A random series of Halloween movie posts: The Haunting (1963), Pet Semetary

As I said last time, it’s October, so I want to talk about some horror movies.
I spent some time trying to come up with some kind of structure or overarching theme for the movies I want to write about, and realized I don’t have one. It’s just that these are some movies I a) enjoy a lot and b) have things to say about that are a little more in-depth than “I like them”. My goal is to post once a day between now and Halloween, possibly with one, possibly with more.

Tonight we have a double-header of two of the first that came to mind: The Haunting (1963 original) and Pet Semetary.

The Haunting

I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw The Haunting. I’m pretty sure I was in high school, because I already knew it and loved it when I was in college, but it can’t have been too early in high school because the dreadful remake came out in 1999 and I started high school in the fall of ’99 and there was a buffer period in there where I had heard of the remake but had no idea there was an original (I remember seeing the trailer for the remake and being fascinated, but I never got around to seeing it, and having watched it as adult I can safely say I dodged a bullet there). So let’s say it was junior or senior year.

Whenever it was I first saw it, it was a revelation. I was already the kind of horror movie fan that prefers spookiness and suspense to blood and gore, but after The Haunting, I was done for. You can keep your knife-wielding maniacs and your grotesque monsters, your slick CGI ghosts and even your creepy clowns–for my money, I’ll take Eleanor and Theodora in a room at Hill House, clutching at each other while some unseen force pounds on the door and tries to get in (a scene that always makes my heart beat faster no matter how many times I’ve seen it). I’ll take Nell thinking she’s gripping Theo’s hand in the dark, only to realize Theo was across the room the whole time. I’m always terrified and enthralled by stories about haunted places where the real haunting, the real danger, comes not from any being or event but from the place itself–I love House of Leaves, I love Stephen King’s short story 1408 (I was underwhelmed by the film adaptation of 1408, but I expected to be, because the story is such a doozy). With the number of times I’ve watched The Haunting now (…it’s a lot), Hill House is practically an old friend, and yet it still scares me more than a lot of things have scared me. That’s why I keep going back.

And why should I resist going back when I have such entertaining company to do it in? Dr. Markway, who for all his handsome-professor charm and ability to hold court on the subject of the supernatural (or the preternatural) is no match for Hill House. Shallow, hapless Luke, who in a different kind of horror movie might be the first to die, but who lives and learns just how bad an idea it is to mess with Hill House. Beautiful, wonderful, cruel Theodora. And Eleanor–poor Nelly-my-Nell, who I can’t help but root for in spite of her flaws and how plainly doomed she is even on a first viewing. Terrified of the house and yet drawn to it, disturbed that it knows her name and yet longing to belong somewhere, to something or someone, and if Hill House will have her, well, who is she to resist it?

I know I can’t resist it–I’ll keep going back to Hill House, because it’s the perfect place to spend a spooky October evening. Just remember that no one will come if you need help, in the night, in the dark.

Pet Semetary

I was going to open this one by pondering what it is about Pet Semetary that makes me love it so much, but in thinking through the rest of what I had to say about it, I realized that’s a dumb question because I know exactly what I love about Pet Semetary. Certainly there are reasons not to love it–it’s corny in some moments and painfully overwrought at others, and the protagonist is such an idiot (STOP MESSING WITH THE FORCES OF LIFE AND DEATH, LOUIS, IT IS REALLY OBVIOUSLY NOT WORKING OUT) I can’t garner much sympathy for him, I’m just sorry he had to drag his wife and kids into his stupidity. Even the best character in the movie, Fred Gwynne as Judd (I love him so much, it’s like if Frankenstein’s Monster was your folksy grandpa) gets in on the painful stupidity act, showing Louis the magic burial ground and THEN telling him about how everyone/thing you bury there comes back all icky and wrong.

And yet. And yet I keep coming back to Pet Semetary, so many times that I finally bought it on DVD. It’s partly my affection for Judd (in spite of his terrible advice-giving) and for Stephen King’s Maine, the setting for so many of his stories that I’ve read and loved (even dour Missy Dandridge always gets a smile from me in her brief time onscreen, because she’s such a Stephen-King-Maine character. It’s partly that I can’t resist a movie that has both an evil undead cat AND an evil undead toddler. But in my most recent viewing, I realized what really keeps me coming back–it’s that under all the corniness and the magic burying grounds and the scalpel-wielding undead toddlers, Pet Semetary taps into some stuff that’s very real, and really scary. What’s more terrible than a murderous undead toddler? A tiny bloodstained shoe rolling and bouncing down the road. A tiny coffin with its lid knocked open during a family brawl (sidebar: how much of an asshole do you have to be to pick a fight with your son-in-law DURING your grandson’s funeral)? When Gage finally makes his scalpel-wielding, bloodthirsty appearance, it’s good creepy fun, but we’ve already been exposed to the real horror.

And then there’s Zelda, probably the single most terrifying thing in the whole movie. And yes, her appearance and voice seem calculated to be AS TERRIFYING AS POSSIBLE, but as with Gage, there’s a deeper horror here, and it’s that there’s nothing at all supernatural about Zelda’s terrifyingness. She’s not a ghost or a ghoul or a monster–she’s just a woman who was so ravaged by a terrible disease that her sister was terrified of her and relieved when she died. I have a feeling Rachel wouldn’t need Judd to tell her that sometimes dead is better. I think she’s known that since she was a child.

So that’s Pet Semetary: a hefty dose of some of life’s real horrors wrapped up in creepy, corny shenanigans, with a protagonist you end up wanting to get it, an undead cat, and a dash of folksy wisdom delivered by Herman Munster. And really, what more than that do you need to love a horror movie?

We can live like Jack and Sally if we want.

Image

It’s the second week of October, which means we’re well into my favorite time of year. Possibly my favorite part of having a September birthday is that it feels like my birthday kicks off the fall/winter holiday season. My favorite holidays, quite a few of my favorite foods, and my favorite weather (I know fall and winter are really bad season for some people, and I sympathize, but living in the Deep South, I love them) all happen in the last quarter of the year, and I spend the rest of the year waiting not-so-patiently for it.

I’m not sure what I’m doing for Halloween this year, since it’s a Wednesday and I’m on the night shift. Ten at night isn’t too late to go out when you don’t have to get up early the next morning, but I am an old lady at 27 and might just make this a “night in with movies” year. I have some costume ideas, though, and if I have a costume, I’ll want to wear it somewhere. We’ll see!

In the meantime, I’m restraining myself from buying every decoration I see, baking pumpkin muffins, and watching lots of good Halloweeny movies, not that that last part isn’t something I do all the time. I’m contemplating doing a couple of posts talking about some of my favorite movies to watch this time of year, so stay tuned for that!

Library School, Hurricanes, and other Life Events

So, last month I officially started library school! After deciding…I think it’s four years ago at this point, that I wanted to be a librarian, I am finally enrolled in an MLIS program! Taking classes and everything! It’s a little weird, my mindset has been “when I finally get started in an MLIS program” for so long, and now I’m here.

And I was planning to write a post about that a few weeks ago, but then there was a hurricane.

I’ve talked about Isaac elsewhere and don’t really want to get into the details here, so let me sum up: it could have been a lot worse but it still kind of sucked. I had a window in my apartment come off its hinges while I wasn’t there and the floorboards close to the window buckled from being exposed to the storm, and the several days my family spent with no power (along with most of New Orleans–actually, I think some people STILL might not have theirs back) in the heat was pretty terrible. But now my power is back, I have started the process of rearranging my front room, and I’m ready to move on with work and school and life.

So, library school! So far it is interesting, challenging, still a little bit scary but overall pretty cool.

My school is in Baton Rouge, but I live and work full time in New Orleans and do not want that to change (I would like the next time I look for a job or consider moving to be when I have my MLIS), so I’m planning to do as much or the program as I can through distance learning. For this semester, that means two online classes, one that has synchronous meetings and one that doesn’t. Basically, that means that for the synchronous one, I’m attending weekly lectures via video chat, and for the asynchronous one, there is no lecture session, just assignments and discussion topics that get posted online each week.

The workload has been an adjustment–I’ve taken non-degree classes at a grad-school level before, but perhaps because they were non-degree or because they were mixed (both grad and undergrad students in the class), they didn’t entirely prepare me for the workload I’d experience in a Master’s program. So far it’s nothing I can’t handle, but it’s the sort of thing in my head, I knew I was going to have to prepare myself for, but knowing that and actually experiencing it are two different things, and I’m still making that “oh, so this is what my life is going to be like for the next few years” adjustment.

There’s also the money aspect, which caused me a lot of anxiety before I was enrolled, but now that I am, it’s kind of like…it’s a thing, it has to be dealt with, so I’ll deal with it. I couldn’t afford to go back to school without taking out loans, and I thought long and hard about if I really wanted to take on more student loan debt. I have relatively little from undergrad (thank you, supportive parents) and have considered myself lucky to be in that situation when so many of my peers aren’t. Now that’s going to change. But, again, I’ve been working up to this for years. I’m confident this is the career I want, and I need an MLIS to do it, so I see the loans as a necessary, acceptable burden to take on.

I’m also working on reducing my existing non-student loan debt (two credit cards and a car loan) as much as I can while I’m still in school, so that by the time my student loans go into repayment, they’ll be the only debt (or at least the bulk of the debt) I have to worry about. So we’ll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, I am, somehow, turning 27 in six days. My past few birthdays have all come with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I’m happy to be moving further and further into my late 20s. Being older doesn’t automatically make you more mature, but for myself I do feel like the older I get, the better I get at this whole adulthood thing. On the other hand, there’s still a little voice in my head that goes WAIT, THERE’S BEEN SOME KIND OF MISTAKE, I CANNOT POSSIBLY BE TURNING 27 AND STILL HAVE THIS MUCH OF MY LIFE TO FIGURE OUT.

But I’m working on it. I’m figuring it out.

After all, I finally got into grad school.

On the delicate art of not waiting for my life to magically sort itself out.

…And then I didn’t post here for about six months!

Part of my lack of blogging here can probably be attributed to sheer laziness, but part of it is that when I realized a few months ago that I hadn’t posted anything here in a long time, I felt like my first new post should be something really long and interesting and special, and kept writing and discarding potential posts in my head and, well, continued to not post anything for a few more months. Because if I wait around for the perfect blog post I am never going to post again, basically.

Which ties in with other stuff that’s on my mind, because lately I’ve been trying to stop waiting for the conditions to be right to do things and just DO them, or do what I can to make the conditions better, or SOMETHING. I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time in the past waiting to do things. I keep looking forward to a time when I will have lots of energy and free time and do all the things I want to do and get my act together and make my life as awesome as I would like it to be, and surprise, surprise, that time never comes.

In the past, I’ve applied this kind of thinking to small everyday things like doing housework or getting rid of clutter or, say, blogging, and bigger things like going back to school, or dating, or learning new skills, or building up my savings account. I’m finally starting to make some progress with school, but now I need to avoid writing everything else off with “I’ll think about that when I’m done with school”. Dating, for example–it’s not a huge priority, but I have not been on a date in a long time and. y’know, I would kind of like to. But every time I think about checking my OKCupid inbox or going to stuff where I might people or anything else that might result in a date, I decide that on some level I’m not ready for that and put it off until an unspecified future time. What exactly needs to happen in my life before I will be “ready” to maybe go have coffee or drinks with someone? What is the difference between the self I am now and the hypothetical self who could date? Probably nothing but my attitude.

And I get pretty frustrated with myself about it, because it usually turns out that I’m the biggest thing standing in my way. Like with school–for years I talked about how I’d like to go back to school, and perfect conditions for doing so did not magically manifest themselves. And I finally realized that they weren’t going to, and I just had to do the best I could with the conditions I had. And I’m happy to say that school’s not the only area I’ve made progress in. In the past couple of weeks, my apartment has become less cluttered than it has been in years, and I’m making pretty good progress on not letting it sink back into clutter. That didn’t happen because one day I magically woke up with more free time and energy, it happened because I made myself start using the time and energy I have more productively.

One of the biggest lessons of adulthood for me has been learning that no, really, things are not going to happen unless I make them happen. Just like my clothes aren’t going to get washed unless I wash them and there’s not going to be food in the kitchen unless I go to the store, my long-term goals and ambitions are never going to happen if I just sit around thinking about how I’d like them to happen. I spent a lot of my high school years thinking my life would somehow sort itself out once I got to college, and a lot of college thinking my life would somehow sort itself out when I graduated, and then a lot of my early twenties waiting for something that wasn’t even concrete, like I was waiting for a visit from the Responsible Adulthood fairy. I don’t want to waste the rest of my twenties waiting for things to somehow sort themselves out. If I want my life to ever be the life I really want, I need to start sorting.

And, hopefully, not going six months at a time without posting anything here again.

As the Christmas noose begins to tighten…

I seem to have not written anything here since September, for which I’m going to blame the classes I just finished taking along with my tendency toward procrastination and absentmindedness. I thought about several posts I meant to write here, but unfortunately, blogging is one area where the thought really doesn’t count.

But I wanted to put something up now because it’s almost Christmas. I love Christmas! Even though it annoys me when people try to start it in October! And despite the fact that there are quite a few Christmas songs that make me want to punch things! And even with all the stress and craziness that Christmas tends to bring! It has all that stacked against it and it’s still an excellent holiday.

There are a lot of potential blog posts I could write about Christmas. Cherished family traditions. All the things I’ve been baking. How much I hate the Christmas Shoes song (is there anyone who actually LIKES that song? No, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know). My opinions on decoration (of which I have MANY). How much I don’t want to hear about how I’m declaring war on Christmas by celebrating it in a secular fashion. Why one of my favorite Christmas movies is The Lion in Winter, which is a “Christmas movie” in kind of the same way Die Hard is, albeit with fewer explosions but also with 100% more Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.

But since I can’t decide which of those things I want to blog about most, I’m just going to ramble about my Christmas plans, which actually will probably end up incorporating one or more of the above.

Christmas in my family has always had a certain formula that we’ve stuck to pretty well, with some variations over the years. Opening presents on Christmas morning has always just been my parents, my brother, and I. We do presents with my mom and dad’s side of the family separately, sometimes on Christmas Eve and sometimes on Christmas day, and then Christmas night both sides come to my parents house for a party. It’s an nicely diplomatic arrangement, ensuring that the gift-giving on both sides is self-contained (so that, say, my mom’s parents don’t feel any pressure to get my dad’s sister’s kids anything, or friends of the family can show up at the Christmas night party and aren’t expected to have gifts for anyone), but everyone still gets a chance to hang out, which is nice because the two sides of my family have always gotten along pretty well.

One variation that I’ve added since reaching adulthood is having a small gathering at my apartment. It’s not big enough for a family party (and I would get way too stressed if I tried to have the whole family there, even if I had the space), but I still like getting my own chance to play hostess and show off my decorations, so last year I had my parents and brother over for breakfast on Christmas Eve and this year I’m planning on doing the same. The new thing this year is that my brother’s girlfriend will be joining us, which will make it the first time either of us has brought a significant other home for Christmas. I am simultaneously excited and hoping we don’t scare her off (Thanksgiving went okay, but a lot of the family was out of town then).

Christmas with my family will probably be at least somewhat stressful and crazy, as it always is. But I feel very prepared this year! All my gifts are purchased and all but one are wrapped. I have baked about a million cookies and still have pumpkin pie and red velvet brownies on my to-do list. I have wine and rum to deploy as needed (…not at the same time). I have cute outfits planned and amazing tacky red-and-green jewelry that jingles. Your move, Christmas.

Linkspam of a kind

We’re almost halfway through September, and you know what that means!

…Yes, it means that pumpkin spice is back at Starbucks . But it ALSO means we are just slightly more than a month and a half away from Halloween!

While I am one of those people who gets cranky if I start hearing Christmas music played before Thanksgiving (and it’s not that I don’t like Christmas, it’s that THERE IS A TIME AND A PLACE AND PRE-THANKSGIVING IS NOT THAT TIME), I usually start yearning for Halloween sometime in the middle of summer. This is partly because I’m yearning for fall anyway and it’s a fall holiday, but it’s also because Halloween is the best of all holidays and I will hear no arguments to the contrary.

So by the time I get to mid-September, I can no longer restrain myself. My Halloween playlist gets dusted off and brought back into heavy rotation, I start thinking about costume ideas, and as soon as stores start displaying Halloween-themed products I have an acute attack of wanting to buy EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Which brings us to the linkspam portion of this post, which is basically just a list of things I want.

That is it. FOR NOW. We still have a month and a half to get through and the urge to buy ALL THE HALLOWEEN THINGS will probably only get stronger.

And I DEFINITELY don’t want the teeth I had in high school back.

So, the fact that the dieting industry is full of crap is, like, the opposite of news. Lots of people have written lots of excellent things about how the dieting industry is full of crap, and I don’t have anything particularly groundbreaking to add to that discussion. But I was struck by something this morning that I do want to write about, if only because it was something of a personal realization for me.

ASIDE: Before I go any further, I feel there are a few things I should establish about my attitude toward dieting and weight loss in general. These are all things I hold as self-evident from reading and discussion on the topic elsewhere, but since I’ve never written about it here I feel like I should lay down the basic stuff before I do. I believe automatically equating thinness with beauty and health is bullshit, I believe the emphasis on thinness and dieting in Western society (for really everyone but especially for women is kind of messed up), I believe if someone wants to lose weight or doesn’t want to lose weight it is basically their own business either way, and I believe that trying to be happy in your body no matter what size it is is an admirable, wonderful thing that is made a lot harder by society constantly reminding you that you should be dieting, you terrible terrible non-dieting person, you.

…This may be just a bit of a sore subject. Y’know. Just a little.

So, anyway, this morning as I was driving to work I heard a commercial on the radio for…some kind of dieting thing. Probably a supplement of some sort. I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention to that part. What caught my attention, because it was repeated several times, was the woman in the commercial (of course it was a woman) gushing about how thanks to this wonderful dieting thing, she got back to the weight she was at in high school. That was basically the selling point. Weigh the same as you did in high school! Wow! Who wouldn’t want that?

And as I was listening to it, I realized…I don’t. Sure, I was a lot thinner in high school than I am now. I was also in high school. I was an adolescent. I wouldn’t want to go back to having the hair, the skin, the fashion sense, or the level of knowledge and experience that I did when I was in high school (…I wouldn’t turn down the energy level I had in high school, though). Why should I want to go back to that weight?

Even if I did lose a lot of weight, I doubt I would ever again be as thin as I was in high school, because my body’s changed. My hips and bust are wider and probably going to stay that way no matter what. And I’m okay with that. I’m almost 26 years old and I have the almost-26-year-old body to go with it. If I were more religious, I would thank god that I’m not a teenager anymore. As it is, I thank the passage of time.

So, yeah, basically, you can keep your wondrous dieting things that would help me be more like the teenager I’m glad I’m not anymore, dieting industry. Thanks all the same.