This Week in WTF, November 1, 2013



– I guess they woke him up: Was I the only person who, upon seeing this picture of the new Taiwanese army uniform (left), immediately thought “Bring out the gimp”? (h/t Shannon)

– “Trick or treat” is supposed to be a rhetorical question: An unnamed woman in North Dakota announced plans to distribute fat- shaming instead of candy to certain neighborhood kids.

A Fargo, N.D., woman says she will give trick-or-treaters that she deems ‘moderately obese’ a letter instead of candy this Halloween.

“I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it,” the woman said in a morning radio interview with Y-24. She wouldn’t identify herself.

I wonder how many kids approached her house in “egg delivery person” or “toilet paper quality control tester” costumes…

Nicole Knepper offered some good legal analysis at the blog Moms Who Drink and Swear:

The first amendment here in the good old morbidly obese USA guarantees us the right to free speech, to a degree. This letter falls into the category of protected but asinine free speech.

– Not as Cute as Bunnies, I Bet: The manager of a Portland, Oregon apartment building is complaining that pests are foraging greens from his property. Not rabbits or other traditional pests, mind you, but rather local sous chefs, as Eater reports (h/t Leila):

According to Connolly, despite posting several “No Trespassing” signs, he’s found evidence that chefs are on his property, including beard nets and a discarded recipe for “PDX pork belly.” (Seriously.) There’s also apparently a distinguished scent left behind by local cooks: “Sometimes smells like brisket.” (Seriously. This is all apparently very serious.)


Halloween’s Apotheosis

The trend of preceding all women’s Halloween costumes with the descriptor “sexy” may have reached its point of artistic nirvana (or something) with Yandy’s “Sexy Bert & Ernie” costume, a regular feature of “ridiculous costume” lists at this time of year.

A Reddit user brought this to the world’s attention last year, but I’m not sure if the famous ambiguously-gay Muppet roommates will be available for long in a “sexy” format, especially after last year’s cease and desist from Sesame Street:

Sesame Street Workshop has advised to “cease and desist” selling sexy costumes based on Big Bird, Bert, and Ernie.

On the heels of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comments about PBS and the possible firing of Big Bird, the sexy Big Birdlike outfit was positioned as a hot seller, according to the New York Daily News.

Unsurprisingly,, a costume, dress, and lingerie online retailer at the forefront of the sexualized Halloween costumes movement, has reaped the rewards of Romney’s comments during the first presidential debate.

On its site, features a sexy yellow bird costume that one can pair with an officially licensed Big Bird headband manufactured by Disguise Inc. has been careful to avoid accusations of copyright infringement or otherwise get in legal trouble, but the increased attention occasioned by Romney’s comments caused Sesame Street Workshop to step in.

Basically, if you can’t get a “sexy” Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, or Snuffleupagus costume this year, I recommend blaming Mitt Romney. As far as I can tell, though, the costumes are still available, so the warping of our childhood memories may continue.


Self-loathing morbid curiosity: why I watch horror movies

-pHLhWBiGEWqPEpzXRccHw2“Self-loathing morbid curiosity.” That was my answer when someone asked me why I watch movies like Hostel and Piranha 3-D when I so obviously hate them.

Halloween is the time of year when cable TV runs marathons of various horror movie franchises, and I seem to find myself drawn in even when I can’t actually stand watching. This is not limited to the Halloween season for me, though. I occasionally find myself watching bad knock-off slasher films on Chiller, or second-rate horror movies on HBO. Not too long ago, I was flipping channels and came across the beginning of Final Destination 5. Perhaps it was the sight of Dave Koechner getting covered in hot tar while dangling from a bridge (yea, that was a spoiler, but it happened in the first ten minutes), but the next thing I knew, I had watched the whole damn thing. I admire the creativity the writers have shown in killing off characters across five movies, but I have to wonder if that creativity could be better spent elsewhere.

At least the Final Destination films show some creativity, albeit of the most formulaic sort. The Saw films made a valiant effort to maintain a complex continuity across seven films, and it required a new sort of suspension of disbelief. Rather than forcing the audience to believe that a slow-moving berserker could deftly pursue sprinting teenagers, the Saw films asked us to believe that a cancer-ridden civil engineer could build, maintain, and oversee multiple Rube Goldberg-esque schemes, both from his deathbed and from beyond the grave, with only the help of a handful of emotionally crippled proteges who remained unaware of one another’s involvement. That’s far less plausible than a burly masked man keeping pace, at a walk, with a sprinting eighteen year-old, but it is at least slightly more engaging for the higher functions of the brain. Continue reading


Halloween Reading Material, 2012

14666Back in the day, I used to do a round-up of horror movies around Halloween. This year, I’m sharing a new medium of horror story. Horror comics aren’t new, obviously, and you would think that horror webcomics are generally a derivative of that medium.

This one is different. Trust me.

Keep the sound on, and scroll sloooowwwwwllllyyyyyy through Bongcheon-Dong Ghost by HORANG, easily the spookiest comic I’ve read in any medium. It only takes a couple minutes, but you won’t forget it.

Via Lauren Davis at io9:

Scroll down slowly and keep the sound on as you read this Korean comic—often called the scariest webcomic of all time—based on an urban legend. A young girl is walking home alone one night when she spots a woman limping ahead of her, and gets a horrifying lesson in why you shouldn’t talk to dead strangers.

Happy Halloween.

Photo credit: Bongcheon-Dong Ghost Manhwa, via


Stop! Grammar Time! The Case of the Missing Holiday Apostrophe

If you’re at all like me (and for the sake of your mental health, I sincerely hope you are not), you often wonder things like “Why does ‘Halloween’ sometimes have an apostrophe between the two e’s?” or “Why didn’t I just wear some dang sunscreen on Sunday?” For the sake of brevity, I will limit myself to addressing the former question today.


Image courtesy of Susan Morrow

The word “Halloween,” as it turns out, has its origins in a Christian appropriation of a pagan festival. This is similar to, you know, nearly every major Christian holiday celebrated today. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s blog:

Despite the “pagan” origins and traditions of the holiday, it eventually was transformed into a Christian observance, closely linked to All Hallows Day or All Saints Day, November 1. All-Hallows-Even (that is, evening) is the night before All Hallows Day. The apostrophe in the earlier spelling of Hallowe’en denotes the missing “v” of “even.” You’ll find many “e’ens” in nineteenth-century and earlier poetry.

Leaving out the apostrophe, it would seem, is a shortcut around a shortcut. The laziness in omitting the apostrophe is not a new phenomenon, though, so don’t give me any grief about the younger generation not respecting their elders’ apostrophes. This goes back at least to the era of the Founding Fathers (who were presumably too busy revolutionizing to worry about excess punctuation.) Via Katherine Barber, a/k/a the Wordlady:

Halloween has been written without an apostrophe since at least 1773, according to the OED, and among the people using that spelling were Robbie Burns and Queen Victoria. There is no more reason to spell it with an apostrophe than there is to write “fan’cy” (contracted from “fantasy”), “gam’ut” (contracted from “gamma ut”), “lau’nder” (contracted from “lavender”), or “goodb’ye” (contracted from “God be with ye”). I think you can let it go!

Now you know. If you own a black cat, keep it safe.

Photo credit: Image by Susan Morrow, used with permission.


Annual Halloween Crappy Horror Movie Fest movie #3: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Not too much to say about this one. It fills out the story elements hinted at in the first two movies, although it is not strictly necessary to the overall story–perhaps it was just too tempting to create an Underworld trilogy. This installment only brings out Kate Beckinsale in stock footage, opting for the almost-as-hot Rhona Mitra (who was once the model for Lara Croft).

There’s basically no suspense, since viewers of the first two films know exactly what’s going to happen–the thrill is to finally see vampires and werewolves go at it with swords, arrows, and claws, rather than the oddly modern and high-tech bullets of the first movie. So basically, there are vampires and werewolves, and British women in very tight clothing. Way to be.

Interesting side note: the director, Patrick Tatopoulos, was the “creatures designer” for both The Cave and Pitch Black, making this film choice oddly evocative of my film choice of earlier today.


Annual Halloween Crappy Horror Movie Fest movie #2: Gone

For my next crappy horror film I decided to try Australia’s Gone, for the main reason that it supposedly stars “Chuck‘s” Yvonne Strzechowski (who appears in one scene and has no dialogue, alas).

As if Wolf Creek didn’t teach us all what a terrifying, Chainsaw Massacre-esque place Western Australia is, Gone sets out a run-of-the-mill three-person suspense thriller, with a young hip Australian couple terrorized by Scott Mechlowicz (of EuroTrip fame, who, after this movie and Mean Creek, can probably never play a normal person again.) That’s really all I can say about this movie. Mechlowicz has fully transformed from the innocent but lovable doofus of EuroTrip to a career as a B-movie creepy guy. There’s really no suspense until the last ten minutes or so, with the buildup consisting of various predictable efforts by the villain to create distrust between the Australian couple–he is helped by the fact that the boyfriend is a spazz and the girlfriend is an idiot.

The grand ending (Spoiler alert!) is definitely one to go down in the hall of fame for Frightening Use of Chain Link. Other than that, meh.


Annual Halloween Crappy Horror Movie Fest movie #1: The Cave

This movie just plain sucked, despite having Lena Heady (pre-Sarah Connor and pre-300).

Send a bunch of seasoned spelunkers and biologists into a quasi-mystical Romanian cave system, and the best they could come up with to hunt them was the deformed love child of the Alien and the things from Pitch Black?

This film had a budget of $30 million–I wonder how many cups of coffee a day that could have bought in order to save children?


Halloween Crappy-Film-Fest Roundup, 2007

My typical Halloween tradition, in lieu of braving the slutty-nurses-on-6th-Street scene, is to rent a few crappy horror movies and then bitch about them. Now that I have a blog, I can bitch to the whole world! And besides, Halloween is such a liberal holiday, don’t you think?

A quick side note: in my opinion, there is only a handful of genuinely good horror movies, but that is a subject for a future post.

This year’s set consisted of 28 Weeks Later, The Insatiable, and Flight of the Living Dead. Watch out for spoilers up ahead.

1. 28 Weeks Later.

Let me first say that 28 Days Later (2003) is probably going to be included in my list of good horror films, whenever I get around to writing it. The sequel seemed to have all the components of a good action movie, but the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Here’s what the original had going for it: a gritty, low-budget look that somehow made it more real to the viewer; and real characters that the audience got to know and care about. A good sequel needs to do at least one of the following: (1) delve deeper into the characters first introduced in the original, or (2) continue the story begun in the original in a gripping and intelligent way. A good sequel does at least one of these (e.g. the “Dirty Harry” sequels), while a great sequel does both (e.g. Godfather 2, Aliens). A bad sequel does neither (e.g. The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions).

28 Weeks Later has exactly none of the original cast returning, so there is no delving to be done. Does it continue the story intelligently? Let’s see–Americans enter Great Britain to start the reconstruction process once all the “zombies” have starved to death, allowing Brits to return to controlled areas a few dozen at a time. One survivor turns out to be a Typhoid Mary for the rage virus, she infects her husband, he infects a few people, the military starts shooting and blowing up everything that moves, and it is difficult to remember what the various characters’ names are or what they are doing. So I guess the answer is no. The movie also wastes several highly underrated but very talented actors (e.g. Rose Byrne, Idris Elba), and uses its one almost-big-name actor (Robert Carlyle) as a Patient Zero (so he has very little dialogue except grunting.)

All in all, very disappointing. The special effects, given the grittiness of the original, were actually too good. If we learned anything at all from Blair Witch 2, sometimes a big budget is not a good thing.

Here’s what I would’ve done: After holing up in a remote farmhouse for several months, the leads from the original (Cillian Murphy as Jim, Naomie Harris as Selena, and a more grown-up Hannah played by Sienna Guillory) lead a NATO expeditionary team back into post-apocalypse London, braving the few stragglers who somehow managed to survive, and facing the mutated, airborne version of the rage virus. Eventually, they have to blow up a bunch of shit, but we (the audience) actually care if one of them gets blown up as well. I’m working on a screenplay. It will be as if this last sequel never happened (cf. Halloween H20).

2. The Insatiable.

First, you have to believe that one of the original Boondock Saints is a pathetic loner, which is about as likely as Sandra Bullock or Rachel Leigh Cook being pathetic loners. Must be a movie thing.

Next, you have to believe he can steal $32,000 worth of equipment from his place of work to build a steel cage in the basement of his (rented) apartment building, that no one else will find.

The point of all this is that he traps a ridiculously hot female vampire in the cage and then tries to keep her alive by feeding her rabbits.

He also has a ridiculously hot blonde neighbor who is always flirting with him and inviting him over for dinner. Of course, when you think he has finally come to his senses and tries to kiss her, she becomes enraged, leaving him with no one except the hot vampire.

The only particularly memorable scene is the denouement, after he has allowed hot vampire to bite him. We see that she has niot killed him, but rather turned him. He knocks on blonde neighbor’s door and asks “Are you ready to feed me now?”

Hardly a progressive ending, but I guess the nerd wins out in the end. All in all, this movie was crap–Netflix said I might like it, presumably because I told it I like vampire movies.

3. Flight of the Living Dead.

Maybe the funniest part is that I am not making this up–this movie actually exists. It’s basically 28 Days Later meets Executive Decision, except Steven Seagal doesn’t die in this one, alas.

I actually quite enjoyed this one. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it is actually fairly well-paced, the acting is suprisingly good, and it didn’t strain credibility any further than was absolutely necessary. I went into this one with perhaps the lowest expectations (I still have not seen last year’s highly anticipated movie with the snakes, but I hear it didn’t go over so well), so maybe I am just filtering it through that sort of lens. But really, it has the bully from the 80’s classic Three O’Clock High playing a TSA agent, and the old guy from “Heroes” plays a sort-of mad scientist character who gets his face ripped off.

Horror movies (here I go making a list again) should do one of two things: (1) scare hell out of us in thoughtful, unexpected ways (e.g. Psycho, The Exorcist); or (2) entertain us with not-to-be-taken-too-seriously scary hijinks (e.g. Halloween). This one accomplished goal #2 in abundance.

I have to give my award for best crappy horror movie for Halloween 2007 to Flight of the Living Dead. Sorry, British zombies.