Daily Inkling: Crooked Man

Matthew of Normal Happenings has challenged me to participate in today’s Daily Inkling:

Write a blog post inspired by today’s Daily Inkling:

“THE MONSTER IN THE DELL”

Take your favorite nursery rhyme and turn it into a nightmare.

I love the Daily Inklings ideas posted on Normal Happenings and I really should participate more!

And now, without further ado…

Here’s my disturbing take on the nursery rhyme “There Was a Crooked Man”

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

He wasn’t literally crooked, at least in the beginning (though his sour face often twisted in disgust) but he saw everything and everyone else to be crooked, never supposing that his was the truly twisted view.

Nobody knew what turned him so bitter against the world- he just showed up in the town one day  with the rage already inside him- but for as long as anyone could recall he was known to be an angry recluse with a grudge against humanity at large.

His condition worsened steadily as he aged. His damaged worldview was paranoid, fearful, and angry. What started as bitter verbal vitriol eventually began to manifest in his physical mannerisms. His posture was affected, too- his back began to hunch and his shoulders bunched up tightly. He would sometimes be seen peeking out of his crumbling house, shrouded in shadow, craning his neck to look out at passersby and twisting his body as though to see them proper. His startling eyes would bulge and his mouth would hang open, revealing useless brown stubs of teeth on a face tight with silent fury and judgement. His face wasn’t seen often, but when it was, it was never forgotten.

His home became more and more dilapidated with time and his shoddy slap-dash repairs. Sometimes newcomers and visitors to the town would inquire sympathetically about the aging recluse in the patchy old house on the corner, but the town residents would dredge up abominable memories that swiftly dashed any potential for pitying him.

The only companion he had was a mouser with a sharp kink in her tail – the clever shorthair was fast and wily, and loved nothing more than catching mice to bring, still wriggling, to her master.

~~~

One fine and fateful day a young girl was selling cookies in her neighborhood without much luck. Her friends, who lived nearby, had already hit these familiar streets and taken the pocket change of her willing neighbors. These cookies are famously delicious, but nobody’s biting, she thought.

So she took her cookie wagon, and her business, elsewhere.

The new neighborhood was a ways away, and much more receptive to her Minty Crunchies. The little girl was feeling pretty good about her smart business choice. She moved briskly from home to home, feeling a lightness in her step, and in the red wagon she pulled behind her as the cookie boxes dwindled.

She was left with just six boxes when she noticed the sun was nearly done dawdling- it would soon be dark. She was about to turn around and head home when she saw a slender cat on the sidewalk a couple of houses down. The stripey cat looked curious, and very approachable. The girl couldn’t resist. She sidled up alongside the cat and gently stroked its fur. She noticed a bend in its tail and thought aw, poor kitty, did you get your tail caught in something? Did something fall on you?

The cat seemed to smile as it rubbed its face against the hem of the girl’s corduroys. It turned and padded languorously down a weedy, broken path towards the house on the corner, as if beckoning. The girl figured that this decrepit place was where the cat lived, and she felt a bit guilty for thinking I doubt they will have any money for cookies at least I can make sure the cat gets home, and who knows, maybe they’ll buy a box.

She grabbed a box of Minty Crunchies and skipped after the cat, who kept looking back at her invitingly as they approached the neglected old house.

 

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~~~

The girl’s parents had begun to worry- didn’t we tell her to be home before the sun was down? She knows better than this. 

As the minutes turned to an hour, and then another, they knew something was terribly wrong.

They called the houses of all of her friends. The mother circled their neighborhood in the car. The father’s frantic calls, echoing from the garden, grew more desperate every minute. The police were called. Two officers visited the house. They wrote down some things. Said they would drive around the neighborhood. They were calm, they obviously didn’t realize, this isn’t like her, this isn’t normal.

A neighbor offered to watch the house so the parents could search for themselves in the car. The mother insisted on a thorough search expanding outward from their neighborhood- maybe their daughter wandered somewhere new and got lost?

Their circle widened and widened as the father called out the passenger window into the darkness. The mother drove slowly but purposefully with a grim determination.

Isn’t this too far? the Father asked, why would she come all the way out here? We should turn back and go around our neighborhood again, then we-

Then they saw it. The red wagon, there on the sidewalk beside an old weedy path. Abandoned, along with 5 boxes of cookies. The little girl was nowhere in sight.

~~~

Jesus! the father cried. The mother screeched to a halt and flung open the car door, racing toward the wagon. The father joined her, shouting and sobbing his daughter’s name. They grabbed at eachother and followed their feet the only direction that made sense- down the overgrown path that was long forgotten before today.

The path led them to the steps of the dilapidated house. They raced to the top, hammering on the door. Nothing.

The father noticed a solitary box of cookies near his feet, and he made an inhuman sound. They beat on the door again. Still nothing.

Then the mother’s eyes met the eyes of another, peeking through the broken front window. Bulging, watery eyes, staring intensely. A crinkled nose and rotten mouth, open in a wide grimace.

The thing dangling in his arms couldn’t be their daughter. How could it be? Human bodies don’t bend that way.

CROOKED! the man screamed. ALL OF YOU!

Tis the Season for Creepy Christmas Recommendations

If, like me, you find that this cosy season lends itself well to curling up on the couch with a frightfully fascinating read, or hosting a Netflix Noel binge that will haunt your holiday memories for years to come, I have some recommendations for you to consider!

The following are some spooky and recent(ish) seasonal titles that I’ve enjoyed:

 

I am Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

Boasting two lovely cover variants, this book is part of my favorite mystery series, featuring young sleuth/chemist Flavia de Luce. While it’s the fourth in the series, this title holds its own as a standalone story as well (but I bet if you read it you will be swiftly enticed to tag along on Flavia’s other adventures!)

This is a quintessential cosy Christmas mystery set in England in the 50’s- the de Luce estate is being used as the setting for a film, and the entire town becomes trapped inside because of a terrible storm. Flavia is determined to catch Father Christmas, but she ends up stumbling upon the body of a famous young actress… DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN

Krampus, directed by Michael Dougherty

Krampus is worth a watch; it’s creepy, campy, and fun for the whole family! Well, depends on the family I guess… at least, my husband (who is a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror movies) had no problem with this freaky and fantastical black comedy. We watched it with a friend a couple of Christmases ago and found it to be a pretty solid, well paced, and satisfying story if you don’t mind a few cheesy over-the-top monsters sprinkled here and there.

Some of the baddies in this movie are impressive feats of puppetry- check out the bonus materials for the film if you can to see some of the behind-the-scenes creativity that went into Krampus.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream: An Anthology edited by Christopher Golden

This was a seriously fun read. Each story is short and unique- like most anthologies there were some that I enjoyed more than others, but overall it’s a great mix that moves along at a swift pace. A lot of the stories start out with everyday family drama and escalate into true horror, while several go in a more sci-fi or fantasy direction. Some of these tales will give me chills for a while to come!

A Christmas Horror Story, directed by Steve Hoban, Grant Harvey, and Brett Sullivan

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This movie reminds me of Krampus in some ways (aside from the obvious connection visible on the cover)- it’s got some camp for sure, and some moments that prompted my husband and I to make “SKKNKKTCHH” noises of disbelief.  At the same time, the intertwining stories balance action sequences, horrific and humorous themes, and moments both bleak and bright, plus lots of twists and turns.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale (TV series Holiday Special)

 

Hail Satan, it’s here! Dusty and I watched the CAOS holiday special episode last night.

If you haven’t watched season 1 of CAOS yet, here’s your excuse!

While it wasn’t everything i’d hoped for (my fave character didn’t make an appearance *COfatherblackwoodUGH*) and Dustin was concerned about the implications to the plot from what we thought would be a one-off isolated episode, we still enjoyed the para-normally festive atmosphere, the introduction of a cool new character, and the softer side of Zelda that is explored.

Seth’s Christmas Ghost Stories (Series, various authors)

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Ok, I had to edit this blog post to add these because I just came across them at an Indigo bookstore yesterday and I am so in love. The full set of these classic Christmas ghost stories includes 11 titles, although I was only able to find a few scattered throughout the store when I visited. These would make excellent gifts or stocking stuffers because they are tiny and unique, designed and illustrated by celebrated Canadian comic artist Seth. The publisher, Biblioasis, states on their site:

Reading a ghost story on Christmas Eve was once as much a part of traditional Christmas celebrations as turkey, eggnog, and Santa Claus…Trimmed to fit the coziest stocking, they’re perfect gifts for those who want a bit of extra Christmas chill.

 

Spoiler-Free Review: Train to Busan

I picked this movie up at the library as it’s been a while since I watched a zombie movie. My hubby Dustin said he’s over zombie movies, but I convinced him to watch it with me tonight, and it didn’t take long before we were invested in the plot and characters.

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A workaholic father, recently separated from his wife, heads out with his young daughter to take her to see her mother in Busan. Someone odd has managed to limp onto the train among the many passengers.  The train has barely left the station before an attendant is attacked, leading to a chain of events that causes infection and panic to spread rapidly throughout the carriages.

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Dong-seok Ma as Sang-hwa, who is definitely my favorite character in the film- the dude is a total badass!

This is a really solid, tightly plotted film with a good balance of action, emotion, and lots of YESSSSS and NOOOO!!!! moments. You see early on that the zombies are fast, ruthless, and dumb. They swarm and crowd, scrambling over each-other in waves and crashing onto screaming victims.

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Sohee as Jin-hee

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Yoo Gong as Seok-woo

As the movie progressed, we were rooting for certain characters, pleaing with them to do or not do certain things. Contrastingly, there’s at least one character that we grew to hate (you’ll know who if you watch the movie!) and we were urging him toward a slow and painful demise…

While a few common tropes are used, and occasionally a zombie’s facial expression or movement feels a bit campy, overall the film is gripping and gives you a believable taste of what might surmisedly happen if a train full of people suddenly found themselves cast into infectious chaos. The infection doesn’t stop at the train- there’s an entire messed up world to face. There are also some surprising plot twists that I really appreciated.

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Su-an Kim as Soo-an- this girl is a seriously impressive actress!

I definitely recommend Train to Busan. It had me tensing up in my seat a lot, anxious for the main cast of characters. It engages you from beginning to end and leaves you sated with lots of feels. I can’t help myself from ending on a cheesy line- this train is an entertaining ride!

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Spoiler-Free Review: Tokyo Ghoul (Live-Action Film)

Tokyo Ghoul is one of my favorite manga & anime series. I came across the live-action film when I was shelf-reading a section at the library the other day, so of course I had to check it out (I didn’t even know it was already made into a live-action!)

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Dustin had watched the anime with me previously, so he and I hunkered down tonight on the couch with our dog Tegan to watch this new live-action film together.

While I am quite willing to suspend disbelief and ignore trivial inconsistencies for the enjoyment of a movie, there were a few scenes where I could tell my husband was thinking “Really? Realllyyy?”- such as when Kaneki was attacked in the shoulder but then started limping and flailing like his legs had turned to jelly. However, these moments didn’t detract from the film. When I sometimes feel that acting is over-the-top, I then remember that anime and manga are also often over-the-top.

Kaneki’s awkwardness and vulnerability is played up so much in the beginning as to be almost cringe-worthy, but as with the manga and anime, the payoff is worth it. It’s fun to see his growth. I love how they played with the design of his mask, particularly the teeth:

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The actors chosen were generally spot on with their characters. The scenes where ghouls are made to eat human food almost made me gag along with them- that is some solid acting. There were a couple of scenes where I actually gasped out loud in surprise or delight at the action or depravity on the screen.

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Fumika Shimizu as Touka. I really enjoyed her as Touka, but I just found out that soon after filming she announced that she is retiring from her entertainment career and devoting herself to the controversial religious organization/cult “Happy Science.”

The visual effects were fairly believable and definitely cool- lots of quinique and kagune action shots.

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Yô Ôizumi as Kureo Mado

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Masataka Kubota as Kaneki Ken

I hope a second film will come out of this, as some of my favorite characters weren’t included in the movie since their plots emerge a bit later in the series.

Yeah, Juzo and Shuu, i’m talking to you.

I’m really glad Uta had a couple of scenes, at least.

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Bando Minosuke as Uta- the dude reeks cool.

Overall, this film is a fun and action packed adaptation of the anime and manga. While the comparatively short length of the movie doesn’t give as much time to explore Kaneki’s inner turmoil and the complexities of the ghoul & human worlds, hopefully this isn’t the end of Tokyo Ghoul’s live-action career. I’ll be waiting for vol. 2!