From The Birds, 1963, Universal Pictures
What happens in Jersey stays in Jersey… Not.
October brings with it not only colorful autumn leaves and Jack O’Lanterns but my annual trek to New Jersey to attend the New Jersey Romance Writers’ awesome Put Your Heart in a Book Conference.
This is a conference that never fails to deliver a great selection of workshops for beginning writers as well as more seasoned scribblers, the newly published and the multi-published. And it’s always well attended by agents and editors too.
This year, I was excited that my 1920s romantic mystery It Had to Be You was among the finalists named in the annual Golden Leaf Contest for excellence in romantic fiction from RWA’s Region 1.
As it turned out, the winner of my category—Romantic Elements—was the talented K.M. Jackson for her 2014 contemporary novel, Bounce. (A well-deserved win, folks.) Best wishes to K.M. for continued success!
But best of all? Happily Ever Afters, of course.
I do love the craft workshops, but the thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to soak it all in with my Central PA writer pals. This year, several of us attended– Sunni Rose Blendette, Vicky Burkholder, Natalie J. Damschroder, Misty Simon, and Ava Quinn. In fact, anyone who follows our Twitter feeds may have noticed that we soon discovered an awesome new signature drink – the Happily Ever After.
So, while some things that happen in Jersey really must stay in Jersey (i.e. less than graceful dance moves to “Love Shack” at the after-party) I’m more than happy to return with memories of very good times with very good friends.
Till next year, ladies!
Classic Movie Junkie’s “Low Gore Score” Halloween Picks
There was a definite chill in the air this past weekend. Could it be a portent of a spooky holiday on the horizon?
Halloween is more popular than ever and there are plenty of Fear Fests on the tube to prove it. Me? I love a good horror movie, but as for the gore, not so much. To wit, here are some Low Gore Score TCM picks guaranteed to put you in a non-queasy Halloween frame of mind.
The Queasy Classic Movie Junkie’s Halloween Gore Score Rating System
1 Boo = Suspense and implied or off-camera violence.
2 Boos = Suspense and occasional “ick” moments.
3 Boos = Close-your-eyes moments and cringes
4 Boos = Just. Close your eyes.
Wednesday, October 22
2:15 (Thurs. 10/23) am The Fog (1980) Horror. TCM. Murderous maritime ghosts return under cover of a supernatural fog to take revenge on a New England coast town. Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook.
Why? An under-rated spooky gem. John Carpenter released this watery ghost story on the heels of his low budget mega hit Halloween. From the opening scene—a ghost story told around a flickering beach campfire–The Fog rises above (yes, pun intended) typical low budget spook fests of the ’80s. Gorgeous shots of the coastline and Carpenter’s spine-tingling musical score make this an enjoyable Halloween treat.
Gore score = 2 Boos (Mostly for squishy sounds. Ew.)
Saturday October 25
5:45 pm The Birds (1963) Horror. TCM A California town is beset by unexplained and increasingly deadly attacks from masses of ticked-off birds. Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette.
Why? Arguably Hitchcock’s best horror film. It’s got it all. Flashes of Hitchcock humor, Psycho-like red herring plot threads, interesting characters, slow-to-boil suspense, odd camera angles and shock shots. The special effects are hokey by today’s standards, but they’re still surprisingly effective. Why? Because, I suspect, special effects were never what this was about. Gore Score = 1.5 Boos.
8:00 pm The Haunting (1963) Horror. TCM A paranormal researcher and three volunteers move into a deserted mansion that’s reputed to be haunted. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson.
Why? Atmospheric and scary. The Haunting is a forerunner to many a haunted house story to follow – including Stephen King’s Rose Red. Julie Harris is at her flighty best as the psychologically fragile misfit Eleanor Lance. Is she truly going mad or is it the house itself that breathes and morphs and beckons her to join others who have perished within its malevolent embrace?
The Haunting will creep you out with a Gore Score of… wait for it… 1.
Tuesday October 28
1:00 pm House of Dark Shadows (1970) Horror. TCM. A small town doctor tries to cure an 18th century vampire who has returned to his ancestral home to marry a woman he is convinced is the present-day reincarnation of his dead fiancée. Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott.
Why? All right, Dark Shadows peeps! I know you’re out there. Either you’re one of the scadillion now-grown school kids who scurried home every day to get their daily fix of D.S. or you’re one of many who have discovered this campy, crazily addicting ’60s horror soap opera in reruns or online. (I ain’t gonna say which I am.)
This 1970 film was produced soon after the daytime series was cancelled to feed the legions of baby boomer fans who were left bereft and thirsty for more… more blood, that is. Bwa-ha-ha-ha! So bad, it’s good. Pure fun. Gore Score = 1.5 Boos.
So, tell me, spooky movie fans, what’s your favorite scene from The Birds?
Anyone remember Dark Shadows? Who was your favorite character?
Am I the only one who misses scary movies that leave more to the imagination than not?
What can writers learn about building suspense from watching Hitchcock films?
Have a great week!
Times listed are Eastern time. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.
The Fog – Original theatrical poster
The Birds – By Trailer screenshot (The Birds trailer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Julie Harris – By Bill Doll and Company (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jonathan Frid – By ABC Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons