All posts by Jesse Fox

Jesse Fox is the nom de plume of a St. Louis based writer in progress. Born in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Missouri she grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. After graduating high school, she headed to St. Louis. Her aspirations to be a writer began there; first with poetry then fan-fiction when she discovered the internet. St. Louis has been her home for over two decades and she's held down an eclectic mix of jobs while working on her writing. At present she manages rental property, honing her skills as writer and artist, dreaming of a long lived career as a writer.

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Blair Witch Project (1999)

TGIF! The pup and I are back after a rough week with a review of a modern classic–a classic piece of WTH? Here’s hoping there are more folks out there with common sense than spastic colons. 😉

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Trailer HERE

Cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams

Review –

July of last year marked the tenth anniversary of a movie that blew records out of the water, nauseated viewers with erratic camera work, and screwed with many a moviegoers’ head. You have to give Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the writers and directors of The Blair Witch Project, an A+ in the hook department.

The Blair Witch Project follows the fictional disappearance of three college students Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard (to give the story more authenticity the characters share the same names as the actors—confused yet?). Heather is putting together a documentary as a part of her thesis on the infamous Blair Witch, a rural legend in nearby Burkittsville, a small Maryland town in the Black Hills. Along for the ride are Joshua and Michael two film students volunteering their time and the university equipment to Heather’s thesis project, unfortunately, what starts out as a weekend trip into the woods ends with them all disappearing without a trace.

The entirety of the film is recorded via hand held video in both color and black & white by the students who head out on their adventure to begin collecting tales of the Blair Witch. The main tale they discover is that of a serial killer in the 1940’s who murdered a number of children and claimed the Blair Witch made him do it. Nothing new here being as there have been numerous tales told about serial killers who blame, ghosts and demons for their own actions.

The following day, they continue their exploration of the town and the outer edges of the woods; collecting the original tale of the witch and the mysterious disappearance/reappearance of a young girl, Robin, in the mid-1800’s. Parking their cars, they load up their gear and head out to Coffin Rock where another of many bloody legends linked to the Blair Witch supposedly occurred. Their first night in the woods passes with no problems. At this point, nothing odd has happened and to be honest I was bored out of my mind. Not even a prick of my hackles.

On their second day in the woods, the three begin arguing with one another when they don’t arrive at a supposed cemetery that Heather is leading them to through the woods. What do they discover? A clearing filled with piles of stones. Okay, now my mind is boggling. What the hell is scary about this? Later, after dark, they hear noises in the woods. OMG! Noises in the woods—hang on to your bloomers folks.

Definitely lost in the woods now the arguing intensifies between Heather and Michael. Unable to return to the car before sundown they agree to camp one more night. The noises sound like something moving through the trees. Yeah, there’s no explanation for movement in the woods in the middle of the night. (Can you sense my sarcasm?) The following morning more of the mysterious rock piles appear surrounding their tent. Tempers continue to flair between all three of the intrepid filmmakers especially when Michael tells them he threw their map away the day before. Just as twilight approaches, they discover another clearing where the iconic stick figures of varying sizes dangle from the trees. As night encroaches, they freak out as more sounds begin to close in some that appear to be weeping and/or screaming.

I have to be honest I was not impressed with the Blair Witch. If anything, The Blair Witch Project focused on scaring the bejesus out of people who never stepped foot in the woods. (Much like Deliverance did in the 1970’s) Being a country girl who spent a good deal of my childhood running through the woods, exploring caves, and abandoned houses nothing came off as particularly scary. Panic, jerky camera movements, torn up backpacks, and eventually a missing comrade have the others on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I would be more likely to believe at this point that what the three are experiencing is a mass induced paranoia and audio hallucinations if not for the bundle filled with teeth and blood. Of course, that could be explained by Josh (who goes missing) going coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs first.

The closest to creepy is the final scene of the movie that leaves us with more questions than answers. I won’t spoil the scene though if you happen to be one of the few people who never saw this movie. The most amazing thing that The Blair Witch Project managed to do was convince thousands of people that it was REAL. Not since Orson Wells’ 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds has a piece of entertainment caused people to lose their common sense. Of course, Orson did it so well people were committing suicide. We can look at that as a sign of Wells’ genius or at the fact that humanity has gotten smarter. I’d prefer thinking we’ve gotten smarter, but I doubt it.

So what’s my final opinion?  Myrick and Sánchez are two of the best snake oil salesmen to slither into Hollywood in ages. The fact that a film made them both millionaires that had no real script, no well-known actors, and filmed on a miniscule budget, is quite the feat. They held the title for ten years until Paranormal Activity appeared out of left field in 2009.  Let’s just say that hand held video does not an excellent horror movie make. Not even if Steven Spielberg backs you, the man is good, but he’s a mouse when it comes to knowing what’s scary, but that one is for another day. *snorts & rolls eyes*

Final Rating: 1/5 Fox Pups

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Ratings System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – The Fog (1980)

Welcome back to Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole. My little buddy and I have a classic ghost story for you this time around and a blast from the past.

The Fog (1980)

John Carpenter’s The Fog

TRAILER HERE

Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Tom Akins, Hal Holbrook

Review –

As an adult, you often look back on your childhood and recall memories tied in with activities that you shared with either friends or family. For me some of those favorite memories are of watching horror movies with my mom. We constantly butted heads, didn’t have the best relationship in the world, but there was one thing we shared our love of horror movies. I grew up in a very poor household and didn’t actually go to the movies until I was eighteen and on my own. The first movie I saw in a theater was one done by one of the master’s of horror I’d grown up with John Carpenter. One of my favorite John Carpenter treats is The Fog.

The Fog is a classic ghost story; a tale of vengeance and the sins of the fathers revisited on the children. I haven’t seen the remake—No, I have, but it was so unremarkable that I already forgot. Any who back to the original and best…

Carpenter opens with a fantastic quote from one of the father’s of modern horror Edgar Allen Poe, “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?” This happens to be one of my favorite Poe quotes and suits the story that follows to a tee. In the first scene we’re tantalized with the ghostly legend of the Elizabeth Dane, a ship that had crashed on the rocks at Spivey Point, a hundred years previous, as told by an elderly sea captain (played by the late, great John Houseman) to a group of  kids setting around a fire on the beach. Houseman was an exquisite actor whose raspy voice made the hairs on the back of neck stand straight up when I was a kid. Not much has changed. The man had a way of mesmerizing you with that voice and that intense gaze would make you feel guilty even if you did nothing. 🙂

Having set up the origin of the ghost story, Father Malone (the incredible Hal Holbrook) is introduced,  a priest who seems to enjoy the communion wine just a bit more than is appropriate. Don’t blink during this scene or you’ll miss a cameo by Carpenter himself as the church handyman (all big fluffy hair and bell-bottoms that scream 1980). As the clock strikes midnight, April 21st rolls into the town of Antonio Bay with a stirring of what lies ahead for the townspeople as they prepare to celebrate the town’s centennial.

Unlike most of Carpenter’s work The Fog relies more on suspense than what you see in the blood and gore department. The opening sequences introduce us to a handful of characters including Father Malone who we follow as the story unfolds; Stevie Wayne, the local disc jockey; Nick Castle, owner of a small local fishing vessel; Elizabeth Solley, a hitchhiker Nick picks up and beds; Kathy Williams, the town mayor, and Sandy, her assistant.

A minor tremor rocks the town, revealing a journal and something else buried in the church’s basement wall. The journal, a hundred years old, reveals what appears to be a warning dated April 30thMidnight ‘til one belongs to the dead. Good Lord deliver us. Numerous mechanical things go haywire as well; pay phones ringing, lights flickering on, cars engines coming to life, car alarms going off, etc. announcing the arrival of something sinister and supernatural.

As the story unfolds, we learn that the town of Antonio Bay has a dark secret, hidden by the founding fathers that no one has suspected in a hundred years. During the hour between midnight and one, the first night, the fisherman of the Sea Grass discover themselves trapped in a mysterious icy fog bank that rolls up out of nowhere. Their boat goes dead in the water and something emerges from the fog; a ship that shouldn’t be there followed by a group of shadowy figures. Stevie, the disc jockey, is the only one to witness the unnatural behavior of the fog, including the fact it seems to glow, that night from the lonely lighthouse where she broadcasts from to Antonio Bay. As the clock strikes one the fog vanishes without a trace.

The following day Father Malone tries to talk the mayor out of going through with the centennial celebration after revealing to her the secret hidden for the past century—a conspiracy involving murder, greed, and six of the founding fathers of the town including Malone’s own grandfather. She refuses to reveal this information and continues with the plans despite his warnings that the town is cursed.

During the course of the day, each of the main players experience occurrences that border from the unexplained to the out and out supernatural including the discovery of the Seagrass and one of her crew who apparently drowned, but not before his eyes were gouged out.

Stevie acts as the binding between the various other characters warning them of the fog that rolls in as the sun sets and the things hidden within it. Adrienne Barbeau who plays Stevie (better known for her breasts, any guy who came of age in the 1970’s will tell you) does an excellent job of being a single mother separated from and terrified for her child. Her fear and strength in the situation she discovers herself in is real and palpable. Soon the celebration turns into a fight for survival as what lurks in the fog steps foot on dry land for the first time in a hundred years to seek vengeance.

The Fog although dated is beautifully done in palettes of blues and grays during the night scenes a harsh contrast to the beautiful sunny daylight scenes. The special effects team use all the tricks at their disposal (remember this was 1980) to give the fog an intelligence that it shouldn’t possess as it rolls into town destroying phone lines and cutting power. Carpenter scored the movie as well and the music heightens the sense of danger with a throbbing rhythm that rises and falls through out, highlighted by an eerie undertone that reminds me of the hum of katydids or peepers out in the countryside of my childhood.

If you’re a fan of Carpenter’s early work, a lover of classic ghost stories that rely more on suspense than gore then The Fog is your kind of movie—dated or not. I suggest you sleep with the light on afterward though and you might not want to answer if a knock comes at your door in the night. It might be The Fog

Final Rating: 4/5 Fox Pups

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Rating System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Movie Reviews from The Fox Hole – Possession (2009)

Today I’m test driving a possible new feature here at The Pagan & the Pen. As some of you know I do a Sunday feature  where I interview author’s on my own blog because my main passion is writing, but I have another passion–movies. In particular I adore horror, fantasy, suspense…oh, hell I just love movies. 😀 My collection of movies is huge some dating back to the early 1960’s. I came up with the idea to review movies from that collection and this is my first review.

So, here goes nothing folks! 😉

Possession (2009)

POSSESSION

TRAILER HERE

Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lee Pace, Michael Landes

I admit going into this movie with a bit of hesitation. After all, Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t on my Top 10 List of best actresses. Yes, I openly admit to being a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and their creator Joss Whedon, but Ms. Gellar wasn’t the one I watched Buffy for, actually, her character, although the star, annoyed me to no end. That’s a discussion for another day though.  Possession caught my eye because of Lee Pace and William B. Davis’ names attached to it and the subject matter. Sadly, Davis aka The Cigarette Smoking Man of X-Files fame is in the movie all of maybe three minutes.

Possession is an American adaption of the 2002 Korean film Addicted. I haven’t seen the original film so I have no source of comparison, but I was pleasantly surprised. For a remake of an Asian film it was better than most and actually had me second-guessing myself at times.

Sarah Michelle Gellar portrays Jessica, an attorney in San Francisco, who is happily married to Ryan, an artist, played by the adorable Michael Landes. As the movie opens, they are celebrating their first wedding anniversary, but their life isn’t as perfect as you might think. The biggest problem, although Ryan doesn’t see it, is his brother Roman, played by the exquisitely delicious Lee Pace.

Roman is the complete opposite of Ryan, on the wrong side of the law, and the bad boy. We’re impressed with the idea early on that he lusts for his brother’s wife and that there is a possible history between Jess and her now brother-in-law. Lee Pace does a superb job of making Roman the type of character that sends your skin crawling along your bones. Having only seen Pace in one other thing (ABC’s Pushing Daisies) I was surprised how wicked he was capable of being.

After a freak traffic accident on the Golden Gate Bridge, Jess’ discovers her world collapsing, her husband and his brother both ending up on life support. One year after the accident, Roman wakes from his coma a changed man in more ways than one. The memories he has are not his own, but rather his brother’s. It appears that the soul of her husband has taken over the body of Roman his brother, who she despises, while his body lingers on the verge of physical death in the hospital. This sets off a chain of events that has Jessica believing either she’s losing her mind or that something sinister is going on.

Now although this isn’t the traditional version of a walk-in it definitely fits the bill. For those who are unfamiliar with the term a walk-in occurs when one soul leaves the body and another takes over. Those who believe in walk-ins claim that a deal, made on the other side between two souls, agrees once the first soul has accomplished what it wants to it agrees to walk away from the physical body and the second soul walks in.

As the truth unfolds, the writers tease the audience with subtle hints. For some viewers, especially those of us who’ve seen one too many suspense or horror movies the ending might not be that big of a surprise. It’s not as scary as it could have been and there’s a distinct lack of blood and gore, which I applaud.  I have to give the writers credit though for trying their damnedest to keep you in suspense.

In my opinion, the story is solid, but the pacing is a bit slow. My biggest complaint and perhaps this is just me; I have a hard time believing Sarah Michelle Gellar as an attorney. Lee Pace though steals the movie with his portrayal of Roman a man, who is at first slime on toast, and then does a complete 360, to tug on our heartstrings.

Possession is one of those movies that are perfect for a rainy afternoon when you just want to curl up on the couch with a drink, bowl of popcorn, and under a favorite blanket. Surprisingly there is even a message about love that might surprise you.  It’s well worth the rental fee and a lazy afternoon viewing.

Final Rating: 3/5 Fox Pups

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Rating System:

5 Fox Pups – Must See/Can’t Miss

4 Fox Pups – Excellent

3 Fox Pups – Good

2 Fox Pups – Passable

1 Fox Pups – Skip It

Experiencing the Paranormal through the Eyes of a Child

The Innocence of a Child

As a child, I grew up in a household where the paranormal was an everyday experience. We never really talked about it, but being inquisitive and opinionated (my mother used to tell me my curiosity would be the death of me) I wanted to ask questions. Of course, the answers I wanted were not forthcoming from my parents and as I became a teenager I read voraciously, tested the waters on my own, and pretty much scared the crap out of myself. I shut down until I was well into my twenties and couldn’t continue hiding who I was.

This isn’t about me though. This is about seeing the paranormal through the eyes of my best friend and cousin’s son. This kid came into the world opinionated and has not shut up since. It wasn’t until he was three that I began to notice things that had me wondering if he like much of our family (my mom and his grandma were sisters) had a bit of what Stephen King referred to as the Shining.

Shortly after his fourth birthday, his family moved into the house where he and his mother still reside and I finally concluded that he had indeed inherited the family gift. We all knew that the house, a nice little two story built in 1903, had an unseen visitor. Again, as when I was kid, it remained a secret in mixed company and I believe the reason was because my cousin didn’t want her son to be scared. See that’s where adults make a mistake. Fear does not come natural for children it’s a learned behavior.  Although, I was sure that he was aware I never mentioned it to his mother because I figured that any mention of it would send her into a panic. I changed my mind after a particularly grueling afternoon of babysitting.

As children are apt to do they enjoy it if you get down on their level and play. He always liked to play camping when he was little. We’d string up some yarn across my bed, hang a blanket to make a tent, and spend hours goofing around in that tent. On this occasion, he told me he had to go to the bathroom, left the tent, and went to the bathroom. After an exorbitant amount a time, he exited the bathroom, and I asked him what took so long, visions of a full roll of toilet paper plugging up my toilet dancing in my head. He screamed as loud as he could and stomped his foot, “SHUT UP!”

Of course, having a four year old scream at you and tell you to shut up, your first reaction is to discipline the kid. When I told him not to tell me to shut up he looked at me as if I were an idiot and said, “I’m not talking to you.” Then he burst into tears, real tears, not the fake crying that some kids will use to get out of trouble. I was shocked at this outburst because it was so uncharacteristic of him.

He crawled onto the bed, into my arms, and proceeded to tell me he was talking to the footsteps; a chill swept through me and instantly I knew what he was trying to tell me. I asked him what the footsteps wanted and he said they wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t want to talk to them. I explained that he just needed to tell them to go away. He said he tried, but they wouldn’t listen to him and maybe they would listen to me. I ask him where they were and he pointed at the corner of the room. When I focused on that spot, I felt the presence that had scared him witless. Taking a deep breath I stared at the spot mustering as much conviction as I could, “You need to leave you’re scaring him and he doesn’t want to talk to you.”

After a few minutes, the presence seemed to fade away and he looked up at me with a smile. “You made them go away. They never listen to me, you chased them away.”  His entire demeanor changed and for the remainder of the day he acted as if nothing had happened.

When his mother came to pick him up, I told her I needed to speak with her in private. As I explained what had happened she slumped against the wall and shook her head telling me she’d thought it was just their house. This confused the hell out of me. She explained she’d heard him talking upstairs in his room numerous times and decided to ask whom he was talking to up there. His answer was always my friend. When she asked him who his friend was, he would just say the man. When she asked if she could talk to his friend he’d giggle and tell her that she couldn’t see him so how would she talk to him. She’d tried to write it off as the imaginary friend thing, but now she knew better.

As he got older, he would ask me questions whenever I visited about what happened when you died. I’d tell him no one truly knows and would direct him to his mom. His mom would laugh and say it’s okay if you want to talk to him about it. I’d tell him what different people believed and told him that he would have to decide for himself what he believed. One of my favorite questions he asked me happened the Thanksgiving he was eight.

“Did you know there’s a ghost living in our house?”

I glanced at his mom and she shrugged. I smiled at him and replied, “Yes, I know about him.”

He went on to ask me how I knew it was a man. Had I saw him? Had he talked to me? I was honest with him and explained that I didn’t see ghosts, but that I could sense them and sometimes hear them. His reply was, “So, God made you so you know the ghosts are there.” Again, I was honest and told him yes. He nodded sagely, said he could do that too and then wandered off to play. He didn’t seem bothered by any of this and it made me smile to know that he wasn’t afraid anymore.

One of the funniest moments was a couple of years later when we went to see the movie The Messengers. He’s fascinated with ghost stories and he drove his mom nuts until she agreed to take him to see it. On the way home, his mother and I were discussing the movie when from the backseat he suddenly piped up with the following.

“I don’t know why those people were scared of the ghosts. Ghosts won’t hurt you. They’re just lonely and they hang out and watch us like the man in our basement.”

His mother nearly wrecked the car.

I blinked and looked at her and then him, “You didn’t tell your mom about that?”

Her eyes got as huge as saucers and she demanded to know what he was talking about and why I knew when she didn’t. Shrugging he replied that when they’d went into the basement to get the Christmas tree and the decorations that he’d seen the man standing in the corner watching them. He explained he hadn’t said anything to her because he didn’t want her to be scared because the man isn’t a scary man mommy. She told him she wouldn’t have been scared and he rolled his eyes and stated, yes you would have mommy, because you think ghosts are scary, but they’re just people without bodies.

Experiencing these things through his eyes over the years has made me more receptive to my own ability to sense spirits. We lose an innocence of spirit as we age, grow, and learn fear of death and what waits for us on the other side. Because of him, I’ve rediscovered some of that innocence. He’s thirteen now and hasn’t mentioned the man for some time although we both know, through conversations, that he’s still aware and that he knows he can’t tell just anyone about what he’s seen. He’s a smart kid and I honestly believe that part of the reason he doesn’t tell his mother certain things is that he is trying to protect her.

Someday I hope he can share that part of himself with her.