Author Archives: Tawanna

Horror Potluck #1

boar2BOAR (2017)
A giant boar is galavanting all over the Australian countryside eating and killing people.
This has everything you want from a creature feature: great setting, characters you can cheer for, no one is safe, no one is completely helpless.
It’s not afraid of you, your weapons or your car. This pig wants to destroy you. It’s a fun time in time.

pydh2PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG (2018)
High school seniors travel to a party island to have one last hoorah before splitting up for college. Amidst the drinking, dancing and drug-taking, people begin to disappear. As suspicion spreads through the group, the bonds of friendship unravel. Who is the stalker/killer with a grudge? Someone knows what they did last summer* – even if they pretend it didn’t happen…
*last summer, last semester, last week – whatever – these kids aren’t innocent.

pravager2PHANTASM: RAVAGER (2016)
It’s not clear what’s happening in this movie. Is this scene real or is Reggie hallucinating. Which world is the real world? It doesn’t matter. There’s lots of action and Rocky is back.

 

theboy-2THE BOY (2016)
A woman is hired to take care of a boy . . . who is little more than a doll. There are strict rules she must follow; the doll reacts when she doesn’t stick to the proper protocols. Could the doll be possessed or is something more sinister afoot?
Fun popcorn movie that will keep you guessing. Don’t think about it too hard afterwards.

Tuesday Terror: US (2019)

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You’ve seen US, right? You can look at it on a micro level: a family’s present peril is predicated on an event from the wife/mother’s past. Alternatively, on a macro level: a community is unprepared for an upheaval in the social order.

So, for this post I’ll be talking about the two groups in the movie: the Reds and the Whites.

us-red

What do the Reds know? They live underground and they each have a link to a doppelganger who live above, a White.

What do the Reds believe? This link means that their lives must mirror the Whites. They have no choice.

Where others see a plot hole, I see evidence that what the Reds have been taught isn’t true. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the jumpsuits, the scissors, etc. This belief, instilled in them by their creators/captors is a lie used to keep the Reds “in their place”. It’s logical that a Red would think individual freedom is tied to the specific White they are linked to.

us-white

It’s understandable that a Red child would assume that she has to switch places with her White doppelganger to escape. Growing up above ground, she realizes that becoming a White only grants a limited amount of freedom. As an adult she has a good family and good life, but it can be easily taken away. After all, she snatched this life from someone – it could happen to her.

The person taken underground, the White child that becomes a Red adult, also knows that simply being White doesn’t guarantee freedom. She believes that, to get free, a Red must sever the link with their sun dwelling, White doppelganger. The best way to cut the link is with a sharp object.

Close to the end, it is briefly mentioned that freedom for both women didn’t have to be an either/or situation. All of those years ago, they could have walked out of the fun house together but it wasn’t thought of as a possible solution then.  After all the harm inflicted on each other, it’s definitely not possible now.

The Creators/Captives of The Reds have disappeared but their influence is felt. What’s important to know is that the current situation is a man-made problem rooted in a desire to control the population.

The horror of US hits on classic fear of losing your position and your possessions. The people who a system crushes for whatever reason (race/gender/class/immigration status) are going to treat us the way we treat them. Worse – they want to kill us!

The 2nd point of fear is the reality that being ignorant of the system won’t save you. The movie starts out as a one on one, family against family type of narrative. It’s soon revealed that everyone in the area is facing the same problem.

Also, there’s discomfort in not really knowing who to cheer for. Either woman can be the hero of their own narrative. What has to be done – whether it’s kidnapping or killing – is driven by a desire for a better life . . .and perhaps a tinge of jealousy.

Tips:
-Watch yourself.
-In a moment of crisis, Alexa won’t help you.

Tuesday Terror: Ghosts On The Loose (1943)

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The East Side Kids, like Our Gang or The Bowery Boys, is a film series featuring a group of (mostly) working class  boys who have various comedic adventures.

What hi-jinx do they get up to in Ghost On The Loose?
Protecting a Nazi propagandist.
Yes, in 1943. During World War 2.

Let me explain.

The sister of one of the boys just got married. The boys decide to clean up the newlyweds’ new house while they are on their honeymoon.

As the boys set to work, they make a startling discovery: brother-in-law is a Nazi propagandist. How do they know? There is a printing press in the basement that cranks out pro-Nazi pamphlets.

To paraphrase the leader’s reaction and next steps:
“Oh no, he’s a Nazi sympathizer! I’m so disappointed in him. He’ll get in trouble if anyone else finds out. We have to save him – let’s hide the press and the pamphlets next door.”

There’s no “Call the police!” and no concern that sis has married a trash individual.

Now here’s were the comedy comes in. Turns out the boys are cleaning up the wrong house! The newlyweds bought the house next door. When they move the printing press next door, they are actually putting it in the newlyweds’ house!

Bela Lagosi and his crew are the real Nazi propagandist. They are trying to scare the boys out of their hideout and steal the printing press back.

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Of course, it all works out in the end and the correct people are carted away by the authorities. There’s a sight gag about measles or chicken pox thrown in – they show up as swastikas.

Eh.

I’m sure this was a real knee slapped in the 1940s but, in an age where “if you see something, say something” is plastered all over NYC subway cars, it falls flat.

Tuesday Terrific: Pose (2018 – )

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Pose is a fictional television series depicting the New York ball community in late 80s (season 1) and early 90s (season 2). The show has real life trans and gender non-conforming actors and several of the behind the scenes crew – directors, writers, consultants, choreographers etc are from within the lgbtq community. Several of stories lines were inspired by the documentary Paris Is Burning. In fact, on IMDB the director of Paris is Burning, Jennie Livingston, is listed as a consulting producer on the show.

It felt like the first season was for the community. To give people a chance to see black/brown gay and trans people on screen as fully formed three dimensional characters with dreams, hopes and desires. The characters experienced pain, disappointment and drama but the harsher possibilities – physical violence and death – weren’t weaved into the story lines. As a viewer, I got nervous whenever one of the girls went to work on the piers or had an argument with a boyfriend.

Season two felt a little grittier. Madonna’s Vogue hit the charts and suddenly middle class white women – who had no idea this world existed – want to learning how to dance like the ball kids. Scouts are now showing up to balls looking to snag dancers for auditions. Community-wise the feeling is “finally the world will see us and give us the respect (and $$) we are worth.” Opportunity is in the air, but so is violence and death this time around.

I guess the writers felt it would be unrealistic if another season went by without showing violence and its impact on the community.

pisburningWhat I found interesting about the second season was the emphasis on Vogue as the sole reason that members of the community thought they would finally be embraced by the mainstream. In reality, many members of the ballroom community thought they were on the verge of stardom because a filmmaker – Jenny Livingston – was making a documentary about them. Many people featured in Paris Is Burning thought that they were going to receive money from the film. The film, which was released a year after Vogue, was a success that received plenty of acclaim and criticism. Unfortunately, the financial success did not trickle down, leaving many disappointed.

Imagine if in season one of Pose a character or two had mentioned an outsider to the community coming in to record their stories and film the balls…

One of the performers in Paris Is Burning, Pepper Labeija, offered this criticism of the film: “I do think that Jennie missed the point that there is life after the ball. She didn’t let people know that this is a hobby, not a whole life. We don’t all stand on the pier and vogue all night.”

Though it is fiction, Pose does what Paris Is Burning does not: shows there is life outside of the ball. This is what happens when people from within the community have some input and control over the media depicting it.

pose3-2

I wonder what direction the third season of Pose is going to take. Secretly, I hope that they pull a Bobby Ewing with Candy – but that’s unlikely.

pose-candy2nd

Tuesday Terror: Midsommar (2019)

midsommar-freedomtear

Midsommar

Midsommar (aka How To Lose A Guy ‪In 9 Days) is about recognizing and letting go of bad relationships . . . while observing rituals in an isolated Swedish village. The relationships are truly awful and the villagers are sadistic murders (who wear the most angelic white).

Christian and Dani should have broken up a year ago. Honestly, they probably should have never gotten together. She is an emotional drain on him and he can’t even come close to giving her the support that she needs. He is with her out of guilt and she clings to him because he’s all she has left.

Or, at least that what is given to us as Christian’s motivation but I don’t believe that. He strikes me as the kind of person who will never break up with someone because he doesn’t want to be seen as the “bad guy”. He’d rather treat someone bad enough (inattentive, boring as hell, perhaps emotionally abusive) so that they will break up with him; nothing will be his fault. In any case, the relationship is a triple slow motion train wreck.

While the emphasis is on the couple, all of Christian’s relationships are terrible. That group of guys he hangs out with – I believe they all go to the same college – are no more than familiar acquaintances. They are supposed to be close: he complains about Dani to them, this trip to Swedish countryside was originally a “boys only” trip, etc. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find more jealousy than friendship. This is how the villagers are able to dispatch them one by one without any of the others becoming too concerned about the disappearances.

Outsiders allowed to observe an isolated tribe or village (usually folks of color) is an old school Hollywood plot. The explorers typically think of themselves as superior to those they are studying; there is usually more than a hint of danger and savagery.

Our happy, drug-sharing Swedish villagers don’t inspire terror at all. At least, not at first. They wear white, dance and have many feasts. The young people leave the village and even go to college. When the curtain is drawn back revealing the first bits of brutality, Christian and company can’t imagine that they themselves could be in trouble. Arrogance keeps them from recognizing that death creeps around every corner of the barn and hides under welcoming smiles.

josh

This is personified in Josh, the scholar without any sense of self preservation. As someone who has been studying European Midsommar rituals, why didn’t he get any inkling that something was up? Like the scientist in a sci-fi movie, he has no qualms watching others die in his pursuit of additional knowledge. If you want to do a deeper dive into the Josh character, Mary Kay McBrayer has an essay on Graveyard Shift Sisters that explores Midsommar and stereotypes.

In the end, Christian and Dani have to come to terms with their relationship. When she realizes her situation with Christian is unbearable, she does the reasonable thing and frees them both.

Now, when I’m out in about, my eye can’t help but notice couples that have that “Midsommar” look – one of them looks anxious, the other resentful. I want to pass them a note: “Break up before it’s too late!” They are one festival away from disaster.

Tips:
-Don’t ignore horrifying screams – even if you aren’t sure where they are coming from.
-End bad relationships before they end you.

Tuesday Terror: Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

annabellcomeshome

Annabelle Comes Home is like a haunted house at the carnival. There’s a lot of jump scares, creepy noises and frightened folks (kids in this case) scrambling and screaming from monster to monster. The Spookhouse gets the blood pumping but you’re at a carnaval; the knife slicing through the air gets close but doesn’t even graze the skin.

The story is thus: The Warrens bring Annabelle to their home and add her to the cursed objects collections in the basement. The demon attached to her is such a chaotic force that they must put it inside of a glass case.

In other words, sticking Annabelle in a room with these objects is like putting a lit candle in a room full of gunpowder and dynamite. What could go wrong?

After establishing that Annabelle is a bad, bad girl, the Warrens call over a babysitter and disappear from the movie. The babysitter has a friend who has just lost her father. She wants to go to the cursed room to find a way to connect with him. That is a mistake. Before you know it, all the spooks are on the loose – led by Annabelle.

Do you remember the tv show Friday The 13th: The Series (Hey Gen Xers!!)? It was about people working to track down and take back haunted antiques. Actually, the intro explains everything. There is an episode where people are attacked by the cursed objects they have taken out of circulation.

Annabelle Comes Home reminded me of that. Many of the demonic objects that have been resting idly in the background get a few minutes to shine. It’s a set up for future Conjuring movies to explore their origins. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Warren daughter gets another movie or two: I Was A Pre-Teenage Exorcist.

My favorite bit is when potential boyfriend – of course, a boy shows up – is menaced by a werewolf of sorts. When it appears that all is lost, he digs down deep and summons the courage of El Kabong.

elkabong

After a while, it’s clear that there’s no real danger here. The resolution is actually sweet. It didn’t bother me, but someone looking for more horror, gore or tension will be disappointed.

Tips:
-Doors are locked for a reason.
-Demonic objects aren’t a good way to contact the dead.
-Learn the ways of El Kabong!

Tuesday Terror: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)

scarymovies

Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark is based on a book series of the same name. The books are three anthologies of spooky, chilling stories that are not related to each other. The film version is not your standard horror movie anthology; it takes a handful of stories and weaves them together as part of a larger, overarching tale.

Does it work? Mostly – you’ll maximize your enjoyment if you remember that this is a movie for kids.

It’s Halloween 1968 and a bunch of kids break into an old haunted house because what else is there to do? One of them takes a book of handwritten stories that has a few blank pages in the back. Strange things happen when they get back home. Suddenly, ink appears on those empty sheets and there are new stories-each one featuring a kid who was in the house. Even worse, these freshly written horror tales are coming true…

How is the book writing itself!
What happened in that house!
Can you escape your story?

The story that a kid gets is based on something they’ve experience or their personality. A bully full of hate gets surprised when an unlikely victim fights back. Someone who expresses a hatred of spiders has an up close and personal experience. A kid who is always warns others about unhealthy food gets in trouble when he doesn’t watch what he eats. Etc

I believe the children are all made up. So there was no reason to make one of them, Ramon, a draft dodger. It feels like it’s a weird justification for the racism he experiences. The sheriff just knew he was a criminal of some sort… Ultimately, his choices boil down to escape this monster or Vietnam.

Though not quite as gory or scary as some of the stories in the print edition – have you read Harold?! – the kids are in real danger. Some pay the ultimate price for their misdeeds.

As far as the end and sequels are concerned, the movie does set up for sequels but it doesn’t quite feel right. I’m worried that the writers have boxed themselves in. I hope they get the chance to prove me wrong.

Tips:
1) Don’t steal other people’s books! In fact, don’t break into abandoned houses.
2) If your knucklehead date shows up with two of his friends to go out with you, don’t go!

Zami Nobla Interview (So, 2 lesbians get stuck in traffic…)

Zami Nobla - Martina & Tawanna cover image

Martina and I were interviewed by the Zami Nobla Podcast to discuss the creation of Kuma (kuma2.net), the olden days of the internet, nurturing creativity and love.

What’s the Zami Nobla podcast? It’s a sound source for Black Lesbians 40 and older. Show topics include current events, LGBT affairs, Black Lesbian Herstory & Health and Wellness. Angela Denise Davis is the show’s Creator, Producer, and Host. –

You can listen to our episode here: Martina Downey and Tawanna Sullivan Talk about Artistic Ventures & Creating KUMA, the First Black Lesbian Erotica Website During a Traffic Jam.

It’s also available via iTunes and youtube.

*The portrait above is the work of artist Odera Igbokwe.

No Exchanges – No Returns (An Excerpt)

Deadly_Bargain_promo2

Deadly Bargain: A Colors In Darkness Anthology – on sale Feb 14th

An Excerpt from my story:  No Exchanges – No Returns

Victor stood off to the side as Sabrina approached the strange man and his table of curiosities. The dealer swept his dreadlocks to the side and turned on the full force of his freckles and wide smile. “Good afternoon, miss. My name is Henri.” He waved his hands over the goods. “See anything you like?”

A phony French accent and olive skin, Victor thought as he picked at his nails. That’s all it takes to impress college girls.

“What do you have?” Sabrina asked.

Henri pointed to a trio of thick red candles with gold symbols carved into them. “These are from Marrakesh. You light one as you meditate, and it will help you focus your energy on healing.” He drew her attention to a gold chalice. “I acquired this in Madrid. It’s rumored to be from the treasures hoarded by the Knights Templar. And this,” he picked up a crystal spray bottle full of amber fluid, “is perfume from Cairo.”

She picked up a faceless ragdoll. “Let me guess. From Berlin? Or a nomadic tribe on the outskirts of Algeria?”

“No.” Henri’s coal black eyes sparkled. “That’s from Pennsylvania Dutch Country.” They shared a laugh. “I’m a traveling man who picks up things here and there. No one can give you a better deal.”

Victor tuned out the conversation. Passing off dollar store junk as valuable trinkets. Got to give him credit though, he’s obviously wearing every stitch of clothing he owns and isn’t breaking a sweat. Dude is wearing three or four layers.

In the middle of a story about Stonehenge, Henri raised his arms and a brief flash of gold came from inside of his coat. Now, Victor was interested.

Sabrina stepped back and wagged a finger at the dealer. “Oh no, I don’t mess with anything from Stonehenge; I’ve seen Halloween III.” Her gaze shifted back to the red candles. “I have a friend who I think will be interested in these. Is it okay if I take a picture?”

“Sure, but understand I don’t put items on hold. If someone else comes to me with cash in hand…”

“Do you have a card? If my friend is interested, I’d want to call to make sure the item was still available.”

Victor was dumbfounded. She’s getting his phone number? She’s seriously making a play for this dude, this wannabe pirate?

“What’s your name, miss?”

“I’m Sabrina.”

Henri snapped his fingers and appeared to pluck a business card from the air. When he held it out to her, she caught a glimpse of his tattoos. “Sabrina, feel free to call about the candles or anything else you may be interested in.” He smiled slyly and winked at her.

Blushing, Sabrina turned to Victor. “I’ve got to get back. Are you coming?”

Victor shook his head. “No, I’ll be along in a few minutes.” He waited until she rounded the corner to take her place in front of the table.

What will Victor buy? How will it change his life?

Get your copy of Deadly Bargain to find out!

Deadly Bargain: New Horror Anthology

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No Exchanges-No Returns, my new horror story, is one of the 13 featured tales in DEADLY BARGAIN: A Colors In Darkness Anthology. Pre-order your copy today!

About the book:

Some deals should never be struck and some dealers should never be trusted. When faced with your heart’s desire, will you ignore that tingle in your spine or the hair rising on the backs of your arms? The offer- It’s too good to be true and you can feel it. The dealer smiles with a devilish gleam in his eyes. Holding out his tantalizing wares, his eagerness adds weight to the very air around you. It’s not a lot of money at all, sometimes it’s even free, he says and yet you know that this is the costliest item you will ever own.

Inside these pages you will find thirteen tales of horror – deals that should never have been made and the horrible costs of those deadly bargains!

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