As always, a surrealist masterpiece disguised as a children's show.
The eldest daughter and I ended up watching this one after an unsuccessful try at watching the feature-length Frankenweenie. Sparky, the dog who gets resurrected, freaked my daughter out so completely that we had to stop (and she later had to sleep in our bed for part of the night due to nightmares). Something about the appearance of that stitched-up dog just really got to her. Ah, she'll thank me when she's older and discovers to her dismay that no horror movie has the power to scare her anymore.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) directed by Henry Selick
I hadn't seen this movie since in was released in the theater 21 years ago. At the time, I wasn't particularly taken with the film and never felt the urge to watch it again. I'm not much for musicals, generally. I see now why this movie became the darling of the goth crowd (Hot Topic, in the least, should send Burton a fruit basket). The design aesthetic is powerful and uncompromisingly weird. "Hey, being into horror stuff is cool," it announced. This ain't no small thing. Horror geeks well know how we're regarded by outsiders: as depressed losers, or, worse, potential serial killers.
Storywise, the movie is actually pretty conservative. If you're not from Christmas Town, you're never going to be able to figure out this Christmas thing. Stick with what you know and stay with your own kind, it tells us. I suppose Jack is sort of like a Catholic priest waltzing into a mosque and attempting to perform a Muslim service there. It's just gonna piss everyone off. But, you know, holidays are inherently conservative. We're tend not to want our holiday traditions to change much. How ever they were when we were children, that's how they're supposed to be. I like that the movie defends this idea.
Frankenweenie (1984) directed by Tim Burton
Since it was on the same disc as Nightmare, I decided to give the short version a try. The elder child made it to the end, but still had a little bit of issue with the live action Sparky. I guess a resurrected dog is a little freaky, even when he's super-nice and constantly licking Shelley Duvall's face. I did have a lot of fun pointing out how the movie intentionally mirrored Frankenstein, which the daughter and I had watched three years ago.
Tales from the Crypt 6.04: "Operation Friendship" (1994) directed by Roland Mesa
For our pizza-eating break in the middle the boardgaming session I was hosting with friends, I popped in the traditional Six Weeks of Halloween show Crypt. I guessed it right away: the obnoxious guy was an imaginary friend. Everyone then thought that his girlfriend would end up having one of her own -- that seemed like the typical way these things go -- but the twist ended up surprising us. Not a very dark episode, but a little amusing.
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (2014) designed by Jonathan Gilmour & Isaac Vega
The new hotness in boardgaming at the moment is Dead of Winter. It's nominally a zombie game -- like the also excellent Last Night on Earth -- but it's mostly concerned with survival and trust. The zombies are just an environmental hazard like the cold of winter. The game has a main objective that needs to be completed -- we did the one where you need to take samples from zombies, meaning we had to go zombie hunting a lot -- and each player also has a secret objective that they must complete themselves in order to win. If the main objective is completed and no one has completed their secret objective, everyone still loses. To spice things up, there's a chance that one of the secret objectives is a betrayal card. A betrayer's goal, among other things, is to fail the main objective and lose the game for everyone but himself. Even more fun is that the non-betrayal secret objectives have people doing things that look suspicious -- hoarding food, for example -- which can cause all sorts of fun false accusations to fly.
I got to be the betrayer in tonight's game, which was fun. I started out by, obviously, pretending to be a good guy. I contributed the correct items to the crisis, killed zombies for the main objective, and gave another player medicine to heal. My problem was that I played along for far too long. Through a series of lucky rolls, the good guys managed to take zombie samples way faster that I expected. By the time I started to poison the well, it was just about too late. Still, I was extremely geeked that I managed to convince another player to call a vote for exile on an innocent. To be fair, the innocent player had been acting a little weird during the game -- due to his secret goal -- but I amped up the suspicion by throwing in a bad card into the crisis pile at an opportune time to make it look like the innocent had done it. It worked exactly as I wanted and we voted to exile him. Unfortunately, his new exile objective was very easy and he won the game. Ah well, such is like in the zombie apocalypse.
If you can find a copy, Dead of Winter is highly, highly recommend for good times.