Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ryan Buell's Cancer: Playing With Fire?

As we close out July 2012, it has been revealed that Ryan Buell has pancreatic cancer. Buell, star of TV's Paranormal State is also the founder of the Penn State Paranormal Research Society (bet he wasn't aware of all the demons wreaking havoc at Penn State). He went public with his condition last week after being hospitalized for kidney failure. I wish Ryan the best and pray for a full & speedy recovery.

But this leads me to an interesting debate that has ensued: Can paranormal research kill you? Journalists Greg Newkirk and Donna Anderson have raised this question within the past week, citing the cases of Ed Warren (The Amnityville Horror), Lou Gentile, Tom Robinson, Father Malachi Martin, and now Buell. All of these men were in constant contact and warfare with evil spirits.

Father Martin, a recurring guest on KFI's Coast to Coast A.M., performed exorcisms for over 30 years and had many tales about interactions with evil spirits. He suffered a heart attack during an exorcism and was witness to another priest actually dying during another exorcism rite. He died in the hospital after taking a nasty fall down some stairs, claiming that he was alone and was pushed from behind. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later.

Buell also claims that he has been singled out by demonic forces resulting from an investigation where he met the demon calling itself "We Are Six." This demon repeatedly showed up in many of the Paranormal State investigations/episodes no matter where the team traveled. After a few encounters the demon revealed its true name as Belial. Buell claims that this demon has been harassing him for years and that it is the cause of his cancer.

Both of these men (I'm not sure about the others mentioned above) were very religious and heavily active in the Catholic church. As a Christian I was always taught that Christ, living in me, is stronger than the devil. So I have to admit that I'm not sure what to make of these situations. Do I believe in evil spirits? Yes. Do I believe they can move objects and make physical contact? Yes. Do I believe that they can inflict cancer on a person? The jury's still out on that one.

I'm curious to know what Buell's lifestyle is and if there's a history of cancer in his family. Greg Newkirk revealed in his article Bad Vibes: Can Dealing With Evil Spirits Kill You? that in 2009 New Scientist Magazine claimed that negative thoughts definitely have an effect on people's health. He also explains that it's feasible that the "ghost hunter lifestyle" is to blame for their injuries and illnesses. "These folks often work well into the night and since most don't make any real income from their paranormal investigations they also work full-time jobs during the day. Little sleep, combined with a poor diet of Red Bull and cigarettes to keep them awake, and greasy diner food for fuel aren't the best lifestyle choices and can lead to all kinds of illnesses and disasters."

No matter what you believe, the debate is on. And, again, I hope that Ryan Buell will beat his cancer. Just in case, he may also want to choose a different line of work. Just sayin'.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Rippers (Warning: Graphic & Disturbing Images)

Although almost 125 years old, the case of Jack The Ripper still fascinates us today. Numerous movies have been made throughout the years, hypothesizing Jack being everything from an upholsterer with an array of sharp weapons to a British Royal with a lust for torture. He is still so much on the minds of the English that when I was in London in 2006, all the headlines read: "Jack The Ripper back?" or "Beware The Ripper" due to a rash of killings involving local prostitutes. I also remember being just a bit too excited when BBC broadcasts instructed women not to travel the streets of London alone, because I was traveling solo and wouldn't have the opportunity of another person accompanying me on my journeys.

The famous "From Hell" letter is shown above. It was sent to George Lusk who was head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee and in charge of the Ripper investigation. In it the murderer wrote, "I send you half of the kidne I took from one woman & prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise." Along with the note was, indeed, half of a very well-preserved human kidney.

Eleven murders (1888 - 1891) were included in the Whitechapel Murders investigation, but only the following were considered Jack The Ripper's canonical five victims: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. Each of these women had been killed with a deep slash to the throat then had their abdomens mutilated and/or their uterus removed. Mary Kelly's heart was also removed and her face hacked to pieces (pictured below).

Some "Ripperologists" have surmised that only someone with a surgical education could have done these murders. And that surmising always causes my thoughts to go to another infamous "Ripper" case: the Black Dahlia.

I was intrigued by the Dahlia murder at a very young age because my father would speak of it often as we would drive around our neighborhood. You see, I grew up not far from where they found Elizabeth Short's remains on Norton Avenue. Of course by the time I could even understand the concept of her brutal death, the once empty field had been turned into a business building. And it wasn't until the birth of the internet that I was finally able to search for actual photos of the crime scene. That's something that I regret to this very day. I have never viewed anything so heinous and disturbing. Not only was that poor woman dissected-ever-so-neatly in half, but her organs were literally cleaned out of her, leaving her body as an empty shell. I am convinced that her killer had to be a surgeon.

Even now, as I'm reviewing the facts online for this posting, I am extremely careful as to which links to follow for fear that they'll lead me to those gruesome images. How much worse could they be than the Mary Kelly image above? You don't understand. I hope you never come across the Dahlia crime scene photos and I'm certainly got going to subject myself to them again by posting them here.

The irony of the Black Dahlia case is that Elizabeth Short came to Los Angeles seeking fame. Be careful what you wish for.

Perhaps, though, it is the repulsive nature of these Ripper cases that keeps us fascinated by them decades, if not centuries, later. It's hard to fathom, first off, that anyone could be so evil as to induce this kind of horror upon another human being. And secondly, to get away with it? Terrifying.

Until next time,

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Wow. No, really. Wow. I wouldn't normally post about this type of movie on this blog, but wow. I believe The Dark Knight Rises will be this year's summer blockbuster and, therefore, it deserves a spot in this space where I would normally talk about scary, supernatural, paranormal things.

Of course, I could mention how, today, life was scarier and more disturbing than the movies. I speak, of course, about the shooting in Aurora, CO during a midnight screening of this film. Some psycho -- whose name I won't even mention because he deserves no fame nor glory -- killed at least 13 people and wounded another 40. Idiot. My heart and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims. Now, back to the safety of make-believe...

I enjoyed both earlier installments of the Dark Knight series. Christian Bale has done a phenomenal job as the Batman and I particularly liked Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker. But this one, the third in the series, takes the prize. I hadn't read much about the production before seeing the film and I'm glad for that.

The characters we've come to love are back: Bruce Wayne, loyal Alfred, tortured Commissioner Gordon, and cool, calm, and collected Lucius Fox along with his arsenal of toys. New to the story are Anne Hathaway as Selina/Catwoman (rawr*), Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake, and Marion Cotillard as Bruce's newest love interest, Miranda. Oh my. I almost forgot the best addition: Tom Hardy as Bane. I loved Tom Hardy in the TV series The Take and I didn't even know it was him under that freaky mask as Batman's nemesis. But when I finally realized it was him I loved him all the more.

Here are some fun facts about the film:
- Christian Bale said he wouldn't play the role of Batman if Robin appeared anywhere within the trilogy. Director Christopher Nolan agreed.
- Anne Hathaway wanted the Catwoman role badly and was extremely nervous during her screen test. When her agent called with "good news," she began running around the room screaming, "I'm Catwoman! I'm Catwoman!" only to find out that her agent called to tell her she was chosen to host the Oscars. Fortunately for her agent, Hathaway also got the Catwoman role (chosen over Kiera Knightley, Eva Green, and Jessica Biel).
- Hines Ward makes a cameo appearance in the film.

I won't get into the twists, turns, and surprises of the storyline but let me say they're great. From the first scene which takes place in the skies to the end which made me cry (such a girl) this movie has it all (except an intermission to go pee). I was thrilled that I decided to see it at the Regal at L.A. Live because the theater and the sound there were top-notch -- and in light of the tragedy in Aurora the crowds tonight were very tame and respectful.

My Scare-O-Meter gets the night off, but my jumpers do not. Tonight the jumpers will be used as a rating for quality, excitement, cinematography, cool bat vehicles, screenwriting, special effects, and the right to enjoy a movie without the fear of some jackass storming the theater and spraying it with bullets.

See The Dark Knight Rises as soon as you can.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

VHS (The Movie)

Today a friend of mine asked me to watch the trailer for VHS to see what I thought about it. At first I was intrigued because the trailer touted it as one of the Sundance Film Festival's picks. But after seeing the entire trailer (watched it a few times to make sure I didn't miss anything) and after reading more about it online, I'm not sure this film is going to get my money at the box office. (See the trailer for yourself here:

Bought by Magnolia Pictures for the mere sum of $1 million, VHS's premise seems too weak for my taste. It's about three burglars who are paid to steal a "secret VHS tape" (for those of you who don't know, VHS tapes came before DVDs). While the burglary is in progress, they don't know which unlabeled tape is the correct one, so they start viewing them one by one. Each tape contains footage of paranormal events, each one more grisly than the previous and we, the audience, get to watch the gore along with them.

Just like the bullshit media campaign when The Blair Witch Project was being released ("...Based on true events..."), VHS now has its own hype-filled cross-promotion. When doing a Google search for the movie title, you'll find headlines like this: "The horror movie so terrifying it made the audiences SICK!" "Ambulances called to screening at the Sundance Festival!" "Film producers insist they had to call ambulances and it wasn't staged!" Yeah, right. Okay, so I'm bitter because I fell for the Blair Witch campaign and still want it to be true. But I didn't fall for Paranormal Activity's true story claim and I'm certainly not going to fall for these ridiculous headlines.

Sounding to me like a mash-up (mixed tape? ha ha) of The Ring, The Blair Witch Project, and Paranormal Activity, I can't get too excited about VHS. I think it's a low-budget indie that was made for shock value with the hope of cashing in big. I'll wait for it to show up in my Netflix queue. And I'm sure that'll be sooner, rather than later.

No jumpers for this waste of film.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

School Spirits: Sweet Briar College

Have you been watching the new SyFy show School Spirits? The first couple of episodes were okay -- nothing too scary, but interesting enough to keep my TiVo's season pass programmed. Tonight's episode, however, was quite a good time!

The entire hour was dedicated to Sweet Briar College, an all women's college in Virginia. The school sits on land that was once a plantation owned by the Fletcher family. Upon the patriarch's death his daughter, Indiana, inherited the land. Indiana had one child, a daughter named Daisy, who died of a congenital condition at the age of 16. Indiana, grief-stricken in her loss, decided to donate her land and money in order for the college to be built. It was her hope that by doing so, young women would be able to receive higher education, something that Daisy was never able to do.

Aww, what a sweet story. Makes you a little teary-eyed, huh? Of course, there's more.

The episode goes on to tell the story of three classmates (all current students graduating in the classes of 2013-2015) who have experienced ghostly encounters with Daisy. One of the standout stories was when two girls were riding in an elevator in one of the dormitories when the elevator took them to the 4th floor, instead of their desired 3rd floor. The thing of it is, you weren't able to access the 4th floor without the override key. When the elevator doors opened they found themselves staring into a room of old furniture. Creepier still was the fact that there was a single chair, facing directly in front of the elevator doors, as if someone was sitting there... watching them. The chair began to move, but as soon as one of the girls yelled, "Daisy, stop!" the chair stopped moving and the elevator door finally closed, taking them to the 3rd floor as they'd originally intended.

While, at first, the experiences were terrifying and unsettling (I know I'd pee in my pants if I'd seen the reflection of someone standing next to me when there wasn't anyone there), once the girls realized that Daisy meant them no harm they were all able to relax a bit. They even made an annual pilgrimage to her gravesite (on school grounds), bringing her flowers, and thanking Daisy and her family for the opportunity and privilege of attending Sweet Briar.

Some time passed when one of the girls was walking back to her dorm, alone, one night and heard someone whistle at her. (Unfortunately, the whistle was similar to the sound of my text alert on my iPhone and from this point forward it's going to scare the crap out of me every time I receive a text.) She looked around and in the distance saw the figure of a large man, dressed in black. She began to run, but as she looked back he was gone. All of a sudden she felt a presence behind her and, although she wanted to run, she was frozen in fear. Oh man, then the thing starts singing in her ear! Augh! I almost had to turn the damn TV off! (I, too, had an experience with an entity that was way too close for comfort. I'll tell you about that some time.) After she told her friends about the incident they did some research and found that Daisy's uncle (Indiana's brother) had been disinherited because of the shame he had brought to the Fletcher family. He was a drunk, an accused murderer, and the worst criminal the area had seen during his time. He was angry that he received none of the land nor money and even threatened to kill Indiana. The girls believed this was the person who was taunting them and terrorizing them. As far as we know, the incidents continue to this day, but the classmates refuse to be intimidated by him and call upon Daisy to help in their battle against him.

OK. I'm home by myself tonight and I'm extremely jittery after watching this episode. Every little noise makes me jump. So, good job School Spirits! Because of your decent storytelling and spooky re-enactments I can't help but give you three solid jumps on my Scare-O-Meter!

Sleeping with the light on tonight...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

How can you not love this? One of our greatest Presidents and one of the greatest men of all time, a closet vampire hunter?! What a great premise.

As I normally do, I read the book first so I could get a better feel of the setting, the characters, and what drives them. Do yourself a favor and read this book. It's so cleverly written -- incorporating historical quotes into a fictional tale. It's so well done that sometimes you have to ask yourself, "How much of this is true?" or "I wonder if that really happened?"

Now, having learned my lesson from reading the Hunger Games series and then being completely disappointed by the movie, I knew not to expect too much from Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter's adaptation to the screen. I also knew it had gotten pretty bad reviews but I rolled my eyes on those. I mean, critics weren't really expecting anything besides a lot of tongue-in-cheek dialogue and some great special effects, were they? I, for one, really liked this film. Yes, it was extremely different from the book, but I had to respect that the author himself, Seth Grahame Smith, also penned the screenplay. Hell, they're his characters so he can do with them whatever he damn well pleases. I also liked the fact that I didn't recognize anyone in the cast (can you tell I'm not big on pop culture?) so I didn't have to sit there thinking to myself, "Hmm... Didn't that guy play Kumar?" or something along those lines.

Go strictly for the fun of it and I assure you you'll have a good time. Although not what I would consider a horror movie, it even made me jump out of my seat once! And because of that I'm going to give Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter  one "jump" on my Scare-O-Meter, but I'm also giving it two thumbs up for its cleverness, originality, special effects, and its fun factor.

Until next time,