One Month At A Time

October Films! “The Devil’s Candy”

I’ve got a bit of a backlog of movies to report on. There’s been some time to watch spooky stuff, but not much time to write about it.

“The Devil’s Candy” is a film that has come up a couple of times on Facebook. A few of my Facebook pals have spoken highly of it. So, sure, I decided to give it a try.

Released in 2015, the film stars Ethan Embry, an actor I remember from the 90s films “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “That Thing You Do,” and “Empire Records.”

He was also in “Dutch.”

I remember him as kind of a wide-eyed, sort of goofy, but generally likeable character actor, but I lost track of him somewhere around 2000, where he moved on to more serious stuff.

With the stringy blond hair, ragged beard and tattoos, Embry is barely recognizable as the approaching middle-age metal-head father and painter, Jesse Hellman, in “The Devil’s Candy,” though his character has some of the same earnestness that you see in his earlier work.

The story revolves around Jesse, his wife and daughter moving into an old house with a bad history. The previous owners died –apparently by accident, everyone in the film believes (though we know different).

It’s a nice house and “Gee, wouldn’t it be a shame to let the place go to waste just because of a couple of dead people?”

This all seems like stupid horror film logic, but then again, I’ve been through the whole home buying process. When you’re looking for some place half decent that’s in your budget, you’re willing to put up with a lot.

I’d be OK with some dead people just to have some better windows. Cultists could definitely have tried to call up C’thulhu at some point, if it would have knocked a hundred bucks a month off my mortgage.

It beats renting.

Boiled down, the thread of “Hard Candy” follows bad things are happening, a reluctant serial killer serves the devil, loiters around the family home, which used to belong to his parents.

The cops know about the serial killer, of course, but seem to figure that it was just a phase, something he did when he was a kid, but he’s fine now, except for creeping everyone out.

Then things get worse. People die. There is some teen angst and Mom isn’t a huge fan of heavy metal music for some reason, though she’s married to a guy who looks he’s a roadie for Slayer.

How does that even happen?

“The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but it is also a mess. There’s a vein of demon possession or demonic influence that may be connected to the house, to Pruitt Taylor Vince’s tortured serial killer character or even to Jesse, but then there’s the issue with the painting Embry’s character is working on.

Is it prophesy, a warning, a love letter from hell?

Who can say? Maybe all three. Maybe something else.

And what’s the deal with the art dealer (played by an uncredited F. Murray Abraham) named Belial, who shows up to maybe tempt Jesse?

Thanks to a good long time spent playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” I know the name Belial belongs to a Duke of Hell. So all the hours spent reading the “Monster Manual II” during high school weren’t wasted.

Abraham is there, he pours a couple of drinks, and splits without accomplishing a lot, except maybe saying again that the devil is involved with Jesse on a very personal level.

It has to be the name, Jesse Hellman. He’s Hell’s man, get it?

Anyway, the ending almost feels like something out of a Kirk Cameron film. I wasn’t satisfied with it and felt like it was a cop out.

As I said, “The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but not particularly smart. The acting is good, even if the story could have used some fine tuning.

You can find “The Devil’s Candy” on Netflix.

October Horror Films Return!

Through the month of October, “One Month at a Time” will be watching lots of seasonal horror films and sharing our (my) findings.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t watched a lot of scary movies lately. I used to watch them by the metric ton, back when there were things called video stores, but with the decline of the brick and mortar places, I’ve fallen into watching whatever is on Netflix or Amazon.

The experience isn’t the same and also, with so many choices, it’s hard to find anything actually worth watching.

On the one hand, it’s awesome that obscure indie directors can get their low budget, hand-crafted movies out to where people can watch them. On the other, nobody at Amazon, Netflix or the other streaming services seems to care what they run –just so long as there’s not too much nudity.

There’s no real filter –and those star ratings systems are often pointless.

Besides, decent horror films often get trashed in the ratings by killjoys who really wanted to watch the British Baking Show, but got stuck watching something spooky because they lost a coin toss.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last couple of years, like everyone else, watching endless seasons of “The Office” and “Supernatural,” but this month, I’m trying to dig in there and watch some honest-to-Goodness horror films. While I can’t promise one a day, I can probably get a couple in a week.

Here’s the first:

“Hell House LLC”

hell-house-llc

My first film out of the gate is a shakey-cam film about a Halloween haunted house attraction production crew that sets up shop in an old, upstate New York hotel with a bit of a history. Bad things happened. There may have been a cult. It really doesn’t matter. Thinking too deeply is only going to hurt the ball club.

The main thing is the place is haunted and the folks who signed on to make some money during Halloween are slowly drawn into a nightmare.

While there is a bit of blood, it’s not especially gory. The film is trying for more of a documentary feel and the malevolent forces at work are more about efficiency than grandstanding with a lot of organs getting tossed around.

It’s a little bit “Blair Witch Project” meets “The House on Haunted Hill,” but I mean that in the most complimentary ways.

As is usual with haunted house films, the audience figures out everybody should just pack up and go someplace else approximately one hour and 20 minutes before the end credits, but where’s the fun in that?

“Hell House LLC” is fun. It’s legitimately creepy and even when you know where it’s all going, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun ride.

You can find this one on Amazon Prime.

 

Spartan Race –People of Target

I was at Target, picking out a fitness tracker to help me keep up with my mileage, when I spotted Travis and Hannah, a couple both sporting Spartan Race t-shirts.

This was reason enough to amble over and say, “Hi. I couldn’t help but notice your t-shirts. So, you’ve done a Spartan Race?”

The couple looked at each other. I don’t think I was the first person to walk up to them to ask.

We talked for probably 10 minutes. Last year, they’d run a couple of Spartan Races, but had also done Tough Mudder races (A different brand of obstacle race). Both looked like they were in ok shape, but didn’t look like the people I keep seeing in Spartan Race promotions.

It’s looking more and more like they hired a few models or actors, which is fine. Not everybody is photogenic. Doing all the crunches in the world can’t fix it if you look like a velociraptor.

They told me:

  1. They like the Tough Mudder races better.

“It’s more of a community,” Hanna said. “People will help you, if you need them, too. It’s about everyone getting across the finish line.”

2. Spartan Races have better swag.

“You get a better head band and it’s a good t-shirt,” Travis said.

3. The mile markers at Spartan Races might become scarce.

Hannah told me, “We stopped seeing them after a while and when you’d ask the volunteers, ‘How much farther? They’d always say, just another couple of miles.”

And the miles just rolled on.

4. Bring water, snacks and mustard.

I didn’t know this, but, apparently, you can wear a Camelback water bottle and take race refreshments with you –like Gatorade chews, Gu packs and even Cliff bars. This was also not apparent in the photos I’d seen of races.

I knew about Gu packs –they’re basically sugar and electolytes, sometimes with caffeine and protein. Long distance runners, cyclists and triathletes use them. I’d seen Gatorade chews at the grocery store and I eat Cliff Bars regularly (My fave is the Peanut Butter crunch).

Mustard was new, but Travis said, “Yeah, you see empty mustard packs all over the place. People will carry them.”

“Uh, why?” I asked. Eating mustard straight out of the packet seemed gross.

“It helps with cramps,” Travis said.

According to a couple of websites, yeah, that’s what it does. Mustard contains properties which will help prevent or ease cramps in the case of dehydration.

5. They believed I could handle the race.

“I’m not much of a runner,” Travis said. “But that’s not all that important.”

You never run that far, he explained. There is always another obstacle to get to. The obstacles are the thing, not the distance.

His wife didn’t entirely agree.

“Some of the obstacles are the running,” she said. “You might run straight up a mountain for a mile and a half.”

But it could be done –as long as I paced myself and kept my head.

“You can do this,” she said. “And there’s beer afterwards. It’s the best beer you’ve ever had.”

Spartan Race: nothing runs like a deer

I parked the car near the swimming pool, but almost had the lot to myself.

At 7:30 in the morning, not many people were out at Coonskin Park –just a handful of men on mowers, a few others driving around in beat up county trucks and whoever had been banished from the civilized world to sit behind the lonely desk inside the building by the tennis courts.

Stretching was modest, but more than usual. I’m working on stretching before exercising. Not stretching, not warming up is an old, stupid habit. So, I did ten air squats, bent and twisted my spine, held on to my car with one hand and one after another, tried to wake up my thighs and hamstrings.

I hate running.

As a teenager, I’d been a distance runner –not a good or really competitive distance runner, but I’d run some races. I’d earned a couple of t-shirts. I’d sat in the bus after and eaten the french fries.

I needed to get my legs back. I needed to get my lungs back, and I needed to dump 30 pounds of weight.

Running is the only way I know how to do that inside of a couple of months –along with a tedious diet.

As stretched as I was going to get, I plugged my earbuds into the iPod strapped to my arm and chose something fun as my morning workout soundtrack.

What I listen to varies from day to day –a lot of the time I will go with aggressive or up tempo rock stuff. Heavy metal is great for lifting heavy weight, example, but for a run, I wanted something that would distract me from the basic unhappiness of having to do it at all.

Today’s run was accompanied by music from the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Agreed, kind of a weird thing to listen to while you run, but the struggles of Tevye and his family in late Czarist Russia soothed me as I hacked my way through about three miles of some running and a lot of brisk walking.

Along the way, a deer stumbled out of the woods like a drunk fraternity pledge lost during homecoming weekend. It looked at me, watched me struggle to maintain a trot for a few moments. Then, as if to mock me, the beast pranced away at full speed across the road and toward the golf course.

The “run” took me about 40 minutes, but it was good to get it out of the way.

I’ll do it again tomorrow, same course. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll run a little more, walk a little less and think to bring a rock to throw at smug forest animals.

 

Updates and a Spartan Race setback

are-fritos-veganUnfortunately, I didn’t make it out to run this morning. I ran into some trouble with my kid’s summer camp and had to run back to the house to find my checkbook.

So, we’ll try to get some time on the road later today or tack it on tomorrow. I really can’t skip the running.

Since there’s been kind of a lag between when I was last active with the blog, now seemed like a good time to update on a few past projects, some of which are still active.

While I’m not a full-on vegan these days, I am a vegetarian who leans vegan. Basically, I avoid animal products when I can, but accept that if I’m someplace where “clean” foods aren’t available, I go along with things that have eggs or dairy.

I will have a slice of pizza at the office, have a piece of chocolate or maybe get a donut every once in a while, but otherwise just leave it alone.

I probably have something with eggs or milk in it two or three times in a week.

I am still taking self defense classes at the Butch Hiles gym in Charleston. Over the last six months, I’ve gotten better at throwing a punch and learned a lot about getting out of several holds, while also horribly crippling your attacker.

That is the magic of Krav Maga.

I had a good time at the FOOTMAD contra dance in February when I was studying all things Celtic (well, mostly things Scottish) and went back. It’s a pretty good time, actually.

I have not, however, continued with learning the bagpipes or worn a kilt since. Everyone is happy about that, I think.

I am still a member of the Kanawha Kordsmen, which surprised them as much as it did me.

Since my performance with them in Cleveland back in April, I have continued to go to rehearsals pretty regularly, learned the words to a couple of songs and performed with them again during FestivALL.

They have been amazingly kind and welcoming.

I’m still not very good. I don’t have much range, but I think I’m getting better (slowly), and it’s great fun.

 

Spartan Race training

spartan

It was a weird way to spend my birthday.

June 18 (contrary to what Facebook says) I turned 47 and went over to the University of Charleston for a Spartan Race workout.

My race is coming up August 26 (now, just two months away) and I’m getting nervous about it. So far, I’ve read two books on the subject, but only have a general idea of what to expect, based largely on a few stories from very, very fit people who’ve attended a few of them.

So, I went because I wanted to see what kind of exercises would help and also see what kind of people do Spartan Races.

I learned a little –how to do a proper Spartan burpee, for example. I also saw people who will probably ace the West Virginia race in August. They seemed superhumanly fit, like the kind of people who wear spandex and fight crime on the cover of comic books.

But I also saw some people like me –not in terrible shape, but not really ready to run 15 miles while climbing walls, jumping over hot coals or crawling under barbed wire.

It was one of the most vigorous 90 minutes I think I’ve put myself through. I drank three bottles of water while on UC’s lawn overlooking the river and had a fourth one in the car.

I figure I got my money’s worth for the class. Ten bucks netted me a t-shirt, four bottles of water and about 10 Cliff bars.

I also met a woman with MS who told me she’d done six Trifectas –that’s when you do a sprint, a super and a beast race within a year or so.

The beast is usually a 13-15 mile race. She said she did a beast in New Jersey last year and with her illness, it took her 13 hours to complete, but she finished.

“A lot of people got a DNF –a Did Not Finish,” she said. “I didn’t quit.”

I took a lot of encouragement from that.

If she can do it in 13 hours, I can do it in 13 hours.

But I hope I can get it done a little faster than that, get home and maybe watch a lot of Netflix while eating my weight in Fritos.

This is the dream.

I didn’t do much in the way of exercise for the week following my birthday. I slacked off and focused on my upcoming show at The Comedy Zone, but I’m back at it today. I did a bunch of new exercises that are supposed to help me get ready and I’m going to do a betterĀ  job of watching what I eat.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try to run/walk five miles before work. There’s no way that’s not going to suck. Tomorrow’s post will be all about the bellyaching.

 

Back in Black –so to speak

Sorry about not updating the blog since February…

It’s a little funny, but bloggers have a habit of dropping out –unless they’re specifically paid to maintain a blog.

I’ve been a blogger off and on for over 10 years and I’ve gone through hiatuses, but the boss said, “Get back to blogging or you should just give up the site.”

Maybe he thinks we should do a blog about pet pictures. That could be fun.

The main thing that’s brought me back to blogging is that a lot is happening –or is about to happen and it felt like using a blog regularly was a good idea.

I just won’t be able to get as much in otherwise.

The Spartan Race is coming up in August. I have made little sustained progress, though I have lost a couple of pounds.

As of Sunday, I will be starting a grueling, new exercise plan and diet (Yay, journalism), which I’ll be reporting on.

I hope this works. Race time is getting closer.

spartan

Also, next month (SPOILER), I’m taking on traveling the state of West Virginia. The idea is to hit 55 counties within roughly 30 days. Actually, it will be 55 counties in less than 30 days –more like 55 counties in roughly 12 days. That’s about all I can do and still have even the barest hope of maintaining the other parts of my job.

I’m getting this information out a little early because I could use some help on this one.

I need places to maybe visit, possibly places to stay for the night.

So, if you want to help, chime in here with suggestions (including where these places might be found) or send me an email at lynch@wvgazettemail.com.

 

Kilt Run update

Training for the Celtic Calling’s Kilt Run has been a little slow –slow enough that I figure I’ll be taking the two-mile Kilt Walk option, which may probably include some light Kilt jogging.

I’m a little disappointed, but the Kilt Run was supposed to be the first step toward the Spartan Race coming up in August –and I cannot complete a full mile without stopping.

spartan

Getting your running legs back takes longer when you’re 46 instead of 15 maybe. Also, while I was making some progress the first couple of weeks, I slacked off last week.

I just didn’t get out on the practice field and run laps.

ymca-field
A safe place to go where the other runners won’t laugh at you.

I’ll get back to it this week, which probably won’t help much for Saturday’s run, but this is all a process. I get that.

My time is limited.

I now have just six months to get myself up to running 14 miles and capable of leaping over fire or fighting dinosaurs or whatever it is they’re putting out there for the Spartan Race.

barney-cake-with-photo-3_enl
I have no idea how you train to deal with this.

I haven’t looked too deeply. Why spoil the surprise?

In the meantime, I’ve subscribed to an email newsletter that’s supposed to provide me with workout tips and things to help me prepare.

I haven’t actually opened in any of these emails, but it’s a process, right? One step at a time.

Celtic Movies #2: Rob Roy

Through the month of February, I’m studying (celebrating) all things Celtic (mostly, Scottish) and have been watching films related to Scotland (sort of).

My second film was “Rob Roy” with Qui-Gon Ginn and that lady who escaped from off the set of “American Horror Story.”

rob-royReleased in 1995 (near the same time as “Braveheart”), the film was more mining of Scottish history, this time about Rob Roy MacGregor, who gets tangled up in debt over some cows and Tim Roth in drag, which was totally cool in the 1700s.

It even wastes the usually very decent John Hurt (Still awesome in “Alien” and as Caligula in “I, Claudius”), who tends to elevate whatever crap thing he’s signed on for (Does anyone remember “King Ralph?”)

Ugh…I hated this movie.

To me, it was like the worst parts of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and something the BBC abandoned to spend on “Dr. Who” episodes instead.

Lord, this thing dragged and within 30 minutes, I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the MacGregors, Lord Montrose, Archibald Cunningham or the whole of Scotland –though I did see the point of those weird sashes that come with some kilts (SPOILER: They can be used as a kind of snuggie).

Based on material gleaned from Wikipedia, “Rob Roy” was a much more true-to-history tale than “Braveheart,” but that’s not saying much. Episodes of “Quantum Leap” were more truthful to history, even if you forgot about the invisible guy in the bad suits wandering around.

quantum72
I’ve seen the future and it works…

 

For me, the only bright spot was the hope that after Roth and Eric Stolz, a few more actors from “Pulp Fiction” to show up, waving swords and promising to go medieval and someone’s butt, but alas no John Travolta and no Samuel L. Jackson.

samuel-l-jackson
There really isn’t a movie, Samuel Jackson doesn’t improve.

Anyway, I muscled through “Rob Roy” for another hour, but realized it wasn’t getting any better. So, I quit and watched an episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which has nothing to do with Scotland, though I suspect Neil Patrick Harris has probably vacationed there.

Back to the library for me.

Celtic movies: #1 “Braveheart”

Over the next couple of weeks, while I’m trying to immerse myself in all things Celtic (mostly Scottish), I’ll be watching whatever Scottish-related films I can get my hands on.

braveheart-poster
You may take our lives, but you will never figure out how to do our accents!

The first was a re-watching of “Braveheart,” the 1995 film that kind of made Mel Gibson more than your basic action star. The movie was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five, including best picture and best director.

Based very loosely on the legend of Scottish bada$$ William Wallace, who raised an army and fought the English, the film was wildly controversial in Scotland for it’s mendacious mangling of history for the sake of cinema.

Also, nobody liked Mel’s accent, which does tend to slip in and out, but in all fairness, he’s an American from Australia trying to sound like a Scotsman. He was doomed from the start.

Still, horrible abuse of Scottish history or not, Scottish tourism embraced the film with both arms for a while, offered tours and there was even a statue erected somewhere that looked a lot like Mel Gibson.

The locals hated it, but people kept spending money.

In looking at the film all over, I was reminded that Mel Gibson has a tendency toward gore that almost turns comic. Fights in the film often go well over the top with a variety of impalings, limbs being lopped off and gallons of blood flowing in every direction.

Even with some betrayals on the side of the Scottish cause, the film scans as very black and white. The English are universally horrible. The Scottish commoners are all noble and earnest, even if their leaders are kind of slimy opportunists.

I’m not fond of the characterization of King Edward’s son, who is clearly portrayed as effeminate, craven and gay for the sake of contrasting him with his severe, alpha male father and giving the audience another reason to dislike him –but blockbuster films of the time, of which this one was, tended to paint in broad, dumb strokes.

Also, it’s not a true to the man. According to history, the guy with the boyfriend who gets tossed out a window (SPOILER) had five kids by two women, which doesn’t absolutely say he wasn’t gay, but might be evidence that he didn’t loathe the company of women.

Still, overall, “Braveheart” is a good action epic that has held up fairly well over the last 20 years, even if Gibson’s career hasn’t. It’s more fun than pretty much everything Michael Bay ever released, even if the film isn’t as accurate as an episode of “Drunk History.”

“Braveheart” looks great, has all the excitement of a big, popcorn-munching film and has some heart.

I liked it.