The Art of Darkness

“Paranormal Activity” Prank

November 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

As Paramount continues to beat the dead horse that is the Paranormal Activity franchise, part of their promotion for the latest installment involved a prank “open house” in which potential buyers experienced spooky-seeming events. They were able to use the house that Oren Peli used in the original film, which was a nice touch.

My thoughts on this:

– I’m legitimately surprised that nobody broke their leg and/or neck fleeing down the stairs, particularly the women in heels. I’d like to know how Paramount got this past their liability lawyers.

– As The Robot’s Voice points out, “Note that every single one of these participants does what NOBODY in a movie does when shit gets crazy – leave the house immediately.” Yeah; most horror movies would be five minutes long if everybody acted rationally.

– With the exception of the breaking mirror, which I assume was done with a big projection screen, most of these effects would be reasonably easy to DIY. It’d be fun to rig a few of them and blow houseguests’ minds (doubly so if you keep insisting that there’s nothing unusual going on).

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The Men Who Stare at Link Dumps

November 13th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Darkplace – The Toast discusses a horror parody series which is now available on YouTube.

Lego Ghostbusters Firehouse – This complex kit will be available in January.

14 Two-Sentence Horror Stories Guaranteed To Terrify Introverts – “You hear a noise coming from the living room. It’s someone calling you.”

Blackheart Lingerie – Lots of cute, gothy underwear. (via Jes)

New Wave Tarot Cards – Limited-edition Tarot set featuring 80s New Wave musicians. Flavorwire has closeups of some of the cards.

Illusion Dress – If you’ve got a black background to stand against, this is a pretty neat costume idea.

Nuanced Bumper Stickers – “My other car is substantially similar to this one. Thank you for your interest in my other car.”

Mysterium – Interesting-sounding board game in which one player is a ghost, trying to help the others solve their murder. BoingBoing has a short review here.

At Home with Horror – An interview with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and his collection of horror paraphernalia.

Candy Wrapper Woven Purse – This is certainly a…unique…way to use up leftover Halloween candy.

Posted in Link Dump | 3 Comments »

“Name Your Poison” Glassware

November 12th, 2015 by Cobwebs


Kitten Herder recently pointed me to this Etsy listing for a set of highball glasses by designer Georges Briard, which takes the common bartender’s question a little more literally. I did a bit of looking, and apparently the original set also included a similarly-themed ice bucket.

Briard’s designs sometimes can be found on eBay and other auction sites, and similar sets by other manufacturers (such as Cera) are also occasionally available. However, they tend to be fairly pricey–around $300US–and unless you’re setting up a retro-themed bar there’s no point in buying originals.

Modern glasses with the same theme can be found on Etsy–these and these are nice–but it should also be possible to DIY a set using stencils and etching paste (or glass paint, for a more colorful look).

A set of glasses (and/or an ice bucket) would make an attractive gift, and who doesn’t need more skulls in their life?

Posted in Paint It Black | 1 Comment »

Subversive Embroidered Tops

November 11th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Lochers Blouse
Online retailer Locher’s has a line of tops embroidered with feminine, floral detailing and messages like “Allez tous vous faire foutre” (“You can all go fuck yourselves”). They’re currently on clearance, but they’d also be very easy to DIY.

There are a zillion tutorials for adding cross-stitched or embroidered accents to clothing, but if you’re completely hopeless with a needle you could also use fabric paint.

My single quibble with the Locher’s messages is that they’re a little too obvious. I think it’d be funnier to have them worked subtly into the design so they’re overlooked at a glance, and only noticed when someone looks closely. Working the words in amongst flower stems or twining ivy would be one way to do it; so would alternating letters with some other design; say, along a collar edge: “star – F – star – U – star – C…” and so on.

These would also make an amusing gift, either for someone with a good sense of humor who’d appreciate the joke or to give to (for instance, just hypothetically) your mother-in-law and see how long she wears it before she notices.

Posted in Needful Things | 3 Comments »

Spooky Family Portraits

November 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull PortraitHere’s a fun little throwaway project, courtesy of the late, lamented Seeing Things blog: Creating creepy merged photos to tuck in amongst your family portraits on the mantel.

It’s a fairly automated process if you use a tool like Photoshop Elements, but if you don’t want to spend the money for PSE it’s not much more difficult with GIMP.

Start by finding a suitable photo to manipulate: It’s easiest if the subject is facing the camera straight-on, and if they don’t have anything like bushy whiskers obscuring their face. You can use real family photos if you have them, but searching for “Victorian portrait photography” will turn up plenty of good images (including some, like this postmortem photo [don’t click that link if you’re squeamish] and whatever the hell is going on here which don’t even need to be altered; they could be printed and used as-is*).

Next, search for creepy images to superimpose: Image searches for “skull,” “ghoul,” “ghost,” “witch,” and so forth should give you plenty to choose from.

If you’re using PSE:

  1. Select the two images that you want to merge.
  2. Click File, then New, then Photomerge Faces.
  3. Use the Alignment tool to mark each photo.
  4. Use the Pencil and Eraser tool to merge your selections.
  5. When you’re satisfied with the final result, click Done.

GIMP is a bit more complicated, since you have to resize and merge the images manually. There are numerous tutorials to help get you started; this and this are video demonstrations and this is a blending walkthrough. Searching for “blending photos with GIMP” will turn up plenty of others.

Here’s a few ideas for merges from the original site (click to embiggen):

Photo Merges

Once you’re satisfied with your freaky family, look for used picture frames at yard sales and thrift shops; a bit of wear-and-tear on the frames will add to the creepiness. Print your photos, frame, and enjoy.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can replace framed photos in your house with altered versions of the same images and see how long it takes anybody to notice.

*Images from here and here, respectively. Although the former is tagged as a post-mortem photo, I’m almost wondering if the subject was alive and the victim of some disfiguring accident. Her eyes look unusually intact; you’d figure if her decomposition was sufficiently advanced that flesh was falling off of her cheeks, those gooey little orbs would have at least deflated if not completely collapsed.

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Crotch Magic

November 9th, 2015 by Cobwebs

This is, as The Robot’s Voice puts it, “An ode to David Bowie’s penis bulge in Labyrinth:”

I do think it would have been funnier done as a more direct Bowie impersonation/parody. But if you think a lack of fealty to source is going to stop me running a story about a Goblin King’s wang, you just don’t know me at all.


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Chitty-Chitty Link Dump

November 6th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Crocheted Hobbes Scarf – Etsy pattern for a scarf “inspired by” Calvin’s stuffed tiger. If you’d like to keep a friendly tiger close at hand, a scarf seems like a good choice.

Peacock Spider Costume – I don’t like to post Facebook-only stuff, but I can’t find the video anywhere else and it’s too delightful to not share. An entomologist shows off his Halloween costume. (via pdq)

Marbled Candy Apples – Instructions for making candied apples with an attractive swirly candy coating.

Dracula-Inspired Halloween Wedding – I like this. It’s all refined and elegant and then you hit the drag queen dressed as Frank N. Furter.

Raven’s Brew Coffee – Sells coffee with neat labels and fanciful titles like Deadman’s Reach, Wicked Wolf, and Three Peckered Billy Goat.

Our Announcement – Amusing baby announcement done in the style of a horror movie trailer.

Witchcraft Magic: An Adventure In Demonology – Holy carp you guys; did you know that Vincent Price recorded a whole album devoted to witchcraft and demonology? It’s available as an MP3 on Amazon. Dangerous Minds discusses it here.

The Scariest Story Ever Told – Spoooooooky. (Hat tip to Bruno)

Reverse Trick-or-Treating – I’ve seen this gag before, but it cracks me up every time.

Crocheted Jerusalem Cricket – People in the western half of the U.S. should be familiar with these Geiger-esque critters; this crocheted version should be easier to cuddle without worrying about the ouchy mandibles.

Posted in Link Dump | 4 Comments »

The State of Horror Today

November 5th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Over on Facebook, intrepid commenter Bruno and I were recently discussing this article about the (possible) “new” trend of horror movies which feature unbeatable threats. The argument goes that, just as 50s horror movies were reflections of real-world angst about the Cold War and the atomic bomb, today’s fears of unsurmountable threats like climate change and economic collapse are producing horror where “the menace is ever-present, unsparing, and eternal. It’s to be endured, not conquered.” The two movies held up as examples of this theoretical trend are The Babadook and It Follows.

I responded thusly (spoilers for The Babadook):

I’m giving this kind of a cautious head-tilt. Functionally, I don’t see a lot of difference between the unstoppable slashers like Michael Myers and something like the Babadook or the monster in It Follows. I know the article mentions the movie characters’ belief that the horror has ended whilst the audience knows different, but clear back in the original Halloween (1978), the movie ends with Loomis and Laurie realizing that Michael isn’t dead. Indeed, I’d argue that The Babadook has a more hopeful ending than Halloween, because although the monster isn’t dead, it’s been vanquished and is more like a sulky pet.

He replied:

I appreciate your point and maybe both the article and my initial reaction are a bit of confirmation bias. Looking back to my horror consumption habits and that of friends and online communities, I see a bit of a rise in demand for non-closing horror, whether it’s Babadook or Lovecraft.

Trends in horror have a lot to say about their historical moments, and I wonder if we’re living in a sisyphean moment where closure is not an option, and so the experience of annoyance, angst and even horror are unbounded and unbeatable.

And then he suggested:

Here’s an experiment: what if we got a goth blogger with an active readership to ask her community what they’ve been reading / watching in horror that they would recommend? ;p

And so here we are. What say you, blog readership? Is there a noticeable trend in “unbeatable” monsters that bears out this idea? Even if there’s not, what have you been reading and/or watching lately that you can recommend?

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Halloween Awards

November 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull ScoutsTo my vast and ongoing dismay, we live in a non-trick-or-treat-friendly location.* This means that I have no reason to decorate my yard (sob!), and Shadowboy has always trick-or-treated with friends in their more candy-accessible neighborhoods.

For the past several Halloweens we’ve tagged along with the same friend, and every year the neighborhood has become more and more lackluster, with long stretches of darkened houses and few decorations. This year, since Shadowboy and a different friend were dressing as Marty McFly and Doc Brown, we accompanied that friend instead. Walking into that kid’s neighborhood was like Dorothy getting her first look at Oz: Nearly every house was lit and there were decorations galore. Several people had done such a bang-up job of decorating that I walked up and thanked them for putting in the time and effort, and that’s when it occurred to me: Next year I need to carry a supply of “Good Job on Halloween!” awards to give out at particularly sincere houses.

My first thought was a merit badge-type patch; various scouting organizations have “unofficial” patches for holidays, which can be ordered inexpensively, and it’s even possible to have custom patches created. There’s also an Etsy shop which sells “Mythical Merits:” A variety of spooky merit badge designs that can be ordered as buttons or magnets (there’s a full list of designs here).

I like the idea of a small, lightweight item, since they’d be cheap to order in quantity and easy to carry around–you could keep a few handy all year, just in case you feel the need to reward someone displaying the Halloween spirit in the off-season–but it turns out that trophies and medals are also surprisingly inexpensive. Online suppliers like Trophy Depot and Crown Awards have a large selection, and if you wanted to bring along one or two as awards for particularly well-done yards, you’d probably make some home haunter’s whole week. (If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even hand out a different design each year so dedicated haunters could collect the whole set.)

People who spend the time and money to decorate certainly like to have their efforts appreciated; this would be a neat way to thank them for making the neighborhood a little spookier.

*It’s a hugely long driveway immediately off of a highway, with swathes of woods between it and the nearby houses (which are all arranged similarly). To trick-or-treat in our neighborhood, you’d need a compass and a bloodhound.

(Image from Skull-a-Day)

Posted in Paint It Black | 8 Comments »

Trivia Tuesday

November 3rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

  1. In Harry Potter, what is the name of the horrible aunt whom Harry accidentally blows up like a balloon?
    A) Dahlia
    B) Mabel
    C) Lobelia
    D) Marjorie
    E) Rose
  2. Bilbo Baggins found a troll-hoard which contained the swords Glamdring and Orcrist, plus a knife that he decided to call what?
  3. According to The Twilight Zone, “It’s a Good Life,” why?
    A) The sun has risen
    B) Otherwise Anthony might do something bad to you
    C) Because God says it is
    D) The apocalypse is over and Zachariah is still alive
    E) The AI in charge makes you think that it is
  4. In Stephen King’s Carrie, “Carrie” is actually a nickname. What is her full first name?
  5. This horrifying (in relative terms) creature is the world’s first known predator, an arthropod relative found in the Burgess Shale.
    A) Opabinia
    B) Hallucigenia
    C) Anomalocaris
    D) Wiwaxia
    E) Nectocaris
  6. In this 1984 horror-comedy starring Catherine Mary Stewart, a mysterious “red dust” from space has turned most people into zombies, leaving behind a small band of people who avoided exposure.
  7. It’s no secret that the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales are significantly darker than the Disneyfied versions more popular today. In the Grimm’s version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” what happens to the Evil Queen at the end?
    A) Her eyes are pecked out by birds.
    B) She is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes.
    C) The dwarves drop her into the depths of their mine.
    D) She is thrown into a thicket of thorns and dies a slow death.
    E) She is put naked into a barrel of nails and dragged through the streets by a horse.
  8. The following novels all involve what famous murderer as a character?
    Anno Dracula (Kim Newman), A Night in the Lonesome October (Roger Zelazny), Savage (Richard Laymon), Pentecost Alley (Anne Perry), The Michaelmas Girls (John Brooks Barry), Nine Buck’s Row (T.E. Huff), Sagittarius (Ray Russell)
  9. In the novel Dracula, the Count used a pseudonym to do business (such as buying real estate) in London. What name did he use?
    A) Count Alucard
    B) Baron Latos
    C) Mathias Cronqvist
    D) General Targo
    E) Count De Ville
  10. Warren Zevon’s immaculately-coiffed werewolf was looking for a Chinese restaurant called what?

(Answers below the fold)

Read the rest of this entry »

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