All posts tagged gothic

See Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl Exclusively on Shudder

Published May 4, 2017 by vfdpixie

Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl (2016, 1 hr, 16 mins)

With all the generic horrors out there, I’m always thrilled to see what terrors Shudder Canada has to offer. This time, they’ve brought us director and writer A.D. Calvo who takes us back in time to combine a lonely teenage girl, unrequited love, creepy gothic horror and a retro vibe for his latest film Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl.

Adele (Erin Wilhelmi) is sent by her unfeeling mother to look after her agoraphobic aunt Dora (Susan Kellerman) in the hopes that they will inherit her fortune. In a large, rambling house, Adele must follow neatly written instructions left by her aunt who never emerges from her bedroom. Her duties include:  preparing very specific meals of sardines, crackers and tea, keeping quiet in the house, and she is banned from having any visitors to the house whatsoever. A tall order for a young woman almost out of her teenage years, but Adele seems to be a bit of a misfit and introvert with no friends. When she meets the beautiful and mysterious Beth (Quinn Shephard) in town, they strike up a friendship and become very close. As Adele loses herself in the glow of Beth’s friendship, her attention shifts from her aunt’s well-being to romantic feelings towards her newfound friend and she makes choices that will lead her down a dangerous path.

Not being familiar with the several horror/fantasy movies Calvo has under his belt, I was pleasantly surprised with Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl as my introduction to his work. This Sitges and Fantastic Fest 2016 selection brings a gothic, romantic feel that made me think of classic horror writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed the quiet suspense of this film and felt for Adele and her predicament, but also raised an eyebrow at her childish self-centeredness. Her adoration of Beth and attempts to mimic her cool sophistication and careless attitude shows her desperation to find a connection since she’s mistreated by her aunt and mother. It’s a gothic horror romance and coming of age story all in one.

He also throws in some good old-fashioned morals that no gothic horror would be complete without.  We see this when Adele finds an underlined passage in Aunt Dora’s bible, namely Matthew 6:19-20:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”

I’m no biblical expert, but it’s clear that greed and what motivates us to be self-serving is central and justifies Aunt Dora’s paranoia. In Adele’s case, it’s not only her poor upbringing, neglect and the prospect of having some money and nice things, but also falling in love and wanting to impress Beth. Both blind her from the realities of her surroundings.  It’s a nice touch without having to spell out the storyline.

I thought the same-sex love story was refreshing and even though it came from a male director, it didn’t feel exploitative and the young but seasoned actors made the most of the tentative affair.  Shephard certainly smouldered like a teenage beauty queen as Beth and Wilhelmi played Adele with an awkward, wide-eyed innocence that drew a certain amount of sympathy. Even when Adele’s actions become morally questionable, there is a sense that she isn’t really bad, just inexperienced.

The set design and wardrobe captured the early 80’s vibe for a believable period horror, and I really enjoyed the old school hits Adele listens to, the eerie scoring, and sound design. And if you’re looking for a weird retro horror finale, you’ll definitely find it here, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable. This climax stayed true to old school horrors and had a myriad of influences from Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and Black Sabbath (The Drop of Water segment) that Calvo has mentioned, to the more modern I Am the Pretty Thing in the House and House of the Devil. None of these films are perfect, but like Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, they tell a compelling and interesting story.

I recommend checking out Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, but you’ll need to stick with this slow burn story. It has a lot of meat on its bones for a low budget, and there is plenty to speculate well after the film is over. Watch this bit of nostalgic horror fun with a really creepy ending on Shudder now!

Dark Shadows and How to Name a Pixie

Published May 25, 2013 by vfdpixie

house of dark shadows      night of dark shadows

House of Dark Shadows                                Night of Dark Shadows

(1970 1 hr, 37 mins)                                       (1971 1 hr, 35 mins)

My mom was such a huge fan of the gothic ABC T.V. soap Dark Shadows that she named me after one of the characters.  This is original pixie lore, and I wear it like a badge of honour.  How cool/crazy do you have to be to name your wee pixie child after the daughter of a gothic and ghostly dynasty?  My mom really dug all things supernatural, and she has passed this penchant down to me.  I miss her dearly and I feel that today, on my birthday, it is only fitting that I watch House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows as my birthday double feature.

In House of Dark Shadows, governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) looks for her charge, David Collins (David Henesy).  They play a cat and mouse game, while creepy handyman Willie Loomis (John Karlen) who is supposed to help look for David too, decides to instead look for some hidden treasure on the Collins Estate, and gets himself into a spot of trouble as he awakens Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), a vampire and ancient ancestor, and becomes his servant.  Barnabas introduces himself to the Collins clan, Elizabeth (Joan Bennett), Roger (Louis Edmonds), Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and David, as a distant cousin who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to a portrait of Barnabas from the 1700’s.  During a fancy dress ball, Barnabas becomes smitten with Maggie, who looks like his long-lost love Josette.  He is determined to make her his bride, despite Maggie’s attachment to her boyfriend Jeff (Roger Davis).  In the meantime, Barnabas feeds on unsuspecting women, one of them being his cousin Carolyn.  She joins him as an undead and becomes a tad jealous when he reveals that he intends to marry Maggie.  She gets vampy crazy and threatens to reveal Barnabas’ vampire secret.  He confines Carolyn to her crypt, but she escapes and tries to turn her boyfriend Todd (Donald Briscoe).  Sadly, she gets staked.  There is also Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall), who learns of Barnabas’ vampire secret, and she too becomes smitten by his vampire charm.  She creates a cure for him, and he is determined to marry Maggie as he becomes more human-like.  This plan becomes botched by the jealous Dr. Julia, and Maggie’s boyfriend Jeff and creepy Willie have to save the day, but not before Barnabas flits away as a bat.

In the second film, Night of Dark Shadows, we meet artist Quentin Collins (David Selby) and his wife Tracy ( played by the stunning Kate Jackson in her first feature film), who have inherited the Collinwood Estate. It is run by creepy housekeeper Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall) and Gerrard (James Storm) the stable hand. Quentin is haunted by dream memories of an Angelique Collins (Lara Parker), a woman who was accused, tried and hanged as a witch. She was also having an affair with her husband’s brother, Charles Collins.  Carlotta reveals to Quentin that he is the reincarnated Charles and he must get rid of his wife for the spirit of Angelique, who vowed to return one day.  Quentin becomes lured by the spell of Angelique and the influence of Carlotta.  He also becomes more and more like Charles, Angelique’s lover and more contemptuous towards his wife Tracy.  Their worried friends, Alex (John Karlen) and Claire (Nancy Barrett), intervene when Quentin becomes violent.  Apparently, director Dan Curtis had to edit out several minutes from the film, so it lost some coherency towards the end.  The plot quickly dissolves into Team Carlotta vs. Team Tracy, then Team Quentin & Tracy vs. Team Carlotta & Gerard, and some crazy bongo punctuated fights.

Both films were a lot of campy gothic fun for me.  If I had to pick a favourite though, it would have to be House of Dark Shadows, simply because of my huge inflated ego.  Yes folks, pixie was named after Carolyn Stoddard.  It’s not often these days that I hear a man sigh “Ohhh, Carolyn!!” as he is being fed on by a vampire, or scream, “Carolyn!!” in a vampiric, fevered trance.  Hey, I’ll take what I can get (and no, I’m not skipping back to those scenes continually just to hear my name…I’m not!…really!).  The groovy camera angles and blurred kill shots are things of beauty, as well as the delicious, bright red ’70’s blood.  It’s interesting to see that some of the actors in the first film played completely different characters in the second film, a practice that is most currently seen in American Horror Story.  In the original Dark Shadows T.V. series, there were several story arcs that got a tad confusing as parallel times and storylines occurred with different outcomes.  Check out for detailed episode synopsis and great information on the series, cast and crew.

I was excited to see the 2012 remake by Tim Burton.  I’m a huge fan of his, and couldn’t wait to see what he would bring.  He combined storylines from the 2 films to create campy visual eye candy.  I loved the sets and costuming, and Johnny Depp brought his own unique interpretation of Barnabas.  Helena Bonham Carter was perfectly cast as Dr. Julia Hoffman,  but I was disappointed with the liberties taken with Carolyn’s character.  He stayed true to her being a teen in the original series, but a werewolf?  That blended part of Quentin’s lineage put me off, but then again, the Collins lineage itself is quite a trip.

Of course these two vintage horror films are part of my collection, courtesy of Suspect Video.  So glad I have them as I feel they are a part of my crazy, personal history. Happy Birthday to me!!

Favourite Scenes:  Anything with Barnabas Collins.  Jonathan Frid’s face was so interesting and charismatic, despite not being conventionally handsome.  The same goes for David Selby as Quentin Collins.  I also loved the scene in House of Dark Shadows when the vampire cure goes wrong. The close-ups were kind of revolting and actually scary. Oh, and the slo-mo staking.  Just has to be seen.

Most Memorable Lines:  when Carolyn says to Barnabas, “There’s so much about you that I’m dying to know.”  Um, yeah, you bet sister!

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