Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

New Horror Review (sight unseen)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008


The Happening
In the grand tradition of -ing titles for Horror Flicks, after The Haunting, The Shining, The Howling, and The Reaping – I will stop there – comes The Happening. According to my beloved dictionary widget: “when things happen, they come to pass either for a reason or by chance”. That’s a little murkier than your average dictionary definition. Hence a brilliant title for a horror film: horror abhors logic.

Opening June 13 (that’s Friday the 13th for those not following – nu nu nu nu), The Happening stars Mark Wahlberg, former Calvin Klein underwear model and front man for The Funky Bunch, and features crowds of people caught in a typical nightmarish scenario: can’t scream (or talk), can’t move (or run); and ultimately can’t help but propel themselves off the roofs of buildings and flat onto the pavement (perhaps a case of vertigo, or loss of balance). I haven’t seen it, as my blog title proves, but what could be more frightening than a horror film with no monster at all but the paralysis of fear? After all “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” quoth FDR.


The Quiet Earth meets 28 Days Later?
On the other hand Marky Mark may be staging a good old fashioned piece of performance art, which I am all for, having entirely missed Allan Kaprow in the late 50s and 60s. According to Wikipedia, and straight from art education 101, “A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered as art. Happenings take place anywhere, are often multi-disciplinary, often lack a narrative and frequently seek to involve the audience in some way. Key elements of happenings are planned, but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation.”

Either way, this one looks scar-y.

Update June 14, 2008:
Richard Corliss trashed the film in his (sight seen) Time review, calling it “this ill wind, this feeble gust of an environmental horror story.”

Reading Horror

Monday, June 2nd, 2008


I just finished reading The Horror Film by Rick Worland, published by Blackwell. It is superbly written and potentially fascinating even for the horror anti-fan.

Worland discusses social factors that influence what horror films get made and repeated, and the ways in which horror has affected it’s audiences historically. He analyses the production of horror films during wartimes of the 20th century, also applicable to contemporary wartime horror film production.

The author gives excellent analyses of several pivotal slashers including Hallowe’en and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

He writes about horror and humour, referring to Le Théâtre du Grand Guignol which ran from 1897 to 1962 and featured bloody one act stagings of stabbings, rapes, electrocutions, and other horrors. Typically Le Grand Guignol mixed horror with humour. (p 111)
Suggesting that horror and humour can be combined only carefully to avoid a failure of both, he champions the bizarre 80s film Re-Animator for succeeding in creating a balance.

Maybe I’ve seen too many horror films, but the writing is so compelling that this book begs a sequel.

Hudson Haunting

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

sparkling jillian mcdonald

Last weekend I installed The Sparkling, an interactive video installation, in an abandoned antique shop in rainy Hudson, NY. Being alone in the space with the piece, which I was for the days and nights of installation, gave me the creeps.

sparkling jillian mcdonald

This, in a back room corridor, didn’t help. Okay I set it up but still:


The project featuring several artists in storefronts and outdoor lots, Plugged In, is curated by Hudson’s Melissa Stafford. Plugged In also features a wonderful installation in an outdoor used furniture lot titled Everything’s Rosie by my good friend Christine Sciulli, and a video piece called Plain Text above and in the windows of a furniture design shop by the quirky and fascinating Fernando Orellana.

All’s quiet

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

The Descent

I came across a post about the use of silence in the film The Descent as a defensive weapon in direct opposition to screaming, on Ben Woodard’s Blog, Naught Thought. The Descent is a British film about a group of friends, all female, who go spelunking in The Appalachians, and find themselves battling a cave full of blind cannibalistic creatures. They soon figure out that though the hungry monsters can’t see, their hearing is extra sensitive, so their utter silence is the only thing that can save them. (Spoiler!!) But it doesn’t do much good in the end, there’s neither a happy nor a cliff hanger ending here.

This interests me in relation to The Screaming, my recent video work, in which I scream in order to scare away or destroy various onscreen horrors.

Calling all Zombies, from Québec

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

zombie masthead

Through June 4, I’m at La Chambre Blanche in the beautiful and rainy Québec City working on a website to provide info about and invite participation in my upcoming horror-themed smart mob performances. For example, Zombies in Condoland, a night long performance at La Nuit Blanche in Toronto. The masthead is the work-in-progress fruit of tonight’s labour.

I was at La Chambre Blanche in January 2002 for a similar residency. I fell in love with the city then and it remains my favourite Canadian city for simply walking around. Today I watched a thin sliver of orange sunset between the grey clouds and the horizon below my feet from the vantage point of the haute ville. Wandering the crooked little streets I found the windows as I remembered them – with open blinds showing every room filled with warm light, books, and gardens of potted plants. Maybe I’m romanticizing but either Canada really is amazing or there’s no place like home.

Saving 30 Days of Night

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

30 days of night

This is the least haunting image I can find from the film I started watching last night: the male lead trapped in an attic while bloodthirsty savages (vampires like you haven’t seen them before, see below) claw and pry the windows. I started watching it but quickly realized this was not a film for Jillian to watch alone, at night. So I’ll save it for next week’s trip to Québec City, where no doubt I’ll watch it even more alone, at night.

The snowbound “Alaskan” landscape is stunning, though the darkened town was filmed on a sound stage in New Zealand. Note to self: more footage for Snow Stories. Another snow covered landscape signaling despair, doom, and entrapment. There is no explanation so far for why the townspeople can’t simply drive away.

These vampires are more closely related in demeanor and appearance to the furious and faster frame rate zombies of recent films like 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Land of the Dead etc, than to debonair and handsome Hollywood vampires played by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. That’s a relief.


They resemble the original Nosferatu, or even the blind post-human cave dwellers in The Descent – batlike, with razor teeth.

Gone is the slow courtship, the stealth, the dark beauty… these vampires are messy, blood covered, and undeniably inhuman deadly monsters.

pictured above: 30 Days of Night, and Nosferatu.

ThreeWalls show

Thursday, April 10th, 2008


Horror Stories, my new show at ThreeWalls in Chicago, opened on Friday. The Sparkling, an interactive video installation, is the highlight – shown above and below. The haunted chandelier gets eerier as visitors approach, a reference to chandeliers in films like The Amityville Horror, and also non-horror films like The War of the Roses. Thanks to the wonderful artists and administrators at ThreeWalls for all their support, especially Shannon, Lucy, Elizabeth, Andy, and Liz. Also to Josh Rose and Cesar Cornejo who helped me in New York with programming and putting together the chandelier.


Also on view are:

tv = evil

TV = Evil which juxtaposes little girls and TVs from Poltergeist and The Ring. Playing on a TV in a room all alone, it’s creepy.

vamp it up

Vamp it Up, a companion piece to Horror Make-up, filmed on the Chicago elevated train. More info about this work in my Performance section. Special thanks to Beckley Roberts and Liz Hood who secretly filmed these performances, and to Elizabeth for driving me half way around town in search of fangs, size XS.

everyone will suffer

Everyone Will Suffer, an animation featuring taglines recited from popular horror films and a low-fi animated country sunset.

Living Dead Girls

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008


While in Chicago I met artist Jeriah Hildwine, a painter whose acrylic series Living Dead Girls features goth girls slaying the naked and grisly undead, in nightmarish colour. Best are the portraits of his protagonist zombie slayers, especially Zombie Hunter Elizabeth, pictured in the detail above. She seems to enjoy her role, and I like her attitude, clad in school girl plaid.

My Horror Top Ten!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

night of the living dead

Here’s a feature on American Classic Movies TV Channel’s website about my recent horror work, based on an interview from last week. Written by Christine Fall, it’s a semi-regular feature called “who loves horror?” and includes my top ten horror film list. #1 is the classic Night of the Living Dead, pictured horrifically above.
Read the feature in a separate browser window.


Monday, March 17th, 2008


To celebrate St. Patricks’ Day I filmed a performance on the elevated train this weekend with the help of young Chicago filmmaker Liz Hood. The resulting video is a companion piece to Horror Make-up from 2006. I’ve been thinking about this performance for over a year, and can’t believe it took me this long to execute. I guess I’ve been busy.