusting of freckles across her nose.  She also had a figure. Where most girls her age had the build of a ten year old boy, she was different. I was ecstatic. I hoped that we might just bump into her when we went to the haunted house.
My oldest cousin, being the older smarter member of the group, asked how Peter knew it was haunted. Peter grinned confidently. “It’s haunted because the owner died in his “easy” chair while he was watching T.V. and nobody found him for days! They say if you are really quiet you can hear him having the heart attack that killed him!” We were suitably impressed by this information. We all decided to immediately go down to the house and check it out.
You could see the house as soon as you turned the corner. At the end of the road was a ‘T’ junction. The house was right in front of the ‘T’. It was a two story clap board house that someone had painted a horrible shade of yellow. It was surrounded by brush, black oak trees and junk. As we approached the house, I shot a quick glance over to my crush’s house. No one seemed to be at home.
We all entered the house via a broken  back window. In a hushed tone Peter explained that a lot of the furniture was still in the house. Apparently, the owner had no relatives to sort out his affairs, so most of it was just falling to ruin. Inside the house was like a sauna. As we moved through it, we noticed that there was no air circulation at all, despite most of the windows being smashed. It was so quiet that even though we were “tip-toeing” every move we made sounded like a gunshot.
The “easy” chair was still there. You could see the stains left by the owners decaying body. It seemed that Peter was telling the truth about the amount of time it took for folks to find the poor sod. There was also a horrendous smell in the still air. It made me think of rotten tomatoes. It also made all of us gag. On the wall next to the ‘easy’ chair was a doorway into a closet. The owner had put a sheet up over it in place of a door. As we looked at the sheet in that still house, it suddenly began to move. It looked as though the closet was trying to breathe.
In. Out. In. Out. As the sheet started to go in for the third time we were galvanized into action. All four of us ran out of there as fast as we could. We did not stop running until we got back to my house. Overheated by our stampede from the house we shakily laughed at our scary adventure. After catching their breath my cousins then went to my Gran’s house and Peter and I went back to our target practice.
Peter then decided that he should stay over at my house. The idea was that when it got dark we would go back to the haunted house. Peter did stay over, but, we never did go back to the house. Why? Well, just as it got dark the empty field across from my house suddenly had a tall white shape in it. We were on my front porch when I saw it. “What is that?” Peter looked across at the field and said, “I don’t know. But it’s moving toward us!” We both flew back into my house, closed and locked the front door and stood peering out of the big picture window in the front room.
The white shape looked man-sized. It moved back and forth. Sometimes it would  come up to the edge of fence near the street light in front of my house. Peter and I were terrified. We were convinced that the dead owner had followed us to my house and was now trying to figure out how to get past the street light to get us.
Peter and I stayed up all night.
When the sun came up, we decided to go down to the local cafe for breakfast. After eating the “special” Peter went to his house and I went home to tell my Mom about the ghost. I told her about the haunted house and the white shape across the road in the empty field.
My mother suddenly broke out into gales of laughter. I couldn’t quite see the humour in it myself. Her eyes streaming with tears, she then explained about our neighbour who owned the field across from us. It seems that the day we went to explore the  haunted house, they had bought a white horse and put it in the field.
For years my Mother  would break into hysterical laughter every time she told the story of how Peter and I were haunted all night long by a white horse.