It Remains #1

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It Remains #1

It (2017) remained in the #1 position this week by taking in an additional $120 million. Since being released 2 weeks ago, the horror movie has reached $371 million in worldwide ticket sales. Although there has not been an official announcement on Chapter Two, bank on it. Chapter One’s production budget was $35 million. Apparently, clowns are popular.

The Blackwell Ghost (2017)—A Fake Documentary

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Sitting in my home in Atlanta, Georgia, I spent our Tropical Storm Irma days off flipping through my streaming services looking for something new to watch. Full disclosure: I’m a binge watcher. I will watch and rewatch favorite movies over and over again. It is safe to say that I’ve seen Jaws over 100 times. Same for The Shining. At least 50 times for Scream (not including sequels). I was overjoyed to see a new movie pop up: The Blackwell Ghost, a meh fake documentary but a good representation of paranormal investigations where nothing much happens.

Last year a video went viral. I ended up discussing it on a couple of paranormal radio shows. It featured supposed security footage of a hallway in a hotel. Paying close attention, viewers saw a white form cross in front of the camera. It was a fake—an obvious fake. Little did I realize that this video was the teaser for The Blackwell Ghost, another fake documentary.

Fake documentaries differ from mockumentaries because they are not a parody. Mockumentaries are parodies of real events. The 1984 movie This Is Spinal Tap kicked off a wave of mockumentaries including Best in Show (2000), Bob Roberts (1992), and The Blair Witch Project (1999). Mockumentaries are known to be fictional at the onset. Fake documentaries try to fool viewers into thinking the story is true. An excellent example would be Mermaids: The Body Found. This movie was pure fiction; however, it was not a spoof. The production intended to fool people. The same applies to The Blackwell Ghost.

This short film, clocking in at 59 minutes, profiles one man’s quest to prove the ghost of a female serial killer is haunting a small house. The movie opens with the viral video. The evidence mounts showing this to be fictional. First, the movie is not listed in IMDb.com. Both documentaries and mockumentaries appear in this vast database. A Facebook page exists with less than 5 entries dated either June 16 or June 21. A web address redirects to Amazon to purchase the movie. Essentially, this is a low-budget short film.

1940 Census

The “facts” don’t add up either. I searched Ancestry.com for a James and Ruth Blackwell residing in Pennsylvania during the 1930-1940s. The only couple is an African-American couple. I searched newspaper databases and Google for a female serial killer in that time period. Nothing. I even searched for death records from Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Still nothing. Conclusion: The movie is made up.

However, it’s still entertaining. As I’ve written before, most paranormal investigations are boring. Ghosts don’t perform on command. This movie shows how frustrating these investigations can be. It also highlights how two people can conduct an investigation. Support low-budget filmmakers and check out this movie.

Watch the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDmE0zv2oo4

Spirits of the Cage: True Accounts of Living in a Haunted Medieval Prison, Review

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Spirits of the Cage: True Accounts of Living in a Haunted Medieval Prison, Review

A witches’ prison exists in England. Actually lots of them existed. After the passage of two Witchcraft Acts (1542 and 1563), England saw a large spike in witchcraft trials in the 1580s. However, few prisons survived into modern times. One such prison did. The Cage is a small chamber whereupon a house was built—a private residence. Not surprisingly, it’s haunted.

Paranormal investigator Richard Estep recounts a week-long investigation at the infamous witches’ prison, The Cage, located in St. Osyth, Essex, England. Estep’s narrative follows in chronological order but is separated by personal experiences from the residence’s owner and co-author, Vanessa Mitchell. Illustrations accompany the 291 page book published this summer by Llewellyn Books.

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Estep’s prose is pippy as his narrative flows guiding the reader through his team’s selection, arrival, and ultimately their investigation. The 4-member team remains inside the prison-turned-residence for a week, venturing out for smoke breaks, showers, and pub food. They were able to document their investigation, and Estep’s book provides insight into their week.

Estep has over 22 years of experience investigating paranormal activity in England and the United States. He’s highly personable and adapts to any situation as he seems nonplussed by obstacles. His British euphemisms provide a nice reprieve from the seriousness of the investigation.

Paranormal investigations are boring. Most of the time, teams sit and wait. Estep details how creativity helped energize the investigation, as the team tried various techniques to entice the spirits to communicate. The investigation is fascinating. He defines equipment and procedures while narrating events.

The text, however, suffers from too many rhetorical questions, which slows the narrative. Providing little purpose, these questions disrupt the visualization of the events forcing the reader to disconnect from the text and then reconnect to contextualize the situation. It’s annoying.

Unfortunately, this is not a history book. Further, readers should not look toward this text for historical accuracy. And that’s a shame. The historical inaccuracies or vagueness of key events that occurred in St. Osyth and The Cage could have been cured by noting sources or utilizing a historian. Two errors stick out. The first is that St. Osyth, if a real person, did in fact marry the man she was bequeathed to and had a son[1] named Offa King of Essex. The second is that Ursula Kemp’s remains have an interesting provenance. Most recently, her presumed remains were reinterred in a sacred burial plot in April 2011[2]. Both should have been considered for inclusion as it would add credibility to the legends and create an emotional fallacy as to why readers should care about these two women.

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Though minor, the two errors diminish the owner’s story. Readers are left wondering how much she truly knows or researched about the popular haunted destination. Mitchell still owns the property, although it remains listed for sale. She wisely opines: “I feel lucky to have escaped….”

Buy the book, though. Estep concludes the book by interviewing other teams and individuals who felt the urge to investigate The Cage. Their voices add to the narrative. But buy the book because very few investigations are published. The paranormal community benefits from these publications.

 

Estep, Richard, and Vanessa Mitchell. Spirits of the Cage: True Accounts of Living in a Haunted Medieval Prison. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., 2017.

 

 

[1] According to Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4926.

[2] According to independent filmmaker, http://www.ursulakemp.co.uk/; news organizations, http://www.clactonandfrintongazette.co.uk/news/clacton_frinton_news/14218434.How_Guinness_loving_grandfather_kept_Ursula_Kemp_witch_legend_alive/; and blogs, http://www.badwitch.co.uk/2011/11/bones-of-witch-laid-to-rest-in-essex.html.

5 Things to Know Before Viewing IT

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5 Things to Know Before Viewing IT

  1. The story from the novel is basically the same. None of the main characters were morphed into composite ones. Yes, the screenwriters had to shed quite a bit from the book; however, the characters remain.
  2. The 7 kids in the Loser’s Club are 10 years old in the novel. In the movie, the kids are tweens verging on full teenhood.
  3. The novel is set in 1957-58 with the kids and 1984-85 as the adults. The movie has the kids in 1988-89. Chapter Two will have the adults in 2016-17, respectively.
  4. “Beep, beep, Richie” is used in both the novel and the movie. One of the boys, Richie Tozier, has a warped mind. He says inappropriate things. When he goes too far, the other kids say, “Beep, beep, Richie” for him to shut up.

 

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Spoiler Ahead…

  1. Just like the novel, all 7 kids survive the initial confrontation with Pennywise.

Save Oakton!

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Save Oakton!

The City of Marietta has the opportunity to purchase and to preserve the oldest continually occupied residence within city limits. Historic Oakton estate began as a 325 acre homestead. Judge David Irwin built the house in 1838. The house and grounds served as the headquarters for Confederate Major General William W. Loring. Over the years, the surrounding land was sold off for residential developments. The current 5.5 acres consists of the main house, pool, gardens, barn, milk house, well house, and outdoor fireplace. Oakton surely is a diamond in our “Gem City.”

Oakton

The current owners, Will and Michelle Goodman, purchased the property intending to keep the property in the Goodman family. They operated an event company specializing in tours, classes, and gatherings for all sizes. In addition, they started a local farm-to-table movement, selling products at the weekly farmer’s market and online. However, the time has come where they want to retire.

The property sat on the real estate market for 2 years. There has been interest in demolishing the home and building a residential development. If this happens, then we will lose Oakton’s history. Please contact local council members asking for the city to save Oakton!

 

Marietta Council Members: https://www.mariettaga.gov/636/Council-Members

The Save Oakton Project Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/saveoaktonproject/?ref=br_rs) was created to disseminate information and updates.

For more information on the house, visit http://www.oaktonhouseandgardens.com/index.html.

It (2017) Slashes the Competition

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It (2017) Slashes the Competition

Variety.com reports that It has had the 3rd highest domestic opening in 2017. Produced on an estimated budget of $35 million dollars, the movie raked in $117 million in the US, plus another $62 million abroad. It killed the competition.

Stephen King unleashed Pennywise on unsuspecting readers back in 1986 with his mammoth 1,300+ page turner It. The book spawned a mini-series but has been resurrected in a full-length motion picture. This has been one of the most highly anticipated movies that has taken several years to reach fruition. And it was worth the wait!

“Pennywise The Dancing Clown” cavorts deep within the belly of the town of Derry, Maine, feeding off the fears of children and teenagers. He entices kids with buoyant red balloons, promising “You’ll float, too.” Director Andy Muschietti delivers. It is every bit of scary as the novel—just in a different order. It should be screened in the movie theater so viewers may experience crowd reactions.

The film remains true to the basic premise of the story; however, scenes were updated to keep in line with the 80s. (The soundtrack is pretty rad, too.) The 2017 It is actually Chapter One. This R-rated, 135 minute movie introduces viewers to the cursed town of Derry, Maine, and the 7 teenagers who will tame the clown back into his hole. Spoiler: The movie jumps to 1988 as the starting point; whereas, the novel is set in the late 50s. Chapter Two will jump 27 years where these same teens are now successful adults summoned back to Derry for one last battle.

The sequel has been announced with Muschietti returning to direct. Bill Skarsġard’s performance as Pennywise was wickedly hair-raising. Start the petitions for him to reprise the role! Hopefully production begins soon so current audiences don’t have to wait 27 years to finally find out what drives It.

It Debuts Tomorrow

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It Debuts Tomorrow

Stephen King’s motion picture adaptation of his widely popular novel It arrives in theaters tomorrow, although the official release date is Friday, September 8th. The highly anticipated remake divides the 1300+ page book into two parts. Part one focuses on the seven children as they battle Pennywise. Part two jumps 27 years into the future with the same group going at it again. The production date and potential dates have not been released. New Line Cinema is sitting on this information; however, it is highly unlikely there won’t be a part 2. It’s just a matter of scheduling.

Filmed between $70-80 million dollars, the movie is sure to earn it back. Rated R and running 2 hours and 15 minutes, It has already raked in favorable reviews. In the end: We’ll all float, too.

Dragon Con App: New & Improved

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Dragon Con App: New and Improved

Dragon Con released a new app. It’s easy to get. Simply go to www.dragoncon.org –> Connect –> Mobile App –> Type in your cellphone number –> Click on link that is texted to you.

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If you already have the app, then it will update with the new features. Tonight I’m testing out the Friends. It’s a small learning curve. Select the 3 lined navigation icon in the upper left-hand side. This opens the Message Center. You can type in what you’re up to (Blogging about the improved app), locate friends & enter friend codes, and read alerts.

MyFriend

To add a friend, select 1) Enter a Friend Code (number you get from a friend); 2) Request Friend Code (number you give to a friend); or 3) Cancel. Currently, I have one friend. I hope to add more. SO, feel free to send me a friend code. See you all on Friday!

More Trailers for It Drop

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TheLosersClub

More Trailers for It Drop

New Line Cinema has dropped more trailers for the highly anticipated reboot of Stephen King’s It. The trailers focus on the 7 tweens who comprise “The Losers Club,” the group of kids destined to rid the town of Derry, Maine of Pennywise.

The trailers can be viewed at the movie’s official website, http://itthemovie.com/.

It debuts September 8th. Remember: You’ll float, too.

Annabelle: Creation Released Last Week

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Creation

Annabelle: Creation Released Last Week

The next movie in the Conjuring family was released last week. Annabelle: Creation, the second in the Annabelle storyline, has grossed $72 million since debuting on August 11th. The popularity of the movie may be attributed to the highly successful Conjuring family of films beginning in 2013 by James Wan. Wan’s films are produced on low budgets (hard to believe that $15 million is a low budget film!); however, they are incredibly profitable. For instance, consider these statistics: The Conjuring (2013) cost $20 million dollars and grossed $318 million worldwide; Annabelle I (2014) cost $6.5 million dollars while grossing $252 million dollars worldwide. Next up are The Nun and The Crooked Man. And this isn’t Wan’s only film franchise. He’s got the Saw films and Insidious. Even though Annabelle doesn’t rake in the most money, it makes enough to secure a third installment. Audiences are drawn to these horror films for various reasons. One is pediophobia, the fear of dolls.

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Museum collections have dolls of all types. The oldest doll is made of stone and dates back 4,000 years. The toy doll industry grew 10% from 2015 to 2016 and comprises $2.88 billion dollars of the $26 billion dollar toy industry. Dolls are popular. They serve various purposes, such as teaching how to tend to babies. They also console children. But somewhere in their evolution, they became creepy.

The horror genre has lots of creepy dolls. Think Child’s Play, Puppet Master, and Poltergeist. In 1970, Masahiro Mori theorized that people didn’t like dolls because their minds could not reconcile the fake doll face with reality. The more realistic looking the doll, the more unsettling people felt about the doll. He called this the “uncanny valley.” See the chart for a better understanding. Basically, the more strange, or creepy, the face, the more uneasy people felt around them. This may explain while Wan changed the original “Annabelle” Raggedy Ann doll and decided to use a porcelain doll. The porcelain doll is creepier on the “uncanny valley” scale.

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Film audiences love creepy dolls. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, give Annabelle: Creation a try. In the meantime, read this excellent scholarly article about dolls: “The History of Creepy Dolls,” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-creepy-dolls-180955916/.