Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale

Vasilisa grew up at the edge of the Russian wilderness where the weather is harsh and cold for most of the year. Winters are particularly cruel, but she has many pleasant memories of her siblings and her nurse by the fire telling fairy tales to pass the time. Since her mother died in childbirth, her father goes to Moscow to present his sons to royalty and find a new wife. He brings home Anna, a young woman from a royal family who is also notorious for seeing demons everywhere. She and Vasilisa butt heads immediately because Vasya sees creatures as well, but knows they are house spirits or domovoi that make their lives easier in exchange for tribute. The arrival of a fiery priest Kostantin creates fear of hell and damnation in her town and causes other people to shun their domovoi, which causes further misfortune and weakens them to the attack of sinister forces.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderful merging of Russian society as it adapts to Christianity and Russian folklore. The very beginning has Vasya's nurse Danya telling her fairy tales of the cruel winter and how humility and kindness get you further than selfishness. I wasn't quite drawn in until Vasya sees and interacts with the domovoi in her house. The people that live near the Russian wilderness, away from big cities, believe in Christianity and go to church, but also pay tribute to their house spirits or domovoi more out of habit than anything. Unbeknowst to most of them, these gifts of food and drink help them immensely by extending the use of resources and keeping crops and cattle healthy. Once these creatures are shunned due to the fire and brimstone antics of Father Konstantin striking fear into the villagers' hearts. Now, the domovoi have weakened, leaving the humans with dwindling resources and mounting fear, unaware of the supernatural danger their spirits protect them from.

Everyone knew Vasilisa was different right from birth. As she grew up, she realized she could see and understand the domovoi and other creatures right out of her nurse's fairy tales. Over time, she learns to care for and respect them. Through her friendship and tribute, they respect her in return and teach her how to move silently through the forest and how to talk to horses. As she grows into womanhood, Vasya keeps her sweet nature entwined with a wildness and confidence that others find troubling. Vasya is an amazing character that does what she can, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Her perseverence proves to be unshakeable even in the face of the disapproval of her whole town. Unfortunately, her only future paths are in the prison of either marriage or a convent. Her access to the supernatural world helps her break out of her social norms. The supernatural forces she faces are out of her realm of reality and understanding, but it doesnt stop her from fighting for her family and her town anyway.

The only other person with any knowledge at all that fairy tale creatures are real is Anna, Vasya's stepmother. She fits into the evil stepmother trope well, but she's more fleshed out than that. Everyone around her assumes she's crazy because she sees what she assumes are demons everywhere. She's basically Vasilisa, but intent on ignoring the creatures instead of getting to know them. Her existence throughout life is tortured because no matter how devout she is or how hard she prays, these demons plague her. Instead of trying to educate Vasya, Anna simply abuses her whenever Vasya acknowledges the domovoi. I had sympathy for her because she doesn't understand her situation and feels constantly attacked. However, she lost my sympathy when she decided to abuse her stepdaughter and taking everything she can away from her. This character shows how Vasya could have been had her temperament or upbringing or attitude been different.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderful book that I couldn't put down. The fairy tale elements are woven in throughout, contrasting with the real world woes of the townspeople. Vasya interacts with many figures from Russian fairy tales using her knowledge of their tales and her generous nature. It takes a little while to hold my interest, but once it does, it doesn't let go. Katherine Arden is amazing and I would love to read whatever she writes next. This book is highly recommended to fans of Neil Gaiman or fairy tale literature.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Unconventional Thanksgiving Films

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday of food and happiness but it can also be an awkward event with emotional landmines. Either way, here are some unconventional movies that you can watch to go with the good and the bad of the holiday.

* Kristy

Kristy was one of the best films I watched last year. Justine is staying at her university over Thanksgiving break because she can't afford to visit her family when a gang of masked killers invade. She has to step up and outsmart her assailants using every bit of knowledge she has about the school to survive. I could watch this film over and over. I love Justine as a final girl. She's kickass, intelligent, and relentless. The cyber society dedicated to killing random privileged women around he world gives it an extra bit of creepiness. It's definitely made it into my cycle of yearly movies.

* Thankskilling

Who doesn't want to watch a movie starring a foul mouthed puppet turkey that kills moronic teenagers? It's not the best movie, but it has a lot of cheesy charm going for it. The characters are all horribly stupid and completely stereotypical. The charm is in the ridiculous situations. My favorite scene involves the turkey killing the local sheriff and wearing his face. The teenagers are fooled by his disguise multiple times. I do wish he would have spoken less as most of what he says was too close to a cute rate Freddy Krueger. It's still a fun movie that's only a little longer than an hour which is perfect. 

* Home for the Holidays

For those of us that don't have idyllic Thanksgiving dinners, this film shows a more disfunctional famliy. Claudia's life is completely falling apart and hits rock bottom just as Thanksgiving is rolling around. It has disparate family members clashing over food, life decisions, and social issues. At its core, it shows that although we love family, we don't always see eye to eye and even if we don't particularly like each other at times. It's definitely mandatory viewing for me because it has some hilarious scenes and relatable moments.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shut In

Mary Portman doesn't know what to do with her son Stephen anymore. He's changed so much and nothing she does seems to connect with him despite her background as a psychologist. She decides to send him away to a school that can suit his needs, but Stephen and his father collide with a big rig. Stephen can't speak or walk or respond to any stimulus. Mary feels enormous guilt and decides to put him in a hospital. She wants to take care of a boy named Tom who is hard of hearing and without parents. Tom disappears from her house in the middle of a snow storm, presumed dead after days missing. Mary feels she's being haunted by his spirit after she failed him when odd noises and nightmarish visions occur at night with increasing frequency.

Shut In has some elements of a promising horror film. The isolated setting is perfect for any horror plot. Mary has no neighbors and becomes completely cut off from the outside world during a horrible snow storm. Most of the film takes place in the house. First, it represents a prison for her because she takes care of her invalid, unresponsive son every day. She sees his state as her fault and takes no joy in caring for him. Later in the film, the house takes on a much different form of prison where outside forces, instead of the usual internal ones, torment her. Naomi Watts is sympathetic as Mary and portrays a flawed but realistic person. Even while she tortures herself for her perceived mistakes, she still dreams of killing her son because of all he represents. I understood her even in her most monstrous moments.

Unfortunately, Shut In falls into typical tropes and shoddily reasoned twists. The premise for Shut In is pretty much all tropes seen time and time again except the invalid son. Before I even watched it, I felt I had already seen it. The trappings are different in the amazing house and isolated location, but so many plot developments are the same. The film relies on jump scares to amp up the tension, but after two or three times, it ceases to be effective. The ending features two twists: one that I knew very early in the film that made sense and the other that I didn't see coming because it didn't. The only unique thing about this film is the twist that makes absolutely no logical sense. I suspended my disbelief during the film, but looking back on it, I felt insulted as a viewer. This twist assumes a huge amount of things that include Mary not knowing anything about her profession and not recognizing the effect of drugs she administers and medical professions being incredibly inept at their jobs. 

Shut In is an extremely typical film that depends on Naomi Watts' competent acting and the isolated setting t bring in viewers. The jump scares fall flat and the twists are either completely predictable or insulting to the characters and viewers alike. I hope the critical and monetary failure of this film will show that viewers don't want to see copycat, paint by number movies. 

My rating: 1.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Horror Podcasts: The Girls in the Back Row

The Girls in the Back Row is a podcast that reviews and discusses horror films. For each film they discuss, Kate and Tab briefly describe the film, give a spoiler free review, and give their first impressions. After a short break which is usually a trailer for the film they are discussing, they have a more in depth and spoiler-full discussion. Not only do they timestamp every section of the show, but their show notes are quite detailed. If they mention a documentary or another film, it will be linked or at least listed for reference. Their discussions often go into the history of the film and put the it into context with information from behind the scenes. For example, the 1934 film Black Cat had a tiny budget compared to other Universal films and was filmed in 15 days which explains its short run time of under an hour. The studio didn't want the film to be so dark or creepy, explaining its uneven tone. I love that they research so many details and it's different than every other podcast out there.

I've only listened to 4 episodes, but I'm definitely listening to them as long as they put out episodes. Their first episode was introducing themselves and how they got into horror. Since I think they're around my same age, we have a lot of the same horror gateway media like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark with its horrifying illustrations. Their experiences had some similarity to mine in that I never had friends who liked horror and I learned not to talk about it since it always got a negative response. Some of their early horror references sound awesome like the author Richard Laymon. Kate came to the genre more as an adult and is watching a lot of things for the first time while Tab gets the thrill of introducing movies to someone into the horror genre. Tab is crazy knowledgeable about the genre.

The episodes I've listened to so far where about their Horror Origins, Suspiria and Demons, The Black Cat, and High Tension. I hated Suspiria when I watched it because the characters and plot were so lackluster. Kate and Tab have inspired me to rewatch the film with a different perspective. The film was made as a horror fairy tale with a bright color palette. The colors, dimensions, and exaggerated sets are made to make the film look nightmarish. I do remember the film being beautiful, but I was so annoyed by the lack of story and lame characters that I didn't enjoy it much. Their detailed discussion on the background of the film and all the small details I didn't notice make me excited to watch it again. Their discussion of High Tension is also very good and they discussed in detail the exact problem I had with the film.

Kate and Tab are a killer duo with amazing research and perspectives. I can't wait  to listen to the rest of their episodes and watch the films they cover.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Paranormal Activity

Kate and Micah move into a San Diego house. Before the film started, Kate has been followed by paranormal activity off and on her entire life. Micah is obsessed with catching this phenomenon on film and wants to find out what it wants. They call a psychic in who warns them that it's a demon that feeds off of negative energy and will only get worse if they try to communicate with it. He recommends they contact his demonologist friend for help, but they don't listen. The activity filmed gets more pronounced over time until Kate is walking around and saying things she doesn't remember. Can they be saved from this malevolent presence?

Paranormal Activity is the film that reignited the found footage genre. It has such a simple premise and was made inexpensively, but has long standing effects. The film is entirely from the point of view of Micah's cameras, which he obsessively carries around and sets up to film their room at night. Fairly mundane things happen during the day while most of the supernatural stuff happens at night. The cameras capture the activity that starts small like opening and closing doors, random noises, and lights flickering on and off. All minor things that happen maybe once a twice a night. Then bigger things start happening like Kate sleepwalking or speaking without remembering or being dragged out of bed. The night where the powder is sprinkled on the floor to see footsteps is also especially creepy. The film has no background music, which makes it easy to hear every little noise. Suspense increases with each night sequence in a minimalist way.

The characters are pretty realistic. Micah is obsessed with capturing and communicating with the entity. He's annoying and a bit of a jerk because he puts his own curiosity over Kate's fear and their wellbeing. One day he brings in a Ouija board when he was explicitly told not to and provokes the entity. He annoys everyone by taking his camera absolutely everywhere. He never takes anyone else's feelings into account. Kate is scared of the entity and just wants it to go away. She thinks the cameras will antagonize whatever it is and grows more and more annoyed over Micah's excitement. I liked Kate a lot more than Micah. She's more reasonable and even keeled. She doesn't feel sorry for herself because of her troubled chilhood or the paranormal events around her.

 Paranormal Activity is a great example of creating horror and suspense through small moments over time. Like the Blair Witch Project before it, this film provided effective scares on a small budget and changed the face of found footage. The only lacking part, besides horrible Micah, is the ending. Much of it takes place out of view and the last jumpscare, which is so common now, is cheap. The suspense built to a lackluster ending scene. The film is unique, so I would watch the rest of the series and I hope to see improvement.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, November 11, 2016

Horror Podcasts: Faculty of Horror

I have a crazy long commute to work, so I needed something to keep my mind busy. I've been going crazy with all the traffic I have to go through and I need a mental distraction to not let the frustration get to me. I've been trying out a variety of podcasts, all about horror in some way, and here's what I think of them. I hope to review one a week or so.

* Faculty of Horror

Faculty of Horror is a horror podcast focused on analyzing horror films in an academic way hosted by Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West. The beginning of the podcast starts a little rough. There are a few factual errors that annoyed me and Alex has some personal opinions that rub me the wrong way. However, their analysis is always well researched and changed the way I saw some films, particularly Jennifer's Body. I still think it fails as a horror comedy and isn't a very good film, but they describe the two main characters Needy and Jennifer as opposing female stereotypes that merge into one at the end of the film to create a real person.

In their episode on Silence of the Lambs, they both seemed to dismiss the anti-LGBT aspects of the film without much discussion. I love the film, but this critique is significant enough to warrant discussing. Like a lot of films before it, Buffalo Bill has an exaggerated and deranged sexuality and sexual identity that includes taking normal sexuality and sexual identity (homosexuality and transgenderism) and adds mutilating, murdering male lovers, and murdering women in order to transform when conventional channels have refused him. It's not a coincidence that many other horror movie murderers also break gender conventions to show their madness, condemning this behavior, such as Leatherface in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Norman Bates in Psycho.

I very much enjoyed their episode highlighting key episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, which is one of my favorites of all time. Their guest Stewart articulated what I love about the show and describes how the deep emotions portrayed are much more than the bad acting or bad CGI. It bothered me that Alex hadn't watched the entire series, which means she missed a lot of the context of the key episodes, and refused to listen to the songs in the musical episode Once More with Feeling. The lyrics are pretty essential to the plot. She also flatly hates the show, which fills me with rage. This show has been so formative for me that I take it personally if someone hates it just like Andrea who literally spoke everything I was thinking.

Even with my disagreements with their perspective, I love to challenge my own perspective and deepen my own understanding of horror films. I've listened to the first 13 episodes plus a few that particularly interested me like the eating disorder episode featuring Black Swan and Drag Me to Hell and their episode on Rosemary's Baby. This podcast is definitely worth your time and makes me want to write even more about horror films.

My rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Handmaiden

Sook-Hee has been specifically chosen to help a conman posing as Count Fujiwara marry rich heiress Lady Hideko, dump her in an insane asylum soon after the wedding, and take her fortune. It all seems to go smoothly as the plan moves forward, but deception lurks in even the most unexpected places. Plus Sook-Hee is developing real feelings for Hideko, making it harder and harder to lie to her face. Can she keep the con going to escape her tedious life or will she tell the truth?

The Handmaiden is based on Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith, but set in 1930's Korea under Japanese rule instead of Victorian era England. This story has so much in it: horror, drama, mystery, intrigue, revenge, humor, and romance. The setting is important to show the position the main characters are in. Uncle Kouzuki is the person with the most power in whole film. He has embraced the Japanese regime and abandoned his Korean roots. His house is an awkward mishmash of Japanese and American architecture, symbolizing the forcible way Japan (and the US through Japan) introduced modern ideas and conventions. Hideko should have the most power because she is both noble and Japanese, but Kouzuki threatens her and abuses her at every turn. Sook-Hee and Count Fujiwara are Korean lower class people looking for a way out of their dangerous lives.

The story changes drastically in each act by changing perspectives and backtracking to reveal different meanings and extra scenes. The first act of the film is through Sook-Hee's point of view. It's hard to see why she was chosen for this job since her acting skills are subpar and really should have been fired the first day. Her actions and reactions are refreshing, realistic, and raw. She isn't a professional spy, but a run of the mill pick-pocket who is in way over her head. Her attraction to Hideko is well paced and feels organic. It started with some sexually tense moments here and there, then blossomed as they got to know each other, and finally exploded when they had sex.

The second act of the film shows the first act from Hideko's perspective and changes the meanings of a lot of the scenes from the first act. Small things that weren't focused on are explained now with estra or extended scenes to add. Her relationship with Uncle Kouzuki is much more abusive than Sook-Hee saw. Since she was a child, she was forced to read antique erotic novels out loud in addition to other abusive training that we never see. Her uncle expects her to marry him to complete his ascension to power. She knows about the fake count and works with him to plan to throw Sook-Hee in an insane asylum while switching identities. All the men in her life tell her she's cold and her personality is very controlled for protection from years of abuse. Sook-Hee makes her happy for the first time and complicates her plan for escape.

The love scenes in this film are strictly between two women and the most explicit I've seen in a film. These scenes are beautifully filmed and all about the relationship between Hideko and Sook-Hee instead of the male viewer like so many other lesbian sex scenes. I love that in the second act of the film, it's clear that some of these sex acts are the same as some of the loathed stories she's forced to read, transforming them into something pleasurable for herself and her partner. The couple talks quite a bit during their lovemaking and much of it made me laugh. This film pushes boundaries with these erotic scenes by making them lengthy and meaningful for the characters involved.

The Handmaiden is a unique, boundary pushing film that I didn't have high expectations for. Looking at the poster, I thought it was going to be another misogynistic film from Chan Wook Park like Thirst. However, it's completely driven by women who work to overthrow the men trying to control them. The film is heartwarming and sweet with moments of horror, discomfort, humor, and mystery. The costumes, sets, and cinematography are gorgeous and give the film elegance. All performances are wonderful all around. It's definitely worth your time.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Kid has been wandering around by herself for a while now. She is about to die in the wastelands when she happens upon a group of sharks, cannibals that indiscriminately kill and create trouble. It's either die or join them, so she joins them. The cannibalism and violence take some getting used to especially since she isn't the strongest person or any good at all with weapons. Despite all this, eventually Kid feels like she finally belongs somewhere. Their entire way of life is threatened when the Saint starts enforcing law and creating order. Kid and her group of misfits decides to attempt to destroy this Saint or die trying.

I happened upon this book at a bookstore because of it's kickass cover and the subject matter of cannibals. Cannibal stories are few and far between, but many are pretty awesome. Historically, cannibals have been painted as villains in most stories like The Walking Dead comic and TV show, Ravenous, The Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many others. In Bite, this group of sharks comprised of Dolly, Wolf, Tank, and Pretty Boy are not necessarily good or bad guys, but somewhere in the shades of grey in the middle. They are the protagonists of the story and arguably on the correct side at least some of the time. Their own survival is the most important thing, so they fight as hard as they can using unconventional or just plain stupid methods to defeat enemies and gather supplies.

The evolution of the group is what I like best about the book. Before Kid got there, it seemed that they simply coexisted together with desire for survival being the only thing they shared. Once Kid came along, she brought a sense of community and family with her that bonded them all together more than just surviving. Her influence made Pretty Boy a marginally better person, brought out Dolly's softer side, made Tank protective, and made Wolf trust in his group. They all definitely still have flaws, but the group becomes home for them wherever they are. Despite all the blood, mean eating, and violence, the story was quite heartwarming. You would think that ravaging cannibals would be hard to sympathize with, but they definitely grow on you after a while.

The world is a wasteland because of nuclear war in the past. Radiation is a part of everyday life. Few children survive to adulthood due to the radiation, but also because of starvation, murder, thirst, and tons of other things. Other dangers include crazies (people intend on cannibalism with no reason left in them), bandits (who steal from anyone they come across), and sharks (cannibals and murderers). Life is hard and people survive in small towns, usually unfriendly to strangers unless they have goods to trade. Each town rules in their own way. The largest is ruled by the Queen, who strives to be surrounded by luxury, but in reality, has a pathetic imitation of it. I loved that the situations they stumbled into were different than the usual post-apocalyptic fare.

Bite is a feast of new ideas that turn genre tropes around into something new. A book hasn't grabbed me like this in a while and made want to sit and read it all hours of the day and night. The characters have dimensions and are frankly pretty awesome. My favorite is Dolly, showing the strong silent type can be a woman as well. Wolf makes me laugh with all his crazy ideas and love for chaos and explosives. I love this weird found family that grew to love and trust each other.. The next book will probably come out next summer and I can't wait for it.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Apartment

Mark and Steph live happily in a nice house in South Africa with their daughter Hayden. Their peaceful life is marred by a home invasion that ending with stolen items but no physical injuries. The psychological harm has taken its toll and the family no longer feels safe in addition to hidden resentments that cropped up as a result. Steph is desperate to get away and heal, so she jumps on the chance to do an online house exchange for a week where she and Mark stay at a delightfully quaint French apartment and the French couple stays in their house. When they arrive, it isn't quaint, but empty, shoddy, and home to vagrants. They also feel a more sinister presence, but don't have the money to stay anywhere else. They will wait out the week. What's the worst that could happen?

When I heard about this book, I was excited that Blumhouse Productions is getting into horror. The studio can be innovative and creative, but their films are overall hit and miss. Anyway, this story has a lot of good things going for it. The family could be any middle class family that struggles financially and suffered such a psychological and monetary blow in the home invasion. A lot of people can relate and I found them mostly sympathetic until they started falling apart. The structure of the narrative alternates perspectives between the couple in every chapter, sometimes backtracking or leaping forward in time. The type of nefarious presence used is interesting and not well defined. Even after reading the story, I couldn't tell you specifically what is was. The rules governing it were unique and made sense. The decision to cut away from the violence made the book more compelling and allowed the reader to make what happened as gruesome as they could imagine. Only in one instance was it a little confusing to the plot.

My biggest problem with the book is Steph. So many wives in horror books and films are stereotypical, unsympathetic shrews. I'm not sure if it stems from the misogynistic view of marriage that these women were awesome and then turned horrible after giving birth and a few years of marriage. It's gross. Anyway, she is simply awful. She has a deep seated resentment of Mark's behavior during the robbery. If he had fought back like she wanted, one or more of them would have probably died. She doesn't have empathy or patience for his extended grief over his daughter's death from a previous marriage. He has problems getting close to Hayden because of his grief and Steph takes offense instead of being understanding. She attributes his behavior to hatred or resentment, creating this bizarre imagined conflict between the two. I assumed she didn't know about his grief by her behavior, but then she mentions it and I lost all sympathy for her. The entire situation is her fault because she didn't thoroughly research a place in Paris or ensure the one she chose had some reviews first. On top of this other moronic behavior, Steph completely avoids voicing her concerns or feelings until they explode out. All of this could have been avoided with some honest conversations and good research. Steph is the real villain of this whole piece.

The Apartment started out as very promising, creepy horror. The writing is pretty good and engaging, but it totally falls apart with Steph, the most infuriating character to read about. It's a disturbing trend in films that mothers and/or wives are unsympathetic shrews that only serve to make the main male characters look better and have understandable resentful feelings towards her. Other than that, the book has an interesting concept in an unspecified nefarious presence with its own rules. It never becomes over explained and I like the mystery surrounding it. It would be easy to write a completely different book about the same presence. I would give Blumhouse Books another chance even though I had some real problems with this one.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins  

Friday, November 4, 2016

Current Zombies Coming to Get You: Train to Busan

I reviewed Train to Busan for September Zombies and I loved it! It had horror, very creepy zombies, emotions, class warfare, and suspense. This film is getting a limited release today. Here's what the story is about:

Seok-Woo is a successful and ruthless financial manager who recently divorced his wife. He doesn't have time to spend with his daughter Su-an and she longs to visit her mother in Busan for her birthday. Feeling guilty and figuring it would only take a few hours, Seok-Woo decides to escort her to her mother by train. Just as it's about to leave, a sick, bleeding woman boards and finally dies due to her injuries, but reanimates soon after, attacking anyone who comes near. As the amount of infected grows, the number of safe cars shrinks down and stops along the way become impossible due to being overrun by the infected. Their only hope is Busan, a city rumored to still be open to survivors, but how many will survive to the last stop?

Here's the trailer:

Check your local listings to see if it's playing near you.

Frightday Posts!

I've been neglecting to link the articles I've been writing for the awesome site Frightday. All of the writers are fun to work with and love horror. The podcast is also a fun listen. Anyway, here are all the articles that I've written over the past few months.

* review of Candyman

* review of Kill List

* review of The Sixth Sense

* review of The Craft

* review of Daylight's End

* review of Antibirth

* review of The Mummy (1932)

* review of Rosemary's Baby

* review of Halloween (1978)

* my comparison of Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2007)

More to come!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Cellar: Dining with the Undead

I went to this amazing event last year, but forgot to post about it. So of course I had to go again. The Cellar is an amazing restaurant that specializes in French dining and wine. The restaurant is underground and makes it seem that we're not in California anymore. This Dine with the Undead event merges their delicious French food with dinner theater courtesy of the Maverick Theater.

Once we got there, zombies would stagger out once in a while and the manager or the chef would drag them away or leave them lying on the floor. We took a small elevator into the restaurant and just as we went down, an zombie lunged at the manager as he shot at it. The restaurant is beautiful with dim lighting. Fake, blood stained spiderwebs are draped over the chandeliers and the statues along the walls. The event is sold out, so if your party is small, you will be seated next to strangers. It was honestly nice to get to know people, chat over the food, and discuss the show. While we were being seated, the radio news program from Night of the Living Dead is playing.

The same manager explains that the zombie apocalypse happens to coincide with this wonderful dinner. He asks us to check for bites and shows us a variety of ways on how to dispatch the dead. He demonstrates how to use a knife on a pumpkin and tries to distract us from the bitten chef. The first course is served, Attack of the Killer Tomato soup, which was creamy and savory. Just as we're finishing, the chef has become a full blown zombie who can no longer cook. Then we have Sea Creatures of the Black Lagoon which are shrimp in a squid ink remoulade that looks disgusting but is actually quite tasty with a little spice.

This whole time, a couple has been arguing and bickering the entire time. The woman is so rude to the assistant manager that he curses at her loudly. Her boyfriend gets sick of her constant complaining and goes to the bar. The manager figures giving the zombie brains will make him remember his past job and complete the main course, so they lead the obnoxious woman to a back room, where we hear her scream. The zombie chef demonstrates his skills and then we are served the main course, Witches Blood Bourguignon. The boyfriend of the obnoxious woman is led to the same room (after he shoots and kills the assistant manager), so the chef can finish the dessert, which is Return of the Mummy, a brownie covered in ganache and butter cream. All of the zombies come out and dance Thriller in their clumsy zombie way.

This is the second year I've been to this event and I enjoyed it immensely. The only downside was the obnoxious older people celebrating a birthday next to us that drank too much and started yelling loudly. The food is beautiful and tasty. You have to be kind of adventurous since some of the fare is outside of one's comfort zone. The wine parings are expertly chosen and not only have fun Halloween names, but go with each course. I highly recommend The Cellar. It's wonderful to have a quality restaurant that has the sense of humor and fun to host an event like this. I will definitely be going next year and I hope to convert some others to come with me.