Monday, December 25, 2017

Streaming Wonderland

In lieu of doing any of the things I really should be doing, which is finishing any of the partially completed reviews that are piling up in my drafts, and in between slices of rum torte and way too many Bohme Weinbrand Kirschen, I stumbled upon the most fascinating streaming programs on the Hulu, but then again, it could be the liquor talking. 

As I was beginning this portion of this ridiculous holiday post, I realized that our beagle, William Henry Harrison, peed in our laundry basket, then I noticed someone left a plastic bag filled with excrement covered infant clothing in my kitchen. This was not a pleasant holiday surprise, and then I was forced to sterilize my entire life.

Puppies Crash Christmas is a short film where naughty puppies ransack a prepared holiday set. Dogs eat gingerbread houses, lap at enormous punchbowls of eggnog, and discreetly crap amongst extravagant holiday packages which they happily shredded. It was adorable, and set up the day for continuous Dadaesque programming.

The least successful of these absurd programs, Gingerbread Home Remodel features a static camera placed before a gingerbread house at a holiday office party, as revelers tear off bits of the pastry. I recently spoke with someone about how the best part of any holiday party is the ghosting, where one appears at the party and then abruptly leaves without a goodbye. It's the perfect alibi, where one can claim they were at the party, but not suffer through the exhausting horror of actually being at the party. Anyway, I disliked this program because I couldn't actually leave from it. That was kind of a lie, I left the room several times for more cake.

One of the more enjoyable entries in the series because a home intruder appears to be trapped in a chimney gifting the viewer some unexpected Xmas schadenfreude, Stuck Santa is nearly an hour of booted feet dangling from a fireplace as the hapless intruder weakly cries for help or exclaims in a muffled voice, "I hate the tiny house movement!". Occasionally the boots kick, or tools and presents drop from the chimney, breaking the monotony.

In this Warhol-esque entry, a static camera is positioned in front of an herb-encrusted roast beast surrounded by red-skinned potatoes as it cooks for 52 minutes, with nothing but the ambient sound of the oven's thermostat adjusting the roasting temperature. Much like Warhol's Empire, nothing happens, that is until oven-mitted hands retrieve the finished dish. 

And finally, Two Tickets To Christmastown is another static camera program, this time it is placed beneath a Christmas tree with a roaring fireplace in the background, as a miniature toy train circles around the presents beneath the tree for nearly an hour. Mrs. Deathrage demands that I mention the extremely shallow depth of field.

I'm contemplating watching the other programs, the one about sap and the other about thermostats, but I think I'll get another slice or two of the rum torte first.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Haunting On Washington Avenue: The Temple Theatre

Investigators explore the Temple Theater in Saginaw, Michigan and discover paranormal phenomena in this ghost hunting documentary.

Staged in a compelling, unhurried, direct format with long takes and few of the quick edits and jarring sound effects found in paranormal programs, A Haunting On Washington Avenue: The Temple Theatre presents supposed evidence of hauntings in a matter-of-fact, take-it-or-leave-it manner, which when taken at face value*, generates some genuine chills.

Featuring footage of someone walking through a soggy bootlegging tunnel beneath the theatre utilizing night vision cameras, the capturing of supposed spirit orbs, and the recording of whispered environmental voice phenomena, which are all standard tropes for this type of program, the film is edited in a way that heightens tension and reluctantly pulls the viewer in. In a startling scene, an investigator looks down a backstage hallway with a lone dressing room light on at the end. The door suddenly slams, extinguishing the light.

In a particularly alarming scene, a static infrared camera is placed in a deserted restroom. Shooting down a long row of ornate mirrors as cheesy, orchestral muzak plays quietly in the background, a stall door seemingly unlatches itself, and opens and closes. No voiceover narration, the camera just documents the action. The disembodied, piped-in, easy listening music** adds a sense of the uncanny.

Honestly, without the music, the scene in the restroom would've been just another supposed ghost clip. The music made it surprisingly eerie***.

Don't talk to me about special effects, or not-so-special effects, because I know. Any number of special effects could have been used to create the alleged ghost activity in both scenes, from strings to a dude standing in the stall to CGI. The result is the same, which is me second guessing whether or not I really needed to get another snack cake out of my dark pantry at midnight. I did, of course. I'll punch a whole cluster of ghosts in their faces if they're thinking about stopping me from getting another snack cake****, *****.

*Disclaimer: As far as I know, there is little evidence to prove the existence of ghosts.

**Disclaimer: As far as I know, the music of Mr. Acker Bilk was not playing in the haunted restroom.

***Disclaimer: As far as I know, the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk is not haunting the restroom of the Temple Theatre.

****Disclaimer: As far as I know, the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk is not haunting my pantry.

*****Disclaimer: If the ghost of Mr. Acker Bilk exists, and in the extreme off-chance he is haunting my pantry, he may not have any of my snack cakes.