Introductions

"Run-of-the-mill" seems like a modestly accurate way to describe myself in terms of horror fandom. In certain respects I find that valuable, since ideally I can make an appeal to those like myself, to those who may be testing the waters, and hopefully to the hardcore horror fans as well. (And I sincerely encourage feedback, especially from the latter.) It wasn't until several years ago, the present time of this writing being December of '09 to give perspective, that the genre genuinely appealed to me and I owe all that to the film adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT'. After that, it was a slow and steady progression that grew into watching more Stephen King film adaptations, then into watching general horror films. In more recent years it's branched from solely films into different mediums, namely: comics (comic books, manga, graphic novels, webcomics, etc.), purely written literature, and different games.

But let's get to the point, shall we? The Darkley Niche is something I've constructed after the comic-in-progress that a friend and myself plan on self-publishing, an anthology of short horror stories much in the same vein as 'Tales from the Crypt' and similar titles. The series centers around a faceless persona we've affectionately dubbed Alan Darkley, the Niche's namesake, and a cast of storytellers whose tales fall within particular subgenres and sister genres of horror. This site is the drawing board, if you will, where everything posted is either a form of research or a roughing out of ideas. It's all relevant in some fashion. By exploring these different horror stories and their mediums a better understanding and influence of the genre, as well as inspiration, can be put into the comic. Even if you have no personal interest in the project, perhaps you can glean something from the reviews and the like. And if nothing else, the Niche will work to serve my own purposes.

Be sure to browse over the column of banners below if you're looking for posts on a particular topic. (And at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to consult the complete listing of post labels.) Otherwise, scroll down past them to get to the most recent articles. Likewise, refer to the right side for our latest tweets.

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

About Myself

My Photo
Well, here's yours truly. The name's Drew, in case you were wondering. The Niche is my personal site, while the comic-in-progress is a partnered effort with Don, a lifelong friend of mine. We collaborate on the stories, but my partner's the writer in the outfit while I am the illustrator. This is currently little more than a side project, but we hope to make something of it.

artwork by yours truly

artwork and artist features

movies, short films, TV, webisodes, etc.

frightful films for your year-round festivities

book reviews: consult the niche's necronomicon

comic-related news and reviews

zed in the head randomness

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Darkley year, part II: movies (continued)

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MOVIES
 
'Fright Night' (1985)

This was a fun little tongue-in-cheek kind of film. Granted, there is plenty of cheese that comes with being a comedy made in the eighties, but if anything that adds to its charm. Not to mention there's something to be said about old school prosthetic makeup and puppeteering versus modern CGI special effects. Effects aside, however, an often soft-spoken, occasionally wistful, and understandably cowardly Roddy McDowall steals the spotlight as "Fright Night" TV show host and Vampire Killer, Peter Vincent. A bittersweet sort, his is a character that embodies a bygone era and, with the exception of our other protagonists, fondly remembers the past in which he played a part. In many respects, it's very much like the episode "Beware the Gray Ghost" in 'Batman: the Animated Series', wherein an actor of golden age television steps up to become the part he so reputably played.

'Fright Night' (2011)

Shortly after watching the original, we moved on to the more recent remake with Colin Farrell as the vampiric neighbor, Jerry Dandridge. Many liberties are taken with this modernization, such as moving the setting into an oasis suburb in Las Vegas, Nevada. But such revisions were really decisions that just made sense. And frankly, I was delighted that Christopher Mintz-Plasse changed the role of "Evil" Ed Lee into something better than an annoyance with a grating laugh. While Vincent was altered into a Criss Angel knock-off, I still appreciated it being done more as a comical parody. And we're sure that the Whovians out there fangasmed when the makeup was removed, revealing David Tennant. Outside of the internet (ex: Pinterest, deviantART, Tumblr, etc.) our exposure to the long-standing BBC series is minimal, but we can remark that Tennant made a pretty good first impression.

'V/H/S' (2012)

As is often the case, this anthology was a mixed bag. Though some segments were flops, like "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger," (now there's a mouthful) others had merit and none more so than "Amateur Night." Firstly, it fits very well with the main narrative of 'V/H/S', which is ultimately creeps getting their comeuppance. It's rather difficult to watch men humiliate a woman by forcibly exposing her breasts on camera and not feel a burning desire to see their demise. The same applies here, only in this instance it's drugging dates with the intention of rape. Yeah... Moving on, one of the random women picked up during the barhop is Lily, whose name, without giving away any spoilers, turns out to be rather appropriate and her hushed words, "I like you," will be the most memorable thing from this whole anthology.

'Carrie' (2013)

Admittedly, we've never actually read Stephen King's novel nor seen the first film adaptation. Still, the remake made in 2002 is familiar to us and told a compelling story of a girl ostracized by her peers, the inherent fears of puberty, and a twisted combination of parental and religious domination through her mother. With that said, we were understandably expecting little more than a retelling of the same. And while this holds true, we're given greater insight into the story and its supporting characters, including Carrie's mother. For instance, the birth is witnessed at the very beginning of the movie and little clues, like the lock having already been on the closet door, give an inkling into what molded Margaret White into the disturbed woman she is. And on a side note, Chloe Moretz is an absolute sweetheart in her rendition of Carrie and delivered the sympathetic draw needed for such a character. 'Carrie' comes as a close second in the best horror films of this year.
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There are only a handful of horror films left to touch on, so continue to follow along as we finish this segment in the near future. Then, on to television and literature as we move forward in our summary of the past year from last October to last month.

ZotB: Brain Freeze ice cubes


Whilst searching for Halloween-themed items for the holiday and our subsequent party, we came across something that no zed head should be without: Fred & Friends Brain Freeze ice cube tray. As the name suggests, it makes ice cubes in the shape of miniature brains.

Regardless of not arriving in time for the party, we went ahead and made a batch of brains, using Minute Maid pink lemonade rather than water. The coloring is more appropriate, plus it goes along smoothly with a personal favorite: a concoction of fufu berry (It takes a certain kind of man to drink that confidently.) Jones Soda, a little Minute Maid pink lemonade, and a splash of vodka.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Halloween at the homestead

There is a tendency to avoid more personally-oriented posts, because we would rather talk horror than about ourselves. However, since this is about Halloween, we decided to give a little glimpse of how we celebrated at our home this year. Storage space (not to mention our bank account) is limited, so we only decorated the entertainment room. Even so, it came out quite festive for the season.

For starters, rather than removing the cat condo we included it in the decorations, using it as shelving for a set of three faux jack o' lanterns. Furthermore, Yankee Candle's "Harvest Welcome" scent gave the room a pleasant, spiced fragrance. Strong enough to be noticed, but not overbearing on the ol' olfactory system.


Adjacent to the cat condo is our big-screen television. We draped Target's "D├ęcor" brand spider-cicle lights set across the front of the TV stand and placed a pair of faux pumpkins from Michaels on top. This also included a skull-faced faux jack o' lantern from Meijer, bearing a passing resemblance to Jack Skellington from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.


An otherwise ordinary wood cabin changed into a vampire's coffin by draping Walmart's dripping light set atop and around it. And for an added touch (though not seen, here, in this picture), a pair of wooden, paint stir sticks were taped together into a cross and slipped into the handles. All it really needed was creepy vampire fingers curling out, trying to pry apart the locked coffin. Ah, well. Perhaps next year.


Behind all this was the main spread of ghoulish goodies. Three Meijer Halloween-themed tins stored, respectively: Reese's mini peanut butter cups and Reese's Pieces, fun-sized Kit-Kats ranging from white to regular to dark chocolate, and lastly Jolly Rancher suckers with orange-colored rolls of Fruit By The Foot. A furry spider from Halloween City safeguarded Target cotton candy cobwebs, plus a bag of pumpkin-shaped cheesy potato puffs, which were also bought from the latter. (The cotton candy, quite frankly, wasn't that good. However, the potato puffs were.)  

An unknown witch decoration, witch hat from Snyder's IGA, and a generic plastic cauldron from Walmart comprised the center of the table, where we later filled it with "witch's brewskis." That is to say, mostly Redd's Apple Ale and an assortment of a few other drinks, like green apple Jones Soda. (Those witches sure do love their apples.)


It gets a little lost in the table, but there's one other item definitely worth pointing out, and that's the Frankenstein's monster ceramic glass from Spirit Halloween. This was certainly one of our more favorite additions to the Halloween decorum this year. Note the attention to detail, with its weathered wrinkles, stapled scars, and droopy-lidded, yellowed eyes. Is that not cool or what?


As coincidence would have it, among our selection of movies to watch for that night was Universal's black-and-white classic adaptation of 'Frankenstein' (1931). For those of you who are curious, the rest of our nightly viewing consisted of: Key & Peele's Halloween episode, 'The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror episode "The Shinning," and 'Burnt Offerings' (1976), the latter of which, oddly enough, has many similarities to Stephen King's 'The Shining'.

Looking forward to next Halloween and, as an alteration to the old saying goes, "Eat, drink, and be scary!"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Darkley year, part I: movies

Well, another year has come and gone, dear darklings, since our last post here on the Darkley Niche. And although we've been absent from the blogosphere, we haven't been slacking in our indulgence in horror. Quite the contrary. So, here's a beginning summation of what we've sown and reaped since last October, starting with movies. Pace yourselves, readers: it's going to be a lengthy list.
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MOVIES

 'Warm Bodies' (2012)

Certainly we can all recall when the zombie sub-genre went viral for a time and, in fact, is apparently still shambling onward just like its primary subject matter. We can currently see this in such examples as AMC's 'The Walking Dead' on television to 'World War Z' on DVD/Blu-ray. But we'll admit that there was skepticism on our part when 'Warm Bodies' made its debut on the silver screen, essentially expecting a riff on the 'Twilight' franchise with a dash of half-hearted comedy. But to our surprise, this was actually quite enjoyable and one you can easily watch with the girlfriend.

'Hitchcock' (2012)

Not to put too fine a point on it, this film was absolutely brilliant. Like 'Warm Bodies', we had our reservations, but for entirely different reasons. There's no denying Anthony Hopkins' talent as an actor, but it's hard to stray away from the taint of his notoriety as Hannibal Lector, especially when tackling horror. Add to that worry the uncertain effectiveness of prosthetic makeup and mimicry of Hitchcock's distinct speech and mannerisms. However, not a one turned out flawed and the movie masterfully interweaves the movie maker's personal life with the production of a comeback film, each bleeding into the other, which is rather fitting.

Hammer Horror's 'Dracula' franchise (1958-1974)

Apart from 'The Wicker Man' (1973) and 'Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf' (1985), we had seen very little of Christopher Lee's work. Don, friend in the fiendish, and myself resolved that we would watch all nine films that comprised the franchise over the course of several weeks as our schedules allowed. Staleness was to be expected, but surprisingly the series held up rather well, only really falling apart towards the end, particularly with 'The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires' (1974). Our personal favorite was 'Scars of Dracula' (1970), if for no other reason than the church massacre scene towards the beginning.

'Evil Dead' (2013)

Here we have our first remake, which always stirs up some controversy and ergo means what we write, here, could be seen as controversial. While Bruce Campbell does give it a bump of approval at the end of the credits with his trademark "Groovy," we still missed having him in the movie. That said, though, this was a fine love letter to the original film that began the trilogy. While the two sequels that followed were by no means bad, their campiness delineated significantly from the darker atmosphere of the first. In all likelihood, casting probably decided against including Bruce Campbell for the same reason Jackie Earle Haley was chosen over Robert Englund for the 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' 2010 remake, which was to avoid that campy association. And like that remake, this one also did a commendable job expanding on the original's present-day premise and its back story.

'ParaNorman' (2013)

Brought to us by the minds of 'Coraline', 'ParaNorman' was an alright animated movie with "alright" being the key word, here. Frankly, we're not altogether sure why. The animation and artistry is as amazing as its predecessor, plus the storyline isn't necessarily slacking by any means. Yet, for whatever reason, we weren't as enamored with this one. Perhaps the fault lies in its character development, but that's only taking a stab in the dark. Maybe this deserves another viewing on our part.

'The Conjuring' (2013)

What can be said about 'The Conjuring' that hasn't been raved about already in other, numerous reviews? Unless another, more well-done horror movie is made before December 31st (and admittedly 'Carrie' (2013) certainly does come in at a close second), we feel fairly confident stating that this is the defining horror film of 2013. And horror fans can appreciate the somewhat tongue-in-cheek choice in casting Lili Taylor in a haunted house film, having played the main part in 'The Haunting' (1999), as well as Vera Farmiga of A&E's 'Bates Motel'. You can be sure we'll touch on the latter, later.


'Insidious: Chapter 2' (2013)

It came as a disappointment that James Wan's sequel to 'Insidious' (2011) would be found lacking, especially in lieu of his success with 'The Conjuring'. Maybe therein lies the fault, having to balance the production of two movies made so close together. Even so, this simply felt like a recycling of the first, leaving us with a finish that's less open-ended cliffhanger, more intentional set-up for a third film. That isn't even mentioning the overuse of pancake make-up, making this feel like an offshoot of Wan's other previous film, 'Dead Silence'.

'Frankenstein's Army' (2013)

A forewarning: this film is not for the squeamish. Gore hounds, however, should be able to appreciate 'Frankenstein's Army', as it is a mangled mesh of flesh and machinery, wading waist-deep in severed limbs at times. We kid you not. But where we do find the appeal is in its reminiscence of the 'Wolfenstein' games of our youth, which similarly pits the protagonist against Frankenstein-like horrors in the backdrop of World War II. So, that association was enough to warrant a viewing. ...A second viewing, however? Likely not anytime soon.
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That's all for now, but we'll be sure to finish our list of viewed films from this year, soon. Then, on to television and literature. So stay tuned, dear darklings. *cue The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun"*

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gravity Falls: Summerween

the Mystery Shack, decorated for Summerween
For those not familiar with the Disney Channel series 'Gravity Falls', the premise is how twin siblings Dipper and Mabel Pines spend their summer with Great-Uncle "Gruncle" Stan, a Shriner-looking sheister who runs a tourist trap called the Mystery Shack. (Or Mystery Hack, rather, as the letter S has fallen off of its proper place on the sign.) But, as the children soon learn, the town of Gravity Falls, Oregon is far from normal and appears to be a hub of all manner of strangeness. It's loosely like 'Twin Peaks', but less soap opera melodrama and for kids. (This is especially apparent at a restaurant called The Club, where the interior resembles the "Red Room.")

In time for the season, 'Gravity Falls' released its latest episode "Summerween," named after the fictitious holiday celebrated on June 22nd. The townsfolk of Gravity Falls apparently all loved Halloween so much that they invented it. (Definitely sounds better than Christmas in July in our book.) Essentially, Summerween keeps to the same traditions as Halloween does but with just a few discrepancies: watermelons are used instead of pumpkins to create jack o' melons, "cheap ol' loser" candy is prevalent (ex: Sand Pop!, Gummy Chairs, and Mr. Adequate-Bar), and, in direct relation to the candy, the Summerween Trickster. As Mystery Shack handyman Soos tells it to the Pines kids, the Summerween Trickster is a boogeyman who will get children discontent with the off-brand candy or lacking in the Summerween spirit.

bowl of cheap ol' loser candy
The legend of the Summerween Trickster has to be invoked, of course, so naturally a scenario shortly afterward begins to set itself up. Wendy, another Mystery Shack employee, along with a Donnie Darko-esque Robbie, the typical douche-bag boyfriend, come by the Shack to pick up her coat that evening. While there, she relates to Dipper details of a party happening later that night and that he ought to come. As it happens, Wendy is one of those slightly older cool kids and incidentally Dipper's crush. So when she inadvertently validates Robbie's point that trick-or-treating is for little kids, he decides to give it up.

"Twins in costumes! The people eat it up."
This proves problematic, as Mabel loves trick-or-treating and has fond memories of doing this together. To spare his sister's feelings, Dipper feigns sickness from eating some of the bad candy. But while in the middle of selling his white lie, there comes a visitor knocking at the Shack's door. Cue the ominous music, and here we are introduced to a trick-or-treating Summerween Trickster. However, exasperated with convincing his sister that he simply isn't up to it, Dipper rudely shuts the door on their visitor twice.

Yeahhh, you already know that this isn't going to go over well.

"Trick or treeeat..."
"Dude, really? You're a little old for this, man."
A third, more adamant knock bangs on their front door and this time Mabel answers, as Dipper refuses to. She politely excuses her brother's behavior, but the Summerween Trickster has been angered and will not be appeased until they have met his demand: retrieve five-hundred pieces of candy that night before the last jack o' melon goes out, or else he will be eaten (just like an unfortunate, random kid is only moments before). Now, even if this wasn't some sort of boogeyman, he's still an incredibly tall and creepily imposing guy. That alone should be adequate motivation. Even so, Dipper begrudgingly goes along with trick-or-treating as Mabel recruits Soos and her friends to help.

"I got a picture!"

Meanwhile, Stan Pines, the self-proclaimed "Master of Fright," gleefully anticipates terrifying any trick-or-treaters who come over to the Mystery Shack. Between an 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark' melting face scare and a disembowelment with sausage link guts, this works pretty well for the most part. However, two among the group of costumed kids are underwhelmed with the antics, despite his best efforts. So here we come to a standstill between an unstoppable force and an immovable object: a cheapskate who scares children to avoid handing out treats vs. horror-desensitized kids who want their candy. Who will break first? That question will have to wait.

Elsewhere on the streets of Gravity Falls, the Pines twins and their gang of friends begin hitting up the houses. But it becomes plainly clear that people won't hand out enough candy unless Dipper dresses up in costume, which at this point he hasn't. And to give them a healthy little reminder, the Summerween Trickster promptly drops in – quite literally to check on their progress, or rather lack thereof.

"Tick tock, children..."
*blows out jack o' melon's candle*
Dipper relents and dresses in a complimentary costume to his sister's, the literal peanut butter to her jelly. This goes off without a hitch especially with the twin cuteness factor and during the ensuing montage of trick-or-treating the circle of friends collect four-hundred and ninety-nine pieces of candy, just in the homestretch. But when Wendy and Robbie happen to spy Dipper he ditches both the costume and candy, making up an excuse as to why he's out. When the older kids have driven off, we see that Mabel has overheard everything and is hurt that Dipper would have otherwise ditched her.

To make matters worse, the wheel barrel of their collected candy accidentally dumped itself into a ditch and washed the treats away in a creek. It's then that they notice all of the jack o' melons have gone out, save for one, and despite rescuing it they themselves wind up blowing it out with in sigh of relief. Oops. Cue the ominous music again, and the Summerween Trickster comes to collect.

"Knock, knock..."
Yeah, even as a kid's television show, that scene is still kinda creepy. 

Approaching the children on the deserted street, the Summerween Trickster corners them into a local dump. When Dipper is unable to deliver on his demands, the Trickster stretches taller, his humped back tearing through his coat, and another pair of spindly arms branch out. The Pines boy futilely flings the last and only remaining piece of candy at the changing character, only to see it absorb into the boogeyman's mottled skin. Laughing, it pursues the children and begins to nab them in its clutches. Luckily, Soos comes to the rescue in a truck and dashes the Summerween Trickster into broken bits.

Their luck doesn't last, though, as the Trickster begins reassembling itself into something more akin to a giant spider, with the exception of the smiley face mask. It leaps onto the moving truck, causing Soos to crash his vehicle into the local Summerween Superstore. Everyone is alright, but the immediate danger isn't over as the monster makes its way into the store and stalks about as they hide.


Blocking the entrance, they devise an escape plan by dressing in the surrounding costumes to disguise themselves from the Trickster as store props. Progress is carefully made and eventually they do make it to the front of the Summerween Superstore. Soos, however, cannot resist the temptation of the touch-activated, talking skull candy bowls. Despite Dipper and Mabel's hushed pleas he goes ahead... And it doesn't work. As it turns out, there are no batteries inside. But in a stroke of comical genius, Soos goes out of his way to tear open a package of batteries, install them, and press again, which of course works this time and alerts the monster.

the Summerween Trickster, here resembling No-Face ('Spirited Away'), swallows Soos
Perhaps emboldened by the dire situation of their friend Soos, the children brandish costume weapons and attack the monstrous Summerween Trickster. Flecks of the boogeyman-thing glance off of its mottled skin, some in their mouths, and they notice it has a flavor like saltwater taffy. When it sees that they haven't pieced together the truth, the monster removes its mask and reveals that it is, itself, made entirely of "loser" candy. "Did you ever stop and think about the candy at the bottom of the bag, that no one likes?" it asks. Every year, all of the rejected candy would be discarded in the dump, where it accumulated, grew sentient, and now seeks revenge on the picky children of Gravity Falls.

"Look at my face. Look closely..."

No one would eat him, he tells the children, "So now, I'm going to eat you..." But as the monstrous Summerween Trickster draws them closer within its clutches, it hesitates, gurgling out a cry of agony as its chest begins to painfully break outward. Then, Soos suddenly bursts through in a manner directly taken from Ridley Scott's 'Alien' films, even letting out a shrill, Xenomorph-esque squeal and flailing his arms before reverting to passively chewing. He offers some of the creature's candy innards, which catch the ear of the dying Summerween Trickster. Hearing that someone thinks it tastes good all it ever really wanted makes it happy, so resigns itself and passes.

Shortly thereafter, the little kid who was eaten earlier on also bursts out of the Summerween Trickster's body.

"'Sup, Gorny?"
"I've been twamatized!"
Back at the Mystery Shack, Stan Pines does finally prove himself to be the Master of Fright. When the two stubborn trick-or-treaters have tired of T.P.ing the place, they resolve to go inside and find out the old sheister. Little do they realize, though, that he's readying himself for a bath and walk in on him half naked. Fittingly enough, 'Psycho'-like music strikes up at the sight as they flee screaming into the night. Not only does he get his confidence back, he also lays claim to the bags of candy left behind. All in all, a good Summerween for Stan.

Mabel, Dipper, and friends also return to the Mystery Shack, finding Gruncle Stan in his customary chair near the television, watching a late night, horror movie marathon special. Also there, to Dipper's surprise, is Wendy, who relates that the party wasn't so fun after all. Plus, Robbie had to go home early due to choking on the wrong end of a lollipop. (Yup, that boyfriend's a keeper alright.) Dipper is pleased to hear this, but Mabel can't help being disappointed that they have no candy, considering after all the hardship endured that night. Stan pulls out the two claimed bags of candy and generously hands them over to his grandnephew and niece.

And so, the rest of Summerween night is spent gathered around the television, eating candy and watching schlocky horror movies. Not a bad way to end the night. Not bad at all.

ahh, holiday quality time with friends and family
We've been thoroughly enjoying Disney's 'Gravity Falls' and "Summerween" only reaffirms our faith in both its endearing animation and creative storytelling. Not to mention how this episode playfully nodded to a number of very adult horror movies in a kid-friendly way. When they're older, someday, they can appreciate that on another level as we can now. For parents who are hardcore horror fans, this is a good way to introduce their children to the genre without scaring the bejeezus out of them.

This episode scores five out of five jack o' melons.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Masquerading Werewolves: Du Riechst So Gut

Werewolves are a common staple in horror stories and choice in Halloween costumes, and for good reason: they're a classic. Between the mythology and romanticism, they've been engrained in Western culture well since the Middle Ages. And when a storyteller can put their own original spin on the tale that catches our interest, as we're sure it does with yours. So with that in mind we're sharing this music video, "Du Riechst So Gut" by industrial, Berlin metal band Rammstein. Even if you aren't versed in the German language, or necessarily a fan of the musical genre, horror fans can at least appreciate the narrative that is visually told, if nothing else. And given that there is a masquerade party held in this music video, it seemed rather appropriate in light of the season when costumes are customary.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

We're on Twitter

Alright, so as our more avid followers can see, we haven't exactly been keeping the Darkley Niche as up-to-date as desired. So with that in mind, we've decided to start a Twitter account for more current, albeit shorter, posts. Follow along and hopefully you'll enjoy these snippets of our thoughts and comments on all things horror!