Nov 21, 2014

Book of the Moment - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons fromthe Crematory

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
by Caitlin Doughty

Summary from
"Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty—a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre—took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures."

 I don't read a lot of non-fiction but this one happened to catch my eye while I was in line to check out. In particular, it was the subtitle "& Other Lessons from the Crematory" that got me to pick it up and read the summary. And that was pretty much all it took to convince me I had to read it.

I'll start my review by telling you this book won't be for everyone. As you might imagine, there's a lot of discussion about death and the handling of the dead. While I didn't find anything to be too gruesome in nature, more often it's the "mundane" day to day tasks that working in a crematory requires that may be off putting to some. Of course, being a fan of horror movies, my definition of gruesome may differ greatly from yours.

Having said that, this isn't a clinical discussion by any means. Doughty relates her experiences with equal amounts humor, honesty, and historical context. I really enjoyed her style of writing, it felt like we were having a casual chat. If you can imagine having a friendly chat about prepping people for their funeral, embalming, or cremation.

Throughout the book, she weaves in her own philosophies on death and opinions on the current state of how we, as a culture, deal with the business side of death. And I have to say, I found myself agreeing with a lot of her thoughts. Most of people don't really think twice about the way things are done because that's just how we've always seen it. But when you stop to think about it, isn't it a little odd to pay hundreds, if not thousands, for a fancy box that is only going to be placed underground inside a concrete box?

The only way these time honored traditions might change is if we start questioning just why we do the things we do. In 2011, Doughty founded the Order of Good Death in an attempt to bring the discussion of death back into pop culture. This is a great idea, check out her site and her "Ask a Mortician" YouTube videos.

At various points she also talks about how death is dealt with in other cultures. I found the differences, especially their openness in facing it, fascinating. Some return their dead to nature, giving food to the flora and fauna, and others consume parts of the dead!

When I first started the book, I was excited to take a peek behind the black curtain where most people wouldn't even want to acknowledge Things were being done, much less talk about them. After about the first third I started wondering if I should continue on because as interesting as it was I was starting to think a lot about mortality (not only my own but family and friends), funerals, and the like. As I kept on with it, those thoughts moved to the background as I began to see where Doughty's ideas were going.

As I started out by saying, this book will not be for everyone. However, I think everyone should at least try to read it. In addition to giving insight into things we prefer not to talk about, it will also make you think not just about death, but also about living your life.

Rating: 5/5 Flame Jets

Nov 17, 2014

Making Creepmas 2014

Are you missing Halloween already?
Tired of seeing Christmas decorations on the shelves in October?

Then join us for the Creepmas blog-a-thon!
It's similar to the Countdown to Halloween, but we're stealing the first 13 days of December to strike back against that jolly elf for starting to creep into October.

You can sign up and grab your official Creepmas 2014 badge at

Click the image below to get the skinny on the #MakingCreepmas image challenge. 
It's like Drawlloween and Inktober with a spooky festive twist!

Nov 3, 2014

Salem Halloween 2014

Just wanted to pop in for a quick post-Halloween wrap-up.

First, thanks to everyone that participated in the Halloween Web interview series. I know a lot of you had fun recounting Halloween memories and it was fun for me (and the readers) to see so many great takes on the questions. There was such an unexpected (by me) turnout that I didn't get to post on some of the Halloween goodies I picked up in October! Those will either trickle out over November or I may hold on to them for Creepmas, which is only a month away.

Second, thanks to the readers! Whether you just found the blog from the Countdown to Halloween or you're a long time reader, thanks for stopping by!

On to Halloween!

I didn't really mention it in my self interview but part of my ritual is putting on some Halloween music (usually our cable's "Sounds of the Season" station) and making up the treat bags to be given out. I found a new friend to help me this year. He wanted to make sure someone checked the candy.

Salem Halloween 2014 Sam Trick R Treat

Around 4:30pm a woman I didn't know showed up knocking on our door. She said she and her young sons were getting ready to go out soon and wanted to know if Freddy would be around! You may recall from me interviewing myself, that my stepdad inherited my Freddy costume when I took up the mantle of the Creep. Every year he becomes Freddy and wanders the neighborhood while we tend the trick or treaters before going into Salem. He's usually not out and about until it gets a little darker, but he's not one to turn away fans!

Salem Halloween 2014 Freddy & Kids

 It was definitely an odd night for trick or treaters. We've been getting more every year but it was very slow to start this year. I don't know if people were waiting until it got darker/later because it was a Friday night but they did start coming eventually. One of the best costumes was the Headless Horseman, the version from TV's Sleepy Hollow. I wish I'd taken a pic, it was pretty cool!

Halloween 2014 House
Trick or Treater ready!
 As it got close to the time we were leaving, of course more and more kids started coming! I almost wish our town would do trick or treating on a scheduled day and time that wasn't Halloween night so I could see all the kids and still get to haunt Salem.

Salem also seemed a bit under populated this Halloween. You'd think on a Friday night it would be really packed! If you're a Salem Halloween vet like me, you could tell there was noticeably more room to move around than previous years. Here's a few of the shots my wife was nice enough to take. In my costume, not only can I not see clearly more than 20' in front of me, I can't operate the camera!

Salem Halloween 2014 Pumpkinhead

I have to give this guy some major points for putting an actual pumpkin on his head all night!

Salem Halloween 2014 Preachers

One thing Salem is never short on Halloween night are religious people that want to tell you that you're going to Hell for celebrating Halloween. Because if it's one thing a city famous for persecution needs, it's more close-minded people. At least one of their signs is correct...

Salem Halloween 2014 Dr Syn

I wish I'd seen this costume in person! I was shocked looking at the photos to see someone did Dr Syn, the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.

Salem Halloween 2014 Jack Skellington

It wouldn't be Halloween without the Pumpkin King!

Salem Halloween 2014 Tied Up Freak

Love that this thing was tied to a parking meter.

Salem Halloween 2014 Band

There are a few live bands that play at various locations around the city.
This Beatles tribute band performed on the Salem Common.

Salem Halloween 2014 Creep

Mrs & Mr Creep!

There's quite a few more pics on my Flickr page to check out.

And I also found this 15 minute YouTube video someone made walking down the pedestrian mall. It's not the best, but it will give you a little idea what it's like in Salem on Halloween.

Nov 1, 2014

Monthly Movie Recap - October 2014

Well, as you might imagine, I watched some horror flicks in October. Although it's not much different than my past few months of watching history, I do try to cram in a few extra and some favorites.

If you're already in a funk because October has left us, just remember: It's only a month until Creepmas! If you joined in the Countdown to Halloween blog-o-thon, be sure to keep your internet dial tuned to, which will be updating soon.

I don't know if it's because I'm coming off six more or less joyless Children of the Corn movies but I thought this was kinda fun! Despite how stupid it could be, it was still way more entertaining than any Corn movies I sat through. I was a little let down by the ending because there was no final "gotcha" scare.

Cool: Warwick Davis is fun to watch; A few inventive kills
Lame: How much time did we need with the guy in the pawn shop? Why introduce an amulet that's sort of the Lep's kryptonite and not use it at the end to kill him?
Rating: 5/10

Before seeing this, I'd only heard jokes about the series going to space. If you haven't seen it, watch the above trailer. If you ever wanted a movie like Aliens but with a Leprechaun, shoestring budget, and effects that look like they came out of a mid-90s screen saver, you have arrived! Where 3 was guilty pleasure fun, this one is "so bad, it's good" fun.

Cool: The only thing that's good about this one is how bad it is
Lame: After this one, I'm convinced the series is an anthology because there's very little continuity from movie to movie. Did I mention how bad the effects are?
Rating: 5/10

Somehow, this one has the highest rating of the series on Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. As a white guy, I was finding this uncomfortable to watch. I've seen Blaxploitation before, this is more like Blaxploitation parody, just not very funny. I'm guessing there was just as much weed smoking behind the camera as in front of it.

Cool: The only thing mildly entertaining is the Leprechaun's rap video at the end and even that is really bad
Lame: I can't recall another horror movie I've seen recently where I've wanted the main characters to die
Rating: 3/10

Leprechaun: Back 2 The Hood (2003)
A little better than the first visit to "Tha Hood" but not much.

Rating: 4/10

This is Where I Leave You (2014)
I thought it was going to be just another one of those "family comes together after someone dies" movies. Turns out, it was really good. Everyone had great performances and there's a good amount of comedy throughout.

Rating: 8/10

Bloody Bloody Bible Camp (2012)
Does a good job of emulating a 70s/80s slasher. There's plenty of kills but they're at the start and end of the movie. My biggest complaint is that it never seems to follow any of the standard "rules" of a slasher. The final girl could have been any character, there's nothing redeemable in any of them. And the killer's identity seems to be shoehorned in. Ultimately it's a decent goofy horror flick.

Cool: It says something about the movie when I say that Ron Jeremy as Jesus had one of the best performances in the movie; Gore effects were decent
Lame: It's got all the ingredients you'd want, they're just not in the right amounts
Rating: 4/10

*Hocus Pocus (1993)
I only discovered this a couple years ago but it immediately became an October staple. Plus, a fair amount of exterior shooting was done in and around the Salem area. See yesterday's Hocus Pocus-centric post!

Rating: 8/10

Vicious Lips (1986)
Couldn't find a trailer for this so here's the poster. You'd think an R-rated 80s movie with an all girl band in a sci-fi setting would be mind blowingly awesome. I have never been so disappointed in the promise of a poster. The girls have to steal a ship (which happens to hold a killer monster) to get across the galaxy to a gig. The ship crashes and the monster gets loose. At the end, you find out you just wasted 90 minutes watching it.

Cool: Some of the hair rock songs are pretty catchy
Lame: Just about the rest of the movie
Rating: 4/10

Bad Taste (1987)
This is one of those titles I've seen the cover for a million times but never actually watched. It definitely has a low budget 80s charm to it but overall the pacing up to the finale was too slow. I can see why it's a cult film but I won't be revisiting it.

Rating: 5/10

Hack O'Lantern (1988) aka Halloween Night
I wanted to see this one based on the title because I imagined it would be some type of mutant pumpkin that went on a killing spree. I need to make that movie. This one is about a grandfather that inducts one of his grandsons into a satanic cult. Just about everything in this movie is laughably bad: the acting, the plot, you name it.

Rating: 2/10, strong contender for worst movie of the year! Including that one I had to turn off halfway through.

*The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
I rewatched this the day after I got to meet Victoria Price. I felt it necessary to watch something of his and I just got the BluRay Vol 1 collection. It's not one of my top Price films even though he's fun to watch in it and the set design is fantastic.

Rating: 6/10

Street Trash (1987)
Weird, weird horror comedy with lots of melting hobos. I still feel like I need a shower from watching it.

Rating: 5/10

Housebound (2014)
Recommended to me by Chad Savage and well worth it! I can't really say much about it without giving away the good bits because they worked some great twists into it. Seek it out!

Rating: 8/10

Life After Beth (2014)
Zach's girlfriend dies and then mysteriously shows up at her parents' house a couple days later, seemingly fine. But is she? It's a little bit Fido and a little bit Warm Bodies and I thought it was a great zom rom com.

Cool: Great comedic cast; Fresh take on zombies
Lame: Dude, I know she's your girlfriend but stop and think about it for a second...
Rating: 8/10

Wicked Wicked (1973)
The only reason I sought this one is is for its gimmick: DuoVision! Most of the movie is presented in split screen. The beginning was interesting, the left side followed the killer and the right his victim. Unfortunately, the script starts to feel like a daytime soap after awhile as the house dick tracks down the murderer that we know the identity of. Although once they do catch up to him at the end, it's a little twisted and there's some morbid humor that feels out of place. It's not horrible, it's just not very engaging but it's probably the only film ever presented this way.

Rating: 4/10

*Trick R Treat (2009)
I can't believe it's been 5 years for this classic already! Love, love, LOVE this movie. 'Nuff said.

Month Total
 New: 13  Rewatch: 3

Year To-Date Final Total 
New: 92 (+1 incomplete)  Rewatch: 17

Oct 31, 2014

Hocus Pocus Around Salem


Armed with a recent viewing of Hocus Pocus and some internet research, I went on a little tour of some of the exterior location used in filming the classic holiday movie Hocus Pocus. I'm certainly not the first person to do this (hence the ease of internet research) but it was a fun day finding the places for myself. Ok, it was really only Max's house I had to find, I knew where the other places were.

I wanted to grab some screenshots ahead of time so I could try and frame my photos as you see them in the film but I just didn't have the time. So while my shots may not match up exactly, they'll give you an idea of what the places look like now.

Grab some candy corn, there's other treats in store too!
(ie: long post ahead!)


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