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AKA: How to know when you’ve found The (Anointed) One

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Anointed One

We open with Buffy fighting a vampire (no, not the titular Anointed One).  She’s quippy, cute, and living her best life.  Oh, and kicking undead butt.  That doesn’t stop Giles – who has been sitting on the sidelines and NOT HELPING – from critiquing her.

Giles ruins Buffy's plans with prophecies of an Anointed One
Ever heard of a compliment sandwich, Giles? (credit: IMDb)

They find a ring in the pile of vamp dust.  Oooh, a mystery!

Underground, the Master provides CliffsNotes for this week’s episode:  there’s an Anointed One who will rise from the ashes of five.  The Slayer will not know him and he will lead her into hell.

Sir, this is a library

In the library Giles has already deciphered the runes on the ring.  They symbolize the Order of Aurelius.  The Scoobies don’t get to talk about this for too long, though, because a student comes into the library.  That’s right folks:  the Sunnydale High library is open to the rest of the student body. Meet Owen: he loves Emily Dickinson and flirts by telling girls he didn’t think they could read.  Negging is evidently in this week, because Buffy is smitten.

At lunch, our trio discuss Owen and slaying – I mean laying (good recovery, Xander).  Buffy and Cordelia simultaneously spot Owen sitting alone and go for it.  Hot take:  they’re both too good for him.  He’s only got eyes for Buffy, though.  He invites her to The Bronze that night – right in front of Cordy.  Surely she won’t use that information to her advantage.

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Best laid plans

Giles has intel regarding the Order of Aurelius.  There’s an Anointed One who, according to Giles’s research, is rising tonight.  Buffy is forced to cancel her plans with Owen and sit in a more-dead-than-usual graveyard with Giles as he lectures her about her duty as Slayer.  Since the rising of the Anointed One didn’t pan out, Buffy is free to head to the Bronze.  When she gets there she sees Owen and Cordy dancing together.  She promptly turns around and leaves.

Meanwhile, we see a typical Greyhound ride unfolding.  A guy is pacing up and down the aisle monologuing as the rest of passengers stare ahead, eyes glazed over.  One of the Master’s minions stands in the road and causes a crash.  Once the bus stops he hops aboard and presumably does some vampirin’.  

In the hall the next day, Buffy and Xander talk about Buffy’s insecurity over her singleness.  Attuned to her self-consciousness Owen walks over.  Buffy gives an obvious yet cute story about missing their date due to a broken watch, so he gives her his.  Then teaches her how to tell time.  He’s seriously making me wish we got more Xander this episode.

Buffy informs Giles of her plans that night and leaves before he can say boo.

Willow and Xander help Buffy pick out an outfit for her makeup date, and Xander is already making me eat my words.  He calls her lipstick slutty and actually peaks at her getting dressed in the mirror.  What is it with the men in this episode?

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Never Kill a Boy on the First Date

Giles shows up with a newspaper article that absurdly refers to the bus crash as a van crash.  Five people died in the wreck, one of whom being the preachy Andrew Borba, a wanted killer.  Andrew seems to be a good fit as Anointed One. Giles wants to investigate the funeral home and lecture Buffy about her social life some more.  Owen shows up during their back and forth, amazed and frightened at Giles’s supposed dedication to his job.  Buffy departs with Owen and the advice that, “if the apocalypse comes beep me.”  

Giles decides he still wants to investigate, and Willow and Xander, fully aware of how many times he’s been knocked out already this season, opt to follow.  This is a good call because he is immediately accosted by some vampires.  He gets away, but ends up stuck in one of the funeral home rooms.  Willow and Xander peak through a window and offer to go get Buffy,

At The Bronze, Owen confesses that it seems like there’s two Buffys.  He isn’t entirely wrong.  In addition to having to fend off a crimp-haired Cordelia, she is now having to explain Angel, Willow, and Xander’s appearances.  As far as Owen knows Buffy and Angel are coworkers and Willow and Xander are a couple looking to double.  (In reality, Angel is warning Buffy about the Anointed One and Willow and Xander are trying to get her to the funeral home.)  Owen takes it like a champ when Buffy says she is going to duck out real quick.  It doesn’t hurt that she also plants one right on him to tide him over.

Going from finding “the one” to finding the Anointed One

When the trio arrives to the funeral home they discover Owen has followed them.  Buffy puts Willow and Xander on Owen duty while she goes to rescue Giles.  Giles, of course, reprimands Buffy for bringing Owen there (dude, give her the benefit of doubt once in a while).  Buffy says the two of them are free to search for the Anointed One because Willow, Xander, and Owen are safely tucked away in an office.

Little does she know, Andrew’s body is in the office her friends and date have barricaded themselves in.  To make matters worse, he is going all Re-Animator.  Even worse: he is singing and shouting such nonsense as “pork and beans.”  Buffy and Giles break in so those three can get out.  However, Owen decides to white knight the situation and comes back to “protect” Buffy.  He immediately gets knocked out.

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Buffy fights Vampdrew and uses the setting to her advantage by shoving him into the incinerator.  Willow and Xander walk a very concussed Owen home.

The next day Buffy is bemoaning the social damage caused by their date.  Owen, however, wants to go out again.  But not out-out.  He wants to live on the edge with Buffy as his personal bodyguard.  Buffy realizes he’ll end up getting himself killed and lets him down gently.

It’s never the end

Giles finally shows some compassion to the 16 year old and tell her he learned of his Watcher destiny at ten years old.  They commiserate then celebrate the sunny side of the situation:  the Anointed One is taken care of.

The Master repeats his opening monologue as we see the face of one very, very young newly Anointed child.

The Hellmouth's own Anointed One
Anoint her? I hardly know her!

Trav’s one sentence review: Angel wasn’t cryptic, which was surprising, and I couldn’t figure out Owen.

I really like this episode. It’s a fun episode with a bit of farce. The storyline is self-contained but still pushes the seasonal arc and character progression forward. It’s promising for the rest of the first season. 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Suburban Screams, Cursed Neighborhood

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Episode five of John Carpenter’s Suburban Screams was one of the best kind of horror stories. It is a dark, eerie tale of a mean house that is determined to destroy anyone who dares reside within it.

The story

Our story begins in 1682. A group of colonists are attempting to take over land that is very much not theirs. When the colonists are killed, they vow to curse the land.

Fast forward to modern times, and the land in question is a little suburban neighborhood. Carlette Norwood moves in with her husband, mother, and daughters. The house seems like a dream come true. Until, of course, their beautiful dream home becomes a nightmare. The curse of the colonists wrapped itself around the neck of each family member, turning them into people that they didn’t recognize. People who don’t exactly like each other.

What worked

While I wouldn’t say that the acting in this episode is flawless, it was several steps above what we’ve seen so far. Every actor seemed to understand their role and reacted in realistic ways. I was especially impressed by the young woman playing Angelique. She had the good sense to not overplay the role, giving each scene exactly the right amount of energy.

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Of course, there was one actress who way overplayed every scene. But rather than being terrible, it was terrific. And that was Chloe Zeitounian, who played the neighbor Stacy. Stacy the neighbor was creepy as shit. After an unnamed neighbor dies by suicide, Stacy shows up at Carlette’s house with a bottle of champagne, sipping coffee with a big old smile. Well, okay it probably wasn’t coffee.

Stacy was a fantastic character, and I hope there was a crazy neighbor just like her. I bet her house was haunted as hell, but she just decided that her ghost was like a stray dog that everyone else thinks is dangerous. She probably put a bejeweled collar on the colonist ghost and renamed him Kori spelled with an I on purpose.

Finally, I want to talk about the theme of ancestral curse and ancestral protections that this episode discussed.

Charles County was cursed by the colonists who took the land that rightfully belonged to the indigenous tribes. They took what their ancestors had given them, and left a curse in their wake.

At the end of the episode, Carlette talks about being protected by her ancestors. Ancestors that survived horrible things most of us can’t imagine. I am sure that their strength blessed Carlette, and helped her to save Angelique.

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What didn’t work

While this episode was certainly better than most of the season, it wasn’t perfect. The thing that most stood out to me as being frankly unneeded was the inclusion of maggots attacking Brian.

Paul A Maynard in Suburban Screams.

In multiple scenes, during which Carlette is narrating, Brian has maggots coming out of open wounds. Never once does Carlette mention a maggot issue.

It feels like there is a clear reason why the creators did this. This story doesn’t have a lot of blood, gore, or jump scares. And a core goal of horror content is to cause a reaction.

Stephen King has a great quote about this goal. “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”

The inclusion of maggots in this story admits that someone involved didn’t think the story was terrorizing or horrifying enough. But it was. The story was freaky all on its own without the inclusion of our wriggling friends.

Is it true?

This might be an unpopular opinion, but aside from the completely unnecessary maggots infesting Brian, I think this episode is the most honest and accurate one so far.

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The thing about hauntings is that they’re seldom what we see in the movies. Haunted houses don’t have glass vases flying off shelves and wallpaper peeling to reveal 666 painted in blood over arcane symbols. Haunted houses dig into the minds of those who live there, causing bad luck and bad vibes. And that’s exactly what happened here. There are no massive explosions. No spirits throwing people downstairs or demonic dogs chasing children from the attic. This house dug into the hearts and minds of a loving family, ripping them apart.

So yes, I do think this episode is likely true.

The further we get into Suburban Screams, the more I enjoy it. This episode was eerie, upsetting, and riveting. I hope that Carlette and her daughters are healing from this horrific journey. And I’m thankful to them for sharing their story. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Happy Father’s Day Herman Munster!

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Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel
Herman Munster would be so proud, collage by Jennifer Weigel

Today for Father’s Day I want to celebrate one the best dads in horror ever: Herman Munster! Herman Munster of television celebrity is a perfect example of a good father in a genre awash in epically horrible parents. He is fun to be around, cares deeply about family, and has a huge heart. He is essentially the naive and loving Frankenstein’s monster despite his horrific appearance, and is aptly employed at a funeral home.

Herman is lovable, hardworking, and always ready with the physical humor dad jokes, even if he is too naive to catch on to his role in the punchlines all the time. He is devoted to his wife Lily Dracula and son Eddie and will do whatever he can to protect them. His generosity extends beyond just his own, with the family taking in his niece Marilyn (who is painfully normal by comparison to the Munsters), and father-in-law Grandpa.

Portrayed by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster is kind of the epitome of the good father in horror. Sure, he’s a brute, and can be a little dim sometimes, but he’s really just a big teddy bear at heart, and always ready for a good laugh. And apparently Herman Munster was even nominated by his son Eddie for Father of the Year in Season 2, Episode 25, so it all comes around full circle. If the show highlight doesn’t load, you can find it here.

And to celebrate more great Hollywood celebrities, here’s a poem for Ed Wood and an homage to Theda Bara

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Suburban Screams, The Bunny Man

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Someone is stalking the children of Fairfax, Virginia. He comes bearing an axe. He comes from the forest. He comes in the night.

He comes dressed as a bunny.

The story

In the 1970s, the sleepy town of Fairfax Virginia was menaced by a man dressed as a rabbit. He stalked kids and teens with an axe while they were playing in the woods, or ‘parking’. Children were cautioned to not play outside after dark. Parents were terrified. The whole community was rocked by the horrific killer who, well, didn’t kill anybody. And who might have been a whole bunch of people inspired by a truly sad tale?

Still from Suburban Screams The Bunny Man.

The story begins a hundred years earlier. A man whose name is lost to time is accused of stealing a cow. For this crime, he’s sentenced to death because things were a lot tougher back then. The man escaped but swore vengeance on the town. A few days later several children were found hanging from a bridge underpass, butchered and hung as though they were slaughtered rabbits.

What worked

The biggest thing to love about this episode, the one thing that sets it apart from the rest of the season, was the presence of Historian Cindy Burke. Finally, we have an actual professional talking about one of these stories. Yes, there are still first-hand accounts. But that is how these sorts of stories work best. We have the emotional retelling of evocative survivors. But we also have a professional who is emotionally separated from the situation backing up these stories with historical knowledge.

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This wouldn’t have mattered as much in any other setting. But Suburban Screams has been clear from the start that it wants to be seen as a documentary. This is supposed to be real. And if you’re going to claim that your ghost story is real, bring receipts. As many as you can.

If we’d seen more historians, detectives, and police reports through this series, it probably wouldn’t have the bad rating it does on IMDB.

What didn’t work

Well, it might still have had a bad rating. Because the acting in this episode was, for lack of a stronger word, terrible.

I don’t know if it was the directing, the casting, or just a weak talent budget. But not a single person except for the man playing the Bunny Man could act in any of these dramatic reenactment scenes.

The worst offender was probably the child playing Ed’s childhood friend. This character was way overacted. It’s as though the child had seen a parody of how little boys behave, and was told to act like that. As this was a little boy, he was likely a bit embarrassed.

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And I know, I’m trash-talking a child actor. I’m trash-talking all of the children actors in this episode. But children can act. There are lots of examples of kids doing great acting jobs. Stranger Things is an obvious example. Violent Night is another. The kid can act. These kids couldn’t act.

Is it true?

Unlike most of the other episodes in this series, The Bunny Man is a story I’ve heard before. It is a legitimate urban legend that blossomed from a few firsthand accounts of madmen doing scary things dressed as rabbits in Fairfax County, West Virginia. These events probably inspired others to do stupid things like dress up like a rabbit and run around with an ax. Much like the people who decided to dress up like clowns and scare the hell out of people across the country in 2016.

So, yes, the Bunny Man is very much real. He’s real in the hearts and minds of pranksters and West Virginia frat boys. And he is based on some very real, very upsetting, actual events.

I honestly wish the whole season of Suburban Screams had been exactly like this. Filled with facts, first-hand accounts, and proof of scary events. This was everything I wanted in a supernatural/true crime story. So if you’re giving the rest of the season a pass, I would suggest watching this episode.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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